Travellers Choice increases returns
Travellers Choice heads towards its 40th anniversary in 2017 with much to celebrate, and members seemed more than happy to start festivities early at the group’s annual conference in Canberra recently. Having announced its fourth consecutive record profit of $2.1 million in 2015/16, the group was able to increase its average returns to members by 15%, giving them a tenfold return on their membership fees. In all, 94% of the year’s profits were returned to members, matching the average paid out over the past ten years. “To give on average a ten-to-one return on members’ investment, that’s a really great story,” Travellers Choice managing director Christian Hunter said. “When we look at our philosophy of trying to return as much of our wealth back to members as possible, there’s a really strong financial proposition there. I believe our value proposition is the best in the market place.” Hunter attributed the profit to a strong focus on preferred suppliers, with sales of preferred product increasing 9% during 2015/16. “Despite the plethora of non-preferred product in the marketplace, our members demonstrate an enviable discipline in order to maximise our sales performance,” he said. “It’s like a virtuous circle - it all begins with our members making a sale with a preferred supplier, and that obviously delivers revenue to Travellers Choice that drives our profitability, and our profit goes back to our shareholders. “Our difference is that our shareholders are our members, so any profit we distribute goes directly back to the travel agencies that make the sales. We don’t have external shareholders and we don’t have private equity - the only shareholders in the business are our members.” In all, Travellers Choice now has about 150 members nationally, with Queensland holding the highest concentration, followed by NSW/ ACT and Victoria. The strong eastern presence contrasts sharply with the group’s origins as a small buying cooperative in Western Australia, started by a handful of agencies in 1977. The group then rebranded as Travellers Choice in the late 1990s, coinciding with a concerted push into the national sphere. The coming year will involve a series of events to mark the 40th anniversary, including the 2017 annual conference which will be held in Perth to honour the group’s bir thplace. In the meantime, Travellers Choice is pushing ahead with a raft of service initiatives aimed at backing members’ operations at the coalface. Among them is a new digital marketing partnership struck with specialist agency Titan Digital, which will allow Travellers Choice to audit and upgrade its search engine optimisation efforts and online marketing campaigns, both at the group and agency level. Titan will also assist in social media campaigns and help refine the group’s overall digital marketing strategy. Travellers Choice also used its recent conference to unveil an upgraded online member platform, TC Hub, with an expanded range of services. The site has replaced the group’s existing extranet and uses the same technology platform as the Site Builder facility used by many members for their consumer-facing websites, offering a new preferred supplier directory that allows members to easily search and compare product. As well as a new look and design, its other features include details on corporate news, member services and links to the TC Excell e-learning library. “We want it to be the Travellers Choice Google,” Hunter said. “So if a member needs to know anything about the organisation – whether it’s what’s happening from a marketing perspective or information about conferences, or information about suppliers – they go to it as the first point of call.” Held at the National Convention Centre, the Canberra conference was also a platform to reward the group’s top performing agencies, with more than 30 members honoured in bronze, silver and gold categories. Speakers at the event included Google head of new business sales Jacki Wong, former Qantas executive manager of customer service Samantha Taranto, and Australia’s world surfing champion Layne Beachley.
Our difference is that our shareholders are our members, so any profit we distribute goes directly back to the travel agencies... We don’t have external shareholders and we don’t have private equity - the only shareholders in the business are our members’
Part of the Travellers Choice team at the Canberra Conference (from left): Justin Michael, general manager finance and administration; Nicola Strudwick, general manager sales; Christian Hunter, managing director; Trish Ridsdale, chairman; and Robyn Mitchell, general manager marketing.