Today’s UK Travel Marketplace is extremely polarised, with around 75% of bookings being taken by Brands owned by either TUI or Thomas Cook. The remaining 25% is fought over by around 2000 other Travel companies and specialist Tour Operators.
How can smaller Tour Operators compete in today’s travel marketplace?
The challenge facing these smaller tour operators is how to become visible in the marketplace, either through Travel Agents, or directly to the consumer. They obviously don’t have anywhere near the same level of travel marketing resource available, so how do they compete?
Many smaller travel companies also offer very specific, or specialised, products. Many don’t even use computer reservation systems to manage their contracts, product information and sales processes, making it even harder to distribute information to Agents and Consumers, or enable their holiday web site to be a dynamic Sales channel.
Medium-sized companies – who do tend to have Reservation Systems – may opt to include their product on some of the industry’s “Distribution Platforms”. These are companies that take data feeds from Reservation Systems and aggregate pricing and availability into a single source of data for Agents to Search, View and Book product, using a PC-based Sales Tool. Companies offering this type of service include Comtec Europe, Multicom, Micros Systems, Vertical Systems, Traveltek and Hot Dog.
However, distribution systems pose yet another challenge for the smaller Tour Operator, as getting product onto these platforms costs money. And, which one do they choose? Each has a share of Travel Agency coverage in the UK and each one consumes a chunk of their available marketing resource. Again, the cost quickly becomes prohibitive to many smaller companies and they remain invisible in these channels.
In our research, we have found that smaller companies tend to resort (no pun intended) to a combination of direct marketing, traditional advertising and their own web site; relying heavily on customer loyalty and word-of-mouth. The odds of competing on a ‘level playing field’ for these types of travel companies are nil.
Hot Holiday Offers – a new travel distribution / sales web portal for tour operators
One solution aimed at filling this gap is a new Distribution/Sales web portal, to be launched in April, offering direct bookings for consumers. HotHolidayOffers.co.uk – built by Travel Innovations Ltd – will provide a new platform, where Medium sized travel companies can supply data for inclusion, whilst Smaller travel companies are able to submit their offers via a simple data entry system.
Another interesting feature of HotHolidayOffers, is that it will provide a much more ‘content-led’ Holiday Search for the consumer, as opposed to the ‘price-led’ approach that most Travel web sites seem to focus on. Full pricing options are only presented to the customer when they have chosen a specific holiday description that interests them. Reservations are then taken on the site and sent directly to the Tour Operator concerned.
The portal offers a whole new opportunity for the missing ‘level playing field’ for smaller Travel Company products. It will be interesting to watch its progress.