Travel Network Group chief Gary Lewis has revealed to TTG the consortium feared, during the early stages of the coronavirus crisis, it could lose up to 70% of its members.
Lewis said like many other travel businesses, the crisis left the TTNG scrambling to establish "how on earth" its 1,000-plus members would be able to survive without revenue.
"The Thomas Cook failure changed what was going on in our world," Lewis told a TTG Face To Face on Wednesday (1 July). "Strategically, what happened off the back of that had a massive impact on our perspective.
"But the crisis has changed everything again. Everyone was in fear of what the future held. That was before the government loans, before the furlough scheme.
"[During] those first two to three weeks, once we got control of our own fears, we breathed, sat down, made our strategy, and decided what we should be doing to support every single member in coming through this crisis.
"Then we thought about what we needed to do to survive if we were going to lose 50%, 60%, 70% of our members which, in those first three weeks, we were certainly predicting – how on earth could a large amount of our travel industry, not just our members, survive if we had no revenue for six months, 12 months, 18 months? None of us knew."
Lewis said it was then the business paused to reflect on its "clear strategy", dating to its 2008 acquisition of Worldchoice, that "growth and scale was important"; Lewis explained TTNG was able to leverage its "fantastic relationship" with Global Travel Group parent dnata Travel Group to initiative discussions over a potential acquisition of Global.
This, said Lewis, happened during the first two to three weeks of the crisis. "We started the conversation, and that has progressed incredibly quickly - 12 to 14 weeks to get to this point," said Lewis.
"It was incredibly unusual to announce it at signing of heads of terms, rather than completion; that was imperative for us.
"We know the complexities of the business, we know the trust account model inside out, we know the membership proposition inside out, the managed service proposition, the independent option members, what they do and how that works. We have experience of that with our own members."
Lewis said he was confident TTNG has the level of skill and expertise to "immediately bring synergies" for Global members, adding the consortium had confidence in dnata to "warranty any challenges" that arose.
"[This] enabled us to have conversations with Global members immediately to reassure them about what the future holds to give them certainty so they could focus on the most important thing, which was surviving the crisis," said Lewis. "We believe it’s a really good fit for the Global Travel Group."
TTNG announced the deal last week, which will be finalised in the coming weeks. Since then, Lewis and the rest of TTNG’s senior management team have staged a series of "open and honest" Zoom calls with Global members and existing TTNG members to answer their questions, address their fears and concerns, and explain what TTNG had done, why it had done it, and what the risks were.
"The overall feeling seven days has been overwhelmingly supportive, even in these crazy times," said Lewis. "It’s been uplifting from both sides, Global and existing members."