Travel firms must make sure they are in the right markets before they decide to go global, the European president of Travelzoo has warned.
Advising delegates at the 2016 Travolution Summit, Richard Singer said the secrets behind successful internationalisation included staying on top of new products and markets.
“Going international can all seem very attractive but you must be careful about some things,” he said. “You have to have a fundamental vision of what your business is all about and not every domestic success works abroad.”
He said you must tap into different cultures and research brand loyalty in your target market, citing a grass-covered roundabout in a park that pedestrians had just walked through as an example that British people will take the fastest route rather than follow the longer path.
“We’ve always thought ‘where do we want products where we already have relationships?’, he added.
Singer said companies need the right resources, skills and people to dip into new markets.
“It sounds very simple but we have seen some very high profile businesses who have fallen away because they didn’t have these three elements,” he added.
Local expertise is also key, he said, adding that firms can’t be late to the party.
“There’s a balance between local expertise and those who understand the nuances of the travel industry. We’ve always found the best balance is understanding your product and understanding the market you are entering as well.”
He added that partnerships with existing businesses in new markets could be a safer route in for some firms looking to go global.
Singer hosted a debate on the issue and introduced Michael Buller, German chairman of Verband Internet Reisevertrieb e.V. (VIR), Frederic Vanhoutte, president of French firm Eventiz, Brit Jim Brigden, MD of Sojern and American Mike Carlo, global head of travel payments at Transpay in a fittingly-international panel.
“I think what makes Germany unique is Germans,” said Buller. “They are typically conservative and take a long time to change their minds. Big companies are still thinking about whether they want to go global.”
He also suggested booking via online messenger services and centralising technology.
Brigden, who works for an American firm, said to do well in the US you must “play by their rules” and report back frequently with budgets and successes. He said he was “pretty confident” Sojern would set up in Paris in the not too distant future to boost relationships with their existing French clients.
Carlo, an American, said that getting payment right kept global partnerships going.
“You can go through all the other things we’ve discussed but if your guest can’t pay it doesn’t work,” he said.
Vanhoutte said French businesses tend to target French speaking countries like Canada, Belgium and former colonies in north Africa.
“I think you have to think local as well as thinking global,” he said. “We need to really think about the people and focus on them – especially in a service business that we are in.”
Travolution and Travelzoo have teamed up to research looking at how their members use technology differently in different markets, headline results are available with the full results to be published shortly