The peak body industry, aka the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA), perspective fascinates me, primarily because they have access to almost everyone at all levels in all areas.
Gary O’Riordan had a tough job as the face of one of the biggest changes in Australian travel, the implementation of ATAS.
I caught up with Gary to find out where he is at on all things travel in life after AFTA:
1. You were a big driver of accreditation through AFTA – is that still an important part of future for agents?
ATAS accreditation was a positive development as proven by the 3,000 agents who embraced accreditation. It’s important to meet minimum standards and criteria as set by the industry.
2. How has your perspective changed of the travel industry in moving from the peak body to consulting?
There was much turmoil and uncertainty in the industry a few years back, which I feel has settled now with the ATAS program established with strong industry support. My perspective hasn’t changed much; it’s an exciting industry growing both outbound and inbound and the future is very bright indeed.
3. What’s the main skill sought by the clients you consult to now?
My ability to strategically plan has been enhanced through my time at AFTA and this is where I have been able to assist a number of clients. To be able to see the big picture, keep up with the latest trends and be aware of what the competition are doing, are all particularly important elements for a business looking to grow.
4. Do travel agents have a long term future in Australia?
Absolutely! Consumers still seek advice and the expertise that an agent can offer. Whilst there has been some consolidation, the overall numbers of agents in Australia is very stable.
What we have seen is more competition particularly in the online environment so consumer now have more channels to choose from, but the role of the agent is still as vital as it was 10 or 20 years ago. The smart agents embrace the online environment and compete in that space as well.
5. What’s the main change agents of today need to make to be successful in the future?
Agents need to embrace technology and its use across all channels – particularly social media, to grow brand awareness, promote the benefits of booking through an agent and drive conversion. They need to find the right technology solution to best suit their individual business model.
It seems many agents struggle with which IT solution is the right one for them.
Online competition is here to stay, so agents need to keep informing consumers of the many reasons why booking through a travel agent is the best channel for their clients.
The industry is growing on all fronts so it’s a great time to be working in travel.
Gary will be talking about this and more at Travel Vision 2020.
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