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During the worst of the pandemic, Richard Taylor was a voice of hope for the travel trade during troubled times. He’s now joining AFTA to continue that support. We asked him what we can expect going forward.

Q: Richard, you’ve just joined AFTA as Director of Membership Experience. Can you tell us what the job entails and how you plan to approach it?

A: Well, hello Traveltalk. My purpose will be to continue to improve on how AFTA engages with travel professionals across Australia.

Q: Are there any new initiatives that you’ll be bringing in that you can give us the scoop on?

A: When I have the scoop, I’ll send it over by express delivery. You have my word.

Q: You’ve only been in the role a short time but what feedback are you getting from ATAS businesses about the current state of the industry?

A: It’s abundantly clear that while things continue to improve thanks to the huge interest in travel that we all knew was coming, rebuilding a business is another thing entirely.

Every business involved in travel, whatever their size, faces hurdles in the next few years.

AFTA has a role to play here, such as the successful addition of ‘travel consultant’ to the government skills shortage list. Moves like this are crucially important as we battle to attract the attention of people looking to start a career or indeed change their current path.

Travel has a lot to offer and we need to be jostling for attention, because despite the challenges we all know what a rewarding industry this can be.

Richard Taylor (left)
with Dean Long, AFTA CEO

Q: We lost a lot of travel agents to other professions during the pandemic. Is it part of your role to encourage more people back into the industry?

A: Is it in the job description? No, but it’s definitely a ‘thing’ that’s one of AFTA’s key priorities on behalf of ATAS members.

But we’re just one avenue. I think it’s important to remember that everyone can play a role in promoting travel as a career.

That can be as simple as keeping in touch with those who are currently outside of the tent doing something else and spreading the travel love on social media. Post those photos of yourself at that event, on that famil, at that gathering with colleagues. Every little helps.

Q: How do you see AFTA’s role going forward?

A: Continued, considered representation of travel businesses via ATAS but also every individual working in and around the travel trade.

Inclusivity is really important to me and I know that’s also the case for so many others who I’ve promised I’ll stick up for.

Q: Of course, many people will know you from the Travel Community Hub and your tireless work to keep agent’s spirits high during the pandemic. What makes you so passionate about the travel industry?

A: Well, it first needs to be said that I’m far from the only person who cares about our industry! There are many hundreds that play a role, some very noisily and others less so.

Let’s not forget those that serve on committees voluntarily, mentor others via TIME, attend events with SKAL…and many others, all of which is about giving back. Without them our industry would be very dull indeed.

But my personal passion, since you’re asking, stems back to the welcome I received in travel agencies when I started visiting them after landing in Australia in 2004.

Their kindness and ability to laugh even while under pressure left a lasting impression on me. It creates a loyalty, a bond, and I’ve searched for my little way to give something back. COVID was that opportunity.

Q: What do you see as some of the challenges facing the travel industry in a post-COVID world?

A: Thanks for the easy question just after starting – I will remember this and get you back later.

Staffing and recruitment is surely number one. We face enormous challenges in convincing people to join us and I’d love to see more heads coming together to give this real thought.

Aside from that there is a new commercial landscape and many businesses are still in the process of learning what’s going to work for them in the long run. All while being run off their feet.

But this too shall pass and despite the dramas, I’m convinced that as an industry we’ll emerge from this period stronger and more confident in the value of what we offer.

Q: Finally, now that international travel is up and running again, where are some of the places you hope to visit in 2023 and maybe beyond?

A: Japan! I’ve been saving it for most of my life and the time has come. We’re booking a family holiday there right now, or at least when my busy – ATAS! – travel advisor can fit me into her schedule.

We can’t afford it, but…’whatever’. As a family we need it and my boys, who’ll be nine and 11 when we travel in September, are hopefully old enough to really take it in.

I’ve never been to Scandinavia and that’s on the bucket list, and I’d like to try a river cruise one day. I can picture myself in a Viennese cafe sipping something while watching people go by, which is my favourite thing to do.

Aah…now, back to work. Thanks for inviting me!