The Specialist Travel Association is targeting an increase in its specialist travel agency members of at least 10% by the end of 2020.

Aito has 49 specialist travel agent members with 68 agency branches within its membership.

New trade partnerships manager Marietta Maidman was recruited just over a month ago with the task of recruiting more agents to join Aito.

Speaking during the 2019 Aito Overseas Conference in Poland, she said: “If I could increase our agent membership by at least 10% then I would be happy, but actually I would like it to be more than that; 20% would be great.”

As part of this, Maidman is asking operators to recommend or refer agents to join the organisation.

She also hopes to encourage direct-sell Aito operators to sell through Aito specialist travel agents. There are currently 120 Aito operators, of which 86 work with Aito agents. Aito operators have a combined turnover of more than £1 billion.

“My primary role is about driving closer relationships between our members, particularly agents and operators. Some of our operators don’t currently work with agents and I see that as a big challenge. I think it is a real shame,” she said.

Operators which don’t work with agents risk losing out on a sector of the market they don’t have access to, she added.

“Travel agents know their customers so what comes to the operator is a qualified lead with a higher conversion rate. A key part of my remit is to get more independent agents to join Aito because this is where operators will see benefit of working with more agents.”

Maidman also aims to visit every Aito member face to face. “We still want them to feel valued,” she added.

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