He adds that the demand for travel agents’ services is unlikely to slacken off any time soon due to the high desire to travel combined with ongoing complications in the process.
‘There is no such thing as an easy Europe booking these days. Changes to Covid restrictions, cancellations and schedule changes are the norm right now. We can get two schedule changes for one booking before 8.30am.’
He says the conversion rate is ‘massive’. While negotiating rates was part of business life in 2020, there is far less of that now, he says.
‘People are saying ‘just get me a seat.’ They pay the going rate and they are grateful to get on the flight.’
Williams expects things to stabilise somewhat as air capacity increases.
‘But people will still come through travel agents because things are way too difficult.
‘We’ll work with someone who has direct credit with an airline but we’ll charge a fee. We’ve had people walk away saying they will do it themselves, only to comeback later and say they are prepared to pay.’
Williams points out that the company, which includes HOT Events and New Zealand Olympic Travel, is soon moving to new offices in the same building as Christchurch’s new Mayfair Hotel.
‘The physical size is about half of what we had before (pre-Covid) but it is a quality building and we have a system where people can work from home for a couple of days a week. We mastered that over the last two years.
‘It means they can come in and interact with the team and with clients for three days and then use two days catching up with processing and other work. About 70% of our clients are from outside Christchurch anyway.
‘We have spent two years up-skilling the team and everyone is now cross skilled,’ Williams adds.
‘We are also working smarter with automation and House of Travel has adapted systems to emphasise that. Amadeus, for example, has brought on a lot of new technology for House of Travel.’