Homeworking agency InteleTravel will secure its long-awaited Atol licence within a couple of weeks, offering its agents the chance to package up holiday components.
The licence will enable agents to “double or triple” their earning potential, said James Ferrara, co-founder and president of InteleTravel.
Ferrara will announce news about the offer of the licence on Saturday at the company’s conference, commenting: “There will be a big ‘hurray’ from the agents.”
After his update, Tricia Handley-Hughes, UK director, and Joanna Kolatsis, InteleTravel’s industry consultant and director of Themis Advisory, will present a session called How Atol can supercharge your business.
Ferrara told Travel Weekly: “We have received an offer of a licence from Atol, from the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority).
“It means we have to sign the final documents and provide some up-to-the-minute financials – we have provided them all the way through the process – then they will issue the licence.”
He said InteleTravel does not control the timing of that announcement but added: “It is imminent, in the next couple of weeks.”
A year ago, Ferrara told Travel Weekly that InteleTravel was close to securing an Atol licence to sell packages in the UK.
Speaking during the agency’s two-day conference in Valencia on Friday (October 15), he said the “arduous” and “gradual” process had been set aside because of the pandemic.
“But we have been back on it over the summer,” he said.
Handley-Hughes has been working on training resources, compiling an ‘Atol bible’ for agents and developing new software.
Ferrara said agents will not be able to link elements and make a package until they have completed the mandatory training.
“It is a retail licence, we did not apply to be a tour operator,” he added.
“The training covers the PTRs (package travel regulations), and linked travel arrangements that retail agents often run into, such as hotel and airline tickets and tours – the licence will cover that activity.”
He said that, despite the strong growth in sales seen during 2021, InteleTravel agents have had “one hand tied behind their backs” because they have not been able to package and link such elements.
Handley-Hughes added: “It will be very extensive training. It is in our interests to cover as much as possible and cover every eventuality.
“We will make it easy and seamless so they can’t make errors. They won’t be able to sell [under the licence] until they pass the test.”
Furthermore, the technology system that has been developed “will control the compliance” for the agents, added Ferrara.
“Quality control is built in,” said Ferrara.
Currently the agents can sell Atol-packages from the 61 preferred suppliers but once the licence is granted, agents will have a wider choice of products to sell and bigger potential to make more sales, said Handley-Hughes.
Ferrara said suppliers will also welcome the news, adding: “They have been surprised at the number of transactions from us. We may well hear from more suppliers now.”
Handley-Hughes said she is in talks with more suppliers to become preferred partners.
Over the course of the pandemic, the agency offered its agents much more domestic product to sell because overseas travel was not possible.
“It was Tricia’s specific strategy early in the pandemic to focus on domestic, with products and showcases – it helped us through the pandemic,” said Ferrara.
“In the depths of the restrictions, in lockdown, over 70% of our business was domestic.
“That is the kind of nimbleness you need in times of stress.”
The agency has about 10,500 agents in the UK, and about 170 at the conference in Valencia.