Kuoni, the luxury travel company, has launched online face-to-face appointments with its travel experts to advise holidaymakers booking trips in the age of Covid-19. Samuel Ballards reports
Following the widespread adoption of Zoom video-conferencing during lockdown, Kuoni has launched a new video appointment service for customers looking to book holidays and get expert advice on travel during the coronavirus pandemic.
Clients can request scheduled appointments with Kuoni’s travel experts, helping them create tailor-made holidays, honeymoons and weddings, as travel bans around the world begin to be lifted. It’s a good idea because although there will be a lot of pent-up demand for travel, consumers will be cautious too.
The company made the move to video consultations during the time its physical travel agencies had to remain closed, but clients were beginning to think about planning their next break.
Derek Jones, CEO of Der Touristik, the parent company of Kuoni, says: “Before lockdown there was little appetite for video appointments, but the need to stay at home has changed people’s perception of, and familiarity with, video calling.
“What was seen as strange and awkward a short while ago is now commonplace. Attitudes have shifted massively in a really short space of time.”
Kuoni offers a range of different holiday types, from beach to luxury cruises and has its own standalone stores and concessions in John Lewis department stores. The company also recently launched its very first tailor-made UK and Ireland collection as more people look to domestic holidays in the short term.
Before the lockdown, Kuoni’s average face-to-face appointment was about two hours. The overall number of appointments has risen in the last year. Interestingly, about 59 per cent of people arrive at the appointment with a “blank sheet”, according to the company.
Jones said: “Meeting someone face to face, even by video link, creates a rapport with customers and a genuine understanding about the type of trip we can create for them – there’s a personal connection that you often don’t get from an anonymous voice over the phone.
“Trust will be absolutely vital to travel’s recovery – if there’s one thing we’ve learnt from this crisis it’s that customers have value having a real person to talk to.
“There’s no doubt that people want a holiday to look forward to, but they also want expert insight about the ease and safety of travel plans for the future. Being able to see someone from the outset, and then know that there is someone there to help them if things change and they need help amending their trip is going to be central to our business in the new era.
“This is a great time to innovate and deliver something that we think people are going to value.”
According to a survey by travel agent consortia Advantage, British travellers attitudes towards booking holidays has changed. More than two thirds of respondents now say that they are planning to book a holiday through a travel agent because “they value the support and advice they give”.
The survey also revealed that 55 per cent of 18-30 year olds plan to use an agent and that more than two thirds of UK travellers are willing to go overseas once lockdown has been lifted. Top destinations for short haul travel are Spain, Greece, Turkey and Portugal. Mexico and Florida top the list for long haul travel.
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