Flying high as travel industry experiences a turbulent time
Angela Walsh: "We lost a lot of money during the ash crisis but we gained customers as we kept our clients updated."
Future Proof: Corporate Travel ManagementKeeping customers informed has helped company ride out the recession
The international nature of the travel business has meant the recession was just one of many obstacles faced by Cork-based travel agent Corporate Travel Management.
The travel company, set up 13 years ago by Angela Walsh, has had to face the fallout following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the volcanic ash crisis, Sars and swine flu.
However, an unwavering commitment to keeping clients updated and informed at all times meant Walsh grew her business and gained clients with each new blow to the industry.
“We lost a lot of money during the ash crisis but we gained customers as we kept our clients updated and informed the whole time. This is especially important when it comes to corporate clients, as companies need to know where their staff are at all times.”
Earlier this year, the company was the only independent agent shortlisted for the Corporate Travel Agent of the Year award.
Walsh founded the company in 2000 after noticing a gap in the market for a service-led travel agency.
At the time she was working in the airline industry. Three years later, the company branched out into the holiday sector.
“We never wanted to do leisure, as corporate travel and leisure are two completely different mindsets. But, over the years, our corporate clients wanted us to arrange holidays for them and we didn’t want to send them to another agent.”
The company had just purchased a unit at the East Gate Business Park in Cork, and fitted the offices out to the highest state-of-the-art standard when the downturn hit.
“People stopped travelling to meetings and were doing them instead over the phone. Flights were replaced with conference calls. However, companies soon realised that people do business with people.”
She attributes the company’s 13-year success to a team of highly experienced personnel.
“We have 20 very experienced people employed. It would be cheaper for us to have people who weren’t so experienced, but it makes it better for the customer and helps them save money if we have experienced personnel.”
One way to ensure survival in a recession is to have a broad customer base spanning the world, she says.
She attributes the fact that 90 per cent of her business is from outside Ireland to Corporate Travel Management’s growth since the property and banking crash.
“One of our biggest customers is in China. We also have many companies in the US who are clients. That made us recession proof.”
The company’s clients, which include PCH International, software group Qumas, Milestone Aviation Group, Firecomms, Intel games subsidiary Havok and Trend Micro have offices in the US, Britain, Germany, China, Korea and Japan.
However, Walsh is conscious of the importance of the domestic market.
“Over the last 18 months, in order to expand our client portfolio, we have focused our attention and sales strategy on the domestic market.”
The travel industry has come full circle since 2000. according to Walsh.
“When I started the business in 2000, there was a move to push agents out of the industry. In recent years, people were avoiding agents altogether by booking flights and accommodation online themselves.
“However, they quickly found they had no back-up, finding themselves stranded somewhere with no information.”
Walsh says there had been a huge move back to agents on the part of companies as they have to know where their staff are at all times.
“We run a 24-hour service, 365 days a year. I think that’s also one of the reasons we managed to grow our customer base.”