Travel And Tour World: Do you face any challenges in COVID-19 times or in post COVID-19 times?
Gareth Matthews: Like all the players in the travel industry, our volumes were hugely impacted by the global lockdown, but we used this time to focus on how we could adjust our value proposition, processes and digital tools to be in the best possible position to support the recovery of our partners globally. We can see that our strategy and initiatives are working, as in those domestic markets and short-medium haul travel corridors that have had fewer restrictions in place such as the USA, Mexico and UAE, our volumes are in line or ahead of 2019. There is clearly significant pent-up demand worldwide, and whenever a government relaxes restrictions in a particular corridor we see an immediate spike in bookings. While this gives us a lot of confidence for the future, aligned with the wider industry view, it’s fair to say we are not expecting a full global return to 2019 volumes until 2023, so the overall picture remains challenging for the industry.
Travel And Tour World: What are strategies Hotelbeds taken to boost hotel industry in post COVID-19 time?
Gareth Matthews: We have been very agile to adapt our operations to support our hotel and travel distribution partners globally. One example of this has been our shift to a domestic focused portfolio to better respond to the current demand patterns, while making it much faster to onboard new hotels so that they can take advantage of our distribution reach as quickly as possible. Another example, for our client partners is how we are harnessing our search and booking data intelligence and making it accessible in a user-friendly, online platform that makes it easy for them to not only understand what are the fast changing ‘trending’ destinations for their source markets, but access the most relevant hotel properties together with marketing tools that allow them to personalize promotions with their own branding and launch it to their customers efficiently and effectively.
Travel And Tour World: How this pandemic has shaped the hotel industry and how much is affected in both hotel and tourism sector?
Gareth Matthews: It’s still too early to predict accurately what the full impact of the pandemic will be on the travel industry overall, but certainly in the short to medium term, due to government restrictions and consumer confidence, the primary volumes are likely to remain in the domestic and short-medium haul corridors, changing significantly the traveller profile, ADR and length of stay. Longer term, the pandemic is likely to accelerate the positive drive towards a more sustainable industry with greater awareness of the impact that the industry has on destinations worldwide with a range of initiatives likely to be launched by major industry players. One example of this in the case of Hotelbeds’ is our popular ‘Green hotels programme’ designed to highlight and promote properties in our portfolio that meet strict sustainability KPIs.
Travel And Tour World: What are the use of technology Hotelbeds taken to make easier in operations.
Gareth Matthews: 2020 was certainly a challenging year for all of us, but here at Hotelbeds we moved quickly early on to develop and roll out a range of digital solutions to support our partners deal with this unprecedented context. One example of this was the launch of our ‘SelfSet’ platform, providing our partners with digital self-service tools to make it much easier, efficient and user friendly to manage all aspects of their bookings and operations with us – something that is particularly important in these volatile moments where travel is subject to governmental decisions and travel corridors are opening and closing, often at short notice.
Travel And Tour World: Tell us about Hotelbeds partnering with the Korea Tourism Organization to drive inbound US tourism.
Gareth Matthews: Hotelbeds is working with the Korea Tourism Organization’s New York Office on a tailored campaign until the end of September to promote the destination across its US based travel industry partners in an effort to encourage more tourists to visit the country when the time is right.
The company firmly believes that Korea has enormous potential to grow as a top Asian destination once mass international tourism resumes. Hotelbeds focus in this partnership is to market and improve the level of inbound US tourism into Korea, building on the already strong position the US holds as one of the top 5 of leading inbound markets for Korea.
Travel And Tour World: Hotelbeds and IATA have partnered to launch a new travel agent platform featuring information on FAMs, training and discounts all in one place. Tell us about its operations.
Gareth Matthews: We were very pleased to announce this partnership with IATA, the trade association for the world’s airlines. We are delighted that IATA has chosen our Travel Stack technology to provide their member agents with a booking solution. Via IATA/IATAN ID cards, travel professionals can access IATA’s Agent Experience platform where they can view and book, in one convenient place, special offers such as FAM trips, training courses and personal discounts on flights, hotels, car hire, and attractions worldwide.
Hotelbeds’ TravelStack technology gives ID Card holders full access to Hotelbeds’ extensive portfolio of 180,000 hotel properties in 140 countries worldwide, many of which are contracted under special terms and conditions.
Travel And Tour World: Tell us about the Green Hotel Programme. What are the objectives?
Gareth Matthews: The Green Hotels Programme is a turn-key solution designed to bring Hotelbeds and its partners into the green economy and accelerate the transition of the travel industry towards sustainability – a topic whose importance has clearly increased dramatically in light of the COVID pandemic. It enables our travel distribution partners to easily identify and market hotel properties that meet the strict criteria set by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), the leading global authority in setting and managing standards for sustainable travel and tourism. We currently have more than 15,000 properties in our portfolio that meet these strict criteria.
Travel And Tour World: Tell us about your future plans to expand the business.
Gareth Matthews: We made very good use of the global lockdown, to drive forward new approaches to harnessing data, digital processes and automation to improve the customer experience, efficiencies across the supply chain, and to ultimately help our trade partners to more effectively convert growth opportunities and it is our intention to continue on this journey. We believe that there is no other industry better positioned to capitalize on the benefits of AI, and a data driven, digital-first approach than the travel industry, and this need has only been further accelerated by the pandemic.