Travel Agents

Diversity, technology and the three-year picture: Three things we’ve learnt about Travel Counsellors

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

Travel Weekly had the pleasure of attending Travel Counsellors’ annual agent and supplier conference, TCX. Here are three things we learnt while we were there.

Diversity is front-and-centre

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Sitting down ahead of the TCX conference in Adelaide last week, which coincided with Travel Counsellors’ 25th anniversary, regional managing director Kaylene Shuttlewood told reporters that diversity is extremely important to her and the company.

“One of the big things that I’m quite passionate about … is diversity in the workplace,” she said. “Diversity is not just gender, its race, religion, sexual orientation.”

She also filled us in on the company’s other initiatives, namely its support of ethical and sustainable travel provided by accredited wholesalers, underpinned by a “rigorous” product selection process.

“The products that we are selling all have sustainable policies. We don’t promote, we don’t highlight [unsustainable experiences].”

CEO Steve Byrne also revealed that the company spends $60,000 a year with the Travel Foundation, a global charity supporting responsible tourism, which is responsible for educating Travel Counsellors’ staff on sustainable tourism.

He added that this highlighted the positive difference that Travel Counsellors wants to make to its staff and customers.

He also said that this sustainable ideology fed into the way that Travel Counsellors hires its staff.

“It’s not about how many people [we hire] but the type of person that comes in that has the ability to support corporate travel or leisure complex sales,” he said.

“We want travel entrepreneurs and business owners – not those that see themselves as travel agents,” he said.

The company is making a huge and continued investment in technology

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One of the key takeaways from TCX in keynotes from both CEO Steve Byrne and Australian operations manager Tom Temple was the company’s continued focus on technology – namely, its investment in its online booking platform powered by Phenix, the company’s own dynamic packaging system.

“Technology underpins all areas of investment,” Byrne said, adding: “Each of [Travel Counsellors’] investment areas is underpinned by the platform.”

He added that because of the company’s focus on making Phenix as dynamic and accessible as possible, travel counsellors (TCs) have a great deal of flexibility for their work arrangements.

“[TCs] can work from wherever they want, they can work from any state in this country; they can work from a Starbucks or an office.

“They run their business based on the platform.”

Temple went one further and said Phenix would continue to go from speed to speed in the future as a result of an $11 million investment in technology each year, and a dedicated tech support team based in the company’s Melbourne Head Office.

“Phenix is always changing, its always getting better,” Temple said.

The Three-year picture: What to expect from Travel Counsellors going forward

On top of its investments in technology, CEO Steve Byrne said the company will aim to create more opportunities for leisure, corporate and premium travel over the next three years with greater investments in these opportunities.

As it stands, 25 per cent of TCs working today specialise in corporate travel and another 25 per cent in leisure. On top of its 16 per cent year-on-year growth, the company aims to grow the opportunities available for these types of travel options in the coming years.

“We’ll have a richer mix of leisure and corporate business … more complex and higher booking value, more premium,” he said, adding that this type of business will be protected from changes in technology.

Agents will also have more choice as to how they want to work and how they want to run their businesses, with further opportunities to work alongside other TCs to grow businesses and to fill in capacity wherever possible.

“The way that we support [TCs] has not really changed in ten years, but we can radically improve how we improve the support to [TCs] by investing in technology.”

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