First Travel’s head of operations Paul Smith says if 2020 has any upside, it’s allowed First Travel to take a fresh look at its offering and supplier agreements. ‘We’ve been able to take stock and this should return benefits when the Covid vaccine encourages borders to reopen.’
First Travel general manager retail, John Willson says the biggest problem for the travel industry has been the challenge to get government, clients and organisations like Consumer NZ to truly understand how the industry works.
‘Travel agents were getting the brunt of criticism for holding onto people’s money, but the money was basically all overseas and it took collaboration from brands to collectively remain operational to ensure we could do everything possible to get client funds back.’
He expects a jump in travel bookings once the vaccine is in place. ‘The floodgates will open as there are so many refunds out there that 2022 is just about full from people using their credits.’
FTG praised for ‘family approach’
Despite the challenges facing the travel industry during 2020, First Travel Group and its 50-plus members are full of praise for one another about how they handled the Covid-19 crisis.
FTG has just released the results of its 2020 member satisfaction survey and virtually all categories recorded the highest scores ever.
A recurring theme in members’ comments was the feeling of family and strong partnership offered by the group.
Chief executive Malcolm MacLeod says in the early days, FTG, along with everyone else, was a bit like deer staring into the headlights. ‘But it quickly became clear we had to do whatever it took to support our members, with First Travel’s head office swinging into action with a range of measures to help them and, in turn, their clients.’
Nearly all the survey results showed an average improvement in satisfaction compared to 2019, including head office satisfaction (94%, up from 87%), First Fares satisfaction (92%, up 3% Quikticket satisfaction (92%, up 2%) and Lifestyle Holidays satisfaction (80%, up from 79%). The survey showed more than 90% satisfaction with the Covid-19 support, communications, online meetings and weekly newsletters.
‘Particularly important when creating the survey was gauging how members felt about First Travel Group’s response in a year in which worldwide cancellations meant negative flow-on effects for airline wholesalers, travel cooperatives, travel retailers and, of course, customers.’