Greg Hamilton Greg Hamilton

The task ahead for staffing

The Travel Agents Association of New Zealand (TAANZ) is noting some positive movement in terms of increasing staff numbers on the front line, despite human resources still being a major challenge for the industry.

Chief executive Greg Hamilton says he is hearing from a number of members who have done well at attracting people back and employing new staff.

‘We’re also pleased that travel agents are one of the sectors, as part of tourism and hospitality, that will be accredited to employ people who are here on a work visa.’

He is optimistic about funding, again as part of the broader tourism and travel landscape, to build a roadmap to attract and build the workforce.

‘I think the travel industry is a bit ahead of the game compared to other sectors because for us the borders have well and truly opened and we have had to get stuck in to start rebuilding quickly.

‘On the other hand tourism is faced with readying for the summer.’

He says despite all this, staffing is still a major challenge.

‘We can’t sugar coat it, there are constraints on the workforce and agents are faced with the extra burden of a high level of after sales support because there is so much disruption to clients. Unfortunately, that’s a theme that will last a while.’

Hamilton feels that carriers are, tops, at about 60% of (pre-Covid) capacity. ‘Once that capacity builds for the tourism summer we anticipate that we will experience more demand through 2023 – that means we’ll need to ramp up more.

‘We need to work on promotion and changing the perception, not so much of the school and tertiary institution leavers but of their parents. We need to really provide a roadmap and answer key questions – what we do, where do young people go and what are the career opportunities, who are the key players in the industry?

‘Then we need to work on content – what should levels one to four look like, what do employers actually need, and what helps people get to the start line being productive and useful from day one?'

Bad publicity is, well…not all bad

Media fixations with the problems and disruptions plaguing the travel industry could, ironically, have a silver lining for the trade, says Greg Hamilton, chief executive officer of the Travel Agents Association of New Zealand (TAANZ).

‘Sometimes you wonder what else can go wrong – heatwaves and melting runways, new waves of Covid, pilot shortages, bad weather domestically, the list goes on.

‘But all the bad media about travel is creating a picture that it really is more challenging and time consuming and needs expertise. So that’s driving people to travel agents.’

Hamilton says agents remain frustrated that airline commission cuts have been made at a time when agents need to work harder than ever to solve client’s problems around disruptions.

‘On the other hand it has reinforced the need to recognise and promote agents’ value and have confidence that people will be prepared to pay for that.

‘This all provides a choice for consumers – some will be comfortable doing things on-line and some won’t.’

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