With our borders closed for the foreseeable future, the Government sent a clear message in the Budget that travel agents and the tourism industry have to "pivot" to Domestic and "Bubble Travel". Although we continue to book international travel for our clients who require it, this is how we are helping our clients to plan a holiday in New Zealand.
We Must Continue to Add Value for our Clients
During the peak chaos of the Covid-19 border closures, although it was an extremely challenging time for all involved (travellers and travel agents), the emails and calls of gratitude, gifts and promises of booking again as soon as possible, all reinforced that as travel agents we had an important role to play.
Fine Travel was founded in the aftermath of the Dot-com Crash with a vision that to survive in the internet era a travel agent needed to add value beyond just booking a flight. By working in the more complex areas of international travel, and through building long-term relationships with our clients, we built a successful and award winning business.
When it comes to domestic travel and the eventual opening of our borders to include selected countries in our bubble, we must continue to show that we can add this kind of value through:
- Personalised itineraries
- Packaged special offers
- Management of business travel
Adding Value Through Personalised Itineraries
The travel industry attracts people who are passionate about travelling and we loved working with our clients on interesting overseas itineraries. Taking off our travel agent hat for a moment, when it comes to New Zealand (and Australia), they are destinations that we as New Zealanders know well and back ourselves to book our own holidays. As travel agents we therefore need to clearly show where we can add value with interesting itineraries for New Zealanders.
Who is a personalised itinerary for?
Just as using a travel agent to book a Business Class airfares to the UK and Europe isn't for everyone, we openly acknowledge that many of our clients (and future clients) will feel more than comfortable just heading away to the bach, or staying with friends and arranging day trips.
A personalised itinerary, and our service, will continue to appeal to many, and in particular those travellers who want an interesting holiday for themselves, their partner, their families but are short on time, or just not inclined to get into the detail of researching options, checking prices and availability, keeping track of who needs to be paid by when etc etc. This is where we can step in and help out.
Tailored to interests and hobbies
Although there will be New Zealand tourist attractions that we've always wanted to see, but have been put off by the crowds (or thought "I'll do that one day"), some of our tourist attractions may have more appeal to overseas tourists than someone who lives here.
Tailoring a New Zealand itinerary to your interests gives you the opportunity to explore what New Zealand has to offer, without feeling like a tourist in your own country. The idea is to provide structure to an itinerary so that you can make the most out of your time (and budget). From food and wine focussed tours through to golf tours, your itinerary doesn't need to just be about ticking cities and towns off a map.
Within our network of suppliers we also work with specialist wholesalers who we can involve in preparing itineraries for travellers with specific interests in areas like Active Travel and Farming.
When exploring our own country, it is most common for us to drive. Whether that is in our own car, or flying somewhere and picking up a rental, it is rare for us to join a coach tour (although this will also appeal to many). Many of the interesting itineraries we work with are therefore prepared on a self drive basis.
Flexibility - with structure
One of the advantages of travelling in a country you know well, in a car, is flexibility. Leaving when you want to, stopping when you see something interesting, and even just adding in a night staying with a friend or family rather than a hotel.
The downside of flexibility is when you don't allow enough time and end up rushing, or arrive on a Sunday and finding everything is closed. Flexibility with some structure (such as with our template itineraries) allows for a well planned itinerary that doesn't leave you chasing your tail.
Packaged "Getaway" Special Offers
Shorter "I've just got to getaway" trips are going to become more common as Air New Zealand builds up it's domestic network. As suppliers and wholesalers adjust to the new normal, we are likely to see well priced holiday packages appear on the market. Wholesale agreements that combine airfares, accommodation and car rental (for example) may then be priced better than approaching these suppliers individually (although we can still work directly with accommodation providers).
Through our wholesale partner relationships and direct relationships with New Zealand accommodation providers we look forward to making these available to our clients for weekend getaways, special events and more.
Outsourcing Domestic Work Travel Management
Booking domestic airfares and accommodation for work is a task we often feel guilty outsourcing - but after spending time searching for different options and making changes, it's a task we don't often want to waste time on again.
The value we add to more complex international travel is also available for arranging domestic travel.
Cheaper Access before Overseas Tourists Return
One of the earliest reactions to the idea that New Zealanders should support the domestic tourism operators was the hope that the prices charged to overseas tourists would be reduced for New Zealanders.
We have started to see this with discounts already available as suppliers in Queenstown look to stimulate local demand. Also affecting the demand curve however is that some operators are going into hibernation or scaling back operations, limiting availability so they aren't pressured into dropping their prices.
We'll be watching with interest to see whether opportunities arise to visit or stay in some of New Zealand's luxury lodges and premium properties at a discount to what might otherwise be charged when international tourism resumes.
Still Your Trusted Single point of contact
Often one of the most frustrating aspects of planning a holiday is keeping on top of the various suppliers you have researched and need to pay. Searching your inbox and asking "What was the name of that hotel I finally decided on" and "Did I book it with Expedia?" and "Do you remember my password for Bookings.com" is not a great use of valuable time.
As with international travel, when arranging a New Zealand holiday we'll continue to work in as your single point of contact with suppliers. Contacting them for you with any questions, passing on special requests and letting you know when payments are due. Importantly, as the Covid-19 outbreak has shown, we will also be there if something goes wrong and you need to change your plans.