As President of Funjet Vacations, Michael Going leads a team of talented associates that strive to deliver an unforgettable vacation experience to each and every customer. A travel industry executive and business strategist, Going joined Funjet Vacations in November 2006 as chief marketing officer and was promoted to the role of president in April of 2008. Prior to Funjet Vacations, Going held positions as chief marketing officer for Certified Vacations; senior vice president of marketing and sales for Air Jamaica; and senior vice president of Worldwide Sales with Vanguard Car Rental, parent company of Alamo Rent A Car and National Car Rental.
Going’s work has been recognized by prestigious third parties throughout this career. He has received the Atlas Award from the Association of Travel Marketing Executives (ATME) for inspiration and leadership in marketing efforts, and in 2000, was recognized as one of the Top 25 Travel Industry Executives by Leisure Travel News.
TRO: What do you want to make sure Travel agents know about Funjet Vacations?
MG: Funjet focuses on providing programs, training, product, and incentives that help travel agents thrive and build their business for the future. While other travel companies are interested in getting travel agents’ business, Funjet is interested in keeping travel agents in business.
TRO: How important are TAs to Funjet Vacations? Explain about the genesis of your new marketing campaign: “For a good time…”
MG: The well-being of travel agents is our main priority; they are extremely important to us for a variety of reasons. We make many product, program and marketing decisions based on agent feedback. And, they are extremely important from a customer care aspect – we firmly believe that the best way to research, plan and book a vacation is with a travel agent. They’ll care for a customer and protect their vacation investment way beyond the capabilities of any online travel Web site. The “For a good time call…a travel agent!” campaign generated from that belief. We wanted a fun, catchy way to communicate our travel agent support to consumers and drive consumers to seek out a travel agent for their vacation needs.
TRO: How would you say you differentiate themselves from other tour operators?
MG: We stand out because of our customer-centric business model, our travel agent sustainability focus, and our innovation and technology edge. Putting the customer first aligns us with travel agents and enables us to provide mutual customers with the best vacation experience possible.
Our focus on travel agent sustainability puts us ahead of the competition when it comes to earning potential, breadth of product, and availability of marketing tools and trainings to assist agents in gathering new customers and retaining current clients. Funjet’s innovative and turnkey marketing tools make it easy and inexpensive for agents to grow their business.
Funjet is aligned with the best providers in the industry, including VAX Vacation Access. VAX provides booking technology that gives agents the tools they need to work faster, smarter and make more money.
TRO: What destinations do you see as being “hot” in the coming months, years?
MG: Cancun and Riviera Maya continue to be primary drivers for us and we’re also seeing an increased interest in West Coast Mexico. River cruising in Europe is also very popular right now because it’s a unique and diverse experience. Travelers seem to be seeking out “different” experiences and opportunities through tours, excursions and activities. Regardless of the destination, they’re looking to enhance their vacation with opportunities not available anywhere else than where they’re visiting.
TRO: Are there any destinations Funjet Vacations does not currently sell, that you foresee adding in the future?
MG: We recently added Asia and an expanded Europe product offering to our destination portfolio. Our Asia program includes 58 destinations in 12 countries. We have a very comprehensive product line-up including 216 hotels on direct contract and hotels available via Pegasus to supplement. There are a lot of benefits for Funjet to sell Asia and those benefits are also specific for our travel agents: longer average length of stay; higher average price point; travelers to Asia have high income, are loyal and likely repeat bookers; and agents have the opportunity to sell more commissionable add-ons than in any other destination.
TRO: What challenges does he see in the future, for Funjet Vacations, and for TAs?
MG: The ability to establish and maintain a focused and strategic value proposition will be a key to success for travel agents and Funjet in the future. Those travel agents who are able to focus their business and understand the value of a strong value proposition will be able to position themselves for long-term sustainability.
Airline consolidations will also continue to be a challenge in the future. As consumers are faced with less choices in the marketplace, prices will rise and travel agents and Funjet will be challenged to maintain an affordable scheduled air vacation package price with compelling values from hotel partners.
TRO: You tell a story of helping a customer who had found your home number during a party and your counterparts being flabbergasted that you did it. Explain your reasoning behind that decision.
MG: It was less of a decision and more of an automatic response based on how our company operates. I behaved the same way that any of my team members would have behaved. We don’t just say we’re customer-centric, we live that way as well.
TRO: You have a great relationship with AirTran, how do you see that evolving with the takeover by Southwest Airlines?
MG: Southwest’s proposed acquisition of AirTran is in the very early stages, but our parent company (The Mark Travel Corporation) has an excellent and long-standing relationship with Southwest Airlines through managing the Southwest Vacations brand.
TRO: Share the story of you, a Flowbee and an intoxicated barber.
MG: Let’s just say I don’t take myself too seriously and consider myself a fun-loving guy. Bottom-line: don’t let someone cut your hair while they’re drinking tequila!
TRO: Many in travel say that destinations are like their children; that it is hard to name a favorite, but where are the places you feel should be on everyone’s bucket list?
MG: I could tell you my favorite places, but the reason they’re my favorites is not many people know about them! I don’t want to be so assumptive as to tell people what destinations to put on their lists, but the types of places people should consider are those that engage all of their senses at once, facilitate a human connection with others in the region, and engage them emotionally.
TRO: Are there any new improvements, processes, or announcements that you would like to leak to the travel agent community?
MG: In the next few weeks we’ll be announcing some enhancements to our Groups in VAX program. Agents will have access to aggressive offers, even more control over their group bookings, and a destination wedding bonus.