Advantage CEO Julia Lo Bue-Said kicked off the group’s overseas conference in Madeira last weekend saying independent agents now have ‘an amazing opportunity to really go for it’.
Speaking during a panel discussion, she praised Advantage members for surviving the pandemic.
“I am so proud, they are all here, they have come through it. We are not out of the woods, it is still really, really tough, but they have done phenomenally well and they’ve got amazing businesses,” she said.
“There is an amazing opportunity now for the independent travel agent, whether that’s leisure or business travel or friends and family, to really go for it, to give the consumer what they really need and what they need is professional experts to help them through continuing challenging times.”
But she said the lesson learned from the pandemic, when the Government shut down international travel, was that there is a need for an outbound sector ‘think tank’ to represent the over-arching needs of the industry.
Julia has already set up the UK Outbound Travel Forum, which she is hoping more agents will join.
“Because trading is good and buoyant, naturally there is a degree of ‘well it’s okay now, trading is good, let’s forget about it all’, but I just think that we need to be laser-focused on making sure we are put in the right place to hold govt to account for now and for future challengers,” she said.
“There are challenges already, we have a humanitarian crisis on our doorstep, in Europe, the cost of living crisis, all these issues will, without pressure, impact the sector.
“We are dealing with pent up demand right now so trading is brilliant, but that is not going to last.”
Airlines UK Chief Executive Tim Alderslade agreed that the Government ‘does not understand and appreciate the value of outbound travel’.
“They see outbound travel as taking money out of the UK economy and that is a problem,” he said.