Current trends indicate a strong movement away from the traditional high street travel agency shop towards the self employed model of Travel Brokers working independently from a home office. This trend is not only represented in New Zealand but across the world.
Travel Brokers have essentially forsaken the security of a regular salary for the freedom of self-employment. Some have built up loyal and enduring client bases over their years in the travel industry and make the change in the knowledge they will fare no worse financially than they did as a paid employee, whilst others embark on the exciting challenge of developing a client base from scratch.
The broking industry is well populated with female agents that have previously left the travel industry to start a family and have chosen broking as a way to balance their work and the commitments of a young family. Fed up with standard pay rates and inflexible working hours, women are shunning the traditional workplace and striking out on their own, building businesses that offer flexible working hours and favourable conditions. New Zealand women are becoming self-employed at twice the rate of men, according to research, which has found that they’re often motivated to leave paid jobs and work for themselves to achieve flexibility and manage their work and home commitments.
Traditional or legacy travel agents are in decline. The internet is commoditising simpler bookings, which are the majority. Secondly the internet plus airline deregulation is attacking the role agents once had of steering traveller preference, which they then sold to airlines for commission. The agency business model was based on commission for 50 years, but more and more the airlines are able to sell to the traveller directly. Travel Agents can and do charge fees, but in the longer term they must demonstrate strong relative value to do so. Within the environment of diminishing margins many agents have been unable to adapt and cover the overheads of a traditional agency; hence many have closed their doors and moved successfully to the more personalised Broker model.
The number of Travel Brokers in New Zealand has steadily grown in recent years and is the travel industry’s fastest growing sector confirming a significant shift in the way that travel is sold. TAANZ figures show that the number of agency head offices and branches has declined significantly in recent years. TAANZ has been quoted as saying that Brokers were a good response to the changing industry. “Sometimes they can have direct contact with people who cannot make it into the agency, providing them with that human touch and that is what we do really well in our industry. Why should we be constrained by bricks and mortar?”