Hugo Kimber, Executive Chairman of Malvern Group  featured in this year’s Travolution European Summit Report to discuss how research has informed the launch of new B2B brand Malvern Travel Technology and the delivery of a ground breaking new travel platform….

The research indicated an increasing customer frustration with the complexity of planning and self-booking a short trip with multiple components. Malvern could see from our own brands, (established consumer brands LateRooms.com and Super Break), the steadily increasing cost of customer acquisition since 2015 and lower levels of loyalty in commodity only purchase, compared to traditional short breaks delivered as a pre-set package. Both were substantially lower than they would be for a specialist tour operator.

The research confirmed the company’s assumption that demand for ‘tech-flexi itineraries’, where travellers can book and adapt journey plans in one place online or via an app, would improve commercial performance by giving the customer what they were asking for, not what the industry is generally prepared to give them.

Instead of exploring countless different sites for inspiration, planning and experiences, a growing number of travellers want to be able to plan using technology that is available to them elsewhere in their daily experience. Malvern were able to harness the latest technology into a single platform that supports customers’ ability to integrate all these requirements in one place.

The demand for such technology has been increasing among businesses keen to capture a wider market and Malvern have developed the platform for use as a software product for partners, not as an exclusive in-house product. The industry demand has been further increased in Europe by the new package travel regulations which require commodity providers like airlines and hotels to take more responsibility for linked travel arrangements. This requires supporting management of transactions through technology and militates in favour of more integrated platform provision of services to customers.

The group has launched Malvern Travel Technology (MTT) in direct response to this clear market demand set and have positioned MTT as a specialist B2B travel technology provider. Powered by Wizian, MTT’s own ground-breaking technology platform, it provides a unique and highly innovative web-based solution for corporate partners and their customers.

Executive Chairman, Hugo Kimber, says: “We identified the direction we saw the market travelling in in late 2015 and validated this through extensive research in 2016. Delivering a solution to the planning, inspiration and flexible booking requirements of customers pre-trip and in trip had the capacity to increase conversion and loyalty thus reducing acquisition costs.

“The launch of the platform is designed entirely to meet the combined needs of travellers and their providers, a new departure in travel technology that traditionally supports the traveller or the needs of the supplier, but not generally both in tandem.

“The use of the UK as a launch market for the platform reflects the strength of our brands in this market and our ability to support existing partners with improved functionality and a wide range of supply options.  The scale of our customer base in the UK through LateRooms and Super Break allowed insights into consumer behaviour that research alone may not have helped to validate. It was also important to begin with a genuine national destination roll out, not a capital city and a few other major cities as national capability is key to being able to replicate the model internationally.

He adds: “Wizian, which does this seamlessly, is driven by a combination of IT expertise that was present at LateRooms and the combined marketing, commercial and product expertise of two of the UK’s leading travel brands. Under Malvern Travel Technology, we can now use our dedicated resources to provide solutions to a whole range of companies and their customers. We have already partnered with a large travel provider and are very excited that such a trusted and forward-thinking brand has recognised the potential of our solution in making the world of travel even more exciting and easy to manage.”

Kimber stresses that the technology behind Wizian will make for more freedom and flexibility for travellers too. He says: “The way both business and leisure travel has functioned has been very mechanical. If you want to go somewhere on business or for fun you will book a hotel and some transport, and then book a restaurant, show or meeting room when you get there. Being able to bypass this busking approach to great experiences when you travel by making informed choices and balancing spontaneity with local demand patterns is a key requirement.

“Our solution is to bring ease when pulling in things – activities, experiences, additional bookings – into your itinerary seamlessly, as you are on the move. That’s what Wizian delivers. Travel is not static and nor should the planning and booking experience be either.”

Europe is a very well developed online travel market and Wizian’s arrival on to the European and global travel technology market is an exciting step in further expanding this development. The UK and Scandinavia are especially receptive to mobile platforms but the continued online demand in general is supportive of the Wizian approach. [Travel industry research firm] Phocuswright forecasts 58% of European travel will be booked online by 2020, with 50% in the US and 43% in Asia Pacific.

Kimber observes: “We are already very strong on mobile and this new technology is primarily aimed at mobile. Malvern Travel Technology (MTT) will be the most comprehensive trip product on the market. In response to market trends and industry demands, it will provide end to end online delivery of information and booking capability creating value through the entire transactional chain from supplier, to intermediary and customer. Its sounds like a nirvanic but it follows the simple premise of giving customers what they ask for and expanding their choice by creating local marketplaces for the smallest supplier that can be delivered by national and international travel providers.

“With Malvern Travel Technology and the Wizian digital solution behind it, we see travel booking trends changing for the better as more and more travellers embrace unified and integrated journey experiences, all in one place. Saying goodbye to the use of multiple screens and booking/review sites for a two night stay is a huge opportunity for Malvern and one that has been talked about, but not delivered, by the industry until now.”