If the last few COVID-19 ridden months have shown us anything working in the business of travel, it is that in general, the customer – travel agent – industry relationship is currently fractured. So how are we going to solve that?
The global travel industry is officially in crisis, with the resilient souls lucky enough to still be working within it, feeling battered and bruised and wondering what happens next – and when.
After working (mostly for free) through the ongoing rescues, repatriations, rebookings, cancellations and refund battles and having to stomach the most one-sided media exposés that have blown up in the last three months, it’s a miracle that you’re still here, and even sane.
I shudder to think of the personal price and abuse, I know so many of you have had to suffer on the frontline while trying to stay on top of rolling updates that have kept moving at a merciless pace.
Not to mention, having to play the ‘everyone’s a loser’ blame game being passed around like a hot potato with long-awaited for jargon and rules that no customer could ever begin to understand. Nor should have to.
As a hefty consequence of all of the above and so much more, It’d be fair to say that the global business model and supply chain is currently broken, with some links lost altogether and so many products and fantastic people who have traditionally made it all happen left in limbo or worse, out of the industry.
Yesterday’s media-wide revelation that now-former AFTA CEO and publicly disgraced industry spokesman Jayson Westbury had left the building effective immediately only threw more petrol on the fire for the haters and the agent non-believers out there.
Is it any wonder we’ve reached this extraordinarily awkward point in our history in terms of our relationship with the customer and in many cases, industry partners?
If this all sounds a bit extreme and depressing – it’s because it is and needs to be recognised and tackled now. It is a horrible time for us all and pains me to even think let alone write about it.
But on we go in hope, yet still with no certainty of a vaccine or when we can confidently start booking domestic or international travel again and resume some kind of an income that isn’t JobKeeper.
We are ‘Together in Travel’ on that for sure.
So where to now from here? And who is going to lead us on the much-discussed ‘road out?’
How do we begin to rebuild our glorious industry once more?
I say ‘glorious industry’ because while it may be looking a tad crooked and misshapen right now, I still firmly believe it is.
Why? Because our mission is to create people’s travel dreams and help inspire them to experience life-changing moments they will cherish forever.
Travel can change the world and does by its very definition. Travel changes people. It makes us better humans and gifts us the perspective to become less narrow-minded and more open to the wonderful universe of difference we all makeup on planet earth. It’s that belief that still helps me sleep at night.
That’s always been our mandate above all else and is what we as a collective industry do. And that matters greatly. Our industry is full of people who care about the bigger picture and about sharing the joy and wonder travel brings.
When I think about the travel industry hitting the reset button, I think about that mantra as being the driving force for change. Because I genuinely feel we’ve lost our way and we need to get back on track.
There’s so much we should all be proud of for the incredible amount of good stuff we have achieved in these last dark few months which shouldn’t be forgotten. But our combined thoughts now need to turn towards how can we change things to be better?
How can we galvanise the outstanding people in the industry to collectively think about the mission and solving the issues at hand? And individually, how will we play our part?
It seems to me, that every link in the supply chain needs each other more than ever and that we have the opportunity of a lifetime to make positive change and once again, be the heroes for our customers old and new.
So, to get the ball rolling, here are some questions to start a conversation around how we might put it all back together as a new innovative opportunity which benefits the customer, agents and partners.
‘Together’ being the key word here.
- How can we reinvent and reposition agents and what we do to customers from what we have learned in the last two months?
- How will we give customers the confidence again to know that we are experts in the new (complex) world and can be trusted to create remarkable trips for them and be compensated fairly for it?
- How can we transparently present our services (including partner products) as an offer of real value for customers without giving away the secret sauce? Spoiler: You are all the secret sauce.
- Will we change fee structures? Should there just be one clear fee structure industry-wide that consumers understand?
- What partners and products will we consciously choose to sell, and how will we be compensated for it?
- Will we be brave enough to share what we need with our partners (warts and all) while openly hearing their issues to help us both move forward?
- Who will we trust to work within a genuine relationship and win-win partnership?
- What services and support do we need from industry bodies such as AFTA that is in line with what we are prepared (and can afford) to pay for?
- How can we be more responsible as agent ambassadors for the world?
- How can we do better as an industry and give back along the way?
Some of the above may feel like a non-starter or too hard. But that’s where reform and change starts. We have to challenge and question everything.
I’m sure you’ll have lots of questions and ideas of your own.
The world and the process of travelling are already ultra-complex and unravelling more and more by the day as things change.
As such, it feels like we’ve never had a more significant opportunity when it comes to rising to the challenge and being recognised again as the travel experts to professionally navigate this new landscape.
The point is, there will be so many more questions and answers needed to how we piece things back together for the new era we are already in.
But we have to start brainstorming this together now because there’s not a minute to lose in regaining customers confidence and trust.
What do you think needs to change? Email us your thoughts at [email protected]
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