Emerging from a year that has caused a maelstrom of confusion in the travel industry, Uniglobe.com 2001 annual results reveal that that this full-service travel web-site is proceding with caution, but looking ahead to a better, more profitable future.
(Above - Christopher Charlwood, President and Chief Operating Officer of Uniglobe.com)
Unique to Uniglobe.com
is their focus on the cruise sector, which in fact makes up 70% of their overall sales and 80% of their revenue. As with all online businesses, Uniglobe.com have incurred great losses in 2001, but they have not been disillusioned. Confident that their cruise sector focus, along with their product offerings, quality of service and loyal customer base will attract more customers, Uniglobe.com are fighting back.
As a prime objective, Uniglobe.com`s actions are currently focused towards achieving sustainable profitability. “Our strongest card is that Uniglobe.com has money in the bank?h stated Christopher Charlwood
, President and Chief Operating Officer of Uniglobe.com. At the close of 2001, Uniglobe.com could boast of $2 million of working capital. “Our goal is to use our working capital to get us to profitability so that we do not have to rely on outside financing to exist. Once we reach this target, we will use the positive cash flow to fund new market initiatives to grow the company”. Christopher added.
Uniglobe.com maintain that they responded quickly and effectively to the economic downturn of 2001, directing their efforts towards cost savings and effective resource management. Like so many companies engulfed in the crisis of September 11th
, Uniglobe.com were forced to make staff terminations, and salary cuts. Further to a 50% drop off in bookings, Uniglobe.com also decided to scrap low generating marketing initiatives as well as implementing new fees for consumer services. A procedure that has become more acceptable following the recent announcements
of zero commission cuts.
Following the release of the year end results, Uniglobe.com are confident that these difficult decisions were justified. Although web site bookings were on the decrease from 26% to $19.3 million (from $26.2 million in 2000), Uniglobe.com did reduce their loss by 43% to $3.46 million (from $6.08 million in 2000).
Into the year 2002 and Uniglobe.com have a plan of action. It is now vital for them to increase their number of customer bookings. Prepared for the challenge that lies ahead, Uniglobe.com has already developed an award winning web site to support its retail selling of travel products.
Chris revealed to ITN that in order to encourage consumers to shop online, “an online site must be easy to navigate, generate quick search results and have competitive pricing on its products and services”. He added, “Uniglobe.com`s approach is to have a heavy cruise content so that the customer is informed before they speak to an agent or book online”.
Uniglobe.com recognise the need to emphasise their booking technology to increase the ratio of customers booking online rather than by telephone. Using the Amadeus
GDS system, Uniglobe.com is developing a new air, car and hotel booking system.
Chris comments, “We already have an industry leading cruise booking engine called cruisecontrol. We will soon be launching our new booking engine that will be very competitive in the marketplace. With automated features built into it, this product will help reduce work hours, increase efficiencies and reduce errors”.
Following its launch, Uniglobe.com plan to explore opportunities to generate revenue by licensing the booking engine to third parties.
On the marketing front, Uniglobe.com plans to emphasise its e-mail marketing efforts, primarily focused around its cruiseclub initiative, hoping to attract additional customers to their site. Chris comments. “We are working on an elite cruise club membership that will involve e-mail marketing and advantaged pricing for members”.
In keeping up with the times, the EXODUS
server technology that Uniglobe.com uses allow the company to send out hundreds of thousands of emails with the latest cruise offerings and last minute deals. The customer is able to respond instantly.
Uniglobe.com plan to maintain and enhance marketing alliances with partners such as Travel.com,
to drive customers to the site. In addition, they will continue their Affiliate Program, enabling Web sites to add the Uniglobe.com travel agency link.
As a buzzword in the travel industry, CRM
is a matter that can not be ignored.
Chris stated “We have our own in-house system and may look at enhancing these systems to analyse data and to service the customer more easily”.
Uniglobe have just announced their first quarter
results for 2002. They have suffered a reduction in gross travel bookings and revenues, but remain optimistic, as is clear from Christopher Charlwood`s concluding statement in the the annual report `Letter to Shareholders`:
“The management team and Board of Directors made tough decisions this past year, but they were the right ones. To be able to produce a profit and eventually grow the business, Uniglobe.com needed to go through some difficult challenges. We believe strongly in the future of this company and its ability to growth.