The management shakeup at 62-year-old Lotus Tours came earlier than expected after Corporate Travel Management (CTM) acquired a majority stake in Hong Kong-based Lotus Travel Group Limited in a deal worth HKD$300 million (US$38.2 million).
Following its official integration into CTM starting October 2, 2018 came the departure of a number of key management team staff like managing director and COO, Ken Ng, chief e-commerce officer Keller Mak and general manager Joseph Lam early this year.
A source said former Lotus Tours owner Patrick Kong had indicated the importance of succession in senior management to ensure a smooth transition in the first year, but this did not go according to plan.
A wave of resignations followed the exit of Lam. His departure was also said to have resulted in Lotus losing its status as international representative (IR) of Celebrity Cruises.
Last month, the cruise line announced the appointment of Jebsen Holidays as its IR for bookings departing from August 1, 2019. The Celebrity Cruises-dedicated team at Jebsen is led by Lam, who has been named general manager.
Still, CTM Asia, CEO, Larry Lo said the staff turnover was lower than expected given the change in business direction and management. “A lot of measures were implemented to strengthen staff communications and stabilise sentiment.” Examples include improving staff benefits and organising on-site and off-site teambuilding exercises.
Last March, CTM Asia managed to put all brands under one roof by relocating its office from Kwun Tong to Tsuen Wan. Taking up three zones, each sized at 1,858m2, both Lotus and CTM are sharing the whole floor of 18/F while Westminster Travel occupies half the floor space on 19/F.
In order to minimise confusion, all 300 corporate travel team members from TMC brands such as TLX, Westminster and Lotus Tours are now centralised within a team under CTM.
Meanwhile, Westminster and Lotus MICE divisions have been consolidated under a new team and rebranded as ETM (Events Travel Management). The original TLX MICE will now operate under the CTM brand and primarily focus on a handful of long-term repeat and niche customers.
Bogged down by the rise of OTAs, diminishing profit margins, escalating rent and labour costs, the majority of traditional travel agency brands have in recent years sold their stake to conglomerates. Hong Thai and Sunflower Travel Service were acquired by HNA Group while Wing On Travel is now part of Ctrip.
So far, only a handful of major family businesses in Hong Kong’s travel agency sector still operate on their own. They are Jetour, Miramar, Charming and Goldjoy Holidays.