Audley Travel ‘optimistic’ after ‘making most big calls right’

Luxury tailormade specialist Audley Travel says it is “optimistic” emerging from the pandemic “having made most of the big calls right”.

Speaking exclusively to Travel Weekly, the operator’s chief executive Nick Longman said mistakes had been made by all firms but insisted Audley had delivered a “decent performance under the circumstances” and said “brave decisions” were now paying dividends.

Longman said: “For the first two weeks we weren’t refunding but then, pretty much, if people wanted their money back, we’d repay it. We managed to keep about 70% of our bookings.”

He said the company had had to contract by about a third through voluntary and compulsory redundancies but said key functions had been retained to maintain the single point of contact for customers that Audley is known for.

“We still managed to maintain that single point of contact for the client – the principle of being able to talk to the person you first booked with. That held firm,” he added.

Longman said Audley had pressed ahead with a complete reservation system upgrade during the pandemic, replacing the system that had been in place for 25 years.

“It was a brave decision to continue with that investment but I am so glad we did,” he said. “If you were doing that kind of thing now it would be pretty distracting.”

The new Quest system incorporates Salesforce and is making a massive difference coming out of the crisis, Longman said, with further growth coming from the acceleration of a plan to roll out its European programme in the UK having previously only been sold in the US.

“That was a very important strategic move for us,” he said. “We advanced our plans to offer 11 countries in Europe to UK customers – places like Italy, Greece and Turkey. We’ve never been hugely into beach holidays – it’s not really our thing, but we call our offering Beach Plus.

“Europe, being nearer [to the UK], was the first place to be in demand after the pandemic and going forward, it will enable us to keep clients year-round.”

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