Welcome to episode 223 of The Digital Tourism Show. In this episode we have the pleasure of speaking with David Bulloch of Travelport.

Now, Travelport as a business you've probably never heard of, but they power most of the travel apps and booking systems that you use daily. For example, they developed the EasyJet app. So if you're interested to know more about what Travelport do and how they can help promote your products through their system, I urge you to watch this episode.

Chris Torres
Thank you very much for coming along.

David Bulloch
No problem. Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Chris Torres
That's alright. It was a while back we first met once it was'nt it

David Bulloch
Yes.

Chris Torres
I'm trying to remember through LinkedIn, wasn't it? It was Shapr. What was the app where you can have-

David Bulloch
Yes, LinkedIn developed an app called Shapr, it was a bit like Tinder for professionals and you swipe it.

Chris Torres
You're swiping, going-

David Bulloch
You'd like to let that swipe left and right.

Chris Torres
Just swipe left leg and he's a marketing is an [inaudible 00:01:07] . Yes. so that was quite interesting. I don't even know if that still exists. I'm going to have have to check it out. So you're here on behalf of Travelport. So tell us about more about who Travelport are and what on what you provide to the tourism industry.

David Bulloch
Okay. So can I get a little bit of a history lesson on from Travelport? So we are, historically we've been known as a GDS, so if anyone knows that terminology over there if you want to go even farther back a CRS.

So our job was very much collecting all their airline's, contents so fairs and availability and being able to mix that together and then putting that onto travel agents, desktops, those then evolved into APIs. So you see out there are on kind of website, Skyscanner, et cetera. So we're probably one of these companies that's kind of always in the background, incredibly big, but we're probably behind a lot of the, the brands that you know and you work with but don't necessarily come across us. I think one of the, you said one of the numbers I wrote down the numbers cause I can never remember it. So we've got like 400 odd airlines, including a lot of their low cost carriers, 650000 hotels. It's so interesting reading numbers out to people and I can't help it. There are 37000 car hire, but as you said, one of the biggest things in the, certainly from your point of view, and we'll talk about, we've got 68000 agencies and that's in 180 plus countries.

I don't know why our marketing department says 180 plus. We could just say 183 that's the number, but that's the desktops on front of 235000 actual agents themselves as well. So it's quite our kind of big spread across globally. The Travelport name that we do.

Chris Torres
So with the benefit of the audience would if they were here for accommodation or tour providers or would they connect or, direct with Travelport or would be through a third party with Travelport. How would that work?

David Bulloch
From, from a hotel point of view, if we took hotels as an instance, it used to always be historically where we'd have the big chains, so Mariott et cetera. Or if somebody was already working with a large kind of provider or kind of aggregator that we would then add into that content. However, I know through a couple of acquisitions we've made over the last few years, we can be a lot more agile to bring hotels Airbnbs or apartments on board.

Quite often we'll do that in conjunction with a local travel management company. So if they're making a lot of bookings in a particular property, they may come to us because it can streamline the whole process for them and obviously saves on phone calls and the back and forth from that point of view. So it's something that we're kind of streamlined. From a tour point of view and that kind of thing, it's something that we haven't quite got there properly yet. So there's been a lot of different ways of approaching it and it's one of the things I think we're quite open to as and how we do it. For instance, our agent desktop, which is Smartpoint, has the ability to have kind of apps or plugins on it. So in the past we've had different companies, for instance Ingresso was one of them.

Chris Torres
Oh yes.

David Bulloch
Who sold kind of, what do you call it, theater tickets. So it was kind of tying in the idea. So a lot of our travelers are, a lot of travelers are booked through our tour or tools. Certainly on the offline world, our corporate travelers. So we're doing a lot more of the, I was talking Sunday early, I love that skim over, I hate this phrase, bleasure . So you already have a business traveler going somewhere and yes, they'll get a nice hotel and the flights will be fine. However, this is the 15th time they've been to Denver. What do you offer them this time? People are far more looking for an experience, rather than just, the a to b. yes. So that's where something like Ingresso being able to sell theater tickets was again a good opportunity. But we could kind of, those are a number of different ones that we've gone down the road with as well.

Heathrow Express tickets, it's all just trying to make this, and it's a term again i've used is a kind of frictionless experience as much as possible. And one of the biggest parts that we've been working hard on. I'm not saying we've got an answer is at what point you sell as well.

Chris Torres
Well so sort of leads into my next question, because obviously the likes of booking.com et cetera bringing out more tourism activities if that's even a thing to be part of the buying journey. And are you guys developed from, remember really the EasyJet app is one of your, one of the apps that you actually developed yourselves. So are you looking at those apps you've created for these other companies to integrate something along those lines? Do you see that sort of the way the industry developing?

David Bulloch:
Totally. Absolutely. So from our point we're always working in a B2B model, so we're always selling to an agent, whether it's online or offline, sort of front end. In the case of EasyJet, slightly different, I guess with airlines, but no, we're working with agencies to sell that kind of App. And again, it's that those, these missed opportunities, the, the travel industry at this point, the margins on air are kind of decreasing and and, and hotels, et cetera. So there's looking at the opportunities for sale. So the App we see as a really good opportunity to, you know, is it two days out from travel, that some deal thing, Oh what am I going to do there? I've got a free night, is it four days out? Is it actually as they arrive and getting that rate point. So we've built quite a smart tool in the field. I'm sure marketing just love the fact I called up a smart tool in the background of all of our apps called the Engaged Platform.

And a lot of that is automating those points of contact and those points of sale effectively. Not always sale as well. But it's that kind of ongoing conversation. So used to be very much from an agency's point of view, it was the point of booking was the point that you're involved. However, now and were talking about earlier with the chat bots and Facebook is there's that point of research where agents and providers can be involved and then you're a point of booking, but then you've got that constant engagement all the way. It's not just an itinerary handed out so it can have potential to add value all the way around, including when they come back. How was your trip? Do you want to share pictures on here and you can continue that virtuous cycle.

Chris Torres
Excellent.

David Bulloch
One of the ones, sorry.

Chris Torres
No, no, no.

David Bulloch
One of the ones we;ve done again recently was, was with EasyJet was with regards to that kind of research and inspiration. We built a tool with them that integrated with Instagram. So if somebody had seen a picture of our location or something that looked lovely, they could then click on it and it would actually take them to EasyJet site to see or how much it would cost to fly there. So stuff like that. So again, it's, I think it was the progression that Wes was talking about earlier of, from letters to emails by viewers. There's always, it's where, where are your customers at? And if there are in Facebook if they're in Instagram, that's the place to have that conversation. It makes it as possible.

Chris Torres
I'm going to work actually off topic here because of what's happened recently, but do you think that type of technology in the way the industry is going, do think that's probably why something like Thomas Cooks fell by the wayside? Or did they just not keep up to date?

David Bulloch:
I think Thomas Cook was a lot of different things, but I think that as a point where from a digital transformation point of view, I think Thomas like large company had bursts of kind of development and, and, but I just thought, yes, I think it's, there's those new names out there that we haven't heard of yet. The next year will be our biggest two tour operators and our biggest travel agencies. It's such an evolving space, travel and it's one of the things that keeps it fascinating and exciting. Hard to keep up with it.

Chris Torres
So you also, do destination marketing is always part of Travelport, I believe you did it for the likes of, was it Visit Britain, was that right?

David Bulloch
So we've done Visit Britain and one of the ones I actually had taken notes on was with regards to Chinese travel. So this was actually for Western Europe as a whole. So as we say, or as I said, we've got 68000 agencies and 235 kind of desktops sitting in front of people. And it's using that to kind of help kind of, you know, a sale, maybe destinations or expand on destinations that maybe people weren't thinking of. And I think one of the interesting ones and why I picked that area as an example was it wasn't just somebody saying, Oh, we want people to come to London for this show London for or whatever for that, this was, I kind of work between, so the UNESCO were involved, National Geographic and EU Rail.

So it was a kind of coming together of different partners. So all I was trying to do was try to affect a slight market change. So looking obviously China seems like a vast opportunity. It's much smaller than you think. And then also people who know where they're going and, but it's trying to give them the opportunities as well while they're over that made that kind of larger journey. So I know that that one, I think it was, I didn't write this number down. I think was something like we saw a 23% increase in hotel bookings from that particular one, but it's destination marketing. It's one of these, as a historical GDS, we've taken our team over the last period to change that travel commerce platform, which I'm glad we're not shortening to 3 letters cause TCP just seems strange. But it's because we realized that kind of real estate that we've got and what we've got in front of people.

And so it's opening up those different opportunities for people to use that on top of what we already sell. So that's, I think it's one of these places that we're working on and we're growing. So again, it's one of the opportunities that are there to look for new ideas.

Chris Torres
Excellent. So, obviously for what I've been looking at your website and stuff like that, it's not just the distribution side of things that you guys deal with. You actually do all the merchant side of it as well stuff as you go from begining to end of the whole journey?

David Bulloch
Absolutely. I think it's like, as I said, every day in travel at the moment. It's fairly much looking at where are your opportunities. So it used to be a lot of our, when I look back, so I've been 15 years with the various iterations of Travelport and I look back and I remember trying to talk to travel management companies into booking hotels because quite often it was like, Oh they wanted the fleet.

But then there was a hotel setting there, some there were staying somewhere while they would wait three nights. And now that kind of what other opportunities, and again, we had billions of dollars worth of transactions going through our systems. We understand travel really well. At least we like to think so. So it was an opportunity for us to see how that would work for us. So eNett, which is our kind of a joint venture payments tool has been a huge success. One of the fastest growing parts of the business. I think one of the, the opportunities again that we saw at the time when we started eNett was I think banks et cetera, struggled with travel. And I'm not saying look recent news may affect that again, but we could use our scale as I can have to help people get the best value and, and make money from where they weren't making money before.

Chris Torres
So did you actually see Travelport do more than the tourism activities sector? Cause obviously if you pick people like booking.com TripAdvisor, all that side of things buying up these different booking platforms to integrate more of that sort of stuff into it. Do you think Travelport's going to end going down that route as it is a vastly growing part of the industry.

David Bulloch
I think the one thing that hasn't changed in all the years that I've worked for Travelport is the content is King. And whether that comes to we need to have low cost carriers or we need to have the hotels and then only to have the Airbnb stay content getting on board. It's going to be the next, the next stage in it. And I think once a lot of the technologies move forward, and I think that's one of the things that's revolutionized travel from my point of view in the space we work in, is the kind of move to APIs.

It's gone from the legacy. You need a room full of programmers to board X, Y, and Z you've now got somebody in a bedroom building the next app or the next technology that can then just link, whether it's onto Facebook or the next social media APP down the road. So yes, I can absolutely see that being something that we would need to kind of include and as something that we have talked to and in different markets. So for instance, in Germany there's a very strong history of tour operator marketplace. So we own a tour operator and marketplace tool over there and over in the US we've got a crews and stay product as well. So it's something that's always been quite regional. Sometimes it's based on that need, but I think longterm again as I see the API economy just opens up all of these opportunities to make it so much easier.

Chris Torres
Or is Wes says you'll probably find some 15 year old boy creating something and getting 100 million for example.

David Bulloch
Exactly.

Chris Torres
I want to open it up to the audience. So does anyone have any questions for David? Yes, the one from Jessica. All right.

Jessica
Obviously we are quite a small kind of community so from your perspective what can small providers do with say for example, either a platform like yours or similar technology to really kind of push themselves to the next level, especially say keeping it regional to Scotland.

David Bulloch
Yes, I think probably one of the, there's kind of two sides. I mean when we were talking, I was talking to Chris earlier, one of the things historically we are really good at sort of still our biggest bit is providing content. So I'd say probably from your point of view is you may have one piece of the puzzle already that you do really, really well, but where is the rest of that business? So how are the flights getting in? Now that may not be, you can do it on your own, but there may be already agents within Scotland and there's quite a thriving kind of independent agencies kind of community within Scotland. So working with them and getting that kind of content. So you're starting to tie up and that kind of stuff. Longterm probably we are maybe a little bit too big to kind of start distributing your stuff.

However that said if Visit Scotland or et cetera, start to do something. Then certainly conversations that we can have, I think at this point for where we are at in that development journey we're probably open to anything. So if somebody came to us with a good story or something that we can help with, and I think as Wes said as well, it comes down to what the objectives are, as long as you have a clear objective of what you're going for, then I think that's something that we can definitely work with. But yes, realistically I think it's a kind of a bigger project probably just from the size we are.

Chris Torres
Any other questions? Yes.

Rilan
What type of percentage of accommodation and tour and activities and have you got integrated or connected with?

David Bulloch
That's a really good question I'm really glad to answer. From a tools and activities that would be low to almost zero from a hotel's point of view. We probably certainly in the major chains have been easy to, to kind of mop up. I wish I could actually give you a quick answer on that, but I'd know they'd have one a while ago cause I, I wanted to prove it to myself. How many hotels that we as Travelport, make happen in Scotland. It's a very high number, if that helps. But not all of them... apologies.

Chris Torres
Any further questions?

Jessica
I was wondering, so you guys have obviously amassed a mass amount of data over the years. You are a private company so therefore there's no incentive necessarily to share that data with anyone, but do you work with public sector or other providers to make some of your findings or like parts of your findings available to general, general providers?

David Bulloch
We do actually share our data now that again, that's one of the things, thanks that we have evolved. We've realized that we have a lot of data showing where people are traveling, where people are booking as well. So as something that we've built our, it's called, I'm trying to remember Travelport seeing TCI can remember what it stands from though. Competitive insights, competitive insights. But the idea of being with that product is that you can see what travel patterns are happening out there and you know, for instance we would sell that and it's something that there's a local trade body in Scotland, the SPAA Scottish Passenger Agents Association, which we work with quite closely and we're in discussion with them to be able to kind of share that kind of information with them so they can look at traveler patterns. Because sometimes it can help preempt what way things are going et cetera.

I know there's obvious times a year when you know travel's going to come in, but you can actually start to see where it's headed kind of further out. So yes, absolutely.

Chris Torres
I imagine that would help massively for sustainable tourism and things like as we'll find out where the pockets are busy that sort of stuff.

David Bulloch
Yes, I mean from our point of view, and I'll be honest because we're also seeing it from the point of view of where there's everybody going. Does that particular airline have the rate cost or the right price? Why are they not selling when they can see everybody else's selling and that direction? But no, absolutely. I mean from a sustainability point of view, that's a so huge question and it's something that we've worked on various products throughout the year, especially from airlines. We've had different carbon calculators and probably like you guys have seen as well, it comes and goes and fashion and as soon as to those in the new it happens and suddenly nobody is interested, it was all about what was cheapest and they were starting to see that increase again, it starts in kind of like the public body sector first and then you start seeing the private sector they want to be able to report on it at the very least. And so as something that we do kind of see that kind of stuff.

Chris Torres
That's interesting. We got a question. Yes.

Speaker 6
And this for careers one [inaudible 00:20:00] to the GDS. So one of the things, when you were talking now I was just thinking over the years there's been a lot written about the challenge that GDSs will have, you know, that was just wondering that over a period of time if you had to adapt your cost modules quite a lot to be competitive with your ideas.

David Bulloch
Yes. So I mean just a lot about the economics behind what we do. So every time somebody books a flight on our system, so an agent books the airline will pay us some money and we tend to pay a part of that to the agent as well as an incentive. Unfortunately, something that happened decades ago, which is now as the competitive model across us and our competitors, but we're now in a place where things are starting to change those historic model of how airline content was distributed. So it goes through a complex, it goes through a hosting system to a kind of system that sorts out the information to enter the GDSs ourselves and each part of that has a cost. And again, going back to the API economy, airlines want to own a lot more of that themselves.

Part of that's a cost reduction. Part of it's also allows them to be speedier to market, which a lot of the low cost carriers have, they can quickly change a fare when they see it starting to get busier. Whereas the old system doesn't really allow for that speed, can take a few days for it to work its way through and by that point back in a competitive edge could be lost. So a lot of them are starting to look at this kind of more direct model. So because they've done a lot more of the work and we are doing a lot less, we charge a lot less, but it costs us a lot less as well. So it's changing the model from our point of view, personal point of view because a part of my background is technology is always been a strange model to say we've got the best system with all the content that you need and here's money every time you use it.

It is a strange way to sell. Whereas in the future I'll get to say, here's our tool, it's the best one out there and here's why. Which will be a far more clear cut model from my point of view. The hard thing is that the current system is kind of like the analogy somebody used was the pipes under Rome that carry all the sewage. They'd been there for 3000 years. They work, there's no problem with how they work and that's kind of the current system of distribution. But what they don't allow for is all the kind of rich content. Being able to see the pictures of the seats and being able to bundle things in different ways, which is what the airlines want to do. And we totally want to work with them in doing it. So it's a kind of slow process.

But from our point of view, commercially, yes, it's a change, but it's one we've seen coming for quite a while. So we've had it on the back burner to be ready for it.

Chris Torres
Good. Well thank you for your time.

David Bulloch
No thank you.

Chris Torres
I appreciate you coming along and then talking to talk about Travelport. I think it's certainly our, it's one of these ones that you've obviously developed so many apps and these apps we all use every day in terms of, you're sort of hiding under the radar. Nobody seems to know who you are and stuff, but it's like EasyJet. Was that one of the ones you have?

David Bulloch
EasyJet, Singapore, Etihad. We've built some for big agencies, BCD travel and stuff like that.

Chris Torres
So busy.

David Bulloch
Yes.

Chris Torres
Well, thank you again and please give a massive thank you to David.

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