Independent Travel Group “in the right plac e at the right time”
The Independent Travel Group Business Forum, which took place in San Francisco last month, saw delegates in the USA at an historic moment, with the group arriving just as Hillary Clinton conceded defeat to President-elect Donald Trump after the bitter US election battle which has fascinated the world. The conference took place at San Francisco’s W Hotel, and delegates soaked up the post-election atmosphere as shellshocked Californians – most of them Clinton supporters – contemplated with dismay the next four years of a Trump presidency. The serendipitous timing and location of the ITG Business Forum complemented a theme in the opening address by Express Travel Group ceo Tom Manwaring. He urged members to look at the big picture, with outbound travel numbers from Australia continuing to rise. “We’re in a growth industry, with plenty of blue skies in travel,” he said. “We are in the right place at the right time – the future is up to us to grab”. Manwaring highlighted the group’s performance over the last year, with 38 new members joining and TTV up 18%. ITG has expanded from just 17 members in 2010 to now comprise a total of 268 agencies, while Express Travel Group’s multi-brand strategy which incorporates the Asia-focused Select Travel Group, ITG and italktravel now totals 662 members, making it the “largest independent travel group in Australia by a country mile,” Manwaring said. Members of the italktravel franchise group also took part in a special closed-door owners session at Sausalito where they were delighted to hear they would receive a cash dividend after the division recorded a profit after only its second full year of operation. Manwaring told travelbulletin the structure of the italktravel franchise model means members each hold a “fully transparent stake” in the brand’s operating company and therefore receive a portion of the profits. During his address he also highlighted ITG’S Book Safe Agent insurance policy which member Max Najar from Axis Travel in Adelaide commented was a key competitive advantage for members. As well as keynote presentations and a supplier product market, the conference included plenty of opportunities for networking. A highlight was a social event on the first evening at the nearby AT&T Park, the baseball field home of the San Francisco Giants. The ITG delegates were treated to a VIP experience at the venue sponsored by The Travel Corporation, including guided tours which took in the player changing rooms, a host of memorabilia including three World Series trophies and a visit to the on-field dugout. The following day attendees were treated to a presentation from Karen Jacobsen – also known as ‘The GPS Girl’ – a New York-based Australian who sounds strangely familiar, because she is the voice of Apple’s Siri electronic personal assistant. The conference wrapped up with a gala dinner – courtesy of major sponsor Qantas – which saw top achieving members from both ITG and italktravel showcased for their performance, with a range of statebased categories as well as awards for sales of preferred cruising and touring product. The growth of ITG has certainly diversified the operations of the Express Travel Group overall, with the USA and UK among the top destinations sold by the Independent Travel Group members – in contrast to the heavy Asia emphasis of the Select Travel Group. It has also significantly expanded the range of product sold by the group, with a host of preferred suppliers including cruise lines, wholesalers and tour operators strongly supporting the conference. But Manwaring is definitely not resting on his laurels, with a vision to grow his group further. He urged attendees to keep their eyes on the big picture, concluding his presentation with “it’s a marathon, not a sprint”.
ITG has expanded from just 17 members in 2010 to now comprise a total of 268 agencies, while Express Travel Group’s multi-brand strategy which incorporates the Asia-focused Select Travel Group, ITG and italktravel now totals members’ 662