• Declan Trifunovic

The Future Of Relationships In The Travel Industry Part II - The Decision Makers:

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In the second part of the Can We Talk series Sarah Arane continued her investigation into industry relationships of the future, this time targeting decision makers. Pete Rawley of Evolution Travel Collective (ETC), Sarah Clark of Intrepid, and Andrew Mulholland of Wendy Wu Tours joined us this time, and covered a variety of topics and provided a behind-the-scenes look into where the current thinking is. It was a rare chance to nose into the thought processes of some of the companies that will lead the way to the industry’s recovery.

What Exactly Is The Dreaded "P" Word?

Trying to dodge the cliché of using the recently overused word “pivot”, panel host Sarah Arane opted instead for the subtly different term swivel. It’s a topic that’s been the focus of almost every conceivable business in recent times, and the travel industry is no exception. Sarah Clark defined swivel as the necessary change that occurred regarding everyone’s typical day-to-day roles and activities, and the very way in which they worked. In the travel and tourism industries specifically, this would entail a two-fold change. In the long-term, this would be a focus on reopening international travel, and in the short-term it would be shift of focus to domestic travel wherever possible. All of these changes act as necessary methods to bring revenue back into businesses that have been recently haemorrhaging funds through a seemingly endless stream of refunds and cancellations.

However, occasionally the changes are not on an entire business scale, but rather on a smaller scale limited to roles inside the business. This is what occurred for Pete Rawley and Evolution Travel Collective. This specifically involved the modulisation of the services that ETC traditionally offered as a packaged product. Whether it be BDM support, PR, or trade media services, ETC was now offering customised and tailor made solutions to their client’s problems. Given the current circumstances, this approach was deemed more suitable to ETC’s client’s needs.

How Can This Negative Time Be Viewed As An Opportunity?

Despite the overwhelming negativity of the current global situation, this time of halted sales and regular operations has been able to present itself as an opportunity for positive change to many businesses. Andrew Mulholland described how this time had been useful as it allowed him and his team to work on various areas of the business that had not typically been worked on in recent times. Primarily this involved using the downtime to study trends and data to identify insights that can guide future business to be more effective.

What Are The Signs That Indicate When You Are Ready To Take The Next Step?

When looking for signs of green shoots that signal the imminent recovery period, the panel identified that Australia must be considered on a state-by-state basis. With Melbourne and Victoria returned to higher levels of lockdown, this statement rings particularly true. It will be important to monitor updates such as these to be able to effectively plan for recovery.

At this very moment there are already signs of positivity shining through across the industry. While Australia may be slow to ease out of lockdown, the Northern Hemisphere is already booking into the 2021 period quite heavily. Despite Australia’s relatively slow transition, there are also positive signs towards the resurgence of domestic travel, with various survey results confirming this trend. The psychological change with state borders opening up will also be a significant contributor to positive change in travel intentions. The future opening of international borders will also likely have a similar impact.

The key to identifying these trends and then subsequently being able to act upon them is definitely staying engaged with your clients and target market throughout the down period. Whether by calls, emails or more commonly social media, the ability to keep tabs on your customer’s mindset and travel intentions will prove to be priceless when the time comes to approach them with your product.

Does The Industry Need To Become More Transparent?

In light of recent struggles with cancellations, refunds and the associated uncooperative customers, there has been debate as to whether the industry needs to collectively become more transparent to avoid confusion and frustration like this in the future. Transparency is in theory a good thing, and no business should internationally obscure information from their customers. However, the implementation of it into an industry as complicated as travel will likely not be viable.

For example, trying to explain the intricacies of foreign currency and the associated benefits of pre-payment to a customer is difficult enough. Trying to then explain the complex refund and cancellation policies of the various suppliers that their travel product is ultimately comprised of will likely to be too much for any client to sit through. While this complicated information should always be available to customers, the focus of travel agents should continue to be the ease of transaction they can provide by taking all of these complex endeavours upon themselves. With regulations and policies set to become even more extensive and confusing in a post-COVID world, this value of travel agents will be more important than ever.

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