High street travel agency Flight Centre is “incredibly positive” about the future having made tough decisions during the pandemic to cut its workforce in half and shut most of its shops.
Speaking on a Barclays ‘Travel Sector’ webcast, Flight Centre Travel Group chief financial officer EMEA Adam Murray said the group had been forced to reduce staff numbers by 50% and rationalise its high-street network from 70 UK locations to 11 “in prime locations”.
He said: “It was challenging in the pandemic and it became even harder,” adding: “Through some of these changes we have put ourselves in a great position. We are now incredibly positive about the recovery.”
Murray admitted halving the workforce was “really tough”, adding: “Redundancy was not something in our history. It was a cultural challenge but I think people understood the necessity. The people we have retained are incredibly loyal.”
He said the job cuts had resulted in the average age of staff at the company rising. “We have taken advantage of people’s desire to work in a hybrid environment and we have retained our best and most experienced staff. The average age of people at the company was below 30, now it’s touching 40,” he added.
Murray insisted the company had come out of the pandemic a stronger company, having prioritised parts of the business such as developing its technology platforms. He said the agency had gained new customers as a result.
He added: “It [the pandemic] was a prime time for people to switch provider. We found we were winning business where other businesses had gone into stronger levels of hibernation. We are coming out of this with a stronger offering and we have got a high level of customer loyalty and reputation for being experts in what we do.”
Murray said the biggest challenge now was to service the level of current enquiries, not all of which were turning into instant income for the group.
He added that clients were less fussed about price in the current climate. “What’s come to the fore in these challenging times is that what people value more than ever is that expertise and knowledge, above price and ease of transaction. They are less price sensitive at the moment, we have really noticed that,” he said.