Advantage Travel Partnership’s Chief Commercial Officer Kelly Cookes talks to Sheena Adesilu about the global network’s post-Covid recovery and how the consortium is amplifying the voice of travel agents.
What activities do you have in store for 2023 and beyond?
We have quite a few events coming up, including the Travel Hero event in a couple of weeks, a conference for our manage service members, a cruise conference and, finally, our last event of the year is a big celebration lunch where we’ll award the high performers from the last year. We’ve also got lots of new products and marketing initiatives launching for members, such as our upcoming Summer 24 campaign. This month is a big cruise month for us too, with a dedicated campaign and activities for our members.
How do you plan to emphasise the role of the outbound travel industry?
Our CEO Julia being on the Tourism Industry Council (TIC) Board really gives us a voice to talk about outbound travel, and in particular, travel agents and how they add value. It gives us a senior level voice at government. She’s able to talk about the value the outbound travel industry brings, and more specifically, travel agents and their role in helping consumers to travel safely and assisting with messaging.
How are travel agents faring at the moment?
Most of our members would say that they are now trading well. They’ve surpassed their 2019 levels and are in recovery. From a booking point of view, I think it’s very positive. What we have to remember is that they’re still servicing a lot of debt, so there’s still those lows that are hanging around. They’ve also got increased costs that they must manage, so what we try to do is look at the overall picture for members and not just talk about bookings. We talk about the whole impact for them. That’s something we’re very conscious of.
What is trending for 2024?
The data reveals that consumers are looking to book holidays abroad in 2024 and that they are managing their budgets by booking early and opting for all-inclusive stays. This shows that holidays really are a necessity and something people are looking to prioritise in the year ahead.
It’s interesting to see that British travellers are looking at alternatives to the traditional destinations and times they would normally travel to avoid disruption. It’s also a great opportunity to get out, explore and be more adventurous with their holiday choices. Our travel agent members are seeing strong bookings for October Half Term and beyond, which is a very positive sign that the industry is continuing to thrive.
What is Advantage Travel’s outlook for 2024?
A phrase that I always use is cautiously optimistic. From a consumer point of view, we’re not seeing any sign of the bookings slow down yet, which is great news for our members. However, we know there are a lot of headwinds out there. We know at some point that the Cost of Living crisis will start to bite, so we need to be prepared for that. We are looking at how we can arm members with everything they need to be able to maximise the volume now, while also preparing themselves if it does slow down. I think, it definitely means growth for Advantage. We are targeting big membership growth for the next year. We also want to continue to be the largest, and what I think is the best, consortium out there.