The UK market is in prime position to internationalise, but the borderless nature of the internet also means we face constant competition from around the globe, travel technology leaders warned.
Britain, and London in particular, offers a wealth of global talent for firms to draw upon, and is regarded as advanced in technological terms.
However, there has been an ‘explosion’ in internet and app usage around the world, meaning overseas companies can easily enter the UK market and take business from firms based here, according to the boss of online travel technology company Momondo Group.
Chief executive Hugo Burge said: “We are living in an extraordinary time. Your product can go global in a way that it never could.
“At the same time, there’s an opportunity for other companies to come into your market.”
Greig Holbrook, founder of multilingual search and conversion rate agency Oban Digital, said the climate for internationalisation had changed radically since he claimed in March that he had not seen a market better set for the process than the UK.
“I was in New York in February and Alibaba, the Chinese e-tailor, had just started making a big push,” he said. “They’ve announced they are coming into the UK as well.
“Now it is not just the threat of you not going international; it’s the threat of people coming in and taking your business as well.
“Alibaba has certainly come in and shaken up the US market in that sense. Things change – a year in digital is like a dog’s year.”
Holbrook said he felt the US was “still scared” of internationalisation. “When you start speaking multilingual, they freak a little bit,” he said.
Ruairidh Roberts, industry head for travel at Google, likened the internet to a Pangea, or supercontinent, with no borders.
“You can access any information at any time, anywhere in the world,” he said.
“That’s what Alibaba’s Jack Ma caught on to, and his mission was to set up the company not with the Chinese market in mind, but the global market.Right from the off, they had eBay in their sights as a target. Borders make no sense to them.”
Roberts added: “What looks like the greatest opportunity might also have the greatest auction intensity, and you might find other markets make more sense at a different time.”
Olly Brendon, chief executive of ATD Travel Services, said that to successfully internationalise, a business must also look internally.
He asked: “Can your systems handle international growth and do you understand the things you are going to be exposed to?
“With the new markets that we’ve gone into, there has been some competition. But we would always back ourselves anyway.
“The internal research, especially around the scalability of your systems, as well as understanding the other players, is absolutely critical.”
Brendon said potential for growth within the UK remained.
“In some respects, I look at our tech and web development resources and sometimes wish they could all be focused on the UK because there is so much opportunity to continue to optimise,” he said.
Roberts added: “Quite often, businesses haven’t wrung the towel dry in a lot of the markets they are already present in.”