Wholesalers

“Customers’ booking patterns are changing”: Topdeck

Lauren Croft

Following the launch of their new Middle East and Africa brochure, Travel Weekly caught up with one of the top guns at Topdeck about all things travel – and all things Topdeck, of course. 

Ben Ittensohn is the Regional Manager, Asia Pacific, at Topdeck Travel – and he’s here to tell you Topdeck is not about to slow down.

The travel company for 18 to 30-somethings has experienced massive growth: it’s popularity has skyrocketed in the past four years. 

Ittensohn said Topdeck’s booking numbers increased significantly throughout 2013 and 2014, and although 2017 might not be their biggest year yet, they’ve “definitely seen growth this year.”

Ittensohn also mentioned that terror events throughout the Europe and the US have caused shockwaves in travellers – but that youth travellers, in particular, are a pretty resilient bunch.

“There’s no one telling a 24-year-old that if they want to go to Europe next year they’re not going to go,” he said.

And as for how travel is changing? Ittensohn points to booking patterns.

“Customers now have more choice, and that is changing booking patterns,” he said.

And he’s right – there’s more tour companies, websites and booking platforms than ever. Plus customer’s time frames have changed, with people booking with little time to spare.

“Traditionally they used to book about 160 days prior to trips departing and now that’s reducing to 60-90 days,” Ittensohn continued.

But really, who wants to wait 160 days to hop the Greek Islands or safari in Africa?

The former is Ittensohn’s favourite destination – and he has quite a few Topdeck trips under his belt. The latter is half the focus of Topdeck’s new brochure.

For the uninitiated, the Middle East and Africa brochure has just launched – and new itineraries will be available from January 2018 to March 2019. There’s also an Earlybird special on it until March 15, 2018 (so get booking). 

Included in these is an Abu Dhabi stopover package – a three-night break from a long flight.

“Off the back of the success of our Dubai stopover package we’ve now launched an Abu Dhabi stopover package which is three nights,” Ittensohn said. 

“We carry a lot of people on our European programs and it gives them the opportunity to get off, stretch their legs, have a look around Abu Dhabi.”

Dubai and Abu Dhabi stopovers are both firsts for the youth market – and a hell of a good idea to break up those 26-hour flights to Europe and back. They also aren’t typical destinations. 

“We’re wanting our travellers to not just go to Europe or North America or Asia or typical destinations – we’re looking to broaden our horizons and take travellers to more adventurous types of destinations,” Ittensohn added. 

Enter ‘The tales of Israel’ – an eight-day quintessential top deck experience in a brand new destination. 

Another adventure-type destination that’s on the rise is Morocco, according to Ittensohn. In the aforementioned new brochure, Topdeck has added a shorter Morocco trip to their repertoire – feeding their customers need for a quick adventure off the beaten path of Europe. 

“This year to date, we’re up 33 per cent in Middle East bookings out of the Australian market.”

Their Africa products are up 15 per cent as well – and Topdeck is showing no signs of slowing down.

“We’ve launched a new product to the same destinations – that’s whats exciting about the Middle East and Africa product is Israel and [the new] Morocco trip,” Ittensohn said of the new brochure. 

But the brochure hasn’t been the biggest step for Topdeck this year – as they abolished their food funds mere months ago.

“Traditionally with Topdeck you have a trip price plus a food fund equals total trip price. And we just think in this day and age trying to explain what a food fund is to a, typically 24-year-old, traveller [makes] food funds pretty redundant now,” Ittensohn said. 

This means more commission for travel agents (since they’re selling a larger price) and when customers get discounts like Early Bird specials, it means their overall price is lower than ever before. Everybody wins, Topdeck included.

Speaking of winning, Topdeck was just named the “Best Escorted Tours Holiday Company” at the British Travel Awards.

This, coupled with being voted ‘2017 Best International Tour Operator’ at the National Travel Industry Awards makes Topdeck heavy competition for other youth travel companies. 

“[Thats] obviously something that we’re very very proud about this year. And something that we don’t intend to forfeit for 2018,” Ittensohn said. 

And beyond 2018? Topdeck has more in store than you can imagine.

“We’re looking at our product and making sure it remains relevant for the long term,” Ittensohn added. 

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