Dominates the business travel market. And has managed to grow by transforming the Internet into a strength

Luca Patanè

Luca Patanè

This giant with a turnover of 2.2 billion is the only company in the world, not just Italy, with which the leading credit card American Express has been in a joint venture for 15 years, holding a minority share of 35%. This is Uvet, the tourism organisation controlled and managed by Luca Patanè, set up and developed as a group of agencies and now an out-and-out Italian centre for tourism, with 900 employees, 300 of them abroad, and which is racking up the profits. It has also managed to grow significantly in the last eight years of recession, by transforming the downturn witnessed by traditional travel agencies due to the flood of online solutions into a strength, and turning the disruption that changed the face of the industry to the company’s advantage.

«In the 65 years we’ve been in business we’ve grown with determination, year after year», states Patanè. «Our winning combination has always been our commitment to results, focus on innovation, and quick action». He goes on to recall when it all started with his father, Francesco, who opened his first travel agency where the Garibaldi station in Milan now stands, and immediately decided to focus on business trips for companies. A brave but successful choice, which led to phenomenally quick growth in the 60s. 1988 saw the premature death of Francesco and the reins were passed to his son Luca. Then came entry into the Carlson Travel Network, the launch of Travel Net Solutions, an innovative ICT company, the opening of branches in Turin and Rome, the fundamental partnership with American Express in 2002 and, the following year, the first edition of BizTravel Forum, a key event for the business travel community in Italy.

After the Parmalat crisis Patanè’s problem-solving intuition told him that a change to using credit cards in customer relationships was pretty much necessary, which set the risk of insolvency at zero and now represents 90% of the total number of travel management transactions. Shortly after, another strategic move came about with the takeover of Itn Travel Network, creating a network that currently has more than 1500 travel agencies. Since 2008 acquisitions have continued in the mobility and events sector. Patanè sees the future of tourism as a growing business and views the digital transformation as a positive element. Maybe because Uvet has also always managed to ride the waves of mobile/web services, but alongside an expert reconversion of the physical network of travel agencies, and a mixed formula of leisure and business trips, splitting risk and balancing sales over two fairly similar areas.