For many years, GOGO has been a tour operator that was at the top of the list for travel agents. When, Australia based, Flight Centre, known for its retail division, took over GOGO not too long ago, the name was changed to GOGO Worldwide Vacations. Agents have expressed their concern about possible changes using GOGO, so we took those concerns to the President of GOGO, Michele Kish.
TRO: Michele, what is your background?
MK: I started as a travel agent. For 25 years, being on the retail side, moving up to sales manager and branch manager and now for the past 3 years, President of GOGO.
TRO: Agents have expressed their concerns about offices closing and the long hold times on the phone.
MK: Actually we have only closed one office, and consolidated some other offices. With some, sales teams of two offices are together in one. Yes, we’ve had some longer hold times, but that has been corrected. We just completed our new web site and computer platform. We listened to the concerns of our Travel Agent partners – they needed high technology. The look of the web site has not changed, but the functionality has. Certain tasks have changed, more enhancements. Now agents can book online, access their bookings, do online payments, and that has freed up our phone lines. Also we now have direct connectivity with more suppliers – instant access to availability. During the changeover to this new platform, the in house agents were experiencing problems too, but now everything is in place. Agents have to look at the big picture and understand that we’re in a growth mode. We’ve had an increase in new bookings. The snowstorms have helped!
TRO: You’ve always had a strong presence in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Hawaii, but now you’re Worldwide.
MK: Flight Center has a global presence and has given us more access. We have 5 res people working in the Worldwide division, with more possibly coming on. And within a few months, we’re opening up availability in South America.
TRO: That will be great for pre and post cruise packages.
MK: Yes, along with the ones we offer in Europe, and in the US.
TRO: Speaking of cruises, you still offer Norwegian Cruise Lines?
MK: Yes, we do sell NCL product. Agents have a choice on how to book, direct with NCL or call us.
TRO: The biggest concern of agents – will GOGO go retail.
MK: No, we will ONLY sell through travel agents. That’s been our policy. We want to continue to be the resource tool to help the agent close a sale.
TRO: Let’s talk dollars – commissions and price matching.
MK: We’ve just changed our commission payments policy. We now pay commission after the full payment, not when the clients depart. Agents can choose electronic payments to their bank accounts- and with no fees. We do price BEATING, not just price matching. If an agent finds a lower rate advertised with one of the online companies, we will beat it, plus the agent gets 10% commission. If the price beat is with another wholesaler, the agent’s commission is 12%. Our Price Beat program betters the price by $10 per adult and $5 per child. We’ve also gone to e-docs. We may be one of the first tour operators to do so.
TRO: Let’s talk about training – your res agents as well as the travel agents.
MK: In house, we have ongoing knowledge training and fam trips- twice a year. We’re starting our WorldWide Showcase for agents. It’s a full one day event with training seminars with vendor participants. Starting in Boston in April and then Atlantic City, and 6 to 12 other locations. We’ll also offer more fam trips, a stronger presence at shows, and we’re trying to reach out to the home based agents. Agents can work with their local BDMs for training as well. Besides the e-mail blast – the Deal of the Day – we have the On The Go Guide. It’s available monthly and showcases packages. Agents can purchase it for marketing.
TRO: What has been your favorite trip?
MK: Santorini, I’ve been there a couple of times and want to go back.
TRO: And on your bucket list- especially since you are now Worldwide?
MK: The French or Italian Riviera.