Anne Majumdar

When the Excite team rocked up to the National Travel Industry Awards on Saturday night, they were quietly hoping to snare the award for Best Travel Agent Technology Innovation. That didn’t happen.

That trophy ended up going to Qantas Groups Travel Website. But the only tears that were shed by Excite team members during the industry “night of nights” were tears of joy (literally) as the company instead scooped the gong for Best Wholesaler – International Product.

“We kind of came in as the underdogs, up against some big names,” director of HR, customer experience and operations Joana Bonto told KarryOn.

“We wanted to win the technology award but this an even bigger award which was an absolute surprise.”

Excite awards pic

 

The key to their success?

Bonto believes it comes down to a concerted effort of the last couple of years to instill a series of core values and company goals into each and every employee.

“When someone walks through those doors, they know what their purpose in our organisation is, they know the goal for the department, the goal for their division,” she says.

“Every single division works towards a company goal.”

And that goal is no laughing matter.

“Our whole mission is to revolutionise the future of travel through technology.”

 

Some major milestones

“The key milestones have just been hiring the right people for the right roles,” Bonto explains. October saw Excite snap up Andrew Yell, formerly of Creative, as general manager global sales. Louise McAlpine, also previously with The Travel Corporation, joined as head of global product contracting in February.

The company has also just recruited Vanessa Richards as its new head of marketing.

These new hires further strengthen a team that also counts chief technology officer Damian Sutton, formerly of Wotif Group, who came on board in 2014.

Under Sutton’s watchful eye, the company has worked hard to enhance its technological offering over the last 12 months.

“We just try and make it easier for travel agents, to make sure they can compete with the big consumer websites and so we want to power them and give them the tools they need to go up against them and give them an awesome 24/7 support customer service team,” Bonto says.

 

And the tough bits…

Besides the challenges of attracting top notch talent and then ensuring they are well trained, staying ahead of the curve in terms of technology is a constant battle, but one which Excite is determined to win.

“We’re delivering what we’ve promised we’re going to deliver,” Bonto continues. “It’s about making sure that the competition doesn’t catch up.”

“We’ve seen some of the competition go, and die down, so I think it’s just about being ahead of the curve.”

 

Looking ahead

According to Bonto, the last 12 months has really been about Excite “dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s”.

“We’ve literally been lining up all the ducks and now this year’s going to be an exciting year,” she says.

“This is where we’re going to be delivering the most advanced technology – technology the industry hasn’t seen before.”

We’re just really looking forward to delivering all the things we’ve promised to the travel industry

 

The bigger picture

For the industry as a whole, the main opportunity lies in truly harnessing the ongoing digital evolution and that means staying at the cutting edge on the technology front, says Bonto.

“All these new OTAs and consumer websites mean agents are really having a hard time,” she says.

“For us, it’s giving them the tools and power to go up against the big guys, and we’re going to be making them look like rockstars and supporting them.”

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