The summer of 2023 is significant because GP Travel Enterprise (hereinafter – GPTE), the GP Solutions product designed to fully automate the business of modern tour operators, is celebrating its 15th anniversary. We talked about achievements, plans, and the team with colleagues. Enjoy reading;)
– Hello, Maria. When we did the interview last year, you were working on the GPTE version 8.14. What version is currently under development? What features have been added this year?
Hi. Version 9.4 was released this month. And we continue to develop actively, making a new release every 2-3 months.
Development planning of GP Travel Enterprise always consists of two elements: on the one hand, we look at current trends in technology and business, and on the other, at the requests of our current and new customers.
In particular, modernizing the UI system using flexible front-line technologies, which makes it easy to adapt the system interface to the business features of various customers, is currently in progress. The modules “Smart Guide”, which allows guides to see the current schedule of planned excursions and sell them to customers, and “Itinerary Builder” to create personalized offers (especially relevant for group or corporate requests), were also implemented. During this period, the possibilities of tourist services packages have significantly expanded, also we continued working on the development of financial and other modules.
– How many customers use GP Solutions product? Can you name the most eminent of them?;)
For 15 years we have tried ourselves in different segments – from SaaS (Software-as-a-Service, a budget model for small companies) to large Enterprise licenses.
At the moment, we have settled on the Enterprise segment, which is the most interesting and corresponds to our capabilities and rich functionality of the product. We have about 30 clients in this segment, including such interesting companies as the Swiss educational and touristic holding EF Tours, the Australian medical tourism company MediStays, the Kazakh client ITP Travel, part of the international holding BCD Group, the Israeli tour operator Atlantis Travel, the Czech Asis Tour and others.
Remarkably, over the past year, 2 companies from Australia have become our clients (independently), so as a result GPTE turned out to be in demand on all continents.
– And how many travel service providers are currently connected to GPTE?
In total, during the existence of the product, more than 200 connectors to various types of products have been implemented – suppliers of hotels, flights, transfers, excursions, car rentals, and insurance. Such a wide range of connectors gives us the opportunity to satisfy any customer requests.
For example, GDS Amadeus and Sabre became the undisputed leaders for flights, and Hotelbeds and Ratehawk for hotels.
– At the height of the incidence of COVID-19, it was predicted that by the end of the pandemic, people tired of isolation would rush to travel. Has this prediction come true? Is it possible to track through GPTE how many people booked tickets/hotels/transfers in May 2023 and compare this data, for example, with May 2022?
Yes, definitely these forecasts have come true and now we see a significant increase in bookings in our customers’ systems. It is worth mentioning that, in fact, only starting this year we are returning to a normal mode of existence – covid discounts for licenses are gradually being canceled, and customers are able to pay for our services in full.
We continue to monitor the situation and support the development of our clients. I think the final conclusions can be made in about a year.
– How GPTE differs from similar products of other companies?
One of the most powerful sides is the system’s functionality and flexibility, which allows not just to sell a “boxed product” to which customers must “somehow adapt”, but to act as technical consultants and solve clients’ business problems, adapting the product to existing needs.
The system can work with almost any tourist product – hotels, flights, transfers, excursions, tour packages, insurance, etc. And if this is not enough, there is a module “additional services” (or “universal product”), in which you can create any other type of service and configure the rules for its sales. You can add the possibility of selling conference rooms, catering, SIM cards, souvenirs, and any other products/services that customers may be interested in.
We also pay attention to additional convenience – the system prompts the weather forecast for tourists along the route of their stay, also you can download tips and recommendations for cities you plan to visit, save recent searches, and view similar hotels on the recommendation of the system. This allows you to solve the challenges of the tourism business quickly and efficiently.
– Hello, Cate. A question for you;) The project management office (PMO) was once implemented in GPTE and it has been functioning for more than 4 years now. Please, tell us about it and its perks.
As Maria mentioned above, we are currently working with approx. 30 clients of medium and large travel businesses. Also, there can be several projects within one client. 5 years ago the challenges with the department’s expansion began to interfere with scaling processes. Hence it was crucial to determine how to systematically approach customer relationship management and reengineer workflows.
During the first year of the PMO’s functioning, we managed to solve the most critical problems. We created a single prioritized repository for all clients, standardized communication approaches, digitized and provided stakeholders with key project information. Moreover, we focused on GPTE’s revenues and expenses, ensured clear up-sales and developed a responsibility assignment matrix across all parts of a team.
At the moment, within the PMO, the main focus is put on recovering losses after the pandemic and increasing the profitability of GPTE. We do so not only through extensive growth but also through continuous improvements of internal and external processes, especially in terms of our cooperation with the Business Development Department and the GP HUB team.
– Maria, usually every manager has a favorite story related to the project. For example, Rodion Zhitomirsky, Chairman of the Boards GP Solutions, likes to remember how once he had to edit the product code under the chimes on New Year’s Eve. Do you have such a story?;)
I often recall the history of finding the optimal name for our product.
At first, it existed under the name “GP Travel Suite”, but the nuance turned out to be that the English word “suite” was often pronounced as “suit” (not “suite”, as it was correct to say). After several fruitless attempts to teach the team the correct pronunciation, it was decided that it will be easier to change the name – and GP Travel Enterprise turned out to be optimal because it also focused attention on the segment for which the product is intended.
– This year the GP Solutions product – GP Travel Enterprise turns 15 years old! Congratulations to you and the entire project team;) Do you have a plan for the celebration?
Thanks! Our current reality is that the members of the team live in different countries and cities and it is not possible to bring everyone together yet. Although I want to believe that we will do it for the 20th anniversary!;)
We will be happy to celebrate the 15th anniversary with the next release and gathering of local teams for some activity.
– Cate, before we talk to the GPTE developers’ team leaders, please tell us about the entire product team. How many specialists do you have? Are there any “old-spots” among them?;)
GP Travel Enterprise consists of several subteams:
customer success managers, who ensure the effective automation of customers’ business processes based on our platform,
back-developers, who program the Java core of GPTE,
front-developers, who create web and mobile applications,
quality assurance engineers,
сustomer support team.
Now there are 17 teammates in the GPTE living in different countries and cities. Considering how many projects we manage, it’s a relatively small number of people, so we try to control the workload as efficiently as possible. Also, a small team allows each member to impact the system functionality and UX directly.
I would especially like to thank those who have been working at GPTE for more than 5 years, and that’s one in three teammates. These collegues have accumulated not only intimate product knowledge, but also a unique expertise in understanding travel in general.
And one more thing! It wouldn’t be fair if I say nothing about the GP HUB. This is another GP Solutions product that automates integration with travel content providers. We collaborate with the GP HUB team in a significant number of projects, but our clients consider us a united product team.
– Do you ever plan on expanding the GPTE team? Are there any open vacancies?
There are no open vacancies yet, although the customer success managers subteam is to expand along with the customer support team, primarily in locations close to our customers and sales leads (Europe, Great Britain, Australia, etc.).
– Hello, Yegor and Dmitry. Please tell us how you came to the GPTE team. Do you remember how it was?;) As far as we know, Dmitry joined the project a few years ago, but Yegor is almost at the very origins of GP Travel Enterprise.
Yegor: I remember it like it was yesterday. I came to GP Solutions as a spring chicken, junior with an unsuccessful experience of participating in a startup. I already had an understanding of how you shouldn’t develop applications and a desire to learn how to do it effectively. An interesting fact is that initially I was considered for an outsourcing project. And after the last interview with Sergey and Rodion with the riddle about the weight of the Boeing 747 ;), I got an offer. Suddenly an HR manager wrote to me with another offer – to join the product. But there was a nuance – it was necessary to prepare a presentation, for a technical topic preferably. Yes, at that time there was an interesting practice on the product, in fact, sort of fourth interview: the candidate had to make a presentation to the team, they listened to him, asked questions, and then decided “do we take/not take this candidate”, and everyone had the right of veto. That is how I met the team the first time, talking about OSGi. The presentation did not go very well;) I was worried and the questions were complicated and deep, but everything ended well, as you can already guess;) That is how I joined the product.
Dmitry: I joined the product team much earlier when I got a job at GP Solutions, which is more than 10 years ago. In that period the idea arose to develop a client site, which at that time was technically a part of the product’s JAVA application. Since then, there have been many implementations of B2C solutions on various technologies. After this for me was a long period of work on the company’s outsourcing projects. Then I returned to the product again to develop a new unified solution for the B2C website and B2B interface.
– In which programming language (or several) is the GPTE code written?
Yegor: The GPTE code is written in Java, and the technology stack used is: Spring, JPA/Hibernate, JDBC, JAXB, jBPM, Drools, JSF, RichFaces, XML/XSLT, JAX-RS/Jersey, Apache Lucene, MySQL, JasperReports, JUnit, Selenium, Maven, Git, Apache Tomcat, Jenkins.
– Which feature in the latest product updates was the most interesting for you to implement?;) Why?
Yegor: The most interesting thing for me is to work on technical tasks, research, and optimizations. One of the latest was the clustering of the application. Among the functional tasks, I can single out package tours. We already had modules for this thing – dynamic packages and complex tours. But this new packaging module combines both a flexible configuration and a simple implementation, and on its basis, it is much easier now to cover the needs of customers in this functionality.
Dmitry: I am interested in implementing and developing an application and looking for technical solutions to improve its operation in general. I can single out the work on automation of installations and updates of the application (Continuous Integration) – it was a completely new experience for me. It was also interesting to look for and implement a technical solution for flexible adaptation of the application to the requirements of customers.
– Which bug during your work on GPTE was the most memorable (funny, puzzling, problematic, etc.)? How did you fix it?;)
Yegor: I had a funny one;) When the air travel module was still under development, one of its developers, filling out localization tokens in English, seems to have used Google translate. As a result, the “change” in the English version became “transplantation” instead of “connecting flight”. A little bit of dark humor;)
I remembered another situation that is not specifically related to the product, but to the company in general, claiming to be the funniest project build error:
BUILD ERROR…….unexpected markup <!d (position: START_DOCUMENT seen <!d… @1:3)
The reason is a blank OPT report. Old-timers should remember this system, where everyone reported before Jira appeared;) There was such a tendency to fill it out on the last day of the month, just putting 8 hours for each working day. To promote daily reporting, the admins were given the task: if an employee does not have an OPT filled out for the previous day, when he tries to open a website redirect to the page “Well, well, well, the OPT is not filled out”;) As a result, when maven was trying to do something over http, it was receiving a creative page from our administrators and for this reason collapsed;)
Dmitry: Once we spent a whole day off together with the admin dealing with a crashed website of one of the clients. We reviewed a bunch of logs, conducted a lot of experiments to change the installation configuration, and as a result, after only one option was changed – everything worked, but it took a whole day to come to it.
Yegor remembered OPT, it is really cool;) I already forgot about it and now it is hard to believe that there was such a thing. But there is a certain nostalgia in it, hehe;) It’s great that since then correct and effective decisions have been made to stimulate the work of employees;)
– Why over such a long time, more than 10 years, you are still interested in working at GP Solutions and on the GPTE project? What is the secret?;)
Yegor: A constant fact from the first days to this moment – a great team. Real professionals and just wonderful people, thanks to whom I am who I am today. For such a long time, of course, many people are no longer on the project, but I remember each of them. Our team is the secret and the answer to why I’m still here.
And of course, the project itself. GPT SP E. Years go by, the letters change, but what remains unchanged are the challenges that we have to face thanks to the wishes of our customers. And if suddenly their imagination falls asleep, Maria has such a huge number of ideas for product development that there is absolutely no time to be bored;) Product development implies a constant search for a flexible implementation that will allow customers with different business models and different ideas of “what is good and what is bad” to get along within one common solution. It’s not easy, but at the same time, it’s very interesting.
Dmitry: I’ve had a lot of breaks for other projects at GP Solutions for these 10 years;) And now, after outsourcing, it is very interesting to make a new software development with a long life cycle.
– What do you want to wish the product on its’ 15th anniversary?;)
Yegor: It would seem that in 15 years it was already possible to implement and automate everything in the world, but travel is a complex, bottomless, and bloody interesting domain, and the world does not stand still, so we have plenty of tasks to improve yet. Hand on heart, there are also enough technical tasks to optimize the system. So I want to wish GPTE further development and bugless optimal implementation of all tasks and ideas.
Dmitry: I wish the product a lot of new wealthy clients and projects, and the development, implementation, and testing team to successfully “digest” all this;)
– Dear colleagues, thank you for your answers and fascinating stories about life of the product. It seems that a small tradition is born – to talk a little about GP Travel Enterprise every year. How about the third interview next year?;)