A day in the life: Alison
Head of VIP & Entertainment Travel, Detonate
Alison Rodgers is Head of VIP & Entertainment at Detonate, a specialist travel management company serving the creative industries, which is part of the TakeTwo Eton Travel group.
When the live music scene exploded in the mid 90’s, DJs and promoters started to travel worldwide. Detonate was founded by Alison to meet their needs. Today, the company manages travel for worldwide tours, festivals, and live events on behalf of A-listers and superstar DJs, and others just starting out, as Alison explains:
“One artist started off getting standard class trains up and down the UK doing gigs. Now, his gigs are all over the world and he flies business class! Another band we used to look after would all sleep in their van, but we’d book one room for them at a Travelodge so all ten of them could have a shower and keep the tour on budget. Everyone involved with any tour is important, so we like to keep them all happy”, she says.
No two days are the same
There’s no such thing as a typical day for Alison. The Detonate out of hours team deals with anything urgent that may happen overnight, however, that doesn’t stop her checking her emails first thing each morning.
“It’s good to know what’s ahead for the day” she says. “I could be arranging private jets and hotels costing £4,000 - £5,000 a night. Sourcing greeters to take a client from their commercial flight to a private terminal so they don’t have to walk through the main terminals. Or I could be arranging logistics for a band’s crew, booking budget airline flights, trains, and hotels.”
Good agent, great value
Alison believes that a good TMC provides specialist knowledge. Like planning an itinerary, selecting the most cost-effective combination of routes, airlines, and segments; finding the latest on trend hotels, or the little things that make a real difference, like booking Fastrack security through airports.
“Take Amsterdam Schiphol, which has been a nightmare for UK citizens since Brexit. We can’t do anything about the queues upon arrival, but we can book a slot in security on departure, which is free of charge. Although not unique to Schiphol, it is a small detail that can make a big difference.”
However, the real added value Detonate brings is the experiences in their team, which provides a unique insight into their clients’ needs, as Alison explains.
“Take Charlotte, or Lottie as she’s known. Charlotte toured the world for 20 years as one of the leading DJs in the electronic music scene. She knows the demands of performing in a different country every night, so she is uniquely placed to organise an itinerary. Paul Thompson’s encyclopaedic knowledge of booking systems, airlines and destinations makes him one of the best travel logistic specialists in the business.”
“At Detonate, our mission is to understand clients’ needs and make sure that everybody on the tour is happy. Not everyone can afford to go private, first or business class. We look after the tour managers and the people who are building the production at the venue. We make sure they've got extra leg room seats or their seat preferences. It’s pretty much like corporate travel but more hands-on and with greater empathy for each traveller.”
Expect the unexpected
When you’re touring, the tiniest irritant can become a major issue. “Once, a promoter didn’t want to pay the premium for an artist and the tour manager to be sat together on a plane, so they were sat apart. Come the day of the flight both were very stressed, so we had to find a solution” Alison says.
“You have to expect the unexpected. A flight being cancelled at the beginning of the tour can put the whole tour in jeopardy. If the only direct flight is a low-cost airline and gets cancelled or delayed, they're not in the right place to continue with the tour. You have to think on your feet and get everything sorted as quickly as possible.”
With 30+ years track record, much of Detonate’s success is due to the team’s unparalleled experience and, unlike some larger companies, retains the ethos of personal service.
“We don’t have a call centre, so our clients deal with the same person each day” says Alison. “Yet we have significant buying power through our parent TakeTwo Eton Travel Group. We have preferred partnerships with airlines and hotel groups so we can get better rates – including specialist entertainment fares - than they’ll find online.”
“Some artists or their management companies book flights directly through airline websites even though they can’t always reroute a ticket when it is booked this way so if there is last minute change to a tour or a cancelled gig, they risk losing the money they paid for the ticket whereas we can reroute tickets.”
As founder of Detonate, Alison Rodgers can look back on three decades of success. The brand is well known across the music industry, especially in electronic dance music. So, there’s plenty to be proud of.
What of the future
“We are looking to grow and eventually that will mean having expanding into North America.. In the meantime, Detonate will keep on doing what’s it’s been doing best since 1996, keeping promoters, crews, and artists happy by delivering a personal service based on understanding their needs.”