LAST weekend’s Flight Centre Travel Group Independent conference in Singapore was a welcome return to in-person gatherings for the group which is on a strong growth trajectory as part of the company’s burgeoning global Luxury and Independent Division.
About 200 people attended the event including over 100 mobile and member agents under various models including Travel Partners, Travel Associates @ Home, Travel Associates Franchise and Flight Centre Independent, which together comprise more than 400 outlets in Australia and 1,700 globally.
James Kavanagh, Flight Centre’s global leisure chief, opened the conference with a rousing presentation laying out FCTG Independent’s global vision “to be the home and the heart of the travel industry for the new independent generation”. Flight Centre is investing heavily in the division, putting a global team in place focusing on core markets including Australia, New Zealand, North America, South Africa and the UK.
Locally the division is headed up by Nick Queale along with recently appointed National Sales Director, Fiona Batten, while global leaders include Sue Graham in charge of product, Director of Global Operations, Astrid Richardson and Wendie Lee as Chief Product Officer. The senior leadership team was also gathered in Singapore for meetings prior to the kick-off of the conference, laying out a road map for the organisation which Kavanagh noted was already producing about 15% of Flight Centre’s leisure TTV and expectations this will grow significantly in future years.
Key aspects of the business include aspirations to create a “revolutionary ecosystem which connects our independent community with an unrivalled product marketplace and seamless consumer and agent tools that drive productivity and commercial returns,” Kavanagh noted. He also showcased Flight Centre’s customer segmentation diversity, with the key “red and white” brand covering the mass market, luxury including Travel Associates and the recently acquired Scott Dunn, complementary businesses such as My Holiday Centre/Ignite, StudentUniverse, Travel Money Oz and Liberty Travel, and Independent as a B2B community of independent travel agents and member groups.
Kavanagh also covered key economic developments, noting that despite consumer and business sentiment being currently low due to gathering financial stormclouds, spending on travel has remained robust even as other areas of household expenditure decline. He noted that unemployment rates across the globe are also at historic lows, auguring well for future travel demand. Other trends include exceptional post-pandemic demand, slowly declining airfare prices and a return to a more normal passenger mix as holidaymakers replace the surge in VFR travel during 2022.
“Flight Centre Independent is now the fourth largest division in our group,” he noted, with investment in the operation up 67% in the last year including dedicated resources to power product and technology. And technology is also key, with Flight Centre Independent members to be among the first to trial the new TP Connects platform giving access to NDC airline content.
Danielle Galloway, Global Head of Luxury and Independent, gave a presentation on the rise of luxury within the overall Flight Centre business and how it has unlocked access to a whole new customer segment. Wendie Lee, who recently returned to the division as Chief Product Officer, spoke of her vision for an interconnected technology ecosystem, with the foundation laid in the form of HOME, Flight Centre Independent’s single sign-on portal which has just surpassed 1,000 users globally. And Sue Graham, Global Head of Product – Independent, showcased the ever-growing array of suppliers and content available to the network.
Entertaining sponsor sessions gave delegates all the latest information on new products and enhancements as well as exclusive Flight Centre Independent incentives, while there were also educational sessions and plenty of networking opportunities including a fabulous gala dinner at the Hotel Fort Canning. As well as giving awards to some of the network’s top performers, guests were entertained by Song Division in a fabulous show which saw plenty of air guitars, crazy dancing, musical trivia and more.