Andy Keeley, Commercial Director at intuitive and Keith Herman, CEO of Trending Travel have explored how influencer marketing and travel tech have come together to turn the power of social media into bookings, at a conference session held the European Travolution Summit in May 2022.

Trending Travel is a different kind of Tour Operator – they use the power of social media by turning likes, follows and engagement into holiday bookings by collaborating with influencers, celebrities and content creators. With 235k+ followers worldwide, they are one of Europe’s most-followed travel companies on Instagram.

Keith Herman: The crucial call to action for Trending Travel was the moment our business model crystalised into something really special. However, we still needed to negotiate with hotels and offer a package directly related to the influencer stay but we also needed the technology to deliver this.

Andy Keeley: Trending Travel needed the right technology in place to source, package and distribute their deals with the hotels. They needed to connect the Instagram dream to a live, bookable offer or flash sale.

“That’s where intuitive’s iVector reservation system came in. An end-to-end sourcing, selling and fulfillment system for Tour Operators with particular strengths in directly contracted product and 3rd party connectivity.”

Andy Keeley, Commercial Director of intuitive

However the hotel wants to work with Trending Travel, intuitive can support it. If they want to provide bespoke, complex direct contracts and allocation, these can be loaded and managed within iVector or externally via an Extranet. If they want to push rates and availability via a Channel Manager into the platform, that’s fine too. Or, if they want to connect directly to their chain PMS or via an intermediary Switch, we can do this. 

The hotel sourcing and selling landscape is complex, fragmented and ever-evolving with technology, and intuitive’s iVector platform is at the forefront of all of the connectivity and sourcing options.

Keith Herman: The first question the hotels ask us is how are we going to source and sell their product. We have confidence in our reservation system provider, which is crucial for whoever you might choose. The distribution landscape, on which intuitive will back us up, has changed dramatically in the past 5 years, so it’s really important for the hotels to know that you can deliver via a technology solution that links to their systems.

In addition to direct agreements or flash sale models, we also needed a variety of lower priced options. 

“Whilst the influencer would stay in the 5-Star deluxe hotel, the followers might not be able to realistically afford the same option so they would have the ability to offer them an alternative.”

Keith Herman, CEO of Trending Travel

Andy Keeley: What intuitive did here was deploy the strengths of their API connectivity. For many years we have been investing in and increasing our external supply capabilities. This is basically connecting the reservation system, iVector, to a range of B2B partners or intermediaries that Trending Travel and our other customers have a commercial agreement with. intuitive have well over 100 integrations to the likes of Bedbanks, Wholesalers, technical capable DMCs, GDSs etc and aggregators of other ground and ancillary product such as excursions, tours, lounges, parking, insurance, etc.

What this enables Trending Travel to do is instantly expand their product offering with relevant alternatives to the headline influencer deals. They can either handpick 3rd party product, curate content, tag it with themes and features, or they can simply enable all product in a certain destination with some broad-brush filters such as star rating or resort. 

Taking this even further, the 3rd party product is deduplicated – even down to room type level – so their business can be confident they are aggressively competitive from a pricing point of view on these more ‘commodity’ alternatives.

The 3rd party options also enable Trending Travel to swiftly adapt their offering to include flights, transfers, excursions and others, without having to directly contract all of these too. They can have a great hybrid balance of a small number of high-volume, tightly controlled commercial deals alongside a programme of widely-sourced 3rd party product at the best prices.

Keith Herman: Trending Travel’s customer demographic is mostly millennial or gen Z. This means they want things in an instant. Trending Travel has to deliver a fast, simple product to this consumer, otherwise they would simply book with another faster, less complicated option.

So with this in mind what could intuitive offer them, technology wise, that could answer the impatient consumer?

Andy Keeley: Things get a bit more technically complex here. The utopia for online travel businesses is to have each speed, breadth and accuracy of search. The challenges in the industry have been as you switch on external supply you can either choose to be fast, but not have access to all product and bear some inaccuracies (by using a cache) or have a slower search, but guaranteed product and accuracy (a live search). intuitive help solve this for travel companies. 

To be fair, intuitive aren’t the only ones… all of the major OTAs will have fast, broad cache-based searching as the primary booking journey on their websites, but they also have large development teams and investments to deliver and maintain these. Or they’ll work with intuitive to provide these capabilities via our DealFinder product.

“With DealFinder, intuitive provide a solution that builds very large caches of prices and availability from the suppliers and keeps them updated incrementally throughout the day to maintain accuracy.”

Andy Keeley, Commercial Director of intuitive

This enables near-instant and broad searching. That’s searches without dates specified or to any location. That’s filtering instantly by theme, facility, date, location, etc. This is the standard that the industry will conform to in the coming years. Customers will demand and expect it. Return results instantly in the way customers want to search you: 

 “Show me family holiday options that will still be hot in October” – and instantly put applicable, accurate and live bookable results in front of them. This is the exciting next stage of our delivery to Trending Travel over the next few months and will match seamlessly with the speed of the applications their customers are originating from.

Travolution Summit 2022

Keith Herman: To sum up my side of things: when I started the business I felt that a crucially  important part of the business model was to make sure we had a scalable and non-touch model that could be rolled out globally. intuitive dealt with this with their automation, multicurrency and an end-to-end reservation system within cloud based technology. 

Andy Keeley: We are looking forward to supporting Trending Travel’s business along the way, providing off-the-shelf technology to boost the key pillars of their business. Product sourcing flexibility, modern UX and search, and putting tech automation at the heart of their business processes is where we are most experienced. 

Our background is in providing technology for high-volume OTAs and wholesalers so it’s critical that the bookings are light touch and automatically fulfilled or amended.

We’re looking forward to working with them over the coming years to support their further growth and innovation.

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