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AS WE begin 2024, what challenges does the travel industry face and what does the year ahead hold?

Here Traveltalk Managing Editor Jon Underwood talks to Christian Hunter, Managing Director of Travellers Choice.

Q: How did you view 2023?

A: It was a much better year than we thought it would be. Travel certainly came back with a vengeance, far quicker than we thought it would and also far quicker than our members thought it would. 

The challenge they’ve had is being able to keep up. They’re all battling to find staff, as is everybody seemingly in every sector of every industry. That’s a real challenge because they’re having to train new people. 

So, I think we’re probably going to have a bit of a reset in the industry with a new wave of staff coming through. It’s going to take time for that wave to get up to speed but it’s what we need and it’s what we’ll deliver, but it won’t happen overnight.

Q: So, what excites you about 2024?

A: The fact that despite the cost-of-living pressures, travel is still booming and there are no signs of that demand diminishing. That’s exciting. 

One of the reasons I think travel will continue its strong recovery is the fact that more air capacity is coming online. That gradual buildup should, in theory, help bring airfare prices down, helping sustain demand.  

Of course, there are still some challenges out there. But the Australian mindset is different to other parts of the world. We are inherent travellers and always have been so that that gives us a bit of a head start. 

Q: Do you think we’ll see more consumers returning to travel agents this year instead of going it alone?

A: We’re seeing evidence of it already, even for small transactions like a single point to point domestic return airfare. People just don’t want to get caught out.

The expertise of the travel agent is really coming to the fore, and they are getting that business back, which is great to see. I think they’ve been underappreciated for a long period of time.

Q: What exciting changes can we expect to see from Travellers Choice in 2024?

A: I’ve been a great user of the phrase ‘if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.’ That’s why, as a company, we are constantly evolving.

Our goal, as always, is to provide members with the support they need when they need it, and that’s a moving feast. What our members needed a couple of years ago is very different to what they need now.

The advantage we have is that our platform allows us to adapt and respond quickly, ensuring we are always providing unrivalled support. It’s why, coming out of the pandemic, no other group was more ideally positioned for growth – and in 2024 that’s what we are going to see. 

To ensure that growth is delivered we’ve been focused on adding additional resources and growing our team. In 2024 we’ll be embarking on more marketing activity and more proactive sales promotions, because we know that’s where we need to invest.

We will also be investing in our membership recruitment strategy because we’ve been the travel industry’s best kept secret for too long.

There’s a clear opportunity out there for us to really expand the Travellers Choice national network by promoting what it is we do, how we do it, so that’s what we are going to do this year.

Q: So, what’s your message to anyone considering joining TC in 2024?

A: We enjoy an incredibly close relationship with our members, who not only own the company but are customers of the services we provide. 

Our members value and trust us because we are transparent, open and honest. 

And when we do something it’s always in order to deliver greater returns to our members.