With the 2019 Rugby World Cup on the horizon, eNett International’s Anthony Hynes suggests how to not get caught out

1.8 million tickets are up for grabs for the Rugby World Cup in Japan, which kicks off on September 20 and is spread across 12 host cities. Attracting attention from fans globally, we’ve seen travel businesses across the world up the ante in preparation.

With some travel agencies hiring extra people to cope with the increased demand, to others offering $50,000 holiday and ticket packages, big money can be generated around such prominent events.  Here are some thoughts on what travel agencies should keep in mind to best leverage such big-ticketed events and not get caught out:

• Flexing with spikes in demand:
Travel businesses both big and small need to ensure they’re capable of flexing with spikes in demand, whether that’s hiring additional people, or doubling down on the technology stack to avoid website or services outages. Without this, missed sales and dents to customer experience are sure to follow

• Thinking outside the box when it comes to accommodation options:
Japan already attracts a huge number of tourists – more than 30 million people travelled to the country in 2018. The Japanese government aims to build on this number, setting its sights to welcome over 40 million foreign visitors by 2020. To cope with this boom, it’s encouraging tourists to seek alternative accommodation such as love hotels, capsule hotels and traditional Japanese inns (ryokan). This is a trend that is set to continue as rugby and Olympic fans look to experience interesting lodging, at a cheaper rate.

• Keeping an eye on fraudulent suppliers:
Travel companies catering to the influx of tourists heading to a far-flung destination may be engaging with new suppliers to put together robust package holidays for their customers or adding a new hotel or apartment to their travel search engine. But with fake suppliers now a common fraudulent practice in the travel industry, travel firms should follow some straightforward steps to limit their exposure to it. This can be as simple as educating employees to recognise the warning signs of dodgy customers, to using payment solutions that offer protection and recovery mechanisms.

• Watching out for hidden costs: If travel companies are transacting with suppliers or partners in a new country and outside of their regions, chances are they’ll need to set up new payment processes. However, this could lead to them paying up to 3% more on cross-border transactions thanks to hidden fees from payment providers, something which could be mitigated with the use of virtual cards. This form of payment can lock-in FX rates at time of booking and offers local funding and settlement, which dramatically reduces the cost of payments by avoiding surcharges and bank fees.

• Being mindful of general tourism demand: While major events such as the Rugby World Cup do attract fans in their millions, often host cities and nations experience a drop in overall tourism numbers during the event period. This ‘travel displacement’ phenomenon is caused by travellers avoiding the area, knowing it will be busy. So, don’t be surprised if you see a drop in general booking interest not associated with the event area or cities

The Rugby World Cup is only one example of the many events, including the Olympics and Fifa World Cup, that generate swathes of interest from people in every corner of the globe. But these tips also remain relevant for more general peak travel periods such as the likes of the European summer, cherry blossom season in Japan and seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland, and should be considered as part of best practice by travel businesses. They offer travel companies a fantastic revenue opportunity – and those that are well prepared will reap the rewards.

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