Back in the hands of its original founders, Flight routes24the global B2B market for airline content, is poised to expand not only geographically but also across verticals: it is adding hotel content, launching in 2023, according to Nancy Zhou, co-founder and vice president of business development.
Repositioning itself as the “leading global travel content aggregator”, it will launch a hotel booking channel to offer a unique “flight + hotel” product.
Zhou said: “Our customers were telling us they wanted a single shopping experience, instead of having to work with multiple partners. So we thought: we already have customers, why not offer them more products? »
It features more than 400,000 hotels, with content from third parties initially, and began contracting directly with hotels this year.
Hotels have a better profit margin than air travel, which also uses more and more flight aggregators and platforms to solve an increasingly complex airline distribution market, with the rise of airlines low-cost airlines, which now represent 30% of global air capacity, and the deployment of direct and NDC strategies by full-service airlines.
The company started operations in Hong Kong and Shenzen in 2014 and focused on providing local and global airline content to Chinese travel agents, given the booming Chinese outbound travel market in the time.
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“At that time, Chinese people could easily buy tickets in China, but when they wanted to travel globally, tickets were expensive,” said Zhou, who came from Qunar, the leading metasearch for flights in China. China at the time. “We wanted to bring together global content and offer travel agents in China the best, most reliable and competitive airfares. »
In 2019, it decided to expand outside China, attract foreign travel agents to its platform and provide them with comprehensive products globally. It turned out to be good timing, because when COVID-19 hit and travel to China stopped and remained largely grounded for three years, its overseas operations slowed down the business.
“We have seen good progress globally during the pandemic. Our core business was affected and we invested in growing our global business.
Claiming thousands of global partners and more than 60 countries of sales outlets, Zhou said overseas agents account for 80% of the business, with the remaining 20% coming from China.
Flightroutes24 covers the full range of airline content, from low-cost to full-service, and offers a mix of its own content as well as partner content. It covers more than 700 airlines and 500,000 routes, and in 2022 its transaction volume increased by 200% compared to 2019.
“Chinese outbound travel has not yet fully recovered, but international volumes are increasing and we see growth opportunities in these markets.”
While Southeast Asia and the rest of Asia currently make up the bulk of overseas business, Zhou sees potential in markets like Europe and the United States for a player like Flightroutes24 provides the technology solutions needed to support trading partners in an era of airspace disruption. .
“I think the opportunities lie not only in geographic markets, but also in technology,” she said.
“Carriers’ sales capabilities are increasingly technology-driven. If we can have great technology, we will have opportunities. We are investing heavily in our technology products to help solve problems for our trading partners in Europe and the United States, as they face different problems than, for example, agents in Asia.
The company will invest in data services and software-as-a-service solutions.
Asked about the biggest challenge she faces in expanding globally, she said: “It’s not just about building trust, but we also need to ensure that both partners make a profit after some time. »