Mega TMCs get new competitor in the shape of merged Direct Travel and ATPI
Consolidation continues in the world of mid-sized travel management companies with the announcement this week of a merger between ATPI and Direct Travel of the US, forming Direct ATPI Global Travel. The move will allow the combined operation to offer a more effective solution for travel managers looking for a global operation and will allow it compete with the likes of American Express GBT, Carlson Wagonlit, HRG and BCD Travel.
Andrew Waller, who was recently named chief executive officer of ATPI Group after a decade in senior roles in Carlson Wagonlit, said of the tie-up, “The combination of the two companies under shared ownership creates a unique and unrivalled global proposition which enables us to provide a single offering for our products and services.”
The privately held company was founded in 2010 to fill what it calls “the significant service void in the marketplace for middle market travel accounts”.
Direct Travel is led by Ed Adams, former president and chairman of the travel management company Navigant, which disappeared in the mega-TMC reshuffle that took place in 2006. In that year, the TQ3 name disappeared, splitting in two parts, the American part going into Navigant and the European parts into BCD Travel. At the same time, the BTI joint venture between BCD and HRG was dissolved. Navigant was ultimately bought by Carlson Wagonlit.
Adams clearly sees the need for another global mega-TMC and the two organisations are a good fit, with Direct strongly represented in North America. ATPI has had a small office in Houston but is far stronger in Europe.
Since its foundation Direct Travel has been on an aggressive acquisition streak, snapping up more than 20 US TMCs serving the mid-market. It dipped a toe in UK waters in the summer of 2016, when it acquired Scotland’s Colpitts World Travel, based in Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
In April 2017, the company merged with Canada’s Vision Travel.
ATPI has come together through a series of acquisitions – Seaforths, Ayscough, Australia’s Voyager Travel and, most recently, marine specialist Griffin Travel.
The company says that the combined operation now has sales of more than $7 billion and employs 4,500 people worldwide in more than 160 locations. The Direct Travel, Vision and ATPI brands will continue in their markets and Direct ATPI Group will operate as a separate organisation.
The question is now whether the combined group will continue with its laser-like mid-market focus.
The news comes in a year of considerable consolidation in the mid-market in the UK - the Clarity-Portman merger, Corporate Travel Management’s acquisitions of Redfern and Chambers and US TMC Travel and Transport buying Statesman Travel.