Triton bosses said that because the super-consortium was then just six months old, there remained many questions to be answered.
However, Triton believes it has delivered on all its main objectives including shoring up dwindling commissions, improving training, rolling out new technology and supporting preferred suppliers.
John McEwan said: “We were new in Tenerife and we had the opportunity to illustrate what we were about. But there were questions about what Triton was delivering. We want to demonstrate that in key areas we have delivered.”
Despite competition from new consortia such as Freedom Independent Choice and Harvey World Travel’s Connoisseur, Triton membership has remained at 2,000.
Andrew Botterill said: “The reality is our members are clear about what our mandate is and I’m sure they are clear that we are on our way to achieving what we said we would.”
George Begg added: “We are all happy with the way Triton has developed. We set some very tough objectives in a very short timescale.
“It’s evolving. We know the task ahead and we know what we want to achieve. What we want to see is more tangible benefits for all members.”
The keynote speech on day two will be given by Professor Lord Robert Winston, who will talk about human evolution and the integral part communication has played in it.
It will be the first time the renowned human fertility expert has spoken at a travel conference and Triton bosses said Lord Winston was flattered to be asked.
Triton believes commissions for independent agents would have dwindled further had it not been formed.
Bosses are convinced other operators would have followed the lead of Thomson in slashing commissions were it not for the super-consortium’s influence.
“We were able to hold the line,” McEwan said. “Our 2007 renewals of commercial terms were agreed easily and quickly in a way that not only protected members’ commercial business but allowed them to earn more money.”
Triton said 20% of new preferred deals have increased commission levels while the majority have maintained payments.
The changing market has been taken into account in some of the negotiations, for example in Triton’s acknowledgement that commissions cannot be maintained for flight-only sales.
“There is pressure in some areas, such as flight-only. Our job is to help operators bring commissions to a level that allows them to compete with the low-cost carriers,” Botterill said.
“That does not mean to say that all flight-only suppliers do not pay commission, because they do.”
Triton Conference v The Travel Convention (ABTA)
This year’s conference should build on its reputation as the one event in the travel calendar where operators can be guaranteed access to agents.
Triton bosses believe the success of the super-consortium’s first conference has ensured delegate numbers are approaching last year’s total of 800, with high levels of interest from operators and sponsors.
McEwan said: “This is a travel agents’ conference. ABTA is a much broader vehicle.”
Heal said the individual consortia conferences, before the advent of Triton, were more popular than the ABTA Travel Convention.
“What we have now is Triton, the conference for agents; ITT, for industry leaders; and The Travel Convention [ABTA], which is trying to be an industry-wide conference but is not designed for agents.”
McEwan said the speed dating and networking opportunities are popular. “We try to design the conference for agents to take a lot of tips away with them. We want agents to go back and say ‘I really learnt something I can use in my business.’”
Training and technology
Triton is to target older travel professionals with training schemes designed to bring them up to date with the latest technology.
It is hoped the training, a response to agents’ requests, will encourage agents aged over 50 who have left the industry to return.
Heal said training has been one of the major successes of Triton, with 500 agents trained to use dynamic packaging system Triton Search and Webex, Worldchoice’s online remote learning system, which has been rolled out across the group.
“We claim to have made a big impact on training. It’s important agents are trained to use new technology effectively,” Heal said.
“There is a market for more mature people who worked in the industry and want to come back. They are steady, reliable and conscientious.”
Meanwhile, Triton bosses said 83% of members have signed up to Triton Search and talks are under way with other software providers to give members a choice of systems.
The next 50 Triton agents to join the consortium’s Cruise Advisor scheme are waiting to get started.
Cruise Advisor was set up to help agents who wanted to expand their cruise business and capitalise on the expertise of others through a co-operative approach to marketing and training.
Heal said since January, Cruise Advisor membership cruise sales are, on average, 30% up, outstripping the overall increase in the sector.
A daily breakout session will offer agents practical tips on how to generate cruise sales.
“The Cruise Advisor programme has been successful and will be followed by similar specialist programmes,” Heal said.
“Cruiselines tell us it has been more successful than they imagined and consequently they are offering members some special deals.”
Environment and politics
Shadow secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs Peter Ainsworth will speak at the conference as he has a long-standing interest in the issue.
Heal said: “He has been involved in the business of environmental issues for a long time. He is not a here-today-gone-tomorrow type of politician.”
Triton is adding a carbon levy for each delegate at this year’s conference to minimise the event’s carbon footprint. The super-consortium recently announced plans to establish a group-wide environmental policy.
Day 1 – May 12
- Triton: From Creation to Evolution – John McEwan; Andrew Botterill; Colin Heal question-and-answer session.
- Rising to the Green Challenge – Can We Save the Planet? – Peter Ainsworth MP, shadow secretary for environment, food and rural affairs.
- Turning Answers into Action – Mike Greene, HIM! chief executive.
Day 2 – May 13
- Travel Industry Panel Discussion – Andy Washington, Cosmos sales and marketing director; Andrew Dickson, WOW Factor Consultancy chief executive; Richard Carrick, Hoseasons chief executive and George Begg. Question and answer session.
- Tomorrow’s World – Alan Whitaker, Future Winners International founder and chief executive.
- Per Ardua ad Astra (Through Struggles to the Stars) – George Begg talks about his road to success. Question and answer session.
- Evolution – Professor Lord Robert Winston.
- Triton directors sum up – John McEwan, Andrew Botterill, and Colin Heal.
BreakOut Sessions (May 12 and May 13)
- Customer Retention – Reaches More Parts of Your Business Than Other Strategies – Presented by Professor Shai Vyakarnam, professor of entrepreneurial studies, Cambridge University.
- Web 2.0: The Next Generation of the Internet and Implications for Travel – Presented by Kevin May, Travolution editor, in association with the Daily Telegraph.
- Cruising to Success – Nigel Lingard, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines sales director; Michael English, Royal Caribbean Cruises sales director; Justin Pearson, Carnival Cruises senior vice-president; Trudy Redfern, Silversea UK managing director; Andy Harmer, PSARA head of sales; Alan Griffiths, TripVision research director. Moderated by John McEwan, Triton board member and Advantage chief executive.