John Willson John Willson

Travel stalwart positive despite grim times

The travel agency community has reasons to be optimistic about the future despite the current grim situation, according to an industry stalwart.

John Willson, general manager retail with First Travel Group says certain factors remain critical at the moment. These include an extension of the wage subsidy, a favourable response by government to the travel brand submission, and a gradual, steady opening of borders.

But beyond that, Willson feels positive about the medium and longer term future and says the market has learned some valuable messages when it comes to the trade.

‘Travel agents have shown their worth when compared to OTAs. The travel agency community should relish that and make sure the business that was going to OTAs comes to the bricks and mortar and the personal service that agents provide.’

He says the crisis has also emphasised, yet again, the value of relationships.

‘If you don't like someone you shouldn’t be working with them. When it comes to the agency-supplier relationship, you have to work with people you trust.’

He says even if the outcome is not what the agent would want, at least both parties can realise the negotiations were in good faith.

‘I am confident of a strong recovery. As long as agencies are financially sound and can weather the storm I am predicting a real comeback. But in the meantime we do need the government assistance.’

Willson says he sees no reason why a Pacific Islands bubble couldn’t be opened now. ‘There is no health risk if the border is controlled properly.’

He says testing prior to travel could reduce any risk even further.

‘Our Pacific business through Lifestyle Holidays has always been strong and we are expecting that market to come back very quickly when it is able to.’

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