Reinvention In Corporate, Leisure and Wholesale
In the 28th session of Survive and Revive, Penny Spencer of Spencer Travel, and Claudia Rossi Hudson of Mary Rossi Travel joined Richard to discuss the reinvention of their respective businesses post-lockdown. Together the duo took us through some of the challenges for both corporate and leisure travel respectively, as well as the inherent responsibility and difficultly in being a leader during a time of crisis.
Penny is one of the best-known faces of the Australian Travel Industry, having founded Spencer Travel in 1998, to cap off an impressive 35-year career in travel.
Continuing the business her mother founded in 1970, Claudia Rossi Hudson has helmed Mary Rossi Travel for the past 20 years, having begun working for the company while she was still in school. Over the past 50 years, Mary Rossi Travel has evolved into an award-winning boutique travel Agency with two Sydney locations. During this time the company has been naturally steered to focus on the luxury leisure traveller and the unique experiences and insights that create a perfect trip every time.
What Is It Like Being A Business Leader At This Time?
In business a leadership role is one that carries a great weight of responsibility. Regardless of personal feelings of worry, stress and even dismay, a business’s staff constantly depend on their leaders for guidance, particularly in times of crisis. These roles involve large-scale decisions, and there is no guidebook for how to make them. Despite these overwhelming conditions, both Penny and Claudia were able to overcome their initial grief for their affected businesses and lost senses of purpose to find a new purpose in leading their respective teams through this crisis and coming out stronger on the other side. Both leaders realised that their staff were just as concerned as they were, if not more so, and also saw the opportunity for proactive change during the downtime.
How Will Your Companies Work Differently Post COVID-19?
Penny’s Spencer Travels business caters primarily to the corporate market. In this market duty of care is the primary focus as corporate clients want to ensure that their staff will be safe when travelling. In light of recent legal and policy changes regarding borders, safety and hygiene practices, Penny identified that travel agents will need to become significantly more knowledgeable about these factors, particularly for the corporate market. Agents can no longer rely on being the experts in airfares and routes, but must also become experts in health, safety and legal fields to be able to prepare their clients with the necessary precautions, briefings, and documentation required to complete their travels. As a result of this, the booking process will become more time consuming than ever before in proportion to the increased complexity of it. It is also expected that agent fees will need to be raised in order to compensate for the increased time spent on each booking, or alternatively the change of fee structures altogether. It is to be expected that experimental revenue models will begin to rise in the near future.
Claudia reflected a similar sentiment with her leisure focused Mary Rossi Travels business; having identified that agents will need to become experts in domestic travel in the immediate future. While domestic travel traditionally only accounted for 5% of revenue, it is now a necessity to grow that 5% as much as possible to account for the 95% lost due to international border closures. Thus, agents must not only become experts in what the domestic market has to offer, but also how to sell it to clients who had their hearts set on international travel. A silver lining to this situation is the joy that will undoubtedly arise from learning about the amazing products available within Australia that had previously flown under the radar, and subsequently hearing positive feedback from satisfied clients who never knew they could have such incredible experiences without leaving the country.
Both Penny and Claudia also identified the change of work structure for many agents, including those within their own business. Having had to adapt to working from home over the course of recent months, there will undoubtedly be a variety of agents who have taken a liking to this structure, and will desire to continue working under this arrangement. As a result, downsizing across the industry in regards to physical premises will likely occur, alongside the growth of coworking and share-space arrangements such as those offered by The Travel Industry Hub.
How Have You Been Communicating With Your Clients During This Crisis?
Throughout the crisis both Spencer Travel and Mary Rossi Travel have noted the insensitivity of promoting travel products while their clients are in lockdown. Alternatively, they have used this time and their various platforms to engage with their clients and instil into them a sense of confidence that these brands are being proactive to the world’s ongoing changes and will be able to take care of them when the time for travel arises. Primarily this has been achieved by leveraging EDM, social media, and even calls to explain the complicated changes occurring in a simplified manner. Spencer Travel specifically has developed lists of the hygiene practices that have been implemented by various hotels and airlines to ensure their clients have easy access to this hot piece of information. The focus is currently on being proactive before everything resumes, rather than being reactive after the fact.
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