The newly formed hospitality technology company created by the merger of Travel Tripper and Pegasus has a big decision to make with weeks.
The firm, having been brought together in February in a deal backed by investor Accel-KKR, must decide what its corporate identity will be in the post-merger future.
Gautam Lulla, chief executive of Travel Tripper, knows whatever way they will go there will be people associated with the brands who will feel disappointed.
US-based Travel Tripper was founded in 2005, and quickly established a presence in the US having proved its ability to drive direct sales to hotels with clients in New York.
Pegasus, meanwhile, which is headquartered in Scottsdale in the US, is a well-established brand with a strong heritage in its home market and in Europe.
Lulla says the former rivals complement each other in terms of the combined product of hotel reservations, distribution, e-commerce and business intelligence and intend to set new standards of innovation and customer service.
But he concedes there is a sentimental aspect to what the merged firm is named. “There are many people out there who have worked for Pegasus who have a lot of good will for it.”
The merger created a truly global business with a presence in the UK, Germany, Paris, India, Tokyo, Singapore and Las Vegas.
Lulla said: “We will have to bring the technologies together and that plan is underway as to how we do it.
“The main thing for us is to not disrupt the customers while we do that and not replicate the mistakes of the past,” he added referring to a challenging period in Pegasus’s history.
Travel Tripper’s strong e-commerce, marketing services and direct distribution tech combined with Pegasus’s CRS and demand generation capabilities makes for a powerful one-stop shop for hoteliers’ digital needs, added Lulla.
And he said with Travel Tripper’s new business intelligence platform, it is helping hoteliers provide to their guests the kind of joined-up experience consumers are looking for.
“We can offer a more true e-commerce experience for guests once they arrive on a hotel site which is what the industry seriously lacks.
“The experience today is disjointed for the consumer, and that extends to when they are in property as well.”
Although Travel Tripper’s business has been built on helping hotels to dial down their reliance on the expensive OTA channel, Lulla said agents are not going to go away.]
He said they have to co-exist. “Hotels are not going to relinquish complete control to OTAs and OTAs are not going to go away.
“OTAs do allow global reach but they do charge a lot of money and hotels have to fight as hard as they can to get the most profitable direct business from their own websites, call centres and loyalty guests.
“That’s not going to change. It’s not even unique in our industry. From our perspective we have to serve the needs of the industry. We have to distribute them to where ever they want to be distributed.
“We have to provide really powerful solutions to allow them to get as much direct business as possible. We have to retain that as a core strength of our’s.”
Lulla sees great potential to grow in Europe where the hotel market is much more fragmented and where brands do not dominate as much as they do in the US.
This means individual hotels and chains are less powerful to combat the growing important of OTA distribution and associated costs.
Hotels in Europe also tend to me smaller with average numbers at around 50, so the “economics are different,” and they are more dependent in OTAs, said Lulla.
“There is a larger opportunity in Europe because the market is more fragmented,” he said. “If you are able to provide a system that is standardised and can be deployed across the market you are on to something.”
Artificial intelligence and machine learning will be exploited to help these small properties and brand self-serve and use the technology to the optimum and adopt modern distribution strategies, Lulla said.
“We work in an environment where there are thousands of price points that are needed to cater for different market segments. It’s about how we can make that easier to manage for the hotel.
“That’s something we are very keen to solve because it’s a problem. It’s making the platform easy to use so when you hire more people it’s intuitive to understand so the learning curve is shorter.”