Dave Wallace… ‘If brokers don’t sell they don’t eat, that’s a great motivator’ Dave Wallace… ‘If brokers don’t sell they don’t eat, that’s a great motivator’

Recognition of brokers key

Seeing brokers accepted as true professionals in the travel industry has been one of the most significant (and satisfying) developments for Dave Wallace, who retires as general manager of Travel Managers Group at the end of this year.

 

Wallace was in Tauranga over the past few days for the Travel Managers Group’s conference, with 100 plus TMG and Travelsmart delegates plus a strong contingent of suppliers. The event was held at Trinity Wharf Hotel. ‘When we first started, brokers were looked upon as pariahs and there were efforts to limit our ability to sell and limitations to the advertising we could do. That has all changed.’ Wallace says there has been a rapid shift of attitude by wholesalers and airlines towards brokers as well. ‘Now they are all knocking on our doors to have a preferred agreement.’ While Wallace was among the earliest adopters of a travel broker life, his involvement in the wider industry goes back well before then. ‘I went travelling in the early 70s for four years and when I came back I really didn’t have anything except travel behind me. Someone suggested I apply to Air New Zealand for a job and I got a position on the check-in counters. ‘I was going to stay for a year but ended up being there for 12 years. One of the reasons I was there so long is that I got friendly with the girl on the Avis desk (Bev). I ended up marrying her.’ After leaving Air New Zealand in 1986 he had a stint in a computer company with his brother and, having always liked being involved with people, he did a counselling diploma and psychology degree, then ran a counselling practice for 10 years. ‘With the kids getting older Bev and I thought we would like to do something together. Bev had gained a diploma in travel at AUT by then and we were encouraged to look at broking. He joined Jetsave Travel and started broking. The company became travel.co.nz, then was purchased by travel.com.au which soon decided it didn’t like the broker business model. ‘They basically told us to go away, so four of us got together and formed Travel Managers.’

 

At that time, early 2000s, the company had about six brokers and the Wallaces had their own successful broker operation. ‘We were running our own company while I was one of the TM directors.’ He says a change of directorship in 2014 saw Kevin Weston and Nicola Jamieson come on board. ‘We have had a wonderful relationship over the past four years, each bringing different skills.’ Wallace says he would go out to functions and meet new agents face to face. ‘A number of the people I saw were obviously potential brokers. Of course I wanted them to come over to us but I wasn’t on a mission – I just love working with people and getting to know them. ‘The core value in our company is the family environment – we care deeply about the people we work with.’ He says the relatively newfound respect for brokers is fully justified. ‘These are not your fly-by-nighters. To go out on commission only you have to be passionate about what you do and believe you can do it. Otherwise you would not succeed. ‘In most cases they are amongst the top agents in the country. After all, if you don’t sell you don’t eat – that’s a great motivator.’