After booking an $875 million loss due to COVID-19, Flight Centre (ASX: FLT) is spreading its wings through a new partnership with Travello, a community-driven app for the booking and sharing of tourism experiences.
Travello co-founder and CEO Ryan Hanly (pictured) says the Flight Centre deal is one of a string of new partnerships formed this year including student accommodation providers Scape and Urbanest, as well as potential travel insurer partnerships in the works.
"This is huge because it's an opportunity to work with one of the biggest travel brands in Australia first of all, and it's a real step for Flight Centre to move into the experiences space," Hanly tells Business News Australia.
"For them to trust us for their move into that space it's a massive validation of what we're doing as a company and the technology that we're actually producing."
But what is that technology exactly, and how does it differ to other travel offerings and social networks?
Hanly explains the premise is to focus on community rather than the market. Unlike Facebook or Instagram, Travello allows travellers to connect with people outside their own social circles, and through the platform they are able to book tours, activities and attractions.
Engagement with tourism operators is reinforced by a positive feedback loop, as users can share content about those experiences over Travello with their new and existing contacts, driving more people to the offerings.
"Travello is designed to connect you with people you don't know in a new location based on like-minded interests. You can find someone who has got similar travel interests pretty quickly when you're travelling," says Hanly.
"Obviously 2020 has thrown up some curve balls in regards to actually connecting with travellers, but when COVID hit we made a quick pivot in our marketing from connecting with people when you arrive to travelling from your couch."
The result has been an unprecedented 100 per cent month-on-month growth in content creation in August alone.
"Our engagement metrics around messaging, chat messages, post numbers and engagement have gone through the roof," says the co-founder.
"Our focus on community and building up a large consumer base has been very difficult to do over a number of years, but it has held us in good stead and points to the strength of having a community within your brand.
"We haven't lost our customers. Our customer base has grown through this period, and when things open up we're going to be in a pretty good place to capitalise on that."
Travello has around 18-23 per cent of its user base in Australia, but has also seen these growth trends in overseas markets such as the USA, the UK and Southeast Asia.
Hanly observes an increased trend towards bookings made well in advance, compared to the previous status quo of in-location bookings within hours or even minutes of an activity taking place.
Fuelling tourism recovery
Flight Centre's corporate travel division has been doing the heavy lifting lately results-wise, as its leisure travel division struggles with a paralysed environment for international travel and movement.
But there are green shoots appearing, according to Hanly, noting hyper-local and domestic tourism is the new reality for the industry and companies like Flight Centre are taking notice.
"It's really significant because it is the first time that Flight Centre have moved into this particular vertical which is coined 'experiences' but it includes tours, activities and attractions," says Hanly.
"They've previously done a lot with outbound tour packages, but this is allowing them to play in that domestic space, this hyper-local phase that we are inevitably in for some time to come.
"Experiences are what people travel for, it's what they remember and post on their social networks. So Travello is excited to be leading the way in helping brands like Flight Centre bring this to their customers."
Hanly believes the new partnership is a great example of two Australian companies coming together to assist in the tourism recovery.
"This is an exciting phase for us and despite the gloom, there is a huge amount of pent up travel demand It's a great opportunity for travellers to explore their city, region or other parts of their state and play their part in supporting local operators through the recovery."
Other new recent partners Travello has signed include Visit Dubai, Tourism and Events Queensland (TEQ), the South Australian Tourism Commission (SATC), Indigenous tourism group Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation and global accessible travel provider Wheel the World.
FLT shares are up 2.38 per cent at the time of writing 2.38 per cent, against a backdrop of share price rises for its travel industry peers as well.Never miss a news update, subscribe here. Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter.
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