Incentive organisers, luxury group operators and corporate travel agents have been updating themselves on high-end domestic opportunities at the MEETINGS 2021 exhibition this week.
As well as reporting growing movement by corporates looking to reward and motivate staff within New Zealand, they are reporting that group travel to Australia is continuing to gain traction (though bookings tend to be for travel a few weeks out at least).
The opening of the Cook Islands has also given agents dealing at the top end of the market a boost, they say.
Travel agents are seeing growing interest in travel to Queensland as winter starts to set in, says Travel Agents Association president Brent Thomas.
He says that travel to Australia in general is ‘building nicely’, despite setbacks like the current lockdown in Victoria.
‘We are worried about the situation in Victoria at the moment, but at this time of the year travel there is generally around business, VFR and special events.
The trans Tasman bubble, at this stage at least, is more useful as a trial run for opening up international borders than a significant generator of business, according to speakers at CAPA (Centre for Aviation) Live this week. Tom Manwaring, executive chairman of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) says surveys of the organisation’s 3000 agents indicate that things are ‘hardly moving’ on the tourism side.
‘The vast majority of travellers are going to stay with families and the economic impact of that is negligible. But it’s a good chance to get the processes right, do some fine tuning and work out what the next stage could be.’
Tourism Minister Stuart Nash says the border reopening to Australia has already made a huge difference to the tourism sector. However he is also aware that it is not a remedy to the pain of the last 12 months and says he knew initial movements would be mainly VFR.
‘It is essential that our top priority is keeping New Zealanders safe – keeping borders secure while opening safely as we have to Australia and Rarotonga, but also rolling out vaccination and ensuring it isdone by the end of the year.
‘Please do all you can to support your staff to make the right decisions around vaccinations. It might involve talking to them about the facts of vaccination and helping them through any vaccination hesitancy.’
Inbound tour operators have been specifically recognised at TRENZ Hui in Christchurch as part of the Tourism Communities Plan.
Tourism Minister Stuart Nash says $14 million in existing loans from the 2020 Tourism Recovery Package will be able to be converted to grants for the sector. This means 26 ITOs may receive up to $500,000 each.
‘Inbound tour operators (ITOs) provide a vital link to global markets and need to be ready to facilitate the return of international visitors when it is safe to do so,’ says Nash
The tourism and travel sectors need to re-look at what ‘value’ really means and how it is defined, according to a panelist at the TRENZ Hui last week.
Strategist and researcher Carolyn Childs, who attended from Australia, says that when she came through the airport she noticed two people who ‘you literally couldn’t detach’.
‘They were hugging and crying. We need to think about that sort of thing when we consider value.’
The key to successfully restarting and growing trans-Tasman travel is to ensure that the standards expected by guests are met – and that there are contingency plans around health and safety challenges, says Melbourne based Peter Harding, managing director of Grand Pacific Tours.
Speaking at the TRENZ Hui in Christchurch late last week, Harding told delegates that getting people to travel with confidence, particularly in a group tour context, came down to not restarting too soon.
‘We’ve all got challenges when it comes to rebuilding and it is important to understand where everyone is at right now. We don’t want to give people an inferior experience.’
Travel agents are being urged to continue telling their stories so that they can be used to influence decision makers in government and bureaucracy.
Joe O’Sullivan, of Cruise World, recently took up the mantle to follow up on Shane Lust’s petition to government to have the wage subsidy extended for the travel industry. O’Sullivan says that when the petition for the wage subsidy extension was first presented there was no chance for a formal submission because the election got in the way.
The Travel Agents’ Association of New Zealand (TAANZ) has welcomed the announcement of a 19 April starting date for quarantine free travel across the Tasman as a ‘very important stepping stone and a great foundation for going forward.’
However president Brent Thomas reiterates that the opening of Australia is not a saviour in itself for the travel agents community and is looking forward to the opening up of the Pacific and then destinations beyond – especially as vaccination programmes around the world pick up pace.
Airline apps are among the key drivers in the digitisation of travel and need to be designed to allow for a seamless and frictionless customer experience, says Lance Batty, regional director, South Pacific at Amadeus.
‘The more that customers are able to do on their own device, the less physical contact is required in shared spaces – something which many customers will be averse to after at least a year of concern about virus transmission vectors and avoiding public spaces,’ he says.
Island resorts around the world are expected to lead the recovery in leisure travel, according to research carried out ahead of next month’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2021.
The research indicates that the Indian Ocean islands of the Maldives and the Seychelles are expecting a bumper Easter holiday period.
The Expedia TAAP Travel Agent Toolkit was launched in Australia and New Zealand this week.
Stu Udy who looks after TAAP here, says agents have been asking for help with marketing themselves to their local and broader community.
The Covid-19 pandemic has refocused IT spending priorities for airlines and airports in 2020 as revenue plunged and the industry faced new health and operational requirements needed to keep flying, according to SITA’s 2020 Air Transport IT Insights.
The sector has seen an accelerated investment in automated passenger processing focusing on touchless and mobile services. There is also a strong focus on virtual and remote IT services that allowed employees to work from home while ramping up communications with passengers.
The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), says most members and stakeholders (79%) would be ‘very comfortable’ or ‘comfortable’ travelling for business after receiving the Covid-19 vaccination. Almost half support mandatory testing prior to travel to ensure the safety of clients when meeting face-to-face.
The latest findings come from the 16th instalment of the coronavirus poll, conducted by GBTA since the onset of the pandemic to measure its impact on business travel.
Travel Advocates is running a webinar later this month aimed at industry personnel who may have lost their job or be looking for a change.
The ‘Your Future with Travel Advocates’ webinar will involve an interactive panel of travel industry professionals who will discuss opportunities to see if TravelAdvocates is the right fit for the webinar atttendees.
‘We are helping our personal travel managers navigate their way through the pandemic,’ says Travel Advocates’ general manager Mike Southcombe. ‘But we have been saddened to see the number of wonderful travel professionals who have become displaced through Covid-19. If anyone is looking for a new home for themselves and their clients in 2021 we would like to help them on the journey to recovery.
Trave Advoc ates is also happy to arrange private sessions.
Expedia Group is opening package travel rates to all of its travel agency community customers. Director retail distribution Stuart Udy, says this move recognises the impact of the Covid pandemic on agents.
Previously only silver and above level members had access to the discounts (around 20%) on products booked via the Expedia Travel Agent Affiliate Program (TAAP). Now all tiers will be included in the scheme, while those partners who had silver or above membership in 2020 will retain that level thorughout 2021.
The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) says that a full recovery of the sector globally to pre-pandemic levels is expected by 2025.
However, the association’s latest BTI Outlook study also predicts a 21% increase in business travel this year over the dire 2020 results – with most of the gain expected to come at the end of 2021 as vaccinations increase globally and consumer confidence returns.
After 28 years Andy and Suzanne Leighton are handing over the reins of tour company Travelwise Holidays Ltd to the team at Fuzion Travel.
The company has a tradition of boutique, fully escorted tours for mature travellers and the Leightons will be active in the business for some time while Andrew Parke and Stuart McKay get their feet ‘under the desk’ with the Travelwise crew over coming years.
Travel Agents’ Association of New Zealand (TAANZ) president Brent Thomas says that while the seemingly imminent opening of a travel corridor between the Cook Islands and New Zealand is positive (Air New Zealand’s website lists regular flights on the route from late March) the reality is that the Cooks alone are a very small segment of the market.
‘Australia, specifically the eastern seaboard, would be a significant life line for the whole supply chain.’
Having clear and certain rules around travel from a supply chain point of view, for both agents and consumers, is taking on even more importance as the industry faces another challenging year, says the Travel Agents Association of New Zealand.
It is clear that many agents are needing income from endeavours outside the sectorand won’t have time to deal with complex travel bookings for little or no return.
Reputational damage to the travel industry in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis is a major hurdle that will need to be overcome, according to respondents in a ‘strawpoll’ of New Zealand based suppliers last week.
In the lead up to a workshop on Thursday, Travel Lab asked members of the supplier community how severe they felt reputational damage has been to suppliers, with 20% saying extreme, 50% moderate and 30% unsure.
Travel Lab’s roll out of products and operations will begin in the next couple of weeks with the launch of a new guided tour business.
Chief executive Simon Mckearney gave travel suppliers a snapshot of Travel Lab’s plans at a roundtable workshop in the Datacom building, Auckland yesterday. He emphasises that a major focus is to form a front-end travel distribution platform, much of it designed for a seamless online-offline connection.
Touchless technology will be a key factor in inspiring traveller confidence, according to a recent survey conducted by Amadeus.
This is one of the trends highlighted by Justin Montgomery, general manager Australia at Amadeus IT Pacific, who has also emphasised the need for suppliers to work hand in hand with travel agents a
A partnership announced late last year between Travel Managers Group (TMG), international financial technology business, Ratebroker, and the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) is opening doors for experienced New Zealand travel brokers so they can get back to earning – this time providing financial advice.
Since launching the partnership in December, TMG brokers have been taking up the training in big numbers, allowing them to earn while they learn.
For most of the year vaccines will ‘really just be a sideshow’ for international aviation, according to CAPA – Centre for Aviation chairman emeritus Peter Harbison.
Giving his chairman’s lounge outlook 2021 address at CAPA Live this week, Harbison asserted that the real key to reopening remains effective and improved testing and tracing methods that are
Airlines will need to focus on attracting new and return clients as the world emerges from the Covid crisis, with loyalty initiatives likely to take a back seat initially, according to a speaker at the virtual CAPA Live event this week.
Brent Coker, consumer psychologist at the University of Melbourne, is also predicting ‘a scramble to grab consumers’ through price competition as the world moves back towards international travel.
The Covid-19 crisis and associated lockdowns will mean that people will take travel less for granted than perhaps they have in the past, says Adam Armstrong, chief executive officer of Contiki Holidays.
Speaking in an international webinar late last year, Armstrong says the brand’s recent campaign – Make Travel Count – has been asking people what they are going to do when they travel in 2021.
‘There is a consistent desire to travel, but an increased emphasis on leaving places better than we find them and reducing our carbon footprint. There’s more interest in smaller, second cities and more remote destinations.’
First Travel Group is looking to relaunch, refresh and revitalise for 2021, says chief executive Malcolm MacLeod.
The year will see a focus on new technology, including the Odysseus booking system in conjunction with Creative Cruising New Zealand and the high-productivity air ticketing programme Aeronology. The group will also be looking to address points raised in its 2020 members satisfaction survey such as improving turnaround times on quotes and bookings, and introducing more exclusive deals.
Survival remains the imminent challenge for business travel agencies right now, according to a report just released by Amadeus late 2020.
However the Reboot. Recharge. Rethink Business Travel research also shows the ‘most voted’ business travel evolution in APAC was a predicted shift from unmanaged to managed travel. This is obviously a trend that will benefit travel management companies.
Travel suppliers and media at the Travel Lab Christmas get together in last week were introduced to TRUE Kiwi – a New Zealand-based consortia intended to have a voice around the government sector as New Zealand pushes forward for a relaunch of travel.
‘The public sector really doesn’t know who the travel community is, and they don’t understand the balance between outbound and inbound. Even the inbound sector does not know the connection,’ says Simon McKearney, Travel
A new partnership between Travel Managers Group (TMG), international financial technology business, Ratebroker, and the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) is opening doors for experienced New Zealand travel brokers so they can get back in business – this time providing financial advice.
Travel brokers have been particularly impacted by the Covid-19 travel downturn and a number of them are now being given the opportunity to turn customer service skills to the financial
Expedia TAAP is reporting increased optimism as the travel industry heads into 2021 and has extended agents’ commission tier status to support its trade partners.
Stu Udy, director retail distribution, says agents will retain the agency tier they started with in 2020, extended to the end of 2021, unless they have reached the threshold to earn a better one.
Udy says there are also reasons to feel better about trading conditions in the months ahead.
The directors of Mondo Travel have announced the sale of the business to Mt Eden's Chris and Tamsin Hammonds who were among the founding members. They have described the decision as 'difficult' but say they felt now was the time to hand over 'to the very capable hands of Chris Hammonds.'
Hammonds has thanked the directors, particularly CEO Tony Terrill who has been in the role since Digby Lawley passed away in 2012.
Balancing the benefits of working from home with the need for social interaction looks set to be a key consideration for travel businesses once they start returning to some sort of normality.
A survey of just over 600 New Zealand and Australian travel personnel has found that the main concern for employees if their permanent employment was mostly or entirely based at home would be lack of interaction with others (68%).
Travel sellers and providers will need to get creative with deals and packages to provide the experience domestic tourists are seeking, says Amadeus following the results of a recent survey by the company.
‘Customised leisure travel experiences win out over pre-packaged leisure travel options, with 54% of Australian and New Zealand travellers preferring to curate their own holidays with or
The desire of Australians to open up the trans Tasman travel bubble was reiterated at the recent Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) summit in Wellington.
Margy Osmond, chief executive of the Tourism and Transport Forum Australia, also emphasised the need to stimulate visitor interest in cities while sustaining the attraction of the great outdoors.
Kiwi travel businesses are doing a good job of adjusting to the ‘new normal’ of Covid-19, says Paul Davies, who founded Travel Accounting and a is now a partner at OneTeam Chartered Accountants.
Davies, a travel accounting specialist, says while Covid-19 has brought sudden and unanticipated challenges at a level never before experienced by the industry, businesses are drawing on
Clients funds are going to be a real issue in the future, as are cancellation policies and the need to place liability where it belongs if suppliers insist on pre-payment, the audience at a South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) webinar heard last week.
Rick Felderhof, managing director of Our World, pointed out that customers will be more concerned than ever about where their money is being held.
A review of the travel distribution chain and changes to the way it operates may be long term silver linings to the current crisis the travel agency community faces, says industry stalwart Andrew Bowman.
‘This has been a test of patience and a real test of resilience for the sector and it has shown that sometimes what we do and how we do it is fragile and illogical.’
Viva Expeditions has sold out of its first flight to the Southern Lights on 20 March 2021 and has confirmed a second flight will take place the following day on 21 March.
While the first flight virtually sold out in the higher categories within days, Viva had to get on top of economy class requests and wait-lists before it could announce a second flight date.
Business and Premium Economy class seats on the second flight have already sold out and Viva is waitlisting clients for a potential third flight in May.
'I believe we have enough demand for a third flight and we already have people waitlisted for certain categories,' says Viva's founder, Rachel Williams. 'I think after two back-to-back flights we will all need time to catch our breaths before we take to the sky again.'
Williams is reminding agents that with its phone lines overloaded, they should email requests to firstname.lastname@example.org. These will be processed in the order that they are received.
Wlliams says clients can join Aurora hunter and astrophysicist Dr Ian Griffin and fly into the night to witness one of the world’s most magical natural phenomena – the Southern Lights, also known as the Aurora Australis. The first flight is due to take off on 20 March 2021.
‘Many people spend a small fortune to fly to overseas destinations to see the Northern Lights, but can experience the same phenomena on a flight departing from Christchurch New Zealand.’
Williams says clients will take off onboard an Air New Zealand Dreamliner, and head south over the Southern Ocean towards Antarctica, aiming for latitudes of 62 degrees south where the Aurora Australis is brightest.
‘We take guests far away from light pollution, above the clouds and weather systems to see an unforgettable display with uninterrupted view of the southern lights. Along the way they will see constellations, stars, and planets as they have never witnessed them before.’
Throughout the flights passengers will receive a full inflight catering service in both business and economy classes. Expert astronomers will be onboard.
‘A lot of people want to get on a plane and go somewhere, do something exciting. This is it,’ says Williams.
Flights are available from $1195 per person with various seating options and views available.
Should the flight be cancelled due to Covid-19, a refund will be issued – see booking conditions for more details.
The adventure is being brought to market by Viva Expeditions in partnership with Air New Zealand and the Otago Museum.
A leading New Zealand tourism entrepreneur says it’s a disgrace the Government’s much vaunted Tourism Futures Taskforce will not be presenting its final report until April next year, and much more urgent work is being overlooked.
Fifty percent of organisations have begun travelling again, but with stipulations, says the third phase of a global ‘State of the Market’ survey by Flight Centre Travel Group’s corporate arm.
The stage consisted of interviews in August with 250 of FCM Corporate Travellers multinational large-scale clients, plus Corporate Traveller SME customers globally, representing over 60 countries.
While 50% of respondents say they have employees already travelling or booking reservations to travel in the near future, resuming travel will be different for everyone. Results of the State of the Market research (April to August 2020) show that over 90% of
A virtual portal being launched by The Travel Corporation for the travel trade early October will enable agents to make online appointments with the company’s sales team.
But it will go a step further, with marketing drop-downs and other mechanisms of support.
Louise Levesque, general manager marketing with TTC, says it is evident that a number of agents are wanting to chat and catch up with what the various TTC brands are offering.
‘People are asking for destination training. We are also conscious of the need to support agents at this time with their marketing and social profiles.’
TTC New Zealand’s managing director, Scott Cleaver says it is obvious that individual agents and brokers are in different situations.
‘We realise that some agents are still having to work in the here and now, while others are starting to plan for the future, having been immersed in refunds and credits for the past few months.
‘At TTC we know that travel will back and it will come back strong. We will be here at the end of this and we hope as many agents as possible will be as well, so we are looking at tools that can be more inspirational. We are being proactive to add value to our trade relationships.
‘Over the past three weeks our teams have attended virtual global conferences for Trafalgar, Contiki and Insight Vacations, so we know it is invigorating to talk about something positive and look to the future. We can’t wait to share what’s new for 2021 and 2022 and pass on our enthusiasm to our network of agents around New Zealand.’
Louise Levesque says it is evident that clients are starting to research their options again. ‘We are committed to the trade and want to make sure agents are ready to convert this enquiry as its starts for them, if it hasn’t already. If clients are taking a look online, we want agents to be in the best possible position to convert. There is a lot for the trade to catch up on from both a product and operational perspective.’
The shortening of booking timelines, driven by uncertainty, is likely to be an added challenge for the trade in the foreseeable future, says Adam Armstrong, chief executive officer of Contiki.
Armstrong says the youth market is definitely keen to travel and research indicating a relatively quick rebound in the sector is born out by interest and bookings around the world – including New Zealand – as the company looks to reboot operations next month.
People in the Asia Pacific region are less likely to feel confident about international travel right now than those in Europe and USA.
Gavin Harris, commercial director of strategic partnerships with Skyscanner, says the company’s latest weekly travel pulse data shows that globally, 19% of people say they would feel safe travelling internationally now.
The Government will provide a consumer travel reimbursement scheme to assist the return of credits and refunds to New Zealand consumers via travel agents. In an announcement today, Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi says the scheme will be funded to a maximum of $47.6 million.
Travel agencies will be paid 7.5% of the value of cash refunds and 5% of the value of credits successfully secured on behalf of customers.
The Tourism Export Council of New Zealand (TECNZ) says it is pleased that the Government has listened to the industry and will offer loans to 26 Inbound Tour Operators (ITOs) from the Strategic Tourism Assets Protection programme.
TECNZ chief executive Lynda Keene says the increase from the initial number of 10 ITOs, on better conditions than originally discussed, will allow those businesses to remain operational.
Flight Centre Travel Group (FCTG) released its year-end results on 27August for its 2020 Fiscal Year, which show an optimistic future for its corporate brands FCM Travel Solutions and Corporate Traveller despite a major downturn in the travel industry.
Whilst FCTG experienced severe losses (A$510M underlying loss before tax) due to unprecedented travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, FCM Travel Solutions and Corporate Traveller proved to be resilient. During the global shutdown, the two business travel divisions landed a
Flight Centre Travel Group NZ currently has a greater emphasis on the short to medium term than the longer term vision – something that is unusual for the group, says managing director David Colombes.
The group has just released a case study entitled Our Business Journey Through Covid-19. In his summary, Coombes says ‘it is important to accept what we can’t influence and control, and focus on what we can, which is more restricted than ever before.
Expedia remains confident that its Travel Agent Affiliation Progamme (Expedia TAAP) will make a strong comeback as consumers return to both leisure and corporate travel.
St Udy, Expedia’s director travel agent distribution, says consumers more than ever will want advice and confidence in where they are travelling and who they are travelling with in terms of suppliers.
Travel brand heads' discussion with Minister Kris Faafoi and Kelvin Davis on Monday to discuss the industry's hopes for much needed funding were positive. However the collective, who formed the Proposal for Support of the Travel Agency Sector, say there is still work to do to come to a result that works for all parties.
The group is made up of the David Coombes, managing director, Flight Centre; Mark O'Donnell, chief executive officer, House of Travel; Malcolm MacLeod, chief executive officer, First Travel Group, and Simon McKearney, executive general manager Helloworld.
'The next step is to more accurately quantify the scale of outstanding customer funds and the costs incurring in retrieving them. We'll be working closely with MBIE to form an aligned proposal that will then go to the Ministry of Finance by the end of the week,' the collective says in a statement.
The group understands this is in preparation to be presented at the next cabinet meeting on 7 September. The Ministers were clear that they understand the agency sector's need for clarity.
A meeting was scheduled today with MBIE to discuss the plan of action and keep the momentum going.
The organisation that represents New Zealand’s inbound tour operators says it is ‘underwhelmed’ that Government is only looking to extend the wage subsidy for a further two weeks.
Chief executive of the Tourism Export Council of New Zealand (TECNZ) Lynda Keene says although the council is pleased there is an extension, an additional two weeks is not going to help businesses trying to plan for the next four months through to Christmas. ‘We were hoping the wage subsidy would be extended to at least 17 October, the new election date.
‘Given the opportunity to provide support for ITO (inbound tour operator) businesses that have had zero revenue since lockdown in March 2020 and tourism operators who are desperately trying to regain losses over the past six months with domestic visitors, the two-week extension seems a little short-sighted and has not provided any certainty for businesses who may face continuous disruptions,’ Keene says.
‘Our members are also struggling with the delay in Government processes to advise STAPP (Strategic Tourism Assets Protection Programme) recipients about loan terms and conditions – particularly with ITOs still not knowing if they are eligible for STAPP ITO loans (or grants) since the original announcement was made on 1 August 2020.
‘Not having any detail for almost three weeks is creating immense anxiety for businesses that are trying to make decisions on the future of their operations. We urge MBIE to contact TECNZ or its members with information that can assist them with their decision-making as soon as possible.’
Developments like allowing domestic cruising and travel to some Pacific destinations would provide a much needed ‘intravenous’ line for those travel companies hanging in through the current crisis, say the directors of Fuzion Travel.
Andrew Parke and Stuart McKay say that despite everything they retain optimism for the future and say their broker model is continuing to hold up well.