The trip of a lifetime starts at House of Travel

Last updated 05:00 11/12/2012
House of Travel team

House of Travel team: Seated (from left) Jonathan Prager (Rangiora), Paula Waldeck (Addington), Steve Marshall (Barrington). Standing (from left) Chris McGillen (Ferrymead), Debra Carnahan (Upper Riccarton), James Greer (Riccarton), Lyn Low (Christchurch City), Mike Smith Shirley), Cheryl Whitham(Northlands), Annie Crombie (Merivale), Lyndon Hadden (Shirley), Dalwyn Sinclair (Upper Riccarton). Absent from photo: Julie Woods (Riccarton), Beth Yates (Merivale), David Williams (Christchurch City).

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Whether you are looking to get away for a week or a year, House of Travel can plan an exciting itinerary designed specifically for you.

There have been many changes over the past decade to the way travel is planned and organised by consumers. House of Travel has continuously adapted its business model to these changes by embracing technology and redefining its relationships with customers.

"We often can make order out of chaos. Customers can become overwhelmed or side-tracked with the sheer amount of travel information they now have access to," says Chris McGillen, owner of House of Travel Ferrymead.

"Customers are no longer prepared to just go and look at the mainstream tourist  icons; they are looking to connect more with the local people and their cultures."

House of Travel uses its experience to make people's ideas a reality. Its travel consultants bring customers' visions to life by adding inspiring content and confidence through security, price and quality.

"Our relationship with customers is now more of a collaborative endeavour. We work with them to transform an initial holiday idea into something very special," says McGillen.

House of Travel understands that customers' experiences are increasingly being shared with others through its expanding social media activities - an example of how the company has embraced technology to meet the unique interests of Kiwi travellers.

Inspire has recently been launched by House of Travel. The microsite linked to its main website consists of personal accounts written by New Zealanders about their travel experiences. The company recognises Kiwi travellers have a distinctively different expectation of their holiday. With Inspire, they can learn from like-minded travellers and House of Travel staff about their particular personal travel journeys.

House of Travel is a wholly New Zealand-owned and operated company. Established in Christchurch by Chris Paulsen in 1987, it employs 1100 people nationally and 250 people in Christchurch. There are 75 House of Travel businesses nationwide, 10 of which are based in Christchurch.

"Christchurch is the birth place of House of Travel and we remain the biggest travel group in Canterbury and the only one connected to the region through our owner-operator business model. That means a lot to us," says co-owner of House of Travel Shirley, Lyndon Hadden.

To meet the challenges of the modern industry, House of Travel places a priority on experience and encourages its staff to travel regularly as a way of growing knowledge and keeping up to date with changes in major destinations.

"Our people are our business and our technology is simply an enabler. It's the relationship our people have with their clients, the expertise they share and the trust they build with them over time that brings customers back again and again for new and better experiences," says Hadden.

The company's most recent success was the House of Travel Expo that was held on October 14 at Riccarton Park, designed to inspire new and existing customers thinking about travelling to Europe in 2013.

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Popularity of the event grew by 20% compared to previous years which Dave Williams, owner of House of Travel Christchurch City, attributes to the increased level of research that customers now engage in before settling on their holiday choice. People spend longer in the "dreaming phase", where people are less interested in special offers and more influenced by the options and experiences open to them.

"We had our own staff and guests presenting a range of European destinations - they offered advice on places of interest, modes of transport and shared their personal experiences, tips and insights," says co-owner of House of Travel Riccarton, James Greer.

Due to the success of this year's Expo, another has been planned for worldwide destinations in February 2013. It will focus on destinations closer to New Zealand - South Pacific, Australia, Asia and North America."

It's only after the 'dreaming phase' that customers want to meet with us to dig deeper into what they have in mind for their travel plans. That's when it starts to get really exciting and a lot of fun for both us and them," says Greer.

House of Travel loves to add sizzle to its customers' holidays. Staff always have recommendations to dine at a little restaurant away from the main tourist area for an authentic local experience. That's what Kiwis seem to love most about travel.

House of Travel endeavours to give back to the community, too. In 2005, it formed a partnership with Hospice New Zealand which has been the focus of fundraising efforts across the country including contributions to Christchurch-based Nurse Maude.

Company founder Chris Paulsen often reflects on the differences between the travel industry now and when he opened the first office 25 years ago.

"Our role has changed, but the value we add is still very important to our customers," he says.

"That's the one piece of the travel revolution that hasn't changed. We still provide customers benefits through the experience we have. The significant growth in sales coming from our powerbase in Christchurch shows we are moving in the right direction."

- The Press

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