This year marks a very special occasion for Flight Centre Travel Group, not only in Australia but in suburban strips, shopping malls and high streets all around the world where our iconic brand is represented. In 1982, 40 years ago, we opened our first shop in Australia.
Our 40th birthday milestone is an acknowledgement of our Australian roots, and the birth of a brand that became the catalyst for all of our success and brand diversification to follow.
More than 40 years ago, I flew to London as a uni grad and had a hair brained idea that buying a run-down double-decker bus would be a cheap, but effective, way to drive around Europe. A few friends liked the idea too and pretty soon, we worked out people would actually be willing to pay to come along with us on some of our fun.
That was the start of Top Deck Travel and became the catalyst for the birth of Flight Centre in Australia.
It's been a privilege to watch the growth of the travel industry, both in Australia and globally, over the past 40 years. It’s safe to say I’ve done my fair share of travel but this is the most incredible journey I’ve been on.
To our customers, who have let us play a part of their travel memories, and to our people, past and present, who have contributed to the company’s enduring success over the past 40 years, thank you. Here’s to the next 40.
Air travel – Sydney to London in less than 6 hours
Over the next 40 years I think the most significant change for long haul travel will be in flight times. Using a new generation of high speed (Mach3) intercontinental aircraft, travellers will be able to get from Sydney to somewhere like London or New York in less than 6 hours. The planes are powered by liquid Hydrogen processed by renewables. The fuel cost is about double relative the cost of kero in 2022.
Coach touring – immersive cultural experience
Back in the 80s, European coach camping tours were marketed at 18-25 year olds and the most common itineraries were around the 10-week mark. Travellers would stay in tents or converted Double Deckers (favoured by our own Top Deck brand) and come home with tales of seeing many new countries and experiencing a taste of what they have to offer. Over the next 40 years, touring will focus on more intimate, experiential memories in smaller groups (25 max). Instead of building larger 10-week itineraries covering multiple countries, tourers will spend about 3 weeks in a single region, staying in hostels as a more experiential way to immerse yourself in the destination.
Cruising – riding big waves
Over the past 40 years, cruising has been largely contained to popular ocean cruising in large ships, but we’ve seen river boat cruising and smaller expedition ship journeys grow in the lead up to Covid. I predict cruising of all sorts will see a resurgence over the next 40 years as ocean, river and expeditions grow in popularity dramatically as an industry in all 3 sectors.
Hotels – rise of the boutique brand
Big, branded hotel chains have dominated accommodation preferences for 40 years but I anticipate smaller, boutique brands will become more popular as travellers seek a unique stay to complement their in-destination experience. Our own (Turner-family owned) Spicers boutique offering continues to grow in line with pandemic-driven demand for tranquil, nature-based getaways.
Founder and Global CEO, Flight Centre Travel Group