Ahead of the Pack

Read on for a profile of Chris Martin, VP – Business Development Americas for Wings Travel Management and based in Houston.


How did your journey begin with Wings?

My journey began in January 2017 when Paul East, Wings Travel Management’s COO UK/Europe & Americas, approached me on LinkedIn. I had recently been presented with a President’s Award – an accolade given by Texas Travel Association to those who have achieved success in the travel industry – and the post was going viral, which is how Paul came across my profile. I was working in corporate travel for a competitor and knew of Wings. What interested me most about the company, after meeting with Paul and eventually CEO Tony Sofianos, was the privately-held aspect. Coming from a large competitor I knew the inner workings with shareholders and multiple levels of management was something that prohibited my growth professionally.


What is your experience in the business travel world? 

I have been in the industry for 20 years this year. I began in the ground transportation sector with Enterprise and National Car Rental in business sales where I progressed with my career until I felt the TMC vertical was best suited to my skill set. More recently, I worked for ATPI, where I oversaw the business production for small to mid-size travel programmes which equated to around $1mil to $10mil in total travel spend.


Describe your current responsibilities at the company.

As Vice President, Business Development Americas I oversee the sales and account management for both North America and South America operations, which means I’m responsible for bringing in business for both regions and I also deal with day to day client requests and reviews. I feel that so much of the North America business structure operates on a “Western Hemisphere guideline” so overseeing both markets is a natural fit. Houston is known as the Energy HUB for North America by most industry experts as many major organisation have global HQ’s in the city and those who work specifically for the industry have field offices around the city.


The US is a huge market so how is Wings perceived there?

Our US business is becoming more and more successful all the time and in the last year we’ve secured several significant new contracts, including a large client in the maritime industry and more recently a major contract with one of the largest drilling companies. These types of key wins ensure Wings is a major player in the US market.


What type of clients do you have in the US and South America, and how do you service them?

A vast majority of our client basis is serviced from several Wings regional hubs as they are marine and energy centric clients with a global presence.  We have clients that have global headquarters in US, with regional headquarters in UK, Middle East, Asia Pacific and beyond. To enable global servicing we utilise our single global platform so that our colleagues around the world can access each other’s workspace and continue the operations via the ‘follow the sun’ model – which means a complete 24/7 operations as when one region closes, another region opens.


Why do clients choose Wings?

What I have found is that once you hear the Wings story and fully understand our model the core message sells itself. Our single global platform is unmatched among our competitors. No other TMC can provide such reliable and accurate data worldwide – while also providing significant cost savings. It’s all down to our unique ownership structure where all our offices are fully owned and managed by Wings, whereas our competitors use franchise partners which creates a lapse in service globally. I have found much success outlining our structure to major organisations whom have experienced that service gap in terms of performance and overall data management. 


What are the biggest challenges of your job?

If I’d been asked this when I first started at Wings I would have said the biggest challenge was in changing the mind-set of travel buyers in my region, so they understood that Wings is a global player. However, I believe that the size and significance of accounts that we’ve won recently proves that our message is resonating in the marketplace. Clients are starting to understand that regardless of what country or region that they operate in – our Wings’ offices operate the exact same and we can globally consolidate their business.


What part of your role gives you the most satisfaction?

Seeing the hard work that we’ve put into our US and South American operations paying off. We are excelling in this region and moving it further than it has ever been previously. I feel that we are on the cusp of something very special: there is still a lot of work to do but being part of a global team that is making such an impact on the industry provides a great sense of satisfaction.


Do you manage to switch off when you leave the office behind? Do you have any interesting hobbies/pastimes?

The one thing I applaud most about Wings is the ‘family first’ attitude. Being in business development does make it difficult to switch off after-hours but I do enjoy my family time. I’m Head Coach of my son’s little league baseball team and I cheer on my daughter’s club volleyball team. My wife of 14 years understands the need to take a call on a random weekend, but in my life family is what keeps me humble. And, as like most Americans, my hobby is food – I love to cook and by cooking I mean using a bar-b-que to cook outdoors and invite friends over to socialise.


If you’d like to find out more about Wings’ operations in the US, please contact chris.martin@wings.travel

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