The stage is set: will Hays Travel flourish in the brand spotlight?

The courageous move by John and Irene Hays to buy all 555 Thomas Cook retail agencies is something which has thrust them into the national, indeed, international spotlight. And so, here they are: Beacons of hope, honesty and humility against a murky background of corporate greed.

Now they have a massive opportunity, to replace the tarnished and mistreated brand of Thomas Cook with their own, and to prove, as true champions of the high street, there is a place for real people, delivering holidays which people actually value.

I don’t know if Irene and John talk about ‘brand’ a lot, but they should be.

I would bet heavily that their customers talk about them and their company before, during and after their holidays. Plus, thanks to their recent acquisition there is a lot of goodwill towards them, and this is the intrinsic power of brand.

For a truly good customer experience – which can address all the facets of the holiday buying process – you simply cannot beat dealing with real human beings. Booking a holiday is not a snap decision. There are lots of emotions at play.

In short, there is a need for people with knowledge and empathy, who actually care about their customers.

That is what it seems the Hays extended family has fostered as a company culture, and what has driven their success in the increasingly commoditised digital age.

Here at Designate, we are brand evangelists; and we see the foundations of a strong brand there.

The advent of the digital age was NOT to blame for Thomas Cook’s demise, contrary to the repeated assertions by the alleged experts. Their prevailing mantra of ‘clicks over bricks’ misses the point.

The online shopping experience works just fine for low-value, low-expectation travel. In reality, it’s not either/or. If you are looking to provide a great experience for customers, you need to do both. And do them both well.

Crucially, businesses must lift their heads out of the spreadsheet and remember they are brokering hopes, dreams and aspirations. And as a company, you are dealing with perceptions, reputation and promises. In other words, brand.

Godspeed John and Irene. We hope to see you and your brand centre stage for many years and decades to come.

And if you want to know more about it, you can hear Jason talking on this very subject on the Travelmole podcast here.

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