Webjet’s latest marketing ploy putting down travel agents has really caused a stink among the travel industry. In this piece from one of our sister publications Travel Weekly, editor Tara Harrison gets down to the bottom of the industry’s ire.
Webjet has made an enemy of the trade with a television advert that paints travel agents as disinterested at best. But who is the real enemy?
Webjet has released a new advertising campaign this month that adversely portrays travel agents to encourage consumers to book online.
Let us set the scene, if you’ve missed it. The advert involves two women, one of whom is packing her suitcase for holiday.
“So I said to the travel agent, only four flights? Like we knew there were heaps more from looking online, and she goes, ‘hmmm, maybe five?’
“And we thought, we’re not stupid. We can do better than that ourselves. So we did.”
The 30-second TVC ends with the tagline ‘make your own way in the world’.
The ad has raised the ire of the industry. Backlash has come from wholesaler Excite Holidays, AFTA and direct from disgruntled travel agents around the country.
“It is disappointing that Webjet has used the language it has in its latest television commercial as I am sure there are many career travel agents working every day at Webjet who would be as offended as the majority of their industry colleagues are,” AFTA chief executive Jayson Westbury said.
Excite Holidays founder and managing director Nicholas Stavropoulos described the ad as ‘hugely disrespectful’.
“The recent Webjet TV advert is a cheap shot at bricks and mortar travel agents, attempting to discredit them in order to promote their own online booking engine,” Stavropoulos said.
The fact that online travel agencies and retail agencies are fighting the same competition was not lost on Westbury. At the end of the day, the real foe is consumers booking direct.
“For travel agents, the competition is consumers booking direct with suppliers, so discrediting each other seems to me to be totally counterproductive,” Westbury said.
Westbury highlighted that Webjet is not an AFTA member, nor an ATAS accredited travel agent.
Webjet was also seen as cannibalising its own network, which engages with the trade.
“It was a strange choice of messaging as Webjet actively works with travel agents through other wholly owned subsidiary companies,” Stavropoulos said.
In response to what was a public heckling, agents have rallied, using social media to air their grievances.
It’s hard not to take the advertisement personally, and many agents have felt the need to defend their profession.
Perth’s Buon Viaggio Travel agency used Facebook to air its frustrations. “Who’s seen the latest advertising by Webjet? I have and as a travel consultant I gotta say I wasn’t all that impressed. I understand what Webjet are trying to do but they are so totally wrong in the message they’re delivering.”
Consumers have also voiced their support for the trade, commenting on Webjet’s Facebook page.
“Looks good thanks Webjet. I will call my travel agent because she will be able to get the deal for me. Besides then I will know that I won’t have any problems with my booking,” Gayle Box wrote.
“I would love a trip to Vanuatu but there is not a chance that I would book with Webjet. A company that has to discredit industry professionals to get more sales is disgraceful,” Nicole Erika posted.
“I’ll go somewhere my travel agent recommends as they take the time and effort to know me and what I like to do as well as help me with visas… they are more than just a merchant for the airlines like yourself,” Justin Smythe added.
Webjet declined to comment.