Andy Washington, Trip.com Europe general manager, said firms should not put profits before customers
Phocuswright Europe: Industry warned not to be too greedy as travel bounces back
The travel industry was warned to “not be too greedy” as booking surge following the COVID pandemic.
Speaking at Phocuswright Europe this week, Andy Washington, Trip.com general manager for Europe, said there is a great opportunity for travel as demand bounces back.
But addressing scenes of chaos at some airports as the sector struggles to ramp up operations, the former Expedia, lastminute.com and Cosmos senior executive said: “let’s not be too greedy”.
“There’s such a great opportunity ahead. Travel always bounces back, no doubt about that. There’s always something that effects the market, but you can always guarantee demand comes back.
“That’s what is frustrating. We all knew demand was going to come back. I get a sense from the last few days that there’s too much greed in businesses at the moment.
“It’s all about profitability. Let’s not be too greedy. People have lost money over the last few years, yes, but let’s not forget the customer.”
Washington cited hotel rooms rates in Hamburg for as much as £700 per night as an example of sky-high pricing.
Washington said with properties full prices are inevitably rising but he said he worries about the cost of living crisis which is going to be a challenge next year.
“For trip.com it’s all about the experience. You do not want to go to an airport and queue for hours, that’s just common sense. Let’s get the industry right as we progress over the next few years.”
Washington said targeting expansion in Europe for trip.com was an opportunity for the Chinese OTA giant to invest in its technology and its app.
“We have clearly stated it’s not a five minute job, but we want to be number one in Europe and that could take a number of years.
“We have started investing in our teams and people and our technology. Of course we have a huge inbound China market and that will come back. For me that’s the cherry on the top.
“The travel industry has plenty of space for new entrants. It’s still very fragmented. We believe there is room for us to play. We are in it for the long-haul.”
Washington said trip.com operates with a start-up mentality in Europe “building from scratch” but with the backing of 10,000 IT engineers in Shanghai.
He said the firm takes a data-driven approach to know what the needs and wants of the customer are and to prioritise developing for those rather than for what the company believes is needed.
“The key thing that sold it [joining trip.com] for me was they took what they did in China and put that round the world and that did not necessarily work at first.
“The questions we got from our teams were what do we need to do. It’s a start-up mentality but we have the funding and the drive.
“We need to be better at everything, and the industry does not stand still, it keeps changing. We are a mass market OTA but what we are not is put it on the shelves and see what happens.
“It’s about listening to the customer and adapting to their wants and needs and you can grow. If you just want to be a ‘me too’ that’s not going to work in this industry.
“Data is the voice of the consumer You have to get the supply right for where your demand is. Solve pain points for the consumer and support them through technology.”
Trip.com is focussing on accommodation ahead of other verticals like holiday rentals and tours and activities but does want to be a full service OTA.
Washington said the strategy is to know where the consumers are searching and to make it as easy and efficient as possible for them to find what they want and to drive loyalty by doing that.
“Am I going to be spending millions of dollars on marketing? No, because we want to grow organically and with the right steps.
“I’m not going to splash lots of money on TV. I want to make sure we have the right product first.”