Rustington travel agent says ‘don’t be put off booking holidays’
When lockdown was announced last year it came as a shock and a huge blow to travel agency co-owner Harry Lightfoot.
But since that fateful day more than a year ago, his Rustington-based business Fusion Holidays has continued to provide advice and information, reschedule holidays, and make new bookings for customers.
And while the easing of restrictions this week has meant people can travel abroad again to countries on the green list, Harry said he had not yet had any customers jet away.
“To be honest, we would rather take the hit now for the customer so they are not disappointed in the holiday. “There are still so many restrictions at the moment, and things are still quite unclear, and we don’t feel we could give them the service and experience we want to at the moment,” Harry said.
“Being realistic, I think we are in for a tough year this year, but I think as more people are vaccinated and as more countries come up with a general consensus of what they are doing, I would like to think towards the back end of this year travel resumes properly without as many restrictions as now.”
Fusion Holidays has been in Church Road since 2017, having been run solely online as Fusion Cruises for four years prior to that.
Harry co-owns the business with Steve Cheal, and they work with travel agent Jane Wickens. Between the three of them, even when the shop was forced to be closed, they were answering the phone and picking up email enquiries every day.
“As an independent business, that level of personal service is important to us. We were cruise specialists before we started the business, but now we offer land holidays, too.
“We can do simple brochure holidays, or anything the customer wants. If they come in with a price, we can work towards it. We often have price parity with the big firms, or we can often even better it.
“Giving the customer a good experience is really important to us. We love to sit down with them, give them a cup of tea, and work through what they want to do.
“We’re specialists in ‘repackaging’, which basically means if people can’t make things work, with multiple destinations, ideas, time differences, etc, it’s our job to work it all out for them. We do all of it, so they don’t have to worry about it.”
Harry criticised a lack of clarity from the Government, and grant funding not being as forthcoming as people in the industry had hoped. He said travel firms got a lesser grant from the council than shops and restaurants did last time around, despite them being able to open shortly afterwards.
He said the industry was still campaigning for fairer funding, given that even now that travel firms had been able to reopen their shops, they still do not make any money until customers actually go away and pay the balance of their holidays.
In the meantime, he urged people not to be put off booking with ‘reputable’ travel agencies. He added: “If you can support your local travel agency, like us, that is great. You might see the price is £50/£60 higher than bigger firms online, but we’ve been here, picking up the phone to our customers all through lockdown. We’ve even been providing help to people who didn’t book through us.
“Just make sure whoever you book through it’s ABTA or ATOL protected, and use a debit or credit card for extra protection from your bank.”
He also said booking sooner, rather than later, might be more financially advantageous.
“As holidays rebooked for this summer get moved to next year, the availability is reduced, and the prices will likely go up.
“If you book now, you’re more likely to get a better deal. And unlike before, firms are letting you book further ahead, so you can often book up to 2023, for quite a low deposit.
Harry added: “I think the message I would like to get out there is that we are here, we are available, and we are very good at what we do.”
For more information, call Fusion Holidays on 01903 694322, email [email protected], or visit www.fusionholidays.co.uk