Performance Bytes: How TUI Group Improve Website Performance

Andrew Bartlam
7/25/17

2017 European Digital Travel Summit

I recently attended The 2017 European Digital Travel Summit. The event took place at the iconic backdrop of London’s Tower Bridge at The Tower Hotel. I had the pleasure of interviewing our customer, Vihang Shah, who is the Group Enterprise Architect of TUI Group.

Getting customer insight with Vihang is quite rare and he shared his first-hand experiences of how faster performance and better security have helped TUI Group to drive both greater conversions across web and mobile, while protecting against malicious traffic and bots.

A household name, TUI has several leading Travel brands across Europe including Thomson, FirstChoice, Falcon, Crystal Ski, Thomson lakes & Mountains, Gulliver sports travel, Holiday hypermarket and many more.

Vihang was able to explain the challenges at TUI which first influenced his group to look for a better performance solution. These included areas such as poor existing web delivery performance, a requirement to standardise on content delivery for all the TUI companies, poor service from existing providers and consistent high costs, not just on subscription but also on lack of synchronisation.

He went on to explain that like all travel companies TUI have a huge inventory of digital assets, particularly images (just think of the amount of pool and palm tree photos you see on travel sites!) which all take up a huge amount of space. I asked him which capabilities TUI used to deal with heavy images while at the same time NOT degrading the customer experience. The answer was that using advanced compression, adaptation and transcoding capabilities,  allowing for maintaining superior performance, and thereby end user experience. All while giving TUI the flexibility to have no restrictions on image types, volume or size.

Decreasing TTFB (Time To First Byte) is often used in the online space as a good measure of performance improvement. Vihang revealed that TUI were able to decrease TTFB by a whopping 80%. HIs team regularly monitor performance using a range of APM tools.

Speaking of which, it’s often difficult to precisely equate a revenue figure to the impact of better performance and end-user experience but Vihang did share that Instart Logic was a major contributing factor to increasing conversions by north of 10%. Additional metrics the team tracks  include an improvement on TUI’s main site by an average of 2 seconds per page and on the operational front, TUI were able to save money by reducing their internal bandwidth consumption by about 40% which helped make sure there was no risk of site outage due to unexpected or excessive load.

One great piece of context for the audience was that Vihang and his team have now rolled this capability out to multiple brands and geographical markets in the TUI portfolio.

Artificial traffic is a real pain for the travel industry when you look at areas such as "screen scraping" and the "clogging up" of bandwidth - and its associated compute usage. Vihang explained that while some “Bots” are good bots, e.g. partner companies, most artificial traffic is unwanted. Using Instart Logic’s “Bot Defence” capability has allowed TUI to tackle this problem and make reductions in both bad traffic and in compute requirements.

Vihang was part of the original Innovation Council at TUI and it’s clear that he still plays a major hand in both providing and stimulating innovation inside the company. He explained some of the ways TUI encourages its staff to look at innovative ways to solve challenges and also to help keep them at the head of their game. Staff members are encouraged to think not just “what would be a great idea” but also to articulate what the business impact of that could be. Better still they are encouraged also to share these ideas across departments so they don’t just become a good idea.

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