George Dumitru, co-founder and chief executive of wbe.travel, here tells Breaking Travel News how small- and medium-sized hospitality providers can find the right provider to meet their travel technology needs
Whoever came up with the phrase, “you can choose your friends but not your family” clearly had no idea of how today’s small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the travel industry operate!
Friendships can be chosen and developed based on shared interests, on opposites attracting, on working in the same office. A family comprises many individuals who share common goals and face common challenges while retaining their own identity.
But the definition, role and purpose of the family has changed. It is now possible to choose your family as well as your friends. Travel technology can reflect shifts in the wider world. Our domain terminology talks about an “ecosystem” and families are an integral part of that. Let me explain.
It’s all in the genes
Families understand each other. For SMEs in travel, it is important that their tech suppliers understand the specifics of being an SME.
There are so many suppliers out there, making the right choice is increasingly difficult. If your supplier claims to be all things to everyone, consider these claims carefully. SMEs need a supplier which really understands SMEs, not an enterprise giant looking to launch a “lite” version to bolster its client win portfolio, or a small specialist looking to punch above its weight to impress the investment community.
Make sure that your supplier has enough SME chromosomes in its DNA for it to be considered part of the family.
There are many variations on the software-as-a-service business model in travel, and the tyranny of choice consumers complain about when faced with too many search results is also felt by travel companies looking for a supplier.
But the range of options for SMEs is a good thing! It exists because enterprise technology trends have created a market where they can access affordable technology, which is robust and reliable, and which can offer specific front, mid- and back-office functionality. The cloud, open source and APIs are supporting this expansion of possibilities.
We all know that within large family groups, there are certain branches who never show up, or who think themselves superior, or who like to be the centre of attention. Sellers, distributors and aggregators need to be aware that not all suppliers are created equal. To find the right balance for your business, there are many considerations at play – cost, culture and compatibility are just the beginning.
Welcome to the community
The family can be a great support network in life and the same can apply to travel tech. Many platforms are now developing along the lines of a community model, where the platform is developed based specifically on the needs of all participants.
This is another enterprise tech trend that is starting to become part of travel. Specifically, development costs can be shared among all clients of the platform – everyone in the family connected to the platform benefits when the platform is upgraded, or when new supply or aggregated inventory is added, or a payment gateway is integrated.
With the correct partner and the appropriate commercial model, the community model allows SMEs to subscribe to the future.
But in the same way that you wouldn’t want to share everything with all your family, the community model allows individual firms to gate off their data when they want. Financial considerations and other commercially sensitive fields can be kept in-house.
Families can help each other out, and even in the hypercompetitive world of travel, there are some situations where members of the same family are upselling and cross-selling to each other. Many platforms provide a secure interconnection and create an internal marketplace where SMEs can buy and sell each other’s inventory. This can help SMEs to increase the range of what they sell without incurring additional costs, in turn giving them a broader reach, access to fresh source markets and new customers.
The family dynamic changes and evolves over time, and if we think about travel-focussed SMEs as a family then we have to accept that some SMEs have the aspiration and ability to become bigger players.
But a platform which has been developed specifically for SMEs does not necessarily have to lose a client when it decides to move on. Similarly, ambitious and expanding SMEs do not have to lose the relationship which nurtured its growth phase. The scalable nature of many cloud-based platforms means that the technical relationship can be transitioned to operate when the volumes are higher and the rewards greater.
Platforms built for SMEs have helped businesses expand and can be a part of the next growth phase. Businesses should be aware of where they have come from and the truly great ones remember who helped them along the way.
George Dumitru is the co-founder and chief executive of wbe.travel – a travel software company based in Romania.
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