2015 was a significant year for tour operator tech specialist Tigerbay. The company made some significant new client wins including CV Villas, the Turquoise Holiday Company and Martin Randall Travel, was shortlisted for a key tech award and has been bought by leisure tech experts Atcore.
Carl Morgan, Managing Director of Tigerbay, takes a look ahead at what 2016 will bring for the travel tech company, in what promises to be its most exciting year yet.
You ended 2015 with quite a Christmas present! What will the acquisition by Atcore mean for Tigerbay?
Our fit with Atcore is a great one because, essentially, we do the same thing, albeit for distinctively different segments of the market. At Tigerbay we develop and manage technology for small and medium sized specialist tour operators; at Atcore they do the same thing, but for much larger tour operators. That is the joy of this deal, we complement what each other does, and we totally understand each other’s businesses – the synergies are huge.
This does mean there is no real change for us at Tigerbay. We can continue, with even more focus, on developing and growing the business, providing excellent and elegant tech systems for specialist and niche operators, but with the financial security that the Atcore brand brings us. And, alongside this, the acquisition means that we will have access to the same hosting platforms and performance testing systems that the biggest players in the industry enjoy – a great start to 2016.
Short term, how do you see the Atcore deal shaping your future, will there be any significant change? Will your teams be joining for example?
Short term there will be some change, but not specifically because of the Atcore deal. We will remain Tigerbay, a brand and business in our own right.
We are growing, and need to move office, but will not be joining Atcore in Slough, or merging teams. In fact, we are moving within Cardiff to bigger and better offices which can cope with the expansion of our team, as we look to double it over the next few months.
The tech talent in and around Cardiff is formidable. We are lucky to be on the doorstep of world class universities producing superb post-graduates, many of whom are attracted to the big businesses, like Barclays, Principality and Admiral, in the area as well as to the vibrancy of Cardiff and seek to make their careers here. We have access to some of the best tech experts in the world, and to move away from that would be crazy.
What the Atcore deal does give us, short term, is the financial wherewithal to invest in growth and to move to an environment and employ the people which will best help expand our business.
What are your goals medium term? What is the vision for the next 3-5 years?
Our vision remains the same as it always has been: to grow the business by investing in the right people and growing our client base. That vision is sharper and more focused than ever before.
You are increasingly known as a company which is not afraid to do things differently. Why is this, and is this still the plan moving ahead?
I am not sure if it is “doing things differently” – at least not for us. It is about doing things correctly, for our customers and for us.
From the outset of Tigerbay we put our technical strategy and our customer’s requirements at the very centre of how we did, and continue to do, business.
To be frank, tour operators have, unfortunately, become used to the “pain” experienced when migrating to a new technology system or even when trying to get the best from the system they are already on. Release cycles, upgrades, roll outs, are all real pain points for tour operators and can be huge barriers to change and evolution.
For us “release cycle” is a swear word. Our first priority is to get things to our customers as and when they want them, and we have developed our system to enable us to do this (a structure which, by the way, is common or standard in other industries, just not in travel technology).
Each of our clients has their own unique version of the Tigerbay system, enabling us to upgrade or enhance their system to their specific requirements as and when they need it. No need to wait for a release cycle, no need to wait for other clients. Whilst more complex for us to develop, this makes things simple for our users.
On top of this we also roll out a system wide upgrade each year, which everyone benefits from. Again, due to the way we structure our relationships with our clients, we can do this at a time that suits them and least disrupts their business.
Also, from the beginning, Tigerbay has looked at the way tour operators put their product together to market, sell and operate. Most tour operators’ businesses require a system which can manage tours, dynamic packaging; pre-packaging and tailor-made packages. Most systems provide one or two of these things, but not all four. This means a tour operator has to flex its needs to the limits of the technology offered to them. At Tigerbay, we provide all four in the one system. No need to make choices, and no need to compromise.
As I say, for tour operators this might seem different, but for us it is normal, nothing ground-breaking. And it is how we will continue to develop our technology.
With that in mind, what areas of development do you have in mind? Will your system be undergoing any fundamental changes in the coming months?
At Tigerbay the focus is always on developing the product, it is never an option to stand still, so yes there will be plenty of changes and improvements over the coming year.
I have two particular areas of focus over the coming months.
The first is how we balance rich functionality with a very useable system for the end user. Our aim is to tame the complex and usability and simplicity is vital for us.
The second is to make deployment and implementation as efficient as possible. How can customers transition to our system seamlessly? We already do this pretty well, but I want to exceed customers’ expectations – blow their minds.
What do you think tour operators need to be considering when it comes to their tech development in 2016? What are the trends they should watch out, and even future proof, for?
This is a topic pretty close to my heart, and the answer is actually a pretty simple one. If tour operators want to future-proof their technology, and their businesses, the solution is found in the staff they employ.
It is understandable that small, niche, luxury tour operators hire people who fit the mould of the product they are selling, who love and live the product and represent it well.
However, who is there to look after the technology? Who is there to facilitate the acquisition, and use of, tech systems? Tech is a huge investment, and it is fundamental to the success of a business. Its care and upkeep should not be left to chance.
Smart tour operators must hire exceptional, visionary facilitators of technology projects if they are going to beat the competition and continue to thrive.