Three decades of owning a travel agency in Wellington’s CBD saw Petra Otte dealing with it all: financial crises, terrorist attacks, volcanic eruptions and, to top it all off, the Covid-19 pandemic.
The lease for his House of Travel Hunter St store ended at the end of November, almost 30 years to the day since it opened.
But while that could be the end of the trip for her presence in the CBD, Otte has no plans to stop working as a travel consultant – or “weaver of dreams,” as her map indicates. visit.
In a time of uncertainty, cancellations and border complications, she believes the role of the travel agent has come full circle and is as needed now as when she started in the industry at the end of the years. 1970s.
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Otte had been trained as a secretary when his career path was hijacked.
“My older sister was doing her OE and she dragged me to a travel agent to buy her ticket and book her Contiki tour. I just fell in love with the very idea of it, ”she said. “I was like, ‘I’m not meant to be a secretary, it’s a lot more exciting.”
After completing polytech, she landed a job after “stalking” all of Wellington’s travel agencies. In her late teens, she moved with her family to Hawaii and Las Vegas. “I was not allowed to go to casinos, I was the youngest on the trip.”
After a four-year OE in London, she returned to New Zealand and was approached by House of Travel, which had been established in 1987, to open a point of sale in Wellington city center.
She opened at Dukes Arcade on December 2, 1991, before moving to Plimmer Steps in 1999 and to her current position in 2012.
The difference in technology between then and now was “mind-boggling,” said Otte, recalling the “colossal” computers they once used.
“When I started it was very collaborative – you couldn’t do anything without a travel agent. Then, of course, came the Internet and a whole generation of “book-it-yourselfers”.
While some thought this would be the end of travel agents, Otte believed the internet had actually helped them, as people could do more of their own research.
“Rather than giving you six options, people could narrow them down on their own. “
Perceptions of the ‘travel agent’s death’ echoed again as Covid-19 put a protracted end to vacation plans around the world. But Otte said the pandemic has reminded people of how crucial travel agents can be “when things go wrong”.
“Imagine if you had booked yourself, and you booked 20 hotels and a few train tickets and a cruise – that money is overseas and you have to deal with people speaking a foreign language or stay on hold while they are there. day, what is your bedtime, ”she said.
“This is literally what we have been doing for the past 20 months, is dealing with the angst, dealing with cancellations and getting the funds back into our client trust account.”
Otte said it was enough to look at what happened after the 9/11 attacks to see how resilient the industry was. At that time, she had just returned to work after the birth of her daughter.
“No one came into the office for the rest of the year to travel. It just scared people, ”she said.
“Fast forward 20 years, and now we take it for granted that we go through security and have to empty our pockets and take off our shoes.”
She believed that travel would recover from Covid-19 in the same way. “Yes, you may need to get tested before you go and wear your vaccination certificate – but in five years that will be a new standard. “
Otte also thought of doing things differently. After her store closed, she planned to operate virtually for the next several months, waiting to see what happened with the borders.
“Then I see myself opening up somewhere else – I think it’s important that people have the opportunity to come and see me. But in the meantime it can be in a cafe or at their house, until I can see what it looks like on the other side, ”she said.
“I think in traveling it will start to look a bit more like this – there will be brick and mortar stores, but there will also be other ways of doing things.”