Wings Travel Management (Wings), the global specialist travel management company (TMC) for the oil and gas and marine industries, is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Wings has carved a niche in the market for managing complex travel and support services for customers globally, in particular to developing markets and high risk destinations.
The TMC’s global reach has grown from one office in Johannesburg, to span North and South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia, where the company currently has 14 wholly owned and managed regional operations. Today Wings employs almost 400 people and has a global turnover of £250m.
Wings’ story began in 1992 when CEO and founder, Tony Sofianos, established a travel agency in Johannesburg to serve the local leisure market. But he soon discovered a passion for the oil and gas sector and spotted a gap for providing niche business travel services. By 1996, Sofianos was winning business from large multinational oil and gas companies, initially in West Africa before setting his sights on the rest of the globe. At this point he recognised that, in order to serve the oil and gas industry effectively, a global presence for Wings was a prerequisite.
In 1998 Wings expanded in South Africa with a new operation in Cape Town. Further growth came in 2003 with the launch of an operation in Durban to better serve the marine industry after Wings acquired Global Marine Travel. International expansion began in 2002 when Wings established a London operation. Next came the USA, with the acquisition of marine specialist, Scandic World Travel, in Texas in 2006. An operation was launched in Aberdeen, Scotland in 2008 and two years later, Wings established a Middle East hub in Dubai, as well as an operation in Luanda, Angola. Brazil followed in 2013, after Wings acquired V7 Viagens with operations in Rio de Janeiro and Macaé. Further expansion followed in 2014 with the opening of a new operation in Lagos, Nigeria. In 2016 Wings acquired Travelnet Stavanger in Norway and the TMC commenced business in Saudi Arabia. During 2017 Wings will officially commence operations in Singapore.
From the outset, Wings’ commitment to travel risk management and traveller safety support has been at the core of its operations due to the nature of its clients’ complex and often hazardous travel needs.
Sofianos explains: “My vision was to adopt a business model where we own and control all of our operations around the globe. This is a distinct point of difference to our competitors and it would be very difficult, if not impossible for another TMC to replicate in a reasonable time-frame. Most other multinational TMCs use partner networks, particularly in markets like Angola, Brazil and Saudi Arabia. Because we own and manage all our offices, our technology operates on a single global platform, meaning clients receive the same consistent high-touch service levels. “We are also experts at providing support services to travellers on the ground in high risk countries, arranging private transfers and security.”