Tomeu Bennasar takes stock of the first year of Soltour Travel Partners

How does Soltour Travel Partners coordinate with Viajes El Corte Inglés tour operators?
The merger between Grupo Logitravel and Viajes El Corte Inglés is in progress, it follows a series of stages and in these stages we see how we are going to organize and connect the different tour operators that we are. VECI has vacation Clubsenior product, World Tourmedium and long range circuits, and we have soltoursun and beach and Caribbean, and SmyTravel, from a dynamic package. We are now starting to work on the drawing of these four tour operators because we do not yet have a clear display of the positioning that each of them will have. We are now working on synergies.

What is your assessment of the first year of activity of Soltour Travel Partners?
It’s a very good balance given the objectives we had set ourselves. Our objective was to launch this ‘joint venture’, to begin to implement the synergies that we had established and to develop this project in a line of construction, by adding and not by cutting these two businesses. That’s what we did. Despite the fact that the wave of infections in July caused us a lot of damage, we have been very close to the objectives we had, we have reactivated all our staff and we have implemented all the projects we had planned. I am very satisfied with the results and the welcome we received from the agencies, since it is a “joint venture” which was created by and for them. After how far we have come, we are now fit and very strong and hope to get back to the trend we had before the pandemic when this wave of omicron variant infections passes.

“Due to the pandemic, last year the activity represented a third of that of 2019”

And what do you expect from this 2022?
Due to the pandemic, last year the activity was a third of that of 2019, but in the last three months of 2021 we were already with the same production as before the health crisis and for this 2022 , we hope to continue this trend and reach the end of the year with figures similar to those of three years ago or lower by 20%. These are quite ambitious goals, despite the impact the omicron variant has had. In invoicing, we have planned around 230 million euros.

These are better predictions than those of other tour operators.
It is a reality that the market is recovering slowly, but we want to emerge from this crisis stronger, even if these figures are a little conservative, because the omicron has forced us to adjust our budgets. Before this sixth wave, we hoped to be close to the 2019 billing (the joint billing of Soltour and SmyTravel), but this variant forced us to be more careful, because ómicron made us lose two months of production. Despite this, our programming for the Caribbean will be the same as in 2019.

Tomeu Bennasar, at the Soltour Travel Partners stand at Fitur 2022.

Was the Caribbean the destination that worked best?
Yes, Caribe worked very well, especially Dominican Republic Yes Mexico. Apart from the national product, the Caribbean is what has sold the best because it is a connected and safe destination for the Spanish customer. There are other products like cruise ships Is Long distance which we know will continue to be penalized and that is why we will not reach the 2019 figure. We will be a “choui” below because this demand will not recover yet.

Do you trust a market recovery after the sixth wave?
We already have the experience of the waves and the recovery after the waves, and this recovery is increasingly accelerated. This sixth wave fell on the best dates it could fall [coincide con la temporada baja en Península y Baleares]. It’s had such a massive impact that it’s probably going to be a disease we have to live with. We hope that the recovery will be more pronounced than in the other waves. If the calculations do not fail us, it will happen at the height of the Holy Week, with which we can spend a very good Easter, but at the very last minute, and from now on, if there are no more bad news, we hope to have a very good summer. We will have to redo the plans for the umpteenth time, but we have an optimistic picture for the year.

Learn more about the Soltour and SmyTravel alliance:

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How and why Soltour Travel Partners was born

Soltour Travel Partners introduces itself by taking 300 agents to Samaná

What news are you planning to launch?
It’s not a year to do a lot of testing. Product planning for this year, while aggressive, will not be as aggressive as it will be in the future. At SmyTravel, we cover 100% of the demand with our dynamic product (hotels, coasts, cruises, short, medium and long-haul circuits, getaways, show tickets, flights, traditional packages, etc.). We cover a very open demand and with a very competitive product. SmyTravel is demand driven, and now we do less long distance, like Japan, Thailand Is China, because there is no demand and we do a lot of product and domestic tours in Spain, combined with different islands or different cities, with France and Italy. We are investing in short and medium-haul because that is what is currently in demand. For its part, Soltour is our strategic tour operator and with it we bet on the Caribbean because it works very well, and that this year we have the same programming as in 2019 is already aggressive, because this year we are not going to travel as before the pandemic. But we identify new products and one of them is programming for Egypt of six Spanish airports, where we are going to operate the plane. We already have it for sale and it works great. We continue with Maldives because of the demand that exists. We are capitalizing on current demand. In the coming months, we will see many border reopenings and we will be able to activate many destinations.

“The recovery, we hope that this time it will be more accentuated than in the other waves”

Do you plan to diversify the activity or will you continue to focus on touring?
We focus on tour operators and, more than tour operators, on product solutions for travel agencies. For example, we have the SmyTravel product, which is very competitive, which gives the agency a website to offer them the multi-channel approach they are looking for, full product coverage and the ability to set their own commissions, and with Soltour we offer products in the most requested destinations and if the public asks for a new destination we will also offer it.

Soltour Travel Partner introduced a new consolidator to Fitur. How did this project get started ?
Passengy is one of the first projects of the alliance between the Logitravel Group and Viajes El Corte Inglés, which capitalizes on all the advantages of this merger with its strong commercial and technological relations, with a very attractive proposal from the commercial and with a very complete product portfolio: train, ferry, bus, flights (with the main GDS and NDC on the market) and other value-added products, such as baggage management, cancellations, modifications, etc… is a winning project to enter the market and marketing in agencies will be done through Soltour Travel Partners. It is a complete solution for the agency.

What other projects do you plan to launch?
Another notable novelty, in addition to the Egyptian product I mentioned, is the new Soltour digital brochure. It is a communication tool, which replaces the traditional paper brochure with a very inspiring and immersive interactive formula. It explains what can be done in each destination or the characteristics of the hotels and all this with a very visual and navigable presentation, and if you want to make a reservation, it refers you to the website.

“We will have to redo the plans for the umpteenth time, but we have an optimistic design for the year”

I take it you are concerned about the branch closures that have taken place due to this crisis?
We have noticed that there has been a gradual closure of branches during the pandemic, but I don’t think many more will close in 2022. There will be a small cut in outlets, but every month we get a lot new entrepreneurial agencies or independent sellers who want to start a business. We all agree on the fact that the role of the travel agency in proximity to the customer is today more essential and necessary than ever. This is why the agency’s role in this crisis has been strengthened.

Finally, why did Soltour Travel Partners bring a Tourism Summit to its first meeting at Fitur?
Our message from day one is that Soltour Travel Partners was created by and for the agency and that is why we wanted to focus our stand on fitur as a meeting place for agencies with attractive content for them. We have leaked our own commercial communication and that is why we have even called on competitors, such as Google, Amedee Is microsoft and we dealt with subjects of interest to agencies, such as European funds or the product offer of the three rail competitors. Our intention is that they see us as a company that wants to help agencies and the fact is that we are very satisfied with the follow-up of the presentations in streaming and on the stand.

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