The boss of the ticketing add-ons specialist talks to Lee Hayhurst on the occasion of its 10th anniversary.
Ten years after Attraction Tickets Direct first started trading its travel agency division, Do Something Different is the fastest-growing part of the business.
Speaking to Travel Weekly at the firm’s 10th birthday party in London last week, chief executive Oliver Brendon said this was among a number of facets of the fast-growing firm that proved some things never change.
Despite advances in technology and the march towards cutting out the middle man in travel, Brendon said people and relationships remained just as important in business and commerce as they had always been.
Although Brendon believes technology will play a vital role in continuing to grow business through Do Something Different, it is customer service and knowledge that will always win out.
Do Something Different, which launched to the trade six years ago, increased revenues by 25% last year to £12 million.
New deals being worked on, including one with a major homeworking agency that is set to quadruple the business it does with the supplier, are poised to build on that trend.
“We never really thought we would go in to business-to-business,” Brendon said. “We originally launched Do Something Different as a direct brand, but it never really took off.
“Because of the huge range of products it was selling, there were people searching up to a point, but there was no propensity to buy. We really need the trade to support us and we are now fully supporting them. We have a really good trade sales team.”
Tickets sector is untapped
Brendon said the tickets and attractions sector remained largely untapped, particularly among the online travel agency community.
And he believes collaborations, such as that between John Lewis and Kuoni announced last week, are increasingly important for travel firms like his.
“The days of high street agents and suppliers being very rigid distribution channels are gone and a more collaborative approach between companies is necessary,” he added.
“We are talking to so many companies who are sort of online travel agencies, sort of operators, some on the periphery of travel.
“You cannot just rely on Google as your point of distribution and hope that’s going to last for ever.”
The opportunity for traditional high street agents, said Brendon, is to view excursions and attraction tickets as more than just a holiday extra, but as the most important element of a holiday.
“At times there are just too many barriers for customers to overcome for people to buy tickets online. With the trade the answer, quite simply, is technology.
“If these things can be offered to the consumer at the time of the holiday sale there is indisputable proof that they will buy them.
“It’s one of those things that helps to be offered at the point of sale because it’s going to enhance the holiday experience and it’s an easy add-on because it’s a low‑value transaction.”
Ambitious growth plans
ATD Travel Services has ambitious growth plans. It aims to double in size over the next few years to a £100 million turnover and is targeting overseas expansion, particularly in Latin America.
But Brendon said that despite what the internet may have led some to believe, he had learnt there is no shortcut to success.
“The biggest thing I’ve learnt is that the most difficult way – which is often the most expensive in the short term – is the easiest and often the cheapest in the long run.
“And that is true in the way you recruit people, the way you develop systems and websites, the way you buy currency, and develop and market brands.
“I wish, in hindsight, that I’d known that from day one, but the way we conduct ourselves now reflects that attitude.”
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