Travel agency without external walls: Galeria Reisen Managing Director Rolf-Dieter Maltzahn and Office Manager Sandra Fleck in Frankfurt am Main. Photo: ras
A travel agency can also look like this: Galeria Reisen Managing Director Rolf-Dieter Maltzahn in the new flagship on the Zeil. Photo: ras
Desk with wanderlust: office manager Sandra Fleck. Photo: ras
New name, new corporate identity: Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof became Galeria. As part of the modernization of the Galeria department stores, the offices of the Galeria Reisen chain are also being successively redesigned. At the end of October 2021, the first two Galeria Reisen showcase branches opened in the two redesigned department stores in Frankfurt am Main and Kassel. touristik aktuell spoke to managing director Rolf-Dieter Maltzahn about the concept, about omnichannel and service fees and about the further strategy for the future.
Mr. Maltzahn, how do the two new offices differ from the previous ones?
The two offices are not only much more modern, but also more open towards the customer and the department store. There are neither doors nor walls, nor catalog walls. Between the individual areas of the office, the welcome counter and the consultation areas, we have walls that are not perceived as such, as large-scale pictures make you want to go on vacation. There is also a lounge-style seating area. What is unusual is that we also show holiday mood on the ceiling.
How important is it for you that the area is so open?
This is immensely important for us as a company. We want to become more visible and sociable with the topic of travel. Our claim is ‘My vacation starts here’. This is intended to make it clear that the customer not only makes bookings in our department store, but can also buy many other things for the holiday before they leave, such as suitcases, suntan lotion, and sportswear. We will also network more with the other departments in the future.
We are part of Galeria, we want to extend the time people spend in the department store, offer experiences and interlink with the other departments. It is planned that we will draw attention to our trips at wine tastings, for example, or that we will use pop-up areas in cooperation with various service providers to address the topic of holidays. A travel agency usually has two to three shop windows for its advertising, we have an entire department store with its space available – in addition to the shop window. And we have our customer card as an additional add-on.
Do tell …
With the Galeria customer card, we can draw the attention of many customers to our travel agency service. If someone buys a bicycle helmet, for example, they will receive an e-mail some time later with bicycle travel offers tailored to them if they have agreed to this. But we are also of interest to customers because they can quickly collect many points by booking a trip, which they can then redeem or use for special promotions.
Will the way of working in the offices change?
Yes I think so. Because we work more closely with the department store, the tourism expert will also implement joint campaigns with colleagues from the different areas. This also makes us attractive for local activities and we can offer a lot to different tourism partners. There is hardly any tourism partner that pays more attention to the customer than we do.
What role do catalogs play in the consultation?
I’m convinced that catalogs in the classic sense will soon no longer exist, but there will be magalogs. In the older offices we still have catalog flaps, in the new ones there are only a few catalogs in the cupboards. The content is now digital and we email the customer the offer.
Do you have a lead organizer?
With our 79 offices, we are probably the largest tour operator-independent chain in Germany. As part of DTPS, we are close to the DER tourism organizers. In addition, we cooperate with specialists who convince us with their commitment to service and performance, such as Chameleon or Worldia, with whom we put together individual packages. Specialists and individual offers will become even more important in the future.
Do you create your own trips?
No. But we have our exclusive travel deals. These are offers that we buy permanently and refine with customer card benefits. This can then be an upgrade, an excursion or a wine box.
Do you charge service?
Yes, since May 2021, and it’s been very successful. It’s also good for our employees. They impress with their performance and are valued by customers. We offer various packages that are not based on sales but on performance. The basic package for a package tour including seat reservation and online check-in costs EUR 28 per booking. For frequent bookers we have an annual package for 88 euros.
What is the status of Omnichannel?
Our omnichannel concept is very distinctive. The customer can consistently reach us from home via the Reisen.de and urlaub.de websites, by phone, email and live chat. We have had live chat five days a week since mid-2021 and want to gradually expand it.
Where is the live chat located?
We have created six service hubs here under our offices. These colleagues log into the live chat and answer the customer’s questions and requests. In principle, it should soon be the case that every colleague who has the time can go to the live chat. By the way, we can see that the conversion rate via chat is three times that of a normal website. These customers are younger than the classic customers and they are all new customers.
Is it also possible to chat at the weekend?
Not on Sunday, as this is a classic rest day. Maybe it will be possible on Saturday because our department stores are also open then. Omnichannel doesn’t have to be 24/7. It is important that our omnichannel strategy also makes us interesting for young employees.
What else makes you interesting as an employer?
We are an agile organization and very modern. We offer a very good working atmosphere, training and further education opportunities and have an attractive bonus system that allows colleagues to share in sales quickly and easily. You can be promoted to office manager and area manager. Since we work together with the other departments in the house, the colleague can also develop ideas for merchandising and marketing here.
How many positions do you want to fill in 2022?
Like the entire industry, we had a few departures during the Corona period, colleagues who turned their backs on the industry. In the last few months we have hired 60 new colleagues. And if possible, we want to fill another 100 positions this year.
Where will the next Galeria offices be?
Whenever we modernize a Galeria department store, we check whether the location is attractive for travel. That’s how we did it in Regensburg and Krefeld, where we will be opening in the next two months. In Cologne, the DER travel agency is transformed into a Galeria Reisen. The department store in Euskirchen, which reopened after the flood disaster, is getting a new Galeria office with a new design.
Will there only be locations in department stores?
Yes, that’s the plan. We do not want to expand the so-called solitary locations because of the advantages mentioned within the department store. Our chain includes 79 offices, eleven offices are not in the department store. These are well running agencies like in Neumünster. The Karstadt department store was closed here, but the thriving travel agency was retained at another location.
What size are the offices?
We distinguish three models here, 60 to 80 square meters, 80 to 100 square meters and over 100 square meters.
Back to the new office in Frankfurt. Was there a travel agency in the department store before?
In the former Karstadt and today’s Galeria, around 200 meters further on the Zeil, there has been an office for many years, which will also remain. This office at the main guard is a new location. The location is very attractive and highly frequented. The free area next to the office is ideal for campaigns, flight partners can set up their flight seats or shipping companies can set up a cabin here.
Where exactly can you be found?
We are on the mezzanine floor between the market hall, which is visited by thousands of customers every day in normal times, and the first floor. If someone from the first floor wants to go to the market hall or the subway, they drive directly to our open office with the many pictures. All customers are new customers for us, that’s how we imagined it.
Where is the office in Kassel?
In Kassel, the office is on the first floor. Here we are part of the service hub and exactly opposite the information point of the city of Kassel, so also in a very busy and visible part of the department store.
Are the offices on short-time work?
We take a very individual look at each location. After the corona tightening in November, maybe half of the offices that are currently on short-time work will be affected. It is important that we were all out of short-time work last spring. We brought our employees back in March 2021, since the work requirements have changed almost completely and the customers’ questions have changed. However, I am very optimistic when it comes to customer interest and the need for advice. In the spring and summer it will be much better.