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Travel industry hits the heights

AFTER a tough 12 months for the travel industry, business is booming for WA’s travel agents.

A series of events combined to hit the industry hard during the past year – a general reluctance to fly after the events of September 11, the collapse of Ansett and uncertainty centred on continuing industrial action.

Despite this, Flight Centre area leader Daniel Gallagher described the current business climate as “very upbeat” and buoyant, with strong enquiries coming in for both international and domestic travel.

Demand for airline seats out of Perth is currently outstripping supply on both international and domestic flights, and Qantas is putting on another 747 to add a further 1200 seats a week out of Perth to cater for that lack of seats, Mr Gallagher said.

He told WA Business News that sales had returned to normal after a significant downturn following the events of September 11 and the collapse of Ansett, to the point where sales were exceeding those prior to these events.

“As a company we achieved a $90 million profit, a 36 per cent increase in what was supposed to be a tough year,” Mr Gallagher said.

“So we are very buoyant about being able to do that in a tough year and very excited about what we can do in what is looking to be a strong year. We are very confident that we should have a record year again.”

According to Mr Gallagher, Flight Centre is looking at opening a further eight stores in WA, and more than 100 Australia wide, which he believes is testament to how well the business is doing.

UTAG Travel WA State manager Wayne Callaghan agreed that the local market was very buoyant at the moment, with confidence levels in both the corporate and retail/leisure markets returning to the levels prior to the events of September 11.

UTAG had a large corporate base and corporate travel had picked up so as to be consistent, he said. Confidence in flying and general business confidence had returned to the market.

Mr Callaghan said that, while the retail side of business was still experiencing some ebbs and flows, the package market such as trips to Bali was consistent, if a little dependent on airline specials at the moment.

“Specific demand periods [in retail travel] come when an airline might drop a special deal in for the USA or wherever, so it is a little bit dependent on airline specials as far as the retail side is concerned, but the consistent areas such as Bali are good,” he said.

“It took a while but certainly confidence has returned.”

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