Miki Travel lays building blocks for Asian FITs in Europe with SIC programmes

Joibus is bringing Asian FIT harder to reach parts of Europe such as Strasbourg in France (pictured)

Amid the growing FIT wave in the travel industry, Miki Travel (Hong Kong), a DMC specialising in Europe, last week launched its new Seat-In-Coach (SIC) tours to help meet the increasing Asian demand for greater flexibility and “off-the-beaten-path” destinations.

Unlike package tours currently on the market, Joibus offers minimum purchasing sector of one-day, an average of three departures per week, and guaranteed departure regardless of the group size – allowing FITs to more easily incorporate the tours into their itinerary.

Joibus routes include harder to reach parts of Europe such as Strasbourg in France (pictured)

Each sector is a one-day tour comprising coach transportation, hotel accommodation, and entrance ticket to attractions. Prices range from €98 (US$113) to €128 per person, and are commissionable for travel agents.

The hop-on, hop-off concept is not new. Olivier Moeschler, Miki’s CEO – Asia division, stressed that what further sets Joibus apart is access to “hard-to-reach” locations. Joibus connects classic European cities, such as Paris and Madrid, to areas considered to be off-the-beaten-path for Asian travellers, including Strasbourg in France and Carmona in Spain.

“There are many options on the market. But the majority are (either) inflexible, requiring (customers to commit to seven to 10 days) or flexible but only visiting the main cities. For example, GoEUgo is probably the most flexible hop-on, hop-off option in Asia. But (to stay) competitive, they go from one big European city to another, and do not include sightseeing.”

While sticking to the main cities is most viable in the short term, Moescheler said that it pays to take the path less trodden to stay ahead of the curve.

“It’s more difficult to get volume when offering (lesser-known destinations). Plus, as SIC departures are guaranteed – they will run (even if there’s just one person on board), it’s much more difficult for us to turn a profit. There is definitely a risk selling (such a product) in Asia,” he admitted.

But given the direction that Asian travel preferences are going, he agreed that short-term risks are worth taking to gain an early mover advantage.

“Interestingly, South Korea is the topmost market for European rail passes, above even the US. The number of FITs travelling from South Korea to Europe is huge (and growing),” he shared.

“When introducing Joibus to the different markets, we got more traction from (agency) customers who service large numbers of FIT like those in South Korea. There was also good response in markets like Taiwan where travellers are looking for places that are difficult to reach.”

Miki is selling Joibus in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia. Currently, travel agencies such as HanaTour and Tourtips in South Korea, and Lion Travel in Taiwan are already on board as partners and official sales agent of Joibus.

Joibus covers 22 tour sectors in 13 countries, namely Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Switzerland. New sectors in Germany, Norway, South France and the UK are being added for travel in the summer season from April to October 2019. Within five years, Miki aims to have Joibus in the whole of Europe, with daily tour departures.

Joibus routes running this January

Moeschler, who was with Kuoni before it was broken up and acquired, joined the DMC two years ago “with the mandate to transform Miki Asia”. On top of developing new products such as Joibus, he has also undertaken to grow the core business by expanding into new Asian markets and adding new destinations, as well as to implement a digital strategy.

Other recent developments in line with this three-pronged approach include the addition of Balkan destinations to Miki’s portfolio through a partnership with Intours DMC, an Adriatic region expert based in Croatia and Slovenia.

As part of a digital strategy, the DMC this month partnered Tour Manage to release a mobile support app for tour leaders, replacing the traditional telephone hotlines. This follows the roll-out of an online bookings system that allows its representatives in Asia to deal directly with hotel suppliers in Europe.

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