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Monday, 17 November, 2008, 10 : 00 AM [IST]

Customised Packages v/s Dynamic Packages

Customised holiday packages are designed according to a traveller’s requirements, preferences and budget. Customised packages are fast picking up among discerning travellers who have discovered relevant information about the destination from the Internet or have read books on the destination. The traveller has some idea with regards to what he wants to do on his holiday and which are the places he would like to visit. It is when the traveller comes to the holiday consultant that a travel plan is worked upon based on the inputs provided by the traveller and also suggestions from the consultant.

For creating customised packages, a travel consultant takes into consideration key criteria that helps  in developing packages best suited to travellers. The first and  foremost criterion is the specific interest of the traveller. For instance, if it is a family that wishes to travel, the package would include places like theme parks or general sight seeing options which would interest the children accompanying their parents, whereas if it is a couple going on a holiday they would be open to the idea of self-drives and exploring the destination and like wise for honeymooners who would prefer privacy, exclusive evening dinners, private transfers with some options of sight seeing. The second criterion is the budget, which includes accommodation in three, four or five-star hotels/resorts, air travel on Economy or Business Class etc. A customised package can also cater to particular activities that the traveller might be interested in like a Broadway Play or Bolshoi theatre based on the interest level of  the clients.

The holiday consultant developing a customised package would ideally meet the customer to learn about his/her requirement on the destination, their preferences and what would be of interest to them. The holiday consultant also spends not less than three to five hours in discussing preferences over three to four meetings. There is a certain amount of complexity involved as the package is far more personalised for the traveller than the regular packages with fixed travel plans. Also, in a customised package, the holiday consultant in some cases may know a little less about the destination, however an expert holiday consultant can always go back to the suppliers and get more details on a new destination or specific requests/new attractions about a destination. Once the travel plan is approved, the holiday consultant starts the process of confirmations and travel documentation based on the finalised travel plans.

To develop and sell customised packages, the holiday consultant needs to have thorough knowledge of the destination in which interest is expressed. The customised holiday packages that are created at Thomas Cook are developed internally by a team of product/destination specialists wherein we have centralised and de-centralised the destinations on the basis of their complexity. Complex itineraries to destinations like Europe, Scandinavia, South America, Japan, Africa, New Zealand etc.  are created from metro offices or centralised units where the expertise is available and distributed, information is cascaded to other offices. Also packages for destinations like South East Asia, Dubai etc. or frequently travelled destinations can be tailor-made at all branches of Thomas Cook.

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Dynamic packaging is a mechanism used in package holiday bookings, enabling consumers to build their own packages of flights, accommodation and car hire on the Internet instead of booking a pre-designed package from a travel agent. Dynamic packaging can be defined as the combination of different travel components, clubbed and priced in real time, in response to the requests of the consumer or booking agent. It allows the customer to build their own vacation by dynamically choosing the options of purchase ranging from airline tickets, hotel rooms under various categories, car rentals and also sight seeing which at the time of buying includes fees and taxes.

The biggest advantage of dynamic packages is the fact that the supplier can adjust the rate as per occupancy or room availability on a specific day. It is called the concept of day-rates that is emerging and dynamic packages also offer the flexibility to alter the customers’ requirements as per his/her plan or even the budget. The process of booking a holiday package dynamically offers a consumer tremendous selection of inventory and the consumer has the option to choose a package with different preferences and compare the rates with the other packages available. Dynamic packages are also believed to be a cost effective proposition which would eventually reduce the cost of operations like printing brochures, inquiry desks etc.

However, with the advantages that it offers, there are a few challenges because of which dynamic packages are yet to fully mature in the Indian market. One of the challenges faced while offering dynamic packages is seamless connection of airline, hotel and car hire inventory that will allow consumers to book without facing any difficulties on the website. To overcome this challenge, either the supplier should have the ability to connect to the service providers’ system or vice versa. Another challenge dynamic packaging faces is that the hotel and car hire industry still do not dynamically change room rates or cost of travel based on the availability of rooms and occupancy levels. The airline industry has matured in terms of changing airfares based on various components, however, this phenomena is yet to fully mature in the hotel and car hire industry.

Etours CRS has developed a solution which will allow consumers to book packages on a dynamic model; however, we are currently addressing the challenges that are faced right now in order to allow consumers seamless booking of dynamic packages on the websites of Online Travel Agents (OTAs). Dynamic packaging has emerged as one of the key value propositions, both to suppliers and customers. It has empowered customers to make well-researched and personalised choices and enabled suppliers to optimise their yields and not heavily rely on last minute bookings.

(As told to Krupa Vora)
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