For Agents: A Painless Way to Deal with Ancillaries

by Michele McDonald

Travel agents have for several years grappled with how to deal with airlines’ ancillary products. But in the not-too-distant future they, too, will be able play in the ancillary game relatively painlessly.

It’s already happening in Europe.

Epteca, based in Zug, Switzerland, was founded two and a half years ago to bring travel companies and vendors of a wide range of products together in a way that consumers can enjoy rather than dread.

“The airlines have turned ancillary revenues into something bad,” Bojan Jokic, Epteca’s founder and CEO, said.

Ancillary products have become synonymous with fees, “so it’s like a punishment,” he said. “And they’ve taken it to extremes.”

Fees versus service
Travel is a fantastic industry serving billions of people, Jokic said. He thinks the industry ought to do better.

From the consumer’s perspective, bag fees do not add value to a trip, he said.

“Neither does charging a fee so that you can sit next to your wife. It’s a fee, not a service. Nobody’s buying into this as a service.”

But, “if it’s something kind of neat, then they’ll buy into it as a service,” Jokic said.

‘Awesome’ offerings
There are “so many awesome things” that travel companies can offer that will ease the pain of a journey rather than add to it, he added.

For example, instead of charging fees so harried parents can be assured of sitting with their children, an airline might offer to have diapers waiting for them at their hotel. Or a tired business traveler returning home might be relieved to know that groceries can be delivered on her arrival.

Other offers might include dining, destination services, taxi, parking, entertainment options – anything that a traveler might need

Epteca, which calls itself “the GDS of fragmented offerings,” has assembled a roster of vendors all over the world that can meet the needs of travelers in a variety of situations.

It communicates with travelers via a white-label mobile app and sends offers to them that are appropriate for the stage of their journeys and the type of trip they are taking.

The concept has taken off, and Epteca has grown by leaps and bounds – so much so that it reluctantly has had to replace some of its original vendors with larger firms that can handle the volume.

Use by off-line agencies
The platform was designed for airlines, hotels, tour operators, and online agencies, but offline agencies have begun using it as well, Jokic said.

It isn’t feasible for the smallest agencies, but for those making at least 10,000 bookings a year, it could be within reach. The company generates an individual pricing model depending on the business and its offerings.

Although Epteca has the means to fulfill requests in many countries, it currently serves customers and works with travel firms only in Europe.

That, however, is likely to change; Jokic has his eye on expansion.

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Tip of the Day

I do think there are possibilities for traveler advisors to make money doing domestic trips. I charge a planning fee for my time and expertise, and then book commissionable hotels and activities that meet the client’s needs.

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