Andrew Yell, vice president: global sales, product contracting & operations
What is your key strategy these days and why?
We value the importance of the trade, and our strategy focuses on helping our agents grow their businesses. Our motto is “Made for Agents,” and we always look to put the agent first in everything we do, from our product contracting to our technology development and marketing efforts.
What are your newest destinations or products in the marketplace?
We sell an enormous range of product across destinations all over the world. We have over 250,000 hotels, 63,000 activities and tours, and transfers in more than 100 countries. We want agents to know that they can find the perfect product no matter where in the world their clients are going. We give agents the choice to find the right product for their clients with flexible conditions depending on their needs.
What is your most exotic, unusual new offering?
One of our strengths is having a large product range … there are some really interesting options for both our accommodations and tours. We have castles in Ireland, traditional Ryokans in Japan, converted silos in New Zealand and even an Italian hotel built into caves. We have activities to satisfy all tastes, from adventure and cultural to food-oriented activities. Our more unique and exotic tours include safaris in South Africa, caving in Iceland, “Game of Thrones” tours in Croatia and swimming with pigs in the Bahamas.
What’s your “tried-and-true” main-stay offering that clients continue to love? Why do they love it?
Agents are loving our accommodation options domestically in the U.S., as well as in Europe — Italy, France and UK have been popular destinations for us. Our activities in Europe have also been popular, particularly some of our “skip-the-line” tickets for major attractions. One destination we are seeing a bit of growth in tours is Japan, where we offer a wide variety of cultural and day tours like traditional geisha experiences, tours of the famous Tsukiji fish markets and the always popular day trips to Mount Fuji by bullet train.
Are you modifying your offerings to accommodate the desire many consumers have to “live like a local” and to have “authentic” experiences?
This is an important trend, one that is normally attributed to Millennials and Gen Z, but we believe [such] experiences are sought out by travelers of all ages, and we are seeing more interest in some of our experiences that allow visitors to immerse themselves in a local culture, particularly our food tours. We have a fantastic experience in Bangkok, where guests are welcomed into a local chef’s home for a private traditional dinner where they not only get to taste incredible food, but also understand a little more about its preparation and significance in Thai culture.
Are there any key challenges for your business in the foreseeable future? Are world economics or dynamics having any effect?
We take pride in helping destinations recover from natural disasters or other circumstances outside their control by educating agents and driving bookings back into a destination when things return to normal. The nice thing about travel is you can always find a destination and product to fit your needs at the time.
What is your focus on the U.S. travel agent for 2018/19? What are you doing to compete for this important distribution channel?
We are approaching our first year of operation in the U.S. market, and we are thrilled with how agents have embraced our offering. The next 12 months will be enormous for Excite Holidays, and we have some exciting new announcements in the pipeline from which we think the U.S. market will greatly benefit. Our commitment is to always ensure our platform and product is improving based on the needs of our agents. We will continue to be present at the major industry events. Our focus is very much on showcasing the benefits our system has for agents and their clients.