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"The Travel Agents that survive, are the ones that change"

2016 was a big and fascinating year for media and communications. Not only in travel, but across various industries.

2016 was a big and fascinating year for media and communications. Not only in travel, but across various industries.

 

For example, the Trump election will impact travel, not necessarily on fares, visas or pricing but in the way we communicate, advertise and assess the veracity of the claims of others.

On the home front we saw a more aggressive OTA media message. The pressure from OTA’s has been on everyone’s radar for a decade now, but 2016 was the first year that an organisation like Webjet went mainstream and openly attacked the value of Travel Agents.

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Agents complained and moaned, forcing AFTA took it all the way to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). What changed? Not much. The bureaucratic response is no longer suitable for the fast moving world of media in protecting, in this case, Travel Agents.

I shared a Facebook discussion with a friend in a senior position with one of Australia’s largest media groups.  If I understand correctly, sitting around a press meeting one morning, the editorial staff began to acknowledge what this Facebook conversation summed up in four lines:

“The media should have a hard think about who they give air time to.”

“We are all ‘the media’ now.”

“So does that make us complicit?”

“Good question.”

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The seismic shift is that now, we are more influenced by what we read on Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp, than the likes of Fairfax or News Corp. It’s been a phenomenal challenge for these large institutions to keep up with rapidly changing media trends, particularly when some persisted the mindset of “but people like to hold paper in their hand”.  Their response?  To drop the broadsheet and miss the boat of change to digital.

Brexit and the US election showed how phenomenally wrong mainstream media was in their analysis and interpretation of their own value. Especially in whom they were analysing, which was no longer representative of the mainstream of people. Meanwhile the world lapped up every fake news story and hacked email myth.

Brexit Shutterstock

Read it, dream it, do it and suddenly, simply because it exists in large enough quantities, it becomes the truth. Mud sticks, especially when a truck load of it comes down on someone.

So what does this mean for travel?

Agents need to be actively aware that the big online players will become more aggressive in their critique of Agents and realistically be less accountable. They will become brazen, they will take risks and the attempts to shut them down will be harder than ever.

Agents need to get up to speed very quickly on how people’s minds are influenced.

“I don’t believe there is a place in 2020 and beyond for every Travel Agent that exists right now… The Travel Agents that will survive are the ones who change and the ones that will thrive are the ones that change first.”

Meg Salter

Tune in for part two next week where we focus on “truth matters”.

Have you started to adapt to new media?