RTO SUMMIT REPORT, ORLANDO, NOV. 17-18—PART TWO
RTO Groups Update: Auctioning Off the Client: Those delegates attending the RTO Summit received a introduction to the latest in group booking quote technology developed by Tourico Holidays: which allows Tourico the ability to circulate group quotes to a cluster of appropriate hotels who then bid on the business directly to the client.
The new technology was developed in response to clients who had groups that wanted to see several destinations, said Cohen, “and we wanted to let our clients quote their own tour based on the destinations.” The group marketing engine allows clients to use the Tourico technology themselves: “They can actually quote a tour themselves by selecting up to seven different suppliers on hotel side.”
NAJ founder and CEO Jake Steinman, who was moderating the panel discussion, summed up the new process by suggesting, “Essentially, you’re auctioning off the client,” to which Cohen agreed. And while conceding that “There might be another engine out there,” he emphasized, “this is something new. I think that, in time, more and more suppliers will come to us.”
“Tourico-ization” Some of those attending the session shook their heads in wonder upon hearing Cohen’s explanation of Tourico’s new group marketing technology, and Steinman, too, wondered aloud about what the environment is like at the company that it is able to reveal new-edge technology seemingly every other month (For instance, a little more than a month before the WTM announcement, Tourico revealed its “25+ Series,” which compiles and localizes its most popular activities based on a specific destination. The list is updated monthly and every product affords Tourico clients a minimum profit margin of 25 percent.)
High Turnover in Groups Department.Steinman asked Cohen about the company’s relatively high in the groups department the past year. “We brought in the top dogs from groups departments as different receptive companies who could help us with the groups segment, “he said, adding, “but Tourico’s mindset is different than what they’ve experienced. Some people don’t last too long.”
Perhaps in response to the turnover, Tourico last January launched its own Travel Academy recruitment and training program, in which young professionals—most of them are recent college graduates—take a ten week, hands-on course of work and study and indoctrination into the Tourico work ethic before being hired.
Hotelbeds Groups Dept: “We are your distribution channel, and you are our creative team.” When Alberto Cevera Xicotencatl, regional manager, specialist and groups, the Americas, Hotelbeds, spoke one got a picture of the thirty-somethings who are now at the center of driving the growth of the global travel industry. He is snappy, energetic, widely traveled and intersperses his quick-response answers to questions with epigrammatic asides (“The last thing we sell is travel. We sell experience. We sell dreams come true”), and seems to embody a slogan of Hotelbeds that flashes on its website in an introduction—“We never stand still.”
He has been working for more than 18 years for TUI, which is Europe’s largest travel company and owns Hotelbeds, whose global headquarters are in Palma de Mallorca, an island off the eastern cost of Spain. When the company moved its U.S. based receptive operation three-and-a-half years ago to Cancun, Mexico, he became a principal figure in its growth. Within 11 months , he and his team were able to develop and train 30 staff fully dedicated to sales through a network covering 46 countries, with an expert for each destination, he told delegates, noting that “the whole idea was to replicate the model of a one-stop shop. We mainly distribute or promote through salespersons worldwide … through online distribution as well as offline.”
Asked to break down some of his office’s activity, his answers offered the following:
- It sends about 10 to 12 groups each month to the U.S.
- The average size of the group it sells/books ranges from 60 to 100 persons, with some as large as 300 to 400.
- It receives between 2,000-3,000 RFQs a year.
- From 60 to 75 percent of the groups are leisure.
- The rest of the groups are mostly MICE; in the first year at Cancun, MICE was about 5 percent of its business and it has more than tripled its share since then.
- There are better conversion rates in MICE market than in leisure. “It’s becoming a last-minute market. It’s tough to handle when you have it (a request) come within a month out … when you used to have 18 months to prepare. But we enjoy it.”
- Currently the company’s top U.S. destinations are Florida (Miami, Orlando), Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, Washington, and Boston “with every now and then some place like Wichita … and I have no idea where that is.”
- Asked about group trends—are they growing smaller, larger and what are their ages—“It depends on market. People are looking for experiences. The more special, the more specific you can get … that’s what people are looking for …. We are in an industry that doesn’t follow trends, we set trends The biggest trend is that we have to take ownership of that responsibility and develop them.”
- His office’s top source markets now are: Brazil, Spain, South America, Mexico (mostly with companies and businesses), “a little from England,” and “it’s been an amazing year from Arabic countries.”
- Other advice (to suppliers): “Whatever you think is new your destination, tell us … I cannot know, I need you to tell us. We are your distribution channel, and you are our creative team.”