(Ambrosio’s note: I’m included in the mailing list of My Destination, an online travel franchise that I featured many times on Franchise Chatter this year. Neil Waller and James Street, co-founders of the franchise, recently sent out their annual review, written especially for their franchisees and other members of the network. The letter is a candid account of the successes and challenges they experienced in the past year, with an optimistic eye towards the future. My Destination has a very strong presence in Europe, so it’s not surprising that they felt the ill effects of the European debt woes in 2011. But despite the macroeconomic challenges, the company introduced several key improvements to their business, with more exciting plans in store for 2012. With James’ blessing, I’m sharing this very revealing internal letter with you.)
As another year races to a close, the time has come for our yearly review, a chance for James and I to not only share with you our thoughts as we reflect on the challenges and accomplishments of this year, but also a chance to share with you our strategy moving forwards into 2012.
This year has felt like one of our most challenging, and if we are honest, is one that we will be quite glad to see the back of. It’s been another unsettling year for the global economy and has been the first time we’ve really felt the effect of it. However, it’s important that when we reflect on the year that we do so in the context of what’s gone on in the world around us…and we should all be quite proud. While we’ve not achieved all our goals to the full extent we ambitiously wanted, we’ve still grown as a company, evolved as a brand and massively improved as a product…having had some big accomplishments:
Franchise Growth – Having started the year with 85 franchises, we hit the 100 mark in April and will end 2011 with 120 franchised destinations. Having ended this year with a round the world trip covering a lot of Asia and South America, we are expecting to see important new destinations coming on board in these two regions very soon.
New Branding – One of the most exciting moments of 2011, and one we feel will prove to be a crucial element of our future success, was that we acquired the domain for MyDestination.com and successfully re-launched this new branding and domain structure across the network.
Mobile Platform – After a lot of hard work, but well worth the challenges involved, we launched our technologically innovative mobile platform which doubles both as a downloadable app or mobile web browsing platform.
Booking Engine – 2011 was also the year we launched our new booking platform, which has been continually updated and improved upon and serves as the foundation for us to build more transactional opportunities in the future.
Multimedia – Following on from the runaway success of Virtual Tours which still proves to be a popular aspect of our business, 2011 saw us introduce videos as well. This has not only had a big impact on the behaviour of visitors to the site, but has also been very well received by businesses that now see us offering so much more than just advertising.
We’ve obviously had our challenges as well, many of which we feel have come about as part of the growing pains of the company…as we all learn how to restructure and manage the business to meet the demands and requirements of the rather sizable organization we have now become. This year has been a real learning curve on that front and a lot of groundwork for change has been put in place which should serve us extremely well in the coming years. As always, our eye is always on the future goals and with that come some ambitious plans for 2012, which will see us focus on 3 core aspects of the business:
Increased Revenue – 2012 will be a year where we really start to focus on maximizing and innovating the revenue opportunities that the network has. The booking engine will continually evolve and we will look to bring in new booking opportunities for the likes of flights, car hire etc. The exciting application of Local Deals will be launched across the network and rolled out across the categories. This alone has the potential to be a game changer and has been very well received in the destinations we have lined up to test and launch in January. Finally, with the two points below in place, we will also start a real drive towards bringing on global advertisers to the network.
Increased Brand Awareness – 2012 will be the year where we really declare ourselves to the travel industry and put My Destination on the map. It will be a year when we not only push our online marketing efforts, but we start to push offline marketing campaigns through things such as competitions and PR, as well as taking the brand to the relevant tradeshows and exhibitions. These activities are planned to start as early as April and will ramp up throughout the year.
Product Innovation – 2012 will continue our trend of constant innovation, but will be a year where we really step up a gear with the Next Generation Strategy, a project which is not only a huge development of the product, but also a strategy to develop the brand. We will also be implementing a new update which we are calling project 1.5, a stepping stone to the Next Generation Strategy which we have fast-tracked so that we can get ourselves to a point where we can start shouting about the brand as quickly as possible.
We feel that we are fast reaching a point of critical mass, that will see us really become ready to start making noise about our brand and put us firmly on everyone’s radar, with a view to positioning ourselves as one of the clear leading brands in the travel sector. This ambition comes about as a result of us believing the sky’s the limit and having the supreme confidence that we have the right concept, the relentless determination and most important of all the right group of people to achieve something incredible.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
James & Neil