Travel Agents

Flight Centre “not concerned” by Webjet or Airbnb

Hannah Edensor

Despite constant reinforcement that travel agents are integral to the industry – just look here or hereover here and here – Webjet’s CEO John Guscic has made some controversial comments yesterday.

His comments came in response to Airbnb’s launch of its ‘Trips’ offering in Sydney yesterday, with the company claiming it hopes to own the entire travel experience.

Guscic insisted Airbnb was actually no threat whatsoever, throwing a bit of travel agent shade in by adding the “role of the traditional travel agent is arguably in decline”.

“In Australia, as demonstrated in our 1H17 results, webjet.com.au has enjoyed 33 months of continuous TTV growth and continued to outperform the market by demonstrating bookings growth more than five times that of the underlying market rate,” Guscic said.

“Whilst the underlying role of the traditional travel agent is arguably in decline, Webjet’s online business model is bucking that trend. We do not see Airbnb as a threat, quite the contrary.  Any entity that assists in expanding the total travel market is welcome in our world.”

“In reality, the global travel market will continue to grow for the foreseeable future and we believe our technology and strong brand promises will continue to enable us to deliver growth in excess of the underlying market.”

It comes as new research shows Booking.com outshone Flight Centre as Australia’s favourite travel specialist. So in response to these claims, Travel Weekly got in touch with Flight Centre and Helloworld to get their insights.

Flight Centre’s boss Skroo Turner said the business “was not concerned by either comment” from Webjet or Airbnb.

“In relation to travel agents, the human touch remains highly relevant in Australia and in other markets,” Skroo told Travel Weekly.

“This is very clearly evidenced by the 10% growth in international tickets we achieved in Australia during the first half.

“Webjet has been around for a long time and it’s an OTA. It is still a fairly small player in the B2C space with a fare offering that is more expensive than other on and offline players because of the relatively high booking fees that it applies to all airfares.

“There are lower cost alternatives, including our own BYOjet and Aunt Betty offerings, which are growing strongly.

“Most brands that have been successful online are specialists in a particular area – Expedia and Priceline for example are hotel focused. No jack-of-all-trades has ever really become a major success.”

“Airbnb has developed a solid brand presence in the accommodation sector – where it effectively introduced a new product range – but it hasn’t yet launched an air offering or explained how it will differ from any other OTA.

“It’s also lost huge amounts of money and has reportedly only just achieved its first ever profit.”

Travel Weekly hadn’t heard from Helloworld at time of publishing.


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