The Network Insider: Fight or Flight – Battling it out in the travel industry

Below is the most recent email newsletter from a local company called Atomica Creative. In this edition Tatsuya Nakagawa of Atomica is interviewing a good friend of mine Ryan Phillips so I thought I would pass along the article in its entirety.


Summer is travel season, so it makes sense for us to explore innovation in the travel industry. Hard hit by a variety of technological inventions that have transformed the way people book travel and whether they travel at all; an economy that discourages any type of expenditure and the miscellaneous impact of oil prices, terrorism and accidents, this is an industry that needs to innovate to survive.

Our guest this month, Ryan Phillips of Flight Centre Business Travel, brings not only his insights about the travel industry, but also some interesting observations about how marketing and sales have changed… and stayed the same – plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Even in this low touch era where deals are as likely to close over the web as they are in person, effective sales people understand that personal contact can make all the difference in whether the deal gets signed or not. The rise of social media sites have been a boon to those companies that recognize the consumer need for personal contact and travel industry companies have been some of the first to understand their value. JetBlue and Southwest Airlines have both harnessed the power of social networking on Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites and brought a new level of transparency to the industry.

They have been some of the leaders in using social media and find new ways of using these technological innovations to increase customer satisfaction every day. As the hassle factor and the economy together strive to make leaving home an unpleasant experience, those who truly understand the nature of innovation stay one step ahead.

Our guest Ryan Phillips, when asked to name an innovative company, chose Nine Inch Nails and their strategic use of free distribution and selected copyrights. Of course, my immediate thought was, “wow what a leap from travel to music!”” But in reality, it’s often innovations in a field far removed from the one in which an individual works that drives creativity. The Post-it Note, famously it is said was inspired when the inventor was singing in the choir. Maybe it’s something about music. Whether or not music has anything to do with it, we all know that we live in an era when consumers’ access to information is unparalleled, so the old rules of first mover advantage are falling by the wayside. In a matter of moments any concept, promotion, advertisement or idea can be copied and disseminated to the target audience. Which make the ongoing relationship that much more important. Relationship is key in the low touch century. Ryan understands that and shares his ideas on how his company strives to develop strong ones with their customers.

Interview with Ryan Phillips

What is your role at Flight Centre?

Business Development Manager with Flight Centre Business Travel (FCBT) which specializes in corporate executive and employee travel. Essentially I work with companies to identify ways that FCBT Travel Consultants can help streamline processes while offering a personalized service, 24 hours a day. I frequently talk to my clients and the most common feedback regarding their experience with FCBT is how our travel consultants are very responsive, friendly and knowledgeable. I would love to take all the credit for that, but I really do owe it to the team I work with.

In your opinion what are the key trends affecting the travel industry?

The current economic climate is definitely affecting the travel industry both in terms of personal and business travel. On the leisure side, people are trying to get the most value for their travel dollar in terms of inclusions and options. In terms of corporate travel, a large majority of companies have much stricter travel policies, which is another reason we are seeing an increase in business. We have an excellent process in place which allows for simple, yet effective, ways of tracking company travel policies.

What is the greatest marketing or sales advice you’ve ever received?

As an extremely ambitious new young sales representative very early in my career, I can remember meeting with a client to do a sales pitch. After the pitch the client looked at me and told that he was interested and that I should call him back in two weeks. Feeling pretty proud of myself I sat back and waited and after two weeks made the call and asked him if he would like to go ahead. His response was “sorry we went with the competition.” My manager asked me why they decided that way and I couldn’t answer him so he asked me to call the client back and ask why. With a damaged ego I picked up the telephone and called the client and explained to him that I was new to sales and I wanted to learn what I could have done differently. The client explained to me that the competition had come in to talk to him on several occasions during the 2 week period and every time he met that person it made more sense to work with him. Approximately one year later that same client was looking to replace another piece of office equipment and I was given the opportunity to present a proposal. Recalling the conversation we had one year earlier, I followed all his rules and ended up winning him as a long standing client who still currently works with my previous employer and stays in touch with me.

If you could go back in time and change something, what would it be?

I have always been a true believer that all that has happened in my past has been a big contributing factor to my success today. Although we never want to forget our past, we never want to live in it. Live in the present with an eye on the future. The short answer to your question is nothing.

What is an example of an innovative company that people have never heard of?

This may seem like a strange answer, but Nine Inch Nails (NIN), yes the music group! Many people know of them but not many know them as an innovative company. Their marketing tactics have been a true inspiration for me in thinking outside the box. They are almost single handedly changing the music industry. Trent Reznor the mastermind and front man of NIN is paving the way for
new and old bands to connect with fans.

Taking tactics like this and applying it to a corporate business environment would allow us to connect with clients on a whole new level. Who in their right mind would think that by giving away an album for free would end up leading to it being the bestselling album on Amazon in 2008 and generate $750,000usd in three days?

List a few of your favourite business sites.

Stockhouse Is a great took for looking at market trends and learning about new and upcoming business.

CNW Group is a good resource to find out what is happening in the Canadian business market.

The Flight Centre blog always provides up to date travel information and advice.

iGoogle is an amazing tool which allows you to create your very own customized page with 100’s of different widget options. It’s the first place I start every morning!

Linked in has always been a great place to keep a database of contacts I have connected with along the way.

BIO: Ryan Phillips joined Flight Centre Business Travel as a Business Development Manager after more than 10 years of working in Business Development with a range of companies from those in its infant stages to Fortune 500. His extensive experience in all ranges of companies allows him to appreciate the importance of creating long lasting relationships while developing effective strategies for increasing profitability.

Ryan attributes his success as a Business Development Manager with Flight Centre to his passion for understanding that each of his client’s travel needs are different. As a frequent business and vacation traveler himself, Ryan strives to ensure that his clients are provided with the unbeatable service of Flight Centre’s Corporate Travel Consultants. Ryan is an avid supporter of the community and the people around him. Outside of work he enjoys volunteering for a local children’s charity, as well as being involved in regional and community projects.

Ryan Phillips
610 Robson St.
Vancouver BC


Tatsuya Nakagawa
Atomica Creative
Strategic Product Marketing

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