What pushes a successful, well-established travel agency to change the very technology that it uses to sell holidays? We asked this question to luxury travel specialists, letsgo2, who switched to Travelport+ in 2020.
Chris Ward, Managing Director of letsgo2, told us why the agency became unhappy with its previous GDS, and made the move to Travelport+.
Why change GDS?
Before we dive into the switch, here’s some background about letsgo2 that puts the move into context. Although it’s a small, independently owned agency, letsgo2 really packs a (tropical) punch. Through its online shopfront, it arranges over 5,000 holidays each year to luxury destinations worldwide, like the Bahamas, the Maldives, Thailand, and Dubai.
Its customers are discerning couples, families, and solo travelers looking for the trip of a lifetime. They book bespoke holidays to some of the dreamiest destinations on earth, and for a premium price they expect premium treatment. So, letsgo2’s strategic focus is on excellent service and growing profit margins per trip, not increasing volumes.
Its agents are only a phone call away, ready to answer questions and offer advice. And they really know their stuff. Beach, city, or tropical island, they’ve got the inside track — which is partly because letsgo2 sends them to personally visit the exotic places they sell. Yes, we asked if they were hiring.
So, back to the technology switch. What prompted it? Chris said “We began to feel unhappy with the support we were getting from our GDS provider. What we really wanted was a technology partner who would proactively show us how to improve operations and simplify day-to-day tasks. We wanted a more consultative approach, with better communication.”
And what were they getting, we asked? Chris replied “It was very difficult working with our previous GDS provider. When things went wrong it was hard to get help and there was a lot of faffing around. Things just weren’t straightforward.”
What was switching GDS like?
But wait, wasn’t changing platforms even more of a pain? And wasn’t it a big upheaval, especially during a pandemic? Chris said, quite simply, “no.”
“Travelport offered us super support and consistent communication, which made the switch easy. There was no passenger name record (PNR) hassle, because they were just mapped over onto Travelport+. Travelport even set up a group email address for us that we could contact for support, and someone would respond within ten minutes.”
“Travelport offered us super support and consistent communication, which made the switch easy.”
All this, he says, eliminated any worry in the team about taking on a new platform. Some of the Travelport team even met with his staff to guide and reassure them during the changeover. Chris said that this human, personal support has been invaluable, and made them “feel special”.
This came as a bit of a shock for an agency of this size. Chris said that previously, he didn’t feel his business was particularly valued compared to how he imagined bigger agencies were treated. What’s more, he told us that when he broached the subject of changing technology with his previous GDS provider, he heard nothing back.
What impact has Travelport+ had on its business?
“There’s been a world of difference,” said Chris.
Why? Firstly, the added support has gone a long way for letsgo2. This is a company that’s all about quality service and excellent communication. The same goes for Travelport. Chris said “Not only is the platform faster and simpler to use, but the customer support is phenomenal. It’s the peace of mind knowing that we matter, and that any issues will be resolved quickly and easily.”
Secondly, Travelport+ helps letsgo2’s maximize profit margins by delivering on choice. To create and sell unforgettable, high-end holidays, the agency needs access to the very best leisure travel content, including low-cost carrier offers (LCCs) and the best fares possible.
But limitations in their previous GDS meant the agency had to pay to get this through a third-party platform. Now, the business saves time and money by having everything all in one place on Travelport+. letsgo2 now saves money by being able to identify low-cost carrier fares after PNR creation. And to top all it off, it also gets more insights through best-buy daily reports.
“Travelport+ lets us access the best travel content from any source.”
And the best is yet to come
Chris told us that since the pandemic, the agency is dealing with different customer challenges. There are fewer requests to change/cancel bookings now, and more enquiries to deal with.
But due to higher value bookings — driven by inflation, costs, and demand — less than 10% of its business is done online and agents get a lot more phone calls. People are still willing to pay more for luxury experiences (particularly hotels), but they want to speak to someone in person about it.
This makes agent efficiency even more important. Chris’s team can only deliver the highest level of customer service if their technology is A) simple and B) makes their job easier.
“Travelport+ makes our agents more productive, especially through faster search speeds, and not having to do constant API updates. We’re also now in a good position to further explore the hotel side of things.”
And if anything goes wrong, can letsgo2 get the help they need nowadays? Chris says “I don’t really know the answer to that one. It’s always sorted out so quickly that I don’t need to get involved.”
And that, as Chris said, really is “a world of difference”.