Article written by Sarah Cornwell and published in the ITCs and Homeworkers feature by Travel News, January 2023.
TRAVEL Counsellors (TC) has sunk a whopping £10m (R211,2m) into new and upgraded technology and in-house systems this year, which is reflective of the brand’s ethos that confidence and communication are two of the keys to its independent consultants’ success. Traditionally the business has invested between £2m (R42,2m) and £4m (R84,5m) per year into its system, said Mladen Lukic, GM of Travel Counsellors SA. However, he said COVID-19 had been a catalyst for a massive revamping and a bigger investment sum in 2022. “We don’t see the job as done,” he said.
Three key focus areas
The brand’s massive tech budget for 2022 has been channelled into three areas. Firstly, and the most expensive, is TC’s portal and technology enabling TCs to communicate with customers instantly. “We interact with customers. Whether they are on the phone, a Smart TV, a PC, or a tablet, they can carry on their conversation with a TC. And all documentation is kept on a single platform,” Lukic said.
A second share has gone into improving contact with back-office support channels and providing round-the-clock support and assistance to the TC network. “If we hadn’t completely replaced our support network, we would not have coped,” Lukic said. “This is still a project that will be ongoing, for as many years as we exist. The platform also looks after access to our product. A lot of the product we book doesn’t exist on traditional distribution platforms, and TCs can’t sit on the phone waiting to hear if there is availability or space. Our internal reservations system had to grow into a much more significant system.”
Last, but not least, Travel Counsellors has prioritised customer and TC safety from security threats, particularly cybercrime. Lukic reported “thousands upon thousands” of hits on the TC system each day and said that no individual TC could afford the financial or technological capacity to diffuse those cyber risks alone. “It’s not just the systems; it’s continuous training. We call it cyber ninja and we produce five minute-long videos that carry a particular message that deals with a potential cyber-attack.”
Lukic believes the company’s forward focus will help sustain the business in the long run. “Access to product and information is going to see some of the existing business models become irrelevant. We think one of the big differentiators over the next three to five years is going to be staying in business.”
Find the original ITCs and Homeworkers Feature January 2023 here.