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Tuesday,  June 18, 2024 8:40 PM 

Independent By Flight Centre is rebranding as “Envoyage." VP & GM Anita Emilio explains what this means

Independent By Flight Centre is rebranding as “Envoyage." VP & GM Anita Emilio explains what this means
Anita Emilio, vice-president & general manager of Envoyage Canada. (Supplied)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

While the dawn of a new year has long passed, it’s never too late to embrace a new you. 

And that’s exactly what Flight Centre Travel Group's Independent division is doing, announcing Monday (Feb. 26) that it will launch a new principal brand called “Envoyage.” 

The global entity, which combines the words “envoy” and travel (“voyage”) to signify a feeling of connection – will officially rebrand and retire “Independent By Flight Centre,” a name that has been attached to independent, home-based travel advisors in Canada for nearly 16 years (it first launched as “Flight Centre Associates” in April 2008).

Speaking to PAX over the phone yesterday, Anita Emilio, vice-president and general manager at what is now known as Envoyage Canada, confirmed that the Independent By Flight Centre name will be phased out this spring when Envoyage is set to take over.

The rollout is fluid, but the plan is to launch Envoyage in the United States in March, first, and then activate it in Canada by the middle of May, Emilio said.

READ MORE: "An exciting new era": Flight Centre announces “Envoyage" global brand for independent agents

Australia-based Flight Centre Travel Group (FCTG) has independent brands all over the world, and the introduction of Envoyage is meant to effectively tie everything, and everyone, together, Emilio told PAX.

“Everybody operates under different names and models and we saw an opportunity to capitalize on our global community, pool our resources, and find ways to maximize our time,” said Emilio, who began her executive role at FCTG’s Independent division last year. 

A one-stop shop

The concept of Envoyage, which was shared with affiliates yesterday, reflects FCTG’s ongoing investment in the independent agency space.

In Canada, it will bring a “global ecosystem of offerings and options” to agents and agency owners, who are entrepreneurs in their own right, while maintaining a strong Canadian support network, Emilio explained.

Agencies will have a true “home,” Emilio said, and access to a one-stop shop that unlocks FCTG’s vast portfolio of products and technology.

For example: with Envoyage, independent agencies in Canada will gain access to global New Distribution Capability (NDC) products through TPConnects, which Flight Centre has a majority stake it.

It’s a tool currently being used in Australia that aggregates NDC content from multiple sources.

The new Envoyage logo. (Supplied)

Envoyage will also debut “incredible” new tools that utilize artificial intelligence, Emilio added.

“We’re looking at capitalizing on the tools we’re using globally so they can be used around the world,” she said.

“The missed opportunity, over time, is that there are tools within the Flight Centre Group family that we haven’t taken advantage of – either because they have been based out of the country, or just didn’t show up on our radar. This is the solution to that.”

Envoyage will have a global lens, but it will maintain a local feeling in Canada – especially when it comes to business support, Emilio said.

“It’s a global structure that will take advantage of best practices from around the world,” she said.

Corporate & luxury extensions

Envoyage will also branch out with “extensions” that specialize in corporate and luxury travel, proving that Flight Centre-branded businesses do sell beyond mass market.

While the details are still being worked on, the specialty groups will be by invitation only and agencies will have to meet certain sales criteria.

“They’ll have access to supplier partnerships that the rest of the network may not have access to, as well as FAMs and opportunities for them to secure special amenities for their clients,” Emilio said.

What’s in a name? A lot

Envoyage is also part of a strategy to reinvent how Flight Centre’s Independent division is viewed in the marketplace, Emilio shared.

The Flight Centre name is a powerful brand that has long been synonymous with bright-red storefront locations and vacation deals.

And while this, at one point, may have served FCTG’s home-based contractors (which operate separately from the company’s retail storefront division), and have helped grow the independent model, the name, over time, may have presented limitations. 

"That’s part of the problem – when you share a name, but have completely different business models,” Emilio said. “[Envoyage] will help clarify who we are. I still think people struggle to understand that [independent contractors] are entrepreneurs, running their own businesses.”

Flight Centre hasn’t positioned itself as a travel discounter for years, but consumers will make up their own minds about a brand, which can lead to misconceptions about what a Flight Centre-branded independent travel agency can offer. 

“I would never discount the fact that [the Flight Centre name] has helped us build a strong network of advisors over the past 15 years,” Emilio said. “It has done us well. Now we want to evolve.”

According to FCTG, the name Envoyage conjures up a sense of aspiration, a feeling of security and an immediate association with travel and personalization, which “truly embodies everything our independent division is about," said FCTG’s Global Managing Director of Luxury and Independent Brands Danielle Galloway in a statement yesterday.

"Being part of Envoyage will offer agents the best of both worlds – the freedom of running their own business their way, coupled with the power of a truly global brand and community,” Galloway said. 

The “bridge” in the new logo represents the growth journey of travel agents and agencies "and the incredible travel journeys their customers can go on with us," the company said.

Envoyage doesn’t identify as a host agency. It certainly operates like one, but “we want to be more than that,” Emilio explained.

“We don’t want to fall into what people believe a host agency should be. We want to be that global ecosystem that can help agents grow their business. It’s more than just a simple introduction to suppliers,” she said.

“We want to be seen as a powerhouse – one that not only has the product and tools, but also a great community.”

That feeling of belonging to a community is ultimately what entrepreneurs want, Emilio said, citing FCTG’s own research.

Network name change

Independent By Flight Centre (soon to be Envoyage) currently has around 380 independent agencies in Canada.

“We’re not about growing the number – it’s about attracting experienced agents,” Emilio said.

In fact, the division in Canada only takes on experienced travel advisors as it has systems in place to support that particular group.

The team is unapologetic about this. It will encourage new agents to gain some experience elsewhere, first, before applying.

“Someone who is new to the industry versus someone who has a book of business, and has been doing it for years, has very different needs,” Emilio said.

There are many sole proprietors in Canada who use the “Independent By Flight Centre” name, but once the new brand takes over, that will change.

“They will transition to Envoyage,” Emilio confirmed.

Agencies that use their own unique name will be allowed to keep it, but will instead be known as “a member of Envoyage” instead of Independent By Flight Centre.

“It’s new, but the initial response has been positive and welcome,” Emilio said. “We did a lot of research, both with consumers in Canada and outside of the network. We didn’t take it lightly.”

Envoyage, Emilio said, be “a trusted name with an elevated look and feel compared to the way Flight Centre may have been perceived in past.”

It's also meant to elevate the advisor. 

“When customers look to an independent advisor, they are looking at someone they trust, who can deliver the holiday of their dreams,” she said. “We believe the new brand gives consumers a strong impression of the agent.”

From a recruitment perspective, Emilio hopes Envoyage stirs new interest from travel agencies who operate in the independent space.

“You’ve got to find a place that’s right for you,” she said. “And I believe it’s worth giving us a try, or getting more information from us, to see if Envoyage is the right place.”

“We’ve evolved and we’re changing.”

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