Travel Agents

Investing in people over profits at centre of MTA’s success: CEO

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

MTA – Mobile Travel Agents has celebrated 20 years in operation, with its staff and advisors acknowledged as key to the company’s success.

More than 500 MTA travel advisors, support staff and industry suppliers joined co-founders Roy and Karen Merricks and CEO Don Beattie on the Gold Coast to celebrate the company’s anniversary over the weekend.

Speaking to the press at InterContinental Sanctuary Cove, the Merricks said seeing so many people at the company conference, which was headlined by keynote speaker and gala night performer Guy Sebastian – celebrated under the theme ‘People, Purpose, Passion’ – “was mind-blowing”.

“Having started literally with the family – the four of us – and grown that much over the years … obviously we were onto something,” Roy Merricks said.

Twenty years has seen the Australian company grow massively from a family team of four to one that now welcomes more than 400 home-based advisors, aligns with exclusive invitation-only networks like Virtuoso, and has attracted Jessica Watson OAM as brand ambassador.

It’s also seen the company draw the attention of Helloworld, which is a 50 per cent shareholder – an investment Andrew Burnes described over the weekend as the best he’d ever made – and Richard Branson, who handpicked MTA Travel as an accredited space agent for Virgin Galactic.

Continued investment in professional development key to MTA’s success: CEO

Don Beattie speaking at MTA – Mobile Travel Agents’ 20th anniversary conference (MTA – Mobile Travel Agents/J&A Photography)

But while time has seen MTA go from strength to strength, CEO Don Beattie told Travel Weekly the company’s advisors and staff remain at the centre of a model of ‘people’ over ‘profit’.

“We keep having record year-on-year, but we keep very quiet about it,” he said, highlighting MTA Travel’s 24 per cent growth in membership over the past six years.

This same period has seen an astonishing increase of 68 per cent in transaction value. But while that might be cause for celebration, Beattie said MTA Travel has no interest in being “big by numbers”.

Instead, the company points its sizeable growth in transaction value to the increased focus it places on individual advisors – an initiative highlighted by the recently released Professional Plus program.

“Is travel seen as a profession? Are they seen as professionals? Certainly not in Australia,” he said. “What we’re trying to do … is to raise the bar yet again.

“Sales is just the outcome,” he said.

“If we can demonstrate our expertise to our members in them running a business, so that it is not about product, then that is where the difference is.”

Adding to this point was Virtuoso regional managing director Michael Londregan, who highlighted his company’s successful investments in this space.

“The reason people like MTA and like Virtuoso invest in professional development is not because it gives you greater sales – what it does is give you better customer service,” Londregan told Travel Weekly.

“When you service the customer better, they buy more, become more loyal to you and refer you to their friends, and the outcome of that is better sales.

“The problem I think with the industry is that a lot of the professional development that was done in the early stages of the travel industry has been about immediately increasing sales.”

On the other hand, the value of a people-first approach, Londregan explained, is getting the “lifetime value of the customer” rather than the “transactional value”.

Featured image: Karen and Roy Merricks join MTA – Mobile Travel Agents advisors in celebrating its 20th anniversary (MTA – Mobile Travel Agents/J&A Photography)

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