Macao was the location for the 2018 Select Travel Group (STG) conference in May at the brand new $4.5 billion MGM Cotai, providing all 160 attendees a level of luxury beyond expectation.

OPENING the conference, Tom Manwaring CEO of parent firm Express Travel Group (ETG), highlighted several key results including 37 new members joining STG over the past year to reach 369 in total.

Across all brands there are now a total of 774 members spanning the Independent Travel Group, italktravel and Select Travel Group brands.

Staff numbers at ETG also increased to 96 in order to service the growing travel agent members and supplier partners.

Manwaring highlighted 5% growth was achieved in product sales across STG with several key product categories including river cruise, touring, hotels and ocean cruising surging in demand. For destinations, Europe, North America and the Pacific had the fastest growth.

Speaking with travelBulletin, Manwaring said total transaction value (TTV) across ETG had grown by more than a third over the past four years, eclipsing the one billion dollar mark.

Achieving this result was not without its challenges with Manwaring attributing collapsing yields in airfares to Asia, reduction in commissions and some wholesalers selling direct as pressure points to the business. Overall though Manwaring was “comfortable” with the results saying that while gross revenue grows at “double-digit” levels there was “no massive nett revenue growth”.

The conference was also an opportunity for STG members to reconnect, develop new networks and to learn from the many sponsors through speaker sessions and a product market.

One STG member, Sharon Wu of BE Travel Services in VIC told travelBulletin that “the sessions allow me to get a lot of information such as product updates. Things are always changing so it’s good to keep up to date. It’s good to know what’s happening with the group and gain more knowledge.”

In fact many members shared their experiences of the conference with travelBulletin highlighting in particular what they saw as the greatest benefits of being a part of the close-knit group.

Joe Lin from Holiday Xperience in Victoria said “as we’ve grown to 11 stores, ETG has given a lot of help in terms of getting the right support, the right fares, the right structure and the right attitude to developing commercial agreements.”

Lin was not alone, with similar sentiments shared by Mehdi Juddani from Best & Less Travel in NSW who said “I believe in business the most important part is relationships and what I have found with ETG is their transparency with business, which is attractive to me.”

The notion of building strong relationships was a common thread among STG members with Jigisha Patel of Fantasy Travel in Queensland praising her ETG representative. “Katherine Chan is our Queensland state manager for ETG and we’ve built a great relationship and the support is always good. Even though I’m a small agency, if I need help with airlines or land suppliers, Katherine is always there to help.”

When not in conference mode, attendees were given the opportunity to explore the historic Portuguese sites of old Macao via a city tour as well as sampling the famed egg tart.

The conference concluded with a lavish gala dinner and hotly contested awards ceremony which recognised members for their achievements. A particular highlight this year was Best & Less Travel in NSW winning national agent of the year award for the third year running.

Manwaring announced that in 2019 all brands within ETG would unite for one larger conference though at this stage no destination has been decided upon.

Select shines in Macao