This commentary is provided by a very mature Travel Agent who is fed up with the crap that Agents are being hit within 2022 without responding properly!
Travel Agents should be masters of their own destiny and not subservient to highly paid Airline and other Supplier executives who treat us with disrespect, have not heeded how travel agents worked during the chaotic peak COVID periods and remain only interested in pacifying their Accountants misguided advice whilst protecting their huge Salaries and Bonuses.
I refer to some Airlines and travel Suppliers as “evil” entities.
“EVIL” = Expect Voluminous Internal Losses
A conglomerate of “evil” Airlines and some Suppliers have decided to reduce Travel Agent’s commissions to 0 or 1% to pacify their Accountants and abide by an ACCC regulation.
In doing so, they have alienated professional Travel Agents who are supposed to continue to recommend and sell their products and -unbelievably – compete against the same products/services that they offer consumers at net net levels, without any built-in financial incentive to do so! This fact is basically unknown to consumers and not encouraged by any other business equation.
Current Airlines, who I classify as “evil”, are –
Travel Agents should now adapt the cliches of “good timing”, “striking when the iron is hot”, and “not putting your eggs into one basket” in their business forecasting.
There are also some Cruise companies, Hoteliers and other travel Suppliers who offer low or zero commissions or who wish to deal directly with customers, who may or may not be travel agency clients, but they still expect travel agents to support them. !. Some promote sales via travel agents yet have “call to action” huge phone numbers and/or email addresses on flyers, websites or on the back-page of expensive, beautiful brochures. This alienates intelligent travel agents and does more harm than good. Smaller font sizes, “refer to your professionally accredited travel agent/advisor”, or an AFTA/ATAS link to agents would be better!
- Now is the perfect time to remind these “evil” entities that it was the advice, referrals, expert industry contacts, the toolkit of experience, CRS skills and constant communication of the professional travel agent/advisor who saved them total meltdowns when COVID was at its peak Australia-wide and worldwide. Travel Agents’ greatly mitigated huge volumes of negative consumer complaints against them and saved their company butts!
In retrospect, maybe Travel Agents should have walked away, advised affected travellers to make direct contact with these “evil” Airlines and Suppliers to see how their company’s infrastructure would melt down or be sued or lose more staff and also sadly see the health effects and possible mental problems that their staff would have confronted without a travel agents interventions!
Fortunately, most travel agents/advisors have a vested human, mortgage, financial and personal integrity investment in what they do, whereas most other travel industry companies are merely on a daily salary and can walk away easily and sleep at night restfully.
- Travel Agents are owed a big Thank You, but instead of that, some Airlines and Suppliers decided to thank us by deleting our commissions!
- Travel Agents, without doubt, were saviours of many Airlines and Supplier companies health state and we deserve to be recognised thus.
I say to all “evil” entities, please “grow a brain” > Here is my 7 Point reality check.
- Travel Agents saved these “evil” entities huge overtime payments, employees stress leave, personal staff health issues, and millions of dollars in losses and travel agents were the only quality conduit for consumers. Travel Agents were left with the tasks of explaining country COVID everchanging regulations, Health rulings, monitoring refunds, negotiating with industry contacts, explaining complex rules, performing flight changes, amendments, cancellations, assisting with travel insurance claims and monitoring all travel arrangements with a human shoulder to rely upon rather than wasting hours on phone calls or unresolved emails with most Airlines and Suppliers. Many clients were not even part of the travel agency database, yet we did our best to reduce the impact on Airlines and Suppliers s to pacify, satisfy or at least assist them.
- Travel Agents should now support all of the Airlines and other travel entities with sales, support, group bookings and strong marketing support.
- Travel Agents should maintain contacts with all supporting Airlines and other travel entities by investing in ongoing staff training, educationals, sales revisitation, webinars and referring pax sales into their companies. At the writing of this article, July 2022, Travel Agents should be looking at those entities that respectfully pay commissions to travel agents who also offer sales support, assisting agents with pax complaints and refunds etc. A small list (not exhaustive ) of current respectful entities are Qatar Airways and Air Canada and AABH (AUSTRALIA AND BEYOND HOLIDAYS), SUN ISLAND TOURS, GREECE AND MEDITERRANEAN HOLIDAYS, BUNNIK TOURS AND MANY OTHERS . Travel agents should sell them pre-advising pax of their reduced agency planning and booking fees.
- Travel Agents should only sell any non-paying commission Airlines and other travel entities if they are the last choice for whatever reason, adding their own higher-level planning/booking fees and other amendments/cancellation fees with clear booking conditions and fees. There is also no reason not to throw pressure on these “evil” entities and refer any complex refunds, exchanges, amendments etc., back to their under-pressure, inefficient Customer Service departments and see how they handle these increased, non-revenue pax enquiries. Expect pax to clamour back to travel agents, who can charge your service fees!
- Travel Agents should message the ACCC, ASIC, consumer media channels, and relevant business organizations and ask them what is happening to the huge $$million savings Airlines are making with their cutting of revenue previously paid to Travel Agents. Is this money now being deducted from fares payable, or is it being paid to their top executives as Salaries or bonuses or are they adding more staff or paying more monies to their lower-paid employees or their outsourced baggage handling contractors or Airport check-in staff to avoid the chaos we are all feeling?
Travel Agents should place pressure upon these bull-shit “evil” entities and their executive staff and others to reveal what they are doing with monies saved, and in the same breath, they should feel the power of how Travel Agents can sway sales by doing what they feel is a commercially responsible position in supporting those who are worthy of support.
- Travel Agents should individually write to shareholders or attend relevant shareholder meetings and ask the unaware shareholders to question how these “evil” entities are now allocating and responsibly using their monetary savings plus how their previous investment into the travel agency circuit is now concretely, with audited proof, saving them monies and improving the customer services as they outsource services to other departments and overseas call centres.
- Travel Agents must work together via their own strengths, via their Networks, or via AFTA immediately to show who is truly controlling the travel sales markets and how best they can unify and send clear messages that we are not subservient to them.
The future is not guaranteed. Here is the big worldwide issue at stake.
- I am aware that at least 4 Airlines and a few major Suppliers with at least two multinational Hotel chains are keenly studying Australasia to see how Travel Agents react to the current spate of reduced commissions and how (Airlines} go forward from here.
- At least 2 of these Airlines also await how their added extra flights, load capacity and yield will increase-if at all from their current levels with travel agents’ support, as they may also follow the trends or they may continue to pay commissions. They await increased travel agency support and may still pay commissions only if they see a marked improvement on sales emanating from travel agents. This is a warning that all travel agents must understand and act upon-NOW.
- In some IATA areas, Airlines refuse to renege and reintroduce commissions to save egos and are instead paying Networks and Agents a “Marketing fee”, “Distribution cost”, or an “advertising fee” to support those supporting agencies. This is fine and realistic, allowing them to place this investment in the agents as a taxable expense.
It is NOW, not after a talkfest and not after empty verbal promises to get Travel Agents onside and unite and sell all services and products that do respect our position in the travel industry equation as the most potent conduit between an Airline and travel Supplier and a consumer.
- Let us not play into these “evil” entities who do not respect our Travel Agency services. Offsell them if you can.
Let us not disappoint those wonderful Airlines and other travel entities that respectively pay us some commissions and provide us, travel agents with dedicated support lines and sales support. Sell them now and get your staff motivated via Incentive programs etc to do so.
Written by: Mofid Minarna
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