Umbrella had the honour of taking part in a wonderful, very effective “speed dating” event with Focus Partnership in Manchester. The Focus Partnership is a group of 60 owner-operated TMCs in the United Kingdom and the Channel Islands.
In this interview, Glenn Watson, the mastermind behind this event, explains topics such as how Focus and its partners are preparing for new sales channels with NDC and more.
How will NDC impact the daily business and the business models of Focus’ partner agencies?
Let me clarify this: the concept behind NDC is not at all new. It is a continuation of the direct channel concept of the early 2000s, when easyJet, AerLingus & co. established new ways to bundle and upsell. NDC is just a standardisation of the electronic conversation.
I have no doubts that GDS will soon be technically capable of handling NDC. The real challenge seems to lie in the commercial relationship between GDS and airlines.
In any case, NDC is here to stay, and agencies need to quickly adapt to this reality. We at Focus have decided to enter a partnership with Atriis. In the first stage, we have created a Focus NDC platform. This is a light version of Atriis’ GTP and offers exclusively NDC content. It was an instant success with our members, with over 80% of them using it regularly.
How does the Focus group fit into the larger Advantage Partnership?
Focus is a part of the Advantage family.
Advantage covers a total of over 350 agencies and several dozen international partners (through the WIN Network). All members benefit from offers such as a common hotel programme or managed mid and backoffice services.
While the majority of Advantage members primarily offer leisure travel, the 60 members of the Focus Partnership work almost exclusively in corporate travel.
What are the benefits for an agency of being a partner of the Focus group?
All members have access to a team of 6 employees who are actually an extension of their own business. We also provide collective buying power for airfares, as well as technical support and access to curated tech solutions.
The Focus Tech Panel consists of 8 experienced TMC owners. Together with them, we evaluate and test new solutions such as Umbrella and Atriis.
The speed dating event in Manchester was a smashing success, both for suppliers and Focus members. How did you come up with this format?
We wanted to have a format where partners could engage with our key suppliers. 1:1 wasn’t doable and 15 minutes seemed to be too short. Therefore, we sent small groups of 6 to 8 participants to 25-minute sessions with a total of 12 suppliers.
The feedback from all participants was indeed great and all those who missed it regretted it.
I can confirm that absolutely everyone remembers the red Umbrella bow-ties you wore.
You grew up in New Zealand. What do you like best about your native country and what do you love most about Europe?
The best thing about New Zealand is the outdoors. We have beautiful nature and everything is accessible and free. The only downside is that public transport is terrible.
Europe has so much authentic diversity in a small area. I find that absolutely amazing and use every opportunity to travel here.
What was your most memorable/exciting/impressive personal travel experience?
I can get so excited about travelling! My favourite trip so far was our honeymoon in the Maldives. Fishing and snorkelling there was just like in ‘Finding Nemo’.
Next on my bucket list is visiting the penguins in Antarctica and a trip on the Trans Siberian Railway from St. Petersburg all the way to Beijing.
Glenn, thank you so much for this inspiring interview!