The coronavirus’ decimation of highly skilled Australian travel agents is about to be realised by consumers.
Michael Londregan, Virtuoso‘s Senior Vice President of Operations, says the plethora of travel advisor job loses over the past 12 months due the pandemic is a “big problem” and cause for concern.
“It’s why we genuinely did need JobKeeper for our industry because we have to try and keep our intellectual property – our people – in our lane for when demand comes back.”
“We’ve sort of blown it,” he told LATTE. “Like any industry, our skilled workforce has been thinned out and when demand comes back, consumers are going to be frustrated and saying Where are these people?
“You just can’t create hundreds and hundreds of great advisors overnight.”
“Customers are going to say, We don’t understand it. You guys said you needed our business and now we’re back and you’re not doing your job?”
Londregan said agencies reached a point that they were unable to keep their staff in hibernation.
But the Virtuoso senior executive is optimistic those skilled workers who left agencies during the pandemic will, in time, be lured back to the industry.
“There was nothing fundamentally wrong with the industry. We all know it was the pandemic. I don’t think people believe that this is going to be an ongoing problem for our industry.”
“If they loved what they were doing, they’ll probably have enough faith to know this is a phenomenal industry.”
“When international travel returns and they hear positive holiday experiences in society, it will likely give them the confidence to realise they were in a good space that got disrupted, rather than they were on a dying industry.
Londregan told LATTE he is highly encouraged by the reinvigorated travel activity underway in Virtuoso’s primary market, the USA.
He said his Virtuoso counterparts in North America are struggling to keep up with demand.
“The owners of agencies over there are saying that there are too many enquiries. They have their full teams back but they can’t get back to all of their customers, and they’ve got availability problems.
“They’ve gone from a drought to a flood, and that situation will happen here too.”
“They didn’t have too much trouble bringing their staff back. They’re all back full-time and they’re busy.”
Clients are booking travel to the US West Coast, Hawaii, the Caribbean, Mexico, and Europe.
“They’re just overall really busy and I’m amazed by the two-speed economy of the world between here and there.”
“I’m not saying that’s going to happen everywhere in the world, but we should at least consider the fact that it might happen, and we should prepare for it,” Londregan remarked.