Greg Martin joined the Atlas Travel sales team in December 2011, marking a distinct expansion into the greater New York market.
A native New Yorker, Greg brings more than 20 years of travel management company (TMC) sales experience to the Atlas table, and his combination of industry and regional savvy has made him the perfect liaison for our expansion into the tri-state area. With Q1 complete, Greg gives us some insight into the current challenges in the marketplace and the way Atlas can make a difference in New York.
Q: You’ve been out meeting with companies in and around NY and talking about travel management in Q1. What are some of the challenges they are sharing about travel in 2012?
A: SME companies are facing push-back by travelers who insist they can “buy it cheaper elsewhere in the web.” Because their travel expenditure is not viewed as sufficiently significant (i.e. $500K – $3M), many of these companies do not typically receive the account management and IT support they require. This inadequate problem-solving in the SME market by many large agencies contributes to companies throwing up their hands and allowing travelers to jump ship, killing a managed program.
On a macro level, others have corroborated what we see in this environment: Corporate procurement is leading the decision-making in the choice of TMCs. So, it’s PRICE, now more than ever, that is dictating decisions. And many define price by looking only at agency fees. Unfortunately, some mega TMCs play a game of a “stripped down” agent-assisted fee and online fee. The real price includes the cost of all related itinerary labor and ancillary fees. This process eventually reveals a fatter price than the one, simple, all-inclusive fee that Atlas supports. We also see other examples of dubious gamesmanship: a TMC will offer an extremely low fee, which the client buys, while the TMC recovers the difference with higher airfares. Not kosher. In this environment, it is key for companies to understand what they are paying for and what services they will really get, as all TMCs are definitely not alike.
Q: How is Atlas different than the agencies that you have long encountered in New York and the tri-state area?
A: Atlas is markedly different on at least four fronts:
- Our technology prowess. Many travel tools introduced to the marketplace have been developed by smaller IT sources. Mega agencies are known to have acquired these companies, but subsequent product rollout takes extraordinarily long BETA testing, making FDA clinical trials seem short! Atlas not only has a head start, it also employs leading IT innovators to nurture and fine-tune these deliverables on reasonable timelines. Today, a much-heralded concern is Duty of Care. Atlas is different from many New York travel companies in the critical investment made by ownership in helping set the pace of technology instruments that enhance the comfort level of the traveler, his/her company, colleagues and loved ones. Atlas has led the way by releasing a Suite of Security and Data Communication Services aimed at delivering flight information, disruptions, delays, areas of volatility and security risks, all in real-time to ensure travelers are provided options to avoid potential problems, both pre-trip and during their missions.
- Our virtual workplace. Atlas resembles the emerging global service marketplace in that a significant majority of our employees are virtual. Many large agencies retain the conventional call center solution in engaging travelers in agent-assisted transactions. This model has been negatively viewed for decades as an unrelenting, repetitive method of volume transactional fulfillment. For travelers who prefer an agent’s consultative experience and advice, especially in complex itineraries (which include most international itineraries), this personal advisory experience is best satisfied in a calmer environment absent of distractions. For local servicing, New York agents have notoriously labored in generally cramped quarters. Larger New York accounts are frequently shipped to low-cost domestic call centers or overseas, missing the New York frame of mind.
- Account Management. Invariably, account managers across the TMC spectrum are thrown at problematic high-maintenance accounts, and encounter relationship and account retention issues. In addition, New York account managers often carry a large number of accounts and are frequently unable to devote the time and necessary attention to successfully sustain a client’s program. What impressed me most about Atlas is that their account managers treat even the smaller accounts with as much care as if they were $3M or $30M! This level of attention is rare in this market. Plus, while our account managers oversee a large portfolio volume – often vertically focused – they are not burdened with a disruptive ratio of accounts. This allows them to develop the rapport necessary to understand customer goals and corporate culture sensibilities. This balance becomes the foundation of long-term customer satisfaction and loyalty to Atlas.
- Access to senior management and ownership. Atlas backs up this pledge with a hands-on CEO/owner who has grown the company by being intimately involved with the welfare of our customers. Our management team is also closely connected to our client base and travelers. Very few New York travel companies can make this commitment.
Q: Why did you join Atlas Travel?
A: This is the place to be. I’ve seen this business from many perspectives, and believe that what Atlas is doing is not only the right thing; it’s the future!
To contact Greg Martin directly, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 212-717-7100.