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Travel Leaders: Rohan Moss, Group General Manager - Consolidation, Helloworld Travel

Rohan Moss' journey in the Australian travel industry spans an impressive 40 years (or as he says “43 years, seven months and 23 days” at the time of our interview). And this time is marked by a wealth of experience in various senior roles within the country's leading travel companies. 

Rohan Moss’ journey in the Australian travel industry spans an impressive 40 years (or as he says “43 years, seven months and 23 days” at the time of our interview). And this time is marked by a wealth of experience in various senior roles within the country’s leading travel companies. 

Newly returned to Helloworld Travel Limited, Moss is a seasoned professional with a comprehensive grasp of the entire travel industry, spanning business systems, operations, sales, and marketing. Particularly noteworthy is Moss’ extensive knowledge of online B2B and B2C travel systems, where he excels in enhancing efficiency and achieving cost savings through innovative online technology solutions. His remarkable track record underscores his proficiency in steering high-performance operations and call centre teams, consistently ensuring the delivery of exceptional customer service.

Our interview delves into Moss’ insights on the current state of the travel industry, the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, and the inevitable coming of the NDC.

What’s happening at Helloworld in general, but also within Air Tickets and Consolidation? 

We’ve been focused for the last five months on improving our service delivery, which we’ve done very successfully. We’re getting great accolades from our travel agent customers for the service that we’re providing. And they’re delighted with the turnaround that the team has delivered.

What are you most excited about at the moment? 

Our technology solutions are all designed to make travel agents more efficient, and more profitable. A case in point is our new Smart Refunds, which is revolutionising refunds, expediting the refund back to our travel agents and in turn the customer.

I think we’ve got two trends occurring. On the domestic front, in Australia, we’re back at essentially 100% of pre-COVID business. And then internationally, Macquarie has forecast that we’ll be a tad over 93% by Christmas, and that was before the recent announcements of additional services such as Singapore Airlines. And then if Qatar receive the extra 28 flights we’ll then be over 100% of pre-COVID capacity levels.

So what’s the trend? The trend is greater seats available from Australia and to Australia and that is lowering the average fares that we’re seeing. 

What does that look like for the market? Well, that means there are more seats to sell. The prices aren’t yet back down to pre-COVID levels, but they certainly have reduced from where we were in FY23. So travel is becoming more affordable. 

I think the biggest trend that we’ve seen post the opening of the borders has been the increase in ticket sales in the premium cabins. That’s driven by, I think, that post-COVID people didn’t want to sit as close to other passengers, but more importantly they hadn’t been travelling and had the cash to have a more luxurious experience in Premium Economy, business and first. We’ve seen an over 7% increase in premium cabin tickets compared to pre-COVID.

Capacity is definitely a big issue for the industry. Are there any other big challenges that we’re facing? 

Airlines are now pushing ahead on NDC (New Distribution Capability) which they paused over COVID. So the big push is coming and we at Air Tickets are there to support our agent customers on the NDC journey.

Now there’s not a lot to be afraid of. We all need to embrace it because the airlines are doing this. It’s a runaway train and it’s not going to stop. 

At Air Tickets, we’re about delivering the tools so that our agents can consume NDC product in conjunction with the three global distribution systems that we work with. 

Today we can issue and reissue NDC tickets, and we will have automated NDC refunds in Q1 2024. 

Unfortunately, what was meant to be a standard deployment of NDC by the carriers is actually bespoke. So what does that mean? That means that each of the global distribution systems essentially has to create a bespoke connection to the airlines to be able to deliver NDC content to the agents which I don’t think is what was envisaged. 

I think the biggest change for a customer and agent is that the old cryptic commands that they’re used to on all of the global distribution systems are not usable for NDC so they need to embrace a new way of shopping for fares.

Change is an inevitability in our industry though, right?

A lot of our agents have started their careers on TIAS (a travel distribution company) moving to the GDS. It’s all cryptic and that’s what they’re used to. But there are benefits in moving off the cryptic. What NDC delivers in terms of rich content, video, images, etc you can’t get through the EDIFACT (Electronic Data Interchange For Administration, Commerce, and Transport) fare channel. So there are some exciting parts to that as well as the ease of booking the ancillary services or seats or bags etc. And if you’ve got a face-to-face customer, it makes it easier to sell that to the customer: “Here’s the seat map, where would you like me to put you?”

The theme of the recent Helloworld Frontliners Forum conference was connect and collaborate. How important is collaboration in this industry? 

It’s very important. In January, Air Tickets is introducing a dedicated council from our travel agents to collaborate with us and drive the roadmap of our SmartSuite developments moving forward. So rather than just Air Tickets coming up with what we believe are necessary and beneficial enhancements, we’re going to get the council to feed into us what they would like, which I think is an important step. At the end of the day, they’re our customer and we need to listen to the customer as to what they want. 

And as a leader yourself, you’ve got a lot of new people coming into the industry as well. What does good leadership look like? 

Well, I think the first step of good leadership is to ensure your whole team knows the direction and the roadmap and what we’re setting out to achieve in manageable timeframes so that the team can see success. 

And I think it’s vitally important that every team member understands that every one of our interactions is with a customer. And we need to ensure that we over-deliver for our customers. 

So I think it’s about communicating. It’s setting the roadmap and the goals, whether that be in new technology developments, or in terms of the service standards that we’re offering to our customers.

What message would you give to new people coming in or people looking into coming into the travel industry? 

It’s an exciting industry. It’s a very enjoyable, beneficial industry. We get to travel, we get to experience the product and mostly, we’re a great bunch of people.