Unit 9 – P2

Describe retail travel operational practices 

Working Practices
Front and back office systems: 
In all retail travel agencies they have a front and a back office. 

In the front office, the procedures are to do with selling products to customers. The main procedures of the front office is to welcome customers and dealing with enquires if they are requiring help, taking bookings from customers and passing information to the back office. When a customer pays for a product or service, the agent handles cash, cheques and bank cards and the safety of using them. 
The back office procedures are to do with suppliers of the products and the running of the store.  The main procedures of the back office are having stock control on brochures (making sure there are never a low number of brochures), managing staff wages and their contracts and the holidays which the staff will be away from store. The back office also deals with staff training and sends staff on any extra if need be.

Procedures and documentation for selling travel services: 
The customer will contact the travel agent via phone/email or in store asking for a certain holiday they have either seen online, in a brochure or store advertising front window. The agent will fill out an initial enquiry form which will consistence of the dates, destination, amount of passengers. The agent then check the availability of the chosen product (say a package holiday), once the holiday is booked the customer will pay the deposit down and a receipt will be printed. Eight weeks before the holiday the customer will pay the rest of the holiday amount. Then two or three weeks before the holiday happens, the final tickets are received by the travel agent and then all of the paperwork is sent to the customer or the customer gets a notification by the agent to come into the store and pick the documents themselves. Two weeks before the holiday a holiday confirmation invoice will be sent in the post to the customer.

Merchandising and displays:
Merchandise and displays promote holidays and other products (mainly offer and deals). The displays are changed on a regular basis to stay neat, up to date and tidy. The signs are printed and not handwritten to make the store to look professional

Racking polices:
The policies enable travel agents to know which brochures go onto what shelves. The policy is crucial as if they brochures are not on the shelves, the sales will be low. Sales will dip as the customers will not have access to the holidays and to see the prices and destinations. Thomas Cook rack their own brochures and selling their own brand products and services.

Preferred operators:
Travel agents may have preferred tour operators and the agents try to sell their products to the customers more than other tour operators. Classic Travel in Loughton has three preferred agents: Club med, Sandals and Kuoni. These three have many booking from classic travel so they have put feature walls in the retail store in order to get more customers. The agents will also get higher commission levels if the holidays are sold a lot.

Commission levels:
Travel agents get commission on products/services sold: Agents get 10% on package holidays and coach holidays, 0-9% on airline tickets, 9% on ferry bookings, 1% on travellers cheques, 25-40% on travel insurance and 9-15% on cruises. This is a rough guide and depends on the agreement and varies on the travel agent and how many of the products are being sold.

Sales target:
The targets are set by the head office (in multiplies, miniples and holiday hypermarkets) and are monitored by a regional/ store manager. In independent travel agencies, the targets are decided with the staff members on an individual basis.  All sales targets allow the agents to gain extra commission. The agents may also get incentives when the targets are met in forms of bonuses, discounted or free holidays, high street and travel related products.

Switch selling:
switch selling is when a customer comes into a retail travel agency knowing exactly what they want and expecting to book it, however the agent is able to persuade the customers into booking a different product (different operator/ location/ hotel) to the one originally chosen.  

Technology

Using technology:
Travel agents use technology every day in store; they are always on the computer researching and booking products for customers. When they are not on the computers, they are on the phones ringing up customers and tour operators.  The improvement in technology benefits the travel agents immensely as the systems are faster and more up to date. The negative of the improvements, is that customers are now able to book holidays online with their chosen tour operator and are more likely to get a better deal, leaving the agents with lack of work and could cause the retail store to close down.

Up-to-date hardware and software:
There are many systems and hardware which travel agents use on a day-to-day basis. There are always improvements to make sure the systems are running correct and at the fastest speed possibly. Underneath I have found nine systems that all retail travel agents used and how it is beneficial to them.

View data 1980’s:
The systems allows travel agents to check the prices and availability of flights and package holidays and then are able to book the one the customers has decided they would like to go to. The system has helped travel agents as they could book and check prices of products and services for customers. This benefited travel agents as it meant they didn’t have to keep phoning up tour operators to check availability of something to find it has already been taken and then phoning the customer up to see if they should try any other tour operator. It was beneficial as the main thing that was helpful was that it saved time and travel agents were able to show the customer when they are sitting at the desk.

Voyager systems limited:     
The system allows travel agents to: create and print statements for customers, able to see if a customer is in debt to their company, they have a payment system which is for both the travel agent and the customer to use; there is a
booking fee configuration which works out how much the travel agent who booked the product or service and how much they will get for booking it.

Dolphin Dynamics:
This system allows travel agents to use systems which are fast and up-date software systems allowing them to give customers an extremely high service.  The system also helps travel agencies to keep their low costs and have an efficient workload.

Vertical group:
This system allows travel agents to buy products and services from big tour operators. The main ones are: TUI travel, Oasis travel, World Travellers, Thomas Cook, The Cruise Village and Your hotel integration. The system helps travel agents as it allows them to easily book customer’s holidays easier than it used to be.

Amadeus:
This system allows travel agents to search for a product/ service and booking it for the customer, it also allows them to manage their customers checking and departure process in the airport and making their customers holidays in one complete package holiday so the customer does not have to stress about different parts of their holidays being controlled and sorted by different people and companies. This system is beneficial for travel agencies as they can offer customers a peace of mind and great customer service.

These four systems are in one big system called Global Distribution System (GDS)

Softcell information systems:
This system helps travel agencies to be cost effective, it’s also less time consuming as it is easy to use an travel agents are not required to be on the phone all day long. There’s also a wide range of products and services for the customer to choose. This is good for travel agencies as they may have a competitive advantage by using the system to offer customers the best deals on the best products/services.

Galileo:
This system helps travel agents in the industry because if a customer comes in panicking saying they need flights changed, the travel agents can help the customer by changing the flight and put the customer at ease.

Worldspan:
the system allows travel agency to book flights for transport sector of tailor –made package holiday. This gives travel agency a competitive advantage as the system they use is in a partnership with: Amadeus, Sabre and Galileo.

Sabre:
The system allows travel agencies to book and purchase products and services for customers. They have a wide range of companies for travel agencies to use, they have around 400 airlines, 125,000 hotel properties, 200 tour operators, 50 rail carriers, 27 car rental outlets and 16 cruise lines.

Current applications:
Travel agents currently use many of the systems described above on a day-to-day basis depending on what the customer needs and what products and services they require.

Impacts of technology:
The impacts of technology are both positive and negative:
Positive
Negative
Travel agents can access certain tour operators faster than before
Customers can book online without any confusion & it is easy to do 
Elderly people may not have a computer so would rather go to a store
Customers can do their own research & read other peoples reviews
Travel agents can amend customer bookings and printing documents in store.
Travel agents may not be able to match deals that are on the internet
Legislations
Data protection act:
Travel agencies protect personal information and who is given access to it used. Travel agencies protect customer’s personal information such as addresses, payment methods (card numbers and security information). They make sure all important information is store either on a computer database or in filing cabinets; both are located in the back office.

EU package travel regulation:
The package travel regulation is a package to protect the customers in case the holiday (accommodation, transport and flight) is not what it looks like and advertised in the brochure, the customer can get a refund due to the holiday not being what they booked, the refund can be a holiday to somewhere else or money back. Travel agencies follow this act to make sure customers go on holiday knowing exactly what to expect from the place, if the brochures are wrong or not updated on a regular basis (if a hotel gains or drops a star rating) the tour operator could be fined.

Consumer protection act:
This act protects the customers who have booked a holiday but for some reasons, it is the not the holiday they was after. Some examples could be: there are building works to build a new hotel next to the accommodation place you was staying at and it was off-putting and no warning was give, change of accommodation last minute due to a urgent repair or overbooking people into the same room. Travel agencies follow this act to make sure their customers have a holiday they will enjoy.

Contract law:
This law is to make sure travel agents are treated fairly and have a certain amount of paid holiday per year, making sure they have normal working hours or shift work; all of these things are controlled by people who work in the back office and HR.
Trade associations and licensing

ABTA:
Stands for Association of British Travel Agents. ABTA is the UK’s leading travel association. They have been around for sixty years. Their purpose is to help British travel agencies grow their businesses successfully and sustainably and help the travelling public have confidence with travel agents.  

CAA:
The Civil Aviation Authority main purpose it to make safety and performance at the highest standard possible. It is run by the government but use the money paid by its members (2,400). They are improving choice and value for travelling customers and are always making planes to be less affecting the environment and always improving the environment performance.

ATOL:
Air Travel organiser’s Licence is a government run financial protection scheme and makes all package holidays have a licence so the customer and travel agency to feel safe and secure when the holiday is booked. Once the package holiday is booked, the customer will receive an ATOL certificate in case the company fails and allows the customer to get a refund or a flight home with a different company. Retail travel agencies can obtain an ATOL license via the CAA if they agency is a tour operator and sell flights or package holidays.

ATOC:
Stands for Association of Train Operating Companies. The associations bring all the train companies together to preserve and enhance the benefits of Britain’s national rail network. Their mission is to serve customers with the best kind of rail transport whilst supporting prosperous railway.


IATA:
International Air Transport Association allows new members to join; travel agents have to apply for a licence to sell airline tickets. All airlines need to have a licence as they are offering flights and flight based package holidays. With the licence customers are protected when flying the organisation.