Specialist destination operator Wendy Wu took the decision to build its own bookable website in-house because it wanted to control its own destiny and not be “just another operator”.
Founder Wendy Wu told guests at the unveiling of the trade website this week that a disastrous partnership with a third party technology firm in the past convinced her she needed to go in-house.
“We must go online, and we must transform,” said Wu, “we must have automation but more importantly we must work with our travel agents.
“We will grow together and transform together. You have to have you own technology. It’s the only way to go. Because we own our own tech we have the freedom to do a lot of things.
“Now we can say that the sky’s the limit. We are going to do great things with our agents.”
Wu said Joe Karbo, group chief executive of Wendy Wu, was brought in to take the company into the next digital phase of its evolution having become established as a successful offline operator.
Karbo said the firm recruited its own development team based in the UK, China and Australia and built the new booking system and website from scratch in just 10 months.
“We still print brochures, and still have a very talented and dedicated call centre and reservations team but this is part of our digital evolution,” he said.
“We want to make agents’ life a little bit easier, want to make sure when you search and book it’s going to be seamless and easy.
“We just do not want to be another tour operator that’s building a website. We are going to take it to another level, so watch this space.”
The website allows agents to search Wendy Wu’s selection of tours in China, southeast Asia and other destinations globally, select alternative flights and arrange visas.
A booking can take as little as one-and-a-half minutes and there is a chat functionality for if the agent needs to talk to a call centre operative.
The system currently cannot do tailor-made trips, but Wendy Wu believes these may always require human intervention.
Karbo said it will look to integrate its booking technology with trade partners’ own systems by developing API links.
“Travel agents are building their own ecommerce and technology teams and that means we have to be at the forefront because you need to partner with them,” he said.
“Agency consortia could have certain requirements from their suppliers. If we are ready and able to get something done quickly with our own development teams that’s going to be a win win.”
Karbo said the new technology has been developed to be mobile friendly and will allow it to moves with the times as agent needs and demographics change.
“Travel agents still like that human interaction but we believe instead of calling three, four, five times as they do their research they may only call once.”
Karbo believes the technology has been built cost-effectively, because its developers are based around the globe, and quickly.
“Doing something like this in just 10 months is impressive in comparison to other companies that have worked on building a booking platform for two to three years.”
The website launched in the UK first after a successful trial with 150 agents and will be rolled out to Australia next month before New Zealand, the US and Ireland.