Following a survey of its members and business partners, Advantage unveiled its findings at its annual conference, which showed that both online business and people booking later were a growing trend in holiday buying habits. The survey also revealed that the top three factors which determined a holiday booking were price, agent service and agent destination knowledge. John Peters, director of Monkey Business reviewed the consortium's key developments over the last 12 months and questioned Advanatge CEO, John McEwan on the findings of the results and how he intends to evolve going forward.
Peters said: "Factors influencing future business include increasing numbers of customers booking online, an economic downturn, price discounting, rising business overheads and customers' vulnerability, as we have seen with the ash cloud. Arguably there will be fewer people in business if we look at future predictions based on these findings, but the ones that survive will be stronger."
McEwan told delegates that feedback from the survey has helped the consortium determine how it has performed and what needs to change. He said: "Our overall rating was eight and a half out of 10. I would like this to be nine and a half rather than a perfect 10 as we would be in danger of becoming complacent.
"Over the last 18 months we have attracted more than 140 new locations and companies and lost 30 in the same time. We respect the independents and see Advantage as being a kitemark that encourages companies to retain their identity and encourage them to grow.
"We set high standards to attract quality members. Our turnover is £3billion a year, which is three times more than any other consortium. However, where others have a physical presence in more countries, this is something that we would also like to develop for members looking to pursue multinational business."
Ther survey revealed that agents found the key benefits of being part of Advantage as clear better terms, marketing and the ability of its central team.
McEwan said that one of its aims going forward is to continue to attract quality members.
He said: “People are being more and more attracted to us by what we do on marketing, as well as on the commercial side. We have made good progress on price match guarantees. Our agent-friendly programme which marks operators on their service to agents is well received and we also use this as a quality control tool.
"My predictions are that VAT will increase with the new government and 2011 will be quite difficult year, as consumers experience the impact of this. The good news is that holidays are high on the priority list for consumers. Our next objectives are to get the best possible deals for our members to ensure they get the best margins for their business. We are never going to become complacent and are looking at developing our marketing strategies to attract quality members. We are also developing our technology including a new Website for agents plus a new hotel programme."