THE Express Travel Group’s first ever combined conference in Bangkok last month saw hundreds of italktravel, Select Travel Group and Independent Travel Group meet for two days of intensive networking, education and celebration. Dubbed ETGX (for Express Travel Group Exchange) the event highlighted the ongoing growth of the organisation, which now comprises a total of almost 770 members serviced by a trans-Tasman network of seven offices.
CEO Tom Manwaring opened the proceedings, highlighting the cosmopolitan nature of the business in which the 87 staff speak 23 different languages. He hailed the recent acquisition of a 65% stake in NZ’s First Travel Group, the ongoing evolution of the Creative Cruising business and the group’s strong support from industry suppliers which has seen it make a total of 49 airline agreements and 60 land deals.
The last 12 months had seen the Australian business add nine new Select agents, 15 additional Independent Travel Group members and four italktravel & cruise franchisees, Manwaring noted.
Executive General Manager, Ari Magoutis, detailed a host of new initiatives for the group. ETG is moving into the home-based agency space with the launch of italktravel & cruise @ home — a new solution which links remote-working consultants with one of the company’s existing franchisees.
“The travel industry landscape is continually changing and Express Travel Group is dedicated to adapting with this change,” Magoutis said. “This model facilitates the growing demand for agents who want to work outside normal business hours, in an environment that suits them, and also service their customers at a time that suits their client,” he added. While participants will have a direct relationship with an existing italktravel agency owner, ETG will manage all back-end financials meaning members are able to focus on servicing their clients.
Also new for the wider group is a new WeChat app, designed to help capture the increasing number of mobile travel enquiries being made on the Chinese social media platform. In Australia more than 10,000 businesses already interact daily with WeChat, with 2.5 million local users, and the new “mini-program” aims to ultimately drive customers into Select Travel Group member stores “and initiate that travel purchasing discussion,” Magoutis said. “Supplier partners should keep this in mind when thinking about how to push your product into the VFR market segment,” he added.
Another major launch during the conference was Express Corporate, responding to demand from within the group for a solution to help them better service the SME market. The new offering will be available to members across all three brands — Select, Independent and italktravel — who have a minimum of 70% of their volume transacted with corporate clients. Express Corporate will offer a range of benefits including tailored airfare offerings, access to corporate booking tool technology and ongoing training through the Express Academy platform. “They will also have connections to a brand they can associate with, and go out and pitch for business with confidence they are part of a billion dollar group with over 30 years experience in travel,” the ETG Executive GM added.
Apart from the business sessions, the conference also included an inspirational address by G Adventures founder Bruce Poon Tip, a river cruise and a gala dinner.