WTM 2014: Small Fish Big Ocean hosts fourth annual Pitch Night

WTM 2014: Small Fish Big Ocean hosts fourth annual Pitch Night

Specialist travel agents and local tour operators blog, Small Fish Big Ocean held its fourth annual Pitch Night at World Travel Market last week.


Lee Hayhurst reports on ten pitches from firms in the fast-growing tours and activities sector, highlighting issues like distribution, payments, mobile and growth.




Travis Pitman, chief executive and co-founder of Tour Radar


What are they?

Tour Radar is a multi-day tour specialist from two days to 400 days, with a ‘sweet spot’ of 10-12 days. It offers secure online payments and a facility for customers to ‘meet’ online before the tour, described as a Whatsapp for tours. It employs 20 people. To encourage customer feedback Tour Radar runs an Amazing Tour and a Guide of the Year awards.

What they said:

“We make the product nice and easy to sell. We bring the inventory in and make it all mobile, available to look through and to book. We provide a platform and all the communication happens between the tour operator and the traveller. We provide that layer of trust for the consumer that they know the tour will run.

“We heavily rely on reviews. We have the biggest inventory of reviews out there. It’s super important that you guys get online reviews, you really need to be leveraging those. If a your listing has a review there is a 13 times uplift in booking.”


Alessia Bianco, product manager of City Discovery

What are they?

City Discovery offers 700 destinations in 110 countries. It’s vision is to offer the best quality tours, which have to meet strict criteria to be listed. 80% of income is business to consumer, but it also has a travel agent programme with 70,000 registered paying 10% commission, and a business to business to consumer XML white label solution.

TThe firm says new generations of travellers from emerging markets are wanting to travel abroad. China grew more than Germany and the US. Other emerging countries include Malaysia, Singapore and Latin America. Mobile bookings have grown 165%.

What they said:

“We are looking to have more suppliers but we want to give the best quality. We are looking for suppliers that can guarantee that.”


Chitra Gurnani Daga, chief executive of Thrillophilia

What are they?

A tailor-made India specialist, providing a booking platform for tour operators. It has one million website users and offers marketing support to suppliers, including early bird offers and sales through affiliates. It provides a single point of contact for all suppliers and is looking to bring international tours to the Indian market via tie-ups with Destination Management Companies.

What they said:

“India has a lot of challenges. The Indian consumer has become tech savvy but when it comes to actually booking they want to speak to be provider, maybe even meet them and then they want to pay in cash. There are hundreds of operational challenges.”


Michael Herrmann, president and founder of Tour Connect

What are they?

Tour Connect manages the relationship between tour operators and vendors, and rates all in one place. It connects suppliers with inbound tour operators, wholesalers and travel agents. Operators can be searched for based on numerous criteria like location market segment like luxury or student travel. Key markets are Australia and New Zealand, but it operates in 47 countries.

What they said:

“Traditional distribution is unbelievably inefficient. We facilitate better communication and introduce people to new partners while making the process of getting rates in the system more efficient. The number of different formats [for rates] is mind boggling.

“Why don’t we used a standardised format so that everyone’s rates look the same and they are easier to load? Tour operators have told us up to 54% of products they receive rates for never get loaded in to the system. It’s really limiting the industry this inefficiency. We really feel we can do this a whole lot better. We are passionate about making this whole portion of the industry more efficient.”


Jeff Hentz, The Tour Operator

What are they?

The Tour Operator’s parent company is a US-based events firm operating in 67 destinations. A business to business model offering agents and operators a place where they can put together detailed tour itineraries.

Destination pages provide suggested themed tours, these can be combined or mixed and matched to customise them for the customer. Also offers a concierge service. It plans to move into Europe and other markets soon.

What they said:

“Our website is built for people in the travel trade who are expected to know about places other people have never heard of.”


Will Plummer, managing director of TrustMyTravel

What are they?

Trust My Travel is a low cost payments solution for the payment of suppliers, agents and affiliates that goes live in January in North America and Europe. It offers trust account model for secure, protected payments. Merchant account are available in multi-currencies. It has 162 members in 51 countries and working in 12 currencies.

Customers can pay in their own currency and this is converted into the local currency via a live feed with competitive rates, so no need for buying currency in advance or foreign exchange hedging. Also can cut costs associated with other forms of payment like money transfers or card payments. Allows operators to target a global market with domestic pricing.

What they said:

“You want to reach as many people as you can in as many places as you can and distribution is an important part of that. You also want to do that competitively; you want to get that money to places in a cost-effective way. How are you getting paid and if you are merchandising how are you getting funds to affiliates that are driving you traffic?”


Ruzwana Bashir, chief executive of Peek

What are they?

Peek is a global activities platform offering tour operator tools help distributing their product including an iPad app that takes payments and manages reservations, including checking customers in. More advanced tools are available in a Pro version. Currently live in North America and Mexico with plans to move into Europe.

What they said:

“Mobile is a real game changer in this space. Real time is becoming incredibly critical. With mobile the expectation is you can instantly book an activity if you want to. We need to get it all online to make it really easy for people to discover what they want to do. Clients who use Peek have seen mobile bookings double in the last year. Customers who use Peek want to book within the hour.”


Klaudija Janzeli, global sales manager of Urban Adventures

What are they?

A five year old operator of day tours in cities globally specialising in local experiences. Offers a complete in-destination experience concierge service. Trains its own guides to tailor the tours to the specific interests of the customers. Operates in 100 cities and has 70,000 customers a year. Last year grew 60% year on year.

What they said:

“Hotels are seeing the importance and value in the local experience and giving that extra value to the customer. A lot of customers are prepared to pay the full price to get that local experience, to tap into local life.

“We started because we saw that the whole day tours business was really archaic. Online businesses are about people who are really passionate creating really cool things. In our case it’s local people sharing local knowledge. We are growing because of the power of our network of local operators – they are the brand in the destination.”


Tony Sandler, chief executive of What Now Travel

What are they?

The company behind the VisitLondon app for Apple’s iOS operating system which operates offline, simulating a live phone experience allowing users to navigate around the capital and find points of interest without roaming charges. With no marketing spend the app had been downloaded 70,000 times. Engagement is high with 20% to 30% of people who downloaded it still using it on day two.

What they said:

“We replace the hotel concierge, we will sell tickets and tours. We are very focused on the business to business side and will partner with people who are content providers. Going forward we will learn what people like and dislike and we will tailor the recommendations to make them more personal.”


Lori Timony, senior regional director of Smart Destinations

What are they?

Smart Destinations is an attractions marketing company selling bundled attraction packages, offering customers savings by buying tickets for more than one theme park in one go. It offers three types of bundled ticket: the Go City offering attraction passes based on the number of days the visitor is in destination; Explorer a 30-day pass based on the number of attractions to visit; and Go Select which allows customers to increase savings by adding more attractions.

The latter of these is available online only through an API connection. Smart Destinations sells direct and via third parties including affiliates, hotels, corporations and visitor centres. In 2013 2.6 million passes were sold for 10 million visitor attractions.

Next year the firm expects to grow between 25% and 30% and add two to four new destinations.Instant digital ticket delivery using QR codes means there is no need for vouchers or to physically send tickets to customers and real-time validation means fraud is eliminated.

What they said:

“We are a global leader in pass technology. It’s enabled us to get more aggressive with mobile marketing. With instant delivery conversion went up 30%. We are looking for partners interested in delivering this experience to their customers with API integration. We are looking for partners to grow with. We are aggressively seeking new markets.”

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