KANISHKO DAS TALKS TO ANDRE RASQUINHA, THE MAN BEHIND TRAVEL TALK, ONE OF DANDENONG’S PREMIERE HOLIDAY COMPANIES
Ever wondered about the people who go to work every day, just to make holidays? They sit at their desks, interacting with clients, setting up their getaway plans, day after day turning frowns upside down. To many it would sound like one of those dream jobs. Travel Talk is such a business, set up 20 years ago in Dandenong. Today, in addition to doing the standard air-travel reservations, a specific division of the business, Travel Talk Holidays, is dedicated to providing clients with the best options for personal and business travel to India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and the Maldives. Indian Executive caught up with Andre Rasquinha, the man behind the scenes from the city office of Travel Talk to find out more.
1. Travel Talk came into being 13 September, 1992. How were things 20 years ago?
Very different! The travel industry was a shop-front driven operation. No online bookings, tickets were on paper, one actually went in to see travel agents when they wanted to travel and one rarely left bookings till the last minute. Back then, there were only a few Indian sub-continental specialist agencies. Travel Talk was one of the pioneers in this area and at the time Australia was in the middle of the recession. The four directors who are still with the company today took an immense personal risk to start the business at this time. For the first three months no salaries were drawn!
2. Tell us about your offices.
The operation began at our Dandenong office and a month later the city office was opened. We have eight staff between the two offices.
Between us we’ve pretty much been to all parts of the world. We also have our areas of specialisation or interest, like one member specialises in South Africa, while another in Europe and the Americas.
3. How did you and Travel Talk come to cross paths?
I came from a hospitality background and wanted to branch out into something for myself. I was keen to run speciality culinary tours to India. This was before the days of Masterchef and MKR and at the time it was a novel idea –definitely for the Indian sub-continent.
India was also playing Australia in a cricket test series being touted as “the final frontier” as the Aussies had never won in India. For the culinary tour I planned at the time, I needed the back up of a reputable travel agent and the directors at Travel talk were very supportive of the idea. We ran the first tour in September of 2004, “Spice Safari – a taste of India” — and have not looked back since. Travel Talk was an ideal partner not only because they were the travel agency of choice of many of my friends but also because they were reputed for their good service and their understanding of the destination. The directors could see potential in the idea and were willing to take a punt on my enthusiasm. It was a good match.
What have some of the changes been over the years?
On the work front, we have launched a new website that is also mobile phone friendly. We have upgraded our online booking engine to provide clients great deals on fares, hotels and car rentals. We are using social media like Facebook to keep our followers updated with travel ideas, news and deals. Over the past five years we’ve grown our personal and escorted tours to include – Africa, South America, Canada and Alaska, Vietnam and Cambodia, Holy land pilgrimages besides India and Sri Lanka. It’s an exciting time and we look forward to the next 20 years!
4. How is Travel Talk different from its contemporaries?
Most of our contemporaries specialise in airfares where it is very competitive — low margin, high volume. Unfortunately, this equates to a reduced level of service. Travel Talk, while maintaining its competitiveness in the Indian sub-continental market has also diversified into the other areas of travel –personalised and escorted tours, cruises, packaged holidays, pilgrimages and sports tours – giving us a wider market and stability over a longer period. There are not many other contemporaries that have lasted 20 years. We’ve been willing to change and lead the change.
5. When did Travel Talk Holidays come into being?
The idea of having a separate Holidays division and marketing plan was broached in the early 2000s. At the end of 2004 I was asked to take this on as my baby and develop it further. We started with products to India and Sri Lanka and look where it has led us! And there is a lot more to come.
For more information jump online to www.traveltalk.com.au
Trips and tricks
How to get the best deal
1. If you are contacting multiple travel agents to get the best deal for yourself then just be up front about it. As travel agents, we understand that you want the best price but it would save everyone time if you gave us the price you have and the details.
2. Weekends are at a premium as most people want to fly out on a Friday night or Saturday morning. If you are flexible enough to go Monday-Thursday, you are likely to get a better deal.
3. When an airline says, “Delhi from $700 in September”, it does not mean every seat on the plane is sold at this price. They may only allocate 20 seats at this price and once those seats are gone you have to pay more. Also, they may also choose to allocate seats on special prices only on 15 out of the 30 days in September.
4. The cheapest fares are generally the most inflexible ones. They tend to be either non-changeable or sometimes even non-refundable. Even if they are changeable they are expensive to change.
5. With regards to insurance, just like Medicare this should be mandatory but it isn’t. Now we buy airfares 3-6 months in advance of our travel, very often it is an on-the-spot purchase from a website. Insurance is the only thing that protects you from loses should you not be able to travel. And Insurance is great when things don’t go to plan on the trip.
6. In general we earn the same margin from a $2000 airfare or a $700 economy airfare. So it is in our best interest to ensure you get the best price and save money. We want our clients to keep coming back.