STARTUP STAGE: Trip Affiliates Network Provides Tech Solutions for Travel Agents, Wholesalers & Hotels

04th November 2020

Q : What is your 30-second pitch to investors?

Trip Affiliates Network is filling a huge gap in the “offline” travel B2B segment in Asia comprising agents, wholesalers & corporates which consistently contribute at least 50% of hotel bookings. For the last 10 years, most travel investments have been chasing the more commonly understood B2C startups that target travel consumers looking for low prices. Investors have generally shied away from the B2B segment, which requires deep industry know-how across various product categories & a longer-tailed investment

Our growing network of established B2B agents & wholesalers in the region are using our services on a daily basis for their supplier connectivity & operational needs - a business model that creates customer stickiness & is highly scalable

With turnkey competencies we provide a diverse range of connectivity solutions. Our vision is to develop the travel B2B sector’s first open ecosystem where we empower traditionally offline travel operators & smaller OTAs to inter-operate using our various product connectivity, booking engines &/or turnkey solutions for booking management, land operations, engagement of drivers/guides & digital payment options

With the open ecosystem anchored by local inbound & outbound operators, Trip Affiliates Network can also assist clients to scale up their business by organizing joint marketing campaigns & effectively work together

Q: Describe both the business & technology aspects of your startup

We understand the importance of traditional B2B channels as strategic book-building & opaque distribution channels for suppliers in the travel industry, & as differentiated providers of quality & professional travel care to travel consumers. In this digital era, B2B channels are being increasingly disintermediated by OTAs due to “offline” contracting & payment mechanisms & dependence on extensive manual processes

We seek to empower partners to transform their distribution & partnerships, while enhance their customer service delivery through process automation

In addition, we provide clients with easy & affordable access to requisite direct hotel connectivity & various digital payment solutions like virtual credit cards (VCC) & virtual bank accounts. TA Network also provides comprehensive FIT (free independent traveler) & group booking & turnkey operations automation solutions for both outbound & inbound travel operators. This includes relevant third-party travel system solutions that are integrated with TA Network

IOur robust cloud-based, multi-product travel IT infrastructure facilitates scalable growth in both inbound/outbound functionalities with the following end-to-end features:

IOur robust cloud-based, multi-product travel IT infrastructure facilitates scalable growth in both inbound/outbound functionalities with the following end-to-end features:

  • Rich & competitive content with direct supplier connectivity
  • Modern & flexible product management tools
  • Open ecosystem facilitating cross-selling, upselling & multi-channel operations automation support
  • Cost-effective cross-border payment services

Q : Give us your SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of the company

  • Strengths: The strength of our team & partnerships with numerous experienced travel veterans & owners. Our experienced team of technical, travel, hospitality & finance experts have the advantage of working closely with our travel & hospitality partners in the region to design & develop a robust travel IT infrastructure & effective travel solutions. With our best-in-class, cloud-based multi-product systems (supporting flights, accommodation, attractions, activities & tours, transfers & packages), channel connectivity, land operations automation, digital payment services & enterprise solutions, we are able to bring together varied local & global travel partners in a single open ecosystem offering meaningful differentiated global travel inventory & services
  • Weakness: Engaging B2B partners requires some level of local expertise & engagement, which takes significant effort & time compared to B2C engagements
  • Opportunities: The travel sector in Asia is fast growing, fragmented & relatively under invested in IT. Pre-COVID, 50 to 70% of hotel sales were generated from B2B channels. Post-COVID, B2B channels are seeing even greater disruption due to their lack of direct hotel connectivity (& consequent reliance on static contracts) plus an inability to provide online payment to address rising hotels’ aversion to extend credit to B2B channels. This could be the catalyst for change for the likes of travel agents & wholesalers who have generally been slow to embrace technology. We are well positioned to gain market share across APAC & regionally with increasing market recognition & client uptake & positive testimonials
  • Threats: We need to remain very in touch with tech trends as it is fast evolving. For example, COVID-19 will cause much changes & consolidation in the market, thus we need to stay ahead with the trends & to be able to predict industry practices

Q : What are the travel pain points you are trying to alleviate from both the customer & the industry perspective?

Suppliers like hotels want to be able to do more direct dynamic bookings with their traditional B2B channels as well as tap on these channels to effectively create differentiated pricing strategies for book-building purposes without affecting online pricing. However, this requires B2B channels to have direct online supplier connectivity & payment mechanisms, which they generally lack

B2B channels’ technology handicap & dependence on extensive manual operation processes are causing both suppliers & consumers to be increasingly reliant on OTAs. In this digital age, consumers demand a quick response to their travel requests & instant booking capabilities, which requires B2B channels to have broad online global inventory access

Our services are designed to address the challenges faced by hotels in their B2B distribution as well as empower B2B channels like travel agents & wholesalers to supplement their attractive product offering with global online suppliers’ content & automate their booking & operational processes. This allows their travel professionals to focus on providing quality travel care & improve the overall travel experience of customers & differentiate from the OTAs, particularly where consumers have more complex travel requirements in pursuit of experiential travel

Q : So you've got the product, now how will you get lots of customers?

Now that we have achieved the tech know how & while we are strong in understand our clients’ needs, to scale up rapidly will be our next goal. Being an enterprise tech company we understand it will be a long tail project & to stay relevant we have to listen more to the needs of our client. We have also started to create more market awareness of Trip Affiliates Network online. We realized that as a hybrid provider of channel connectivity, multi-product booking engines & travel operation automation services, we can do better in highlighting the comprehensive benefits of our multi-faceted services to potential clients. We have since initiated efforts like media initiatives & social media marketing & also commenced participation in relevant travel trade shows in order to help create better market awareness & understanding of our B2B service offerings

The COVID disruption is a catalyst for change for traditional B2B channels likes of travel agents & wholesalers, & we are well poised to help them on their digital journey. We are seeing a sharp rise in interest & enquiries regarding our services & we also plan to work with local partners in the region to accelerate the engagement of potential clients

Tell us what process you've gone through to establish a genuine need for your company & the size of the addressable market

We are fortunate to have a strong founding team & advisory board which provided valuable insights from the sector, enabling us to design & build a modern & flexible travel IT architecture, which attracted some leading local agents & wholesalers. Thereafter, we worked with these leading partners to identify existing gaps in platform services & solutions which further enabled us to develop effective turnkey enterprise solutions, including operations automation modules

Q : How & when will you make money?

Our business philosophy is to be a long-term, value-added IT partner for our clients. As such, our tech infrastructure & services are engaged by our clients using one of these three subscription models - SaaS, Paas or IaaS. This generates revenue in the form of a combination of set up fees, maintenance fees/transaction fees

Q : What are the backgrounds & previous achievements of the founding team?

The team has experiences from travel, hospitality, technology, finance, etc. We have personnel from senior management roles, extensive exposure to global/regional markets, architecture experts who build early internet-era flight ticketing booking engines & seasoned travel product managers

Q : How have you addressed diversity & inclusion within your business?

Diversity & inclusion is important to us. It is interesting to note that our team comes from nine nations of different cultures & practices. Working remotely is not a challenge if focused communication & dedication is present. Management’s favorite quip always reminds the team that diversity ALWAYS makes us that much stronger!

Q : What's been the most difficult part of founding the business so far?

Conceptualizing & building the modules from scratch. Execution will be the generally the hardest part of the process. As mentioned, our founding team has been with us thick & thin since inception, for which we are grateful & appreciative as the team makeup & capabilities are always first. It is the team that creates the winning factor

Q : Generally, travel startups face a fairly tough time making an impact - so why are you going to be one of lucky ones?

We have built an enterprise level infrastructural system, plus the market has recognized our core competencies with the uptake of clients. Unlike most travel startups that are largely focused on B2C, we have focused on the B2B segment, which requires significant industry expertise & understanding. There have been few startups focusing on this area & we are well positioned to ride up the travel recovery in Asia Pacific. Our focus will be scaling up operations in the Asia Pacific region where we are based as we understand the intricacies of the business nature here very well

Q : A year from now, what state do you think your startup will be in?

As mentioned our key focus will be scaling operations within Asia Pacific, especially with the nations that are first to recover from the effects of COVID-19. For the next 12 months we will see the gradual recovery of travel as borders reopen, & while business activity doesn’t not happen via leisure or business travel, we are working in tandem with current & waiting clients who are looking to digitize their operations

Q : What is your end-game? (Going public, acquisition, growing & staying private, etc.)

Trip Affiliates Network is the result of a labor of love. We are driven by our vision to empower traditional B2B channels like agents & wholesalers - whom we see as strategically important travel stake distribution channels for suppliers & differentiated customer touch points - providing travelers with differentiated quality travel care & experiential travel service

We are on the cusp of a major transformation in B2B distribution & partnerships, & it is probably early days to comment on any end game strategy. We would like to forge ahead with our vision to nurture an open B2B ecosystem which will create a very valuable market place proposition for all B2B travel & hospitality stakeholders

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