The business travel sector is driving rapid growth for the Advantage Travel Partnership, the consortium revealed at its first long-haul conference, as it seeks a new 'head of innovation' to focus on technology support for its members.
Neil Armorgie, head of Advantage's business travel division and chief executive of WIN, told delegates that 32 members were currently part of Buying Business Travel's Leading 50 TMCs, with the consortium set to announce new members in the near future.
"We have established ourselves as the home of the independent TMC – with a potential pipleline of an extra £400 million worth of buying power," he said. Commission paid to its TMC members had also risen 200 per cent over the past year, compared with growth of 72 per cent for its leisure members.
Currently, there are 200 independent business travel locations across the UK, with group turnover in excess of £1.5 billion. Overall, Advantage claims leisure and business agents collectively produce £4.5 billion of travel sales each year.
Speaking at the Trump National Doral Miami in Florida at the weekend, he also said Advantage Business Travel had grown stronger since it upped its investment stake in WIN (Worldwide Independent Travel Network) to 95 per cent from 25 per cent in March last year.
As a result, this meant exposure to a network of members across 70 countries. Prior to the Advantage conference, there was a separate WIN Independent TMC Summit on 8-10 May at the Delano resort in Miami's South Beach area.
Meanwhie, Armorgie revealed the consortium was recruiting a new head of innovation, as well as a renewed focus on the MICE sector via more investment and a "central support" function.
"We're looking for a head of innovation. We've got a skills gap and we recognise that. We want someone to manage a portfolio of technology partners," he said.
The three-day conference featured several business sessions, based around the theme of "storytelling", with Jason Nash (pictured above), Travelport's chief storyteller, urging TMCs to use emotion to better engage with potential corporate customers.
"We all tell stories, but we don't know it," he argued. "Tell stories using logic, emotion and ethics. Currently, most TMC use statistics to show they're the biggest.
"You need to use emotion... and stories that resonate with your customers and employees."
Keynote speakers included Delta Air Lines captain Antonia Wysong, news reporter Peter Greenberg and former chatshow host Jerry Springer.
The next conference will take place in Cadiz, Spain, on 17-20 May 2019.