Andrew Bowman Andrew Bowman

Re-evaluation a benefit of Covid?

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.’

Bowman is a director of NZ Travel Brokers and New Zealand committee chair of the Travel Industry Mentor Experience (TIME). He is also a director of the Travel Agents Association of New Zealand (TAANZ) and of the World Travel Agents Alliance (WTAAA).

‘We had 10 years of growth year on year, something like 5-7% compounding. Because of that if you asked someone a year ago what they thought might be the worst case scenario they’d say perhaps revenue reducing by about 5-10%. Then it came to a shuddering halt and closer to 100% reduction.’

While he sees considerable challenges and issues the sector has to face in the future, he also cautiously predicts the industry has put the very worse behind it.

‘Business models and value chain need to transform and it will require collaboration from all industry stakeholders to rebuild for a more sustainable future.

‘It feels like we are moving out of survival mode and into a period of revival. Part of that is less fear and better understanding of the repercussions and ramifications of Covid and how we can live with it.’

On the agent and broker front he sees the Government Consumer Travel Reimbursement scheme as an important step and congratulates those who led the charge. ‘We’ve seen downsizing, retrenching and the benefits of the wage subsidy. Now we have the reimbursement scheme. It’s not the full answer but it will help agents and brokers stay afloat.’

Bowman is amongst those who feel that travel will bounce back strongly as soon as borders reopen and more options become available. ‘The cruise sector is one that has been beaten up and hard hit but it actually has the potential to come roaring back through a personal approach and careful management. It lends itself to short haul travel – when you talk about cruising around New Zealand, the Pacific Islands and Australia you only limited by your imagination.’

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