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On the express to success

The annual Independent Travel Group Business Forum in Singapore last month saw the debut of a number of initiatives which were enthusiastically embraced by members, with the fast-growing Express Travel network now comprising more than 600 agencies across the ITG, Select and italktravel brands.

booksafeThe annual Independent Travel Group Business Forum in Singapore last month saw the debut of a number of initiatives which were enthusiastically embraced by members, with the fast-growing Express Travel network now comprising more than 600 agencies across the ITG, Select and italktravel brands.

One of the major launches was a comprehensive new insurance policy, which covers participating members for agency insolvency and end supplier failure. Dubbed ‘Book Safe Agent,’ Express Travel Group CEO Tom Manwaring told delegates it was time the industry embraced a professional solution – particularly in the light of recent agency collapses. Carrying distinctive branding (pictured below) which will be used on all collateral by those who take out the policy, Book Safe Agent will require ATAS membership or the provision of audited financials. All of the group’s branded italktravel stores will automatically qualify for the cover as part of their franchise agreement, and although the policy costs $4,200 per annum the Express Travel Group will subsidise this to reduce the cost to $3,600 per location.

Book Safe Agent covers passengers for airline and preferred supplier failure as well as agency insolvency, and ITG members who have the coverage will be “recognised as premium agents within the network,” Manwaring said. He said it was one example of how Express Travel Group gives its members an “unfair advantage” – alongside the company’s extensive investment in IT solutions, ticketing and marketing.

When it comes to IT, Express Travel Group continues to evolve its offering for members. Another major announcement during the Forum was the launch of a new “Express Performance” travel agency dashboard. Revealed by executive general manager Ari Magoutis, Express Performance presents a transparent view of sales data to members, allowing them to produce an extensive range of reports on productivity and profitability. Set to roll out in early 2016, the company is currently populating the system with sales data for the last two years, with the dashboard giving owners the ability to report on gross consultant sales versus commission, product sales by category and supplier along with detailed historical comparisons.

With the extensive suite of solutions offered by Express Travel Group, the company has also launched a centralised knowledge base called “Express Wiki”. It gathers all of the information and instructions for using the array of products into a single online portal.

Training is also key for the group, and ITG is taking the bull by the horns with the evolution of its Express Academy to offer various levels of qualifications. These include a Certificate 1, 2 and 3 in travel with the top tier being the “Masters in Travel”. The certificates are achieved by completing various modules available on the Express Academy portal, and the group says as well as improving the knowledge and expertise of consultants the initiative will help nurture staff and retain them in the industry. The training content is provided by preferred partners, tourist boards and destinations and airlines, while other modules cover office productivity suites and CLIA cruise training. Qantas is set to link its learning hub to the academy, while Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia will also go live in the next few months.

A key element in the content is “closing the loop” so ITG knows when consultants have completed a particular module and can electronically record the achievement. Express Travel Group general manager Jonathan Nelson said increased product knowledge was likely to boost sales as well as loyalty to preferred partners. He told delegates to the conference the Express Academy qualifications would denote agency staff as “becoming the best of the best”.

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