Merchandising: An Online Travel Agency’s Perspective

We are 170 people, with 2 main offices, one
in Athens, one in Bucharest. In Athens we approximately have 115 to 120 people, and
in Bucharest we’re around 50 people. We also have a third smaller office which serves
as the local office for the Brazilian market, where we are 3 people currently.
Our business has grown steadily over the last nine years since we started the company. The
first years after we founded the company, we grew very quickly and gained market share
within the Greek market; back then we were only present in Greece. Then we had some kind
of a plateau, you could say, which was based also or which was… The reason was, the crisis
in Greece, the economic crisis. And in 2010-11, when we took the decision to expand abroad,
first to South Eastern Europe and then to Western Europe, the growth… The growth picked
up again, and for the last three four years we’ve experienced very, very strong growth.
I wouldn’t say that the customer base has really changed over the last years. Definitely
the behaviour of customers has changed, obviously more people are using mobile devices now,
the complexity has changed, obviously, and also maybe the expectations from customers,
but the customer base per se hasn’t changed. I think the differentiation in the OTA space,
especially if you look at flight tickets is very difficult. I mean, obviously all of us
are trying to differentiate ourselves through prices as the main differentiator, unfortunately.
But we are also looking to differentiate ourselves through product, through innovation… By
adding, let’s say, other services, other products, by giving the consumer maybe a more
complete offering: having more content, better content… Also, obviously personalisation,
trying to give the right offer to the customer when he’s looking for it. Ancillary services
could be also a way to differentiate yourself. It is a differentiator for us because the
customer will say “Look, if I book on, I don’t know, Travelplanet 24, or Tripsta,
then I’m able to also book my bags, whereas on a competitive side I can’t…”
But there are also others who are looking at different things, but it’s definitely
difficult in the flight industry. The needs which led us to integrate ancillary
services were mainly Aegean, who was the first carrier I think, or one of the first carriers
to launch ancillary services. And since the Greek market is one of our major markets and
the Aegean airline has a dominant position in this market, it was clear for us that we
couldn’t… In order to be competitive, we would have to launch the ancillary services
whether in order not to lose our customers, let’s say, to the airline .com or to the
Aegean website directly, we realised very quickly we needed to be able to have the same
product offering that the airline does on its website. So it was clear for us from the
beginning that we needed to implement the ancillary services, and we did this with Amadeus,
first of all because Amadeus is our major GDS, but also because Amadeus was the first
GDS who was ready with ancillary services. The percentage of online bookings where customers
book some kind of ancillary services is approximately 10% currently on our website. And for us ancillary
services currently are mainly baggages. We don’t offer any other ancillaries yet, but
we’re looking to increase and also offer other ancillaries like, maybe meals, or more
special baggage, like golf or ski baggage or other ancillaries, premium seats…
From the very beginning when we started, when we implemented the ancillary services we implemented
them in a fully automated way, which means for us ancillary services are touchless. I
definitely believe that this gives us a competitive advantage over some of our competitors who
don’t offer ancillary services currently or who do offer them but they book them manually,
the issue EMDs manually. For us this is a fully automated process, no agent has to deal
with them. So I’d say, yes, it is handled in a very efficient way. As I said before,
currently we only sell bags but we’re planning to sell other products as well.
I think that Amadeus was flexible and understanding in the needs which we came across, when we
were implementing ancillary services. Amadeus was the first GDS who was able to
offer ancillaries as a Web service to us. And I think we were actually the first customer
of Amadeus, and actually the first OTA worldwide to have implemented fully-automated ancillary
services, for baggage at least Overall we’re very happy with the way Amadeus
cooperated with us and we cooperated with Amadeus.

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