ASATA: Au Revoir

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Five years ago I took on the role of ASATA CEO, at a time when the volumes of travel bookings were at an all-time high. In particular, the corporate travel market was booming, with the demand far higher than the supply, which meant prices were high and margins were generous.

It was a great time to be in the business, particularly with the 2010 FIFA World Cup only three years away. My task was to raise the profile of the association amongst our members and the travelling consumer, which proved difficult, considering that neither of those parties had much interest in the value proposition we were offering.

Less than a year later, the global financial crisis hit and the cost of air fuel went from about R80 a barrel to over R150 at around the same time. Suddenly our airline partners had more capacity available than ever before and the costs of filling those additional seats were growing by the barrel. To cap it all, just when we needed those high-end frequent flying passengers, they were seen retreating into their own crisis of managing slashed budgets.  The cycle was vicious and only the strong were going to survive.

But we did survive, and five years later a semblance of normality has prevailed. ASATA has seen its way through the crisis and emerged stronger and more relevant. Our members are more involved today and the global economic crisis is probably to thank for that.

As difficult and as challenging as the past five years have been, I am proud to say that ASATA members continue to transact over 85% of all the airline tickets booked, and their brands are recognised as preferred partners on a multi-national level. Many of them are penetrating new markets in other countries and forging new business models that deliver on the needs of their customers.

It frustrates me when the ill-informed make statements about the ‘travel agent’s days being numbered’. It’s quite the opposite. We are seeing a move back to the travel professional, by an informed consumer who has worked out what the cost would be to do it themselves.

For now, it’s ‘thank you’ to everyone, although it’s not ‘goodbye’. I’d prefer to say, ‘so long’.

SOURCERobyn Christie
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