US-BASED The Travel Corporation expects Asia to account for 40 per cent of its revenue in five years, from 15 per cent now, as it rolls out a strategic plan to tap the region’s outbound markets.
Brett Tollman, president and chief executive, outlined a brand-centric approach in enlarging the company’s Asian pie. This will see his brands such as Trafalgar and Insight Vacations being launched in non-English speaking markets such as China and Japan, but customised to the needs of these travellers in language, content and length of travel, among others.
In China, for instance, a new hire has been made, based in Shanghai, to lead the branded business and work with agency partners on customised Chinese-speaking departures.
Said Tollman: “What you saw before was our custom group business was done under the brand Trafalgar, but it was obviously not a Trafalgar product or experience and we didn’t want to damage or give the wrong perception of what a Trafalgar experience was if someone out of Japan or China was buying a custom group through agency X. (Thus) we’ve rebranded last fall, so those custom group offices are called Travel Corporation Asia, Travel Corporation China and Travel Corporation Japan.”
The shift is major for the US-based company, which traditionally specialises in English-speaking custom group business – individuals travelling in a group on a holiday – and whose largest market is the US, followed by Australia, Canada, the UK, South Africa, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Malaysia, South Korea and Taiwan.
Tollman, in an interview with TTG Asia e-Daily on the sidelines of the WTTC Global Summit, said: “Our investment over the next three to five years will include putting marketing into those markets to build awareness of these brands, working primarily through agency partners who already have the customers, by providing cooperative marketing support so they can educate their customers on these products in addition to the ocean cruising or FIT they might be selling.”
The Travel Corporation is also opening an office in Jakarta. “We’ve been doing custom group business out of Indonesia for some time but there has not been an office there and we’ve seen fantastic growth, so we’re expanding our commitment and investment there,” he said.
Tollman added: “All of our brands, with the exception of Uniworld (boutique river cruise collection) and Red Carnation Hotel Collection, are not luxury brands but are outstanding mid-market brands. Obviously, the mid-market will be growing exponentially in Asia and therefore we want to establish our brands here (in Asia).
“As a family-run private business, we look at long-term commitment and vision as to where we want to be in 10, 20 years time, so we’re not constrained by short-term profitability issues.”
Meanwhile, on the inbound side, Trafalgar is launching a Japan programme, which will operate next year. “We’re very committed to supporting the Japanese in their period of recovery but we also believe there will be growing interest from our traditional European/American markets for Japan, so we’re very excited about launching that this year, with operations starting next year,” he said.
Read View from the Top with Brett Tollman, TTG Asia May 4, 2012