Express Travel Group soars in 2017
Last month’s Independent Travel Group conference in Kuala Lumpur saw Tom Manwaring, CEO of Express Travel Group, reveal an exceptional year in which the organisation’s Total Transaction Value surged 42% compared to 2016. Air passenger numbers were up 25%, with sales of land, cruise and ancillary products accelerating a hefty 81%. Manwaring didn’t confirm the overall TTV figure, but based on previous revelations the company must have well and truly exceeded $1 billion in revenue.
The Express Travel Group has three key brands — the Asia-focused Select Travel Group, the Independent Travel Group, and the branded italktravel franchise, with the diversified model demonstrating the evolution of the market. In 2016 52% of revenue came from Select, coming down to 46% in 2017 as growth accelerated in the Independent Travel Group and italktravel divisions. There are now 362 Independent Travel Group/italktravel members out of a total complement of 742, with overall member numbers increasing by 94 agencies in the last year.
Growth has been significant across a range of categories, with stunning acceleration in sales of small group touring, adventure touring and FIT arrangements. Ocean cruising sales through Express surged 79% while river is up 88%, and there was also a strong performance in travel insurance, rail, accommodation and coach touring. A significant number of the newly joined members were in attendance at the conference including Dean Heke from italktravel & cruise Blue Mountains, Tatyana Vanegas of italktravel & cruise Brighton, Garry Hegarty from italktravel Mitcham and Ainsley Hardie of italktravel Highfields. There were also new members from Tasmania and the ACT — the first in each jurisdiction, giving the group a national presence.
The growth has seen ETG focus on the ongoing delivery of tools to help members’ businesses. Key initiatives in the last year have been providing “absolute improvement and clarity of reward payments,” according to executive general manager Ari Magoutis, who outlined a strict quarterly timetable for remittance of supplier overrides to members. The Express Fares ticketing platform now features tax inclusive pricing, while there is ongoing evolution of the company’s unique Book Safe Agent insolvency coverage product, which will see significant price reductions as it integrates with AFTA’s AICS scheme to provide full protection against supplier collapse.
Magoutis also provided a sneak peek at new developments including Express Docs, an automatic itinerary generation tool which collates reservation information with destination details from ArrivalGuides. A new partnership with email provider Genesys aims to make marketing simpler for members by integrating with the in-house Express Marketing platform, while ETG is also working on Express Payments, a new gateway being developed in partnership with the National Australia Bank which will include a merchant software platform, the ability for agents to pay suppliers and also for clients to pay for their travel online 24/7.
Education was a key focus of the conference, with preferred suppliers showcasing their wares in a product market and speed-dating training sessions. But of course, as well as getting down to business there was plenty of networking. Major sponsor The Travel Corporation treated everyone to a Malaysian-inspired welcome function on the opening night, which was followed by a gala awards dinner to wrap up the weekend. A highlight was an inspirational presentation by Wendy Wu Tours founder Wendy Wu, who shared the secrets of her success and her bold plans for the future of the business. There was also knowledge sharing within the group, as Garry McLaughlin from last year’s top agency winner First Class Travel presented a highly acclaimed session giving insights into how he inspires his team to achieve great things.