John Van den Heuvel,
What is your key strategy for this year, and why?
GOGO Vacations’ strategy as a company has always been, and continues to be, “Only at your travel agent.” The travel agent is our only customer and this has been a long-standing promise of GOGO Vacations. A key focus this year has been our service and this involves the service we deliver to our travel agent customers at every touchpoint across our business. While service was always something found in the GOGO Vacations business plans in the past, in 2017, it’s taking on a whole new meaning — it’s at the forefront of what we do and are soon to become — what we are known for. We have rolled out internal guidelines and agreements with all of our sales and operations teams, which have been developed and implemented for the sole purpose of elevating our service experience. We have ongoing training with our team to provide the tools we believe will take us from being good to great at the service we deliver to our travel agent partners.
What are your newest destinations or products?
We have most of the world covered and are expanding in South America with direct hotel and resort contracts in Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina and Peru. We are increasing product content in Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar, which we recently launched, whilst closer to home, we are expanding contracting and bed count in Iceland, Scandinavia, the UK, Croatia and Greece. We are also increasing our tour and sightseeing content to meet demand. In the Caribbean and Mexico, we continue to enjoy excellent relationships with our suppliers and are fully supporting new resort openings particularly in the four-and-a-half and five-star markets.
How do you determine which new destinations to go into next?
We listen to what our agents are asking us for. Are these one-off requests or is there a pattern? Do we have a genuine product gap in our destination range that needs further attention and action? What the media is saying and what trends we are seeing overall, also factor in. What is the competitive landscape both in specialist markets and general? How do we fit into this? Do we think there is an ROI given the contracting and marketing resources needed to launch the destination? What is the airlift like? Do we believe the destination is sustainable for growth and is the infrastructure commensurate with the demands our customers rightly make? Is the destination safe? And finally how do we launch, what is our sales and marketing strategy, and what training is needed, including FAMs?
When you go into a new place, what do you do to create a product that’s ready for today’s consumer?
After exhaustive desk research, we have our contracting team in the destination. They will tender a ground operator to ensure excellent ground operations, including sightseeing options. We will visit an exhaustive list of hotels and resorts to make sure we are contracting not only the right product for our customers, but that the commercials are in our favor. Inventory is secured at the correct ratios, preferably with direct connectivity, and our resorts and ground operators understand what we expect with respect to service delivery and make contractual commitments to meet our service promises.
Any unique opportunities in light of domestic or global happenings?
What is your focus on the U.S. travel agent in 2017?
We’ve added to our field sales business development team and are continuing to look at growing this space. Our business is driven by relationships and we believe there is no better way to achieve this than face-to-face. We’ve kicked off 2017 with heavy focus on market events nationwide, whether it be VIP dinners, roadshows or larger-scale evening events. Each of these involve bringing our sales and operations teams, our supplier partners and travel agent partners together to learn, network and grow, and range from 40 to 140 agents in size.We are focused on helping our travel agent partners develop and grow their business. This includes creating business growth plans from tools provided by us that help them dissect their business.