This week, Travel Daily chats with Mark Meehan, Travelport’s Managing Director for Asia Pacific, about the company’s achievements in 2015 and plans for the year ahead…
Q) What have been Travelport’s biggest achievements in Asia Pacific in 2015 and what are your main priorities for 2016?
We have grown market share in absolute terms across Asia including mature markets like Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong as well as Australia and New Zealand. We have achieved this by retaining our major agency accounts and added on to them. We have made major inroads into the OTA markets particularly in North Asia and our partnership with AXESS, the largest domestic GDS in Japan, translates into a major boost to our presence in that market.
The year also saw a very successful rollout and adoption of our Rich Content and Branding solution. Air New Zealand was just recently the 100th airline to go live on this solution, including some 20 others from the Asia Pacific. On the other side of the equation, we have successfully launched the latest version of our award-winning Smartpoint agency desktop which makes it much easier for travel agents to leverage the power of Rich Content and Branding to advise their customers as well as upsell and cross-sell branded fares, add-ons and ancillaries.
For 2016, we will build on the growth momentum that we have achieved in 2015, to widen the leadership position we that we have won with our customers.
Q) What can Travelport now offer its Asian agency customers than other GDS companies cannot, both in the air and “beyond air” segments?
I believe what Travelport offers to our Asian agency customers are products and services that are designed to make them better agencies – more profitable, more efficient and more customer-centric. Our total holistic approach creates value for every aspect of their business.
Our Smartpoint agency desktop is arguably the most user friendly and intuitive in the market and comes with Asian languages built-in such as Japanese, Korean, as well as traditional and simplified Chinese. Incorporating our Travelport Merchandising feature, Smartpoint makes our agents expert travel advisors in airfare shopping, as well as fare upgrades, add-ons and ancillaries. The booking flow is also designed to enable easy cross-selling of “Beyond Air” products such as hotel bookings, car rentals, rails, and even local attractions such as a day tour or a cooking class. The agencies generate more revenue while providing a total service to their customers.
In particular, we see hotels as a product category which can offer our agency partners tremendous revenue growth opportunities. That is why we have expanded our portfolio to more than 650,000 individual hotel properties, placing Travelport as the fourth largest hotel distributor in the world.
Through our subsidiary, eNett, Travelport offers Virtual Account Numbers, a payment system that reduces the risk of fraud and highly automates the administrative process, freeing the agencies to focus on other matters that are important to grow their business.
And through our strategic acquisition of Mobile Travel Technology (MTT), Travelport is now able to provide mobile solutions to all our different partners in the industry, including airlines, agencies and corporates.
Q) Travelport recently celebrated the first anniversary of its Rich Content & Branding tool; how have customers (both in the airline and agent space) responded to this, and what impact do you think it’s had on the industry?
With Rich Content and Branding, Travelport has empowered both the airlines and the agencies. For the airlines, Rich Content and Branding empowers the airlines to market themselves in exactly the way that they want to be marketed. Instead of cryptic codes to denote various upgrades, add-ons and ancillaries, the airlines’ brand-defining products are presented with rich images and detailed descriptions, the same way they are presented in the airlines’ own websites. They no longer compete just on price comparison but rather on quality comparison.
For the agencies, Rich Content and Branding simply makes them better travel advisors with in-depth product knowledge at their fingertips. They no longer sell products based on a cryptic code which does little to explain the product. They are equipped with full product knowledge and information to give expert advice to their customers.
In fact Travelport’s Rich Content and Branding solution has put our airline and agency partners ahead of the curve with regards to IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) guidelines which aims to promote technology standards to enable airlines to differentiate their products with rich content to create a transparent shopping experience. That initiative currently has a few pilot projects running. Travelport’s Rich Content and Branding on the other hand has more than 100 airlines live on its platform and is available to all agency partners using our Smartpoint desktop.
Travelport’s Rich Content and Branding solution also takes into consideration the needs of LCCs which are generally not IATA members as well as how it will be used by the agency partners, a critical stakeholder in the success of such an initiative.
Q) And are you working on any further upgrades or evolutions of Rich Content & Branding?
We are constantly working on improving our Rich Content and Branding solution. Having successfully signed on major Asia Pacific airlines such as Singapore Airlines, China Eastern, Air China, Virgin Australia, Air New Zealand and others, the focus is now on refining its features to make it even more powerful for the airlines to market their content and the agencies who are selling them to the end traveller. We are making it more customisable, more targeted and more flexible.
Tailored content will enable airlines to target specific equipment, fares or point-of-sale promotions to specific geographic routes for example. Major customers who enjoy special corporate deals can also be targeted with specifically tailored promotions. As Rich Content and Branding is also applicable for OTAs, new features are being developed to enable customized messaging for OTAs.
Q) What further developments are you working on in the mobile space?
Travelport is building up its portfolio of technologies in the mobile space to support all possible needs for our partners, regardless if they are OTAs, corporate agencies or traditional consumer agencies.
We recently announced our acquisition of Mobile Travel Technology (MTT), a specialist in the development of intelligent mobile services and applications that deliver a highly customer-centric experience. With the help of MTT, our airline and agency partners as well as corporate customers can now create high-end, engaging mobile services, including apps, mobile web and intelligent mobile messaging, in a cost effective manner.
We have also increased our investment in Locomote into a majority stake. Locomote specialises the management of corporate travel including authorization and procurement processes, corporate traveller profile management, pre-trip approvals and duty of care capabilities. All of its solutions are mobile ready and can be accessed by any device from anywhere.
And to give mobility to our agents themselves, Travelport Mobile Agent is our solution that ports the agency desktop onto mobile devices like tablets and smartphones, enabling out agents to work from anywhere.
Q) And what are the key growth markets for Travelport in the Asia Pacific region, and which emerging markets hold the most potential?
Asia is a growth market for Travelport. And the great thing about Asia for us is that the growth is not just in the emerging markets. We see it even in markets that already qualify as mature such as Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and ANZ. We are growing our presence in Japan, probably the most mature Asian market, through our partnership with AXESS. Likewise we are also growing market share in Hong Kong, as we facilitate many of our customers’ expansion onto the web. We are also growing in New Zealand, not so much because of any strong growth of the Kiwi market itself but rather we are winning market share in absolute terms.