The Focus Travel Partnership was founded over 20 years ago and we are currently in our second year as a limited company. When we formally launched the new company in January 2020, we couldn’t have begun to imagine the global challenge that was waiting for us in the form of Covid-19. Like everyone in travel, it was essential to immediately adapt to the needs of not just our industry but also the changes that corporate clients required.
Doing things differently
We have always believed in doing things differently. We work collaboratively with our partners, whether they be suppliers or TMCs, collectively striving to move business travel forward. The foundations historically built, have gone a long way to strengthen our collective resolve to meet this pandemic head on, when it comes to supporting our TMCs.
We are the UK’s leading business travel consortium for the independent TMC. Our membership of 54 small and medium TMC enterprises had a turnover in excess of £1 billion in 2019. This collective buying power gives our procurement team the ability to negotiate mutually beneficial partnership agreements with suppliers across the business travel spectrum.
We provide a collaborative voice on industry issues, such as airline distribution, the latest technology developments, sustainability, duty of care, health, and well-being – providing exceptional value in the business travel marketplace and to the wider supply chain. All of our TMC Partners are also members of the Advantage Travel Partnership, allowing them to be perfectly placed in the travel ecosystem.
In April 2020, BTN Europe launched their list of top 50 TMCs. We are extremely proud to say 20 of these agents are part of the Focus Travel Partnership. Focus also ranked second for TMC Partnerships which was an amazing achievement for us as we had only been trading as an independent for a few months when this was announced.
Pricing is our top priority
Without airline nett fares, our Partners would not be as competitive in the business travel arena, so pricing is critical to not only the success of our Partners’ businesses but also to the success of our overall commercial programme.
We negotiate private fares from airlines in the form of Seat Only, ITX and SME-related cluster fares. Airlines will look at volume and positive performance levels and therefore offer better fares products to the Focus Travel Partnership as they know that our Partners are able to steer business and actively support our preferred airline programme.
Our airline commercials terms and conditions are regularly reviewed to ensure they meet the needs of our Partners. We continually look for new airline suppliers to work with on a commercial basis, in order to enhance the programme even further.
Helping you get home
As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, in March 2020 approximate 1 million Britons were stranded abroad as airlines cancelled flights and Governments closed borders.
Focus mobilised a team of highly skilled travel agents from a cross section of Partners and launched our ‘Helping you get home’ programme.
Our agents helped many customers find the last remaining seats to bring displaced travellers back to the UK. They demonstrated skill, tenacity, patience, and compassion – all qualities that reflect our Focus values and are part of our DNA. In addition, strong relationships with our Focus supplier partners helped create this service at very short notice – in fact, this service was rolled out within 32 hours of conception offering a 24/7 coverage!
Focus Partners have access to a suite of support services
We work with reputable and hand-selected suppliers to provide added-value support to our Focus Partners should they wish to engage with these organisations. These services are provided either within their membership or at competitive rates using centrally negotiated pricing. Our supplier partners were invaluable throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, each providing expert advice and support to our Focus TMCs as well as their helpful input to our repatriation programme.
Here are some of the companies whose support has been invaluable to our TMC Partners:
Limitless advice on furlough, redundancy processes and ensuring staff’s wellbeing is continually catered for. PSHR provided all Partners with relevant templates and documentation that could be used to advise furlough staff and implement changes where needed.
Provided advice on Government grants, loans, and the more recent changes in VAT.
Kemp Little (now Deloitte) – legal firm
Provided advice on contractual changes along with a templated framework agreement for Partners to benefit from implementing with their customers.
Helped our Partners battle through the sudden home working requirements by providing a cloud-based solution to assist businesses with new working practices (as opposed to the traditional office-based telephony systems).
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)
FSB provided a voice outside of travel for our Partners to seek general business advice. This was crucial when Government schemes were announced, and we continue to take advantage of all the great work they are doing to support SME businesses across the UK.
Our highly rated events allow Partners to meet and interact in a variety of settings including conferences, dinners, drinks receptions as well as newly introduced virtual events. Partners are invited to three main events annually, all of which give opportunities for networking, learning, and developing new skills. Delegates leave each event inspired, having gained a new wealth of knowledge and contacts. In addition, our suppliers generously host Focus Partners on fam trips around the globe. These fam trips build relationships within the partnership, enhance product knowledge, and create lasting connections.
Sadly, due to the pandemic, we have had to rely on virtual platforms in order to maintain these events and are proud that our recent Partner’s conference gained excellent feedback, both from a content perspective as well as the technical platform that we used in conjunction with our preferred AV supplier, PSP.
Understanding that the Covid-19 pandemic brought many concerns over the changing landscape of business in general, we reacted by providing a safe platform for our Partners to share concerns, advice, and best practices. Our weekly Partner calls allow an opportunity to hear other concerns or triumphs from Partners, keeping business owners and senior staff engaged and informed.
The Business Travel Association (BTA)
Through Focus’ central membership of the BTA, all of our Partners are automatically entitled to access the great work offered by the BTA. Working in collaboration with Focus, industry bodies and supplier partners, the BTA delivers practical solutions and advice on industry-wide issues as well as lobbying of Government to ensure the voice of the corporate travel market is heard. This is achieved through discussion and debate, sector strategy groups and forums, bespoke industry content and a calendar of conferences and events. BTA members represent £10billion in revenue, 10% of which is from Focus’ TMC Partners.
Tap into marketing and PR through your Focus membership
We understand that in the current climate, PR and marketing may not be a top priority, but being part of the Focus Travel Partnership allows you to be part of a cross-sector targeted campaign to help aid business development. We work with different sector publications to promote the need to use a responsible Travel Management Company and this links perfectly to our Focus TMCs, each of whom provides a strong business solution tailored to each customer. We frequently receive requests for stories or quotes from travel and national trade bodies and press publications; these are passed directly on to relevant Focus TMC Partners, ensuring maximum coverage is provided to our TMCs.
We hold regular webinars on PR, social media, and marketing practices to provide TMCs with knowledge and skills on how to run their own campaigns and social media channels. In addition, during the Covid-19 crisis, we provided TMC Partners with a co-brandable document called ‘Return to travelling guide’. Partners could fully customise this and send to their own customers or use on social media to promote their own businesses.
Our Steering Groups
In order to focus tactically on key industry topics, we have smaller working groups across the partnership which form our steering groups. These steering groups meet throughout the year to discuss new ideas, issues, and ways to help the wider Partnership within that sector. Partners are encouraged to be observers of these groups in order to understand the value that they provide to the Partnership. They can then subsequently apply or be invited to join a steering group at a future date.
Duty of Care Solutions
We knew that clients would be asking for a Duty of Care solution, so with the input from our Tech Steering Group we developed in house a system called PinPoint, which allows traveller tracking and FCO advice accessible in one place. PinPoint is continually evolving, and we’re excited to bring new developments to our TMCs as soon as they are available.
The solution can easily manage travel policies, such as limiting the amount of people on the same aircraft and provides suitable views for different departments or PA’s. The system can also send emails and SMS’ to keep travellers and bookers updated.
Keeping up to date
We quickly recognised that the volume of information coming through from different suppliers in relation to the impact of Covid-19 was significant. We therefore condensed these policy changes to make them easier to understand with flow charts and links to suitable websites.
We are continually updating our Extranet digital community, providing Focus TMCs with one single place to look for all the relevant information they require. In addition, we have recently developed ‘knowledge hubs’ focussing on topics such as NDC, Brexit, PSD2 as well as the ongoing Covid-19 policy changes.
We never stand still, and we are proud to continue to develop the programmes that we offer to our Partners. Our most recent development is in the domestic arena, focussing on rail which we believe will be one of the first modes of transport to recover as we exit the pandemic. Not only do we develop these programmes, but we provide support to our Partners, ensuring that they receive advice where needed and that they can maximise on all opportunities to grow their own businesses.
Our Central Team
We are a central team of seven people, and throughout the Covid-19 pandemic none of our management team were furloughed, allowing us to keep in touch with our supplier partners and ensuring that our Focus TMCs continuously received the support they needed, when they needed it most. My team have a wealth of knowledge and all hold TMC backgrounds, so they understand the needs of a TMC more than most and can guide on all areas of our business.
If you would like more information on Focus, or discuss joining please contact us