David Coombes David Coombes

Short term focus critical to get through uncertain times, says FCTG’s Coombes

Flight Centre Travel Group NZ currently has a greater emphasis on the short to medium term than the longer term vision – something that is unusual for the group, says managing director David Colombes.

The group has just released a case study entitled Our Business Journey Through Covid-19. In his summary, Coombes says ‘it is important to accept what we can’t influence and control, and focus on what we can, which is more restricted than ever before.

‘However, through this period we have become a more open, agile and leaner business. We have a willingness to change, innovate and remain solutions focused,’ he says in the report.

Coombes says that while the group can imagine scenarios as to what the mid to longer term will look like, there is little certainty. ‘This was evidenced by our recent return to stricter Covid alert levels.’

He notes that domestic travel has rebounded to a degree, and more so in the corporate space, which is encouraging.

‘However, the sooner protocols are in place to allow international travel the better our business, our industry and the New Zealand economy will fare.’

Jodie Burnard, general manager marketing of FCTG, notes in the report that the company had to ‘wade through all the misleading information driven by the media and educate them on the process of refunds and credits.

‘We needed to emphasise the value of a travel expert and the work they had already done prior to a customer departure, all the while providing assurance and confidence that we are a stable and secure business.’

Coombes says that as the Covid situation unfolded ealrier this year survival required ‘bold, extreme and often impossible decisions’ made at a pace the company had never experienced before.

He says the focus included extreme cost reductions across the entire business. ‘Regrettably a significant impact on our people was unavoidable. Half our workforce was made redundant or stood down, with those remaining active doing so on reduced remuneration.’

He says there was an emphasis on supporting FCTG’s people via new initiatives and legacy programmes. There were also a number of customer engagement activations.

‘Ad we are lobbying the government, alongside industry peers, to stress the role of the agency segment in the tourism eco-system and the vital role we play in repatriating customers’ funds currently held by hundreds of travel providers.n


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