After winning a legendary hat trick of awards for the second year running at the NTIA Awards 2015, we caught up with Chris Hall, Managing Director, APT Group to find out just how they did it.
This year, the group (again!) took out an amazing three titles for Best Tour Operator, Domestic; Best Tour Operator, International and Best River Cruise Operator.
Speaking exclusively to KarryOn, Mr Hall attributed the hat trick to the company’s strategy of delivering consistent customer excellence across everything they do.
What does winning these awards mean for APT?
“Winning the trifecta two years running is a testament to our consistent approach and having the customer at the centre of everything we do.
The most significant factor for us is that all facets of APT’s product range have been recognised across the three awards. In voting for these awards the travel industry has demonstrated once again that it believes APT is the best tour and river cruise operator in Australia”.
“It’s a celebration of the quality of our people, our product and our commitment to service. You can’t ask for much more than that!”
Chris Hall, Managing Director, APT Group
What do you think were the winning key factors?
“Two years ago we made a strategic decision that service would be our competitive advantage and we embarked on our “Delight the Customer” program which is now embedded in our culture.
Since then we’ve been dedicated to delivering a 10/10 consistent experience to our clients and exceeding expectations in our service and product delivery globally be they are our trade partners or the guests who travel with us.
Trade wise, in the past twelve months we’ve invested heavily in building our on road and inside sales teams. Under the leadership and guidance of Susan Haberle we now operate the largest sales support teams in the industry.
We’ve also invested further in our product range and believe our all inclusive touring and cruise product delivers unforgettable experiences, both in terms of the modes of transport our guests travel on and the outstanding memories they create when they experience our Signature Invitations and Freedom of Choice™ sightseeing programs.
Most importantly, we’ve always been committed to helping our travel industry partners to grow their businesses. Driving repeat business by increasing the number of happy loyal clients is the key to this business growth. When guests book to travel with APT, agents know they come back time and time again”.
What new traveller desires and trends are you seeing?
“We’re especially seeing the river cruise segment diversifying. Europe is still really important and guests are looking for a wider variety of rivers and regions to explore. We’ve responded by adding Bordeaux to our France portfolio and expanding our cruise combination options offering multiple rivers in the one holiday.
River cruising is also evolving as a preferred way to explore new or more diverse and harder to reach destinations. For example, our Mississippi river cruising is a popular product in North America and we’re also experiencing strong sales for our new Burma river cruises.
Combination itineraries are also an increasingly popular choice. Guests want to spend longer exploring their chosen destination and so are combining two or more travel styles in one trip. For example a river cruise and small ship ocean cruise, or river, rail and land component is becoming more common.
Canada and Alaska is one of our strongest selling destinations right now, which we’re pleased to say is enjoying a very healthy resurgence.
Also growing in popularity is our small ship ocean cruising. We operate a fleet of our own ships for this program and we offer two styles – Boutique and Expedition. Both take guests to places that larger ships can’t reach so it’s soft adventure but travelling in comfort. The Kimberley is proving a hit from a domestic perspective for this product, as is northern Europe, Scandinavia and Venice to Istanbul.
The traveller demographic for APT remains with those who have the time and disposable income to travel and stay in destinations for longer periods”.
What’s coming up for APT innovation wise?
River Cruising to more places
“In 2016 we have two new ships joining the fleet in Central Europe – AmaViola and AmaStella. We will also be repositioning a ship to the Bordeaux region to expand our French offering to now include the Seine, Rhone, Garonne, and Dordogne Rivers. The expanded fleet in a variety of locations allows for the combination of multiple rivers in the one holiday which is proving popular.
On the Mekong, the new AmaDara will be launched next month. In Burma, the Samatha will embark on her first cruise in January 2016. These two destinations along with our extensive China program, provides guests with some fantastic options of travelling in Asia.
We’re continuing to expand our US cruising and land programme with more departures on the Mississippi teamed with fabulous land extensions”.
Domestic Touring with a difference
“In April 2015 we opened the new Ungolan Pavillion at the Mitchell Falls Wilderness Lodge on the Mitchell Plateau in the Kimberley. All of our Kimberley 4WD tours that travel to the Mitchell Plateau stay at the lodge. Our collection of Wilderness Lodges in the Kimberley allow us to offer an exclusive 4WD touring programme that is second to none.
Elsewhere in Australia we continue to enhance the touring programmes to deliver authentic experiences”.
International Touring blends for success
“We’re constantly reviewing the product offering across all of our international touring programs. An opportunity we see at the moment is the ability of taking our various travel styles and blending them to make the ultimate travel experience.
This is where our expertise and extensive portfolio really sets us apart and we’ve been able to create travel experiences that combine coach, cruise, rail and anything in between! Our ownership in the fleet of small ocean ships, in the Golden Eagle Luxury Train, and the river cruise fleet combined with wholly owned operational teams around the world, provide limitless possibilities with the security and comfort of being 100% Australian family owned”.
What’s the biggest opportunity right now for agents?
“Attracting new river cruise clients! For agents who can continually attract new clients to this segment, they will reap the rewards through customer loyalty. Similarly repeat river cruise travelers are a big deal. With more rivers available there are more options now to send clients on multiple river cruises.
Agents who can also sell blended itineraries also stand to capitalise – rail, sail and land. Guests want to see as much as possible but they want to experience value – they want to feel that they got more than they paid for.
And of course it’s exceptional service that will remain the biggest opportunity – get that right and you’ll always stay ahead of the game”.
— APTouring (@APTouring) July 20, 2015
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