Lacaze: The Year Ahead Comment

By admin


2011 was an unusually busy and eventful year for the whole world and for the Australian travel industry specifically. While trading conditions in the first half of the year were very favourable, the second half saw the confidence of Australian consumers take a huge hit as daily headlines screamed of economic problems and political uncertainty. The short term impact was a reduction in sales growth and discounted selling prices as suppliers desperately sought to fill capacity.
Despite the drama of the past year, I see a positive outlook for 2012, particularly if the European debt crisis can be resolved in a reasonable way. After all, people still want to travel.
But there's no denying that the year ahead will be a new mixture of challenges and opportunities. My view of 2012 is offered with no guarantees or refunds.
Travel markets will continue to be highly contested and selling prices for air, land, coach and cruise bookings will remain under pressure.
The trend for last minute bookings will also continue, with bookings being made even closer to departure dates than at present.
Online bookings too will carry on their upward growth, although at a slower rate than we have seen so far.
Bricks and mortar agents will have to deal with higher rents in shopping centres and there will be no end to the current shortage of trained sales staff.
Meanwhile, the travel distribution sector will find itself polarised with a divide forming between agents who support Qantas and those who support Virgin Australia.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) will continue to implement its new financial criteria, making it increasingly difficult and expensive for agents to maintain IATA accreditation.
Domestic tourism will continue to suffer as the historically low growth rates of 1-2% stick around into next year.
But on the positive side, outbound travel will benefit as the Australian dollar remains strong driving more people overseas.
Travel will reap the rewards of rebounding consumer confidence, the result of a series of Australian interest rate cuts and a resolution of the European debt issues.
Travel agents will win back some market growth from the online sector on the back of strong support provided by traditional agents to clients and travellers during the numerous disruptions of 2011.
Cruising will continue to grow with both ocean and river cruises proving popular.
New travel experiences will become available as airline access is increased or local infrastructure is developed in regions such as South America, South Africa, Vietnam, South East Asia and China.
There will be increasing focus on working with preferred trading partners to increase the percentage of preferred sales. The outcomes will be a more reliable service to consumers and better rewards for franchisees and sales consultants.
Technology will play a major role yet again as it continues to be used to offset the impact of higher passenger volumes, discounted selling prices and increasing wages, rents and overheads. Jetset Travelworld Group's ticketing systems are a good example of how agents can avoid the tighter IATA rules, reduce local overheads and improve office productivity.
Agents will implement training programs to assist sales consultants to "ask for the business" and "close the sale". Measurement systems to assess consultant performance in these areas will also be put in place across the industry.

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