The Magazine On The Business Of Travel. Like It?
Whether shopping for bagels in Whole Foods in the USA or butter in Waitrose near my new home in the UK, I know I’ll have an array of choice, a distinct experience and the occasional piece of reassuring personalisation.
I take all this for granted. And I get it from smaller retailers and Amazon too.
But I sometimes wonder if some in the travel industry, even within its leading-edge OTA sector, have really taken on board what it means to be a retailer who just happens to be selling travel?
Because that is really what an OTA is. Its backbone is the dynamic technology and comprehensive content of the sort people like Travelport provide, but its craft is in deploying it like a smart retailer.
We work in a world of weird acronyms - PNR, BSP, PAX - in which we may be expert, but too often get drowned by these and lose sight of the reason they exist: to help us manage and sell travel better.
But OTAs are in a great position even before a customer becomes a customer. Our research shows that 70% of travellers have used one when simply looking for inspiration. The same number trusts the reviews seen on their sites. And 73% would rebook with an OTA if they could book the whole trip in one place.
That is a fantastic advantage. But how effectively do OTAs exploit this position?
Some do it extremely well. Just as the fragrant and timely waft of a freshly-baked bagel lures me into Whole Foods, the clever OTA can offer instant illustrated ideas instead of a spinning clock while the full results of a search populate the screen.
This technology is called “asynchronous search”, and it can make a big difference between engagement and frustrated abandonment. It returns results from providers as they become available, rather than aggregating all results before returning a single response.
Once inside an OTA “store”, 71% want to be able to add to the basics of a flight and a hotel with ancillaries.
It’s like being in a shop where the retailer puts other inviting ingredients right next to that delicious pasta you were going to buy anyway. It’s a highly relevant cross-sell.
OTAs can do this with personalized offers based on data insights that suggest flights, hotel rooms, car rentals and activities that may suit them.
Data helps them work out when to run marketing campaigns, offer specific destination advice rather than actual deals and promote content for families and not backpackers thereby improving typical shop to book average times.
This takes the friction out of the shopping process, reducing the time that travelers spend searching and showing that the OTA understands them.
As well as dramatically improving the customer experience, streamlining the shopping process also brings significant commercial benefits. It increases conversion and reduces the window between shopping and booking.
The traveler, just like any shopper, wants as much information on the choices as possible. And so they should. They can literally be very “big ticket” items. For example, it is important to show branded air fares for comparison to avoid customers having to visit airline websites to check. That is why Travelport now displays over 275 airlines with these types of fares, allowing the agency to offer more than just the basic flight times and price to the traveler.
Sometimes, when I am thinking about my groceries I use my phone for recipe ideas even if I don’t make an order. I am not alone. When in store, 82% of smartphone users turn to their devices to help them make a product decision, according to Google.
Similarly, around half of travelers with smartphones say they make their decision on mobile, but then book on another device. Allowing users to start a booking on one device and continue it on another is a way to add value throughout the booking stage and provide a smoother user experience that leads to higher conversion rates.
Every retailer textbook highlights the need for continuous customer engagement. It is no different in travel. We have so many opportunities to do this.
Pre-trip, OTAs can provide guides and recommendations, advise on disruption, prompt to book taxis, suggest ancillaries or add insurance.
During the trip, whilst eight out of ten would welcome suggestions from their OTA of things to do, our research also found that 38% of leisure travelers think not being able to talk to a human is a pain point when booking travel.
And after the trip opportunities keep on coming with added loyalty points for reviews, personalised travel suggestions via an app based on previous journeys and newsletters featuring discounts.
So whether on main street, the mall or online, the concepts of personalisation, data, automation and similar buzzwords are the imperatives of retail and commercial success. The key is making them a reality and converting those passive browsers into active bookings.
By Rob Brown, Global Vice President and Managing Director for OTAs, Travelport
Travelport has today begun handling its first bookings with Qantas using IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) standard. The bookings are being made through Travelport Smartpoint in a live production test environment as Qantas prepares distribution of differentiated NDC content from late 2019.
This NDC connection to Qantas is the first by any GDS to the carrier and enables live bookings of NDC content to be made by selected agency partners taking part in the testing program, including ATPI Corporate Travel, Globetrotter and Travel Beyond.
It comes ahead of a rollout to the wider agency community in the coming months. The development is part of the airline’s plans for the QDP which is dedicated to offering an improved customer experience through enhanced and personalized content tailored to meet a travelers’ unique needs.
Having been the first GDS to make a live NDC booking in October 2018, Travelport has already connected to five European airlines’ NDC content. It will follow up with an API NDC connection channel through Travelport’s Trip Service API with Qantas’ content among the first to be available through this channel. The Trip Service API is also currently part of a testing program with an Australia-based online travel agency successfully coding to it.
Scott Barber, Managing Director Australia and New Zealand at Travelport commented “Qantas shares our vision that NDC has the potential to enhance the travel experience for its customers, offering personalized and differentiated choice and a seamless booking experience. NDC delivery is complex and requires collaboration from all parts of the travel industry. We value our relationship with Qantas and are grateful to our test agencies for partnering with us to ensure we deliver an NDC solution which makes the process of buying and managing travel continually better for everyone. The ongoing delivery of our NDC roadmap is a key part of this.”
Peter Muller, International Board Director at ATPI Corporate Travel added “It’s great to be part of the team pioneering NDC for the Asia-Pacific region. We’re pleased to see an aggregated workflow within Travelport Smartpoint which will enable our agents to continue offering high levels of service to their customers as we move into the NDC content era.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged people to visit at least 15 tourist destinations within India by 2022, saying there is a huge scope to improve India's tourism sector. Addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the 73rd Independence Day, he said India has much to offer and if domestic tourism increases, international footfalls too will increase.
"I know people travel abroad for holidays but can we think of visiting at least 15 tourist destinations across India before 2022, when we mark 75 years of independence.
"There might not be very good hotels, but once we start visiting these places, these destinations will improve," the prime minister said.
Yes Bank has partnered with FCM Travel to provide highly secure digital payment solutions coupled with a completely seamless experience to customers while travelling abroad. “Such partnerships are an extension of YES BANK’s A.R.T. (alliances and relationships driven by technology) philosophy and puts us firmly on the track to be the cutting-edge digital bank in India. As a Bank, we always focus on future-ready concepts and strategies and be ahead of the curve in implementing new age banking solutions for the ease of our customers,” Ritesh Pai, Chief Digital Officer, Yes Bank, said.
The card’s distinctive features provide travellers total control of their card at their fingertips. Travellers can load up to 10 currencies on the card, track their daily travel budget, instantly check the INR value on the app, and locate surcharge free ATMs nearby. Additionally, in case of suspicious transactions, the card can be easily locked/ blocked by the traveller without assistance from customer service. The Travel Money YES BANK Multi -Currency Visa card is available across 135 Travel Money offices in India.
Murali Nair, VP and Head of Business Development, India, Visa said, “People who travel overseas and to different countries often have to manage multiple currencies in cash and worry about the threat of loss or theft. We are delighted to partner with Yes Bank and bring India’s first cobranded Multi-Currency Travel Prepaid Card to the customers of Travel Money. They can now travel and use these cards in any part of the world without worrying about their money’s safety.”
Rakshit Desai, Managing Director, FCM Travel Solutions - Indian subsidiary of Flight Centre Travel Group added, “We are always looking to make travel more comfortable and hassle free for our travellers. The Travel Money Forex Card lets travellers spend in 10 different currencies world over and comes with a host of features, exclusive benefits and ease of use, making travelling abroad easy. In this endeavour, we are happy to have Yes Bank as our trusted partner in offering high quality services to travellers.”
IndiGo has started operations on Delhi-Agartala route. IndiGo is the first and the only airline to operate flights on this route. The maiden flight from Agartala to Delhi was inaugurated by Biplab Kumar Deb, Chief Minister of Tripura in the presence of dignitaries like Pratima Bhowmick, Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha; Rebati Tripura, Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha; Dr. Dilip Kumar Das, MLA; Shri Sanjeev Jindal, REDNER; VK Seth, Airport Director Agartala.
William Boulter, Chief Commercial Officer, IndiGo said, “In line with the government’s vision to strengthen tourism in the North-East, we are pleased to launch these flights to enhance point to point connectivity in the region. We are confident that increased connectivity will be an enabler to nurture tourism and trade opportunities in not just Agartala but also its surrounding areas. IndiGo is committed to offering its leisure and business travellers an on-time, courteous and hassle-free service and affordable flying experience consistently.”
BLS International has been awarded at India’s Most Trusted Companies award 2019 as ‘India’s Most Trusted Visa Outsourcing Services Company’ for its excellence in visa process outsourcing and allied services. The Award is a distinctive recognition for brands that have maintained the highest standards of service delivery and innovation.
India’s Most Trusted Companies Awards is a recognition based on a comprehensive research conducted by International Brand Consulting Corporation, USA as per the Consumer research report 2019.
Shikhar Aggarwal, Joint Managing Director of BLS International quoted on the win, “It’s an honor and privilege to be recognized as India’s Most Trusted Companies, as it strengthens our belief that the brand is on the right path, ensuring consumer satisfaction, results and trust.”
Recently, BLS International also received “Quality Excellence Award for the Best Operational Process in Visa Outsourcing” at the World Quality Congress & Awards.
MakeMyTrip has announced the appointment of Sunil Suresh as its new Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) for MakeMyTrip and Goibibo. Sunil will drive the company’s marketing efforts to support overall strategic objectives, overseeing all initiatives across the marketing funnel, including brand, social, performance and innovation marketing tracks.
Previously, Sunil was Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer at Capillary Tech for two years and was responsible for driving growth and profits through the strategic transformation of the company. Prior to that, he held the crucial positions of Chief Digital Officer and Chief Marketing Officer at Yum! Brands (Pizza Hut). He also worked with Unilever.
Sarovar Hotels and Resorts recently announced its “Eco-friendly” initiative in collaboration with MakeMyTrip towards sustainable and responsible tourism in partnership with MakeMyTrip Foundation, a public charitable trust that supports sustainable tourism.
On every stay at Sarovar Hotels booked through MMT website, the hotel will contribute Rs.5/- in addition to that an identical contribution requested from guests, which will then be used towards sustainable tourism and betterment of ecological balance.
The initiative will see Sarovar Hotels tagged as eco-friendly hotels on MakeMyTrip. The amount received will be used for the specified charitable cause.
Anil Madhok, Executive Chairman, Sarovar Hotels said, “We are delighted to partner with MakeMy Trip for such a great initiative and will do our utmost to contribute to sustainability through adopting a proactive environmental policy. We are conscious of the world we’ll leave behind for future generations.”
Ritwik Khare, Chief Business Officer, MakeMyTrip said, “It is heartening to have our valued hotel partner Sarovar Hotels join hands with us to embark on the journey to promote responsible travel. We are immensely proud of the one million tree plantation milestone that MakeMyTrip Foundation has achieved through micropayment contribution over the years. We are confident that the initiative being launched by Sarovar will help us double down in making tangible impact towards offsetting carbon footprint of travellers.”
OYO Hotels and Homes is set to strengthen its focus in Europe on OYO Vacation Homes and the vacation rental market. This decision follows the rapid growth of the recently acquired brands Belvilla, DanCenter, Danland, and Traum-Ferienwohnungen, combined with the many opportunities still to be capitalized within the vacation rental industry.
The company has committed to invest €300 million in the business, with a special focus on strengthening the relationship with homeowners and enabling them with the resources required to deliver chic hospitality experiences.
Tobias Wann, CEO, OYO Vacation Homes, says: “To support our vision towards becoming the largest full-service vacation rental business, we will make significant investments to expand our footprint in the market. We are focusing on enhancing our customer proposition to not just families but new age millennials and young executives, traveling for business or leisure, including consumers from newer geographies who travel to Europe from across the world including US, Asia, China and the Middle East. Consistently offering chic-looking, well-managed and organized holiday homes to our guests as well as opening doors to more vacation rentals will help unlock our next growth phase. With a goal of becoming the largest vacation rentals business in Europe, OYO Vacation Homes will continue to make significant investments in resourcing and manpower towards growing its existing footprint in the market.”
While inaugurating a Roundtable Conference on ‘Regional Cooperation: Neighbourhood First- Aviation Infrastructure, Connectivity & Capacity Building’, Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of State (I/C) for Civil Aviation, Housing & Urban Affairs said, “Indian Aviation Industry has been instrumental in the overall economic development of the country. The aviation sector growth in the region has thrown up tremendous opportunity and challenges to India and other countries in the region. India as a State has been working with zeal to create infrastructure in Air Transport and Air Navigation Services. The high-quality airport infrastructure, growing economy and necessary Government support, adds to the potential of India becoming a global aviation hub. India would be keen to offer solutions and support for aviation infrastructure, connectivity and capacity building to its immediate neighbourhood.”
Speaking at the Conference, Pradeep Singh Kharola, Union Civil Aviation Secretary pointed out that Indian aviation sector has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years. “It was now in a position to support the regional cooperation operatives from the South Asian and South East Asian countries with rigorous inputs and engagements to upgrade infrastructure, build capacity and develop air connectivity and people to people linkages through technology transfers, capacity creation and sharing of know-how – in the infrastructure, technology and the capacity building fronts,” Kharola said.
The conference was organized by the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) in partnership with the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) focussed on the opportunities available and the solutions that are on offer for enhancing cooperation in the critical areas like airport infrastructure development; increasing air connectivity; and collaborations for capacity building in the region.
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