Upbeat Gurney…

Issues & Trends – Nov/Dec 2013

Upbeat Gurney claims helloworld signings ahead of plan

HELLOWORLD chief executive Rob Gurney has promised a transparent process to settle clashes where two closely adjacent agents, hitherto operating under separate former JTG brands, both want to become branded helloworld outlets.

While he believes such instances will be rare, Gurney said the agents will be invited to submit proposals to the company. “We will talk with both of them,” he assured, promising “transparent criteria” and “bespoke one-on-one commercial conversations”.

Gurney was speaking at a press conference in Melbourne during the chain’s first national conference that attracted around 600 agents who would previously have attended separate Harvey World Travel, Jetset Travelworld or Travelscene American Express conferences.

Gurney claimed “an absolutely fantastic reaction” from the agents who, he said, were confident that the move to helloworld was the right strategy.

The conference coincided with announcements of the finalisation of a 10 year deal with US online travel agency, Orbitz, and a license agreement allowing all helloworld agents the option of incorporating the American Express brand.

It also saw the unveiling of a 77 square metre helloworld concept store, featuring a revolving globe of the world and tablets in a central area inviting hands-on involvement of customers, complemented by zones for round-table discussions rather than the conventional approach of consultants facing clients from behind a desk.

This is clearly designed to mesh with the company’s multi-channel strategy based on what Gurney called the “cornerstone” of the Orbitz partnership.

“We get world leading technology instantly and our consumer site will launch shortly,” he said.
As previously flagged (travelBulletin, August), helloworld agents will share in the revenue from all website bookings although details have not yet been spelled out.

In combination with the chain’s “dedicated and experienced agents”, the site will fulfil modern customers’ desire to book through the channels of their choice, including mobile devices and a combination of online and offline processes, said Gurney.

The site will point users to their nearest helloworld agent and agents will be able to view customers’ online bookings and provide expert guidance or book additional products and services.
Gurney gave an upbeat assessment of the rate at which former JTG agents are buying into this strategy.

With signings tracking close to 200 outlets (the company won’t say how many businesses) by mid-November and another 100 in the pipeline, Gurney said helloworld is “well ahead of its planned trajectory”.

The company has around 1700 outlets in Australia – about 600 carry former JTG brands and another 400 have an associated branding relationship. Agents signing up with the new helloworld concept roughly conform to this 60/40 branded/associate split, according to Gurney.

Asked if former Travelscene American Express agents were happy about the American Express brand now being available to other, possibly competing, agents, Gurney said there was “no tension”.

He said agents who are “thinking people” understand the benefits of scale. “Only our group can offer that scale. Our people get that … We are creating a new future,” he said.

He said that, while any project attracts early adopters – “people who get it straight away and want to get on board” – helloworld is proceeding at a steady pace and not pressuring agents to sign in a rush.

“We have explained over a long period of time why we need to change our business,” he said, adding that “people are excited and energised” by the helloworld approach.

Meanwhile consumer research among 1000 travellers is helping to shape advertising which will break by year’s end.

Gurney is looking to promotion of a single brand to attract more customers than the previously fragmented marketing of four separate brands. While brand rationalisation has produced a 12 per cent cost reduction, Gurney said the key strategy is to boost top line revenue.




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