The company has made it to the Executive Committee of WTTC with its mission-led agenda to be an enabler, its strong culture of care and unyielding focus on representing SMEs
Small is big for TBO
TBO Holidays is one of the leading global travel distribution platforms in the world, connecting more than 100,000 travel buyers with over a million of travel suppliers in over 100 countries.
We spoke to Gaurav Bhatnagar, TBO Co-Founder, on the sidelines of the recently concluded World Travel & Tourism Council Summit Saudi Arabia. “Post pandemic, TBO has seen a huge resurgence. We are multiple times over our pre-pandemic numbers already and poised for high growth this year as well, unless an unforeseen macroeconomic event takes place,” he tells TTN in an exclusive interview.
“We are hoping APAC will come back strongly this year – it was the fastest-growing market for us pre-pandemic, that just came to a standstill. We are expecting to kick off in a big way in Europe, which was a new market for us.”
Last year, TBO invested in BookaBed AG, based in Switzerland, a B2B accommodation provider to the Irish and UK travel industries. BookaBed allows TBO’s entry into the Irish market and strengthens UK presence.
“We are not looking at just growing revenue. We’re genuinely concerned about all these travel agencies globally that depend on us to run their business”
– Gaurav Bhatnagar
TBO has won several accolades over the years and has been consistently winning the prestigious World Travel Awards for being India’s leading B2B travel portal since 2019. The travel distribution platform also made news when Co-Founder Bhatnagar got appointed member to the Executive Committee of WTTC.
“A combination of different factors allows us to be more contributory on the Executive Committee of WTTC. There are some new elements that we bring to the table for WTTC.
“One is technology, which is critical in bringing buyers suppliers together. The second element is our focus on the SME players in the travel ecosystem. WTTC has very strong representation of large brands but the reality of travel businesses is that there are millions of small businesses – travel agents, tour operators, DMCs, small hotels, car rental companies, etc – who also need to be represented if you want to be more diverse and inclusive, and TBO can do a very good job of that. The third element is that India is a large source market. After China, India is going to be the largest source market – and it’s an important destination as well.”
The core focus of TBO is aggregating offline demand and connecting it to global travel supply. The technology is focused on connecting all partners in the travel eco system thus enabling them to create seamless journeys for travellers globally.
“Our growth is coming from adding more buyers on the platform, adding more types and depth of supply as well as creating new adjacent lines of businesses,” Bhatnagar tells us.
“The first focus is to keep adding more source markets on the platform. We keep working with travel agents, travel suppliers, travel buyers, across different source markets, growing across the five continents and heavily investing in building out our buyer base.
“The second side of the equation is making sure that we have greater supply depth, that we’re building depth in our core product, which is airlines and hotels as well as building more new product lines. With airlines, we are investing in a lot of NDC content, a lot of regional low-cost carriers. With hotels, we are increasingly working directly with chains, with large independent hotels as well.
“Beyond that is building more new product lines: we are doing cruise now, we’ve added a car rental product, transfers, Rail Europe to the platform, and we’ve also added an Umrah product.
“The Umrah product came from asking ourselves these questions: what does the travel agent need? Are they selling more of the same? Or are there adjacencies where they can expand their business as well? We looked at our source markets, and there’s a huge movement for Umrah right now.
“A lot of travel agents have never sold Umrah before but that doesn’t mean they can’t sell it if you create a simple enough platform and the government is keen on making it easier to do more.
“We have a huge focus on Saudi Arabia as a destination. We believe in the investment that is happening here. The markets that we operate in, especially the Indian Subcontinent, the Middle East, North Africa, and the UK, are very important feeder markets for Saudi Arabia. We work in close collaboration with Saudi Tourism Authority as well as on ground, setting up our own DMC here, having offices in Riyadh as well as Makkah.”
There are also other reasons for the meteoric rise of TBO, cutting through the landscape of competition and emerging a clear victor.
“We are not looking at just growing revenue,” Bhatnagar tells us. “We’re genuinely concerned that all these travel agencies globally depend on us to run their business. That’s very important for us – when we talk to hotels or small service providers on the supply side as well – to be able to give them a platform, to be able to showcase their services to the global buyer ecosystem. We are a very mission-led organisation.
“The company also has a strong culture of care – a core value for TBO – which really shone through during the pandemic. We want to be an ecosystem player, an enabler. During the pandemic, we created a campaign called ‘Stronger together with TBO’ and we did many things together – mental retreats, refresher courses and the like – just to make sure that we were engaging our partners through thick and thin.”
TBO Academy is a free online learning platform for the travel and tourism industry worldwide. It provides all kinds of travel courses and learning on all travel-related topics through blogs and live webinars too.
“Going back to our culture of care, we care about our partners, one of the key promises we want to make to suppliers is that their product will be showcased in the best possible manner. The promise we make to our buyers, our travel agencies is that you will be well educated to showcase products better than what a customer will go on the internet and find out for themselves. This is where TBO Academy comes in.”
TBO+ is a comprehensive rewards programme designed exclusively for buyers where they can earn reward points for each transaction done through the TBO platform and points can be redeemed for a variety of lifestyle and travel products.
“TBO+ has huge membership and engagement. It also goes back to our culture of care. The other element is that hotels and tourism companies who want to engage with our travel agents, they want to incentivise them and partner with us on TBO+. It’s really a win-win for everybody.”TBO also has a dedicated corporate travel booking platform – Paxes – which is in the trial phase and their first B2C business – Zamzam.com, focused on the booming religious tourism.