Travel firms were warned not to underestimate how dominant a force the large operators are online in the UK, despite the perception they are held back from innovating by legacy systems.
Speaking at a recentTravolution Travel Technology Europe session on the Travolution Innovation Report, Paul Evans, chief executive of Lowcost Holiday Group, said: “The big players operate successfully. Look at Tui [Travel]. It is an absolute leader online.”
He added speed was key for smaller firms. As well as having the technology to get deals to market quickly, the ability to innovate at speed, and at the right time in the annual selling cycle to limit disruption, was also vital, he said.
Evans described the UK as a hotbed for innovation due to the large number of companies all working with different systems and the lack of standardisation.
“Connectivity between all of us [UK travel firms] is hugely important because we are trying to get one system to talk to another and they are all different.The UK is now having to look at all these things and say how are they going to talk to each other. I think there is going to be some consolidation in the UK and some standardisation.”
Andrew Nicholson, Traveltainment UK managing director, said: “The UK is a pioneering environment for travel. You need to make sure your proposition fits your audience and your business.
“Sometimes firms get hooked up on what fits their business, forgetting about what the customer actually wants. Big tour operators do struggle because they have to adapt such massive architecture but their brand size allows them to still get to their customer and get results.”
Stuart Jackson, distribution director of Monarch Group, said: “Big tour operating brands are established in existing routes to market through channels that work for them. Our group, Tui, Thomas Cook, they don’t really have the same desire to have the optimal connectivities and utilising the optimal platforms to get their product out. They have developed internally to benefit their group but the reality is the systems distribute the product very effectively.”
Evans added that telephony was one area travel firms should prioritise as this was the most lucrative channel. He said the channel can see up to a 25% conversion rate compared to dynamic packaging websites, at 1.5%, and hotel and flight sites on 6%.