Entrevista exclusiva con Jamie Pherous, CEO, CTM

El consultor y director de GBTA en Australia y Nueva Zelanda, Tony O'Connor, tuvo la oportunidad de hacerle varias preguntas al CEO de CTM, Jamie Pherous, luego de la adquisición de Travel and Transport por parte de CTM.

TOC:  You’ve paid around 7 times T&T’s 2019 earnings for the purchase. It’s a large transaction. CTM must have an underpinning view on the recovery. How do you see business travel panning out over 2021 and 2022?

JP:  Like the best businesses in the industry, T&T moved early and swiftly to take out structural costs that will never come back. So most of the synergies are already baked in. On that basis, we paid 4.3 times. It is a large transaction but in our view, T&T was the very best business left in the world that was stand-alone. Our very strong financial position afforded us this opportunity; one that would not have arisen without Covid-19.

Nuestra opinión firme es que los viajes se recuperarán. No es "si" sino "cuándo". La prueba son nuestras experiencias en Nueva Zelanda y varios estados de Australia donde hemos visto recuperaciones completas de viajes nacionales donde no hay restricciones de viaje. De hecho, ¡Nueva Zelanda está superando al año pasado!

Given the diversity of the CTM business, and the high proportion of domestic  travel in CTM (which T&T also shares), we believe we can break even very quickly and run a profitable business centred around domestic-only travel until international returns. I don’t think many if any other travel companies can make that claim. So we are well positioned to be profitable on domestic-only business, and sit tight until international opens up.


TOC:  With T&T comes the Radius network. Do you see this as strengthening CTM as a truly global travel manager? How does this network of independent agents fit with your fully owned model? Are there plans for Radius?

JP:  Yes we do. The Radius hotel program is one of the very best corporate accommodation programs in the world. We plan to keep the Radius brand as a stand-alone business, but enhance the value to Radius partners though an enhanced hotel program. For example, we are one of the largest TMCs in APAC. And we believe our strength in distributing our Asian hotel deals will be beneficial to the Radius network.

Desde el punto de vista de la red, alentamos a los socios de Radius a continuar colaborando en toda su red. Y si lo desean, ahora también pueden trabajar en red con CTM donde tenga sentido hacerlo. Pero no impondremos esto a los socios de Radius. Ya es un grupo exitoso y solo queremos aumentar el valor para todos los miembros. Como parte de esta revisión, volveremos a evaluar a la baja las tarifas de membresía y redes comerciales para garantizar que no haya barreras para los socios actuales. No queremos diluir el impacto positivo que podemos tener en Radius.


TOC:  The purchase is a big investment in the US market. The recovery will likely vary per region. How does CTM now sit now with these possible future shifts in regional activity?

JP:  On calendar 2019 basis, total annual transaction value for the entire group will be just shy of $11billion, making us the 5th largest TMC in the world, with North America representing just under half the global annual volume.

Estados Unidos es un mercado alimentador global para viajes corporativos. Así que creemos que esta es la ponderación correcta para ser una verdadera TMC global y una marca desafiante para las 3 mega-TMC tradicionales.

Es nuestra diversidad geográfica y de clientes lo que ha sido nuestra fortaleza a través de Covid 19. Debido a esto, nuestros ingresos globales están funcionando a tasas de recuperación mucho más altas que las de nuestros pares. Por ejemplo, tenemos regiones que ya han sido rentables en el trimestre julio-septiembre. Es esta diversidad la que sustenta nuestra solidez financiera y nuestra confianza en que podemos volver a ser rentables muy rápidamente, incluso con la más mínima mejora en la actividad de los clientes. Simplemente no necesitamos viajes internacionales para abrir nuevamente y administrar un negocio muy exitoso. Dado que tenemos deuda cero y una liquidez neta de aproximadamente $300m, nuestros clientes pueden sentirse muy seguros de que estaremos aquí mañana, el próximo año y en la próxima década.


TOC:  You’ve identified $25 million in potential cost reductions and efficiencies in the new operations. T&T was regarded as a fairly high-cost TMC. Do you think this fairly conservative figure might increase?

JP:  What has impressed us about T&T is just how pragmatic their wider leadership team has been. We are all aligned on being the best we can be. And the timing gives us the opportunity to reset and focus on what “best practice” client delivery and solutions should now look like, and then move rapidly towards that. I’m fact, nearly all key decisions have already been agreed across the wider team. This is an outstanding achievement this early, and only reinforces our combined commitment to being the best TMC in the market.

Como resultado, esperamos no solo un negocio combinado más eficiente, sino también un negocio que tendrá mejores soluciones orientadas al cliente, complementando la reputación de alto servicio de ambos negocios.


TOC:  The capital raising was substantially more than was needed to fund the acquisition. Is further expansion in the wings? Or are you maintaining a very comfortable cash buffer to protect CTM from a lengthy downturn?

JP:  It is a combination of both. There are a few smaller acquisition opportunities that will no doubt come to fruition. We have worked hard to find ourselves in the enviable position of strong financial liquidity. In this environment, it is prudent to raise a little more than required to protect this position.


TOC:  CTM has taken the less travelled and costlier road of in-house development of IT. Can this be sustained over a depressed 2021 and maybe beyond? Does the acquisition affect your IT strategy?

JP:  One thing we have not stopped investing in is our technology hubs and sales team. The T&T acquisition enhances this opportunity as we create a larger team spread over a much larger client base. Our unique philosophy is to develop in each market to capture the specific market nuances, and to work with our clients to capture their individual needs. This strategy has been particularly successful for us with our Lightning booking tool and SMART suite, which are truly global. In fact in calendar 2019, Lightning was used in over seven million transactions globally.

Además, hemos desarrollado nuestras propias capas de contenido y plataforma que permiten a nuestros clientes acceder al contenido desde cualquier lugar, incluido el contenido de GDS, API y NDC, todo entregado sin problemas en una interfaz. Ahora, el programa de hotel Radius también se puede entregar a través de esta interfaz. Por lo tanto, las decisiones que tomamos hace cinco años para desarrollar internamente y en la región ciertamente están llegando a casa para apoyarnos.


TOC:  Do you see the role and the services of the TMC changing due to Covid? With all the new complexities, do you think there will have to be a shift back towards human services?

JP:  There is no doubt we will be more valued in the supply chain, particularly around safety and security. In the new environment, the expert advice needed to enable travel will often necessarily be more complex. We have already seen large growth in our charter and logistic services, especially where regular commercial schedules have not allowed clients to operate their businesses.

Again, having our own client facing technology suite has been advantageous. Being in control of their development, we already had supplier Covid-19 safety features and product updates built into our tech suite and Lightning booking tool as of May. The enhancements gave travelers up to date critical information specific to their travel plans. Some of the traveler tracking features and ticket credit features we have been reinforcing to clients for many years are now seen as critical in this new environment.

Nuestra filosofía sigue siendo... Simplifique el trabajo con nosotros y automatice la mayor cantidad de información posible para los clientes en movimiento. Libere a nuestros asesores de viajes para los clientes de alto contacto y alto valor que nos necesitarán más que nunca para despejar las listas de espera y hacerlos entrar y salir de manera segura de los países en poco tiempo.


TOC:  Do you think that the travel distribution chain will change due to the downturn? For instance, there’s talk of surviving airlines pushing harder for direct corporate sales. Do TMCs need to further consolidate and scale-up to protect their market position?

JP:  There is no doubt that when an industry like travel has all participants in the supply chain losing money, there has to be both consolidation and new ways of doing things. The longer this goes on, the more players will become insolvent. So that creates opportunities to acquire and to win market share. But to do this, you need a flexible model, and at the risk of repeating myself, our technology strategy coupled with our strong liquidity puts us in the box seat.

TOC:  What advantages will the acquisition bring to your existing clients?

JP:  Good acquisitions deliver great strategic rationale to our combined client base and prospective clients. For CTM, our clients can enjoy the Radius hotel program. And they will see a “doubling down” of technology investment corresponding with the larger scale of business that we have created. For T&T clients, they will be able to enjoy the Lightning booking tool and NDC content that we add. And they can now participate in how we develop locally for the North American market, as we have done in Europe and APAC. Global travel programs have historically struggled with services in Asia. For T&T’s customer base and other new clients, we offer integrated strength across the APAC region, underpinned by our SMART technology suite which operates across CTM offices.


Tony O'Connor es un consultor independiente de adquisiciones de viajes. Es miembro del Grupo PTC y dirige la consultora Butler Caroye desde 1998. Es director ejecutivo de la empresa de auditoría de viajes Airocheck y director regional de GBTA en Australasia.