FTG’s Malcolm MacLeod and keynote speaker Nigel Latta FTG’s Malcolm MacLeod and keynote speaker Nigel Latta

Agents’ extinction exaggerated

While customer facing technology plays an important part in the travel business, especially in the corporate sector, the true success of the future is all about touch points with the customer, First Travel Group’s conference at Pullman Auckland heard over the weekend.

 

Malcolm MacLeod took aim at news media and others who thought some years ago that travel agents were a dying breed. ‘Back in 2012, the New Zealand Herald ran an article stating that travel agents (along with accountants) were likely to be facing extinction by 2017 – and there will be no more jobs for professionals in these sectors. ‘Well 2017 came and went and we’re all still here – well not all of us, because some didn’t adapt.’ Despite some agents falling by the wayside, MacLeod notes that airline ticket sales via travel agents have increased by over 25% since the NZ Herald article was written. ‘And the biggest issue facing the industry is finding staff to work, not the other way around.’

 

He says the conference’s theme Be Unique is about what separates the groups’ agents ‘from the masses’ and will ensure they survive well into the future. MacLeod refers to another newspaper article – a recent one in USA Today – which takes a different angle and is entitled ‘Why you should use a travel agent.’ He says the article talks about the relationships travel agents have with suppliers and how much time consumers would need to spend building their own relationships and learning online to reach the same level of expertise. ‘And it’s that type of reputation by which we gain leverage, being that person who goes the extra mile, not being order takers.’

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