TravelTech Show: Outsourcing demand fuels Open Destinations' post-COVID bounce back

TravelTech Show: Outsourcing demand fuels Open Destinations' post-COVID bounce back

The developer says the impact of the pandemic on in-house teams and the global IT skills shortage is seeing firms turn to travel software specialists

The technology and digital staffing crisis in travel is prompting more firms to turn to outsourcing, according to software specialist Open Destinations.

The firm has seen demand for its business support services grow by up to 80% in the last year from a low base as travel firms get back up to speed following the COVID pandemic.

Speaking to Travolution at last week’s TravelTech Show in London, Kevin O’Sullivan, chief executive of Open Destinations, said the firm started to see a pick up in the fourth quarter of 2001.

“A lot of travel companies were struggling to get staff and so use our resources to fill holes they have. That part of the business has grown 70% to 80% in the last year off a low base.

“A lot of people have cancelled their IT contracts during COVID so for us that part of the business was the first to come back after the pandemic and has been quite successful.”

Open Destinations has 280 people based in Goa providing a wide-range of support services from product loading, data management, back office accounting and reconciliation.

O’Sullivan said over the last six to nine months there has been a significant growth in clients looking for chat fulfilment services due to the rise in use of chatbots and platforms like WhatsApp.

“Once people try to outsourcing to a partner they will usually continue as long as the partnership and the costs work because they can then focus on their core business,” he said.

“A lot of travel companies lost their tech staff and have to face reality that they can’t keep dabbling in developing their own systems and have to rely on companies like us to supply it to them.”

Open Destinations estimates it provides outsourcing to 30% of the UK’s top tour operators. It has long-standing arrangement with the likes of Travel Counsellors, Destinology and Jet2.

O’Sullivan said demand for software is bouncing back and Open Destinations expects to have taken on as many new customers by June as they did pre-pandemic in 2019.

He said revenues this year “will not be far off” 2019. “The key thing is that inquiries are coming in again.

“There are a lot of companies that have reduced in size and they are rebuilding themselves but decided during COVID to slim down and invest in new tech to make themselves more efficient.

“When it became clear that COVID was going to end that’s when companies started to invest in technology again.

“Companies are looking for more off the shelf and want software they can deploy rapidly and get immediate benefit.

“Some companies still have the mindset where they are trying to build the perfect system themselves, but a lot more are focussed on driving more efficiency into their business.

“They want the capability of reaching out to customers in different portals and customer information gathering.”

Open Destinations has rebuilt its consumer profiling tech stack to offer an updated user interface as part of its CRM which integrates with enterprise solutions like Salesforce and Oracle Sales Cloud.

And it has also rebuilt its B2B and B2C ecommerce tools for packages, hotels and transfers to enable small to medium sized firms to offer online booking capability much quicker.

A travel vertical Open Destinations is seeing increased demand in is rail having picked up to new customers including Accor’s luxury train division and French theme park operator Puy du Fou.