Advantage taking ‘quality over quantity’ approach to membership, says chief

The chief executive of the Advantage Travel Partnership has stressed the consortium is more interested in getting “quality agents” on board than the overall size of the membership.

Current membership stands at just over 750 and is set to grow, with 17% of members plotting expansion over the next 12 months, but Julia Lo Bue-Said this number is not what the consortium is focusing on and would not give a target figure.

“We’re tying to get away from number of locations as it doesn’t matter if they’re not driving business,” she told Travel Weekly at the consortium’s annual conference in Cancun, Mexico. “The way the industry benchmarks itself isn’t in outlets.

“Over the last 12 months we added £108 million in new member turnover and that will grow quite sizably next year, but our main priority is getting quality agents on board and nurturing our existing members. 

“We want to be seen as a viable option for serious business owners who want to grow with us.”

More: Travel can look forward with ‘high degree of optimism’, says Advantage chief

Lo Bue-Said believes the biggest growth will come from Advantage Managed Services (AMS) members.

AMS branches account for about 25% of the overall membership and collectively generate an annual turnover of £150 million – up 63% on pre-pandemic levels.

Lo Bue-Said said it has become the most popular option because it takes away the “cumbersome” operational elements associated with setting up and running an agency.

“People want to start an agency because they love to sell travel and they’re great marketeers but the cumbersome nature and costs involved can be prohibitive. The AMS model takes care of that for them,” she said.

“It gives the agent the opportunity to sell and focus on their customers while we manage all the onerous back-office tasks. It is without question where the single biggest growth is going to be.”

More: Advantage Travel Partnership outlines success of product communities

Lo Bue-Said said it is vital the sector continues to lobby government as the general election approaches, to “ensure the industry receives the recognition and support it deserves”.

She said she has met with numerous MPs over the past year who “still do not recognise the considerable contribution the sector makes to the UK economy”.

“It’s incumbent on the sector to make sure it’s speaking with the right voice and to demonstrate to government it’s seen as a thriving, important economic sector so that government shows the right level of care,” she added.

“Policymakers understand that people want to go on holiday and want to travel but what they don’t understand is the ecosystem of our industry.

“The main issue is travel is the least-represented department in government with the most junior minister. It’s so under-represented at every level.”

Lo Bue-Said cited the progress of Advantage’s MP engagement programme, which sees it arrange for constituency MPs to visit their local travel agencies, with 50 MPs across the UK having visited local branches in the past nine months.

“By arranging these meetings, we are not only strengthening current relationships but also safeguarding them for the future,” she said. “This proactive approach ensures we are prepared for any upcoming crises, which, as we all know, are inevitable.”

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