Bravofly eyes acquisition to build presence in UK dynamic tour operating market

Swiss online tour operator Bravofly Rumbo Group is plotting further expansion in overseas markets it has yet to penetrate and is in the market to acquire in the UK.

Fabio Cannavale, founder and executive chairman, said more potential targets were being sought, with the group having spent €100 million on acquisitions last year.

Although the UK is seen as a more mature online market than Bravofly’s heartlands on the Continent, it is still considered one which the firm can break into.

Bravofly has a close partnership with Glasgow-based metasearch website Skyscanner which has helped gets its name out into the UK market. It created its website in 2006 and added the ability to pay in sterling in 2008

The site currently offer flights, hotels, car hire and tours, but it has developed technology to compare package deals – both dynamic and traditional – which it plans to roll out soon.

An acquisition of a firm known for its holiday packages offering would allow Bravofly to quickly build in the UK.

Cannavale said it was interested in mid-sized businesses with access to product and/or a known brand name.

“For us the UK is an opportunistic market. We are looking for suitable firms and, of course the UK could be a target like Germany or France. It would be very nice to acquire a good company.

“What we are looking for are companies with good technology, product or brands that are well known to their clients.

“At the moment we have a shortlist of companies we are looking at. Today we have one in the UK.”

Bravofly has grown from a simple Italian low-cost flights search engine in 2004 to a full service online tour operator.

In 2012 it made the significant acquisition of Rumbo, a Spanish online agency, and reported record results even when the two month impact of the buyout was discounted.

Last year Total Transaction Value handled by Bravofly Rumbo exceeded €1 billion, the brand now operational in 30 countries with southeast Asia and Australia being strongholds outside Europe.

Cannavale said the important thing for Bravofly was instilling loyalty in its customers so they buy more products and return year in, year out, by offering tour operator-style full customer service.

He said in Italy, one of the markets it claims leadership in, 50% of bookings were done by returning customers.

“We do this in three ways,” he said. “Firstly by having a good site, this is key. Secondly, we offer customer service so when the customer has a problem we can solve it first time.

“Also we have some loyalty programmes and we can do targeted marketing to get the customer to come back with special offers.”

Mobile has been a key area of focus for Bravofly which is seeing 20% of its search activity coming from handheld devices.

However, Cannavale said, although search is happening on mobile, booking tends to take place on desktop and Bravofly was working hard to integrate the two channels.

“Mobile, for the moment, is on trial [by customers]. A lot of people will book on mobile but a lot start on mobile and go to desktop.”

US data, which shows that customers who have already searched on mobile have a higher propensity to convert when on desktop, underlines the need to integrate channels.

As a result Bravofly is finding ways to encourage customer to sign in when using their mobile app so their whole journey can be tracked.

Cannavale said this ability to continue communicating with the customer on their mobile, whether by SMS text or other means, was also crucial.

“We are a company that has a lot of communication with the user, whether that’s via an SMS confirmation on the day of departure or getting feedback after the trip.

“We have in the app a lot of things like check-in for flights. We are providing check-in for easyJet in some countries.

“Our target customer not only wants the best price but is looking for convenience and is prepared to spend a little bit more to have better service.”

To back up its customer service promise Bravofly offer telephone support 24/7 in 18 languages.

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