What are you going to talk about on Travel Tech Conference Russia in 2018? Why do you think it is important?
The title of my speech is: Breaking the monopoly with new solutions. Why diversity is important for the travel and hospitality industry.
Why? The Travel and Hospitality industry went through some amazing changes over the last decades. Everything became easier and faster. When you look at certain services that people are using - they often blend into one big tool used by travellers to organise their trips. But is this all ideal? Is it a good solution for businesses providing products displayed in a service? And finally - does the customer always wins?
Understanding what we do at Bidroom from a perspective of a hotelier that has gone through years of co-operation with the largest OTAs and from a perspective of a traveller that has visited a big portion of the world, gives more understanding of why we are doing things differently and why we compete with the largest players in the market.
In your opinion, what are the main opportunities in the travel and hospitality sector today? Where would you suggest an entrepreneur put their attention?
Based on many observations I have made in past years, there are a couple of obvious opportunities today. Let's take Poland as an example. The country went through some amazing economical changes in past years. Both economic growth and increase in personal income made Poles travel in massive amounts both inside the country and abroad. Simple lodging and the cheapest way of travelling isn't now the most desired way of spending time while on vacation.
Poles fell in love with luxury, but most importantly, affordable luxury - best quality for best price. Therefore there is a continuing growth of new, luxury hotels being built across the country. It is the luxury sector that proves to grow fast. Everybody talks about big data and AI, but there are still plenty of places around the globe that simply need better infrastructure: good restaurants, hotels, transfer services. With that ensured, we can then talk about tech solutions.
But yes - one can't ignore Artificial Intelligence. Personalisation is a popular word, but until we get there, it would be great if hotels put Alexa or Google Home solutions to their rooms, the same way as they used to do in the past with iPads. Travellers should be able to take advantage of these intelligent advisors and learn to live with them as it is the future of our world.
While we are discussing big things like AI and Big Data, there are thousands of properties in hospitality, which are waiting for smart solutions to their issues. For instance, we have recently met a startup in Warsaw, which tries to offer an app solution for key management for small entrepreneurs that run multiple apartments around the city. Logistics of check-in might be very complicated and here comes a solution created by this startup. The industry needs that sort of improvements all the time.
Can you name the main challenges for online travel today and how do you deal with them in your company? Are there any serious threats from the market or the competitors?
I think the main challenge for each growing company is automation. Together with growth, one needs to ensure that all processes in the company are automated, especially when it comes to data processing, bookings, feedbacks etc. Therefore a particular area that we have been growing extensively is our developers team. Each challenge we are looking at is being addressed in the way that we look for opportunities to automate.
Threats? We believe that the market is so huge that there is a place for everybody. You see, the OTA market nowadays looks like a huge wedding cake. The problem is it dependson where you serve it, it can be either one colour cake - blue, two colours cake - blue and green or three colour cakes - blue, green and pink. And you know, wedding cakes should be colourful.
We are competing against huge, dominant companies, but we believe in our mission and the success of the project.
What advice would you give to a new startup entering the travel sector?
Find your niche. Build a community around your project. Find a small, smart solution for small and medium-sized businesses that will help to grow their business. And most importantly – be patient, be modest, be sure that you know what you do and how your actions would improve others' lives.
How do you plan to fight with behemoths of travel industry such as Booking.com?
Each year we try to bring something new to our original concept. Things that we brought so far are very important - a fair environment for hotels and other accommodation providers - our partners. We need them and their properties listed in our non-commissionable platform to grow the/our portfolio and give a large selection to our community.
And then community - we build a community of people, who believe they can save on their travels with us and thanks to our hotel partners. It's a win-win situation.
We also educate, we invest into education, attend conferences and industry schools where we talk about things that people forget while they are booking: the fact that they don't get the best price as how can you offer the best price if you pay 15-25% commission? The Fact that largest behemoths put unnecessary pressure on their users by urging them to make a decision by saying that X amount of people look at this property, that Y amount of people just booked it etc.
What should new startups do to compete with these behemoths successfully?
The most important thing is a motivated team working toward one goal. As our CEO, Michael Res said in one recent interview: "I know we're a mosquito compared to an elephant. But mosquitoes can be very annoying."
Based on your experience, can you name the key success (or failure) factors for starting a new venture in the travel industry?
You will ensure the success of your venture by creating a very strict and concrete plan around your idea. Ideas can be copied quickly in the current world, however, if you stick to your roadmap that you originally pictured, you will just work on getting things done. You will move forward. To move forward you will need to prove that you are a true leader, a truemotivator that will inspire people working with you to do great things to grow your business. And as in many organisations, this is people that are key to success as well. The more experienced specialists you manage to get on board, the better. They can then transfer their knowledge onto junior staff and ensure everybody is working toward the same goal. But you have to pay people to do their work and in order to do that, you have to ensure the capital, whether raised by yourself or in funding rounds, it is important to ensure your new venture in the very beginning. Then plan, execute your plans, polish your marketing and enter the path of growth.