Travelmood shops ‘will not be traditional travel agencies’

TUI Travel-owned Travelmood shops will be more akin to modern retailers than traditional travel agencies following a revamp, according to TUI Travel UK specialist long-haul division managing director Clare Tobin.

The review of the group’s long-haul specialist brands, which sees Austravel shops rebranded Travelmood, will create nine contemporary-style agencies in contrast with its traditional Thomson and First Choice shops.

TUI Travel UK specialist long-haul division managing director Clare Tobin said: “It will be a radical change for the shops: it will not be a traditional travel agency, it will have a different feel and culture as shops are used as virtual call centres in many ways.”

Tobin hinted the changes, from September, could mean the end of window cards. “Make-up retailer MAC doesn’t have sales signs in the window. We are cluttered by sale signs on the high street.”

The Travelmood logo is set to change, while shop staff will have more pre-booked appointments, and a broader range of product will be sold. One of the biggest changes will be selling TUI Travel’s activity operators through Travelmood shops.

An increased range of TUI Travel-owned operators such as The Imaginative Traveller and Exodus will be sold alongside product from sister companies Austravel and Hayes and Jarvis, such as the Maldives and South Africa. Other destinations, such as Brazil and Costa Rica, just launched by Hayes and Jarvis, will also be sold, as well new areas such as cruises.

The destinations will be sold as Travelmood product, with contracting likely to be integrated. Some activity brands are co-branded and this is likely to be rolled out across other activity brands in the future.

The move will allow Travelmood to introduce new destinations, create contracting efficiencies and boost revenues, Tobin said. Travelmood makes up 20% of the specialist division’s long-haul revenues, with 50% of its sales for Australia.

Tobin said: “I expect revenue to increase by changing the products and moving to more value and tailormade product than packages. Australia has become a commoditised product to sell.

“One of the biggest issues is customer retention. If you are selling only one destination, it’s restrictive and that’s why we want to expand it.”

Other changes will be to develop Travelmood’s website, particularly for straightforward flight bookings. Tobin said: “Very little is booked online for Travelmood. There are products that could be booked online but customers are not confident enough about booking their round-the-world trip online.”

While the review is focused on cost savings, including the potential loss of up to 26 jobs, for Tobin much of the strategy is driven by a need to capitalise on the business’s strengths, namely its staff and experience, by changing the packaging – how products are presented and sold.

Shops will be expected to take 40% of calls to Travelmood, but Tobin said: “Shops are brand-drivers and they do take calls, but it’s not just about them; it’s about the whole experience with the call centre and the people we have.”

Tobin hinted that further savings could come from renegotiating shop leases as they near renewal. “It’s a great time to renegotiate – we are seeing lots of opportunities in alternative locations nearby if rents are not acceptable,” she added.

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