Being 'one-stop shop' is key to online travel growth
Being a ‘one-stop shop’ was the key to the growth of online travel booking system TripCenter, which is on course to serve 30,000 customers by the end of the year.
Chirag Golwala spent two and a half years developing what he describes as the world’s first live global platform, connecting coach operators and tour guides to group travel organisations.
After 16 years, like many of his colleagues in the sector, he had grown frustrated with the ‘never ending processes’ involved in booking tours to various attractions around the globe.
On bringing the travel industry online, he said: “I could see and feel the pain of many of my colleagues due to the never ending processes involved in booking coaches and tour guides to various attractions around the globe.
“Something had to be done, so I set out to solve our problem and along the way I realised that the technology I’d invented in fact solves this issue worldwide, when it comes to booking ground services.”
Golwala also runs Lets Travel Services, which is responsible for more than 10 per cent of inbound Chinese tourists to the UK and Ireland every year.
He was in £30,000 of debt when he set up that company with a £2,000 loan from the Prince’s Trust.
Now at TripCenter, Golwala and COO Rui Men are part of a team of 12, who collate a complete selection of verified and approved coach and tour guides, eliminating the need for pain-staking research.
He said: “Our service is transforming a process that is traditionally multi-layered, time consuming and conducted offline.
“When we looked at marketplace businesses in various sectors, it was clear that there were many aggregators and many that did a few things well but the user was always left lacking in some fashion.
“If we were going to be successful we needed an integrated, one-stop shop for the users and a comprehensive solution for suppliers, both of which had to offer three key ingredients: substantial cost savings, vastly superior fulfilment and complete ease of use.
“Having run a successful Destination Management Company for the last 13 years, we were well aware of the needs faced by users and suppliers.
“If we could address these critical needs, there was no doubt the platform would be successful.”
The team are now working on having 30,000 users signed up by the end of 2017, whether they are buyers or suppliers, and Golwala describes the growth so far as ‘exceptional’.
There are over 1,150 coach operators registered, and more than 500 coach operators with a fleet of over 8,000 are undergoing a quality control process.
Around 8,000 tour guides also undergoing our quality control.
Golwala added: “Within the EU there are over 50,000 coach companies and an estimated 50 million coach journey days booked annually.
“Some estimates put the overall European coach tourism market at well over £35 billion when you include coaches, guides and attractions.
“Over 2,500 coach companies from 47 different countries are interested in registering their inventory on the platform.
“With this in mind, we are open to attracting outside investment in order to scale the platform faster to meet the needs of the marketplace.
“This is an ongoing process and when we find the right financial partner, we will be able to respond more quickly to global demand.”