Advantage Travel Partnership, Kelly Cookes on travel consortium

Advantage’s Kelly Cookes: ‘The value of joining a travel agent consortium’

Advantage Travel Partnership leisure director Kelly Cookes examines the benefits of joining a consortium and what travel agents should consider when it comes to making a decision.

The world as we know it has changed in many ways because of the pandemic, but when restrictions are lifted and borders open, travellers will want to become the great explorers again.

With a new travel landscape, it’s likely that consumers will require the knowledge and guidance of their trusted travel agent – and many agents may look to lean on the support that a consortium can provide to help elevate their business through collective knowledge.

A consortium has access to technology, marketing, and training programmes to provide education to its members. By working closely with other industry bodies, they can also form alliances to ensure that travel agents’ voices are heard. As the pandemic has demonstrated, this has never been so important.

A strong network will help travel agents support their clients in a post-Covid world, but it’s key that agents pick the right consortium for them. In order to make the right decision, there are a number of things to consider.

Understand the business model

First, how does the business operate? Is it part of a larger PLC, or member or independently owned? It’s important to be clear on what the strategy is and how a partnership might work.

It also makes sense to investigate the different models that the organisation offers. Businesses evolve over time and may need a different offering in the future, so it is beneficial to understand the full picture on what is available.

For those models that involve a trust account, it’s wise to find out what monies are contributed into the account and how it is run. For example, Advantage Managed Services (AMS) ensures that all pipeline monies are protected in a trust account, but this can differ in other companies.

Then there’s the breadth of the commercial offering and the negotiated terms with key partners. Do they offer an incentive programme and tactical opportunities to encourage enquiries and drive bookings?

Focus on marketing opportunities

Marketing is key and therefore every agent should look at the collateral that is produced for members and assess what is included in the membership and where there may be an additional fee. Does the marketing collateral work for different channels? Consider external factors, too. For example, the pandemic has produced a shift towards digital and social media marketing.

Advantage Travel Partnership has its Cruise Champs community to help agents enhance their cruise knowledge, while also benefiting from specific marketing and commercial opportunities such as the Cruise Guide and dedicated cruise videos for clients.

Last but not least, what support does the consortium offer its members? This could include things such as events and business development managers, and is important to understand in terms of how it supports goals and objectives.

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