House of Travel has poached Stella Travel Services technology chief Matthew Harris as the company looks to expand its operations into Australia. Mr Harris had been in charge of information technology strategy at Stella Travel, since it was formed by listed funds management company MFS Limited in 2005. It comprises brand names Harvey World Travel, Travelscene American Express, Gullivers Travel and Transonic Travel and accounts for roughly 40 per cent of the Australian travel agency sector.
He had been CIO at Harvey World Travel since 2000 and took on group-wide responsibility for technology when the companies were merged. Since 2005 he had been charged with the task of creating a combined IT infrastructure across the previously separate business units, which amounted to a 600 per cent increase in scale overnight.
Mr Harris will begin his new role next January, reporting to chief executive Joe Araullo, and his replacement at Stella Travel Services has already been named. Markus Svensson, a management consultant at Bain and Company will start on October 29.
"I have enjoyed my time immensely in Harvey World Travel and then onto S8 and Stella through multiple acquisitions but seven years is a long time at the top of any IT organisation and the new opportunity presented to me was too good to pass up," Mr Harris said. "I've previously worked with most of the executive team in House of Travel Australia and as a company it is extremely well-respected, especially in the realm of technology."
House of Travel is a privately owned business and made its first step into the Australian market in May, with an acquisition of Fiji Pacific Specialist Holidays. Mr Araullo said Mr Harris had been targeted because IT would play a major role in the company's business developments in Australia.
He said he had been seeking an IT executive who could identify innovative technology solutions that added value to travel agents both financially and in the operational aspects of their business, and that Harris's experience of creating mutually beneficial relationships between franchisees and franchisor was particularly attractive.
"Technology is a major enabler for House of Travel's consultants. They have developed and implemented technology systems that allow them to achieve significant sales per outlet, it's progressive and the way of the future," Mr Araullo said.
© Fairfax Business Media
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