• Chinese Behemoths Partner Up: China’s largest OTA, Trip.com Group, is partnering with e-commerce giant JD.com to increase their cooperation in tourism and online retail. (JD.com, Inc., also known as Jingdong and formerly called 360buy, is a Chinese e-commerce company headquartered in Beijing. It is one of two huge B2C online retailers in China as measured by transaction volume and revenue and is a major competitor to the Alibaba-operated Tmall.) According to statements issued by the two companies, Trip.com will offer real-time tourism product inventory with competitive-priced tickets to JD which, in return, will offer traffic, marketing, and livestreaming.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has led to the cancellation or postponement of tens of millions of trips booked on Trip.com in the first half-year, CapitalWatch.com reported. The orders were valued at more than 31 billion yuan (appr. $4.9 billion). Now, as domestic travel has started to pick up, Trip.com is to launch a flagship store on JD.com to take advantage of the recovery of the tourist market.
• STA Travel Closes Doors: Since the last issue of INBOUND published, STA Travel in the UK shut down. The youth and student-travel specialist employed almost 500 staff across 49 agency outlets in the UK and its head office in London. STA was an ATOL holder, licensed to sell almost 30,000 package holidays a year (ATOL holders are generally acknowledged to be tour operators); however, its primary business was as a third-party retailer. It was not on the top 50 travel organizers appearing on the Civil Aviation Authority’s April 2020 list of holders. STA’s action followed by a day that its Swiss parent company—STA Travel Holding AG—filed for insolvency. In a statement, STA Travel Holding AG said: “The global magnitude of the pandemic crisis has brought the travel industry to a standstill, including STA Travel, a student and youth travel company.”
• Sandals UK Already Focusing on 2023 Product: The Sandals and Beaches Resorts tourism operation, Unique Caribbean Holidays, has put Sandals and Beaches Resorts 2023 holidays on sale in an effort to bolster consumer confidence in travel. The resorts’ tour operation recently began taking bookings from travel agents for hotel-only stays until July 2023 through its call center and booking system. Agents can book hotel-only holidays for clients in all Sandals and Beaches Resorts’ destinations, for a £175 (appr. $230) per person deposit. Package holiday bookings for hotel stays including a flight can be booked until the end of 2022.
Simon Foster, deputy managing director, Unique Caribbean Holidays, said: “We’re always trying to find new ways to innovate and this latest addition means that agents can now book package holidays for their customers up to the end of 2022 and holidays without flights until July 2023 – three years in advance. We hope that this will reassure clients and give them the opportunity to plan their holidays even further ahead.”
• “Hybrid” Homeworker-Consortium Model Introduced in UK. The Advantage Travel Partnership has launched a homeworking division—The Travel Specialists by Advantage. A company statement said that new unit has been designed as a “hybrid model between a traditional homeworking organization and a managed services consortium model.” It offers agents who sign up the chance to use either their own branding or the Advantage name and is targeting both new and established homeworking agents. Advantage will levy 2 percent of the turnover of Travel Specialists homeworkers as well as its share of commission. In exchange for this, homeworkers will have access to Advantage’s marketing and business development teams, commercial deals, incentives, education, administrative support and out-of-hours support. It will be operated using a trust account model.
Advantage’s leisure director, Kelly Cookes, said the COVID-19 lockdown had “accelerated the appetite” for remote working and “changed the way we engage with consumers,” she told Travel Weekly UK, adding, “We’ve been working on this for almost a year and feel that now is the right time to launch,” she said. “It was a gap in our offering. We’re all now more comfortable engaging with people remotely.”