A new technology platform could turn GTA’s 60,000 hotel suppliers into tours and activities resellers, reports Sarah McCay Tams
Global travel distributor GTA teamed up with Iceland’s Bokun at the end of last year to develop a technology platform that would boost its Destination Services Suppliers business.
Now, GTA is preparing to pilot test the new tours and activities booking system in two markets - Europe and the Middle East. Next steps are for a global roll out that could have a huge impact on the company’s future tours and activities revenue.
GTA currently provides more than 16,700 sightseeing tours, attractions and transfer services in 100 countries and products in more than 1,000 destinations. The company also works with more than 60,000 hotel partners. The new booking system will integrate all areas of the GTA network, enabling hotels to become resellers of tours and activities through an online booking widget.
Taking technology independent
Historically, GTA had always built its technology in-house. However, in 2015 the company decided to bring in a technology partner to build its backend infrastructure. From there, came the natural progression to also look for a booking platform partner for the company’s destination services. However, as a super-supplier, offering thousands of tours and activities, the challenge was to find the perfect technology fit.
Bokun offers a cloud-based sales, inventory and management platform to connect the tourism industry; its solution provides a tours booking widget that can be used by anyone who has a website. Already, the majority of hotels in Iceland are using Bokun to book tours and activities. So, for both GTA’s backend solutions and to power its booking platform it worked.
The booking widget can be installed directly on a hotel web site landing page, providing hotels with the opportunity to pre-sell tours and activities to guests before they arrive.
Bokun also offers a backend solution that enables the hotel concierge to process tour bookings on property, providing a solid and structured way of optimising the GTA portfolio of tours suppliers.
Our light bulb moment was that we have thousands of suppliers but we also have 60,000 hotel partners
Stefano Zeni, Head of Commercial Management & Destination Services, GTA
Stefano Zeni, Head of Commercial Management & Destination Services, explains how GTA came to partner with Bokun: “Our light bulb moment was that we have thousands of suppliers but we also have 60,000 hotel partners. The strength of GTA is the commercial relationship with our suppliers and our clients – what we were missing was the technology. Now we have the technology to link both. It’s a win-win situation. Hotels will be able to monetise the tours and activities by reaching out to customers in a structured way. It provides a trading arm between the hotels and the suppliers.”
New revenue line
With the majority of tours and activities still booked off line and on location, the technology provides a new revenue line for GTA, the hotel and the supplier.
“We want to grow the business we are doing with our retail customers through our brands, TravelCube and TravelBound, as well as GTAwholesale. The great thing is this is not even in conflict. We are tapping into customer behaviours. For example, Americans travelling to Europe want to pre-book their tours. They can via the hotel website. On the other hand, I’m Italian, we go to a location and then we say ‘what are we going to do?’ We don’t like to be constrained. We like to go with the flow. So we go to the concierge and book,” Zeni explains.
GTA and Bokun have been actively promoting their new partnership, most recently presenting at EyeforTravel’s European Summit, as well as other industry events.
Speaking at the summit in London on 3 May, Hjalti Baldursson, CEO of Bokun said: “Our vision at Bokun is to create the largest global B2B marketplace and distribution platform for tours and activities. And in partnership with GTA we aim to make that happen.
“One of the products we’ll be offering is for the hotels to get a bigger part of the tours and activities pie in an easy and efficient manner.”
Baldursson explained just how lucrative the Bokun solution could be. Using the Bokun Storefronts website set up, a property can make as much as €10,000 per month, while hotels using the backend to sell tours and activities via the concierge can turnover up to €70,000 a month. That’s a lot of incremental revenue.
Not surprising then that GTA has had a positive reaction from its partners and suppliers. “They tell us it makes absolute sense,” says Zeni. “The system is so flexible, they can easily change what they show on their website. It’s really easy.”
Once GTA has completed its pilot, the new tours and activities technology will be introduced to its global network of suppliers.
“Bokun had been very successful in Iceland and we want to take that to a global level. We want to evolve the partnership with our suppliers and not just provide them with sales volume and destination knowledge, but also provide them with technology,” Zeni said.