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Travellers Choice salutes 40 years of success and profit

March 29, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Travellers Choice yesterday celebrated its 40th year of operation, having started out in 1977 as a small Western Australian co-operative and developed into a thriving unlisted public company owned entirely by its 140 members, who are distributed across Australia.

It’s an outcome that, as managing director Christian Hunter freely admits, “not even the most optimistic observer could have predicted”.

The group’s success and expansion has been mirrored by a steady spread across the country. More than half of Traveller’s Choice outlets are now in NSW (25%) and Queensland (26%), with a further 21% in Victoria, 14% in South Australia, 7% in Western Australia, 3% in Tasmania and 4% in the ACT.

In 2016 the company delivered its 39th consecutive pre-tax profit, with 95% of funds returned to its member shareholders.

Travellers Choice managing director Christian Hunter with general manager marketing Robyn Mitchell

“Every company has a responsibility to deliver to shareholders,” Hunter said yesterday, “and the only difference with us is that our shareholders are our members. There are no external shareholders.”

Hunter continued: “We don’t treat our members as numbers, we treat each of them with respect and dignity as an independent business operator.”

Rather than adopt a cookie-cutter approach, Travellers Choice acknowledged that each operation was different, with different service requirements, Hunter said.

Feedback is positive. A typical member comment cited by Hunter is: “People told me it was good but I never knew how good it would be until I joined.”

Hunter said that travellers who booked online deprived themselves of a support network. This manifested itself whether the threat was ash clouds or terrorism.

“You need to know that someone’s got your back,” Hunter explained. Clients understood that concept, and once they developed a relationship with an agent, it didn’t matter where they saw an offer, they would refer back to their agent.

It was important not to get too hung up on price, Hunter said.

Equality was a cornerstone of Travellers Choice, he added. Every member was treated equally, regardless of size or turnover. Members ranged from sole operators trading from home to major operations in Westfield shopping centres.

“The cooperative philosophy allows independent businesses of various sizes, strengths and skills to be treated as equals and to operate with total freedom while enjoying the benefits of scale,” Hunter said. “Every member knows that the success of the group is paramount, because the economic benefits flow directly back to them.

“Over the past 40 years Travellers Choice has changed enormously, and today we are a sophisticated national marketing group that supports its members with a wide range of innovative and cost-effective services.

“But we remain wholly-owned by our travel agent members, with a cooperative culture that still lies at the very heart of our organisation.

“In today’s hyper-competitive trading environment, that ability to work together for a common purpose has never been more important.

“That is why we look to the future with immense confidence.”

The company now groups 140 agents, 62% urban and 38% regional. Slightly over half (51%) of agents are Travellers Choice branded, 14% are co-branded and 35% are self-branded.

In 2006, Travellers Choice unveiled one of the retail sector’s first dedicated cruise clubs, and 46 agents are now members.

Written by Peter Needham

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