When we first started development of Rezgo back in 2005, we did so in earnest with the goal of helping experience providers manage their businesses and take bookings online. Since that time we’ve seen the industry change and shift as booking software, marketplace, and OTA companies have come and gone. For us, though, one thing has remained the same, providers are the core of our business and the primary focus of Rezgo.
Don’t get me wrong, we know that resellers are an important part of the sales landscape for experience providers. In some markets such as Jamaica, Thailand, and Indonesia, resellers control over 80% of the sales for local providers. They have this control because it’s difficult for independent businesses in these markets to accept payments from foreign customers using credit cards and because they don’t have the technical or financial capabilities to offer their tours or activities to customers directly on the web. We don’t expect these resellers to go away any time soon and we don’t expect all these providers to suddenly abandon their long time business relationships in the hope that they will drive all their business directly. What we can do though, is help providers to manage their reseller business relationships more effectively and to drive new sales directly. At the same time we can help local resellers and DMC businesses add value to their offerings by providing them with tools to better manage their provider relationships and streamline their financial processes.
In other markets where resellers are not dominant, we want providers to focus on their core businesses instead of wasting time chasing limited incremental benefit from large brand resellers such as TripAdvisor Experiences (formerly Viator), GetYourGuide, Klook, and others. I’m not saying that providers shouldn’t partner with these sites to increase distribution, but they should only do so on their own terms and with their eyes open. It’s simply too easy to sign an agreement without reading the details and find that your business is bound by restrictive and in some cases totally one-sided conditions. To that end, as a business and software platform, we have decided to stop all work on direct connections to OTA websites and to instead work with leading channel management tools like Redeam to handle upstream distribution. This focus will allow our team to build the best possible tools for our customers, the experience providers. In addition, we’ll be continuing our work on improving privacy for providers and customers and eliminating partnerships such as TripAdvisor Review Express that are ineffectual when customers are presented with an explicit request for consent.
If 2018 has taught us anything, it is that the experiences industry is always changing. With the sale of Fareharbor to Booking.com and Bokun to TripAdvisor, it is clear that these massive public companies are looking to control supply for their benefit. The health and vitality of the experiences industry is dependant on a vibrant independent provider community, one that is self sustaining and financially viable. As I like to remind our customers, experience providers can survive and even thrive without resellers but resellers can neither strive nor survive without providers.
Our focus for 2019, is squarely on the experience providers. We will do everything we can to make tools that directly benefit them. Every request, function, feature, widget, doodad, and gizmo will be scrutinized through the provider lens and we will ask ourselves “Does the provider benefit from this?”. If the answer is yes, then our mandate is clear.
In a World where providers are being increasingly pressured to use proprietary technology, give up profit, sign away brand rights, and hand over customers, we will be working hard to protect and support providers by being the Provider Champion.
Together let’s make 2019 the year of the experience provider!