News

The Year Ahead: Guest Comment by Andrew Macfarlane, Magellan Travel Group chief executive

Magellan Travel Group begins the year with 90 member agents around Australia that represent the cream of the industry. By July, Magellan will have 100+ members and will continue to grow based on enquiry and best-fit.

Our members focus on high-end leisure and business travel and deliver the personalised customer experience that repeat and higher-value travellers seek.

This will be a key area for profitable growth for travel agencies in 2014 and whilst the two big brands compete in the commoditised mass-market, independent agents can prosper in these higher yielding, less price-sensitive market segments.

We see independent leisure agents increasingly specialised in order to deliver expertise that a generalist cannot – whether that is in a region or destination, a mode of travel like cruising, or a demographic like seniors or families.

They specialise in delivery of tailored services to customer groupings from solo travellers to multi-generational families and to specialist interest, community or sports groups. 

Independent corporate agents specialise in service delivery to particular industries such as mining and exploration or film production and entertainment. They may also focus on a particular size of corporate client, such as small to medium enterprises.

Relationships are key and independent agents engage with community based organisations and generate loyal, repeat customers and referral networks.

Creative, dynamic and targeted use of customer databases and digital marketing provide a tangible and effective channel to communicate and promote destinations, services and offers and independent agents achieve better conversion and a higher return on investment than from mass marketing.

In summary, independent agents will be best placed to access frequent and high value leisure travellers and SME business travellers where yields are higher and customers value and will pay for personalised service and expertise.  

The industry will settle down following the transformation of 2013.

Smart agents will make a careful and considered choice as to their buying group or member network and seek stability and control of their own destiny.

Magellan Travel Group’s philosophy will be unchanged – to manage the group in the interest of our members and to enhance travel agent profitability.

Ultimately, we believe agents will receive better value and more transparency from their groups than ever before, which had to happen.

Partnerships of best-fit and mutual benefit between an agent and their group will endure.

AFTA will lead the transformation to a deregulated industry that will offer consumers the choice of an ATAS accredited agency and new insurance products to enhance consumer protection. They have our full support and we urge a united industry approach to this reform to ensure its success.

The market outlook for 2014 is healthy given the business and consumer confidence that comes with low interest rates, low unemployment and stable government.

In the leisure market, exchange rates influence destination more than demand and the highs we have seen for Europe and North America may peak and we are seeing some signs of increased demand for Asia/Pacific destinations.

The juggernauts of ocean and river cruising will sail on unabated as new capacity, new products and new destinations come on stream.

There will be no shortage of opportunity and the best agents will capitalise on this.

We look forward to working with our members, our partner suppliers and the industry at large towards a prosperous 2014.

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