We are just about done now with the first quarter of 2016 and we have been busy with so many things necessary for future business, but not necessarily the immediate cash-generating activities.
We look at our business in 4 separate areas –
- Tour & Travel Agency operations
- Marketing & Sales Representation of travel related services
- Airline Representation & Airline Services
- Online sales
So with our portfolio of products and services, we actually sell internationally and locally to both “Business to Business” and “Business to Consumer”.
So far this first quarter, we’ve organized a social evening event with one of the airlines we represent together with Munich airport in Germany as they start a flight out of Munich by April. We held an event in one of Prague’s many wonderful wine cellars—National Bank of Wine. Generally, I’ve found that activities like this is a hit or miss as sometimes it helps us generate new business and other times, there’s really nothing in return. The least that could happen, though, is that we generate press coverage, and at the same time we use such events to continue strengthening our relationships with partners in a fun, enjoyable, and relaxed atmosphere—with lots of wine of course, as opposed to sitting in a conference room.
Also, at this time of the year we are inundated in our inbound tour operations business with Individual and Group requests from overseas partners (travel agents) for their clients who are considering our package tours for Prague and Central Europe. But all these are simply potential bookings that we can only hope will materialize over the next several months. We are seeing that the lead-time between inquiry and travel has shortened considerably. It’s common to see a month to 2 weeks or even a week lead time nowadays, compared to a year to 6 months in the past. Our challenge, therefore, is confirming requests on very short notice while making sure the product and service delivery is flawless.
Speaking of challenges, we have actually found two critical areas of our business that we needed to address this year. First, since our product and service portfolio is in the four areas I mentioned and we sell them to both B2B and B2C markets, our challenge is how to maximize the use of our time dealing with all of them. In order to address this, what we’ve learned over time is to find ways to simplify and specialize.
Now we focus on products and services that complement what we already have in our portfolio. For instance, since we represent Philippine Airlines, Heli Air Monaco, or SATA Azores, we create hotel packages and tours in destinations they serve, which in turn helps us specialize in those destinations. So instead of promoting 100 destinations we really don’t know, we’ve narrowed it down to a few we truly know by heart. Similarly for the inbound traffic, we have cut our hotel inventory way back and are dealing with only a few select hotels. The upside is, since we push all our business to this handful of hotels, we develop a stronger buying power. And when it comes to peak periods, they prioritize giving us the rooms. So in the end, we know we are able to add value to our B2B partners and direct clients. It’s all about the relationships.
The second critical area is, since we are selling our products and services online, this space is so crowded and dominated by hotel booking sites like booking.com which is the most popular in Europe, we thought we’d create our own niche by focusing on hotel packages, instead of going head to head selling bare hotel rates like many sites do. To differentiate ourselves, we also decided to incorporate added value components into the packages like higher category rooms, and added transfers and tours as our basic standard offer. We realized, too, that we can do this since our tour operator rates are better than online booking sites. Again, this would only be in destinations we know well.
We are now in the implementation phase of this concept, and are in daily contact with our web developers, which is yet another challenge which I might share in my future diary, as they have been working on this since last year and we’ve missed so many deadlines already. And of course, our next steps would be to implement our online marketing plan. Still a lot of work to do, but we should soon find out in the next few weeks how we’ll do with this.
Vincent Soriano is the Founder & Managing Director of Art Of Travel. Based in Prague, Czech Republic, Art Of Travel specializes in Marketing & Sales Representation as well as delivering travel experiences throughout Central & Eastern Europe. And with its strong affinity to Asia, partners and customers also rely on their expert knowledge of Philippines, Thailand, and the rest of Southeast & North Asia. To know more, visit www.ArtOfTravel.eu. Vincent can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org