Travel Agents

“I don’t think it will work well”: TC MD on FC’s home-based purchase

Hannah Edensor

Late Friday arvo, the cheeky monkeys that are Flight Centre announced they have acquired Aussie mobile travel agency, Travel Partners.

Flight Centre had previously pinned home and mobile-based agency models as a big focus in their future strategy, and it comes off the back of two NZ agency acquisitions, one of which was a mobile agency as well.

So Travel Weekly jumped straight on the phone to a few industry figureheads to find out what this means for the travel agency industry.

Flight Centre has now made six acquisitions in the past month, and while they revealed they won’t be making any more strategic moves for the short to medium future, Travel Counsellors Managing Director, Fred van Eijk, warns they might’ve bitten off too much.

Speaking to TW, van Eijk admitted, upon hearing the news, “All I could think was ‘Oh my god I’m glad I’m not running that business’.”

In his opinion, he believes it’s “better to do one thing you’re very good at”, and for Travel Counsellors, he said that’s “supporting home-based travel agents”.

“We don’t have to worry about managing shops and call centres, all the choices we make are for Travel Counsellors.

“We don’t have any other procedures or business models or priorities – it’s all about the travel counsellor.”

Van Eijk reckons that being independent, like the Travel Counsellors model, is a big ‘tick’ on the checklist when it comes to recruitment, as agents know they’ve got the company’s undivided attention and don’t have to compete with other businesses.

“I think that’s what attracts a lot of people to Travel Counsellors,” van Eijk said. “We’re totally dedicated.”

Van Eijk also told TW he was “not surprised” by Flight Centre’s latest acquisition.

“I saw it coming,” he said.

Asked if he thinks Flight Centre will benefit from such big, home-based acquisitions, van Eijk admitted he thought quite the opposite.

“It’s such a hands-on, personal and dedicated job to support home-based agents,” he said.

“I don’t think it will work well. And it will be hard for [home-based] agents to be part of a larger business.

He believed “bricks-and-mortar” will remain the biggest focus for Flight Centre, adding “home-based will very low” in the hierarchy.

“Agents want to be part of a group with focus.”

Quizzed on if he thinks it’s better to do one thing exceptionally well, van Eijk said, “Absolutely”.

“I don’t believe home-based fits into a large, corporate and widely focused business.”

“From a dedication and focus point of view, it’s extremely hard,” he added, referring to the support small home-based agents require from an overarching company.

“They’re built up of many different, small businesses, but each business – for the owner – is a large business, and it needs a lot of attention.”

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