Skip to main content

The 2023 TravelManagers conference in New Zealand was extremely well attended, with 370 delegates in town including representatives from 81 preferred partner suppliers.

Traveltalk’s JENNY EVANS was at the conference and caught up for a chat with Joe Araullo, CEO House of Travel Australia, and COO Grant Campbell.

Q: How important do you feel a conference like this is for TravelManagers?

A: Joe: Absolutely critical.  I think it’s critical for any organisation, but even more so with an organisation like ours where our personal travel managers are working remotely and don’t necessarily have face-to-face engagement with our National Partnership Office. So, it’s really critical we all get together and meet suppliers together. But it’s also the social functions here where our people get to bounce ideas off each other which is just as important as well.

We have several PTMs who 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 and then there’s the awards night as well. People love being recognised for their hard work.

Q: And how do you run the awards? Are they nominated by other PTMs?

A: Grant: We have a variety of awards. We try to get a mix between not just sales based but to also recognise people who contribute and live the culture, just as much as sales.

Sales are important because that pays the bills. But we don’t just see ourselves as a sales organisation. We want to create a warm environment for our PTMs and for our National Partnership Office staff. So, it’s important that we get the balance right between sales awards and other awards.

Q: Do you think home based and bricks and mortar will continue to coexist?

A: Joe: I think they’ll coexist. We’ve looked at other markets and I’ve worked in America and in the UK and there is still a place for high street stores. But even they are changing where they’ve got more home-based people attached to the store. What is evident to us is that customers just want that personal service.

Grant: I don’t think it’s a case of high street versus home based. It’s a case of focusing in on the customer. I don’t think it matters whether you are storefront or not. Provided you’re looking out for the customer, you’ve got a future.

Q: What would you say are the key benefits of joining your organisation?

A: Joe: We know that our financial model is the best in market, but it’s also the best financial model with the best support model.

We’ve got seven or eight business partnership managers based around Australia and then we have a National Partnership Office in Sydney and people in Manila providing support.

And we’ve got a flat structure. The PTMs have access to both my 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. That’s where we really feel as though we demonstrate our value.

Keynote speaker Gihan Perrera 

Q: You recently tied up with the Signature Travel network. Do you see this as a shift towards the more luxury end of the market?

A: Joe: It’s quite interesting because 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.

I think more people will want the finer things in life as their finances improve, but I wouldn’t niche ourselves into just luxury.

Some people value a business class seat, some people value a $1,000 room, but other people don’t need that. 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 into just luxury buyers.

Q: Have your consultants had any serious inquiries about space travel?

A: Joe: Inquiries, yes absolutely. We’ve run several webinars for our PTMs and it’s going down very well. So yeah, it’s exciting times.

Q: Will you be trying it personally?

A: Joe: Absolutely not. You won’t get me up on a ladder! My ears play up on a plane 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.

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

A: 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 really like our job and the people that are in it and that’s probably what motivates us to stay.

There are several of us who have worked together before in our previous lives. So, 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 and the bad times.

We’re coming up for 17 years with House of Travel now as we were the first two employees in Australia. I hope to be here for another 10 to 15 years.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like our readers to take away from the conference?

A: Joe: If you’re considering a move to home based, come and talk to us or our business partnership managers, or just speak to our PTMs. Ask them because we think they’re our biggest advocate. Have a chat to them about whether it was the right move or not. And, you know, you won’t regret it.