Having signed up 169 airlines for its rich content product, Travelport is turning its attention to the point of sale product for agents, Smartpoint which launched this year. Sinead Reilly, Ireland country manager for Travelport says: “Smartpoint is the agency point of sale.
That’s what agents do all day every day, working-off the merchandising platform.
The USP for us is that merchandising platform, the ability to take via the API which is the direct feed from Ryanair or from the airlines’ websites directly, directly into the GDS, to the agency portal, so that they can pick it up.
All GDS’s are doing that to an extent, but they’re not doing it with the graphic capabilities. They’re not doing it with the ease of sell that we have through the Smartpoint channel.
The quality control systems the agency wants to maintain are kept within the workflow. Rather than a consultant going out to a dot-com site to book a seat or a meal or a bag, that’s all contained now within Smartpoint.
The merchandising platform has now signed up 169 airlines and that is the airlines side of the business. Airlines can sell what they want to, when they want to, how they want to, down to the last seat of the plane.
Smartpoint is how the consumer, in our case the travel agent, sells the product.
Without the airline information being fed in, in the first place, there is nothing for their consumer to sell.
It is a circle. We have to focus initially on making sure that the airline content was in because if it wasn’t in, they had nothing to sell.
The next step on from that is to make sure that they are consuming it and selling it and using the full complement, the full suite of products that the airlines are feeding in through to them.
Agents want fewer keystrokes and a nice clean itinerary, leaving a lower dependency on the consultant having to go out to the airline website, and in doing so trying to maintain control from within the GDS itself, so that workflows are maintained.
Essentially the USP for us at the moment is that we have the ability to take whatever it is that the airline want to sell be it ski, golf equipment, or whatever, we can now take that via a link from their website and feed it directly in.
The travel agent can then take it without either going out to a website themselves or sending the traveller to a website which potentially is a loss of the booking . It maintains everything within that point of sale for them so that they don’t have to go out to.
Fewer keystrokes and a more efficient itinerary, so that the traveller can see where they’re going, when they’re going as quickly, as easily as possible. It will be on mobile because everybody’s working off a mobile.
You don’t want to have to log into a laptop or to a PC to access your itinerary. It is just that ease of use and ease of productivity for the end user, so that the whole thing is transparent and moves it on as quickly as possible.
Our payment solution eNett has been with us for the last few years and has become more and more valuable, as a partner within our business purely because of the risk of fraud.
As we go through the times that we’re in, in terms of economic turbulence, more and more value is being placed on reducing fraud and eliminating the risk.
The fact that consultants on a front desk know the company credit card off by heart is a concern.
With each transaction on the websiteyour risk is minimised by locking that down to a particular transaction. There is also a rebate. So there is a considerable financial element.
There’s like a half percent on every transaction that goes through, so when you add that up, instead of paying credit card fees, you’re getting paid for the transaction, so it is a win-win.
You know, you can put a fancy name on it, but that’s exactly what the product does. You save 20 minutes of back office time with each transaction and for the management of the booking process another 20 minutes and, for behind the scenes stuff, it is another 20.
If you get it right from the outset, you don’t have to go back and fix it. Get it right and keep moving, keep selling, keep making your bookings, so you don’t have to keep looking back. You look forward.
Airlines are very complicated. Their charging is very complicated. Is that why GDS’s still have a role to play.
The interline agreements are complex. There is all this talk about NDC and how that’s going to affect us. NDC has a part to play, but the GDS, where the value that the GDS brings to the table essentially is the management and facilitation from an accounting and a reconciliation perspective.
If you go directly on a website, that’s fine. But then you are going to have two or three separate tickets and you will not have interline agreements or through tickets.
From the traveler perspective, booking it through the GDS is a much more streamlined booking process than if they did it themselves.
It is all about price. Let’s face it. At the end of the day, we’re all competing with the dot-com sites. That’s the reality of where we are today
The traveler is used to is paying for a seat and a bag and a meal and all of the different things that come now with the unbundling of fares.
If the travel agent does not compete at that level, they are going to lose the booking. They have to be able to say, “your base fare is a €100, but your bag is an extra €20 and your seat is an extra €50, should they look at what the best value option, where they will have a bundle option where your bag and your seat might be included at a slightly higher fare (as with SAS).
If you break it down and go for the cheapest fare and then add your bag and your meal in afterwards, it is actually more expensive. It is reversing how they think.
It is trying to get the travel agent to say, “What is it that the traveller actually wants” as opposed to saying, “What’s the cheapest?”
The difference between what we do and what the bed banks would do is that we, all of our contracts would be directly with the hotels.
We do not get as involved in these chains, if you like, of distribution,.
We are going back to the source of where, so our agreements would be with the hotel,, the IHG, Marriott’s, whatever the hotel chains would be.
At the end of 2015, we were the fourth largest hotel sales globally, after Priceline, Expedia & CTrip. With 650,000 hotels available in our booking system, We are larger than both Sabre and Amadeus combined. We are currently running a 48pc attachment rate to every 100 airline seats sold.
Our technology is designed to streamline that., to make sure that the content is presented through Smartpoint with visuals.
We have taken the API, in a similar way to what we’ve done with the airlines and the merchandising platform where, for all intents and purposes, it looks quite similar to the airline website.
Similarly, we’ve done the same with the hotel content and car hire content where we’re able to take the direct feeds from the hotels retaining theirbranding. If they want to put in ,photographic images, they can feed it directly in through our Universal API.
It is a whole different field than just looking at the cryptic entries that people shied away from in the past. Smartpoint brings a whole change in the look and feel of the booking process.
The difference between what we do and what the bed banks would do is that we, all of our contracts would be directly with the hotels.
We have all of the big brands. We have acquired Hotelzon and The Hotelzon content is now starting to feed in through Travelport as well.
Hotelzon is all about getting to some of the smaller non-chain independent hotels who are stand-alone but who would have shied away from being participating in the GDS in the past, so we have brought that as a separate distribution chain on top of the big chain groups.
Hotels are looking for the B2B sale that they can get through the agencies, which they would have missed through the B2C site. Some of the big global online players are selling B2C, so this gives them an opportunity to go for some of the corporate business that the B2C sites might not be attracting. Through the DMC channel, you are getting at the corporate level and getting into some of the big corporates that they might not be getting through the B2C channel.
There is a huge impact there for hoteliers. They can get corporate accounts. They can get corporate rates, and it is repeat business, guaranteed business, bedded down. They can budget for the year based on the corporate accounts that they have.
It is and it facilitates that ability to do business at a corporate level without having to look over your shoulder to see who else is looking. Those rates are locked down, so some of the big corporate directs can go safely go through the DMC channel. They want to work with the DMC’s.
The ideal scenario is that the DMC can provide the rates for whatever account it is that they need to, whether it’s in the middle of the woods or it’s in downtown Bangkok, it doesn’t matter that they can get access to whatever contract rates there might be.
We would have it an awful lot with some of our big oil companies, going out into deepest, darkest Africa where their closest hotel might be hundreds of miles away from a city, so there will be individual, independent hotels that are needed to do business with.
Without having some of the Hotelzon content, it is very, very difficult to contract some of those independent hotels. That is what it brings to the table.
It is a whole new level of independent hotel-chain business that previously might have been more difficult to do business with for the DMC.
A considerable amount of the business of other GDS’s is based on hosting, which is fine.
We focus on the agency side of the business, on feeding the DMC business, on making sure that the agency side is where it needs to be.
Not having that reliance on hosting enables us to take to be more flexible, to take those API’s from the airlines who might want to be hosted somewhere, so it frees us up to not have that heavy reliance on the traditional model.
One of the things that the team here, in Ireland is specifically focusing on is unlocking that value and helping agents to think out what are they leaving on the table, what questions are they not asking of their own clients, that they are missing it.
If they are traveling somewhere and they are not booking a hotel with the travel agent, they are booking it somewhere. Where are they booking it and why is the travel agent not capturing that? it is all about trying to help them to realise their potential and to gather the value that they need to.
We are the fourth biggest hotel supplier. The next main focus point for us will be moving into the same sphere for car hire. There is a huge, huge untapped opportunity in the car hire business.
Car hire is the next big thing for GDS’s, unlocking the value in that and working with the car hire companies to bring that to the table and to make put that message across clearer than it currently is. It is not been booked to the same level that it should be booked.
It all starts with making sure that you have the content and the ability to provide the technology to sell and that is what we have via our Universal API and our merchandising platform, so whether it is an airline, a hotel, car hire, we can put it in front of the travel agent and they can sell it.
The circle is already in place. The capability is already there. We are already taking feeds in.
One of the issues that would have been there in the past would have been around prepayments, you can prepay your car hire. In the olden days, you would have had to pay it on arrival, so the traveller had to use a credit card.
You made the booking, but the traveller had to pay it when they got there, but we’ve overcome that by bringing in e-vouchers to the GDS. Through Smartpoint, you can prepay for your Hertz car if you want to.
When you go into the GDS to look at it, you can see what all of those extras are, break down, yes, I’m going to take insurance, yes, I’m going to take a child seat, yes, I’m going to take whatever else it isYou know that you’re not going to be hit by a big bill when you get there. That that is it, done, dusted, prepaid, get your voucher, off you go.
One of the other issues that had come in the last few years was the rental supply, supply on the cars in some of the premium locations. There was limited supply because of the downturn in the economy. Now it is seems to be coming out of that. But, that was a major problem over the last few years. It does seem to have been addressed and there has been a influx of new cars in the last 18 months.
Prior to that, there was actually limited supply of new cars available to the car hire companies.
It eliminates that as a reason not to book via the GDS. The rates in the GDS generally tend to be better than what you might get elsewhere, but there were historical reasons why people didn’t use the GDS to book, but we are eliminating them one by one. We are working through them and eliminating them, so that everybody has a strong validation for staying within the workflow and there has no reason why they need to go out to third party sites to book.
The dream is that people will reduce the number of walk-ins at a car hire desk. Wherever the location, the paper work os done, that they can just walk or pick up the keys and off they go. And the travel agent benefits by being able to provide that service, having given them their voucher, that customer is more likely to come back and say, yes, that was all great, I’m going to go back to book that next year.
They don’t have to queue. They don’t have any of the hardship that sometimes comes with the walk-in and they don’t have to worry about whether there is enough supply of baby seats or whatever it might be when they get there. Customers being told that they need to buy up to the next level car or whatever when had they pre-booked it, they would have that secured.
It is all booked for them. They know that it is secure. it is the speed of transaction. It is the ease of just walking in, picking up your keys and leaving the queue behind you.
They know exactly what they need to have on location at any given time. They have their bookings made so they know what revenue is coming in, through what channels it is coming from. They know where their business is coming through. Have the following year so that they can see what channels of distribution their bookings are actually coming from.
That would be one of the so another strain of I suppose what we are doing is we have a site called mytravelportmarketplace which is like the ITunes store for the travel agent where they can go in and download apps that will sit on their Smartpoint desktop.
We are trying to bring in all of these additional services that all of the travel agents in the country need to sell, be it a bus service from Galway to Dublin airport, parking, a valet car wash when they are on holidays, all those potential ancillary pieces of business that every travel agent is aware that their traveller at some point is interacting with.
Like through Universal API, the facilities are there. What we’ve done is we’ve allowed third party companies to take the technology. to go into our Universal API and say, well, this is what I need to do to develop so that my app can use it on a travel agents site in Cork. He can go and then it will read it. One of the things that Just to give you an example, is Heathrow Express. Heathrow Express have developed an app that will sit on Smartpoint. It reads the PNR to see is Heathrow part of London Heathrow, part of this PNR. Is it a stopover? Is it a departure point? Do they need a train ticket? it would pop up if it is relevant. It will stay away if it is not but if it is relevant it will pop up to say, do you need a train for that. stuff like that It is just the intelligence that is behind it to allow agents to download whatever apps are relevant to them.
Cabforce, pre-booked taxis would have been tanother one that is available on our Marketplace, where it will read it to see if you’re landing in Bangkok, do you want to book a taxi? You are landing in downtown Manila, do you want to book a taxi?
All of that transfers so the transfer company similarly all of them can take our Universal API. Pop up the app in the app store which is Marketplace and the agency can download it so that it sits on their screen. It is all about bringing that value to the travel agent. when I travel I need to park my car. I need to get a transfer to get to the other side. I need a hotel. Sometimes I need a car, whatever it might be.
These are all of the things that as part of my travel plans you would have it all the time. These are the things I have to either book separately or somebody else has to book for me
IfI had all of that sitting in one place when I book it either through a corporate booking tool or whatever it might be, that is there for me.
From the point I sit in my car to leave my house in the morning, until I arrive at the office, wherever it might be, in Brussels or Rome or whatever, the whole end to end service has been provided. That is the intent. That is what we are offering. That is what we are headed with it all.
It is all about content. it is all about that supply chain. And you know what airlines do you have in there?
What content is in there? How do I book all of those ancillary pieces?
I want my consultants, this is how I want them to work. they should be putting it to us to say, this is what I want to happen, what can you do with it? Can you enable this to happen?
How can you allow me to develop your technology to make it specific to my business? And is it robust? What about the risk, the reconciliation process?
Everything from the eNett piece of the business on how that falls in so that commissions are paid on everything, that you don’t have to be chasing commissions on hotels. All of the things that they spend time on administration, that needs to be sliced, of course, if not by 50pc by 70pc. And they should be asking how we can help them do that and we can help. And so it is really about reducing administration, reducing time spent on stuff that they should be doing other things. They should be selling. There should be a clear focus on selling to their clients what their client needs as opposed to spending time on administration, chasing of reconciliations, payments, all of those things. It should all be about selling.
The back office system, There is always going to be a requirement for a back office system from invoicing, management of their account systems and the rest of it.
Where the GDS or we have made massive improvements in recent years is enabling a lot of the reporting side of the business that the agents would have previously have relied on their back office for. management information,
What the busiest routes are? Where their particular travellers are travelling to? How often they rebook?
How much time is spent on Eoghan Corry travelling to Bangkok. How many times has he changed that booking? What the touch the level of touch on any particular PNR. what we have Our reporting capabilities now enable the travel agent to have full visibility on Eoghan Corry’s travels. does my consultant spend 20 minutes on Eoghan’s booking to Bangkok? Does she spend an hour and a half on it? If she’s spending an hour and a half on it, what return is that bringing? it allows that visibility and that tangible return on investment in terms of the time that is being spent on each individual PNR.
In the Nordics we have a product called Travelwire which is a mid office system which deals with a lot of the stuff that is covered by a back office system.
Our focus is on providing that content circle from the supply chain right through to the sales. That is our business. That is what we do. That is what we focus on. We have to be able to deal with and work with all of the back office systems, mid office systems and we do. What essentially our core business is around that channel of distribution.
I think Universal API was the game changer for Travelport and the ability to take the merchandising platform from wherever it was 10 years ago which was restrictive to the airlines. In fairness to them, they had to do they wanted to move Ryanair broke the mould. They wanted to change how they distributed their content. They wanted to change what they needed to do, what they were restricted by the technology that was in place at the time to enable them to do that. our merchandising platform I think is the real game changer in all of this because it enables the airlines, the hotel, it enables the suppliers to sell how they want to, when they want to, to who they want to. before that there were quite rigid distribution channels in place, but our merchandising platform has literally jbroken the mould in all of that and opened it up
It is almost coming back in a circle and all of these things do work in circles. For a time, it was all about the websites and it was all about the dotcom and the dotcom boom.
Ryanair broke the mould, and Ireland in particular was heavily impacted by the dotcoms.
It is almost coming back full circle where people are fed up of spending so much time. There is too much choice. Where do they start? What happens if something goes wrong? How do they actually manage? How much time are they spending on looking for the best deal when they don’t really know whether it is the best deal or not.
They believe the cheapest is where it is at, where in reality so many companies have gone out of business it puts that element of fear back in that the dotcoms.
A valid business model in there. What it means is that people are coming back towards thinking about safety.
Customers are asking and thinking about what the best value is for them. The cheapest might not always be what is best for their family, moving slightly back to a value proposition as opposed to what’s the cheapest.
A product we launched last year called Queue Control Console.
It is a robotic to manage an automated ticketing process for a travel agent. It is going back to that concept of creating efficiencies, eliminating key strokes, eliminating admin work and making sure that they get it right the first time.
it runs a quality control check to make sure that all of the pieces of information are in a PNR before they run a ticket. First of all, has it been paid for? Has that credit card not balanced or is it good? Is the payment in? Have we put in the mileage membership numbers? Have we requested a seat for them? All of the different things that a travel consultant’s brain is capable of doing.
This can be automated through a Queue Control Console which previously was somewhat out of reach of your average travel agent whereby you would have needed a team of developers or work with a third party company to provide a sort of solution.
It is available as a standalone product. it is open to any travel agent who chooses to you know go down that route and add in that quality control mechanism and automate the ticketing process. that was the other one really but other than that really.
It is one of the biggest functions that an agency can do.
It is one of the places that it can all go terribly wrong. up until the point of ticketing, anything can be salvaged.
At the point ticketing, it is a point where there is a massive cost implication if it is not right. it is that element of making sure that that is right and making sure that there is less torture. when you are travel agent’s consultant sits and makes the booking for Eoghan to go to Bangkok that they don’t have to keep coming back to that booking time and time to put in an invoice number, to put in a seat, to put in whatever it is.
It is all done at the point of sale and then that goes straight through then to a ticketing process. they don’t have to touch it.
It is all done. the more times the travel agent touches a booking, the more costly that booking becomes and less revenue they make out of it. it is all about minimising that touch process.
That was the growing trend in terms of where that has to be managed and it all goes back to that circle that we spoke about where there is a tendency for the airlines to do that which causes certainly for the business traveller.
They need as much done for them as they possibly can have done because it is a time consuming thing that if they have to go in and then book a seat and then pull out their credit cards, to add in their credit cards, to put all of that through. If all of that is done at the point of sale by the DMC or by the travel agent, it means that it is a whole lot less hassle for the traveller to have to do that and they that, that is all taken care of.
They have an excellent travel agent. That is all being done for them.
I think that is the difference between what Travelport can offer the travel agent today and the others.
That is one of the differentiators, that we have the ability to offer all of those ancillary products, to save the traveller from having it to do it themselves and potentially to save a sale down the line through one of the airline dotcom sites where if they get used to the airline dotcom sites, it becomes a whole lot easier for the traveller to go back to that the next time instead of coming back to their travel agent to make the booking.
It is all about bringing that value. For the travel agent it should be focusing on what value
Yes, they can sell an airfare. Yes they can sell a hotel. But, are they selling everything that a traveller needs as part of their journey? Are they thinking beyond the base airfare? Are they thinking what’s the traveller going to do between now and when they step and board that plane? They are going to need a seat. They are going to need a bag. They are going to need a meal. They are going to need skis. What is it that they are going to need?
Thinking that out and seeing how they can bring that value back to the traveller rather than the traveller having to go and do it themselves through whatever channel.
NDC is disruption. there has no question about it. it is disruption. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be the enemy. There was confusion when NDC was first announced, over what it is, what it does. There still is.
From Travelport’s pint of view, if it brings standardisation to an API process, we welcome it. IATA have brought in standardisation in ticketing.
If they can do that with regard to how airline API’s exist and work, all good. We have not hung about waiting for them to tell the world what that is.
We have gone ahead with our merchandising platform and everything that they are talking about has already been developed and is already available.
We have 169 airlines currently using our merchandising platform. we have created that standard and it is there. yes it is done.
We welcome standards, but we are not hanging about waiting for them.
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