Neither the global geopolitical situation, nor jitters about the world economy, nor any other factor could slow down the 54 travel companies that comprise the 2019 Travel Weekly Power List, our annual ranking of companies with $100 million or more in travel sales.
All but a handful of these agencies posted increases in sales volume in 2018, several significantly and some the largest in the agency's history. And few were content to rest on their increased business: They explored acquisitions, launched tech initiatives and developed ways to offer agents more and better training.
Seven agencies debut on, or return after an absence to, this year's Power List: Adtrav Travel Management, Balboa Travel, Covington Travel, Global Marine Travel, Hess Corporate Travel, Key Travel and Small World Vacations. Another, Lincoln, Neb.-based Executive Travel, just missed joining the list with $97 million in 2018 sales.
Two companies, CI Azumano Travel and Quality Reward Travel, likely had enough sales to qualify for the Power List but declined the opportunity to participate.
But the biggest absence from this year's Power List is perennial top-10 agency HRG, which was acquired by American Express Global Business Travel last July. That was the only acquisition between Power List agencies, but other acquisitions did fuel the growth of a number of listees. For example, Key Travel joined the list after the acquisition of competitor (and former Power Lister) Raptim Humanitarian Travel. Meanwhile, Atlas Travel & Technology Group acquired Flagship Travel; Travel and Transport bought Radius Travel; and Flight Center Travel Group purchased the U.S. operations of Casto Travel of Silicon Valley, to name just a few of the transactions.
Technology continues to represent another substantial target of agency investment. Several including Flight Center, Direct Travel, Adelman Travel, Fareportal and Ovation Travel Group said they were exploring artificial intelligence and related chatbot technology. Atlas, Ovation, Adelman and Direct Travel also are developing omnichannel communications platforms.
Several leisure-focused agencies launched or enhanced agent education programs, including an initiative between Avoya Travel and CLIA. Fox World Travel launched the Fox Vacation Travel Institute, an education program that joins its Business Travel Institute and Travel Manager Institute. KHM Travel Group is redesigning its online education platform and expanding in-person events. And Small World designed a custom agent education program at Walt Disney World, a primary destination for the agency, with site inspections, special events and a one-day Disney Institute program.