After dropping the hot news here and here that Flight Centre Travel Group has a new Home for independent agents, Matt Leedham tracked down FCTG founder and travel industry thought leader, Skroo Turner, to get the lowdown on the future of the independent travel agent.
Here’s what he had to say.
“Our Attitude Has Changed”
If there’s one thing we’ve all had to get used to, it’s change. There’s no denying that the travel industry has been the most affected by the COVID pandemic. While some travel businesses are trying to return to ‘normal’, the Flight Centre Travel Group (FCTG) has invested and evolved, creating pathways for a ‘new normal’ that allows the independent agent to take centre stage.
Whatever you thought you knew about the FCTG structure for independent agents, ditch it: that ‘normal’ has long gone.
While FCTG has been working in the independent space for a while now, their post-pandemic offering has evolved to include a ton of benefits, support, and innovation to ensure independent agents can not only run their business but thrive with it.
Skroo revealed, “Some people think they know what to expect with Flight Centre. Some may have doubts about what it means to come into the fold. But our attitude has changed over the past few years. We like the idea of independent agents using our products and back-end without 100% having to be in the fold. It’s exciting.”
Pick and Choose What Your Business Needs
The FCTG Independent Division comprises three brands: Flight Centre Independent, Travel Partners, and Travel Associates at Home (by invitation only). Mobile agents can operate under these three brands or build or maintain their own with FCTG backing, while larger independently run travel agencies can benefit from all the tools, product, preferred rates and support (plus, competitive returns) while maintaining their existing brand.
Matt questioned if the level of FCTG investment is indicative of the future of travel advisors. Skroo replied, “The future of travel advisors has shifted, and we are trying to cater to the new normal. Having access to the right products is key.” Given the size of the FCTG global footprint and sturdy supply chain relationships, access to competitively-priced products won’t be an issue!
Skroo continued, “Depending on what you, as an independent, want to do – whether you’ve got a team, a shop, work from home or in the corporate space, a lot of the resources are there for you to pick and choose from. You can opt for branding or not. We can provide you with the resources and products, and you can decide what you buy or don’t.”
Your New FCTG Home
Whichever FCTG business arm you choose to join, you get access to the resource-heavy, tech-savvy Home network. This single sign-on platform allows you to efficiently run your business. Whether you’re operating branded or unbranded with FCTG, you gain access to their next-level buying power and a 70% or 80% commission model.
FCTG also spent a whopping $32 million on HELiO. It’s their one-stop-shop with access to 500+ airlines, 1.1 million hotels and holiday homes, as well as countless cruises, tours, and activities. And that’s just one part of FCTG’s overall commitment to the independent space.
“A Huge Travel Boom”
The size and adaptability of FCTG allowed it to weather the COVID tornado. Where other businesses survived the pandemic, Flight Centre innovated their way to this point. For mobile agents looking to take advantage of the Australian public’s return to the international airways, this level of security is significant. As Skroo says in our exclusive interview, “We offer the solidity of finance and resources.”
With the backing of FCTG, you, the independent agent, get to remain just that. You can support your clients, secure the best deals, and offer products they really value. It’s a chance to get back on your feet and start – or ramp up – your mobile travel agency business.
Skroo shared his insights on the coming months. “We believe there’s a huge travel boom coming now that the borders are open, and the independent travel advisor is going to be able to reap those benefits.”
“A Golden Era of Travel”
Whereas the past 21 months may have filled our community with dread, it’s now an exciting time to be back open for business. Being able to plug into Home’s independent-focused, purpose-built technology could be the lifeline you’ve been waiting for.
When asked what Australia can expect when it catches up to the rest of the world travel-wise, Skroo shared, “Pre-COVID, the US market had around 50% independent travel advisors; that’s going to be more like 60-65% soon.” He continued, “Initially, the VFR market was the first to bounce back. Then tourism – as people really want overseas holidays – then business travel.”
As international travel is so complicated now, the next 6-12 months will be a golden era for travel agents. As Skroo rightly says, “You’d be a very brave person to want to book your international travel online at the moment.” As an independent agent with FCTG, you can take advantage of this reality by building your business now.
The Future of Travel
So, where will people likely travel first? Skroo predicts, “The markets that people will be a bit wary of will be the Asian markets because they tend to have more restrictions; Africa and South America, because of the low vaccination rates. People will probably stick to the tried-and-true places like North America, UK, and Europe over the next 12 months.”
Skroo posits, “The milder Omicron variant may well mean that a lot of the third world countries gain immunity from infection. That could end up being positive in getting those destinations reopened.”
FCTG is optimistic about the future. They are already back to 40% of their pre-pandemic revenues, with Skroo hopeful of reaching 70-80% figures in 12 months. Returning independents can also expect to get back to three-quarters of their former revenue. “They’ll be bumps along the way, but in 12 months, people who’ve stuck at it will do well.” Skroo predicts.
Thanks to the FCTG Independent agent model offering back-end ops support, marketing assistance, and a range of resources, you can get ahead of the game now for your future growth.
Are you ready to create your new normal? For every mobile agent who moves to FCTG’s independent agent network by the 31st March 2022, you’ll receive your first six months’ rent free! That’s a savings of $165 a month (or $990 a year, woohoo).
If you’re an independent agency, the rewards are even greater: up to five big ones ($5,000) for your business, plus no monthly fees. It’s like you’re being guided to spend that $5k on a staff vacay, no?
To find out how to start or grow your independent travel business, submit your details below. A member of the FCTG Independent team will be in touch.
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