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SOTC Travel taking omni-channel approach for expansion

Travel services provider SOTC Travel Friday said it is focusing on an omni-channel approach for expansion and is taking a slew of initiatives.
For this, the company is taking steps to strengthen both online and offline presence in the country.
Currently its distribution centres operates in over 60 cities and towns across India, it said.”As a part of our strategy to increase our online presence, the bulk of our investments are diverted towards streamlining our processes and investing in technology, in order to ensure omni-channel coherence,” SOTC Travel MD Vishal Suri told PTI.
Currently the company sells about 15-18 per cent of its holidays solely through online sales, he added.Highlighting that the customers also prefer to physically interact with the company for certain services, Suri said: “Be it visa, ticketing, or other information pertaining to documentation; customers are more comfortable visiting a brick and mortar store, which is conveniently and centrally located.

For this reason, the company will continue to invest in an omni-channel strategy, he added.”As a part of our investment cycle in this approach, we already have a physical presence in major cities across the country, and will continue to expand in tier 2 and tier 3 markets,” Suri said.
Given company’s omni-channel approach, it has paid considerable attention to ensuring that while alternating between the online and offline models, the customers enjoy a seamless transition, and that the company is well-aligned with its offerings, he added.On being asked about the business segments of the company, Suri said: “We have a Holiday Business, under which, we offer both domestic and international holidays, distributed online as well as offline.
Being a B2C retail or consumer business, it has both physical and digital channels.”
The company also has a significant presence in the Meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) business and has recently pioneered the concept of incentive travel in India, he added.
“We are also a travel management company, and we deliver business travel and corporate travel solutions to large companies, administering the travel policy for them,” Suri said.Recently the company has also ventured into Foreign Exchange business.
At this point in time, it has started foreign exchange activities in Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Chennai, he added.When asked if the company was also looking at expanding its existing portfolio, Suri said SOTC Travel is essentially a travel and holiday business, and that’s who it wants to be.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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Travel tech this week: Start-ups funding and new partnerships

This week, we saw travel start-ups getting funding to further their growth. Some companies also facilitated new partnerships to expand their services.
Lithuanian start-up Trafi offers a transport app that handles billing for all services centrally and requires only a single login.This will remove the need to use multiple providers for various transport services.“This goes in precisely the right direction,” said Andreas Knie, a mobility expert at the Social Science Center Berlin.
“Transport services need to be connected, just like cellphone networks, so you can easily roam from one to another.”The app will also help to prevent people from riding their own cars that will clog the already-congested roads for the sake of convenience.
Berlin’s ageing transport system – a maze of underground lines, trams, buses and commuter rail covering an area the size of Dallas – is straining as its population heads toward 4 million.Expedia’s Certified Technology Partner ProgramExpedia Partner Solutions (EPS) has launched its Certified Technology Partner Program, an elite program for EPS’ top technology partners from around the world.
The program will provide increased resource investment from EPS to further expand its technology partners’ business and become one of EPS’ most trusted tech platforms globally.Over the next year, EPS will select up to 30 top global technology partners to join its Certified Technology Partner Program.Prospective tech partners must meet three key criteria: map at least 90% of EPS supply; integrate EPS’ API, EPS Rapid; and meet EPS’ launch requirements.In addition to Expedia Group’s hotel supply of more than 500,000 varied accommodations, certified technology partners will receive dedicated weekly tech support and EPS’ partner services team will review the tech partner’s integration every year to make sure they continue to be optimised.
Pickyourtrail bags USD 3 million Online travel agency Pickyourtrail has raised nearly USD 3 million in Series A funding. Angel investors led the round, including Kumar Vembu, the founder of billing software start-up GoFrugal.
Pickyourtrail graduated from the Amadeus Next incubator.The Chennai, India-based Pickyourtrail focuses on selling outbound international travel, where customers can piece together air, hotel and tour packages.
Southeast Asian consumers mostly use traditional travel agencies to plot the details of their vacations. This start-up hopes to woo them online with an algorithm that matches trip recommendations with personal preferences.
Since its founding five years ago with USD 1,700 in seed capital, Pickyourtrail has been gaining steam. It ended 2018 having helped plan 8,000 trips.
The company, which now has about 90 workers, claims to have been profitable every month in the last 60 months barring one, said co-founder Hari Ganapathy.Amex GBT confirms South African partnerAmerican Express Global Business Travel (GBT) has confirmed Tourvest Travel Services as its partner in South Africa after Rennies Travel announced it would join forces with BCD Travel.The TMC says it implemented a ‘best-of-both’ strategy following last year’s acquisition of HRG, selecting the best partners in each country from the existing Amex GBT and HRG networks. Tourvest has been an Amex GBT partner for more than 20 years and was chosen for its “highly skilled people and its commitment to integrating the advanced GBT technology platforms”.
Rennies Travel had been HRG’s partner in South Africa, but BCD Travel announced last month that it would turn to the corporate specialist for its clients in the region. HRG clients currently serviced by Rennies Travel will be supported in moving their programmes over to Tourvest, according to Amex GBT, and Rennies is no longer part of the network.
3DEN receives USD 2 millionStart-up 3 DEN, which aims to offer co-working, lounge, and nap areas in cities, has raised USD 2 million in seed funding. It intends to offer services a traveller might expect in an airport lounge, only without the airport.Investors include b8ta and Graphene Ventures. 3 DEN, founded in New York City, will open its first spaces on 15 March at the Hudson Yards complex of residential, office, and retail venues.While you can reserve amenities at the space, consumers don’t book time there. It will be purely a walk-in destination.

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Shammi Silva elected president of Sri Lanka Cricket

Shammi Silva has been elected president of Sri Lanka Cricket. Drawing in 83 out of a possible 142 votes Silva, a candidate backed by former president Thilanga Sumathipala, beat Jayantha Dharmadasa, who received 56 votes.
Alongside Silva, other members of the previous executive committee in Mohan de Silva and Ravin Wickremaratne have been voted in again, this time as secretary and vice-president respectively.K Mathivanan also returns as vice president, the only member of the Dharmadasa faction to be elected.The results translate to yet another unhappy election outcome for the brothers Ranatunga.Former World Cup winning captain Arjuna lost out narrowly in the race for vice-president, racking up 72 votes to Wickremaratne’s 82 and Mathivanan’s 80, while the younger Ranatunga, Nishantha, running for the post of secretary, picked up just 43 votes to de Silva’s 96.The end result is a mere shuffling of the same people, with Sumathipala and Dharmadasa the only major players missing out among the office bearers voted in during SLC’s last elections in 2016.
In the race for other positions, Lasantha Wickremasinghe (100 votes) beat Eastman Narangoda (37) to the post of treasurer, while Lalith Rambukwella (92) was voted in ahead of Sanjaya Senarath (42) for assistant treasurer. Chrishantha Kapuwatha (94) was voted in assistant secretary ahead of Hirantha Perera (44).
In the preceding weeks both de Silva, who was set to run for president, and Wickremaratne, who was up for the post of secretary, had been banned by an election appeals committee after being adjudged to have violated Sri Lanka’s Sports Law, which as per a 2016 amendment prevents any previous office bearer of a national sports body which had been dissolved by government from contesting in any future elections. The pair had been part of ousted committees in 2001 and 2005.
In response, de Silva and Wickremaratne challenged the ruling in an appeals court, which was where a loophole was discovered. As it transpired, while de Silva and Wickramaratne had put their names in the hat for multiple positions, the objections filed against them had only referenced some of those posts.
Essentially, this allowed the pair to contest on the condition that it wasn’t for the posts they were banned from.It is unclear who is at fault for these clerical errors, but in any event it left the legal counsel representing the Sports Ministry no choice but to let de Silva and Wickremaratne contest for the posts of secretary and vice president.
The writ petition hearings though are set to continue on 21 March.This turn of events is thought to have swayed voter sentiment.
Until then Silva, a backup candidate to de Silva, was to run for president against Dharmadasa, while the coveted posts of vice president and secretary were set to be run virtually uncontested by those in the Dharmadasa camp – a situation that, had it prevailed, would almost certainly have seen Dharmadasa come out victorious in the presidential stakes.That events panned out in this manner, while unexpected, was not wholly surprising.Thilanga Sumathipala has long been identified as the most powerful force in Sri Lanka Cricket, and despite not contesting this time around, he has continued to cast a wide shadow. Most notably in the strong voting bloc he possesses, which is likely what eventually won Silva the presidential race.
One of the primary election strategies for Dharmadasa and his camp had been to neutralise this threat. Nishantha Ranatunga’s court case against Sumathipala, which eventually led to the latter withdrawing his candidacy, and Dharmadasa’s objection to Mohan de Silva’s candidacy had seemingly achieved this goal successfully.So much so that Dharmadasa had been favourite to take the post right up until the eve of the elections. But that late compromise between Sri Lanka’s Sports Ministry and the previously disqualified pair of de Silva and Wickremaratne reinstating them in the race, gave the Sumathipala-backed faction the numbers they needed.

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