How Pathway GDS hopes to open up villa booking to agents
(Published in TTG 19.06.13)
The founder of B2B booking platform Pathway GDS claims the company is connecting agents to villas like never before. Matthew Parsons finds out more
New technologies have helped open the door to new business models in travel. Social media has allowed the likes of Facebook-powered Airbnb to allow people to easily rent out their homes, and more recently onefinestay was launched to offer more upscale properties, offering commission to agents – further raising the possibility of home rental as holiday.
Now, though, the trade is being targeted directly by platform Pathway GDS, as it seeks to connect more than 90,000 properties – mostly villas – to agents. Founder and marketing director James Marchant has spent the past 12 months building up the company, and its products are now available to agents via booking platform providers such as Traveltek, Dolphin Dynamics and Intuitive.
“We know agents can sell more villas,” insists Marchant. “Villas are the most dynamic part of the travel market and there’s an increasing awareness of them – [and] not just the luxury ones with private pools. But there’s been a lack of connectivity for agents. That is, until now.”
Through Traveltek et al, agents from companies such as Hays, The Co-operative Travel, Barrhead, Flight Centre, STA and more will have access. All villa providers Pathway uses must offer portfolios that have been visited and vetted for quality control, as well as for health and safety considerations. They must also have a financial protection scheme in place to guarantee protection of customer funds.
Marchant also seeks “a full range of price points for all property types – apartments, villas, chalets, cottages”. Top-selling regions include Spain, Canaries, Balearics, Greek islands, France, Italy and Portugal, with Florida about to launch. Commission levels are 11.5% on average, and Marchant says there are no set-up costs or licence fees to pay. Pathway can be set up in minutes, and it also offers branded brochures, he adds.
If not connecting to Pathway via Traveltek, Dolphin or Intuitive, Pathway offers a desktop tool. It is also in “late stage discussions” with Sabre, about featuring an app on its Sabre Red App Centre – a B2B app marketplace for the travel industry. “Sabre says villlas are doing well and that it wants to sell more, and that the technology is OK. It’s a scalable low-resource business to manage,” says Marchant. Meanwhile, talks are ongoing with a major US airline, and last week Marchant squeezed in 45 meetings at US travel trade show International PowWow, in Las Vegas.
Pathway also offers a white labelling functionality, and its technology sits behind Beach Tomato Villas: a new luxury villa rental site, part of brother Tom Marchant’s Black Tomato group. White labelling is an area Marchant is keen to grow, and Pathway has teamed up with Spanish/British start-up alterkeys.com – similar to Airbnb, Marchant says – as well as Edge-Retreats.com and AnyFriendofOurs.com. But with Marchant’s experience in retail, having worked at both Top Deck Travel in Wimbledon and Villarenters.com, he sees working with travel agents as the core focus.
A rival villa supplier, Iavra – the International Association of Villa Rental Agents – features around 4,500 villas. However, Pathway appears to be the first platform to be specifically built for holiday rentals, and offer full end-to-end connectivity for instant bookings via XML API – an application programming interface for the web.
Marchant is now calling on agents to seriously consider home rentals: “Look at the value, look at the cost per head per night; it’s competitive compared with hotels. People are reading more about villas – so now they can go to their agent and book, where they already have a relationship.”