CT Partners celebrates 20 years… of transparency, loyalty, unity

"Cross pollination" of corporate and leisure a winning formula, says CEO Matt Masson

CT Partners marked its 20th anniversary on Wednesday night with a celebratory dinner – the biggest event ever for the consortia – where new and old members united under one roof. Around 200 guests including industry partners, suppliers and select trade media (including LATTE) were present.

Matt Masson, CEO of CT Partners acknowledged the founding members of the group, established in 2004 when a posse of American Express offices went rogue when it appeared as though their destiny lay with an imminent Travelscene acquisition. Establishing a 50/50 venture with Harvey World Travel, the founding members kept their businesses alive while remaining independent. Six of those seven founding members were at last night’s event in Sydney. They included: Alan Wolf, Bay Travel; Gary Reischenberg, Connections Group; Mark Chaskiel, FBI Travel; Aaron Watts, Mariner Travel; Kerri Primrose, MP Travel; Anna McMurtrie, Wentworth Travel and Andrew Ross of Travelforce.

Former CP Partners General Manager, Ian Edwards and the late members Bev Cohen and Tim Murphy were also recognised with a toast by recently elected Chair, Joe Araullo (of TravelManagers).

From L-R: Alan Wolf, Bay Travel; Mark Chaskiel, FBI Travel; Andrew Ross, Travelforce; Gary Reichenberg, Connections Group; Anna McMurtrie, Wentworth Travel; Aaron Watts, Mariner Travel and Kerri Primrose, MP Travel.

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“We are here because of their courage and commitment to setting up a group of independent travel companies. There was nothing like it in 2004,” Masson said, noting it is the “transparency between members and management that is unique.”

CT Partners’ agency numbers currently stand at 30 after a recent growth spurt. And more new members are on the horizon, LATTE understands. The newest member was global TMC, Traveltrust. Based in North Sydney, Traveltrust has established offices in London, Dublin, San Diego, Hong Kong and Canada.

Traditionally a corporate travel network (hence the name C.T.), the consortia have tapped deeper into the leisure space with some of its more recent members.

As the group has diversified over the last two years, in particular adding on a number of new supplier partners as our membership changed, the needs of our customers and clients have evolved. It’s been a lot more fun, this wider group,” the CEO of three years remarked.

“I think initially I was a bit concerned coming into a predominantly corporate group, how that new leisure mix would fit, and it’s actually added a lot of value.”

“That cross-pollination is really interesting and I think it makes us much more attractive to the suppliers we have, as we’ve got both sides – leisure and corporate – covered.”

Matt Masson, CEO, CT Partners

“[CT] is a community group of innovative businesses, very entrepreneurial, with interesting characters behind them.” He said the “continuity and connection” of the group’s members who “still stay in the orbit of CT Partners” even after they leave, reflects their genuine passion for the group.

CT Partners' current board, from left are: Shane Barr, TAG; Joe Araullo, House of Travel; Fiona Prosser, Globetrotter, Peter Muller ATPI; Anna McMurtrie, Wentworth Group; Michael Chase-Smith, Orbit World Travel and Mark Chaskiel, FBI Travel.

Masson lauded CT Partners’ 60-plus supplier-partners that have come onboard, quipping “We’ve gotten through those dark and stormy teenage years. Thanks for sticking with us!”

“2023 has been a hell of a rebound and I think you understand what we can deliver and we look forward to the next decade as we work together with you.”

“We are small but we punch above our weight.”

CT’s Three Amigos reflect

Last night’s event included an informal discussion between three long-time CT Partners members. Alan Wolf of Bay Travel, Mike Dwyer of Main Beach Travel and Mark Chaskiel of FBI Travel shared anecdotes, insights and highlights of the past two decades and the secret sauce of what makes the consortia so successful.

Alan Wolf, Mike Dwyer and Mark Chaskiel

Wolf said: “The cornerstone of CT Partners is transparency. That’s our core difference from day one. We all work collectively to achieve what is going to be best for all of us. That’s how it started 20 years ago and it’s been unchanged until today.”

Chaskiel said that over the past two decades, there has been a sense that all members are on a level playing field, where even the smallest of the agencies could discuss ideas with the owner of the largest agency.

“The camaraderie was always based on helping each other and that part of the group hasn’t changed at all, even with new members that have come on board,” Chaskiel said.

“You’ve all learned that you can call any one of us, or we can call any one of you, at any time to talk about anything. You only get that with this sort of group.”

Dwyer said that with CT Partners suppliers know that every dollar they are paying through an agreement “is going to the people who are at the coalface.”

“Partners can come into our office and we talk quite openly about what we do is hard. And I think that is a unique arrangement in our industry in that there’s no head office.

CT Partners' CEO Matt Masson with current and former Chairmen, Barry Mayo, Joe Araullo (current) and David Greenland.

Dwyer continued: “I often get asked by asked by agents who are looking or wanting to join CT Partners if it’s a good arrangement.

“I’ve been with the group for 16-17 years now and I’ve not come across another group that has a model like this. We couldn’t be happier.”

“The business has stood the test of time and now it’s going through another growth spurt, so happy days,” Dwyer concluded.

2024 conference

Meanwhile, Masson unveiled the destination for CT Partners’ 2024 Conference would be the Four Seasons Nam Resort in Hoi An, Vietnam, held between 30 October and 1 November 2024.

Until last year’s event in Ho Chi Minh City, the Annual Member Meeting had been hosted regularly in Bangkok at the Mandarin Oriental. Masson said members enjoyed the change of destination last year and there was a desire to “switch it up” again in 2024.

Lead image: CT Partners’ CEO Matt Masson, flanked by Elizabeth Rooney (left), Commercial Analyst and Nicole Boyer, General Manager – Supplier Partnerships.

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