Travolution Summit: Partnerships are key to competing with travel's duopoly

Travolution Summit: Partnerships are key to competing with travel's duopoly

Hotelbeds' tech chief Paula Felstead opened yesterday's annual conference by setting out the bed banks vision for a technology-driven future

Hotelbeds has rebuilt its entire technology stack with a view to improving the way it partners with travel firms to help them compete.

Paula Felstead, the Majorca-based bed bank’s chief technology and operations officer, set out the firm’s vision to be a business driven by technology under her stewardship.

In the opening session of this year’s Travolution European Summit in London she told delegates that Hotelbeds intends to make itself easier to do business with.

Felstead joined Hotelbeds 15 months ago shortly after new chief executive Nicolas Huss with whom she shares a background in the payments industry.

Felstead said: “If your customers grow, then you grow with them. You can’t outgrow your customers because they are actually the people that pay your bills at the end of the day. 

“The key is, if you look at payments or travel, we are in a very similar environment where in payments you have a massive duopoly in terms of Visa and Mastercard.

“Here in travel there is a big duopoly and the rest of us need to really work together to actually compete with and challenge that duopoly.

“If we can make the travel experience that bit more frictionless by working together and partnering with each other then we will absolutely beat the big guys at their own game.”

Felstead said Huss has installed in Hotelbeds a strategy to evolve from being a bed bank to becoming a travel technology company with a much wider remit.

“What he’s done is brought an outside in perspective. He also understands that we’ve got an amazing core engine in the bed bank but that’s not enough,” she said. 

“We are seeing the industry consolidate, we’re seeing the fact that you can’t be good at just one thing, you need to be able to provide a range of tools services and capabilities.

“That’s how you take friction out of the diverse travel ecosystem and that happened in payments which is where he and I are from, and it’s happened in other industries.

“It’s not only about making sure we are the best bed bank in the world, but how we bring all those skills and services from adjacent sectors and help our customers and partners grow.”

A project to completely rebuild Hotelbed’s tech stack was given an ambitious 10-month period, revealed Felstead, in order to keep its IT staff motivated.

She said this reduced the amount of time technology staff were working on technical debt in the company so they could be kept excited by working on new projects.

Staff were offered a bonus for hitting the 10-month target after which she said “they could move on to something new and exciting”.

“Being able to show people a vision, a mission and a purpose is actually the key to keeping teams motivated.

“There’s no point moving on to do something new and exciting when you know while you are doing that you still have to clear up all the tech debt.

“This is where, for me, technology is really there to deliver business strategy and I’m lucky enough to work with the Hotelbeds executive team who have really big plans, so we needed to get our tech up to that level as quickly as possible.”