Special Report: Broadway travel conference ‘bullish despite challenging year’

More than 100 members attended the consortium’s annual conference in Portugal last week, Ben Ireland reports

The boss of Broadway Travel Service is optimistic about the future despite a turbulent year in which the business saw a dip in profits.

Speaking at the group’s annual conference in Portugal last week, managing director Adam Pardini said bookings turnover had dropped from £204 million to £191 million for the 12 months to September 30, while profits fell slightly from £15.4 million to £15.1 million.

However, he remained upbeat about trading given that Sharm el-Sheikh, which had accounted for 18% of the company’s bookings, had been off the market.

Addressing consortium members, staff and partners in Albufeira, Pardini said: “It’s been extremely challenging trading for all of us. It’s the first time in eight years I’ve stood here and said this year is not as good as the previous one. But I’ve got at least three pages of reasons why.”

Terrorist attacks in Egypt, a failed coup in Turkey, the collapse of suppliers, including Lowcost Travel Group, and uncertainty surrounding Brexit all contributed to a difficult year, said Pardini.

But he said Broadway’s profits remained “healthy” and the business “well positioned for growth” with a “clear strategy”.

“In challenging circumstances, we have traded through and made a healthy profit,” he said.

Broadway Travel Service runs five brands: Broadway Travel, Inspired Luxury Escapes, Travel Interaction, HolidayDeals2Go and Broadway Cruise.

Chief operating officer Jill Mitchell highlighted a surge in bookings through Broadway Cruise in the last year and said HolidayDeals2Go had grown by 23%. The company said its customer service ratings were also up by eight percentage points.

India call centre wins consortium award

An India-based travel agent call centre has put its 27% rise in turnover and high conversion rate down to daily staff feedback.

Global Hoppers won Broadway Travel Service’s consortium member of the year award.

Sales and marketing director Aftab Mahmood said: “Global Hoppers has a conversion rate of around 15%, higher than the 12%‑13% industry average.”

Last year the business, which sells exclusively to the UK market, saw turnover jump from £7.2 million to £9.3 million.

Finance director Himayat Ali added: “We give high levels of feedback. It will be daily, and can be as often as every 10 calls.”

Group targets £300m sales by 2019

Broadway Travel Service’s cruise business grew by 70% in the year to September as the group expanded its dedicated cruise team to meet demand.

The consortium’s cruise arm Broadway Cruise reported a big increase in both ocean and river bookings, despite the company’s slight dip in overall profits.

Broadway is also looking to increase its long-haul offering, with a bigger focus on Mexico, the US, Thailand and the Caribbean, as part of wider plans to increase the business’s turnover by 50% in the next three years.

Managing director Adam Pardini declined to give detailed figues but claimed expansion in cruise and long-haul, combined with an anticipated return of business in Egypt and Turkey, would help Broadway achieve its target of a £300 million turnover by 2019.

In the last 12 months, the firm booked 530,000 passengers through its four call centres.

The Atol-accredited group, which has five members in its consortium, is also in talks with two businesses about joining.

“We’ve had great results in cruise and we hope that’s going to continue,” Pardini said.

A wider advertising campaign and partnerships with Travelzoo and the Daily Mail had also helped position the company for growth, he added.

In an overhaul of its structure in the last year, Broadway has dropped two brands – Qwerty Travel and Directline Travel – and focused on its higher-performing brands Broadway Travel, Broadway Cruise, Travel Interaction, Inspired Luxury Travel and HolidayDeals2Go.

It has also moved to a bigger Luton call centre, and upgraded intranet systems and phone lines.

In the past year, Broadway has strengthened its senior leadership team by appointing former Monarch chairman Hugh Morgan, who has 50 years’ experience in the industry, as non-executive chairman last December.

Get your clients to upload videos on social media, says Feefo

Customers are more likely to make a purchase if they have seen a user-generated video, according to review site Feefo.

Addressing Broadway staff, chief commercial officer Matt Eames said footage is shared 1,200 times more than text and links on social media.

He claimed that 85% of customers say they are more likely to make a purchase if they’ve seen a video, such as footage from a boat trip or of a hotel swimming pool.

“People are 10 times more likely to share a video made by a consumer than anything you produce, so why not let them do your marketing for you?” he asked delegates.

Broadway Travel Service has signed up with Feefo in a bid to boost its client satisfaction ratings and repeat bookings. Feefo will begin contacting Broadway holidaymakers in the next three weeks.

The tie-up is part of Broadway’s drive to improve customer service and loyalty.

Eames said: “Please encourage every customer to leave a review and embrace those that come in. We won’t mess with what they say; it will be uncensored.”

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