The new managing director of both Travel 2 and Gold Medal has unveiled his UK team and plans to grow both of the dnata-owned brands internationally.
Speaking exclusively to Travel Weekly, Andy Freeth, who has been running Travel 2 for six years and was given extra responsibility for Gold Medal Travel last month, has named Gordon McCreadie as UK B2B sales and marketing director across both brands.
McCreadie was previously sales and marketing director for Travel 2, but like Freeth will now split his time between Travel 2’s headquarters in Glasgow and Gold Medal’s in Preston.
Gold Medal product, commercial and marketing director, Robin Parry, is moving internally this month to become Emirates Holidays managing director, based in Dubai, with global responsibility for 34 countries.
Ailsa Pollard, senior vice-president at dnata Travel, said: “We have acquired several travel businesses recently, and have always said that as a global business, dnata has some fantastic opportunities for employees. This is a perfect example of somebody being able to take on new challenges and further grow within our business.”
McCreadie’s team has been restructured into two areas, one led by Gold Medal’s Ruth Hilton as head of sales and business development, and the other by Travel 2’s head of sales Tracy Hirsz.
Hilton will continue to look after Gold Medal’s relationship with Thomas Cook, Gold Medal’s relationships with wholesale businesses like Disney and lowcostbeds, as well as the tour operators’ distribution through Travel Republic, which is also owned by dnata, and all groups business.
Freeth explained that Hilton would also support the brands’ international expansion, revealing that Travel 2 was “imminently” to launch in Ireland, and that the Gold Medal brand was being rolled out in Dubai.
He said: “We are very close to launching Travel 2 in Ireland which Ruth will support, and we are currently formulating a plan to launch in other international markets.”
Freeth revealed that Hirsz will look after all relationships with independent agents, as well as the Co-op Personal Travel Advisors and the Freedom Travel Group, since they are not part of the wider Thomas Cook deal.
He explained that while Travel 2’s financial year ended in June, Gold Medal’s doesn’t end until September, so the field sales team under Hilton and Hirsz will remain as they are, pushing their individual brands, until then.
“But over the summer, Gordon, Ruth and Tracy will shape their field sales team so that everyone can give the same level of support on both brands.
“We will do our utmost to keep the same faces in front of the same agents. Geographically, that might not be possible all the time but everyone will be trained to be equally as knowledgeable on both brands. They will all know Travel 2 and Gold Medal inside out and there will be no redundancies.”
“The field sales team will have the support of three very bright and talented people leading that sales function in Gordon, Ruth and Tracy.”
McCreadie will also oversee marketing for the business, but that function is to remain separate for each brand, other than “sharing best practice”.
Marketing for Travel 2, including all partnership marketing with tourist boards, airlines and hotels, will continue to be led by Rhona Jenkins and Lindsay Miller, and for Gold Medal by Stephanie Lord and Ali Cockburn.
Freeth also announced that Gold Medal director of operations Lisa Smith is to step up to oversee operations for Travel 2 as well. Smith will now have responsibility for both brands’ contact centres, customer service, ticketing, pre and post-enquiries.
She will be responsible for 240 people at the Preston site and 120 in Glasgow. Freeth revealed that Gold Medal was shortly to launch a live chat facility for agents as an additional point of contact, similar to that offered by Travel 2.
Freeth’s third and final direct report, the B2B director of product and commercial, is yet to be recruited.
“My aim and hope is that I will be able to recruit internally,” said Freeth. “We’re very keen across Gold Medal and Travel 2 to retain as much of the talent as possible because the tenure and knowledge of people in both companies is immense. I would like to promote from within.”
Freeth also revealed that Gold Medal finance director Paul Smith had been promoted to finance director of the UK B2B business reporting directly to group finance director Jens Penny, with dotted-line reporting to UK B2B chief executive Andrew Botterill. Smith will be instrumental in all the strategic decisions within Gold Medal and Travel 2 brands.
Freeth said: “Today’s announcement signifies a move towards one team across both Gold Medal and Travel 2. Both businesses are in good growth, so both brands and locations will remain – and importantly, my senior team is made up of senior members of both brands, and there are roles for everybody.
“What I want to get down to now is to focus on our travel agent partners; and what they want – and getting an understanding of what they like about each brand. Both Travel 2 and Gold Medal are doing really well and I don’t want to do anything to jeopardise that,” he added.
Freeth revealed that some of the “positive synergies” realised by operating the brands together include joint buying of land and air, central procurement of utilities, hardware and the like, and an IT team working across the B2B brands.
Dnata is expected to host a joint drinks reception and business update for suppliers at this year’s World Travel Market in London, but Freeth said it is likely there will still be two separate Christmas parties for the staff in Glasgow and Preston this December, since arrangements for each had already been made.
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