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SmartFlyer executives visit Australia for in-person ‘magic’, looking ahead to 10-year anniversary of SmartFlyer Australia

As SmartFlyer Australia prepares to celebrate 10 years in 2025, SmartFlyer US executives were in Sydney recently for various planning sessions. Karryon Luxury caught up with the team.

As SmartFlyer Australia prepares to celebrate 10 years in 2025, SmartFlyer US executives were in Sydney recently for various planning sessions. Karryon Luxury caught up with the team.

Visiting from the US, Michael Holtz, CEO and Founder and Erina Pindar, COO and Managing Partner joined Anthony Goldman and David Goldman, Joint Managing Directors of Goldman Travel Group, along with SmartFlyer Australia Directors Stuart Reay and Brent Wallace. The group gathered for a fruitful round table session and other meetings. Later, Karryon met with Erina, Michael and Anthony at Capella Sydney. 

SmartFlyer was created with a goal to create a platform for independent consultants to share their stories and connect with customers.

“The company was founded in 1990 by me when I was 25 years old, and we primarily did airline tickets – that’s why the company is called SmartFlyer. Then 20 years later in 2010, Erina showed up and we were a small little company… she was 25 years old,” said Michael. 

Erina added that a lot of the leadership team came in at around that same age range, “which we thought was kind of coincidental and quite poetic all at the same time,” she said. 

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L-R: Brent Wallace, Director, SmartFlyer Australia; Stuart Reay, Director, SmartFlyer Australia; David Goldman, Joint Managing Director, Goldman Travel Group; Erina Pindar, COO and Managing Partner, SmartFlyer; Anthony Goldman, Joint Managing Director, Goldman Travel Group; and Michael Holtz, CEO and Founder, SmartFlyer.

“We knew that we wanted to do something a little bit different and at the time, the travel agencies space in the US was not as robust as it is today and a lot of the agents tended to be on the mature end of the spectrum. We wanted to build the kind of company that we wanted to work for ourselves. We wanted to create a community of like minded individuals who approach travel and travel design in a customised, personable and intelligent manner,” she said.

They asked themselves why this industry, which was so dynamic, had so few new entries. 

“That’s a question that we’re also answering with SmartFlyer Australia and Goldman… and then the follow up question to that was why is this not an interesting industry for young people to come into and build their career upon? That was the beginning of both stories,” said Erina. 

SmartFlyer Australia

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Erina Pindar and Michael Holtz with some of the SmartFlyer Australia team in London, 2024.

In May 2015, Goldman Travel Corporation formed a joint venture and partnership with SmartFlyer to launch SmartFlyer Australia. Next year will mark a decade of SmartFlyer Australia in business with 10-year celebrations currently in planning. 

The benefits to the Australian advisors within SmartFlyer (‘Smarties’ as they are affectionately known) is the brand and community of SmartFlyer, globally. 

“It’s the combination of having Goldman, who’s unbelievable and obviously very well known in this space in this part of the world; and the brand and community of SmartFlyer globally as a whole. We are very much known for our tight knit community that is very collaborative in nature, and thrives on original thinking and ways of doing things. We have unbelievable relationships in the industry and offer continuous education,” said Pindar.  

“I think the edge here in Australia is the combination of that little bit of Goldman and SmartFlyer magic coming together and creating this unmatched structure for the independent consultant in Australia, and really, Asia Pacific,” she said.

SmartFlyer Australia currently has 35 members. 

“For us, it’s quality over quantity which is part of the culture of the entire company. All our advisors produce – and if they don’t, then a conversation is had. We’re really serious about delivering for our partners, our clients (number one) – and that’s the feedback we constantly get from our partners is that every one of our team gets bookings,” said Anthony Goldman.

Erina added: “In the States, we haven’t had a lot of growth in terms of the number of advisors. We intentionally take it very slowly because industry-wide, we have some of (if not, THE) highest averages of billing in this space,” she said.

Collaboration and global view points

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SmartFlyer CORE conference in London, January 2024.

SmartFlyer hosts an annual event titled CORE. The 2024 event took place in January in London at The Dorchester Hotel, the new The Peninsula London, and The Berkeley London. 

The event is held over a three-day period, with a number of activations and round table discussions. 

“We had 90 per cent of our agents attend this year… about 220-plus agents from all over. There’s something about meeting in person that is really different. That’s what COVID teaches us, is that face-to-face interaction is just so different,” says Pindar.  

“Although everyone’s running their own businesses, they continue to educate themselves and collaborate with their colleagues and get ideas. When you expand those collaborations and thoughts, and exchange ideas, you get an even bigger way of thinking – which is really exciting. Instead of just in the US or just in Australia, just in the UK or Europe, we get a global picture, which kind of creates a different way of working,” says Pindar.

The SmartFlyer advisor

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Some of the members of SmartFlyer Australia.

For advisors, what are the attributes it takes to be a ‘Smartie’?

Founder Michael Holtz says they love inquisitive people who ask questions and those who want to learn. 

“It’s that business drive, ambition and healthy competition. We foster healthy competition… it’s a fine line sometimes but competitive tension is probably one of the ingredients of success,” says Anthony Goldman. 

Pindar adds: “I think their competition is with themselves. How can we push each other, and collectively, to be better people. The crew here is unbelievable….watching them is super exciting because they’re just so kind. It sounds super cheesy, I know!”

“I’ve had a conversation with an incoming agent and they have asked, ‘what is the differentiation point?’ I told her, at this point, there are a lot of really amazing agencies out there, but for us – our relationship with our partners, our agents and within management – is super important. 

“It’s critical for us to work with people who are kind. It sounds basic, but it’s incredibly important in a world where we trade in luxury.  I think there’s certain things that could potentially have a negative connotation when it comes to that, but it’s the keepers of the relationship that are super important and valuable, because the relationship is our currency,” Pindar said.

Legitimising the profession of a travel advisor

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SmartFlyer Australia executives.

Goldman says that SmartFlyer has helped elevate the status of a travel advisor career. 

Pindar says the challenge is in legitimising the travel advisor profession, as across the industry, there are low barriers to entry. 

“Our constant uphill battle is how do we showcase and prove that this is a very serious business and a serious profession, and really an incredible career trajectory for someone?” says Pindar. 

Holtz says that’s why SmartFlyer continues to attract really talented people.

“We’ve got people that have been lawyers, we’ve got people from all different professions that realise this is a viable career,” said Holtz.

SmartFlyer’s ‘Takeoff’ mentorship program: to launch in Australia

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L-R: Ash Chin, Erina Pindar and Marienne Guberina.

In the US, SmartFlyer launched its new-agent program titled ‘Takeoff’ a few years ago. It was designed for advisors with little to no experience to be educated, trained and then eventually brought into the larger SmartFlyer community once they’ve proven to be successful. Goldman says the program is likely to launch in Australia in 2025. 

“It’s quite cool because we bring in these new advisors who we see the potential in and we pair them up with senior agents who have done this for many years within our agency. They go through a 6-12 month program. At the end of the year, they will either be invited to join SmartFlyer – or not,” said Pindar.

Anthony Goldman added that within Smart Flyer Australia, the best thing they are doing is bringing in new industry advisors.

“Nothing gives me greater joy. At SmartFlyer Australia we’ve got lawyers, senior marketers from financial institutions, stylists, and people in talent and influencer management. You’ve got to have a love of travel but you’ve got to have that passion, the skill to listen to your clients, a willingness to learn, and a drive,” said Goldman. 

“At the end of the day, SmartFlyer is a platform, for independent consultants. And we are here to offer up the tools and the arena for them to work with. But they run their own businesses and they are very much entrepreneurs – and we’re here to support that effort,” said Pindar.

For more information, visit smartflyer.com