Aito hopes success of annual ‘famference’ will boost agent numbers

Aito is hoping word of mouth about its third annual ‘famference’ will attract more members as it unveils plans to raise its trade profile through agent testimonials.

The Specialist Travel Association (Aito) hosted 30 operator and agent members on an “off-the-beaten-track” fam trip to the Algarve last weekend.

The event took place as Aito targets significant expansion over the next 18 months. It aims to increase the number of operator members from 100 to 150 by the end of 2026 and to grow the number of Aito Agents from 75 branches, made up of 46 companies, to 100 branches.

Executive director Martyn Sumners said the trip would play an important role in attracting more agents and operators to join the association of specialist small and medium-sized businesses.

He said: “We rely hugely on word of mouth. We have got people on this trip who are huge advocates of Aito who will attend other events after this and say to people, ‘Why not consider Aito?’ We are [already] getting operators approach us because agents talk about Aito at networking events.”

He admitted the current rate of expansion was “not going as fast as we would like”, blaming the review of Atol and Package Travel Regulations for taking up much of Aito’s focus, and revealed plans to seek testimonials in which agents will be asked what they love about Aito.

Sumners said it was essential for Aito to “simplify” its marketing message to encourage others to join.

He cited a recent booking worth more than £2 million by an Aito agent with an Aito operator as an example of the benefits of the “bonds of trust” within the organisation.

“Agents have different reasons for being part of Aito and the majority of the benefits are intangible,” he said.

“We will ask agents for testimonials and pull together what is most important to them.”

Aito Agents chair Gemma Antrobus said publicising agent members’ views would raise awareness of Aito’s role.

“There is nothing better than word of mouth,” she said. “There are so many misperceptions about what we do; some agents think we are another consortium.”

Currently, a “few more” agents are in the pipeline to join, while Aito is also in talks with more specialist operators interested in becoming members or rejoining.

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