Travel Weekly spoke to Triton board members about the success of the conference and the issues being raised by the trade.
Were there enough agents at the conference?
Out of 800 delegates there were 450 agents, made up of 175 Advantage agents, 175 Worldchoice agents, but only 100 Global agents. Triton hopes attendance will top 1,000 next year.
Triton director Andrew Botterill said: “Nothing fell below our expectations – I don’t think there’s any apathy. In terms of a business model, Global franchises have less members and it’s hard for them to get away. Historically, Global sponsored many members [at its conference] but we’ve not been able to do that here. We all agreed numbers-wise it was good. It would be nice to get more than 1,000 next year.”
Are you going to kick out members who don’t support preferred operators?
PricewaterhouseCoopers’ research presented at the conference showed only 56% of members current support the list of up to 200 preferred suppliers. Triton pledged to use training to encourage members to support suppliers rather than kick members out.
Triton director Andrew Botterill said: “We have got some disclipine issues. But there are times agents are not selling who we want for valid reasons, I don’t know many doing it on purpose. We’ve never had to kick members out of Global.”
Triton chairman Colin Heal said: “There will be bags of training. We will not have to kick them out because they’ll go out of business if they are not increasing their revenues and margins.”
Triton consultant and Global founder George Begg said: “Operators do want us to kick members out, but we’ll decide what to do. Our expectation is that we will not need to.”
Meanwhile, they all admitted it would be a continual struggle to stop operators working with agents individually, despite calls for unity.
Botterill added: “It is always going to be difficult to stop operators we don’t work with going direct to members.”
What are the incentives for supporting preferred suppliers?
PricewaterhouseCoopers’ statistics show agents can increase their bottom line by 50% by selling preferred suppliers.
Triton is also rolling out enhanced incentive payments for highperforming members reaching or over-achieving on sales targets, with Worldchoice’s Target Tracker to be launched group-wide in the next three months to measure members’ sales levels.
Chairman Colin Heal said: “Those who support preferred operators will be incentivised. We will also roll out our Target Tracker which allows us to measure each member’s sales – if they reach a target then they get an incentive payment.”
How is Triton communicating its messages to members?
Triton said names of preferred suppliers had been passed on to members through each consortium and were available on intranets to download, despite the fact some agents claimed they did not know which companies were on the list and only discovered ones they dealt with had been dropped when they tried to make a booking. Consortia will continue to deliver key messages individually.
Triton director Andrew Botterill said: “There is no excuse for not knowing who our preferred suppliers are.”
Who’s in charge of Triton?
Triton refuted rumours of a Global takeover and said the superconsortium was being run with the three consortia as equal partners. They denied there was a need for a Triton chief executive.
Chairman Colin Heal said: “We are all equal partners. We’re not putting out any mixed messages.”
Director Andrew Botterill said: “It’s clearly not a Global takeover. We are the more commercial of the three consortia so are seen as the most aggressive partner, but each organisation has its own culture and approach.”
Director John McEwan said: “Advantage has its financial services, while Worldchoice is strong on training.”
Is the technology up to scratch?
Triton insisted it was on schedule with its technology roll-out for members, despite agents’ moans it had been slow to produce an all-singing all-dancing system. Directors admitted they were forced to develop the Triton Search dynamic packaging system faster than planned when Thomson unexpectedly cut agent commissions in November.
Agents will receive installation instructions for Triton Search in the next six weeks, although some functions, such as transfer prices and inflight meals will be added into the Triton Holidays’ product later.
Director Andrew Botterill added: “We have had to redesign the system in the last six months since commissions were cut. While there have been delays we have had to get it right.”
Triton consultant George Begg added: “Agents came to us asking for this tool as they are desperate to switch sell. A lot of people are very jealous of our technology. It’s there to give our members the edge.”
What’s Triton doing next?
Triton will now focus its efforts on increasing the number of agents supporting preferred suppliers, and hopes 70%-75% of members will support operators by next year. It also plans to expand the product on offer to members, which could include more cruise deals, and roll out marketing initiatives.
Triton consultant George Begg added: “Cruise is one of the areas we need to get into as we move more into dynamic packaging.
“There is also a marketing strategy which needs to be put in place soon – but we are committed to retaining the retail brands. Exactly what we promote ourselves as, including our products such as Triton Holidays, will be decided soon. It will be a major topic of discussion.”
Pictures, top to bottom: Geroge Begg, Global Travel Group founder; Andrew Botterill, Global Travel Group chief executive; Colin Heal, Worldchoice chairman; John McEwan, Advantage managing director