‘We definitely are getting more enquiries from agents and turning those into good bookings,’ says Kettle. ‘We’re having to move to meet the market in terms of pricing sometimes but we are able to do that because of the way we bundle things up.’ He says everything on the nzsidekick website is branded as the travel agent’s or broker’s own work – the client receives an itinerary with the agent’s name and personal details. ‘It makes the agent look good, it’s all commissionable and the customer can pay us directly or go via the agent (at net).’ Kettle’s comments come at a time when the Travel Agents Association of New Zealand (TAANZ) has noticed ‘mixed feedback’ from its members about hotel and motel rates (see separate story page 2).
‘We’ve got great relationships with motels and hotels and we’ve been using some of them for 15 years – that’s invaluable when it comes to making sure our customers are being looked after. ‘Our nzsidekick system can also offer any agents or brokers a white label web solution for domestic touring or a widget to implant into their own site offering 500 touring itineraries.’ Kettle says that while domestic tourism has been a glimmer of hope, he shares the inbound sector’s extreme frustration about lack of clarity for the future. ‘I fear that travel agents, wholesalers and inbounders are at risk of being completely overlooked by the Government. The inbound sector spends millions of dollars promoting New Zealand to travel agents all around the world, we support them and show them around, and then we spend hard cash to pull everything together. We make a healthy margin on that, which keeps more people employed, allows them to be paid more and pay more tax, and it all brings in foreign exchange.’
Kettle says what is needed ‘regardless of a trans Tasman or any other bubble’ is to have some sort of target set by the Government. ‘We realise nothing can be set in stone and things may change, we’re not naïve. But if the Government said it was looking to open some markets by April 2021 it would give us confidence to work and plan towards something. At the moment we are just left wondering how long we can stretch out our cash.’