By Bruce Piper
THE Australian travel industry is set to undergo radical surgery as a result of COVID-19, and some sectors are already on the operating table. Last month P&O Cruises made a move likely to be widely emulated among suppliers, with the axing of its network of BDMS across Australia and NZ in favour of a centralised Flagship Concierge service in its Sydney head office.
And who could blame them? With major retailers closing hundreds of outlets, there will certainly be many less stores for reps to call on, and even if home-based or independent operators fill the gap, the ability for suppliers to support agents remotely through technology has been well highlighted through the lockdowns.
The reshaping of the industry is also likely to see a significant shift in the power dynamic between suppliers and agency groups who will no longer have the whip hand in negotiations over preferred agreements — many of which, it should be noted, previously specified that suppliers would maintain an on-road sales force.
This evolution in is one of many likely as we navigate the “new normal” — a seismic shift also reflected with the appointment of Webjet’s Shelley Beasley to the Board of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents.
The news was predictably greeted with howls of outrage, but reflects the brave new world where we need to speak with a united voice despite our former differences. I’ll be speaking to Webjet CEO John Gucsic later this month about the move, and I can’t wait to hear what he says.
Finally, last month we also saw the departure of Cam Wallace, Air New Zealand’s highly respected commercial chief. Wallace has global ambitions and NZ’s medium-term future as a domestic-focused carrier clearly doesn’t float his boat. Cam is a generous, affable and very smart airline executive, with a clear understanding of the role of the trade in distribution. Like everyone who has dealt with him at Air New Zealand, I wish him all the best and can’t wait to see where he pops up on the worldwide aviation stage.