The travel industry worldwide is facing its largest pivot: how do you resurrect yourself in the wake of the greatest upheaval in recent history?
In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses are scrambling more than ever to rebuild. The Canadian travel industry, which Tourism HR Canada reports, employs nearly 2 million employees, will undergo a seismic shift in the next three years, with much of the changes occurring in technology.
Participants at the 2022 ACTA Summit held in Toronto on Sept. 14 observed an afternoon panel event, “Rebuilding the Canadian Travel Industry—Together,” that provided much discussion on rebuilding an aging industry. The key takeaway: build back better.
INVEST IN TECHNOLOGY
Technology was the central topic carried on by the four panellists: Stéphanie Bishop, managing director, Globus family of brands; Nino Montagnese, vice president, Air Canada Vacations; Frank DeMarinis, CEO, TravelBrands; Monica Johnstone, president/owner, Uniglobe Travel Innovations; moderated by ACTA board member Richard Vanderlubbe, the president of TripCentral.ca.
TravelBrands, one of Canada’s largest wholesale travel companies, that represents 89 airlines and 125,000 hoteliers, is investing millions of dollars toward building a digitized platform that will ultimately eliminate today’s headaches and frustrations so travel agents don’t have to deal with questions like, “Where is my refund?” or “What is the situation with this file?” or “I have to call in to make this change.”
“I am building the future for travel agents so you can interact with suppliers like myself in a more convenient way so we can eliminate those frustrations,” stated DeMarinis, who stressed that travel agents have always been at the core of TravelBrands’ number one customer base, and emphasized, “that’s never going away.”
In addition, the audience heard that living in an age where technology is growing by leaps and bounds, the travel industry sorely lags in hi-tech innovation.
Earlier in the discussion Bishop reiterated the importance of technology. “Our technology is everything today,” she said, citing how the travel company, which has the Avalon Waterways brand, has introduced apps like AvalonGO that have eliminated paper, giving clients better access to restaurant bookings and map usage for excursions.
At Air Canada Vacations, the company has enhanced its trip book digital portal this past February and reports over 60,000 transactions have been made in trip book. “It should be saving you time and making you more efficient and it should let you service your customer better,” said Montagnese.
The old ‘we get paid if the trip happens’ scenario is a model that has become out-dated participants heard. Johnstone advocated that from an agency perspective, agents should be paid for the work whether the trip happens or not. “It’s a conversation that needs to be had,” she said, describing how cancellation fees go toward insurance companies regardless and the agencies get nothing. “I think we should get a portion of the cancellation penalty.”
MORE WAYS TO REBUILD
Attracting new travel agents and seeking out education programs is integral for the Canadian travel industry to survive. Organizations like ACTA offer Travel Agent Essentials, Diversity and Inclusion Courses and the Certified Travel Counsellor (CTC) and Certified Travel Manager (CTM) designation.
“Leisure is leading the recovery period in the travel space. If you’re not in the leisure space I would highly recommend switching gears a little bit until corporate travel comes back,” remarked DeMarinis of TravelBrands, whose company has viewed an increase in off-the-beaten path experiences among leisure travellers.