Special Report: Atas toasts stellar first year

Special Report: Atas toasts stellar first year

The Association of Touring & Adventure Suppliers celebrated its first anniversary last month. In the first of two features, Robin Searle speaks to Atas chairman Giles Hawke and reports on the association’s rising membership

Q. How did Atas live up to your expectations in its first year?
A. Atas exceeded any expectations I had for our first year. We have a very strong membership list and an engaged group of people actively working together to further the development of the growth of escorted touring holidays through travel agents. We have generated some statistics around the size of the market, with more to come soon; we have created a brand which most agents have now heard of and understand; and we have started to put escorted touring and adventure holidays on the agenda for agents. We have also created a springboard for a lot more in the coming years.

Q. What were your high points of year one?
A. Our first conference in Birmingham in October was a real highlight. We had demand for more places than we had space for; we delivered an engaging and professional conference programme; and our supplier trade fair was probably the best that most agents had ever attended – lively, interactive, engaging, product-focused and fun. Getting Atas live last April was another highlight, after a long time spent pulling it together and a lot of hard work by a lot of people.
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Q. Why do you think the time was right for Atas?
A. I think there are a number of factors. The escorted touring product offering is now so diverse and of such great quality that agents can be very comfortable with selling it and getting repeat clients. As touring and adventure companies, we also recognise that agents have lots of customers who would love this type of holiday but our sector is probably underrepresented in most travel agents’ portfolios. Finally, there is a drop in standard beach holiday sales for agents due to online transactions, so there is a need for them to find other lucrative areas to make money and keep customers happy.

Q. What are the challenges still facing the sector?
A. There is probably still an image problem with people thinking about old people, old-fashioned coaches and a sedentary experience of seeing rather than doing. Atas will seek to overcome this image issue and modernise and update the understanding of what this type of holiday really is.

Q. How great is the potential for growth in the touring and adventure sector?
A. Unlimited! People are looking more for experiences and authenticity and that is exactly what this type of holiday offers. In the future, overtourism has the potential to become a problem worldwide and, again, this type of holiday will help people fulfil their travel dreams through guaranteed entry to key attractions, secured accommodation and travel, and authentic local experiences led by true experts.

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Operator membership increases to 29

Explore, Regent Holidays and Scenic have become the latest supplier members of Atas, taking membership of the association to 29 at the start of its second year.

The association was launched in April 2017 with 21 supplier members, and grew in size during its first 12 months as new members came on board.

The three newest members specialise in a range of areas, including active and adventure holidays, five-star escorted tours and journeys to off-thebeaten‑track destinations such as Iran and North Korea.

Lee Marshall, agency sales director for Regent Holidays’ parent company ITC Travel Group, said: “We’re delighted that Regent has joined Atas. As a specialist operator with a veritable treasury of product, we see Atas as a highly effective springboard to share our product with a wider audience.”

John Telfer, managing director of Explore, said: “It is our intention, by joining Atas, to demonstrate our support to the travel trade, as well as nurturing new and existing relationships.”

Dawn Quinn, head of trade sales for Scenic, said: “We are delighted that every one of Scenic’s products are now available for UK travel agents to promote, and are pleased to join Atas as we now offer all our established Scenic Tours products to our travel agent partners.”

In addition to the 29 supplier members, Atas also has 10 associate members, representing leaders in areas including technology, marketing, destinations and consumer media.

It is also set to unveil details of an agent membership scheme, to create touring and adventure experts in agencies throughout the UK and Ireland.

The supplier members of Atas are: AAT Kings, Abercrombie & Kent, APT, Back-Roads Touring, Collette, Cosmos, Cox & Kings, Exodus, Explore, Headwater, G Adventures, Great Rail Journeys, Insight Vacations, Intrepid Group, JG Travel Group, Kuoni, Leger Holidays, Newmarket Holidays, Regent Holidays, Saga Holidays, Scenic, Shearings Holidays, Riviera Travel, Titan, Topdeck, Trafalgar, Travelsphere/Just You, TrekAmerica/Grand American Adventures and Wendy Wu Tours.

The associate members are: Accord Marketing, Brand USA, d-flo, Dolphin Dynamics, Faremine, Global, Tigerbay, Tourhound, Traveltek and Zolv.

Atas: first year highlights

April 2017
Atas launches with 21 leading suppliers from the touring and adventure sector

May 2017
The first fortnightly Atas-specific email is sent to the travel trade, featuring product news, incentives, and expert advice and insight from Atas operators

June 2017
Plans unveiled for first Atas Conference, with a target of 200 guests to attend event at Birmingham’s International Convention Centre

July 2017
Travel technology specialist Zolv becomes first Atas associate member

July-September 2017
Brand USA, Global and Tigerbay unveiled as headline sponsors of Atas Conference

October 2017
First Atas Conference takes place in Birmingham, with more than 300 guests including 200 frontline agents taking part in business sessions, an interactive and immersive trade fair and a gala dinner and awards

January 2018
Plans developed for association’s second year, including development of newlook website, agent membership and expanded events

April 2018
Explore, Regent Holidays and Scenic join Atas, increasing the number of supplier members to 29

Gallery: Atas Conference 2017

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