In-house tech team trumps agency approach for attractions specialist

In-house tech team trumps agency approach for attractions specialist

Tickets specialist ATD Travel Services hopes bringing its web development team in-house will ensure it future-proofs its business against newcomers looking to exploit technology.


The firm marked its 10th birthday last week and has ambitious growth plans, including ramping up international expansion with Latin America on the radar.


It also believes there remains significant scope to supply online travel agents with product and is developing API feeds.


Attraction Tickets Direct was established 10 years ago, said chief executive and founder Oliver Brendon, to plug a gap in the market.


It now turns over £50 million, claiming a healthy profit margin of approaching 5%, but hopes to double that within the next few years through expansion both in the UK and overseas.


Brazil is attracting particular attention having just overtaken the UK as the largest source market to Orlando with 1.4 million visitors.


Brendon told Travolution that the internet had accelerated the pace of change in the last decade and that he was conscious that ATD Travel Services needs to keep pace.


“We are aware that we could easily miss the boat because we are not as advanced as we would like to be but we are very close to fixing some of the technology problems.


“There’s always likely to be some bright spark come along and experiment with leading in on the experiences – doing what we do but with better technology.


“Everything is price-led and no one has really taken the approach of what you can do leading on the price of the excursion rather than the hotel, which is a really commoditised product.


“I do not think anyone has got anywhere near cracking that one yet.”


Brendon hopes that by bringing ATD’s technology in-house he can speed up internal development as well as get greater share of developer time with its trade partners.


“We find it difficult to get on their development schedule – there’s always something else more important.


“We just went live with a new API with our biggest trade account which we think will quadruple our business with them overnight. We think there are quite a lot of websites out there like that.


“I have not really got a tech background but one thing that’s really clear is the internet has accelerated the pace of change.


“We have only just brought the web team in-house. Until now we have focused on the things we could control and the things we knew about.


“In the last 10 years that’s been things like service and brochures and getting tickets out quickly, stuff not dependent on technical ability but still incredibly important.


“We have grown on that basis, as well as being good on SEO.”


On the decision to bring the technology team in-house having previously used agencies, Brendon said: “It was like dealing with builders, they over-promise and under-deliver and things drag on.


“We have dealt with quite a few external agencies and I just had enough of the constant grind and lack of transparency and not having people in the office who were accountable.


“It’s been quite a difficult move, but we are seeing dividends even now.”


Having spent much of last year putting a tech team together it was finally up to full strength by last September.


Although established as a direct sell brand, Brendon said the firm has taken some unexpected direction, in particular the decision six years ago to create a trade brand DoSomethingDifferent.com.


However business to business is currently the fastest growing part of the business, revenues having grown to account for 25% of overall revenue.


Brendon sees huge potential for collaboration with other online retailers at ATD looks to continue to diversify its routes to market.


“You cannot just rely on Google as your point of distribution and hope that’s going to last forever.


“This is a hugely untapped area and where we have good partnerships in place we are seeing good growth.”

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