John Willson John Willson

'Adapt to current environment'

Despite initially being driven largely by the visiting friends and relatives (VFR) market and pent up demand, the current upsurge in travel enquiries and bookings should in no way be regarded as a flash in the pan, says First Travel Group’s general manager retail John Willson.

He says the trade needs to adapt to the current business environment, at least in the medium term, where the challenge is having the people power to cater for the upsurge – as well as making sure travel businesses are profitable.

‘We have to get used to this. There will be a need for agents to really maximise their time and concentrate on high value customers. There won’t be a place for tire kickers.’

He says it is now well and truly time to ensure that yield matches the effort put into a booking.

‘We need to be making more than we did in the past – firstly because we deserve it and secondly because we have spent too long a industry being too lowly paid.’

Willson says the sentiment of ‘wanting to be in the travel industry’ for the sake of it has no merit.

‘It’s a business and you have to make money out of it and that means charging for time and service. It’s horses for courses but in general, with the time agents now need to spend on a booking there is no way commission will cut it,’

Willson says that FTG has concentrated on communicating all the way through the last two years.

‘We have encouraged people to stay in premises where they can and to try to look after key staff – most of our members have done a magnificent job with this and have staff ready to come back on line.

‘Unfortunately, some people want to come back – the industry as a whole has bitten hard. We need new people but ideally we need experienced and trained staff to come back.’

Willson accepts that in many cases that will be a hard sell and running businesses at a lower than ideal staffing level wll be a fact of life ‘for several months, possibly years.’

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