Starting his career as a travel consultant before moving on to senior commercial roles with Qantas and Jetset Travelworld Group, Simon Bernardi has experienced more than 25 years in the fast changing world of travel and tourism.
After building strong relationships with many retail travel consultants, Bernardi recognised a burning need for accessible information relating to the retail agency business landscape in Australia.
Last year, Bernardi created and launched the Australian Travel Agent Barometer (ATAB), a survey which offered travel consultants a platform to express their views anonymously, giving a true insight into what the industry thinks on a range of important issues and ultimately aiming to assist in determining the future of Australia’s travel trade.
Over the months of September and October 2013, over 200 surveys have been conducted via phone, face to face and online, in order to provide invaluable feedback to industry leaders and suppliers on what issues really matter.
“This is the first independent research on the Australian retail travel industry that’s been conducted in a long while and it has given Australian agents an incredible opportunity to voice their opinion on significant, industry specific issues, providing invaluable feedback to industry leaders and suppliers on what issues really matter,” Bernardi says.
The ATAB survey is to be conducted annually with the 2013 survey focusing on themes around travel agency licensing and regulation, effects of online and direct supplier impact, increased competition, incentives, value proposition, most trusted suppliers and much more.
“There has never been a survey of this magnitude conducted for Australian travel agents and the immense amount of information garnered has definitely revealed some fascinating insights.”
Overall feeling – Ok to excellent
80 percent of those surveyed for the ATAB revealed their confidence level in the industry overall was either ok, good or excellent, based from the belief that business is goof right now to the faith that the industry is cyclical and goes through natural progressions.
Positive impacts – increase in commission, promotion, reduction in margin will fuel growth
The majority of agents said that an increase in commission would make the most positive impact to their business and that more had to be done to promote the value proposition of booking through an agent.
Products that do provide good commission are cruise, wholesale and hotels, with many agents seeking refuge in being able to sell these, with the booming cruise sector in particular helping a number of agents stay afloat.
While client loyalty is the main retention strategy for many agents, they stressed the need to grow in order to secure survival of the business in the future and felt that reducing margins (average net margin is around 1.7 per cent) as well as seeing a change in customer buying patterns, would fuel the growth in home based agents.
Threats – Supplier direct offers and online travel agents
The biggest threat to most agencies has been identified as the increase of both supplier direct offers as well as the growth of online travel agents, with 99 per cent of agents saying that these threats are the number one issue to impact their business in the next five years, yet few have developed a strategy to compete with them.
Another major threat is the growth of retail giants Flight Centre Group and American Express.
AFTA under fire – unregulated industry could lead to negative quality and negative reputation
The Australian Federation of Travel Agents’ (AFTA) fight to remove the Travel Compensation Fund (TCF) with no alternative to replace it, came under fire from many agents, with a significant number fearing that an unregulated industry would allow anyone to set up shop and any failures would be seen as a reflection of the overall industry.
Outlook for the future – remains bright
Although the Australian intermediary market is worth over AUD $3 billion per annum and has grown by around 29 per cent over the past few years, sales growth has slowed down recently.
However, more than 80 per cent of both owner managers and consultants feel the outlook for the industry remains bright and say they intend to stay in the industry for the next five years.
Category winners – The most trusted suppliers as voted by consultants
Airline – Qantas
Wholesaler – Qantas Holidays
Touring company – APT Touring
Car rental – Avis
Cruising – Silver Seas
For more information and to obtain the ATAB 2013 results please click the link: Australian Travel Agent Barometer.