Breaking Travel News interview: Gavin Tollman, chief executive, Trafalgar

Breaking Travel News interview: Gavin Tollman, chief executive, Trafalgar

As the largest constituent of The Travel Corporation, Trafalgar has always sought to put travel agents at the centre of its operations.

For the global guided holiday operator agents represent a vital link between the travelling public and the business.

As such, it was no surprise to see the company launch My Travel Portal earlier this year – a new technological solution that re-affirmed its commitment to its partners.

The new initiative seeks to streamline the booking process, centralising information in one place to save agents countless hours of tedious administration.

Speaking to Breaking Travel News Gavin Tollman, chief executive of Trafalgar, explains the solution was designed as the only online portal of its kind in the industry.

From providing the highest duty of care to effortlessly personalising client trips, My Travel Portal would take care of everything, he argues.

Tollman explains: “This product allows us to develop in three ways, all of which are vital to our agent partners.

“Firstly, this is an acknowledgment of what consumers want today.

“When British travellers go wherever they choose to go in the world, being able to be treated as an individual is front and centre to everything that they want.

“The key word that gets bantered about often that ‘personalisation’.

“What we have now is the opportunity to ask some basic questions to travellers to ensure that our travel directors are able to discover something about our customers; what is it that brought them on this trip, what is it they want to do, and how do they want to do it.”

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The Travel Corporation launched My Travel Portal earlier this year

My Travel Portal is also designed to increase communication between clients and agents, especially if something were to go wrong on a trip.

Tollman continues: “By ensuring we have consumers’ contact details, it enables us to get in contact with them, with loved-ones, and make sure everything is taken care of.”

From having client emergency contact details to hand in the event of unforeseen circumstances, to obtaining travellers’ personal preferences to ensure a trip is tailored to specific tastes, My Travel Portal facilitates that connection, allowing Trafalgar to create a unique holiday.

The third real opportunity, explains Tollman, is the social ingredient of the new platform.

He continues: “There are a lot of facets to it, guests can chat with each other, and with the travel director, what it gives you is complete and open ease to communicate with everyone within that group.

“It is completely enabled to open up a new level of dialogue.

“It facilitates social sharing, on Facebook, on Twitter; you can post straight from My Travel Portal into your own social media accounts.

“The whole idea is that if an agent looks at this in its entirety, it is all driven around true guest engagement, and their customer having an unbelievable holiday, and making them recognise what an extraordinary time they are able to have, and the role the person who booked that, the travel agent, played.

“From there it moves the bar forward to them being able to sell time and time again.

“Selling a Trafalgar product is like selling an annuity, guests are going to come back, and this product allows us to really understand the needs of these travellers.”

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Trafalgar is the largest company under The Travel Corporation umbrella

The Travel Corporation is continuing to roll out My Travel Portal across its suite of award-winning brands, including Contiki, Insight Vacations, Luxury Gold, Uniworld and U by Uniworld brands soon. 

As it grows, the new product will also make a contribution to the group’s sustainability agenda.

Its embedded e-documents function will save waste, while also improving the flow of information to the consumer, argues Tollman. 

“Embedded within this is a tool, a function we believe is there for all the right reasons, is e-documentation,” he adds.

“I need to acknowledge that e-documents can be a dirty word for travel agents.

“The reason being,  and I have heard this from travel agents in the UK and around the world, that agents end up printing them for the client.”

“This is not what we have.

“Our implementation was driven by going and looking at how our consumers use e-documentation when they travel.

“What we found was that we would produce beautiful wallets filled with pieces of paper with the daily itineraries, but nobody used them, nobody brought them on the coach.

“Today, when we travel, where do we look? Our mobiles.

“We asked ourselves, why are we printing all this stuff if nobody is bringing it with them?

“We looked at this and now offer a truly electronic version, that is embedded within this portal.”

This fits into the ambitions of the TreadRight Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation established by The Travel Corporation to encourage sustainable tourism.

Tollman continues: “If somebody chooses to go with e-docs, rather than getting a hard copy, we will plant a tree.

“For 2018 we are working with an organisation called One Tree Planted, to give guests a chance to plant a tree in California, after the devastating fires there, or in Tanzania.

“What we will be doing is showing visually, as we plant more and more trees, how we are advancing toward a goal of a number of hectares.”

But as the company grows, does it not by definition do more damage to the environment?

With more than one billion international trips taken last year, it can be hard to square the circle that tourism is becoming more sustainable.

Not so, argues Tollman.

He explains: “This is why we established TreadRight and the name was carefully selected for this reason.

“It is not about being green, it is about treading right, that is the key thing for responsible tourism, and something that all hoteliers, all suppliers ought to be thinking about.

“At The Travel Corporation and all of our brands, this is something we are all unbelievably focused on.

“This comes down to the places we visit, ensuring that we are cognisant of certain things.

“For 2018 we are really pushing for the elimination of single use plastics on our trips, or straws in the places we go.

“In the communities we visit, it is making sure we do not just go to the big places, that we work with the smaller business to help sustain communities for the long-term, but in a way that you still get the very essence of a place. 

“Then there is our charitable giving, giving back to the places we visit; this might be wildlife projects, or ensuring that we help with the White Cliffs of Dover.”

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Trafalgar offers trips for all ages

As a South African-founded company, The Travel Corporation still maintains deep roots on the continent.

For Tollman, Cape Town, which has recently seen water shortages reach new levels of severity, should be a warning to all travel insiders.

“Cape Town has shown us that certain resources are becoming increasingly scarce; we are living in a new normal,” he explains.

“As consumers, in this new normal, we have to make sure that we are not just responding to crises, but that we are more forward thinking in our utilisation of natural resources.

“When I look at Cape Town, I think that is the message we should take into our day to day lives.

“All I would say, not only to the South African government, but to governments around the world, is that extreme weather is going to be with us.

“All governments have to look at the unique situations they have, in the environment of global warming, and make sure they are adapting appropriately.

“I believe firmly in global warming and it is something we as people, as governments, have to take measures against.”

More Information

Trafalgar is a leading guided holiday company offering exceptional quality and value itineraries to a range of exciting destinations.

With nearly 70 years of experience and unrivalled local expertise, Trafalgar provides an authentic insider’s view to create truly unique travel experiences around the world.

Find out more on the official website.

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