Virtuoso’s Managing Director APAC Michael Londregan isn’t taking the Webjet comments from yesterday lying down, and spoke exclusively to Travel Weekly to set the record straight.
Yesterday, Webjet MD John Guscic claimed in a conference presentation that travel agents are limited by their tools, processes and content, as well as their own experiences, and that this varies greatly across the industry.
“Currently, the perfect leisure travel experience does not exist, online or offline,” Guscic said.
But these comments weren’t taken lightly in the industry, especially by Londregan, who told TW, “The reality is the facts just don’t support their argument”.
“There are three groups of people out there; delegators, collaborators; and do-it-yourself-ers,” he added.
“Anyone who suggests that all of those people are going to join and become one segment is just ridiculous.
I may not need a chef to make me a cheese sandwich, but if I want Duck a l’orange I will.
“It’s a silly argument and we’re not threatened at all by it. But we do feel we should say something.
“If you go back 30 years, Australians went to five cities internationally. We now go to a myriad of places all over world and do everything from fly fishing to rock-climbing and biking with your family.
“People’s appetite to travel is becoming more complex and intricate. That tends to make me think you can’t buy it in a packet on the shelf. It’s more likely something you’re going to want tailored to you.
Online booking companies are going to survive by doing simple things, where people know what they’re doing. If I was them I’d focus my energy on being really good at that and not spend any energy saying we’re doing a bad job.
“They should focus on customers not competitors.”
Last week, Flight Centre’s Skroo Turner was the figurehead defending Aussie travel agents when he said Webjet and Airbnb were not companies that concerned him.
“In relation to travel agents, the human touch remains highly relevant in Australia and in other markets,” he told TW.
When we asked Londregan if he thought an OTA could replace the personal touch of booking through an agent, Londregan was adamant it’s not possible.
“They can put all their money into a science that is basically humanity,” he said.
If you talk to me about your honeymoon and I get to know you and partner, I’m going to go to my tapestry of knowledge and create something perfect for you. I don’t know how they can use science to tackle humanity.
“If I was them I’d try to move a lot of volume and become more of an online supermarket rather than trying to be a ‘chef’. The ‘chef’ work can be done by real life humans.”