May 20, 2015 | AITO – Association of Independent Tour Operators
Now seen as a key reason for independent tour operators to join the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO, www.aito.com), the 120+ strong AITO Specialist Travel Agents (www.aitoagents.com) partnership reports record results at the end of year five for its booking incentive scheme, AITO All Stars.
Created in 2010 – a panel decision headed up by Oliver Broad (RB Collection) who was then the AITO Chairman and Paul Bennett (Colchester Travel) who was and still is Treasurer – the scheme has gathered momentum year on year for the past five years. In year one, 2010, the value of bookings made with AITO operators – despite the depths of the recession – totalled £24M. Increases have been recorded year on year for the full five years that the scheme has operated, culminating in sales worth £53.6M in the year ending March 2015 – an impressive overall increase of over 200% – and a pretty cool £5.5M in commission for the 127 agency branches.
“That equates to around £43,000 in commission per agency”, says AITO Agents’ Chair Gemma Antrobus (pictured above). “Based on sales with just 38 tour operators, it clearly demonstrates the great return that independent agents can achieve by working with their independent operator peers.”
Ted Wake, Deputy Chairman of AITO Agents and Joint MD of AITO member, Kirker Holidays, says “AITO Operators have been impressed by the support shown by the agents – and the All Stars results speak for themselves. A number of AITO’s smaller, niche specialist operators have been impressed by the return on their investment, and enjoy working in partnership with like-minded agents – there is excellent potential for continued growth in the All Stars scheme”.
League tables put together by AITO HQ on a confidential basis record monthly sales values for participating AITO tour operators (approximately one-third of AITO’s membership) made by AITO agents; figures are recorded regionally and nationally.
It’s a win-win scenario. Agents receive fam trip invitations, point of sale material, monthly e-newsletters and consumer-ready special offers to send to their customers. On top of a minimum 10% commission, every booking made with an AITO operator means a £1 credit towards a 50% reduction in their annual membership fee (currently £425 plus VAT for one branch).
The AITO All Stars awards take place at the annual AITO Agents’ domestic conference every January, with plenty of prizes and some fabulous fam trips for the top performers, presented with great pizzazz.
Kate Kenward, AITO’s Executive Director, says: “When I arrived at AITO six years ago, no-one knew the monetary worth that AITO Specialist Travel Agents brought to the association. Benchmarking agents’ monthly sales via AITO operators meant that the partnership took on a whole new perspective.
“I’m glad to report that some AITO operators will only deal with AITO Specialist Travel Agents, and vice versa. They trust one another and recognise that this is a partnership of like-minded SMEs, capitalising on the lucrative special interest market that AITO operators have made their niche.”