John Morhous joined the Flight Centre Travel Group in 2007 as the director of IT with FCM Travel Solutions, and most recently has worked in the role of Chief Strategy Officer for the company’s corporate brands in the Americas. In May this year John was promoted to the position of Chief Experience Officer (CXO) across FCTG’s corporate brands globally.
John is responsible for ensuring a streamlined approach to the implementation and management of new digital technologies, and contributing to the Flight Centre group’s global strategies for thought leadership, innovation plans and broader technology pipelines.
The Illuminate team recently talked to John about his new role and what part it plays in FCTG’s customer-centric strategies.
Why do you believe the Chief Experience Officer (CXO) is so vital to the corporate travel industry?
“Customers have high expectations of the available technology in today’s world … powerful computing devices and really intricate apps are being used by the majority of business travellers. However, business travel booking platforms in the past have been unfriendly and as a result people don’t use them.
But with the increase in elegantly designed and easy-to-use technologies, more and more customers are looking for consumer-grade applications similar to those used in the retail and leisure travel sectors.
I think the role of a CXO is a vital part of any global travel business, because the corporate travel industry is finally understanding that the consumer experience is just as important for business travel as it is for consumer travel”.
How does your role help make the value of the user experience an intrinsic part of FCTG’s strategic direction?
“It really comes back to the conundrum of business to consumer (B2C) versus business to business (B2B). With B2B you need to entice people to use your services, whereas with B2C they are somewhat forced to do so.
Specifically in the corporate travel sector, we are essentially a B2B2C business. In the past, consumers didn’t have much of a choice as they’d be forced to use either our FCM or our Corporate Traveller services.
However, these days, they do have a choice. Consumers can go to your site, but if it’s not user-friendly, they’ll go elsewhere to book. So it’s just recognising that trend and trying to adapt to it.”
Peter Harbison is Executive Chairman of CAPA - Centre for Aviation, which is currently the world’s largest publisher of B2B commercial aviation information and analysis, covering the global airport, air navigation services and airline industries. Peter established CAPA in 1990, and over the past 30 years has conducted more than 200 consultancy projects and authored and/or edited numerous reports on the aviation industry. We asked Peter how new advancements in the aviation industry, particularly in the area of long-haul flights, will affect the future of travel and specifically the behaviours involved with long-distance travel.
“We still have a lot to learn about passenger behaviour and preferences on ultra-long-haul flights because they are constantly changing. While aircraft speeds are pretty much the same on these types of flights, it’s hard to generate significant advantages over one-stops. Indeed, many people say they prefer a short stop in, for example, a 19-hour journey, particularly if they are in the back of the aircraft.
“Of course price is always a factor in the decision making process, however SME and business travellers tend to be less price sensitive, so it’s important to ensure they receive a different experience. Airlines operating these ultra-long services need to pay much greater attention to passenger comfort and to differentiating the overall experience in various ways, particularly when it comes to corporate travellers.
“In terms of corporate travel trends, we also need to factor in the fast-growing role of long-haul narrow body aircraft that can fly eight hours or more. These smaller aircraft contain only 200-odd seats and constitute very low seat costs. In order to achieve this in the past you would need big wide-body aircraft with anything from 300 to 600 seats. This resulted in a need for big city pairs to fly between routes and supply lots of connecting ‘feed’ traffic. These new aircraft can link small city pairs with good frequency. There are over 2000 of these narrow body aircraft due to be delivered in this region over the next five to eight years, including Jetstar’s cache of eighteen A320neoLR long-range narrow-bodied aircraft.”
What are your thoughts on the launch of Qantas’ London-Perth services?
“As far as aircraft technology stands, there are only a handful of routes where major gateways can be connected with today’s ultra-long operations. That’s important, because those services can concentrate on higher value passengers to whom price is less of an issue and convenience counts for more.
The Singapore-New York route operated by Singapore Airlines struggled in the past because of older equipment and ceased in 2013. So it will be interesting to see how their revived 19-hour service works. It’s no coincidence either that there is a lack of economy seating on the Singapore Airlines’ A350s, just Business and Premium Economy. You can do that when you have substantial business centres at each end.
In Australia, Qantas’ Perth-to-London 787-9 Dreamliner non-stop 17-hour service has its own unique marketing leverage, with the novelty of connecting the two antipodean countries for the first time. But Sydney-New York or even Sydney-London routes would be able to drive much higher yields, which is the reason why CEO Alan Joyce is challenging the original equipment manufacturers to deliver that capability.”
What kind of travel management solutions does 4D offer?
4D offers specialised travel management services for a range of industries that are typically looking to evolve. Our team works collaboratively with businesses to develop tailored strategies for their business travel activities to ensure the best return on investment possible. We offer a range of services from providing detailed reports on travel expenditure, aligning contracts with current market rates, negotiating with preferred suppliers, and sourcing technology solutions.
What type of clients does 4D work with?
We take a strategic approach to developing customised solutions, and have worked with a wide range of industry groups from the SME market through to large, global organisations. Typical clients include companies in the banking and pharmaceuticals sector that may be going through a massive transformation and need assistance with the corporate travel side of their business. Academia is another industry that often needs assistance. You’ve got students who work at the university, who are quite advanced with the technology side of things, but then you have a legacy structure of Deans who are challenged by some of the requirements of the modern day traveller.
A 4D business consultant would typically work as a contractor in the corporate side of the business, assisting with travel procurement or working on specific projects like on online adoption or hotel programming.
So it’s really just about assuming the role of an employee at that organisation and working with key stakeholders across all aspects of the business to ensure their travel programs are well and truly enhanced.
What is one of the key trends in this sector?
Globally, in the past 20 years the business travel request process has slowly evolved as technology has improved and the connectedness of the traveller-to-travel-agent has become more direct. We've seen the removal of faxed paper travel request forms and signature approvals. These have been replaced with online and email forms, and now end-to-end online booking platforms.
The automation and ease of booking for travellers has seen the traditional role of secretaries and travel bookers disappear in the majority of global markets.
Chief Executive Officer of Flight Centre Travel Group Graham ‘Skroo’ Turner will join Flight Centre co-founder Geoff Harris for the opening session at Illuminate 2018.
Graham and Geoff along with Bill James started the Flight Centre journey in 1982. After starting with one shop, Flight Centre Travel Group (FCTG) has enjoyed remarkable growth to become a $20 billion business consisting of more than 40 brands.
Appointed to the Flight Centre board in 1995, Graham has presided over a golden era of growth for FCTG. The strength of the Flight Centre global empire is a far cry from the double decker bus, Graham purchased in 1973 when he took his first steps into the travel industry, investing $1300 in an ageing bus to drive tourists around Europe, North Africa and Asia.
Geoff Harris served as an FCTG company executive until 1998 and was a non-executive director until 2008. Geoff was also an early investor in the highly successful Boost Juice business and served as the Vice President of the Hawthorn Football Club.
As the opening panel session for the Illuminate conference, Graham and Geoff will discuss the past, present and future of not only the Flight Centre Travel Group but what the future of travel might look like for the broader industry.
The Q&A with both business leaders promises an insightful and entertaining start to the day and will be moderated by Executive General Manager of FCTG’s corporate division, James Kavanagh.