Kier Matthews is the Vice President of Sales at Europe Express, where he is responsible for travel agent sales. Prior to his job at Europe Express, Matthews was a Manager of Member Sales & Service at Virtuoso, the travel industry’s leading luxury travel network. While at Virtuoso, Matthews was an integral part of the network’s social media engagement. He conducted seminars for travel agents and suppliers on how to use social media to grow their business, as well as help establish Virtuoso’s corporate social media policy.
Travel Research Online (TRO): What initially lead you to pursue a career in travel?
Kier Matthews (KM): I wanted to work in this industry from the time I was a teenager. I traveled often with my family as a kid and it had a huge impact on me. I know first-hand how travel changed my view on the world and I wanted to help others achieve the same experiences.
TRO: How have your previous positions in the travel industry prepared you for your current position as VP of Sales for Europe Express?
KM: Working in hotels, cruise line, and consortia has allowed me to learn some of the different travel distribution. Doing so has helped me approach this job with a wider view than most.
TRO: One of the biggest problems travel agents face today is how to effectively promote and separate themselves from the competition. With your past experiences in social media engagement, what would you say is the greatest advantage for travel agents using social media to grow their business?
KM: I think the biggest advantage for travel agents using social media is the ability to gain a stronger, more personable relationship with their clients on a wider platform. Society now is strongly digitally influenced to the point that you could create an entire vacation for someone without even speaking to them on the phone. It creates the ability to reach a wider network and demographic of potential clients, allowing you to interact and engage with your audience, therefore, creating a stronger relationship and brand loyalty.
TRO: You’ve previously worked in a variety of different markets within the industry, from luxury travel to cruise line. Why pursue careers in these different areas of travel?
KM: It is all about knowing different angles and perspectives to better communicate with clients.
TRO: Before you entered the travel industry, you had previous experience in the political field, even working on the political campaign for Bill Clinton. How have those experiences contributed and carried over into your career in travel?
KM: Working at the White House for a President is some of the best training you will ever get. You learn leadership, communication, marketing, presentation skills, and protocol. All those things I implement every day in this job.
TRO: What type of experience is guaranteed through Europe Express? What benefits are there for travel agents who choose to use your services?
KM: This is travel so we offer no guarantees, however, the benefits are there. We are a “one-stop shop” for seamless FIT and Group travel to Europe. That means we want to make it as easy as possible for you, the travel agent, to get all the products you need in one place – from air to accommodations, from transfers to sightseeing, from luxury packages to pre- and post cruise packages and more. We are dedicated to providing these high-quality products at affordable rates, while maximizing your profitability.
TRO: What are a few of the core values that Europe Express upholds? What separates Europe Express from the competition?
KM: First, at Europe Express we believe strongly that customization is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. What that means is we strongly encourage creating a one-of-a-kind, tailor-made itinerary for your client that will meet their expectations instead of trying to fit your clients into pre-packaged vacations that won’t quite deliver the quality of service they were expecting. Next, is our dedicated and knowledgeable reservation staff, expert specialists who have experienced these European destinations first-hand and understand the complexity that can come with planning an international vacation. They are your resource and here to make it easier for you. Lastly, is our in-destination customer support. Not only do we have an office in the United States, but we also have offices in Barcelona, London, and Florence. We have members of our team on the ground, in the same zone, available to assist your client’s while they are traveling in case of an emergency.
TRO: You’ve recently expanded your sales team to better serve agents across the US. What parts of the US are covered?
KM: We are currently expanding our sales team. At the moment, the east coast is covered, but we are currently recruiting for the mid-west and west coast sales manager positions. So I hope to announce those folks in the very near future.
Currently, we have added Ed A. Jones to our sales team this past fall. Ed manages our East Coasts clients and we will continue to expand our team this upcoming year.
TRO: Explain a little about your new online booking system.
KM: Our dynamic online booking system is a great resource available to you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We had the travel agent in mind when we developed this system to make it easy-to-use and efficient for your needs. First, make sure you are registered with Europe Express, and then you will be able to create an online profile and login to start booking! It’s a great option for those “simple” bookings that don’t include many special requests, and you won’t have to wait on the phone to speak to anyone when the office opens up. Some examples could be single city itineraries, booking a transfer, or booking a hotel with a couple of sightseeing options. We also have some great Online Tutorials that include step-by-step instructions, as well as videos in case you need any additional training.
TRO: How have you seen the industry change over the years? How has Europe Express modified its business strategies to keep up with the times in an ever-changing market?
KM: One of the biggest changes I’ve seen to the travel industry is the shift to off-the-beaten-path destinations. Clients want to explore, they no longer want the simple 6 nights in Paris; they’ve done that and experienced it. They want something new that will provide a unique experience. This brings me back to the need for customization. In order to meet these client demands, we have to be able to provide the types of vacations they are requesting without relying on a pre-packaged vacation. We specialize in custom FIT and Group travel within multi-city and multi-country itineraries. This isn’t a new concept for us, as we’ve been doing it for 25 years. One area that we have been dedicated to improving over the last couple of years is our online resources filled with educational material. From archived newsletters to archived webinars, from city guides to suggested FIT and Group itineraries, from creating a custom eBrochure you can email to your client to printing co-branded collateral and more – we want to provide you with as much relevant information possible that will only help you grow a more successful business.
TRO: What is one aspect you love about travel?
KM: I love exploring new destinations with my 10 year old daughter Isabella. I like seeing the world through her eyes!
To learn more about Kier Matthews and Europe Express, visit their website at http://www.europeexpress.com.