Prominent tour operators specialising in packaged holidays have warned that their reservations teams are facing an insurmountable workload and enormous pressure due to sky-high demand for new quotes. This is compounded by the backlog of refund and change requests during the pandemic.
Exacerbating the problem is the constant pressure to meet or beat online prices, often derived from accommodation sites and direct channels.
“Quotes don’t pay the bills,” warned Joanne Adolphe, CEO of one of South Africa’s biggest wholesale brands, Thompsons Holidays, addressing agency partners who are members of ASATA on the opening day of the organisation’s first (COVID-19) Recovery Summit.
ASATA’s special summit runs for three weeks, including sessions around technology and the digitisation of the travel industry in South Africa. Access is online and exclusively for ASATA members.
Matthew Fubbs, Sales Director of The Holiday Factory, also participated in the opening session. He said that holidaymakers were excited about the prospect of travelling again, and that the level of excitement in the market had built up to a “frenzy” in the prior three weeks. However, he warned: “It doesn’t mean they’re booking. There are people who will take the risk, and then there are others, when you get to the point of booking, who will stop and ask: “How does this work?”
Asata members were given advice on dealing with the backlog of rebooking and cancellation requests, and on how to build meaningful and lasting partnerships with tour operators during the current COVID-19 recovery period.
The operators also flagged capacity constraints and pointed out some of the challenges and chief concerns that seem to be holding customers back from finalising their bookings.
ASATA CEO, Otto de Vries, called on the entire value chain to work together and to manage their customers’ exposure to risk by working only with reputable partners and making sure that their money is safe.
Travel News understands that Asata will soon release the results of its latest 21st Century Travel Agent Study, to help its members identify what skills and services potential leisure and corporate customers value most in a consultant.
De Vries concluded: “Our primary objective is to make sure that the customer gets what they wanted, what they paid for, and what they asked for. It’s difficult to manage customers’ expectations, and this means it is imperative that there is very good communication between the travel agent and tour operator, and that we all sing from the same hymn sheet.”