TTC stares down disruptors

The Travel Corporation’s president and global ceo Brett Tollman spoke exclusively with travelBulletin last month in his first joint interview with regional head John Veitch who joined the company from Flight Centre 18 months ago. Guy Dundas reports.

A customer-centric approach and being innovative with product development is the bedrock of the brands at The Travel Corporation to help ensure the company “stays relevant and successful for the future”, says president and ceo, Brett Tollman.

The fourth-generation, family-owned travel company has a diverse portfolio of businesses around the globe, the bulk of which are escorted touring and cruise programs sold through the likes of Insight Vacations, Trafalgar, Contiki and Uniworld.

Tollman says staying pertinent to consumers is vital, with the business bordering on obsessive with guest experience, to the point where Tollman’s mother still reviews hundreds of faxes (yes, faxes!) every day to address any concerns from TTC’s 17 general managers globally. Being responsive is key.

“Our philosophy is if there ever is an issue, to resolve it while the guest is still with us. It’s crucial to deliver on their holiday of a lifetime and their expectations while they are still with us, rather than trying to apologise or sort things out afterwards,” he explained.

Transparency is also fundamental. “Transparency today is what it’s all about. We believe embracing it rather than hiding from it.”

The Travel Corporation’s president and global chief executive Brett Tollman in Australia last month with regional head John Veitch.

In Sydney last month, he told travelBulletin it was paramount for TTC to “keep up” with rivals, given the sheer scope of choices, channels and disruptors like Airbnb that posed a potential threat to traditional travel companies.

“It certainly keeps the likes of John and I up at night knowing the amount of amazing competition that is out there. It’s critical to make sure that legacy brands like ours can be around for the next decade or two,” Tollman said.

Among The Travel Corporation’s latest developments is the new youth-based European river cruise program U by Uniworld. To be pitched squarely at the 18-40 year-old market, U by Uniworld will ride the back of the success of TTC’s youth brand Contiki in taking the product to market in coming weeks. Marketed under the parent company as well as by Contiki, Tollman said U by Uniworld would not be fully inclusive but would provide a generous mix of inclusions and optional extras.

Beyond guest services and product, new trade innovations have been rolled out recently or are underway.

“Our entire history has always been based on, dependent on, and loyal to our travel trade partners,” Tollman said.

Among the suite of new programs is the TTC Agent Academy which will debut in the near future. Comprising of a number of modules, the eLearning platform has been developed to educate frontline sellers on The Travel Corporation’s breadth of product.

Initially available for Trafalgar, Insight, Contiki and Uniworld (and earmarked for Busabout), Veitch said the Agent Academy would see agents receive a certificate of completion.

“It reinforces the investment of the TTC back into the travel industry, back into the travel agency chain and consortias and making it easier for agents to work with us and book our holidays with confidence,” Veitch said.

Tollman added that the TTC Agent Academy would reward agents with the opportunity to join a scheduled departure, rather than a place on a group famil, so a consultant can experience and see exactly what a customer encounters on tour.

Another initiative rolled out recently is an air portal for agents to use when booking holidays with Insight Vacations and Trafalgar. Accessed online via the websites of both companies, the portal offers a full suite of airfares to be sold in conjunction with tours.

Veitch says the TTC has “revolutionised” the touring market with its air deals to Europe and the USA. One of the promotional fares was a $599 return Economy class ticket to anywhere in Italy when sold in conjunction with an Insight itinerary.

With increased call centre volumes, a quick and easy-to-use solution was a necessity for agents.

“We encourage agents to look at it and use it.”