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‘Macro-level’ change coming to travel agents: AFTA

Recently appointed Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) chief executive Darren Rudd says that innovation in technology and the way travel advice is “packaged and delivered” will help drive an overall change in the travel agency sector.

In his first interview as AFTA CEO, Mr Rudd told Traveltalk that he believed “the core function of providing advice, years of applied … and detailed nuanced wisdom” would remain for agents, but the structure of the sector “is definitely under consideration for transformation”.



“I think more on a macro-level that this sector will transform,” he said. 


While Rudd is convinced travel agents’ knowledge as a core commodity “will maintain in its entirety”, he thinks that innovations in the packaging and delivery of a travel agent’s products and services were on the way. 


“For example, the experience of pre-familiarization with a destination using artificial intelligence, and 3D and virtual reality, and all those other sorts of things that other sectors use daily,” he remarked. 


The new AFTA boss, who comes from a “very IT-centric sector”, added that within the travel agency sector there was already “a whole range of innovation, which hasn’t even been identified as that”. 


“So development of IT application of artificial intelligence, alliances with different suppliers and providers ... there’s a lot of innovation and creativity in the sector. So I think that will drive some change anyway.” 



Rudd also flagged the importance of recognising this creative output. 


“With passion comes creativity, and with creativity comes passion. I think there is a lot of that in this sector,” he said. 


“I just don’t know that we’re actually talking enough about the innovative lengths that some people are going to, to retool, to look at products and how they sell and deliver them.” 


“So coming through this period, a lot of people are focusing on ‘what have I got to do to do things better or differently?’ like any improvement process.” 


“And I think we’re going to get some interesting developments. I think overall, every sector in the broader economy is doing that introspection right now.”


Rudd says he is also seeing a great degree of collaboration in the travel agency sector, an “almost we’re all in this together type of thing”. 


“I’ve been meeting with airlines … and other key stakeholders in the eco-system, and they pretty much all have a degree of realism in that the only way we’re going to get through this is if we all work - and maybe work a little bit differently together,” he said. 


“So again, from that will come innovation and different approaches.”


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Written by: Mark Harada

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