Jan Gerlach, CEO
Peakwork was founded in 2009 and provides software to connect supply from airlines, bedbank and other travel companies with online and off distributors.
Peakwork has signed a string of interesting partnerships recently including a distribution system for Thomas Cook travel agencies and dynamic packaging technology to four Chinese airlines through its technology partner Zhouyou.
Peakwork has announced significant new partnerships and technology roll-outs in recent months - what have been the standout moments for the company in the past year?
This year, Peakwork is celebrating its tenth anniversary. We’ve just hosted our fifth annual partner conference and have around 100 tour operators in our leisure travel network, more than 50 accommodation providers, over 50 flight providers and many more service providers all selling their products in more than 35 markets via our technology.
Nevertheless, an outstanding moment for my colleagues and I this year was to see Peakwork technology finally going live in both Chinese and Russian. After months of adoption and adaptation, it was quite amazing to see our technology released in different languages to meet these new and exciting market requirements.
This past year, I’ve also been delighted to see our airline vacation technology – which enables flight+hotel packaging on airline websites - expand out of our core markets to reach brand new markets.
Our technology is now supporting airlines grow their own businesses in Turkey, China, Canada and Malaysia, demonstrating the power of Peakwork technology around the globe. In fact, Malaysia Airlines has just announced the launch of their new holiday brand in cooperation with TUI as its operating partner.
One of Peakwork’s main technology strengths is dynamic packaging, so the rising demand of travel packages is extremely important for us. We work closely with many of the leading metasearch partners, including Google, Trivago, TripAdvisor, and Kayak, where in recent months, we have seen these players heavily focusing on developing their travel package products.
TripAdvisor and Google have already launched packages with most of Peakwork’s partners. Google, for example, is now displaying travel package adverts next to hotel and flight ads in its travel environment launched back in May.
TripAdvisor is also increasing travel package exposure on their newly launched social platform, with a clearly visible button to instantly access vacation packages. These developments are great for both our partners and us to drive more and more online sales.
Last but not least, we’ve also developed and launched a powerful new Rail Package Player solution, which builds rail+hotel packages within sub-seconds, as well as a new B2B search and booking solution that we developed specifically for Thomas Cook.
We noted your investment in Chinese technology player Zhouyou in February, can you provide an update on achievements so far and Peakwork’s aspirations for China?
China is a very interesting market with huge potential and exceptional market development.
We are delighted to have found a local technology partner in this market who is powering ahead with our technology. We work very closely with the team based in Chongqing, actively providing knowledge transfer and support.
Deploying our technology in China could have been complex: We had to set up hosting in the Alibaba Cloud, localize front-ends, integrate local payment solutions such as WeChat Pay and UnionPay, as well as integrate local content providers like Shiji Distribution Solutions for hotel offers.
Yet Zhouyou confidently takes care of all this and has already launched four airlines on our airline vacation solution: Hainan Airlines; China West Air; China Express
Airlines and Ruili Airlines are already offering new travel packages with Peakwork technology. And more airlines are in Zhouyou’s pipeline.
The next major milestones on our agenda will be the integration of our European and worldwide suppliers to the leading travel distribution platforms in China, which is planned to be complete this year. We also aim to integrate more Chinese domestic hotel content.
So effectively, our aspirations over the coming years is that China will contribute significantly to Peakwork’s growth.
Peakwork’s travel agency distribution technology for Thomas Cook is an interesting example of how traditional distribution is thriving in some markets, why do you think this is the case?
A typical leisure traveler books one or two bigger holidays per year. Of course, they want to be sure that their decision to purchase this holiday is the right one and appreciate the advice of an experienced travel agent to reinforce their decision. That is one reason why travel agents still play a major role in leisure bookings.
Over the few last years, online booking solutions and websites for travelers have evolved substantially. In some markets, however, B2B solutions for travel agencies have not kept pace. Agencies have to move forward and be more active in order to remain competitive.
Thomas Cook, with its new B2B booking solution, has created new possibilities of searching and presenting its own travel offers to travel agents, which have not been available so far.
Open search and search for GlobalTypes attributes are now available. This will be beneficial and will support travel agents in selling Thomas Cook hotels and packages in their various markets across Europe.
Rail is confronting many challenges (technical, collaboration, investment) in its journey to go digital, is a breakthrough in site?
For all service providers, distribution is challenging. But technology and digital development opens up great opportunities. Together with our German rail provider Deutsche Bahn, we have developed the Rail Package Player solution, which now provides tour operators access to dynamic rail rates.
This is a major breakthrough with high sales potential for Deutsche Bahn. These new, environmentally friendly rail+hotel travel packages are available for destinations in more than 12 European countries. And of course, other rail providers can adapt this new distribution solution in their own markets.
Google continues to dominate travel conversations and headlines, what is your view on its developments in hotels and flights?
Google provides several travel specific touch points for the online customer, from inspiration and research on the chosen destination, to searching for a specific hotel, flight or vacation package, as well as actual booking options. This brings all the pieces together for the online traveler.
AI and machine learning have huge potential as they affect all steps in the travel production and service chain
In our view, Google offers an excellent marketing platform for travel advertisers and our partners to reach their customers along various stages of their journey from inspiration to decision, providing the necessary information at each stage.
From hotels to flights and now package vacations, Google drives significant value for our customers by optimizing these products and assisting end-users in their decision process and specific search requirements.
With a metasearch model, Google provides our partners with a global reach to travelers, as well as international brand exposure and access to evolving online customers.
One of our partners, the number one tour operator from Switzerland, after saturating its own relatively small country and looking for international growth opportunities, now sells hotels and packages in more than 20 countries via our technology and platforms such as Google.
It’s quite remarkable how these tech platforms enable new business models and distribution opportunities.
Within the Peakwork travel network, we work successfully with our partners to develop new business models, launch these with our technology and connectivity to enable greater business opportunities amongst them all.
What’s on Peakwork’s roadmap for the next 12 months?
The biggest topic on our roadmap is the growth of our leisure travel network. The bigger the network, the bigger the opportunities, which, in turn, increases business for every single partner.
We face major new launches, especially in APAC and China and will be hiring more staff in China together with Zhouyou. Localizations in new markets are also on the roadmap.
At our headquarters, we plan to invest in more manpower as we strive to constantly improve our core technology to reduce setup time and effort - for us and our partners - and effectively accelerate time to market.
Regarding our partners and global network, we have a strong focus on supporting our tour operator and supplier partners to help them grow internationally in own distribution channels and especially on metasearch platforms such as Google, TripAdvisor, Trivago, Kayak and more.
Many local travel tech suppliers have been acquired or quietly gone by they way side, how has Peakwork managed to stay relevant?
Peakwork has a global business concept, which gains relevance with an increasing number of partners. Our technology is live in more than 35 markets. We integrate relevant partners in all markets and therefore stay relevant. Our decentralized technology best positions our partners for future distribution challenges and meets the demands of their customers.
Peakwork is still very much influenced by the pioneering spirit of its founders. Just 30% of the company belongs to our investors, TUI and Brockhaus Private Equity, who support us strategically, especially with our global expansion plans.
What are the company’s greatest challenges right now?
Our biggest challenge is the search for new talent. We are constantly looking for software engineers and invest a considerable amount of time and money into recruiting and talent acquisition to find the right people for Peakwork.
Concerning technology and our solutions, we are increasingly aiming to shift away from highly individual, bespoke project setup, towards designing a faster way to implement our product solutions. This will be a much more cost efficient and productive process, boosting time to market for every single partner integration.
The third aspect and significant challenge we face is understanding the different market and software requirements in each country and what we need to do to make our travel technology solutions work. We need to address local set up and understand who should be integrated first – be it the supplier or distributor and this varies from market to market - until we have established a critical mass.
When you look at emerging technologies (AI and machine learning, virtual and augmented reality, Blockchain, chatbots) what do you think will have the greatest impact on travel in the short term?
This is a great question that we have just discussed across our partner network. AI and machine learning have huge potential as they affect all steps in the travel production and service chain. We have just shared our latest showcase with our customers, demonstrating how machine learning can take over complex manual workflows: such as managing and validating pictures and non-bookable content of travel offers and in that way optimizes online travel booking sites. The whole industry will benefit from innovations in these fields.
And, a few questions about you…
If we cut you down the middle, would we find technology, travel or a bit of both?
That’s an interesting idea. Most probably – or hopefully – you would find a sound human understanding with strong strategic business sense. Technology thrills me as it opens up amazing possibilities for both travelers and the travel sector worldwide.
If you could wave a magic wand, what area of leisure travel would you fix?
Of course, a magic wand would open up immense opportunities – too much to sum up now!
But regarding our leisure travel galaxy, I would implement the Peakwork data standard into the global leisure travel sector. Communication with one data format and predefined criteria to define travel offers would make the whole industry much more efficient and increase benefits for all players and travelers significantly.
Who do you most admire in the travel and/or technology industries?
The people who I really admire are our very own software engineers. With every line of code they write – probably in sum of a length multiple times to the moon and back – this fantastic team significantly contributes to changing our entire industry and meet today’s challenges.
This is really quite fascinating.
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