Travelmanagers going from strength to strength
One of the most striking aspects of last month’s Travelmanagers annual conference in Bangkok was the energy and enthusiasm of the agents in attendance. More than one supplier remarked during the event that they particularly enjoy the Travelmanagers conferences because the members, who are effectively home-based small businesspeople, are so clearly engaged with their businesses. That means they are genuinely interested in supplier offerings because in most cases as soon as they’re told about a particular product they have a client already in mind who will be interested. The scale of the conference was also a surprise, with the event supported by seemingly scores of head office employees from Travelmanagers’ National Partnership Office – also known as the NPO. Indeed three-letter acronyms (TLAS) abound in the Travelmanagers terminology, with individual members known as PTMS (personal travel managers) – or cruise specialist PCMS (personal cruise managers), all of whom are looked after by state-based BPMS (business partnership managers). During the conference general manager Michael Gazal confirmed the group had reached a 500-member milestone this year, making it “Australia’s leading and largest personal travel manager network”. The company also highlighted the extensive experience of its members, who have on average more than 20 years in the travel industry. Despite continuing to recruit, this figure is not expected to change, with industry experience a key determinant of whether a new member will be accepted into the organisation. The Bangkok conference had the overarching theme ‘Adding Value,’ and marked the culmination of a big year during which several key developments were implemented including a network-wide upgrade to the Tramada Nextgen back office system, a new in-house SPLASH ‘aggregator of aggregators’ accommodation search and booking system fully integrated with Travelmanagers customer profiles, and the launch of the Travelmanagers smartphone app. Delegates were also thrilled to be given a sneak preview of a new Travelmanagers website which will launch shortly – in conjunction with a new “lovethemed” video commercial which can be customised with a call to action for each individual member. Members can manage their own online profiles, with the site including a neat map-based feature allowing them to showcase their personal travels. Marketing manager Jodie Banbury said the campaign would “position Travelmanagers to consumers as the most experienced travel network in Australia”. The conference wasn’t all business, however. Members enjoyed several fun networking events including an opening night candle ceremony at the Renaissance Bangkok hotel venue, and were also able to make a contribution to Bangkok’s needy through a visit to one of the city’s biggest slums. This activity was coordinated by charity organisation Hands Across the Water, with the group’s inspirational Aussie founder Peter Baines addressing the conference prior to the visit. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as he described the inspiration for the charity which was born from his involvement as a forensic expert with the Australian Federal Police identifying bodies in the aftermath of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. Heading into the slum the Travelmanagers delegates were broken into five groups, each of which undertook different activities such as painting a pre-school, gardening, making toys and repairing tricycles used by disabled people who live in the slum. As well as helping with the day-to-day needs of residents, the visit certainly raised awareness of the poverty and squalor in which the locals live and also included a practical donation from Travelmanagers to cover the cost of all the materials used. The conference wrapped up with a gala dinner where top performers were showcased, while GM Michael Gazal also announced that the 2017 Travelmanagers conference would take place in Darwin.
The company also highlighted the extensive experience of its members, who have on average more than 20 years in the industry’ travel