Jenny Zapata
Regional Director NLATAM and Caribbean
Viajes El Corte Inglés
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View from the Top

Co-Creation Leads to Better Prices, Quality

By Gabriela Mastache | Fri, 04/03/2020 - 17:07

Q: What role does Mexico play in Viajes el Corte Inglés’ global strategy?

A: The Americas region is growing in importance within the overall strategy of Viajes el Corte Inglés. We have achieved a very competitive position and our operation in Mexico is the second-largest, just after Spain. In Mexico, specifically, we have done it nicely well and we have managed to develop all our business lines while positioning the company as one of the main players in the market.

Q: Considering the multiple alternatives that exist today to book trips, how does Viajes el Corte Inglés remain a valid option?

A: It is a matter of guarantying quality. We have worked to develop a collective culture where service is fundamental. It is not an easy task since it involves transforming processes and it is always a work in progress. However, we can say that considering our volume of operations, we excel in this regard. Also, we are part of the El Corte Inglés group, which provides us with strong backup and prestige. While the guaranteed quality might not seem that obvious at first, should the need arise, we are prepared to respond to the client. We have very positive booking rates, which is in part the result of the negotiating power that we have as a company with other players in the industry and that allows us to offer competitive rates to our clients.

An important pillar for positioning the brand in the market is technology. In the past, the company lacked the technology platform to guarantee that we were offering the same services in all countries where we operate. Moreover, tourism activity is becoming increasingly technological. In 2019, we started to develop our technology platform. Though we still have a long way to go, we basically want the client to access our products either through our travel consultants or online. We have a very ambitious online growth strategy that we believe will greatly support our overall growth.

Q: What challenges has Viajes el Corte Inglés faced developing its multiple business lines in the country?

A: Every business line has its own challenges. For instance, when it comes to business travel, though we have the global experience and we can compete in this segment against the largest players in the market, the challenge we faced was being the go-to option for clients. In the leisure segment, the challenge is always related to attracting more clients. El Corte Inglés is a very large group in Spain, but is still growing in  Mexico, so it is a matter of attracting and retaining clients and guaranteeing the client that the travel guidance we provide is the best of its kind.  For this reason, our challenge is to position the brand as importantly as in Spain and to become one of the top five of travel agencies.

Being perceived as competitive in terms of price has always been a challenge. When you talk about Viajes el Corte Inglés, everybody says that it is very expensive, so changing that notion has always been a challenge.

Competitiveness is one of the factors that differentiates us due to our great purchasing power worldwide, the challenge is to get the client to give us the opportunity to see it and to quote with us.

Another challenge that we had to work with internally was with our headquarters, communicating that the needs of the Mexican market are not the same as those of the Spanish market. We asked for support from our headquarters to adapt local initiatives that would allow us to meet our requirements without missing the global principles that we have as a company.

Q: What added value does Viajes el Corte Inglés provide through its physical branches?

A: I think that this is a big industry that can accommodate all business models. Though there has been a boom in the online segment of all businesses, we do not believe that the online and physical channels are at odds with each other. For instance, there are certain trips that cannot be scheduled on the internet, like cruises or big trips. Moreover, we have found that when people come to our physical offices, they can see the value of what they are paying and the quality of the service we can offer them.

It is believed that using online platforms for trip purchases is easy and fast. However, when you analyze how much time it takes a person to create an itinerary and compare all the possible options, it can be very time consuming. We offer clients a decent amount of suitable options. In addition to the service, our clients are buying agility. However, we are aware that the digital channel is a must, hence the investments we are making in our platforms so our clients can reach us through all different means. We have worked on adapting and ensuring that the purchasing process, both in the physical branch and online, is agile and effective. We need to have all our platforms connected, so we can guarantee the client that we are giving them the best possible price. We have integrated platforms like Expedia so we can offer more options to clients. More than competing, for us it is a matter of co-creating and having a robust portfolio in which we have integrated all possible options.

Q: How can travel agencies promote trips to specific destinations within the country?

A: Each country has a different communications strategy. However, we create commercial alliances to promote different tourism destinations. In our case, we know that Cancun is one of Mexico’s tourism pillars but in Spain we have tried to promote destinations like Guanajuato. We help to develop the tourism product and generate alliances to promote the destination.

Viajes el Corte Inglés is a Spanish travel agency that is part of the El Corte Inglés group, headquartered in Spain. In Mexico, Viajes el Corte Inglés has had a partnership with Mexican retailer Liverpool for more than 15 years

Photo by:   MBP
Gabriela Mastache Gabriela Mastache Senior Journalist and Industry Analyst