Simon McKearney, helloworld; Peter Harbison, CAPA (Centre for Aviation); Brooke Jamieson, helloworld Simon McKearney, helloworld; Peter Harbison, CAPA (Centre for Aviation); Brooke Jamieson, helloworld

Agents ‘at risk’ says poll – but speakers say there’s life yet

More than 40% of the audience at a recent travel conference felt that travel agencies and travel management companies are most at risk from the various changes taking place in the industry now.
Another 30.7% of the audience at the Travelport LIVE conference in Sydney felt that everyone in the sector was at risk, while 9.9% felt GDS and technology providers had the most to fear. Airlines came in at 7.7%.
The survey came during a panel discussion on the distribution landscape, when moderator Peter Harbison, executive chairman of CAPA (Centre for Aviation) identified consumer empowerment and big data players as the

major threats to the status quo in travel.
‘Typically providers have restricted transparency around things like pricing, product and availability. I understand that because it is around being profitable. But the consumer is now king.
‘Consumers now have weapons, like direct channels with loads of new opportunities.’
However, not everyone on the panel was convinced that agents were under more threat than others in the industry.
‘Travel agents are an easy go to for questions like this,’ says Simon McKearney, executive general manager, helloworld New Zealand.
‘But I think the true disruptor is the local travel agent who sits there amongst the bombardment of technology and information to talk to a consumer who wants trusted and personal advice from their travel agency.’
Jayson Westbury, chief executive officer of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA), had just returned from a Flight Centre conference. ‘I look at the publicly listed companies and their ability to effect change, stay profitable and cause disruption themselves. I don’t think anyone at Flight centre was quaking in his or her boots (about the future).
‘The travel industry community is still strong, has the ability to adapt and work with technology partners, and to hang on to customers with every breath.’