By BRUCE Piper

This month marks a major turning point for the Australian travel sector, with some of the country’s international borders opening – at least for aviation – more than 18 months after they were slammed shut in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And with the complications of travel in this new environment, it looks like there will be plenty of opportunity for players in the travel ecosystem to add value to the passenger journey.

Travel agents will be able to become “advisors” in the true sense of the word – and the advice provided will, for many travellers, become something they are willing to pay for.

Similarly Australian-based tour operators must surely benefit from the reassurance that being just a local phone call away will provide to prospective passengers as they timidly re-emerge into the world.

Certainly the globe has been shaken, but this shift will, in my estimation, create plenty of opportunity for those who are willing to accept that things are no longer what they were before.

In the end the key metric for anyone in travel and tourism is passenger numbers. If the number of people who are travelling is increasing, then we are in a growing market, and that creates opportunity for all.

However the excitement around border reopenings must surely put our industry lobby groups in somewhat of a bind. On the one hand they naturally want to celebrate the removal of restrictions (apart from the government’s inexcusable, non-scientific and seemingly bloody-minded continuation of the ban on cruising) – but on the other they are continuing to push for Government support.

Yes, it’s absolutely true that cashflow won’t return until large numbers return to travel, and it’s also true that some of the current frenzied activity revolves around credit redemptions, so does not help the bottom line.

But am I perhaps pointing out the bleeding obvious when I say that in my opinion, with positive stories about a travel boom now abounding, a further round of the COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support Program has a snowball’s chance in hell of getting up politically?

My suggestion to CATO, AFTA, ATEC and anyone else who will listen, is to pivot their requests for support to focus on helping businesses tool up for the demand, perhaps for digital initiatives, training, and developing new systems.

Just my 2c worth.

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