Slow and steady wins the race
Top Deck director of global sales and strategy Lance Batty says it’s not all doom and gloom out there, but businesses must continue investing in their product ready for the day the dollar starts to fall.
After reading all the dire press out there recently, I wanted to share some good news. Our new season trips started operating post April 1. The inaugural departure of our new City, South and Outback trip headed south on April 3 from Melbourne to Adelaide and on to Coober Pedy and Alice Springs, with a respectable 12 travellers. Not too bad for our first trip as our maximum load is 20.
Looked at another way, it puts an extra 108 traveller bed nights into Victoria, South Australia and the NT straight off the bat.
Over the last month we have been running a search engine marketing campaign in conjunction with Tourism Victoria and the South Australia Tourism Commission to promote this route. Both states have worked pragmatically to fund promotion of the shared route. The first 50 travellers booked in each direction received a free Neighbours Night ticket in Melbourne, and Taste Of The Barossa day tour respectively.
The good news is that forward loads on this route are ahead of expectations, and so we have decided to guarantee a range of departures every month right through to March 2012. Topdeck is the only dedicated youth operator on this route, so it is pleasing to break the mould a bit about where youth travellers want to travel.
A significant proportion of travellers on this new route are carrying on through to Darwin which is increasing our NT numbers, leading us to order brand new fleet for delivery next year.
A key plank in our strategy to increase our operating footprint in Australia and New Zealand has been to employ a dedicated sales manager for the backpacker sector. Kerry Tate has hit the ground running. One initial project Kerry spearheaded internally was to change our booking processes to allow domestic agents to effectively freesell our Australia and New Zealand trips, rather than have bookings go ‘on request’. This has been crucial in getting the local backpacker agents onboard, along with a dedicated backpacker brochure being released this week.
We are even seeing some sales of our Europe product from Website Travel associated agents already, which is an unexpected bonus.
With the strong Aussie dollar we have had our best selling season for Europe out of Australia/NZ on record, and if the local backpacker agents can grab that opportunity, great. If they have the sales staff and equipment there, why not become a ‘global travel desk’ catering to travellers preparing to fly home, or local Australian students?
We will be announcing new trip itineraries for 2012/13 in the near future taking in new locations across Australia and New Zealand. The stronger A$/NZ$ is certainly hampering inbound bookings, but we want to keep creating our own luck. By leveraging off our global brand and distribution, we are still forecasting to grow our local business in the next year.
Our view is that if we can keep our local business just in growth, and keep investing some of the profits from selling outbound back into local routes and infrastructure, then we will be well positioned for when the currency cycle starts to turn.
Slow but steady!