Sunderland firm Tate's Travel says hot tub lodges, coach holidays and foreign trips are proving popular as lockdown eases
A Sunderland travel firm have been receiving thank you gifts, and is attracting new people through the doors, thanks to its customer service during the lockdown travel crisis.
The travel sector was thrown into chaos by the restrictions in place to limit the spread of Covid-19, but throughout lockdown staff at Tate’s Travel have been fielding calls and processing refunds for people whose holidays have been affected by the pandemic.
As travel began to boom, the family firm was set up in 1968 by Ray Tate and today the independent business is run by his children Lisa Halliday and Lee Tate, who’ve been working daily during the pandemic at the shop in Park Lane where it’s been since 1985.
"This is definitely the biggest impact there has ever been on travel,” explained Lisa. A major part of the company’s work during lockdown has been processing refunds. They’ve helped to get people refunds from 1,000 claims, many of which were a result of Shearings and National Holidays going into liquidation.
Lisa said: "I think people have really valued booking through a travel agent, rather than doing it themselves, as we’re ABTA bonded. A lot of our customers are older and they don’t have things like scanners to be able to scan and submit documents, so we’ve been able to that for them.
"Customers weren’t allowed into the shop during lockdown, but one dropped a crate of wine off for us at the doorstep as a thank you, which was lovely.”
The Sunderland business, which employs six people in the city, offers a variety of coaching breaks throughout the UK and Europe with operators such as Shearings, Alfa Travel, Gardiners, Leger and Gold Crest. They also work through operators such as Jet2 Holidays to offer European city breaks.
With air bridges established between the UK and countries such as Spain, Italy, France, Greece and Turkey and quarantine being lifted for people travelling in from low-risk countries from July 10, travel consumer confidence is rising.
However, Lisa says for 2020 hot tub lodges in the UK are a popular choice for holidays.
“People have been booking holidays for 2021 and New Year city breaks to places like Krakow and Rome, but for this summer hot tub lodges are proving especially popular,” she explained. “People are wanting to travel safely with their families and independently. There are some people who want to be on the first plane and nothing will put them off, but others feel safer staying in Britain this year. I have friends who are in Marbella and they say they actually feel safer there than in this country.
"Coach holidays are also booking up. Coaches are running at half capacity and have a zig zag seating system so you’re not sat next to each other, which a lot of people are ringing up about.”
The city centre shop is back open for walk-in custom, with social distancing in place, and staff say it’s great to see customers’ faces again, many of whom they’ve booked holidays for every year.
Lee says personal customer service has really come into its own in lockdown.
He said: “I think the fact that we’ve been in here every day answering calls has been a big help to people. A lot of businesses shut up shop and people were left in the dark.
"But we’ve been here to offer that reassurance and to let people know it’s in hand. People have really valued that customer service.”
It comes as the Echo is running its #SupportLocal campaign to encourage people to use local businesses.