Addicted To Australia
In the 30th session of Survive and Revive Richard invited Di Lechner, CEO of Travel Addiction Group that currently includes both the Addicted To Maldives (ATM), and more recently, Addicted To Australia (ATA) brands. In this session, Di discussed some of the challenges and drivers between making the decision to expand to the Australian market whilst maintaining the standards, service and experience of product that the brand is synonymous with.
Di is a relative newcomer to the travel industry, only entering the sphere after a successful career in sales and recruitment. When Di found her passion in this area was beginning to wane, she decided to take the step into the industry that interested her, and combine it with her passion for one destination in particular. After visiting the Maldives for her honeymoon 12 years ago, Di and her husband found a great love for region, and returned there many times. In doing so, they realised there was a lack of knowledge on the region from an advisory perspective, and an underrepresentation within the Australian market. Thus, 4 and half years ago, Di was able to officially launch the Travel Addiction Group with Addicted To Maldives. The group has a focus on unique, boutique travel experiences with a penchant for luxury, and despite being a relative newcomer to the Australian travel industry, Di’s approach quickly led to ATM becoming the Destination Management Company (DMC) of choice for some of Australia’s best-known travel groups.
How Did You Get Started With Your New Company?
While Di may have lacked experience within the travel industry, she definitely had an unparalleled knowledge of the Maldives and an extensive relationship network. This assisted her greatly in conducting initial market research about the viability of this new business idea, and helped her to arrange meetings and sales with some directors. However, with no established branding Di was unknown in the market, and her concept had yet to prove itself. To rectify this, Addicted To Maldives began as a B2C organisation, before eventually moving into the B2B sphere after demonstrating the substantial opportunity that the Maldives provided.
To make this transition, ATM invested heavily into professional PR, under the premise that buyers will believe you if they read about you. This occurred for the first 8 months of the first year of the business and worked to great effect, gaining the brand significant awareness in the B2B market. Fortunately, a lot of this growth was able to occur through referrals from satisfied clients.
The brand has also accumulated a substantial following on social media, with 2,500 Facebook followers and over 30,000 Instagram followers at the time of writing.
Addicted To Australia
While expanding to new destinations was always a consideration for Di and the Travel Addiction Group, there were no concrete plans for a launch into the Australian domestic market until COVID-19 hit. With international borders closed, the once popular Maldives destination was temporarily unavailable. While demand will surely increase once the travel restrictions are lifted, there is currently no way to predict when this will occur, and thus, no way to plan for revenue and cash flow without some changes.
With a newfound abundance of free time, this idea was accelerated, and Addicted To Australia was launched in the middle of the pandemic. Di’s team of four also had significant knowledge of the domestic market, which greatly assisted in making this transition an easy one.
In the Australian market, the business is primarily focused around luxury offerings, majorly comprising of some 4-4.5 star properties. However, as Di soon discovered, many of these suppliers were refusing to offer commissions from direct bookings. After negotiations with them, it was identified that their decision stemmed from the fact that these suppliers believed they had a completely captive market while the international borders were closed. As a result, they believed that there was no real need for agents or wholesalers to sell their product. While there is truth to this, it is a very shortsighted view. Di set out to educate them about the value that agents and wholesalers could offer in the long-term as borders reopen and domestic travellers once again turn their eyes to the international market. Once this occurs these local businesses will also need to work to attract inbound international visitors, which agents and wholesalers can once again help with. In the instances where these suppliers continue to refuse to offer commissions, Di and ATA have focused on trying to develop packages from which agents can generate revenue from the add-ons they include.
ATA will continue to be a permanent arm of the Travel Addiction Group brand. Additionally, Di has expressed interest in expanding to the New Zealand and Fiji Trans-Tasman market, potentially with a new brand. The group is already receiving positive feedback towards these destinations, so it will be a likely course of action once the borders reopen.
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