Costa del Sol, only destination in Spain that could host Advantage Conference in 2013

The activities at London’s World Travel Market (WTM) are beginning to bear fruit. With a packed agenda, the President of the Málaga-Costa del Sol Tourist Board, Elías Bendodo, is meeting with tour operators, airline representatives, travel retailers, and other actors in the British travel industry. He also had a meeting with the representatives of Advantage, the largest independent travel consortium in the UK.
At this meeting, our delegation was told the Costa del Sol’s chances to host the consortium’s annual conference in 2013 were high. The final decision will be made in the first months of 2012, after an inspection visit in late November, and will be announced in Malta in April 2012.

Our President and the President of Advantage discussed the terms and conditions of the agreement to hold the event, which could draw some 500 trade members, including travel agency owners and staff. The conference could take place in Málaga City or in Marbella.

According to Mr Bendodo, the importance of the Advantage conference lies in the fact that the consortium’s members, targeting middle-to-high-income travellers, are well-positioned to offer city breaks, fly drives, cultural tours, golf packages, and health and wellness holidays. These products are crucial in the promotion of off-peak travel, one of the Tourist Board’s main goals.

The National Association of Independent Travel Agents, (NAITA) was formed in 1978 as a commercial buying group of likeminded independent travel agents. In the early 1990s, the brand name Advantage was adopted and the association increased its profile within the industry.

Today, they have close to 800 members, 380 travel agencies, and a combined turnover of £3.5 billion, and are the foremost independent travel consortium in the industry. They target high-income customers. Their success has to do with the fact that members manage to keep their own identity and be the consortium’s sole shareholders. The central office has a staff of 45 people, who work for agencies’ profitability. Unlike other distribution networks, Advantage offers members a high decision-making power.

65% of Advantage’s sales correspond to holiday packages, whereas the remaining 35% is business travel. Advantage is the only British travel organisation to have grown in the past 18 months, adding 170 new agencies and increasing its turnover by £500 million. If its annual conference were held on the Costa del Sol, this would mean we would be able to train UK senior managers on our travel destination.

Other meetings to be held at WTM are those with the leading low-cost airlines flying to Málaga: EasyJet, Aer Lingus, Bmibaby, Jet2, Monarch, and Ryanair. We are also meeting with traditional airline British Airways. (92.7% British visitors to Málaga choose low-cost airlines.)

Given the important role the Internet and social media play in the travel industry, our President’s agenda also includes meetings to discuss future action for better positioning in these media (e.g. with TripAdvisor). In addition, we will contact the main online training suppliers (TTG, Travel Weekly) and with the leading online and offline travel publications.

The meetings are mostly aimed at filling trade members in on the diversification of our travel offer and the wide range of products and services they can find for high-income segments (city breaks, cultural tourism, golf, food and wine travel).

Likewise, we are planning to have follow-up meetings after the International Cruise Summit in Madrid (in the context of the lectures on the cruise industry at WTM) and talks with the World Responsible and Sustainable Tourism Summit (WREST).

In the words of our President, our contacts at WTM are aimed at “keeping abreast of the latest trends in the various segments of the British travel industry and have a better positioning now that the British market is showing its first signs of recovery.”

At WTM, we want to analyse the offer of the leading tour operators and travel agents to spot business opportunities, gather information on the current situation of the British market and learn about the prospects for the summer 2012 and winter 2012/2013 seasons, and discuss the possibilities of taking promotional and training action (fam trips, presentations, agreements, loyalty programmes, cross-selling).


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