With travel agents being valued by clients to a higher level than they have enjoyed for many years, the future for the industry looks bright, delegates at the weekend’s First Travel Conference heard from CEO Malcolm MacLeod.
Helloworld Travel Limited has agreed to acquire 100% of Express Travel Group brands in Australia and New Zealand from current owners Tom Manwaring and Sintack Pty Ltd.
These brands include First Travel Group, YOU Travel, and Lifestyle Holidays in New Zealand; Express Travel Group, Creative Cruising and Chung Pak Travel in Australia.
Despite initially being driven largely by the visiting friends and relatives (VFR) market and pent up demand, the current upsurge in travel enquiries and bookings should in no way be regarded as a flash in the pan, says First Travel Group’s general manager retail John Willson.
He says the trade needs to adapt to the current business environment, at least in the medium term, where the challenge is having the people power to cater for the upsurge – as well as making sure travel businesses are profitable.
First Travel Group has announced its first new YOU Travel store to open in three years.
YOU Travel Warkworth opened last week on the main street of the rapidly expanding town. The addition of YOU Travel Warkworth now sees First Travel Group’s number of locations from Taupo north increase to 35.
The travel and tourism sectors have greeted the Government’s five step opening plan with enthusiasm, with TAANZ president Brent Thomas saying this is the first time since March 2020 that the message has clearly been ‘the borders are open’.
However they have also pinpointed major ongoing challenges, particualrly the self isolation requirement. (See separate story this page)
First Travel Group is inviting travel agents and brokers to get a first hand demonstration of its new technology, saying its leading edge system will enable the trade to take full advantage of travel’s return.
‘We realise these are frustrating times for the sector,’ says First Travel Group’s (FTG’s) general manager retail, John Willson, ‘but we have been putting a lot of hard work into our offerings and we believe we are well positioned for the reboot of travel.
‘It’s a waiting game at the moment but we know it will come back strong – the experience in the US and UK, and soon Australia, show us that.’
First Travel Group has brought GOPASS Global’s pre-travel risk assessment technology to its national network of 47 shareholding members and across its independent network.
Through the partnership, First Travel agencies have access to accurate and up-to-date information about Covid travel impacts from 35 global data sources, in near real time, so they can plan travel safely for their customers.
First Travel Group has rebranded its consolidation unit First Fares to Express Tickets which will be available industry wide for new agencies. Express Tickets provides all fares and ticketing requirements 24/7 at competitive rates.
‘We have taken the Covid period to adapt to a changing market by providing our members with easy to use systems,’ First Travel Group CEO Malcolm MacLeod says.
Express Tickets has integrated into its operation the fares and ticketing technology, Aeronology, which FTG announced late last year. The software is expected to increase travel agent productivity with the ease of selling ancillary products at the time of booking.
First Travel Group (FTG) has launched a broker group. Independent Travel Advisors (ITA) increases FTG’s membership product and service portfolio and means ITA brokers can access First Travel’s technology and services, as well as provide an additional working model option for existing members, and new opportunities for experienced consultants outside First Travel.
First Travel Group is looking to relaunch, refresh and revitalise for 2021, says chief executive Malcolm MacLeod.
The year will see a focus on new technology, including the Odysseus booking system in conjunction with Creative Cruising New Zealand and the high-productivity air ticketing programme Aeronology. The group will also be looking to address points raised in its 2020 members satisfaction survey such as improving turnaround times on quotes and bookings, and introducing more exclusive deals.