After being forced to close a significant number of stores in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, travel agency Flight Centre Travel Group (ASX: FLT) has announced it is reopening 35 of its shopfronts across the country.
Two stores in Brisbane have already opened their doors to customers in Cleveland and Bulimba, while an agency in Greenslopes is slated to start operating on 14 November.
A nationwide recruitment drive is underway to fill 100-plus travel consultant vacancies and 25 store team leader roles. Once all 35 stores are back in operation, Flight Centre will have 338 agencies throughout Australia.
Flight Centre Australia general manager Brent Novak said it had been a long wait for customers, particularly in regional areas, who relied on booking their travel face-to-face with local travel consultants.
“While we continue to enhance our online booking experience for customers, we know how vital it is to have real people in real buildings providing expert customer service with a human touch. For many people, that’s their number one reason for coming back to us,” Novak said.
“At a time when regional and suburban communities in Australia are witnessing services such as banking and telecommunications closing branches and becoming available only online, Flight Centre will continue to provide customers with the choice.
“Rather than sacrificing bricks-and-mortar for broader online and call centre services, we’re committed to enhancing all our customer channels because we recognise no two customers are the same in terms of how they like to book travel.”
Founded in 1982, Brisbane-based Flight Centre Travel Group has operations in 23 countries and a corporate travel management network that spans 90-plus countries. Key leisure and corporate travel brands in Australia include Flight Centre, Travel Associates, Travel Partners, Travel Money, BYOjet, Corporate Traveller and FCM.
Two months ago, the group announced it was on the path to recovery after recording a $183.1 million loss for FY22 - a marked improvement on the $337.8 million result in FY21.
The result was driven by rapid global sales after governments relaxed or removed international and domestic travel restrictions, with total transaction value (TTV) increasing 162 per cent year-on-year to $10.3 billion. Revenue also surged by 154 per cent to $1 billion.
Flight Centre's corporate division outperformed expectations, recording $5.6 billion in TTV and outpacing the broader business travel sector’s recovery. The ANZ, Americas and EMEA regions each generated approximately 30 per cent of FY22 corporate TTV.
The group noted that despite FLT maintaining a very high corporate market share in Australia, the Americas and EMEA businesses were likely to overtake ANZ as the company’s largest corporate regions in the near term given comparative market sizes.
“After two years of unprecedented disruption to normal global travel patterns and other everyday activities, we are pleased to start FY23 with a considerably brighter outlook," Flight Centre Travel Group CEO Graham Turner said in an update to shareholders in August.
"Our corporate business is again outperforming, returning to gross pre-COVID TTV levels ahead of schedule and securing another strong pipeline of account wins to drive future growth.
"It is, of course, early days in the recovery and there is still considerable upside potential. For example, Australian outbound passenger departures tracked at just 35 per cent of pre-COVID levels over the FY22 2H, peaking at 60 per cent in June. There is also some ongoing supply constraints and macro-economic uncertainty, although these factors do not seem to be slowing the recovery at this stage."
Overall, FLT’s corporate market share in Australia, the US, the UK, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa increased to 7 per cent during the second half of FY22 compared to 6.3 per cent during FY19 2H.
The leisure and experiences division recorded $4.1 billion in TTV, returning to profitability in Q4 with most sales coming from the Southern Hemisphere.
Flight Centre said it was still too early to provide FY23 guidance, given the industry is in the early recovery phase and experiencing some ongoing volatility, with significant parts of Asia yet to reopen.
"We are a community-anchored and driven business. Our consultants are at the heart of what we do. When you experience our experience it's likely your consultant lives and works in the community," Flight Centre Southeast Queensland area leader Rindala Jensen said.
"If the pandemic taught us anything, it's the importance of having an expert in your corner. There are so many horror stories of travellers left stranded either during their journey or not even being able to leave.
"Because people still have some trepidation about travelling again, having the ability to speak to a travel consultant, face to face in their local community will be priceless. We want to simplify travel in a constantly evolving and complex travel environment."
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