SUNNY DAYS AHEAD

Turkey 2020 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

With 33 years of experience in the Turkish tourism industry, Jolly is investing in technology to create the perfect experience and stay one step ahead of the competition.

Mete Vardar
BIOGRAPHY

Mete Vardar has been the chairman of Jolly since 2003, when he took over the chairmanship from his father Sinan Vardar. He also serves as chairman of Gordion Technology. He graduated from Istanbul University's Tourism Department and worked in different departments of various hotels before joining Jolly. Vardar has also served as the president of Anadoluhisarı and Beylerbeyi sports clubs and as the manager of Beşiktaş Sports Club.

How has Jolly kept pace with tourism growth in Turkey?
Jolly is a company with 33 years of experience in Turkey tourism industry. We have operations in leisure, business travel, and MICE. We have been working with both local and global suppliers to enable Turkish tourists to travel around the world. All business units have recorded strong healthy growth in last 10 years. This ongoing trend has bloomed with Goldman Sachs' investment in our company. Goldman Sachs first invested in Jolly in 2015, and it chose to buy a second stake with us in November 2018. Now, we have a foreign investor within our company. It has minor shares, and the management is still done by the Vardar family.

How has Goldman Sachs' investment allowed Jolly to expand outside of Turkey?
This was an important step for us, turning the Jolly brand into an international tourism company. We want to contribute to Turkey's tourism sector. The first step for us was to overhaul the entire technological infrastructure of our company. After three years of hard work, we have developed our own ERP system, which was also funded by Goldman Sachs. We have made an important start in our short-, medium-, and long-term plans. After a full deployment in Turkey, we plan to export this technology around the globe as well. We will also work on expanding our outbound operations in key markets. With our previous partners Germany's Öger Tour and Russia's Moss Tour, we brought in 2.6 million tourists to Turkey in the 90s. Now, we will start our incoming business again.

How will this strategy change impact your customer profile?
Jolly annually serves around 1 million Turkish tourists. 80% of this is inbound, and 20% is outbound tourism. We have reached an extremely important point in our future strategy. In this new period following Goldman Sachs' second investment, our goal is to work our brand in foreign countries too, starting in 2019. We will sell our local contracted hotels to providers in foreign countries within our system. We are the biggest operator in Anatolian tours, and our goal now is to bring our international guests, especially European guests, on Anatolian tours. Last but not least, another focus area for us will be MICE. We currently serve more than 300 companies in organizing meetings, business trips, or congresses. We will also start providing this service to foreign companies.

Across Jolly's products, where do you see the most revenue growth and profitability right now?
In our packaged tours, individual hotels, airplane tickets, and all the other tourism products, price is the most important variable. Our two-most important products in volume are flight tickets and hotel accomodations, and we have identified the hotel segment as an area of focus for us. In 2019, our goal is to get 7,000 hotels in Turkey on our website. We created an extranet for this. Hotels define their own prices, capacity, and programs on our site. We used to make contracts and then entered them into our system, but now we give hotels their own platform for this.

How has Jolly changed its operations and strategy to adapt to changes in technology and how people book vacations?
We established a technology company called Gordion technologies in 2012. Goldman Sachs became a partner of this company too. In terms of what we call end-to-end tourism mobility, we can carry out operations with a technology program from a guest's first purchase to their last. Thanks to our technological infrastructure, our guests can buy concert tickets in their destination, train tickets, make reservations in any restaurant they like, or buy football match tickets. We have many ideas and plans and will realize all of them in the new era.