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news conference report Elite Conference 2010 June 3-4 ■ Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas

Relations with Advantage were among the key topics raised by members during the Elite conference on a two-day cruise from Southampton to Le Havre. Sophie Griffiths reports

PARTNERSHIP. Stay small, say members

ELITE MEMBERS want the consortium to stay small despite the benefits of its commercial deal with Advantage.

During a question-and-answer session, mem-

bers said the link-up had been advantageous to agents, but stressed their desire to keep the consortium select. Mike Richardson from Villair Travel said:

“Working with Advantage has been hugely bene- ficial. I would be happy to continue, but I like to see that we are remaining a small consortium.” This was echoed by Paul Dayson from Spa

Travel, who said he enjoyed the commercial benefits of the partnership, but added: “Let’s keep Elite small.” The conference focused on how members could improve their businesses as the sector struggled to recover from a slowdown in busi- ness caused by the ash cloud and election.

■More Elite Conference news on MARKETING. Spar scheme checked out

ELITE MEMBERS hope to benefit from the marketing initiative launched by Advantage with the Spar chain of convenience stores. The move could expose the consortium’s members to more than seven million new customers every week. Advantage is running a competition with Spar that will see its name appear in 2,500 UK shops. Each competition entrant will be invited to book their next holiday via an Advantage member. Elite chairman Wayne Darrock said Elite had

previously been involved in similar schemes with stores such as Waitrose, and the consortium’s board would be discussing with Advantage how Elite members could benefit from the promotion. Advantage is also understood to be consider- ing how to follow up the Spar campaign with sim- ilar initiatives in luxury stores such as Harrods. “Ethos, the luxury part of our consortium, would be interested in this,” Darrock said.

10 11.06.2010 Wendy Albutt, Elite marketing and events manager, and chairman Wayne Darrock, onboard Independence of the Seas ‘No need’ for a merger

ELITE CHAIRMANWayne Darrock has insisted the consortium will not unite with Advantage in the near future, despite suggestions that the Elite conference and its Advantage counterpart could merge into one event in 2012. Speaking to TTG at the Elite conference,

Darrock said there was “no need” for the two consortia to merge. “It is two years since we became involved with Advantage, and there is no need to change the model,” he said. “I can’t see a merger happening.” Advantage and Elite agreed to operate

together commercially in 2008, but to remain separate organisations. Darrock said it would be up to the board of di-

rectors to decide whether Elite would merge completely with Advantage. But he added: “So far, when the members

have been asked about this, there has been a re- sounding ‘no’. But we would never say never, and we have to evaluate our position.” Darrock’s statement came despite suggestions earlier in the day from Elite director Sally Car- rick that the consortium’s conference could

merge with Advantage’s in 2012. Speaking during a question-and-answer ses-

sion, Carrick said the decision would be down to members to make. Although the 2011 event had been confirmed as a separate conference, she added: “Who knows what might happen in 2012?” “Never say never,” said Carrick. “All the

conferences in the industry have a strong part to play. I was at Advantage recently and it did feel like it was a little club. We don't have the income to pursue the Andrew Neils of this world, as Advantage do, and he was an interesting speaker this year.”

Elite later stressed a decision on 2012 had not been taken. Darrock said all conferences were going

through a period of transition. “There is a redirection of all the conferences,” he said. “They’ve all had to change, and overseas confer- ences are presenting a real challenge. “If there are things we like and we think Elite fits, then we'll work together. If we don't think Elite fits, then we won't.”

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