At its 25th anniversary conference in Manchester, Travel Counsellors unveiled a new ‘Recommendation Engine’ in which it has invested £600,000. The first version of the engine, which is designed to help agents simplify their hotel search and rate hotels based on key variables such as quality, price and environmental sustainability, will be launched in the spring. The company will also revamp its MyTC app and roll out template packages for itineraries on its booking system, Phenix.
Nearly 2,000 Travel Counsellors, supplier partners and support teams from around the world attended the conference, with guest appearances from Gary Barlow, Paloma Faith, Dara O’Briain and Bear Grylls. The technology developments were unveiled by Rob Snelson, Chief Technology Officer.
The Recommendation Engine suggests holiday options based on a customer’s requirements. Travel Counsellors can click on tags such as ‘long-haul’, ‘beach’, ‘kids’ and ‘sun’ to narrow down what their customers are looking for, and the engine will return recommendations ‘instantly’.
The engine pulls on their customers’ demographic and compares them to customers with similar backgrounds across the data from all 1,900 Travel Counsellors to determine what options would suit the customer. Quotes can be saved for the future and edited to tailor-make them to the customer’s needs.
The engine, which has been developed over the past nine months, will work with hotels to start with and then gradually incorporate other components of the booking such as flights, car hire, transfers, excursions, ancillaries, visas and insurance.
“We have thousands and thousands of properties on Phenix, everything from 2-star to ultra-luxury,” said Rob Snelson. “We are bringing all of that together in the recommendation engine to assist the Travel Counsellor to be able to provide options for the customer that they were perhaps not even aware of.”
MyTC will have a new look and feel from this month with updates that have been built ‘from the ground up’. New features will include flight alerts, and notifications to Travel Counsellors when customers view quotes.
“This will give Travel Counsellors valuable insights into their customers,” added Rob. “Customers love the app in its current guise, but we want to make sure that MyTC doesn’t look old – it’s starting to show its age.”
He urged Travel Counsellors to send quotes via MyTC, pointing out that customers book 18.4% more quotes sent on the app compared to those sent by email. A total of 84,391 Travel Counsellors customers currently use the app, which has ratings of 4.5* on Android and iOs, and that 251,113 don’t. “For a Travel Counsellor who takes over £350,000 of sales, that is £2,500 extra net profit margin just for clicking ‘send to app’.”
Template itineraries created by the Travel Counsellors product team will be available to view within the Phenix booking system. Currently, Travel Counsellors build itineraries from the product within Phenix. The new itineraries can be tailored to fit customers’ exact needs or to offer upgrades and ancillaries.