Celebrating its 15th year in business, Open Destinations is provider of travel technology solutions for tour operators and wholesalers worldwide. The flagship travel booking system, Travel Studio, provides a suite of real-time reservations management tools designed specifically for tour operators and wholesalers.
The company has grown significantly over the past 15 years, from a London-based start-up to a multi-national organisation with over 400 employees, now spread between the company headquarters in London, England and the development, support and outsourcing centre in Goa, India.
Kevin O’Sullivan is the founder and CEO of the company and shares his insight on the key success factors over the past 15 years, as well as his predictions for the future.
What trends has Open Destinations seen in the travel technology industry in the past 15 years?
Overall, the level of sophistication of reservations systems has grown exponentially. With this, our clients’ expectations of a reservations system have become much more sophisticated. Both our customers and our customers’ customers expect real time views on product, pricing and availability.
Our clients – tour operators and wholesalers – now deal within a multi-channel environment in a much more sophisticated way. For example, in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, our clients were talking about aggregators (i.e. CRS’s and GDS’s). Now, our customers want direct integration with a range of suppliers – from direct connections with hotel and airlines to channel managers that are opening up real-time updates from the hotels. This has all created a much more complex technology environment.
What has contributed to Open Destinations’ success over the past 15 years?
One of the key elements for our success early on was our approach in developing a product that was fit for different types of tour operators, rather than a bespoke system. When the company was initially set up in 1999, we spent almost two years working with our charter clients to develop an application that suited their business needs. We incorporated their business needs into our product, Travel Studio, and ensured that there was flexibility in the setup of the system for new customers.
Part of our success has been the ability to adapt to those changing needs and trends that we outlined before. As the industry needs have changed, we have ensured that we have the technology to keep us relevant and at the leading edge.
One of the biggest milestones in our company history was the opening of our offshore development centre in Goa, India. This resource enabled us to quickly ramp up our development capability and to rapidly add new functionalities to the product.
The growth of the company has given us a platform to manage large scale projects – increasingly needed when implementing new platforms for medium to large operators in our sector. These clients have built successful businesses and have identified a need to update their technology to help them build for the future. They need a stable company who has proven technology and a clear vision for the future to partner with. We have both the product and the people to help them move to the next level and position them to take advantage of the changes happening in the travel industry.
Our capability and experience has also grown with the company. As the company has matured, we have managed to attract highly qualified staff in both London and Goa. It is true when they say ‘successful businesses attract successful people.’ One of the key business challenges in the past 15 years has been balancing the need for more staff to work on projects with the rapid development of the company.
How does Kevin see the industry changing in the next 15 years?
- The move to integrate with both suppliers and customers will continue at a rapid pace. The rise of channel managers and web services in general has led more companies to identify strategic advantage from integrating with their suppliers to get real-time pricing and availability.
- The drive towards integration is part of the continued push to automate as much as possible in the booking process and to remove as much cost as possible.
- The travel industry will continue to fragment, as more consumers continue to talk to directly to all suppliers in the booking process.
Find Open Destinations at WTM in November. Stand: TT428