The chief executive of Advantage Travel Partnership has urged the industry to take a “balanced” approach and work cohesively to create a realistic picture of the sector’s reopening for consumers.
Speaking during the Latin America Travel Association’s Lata Expo event, Julia Lo Bue-Said argued that overtly positive messages gave a false impression not just about the ongoing challenges facing the industry, but also the complexities involved in travelling post-pandemic.
She said trading remained “very tough” and said mainstream media headlines about booking surges following government announcements were “not helpful”.
“We have to instil customer confidence in the right way – we’re not out of the woods yet,” she said. “Every headline is out there in the public domain.
“We have to be balanced in our approach – drive the right consumer sentiment, ensuring that they understand international travel is reopening but it’s still complex, direct them the right channels to book whether it be through a travel agent or a tour operator and make them aware this is not normal.”
Lo Bue-Said added that the industry does not always work cohesively and sometimes trips itself up.
But she said agents were doing “as much as they can” to “embrace the opportunities” after the red list was reduced from 54 countries to just seven.
“The travel agent community has a huge opportunity to step in and help customers,” she added. “This is now their time to shine.”
Clive Jacobs, chairman of Travel Weekly’s parent company Jacobs Media Group, agreed with Lo Bue-Said that the restart of travel on a global scale offered opportunities for agents to show their worth.
“This is an opportunity of a lifetime, with all the bad, the good is being a travel agent is more important than ever,” he said. “I think it has proved to the public without any doubt if you go it alone and things go wrong you’ve got a real mess.”
Jacobs, who also owns North American agency Tully Luxury Travel, added that agents had been “remarkable” throughout the pandemic.