ITC may have changed its name several times in the last 40 years, but its focus on luxury has remained the same. Travel Daily caught up with the tour operator’s CEO to find out how the company will celebrate its milestone next year.
ITC celebrates its 40th anniversary next year. What are your plans to celebrtate?
Turning 40 is a significant milestone for any business in travel. Travel is not one of the oldest industries so to be 40 is a real achievement; to be a pioneer and around for that long.
2014 will be our year of celebration. It will kick off in January with an agent incentive. We are famed for our gala dinners and mega fams, so we are holding a mega-fam in June for our partners that will take us back to where we began in Barbados. Forty agents will go away with us in June; these will be the top-performing agents.
We are also planning a celebration brochure to mark the 40 years, although it will focus on how travel has changed in the last four decades instead of our products. It will include insight and experience from Judith Chamers and Simon Calder and also from some of the tourist boards to share what has happened during this time.
There will also be several events and parties throughout the year.
We will also be changing our name next year and evolving into ITC Luxury Travel. The company started as Caribbean Collection and has changed along the way; but simplifying our name to ITC Luxury Travel encompasses what we do and shows there is a lot happening within the company.
Are there any other plans?
We have chartered SeaDream in the Caribbean for an England cricket tour, similarly to another we hosted before.
This is the perfect opportunity for guests but we are also keeping the charter for a party with our suppliers in Barbados. This will give us a chance to say thank you to the hoteliers and tourist board for their support.
Will you expand your product in the new year?
As well as the celebration brochure in January we will also have one Caribbean brochure that covers all products in the area.
This brochure, named The Complete Caribbean, will integrate Complete Caribbean and ITC Classics into one shop for the Caribbean including four-star hotels and top-end, five-star product.
You also launched a brand focused on budget, how is that performing?
We have decided to steer away from this brand for now and focus more on our core brands and the trade.
How has business been for the company this year?
In 2013 we have seen a 15% increase in sales which is fantastic. There is a continued challenge of putting pressure on margins but we are doing really well.
Travel agent sales are up 33% so it shows how strong the business is growing.
We work hard on our partnerships with agents; there is work going on in the field and as a team we care about all enquiries we get. We want to deliver the best service.
Forward bookings are shaping up to what we hope will be another successful year in 2014 and we do not want to underplay the new confidence; we just hope this gets better.
What trends are you seeing?
I’ve noticed we are getting more higher-priced quotes this year.
It seems like the confidence is back within these luxury travellers and where they were conservative for a while they are also going to more adventurous destinations or holiday types.
The market seems more optimistic than it was and our core destinations are still seeing great success.
What are your main challenges?
Our biggest challenge in luxury is educating clients to use a travel agent or tour operator instead of pressing the buttons to go direct.
We have to make sure we show the value in what we do and take those expectations that clients have and provide that, meaning we can maintain loyalty.
I do think this is one of the biggest challenges.
Also the tax of this industry is astronomical and disproportionate to other sectors.
Price is also a factor but is becoming less so as the value proposition improves.
Outside of new product and 40th celebrations what else is in the pipeline?
We are recruiting massively and doing well. We aim to get the happiest, most passionate people possible in the business as they are key to helping us grow. So long as we meet people with the right attitude then we would look into investing in them, and could be across various departments or could even have a remote focus.
I’m proud of the last four years as we’ve seen consecutive year-on-year growth and also appeared in the Sunday Times list of top companies to work for.
Our investment is about how people feel and our team make the difference to what we do. They go the extra mile and they make the difference so I’m really happy with that and that we take the expectation and do things differently.
We are looking to partner with agents to support each other during these times.