AITO Agents and AITO operators gathered earlier this month at the AITO Specialist Travel Agents domestic conference - held at the Drayton Manor Hotel in Warwickshire.

With more than 200 delegates in attendance, the programme included many networking opportunities, business sessions and workshops, and also saw the achievements of AITO Agents recognised and rewarded at its annual All Stars Awards Ceremony.

Chairman of AITO Agents, Oliver Broad, said: “’Reasons to be Cheerful’ was the hot theme of this year’s conference. Sales from our members were 18% up in 2013 compared to 2012, which is fantastic news. Last year, AITO Agents and operators combined, produced a staggering £47million worth of business which is even more evidence of the positive feeling within AITO and AITO Agents. The mood in the room was very positive and now thoughts turn to how we can all work together to ride the wave and improve business even more.”

The conference saw AITO representatives form an expert panel to highlight their biggest opportunities for 2014 as well as industry issues to keep an eye on. The panel featured Jonathan Whiteley of 1st Class Holidays; Elaine Tait of Kenneth McLeod Travel (the latest AITO Agent to join the group and their only member from Scotland); Jacquie Cole of Bakewell Travel; and Noel Josephides, Chairman of ABTA. Industry issues that were discussed included the use of social media, the problem of hoteliers promoting direct booking discounts on their websites and disinterested call centre staff.

Meanwhile, the most successful AITO Agents were recognised during the conference’s All Stars Awards Ceremony - sponsored by AITO operator Anatolian Sky Holidays. The AITO All Stars incentive scheme 2013 recognised those AITO Agents who had achieved the best results when selling holidays offered by AITO.

The winners were: National All Star of the Year and South of England All Star - Hertfordshire-based Beaver Travel; North of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland All Star - Cheshire-based Deva Travel; Central England and the East All Star - Staffordshire-based Journeys a la Carte; Overall Best Newcomer - Wiltshire-based Howard Travel; South of England Best Newcomer - Wiltshire-based Howard Travel; North of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland Newcomer - Derbyshire-based Bakewell Travel Ltd; and Central England and the East Best Newcomer - Northamptonshire-based Bailey’s Travel.
Surrey-based Haselmere Travel Ltd was also recognised as the Most Improved AITO Agent and Rob Hitchings of Devonshire-based Nomadic Travel picked up the Shining Star Award for his success selling AITO products over the last year.

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