Former Kirra Australia GM, Tracey Green, on setting up her own travel consultancy and management business, lessons from the event space and why operators should be thinking about the pink dollar.
After seven years with NZ-specialist wholesaler, Kirra Australia, I teamed up with Lyn Leverington in 2015 to start a travel management and travel consultancy business.
I had been in business development and product management roles before becoming general manager at Kirra, so had a good understanding of what went on in the New Zealand market.
When contemplating the next chapter in my career, I knew there were pieces missing in terms of educating operators about becoming trade ready and entering the Australian market. At Kirra, we would often talk to operators through rate sheets, distribution channels, pricing and allotments so I knew there was a place for a sounding board.
Every operator is different but they all need to be given the right tools to present their products effectively, whether domestically or offshore. Regional Tourism Organisations do a fantastic job, but it’s not their role to deliver on every segment of an operator’s business.
And there is so much more for operators to navigate now, compared with, say, 10 years ago. They are listening to the market telling them how and where to promote their business, without identifying if the market is right for them. Many smaller operators get quickly lost and confused by the marketplace. It’s not financially viable for them to be everywhere and their strengths are generally operational. We work with them to strategically identify how to work smarter rather than trying to be everything to everyone.
The original concept for Directional Tourism, based on my marketing and travel sector experience, was to provide small tourism operators with a voice in the Australian market
However, we found we were being asked by operators for other channels to promote their products within the Australian market. So we expanded to set up a small niche travel agent/wholesaler, Directional Travel, to cater to that need. We aligned ourselves with one of Australia largest travel groups, ITG, and became ATAS accredited. We are a niche business with a focus on value over volume, as opposed to larger wholesalers where it is strictly a numbers game.
In 2015, we partnered with Gay Ski Week Queenstown to develop and promote the event as a travel agent and as a representation client. In 2016, I joined the board to assist in sponsorship and corporate account management. The first year in the event space, the learning curve was exponential.
The travel side of the business managed Gay Ski Week QT bookings, and Directional Tourism promoted and drove the distribution of the event globally via trade channels. In two years we have grown from four to 11 wholesalers contracted to sell event tickets.
The LGBT sector is very travel savvy, and very tech savvy. When designing packages, the product and pricing needs to be seamless, otherwise they will bypass you and go straight online and book independently. We find this differs slightly from other segments of the market where you have a slightly longer window of opportunity to finesse your package and pricing.
We are really passionate about the LGBT sector. Globally its worth over US$211bn per year, and New Zealand is fast becoming a destination of choice. Through our work with Gay Ski Week QT we are building alliances and relationships to attract global LGBT events that have potential to draw over 20,000 attendees.
Extending ourselves into the event space has taught us that the loyalty lies with the event brand, not your agency brand. You can promote an event, but people will always turn to the event website as their primary source of information, trusting the event packages over those of an independent source. While there are agencies in market that specialise in this space and do it well, event credibility and the success of your packages comes from the equity in the event brand.
However, this loyalty does not happen overnight, it takes time, especially for emerging events. Creating awareness, generating leads and developing relevant product is all part of the challenge.
As a small wholesaler we are comfortable targeting niche products and events. We find ourselves being able to react quickly and our low overheads, and willingness to try something new keeps us engaged. Larger wholesalers, which rely on volume, find small niche products don’t provide the level of return that mainstream travel packages offer.
Directional Travel doesn’t only focus on events, we also focus on self-drive, cycling, skiing and boutique escapes.
When it comes to finding new product, we really value Tourism New Zealand’s Market Insights event in Sydney. The event attracts most NZ RTOs, where they give us in-depth update on what is new, what is no longer available and so on. It enables us to effectively cherry pick what suits us. At Kirra, the demand for product was different, and events like TRENZ suited us better. However, it’s just not financially feasible for a small business to go to this every year, although we are frequently in New Zealand.
Our business is Australia-wide although most of our clients are from Sydney and Melbourne. The wholesale business is 90% New Zealand and we have access to contracts that some of the traditional Australian wholesalers don’t.
Therefore, when we were approached by Destination Wairarapa & WREDA to promote Toast Martinborough and Singapore Airlines’ direct service from Canberra to Wellington, we jumped at the chance to get behind it in the Australian market. We know from experience that supporting such campaigns need to be part of a long-term strategy, working with great products and aligning ourselves with our campaign partners to drive tourism.