28 JUNE 2011: Janine Chapman, vice president of retail for Sunwing Group, says people’s perceptions of selloffvacations.com tend to fall into three categories. First, that the company exclusively sells all inclusives. Second, that they are pretty well only an online web based agency, and third, that they are a discounter. Not so, says Chapman.
We met in her delightfully messy office. I frequently go into people’s offices to find these immaculate spaces and pristine desks. I was delighted to find Chapman’s desk looks just like mine – organised chaos. She is also an excellent photographer and there are several of her framed photographs, stacked against the wall, waiting to be hung when she gets some time.
“I hear it over and over again,” she says, “and certainly we used to focus primarily on vacation packages, but we now sell everything - exotic tours, African safaris, air and hotel, and we have preferred suppliers in every travel category.”
Yet people continue to think of them as only selling discount packages.
“Of course,” she laughs, “the fact that our logo was a palm tree didn’t help the cause.”
That logo has now been changed, adding a cruise ship, a car and a plane to reflect the multi-market approach the company has taken over the past year.
“The lowest price guarantee” slogan made the cut, but while Chapman says, “will we match the competition? Absolutely?” she insists the company is not looking to be tagged with the “discounter” label, or to be tied to a single operator or group.
“Of course, we sell Sunwing and Signature, but we also sell other operators and our strategy is to grow the business, and I believe our proportions are very much in line with market share.
The other misconception people sometimes have is that Selloffvacations.com is essentially a call centre. It’s isn’t. There are 45 shops across the country from Victoria to St. John, all now branded with the Selloffvacations.com name.
“We want to establish the brand as full service and great value, rather than discount,” says Chapman. “We intend to change that perception. We have a healthy marketing budget and a good central structure,” she says adding that calls are driven to specialist agents in various categories and locations.
The website has been carefully designed and with lots of content and information. “We use the web as a tool,” says Chapman, who also notes that the company has also been working on social media channels, and is heavily invested in online university and educational programmes for agents.
“We’ve built a strong foundation,” she says, “now we’re ready to implement.”