(Milwaukee, WISCONSIN) – Adelman Travel’s recent acquisition of Great Southern Travel makes Adelman the 23rd largest travel agency in the U.S., and according to Steve Cline, chief operating officer, this is just the beginning.

“The travel industry has changed significantly in the last couple of years,” said Cline. “Some of the biggest players are losing some market share, and some have cut their work forces by thousands. The travel industry hasn’t gone away – it has simply moved in new directions. So have we. We knew we had to adapt – to diversify our offerings, and strengthen our position within the industry. So that’s what we did.”

Long known for its business travel services, two years ago Adelman began a series of moves aimed at rounding out its travel and business offerings, including non-travel meeting solutions. The company added AdelmanSummit®, a meetings and incentives division, as well as rewards travel fulfillment services and video conferencing capabilities. “By adding these solutions, we can keep – and expand – our customer base, and still meet the customers’ objective, which is to bring people together.”

Acquiring Great Southern Travel also put Adelman solidly in the vacation and leisure travel business. Great Southern Travel (a division of Great Southern Bank) was one of the top 100 travel agencies in the United States, with 13 locations and 90 employees. “Adelman Vacations® has always been a strong brand, but this acquisition has really put us on the map – all over the globe – with a number of exciting packages, and more coming every day,” said Cline.

“Bringing Great Southern Travel has also opened up new business travel markets for us,” said Cline. The acquisition means job growth as well. “Often in an acquisition, you look to consolidate and eliminate redundancy, but in this case, there was no redundancy. In fact, we have added 12 new employees since the acquisition was announced in November.”

Cline said Adelman has taken a strategic and methodical approach to adding new business travel services. “We have a strong account service orientation. We work hard to understand our customers’ problems, and the problems behind those problems. If all you do is take an order, you’ll never get that far. By working closely with our customers, we’re able to solve our customers’ problems – often with solutions that hadn’t occurred to them. It’s the difference between hearing what they want, and understanding what they need. We also gain insight that helps us better position our business for the future.”

That effort has paid off: in 2012 Adelman achieved 100% customer retention. “We have consistently done well in this area,” said Cline, “around 94 to 97%. And in an industry full of ‘churn,’ 100% retention is like winning the Super Bowl. We’re proud of this because it’s a reflection of our employees and their commitment to our customers’ satisfaction. Now, it’s incumbent on us to do it again – and again.”

Adelman added several new business travel customers last year, and saw its revenue increase by 25% overall. Cline said he expects a similar pattern in 2013. “Some of what has been happening in the travel industry has left some of their customers looking for new and different solutions. We’re in a good position to provide those solutions.”

Cline said both business and leisure travel will see significant changes in the next several years. Alternatives to business travel – including video conferencing – becoming more viable and popular, as the technology and hardware for it improves and becomes more affordable. “So we offer video conferencing now, and that business is already growing and changing shape.”

In addition, global attention on green travel is beginning to affect the industry. “Airlines and rental cars have been acutely aware of their carbon footprint for years,” Cline said. “Now we’re seeing hotels and resorts begin to pay attention, and other segments will follow. This will matter to more and more customers in the next few years, and we are finding ways to capture data and present green travel alternatives.”

Global consolidation of travel management services is another potential growth area for Adelman Travel. “Global companies with multinational operations have been struggling with managing travel in multiple countries for years,” said Cline, “and for understandable reasons. It can be complex when dealing with multiple cultures within one company. Also, wholly owned agencies in multiple markets haven’t been the solution either for many corporate travel buyers. It seems their approach has been to consolidate companies into a standard management solution that may not work in all markets.”

Adelman is one of the founding shareholders of Radius, the global agency network with 3,300 locations in 80 countries. “Radius is a network – not a single corporate entity,” said Cline. “With Radius, our whole model is based on flexibility – on the understanding that different solutions are needed for different situations, different countries, different cultures and different customers.

Cline said the Adelman/Radius approach has been three-fold. “First, to fully understand our customers’ needs. Second, to help them better understand how global consolidation can help them manage their travel needs based on the make up of their global operation. And third, to customize the global configuration to best meet the needs of each customer.”

In the end, Cline said the key to understanding the future of the travel business has been to redefine the company. “We can’t think of ourselves as a booking and fulfillment business. In fact, we never did. We are in the business of bringing people together.”