The “Atol solution” tour operation – which went live two years ago in August – has been expanded over the past six months, with Advantage chief executive Julia Lo Bue-Said describing it as “doing phenomenally well”.
She said: “It’s not about how we replace product that we’re selling from third parties, it’s how we enable our members to sell and package though a separate Atol component that they’re not able to now.”
She added: “We’re not going after huge volume. It will grow but the primary aim is how we can help members satisfy that gap. It’s going to grow even further as part of our 2020 vision. We are forecasting turnover of upwards of £10 million.”
Asked whether supplier partners were fazed by the launch, Lo Bue-Said insisted they were not.
“It’s like suggesting there’s no more business for anyone.
The market is growing, we’re growing. There’s still business out there.
“The members have been selling under their own Atol anyhow. With the changing Package Travel Regulations legislation we have to ask them if that’s something they really want to do – why not consider de-risking your business and selling Advantage Holidays?”
Advantage Holidays has employed new on-the-road sales team member Jonathan Davies to support trading and product manager Lee Ainsworth, as well as Kelly Joannides, who is dedicated to pulling together product offers and distributing them, along with collateral, to members.
Lo Bue-Said told the conference Advantage Holidays paid out £135,000 in additional member commission in the past year.
The wider business is seeking a head of innovation among a raft of other newly created roles.
The recruit will focus primarily on the business travel market, but will also explore innovations to enhance the consortium’s technology offering for leisure members.
“We are targeting further growth, but also investment in technology and people,” said Lo Bue-Said.
“The head of innovation will be investigating – for example – the best traveller-tracking tools as well as exploring which GDS solution [members] should be using.”
In addition, head of international partnerships, John Hobbs Hurrell, has joined under WIN – the global business travel network Advantage acquired a majority stake in last year – while Kirsty Chambers has been appointed to increase the group’s global network. Lo Bue-Said was promoted from managing director last month.
She said the senior team changes would help align the group’s components. “We have international partners based here [in the US], and with our greater focus on WIN we’ve increased our network to incorporate 72 global partners. We also have our own corporate hotel programme – so how do we start leveraging some of this content into the different channels of the business to drive improved benefit to UK members as well?”
Lo Bue-Said revealed that 20 new members joined last year, bringing in £63 million in sales turnover, while Advantage Managed Services grew by 23%.