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Travelport ready for tech off in 2020

For Travelport’s Alistair Rodger, enhancing client relationships is key.

TRFBLI
Travelport is embracing tech innovations in 2020
Travelport is embracing tech innovations in 2020
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Travelport ready for tech off in 2020

There have been some exciting developments at Travelport. A $4.4 billion privatisation deal in May and several additions to senior management including a new chief executive, Greg Webb, promise to breathe new life into the UK-headquartered travel technology company.

 

TTG speaks to Alistair Rodger, global vice-president of agency sales for Europe, to find out more about the company’s plans for the trade as well as the latest tech innovations it is embracing in 2020.

Customers first

With previous roles at Hotelbeds, Holiday Autos and the LateRooms Group, Rodger is keen to leverage his experience of managing relationships to implement a strong customer- centric and trade-friendly approach to Travelport’s 2020 strategy.


“When I first joined Travelport in September, I mentioned three priorities that will be important for our clients and which should guide everything we do: improve customer satisfaction, maximise revenue; and stand out in
an incredibly competitive industry,” he says.

 

“If a travel agent is struggling because more than half of travel bookings worldwide are direct to the supplier, we should be asking how we can tailor our solutions so that some of these buyers come back to agents.”

 

Tools developed for agents since Travelport’s foundation in 2006 include Trip Assist – a mobile app offering an itinerary manager, day-of-travel assistant and real-time alerts – and Travelport Search Control Console, a web-based user interface enabling agents to customise content for clients.


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A branded fares shopping cart offered by Travelport
A branded fares shopping cart offered by Travelport

For 2020, Rodger says Travelport is working towards four new business goals: driving customer service; providing quality content; facilitating competitive booking performance; and maximising yield per booking.


One innovation helping to realise these targets is new distribution capability (NDC) – an XML-based data standard that enhances communication between airlines and travel agents by simplifying the booking process.

 

“We’re making good progress on our NDC strategies and we’re connected to more than half of the Iata 2020 NDC leaderboard airlines,” he says.


NDC-affiliated partners include Lufthansa, Iberia, Air France and British Airways, which means agents will have the option to upsell their flights with ancillary products such as luggage, transfers and hotel room rates.


“Agency onboarding is ongoing, and we’re taking a considered approach to rewiring decades of plumbing and back-office infrastructure that supports it,” he adds.

Content creation

While NDC may dominate the tech headlines, there is a lot more going on in the content retailing world to help agents glean a greater understanding of differing airlines’ product proposition, believes Rodger.

 

Travelport has updated its Rich Content and Branding Tool to enable airlines to display branded fares, seat specifications and ancillary options via OTAs and corporate booking platforms.


In the hospitality sector, a recent partnership with IBM and travel management company BCD Travel has seen Travelport develop a blockchain solution to manage hotel commission reconciliation, creating an accurate, shared view of the booking status and commissions, so all parties know exactly when they will be paid.

Alistair Rodger, global vice-president of agency sales for Europe at Travelport
Alistair Rodger, global vice-president of agency sales for Europe at Travelport

While technology continues to make travel more accessible, it also has the potential to make clients feel less connected to the world around them, warns Rodger – and this can be leveraged to an agent’s advantage.


“We’ve seen a new role emerging for bricks-and-mortar travel agents, with younger travellers increasingly turning to travel professionals to help them in their search for a truly unique experience. So digital experiences must be complemented by the ability to have a face-to-face conversation.”


Travelport’s Smartpoint 9.0 technology has been designed to do just that. The recently upgraded software helps agents increase their productivity while improving the customer experience by removing friction points in everyday tasks by simplifying the comparison and booking processes.

 

“Two-thirds of British millennials now regularly extend their business trips by a few days”

Getting down to business

Rodger also feels there is a need for increased innovation in the space between business and leisure travel – known as the “bleisure” market.


He explains: “Two-thirds of British millennials now regularly extend their business trips by a few days so they can see local attractions, compared to 27% of baby boomers, so the demand is there.


“It’s well-known that business travellers have been using OTAs to book ‘bleisure’ trips for some time. We’ve seen companies like TravelPerk and TripActions move into the corporate space with an OTA-like solution, as well as the emergence of hybrid businesses dedicated to servicing bleisure travellers.”

With a multitude of technology solutions on the market, agency owners may find it overwhelming when choosing one for their business, but Rodger says it’s all about considering their own personal needs and ambitions before making tech choices.


“Technologies can quickly become obsolete – either through planned obsolescence or the evolution of the industry. Travel businesses must focus on the technologies they need to overcome a challenge or take the next step in their development.”

Dynamic duo

Travelport’s Alistair Rodger highlights two technologies agents should have on their radars in 2020 Voice search: EasyJet has launched its ‘Speak Now’ voice-recognition travel-booking tool.

 

Elsewhere AccorHotels’ Phil and Miami International airport’s Talk to Mia voice tools [which assist guests and passengers during their stay or airport experience] are also great examples of progress in this area.

 

Surprisingly it’s been travel verticals like hotels, airports and online travel agencies – not historically known for leading the innovation charge – that have been behind many of the voice-search breakthroughs we’ve seen recently.


Cloud and artificial intelligence (AI): The cloud, AI and blockchain are enabling us to reimagine where travellers find their travel inspiration, how they book transport, add adventures and manage every part of their journey. But these technologies don’t work unless they have input.


This is where big data comes in, by allowing us to feed the intelligence engine at previously unreachable speeds.

 

As a result, we can access an abundance of computer power that allows us to do things we have never done before, to teach computers to respond in nanoseconds and personalise the journey.


The question is how can we provide the most effective aggregation source that allows buyers to be efficient and suppliers to be effective in their retailing efforts?

Dynamic duo

Travelport’s Alistair Rodger highlights two technologies agents should have on their radars in 2020.

 

Voice search: EasyJet has launched its ‘Speak Now’ voice-recognition travel-booking tool.

 

Elsewhere AccorHotels’ Phil and Miami International airport’s Talk to Mia voice tools [which assist guests and passengers during their stay or airport experience] are also great examples of progress in this area.

 

Surprisingly it’s been travel verticals like hotels, airports and online travel agencies – not historically known for leading the innovation charge – that have been behind many of the voice-search breakthroughs we’ve seen recently.


Cloud and artificial intelligence (AI): The cloud, AI and blockchain are enabling us to reimagine where travellers find their travel inspiration, how they book transport, add adventures and manage every part of their journey.

 

But these technologies don’t work unless they have input.


This is where big data comes in, by allowing us to feed the intelligence engine at previously unreachable speeds.

 

As a result, we can access an abundance of computer power that allows us to do things we have never done before, to teach computers to respond in nanoseconds and personalise the journey.


The question is how can we provide the most effective aggregation source that allows buyers to be efficient and suppliers to be effective in their retailing efforts?

TRFBLI
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