You learn a lot in 20 years, just ask Jeff Element who’ll celebrate his 20th anniversary at The Travel Corporation next month. As President, he’s enjoyed a front row seat to the company’s evolution, picking up valuable lessons along the way on how to navigate the ever-changing travel industry. In this week’s Friday Five, we ask Element about the state of travel in these uncertain times, and what agents can do to stay ahead of the game.
1) How have you seen the company evolve since you first started, and what is the most important thing you’ve learned in your time there?
The company has continually evolved over the last 20 years. I think every good company has to reinvent itself every couple of years and have a view to the future. Our product offering has changed, we offer many more destinations around the world and styles of travel. How we communicate with people has changed drastically; the Internet has revolutionized how travel is sold, how we inspire people to travel.
The most important things I’ve learned while being at The Travel Corporation is that it takes a team to be successful. No one person can do it on their own. The right people need to be sitting in the right seats and supporting you.
2) What do you consider your top priorities as President, and what areas of improvement do you still see at The Travel Corporation?
My top priority for The Travel Corporation is to pick the right people and make sure I have the right corporate culture. The rest will take care of itself. There is always room for improvement and I think it’s one of those things that gets you up every day and motivates you to work a little harder. We want to refine our process and products and to become even more efficient for agents to deal with. But really, it is just more of the same good stuff that we’ve been doing for many years.
3) It’s been a shaky few months in terms of travel. What proved to be the most difficult challenge, and how did the company overcome?
The last few months have brought several challenges to the travel industry, but that’s nothing really new to those who have been in the industry for a while. I think organizations such as ours that have stable, strong structures were able to work through this time quite smoothly. I believe the key is constant communication with our teams around the world and with our travellers. Making sure that everybody understands what’s going on and what we are doing to react is the best we can possibly do for our customers. Open communication and support makes our customers feel comfortable and confident to continue travelling with us.
4) In your opinion, how is travel changing and what can travel agents do to stay competitive?
Travel is always changing. The world is always changing and we need to make sure we listen to our customers so that we fulfill their needs. Our customers’ needs change over time and we need to be in tune with that. Today people want more local immersive experiences and that’s what we offer. It’s great to go to the Eiffel Tower, but people want to go and meet some of the locals and spend time in small communities. As a result, that’s what we’re offering now. Travel agents do the same to stay competitive: make sure they’re listening to their customers and then work with those trusted operators like ours to meet those needs that their customers are expressing.
5) What’s new and exciting at The Travel Corporation for 2016/2017? And where do you see the company in 5 years?
There are always new and exciting things around The Travel Corporation. In the next couple years, we will focus on building up new destinations for some of our brands. For example, both Trafalgar and Contiki will be going to India, and Insight Vacations will be expanding their South American product with new destinations. These are key in expanding our reach.
I would expect that we will have a much more balanced reach around the world. We have been very Europe-focused but we started to change over the last five years. And over the next five years, that balance will even out more as we offer more exciting, amazing trips to far-flung places.