travelBulletin

Ignite just starting to fire up

When Australia's largest retail travel agency buys into your business, it doesn't mean they'll take over your future direction.

When Australia’s largest retail travel agency buys into your business, it doesn’t mean they’ll take over your future direction. Guy Dundas talks with Ignite Travel Group’s CEO Ryan Thomas about the travel company’s partnership with Flight Centre Travel Group, 11 months after it acquired a 49% stake in the Gold Coast-based travel package specialist.

Ryan Thomas has been involved with Ignite Travel Group since “day dot” as a founding shareholder in 2005, took sabbatical leave and moved to Asia in 2012 to head up the regional division for the world’s largest security company, G4S, and returned to Queensland at the start of 2016 when a deal between Ignite and Flight Centre was in the wings.

By way of background, Ignite Travel Group is the parent company of RewardsCorp and Ignite Holidays, which comprises the brands My Holiday Centre (MyBali, Fiji, Maldives, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Thailand, Malaysia, Queensland and MyCruises), Holiday Exclusives and the newest brand to the stable, GET LUXE and its “sharper priced” short-life package specials.

It was Thomas’ mission to oversee a smooth integration between Ignite and Flight Centre, with FCTG’s Escape Travel the first cab off the rank to start selling the GET LUXE global holiday offers at its network of 150+ stores since October. Escape Travel was the test vehicle used to establish and iron out systems, processes, software, financing and accounting before launching with Flight Centre’s 1,200 shops around the country just last month.

“We’re spending the first two months on store engagement and then we’re hitting them with a really above-the-line campaign to really bring brand awareness of the GET LUXE brand to the market,” he said.

And in FY18, expect to see GET LUXE distribution expanded to Cruiseabout offices in Australia and New Zealand, and then a greater global roll out.

On the growth-front, Thomas revealed that more ‘My’ brands were in the pipeline to be unveiled over the next three to six months, firstly MyDubai and then further into the South Pacific and Asia.

The Ignite CEO said the agreement with Flight Centre had been advantageous “in that they’ve left us alone”.

“We are still very much an independent business run on the Gold Coast,” Thomas said. “They understand that we’re a young entrepreneurial business that needs to be kept that way and not sucked into the big beast.

“It’s great. It gives us the freedom for what we want to do. We think a bit differently to what the normal trade does. The arrangement with Flight Centre allows us to keep doing what we are good at.”

A touring product is also under consideration, Thomas revealed to travelBulletin, saying Ignite would benefit from Flight Centre’s vast experience in the touring space with Back-Roads.

“We do see in the future, particularly touring, to be part of the GET LUXE group of products”.

“We haven’t explored it too much, so there’s lots of options for us. There are opportunities to create some bespoke stuff, but that’s offset with Back-Roads. We can utilise what they’ve already got.”

Flight Centre Travel Group’s global reach and network of offices abroad was another part of Ignite Travel’s strategy to form the partnership.

“New Zealand and the US, they’re the two international locations we’re looking at starting up offices before we roll out further to South Africa and the UK,” he disclosed. “It’s a little too soon to say, but most likely the US office would be based with Flight Centre head office in New York.”

Thomas said the Flight Centre partnership was well on track to meet its total transaction value (TTV) target of $100 million for FY18. He described the growth in business since aligning with FCTG as “fairly steady”.

“But the next 12 months now that we’ve launched into Flight Centre branded stores, we’re expecting huge growth opportunities”.

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