Travel agents are the key to getting the travel industry back on track: LATA chairman

As the travel industry goes through one of the most challenging times, the LATA Expo moved online this year.

The week-long conference that promotes travel and tourism in Latin America heard from tourism ministers, tour operators and travel experts. LATA chairman Colin Stewart said early on, that airport testing was the solution to restarting air travel but he also revealed the importance of the travel agent's role right now.

Speaking exclusively to Natalie Chalk he said that "travel agents are the key that will unlock the industry".

What role does the travel agent play in the recovery process? 

?Trust is the new currency. People have been hurt and burnt and the impact of Covid has meant that people?s confidence has been damaged and their ability to travel freely. They will be looking for reassurances from experts. Travel agents provide that expertise. Their influence and their relationship with airlines and tour operators puts them in a position to rebuild confidence in travel and help the consumer. Some of the biggest concerns are: is it safe to travel and am I going to be safe? People will flock to agents for their expertise.?

What more could the industry be doing?

?We need to be one voice. It?s an industry issue. If we look at the campaigns out there to save travel they are all good. They are all trying to instil change. If I?m a decision maker in government and I have 12 different messages then that?s not a unified industry and where do we start? What is the key driver to restarting? For me it?s testing pre-and-post-testing-departure. Saving jobs is important and reducing costs. There is work to be done. But I think it?s an opportunity and I don?t think it is happening now to bring it all together.?

What?s been great about LATA Expo this year after having to go online?

?It?s getting people back to thinking about travel. We have had 2,500 scheduled meetings, engagement is high and the feedback has been positive. It?s been great.?