|Emma Jupp, president of Liberty Travel|
Travel agents looking for evidence of professional growth and a source of confidence in the future should take a look at Liberty Travel's new flagship store in midtown Manhattan. A street level 10,0000 square foot facility with three floors, the store front office offers a unique blend of new technology, skilled professional agents and the resources of an international travel giant Flight Centre USA.
For Emma Jupp, recently named president of Liberty Travel, the new flagship store on Madison Avenue is also symbol of Liberty Travel's commitment to the retail travel industry. And a welcomed sign that retail travel agents can survive and prosper - even in one of the nation's toughest, most competitive retail markets. "Travelers will never get from the Internet what they get from a travel professional," Liberty Travel's Jupp said in an interview with Travel Agent.
The new flagship is one of eight Liberty Travel stores in Manhattan and one of its 170 businesses in the U.S. that Jupp is responsible for. To Jupp the new flagship suggests a rebirth of the storefront retail office and a rebuttal to predictions of the demise of travel agents. "Despite the success of online travel sellers a growing number of travelers long for the days when they could get services from a live, trusted professional agent."
"Technology has changed our business. The travel agency industry and the distribution system have changed. The emergence of the Internet and introduction of online travel agencies and multiple booking options has changed retailing. But it has not replaced the need and demand for a personalized approach to travel planning," Jupp says.
"Travelers have grown frustrated and weary from the lack of personal attention whether they are planning a major vacation or simply in need of booking a flight," Jupp says. "Liberty Travel is changing this by stressing the value and rewards of a career in travel and bring professional expertise to the traveler."
The new Liberty Travel flagship exemplifies some of the changes, blending new technology with the traditional expertise of well trained professional agents. This includes Mobile Travel Experts equipped with iPads in hand who will be able to work with clients. They don't have to be behind a desk.
Other features of the flagship office (located at 269 Madison Avenue between 39th and 40th Streets) - include: 20-foot high windows boasting huge 10-by-10 feet flat-screen monitors displaying a range of destinations and travel scenes from around the world. There is also a travel ticker, showing the latest travel trends and displaying Liberty Travel's signature "Hot Deals" that will be scrolled continuously at the foot of the screens.
There will also be different "zones" for travelers to explore what they need – flights only, cruises, or an Explore zone to learn about new global destinations. The iPads for travelers can also be used for exploring vacation options and to view videos, photos and online reviews.
"The most important aspect of the new flagship store is that it will be staffed by a team of 15 travel consultants to provide the ever-important personal touch," Jupp says. This is three time the number of travel consultants at other Liberty Travel locations. There will be evening and weekend hours.
"We are empowering our travel professionals with new technology tools. This offers hope for frustrated travelers who long for the days when travel planning was almost always done through the help of a professional who often had firsthand knowledge of the destination and could provide added benefits."
Jupp notes that the flagship store will also feature a new exclusive service for Liberty Travel clients called MyTime, that leverages Liberty's and parent Flight Center USA's market power.
MyTime provides Liberty clients with added perks and amenities and extra pampering at a number of exclusive resorts within its collection of preferred suppliers. Guests can explore the MyTime participating partners and, at no additional cost, take advantage of VIP perks.
This ranges from chauffeured airport transfers to spa treatments, welcome gifts from the general manager, preferred reservations at the resorts most coveted dining venues and complimentary excursions.
The MyTime offerings are completely complimentary and available at over 120 resorts across 20 countries including The Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Aruba, Florida, Hawaii and Las Vegas. They add value, Jupp notes.
Jupp's background includes travel retailing, having worked for Flight Centre USA’s parent company, Flight Centre Limited, in Canada and the United Kingdom. Most recently, she was responsible for developing Flight Center USA’s air, tour and cruise product strategy. She is responsible for Liberty Travel stores in markets with lesser known name recognition for the brand, including Los Angeles and Chicago.Most Liberty Travel stores are concentrated in the northeastern US.
"Recruiting, training and motivating travel professionals is a major challenge for the industry," she notes.
Liberty Travel's Jupp hopes to bring new vitality to travel retailing and storefront agencies who can deliver value to clients backed by face to face contact and state of the art technology. "Our new flagship store makes clear that that bricks and mortar agencies are alive and well."