While peak season for the lay holidaymaker might mean ‘the busiest time of year in a destination’, within the travel industry, it’s a specific term that refers to the ‘peak selling season’.
What is Peaks?
It’s a time of the year when tour operators and travel suppliers launch campaigns and offer amazing deals to compete with the January high-street sales and encourage travellers to book their holidays early. For travel agents, it can be the most lucrative time of year and the upward trajectory in bookings and enquiries led the industry to nickname the period ‘peaks’.
Peaks falls immediately after Christmas and runs from Boxing Day through to the end of February – even though over the past couple of years, there is a tendency for it to extend into March.
At this time, travel agents typically sell four times more holidays compared to the rest of the year, according to The Travel Franchise/Not Just Travel co-founder Steve Witt.
He advises anyone looking to set up business as a travel agent to be prepared for this ‘peak season’ and says some of its consultants sold £300k-£500k-worth of holidays in January 2023 alone.
So what sort of deals are around? Many operators offer low deposits, free child places, free upgrades and early booking discounts. Some offer book now, pay later deals.
In 2023, easyJet holidays launched its biggest-ever trade campaign for the 2023 peaks period, including a sale on all holidays and some unmissable prizes for agents.
The package holiday provider’s Big Orange Sale saw savings of up to £300 applicable on all holidays booked up to 11 pm by 31 January 2023. Travel agents could offer unbeatable value for their customers, with a discount of £300 when they spent £3,000, £150 when they spent £1,500, and £100 when they spent £700.
As well as offering incredible value to customers, easyJet holidays also ran several competitions on their Facebook page in the New Year for travel agents to get their hands on some travel prizes. These included a daily giveaway and a weekly bumper holiday prize to a favourite destination or hotel. Finally, the tour operator crowned a ‘Final Perfect Peaks’ winner, who received a luxury holiday for two!
Remember, while getting a good deal is important, a travel agent’s role isn’t just about finding the cheapest price – it’s also about service and matching the right holiday to the client.
How does peaks affect holiday booking?
For travel agents, the January-March peaks season is a critical period that requires adequate preparation and resource allocation to handle the increased demand. With travel providers, tour operators and cruise lines offering impressive deals and big discounts to pass on to customers, it’s the busiest time for travel agents.
The first Saturday in January, known as Sunshine Saturday, is typically the most popular day of the year to book a foreign trip, according to Huffpost.
Mark Tanzer, Abta’s chief executive, said: “The start of the year usually brings lots of enthusiasm for booking holidays and we know many people will be really looking forward to getting away […]. People’s appetite for holiday taking has remained remarkably resilient despite the ongoing pressure on people’s finances, though there’s definitely a strong focus on securing great value for money.”
Which are the popular destinations sold during peaks?
According to the Independent, Spain, Greece, and Turkey emerged as top choices in January 2023. Internet search data revealed a significant rise in interest for Cape Verde as a beach destination, while Dubai and Amsterdam were the favourite city destinations, with their search statistics seeing a considerable boost in January.
EasyJet holidays identified Spanish islands as the frontrunners. Tenerife, Palma, and Lanzarote were the most booked beach destinations, with most wanting holidays in June. For city breaks, Amsterdam, Paris, and Iceland attracted the most bookings with the highest number of reservations for March. Over half of the beach breaks were all-inclusive holidays, reflecting customers’ preferred holiday style.
How travel agents prepare for peaks
Travel agents need to make the most of this annual booking frenzy while providing their customers with a seamless and enjoyable holiday booking experience. To avoid last-minute stresses, it’s advantageous to evaluate your services and itineraries ahead of time. Many home-based travel consultants choose to work longer hours and even seven days a week in January to make the most of this lucrative time.
Ensure that your website is up-to-date with all guidelines and terms and conditions. Additionally, your social media accounts can be a powerful tool for keeping your customers informed and engaged. Make sure peak special offers and fantastic discounts are highlighted and prominently placed on your pages.
But there are several other strategies that many travel-related businesses employ too.
Travel agents can make personalised email suggestions influenced by the customer’s previous booking history.
By offering a uniquely tailored search experience, you save potential travellers hours of research and discourage them from leaving your website to continue their search with a competitor.
Displaying the current weather in exotic destinations can often entice individuals to make bookings, particularly during the winter when many are keen to flee the UK’s bleak weather.
Incorporating real-time weather updates is an excellent strategy to induce ‘weather envy’. These updates are ideally highlighted in emails and websites during the January booking peak.
Nothing spurs customers to finalise their plans like the fear of missing out on a great deal.
Using limited-time and availability offers on your website, social media and email marketing can spark interest, increase engagement and spur holidaymakers to jump on peak special offers.
How do travel agents ensure the best deals for customers during peaks?
Travel agents are adept at securing the best deals for their customers, especially during peaks, the busiest booking period of the year.
Most travel agencies begin negotiations with suppliers, such as airlines, hotels, and tour operators, well in advance. Given the volume of bookings they’ll bring, agents can often secure exclusive rates and perks. This could include discounted airfares, free hotel room upgrades, or bonus experiences, such as a free city tour or spa treatment. Even travel insurers are jumping on the bandwagon and offering special deals.
Some big travel agencies negotiate exclusive offers with key trade suppliers, which their agents can then pass on to the agent’s customers. Not Just Travel home-based travel agents often get exclusive offers from the company’s 45+ key trade suppliers, which include well-known UK brands from TUI to Kuoni.
Bundling flights, accommodation, and sometimes meals or activities often allows travel agents to provide better deals. These packages are typically cheaper than booking everything separately and offer the convenience of having all elements of the trip coordinated together.
Harnessing the peak momentum in the travel industry
Harnessing the peak momentum in the travel industry is crucial for businesses looking to maximise success. This pivotal time impacts travel agents’ operations, sales, and customer service strategies. It is a period marked by heightened activity, with customers eager to secure the best deals for their upcoming vacations. For travel agents, this time presents countless opportunities.
Travel agents who can successfully manage the demands of peaks and secure the best deals for their clients will achieve immediate sales and foster lasting customer relationships. These relationships can lead to repeat business and referrals, extending the benefits of the peak season throughout the year.
Peaks can be a challenging time in the travel industry, but with the right strategies, it can also offer significant opportunities for success.