In 13 years, Bus2alps and has grown to become the largest and most reputable student tour operator in Europe. Based in Interlaken, Bus2alps aims to provide the best experiences to meet youth and student travel demands, and strives consistently to achieve that.
We caught up with Vanessa Latessa, CEO of Bus2alps to learn about how this bus tour company has grown from 50 to more than 500 customers per tour in just over a decade.
Tell me about Bus2alps. When did it start and what do you do?
Founded in 2003 to provide alternative travel methods to rail and air in order to meet youth and student travel demands, Bus2alps describes itself as a travel partner and friend to students and youth travellers in need of fun, safe and high quality experiences when travelling.
With its headquarters in Switzerland, Bus2alps has more than doubled its rate of growth every year in terms of customers, an expansion fuelled by the organisation’s appeal to the youth and student travel market. It provides a wealth of popular tour options across Europe, with its trip to the Amalfi Coast voted as ‘Europe’s Most Amazing Tour’ by TourRadar customers in 2012 and 2013.
Now in its 13th year, Bus2alps has four departure cities – Florence, Rome, Barcelona and Prague – and over 40 destinations throughout Europe.
What are your top 3 goals for your business?
- To continue to expand into other destinations and departure cities
- To increase our in destination activity network to offer the most options to our guests
- To maintain our safety record
Are local (in-destination activities) an important part of a Bus2alps Tour?
Local activities and tours are critical in the majority of our destinations. As we attempt to keep our package price low, the opportunity to upsell local activities greatly impacts our margins and provide guests with in-destination options based on their interest and budget.
What criteria do you look for when choosing local partners?
We only work with reputable, highly rated partners with relevant licenses and certification. In order to resell activities and manage capacity for our guests in advance, it is a huge advantage when our partners use TrekkSoft too.
Any advice on upselling local activities to your passengers?
Offer them to the customers at multiple stages in the booking process. Make sure they are visible during the research process, at the actual time of booking, during pre-departure emails and communication, and of course recommended by the guides during the trip.
On the other hand, it is critical that the experiences we are promoting and upselling offer genuine value to the guest, not just the impression that we are promoting it for commission.
What made you decide to look for an online booking and payment solution?
Bus2alps has focused on online bookings since the beginning. That is where our customer base was, so it was an obvious choice for us. We were an early adopter of a direct online strategy and it has been key to our success. 95% of our bookings are online and we have grown that from 1,300 passengers in 2007 to 38,000 in 2015.
As you've scaled, how have your booking and trip management requirements changed?
As our trips have grown from 50 passengers to sometimes over 500, we have increased operational and planning needs. We now have a greater need for enhanced communication with guests in advance.
What products and features do you foresee your business prioritising in the coming year with changing trends and a growing customer base?
We are focusing on the development of our “Meet Us There” tour options. This product is growing rapidly as students are better at finding low cost airfare and prefer quick travel time. We are working to enhance these packages to include accommodation, some meals and local activities.
What are your top three favourite TrekkSoft features and why?
- Online bookings and Trip Management: From a sales and marketing perspective this is key to our entire business, and it allows guests to book and pay directly with Bus2alps for our own tours. From an operational side, our team and guides can then manage the departures, check-ins, cancellations, re-bookings etc. all from the TrekkSoft dashboard.
- Agent Desk: At any one point in time we have over 300 peer-to-peer agents promoting and selling Bus2alps tours.
- Partner Network: Local activities are important parts of the Bus2alps experience and the TrekkSoft Partner Network makes it easy for us to offer our partners’ products to our passengers. We can sell the right experience to the right person at the right time, and because they are all direct bookings, there is almost no friction in the process for us or the passenger.