Simply Luxury Short Haul off to a flying start

the launch of Travel2’s Simply Luxury Short Haul product Aspire caught up with sales, marketing and commercial director, Gordon McCreadie to find out the story so far.

How has short haul luxury performed so far?
It has definitely surpassed all our expectations. Since we launched we’ve taken just over half a million in revenue, had more than 1600 calls and logged 724 different Abta numbers. So we are really pleased with mix of customers and breadth of where those customers are coming from in the country. Our average booking value is coming in at around 5k.
Half a million is double what we were expecting. We don’t see any reason why this can’t be as big as long haul. The margins are slightly better on short haul so far which came as a surprise.

What type of customer is dominating the bookings?
So far the business has predominantly been couples. There are families but they tend to be looking for early bookings for next year. The late bookings, which we have had a lot of, are mainly coming from couples.

How does short haul differ from your traditional long haul area of expertise?
The demands are the same, service levels need to be as high and professionalism is still needed?from start to finish. But the business comes in later with people quite happy to phone on Tuesday or Wednesday for something leaving that Friday or Saturday. This is different to our long haul model as although the lead-in times have shortened the time between booking?and travel is not as short as it is with short haul. So it requires a different mindset to what we’re used to and we have to work a lot closer with DMCS because of last minute nature of the business.

Do agents ask your product experts different types of questions for short haul?
The agents do seem to be looking for different types of information. In long haul the information they ask for tends to be about the destinations, itinerary suggestions, cruises and tours. With short haul the questions revolve more around specific hotel offerings such as room types, meal options and extras/upgrades. The agents are pretty knowledgeable about these short-haul destinations as they are places they have sold a lot of and probably been to. Long haul we sell more out of the way destinations that they might not have experienced.

What trends have you noticed in terms of flights?
We are using scheduled airlines like BA and KLM but also using charter and no frills for the first time. That’s the biggest change for us. It’s similar in a way to luxury long haul. The customers?seem to be happy to fly cheap and stay chic. Really the flight is a means to an end. I did think we would see more scheduled carriers booked but definitely the regional reach of the likes of easyJet, Monarch and Jet2 are doing well. Regional departures and flight times are more important to people than the airline. Customers have no qualms about flying with these airlines and spending the money on the hotel.

Has news of your launch spread quickly?
We put together?a sizeable campaign to launch it and we’re continuing to promote the new product but it will be a longer burn to get awareness. We are very pleased with the calls we’re getting though and we’re seeing a lot of activity on social media.

Do you still think there was a gap in the market for you in this area?
The move to offer short haul luxury came from demand from agents. They are keen on competition and there was a feeling that some operators in this space were getting complacent.? So they were keen for a new player in the market to make sure everyone was on top of their game. The more choice they’ve got, as long as its from a?fully bonded from operator they can trust, the better. Also the fact that it’s purely B2B is attractive.

Which destinations are performing well?
The Canary Islands are performing very well as is?mainland Spain. Greece is massively outperforming expectations thanks to quality accommodation and the prices being offered by hotel partners is very strong. Also Italy which we weren’t expecting is doing very well to the point where we are looking at contracting a lot more properties in Italy.

Are agents asking for things you can’t provide?
We make a note of enquiries we get that can’t fulfil and talk to our contracting teams regularly. A few agents are asking for smaller more boutique hotels and we are looking at that for next year. The agents we talk to feel nobody is doing that section well at the moment. Agents can expect to see an expansion of the product for 2015 and beyond.

What are you planning to make more agents aware of your luxury short haul product?
We are organising a couple of large fam trips. We’ve also launched a concession scheme where agents can earn themselves free holidays including flights throughout Europe. We’re also looking at dedicated luxury roadshows later in the year. These will not focus specifically on short haul but luxury in general and will take place throughout th