Dear Valued Customers,
Since I last communicated, there’s not really too much to report in terms of our day-to-day Travel Agency life. What I can say is that there is simply no precedent for what we are facing, but we’re facing it head on and remaining strong and positive. And there doesn’t seem to be a precedent for today’s weather ! So cold, windy and wet.
We’re in unchartered waters (excuse the pun), with the global airline and cruise industries going through their most difficult times. I’ve always said that our industry is the most resilient, and this storm is proving that. We’re getting through these dark days united with all our industry colleagues and suppliers.
Our most difficult task currently is having to relay to our clients the long delays that all Airlines, Cruise & Land Operators are taking to refund in the current environment. Anywhere up to 4 months is the message that we’ve been given. In “normal” circumstances, this would be 6-8 weeks.
It’s also been difficult seeing the negative and sometimes hostile press and media surrounding Flight Centre; the inference is that all Travel Agents are tarred with the one brush, and that is certainly not true. Our refund application and processing fee is $75.00 per person whereas Flight Centre is $300.00 per person.
Fortunately, most clients are taking advantage of the incentive to put their funds into credit, and ease the pressure on refund processing delays. Exercising patience, as most clients do, almost always results in a better outcome, as cancellation fees are less closer to departure time, along with the offer of a better credit.
People are asking when is it going to return to normal but that is probably not the correct question. Normal day-to-day life as we knew it will change, travel will change and social distancing may be with us for a long time.
Here is what Alan Joyce, Qantas CEO, had to say this week – positive news indeed.
“A lot of people are wondering what the travel market in Australia will look like by the time people start flying again. There’s a lot we don’t know, particularly around timing, but here are three things I think we can be pretty certain of:
1) It will be competitive. The Australian domestic market has huge potential. And for that reason this is never going to be a one airline town – or it wouldn’t be one for long. Stiff competition has made Qantas better over the years and we don’t want that to stop now. And, frankly, the regulatory pressures on entrenched monopolies tend to make them unattractive.
2) There will be lots of low fares. Airlines will be keen to stimulate travel demand to get their people and aircraft back to work and restart their cash flow pipelines, repairing the damage done by the devastating and sudden drop in revenue. That’s good news for consumers because it means plenty of good deals.
3) Domestic travel will start well before international. Australia has done a remarkable job of flattening the curve and cutting coronavirus infection rates. We have to be careful not to take the brakes off too early, but restrictions on domestic travel are likely to lift well before international travel. That’s great news for our local tourism industry, with more people holidaying in Australia to start with. The entire world will not drop its closed borders and requirements at the same time, so international destinations will come back at their own pace”
As I write this, most cruise lines have rolled their suspensions of service forward until the end of June or July, and additional suspensions are inevitable. At this point, no one knows for certain when ocean and river cruises will resume operations.
The cruise lines continue to work with local and national governments and health authorities around the world to develop enhanced procedures for the screening of guests, the sanitation of vessels, and onboard medical care and treatment. Soon, there will be consensus by the Cruise lines on changes. Same can be said of airlines having to review seating and pre-boarding checks. And the same goes for coach touring, perhaps no different to the restrictions that will be put on restaurants and gatherings here once the lockdown relaxes somewhat.
In my next communication, I will bring to you ‘Time to Love Australia & New Zealand’ and my ‘TOP TEN’ picks for your next holiday, as we understand that domestic travel, including New Zealand and the South Pacific, may not be too far away. I will be the first to book both the Gold Coast and Hamilton Island as soon as borders open and flight schedules are available. Whenever that is, we will be ready and waiting for you.
And finally, we have been rotating our days in the office behind closed doors but we plan to open our door on the 11th May, so feel free to call in then to see how we’re going, tell us what you’ve been researching, or give us some homework for your next trip.
Enjoy the read about Amanda Robinson following -