Travel Counsellors will be “better, leaner and fitter” when the industry emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic, its chief executive insists.
Speaking on a Travel Weekly Webcast, Steve Byrne said the crisis would accelerate changes to his business and also predicted a bright future for start-up travel firms.
Byrne said: “We went into this as a really imperfect business. So we’re going to take the time to think about what those imperfections were and which ones we want to focus in on over the course of the next 12 months, so that in two years’ time, we’ve got something that is better.”
He said the company’s core strategy and values were still relevant but added: “This will force us to do things more quickly than we would have otherwise. As a business, that’s been going for some time; you’ve got to constantly ask yourself, ‘if I was starting from scratch, would I do it differently?’”
Byrne predicted a growth in start-up travel businesses in the wake of the pandemic.
“I think people will be attracted to the sector once things settle down. I think we’ll get new talent into the industry. Maybe not initially, but we will,” he said.
“I spoke to someone who runs a network of small businesses and she said she was expecting massive growth in new small businesses in the UK over the course of the next six to 12 months.
“I think travel will benefit from that. And I think you’ll get new blood, new start-ups.”
Byrne said some existing businesses would inevitably fall by the wayside.
“You may see some established businesses, very sadly, that struggle and don’t get through it,” he said.
“Even though we’re in competition, you never celebrate if you see another travel business have a challenge or difficulty. That’s not a good thing to see, because ultimately people are going to lose their jobs.”
But he added: “You’ll get some new start-ups come in that are technology-based that will bring fresh ideas into the market. And as someone who’s been running business for a long time, it’s the idea of the start-ups and what they might do that keeps you on your toes.
“In effect, we all have the ability now to do that in a way that we wouldn’t have had before. Other than your values, you’ve got the chance to say ‘how do I want to reimagine what this looks like?’, ‘what do I want to hold onto that is precious?’ And ‘What do I want to do differently?’
“So Travel Counsellors as a business will engage within the Travel Counsellors community and we’ll be asking people, what do we think we need to do to make this a better business? We want to be driven by the people that use it, not driven by the centre because that’s what a strong community does.”
Byrne said history had shown some very successful businesses emerging from previous crises.
“We’ve got travel counsellors that joined us in the face of adversity because of redundancies or compulsion, and they’ve gone on to launch cracking businesses,” he said.
“I think people’s passion for travel might be heavily impacted by this, but I don’t think it will go away and I think you’ll have some people who will want to stay in the business and have their own travel business.
“Travel Counsellors will get through this in our own imperfect way. But we will make the business better, it will be leaner and it will be fitter. And we want to be making sure that we’re available for those people who want to have their own travel business in 12 months’ time and have a career in travel.”