What is your key strategy for this year and why?
Our strategy is to continue offering travel advisors more solutions for today’s challenges. We have historically been known for our service and ability to flawlessly fulfill travel itineraries — this has helped our travel advisors and us develop a loyal following of customers, however, we would now like to have the travel advisors view us in a broader way.
Our belief is we can become an integral part in the ideation and selling of vacations. This has been our strategy in the past, but this year is different in that we have revamped all of our tools to work more seamlessly together to suit the needs of today’s travel advisor. The suite of tools we created is meant to help the travel advisor convert and fulfill their clients’ needs more efficiently. The more efficient a travel advisor, the more business they can generate.
What are your newest destinations or products?
We’ve launched a few different products. One is focused on expanding into private homes and rentals. [With] the growth of Airbnb, travel advisors must find a way to play in this vertical. In this regard, we launched our partnership with TravelKeys to offer more inventory in this space, coupled with the appropriate service levels. As we grow this segment, we will look at different ways to add inventory. Luckily, we have a sister company in HomeAway and will be looking to integrate into their inventory so that the travel advisor will have instant access.
Another is the launch our Asia product. We did a limited launch in Q1 with key partners focused on Southeast Asia — Aman Resorts, Banyan Tree, Belmond, Four Seasons and COMO Hotels & Resorts, as well as leveraged our access to Expedia Affiliate Network hotels to gauge the demand. We secured great net rates from our U.S. airline partners (United Airlines and Delta Air Lines), as well as our Asian airline partners (Singapore Airlines, EVA Airways, Thai Airways). We found a very healthy demand in various of Asia. Over the next few months, we’ll add more hotel partners, as well as augment our ground services beyond Viator offerings to include more bespoke services. In 2017, we will start filling out more services in Northern Asia.
Once you go in to a new place, how do you create product for the customer?
Using our Asia product as a case study, we have a healthy data set of information for destinations where we have launched. The next move is using that demand information to go after the key hotels that our clients have requested. Additionally, we will soon partner with key local operators to offer more than what Viator has, to create more robust experiences. As the inventory develops, we’ll be able to offer fully curated, customizable, multi-destination itineraries online. Right now, much of the multi-destination is either very rigid printed itineraries or truly FIT (where everything is completely ad-hoc). We will offer a hybrid of the two — imagine the ideation and ease of set itineraries, but with the flexibility to choose from different hotels and robust experiences.
Are there any key challenges this year for your business?
Key external challenges are mainly economic and geopolitical. As with everybody in the travel space, our business is dependent on consumer confidence and traveler confidence. So far in 2017, these have not been challenges — but as we have seen in years past, this can change fairly quickly.
Other challenges stem from an increasingly competitive job market for good talent. The inflationary pressures are starting to rise, hence we are seeing a constant upward pressure on wages.
Consolidation in the travel space allows for the weaker and irrational players to be removed from the marketplace. This is a challenge in that market leverage is shifting, and depending on how your business plays in this scenario, you’ll see it as a plus or potential negative.
What is your focus on the U.S. travel agent for 2017?
Broadly speaking, we believe we are better equipped than ever to help our travel advisors compete. And because we can help solve these challenges, we will be seen as more relevant to today’s travel advisors.