The cheapest product isn’t always the best one for your business. Chloe Berman reports from Travel Weekly’s Dynamic Packaging Roadshow

Panel discussion at the Travel Weekly Dynamic Packaging Roadshow 2008 in London

Agents at Travel Weekly’s Dynamic Packaging Roadshow in London last week were advised to do their homework to make sure they choose the best dynamic packaging supplier for their needs.

In a panel debate, medhotels.com and Holiday Autos head of sales Teresa Walsh said: “Don’t ­always go for the cheapest. For a few pounds more you can make sure you’re working with a company you know you can trust.”

Dynamic packaging is increasingly important as customers seek choice and flexibility, the suppliers told the audience at London Marriott Hotel Regents Park.

Freedom Flights sales and marketing director Phil Norris said: “People don’t always want a seven-night break and we have to cater for that. Some 98% of our flights are dynamic packages and we’re working on a model that gives even more choice.”

Car hire has also seen growth in the last year and provides valuable commission, added Walsh.

“Holiday Autos has seen a pick-up driven by white labelling and XML. Agents can significantly add to their profits through car hire. Some customers will buy airport transfers and car hire to give them a more relaxing journey to their ­accommodation.”

Hotels4u.com sales and marketing director John Harding assured agents that the bed bank would ­operate as normal after its buyout by Thomas Cook. “We will continue to operate autonomously. Thomas Cook wants us to continue to drive the accommodation-only market.”

Thomas Cook Hotels business development manager Craig Davidson introduced agents to the travel giant’s new accommodation-only website thomascookhotels.com.

The site was launched before Christmas and offers hotels from Thomas Cook brochures priced per person per night. He said: “Agents can book a hotel and flights from their local airport – it creates much greater flexibility.”

He added: “Give your customers an excuse to go, whether it’s for a ­concert, sports event or festival.”


What travel agents had to say

Yeliz Keskin, travel consultant, Caspian Travel, London“This is the first time I’ve visited the Dynamic Packaging Roadshow. It has been useful for our company as we are rethinking our website after having had problems with it.

“Dynamic packaging is good for city breaks and business travel. We spoke to hotels4u.com and Traveltek and they were really helpful.”

Yeliz Keskin, travel consultant, Caspian Travel, London

Theresa Ou, travel consultant, Ours Travel, London“We are just starting to do dynamic packaging. We concentrate on the Chinese market and we’re starting to move away from flights to holidays.

“We are looking at accommodation providers and how to package things up. We have a website but we want to upgrade it so we’re talking to providers.”

Theresa Ou, travel consultant, Ours Travel, London

Stanley Miller, travel consultant, Pall Mall Travel“I have picked up some good hints on dynamic packaging. We already do a lot of it but we’re always looking to improve our prices as clients want good value. They don’t want to sit on a flight next to someone who paid half the price they did.

“We have to be flexible because at least 90% of our clients are business travellers.”

Stanley Miller, travel consultant, Pall Mall Travel

Greg Jama, travel consultant, Miki Travel, London“This is my first visit to a roadshow and it has been really worth my while. It’s a good way of meeting a lot of people in one go.

“We started dynamic packaging last year and we have our own website, but there’s still a lot to learn.”

Greg Jama, travel consultant, Miki Travel, London


Reactions from the sponsors

John Harding, sales and marketing director, hotels4u.com“This event is always a good way of meeting independent agents. I want to see how confident they are about dynamic packaging and what support they might need. Hotels4u.com has moved on a lot in the last year.

“We offer more in-resort support and have worked on quality control. We have also appointed someone to make sure all the information on our websites is 100% accurate.”

John Harding, sales and marketing director, hotels4u.com

Ross McDonald, national sales manager, Traveltek“We are speaking to agents about our dynamic packaging platform and our back-office system, which was launched last month. Agents have grabbed the market share but some are still wary of it so this is a good opportunity to get our message across.

“It can be confusing for agents to differentiate between technology providers but they need to decide who can provide a robust platform and help with search engine optimisation. We work in partnership with agents to help them make the most of dynamic packaging.”

Ross McDonald, national sales manager, Traveltek

Maria Souto, UK sales executive, transHotel“The roadshow was very successful for us last year and it was a good opportunity to meet agents directly and thank them for working with us. TransHotel is in 22 countries and has 45,000 hotels worldwide.

“We’re continuing to expand and plan to open an office in Dubai. We have also appointed a new sales manager, Paul Davis. Agents have caught on quickly to dynamic packaging; they realise it is a good way of making money as it’s instant revenue for them.”

Maria Souto, UK sales executive, transHotel

Kate McWilliams, account executive, PortAventura “This is a good opportunity for us to make sure agents realise add-ons are an important part of their offering. Agents need to make customers aware of the benefit of booking theme park tickets before they go.

“We offer exclusive packages for UK customers and we are working on three new golf courses – two 18-hole and one nine-hole –  and golf packages will be available from next year. We are also building a conference centre and a new hotel.”

Kate McWilliams, account executive, PortAventura       

Phil Norris, sales and marketing director, Freedom Flights and Medlife Hotels“The XL Leisure Group now owns 100% of Medlife Hotels so this is a great way for us to tell agents about the product and website, and give them more confidence to sell. We are also telling agents about the routes, flexibility and support associated with Freedom Flights.

“There is still a lot of nervousness when it comes to dynamic packaging and that is down to concerns about technology. Those doing the best have an online presence, but there is an opportunity for every travel agent to benefit.”

Phil Norris, sales and marketing director, Freedom Flights and Medlife Hotels

Gary Gillespie, business development manager, Thomas Cook Hotels“Thomas Cook has always sold hotels but now we have launched a new accommodation-only website, especially for the trade. All the product from the brochures is available at per person, per night prices.

“This is a more flexible option, as it allows agents to book a hotel with a ­regional flight. It is great to meet the agents who attend the roadshow. They really want to make the most of their business.”

Gary Gillespie, business development manager, Thomas Cook Hotels

Teresa Walsh, head of sales, medhotels.com and Holiday Autos “We want to reach the high-street agents and this is a fantastic way of putting our message across. We are updating agents on our long-haul product at medhotels.com as well as our cities and transfer products.

“Agents are really embracing ­dynamic packaging, but they need to be selling ancillary products and that’s where Holiday Autos comes in. We have introduced hybrid cars and new destinations such as India.”

Teresa Walsh, head of sales, medhotels.com and Holiday Autos