Recognizing The Strategic Inflection Point

In a wide-ranging conversation in this week’s issue of Canadian Travel Press, Flight Centre Travel Group’s (FCTG) president, Leisure Brands, Americas Division, Marc Casto talks about how embracing the unknown and recognizing that the path to a successful resolution is paved frequently by an iterative process of trial and error.

Maybe you can start by talking about Flight Centre Travel Group’s (FCTG) recently implemented “retail transformation” and what it’s all about? And, perhaps, how COVID-19 will impact on your ability to oversee the implementation and day-to-day execution of the new model? That must be a bit challenging.

This has clearly been the year of challenges for all industries, travel near the front of that list. Coming into 2020 we already knew that the retail experience required a reimagining; the challenges over the last few months forced us to distill our plans and execute upon this new vision for FCTG.

Our company has always had a People-First Policy: all solutions need to be convenient for the client and supportive of the consultant. Our transformation retains that at its core while recognizing the industry has inexorably changed post the coronavirus.

While historically FCTG Leisure has been built upon a retail store first strategy, we are migrating to a series of network hubs serving concentrations of clients and agents alike. This reimagining will allow us to support a greater reach of clients, be it in person, virtual, or by video.

The Network Hub is much more than a congregation point for virtual and physical agents. Each Network hub will serve as the locus for the implementation of core technology which completely re-envisions the client-agent-supplier triad of communication and service. Likewise, each will be supported by creative marketing efforts to enable the growth of business for agent and independent contractor alike. Finally, the Network hubs will host innovation labs highlighting the next generation of travel disruptors.

Of course, implementing this program would be ideally done in person. As soon as the curtain on travel is lifted, I will be working on premise with all teams to ensure we meet our implementation targets.

Flight Centre’s new model seems to have anticipated some of the changes that COVID-19 has presented the travel industry with. How do you see retail travel moving forward as the world reopens?

In a world of Covid-19 there will be a reduced amount of walk in traffic, particularly to collect sanitized brochures. Having a retail experience designed around the exchange of physical materials, particularly after all industries have become familiar with operating virtually, would be tone deaf to the times.

To be abundantly clear, though, retail travel will exist and thrive. As it was post 9/11, there will be the desire by clients to not only transact but also to be educated on the new way of travelling. Our clients have already expressed their desire in a more consultative approach, with safety and security top of mind. For many travellers, this is best served with a retail solution.

For the full story, check out this week’s issue of CANADIAN TRAVEL PRESS.