The most modern car fleet in Iceland
The Icelandic travel-agency Iceland Excursions has grown vastly the past years, the company can be defined as a tour-operator, tour-organizer and a travel agency.
The growth of Iceland Excursions has been immense in recent years. The company focuses on providing quality service for it´s customers and now has one of the most modern car fleet in Iceland.
The company was originally found as a tour- and public transport operator and can be traced back to the year 1992. Then in the year 1997 it had transformed into a full fledged travel agency and attained all the necessary licenses.
The increase in tourism
“We define ourselves as tour operators, tour organizers and a travel agency,” says Þórir Garðarsson, sales- and marketing chief. “Day tours is just one branch of our operation. We sell custom made tours whilst we run our own sales office where we are able to create and sell complete tours. The company´s operation is three-fold. We have a separate division that focuses and handles contracted projects; school transfers and public transport services. Then we have the tour-operating section and lastly the travel-agency itself,” says Þórir.
He also say the specialty of the company is in what is called tour-production, whereas the company creates and modifies their own tours. This year Iceland Excursions provides 37 day tours from Reykjavik, ranging from a 3 hour city-sightseeing to a 14 hour tour to Jökulsárlón and they suspect the passenger count will reach about 45 thousand in this year alone. “We are now experiencing the turnover for March and April being on par with the July turnover three to four years ago,” says Þórir. “It appears that the increase in the past four years is doubling the respective tourism increase to Iceland in general. That means that we are increasing our share of the total market available to us,” says Hannes Strange, CEO.
Focus on marketing abroad
Þórir says the company is consistently increasing the emphasis on foreign marketing and the company now has around 300 written contracts with travel agencies all around the world. “We visit them on a regular basis and contribute to establishing Iceland as a place of interest for tourists. Compared to the company´s extent we have spent substantially on the promotion of our country, marketing and our sales, but this has paid off. We have been very successful in increasing the number of our clients and they are very satisfied with the service we provide them,” says Þórir.
The most modern car fleet in the country
The company´s car fleet is now 45 cars and half of it is now bound to contracted projects. “We have been investing almost exclusively in new cars the past years and we are expecting six brand new cars this year. The average age of our day tour coaches is three years, which we think is the youngest in the country,” says Hannes.
Hannes says there are benefits that come with the new cars. “The expenses is lower as the maintenance drops not to mention the practical adjustment that follows the lower gasoline expenditure. We are very conscious about environmental effects and all the new cars follow the strict European standards in regards of pollution caused by vehicle exhaustion. The cars are also equipped for the comfort of our passengers. The vehicles are used extensively and we have very demanding clients and therefore we provide the highest quality available of coaches, drivers and guides, also the company has a broad spectrum of excellent staff on all divisions,” says Hannes.
In most coaches there are LCD monitors which show security- and promotional videos, not unlike those that can be seen on airplanes. There the necessary security measures and information to improve comfort for the passengers are covered. “The video itself is in eight languages and, for example, the Japanese tourists have shown their satisfaction that an instructional video at an Icelandic travel agency is shown in their native language whereas major commercial airlines who fly to Japan every day, do not,” says Hannes.
The Gray Line franchise
Þórir says that a large part of the success the company has had is due to the Gray Line franchise, which Iceland Excursions received in the year 2004. “The Gray Line franchise is well known and it has 25 million annual passengers traveling under their name. They provide 160 tourist destinations to six continents. To receive this franchise has created an immense opportunity for us and Iceland in general, whereas Gray Line is making an increasing effort in promotional and marketing strategies and Iceland is a part of that. To receive this franchise should not be taken granted. We had to comply to high standards and expectations that we have managed to successfully fulfill,” says Þórir.
All the marketing and promotional material we have is produced and designed by the company itself. “We do not exchange with commercial agencies, we´d rather have our own staff oversee those projects, be it our brochure or any promotional material and we have received widespread recognition for that,” says Þórir and Hannes.
The company has received positive attention towards their booking system, it is considered very simple to use whilst being very safe. “Our booking system is an exemplar whereas our clients can book themselves via the internet, very similar to what we know from commercial airline companies. The travel agencies that we have contracts with can log themselves into the system and take care of all their bookings. That way they are working through our own communal booking system and by doing so it minimizes the risk of any booking errors. The booking system has had incredible reception abroad as it is very simple and secure in all places,” says Þórir.
Maintaining the Lead
Þórir and Hannes say that the future plans for the company is simply to do better than the competitors and to hold an advantage regarding technical solutions and quality. “We also commit ourselves towards inventing new day tours and improved combinations of them, that way the tourist can in fact customize their own trip completely. It is also scheduled to find a new housing facility for our entire operation and there are many aspects that need to be taken into account in the process.
This article was published in Icelandic Financial News 10th of June 2007 and was written by Vignir A. Gudmundsson. Published with their permission www.vb.is