Employers will increasingly require assistance when it comes to travel arrangements over the next 12 months, one positive sign for corporate travel agents identified by recent research.
Rebuilding Business Travel – Insights from global TMC leaders on the business travel industry outlook and recovery strategies for 2022, the latest report from Amadeus, explores the opportunities, challenges, and growth strategies that will shape the future of business travel.
Here we are, the travel agency community, on the doorsteps of Christmas having weathered 21 months of the worst crisis ever to hit the industry. Travel Agents and Brokers have worked tirelessly on behalf of the New Zealand consumer to manage bookings through the nightmare of Covid. Changes in supplier conditions, border openings and then their subsequent closing have all been dealt with the customer centric focus the industry is renowned for.
Then Christmas was stolen for the travel agent and broker community. Not by the pandemic, not by the Government but, without even the respect of any consultation, by our single largest supplier and partner. A partner who the travel agency and broker community have whole-
Now is the time for agents to reconsider whether they are an agency or a consultancy business.
Air New Zealand announced last week that point-of-sale commission levels are reducing from 5% to 1% for long haul routes and 3% to 0% for short haul routes. This will have an immediate effect on travel agents’ and consultants’ business income. Now you have no choice but to take control of your own business profits.
The Travel Agents' Association of New Zealand (TAANZ) says agents will feel let down by the national carrier's announcement that it is reducing front end commissions next year.
The airline advised brand heads and TAANZ yesterday that from 1 July 2022 it is adjusting current New Zealand point of sale commission levels from 5% to 1% for long haul routes and 3% to 0% for short haul routes.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says the recovery in air travel continued in October 2021 with broad-based improvements in both domestic and international markets. However, it warned that the imposition of travel bans by governments, against the advice of the WHO, could threaten the sector’s recovery.
Total demand for air travel in October 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) was down 49.4% compared to October 2019. This was improved over the 53.3% fall recorded in September 2021, compared to two years earlier.
Travel locations that have remained open through the Covid-19 period, particularly branded locations, will retain a strong position in the market as the travel industry recovers, says John Willson, general manger retail with First Travel.
He says clients will be looking for financially stable and trustworthy advisors who are easy to access for a one-on-one conversation.
‘The travelling public will still do their searching online but either through a lack of confidence or because of fear instille upon them, they will not press the book button.’
As regions and governments around the world assess the potential impact of the fast-emerging Omicron variant, and therefore what actions to take, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) continues to encourage a clear, consistent and thoughtful approach.
This is especially in terms of keeping country borders open to travellers.
While technology will obviously have a key role in alleviating stress points at airports in other parts of overseas journeys, the travel trade globally will also be drawn upon to make sure clients are properly prepared.
This was made clear during a Tourism Industry Aotearoa summit yesterday, where Matteo Zanarini, area manager South Pacific for the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said that changing requirements, rules and checks could extend customs clearance to 5.5 hours. That is if travel numbers reached even 75% of pre-Covid levels.
By Manoj Vagh, Partner, OneTeam Chartered Accountants
We have just completed the six-month TAANZ bonding results for our 70 plus travel clients.
The travel business results are much better than most of our other clients who have been affected by Covid. Our travel clients were profitable or at break even for the six months ended April to September 2021.
Global business travel spending is likely to surge in 2022 with full recovery expected in 2024 – ending the year on pace with the 2019 pre-pandemic spend of $1.4 trillion, and a year sooner than previously forecast, according to just released research findings.
This is despite business travel recovery in 2021 proceeding slower than expected.
The annual global Amadeus Travel Trends research points to active eco-tourism and ‘friendcations’ plus the digital transformation of business travel, as things to watch for as travel comes back on the agenda.
At the same time, interesting new search and flight locations are emerging - from flight searches up by one third to Tanzania, to flights doubling to cities close to Machu Picchu.
Corporate travel managers can experience a preview of global travel management company FCM’s new proprietary platform.
Developed in response to a rapidly evolving business travel landscape, this latest initiative reflects the company’s accelerated investment in next-generation technology. Following a productive testing phase, demos are being offered to prospective clients.
Confidence levels amongst senior aviation managers and travel experts is edging slightly up, but there is still plenty of pessimism and uncertainty around – particularly in Asia-Pacific, according to research released at the CAPA Centre for Aviation Live sessions in November.
The Industry Pulse Survey undertaken in September by Collinson Group, in partnership with CAPA, revealed that 37% of respondents now expected a full recovery to 2019 levels in 2023. This was up from 31% in April.
A leading Auckland based corporate travel agent says that despite challenging times now he expects the sector to be at least on its way to a strong recovery in Q1 next year.
Keith Sumner, managing director of Gilpin Travel, says the company’s team will be back to full employment in February next year.
‘We’ve budgeted for that and we are committed to it. We’re taking the punt on the basis that even if things are not fully open there will be orders coming in anticipation of travel and that will keep us busy.’
There is a marked shift in the attitude of New Zealanders to see the New Zealand border open sooner, according to the latest KANAR survey released this week by Tourism New Zealand.
Researched in October, the survey shows that 57% of the 1,200 plus respondents would ‘prefer the NZ borders to open sooner to a limited number of low-risk countries to help the economy, with safety measures in place.’ This is up from 49% in the same survey in July 2021.
Kiwis’ love of cricket will be an important part of the travel recovery when we are able to move again, according to research by Booking.com.
The research, which surveyed both New Zealand and Australian sports fans, suggests that the 2022 men’s and women’s tournaments to be held across Australia and New Zealand have the potential to support the region’s travel resurgence. Sixty nine percent of Kiwi and 62% of Australian fans say they would travel with their family to watch a Cricket World Cup and a substantial percentage of people say they are likely to travel to a destination for cricket even if it is not normally high on the list of places they want to visit (59% NZ, 54% AU).
Flight Centre Travel Group (FCTG), has launched a new website that puts departed alumni front in line for roles when travel opens up again.
Having lost many of its people during the Covid-19 pandemic through stand down and redundancy, the travel retailer is determined to stay connected to those reluctantly let go.
The new website, Flighties Forever, will help the company continue to do that - allowing its people (past and present) to mark their place in the company’s history books, plus receive job alerts, access to company news and professional development tips.
Travel Agents’ Association of New Zealand (TAANZ) president Brent Thomas says the changes announced to MIQ yesterday now mean that instead of 90% of people who apply for a spot in the system being disappointed, now 80% will be.
‘It defies logic that fully vaccinated people who test negative before they come here still have to spend seven days in MIQ before being able to self isolate,’ says Thomas.
‘It is still a lolly scramble without enough lollies – business travellers still won’t be able to travel and people still won’t have the ability to reconnect with their loved ones.
A partnership between Jupl NZ and Travel Lab NZ is set to help the travel industry work alongside travellers to utilise home isolation.
Jupl co-founder Sir Ray Avery, says the joint venture is the first stage for allowing Kiwis to return home safely avoiding the MIQ system which, for many, is heartbreakingly long.
‘The aim of this strategy is to use technology to eliminate human error and provide the government with documented assurances that covid home isolation can effectively prevent widespread community transmission of Covid.’
Corporate travel managers should be encouraged to reach out during the RFP (request for proposal) process and ask for dual rates and other flexibility in pricing, says Quest’s general manager sales Anthea Dimitrakopoulos.
Speaking at Flight Centre’s digital Illuminate event late last week, Dimitrakopoulos says corporates are understandably unable to guarantee room nights like they traditionally could in the past.
Flight Centre managing director Graham ‘Skroo’ Turner admits he may be a ‘bit optimistic’ but predicted yesterday that New Zealand would open its borders to certain places before Christmas.
Speaking during Flight Centre Corporate’s Illuminate virtual event yesterday, Turner noted that Covid was in the community on this side of the Tasman.
‘So there is no reason they can’t open up to fully vaccinated people. Vaccination is the key, perhaps with 72 hour testing as well.’
Travellers want to get moving again, but their enthusiasm is being dampened by confusion around international requirements, according to a just released survey commissioned by Amadeus.
The survey of 9,074 consumers across France, Germany, India, Spain, Russia, Singapore, the UAE, the UK, and the US shows the appetite to travel is high. It indicates 77% of travellers globally want to travel in the next year, with 50% of expecting to take a flight for business later this year.
Access to information will be more important than ever for travellers when they start moving again and the industry as a whole needs to work to ensure the consumer can move with confidence, says James Marshall, vice-president global air account management with Expedia.
Speaking at CAPA Live, Marshall was responding to a question put by moderator Trent Banfield, international operations and aviation manager at Tourism Australia. Banfield noted that travellers might be more confident being able to call someone to help them get through any difficult situation.
A leading wholesaler is warning trade that their main challenge next year, when New Zealand borders eventually open up, is likely to be finding availability for clients– especially for high end accommodation and niche activities.
World Journeys director Chris Lyons says there is now no question that Europeans and Americans are living with Covid as vaccination rates continue to rise and that they are on the move again.
First Travel Group is inviting travel agents and brokers to get a first hand demonstration of its new technology, saying its leading edge system will enable the trade to take full advantage of travel’s return.
‘We realise these are frustrating times for the sector,’ says First Travel Group’s (FTG’s) general manager retail, John Willson, ‘but we have been putting a lot of hard work into our offerings and we believe we are well positioned for the reboot of travel.
‘It’s a waiting game at the moment but we know it will come back strong – the experience in the US and UK, and soon Australia, show us that.’
Rako Science, which has a strong working relationship with many travel agents, has asked Parliament to protect the rights of all New Zealanders by amending the bill that gives coercive powers to seize laboratory supplies and requisition services from Covid-19 testing laboratories.
Rako Science is New Zealand’s largest Covid-19 PCR saliva testing service and in the last four weeks has collected and processed 30,000 saliva tests.
Minister Chris Hipkins has made it clear that the Government will not be taking any further decisons regarding the Consumer Travel Reimbursement Scheme.
The Travel Agents Association of new Zealand (TAANZ) has just circulated a letter from the Minister to Todd Muller, MP for Bay of Plenty. The letter also states that Government will 'not be providing any other direct support to travel agents at this time'.
TAANZ says it appreciates this will be a bitter pill for members to swallow.
International tourism showed signs of rebound in June and July 2021 as some destinations eased travel restrictions and the global vaccination rollout advanced in many parts of the world.
According to the latest edition of the United Nations World Travel Organisation (UNWTO) World Tourism Barometer, an estimated 54 million tourists crossed international borders in July 2021, down 67% from the same month in 2019, but the strongest results since April 2020. This compares to an estimated 34 million international arrivals recorded in July 2020, though well below the 164 million figure recorded in 2019.
When will the border open, and when will clients start to book international travel?
Many countries are well ahead of us. According to a recent McKinsey and Company Report named ‘Rebooting customer experience to bring back the magic of travel’, North America is already back to 90% of 2019 travel figures.
As most travel and tourism businesses are in hibernation, they find it difficult to find staff. This situation presents an opportunity to move your business model from a high volume, low margin business to a lower volume higher margin business.
Spokespeople in the travel and tourism sectors say the recent Talbot Mills Research on lifting borders and on vaccination intentions contained definite positives for the industry.
Although media coverage emphasised that one in two New Zealanders do not want to see the borders open until 90% plus Kiwis were fully vaccinated, there were more encouraging details in the full picture.
The first stage of TripFactory NZ’s business is live and open for registrations.
The TF Hub is available for any broker or agent to join and requires a simple sign-up process before they are able to create fully integrated itineraries utilising a wide range of direct supplier connections.
One of the founders, Simon Mckearney, says the New Zealand travel industry needed efficient technology to get some of the people who have left the industry back into the game.
Exotic Holidays and sister company Visa Assist are seeing an increased thirst for knowledge from the trade, driven by the changing situation around the world and the hopes of borders slowly opening in the not too distant future.
Managing director Rahul Sharma says developments like the ‘sandbox’ in specific Thailand resort destinations, plus the ongoing opening of Europe are generating interest from agents and clients. This is coupled with stated intention from the New Zealand government that it intends to start reconnecting with the world next year and trialling self-isolation for a limited number of business travellers over the next couple of months.
The jury is out on whether limited models of opening up travel and tourism are going to work.
In the recent CAPA-Live sessions, director general of Asia-Pacific Airlines Association, Subhas Menon, said that where countries are thinking of opening up with models like the Sandbox in Phuket, Thailand and a four-category reopening strategy in Singapore, travel is not really picking up.
A lack of coordination between governments when it comes to vaccine acceptance, testing regimes and other health and safety factors could slow international travel recovery even further, speakers at this week’s CAPA – Centre for Aviation Live event said this week.
Subhas Menon, director general of Asia-Pacific Airlines Association, says many places only recognise the vaccine they use. Menon sees the acceptance of rapid-antigen testing as possibly providing a boost for travel, but again not all governments are ready to adopt this.
Stated changes to New Zealand’s MIQ system will not resolve the current level of inequity and are not being received well by the travel agent community and other business interests, according to the Travel Agents Association of New Zealand (TAANZ).
‘We have had a number of agents expressing disappointment and frustration at both the old system and the new random system. We are engaging with Business New Zealand, who are also frustrated and coming up with joint submissions on how it could work better,’ says TAANZ president Brent Thomas.
Business travellers are raising concerns about the reliance on screen-based interaction as their primary meeting method. They are also looking for control, ease and simplicity, according to a survey undertaken last month by travel management company BCD Travel of 738 business travelers worldwide.
With virtual meetings and remote work here to stay, business travel and face-to-face meetings remain extremely important. Seventy-six percent of respondents said business travel helps them work efficiently. In a post-pandemic travel environment, 60% prefer to return to
pre-pandemic levels of business travel, while 26% prefer to travel less and 9% to travel more.
The travel and tourism industries say the galvanising of the general public to take the jab is a silver lining in the grim reality of a Level 4 lockdown.
Travel Agents Association of New Zealand (TAANZ) president , Brent Thomas, says it is important to give credit where it’s due and acknowledge that the vaccination rate has picked up markedly.
‘From a travel industry point of view that means we will likely to be on target for the government to start opening the borders early next year as promised,’ says Thomas.
More than 80% of people support both domestic and international vaccine passports to open a return more rapidly to business travel, according to polling results released out of Australia by the corporate arms of Flight Centre Travel Group (FCM, Corporate Traveller, Flight Centre Business Travel, and Stage and Screen).
Over 1700 people across the LinkedIn channels of the four brands responded, with 80.75% in favour of a domestic and international vaccine passport, and less than 9% not in support of any passport initiative.
An accountant who specialises in the travel and tourism industries is urging agents and others in the trade to gain a good understanding of the recently announced Wages Subsidy and Resurgence Support Payment (RSP) even if at first glance they feel they may not qualify.
Paul Davies, director of OneTeam Chartered Accountants says if an agent’s actual or expected revenue is down by 40% or more due to the move to Alert Level 4 they can claim the wages subsidy for the two weeks commencing 17 August.
‘The comparison is either with a typical 14-day period in the six weeks prior to 17 August. It is important to note that if your business is seasonal (which most travel businesses are) you can compare with 17-30 August in 2020 or 2019,’ says Davies.
Although the term ‘revenge travel’– the urge to travel to make up for lost time in lockdown – has gained popularity globally over the course of the pandemic, a recent survey suggests Kiwi travellers are actually prioritising ‘reconnection travel – defined as reconnecting with the planet and its people – when they take their next adventure travel tour.
Creating a consumer awareness through media, marketing and supply channels with regards to the concerns for 2022 inventory, is one area of focus for the Travel Agents Association of New Zealand over the next few months.
Following a board meeting last Friday, TAANZ says this is important as many parts of the world are well advanced in their rebooking and travel planning.
Other areas of priority include:
A new B2B platform that connects agents and brokers directly to suppliers and allows them to quickly book product and formulate itineraries will soon be launched on the market.
Tripfactory Hub was founded by key members of the team that also launched Travel-Lab last year.
Brent Thomas, president of the Travel Agents Association of New Zealand (TAANZ), says the Government's Reconnecting New Zealanders to the World Forum, including announcements from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, had plenty of positives for travel agents.
‘We are definitely seeing a shift in terms of self isolation when retuning from low risk countries.’
Thomas says it was encouraging to hear Sir David Skegg, chair of the Strategic Covid-19 Public Health Advisory Group, talking about borders opening when all New Zealanders have had the opportunity to be vaccinated as opposed to actually being vaccinated.
Inbound tour operators have expressed a desire to collaborate more with outbound travel agents when it comes to issues around the borders.
The subject was raised during the Tourism Export Council (TEC) NZ conference in New Plymouth recently and chair Scott Mehrtens, of Leisure Time Travel, says it is clear the two sectors can work together and learn from each other.
The Travel Agents Association of New Zealand (TAANZ) says that while accessing the balance of the Consumer Travel Reimbursement Scheme (CTRS) remains a focus, there are other pressing issues that have a longer-term impact on the health of the industry.
In a communication to members late last week, the TAANZ board pinpoints the challenges of the MIQ allocation system.
Along with this is a lack of any kind of government roadmap out of compulsory quarantine and border closures as the percentage of population being vaccinated increases.
The New Zealand suppliers group has ‘moved up a notch’ by voting to become a formal association and new chair Joe O’Sullivan says the entity will continue to put pressure on government over key issues.
O’Sullivan, of Cruise World, says the New Zealand Outbound Travel Suppliers Association (OTSA) is still (along with the Travel Agents Association of New Zealand – TAANZ) putting pressure on authorities to release the remaining funds in the Consumer Travel Reimbursement Scheme to where it needs to be.
New Zealand will trial home-based isolation in a tightly run pilot between October and December this year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.
Speaking at the Reconnecting New Zealanders to the World Forum this morning she also revealed plans to accelerate work towards a travel health declaration system that will be manual in the short term but will quickly move to a digital tool. There will also be work on developing rapid testing for Covid-19 at the border.
‘As the surge in Covid cases in Australia has led to multiple states enduring yet more lockdowns, the decision to suspend the trans Tasman travel bubble has resulted in New Zealand travel agents calling on the government to unveil a clear plan for reopening the borders.
‘The current suspension represents yet another blow to the travel industry on both sides of the Tasman, which had begun to harbour cautiously optimistic hopes for a gradual recovery after the challenges of the last 18 months,’ reports Travel Agents Association (TAANZ) president, Brent Thomas.
Having people deprived of leisure travel for a couple of years, combined with the changing needs of corporates, is likely to lead to increased demand for comfort in the air, says Keith Sumner, managing director of Gilpin Travel.
‘Some of my golf mates, for example, have had two of their golden years of travel stolen from them. A lot of people, like them, will want to travel in comfort when they can.’
Sumner and colleague Jamie Gray, sales manager at Gilpin Travel, appeared on The Travel Guys TV show with presenter Mike Hogan recently and discussed ongoing challenges, trends and predictions in the business travel sphere.
First Travel Group has brought GOPASS Global’s pre-travel risk assessment technology to its national network of 47 shareholding members and across its independent network.
Through the partnership, First Travel agencies have access to accurate and up-to-date information about Covid travel impacts from 35 global data sources, in near real time, so they can plan travel safely for their customers.
World Travellers says that while long haul travel, in reality, is several months away, its new business model means the group will be ‘stronger, smarter and ready to go’ when the world opens up again.
‘Our group of stores has only had one closure since the beginning of Covid, with our King Country store going into full hibernation until borders re-open,’ says World Travellers general manager Dave Nicholson.
‘The Cook Islands and Australia bubbles are providing a small amount of business and thus the green shoots which we have been looking for are now a reality. There is a new positivity throughout the members as they get a taste for once again assisting clients with their travel bookings.’
Five new Travel Industry Mentor Experience (TIME) NZ mentees were announced at a function in Auckland this week.
Dunedin-based Alexandra Hannagan, of Hannagan and Grieve Travel Associates, will be mentored by Lindy Christian, Our World. Hannagan is also the recipient of the inaugural Friends of TIME Scholarship.
First Travel Group has rebranded its consolidation unit First Fares to Express Tickets which will be available industry wide for new agencies. Express Tickets provides all fares and ticketing requirements 24/7 at competitive rates.
‘We have taken the Covid period to adapt to a changing market by providing our members with easy to use systems,’ First Travel Group CEO Malcolm MacLeod says.
Express Tickets has integrated into its operation the fares and ticketing technology, Aeronology, which FTG announced late last year. The software is expected to increase travel agent productivity with the ease of selling ancillary products at the time of booking.