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Youth travel specialist STA Travel is launching a raft of new initiatives to bolster both its online and offline presence as it seeks to expand its global presence.

sta-travel-logo-e1366705747730This month it launches new transactional mobile sites to be followed in March by mobile apps for travellers to customise their trip and take advantage of “on-the-spot” deals while journeying.

The group also plans to better align global customer service and sales to make a seamless “omnichannel” experience for customers, no matter where their global location or method of payment.

STA Travel also relaunched its flagship store in Victoria, London yesterday (6 January). The revamped store features a giant video screen to showcase live social media chats alongside deals and destination videos.

The store also includes an “inspiration zone” and a planning zone where staff sit side by side with customers using laptops rather than behind desks. There is also an amphitheatre area where it can host talks and travel events.

Marketing director for Northern Europe and Africa Laurence Bresh says that the aim is to take a “Wagamama’s or Apple store approach” with customers bringing their own ideas and mobile devices to the store to work out their travel plans informally.

The group also plans to introduce new “Flex” products that allow greater flexibility on travel plans, such as Railflex and Hostelflex, alongside its currency card CashFlex and unlimited flight change product Multiflex.

Bresh says the combination of retail outlets and online is essential for its business with people planning longer vacations or round the world trips needing the reassurance of a face-to-face meeting with an expert.

“Bricks and mortar are a crucial part of the mix. A lot of travel companies are still keeping things fairly apart but we want to be transparent [on pricing] across offline and online”

He says that the group’s marketing will always focus on its price competitiveness but will also push its expertise. He added that while print and radio were important channels more budget is switching to digital channels like Spotify and social media.

The Swiss-owned group repositioned last year to widen its appeal beyond its traditional student base to young professionals and its acronym now stands for “Start The Adventure”.

Looking at the challenges Bresh adds: “It’s a very competitive market. People are getting incredibly demanding in terms of wanting a quick response to queries and are incredibly price sensitive. We have to be as price sensitive but also have to offer service, we have to show we can add value by having that high street presence.”

STA Travel has 50 retail outlets in the UK and opened five last year, including its first pop-up shop in Shoreditch, London.

The group operates directly in 17 countries and works with franchisees and licensing partners in a further 73 countries.