Travel Agents Association of New Zealand (TAANZ)
Representing New Zealand’s Travel Industry
Business View Oceania interviews Brent Thomas, President of TAANZ, for our Tourism View.
The Travel Agents Association of New Zealand (TAANZ) works to represent New Zealand’s travel agents, travel brokers, and tour operators through the promotion of quality standards, ethical business practices, safe travel, unbiased travel options, and consistent professionalism. TAANZ does this through their Accredited Travel Advisor (ATA) certification. As New Zealand lacks an official government licensing program for travel providers, TAANZ takes on the responsibility of ensuring there is a standardised quality of care practiced by agents across the country. The association works diligently with members through the ATA certification towards the continued development and stimulation of the industry.
As the preferred New Zealand travel trade association, TAANZ extends a number of benefits to its members as part of their recognition under the organisation. They include: Professionalism and Standards (active engagement in training, standards, and qualifications), Media (exclusive TAANZ Talk messaging, information and trade-specific opinions), Tool Kit (resources applicable to legal knowledge, consumer analytics, membership specifics, and business development), Traveller Awareness (promotion of travel agents, cooperative advertising, public awareness, and value understanding), Financial Services (to facilitate IATA bonding requirements) Advocacy, Events (yearly AGM and agency summit), Recognition and Reward (National Travel Industry Awards), and Service (membership support and communications). The organisation has a clear Constitution and Membership Rules back by their Code of Ethics and Practice to ensure all members remain dedicated to the cause and conduct themselves accordingly.
TAANZ President Brent Thomas elaborates on the positive effect that TAANZ has had on New Zealand’s travel industry. “TAANZ was formed as a response to the lack of government regulation in New Zealand. We are a self-regulating industry here, so there was a need for travel agents to belong to an organisation that sets some ground rules as to how they should operate their businesses, particularly in financial areas such as the handing of consumer funds. Over time, we have seen just how well the measures we have put in place work. New Zealand now sees very few issues with our certified travel agents, for example, it is stated within our member rules that client funds must be kept separate from the working capital of the business. So protection of consumer funds has significantly improved, which has in turn boosted the confidence and trust customers have in us as an industry.”
TAANZ currently supports 221 full (travel agents, travel brokers, and tour operators) and branch (industry suppliers and associates) company members across New Zealand. Having experienced a drop in membership as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Thomas shares that open communication and industry support is now more important than ever. “Membership numbers have lessened by about a third, given that a number of entities have had to close their doors, but the really concerning statistic is that we have lost two thirds of our industry staff here in New Zealand- we have gone from upwards of 5,000 to around 1,500 staff members in the country. That’s a very significant impact from their perspective and for the travel sector as well; it would be a struggle to find another industry that has been as negatively impacted as ours has around the world. So for us, it has become incredibly important to stay in regular contact with our remaining members and support them as best we can. We have focussed heavily on encouraging domestic travel where possible to supplement sector income from our own backyard.”
Mr. Thomas explains that a lack of concrete information surrounding the ease of restrictions has been difficult for the association and its members. “Some of our members have had to hibernate, so to speak, and pick up second jobs to supplement their own income during this time. It’s very difficult for us to provide them with a ballpark date as to when they’ll be able to resume operations, because we just don’t know when it will be safe to open the borders to international travel.”
TAANZ collaborates with Tourism New Zealand as a Destination Partner to boost domestic travel and encourage association members to showcase everything New Zealand has to offer. Tourism New Zealand provides an extensive resource hub for travel agents that covers regional information, itinerary inspiration, and a partner toolkit to assist in client marketing for domestic tourism. The organisation also encourages TAANZ members to take part in their 100% Pure New Zealand Specialist Programme. Upon completion of this opportunity, travel agents will become a certified 100% Pure New Zealand Specialist, gain expert knowledge and marketing tools to further encourage New Zealand residents to explore their nation, and be awarded exclusive access to the 100% Pure New Zealand Specialist logo.
Moving forward, TAANZ expects a high level of demand from would-be travellers looking to rearrange excursions that have been cancelled due to the pandemic. Mr Thomas shares, “There are four main types of travel we are going to see boom once the border reopen. The first is corporate travel. As an exporting country, New Zealand relies heavily on international business and global trade, and the pandemic has really hampered our ability to do so. If we aren’t out there meeting customers and suppliers soon, those opportunities will simply go to someone else. That could have some really negative consequences for our economy long-term. Next is compassionate travel for things like weddings, funerals, and end of life planning. It’s coming up to two years now that people have been unable to see their loved ones, so this is incredibly important to help heal our global citizens and take care of their mental health. Third I would say is personal travel, and that is for people like luxury tourism participants and perhaps those who want to holiday as part of their retirement. The last travel type we are going to see a lot of is family travel. Parents and their kids have been cooped up in the house thanks to lockdowns and border restrictions, and the strain we see on carers is immense. So they really need some quality family time away from home with their kids.”
New Zealand’s travel industry is likely to undergo significant reformation due to the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. TAANZ is ready to help its members facilitate these changes, no matter what they may be, when international travel returns to the country in force. Senior representatives are confident that the future looks bright, and that New Zealand travel agents, travel brokers, and tour operators will continue to benefit from their membership with the organisation as the sector begins to come alive once again.
AT A GLANCE
Travel Agents Association of New Zealand (TAANZ)
What: Peak body organisation for New Zealand’s travel agents and associated sector members
Where: TAANZ is headquartered in Wellington, New Zealand