Trav­ellers Choice in­creases re­turns

Travel Bulletin - - ISUES & TRENDS - Chris­tian Hunter, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Trav­ellers Choice

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.

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