TAG News

In Conversation with Jonathan Gerber

Ceo Jonathan Gerber and TAG (Travel Assignment Group) Management team have set the new year intentions and our team word – ‘Willingness’ – is popping-up in various conversations as we embark on new challenges.

Our new TAG segment #inconversation will have industry leaders, team members, experts in various fields share their insights, views and/or predictions for #travel 2024.

Captain JG, in part one of #inconversation is not one to ‘hold back’, serves up his views, opinions and pearls of wisdom in typical Jonny fashion, ‘what you see is what you get’:

“I have a feeling that 2024 is going to be a watershed year for #Travel in South Africa. It’s clear that travel is back but in the background you can hear all the noises of – ‘Air Travel is too expensive, My Air B&B was not what I had in mind, Uber has gone to the dogs, my hotel was not up to scratch, my flight was delayed, my bank provides such value for money travel, my miles do or don’t work’ and so the list goes on.

So, let’s be frank, travel is an extraordinarily complex thing. It is not binary, everyone has unique needs, expectations, desires and price points.

You have airlines trying to go direct to customers and bypassing all third parties such as agents, all good and well if all you want is lowest possible price and a point-to-point solution. What happens when there is a real emergency, will the airline look after you and be able to quickly adapt to the situation and make the situation good? History shows us that the answer is a firm no, there are many real-life examples of this which I would be happy to debate.

In South Africa you now have banks, loyalty schemes and various other channels trying to become the vehicle to book through. Mostly based on a pricing advantage but sometimes also a convenience such as lounge access, priority fast tracks and various other methods combined with your loyalty standing at said institution. Commoditising travel is an extremely dangerous game and once you are no longer the cheapest or most convenient then what? How does your business model adapt and take all of that into account?

Air B&B once the firm favourite of the hospitality game in South Africa has now hit a bit of an obstacle with a few safety concerns, stories of added cleaning fees and inferior product to what was advertised becoming far more of a hot topic and a concern to these bookers.

Uber, who remember when it launched in South Africa? Great cars engaged drivers and a decent product. Wow how the mighty has fallen and there are many horror stories about the downfall of this experience and where to from here?”

“So why do I mention all of these various aspects of travel? Because the solution is there for everyone to see, it has always been there, but it has been disenfranchised for some reason over time with the promise of better value or experience elsewhere. This is in my view incorrect, and this is why:

A decent agent has access to best possible fares, various options that suite from various suppliers, access to the latest and greatest trends, friends at the various suppliers that can help in times of need (Emergencies) and over time get to know your personal quirks, likes and dislikes and all of this for a very small fee (less than 5% of total trip cost). My prediction for 2024 is that the agent is going to make a storming comeback! Why would you sacrifice your trip for less than 5% of the Total cost?

Did you know that the biggest loyalty programmes are delivered in the back end by agents? Did you know that many airlines call centres are now driven in the back end by agents? So, if going direct was or is a thing, perhaps the paying public need to consider what the direct guys are doing themselves, even they have come to the realisation that the agent is value for money, provides expertise and takes the pressure off their own systems in times of crises. They need to focus on their own knitting!

We all want the 25% off, the exclusive offer, the dream trip. My challenge to the market in 2024 is to give your agent an opportunity to quote on a trip at exactly the same time as your frequent flyer/loyalty/bank/insurance offering and I am telling you that more often than not you will be surprised by your agents offering and that you will take up their (agent) offer more frequently than the other (loyalty) offers. Of course, my biased view is to try TAG first as we do try and differentiate ourselves by using the best of the best in terms of suppliers from a safety / cost / convenience / emergency assist / favours and wavers perspective.

Commoditising travel is a grave mistake, I have a feeling that 2024 is the year that these chickens come home to roost.” ~ JG

🚀 Shaking-up Monday, that’s the TAG way!

🗣 Join the conversation, we’d love to hear your views.

“Effectively, change is almost impossible without industry-wide collaboration, cooperation and consensus.” ~ Simon Mainwaring

Are your juices flowing? Join the conversation and add your comments & thoughts in the comment.

Joelene Roberts Gavin Stevens Debbie Van Heerden Irene Van Aswegen Henry Annandale Nadine Morley Kriloshni Gounden Pauline Collinson

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