Travel technology supplier Dolphin Dynamics has turned to one of its former customers to help it keep on top of what it is that travel firms want from their systems.
Andy Mills joined three months ago in the new role of head of sales and marketing, having previously worked for two of Dolphin’s key agency clients, STA Travel and Travelbag.
His arrival coincides with a couple of new business deals announced by Dolphin, which indicates how players in its target sector are looking for the right technology to underpin their business strategies.
Ten Group, a global lifestyle concierge company, and ITC Classics, a luxury tour operator, have both turned to Dolphin to help them offer their clients the bespoke, tailor-made service they expect.
Mills said this is an absolute must for firms operating at the upper end of the travel market, and travel technology systems are having to become much more performance oriented.
“When customers deal with travel companies they expect to be able to get whatever they can get on the internet and nothing less.
“They can go on Booking.com and see 700 properties retuned in a matter of seconds and be able to drill down to 25 properties in a specific area, which has the best price and attributes like free Wi-Fi.
“If they are talking to a travel consultant they expect them to be able to give them that level of information but also to be able to add value about the property, the destination and what they can do while there based on the consultants knowledge and experience.
“They have to be able to elaborate and talk about what else you can do like Spa treatments or speed boat transfers; add value about the destination and experience.
“Additionally there is the service element. To construct a top-end trip probably takes, two hours or longer and our customers’ customers want someone else to do that because they are very busy.”
Critical to enabling a consultant to do this is having a single sales system integrated to multiple suppliers, that can surface the required information when needed.
While most agents are using multiple third-party sources, today many are also contracting their own deals, so need systems that ensure the agent is able to see the right information, said Mills.
“If you have a hotel you load and you have your nice elaborate content description, you don’t want to have that content superceded by a bed bank’s that is not as good.
“You want yours to be pre-eminent. Even if that hotel pushes a special deal to one of the bed banks you want your description to get out to your sales consultant and ultimately your clients.”
Dolphin sees this move towards in-house buying of beds, ancillary product and airfares growing in importance in the luxury sector, although there’s no reason it can’t apply to mainstream.
Mills points out the requirement to provide a more human-to-human service is accentuated in luxury but is also important at the other end of the scale in the backpacking and specialist tour operating sectors, for example, where knowledge and experience inspires confidence.
“The more you can think about technology requirements through your customers’ eyes the more that has resonance and the more it’s fed into by customers the more value it has.
“I need to retain that external, customer perspective for as long as possible. We have to think about our customers’ customers. There definitely is a person to person future in the industry.”
Mills says tour operators and travel agents looking to stand out by offering unique, bespoke products and services are themselves more likely to do so if the technology they use inspires confidence.
And many are using the internet as their shop window to drive customers to get in touch and engage with them as opposed to a functional search and booking engine.
“As the big guys get really big the cracks that allow others to grow up emerge. A few years ago the internet was going to rule everything, but that’s clearly not the case,” he said.