Everyone knows the unprecedented crisis that our beloved industry has been through the last month, and in response to that, we have seen some unimaginable things like whole airline fleets parked, closed hotels, and ourselves in lockdown at home, with our families (hopefully well and healthy!).
During this last month, I’ve been constantly on the phone, speaking with several customers and partners in the industry, and I see that the initial hopeful outlook that the majority of people had regarding the lockdown has started to fade, especially during this last week, where more people are concerned about their job safety, and not so optimistic with the industry recovery. This reaction is pretty normal, as the majority of the predictions is becoming gloomier, and those that a couple of weeks ago said that the recovery was just behind the door, now are changing their analysis to state that maybe our industry will have to go through a dark tunnel to reach what’s behind the door! And the majority of those analyses is not even considering a second quarantine period during this winter! Having this said, we all know that things will recover, not knowing at what level, or when.
Travel Agents are one of the most resilient “species” in today’s workforce, as in their regular day to day they are forced to adapt to constant changes from the services they sell (airlines, tours, hotels, transfers, etc), they are forced to work with small commissions, they are forced to deal with a growing spreading of content (thus the urgent need for stronger content aggregators) and still, they keep on doing that with a smile on their face and allowing ourselves to dream with our next vacation on the Caribbean or our next cruise on the Mediterranean. They have been threatened with disintermediation for ages now (it was my dissertation when I majored in Business Administration and Management – Tourism, 13 years ago), and still, they are around. Airlines have reduced their commissions paid to travel agencies, zero commission has been around for long, and more recently airlines engaged in NDC trying to bypass the GDS fees and reducing the fee itself by paying it directly to travel agencies, which cannot leverage their bookings volume as efficiently as the GDS do, and ultimately this will end in a lower booking fee received by the travel agency, which will have a new cost which is the cost of the technology provided by the GDS. As one can see, it’s not easy to be a travel agent, as they work a lot to receive some crumbs by the services that they sell. To be a travel agent you have to be resourceful, you have to be a tough broker, you need to be knowledgeable about the destinations you’re selling and ultimately you have to be very resilient to fight your way through all these variables.
Positive attitude, positive future
Knowing that the industry recovery will not be immediate and knowing that travel agents are resilient as hell, I can say that, especially in the last couple of weeks, I’m seeing a glimpse of hope, once again, from those that are used to fight… travel agents! As everyone knows, there was the refunds and cancellations period, where travel agents were flooded with requests from travellers to cancel their trips and to bring them home also, which is now over and work is now becoming scarce for travel agents. Instead of becoming gloomy and crying about their sad life, I can proudly say that I’ve seen an increasing number of travel agents reaching out and making the most of their free time to test technology solutions that will help them to be in a better position when the business starts recovering. There have been a lot of RFI, a lot of demos and engaging and honest conversations about their needs and what they believe will be helpful to boost their business when bookings start to flow again.
Well done travel agents! It makes me proud to work with such individuals as yourselves and to be able to help you to adapt your technology to better suit your needs and your customer needs also.
Let’s keep up the momentum and be better prepared for the future!
Article by João Taborda, Head of Sales @ TTS