You may not have heard the name Hotelbeds before but chances are it’s the brains—and the beds—behind some of your favorite online travel booking sites, both direct to consumer and to the trade.
It’s the number one business-to-business bedbank in the world, with an online database of over 60,000 hotels in 180 countries. And if you haven’t heard of it before maybe you should look into it—it just might be the best way to grow your travel company, no matter how large or small you might be right now.
Hotelbeds was founded in 2001 in Spain, and in 2007 became part of the Accommodations and Destinations sector of London-based Tui Travel PLC, the leading global international leisure travel company. Tui Travel’s share value on the London Stock Exchange was up 25% this year and Hotelbeds is certainly growing as well. At this year’s Markethub Americas forum held at partner Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, the numbers were announced and those numbers are impressive: 18 million rooms booked worldwide in 2013; €1.8 billion in global sales in 2013; and in the Americas—the best fulfilling region—a 40% increase, both as a destination and source market for the past three years (versus the overall market which registered in at 7%).
Markethub Americas opened with an introduction to Las Vegas by former mayor and man-about-town Oscar Goodman, with martini in hand and showgirls on arms. Las Vegas is an extremely important destination within the Americas, with over 150,000 rooms in the city and 4 million visitors per year.
Managing Director Carlos Muñoz presented the aforementioned great financial news and offered the company’s predictions for growth. Over the next five years, Hotelbeds plans to double its size, both in the Americas and worldwide. These plans include 1) an increase in hotel stock from 60,000 hotels to 250,000 rooms; 2) an 80% growth in competitive product; 3) differentiated products; and 4) through diversification. Their overall goal is to become “the most forward-thinking group in travel distribution.”
Deputy Managing Director of Sales and Marketing Marta Alvarez spoke about the importance of overcoming challenges and turning those challenges into opportunities. North America is a $40 billion market in Accommodation and $33 billion market in Destination Activities. The latter is a huge area of potential growth for Hotelbeds.
Product Strategy Director Roberto Bermudez gave an overview of the technology powering Hotelbeds and the ways in which they are continuing to improve their services. They currently have 60 million requests per day and estimate that number to rise to 100 million in 2015. They’ve improved response time and increased the ability for different systems to work together. They are currently working on new ways to improve workflow review of requests that fail online, either through time outs or other. And they are looking to optimize product search and display in the future. Of particular interest to travel agents are their strides in allowing multiple rates, products and promotions within their product display and sharing data with their clients to make the user experience easier. Client performance has increased and there are now 75,000 promotional rates available.
Destination activities and transfers are key areas of potential growth. And Hotelbeds is working to make more of these options available to their clients, both with and without booking a hotel, and allows for transfer between other hotels as well as private addresses. A new program, GuideGo, is launching at the end of May. It’s an in-destination mobile solution for the end user, with information and the ability to book activities last minute. The newest program, which has the potential to be a game-changer is Liberate, an end user option for direct payment at hotels. The direct payment model is one preferred by 50% of customers, according to an Expedia.com internal survey. It’s adapted to last-minute booking, increases your client reach, and just might be key to getting a sale from that customer on the fence.
Also presenting at Markethub were some of Hotelbeds hotel partners, including this year’s hosting sponsor, Caesars Entertainment Group. Regional President Gary Sellesner spoke about the importance of strategic partners and an increase in international visitors. He was happy to report that visitors through Hotelbeds to Caesars Palace were up 110% last year. Entertainment and non-gaming activities are on the rise in Las Vegas and Caesars is behind one of the biggest: The High Roller, the world’s largest observation wheel. The half-hour ride has what might be the best view in Vegas.
Alex Philby, Director of International Leisure Sales, went on to talk about what’s new from the Caesars Entertainment group, the second largest hotel group in Las Vegas, along with what’s to come. The High Roller is contained with the Linq, a new shopping, dining and entertainment district just across the street from Caesars Palace. Down the road, Bally’s (a Caesars property) Grand Bazaar, an outdoor shopping area, is under construction and slated for a late 2014 opening.
Their hotel-within-hotel concept has been expanded: at Caesars Palace they now have two, Nobu and the Laurel Collection. And their newest hotel is opening at the end of the May 2014, The Cromwell, a modern boutique hotel boasting 200 sleek rooms and featuring a rooftop pool and nightclub, managed by Drai’s, the driving force behind Las Vegas nightlife.
I spoke with Ms. Philby later that day and she expanded on the benefits of working with Hotelbeds. Their partnership began nearly nine years ago and has continued to strengthen. Access to international markets has increased, including Latin America, China and India and they in talks to begin using the end user payment system, Liberate.
Several other hotel groups were on display at the tradeshow and spoke to the attendees. The Posadas Hotelera group, which includes Fiesta Americana, said that Hotelbeds allows them, a Mexican company, to speak in multiple languages and to offer their hotels throughout the world. Posadas is expanding their portfolio and will have up to 320 hotels in the next three years.
Meliã Hotels International now have properties in 35 countries and have 51 new ones planned, including those in Costa Rica, Denmark and Austria. Meliã Nassau Beach (the former Sheraton) will be opening in December 2014 along with the all-inclusive Bracovillage in Jamaica, an oceanfront property with 226 rooms and suites.
Several of the top executives from Occidental Hotels and Resorts, the leading all-inclusive hotel chain in the Caribbean, flew in to speak to the group and thank everyone for their bookings. Adventure travel, beach destinations and destination weddings are all available from Occidental, with many commissionable packages.
On the floor of the tradeshow many other hotels, destinations and destination activity groups were on hand to meet the tour operators and agents attending Markethub Americas, including Starwood, MGM Resorts, Disney Destinations, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors’ Authority, Wynn/Encore Hotels, and Sea World & Parks Entertainment.
Markethub Americas closed Thursday night with a huge party hosted by Caesars at their Garden of the Gods. Many of the restaurants located within Caesars provided buffets, such as Rao’s, Old Homestead Steakhouse and Beijing Noodle No. 9. Music and dancing continued throughout the night, culminating in a swimming pool flashmob.
“Forward Thinking” was the theme of this year’s event and from the information presented one can see that motto very much in evidence in their business strategy. Hotelbeds may never be a household name among laypeople but it doesn’t have to be. What it can do is support your business, help grow your business, and as a business-to-business company it won’t take away your clients. Perhaps most importantly, Hotelbeds can be your entry into an online business model to meet your current clients’ needs as well as to expand your existing client base, allowing you access to new markets, destinations, hotels, and activities.
Hotelbeds Markethub Americas, www.Hotelbeds.com