TTG journalist Rob Gill and Star Alliance’s chair, Julie Murphy, met the five finalists in the Top Business Travel Agency category and heard about the impact of the crisis on their own employees and clients, as well as how they are preparing for the post-Covid world
About them: The Birmingham-based TMC has around 150 employees and has specialised in developing its own inhouse technology – 97% of bookings are processed through Click’s own platforms with more complex travel requirements being handled by their expert agents.
How they navigated the Covid-19 crisis: Click moved quickly to ensure all staff were able to work from home at the start of the pandemic – helped by the fact that 50% were already homeworkers. The TMC also set up the ClickCare platform in April to give clients access to the latest information about Covid-safe travel options to help them improve duty of care, risk management and traveller safety.
Highlight: Staff worked tirelessly on behalf of a client to assist a family with a young child recovering from surgery in the US to get back to the UK despite numerous flight cancellations.
About them: The TMC has been operating for 12 years specialising in the not-for-profit and academic sectors, including clients in the aid and humanitarian fields. Diversity had a staff of around 170 before the pandemic.
How they navigated the Covid-19 crisis: Diversity was forced to cut staffing levels by around half by taking advantage of the furlough scheme, although it kept all departments operational to maintain a high level of service. Diversity built a dedicated Covid hub to give clients the latest information and advice.
Highlight: The TMC was able to use its experience of dealing with “risky and fragile” destinations to successfully repatriate employees for its clients around the world, as well as arranging trips for charities who have had to continue their missions during the pandemic.
About them: Dating back to 1927, Gray Dawes has grown into the largest independent TMC in the UK in recent years due to a string of acquisitions with a pre-Covid staff of more than 200 people and annual turnover of £185 million.
How they navigated the Covid-19 crisis: The pandemic forced Gray Dawes to reduce its workforce through both the furlough scheme and redundancy but kept management in place to ensure strong leadership. The Traveller Toolkit was launched in July featuring an interactive destination tracker status tool giving the latest travel updates to its clients. The TMC also launched a series of blogs, videos and podcasts to help both staff and clients through the crisis.
Highlight: Despite the pandemic, Gray Dawes has achieved a series of high-profile clients wins from some of their competitors.
About them: Key Travel had been due to celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2020 before the pandemic intervened. The global TMC, which has around 150 staff in nine countries, specialises in the humanitarian, education and faith sectors with more than 5,000 customers across 40 countries.
How they navigated the Covid-19 crisis: Moved all staff to homeworking before it was mandated by the UK government and invoked its crisis management plan. Key Travel staff successfully repatriated more than 9,000 travellers back to the UK who were stranded overseas in the early stages of the pandemic, as well as processing 55,000 refunds and cancellations.
Highlight: Retaining virtually all of its clients despite the pandemic, as well as some picking up some new university and charity clients from other TMCs.
Travel Counsellors' Aisha Battersby, Matt Brown and Gary Fitzgibbon with Star Alliance's Julie Murphy
About them: The homeworking specialist has been around since 1994 with around 300 of its agents currently specialising in business travel and another 1,600 combining varying degrees of corporate and leisure clients.
How they navigated the Covid-19 crisis: Travel Counsellors supported its self-employed homeworkers by working together to deal with the huge volume of rebookings and refunds. While its new Wellbeing Hub has offered advice on securing help from government schemes as well as mental health initiatives. The TC Welfare Fund has supported 150 agents and colleagues unable to access help from other sources.
Highlight: Travel Counsellors has maintained its five-star rating on customer review platform Trustpilot throughout the pandemic illustrating the high level of service offered by corporate specialist agents.
Star Alliance's Julie Murphy answers five key questions about the alliance's plans for 2021.