Home Travel Industry Hub

What lies beneath: When networks really work

What do trees and Travellers Choice, a leading network of independent travel agents, have in common? Networks! Read on to discover how connectivity and collaboration help Travellers Choice agents soar to success.

What do trees and Travellers Choice, a leading network of independent travel agents, have in common? Networks! Read on to discover how connectivity and collaboration help Travellers Choice agents soar to success.

It’s been around for millions of years, but scientists are only now beginning to understand the so-called “wood-wide-web”: the underground network of thread-like fungi that enable trees in our forests to share food, water, and even information.

Like the trees, hidden human networks also surround us, quietly enriching the personal and professional lives of those lucky enough to be connected. And when it comes to connectivity, one travel agency group is in a league of its own, with members forging bonds to share knowledge, advice, and to nurture growth.

Support is just a phone call away

Travellers Choice networks work
(L-R) Tina Castello, Owner of Montina Travel Centre, and Belinda Di Guglielmo, Owner of St George Travel, on their TASCO famil to South Africa in 2018.

Belinda Di Guglielmo from Sydney’s St George Travel, and Tina Castello, who owns Adelaide’s Montina Travel Centre, first met almost six years ago on an educational to South Africa.

“We were not in the same age bracket, we came from different parts of the country, and we had very different levels of ownership experience,” says Di Guglielmo, who had purchased her agency less than two years prior. “But we just got along really well.

“We kept in touch once home, reconnecting at the Travellers Choice conference, after which we started talking regularly. When COVID hit, I rang her in a panic, and daily calls became our norm. It was a scary time, but we were there for each other, helping with advice and encouragement.

“When we both became home-based businesses, mutual support was even more vital because it meant we never felt alone. Now we work together to ensure we’re up to date with everything from supplier information to system upgrades and financial deadlines.”

Di Guglielmo says that even before meeting Tina, she had relied on networking with fellow members, particularly older, experienced female business owners, for guidance and support.

“Within the Travellers Choice network, there is always someone who will provide support and friendship. Moving from being a consultant to an agency owner is challenging, and if it wasn’t for those women, I would have found it a more difficult to navigate.”

Mentoring the Travellers Choice way

(L-R) Gerlinde Greig and Ros McDowell from Sirocco Travel & Cruise with Joy Virk from Travel Hut.

That sense of fraternity is currently on display at Victoria’s Sirocco Travel & Cruise, where owner Gerlinde Greig is providing training and guidance to Joy Virk. Virk is the newly installed manager of fellow Travellers Choice member Travel Hut.

Despite having no travel experience, Virk agreed to step in and manage Travel Hut after his uncle was unexpectedly forced to retire due to ill health. With almost 50 years of experience as a travel consultant and 20 years as an agency owner, Greig was happy to help him learn the ropes.

“Joy has come into the industry cold, so we started by having him obtain simple quotes and familiarise himself with reservation systems, which he picked up very quickly,” says Greig. “He’s great with the public because he has experience in hospitality, and he’s also great with IT. So, in return, Joy’s been helping us out with file storage and updating our databases, the sort of things we find it difficult to do when we are really busy.

“Some agents might feel threatened giving someone so much insight into their business, but at Travellers Choice, there is a sense of trust and a willingness to help each other. I haven’t experienced that in the other networks I’ve been part of.”

Greig says there’s also a level of accessibility that encourages members to reach out to each other.

“It starts with our online member directory, which profiles every agency and makes it easy to connect with other owners. It extends to the top, with everyone knowing they can call our Managing Director Christian Hunter any time. I don’t think that sense of openness and approachability exists elsewhere.”

A culture of collaboration

Michelle Everson (second from left) with the Jamison Travel team. 

Close collaboration also creates commercial opportunities, as demonstrated this month when ACT agency Jamison Travel joins forces with New South Wales member Queanbeyan City Travel & Cruise to launch the ‘Perfect Pairs’ Expo in Canberra.

The event – promoting travel products that perfectly complement each other, such as a European river cruise and a pre-voyage train journey – is expected to attract over 400 guests. Those guests will hear from almost 30 suppliers.

“Pre-COVID, six Travellers Choice members got together in Canberra and successfully ran a series of solo traveller exhibitions,” says Jamison Travel owner Michelle Everson. “This time it’s just us and Queanbeyan because it reflects the ‘pairs’ concept.

“These sorts of collaborations are possible within Travellers Choice for one simple reason: our group’s culture is built around members working together. It’s a network that encourages cooperation rather than competition.”

Discover more

Find out more here or contact the Travellers Choice team at admin@travellerschoice.com.au.

Ready to become a member? Join here.

This article was brought to you by: