Flight Centre has big plans for the home-based travel agent sector in Canada, marked by the recent rebranding of Flight Centre Associates to Flight Centre Independent.
The rebrand was officially launched July 4 with a new website at www.flightcentreindependent.ca, offering support and resources for independent travel agents across Canada, with plans to increase membership to 1,000 agents by 2020 from the current 225.
“The goal is to be the number one host agency in three years’ time,” Lee Zanello, general manager of Flight Centre Independent, told PAX. “By 2020, you’ll see us everywhere you look.”
According to Zanello, the rebrand (which has been in the works since last fall) aims to clearly position Flight Centre Independent in the host agency market as the company’s 10th anniversary approaches in April.
“As businesses mature and grow, we thought ‘what can we do to bring the independent business to the forefront of what Flight Centre is doing?’” Zanello explained. “With a lot of the efforts in the coming years that we have in store for the host marketplace in the coming years, it’s important that we identify with the same terminology that most independents use. It’s pretty clear right off the bat what we do.”
Increased support for agents joining Flight Centre Independent will come in the form of a significant investment by the company into its technology and resources, including enhancements to its GDS booking tools and the establishment of Groups and Cruise support centres, providing both independent and retail agents with assistance regarding such bookings.
“We’re taking our business from what it was over the last nine years and bringing it right into 2018,” Zanello told PAX. “It’s a really strong endorsement from the company to be putting as much resources as they are into developing a model that makes it as easy as possible to work from home.”
In addition, Zanello said that while most independent agents joining the company opt to make use of Flight Centre’s branding, they can retain their own brand if they choose.
“With Flight Centre, we focus on consumer branding so agents who sign on with us say they enjoy that their clients know they’re dealing with a brand they recognize and understand. At the same time, small agencies can retain their own branding and still take advantage of everything we can offer in terms of backend support. I think that’s something often misunderstood about us.”
Additionally, Zanello explained that Flight Centre’s network of retail stores will also be part of the support system for independent agents across the country.
“We’re developing a real culture of support behind the independent model,” he said. “Our retail stores are not going anywhere, but the retail stores will potentially have a role to play in the independent growth moving forward. It takes away that centralized support and brings it to the independent agents coast to coast.
“The idea here is to separate ourselves from other host agencies in the marketplace. We’re going to clarify for Canadian agents looking for a host what it means to be a part of Flight Centre Independent,” Zanello said.