Welcome Travel Group, integrated digital experiences for the 4.0 traveler

Welcome Travel Group, integrated digital experiences for the 4.0 traveler

For many of us, leaving the toughest period of the pandemic behind us means being able to savor the freedom to travel. A pleasure denied for many months by the strict rules that prevented crossing the borders of the regions.
The travel sector was among those most penalized by the Covid restrictions. Now, however, the desire to travel has not only returned, but is also stronger than before. And among the sector operators there are those who have decided to take advantage of the months of closure and restart to completely rethink the relationship with the customer, strengthening it with the help of digital. Exactly what Welcome Travel Group, a network of travel agencies founded in 1999, equally owned by Alpitour and Costa Cruises with a pre-Covid turnover of 2.1 billion euros and a portfolio of over 2.5 million customers. The network, which groups 2,470 agenciesoperates on the market with two brands, Welcome Travel e Geo Travel Network. «As a group – he explains Adriano Apicella, CEO of Welcome Travel Group – we negotiate framework agreements that ensure our partner agencies particularly favorable commercial conditions and exclusive quotas within Alpitour structures and Costa Cruises ships. In addition to this, which is our core business, we support the network with some digital services by taking care of the centralized management of websites or widgets, an eCommerce engine that the agency can host within its website and which improves the shopping experience. We also take care of the management of social networks, planning and publishing a program of content studied ad hoc on a weekly basis on the channels of our agencies ».

Adriano Apicella

CEO of Welcome Travel Group

How the travel offer for tourists changes 4.0

In a scenario like the one we live in, where even the travel customer is increasingly connected and omnichannel, the relationship that binds him to the agency can and must be strengthened with the help of digital technology. Which is not easy if you think that only very few agencies have a CRM and in most cases only the sales person knows the habits and needs of their customers. “After the pandemic, reservations made through digital channels increased by 30%», He points out Dante Colitta, Commercial and Marketing Director of Welcome Travel Group.

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Dante Colitta

Sales and Marketing Director of Welcome Travel Group

Therefore, a more advanced tourist than in the past is the one who turns to tour operators in the post-pandemic scenario. A turista 4.0, who wants real-time answers and quick quotes from the travel agency. Demanding and impatient, he expects to receive recommendations and offers in line with his preferences “and is also willing to pay a premium in order to be profiled effectively”, highlights the manager. This is an objective that the network aims to achieve thanks to Salesforce Customer 360, the CRM platform, marketing automation, management of the sales network and customer care in the cloud. “Only through one greater care in the relationship with our customers – emphasizes Apicella – we can get that loyalty that is never more important than in this moment. The competition, in fact, is increasingly fierce and comes not only from operators in the sector but also from outside, from the giants of the web such as Expedia or Amazon. This is why we all have to change the way we work, communicate and engage. For years we have put the product at the center of our sales strategies. Today, however, we must put the customer at the heart of the relationship in all our activities, regardless of whether you contact the road agency or contact us online ». Salesforce’s help in this change of pace is crucial. «Salesforce not only allows us to get to know our customer better, but also helps us to engage them effectively, with personalized communication and truly tailored offers. And above all, it allows us to do all this while respecting its deadlines, which today are increasingly tight, taking advantage of the automatisms and the integration of processes to be faster and more punctual, with the aim of always being able to propose the right offer. to the right customer when they are most likely to book “.

The new role of the travel agency

However, the agency remains the point of reference for quality advice and 24-hour assistance, but its role is destined to change. «Agencies will have to specialize, finding their own certain positioning and a defined target, because it is impossible to do everything well. Once this step is taken, they will finally be able to win on online operators, because the customer will continue to parcel out their purchases of specific services such as air or rail tickets. But when you make a more complex trip, the advice of our agencies will prove essential. This is why it is important for us to digitize the sales process but without depersonalizing the relationship with the customer. Our focus remains on the agent, the professional who creates value before, during and after the holiday, acquiring information that becomes a shared heritage », Apicella is keen to point out.

The stages of the project

Welcome Travel Group has assigned to Atlantic Technologies the implementation of Salesforce Customer 360, the first steps were taken last March and the conclusion is expected in February 2022. This is a large project, which covers practically all aspects of the relationship with the client. The Sales module is used to support the sales force in the area, which has 16 salespeople, 2 area managers and a network manager. The Service module, on the other hand, is adopted by the 15 customer care staff. Marketing Cloud is used both in B2C logic, to design and manage optimized customer journeys, and in the B2B field, to improve communication with travel agencies. Everything is perfectly integrated into the Salesforce CRM, but also with the environments of the service providers as well as with the management of travel agencies. Parallel to the Salesforce project, in fact, the network is working on an initiative that provides for integration via Xml with the systems of tour operators and airlines, which will see the light in days. In practice, therefore, the customer can plan his vacation online, receive a quote from the tour operator and then decide to go to the agency or finalize the purchase directly online, paying by credit card for the purchase of flights, stays, parking and car rental services. “At the network’s disposal there are also performance monitoring and analytics tools that allow us to work with the aim of continuous improvement”, highlights Apicella.

The knot of adoption

The real challenge, of course, is adoption because «it is not just a question of using a completely new tool but of changing the way we work. Change management is clearly of fundamental importance and in this sense the contribution of Atlantic Technologies is relevant to us. This is the Salesforce cloud partner who supported us step by step in the platform implementation process and who also takes care of training for both internal staff and agencies ». We initially work on about twenty early adopters and then involve another 500 agencies in the next step and, in perspective, the whole network.

Colitta defines it as a “titanic” project, launched at a rather critical moment. “They gave us crazy but the stop of the pandemic has helped us in some way. In a moment of normal life it would have been impossible to implement such an important initiative, in which we strongly believe and in which we have invested heavily, convinced that the restart is imminent and that the rebound will be comparable to the boom in the sector in the Eighties. . And we will be ready. With this project we have led the way for the entire travel industry, promoting a path of innovation that is already leading the way. But we arrived first and we will certainly enjoy a significant competitive advantage », concludes the manager.

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