Alexander Lobanov – about the new image of the Booking Center, cashback for travel agents and a healthy scheme of work in the market
October 21 company representatives Reservation Center and MC “TBG Network and Hot Tours” confirmed the termination of the partnership and stated that this happened without mutual claims. Since the Booking Center at the same time decided to change the name and went to the agents with a proposal to connect to the cashback program, the editors turned to the founder of the company for comments Alexander Lobanov…
Alexander, your partnership with the TBG and Hot Tours Network lasted seven years. In the commentary to TourDom.ru you said that the gap was amicable, the company is interested in developing under its own brand, but there is an opinion that you simply did not have a good relationship with the management of the management company, in particular with Oleg Melnik. This is true?
We began to work as a Booking Center and provide services to network agencies during the period when the management company was headed by Svetlana Makarova… After she left the leadership, it was not possible to cooperate according to the previously planned plan. We didn’t put the question bluntly: when at the end of last summer the management company offered us to terminate the contract, we agreed. But at that moment we already had an understanding that the company needed to develop separately and independently, especially since the sales volumes of the Booking Center are now the same as those of the entire chain.
Many believe that the booking center format has been discredited by bankruptcies. Do you agree? Is this one of the reasons for the name change and change?
No, we don’t agree with that. That is why we have introduced payment splitting, we observe strict financial discipline and adhere to the policy of business transparency for our partners. The gradual transition to a new company name is due to the fact that we have long outgrown the “booking center” in the traditional sense of the word.
Let’s clarify: what is your company now?
There are several areas of work. The Reservation Center www.ecenter.travel provides travel agencies with services for searching and booking tours from more than 150 suppliers. We have developed technologies, so tourists pay about a third of the total amount of applications on their own. We provide payment solutions, the ability to automate the processing of applications, which allow you to exclude agencies from the settlement process: tourists pay us directly, we immediately transfer money to tour operators, while charging an agency fee. This is not a typical system for tourism, but it has been successfully applied for three to four years.
I would like to note that about 10% of all sales are generated by freelancers. We have been developing this direction since 2013, now the company’s services are used by several hundred specialists throughout the country. A community has been created, to whose members we provide comprehensive assistance. The market for freelancers is not very fond of, but in fact there are a lot of such people, there is a demand for their services. Therefore, our company together with QIWI Bank offered a boxed solution that allows such people to work and receive rewards for attracting customers.
Finally, another type of activity is oblako.travel payment system, which allows offering advanced payment instruments and increasing business profitability.
Having such an interesting combination of areas of work, which, by the way, our competitors do not have, we realized that we could develop ourselves and help the market develop.
Tell us about your new name. Why “THIS Travel”?
As I said, there are three areas. Reservation Center ecenter.travel, a freelance division, for which we are now creating a separate domain freelance.travel, and travel payments plus a CRM system at oblako.travel. When thinking about a new brand, we just realized – “IT’S Travel” will work best. The company has long gone beyond the booking center, has long ceased to simply resell tours, but makes the life of retail representatives easier and better, especially small travel agents. We provide them with a full range of services. Tours, tickets, insurance, payment instruments, freelance job opportunities. We are travel.
We have already made a corporate identity under the new name, we will display it on our websites, in addition, in the near future we will launch redesigned personal accounts with a new design and functionality, of course, maintaining a certain continuity.
Now many travel agencies are worried that for the second time the state did not provide for a solution that would allow them to participate in the cashback program. It was assumed that tour operators would connect them, but in fact it turned out that not all market participants are interested. The Booking Center is among the program participants, will your partners be able to sell tours with cashback and receive rewards?
Yes, they can. As an aggregator, we connected to this program and, on the basis of the Booking Center, implemented a solution that allows the agent to book any tour in Russia that meets the conditions of the promotion. The agent accepts payment by card “Peace”, the tourist receives his 20% cashback, and the retail company is instantly rewarded. In fact, we gave the market what no one gave in a normal form.
Yes, there are tour operators who are ready to broadcast the cashback program to agents, but it turns out that after paying for the tours, the agent must provide the supplier with a report and only then receive a reward by bank transfer. It is long and inconvenient. In our case, the agent immediately sees the money earned in the system and can use it – send it to pay for other tours or withdraw it to the current account.
Is it possible to make sure that the payment for the tour is split not within your system, but immediately at the bank level?
It will be cool if such a system becomes widespread, since due to the fact that the money goes past our current accounts, the speed of payments will increase for at least a day and we will be able to save on accounting services.
Technically and practically everything is ready for a long time. At the level of our company, we have been separating card payments since 2016. By 2017, 20% of applications were paid under this scheme, now their share has risen to 30%.
I believe that this is a success and a competitive advantage, which, by the way, in the future will allow us to integrate our company and its partners into the system without any problems. “Electronic voucher”…
I think that after we work out the cashback and finish the rebranding, we will more actively promote the splitting so that payments for tours from clients are divided into parts already inside the bank. I met with tour operators, there is mutual understanding, they are in favor of both. Banks are also ripe – I already have offers from three.
This is a healthy workflow that can improve the speed of money flow and transparency of payments. Tour operators will clearly understand that neither we, nor our travel agent partners, do not blur clients’ funds. In the current reality, when no one trusts anyone, this is very important.