helloworld – Goodbye HWT, Jetset, Travelscene and Travelworld?

Issues & Trends – July 2013

helloworld – Goodbye HWT, Jetset, Travelscene and Travelworld?

JTG boss Rob Gurney has taken his time deliberating over the future of his financially under-performing company but he has now delivered a radical solution that represents the one of the biggest shake-ups the Australian retail travel industry has ever seen.

Gurney announced the launch of a new brand helloworld for the chain’s travel agents.

Agents currently trading under iconic brand names Harvey World Travel, Jetset, Travelscene and Travelworld have been told only that they may keep using those brands until existing agreements expire.

Gurney is also preparing to take the retail arm of the company down the multi-channel path being blazed by rival Flight Centre. The announcement on branding was accompanied by an announcement of a partnership with giant global online travel agency Orbitz.

The announcement was lengthy and detailed, but it raised at least as many questions as it answered. For example how will the new brand play out across shopping strips and malls where agents under the existing four brands exist cheek by jowl?

A partial solution to this conundrum may lie in Gurney’s commitment to a three-tiered retail model – fully branded, associate and affiliate – and to “basic lease negotiation support”.

Gurney said he spoke with 150 agents as he consulted widely prior to the announcement.

“You can bet those 150 agents will have been the cream of the crop and it would be interesting to know if JTG plans to have only one fully branded outlet in any shopping precinct and if any assurances have been given about this,” commented one experienced retail travel industry executive.

Other questions centre on how JTG head office management will be re-structured and whether the company’s multiple wholesale brands will survive or be replaced by helloworld.

Also sure to be under scrutiny will be the company’s GDS policies once preferred agreements with the different chains expire. Is JTG’s alliance with Travelport-linked Orbitz a pointer to future decisions?

The JTG announcement said more than 1000 agents will be offered the opportunity of adopting helloworld.

This bricks and mortar element will be complemented by “a long-term strategic partnership” with Orbitz.

“The existing portfolio of brands has served our members and franchisees well over many years,” said Gurney.

“However, by building critical mass under a new, contemporary brand, we will drive stronger economic alignment, build purchasing power and scale and secure key supplier relationships.

“This unification will enhance growth, services and incentives for agents and suppliers and create a compelling multi-channel experience for customers.

“The consolidation of JTG’s marketing spend to focus on helloworld will provide franchisees with a greater share of voice through digital channels, on TV and radio, in print and in partnership with our suppliers.”

Echoing Flight Centre boss Graham (Skroo) Turner’s comments on Flight’s evolving hybrid, multi-channel retail model, Gurney said: “Customers are increasingly looking for the ability to research and book their travel through both online and offline channels. We want our franchise network to share in this growth.”

Gurney’s statement said Orbitz’ “powerful global technology platform will provide JTG with robust desktop booking functionality, as well as industry-leading mobile capabilities.

“This will offer customers mobile-optimised booking experiences and mobile-enhanced applications.”

“This initiative is highly complementary to the strength of the retail network.

Gurney said the new JTG retail models “are designed to strengthen our consumer offering and optimise the individual businesses of our franchisees and members.

“helloworld will be launched with a new, streamlined and simplified incentive scheme, designed to enhance the alignment of the economic interests of the franchisees, members and suppliers.”

The company will now embark on “an intensive process of engagement with all existing franchisees and members over the next two months, communicating the values of helloworld and details of the new retail models. The majority of the transformation is expected to be complete within 18 months,” the JTG statement said.

“Franchisees and members who choose to adopt helloworld will be supported throughout the process via extensive training and mentoring, a focused marketing campaign, basic lease negotiation support and the bene-fit of helloworld’s customer charter and customer protection policy.

“A range of support services will enable our franchisees and members to focus on growing their business and serving their customers as we move through this critical phase,” said Gurney.

“Our long-term store fit out program will transform the retail network and make the in-store experience truly interactive and collaborative.”

Supported by a consumer campaign, it is expected that the first helloworld stores and the online platform will launch during the second quarter of this financial year.

Suppliers – and rivals – praise Gurney’s ‘bold’ initiative

SUPPLIERS have strongly backed JTG’s new strategic direction.

The JTG announcement included supportive statements from suppliers including Gurney’s former employer Qantas – hardly a surprise since Qantas is a major shareholder and would presumably have ticked off the plan at board level prior to its release.

But JTG also quoted Carnival Australia chief executive Ann Sherry and Travel Corporation chief executive John Weeks.

“As a supplier to JTG and its valuable customer base, we support the launch of a new, contemporary brand with a marketing spend focused on driving growth,” said Sherry.

Said Weeks: “The Travel Corporation supports the initiative taken by JTG to set a new strategic direction …

“The introduction of a new multi-channel contemporary brand provides us with a strong business partner aligned to the changing needs of customers and suppliers.”

The initiative also gained respect from rival retailers with both Magellan Travel chief executive Andrew Macfarlane and Independent Travel Group managing director Tom Manwaring praising Gurney for making a move that they described as “bold” and “decisive”.

They also welcomed the ending of uncertainty over JTG’s future direction, saying this helped clarify decisions for individual agents about the direction in which they would steer their businesses.



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