Any time a country or region imposes any sort of visa stipulation - even if it’s a waiver - the travel industry sighs a collective groan, knowing the obstacles and headaches to come.
TORONTO — Flight Centre’s hyperstore concept, already operating in half a dozen cities in Australia and other international markets, has landed in Toronto on Queen St. West near Bathurst.
“This new Hyperstore on Queen Street is leading the front in the transformation of the Flight Centre business across the country,” said Gavin Miller, Vice President Leisure, Flight Centre Canada. “This is a vision that has been held by a lot of us, born out of developments in the UK with their multi-team sites, but we like to believe that here in Canada we have done it better than anyone else, and that we now have advanced things even further.”
Flight Centre stores in Canada typically have single sales teams with one manager. The hyperstore features two Flight Centre teams plus a First & Business team and an FCBT team, for a total of four teams on site.
The store itself is built to be more interactive with a better customer experience, says the company. The idea is to be barrier-free: no hiding behind desks, consultants use ‘soft phones’ (headsets with no phone base). The use of tablets allows agents to be more mobile. There’s also an interactive map and ‘discovery zone,’ which serves as a casual greeting area for customers to go through brochures and chat with consultants.
“We are removing the barriers between us and the customers because we want to give the sense that we have nothing to hide,” said Miller. “We know that they come in empowered with information, so we are committed to matching the right customer to the right product. It’s about saying ‘come in, let’s figure this out together, let’s collaborate, let’s have fun.’ ”
A Flight Centre hyperstore is already open in Vancouver, as well as at Erin Mills Town Centre in Mississauga, with another store opening in Dufferin Mall in Toronto in early July. Others are planned for the Metropolis at Metrotown in Vancouver and Stone Road Mall in Guelph.
“Every month there will be another location transforming so that over the next five years the portfolio will generally move away from the small, single team locations to a larger footprint,” said Miller. “Yes, there will be some rationalization of stores, but we are going to go up to 187 teams next year from 178 this year. Some of the locations that may cease to exist… they just don’t fit the footprint of what we want in regards to size and frontage.”
Miller went on to say that business has been on the up and up, despite several industry challenges.
“We have had the strongest sales this winter season since 2008, despite Zika and the softening of the Canadian dollar,” he said.
Within the next 12 months Flight Centre plans to open an even bigger space in Toronto, a ‘superstore’ 10 times the size of the Queen Street location to showcase its product in what the company is calling a ‘theatre’. “For us we are really excited about this store, but what we’re actually looking at right now is the next evolution of our business, which is not just going to be a Flight Centre brand, but will be a story and a theatre of all our brands and businesses, right here in Toronto. We are calling this the Travel Centre, which will showcase of all of our brands,” said Miller.