Well, look no further than Travel Associates, the premium brand within Flight Centre Travel Group. Travel Associates caters to a market of discerning travellers looking for unique experiences and wishing to add a little luxury to their adventures. Specialising in tailor-made dream itineraries and experimental travel for those seeking unique holidays with a difference; Travel Associates’ customers call for the most experienced and knowledgeable consultants.
David Lovelock, General Manager of Travel Associates says the brand was established 15 years ago, not only to service the needs of upmarket customers, but also to create an aspirational business for high-achievers in the Flight Centre family.
“We are very proud of the fact that 80% of our travel consultants have a minimum of 15 years industry experience. That’s an impressive benchmark and our customers appreciate that when they see one of our consultants, they can be confident they are receiving the best expert advice.
“Our employees are mature, well-travelled and have built up a trusted client base over time. The critical thing we look for in new staff is whether they have a proven love for the customer relationship. That’s our unique selling point – no-one provides attention to the customer quite like we do,” he said.
It’s their experience and focus on building personal relationships with customers that has been the foundation for the success of the Travel Associates brand.
“It’s no secret that the travel sector is highly competitive. Our point of difference is the outstanding customer experience we provide. We don’t rely on price guarantees. We prefer to make our travel expertise and personal attention the reason our clients can’t imagine booking travel with anyone else.
“Our model is extremely effective and geared towards generating profit. We have high street stores in fashionable suburbs instead of shopping mall locations, so there’s no high shopping centre rent. We also have a very low staff turnover, because we hire experienced travel consultants who are tried and tested when it comes to converting enquiries into sales,” he said.
Travel Associates isn’t worried there’s little recognition of the brand in the wider community. In fact, David Lovelock admits that remaining an enigma is all a part of their strategy to maintain a level of exclusivity for clientele.
“Our business is built on a strong referral base. Occasionally we will advertise in a travel magazine, but the product we provide is strong, and our customers are more than happy to share their experience with friends and family.
“To compliment the business come in through good word of mouth, we also engage in strategic direct marketing campaigns. We don’t engage in any above the line marketing, because we simply don’t need to. Travel Associates is still a mystery brand in a lot of respects, and that’s something that works for us,” he said.
Travel Associates currently operates 45 offices across every state and territory in Australia, in addition to outlets in New Zealand and the United States. Mr Lovelock says there are plans to expand into other international locations.
“In five years we would like to have grown considerably to have 60 businesses in Australia, 25 in the US, and 10 each in New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom. Our plan is for largely organic growth – when we have the right people we will expand into new locations,” he said.
Mr Lovelock says the major benefits for customers of Travel Associates are saving time, obtaining better value for money and enjoying the shared knowledge of consultants drawing on a lifetime of their own travels and industry experience.
“Something we often hear from our customers is that they got exactly the travel experience they wanted. Our consultants know the destinations intimately, so they can provide the personalised service required – everything from knowing the Concierge at a specific hotel, to being able to recommend restaurants.”