An imminent dearth of Scottish representation on The Advantage Travel Partnership board was the impetus agency owner Joanne Dooey needed to apply to join it herself.
Having sat on the SPAA board for 14 years, Dooey – who owns Scottish agency Love To Travel with branches in Motherwell and Coatbridge – knows the worth of such a position. Happily her application was accepted and she was appointed to the board in July.
“Jimmy [Martin], my partner, was about to retire from the board, which meant there would be no representation from Scotland. I felt my knowledge of the Scottish trade could help Advantage understand regional issues as Scotland can be very different from southern markets,” she says.
One such example was marketing campaign planning.
“Campaigns are planned in line with peak dates, so when it came to a lates campaign for example, the materials were designed for June to coincide with the lates market in the south. In Scotland however lates starts in May so we need it earlier.”
Dooey also notes that Scotland represents a higher level of mass-market travel – something her own stores focus on.
“Many of those on the board are from more affluent areas, which means they sell more luxury travel, so it’s important agents selling your more typical bucket and spade break are also represented,” she argues.
Dooey is also one of the agents using Advantage’s Advantage Managed Services (AMS) scheme and she is the first board member to be a part of this initiative.
“Advantage has done well with AMS but there are always going to be things to tighten up. I have a great relationship with many other AMS agents as many were managers of mine when we worked in the multiples. They are happy to raise issues with me, which I can then take to board meetings. If something does crop up, Advantage always changes it.”
It is this ability to make changes and champion the needs of high street agents that attracted Dooey to apply for board membership.
“I can have a say in the decisions made for Advantage members and I feel I can help shape the future. I am still front-facing, so I bring what it is like at the sharp end of being a high street agent to the board. I explain the issues we are facing,” she says.
Dooey cites issues such as price parity, commission – “whether we can get more overrides and more allocations”, and systems. “Some things we’ve flagged to Advantage have already been changed. They really do listen,” she adds.
Looking to the future
When it comes to the shape of the future, Dooey has a positive outlook for independent agents.
“I see the multiples closing more stores and getting out of the smaller towns, which opens more opportunities for people to go in and open independent shops.
“I think you will also see more homeworkers and smaller agencies like my own taking on homeworkers with a good bank of contacts who want to work from a shop for one day and then from home for another two or three days. It means they can work more flexibly if they have a family, for example.”
She adds: “It would also create an opportunity for people who have worked in the industry for a long time to take the chance to go out on their own. Managed services such as AMS are a great way to do that.”
Joining the board is something that Dooey says she would highly recommend to other agency owners.
“Why moan about things and not do something about it?” she says. “I am passionate about getting more youth into our industry and have had trainees come through the ranks. This is something I am doing now in my own business and I would like to try to help other agencies see the benefits of getting trainees onboard. If you can have a say then go for it.”