Steve Jones’ Say

SO how long before the Australian Federation of Travel Agents changes its name to the Australian Federation of Travel Advisors?

SO how long before the Australian Federation of Travel Agents changes its name to the Australian Federation of Travel Advisors?

If AFTA’s counterpart across the Pacific had its way, such a rebrand would happen smartish.

The US industry body, the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), made the change last August, swapping ‘agents’ for ‘advisors’ to better reflect what consultants actually do.

Long gone, of course, are the days where agents were largely extended sales arms of suppliers. They now advise and recommend, plan and consult. Indeed, many are quasi wholesalers in their own right, building itineraries through direct relationships with overseas suppliers and destination management companies.

With that in mind, ASTA is now encouraging the wider travel industry to adopt the term advisor. And so far, it seems to have resonated with more than 60 suppliers said to be altering their terminology.

But does any of this really matter? Is this meaningless tinkering with globally-recognised language or the next important evolution of the travel agent?

There will be those such as ASTA, and maybe even AFTA, who believe ‘advisor’ is more appropriate and a description more befitting the role of the modern day travel agent. They’re probably right.

Yet it seems to me that ASTA is preaching to the converted if we’re only going to use this among ourselves. If we want to somehow elevate the travel agent to advisor status and the perceived additional respect that apparently entails, it needs to be directed at the travelling public.

That said, from a consumer perspective, it hardly matters. Agent, advisor, consultant — as far as the public are concerned they work in a profession that plans and books their travel. They are either good at it and provide a quality service that will encourage repeat visitation, or they’re not. That, ultimately, will determine the success and reputation of a travel agent, advisor or anything other label they are given.

A word on New Zealand, and recent events in Christchurch. As with all atrocities of this nature, after the initial shock begins to subside, we inevitably turn our focus to the potential damage inflicted on the tourism industry. We urge people not to cancel their plans to destinations hit by terrorism, to support those who rely on international visitors.

But in this latest outrage, it is Australia that should be concerned about its image. Not for the obvious fact that the alleged culprit is from Grafton, but for the demented comments made by right wing senator Fraser Anning in the aftermath of the attack.

Tourism Australia likes to promote the laid back, relaxed atmosphere of our country, the “mateship” and the friendly welcome. Increasingly that’s not the Australia I see.

I’m sure I’m not alone.


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