Steve Jones’ say

Travel Bulletin - - ISSUES & TRENDS -

OH, the chal­lenges of be­ing a whole­saler in to­day’s travel in­dus­try. Barely four months ago Cre­ative Hol­i­days closed its doors. And now, an­other es­tab­lished player, Garuda Ori­ent Hol­i­days (GOH), has brought the cur­tain down on its 35-year-old op­er­a­tion. It hardly needed gen­eral man­ager Beanca Daluz to spell out the rea­sons. The na­ture of the in­dus­try has changed, she said which, as more peo­ple book on­line, “has made it dif­fi­cult for travel com­pa­nies to sur­vive”. Cre­ative – and many oth­ers – can tes­tify to that. Yet it’s only half the story. Com­pe­ti­tion is in­creas­ingly tough for ev­ery­one, that much is ob­vi­ous. But what links the demise of Cre­ative and GOH is that both were gen­er­al­ists, sell­ing pack­ages to des­ti­na­tions that con­sumers are com­fort­able book­ing on­line. The truth is un­palat­able, and how­ever ruth­less it sounds, no one needs the likes of Garuda Ori­ent Hol­i­days any­more. But it’s not all doom and gloom for the more tra­di­tional el­e­ments of the in­dus­try. For those firms who are able to dif­fer­en­ti­ate them­selves and of­fer some­thing new or unique, or spe­cialise in des­ti­na­tions that need the ex­per­tise or re­as­sur­ance of a whole­saler, the fu­ture may not be quite so dispir­it­ing or bleak. The clo­sure of GOH is re­gret­table. But it needn’t be a cause for too much hand wring­ing among whole­salers. Just so long as their prod­uct re­mains rel­e­vant. MEAN­WHILE, flick­ing through the TV list­ings on my an­nual trip back to the Old Dart, I hap­pened across a cur­rent af­fairs pro­gram called Dis­patches. Ti­tled the Truth About Cheap Flights, the 30-minute doc­u­men­tary took Flight Cen­tre to task over what ap­peared to be un­eth­i­cal and im­moral prac­tices adopted by some of its UK staff. The pro­gram al­leged the agency quoted higher air­fares to older, less in­formed cus­tomers (those who had not re­searched on­line) while an un­der­cover re­porter recorded staff dis­cussing ‘seat block­ing’, which in­volves ac­cess­ing air­line book­ing sys­tems and plac­ing cheap seats on hold so they are no longer avail­able. These could well be iso­lated in­ci­dents – as Flight Cen­tre in­sisted they were. We can only hope that’s the case. Weigh­ing up a cus­tomer, quizzing them on their knowl­edge be­fore see­ing what mark up they could get away with is clearly un­ac­cept­able and does noth­ing to in­still trust in the wider agency com­mu­nity. The Dis­patches pro­gram in­evitably sparked con­cern from other agen­cies that rep­u­ta­tions other than Flight Cen­tre were tar­nished. I’m not so sure. But even if that is true, it is right to ex­pose un­eth­i­cal prac­tices even if it’s in­con­ve­nient for those who play fair.

What links the demise of Cre­ative and GOH is that gen­er­al­ists’ both were

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