Personal Travel Managers Thankful for Support of National Partnership Office
When TravelManagers’ Melissa Loynes was working on the launch of her new “Secret Stays” mystery weekends, her Business Partnership Manager (BPM), Kellie Browning, was there to offer support and guidance. When Adela Backhouse and Emma Ross needed assistance with their new joint initiative now known as “Belle Adventures”, they turned to TravelManagers’ marketing team for advice, a new website and collateral. In fact, look behind any of the 560-plus home-based personal travel managers (PTMs) spread across Australia and you’ll find a team of people hard at work to ensure that they have all the support they need to succeed.
TravelManagers’ National Partnership Office (NPO) is made up of teams who provide the company’s network of PTMs with support in every area of their business: accounts, ticketing, marketing, product training, supplier issues, and business mentoring. In the current COVID era, with international and domestic travel on long holidays of their own, you would be forgiven for thinking things might be a little quiet around the NPO just now.
“On the contrary,” according to Michael Gazal, who is TravelManagers’ Executive General Manager. “Our fifty-six support staff, although officially on reduced hours, are still busy behind the scenes, providing as much assistance as possible to help our PTMs navigate through the pandemic.”
“For example, the Finance, Ticketing and Supplier teams have been crucial to the mammoth task of managing and processing the tens of thousands of refunds and future credits. They’re assisting PTMs in keeping the mid-office system accurately updated with financial adjustments as they come through, stepping in to assist with extraordinary situations and providing moral support to PTMs who are at risk of being overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation,” he adds.
Gazal says the Ticketing team has been kept busy by the sheer volume of refunds, changes and cancellations that have been processed in the past seven months. They have been assisting in interpreting the ever-changing airline waiver policies, reissuing tickets and processing refunds, and ensuring that PTMs are kept informed of changes as they occur.
Gazal says COVID has resulted in a need to find alternative ways to communicate, with many PTMs attending virtual training sessions and weekly video updates. At the same time, the Marketing team has created a range of digital marketing materials such as individual websites, EDMs and social media activities. Some PTMs have also used the time to strategise new, niche product offerings within their domestic travel market.
Gazal acknowledges that supplier partners have also benefited from the services provided by TravelManagers’ NPO, thanks to a roundup of domestic offers that has been distributed on a twice-weekly basis via web, social media and e-newsletters since mid-June.
Meanwhile, the NPO Operations team has been integral to managing the expectations of TravelManagers’ customers, many of whom have seen their long-planned and much-anticipated holiday plans disappear.
“And to ensure that we are well-prepared when international travel does eventually resume,” he adds, “we have conducted a network-wide customer survey relating to likely future travel plans. This data has been segmented and shared per PTM so that they have access to their own personalised client data for future reference.”
Gazal says PTMs have received a wealth of support from their BPMs, including one-on-one business coaching sessions in which they can talk through new business ideas, share tips on keeping in touch with clients and brainstorm how to incorporate more domestic travel into their businesses.
“At a local level, BPMs have been able to conduct socially distanced walking meetings with small groups of PTMs, reverting to a Zoom-based version of the same when required by COVID restrictions.”
As well as the support received from various areas of NPO, the national network of 560 PTMs has been encouraged to stay in touch with one another and reach out to colleagues who may be struggling.
“TravelManagers is one big family: we’re there for each other through the smooth sailing and the rougher stretches,” Gazal concludes. “Ensuring that our people have adequate support – be it practical business advice or a sympathetic ear when someone’s having a particularly rough day – is our top priority for making it through this difficult period together.”
It is a philosophy that is clearly appreciated by the PTMs at the coal face.
“I have been so fortunate to be working with a great, supportive company like TravelManagers in these crazy COVID times,” confirms PTM Michelle Michael-Pecora. “The NPO team has been with us every step of the way in all areas, supporting us with our business and our mental health wellbeing.”
“I am always impressed by the friendly, helpful and competent support I receive from the NPO,” adds PTM Pauline Bell from ACT. “I didn’t think it could get any better, but somehow they have exceeded all expectations during this terrible pandemic. From the hard working, friendly and fantastic accounts section and all other sections to the involvement of the management and Executive teams, I thank them for being there for all their personal travel managers.”