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The travel bounce: What did we learn at Collette's Travel Forum?

100 plus-year-old international touring company Collette's 'Bounce Back and Inspire' Travel Forum in Cairns wrapped on Friday with delegates hailing the company's comeback event as one of much-needed reconnection and celebration.

100 plus-year-old international touring company Collette’s ‘Bounce Back and Inspire’ Travel Forum in Cairns wrapped on Friday with delegates hailing the company’s comeback event as one of much-needed reconnection and celebration.

After being propelled to reschedule five times in the last twelve months due to developments of the pandemic, Collette’s travel forum finally went ahead with the travel industry represented by a host of agents, media and travel suppliers in the tropical playground of Far North Queensland.

The two-day event was held at Crystalbrook Flynn Resort in Cairns from 18-20 May 2022, with delegates collectively discussing how to bounce back from an incredibly challenging two and a half years for the industry globally.

Flying the green flag for Collette was CEO Dan Sullivan who flew in from Rhode Island, USA, along with Christian Leibl-Cote, Senior Vice President of Global Business and the Australian Collette team who had made the welcome trip north to warmer climes from a rain-soaked Sydney.

Some of Australia’s leading travel players were also in attendance, including Fiona Dalton, General Manager, Virtuoso; Brett Dann, Managing Director, Hunter Travel; Phil Hoffman, Managing Director, Phill Hoffman Travel, Chris Watson, founder, Chris Watson Travel and Karryon General Manager, Dani Tuffield.

So what did we learn?

Shout out to the fitness crew! Who took on the wellbeing aspect of the Forum

Aside from long-overdue face-to-face conversations and hearty embraces, the two days featured insightful panels and presentations with discussions encircling the challenges and opportunities of the day.

Prominent themes included industry recruitment, shorter-lead time bookings, rebuilding travel industry trust, staff mental health and the need for support, increasing booking yields, declining commissions and how to expertly serve clients in a post-pandemic world.

Nicole Bennett, Sales Manager Australia and New Zealand for Delta Airlines, spoke of the U.S. based airline’s numbers already being stronger than in 2019. Bennett also got a rousing cheer from the audience on stating that Australian agent international commissions would be remaining at 5 per cent post 1 July.

Julia Zaetta, James Hewlett and Jessica Donohoe, Collette
Dani Tuffield, GM, Karryon, Chris Watson, Chris Watson Travel and Jessica Donohoe, Collette

Collette spoke of solid forward bookings and consecutive monthly sales growth, with Leibl-Cote saying Italy, Ireland, and Iceland are their three most popular destinations. Small and private touring is also reportedly in high demand.

Speaking about his take on the journey ahead, Collette CEO Dan Sullivan said, “We are optimistic that the overseas demand for tourism into Australia is on the way up, in particular from the Canadian and U.S. markets.

“Collette will resume its Australia and New Zealand tour offerings from September 2022, with dates already booked through to mid-2023 for new tours such as Australia and New Zealand Uncovered,” he said.

Collette CEO Dan Sullivan, Olympic Gold medalist Steven Bradbury, OAM and Christian Leibl-Cote, Senior Vice President of Global Business Collette

Speaking about Collette’s response to the pandemic, Leibl-Cote said that the company had made crucial changes to benefit their people and the trade, including furloughing the executive team first, implementing a cancel for any reason policy while ensuring that any agent commission on cancelled deposits was paid out.

Leibl-Cote also highlighted how vital travel advisors are to Collette’s business, laying down a firm commitment to continue to invest in the Australian market and work closely with travel advisors as partners.

Since the start of the pandemic, Collette has run over 1,500 departures, managing the numerous changes in travel restrictions that were in place at the time.

The Gala Dinner welcome

Collette says its commitment to prioritising full refunds over travel credits has seen the company refund over AUD$250 million to happy customers worldwide since the beginning of the pandemic.

The travel forum closed on Thursday evening with a Gala Dinner at the Crystalbrook Flynn that included Hon Michael Healy, MP Cairns & Assistant Minister for Tourism Industry Development and Olympic Gold medalist Steven Bradbury, OAM.

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