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22 Nov 2018

BY Pippa Jacks

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TRFBLI

Byrne: ‘Flexibility key to meeting targets’

Enabling franchisees to create different operating models will “redefine what it means to be a Travel Counsellor” over the next five years.

Steve Byrne, Travel Counsellors Conference 2018
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"The people closest to the customer must be empowered to make the decisions about what’s best for them and for the customer."

Chief executive Steve Byrne said TCs are already using the platform and support provided by the company in less traditional ways, and that flexibility will be key to meeting its £1 billion turnover target.


“To scale a business, you have to avoid trying to control how it operates,” he told TTG.


“The people closest to the customer must be empowered to make the decisions about what’s best for them and for the customer.


“That might mean being a sole trader working from home, but it might mean employing a team, having a partner, or even winning business and passing it on to someone else,” he said.


Byrne outlined five key elements of the company’s growth strategy, following investment by private equity firm Vitruvian Partners in June.


They include a focus on recruiting the best talent to become TCs and to join head office; helping TCs move into or grow corporate travel sales; developing its booking platform Phenix; improving head office processes; and expanding training programmes to help TCs grow revenue.


Corporate travel has been identified as a significant opportunity for growth. The corporate travel team at head office has grown from three in 2016 to 12 this year, and a general manager for corporate, Mark Wilson, recently joined from Altour.


“Our core market is small and medium-sized businesses, but it’s defined more by what they’re looking for – human support – than by their size,” said Byrne. He also did not rule out an acquisition within business travel. “We’ve never acquired a business before, but M&A is now an opportunity.’


He added that research undertaken by Travel Counsellors as part of the recent investment round revealed a £3 billion potential market for corporate travel and a £7 billion potential market for leisure.


“This is specifically the people that want human-to-human contact. We’ve got less than 4% of that market at the moment, which means the opportunity for us is huge.”


Around 200 TCs joined the UK arm of the business this year, while 100 joined its international arms. Byrne said he expects numbers to be higher in 2019, but it will be about “attracting the right quality”.

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