Tuesday, 13 January 2021 00:00

Gary Hance of The ATPI Group

Gary Hance of The ATPI Group

Your Name – Gary Hance

Company Name – The ATPI Group encompasses ATP Corporate Travel which serves a range of business sectors from retail, engineering, fashion to financial and legal. ATP Instone serves the shipping, energy and offshore sectors and recently the company acquired shipping and energy travel specialist Griffin Travel Group. We also have an events business, ATP Event Experts, which has a specialist focus on the management and activation of global sporting events.

By the way, ATPI stands for Advanced Travel Partners International!

When did you start (with) the company?
I started with Seaforths Travel in 1988.  Seaforths was one of the predecessor companies that became ATPI in 2002.

What part of the business do you like best?
What parts of the business do you like best?  I really enjoy the constant variety of challenges that we are involved in.  I am heavily involved in internal reporting and sadly, when emergency situations or disasters happen, we have to quickly identify if we have any travellers who may be affected, so there can be a real sense of urgency.  I like the professionalism and commitment of our people, whether it’s simply in the day to day service they provide, or in attending on-site to provide disaster recovery service following offshore incidents.  Last year we had people seconded to Shetland for a week handling travel requests after a helicopter crash.  We were also involved in the British Petroleum / Petrofac Algerian evacuation.

If you had to start again from scratch what would you do differently?
Learn to play the guitar and join a rock group.

What is unique about what the company does?
It’s a slightly hackneyed phrase, but we think global and act local.  With offices all around the world and sales of over £1.2 billion, we use an internal database to ensure that clients have access to all bookings from all of our worldwide offices.  There are other unique things but I’m afraid I can’t reveal the specific detail of these as they really do provide ATPI with advantages over our competition!  On the other hand we’re possibly the biggest purchaser of hotel rooms in Aberdeen; we made over 30 thousand hotel bookings in Aberdeen last year, representing in excess of 78 thousand room-nights.  We’ve also spent a lot of time developing reporting tools which again provide clients with the opportunity to save money before they commit to purchasing a ticket, rather than telling them after the event how much they have spent unnecessarily.

Has there been a key moment or turning point
The transition from long term (founded 1934) UK business Seaforths Travel to ATPI in 2002 saw the birth of our global business, since then we have acquired a market leading marine travel business, Instone International, we recently purchased Voyager Travel, the leading independent business travel agency in Australia, and just a couple of weeks ago we bought leading marine specialist travel business the Griffin Group.  In Aberdeen we have grown from around six staff when I joined the company to employing around 95 in our Bridge Street office, part of the 2,250 or so worldwide employee count.  We continue to focus account management resources on our Aberdeen customers, rather than provide that function from elsewhere in the country, and I think that local knowledge and expertise helps keep clients loyal to ATPI.  Although we do a lot of work with the energy business, we are not exclusive, dealing with local government and financial clients in Scotland as well.  Our commitment to maintaining a sales focus in Aberdeen has provided good results, again the local knowledge and confidence in dealing with Aberdeen people has proved to be a success story.

How do you intend to grow the company?
We’re always looking at process improvement and automation to streamline service, while working to the highest standards of client satisfaction.  We’ve recently launched the ATPI Academy, an in house training school based around online learning with videos covering different aspects of ATPI, from our unique technology to implementation, compliance and induction.  When it’s feasible to do so, we also run trainee programmes both here in Aberdeen, and at our Lowestoft office where we’re the biggest travel employer in the region.  Our partner network is also expanding and we recently recruited partner agencies in Kenya, South Korea and Angola to add to our already extensive multinational network.  Our partners have access to our technology and to the training Academy, and bring additional local expertise and fare content to the business.  As previously noted we recently purchased an agency in Australia and one of our global competitors, Griffin.

Do you have any non-executive directors, mentors or key advisors? Who are they?
I try to keep abreast of new developments in the travel business around the world and continually challenge myself to come up with new ideas and innovations to beat the competition and to make the most of our airline and other supplier relationships.  Although my travel career started in Aberdeen with Munro’s, the forty or so years since then have seen me learn from many industry figures and sources.  I try to attend industry events such as the Business Travel Show in February, as well as IATA (International Air Transport Association) events. I’m a firm believer in competition, but also in sharing common industry concerns, so I collaborate with industry peers in the Guild of Travel Management Companies (GTMC) industry strategy groups on technology and air issues.

What will the next 12 months hold?
Our office in Bridge Street is undergoing a major refurbishment to accommodate the incredible rate of growth we’ve experienced over the past few years. We believe that employees work best in attractive and modern surroundings.  We continue to develop new technology to differentiate ourselves and have launched an App for iPhone and Android which includes traveller’s itinerary details, weather, currency and more. We’ve recently released a new product which combines travel itineraries with authority to travel letters, these are a requirement when using energy business and marine industry discount fares and we believe we’re the first agency to automate this process.  We’re deploying ATPI CrewHub, a new concept also aimed at the energy and shipping business which integrates a two way information flow between client personnel and logistics systems and our business, and we’ll continue with our global programme on ISO 20001, ISO 27001 and PCI compliance.  We’ve also launched an internal programme in the UK called KaiZen – Japanese for Change (Kai) for the good (Zen), which revolves around our staff challenging existing practises and suggesting alternatives and improvement.

If you were given £100,000 to invest in the company, how would you use it?
Funnily enough that’s the amount we have just allocated to replacing windows and doing major internal alterations to our Aberdeen offices to improve utilisation of space and amenities for our staff!  We have a tough job competing for good people and without good, committed and happy staff, we won’t continue to succeed and expand.

What's the best part of running a business?
In the travel business it’s probably the variety, and even though I moan about the 5.00am starts, I do manage to visit some nice places, fly in some comfortable aeroplane seats and stay in some fancy hotels.  Contrary to rumour I do usually pay for these though!

What do you do to relax?
I try to play squash two or three times per week, and also have a share in a light aircraft based at Dyce which I get to fly too seldom. I regularly fail to impress on the golf course.  My wife and I like to visit new places and sample the wine and sunshine around the world! I also regularly babysit my son’s cocker spaniel, although I’m not sure if that is classed as relaxation!

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