Anak McSporran : « My “love affair” with ASA and the UK travel trade began over 25 years ago at the age of 16 when I would come to stay in London and work in the office during the school holidays. It was in the days when the Telex & Fax were the King & Queen of communication and everything was done manually on typewriters.
It was a period when hotels had “rack rates” that did not fluctuate and when the Sales Managers were in charge, and Revenue Management was unknown.
My role at that stage in my career was a bit of everything - the usual that you would expect from a holiday job. A bit of filing, faxing confirmations to hotels, delivering tickets to clients and making lots of tea & coffee for everyone!
We were a small team of about 6 persons, a close family, some of whom had been there since the company was formed in 1979 by Angela Shanley.
When I later left school and moved to London permanently I continued to work at ASA throughout my university years in the Reservations Department, and on graduating was offered the position of FIT Manager.
Over the years since I have been Groups Manager, Operations Manager, Deputy Managing Director and now Managing Director and one of three partners in the company. »
A.Mc.S : « The company has changed enormously since those early days but we are still recognisable as the same company that started almost 40 years ago.
We are still a strong family even though there are now 35 of us. Traditionally ASA focused on Groups and FIT’s from only three markets (Israel, Greece & South Africa). This was very typical for wholesalers like us to specialise in just a few markets, but as the internet became a feature everyone became global overnight.
Over the last 15 years we have steadily and actively grown the number of markets we operate in.
Based on current 2017 figures we are now active in over 60 international markets of which France is among the leading source markets. »
A.Mc.S : « The values remain very similar to those Angela herself instilled all those years ago.
We remain specialists in the British Isles and decided early on that we would not start selling other worldwide destinations.
We did so in order to remain true to our roots and remain a local UK & Ireland expert – a key selling point. We operate as a “traditional” Tour Operator with a focus on long term partnerships and pro-actively work with our overseas partners to build programs together, developing their brand just as much as our own.
We are a personal company. While Online Systems are essential in today’s industry we are still very much focused on the human element. The Online System is a tool only, it is no substitute for real experience and I count myself lucky to have worked with such a diverse & talented team over the years. »
A.Mc.S : « The biggest challenge our industry faces currently is that of the dynamic rate and online b2c selling channels. Instead of identifying that there is viable business generated by traditional b2b channels AND online b2c channels, many hotels are focusing more and more attention on the .com sites and the dynamic connection.
What they fail to understand, or more likely chose to ignore, is that a large portion of business from overseas does not come via those direct channels.
In many cases some markets are light years away from booking direct and we see a huge resurgence in demand for our traditional way of operation via overseas agents using static FIT contracted rates.
The wheel is turning full circle and this is something I hear from our peers in the UK industry more and more as well as many of our partners overseas. »
A.Mc.S : « In the last 5 years the fastest area of growth for ASA has been in Tailormade FIT Services.
These are clients that want to explore the UK in more detail and that tend to be more high-end (4-5 star). They take the services of private driver guides, want to have new experiences, walk in the same places they see in films or TV shows, meet local people and make a connection with an area especially in the regional parts of the UK.
Scotland in particular is a perfect example of that. It is no longer just a simple case of booking a hotel and a few transfers – anyone can do that online.
Our team here can put their enormous knowledge to use in preparing itineraries & concepts which our overseas partners can sell confidently and deliver what their clients are looking for.
In addition, last year, we also became a certified UK supplier for the “Tourcom” network for the provision of FIT and Group services to the French market, reinforcing our commitment and support to our neighbours across the channel.
ASA looks forward to celebrating a 40th anniversary in 2018 with many more exciting developments planned! »