Travel Counsellors adjusts focus

TRAVEL Counsellors (TC) has its sights set firmly on the future, targeting five key areas for the business, CEO Steve Byrne told delegates at the group’s Australian conference, held in Adelaide last month.

The event welcomed 220 attendees and was themed “TCX”, focusing on the Travel Counsellors experience.

Byrne delivered several passionate addresses, reminding agents their key purpose was to care for their customer and informing them of the five areas of investment and focus within the company which are corporate, premium leisure, productivity, a better support model and the right recruitment mix.

The corporate market was named a key priority, with the company having identified a significant opportunity to service the corporate market, targeting SMEs to maintain the “personal touch” that Travel Counsellors prides itself on.

“The corporate business accounts for about $250m out of $1.1b [of TC’s Total Transaction Value] so we expect to get that to about half a billion,” Byrne said.

The company is also working to develop its premium leisure offering to allow TCs to target the affluent traveller and move away from less complex products.

“We see the growth in more luxury, tailor-made holidays, with a higher average booking value and more complexity,” he said.

The company has placed an emphasis on helping Travel Counsellors be more productive, backed by an annual spend of $11 million on its technology offering for the next three years.

Byrne said the business was looking at how it could use technology, data and its platform to enable its members to better scale their businesses.

It is also looking to make the company’s support model more efficient and effective by reviewing its processes, controls and information.

“We can radically improve how we improve the support for you by investing in technology so that you’ve got more of what you need at the time that you need it,” Byrne told attendees.

He also emphasised that Travel Counsellors wanted to secure the right recruitment mix with the best talent and candidate experience for the group.

“It’s not about how many people but the type of person,” he explained.

Travel Counsellors’ focus on quality has been led in the Australian market by Regional MD Kaylene Shuttlewood, who has embarked on a project to improve the quality of its members during the past year.

Currently, Travel Counsellors has 135 members in Australia, down from 140 in 2017 when the group committed to an ambitious plan to grow its local membership to between 250-300 agents over three years.

 

Last year, five weeks into leading the local office, Shuttlewood reaffirmed TC’s commitment to the growth goal, but told travelBulletin last month that the company had since made a “concerted effort” and focused on quality, not quantity.

“We’ve not shied away from addressing some of the legacy issues with TCs, where we had concerns around alignment around how they were operating and conducting their business, and we did this to ensure we are protecting the TC brand,” she said.

“We have a minimum sales threshold, so we implemented that to be more active,” Shuttlewood explained, noting the company went through a three-month process with TCs, “but some people were at a different time in their life”.

These five areas of focus and investment are expected to fuel global growth for the company, which is anticipating its global Total Transaction Value (TTV) to reach $2b in the next five years.

The milestone would mark a sizeable increase, following on from a TTV of $1.1b last year.

Over the next 12 months, Byrne said he would be happy with “around 16% top line growth” and was expecting the business to achieve around $1.2-$1.3 billion next year.

He noted the group was not currently looking to move into the New Zealand market, identifying plenty of opportunity in Australia.

He said Travel Counsellors currently had a 40m ($73m) share of the local travel market, noting the whole market represented 38b ($69.5b) and the “managed travel” market, which required human-to-human contact, accounted for 10b ($18.3b).

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