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Approaching the Finish Line: Andy Buerckner, Platinum Travel

With Australia's international border reopening from 1 November, quarantine being scrapped in NSW, and restrictions easing across the country in line with climbing vaccination rates, Platinum Travel Director Andy Buerckner muses “We haven’t come this far, just to come this far.”

With Australia’s international border reopening from 1 November, quarantine being scrapped in NSW, and restrictions easing across the country in line with climbing vaccination rates, Platinum Travel Director Andy Buerckner muses “We haven’t come this far, just to come this far.”

This one is for you, friends, colleagues, and pioneers of our beloved travel and tourism industry. 

This one is for you who’s slumped behind your desk, tired and frustrated.

This one is for you who can’t wait to get back to work but feels anxious and fearful about operating in a new environment.

This one is for those of you who honestly are not sure where you stand after so many months of confusion, fear, frustration, and mixed messaging. 

And this one is for all of us who have ridden the insane rollercoaster of the last 19 months and are still standing. This alone is an incredible feat that should never be downplayed.

I see you, I hear you, and I get it. It’s been a bloody long 19 months.

Platinum Directors Carl Buerckner, Sarah Szubanski and Andrew Buerckner
Platinum Directors Carl Buerckner, Sarah Szubanski and Andrew Buerckner

It’s been brutal for our industry, particularly with closed borders, restrictions, and lockdowns on top of more lockdowns.

Devastatingly, so many have been forced to leave the industry through redundancy, business closure or out of frustration and despair.

While there have been some brief patches of freedom and recovery, they too have been snatched away to be replaced with harsh lockdowns and more confusion.

Rinse and repeat.

But things have changed. That light at the end of the tunnel we often reference? It’s shining brighter than ever. 

I recently heard someone within the industry say, “we haven’t come this far, just to come this far”, which resonated with me greatly.

We have struggled through an incredibly turbulent 19 months, and we didn’t make it to this point in time to not make it across the finish line, despite how hard it has been.

I know you know that; we all know that. There were many days where I felt stuck, disheartened, downtrodden. I’m not ashamed to share that I cried into way too many glasses of whiskey one day. Most of us have been left scrambling to find new ways to pay the bills or to find rhythm and routine in our daily lives.

But we’re so close now.

The international border is opening from 1 November, quarantine has been scrapped in NSW, and restrictions are easing across the country in line with climbing vaccination rates.

This is the final push.

That being said, it would still be foolish to assume that the transition back to “normal” will be seamless.

Our industry has irreversibly changed, and there are many challenges up ahead for us all to deal with. I want to address three of these in particular.

Staff Shortages

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The resilience shown in the industry has been nothing short of remarkable, an incredible feat. However, there is also a significant level of fatigue, and too many good people have left the industry.

After 19 months of confusion, processing refunds and credits, mixed messaging, reliance on Government support and without a steady paycheck, who can blame them?

It’s not just been draining; it’s been frightening and disheartening. The staff shortage is a real problem that may require some creative, lateral thinking as we work to find new superstars for our industry. How can your business run smoothly, with less staff? How can you rethink your processes? Your offering?

For all of us left standing, there is SO much to be done! Some will have worked hard on this over the last year, and some will still have their heads in the sand. 

Demand for Travel Advisor Services

Lisbon, Portugal

We also have another, much more welcome event barreling towards us: the incoming and heightened demand for our expertise.

Demand will be high, and unfortunately, staff supply will (continue to be) low, which means that our focus will need to be a balance of providing exceptional service whilst attracting and recruiting new talent.

It’s time to bring back the spark to our beloved industry, and to do that; we’ll need a good foundation of business experts and sufficient training programs to ensure there is a fresh wave of talent entering the sector.

The borders are scheduled to open, both interstate and internationally, and our industry is about to be flush with purpose.

If you’ve been in hibernation, it’s time to crawl back out of that blanket cave and take a stretch or two as it’s about to get wild.

The Path Ahead

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The travel industry is poised for an incredible reopening.

There is a flood of interest, and millions of Australians are ready to experience the joy of travel after 19 months of going without.

There are some tremendous obstacles ahead of us, but the fact of the matter is: things are moving.

There is flow; there is direction; we’re moving towards our industry hustling, busy and thriving again. Just keep going.

Hear me out; this is exciting. This is a fresh start.

The focus can be on how we can revive our industry and get creative with it. We know the demand will be huge, and right now, we have the opportunity to create some incredible experiences for our collective customers.

One could (should) almost think of it as a total rebuild of our industry, a reopening and a reset.

It’s a blank canvas for all of us to work with, and that is bloody exciting.

There is so much room for us to help bring the absolute joy of travel back into the lives of Australians. How will you and your business reimagine travel? How can you work to bring back the joy of discovery into the lives of hundreds of thousands of people?

I’m not sure how many of you watched the recent Olympics (I did and loved it!), but there was this epic moment that I think totally embodies where we are right now.

It’s the final decathlon event, the 1500m. Dubler and Moloney – the two Aussie athletes – are technically competitors but have a deep friendship. It’s the final stretch of the race with just 500m to go – and Maloney is the faster of the two. Despite being Maloney’s competition and behind him, Dubler is screaming at him to go harder and faster.

It was an incredible moment of total support and encouragement, and the sportsmanship and Aussie spirit were enough to warm even the coldest of hearts. This is the spirit I feel we need to tap into to get our industry across the finish line.

We are both Dubler and Moloney, needing support and encouragement and feeding that out to everyone around us.

We’re racing on, fighting our way to the finish line, and collectively we share the responsibility of pushing each other to see this through.

We haven’t come this far, just to come this far.”