The FINANCIAL -- While 2013’s mission has been completed and InterContinental LLC successfully ended its initiative to be involved in incoming tourism, the time has now come for the company to set itself a new goal - that is, to offer its customers online sales. New company InterCo Travel Group has been established specifically to provide online sales. The plan is for InterCo Travel Group to replace its mother company InterContinental LLC, and for the company to switch completely to online sales.
“It’s the 21st century. The whole world is online-sales-oriented in every direction, and especially in tourism,” said Nino Makhviladze, Chairman of InterCo Travel Group. “Our life has become busier than ever before and people lack the time to do everything they need. Despite the fact that we have many loyal customers, they still prefer to use online sales and choose everything by themselves. They then just ask us to finalise their order. I am sure that this Georgian company, which already has such a high level of customer confidence, will attract even more clients in online sales,” said Makhviladze.
“45 per cents of Georgian tourists who choose Europe as a travel destination prefer to book online, according to our research. I recently observed that the number of travellers visiting Europe was decreasing, so I decided to find the reason for it, and I found that online-sales was becoming our competitor. It is better to use this platform to attract more customers than leave it as a competitor and let it take away one’s customers. We have been working on this strategy for three years already. I expect to have 10 times increased growth in terms of customer numbers as a result,” she added.
InterCo Travel Group’s partner will be Expedia, an American-based mother company to several global online travel brands. “Expedia’s general strategy was to not choose any partners except those from the USA or Canada. Therefore we are very proud that it decided to partner with a Georgian company,” said Makhviladze.
The webpage has already been created and will soon be available to the first of its visitors. “Hotels from all over the world will be listed on the webpage. We will be the first tour-operator to start selling Georgian hotel stays as well. Whereas previously these hotels were available on booking.com or other webpages, now they will also be available on our webpage. The biggest emphasis will be on selling Georgian products. The cruises of 16 different cruise companies will be listed on the webpage. There are about eight products in total that will be sold online. As time goes by more products will be added, but at first only four products will be offered,” said Makhviladze.
As for 2014’s summer destinations, InterCo Travel Group’s traditionally offers Egypt and Turkey. Besides them, it is adding Greece and more specifically - Santorini, to its group of destinations for the coming year.
InterCo Travel Group’s became a winner of the Golden Brand Awards this year. Makhviladze believes that it is their constant development and high quality improvement that are the key reasons for their recognition.
“Innovation is also very useful for any kind of business. InterCo Travel Group’s always offers something new to its customers, innovations for the local market. For example, the company started actively working on incoming tours in 2013. Our strategy of incoming tourism development was different from others and had some competitive advantage. Of course it took lots of effort from our side, but incoming tourism turned out to be successful for InterCo Travel Group’s. We offered customers long-term charter flights from abroad to Georgia for the first time. Charter flights are always a risky business. However, it was one of the most successful projects in the history of InterCo Travel Group’s,” she added.
Q. How many tourists did InterCo Travel bring to Georgia while providing charter flights and how useful was it for the country and the company itself financially?
A. InterCo Travel Group’s offered charter flights once a week for nine months. The company brought 5,500 tourists in total to Georgia during this period. If we take into consideration the fact that it was our first experience of such large-scale incoming tourism, this number is quite impressive. At that time InterCo Travel Group’s was operating with Georgian air company Fly Georgia, which no longer exists on the market unfortunately. It was my decision to attract more money to Georgian business and that is the reason why I always try to establish good cooperation ties with local companies. During one month alone we were bringing about USD 1,500,000 into Georgia.
It is not easy to enter a foreign market and operate from there. Our popularity in other countries has increased. Financially, incoming tourism has turned out to be more profitable than outgoing. This is a good reason for our continuing the charter flights and increasing the number of countries from where InterContinental LLC will bring tourists.
Q. What will InterCo Travel Group offer to its customers abroad this summer? Are you going to bring some tourists to Batumi this year as well?
A. We thought about bringing tourists from several countries to Batumi this summer, but we could not strike a deal with a local air company because of issues over price. When you operate from different countries it is very important to have a Georgian air company as partner. As we could not agree on price however, the talks failed. I think that this is a national project and therefore the Georgian company should have supported us. We will still manage to bring tourists from two or three countries to Batumi this summer. But unfortunately, this will not be as large-scale a project as it was intended to be at the beginning. One of our priority countries is Kazakhstan, where we have already opened a branch. Therefore one of the countries from where InterCo Travel Group’s will definitely bring tourists is Kazakhstan.