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Charming Travel Network: European TOs unite against Booking and Co.

Interview with Fabio Casilli, co-founder of Charming Travel Network


Fabio Casilli, CEO of the tour-operator Italie&Co, decided to develop, with many of his European colleagues, a collaborative hotel reservation platform. A strategy to confront the giants in the sector, such as booking.com or Expedia, with a heighten focus on quality customer service. TourMaG.com investigates.



Charming Travel Network is a new hotel reservation website, that pools the offers of various TOs, in order to confront the giants in the sector, like booking.com or Expedia - © peshkova - Fotolia.com
Charming Travel Network is a new hotel reservation website, that pools the offers of various TOs, in order to confront the giants in the sector, like booking.com or Expedia - © peshkova - Fotolia.com
TourMaG.com - You’re currently working on the launch of a hotel reservation platform called Charming Travel Network. Could you explain the concept?

Fabio Casilli: “With three fellow tour-operators, English, German, and Danish (see box), we began from the observation that today, travel agencies and TOs are constantly confronted with the competition of major hotel reservation websites, like Booking or Expedia.

We wanted to create a model capable of facing this competition, for a middle to high-end clientele.

The project was ambitious but rather simple to put in place. Currently, a developer is working on an algorithm that will enable us to start uniting all of our partnered hotels.

This hotel reservation platform, called Charming Travel Network, will benefit from an Internet platform that should be set up by the end of the year.

It will enable, at first, to link up to the websites of partnered TOs.

Both B2B and B2C, it will be fully up and running by Spring 2015 and will enable clients to access a database of 800 to 1000 hotels.

The rates of the network will match those of the competition, with a commission of 12%.”

TourMaG.com - Are you open to other partnerships?

Fabio Casilli: “Yes, and we should soon gather a dozen European TOs, representing over 200,000 clients.

Two committees should soon be constituted for membership requests of new TOs and partner hotels.

In fact, for them, there will be little changes. Hoteliers will receive an amendment to the contract, where they’ll just need to check or uncheck a box if they don’t want to expand their partnership with one or various TOs of the Charming Travel Network.

Otherwise, we have a strong presence in Europe, but if the opportunity arises, we’ll also consider membership requests from TOs outside Europe.”

TourMaG.com - As for clients, how does the interface work? What advantages does it have compared to the many competitors?

Fabio Casilli: “The travel agency, like the client directly, will have access to the same website. Just like the website Relais and Chateaux, this interface will give access to the offers of each TO.

The client will then access a description of the network’s members, with our contacts.

We’re currently designing the Charming Travel Network logo. It will be fixed above the names of each TO, to convey a sense of membership to the network and instill trust.

The search for hotels will be much more customizable than with the competition. We won’t simply provide them with a disordered list of hotels on a given destination, since we focus on specific criteria (neighborhood, type of hotel, carpet or wooden floors in the room, etc) to enable them to find the room that best suits their desires.

It won’t be possible to pay directly online. Once the reservation finished, the client will receive a confirmation email from the TO and hotel.

It will receive a bill at home or agency (with the commission included.)

This is a great way to attract clients who are reticent of paying online, especially seniors. This should reassure them because they’ll receive the contact information of their specific host directly on the bill.”

TourMaG.com - In the long run how do you see the reservation platform evolve?

Fabio Casilli: “We’re hoping to expand it to the other services offered by each member. Being able to add a reservation to a hotel, tour, bus tour, car rental, excursion, etc.

We’re also hoping to develop partnerships in order to expand the database and grow our negotiating power amongst providers. And eventually, develop a collaborative purchasing unit to negotiate rates.

The goal isn’t to include huge companies, but rather medium size TOs in order to get back to good customer service.

As for agencies they will have full access to the platform, like a self-serve service.

These synergies will also enable us to act collaboratively at trade shows or in GIR for a particular hotel.”

The founding members of the Charming Travel Network are part of the executive committee. They include:
- Joerg Fischer, President of Siglinde Fischer (Germany)
- Dan Thompson, Quality Villas (UK)
- Lars Henriksen, Hideways (Danemark)
- Fabio Casilli, Arthur Agency- Italie & Co. (France)

Contact
Fabio CASILLI - Arthur Agency
Phone: 06 85 56 30 62
fabio@agencearthur.fr

Written by Pierre Coronas translated by Joséphine Foucher the 09/12/2014
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