Advantage Travel Partnership reports 25% growth in membership

Membership of Advantage Travel Partnership has grown by 25% in its best-ever year for retention and recruitment.

The consortium reported the rise in membership across both its leisure and corporate travel agencies for its last full year of trading, ending September 30, 2022, versus the previous year.

It now has 350 companies with around 750 branch locations across the UK.

More: Advantage research reveals impact of outbound sector on UK high street

Chief executive Julia Lo Bue-Said said the single biggest reason new members were joining the consortium was to access its commercial terms with suppliers, which resulted from its buying power, worth £4.5 billion in the UK.

“They want to join for our commercial value,” she said.

Barrhead Travel and Kuoni were named among the new travel agencies to join Advantage but the consortium’s managed service membership proposition was highlighted as enjoying the most growth.

The group now has just under 80 Advantage Managed Service (AMS) members, representing around 17% of its total membership.

The AMS model allows agents to focus on sales while the consortium handles all supplier payments and back-office administration, protects all consumer monies in trust, and provides merchant services so agents do not need to negotiate card fees themselves with providers.

Chief commercial officer Kelly Cookes predicted further growth in AMS membership, adding members were attracted to AMS as it allowed them to hand over operational issues to Advantage head office.

She said: “The growth in managed service members has been driven by new businesses coming in but also existing Advantage businesses that are changing ownership or do not want to do the supplier payments any more.

“I definitely see AMS scaling up and becoming a bigger share of the business. I would not be surprised if it went up from 17% to 25% of the consortium within the next few years.”

She added that membership of the consortium now “far surpassed” the numbers it enjoyed going into the Covid pandemic, stressing that Advantage was pursuing a “really aggressive growth plan”.

She added: “Size and scale is vital for many reasons, not least the commercial leverage it gives us with our partners and suppliers, which in turn benefits and drives value to our members.

“I am pleased to say that today we are the number one independent consortium for over 80% of our leisure supplier partners.”

Cookes said the consortium’s global buying scale of £12.5 billion and UK buying scale of £4.5 billion meant it was “uniquely placed” to deliver “significant commercial benefits” to members.

“It’s this scale and the commercial value we deliver, alongside our range of products and services delivered by industry experts from a financially robust membership organisation, that sets us apart,” she said, adding Advantage also continued to expand its footprint globally.

It now has representation in 83 countries, with 96 global members supporting its travel management company members.

In line with the membership expansion the consortium is now creating new roles to lead its business travel, standard and AMS members, including in homeworking, in recognition of the different needs in each specialist area.

Five additional business development roles are also being created in membership services.

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