JOHN FEENAGHTY was appointed to the position of Chief Operating Officer in early 2018.
Feenaghty is a travel industry professional, with 25 years’ experience across a variety of industry fields. John’s most recent tenure has been with the Flight Centre Travel Group in Australia where he held a number of senior roles over his 14 years with the publicly listed company. His broad experience covers retail, wholesale, product, e-commerce, operations and marketing.
Starting out in the RAAF as a flight steward nearly 30 years ago, John moved from hospitality to travel, with a career at the Queensland Government Travel Centre in Brisbane. A few years followed with Thomas Cook retail, Sunlover Holidays, and a short stint in the USA with an Australian travel specialist. In 2003, he took over the Marketing division of Flight Centre’s emerging wholesale brand Infinity Holidays for several years. This evolved into many key roles across the company, including GM of Quickbeds.com, SVP Product & Marketing at Liberty Travel (USA based) and GM of Product & Marketing with the Infinity Group.
John has a passion for travel, the industry, customer experience, and the positive impact of travel on society. John has a double major degree in Marketing & Management from Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane. He is married with two adult children and one spoilt dog.
Travel Research Online (TRO): Hi, John. How are today?
John Feenaghty (JF): I’m well, thanks. I love the fall. As the weather gets cooler, my attention often turns to “what’s the next vacation?” which is always fun to think about.
TRO: You started out your career with the RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) as a Flight Steward. I would imagine you traveled quite a lot in that position. Was that what got you interested in travel?
JF: I spent three years in the RAAF with some travel, yes. My first ever plane flight was to go to my induction training. I guess that’s where it started. The RAAF flew 707s in those days. I’ve been interested in aircraft ever since. When I left the RAAF, I was dying to go travelling so off I went with my girlfriend (now wife) to Europe, backpacking our way around, and ended up living in Bath in England. I’ve been a little nomadic ever since.
TRO: You became the COO of Goway earlier this year, after many other positions in the travel industry. How’s that going for you so far?
JF: It’s been a great start. I’ve enjoyed the transition from a publicly listed company (Flight Centre Travel Group) to a renowned family run travel company. There are lots of moving parts including wholesale, corporate, groups, direct and air consolidation, so that keeps me on my toes! We are known for travel to the South Pacific, but it took me by surprise how large our business is to Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Europe. We are now essentially selling the world, except Domestic and Mexico and the Caribbean.
TRO: There’s a lot to learn from being in an industry for 25 years. Can you let us in on the most important lessons you’ve gotten from your time in the travel industry?
JF: In terms of personal development, I use the analogy of “putting tools in the tool box,” whereby I’m always thinking about what skills I might need in the future and seeking them out, either through courses, self-development, or a mentor. While my background was largely product and marketing, whenever a role came up with a greater commercial focus — I grabbed it. You can never have too much experience with P&Ls and how the mechanics work in a business.
From a leadership perspective one thing I’ve learned is that it’s my responsibility to develop my successor, and for those that I lead, I work with them to develop their skills and their own leadership. It’s our responsibility to grow and nurture tomorrow’s leaders.
I’ve also learned to never stop traveling. After all, it’s the experiences we have that make us great storytellers.
TRO: Goway has been providing travelers with amazing travel experiences to travelers since 1970. What do you think drives this success so far, and into the future?
JF: One thing I’ve noticed so far is longevity. We have several team members here who have been with the company for many years. One of my first experiences with the company was walking around the sales floors here at Goway HQ with Bruce Hodge, the Founder and President. He said “Come on. Let’s go and give out the long service awards” and there were a number of 5, 10, 15, and even 20-year awards. It’s quite incredible.
I’ve also noticed a unique “fabric” that binds the Goway business. The key threads are the destination experience of our teams (we have over 40 nationalities here at Goway), the passion for those destinations (we arrange our business by destination specialty), and the care and concern for our travelers (before, during, and after travel). As well, the culture is one of a small big business, or a big small business—whatever the size of the team or the product, it still retains a family feel.
Looking forward, we’re currently investing in a number of things including technology to ensure we are efficient as we grow, our agency network and partnerships, our people in terms of skills, and our brand and marketing presence.
TRO: What do you think are the positive aspects that travel adds to society as a whole?
JF: I like to say that “we are fulfilled by the lives that we enrich through travel” in terms of what we all do in the Travel Industry. What greater gift can we give than a life experience? The wider the reach of a traveler, the more they see the uniqueness of and differences in other cultures. I find those who have travelled have a more accepting, more tolerant view of the world. That has to be a good thing, right?
TRO: How does Goway work with travel agents to ensure the best travel plans for their clients?
JF: We use the term “Globetrotters” to describe the mutual customers we have. They like and use agents because they offer the finer details that are available through that booking method. Online simply does not cater to long haul, complex itineraries, and that is the bulk of what Goway does. Our Destination Experts co-consult with our agents to ensure the vacation is everything travelers are after. We help our agent partners tailor and craft something that no online business could ever do. In the end, it’s the advice, suggestions, and product experiences that make Goway and our retail partners such a good team for the travelling public.
TRO: Would you like to share any big news in the works for Goway?
JF: I guess the reason I’m here is to allow our Founder and President Bruce Hodge to retire at his leisure. So, I’m bringing some new eyes and ears to business and we’ll be investing our capability to manage the growth we’re targeting. Salesforce is a big step forward in the way we see our customers and partners and also the way we manage information and market to them. You’ll hear and see more of Goway in 2019 as we are planning some large promotional events. Then we look towards our 50th Anniversary in 2020, when there will be some amazing events and giveaways.
Exciting times lie ahead for Goway!
TRO: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us.
JF: It’s my pleasure!