By BRUCE Piper
It’s now July, which means we have all managed to survive another month of this COVID-19 nightmare. And what a month it’s been. Despite our business being down more than 90% the team from Travel Daily, travelBulletin, Cruise Weekly and Business Events News have doubled down on our efforts to keep the industry informed. Every day we try to find a balance between good news and bad — and I have to say that over the last few months finding the bright spots has been pretty tricky!
I’d like to pay tribute to our staff who have persevered under very difficult circumstances. The encouragement of the industry has also been key, and we aim to continue our extensive coverage for as long as we are able.
Some of the feedback from travel agents through the coronacrisis has been fascinating. As the torrent of refunds and rebookings has slowed, many are now pivoting to domestic product and it is clear some of the local suppliers are not used to dealing with the trade. One consultant told us she had contacted a Queensland hotel to make a significant booking, and been told to “check price and availability on Trivago”. There’s also been a lot of frustration at rhetoric from some state tourism organisations which have had a strong focus on encouraging direct bookings — and where they have involved the trade, have partnered with foreign OTAs rather than with local travel agents.
However among all the news from AFTA last month was a snippet noting that the Federation was getting some traction from actively engaging with politicians to highlight the option of booking through an agent.
It’s been also great to see some operators rapidly developing new product for the travel agency distribution channel. When the recovery comes, the first people to head out will be avid travellers — and they’re the ones that travel agents have relationships with. This crisis is an opportunity for agents to show their true worth, and the industry must grab it with both hands.