The boss of InteleTravel says the homeworking group is close to securing an Atol licence to sell packages in the UK.
James Ferrara, president of the US homeworking group – which controversially joined Abta last year – said InteleTravel would create its own product for its recruits to sell and also allow recruits to dynamically package their own when trained.
“We can’t say too much about this publicly, but we’re preparing to package our own product,” said Ferrara, speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast. He noted: “We have an application in.”
Asked why there had been such a delay as the company had made similar claims last year, Ferrara said the Civil Aviation Authority had had “a rather busy year” and that the process was “complex”.
“We have to do a lot of tooling in our model to be able to have independent agents responsibly packaging product,” he said. “That’s all underway, there’s a lot of development work going on to fulfil the Atol certificates and that, I promise you, you’ll see shortly.”
Ferrara said InteleTravel had “secured inventory” to create packages for its recruits to sell.
“We have the revenue available and the suppliers need it now. We’ve been able to strike deals that that work for the suppliers in this market, and will give us a powerful advantage as the market rebounds,” he said.
Asked how much of the company’s sales Ferrara said he hoped would be via its in-house tour operation, he noted packaging product was a “higher margin business” but foresaw a “healthy mix” between sales of its own product and those of its suppliers’.
“I’m looking to add to our profitability,” he said. “We’ll do an excellent job for our suppliers as a retailer, and I expect we’ll do an excellent job for them now as a packager.”
He added: “I have no illusions. Being a packager, or a tour operator, is fraught with operational challenges. Anyone who would do this because they think they can do a better job than suppliers is misled.
“This is not about replacing them, or thinking we can do a better job, it’s simply adding to our margin. Otherwise, as a retailer, you’re limited to whatever that percent is that the marketplace will bear.”
Ferrara said holidays in its tour operation would be from “across the board” in terms of different holiday types, but that cruise is “an important part of it”, noting the company’s focus on cruise in other markets.
He also noted the “strange thing in the UK” that “popular tour operators and suppliers don’t protect prices for travel agents, so customers can go directly to that supplier and get the product for less”.
“This is a big move for us, an important strategy,” said Ferrara who added that InteleTravel had also built its own “condo, villa, vacation rental booking engine” and a booking engine for activities with more than 100,000 listed. He said the investment “will change our business”.