Fast-growing UK travel technology developer Intuitive is taking on more developers and support staff at its Croydon base as it welcomes new customers and launches new product.
Under NVM Private Equity, its owners which bought out Lowcosttravel Group in 2012, the firm’s headcount has grown during the last year and a half by 20% to around 90.
As it looks to diversify its customer base both in the UK and overseas, Intuitive has started to productise its systems and hopes to have its first bolt-on module live later this year.
This is a channel management module that sits outside of the core iVector hotel reservation system Intuitive has, to date, been known for.
Jackie Groves, Intuitive’s sales and marketing director, said it was this focus on increasingly influential channel managers that partly prompted one of its biggest UK client wins to date.
Upmarket operator Classic Collection is due to go live with Intuitive this month, having previously used Comtec.
Groves said: “We’ve done about 90 developments for them. A lot of those will be quite generic for the tour operating industry. One of their biggest problems was worry about hotel supply.
“They’ve always done a lot of their work by having good relationships with hotels and always being on the phone to make sure they got the best rates.
“But they were worried, as hotel supply changed and channel managers grew in importance, that they were going to be left behind. In today’s market you have to be fast enough so the customer knows they’ve got the best rate now.
“It should mean a lot of the work is being done for them in the background by our system automatically when the call comes into their call centre.”
Groves said Intuitive was now talking to other tour operators with the project it has done for Classic Collection expected to be a showcase for its work.
Intuitive still works closely with Lowcost as a key customer and Groves said this was helping its systems mature as Lowcost morphs, embracing channel management and growing overseas.
Being a separate system means it can handle the high volumes of data updates from the channel manger without having an impact on the reservation system.
“We will have five or six customers live on that before the end of the year,” said Groves.
“It’s a mix of tour operators, OTAs and accommodation wholesalers who have taken the module – people who have asked for it. None are smallest customers but not just the large ones.
“Some big hotel chains are now saying they won’t deal directly with some of the sales channels, so they will only deal directly with some and go through channel managers for everyone else.
“For other customers it’s just about making sure they’ve got all of their supply. For some it’s hoping they can increase their margins by having that direct contact with the hotel but making sure they get the right updates and best possible prices at the right time.
“It manages the mass updates you can often get with channel managers because that’s one of the challenges. If you’re not careful you can kill your reservation system. So this sits outside.
“Our hotel aggregation customers want to know they can work with any bed bank, they can work with the channel managers and they can also do directly contracted stock, so it covers all three areas in one go.”
The new channel management module is a first for Intuitive in that it sits outside iVector, and reflects a move to develop product to meet market demands rather than just the requirements of specific customers.
Groves said Intuitive is moving from being a developer of bespoke solutions to taking a more strategic approach to creating a suite of products the markets it is present in are demanding.
“It’s the first of many Intuitive development modules we will design and develop. We have taken our customers’ views into account and we have shown it to people but we have developed it as a generic module that will be useful for everybody.
“Historically the company has come from quite a development-focused environment but now I guess we are becoming increasingly market focussed and trying not just work on a customer by customer basis but say this is a market we are looking at to develop.”
Currently around 40% on Intuitive’s new business comes from overseas although groves said this area has grown more reactively than through a concerted strategy to target markets.
“We are in the process of implementing more of a proactive overseas strategy finalising the countries in Europe we are going to go to and then looking at Asia and maybe the east coast of the US as well,” she said.
Two of Intuitive’s largest existing customers are overseas; Webjet in Australia and Get-a-room in US. Technically due to off-shoring Lowcost and fellow bed bank Getabed are now based overseas, but are still counted as UK customers.
However, there are no plans to augment the core developer team in the UK head office with overseas development centres, although Groves said she would “never say never”.
“The way we work doesn’t lend itself entirely to having people based overseas. At the moment we will grow overseas by having people responsible for those countries in the UK.
“We definitely gain from having a lot of developers in the UK because it’s more than just jobbing programming.
“It’s never just about taking an interface spec to develop a connection, it’s also about how you architect it, how you make it fast, and connect 50 or 100 bed banks to the system and still keeps performance up.
“We even gain from the fact everything is in one office so we have the people doing pre-sales interaction with the customer and we can introduce the customer to the project managers and they can meet our support team, all before they select us.”