The thirty-two-year old Stephen Rey Tagud spent most of his career in the hotel and travel industries in Las Vegas, mainly handling groups. His current business approach in 2Go Travel as its chief commercial officer is a product of exposure at the entertainment capital and training at schools like the Les Roches, Switzerland and Universidad Europea de Madrid, Spain. A hands-on boss, he could be seen directly talking to curious walk-ins at the 18th Travel Tour Expo to explain a new kind of cruising in the Philippines.
Here is an excerpt of HNM’s one-on-one with Tagud:
HNM: You chose to drop many known passage brands and integrated them into 2Go. How did you justify this move?
Stephen Rey Tagud (SRT): In 2010, when Negros Navigation (Nenaco) bought out ATS (Aboitiz Tansport System), which owned brands like Superferry, SuperCat, and 2Go Express, we were bombarded with different brands. In marketing if you want to be effective and communicate that you are now a major player you have to come up with a strong brand name that people could remember it.
We were faced with different brand loyalties. Nenaco was a strong brand in the Panay and Bacolod market and has been in the industry for 80 years, while Superferry in the Cebu market. We did the “NN-ATS” brand for a while, but it didn’t pick up. So what we did was to simplify everything and came up with the “2Go Group”.
We used the 2Go name from the original 2Go Express, our parcel business unit, because it stood out in the research. It’s short, the word 2Go means forward, and the magenta stands out.
HNM: In terms of product development, how is the new brand different?
SRT: When you tell people that you’ll be traveling by ship people would say that it’s old and scary. We’re trying to change that. When we’ve refurbished our ships, we’ve been getting a lot of good reviews. We have entertainment now, different events happening on board. Some of our bigger vessels have salon and spa.
Why 2Go Travel? We don’t want to limit what we want to give to our customers. Like the Boracay route, we’ve attracted the tourist segment and not just the Ro-Ro market. What we do is we package everything from the bus to Batangas and even the hotels. We’re more of a full-service company now, moving corporate groups and hosting meetings on board.
HNM: What is your expansion strategy?
SRT: There aren’t any new developments in the Philippines, basically only growth around urban areas. Our strategy is more growth in the market. Aside from strengthening the Bacolod and Cebu market, we’re getting more corporate groups.
If you’ll look at Las Vegas, at first, it was a very tourist market. But then with all the rooms available during the week they had to get corporate groups. That’s what we’re trying to do here. During the lean season, we’re getting the students and corporate bookings with us. In the peak season – summer, December, holy week – we’re back to the passage market.
We’re trying to get BPOs to get their incentives with us because a lot of them are now operating in Cebu, Bacolod, Davao, and Cagayan de Oro.
HNM: What’s the difference between working here and in Las Vegas?
SRT: This is my first job in Asia. The work mentality here is different – the sense of urgency, you have to push and push and follow-up. There are a lot of brilliant people but you have to guide them and the deadlines have to be met. That’s more of what the challenges are.
Las Vegas has the luxury market. Everything there is high-end. When I started with Nenaco, it was a very C, D, and E market. I took it as a challenge. I had to know the buying behavior and paying capacity. During that time, the industry was static, few have heard of revenue management. So we made crazy sales and similar new ideas.
HNM: Name one skill you learned in Las Vegas that you find useful today.
SRT: I’ve dealt mainly with the corporate market. That has prepared me on how to give proposals to our market like the BPOs and know their needs better.
HNM: Your outlook in cruising in the Philippines?
SRT: Hopefully cruising would be a new trend especially with what we did in Boracay. What we want is to have more special events on board and to encourage a different way of traveling. Filipinos are very fickle. They want to try something new all the time.