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INTERVIEW: Traveltalk sits down with TravelManagers in Christchurch

House of Travel Australia CEO Joe Araullo and COO Grant Campbell share their some TravelManagers updates following the National Conference.

L-R House of Travel CEO Joe Araullo and COO Grant Campbell chat to Traveltalk.

How important are conferences like this to TravelManagers?

Joe: Absolutely critical. I think it’s critical for any organisation, I suppose with an organisation like ours, where our Personal Travel Managers are working remotely and don’t necessarily have the face-to-face engagement with our National Partnership Office. It’s really critical that they get together and meet suppliers and the National Partnership Office together.

But just as importantly, it’s the social functions where they get to bounce ideas off each other. That is just as important as well.

We have a number of PTMs that actually speak at the conference and share their success stories. We get a lot of great feedback about that, because they do want to understand how everybody else is going. People love being recognised for their hard work. Everyone always says ‘if you’re going to do one thing a year, come to conference, recharge your batteries, get motivated for that next 12 months.

With your PTMs being home based, do you see home-based versus traditional bricks and mortar able to continue to coexist?

Joe: I think they can coexist. We’ve looked at other markets. And I’ve worked in America and in the UK. And there still is a place for the sort of High Street store. But again, even they’re changing a bit where they’ve got more home-based people attached to the store.

What is sort of evident to us is that customers want that personal service. We’re more about the bigger trips to the UK or America, rather than the four nights on the Gold Coast.

Grant: Yeah, I don’t think it’s a case of High Street versus home base. It’s a case of focusing on the customer. I don’t think it matters whether you are storefront or not, provided you’re looking out to the customer, you’ve got a future.

The TravelManagers Conference provides a chance for PTMs to socialise and share ideas.

And for somebody who is considering joining TravelManagers, what would you say are the key benefits?

Joe: We know our financial model is the best in market. But the flip side is, it’s the best financial model with the best support model. So the fact that we actually have seven or eight Business Partnership Managers based around the states, and then we have a National Partnership Officer in Sydney and in Manila, providing support.

Grant: And we’ve got a flat structure. The PTMs have access to both mine and Joe’s mobile numbers. If there’s something wrong on the weekend, they can call us. If anything goes wrong in the world, we’re available to speak to our PTMs. It’s easy to be a good partner in the good times, we want to be a good partner when something goes wrong for our Personal Travel Managers, we want to be there for them when something goes wrong. That’s where we really feel as though we demonstrate our value.

You’ve recently tied up with Signature Travel Network in the U.S. Do you see this as a shift towards the luxury end of the market?

Joe: It’s quite interesting, we read in the press all the time that everyone’s claiming the luxury space. We’ve always sold a lot of luxury. And we will continue to do that. And I think as we get more people who want the finer things in life as their finances improve. But I wouldn’t niche ourselves into just luxury.

I think some people value a Business Class seat, some people would value $1,000 rooms, but other people don’t need it. That’s not their focus. It’s about spending time with family. And so we definitely cater for it. But we’re not going to niche ourselves just to luxury buyers.

Have any of your PTMS had any serious inquiries about space travel?

Joe: Inquiries? Yes absolutely. We’ve run a number of webinars for our PTMs and it’s gone down very well. So yeah, it’s exciting time.

Will you be trying it personally?

Joe: Absolutely not. You won’t get me up on a ladder! My ears play up on an aeroplane so there’s no chance I’m going into space. Grant, on the other hand…

Grant: If I had the opportunity, you never know. I definitely wouldn’t say no.

More than 1,000 trees were planted by PTMs to offset their conference emissions.

I unfortunately missed the tree planting but hear that you managed to offset the carbon emissions for their conference?

Joe: Yes, a net carbon zero conference. So that was the first time we’ve ever done that. And that was actually the first time I didn’t realise this, but it was the first time the New Zealand partners had offset a conference. So it was a bit of a test case for them as well.

We didn’t quite plant all 1,160 trees but it felt like we did!

How many did you each plant?

Grant: We were under strict instructions, that it was better to plant less trees, quality wise, than to plant a whole heap of them. So we probably averaged about 10 each. A few people were very gung-ho and got stuck into it. It was good fun and it was a beautiful afternoon which probably helped.

You both have been in your roles for quite a long time now. What do you see as your personal challenges going forward?

Joe: I think I can speak for both of us. We love our roles. And we love our network and our people. I don’t want any other job.

Grant: I think we just we really like our job and the people that are in it. And that’s probably what motivates us to stay.

There’s a number of us who have worked together previously, there’s a lot about PTMs who we’ve worked with in our previous lives. And it almost sounds a bit corny, but if you enjoy the people you work with, it’s more than half the battle in the good in the bad times.

So yeah, we’re coming up for 17 years now with House of Travel. We were the first two employees in Australia. And I hope to be there for another 10-15 years easily.


Next year’s TravelManagers National Conference will be held at The Cairns Convention Centre from 12-14 September 2024.

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Written by: Jenny Evans

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