By Brett Jardine, Managing Director, Council of Australian Tour Operators
AS WE head into 2023 the view from CATO members that make up the majority of Australia’s outbound leisure travel in the land-supply sector is quite optimistic.
CATO members surveyed prior to the Christmas/New Year break confirmed that more than half of these businesses are already on track to surpass pre-COVID business, both for new bookings and travel that will avail this year.
With significant pent-up demand for international travel, we are seeing shorter booking lead times as well as average sale (excluding air) increasing by more than 15% on pre-COVID levels.
Sixty five percent of CATO members are now actively recruiting and like many around the globe in the travel and tourism industry, 90% of our members are experiencing challenges in finding staff.
Retail agents are an important distribution channel for all suppliers and have historically relied on CATO members investing in product and producing full colour brochures to support promotion and sales.
In a post-COVID world, retailers will need to look outside traditional selling methods as only 25% of our members are committed to producing brochures in the future.
With greater emphasis being placed on digital distribution, it is important for agents to embrace and support the technology investment made by tour operators and wholesalers by adding value through exceptional sales and service.
There was significant focus on seeking affordable air-capacity in the latter part of 2022 with this issue alone becoming a major roadblock in maximising opportunities in 2023.
CATO remain very upbeat in our forecasts for a very productive booking period over the next 6-months, with this view bolstered by the imminent return of capacity into our market from Asian carriers.
Greater capacity into Asia provides more options for travellers to the northern hemisphere this summer and will ensure a quicker return to profitability for all participants in our industry.