Business travel duo open new TMC

A pair of business travel leaders have joined forces to start new travel management company TakeTwo Travel Solutions.

Chris Thelen takes the role of chief executive and Julie Cope as managing director.

TakeTwo is starting out with 20 staff in the UK and Europe, with each consultant having about two decades’ experience in business travel.

The TMC already claims a UK/Europe-based client portfolio with a pre-Covid spend of £11.5 million and a new business pipeline in the region of £40 million.

TakeTwo’s presence in the US is also in final planning stages with an announcement due before the end of the year.

The start-up aims to fill a market gap for a multi-national, independent TMC providing experienced hands-on support to corporates, particularly with traveller wellbeing and sustainability, as they resume travel following the pandemic.

The TMC is also determined to protect jobs and retain talent that would otherwise be lost from the industry following widespread redundancies due to Covid-19.

Thelen was responsible in 2004 for the management buy-out of Chambers Travel Group. As chief executive and majority shareholder, he spearheaded Chambers’ growth over the next 10 years to become a pan-European TMC.

He then led the sale and merger of Chambers with Corporate Travel Management (CTM) in 2015.

During four years as head of CTM’s US business he was responsible for the company’s North America technology hub and oversaw integration of seven acquisitions. He left CTM in 2020 to return to the UK.

Cope’s 35-year career in business travel includes managerial and operational roles at CTM, Chambers Travel Group, Hillgate Travel and Egencia.

Thelen said: “Our reason for launching TakeTwo is because there is a clear gap in the market for a client-centric, independently owned TMC who can deliver bespoke service to international SME clients where travel is a vital component of how their business operates, as well as provide premium services to high-net-worth individuals.

“After so many recent TMC mergers, acquisitions and staff redundancies due to the pandemic, I question whether corporates feel that their existing TMC knows them personally anymore or what they need, as travel returns.

“In the post-Covid era, these clients need confidence that their TMC partner understands their needs and can deliver high touch, personal service from highly-experienced people. They are also looking for a TMC to mitigate risk, alleviate traveller wellbeing concerns and one who takes sustainability seriously.

“However, another reason for establishing TakeTwo is to safeguard talent in the business travel industry and create jobs for highly-experienced business travel professionals who had been made redundant by former employers.

“We are passionate about reversing the business travel talent drain and preventing these extremely skilled people from being lost to other industry sectors. These are the foundations on which TakeTwo has been created.”

Cope added: “We are very excited to officially announce the launch of Take Two and have recruited a team of highly-skilled individuals with a proven track record and exceptional skills, many of whom Chris and I have worked with in the past, saving these talented people from leaving the industry.

“TakeTwo also already has significant client business under its belt, managing travel for companies and high net worth individuals who require high touch, exceptional service.

“Travel industry success stories from the Covid-era are extremely rare, but that’s where TakeTwo aims to buck the trend. We are looking forward to expanding the business further, particularly in the US in the coming months, and consolidating our position in the market.”

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