By Dennis Bunnik, Chairman, Council of Australian Tour Operators
THE landscape of our industry is ever changing, and the operating environment continues to be problematic, with the lack of financial support and resources.
Recent announcements by airlines such as Qantas, Emirates, Cathay, Hawaiian (and more expected) has confirmed commission on air tickets will be reduced to just 1% has added to these challenges. This clearly indicates the future security of travel agents is definitely not up in the air but rather on land and in the water.
CATO members have long worked closely with travel agents to grow their business. Pre-Covid it is estimated that CATO members provided in excess of AU$1.2 billion of support to travel agents in the form of commissions, training, marketing support, conference sponsorship, brochures, educationals and subsidised travel.
In contrast to the steady and long-term decline in airline renumeration, the commissions paid by CATO members have remained stable and at a level that fairly reflects the true nature of the partnership between agents and suppliers. Whilst some of the way we do things may change in this new era to future proof our businesses and the industry to make it more sustainable, the importance of our partnerships and collaboration is more important than ever.
There are significant opportunities for travel agents to generate higher returns, by selling more land – whether this be group tours or bespoke FIT packages through specialist CATO wholesalers. Whatever the travel agent client’s interest, there is a CATO member who will be able to help travel agents create the ultimate travel experience for their client.
As we rebuild our industry, the relationship between tour operators/wholesalers and agents will become stronger than ever due to the support and education needed to help passengers navigate their way through the various new protocols. The changes in airline renumeration mean agents need to refocus on building strong mutually beneficial relationships with CATO members, that can help secure their financial future.