Luxury side lock up Apr 2024
Luxury side lock up Apr 2024


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Is travel demand plateauing? Insights from TravelManagers’ Michael Gazal on the future of travel agents

Karryon chats with Michael Gazal, TravelManagers Australia’s Executive General Manager, to get his insights on the future of the travel industry. Gazal shares his thoughts on why innovation, adaptability and famils are key to thriving in the evolving landscape.

Karryon chats with Michael Gazal, TravelManagers Australia’s Executive General Manager, to get his insights on the future of the travel industry. Gazal shares his thoughts on why innovation, adaptability and famils are key to thriving in the evolving landscape.

“It’s more evident in the last eight weeks that travel demand may be easing,” Gazal tells Karryon. However, he quickly adds, “It’s all relative as we are still achieving record sales months.”

Gazal points out that suppliers have indicated a limited capacity for European touring and cruising for the 2024 summer and winter programs. This scarcity emphasises the importance of early bookings and suggests a potential return of the old “early bird” air deals later this year for 2025 departures. For travel agents, this means staying ahead of trends and advising clients to plan their trips well in advance.

Enhancing efficiency and time management

Gazal said that PTMs (Personal Travel Managers) had reported that conditions had improved compared to the previous couple of years when they worked much longer hours to meet the high demand for travel. This positive shift is partly due to the incorporation of new systems and processes to better manage time and workflows.

“Some PTMs have seen a significant impact on their business by adopting these strategies,” Gazal says.

TravelManagers Australia has been proactive in this regard, recently conducting workshops around the country focused on time management. These sessions provided practical tips on how PTMs can run their businesses more efficiently, including the concept of time blocking. This approach has enabled agents to balance their workload more effectively, ultimately enhancing client service.

Future planning and client engagement

A notable trend is the increasing number of consumers looking to book further in advance, with many enquiries already coming in for 2025 and even cruises for 2026. This shift towards early planning reflects a growing consumer confidence and a desire for certainty in travel arrangements. 

For travel agents, this presents an opportunity to engage with clients over longer planning horizons, fostering deeper relationships and ensuring better service delivery.

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Embracing change and innovation

Gazal emphasises the importance of flexibility and technological integration. 

“We’ve invested significantly in technology to ensure our PTMs can deliver exceptional service to their clients,” he noted. This investment includes advanced booking systems and customer relationship management tools that enhance efficiency and client satisfaction.

Gazal highlights several strategies that agents can adopt to stay ahead in a rapidly changing industry:

  • Learn more: Continually update knowledge on products, destinations, NDC, and cruise packaging.
  • Outsource: Delegate labour-intensive administrative processes to focus on client engagement.
  • Improve processes: Streamline booking management to enhance efficiency.
  • Adopt new tools and systems: Learn to use new tools that aggregate content or package travel options.
  • Keep doing what you’re doing: Despite technological advances, maintaining strong client relationships remains crucial.
  • Marketing is still key: Continue marketing to existing clients while expanding the client base through networking.
  • Specialise: Consider specialising in a destination or travel segment, especially if there is a personal passion for that market.
  • Get support from NPO: Utilise operational support from the National Partnership Office (NPO) to allow more time with clients.

The company’s focus on innovation is not just about technology but also about fostering a culture of continuous improvement. By providing ongoing training and professional development opportunities, TravelManagers Australia ensures their PTMs are well-equipped to handle the complexities of modern travel planning.

What can suppliers do?

“Our internal call to action or mission statement is ‘to be the best partner in travel’,” says Gazal.

“That means we aim to provide the best support and services to our PTMs in every aspect of running a small business, from marketing, operations, fares and ticketing, finance and mid-office support systems to our state-based BPMs (Business Partnership Managers). We are always looking to add value across all of these departments. 

“It also translates to our supplier partnerships as we aim to provide them as much access and opportunities to grow their business and support our PTMs.”

According to Gazal, suppliers can support the trade by providing booking platforms that allow PTMs to self-manage bookings where possible and provide support for the agents and their clients on the ground locally.

“Suppliers should also invest in education and engagement so that PTMs can confidently recommend their products.

“They should also increase the famil opportunities to further educate PTMs on destinations and experiences. Although there are challenges of rebated air travel these famils are so valuable to sell the destination and product with confidence and passion.”

With a career spanning over 35 years in retail travel distribution, Michael Gazal has served as the General Manager at TravelManagers Australia since 2012. A seasoned professional, he has dedicated his expertise to empowering small businesses, the lifeblood of the industry, to achieve unprecedented success. Michael’s commitment to excellence and his deep understanding of the travel sector have positioned him as a driving force in shaping the future of the TravelManagers network in Australia.