When you’re already on top there’s a longer way to fall, but APT is definitely still flying high after its double win at Saturday’s National Travel Industry Awards.
The Victoria-based company succeeded in defending two of its 2015 titles at this year’s event, stumbling away from the big bash with trophies for Best River Cruise Operator and Best Domestic Tour Operator to join the growing collection on the mantelpiece.
“Everyone wants to knock us off, but we’re holding on which is nice!” Managing Director Chris Hall tells KarryOn.
But don’t think for a minute that the double win means APT plans to rest on its laurels.
“We know that there is really tough competition out there and we need to stay ahead of the game, keep thinking and reinventing,” Hall says.
“It doesn’t have to always be different. Sometimes just doing the same old same old gets better results.
“But where there are opportunities to improve, I think we’re really good at embracing that.”
Recipe for success
“One of the reasons why we continue to win in certain categories is because we’re so committed to the trade,” Hall says.
“We’ve got one of the largest sales teams in the field, we’re really consistent in calling on agents and supporting them, be it from a promotional, marketing or educational point of view.”
That support, and the products that APT delivers both on water and land, enable agents to achieve their business goals by minimising problems and driving repeat business, according to Hall.
“I’m sure that, as a travel agent, one of the things they look at when deciding who to book with is who is going to be easiest to work with, give the best experience for the client and the least worries – I think we come out on top when it comes to that.”
The company’s “solid” team is also a major factor, with Hall placing significant emphasis on retaining its “great” staff.
The best bits
The last 12 months has seen the company launch new vessels AmaStella and AmaVenita in Europe and as well as two new ships in Myanmar – RV Samatha and Travel Marvel’s Princess Panhwar.
In addition, it launched refurbished expedition ship Hebridean Sky in May. Its partner, AmaWaterways also christened the AmaViola in May this year.
According to Hall, these investments demonstrate the company’s commitment to continually bringing new products to the fore. But a lot has been going on behind the scenes as well.
“A look more internally in our business is what we’ve done with our people, and our retention of staff has dramatically improved and therefore our service levels are much better,” he says.
Accolades such as these NTIA awards are pleasing recognition of this, and the feedback from the customers themselves is also looking good.
“We continue to maintain our really high customer satisfaction levels which are measured and reported on,” Hall reveals.
“If there are any issues we are able to make changes and we consistently rate very high because of that.”
A bit more tricky
Staying ahead of the pack is a competitive industry is an eternal struggle.
“But it it gets harder when there have been such terrible tragedies over the last 12 months,” Hall admits.
While it’s important to show empathy and support for destinations affected, it’s also crucial to be business-minded and think about the safety of your customers.
As a result, APT has focused on diversifying over recent years, expanding its offering into multiple brands, products, destinations and modes of transport.
“That really does provide a lot of security in terms of our general business and how we sustain ourselves for the future,” Hall says.
“But at the same time, we are offering a huge amount of choice for past and new passengers.”
Watch this space
With its new small group European tours launched just two months ago, APT is excited to see how new product performs when the tours commence in March.
“Some of them feed into existing river cruise programs, some stand alone,” Hall explains.
AmaWaterways will introduce the new AmaKristina in 2017, with APT confident of demand despite growing competition.
Asia is also a focus, with the launch of the refurbished AmaLotus on the Mekong next month and the company going into its second year of operation in Myanmar.
Shore excursions will also be tweaked in order to drive home the message that “river cruising is not just about being on the river”.
“It’s about what you can do on the shore as well and making that a really good combination,” Hall says.
The bigger picture
Despite numerous challenges facing the travel industry, Hall is ultimately optimistic about the year ahead.
“I don’t believe that people stop travelling, I think people reconsider where they travel to and I think that’s the key point,” he says, highlighting the resilience of both the industry and Aussie travellers.
Some destinations will face tough times and many operators will be affected, he predicts.
“When I think of those bigger ones that will be affected by this, and we’re in that mix, we’re all prepared to ride it out,” he says.
“We all have some diversity to allow growth to come from other areas whilst some of our other areas may not grow.”
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