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30 Under 30: Meet Kelly O'Flaherty

Newmarket Holidays’ digital partnerships manager (affiliate marketing) on using data to drive revenue, Brexit and how the travel industry can be smarter in 2020.

Kelly O'Flaherty
Kelly O'Flaherty

"Think outside the box and think like your customer when striving to increase sales. Be to the customer what your competitors aren’t."

Did you always want to work in travel?

I’ve been travelling since I was six months old. I grew up in Asia, as my Dad’s job brought us out there, so I was incredibly lucky to visit some amazing places from such an early age. I was always fascinated by the airline industry growing up. I wanted to be cabin crew for Virgin Atlantic for as long as I can remember. When we moved back to Ireland, I finished school and went on to study geography and sociology at Trinity College.


After graduation, I took a gap year and travelled all around the world for six months. I finally settled in London, and my mum told me to turn my life experience into a job, so I ended up in travel.


What was your first job in the industry?

I started as a travel consultant for Flight Centre, selling tailor-made round-the-world trips. I wanted more of a B2B focused role and a different challenge so moved into product and touring.


From there, I realised I loved partnerships and that’s where my career took a turn down the path that I’m on today. I went back to Flight Centre to work for a BDM at, building affiliate relationships. I then moved on to Ve Global and managed a portfolio of clients (mainly in the travel space), who used our tech to retain customers on-site and increase conversions.


I learnt a lot about digital tech and affiliate marketing at Ve Global. From there, I wanted to move client-side and manage all of these marketing campaigns myself. That’s when I moved to to oversee their affiliate program.


While at hoppa I grew their topline affiliate revenue by 13% while delivering a profit growth of 314%. This was achieved by optimising the programme and performance and developing relationships with key affiliates. I also inherited an affiliate programme, and while I loved my time there, I was eager to set up and grow my own affiliate/digital partnerships programme from scratch. Which was how I came to join Newmarket Holidays!


“Do I have to mention the ‘B’ word? Without a doubt, Brexit is something that has had and will have an impact on our industry.”

Capable hands

What does your role at Newmarket Holidays entail?

I’m responsible for driving revenue through digital platforms such as affiliate networks and partnerships. I focus mainly on forging new relationships, maximising existing collaborative partnerships and influencing marketing strategies – all with a priority on digital.


Since I started at Newmarket, I have successfully tendered for and contracted an affiliate network partner, launched Newmarket Holiday's Affiliate Programme, increased overall channel revenue by 63% year-on-year in its first year, and a further 100% in year two.


What’s your favourite part of the job?

I love building relationships. I also love analysing data, getting to the root of a problem and fixing it to better performance so we can achieve more. I love that Newmarket has been around since the 80s, but is entering a new phase and growing their digital focus.

A better future

What are the main challenges facing the travel industry today?

Do I have to mention the ‘B’ word? Without a doubt, Brexit is something that has had and will have an impact on our industry.


The extension to the end of January, right in the middle of peaks, compounds this. But if we’re making clever business decisions, communicating bonding and protection to customers to reassure them their holidays are safe, we’re putting our best foot forward.


How can the travel industry be smarter, better and fairer in 2020?

I think it’s important to never lose focus on the customer. It’s obvious but often easier said than done. Understanding my customers is key to understanding if I’ll get the right return on my affiliate campaigns. Are the partners I’m choosing the ones with the right demographic? Are they at the right stage of the customer journey and research funnel? Am I offering them the right content and products to promote?


Think outside the box and think like your customer when striving to increase sales. Be to the customer what your competitors aren’t.


Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?

Fingers crossed I’ll have grown to lead a team and sit at quite a senior level, helping to influence strategy and budget decisions and guide a business to success.


What are your hobbies?

Travelling! I desperately miss having access to a GDS from my Flight Centre days. I love rooting out an amazing deal and exploring new destinations. If I’m not travelling, you’ll find me obsessing over food, wine and my dog, Luca.

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