Helping Hoteliers Drive Revenue from Data – Interview with Gino Engels, Co-founder & CCO at OTA Insight
“OTA Insight’s main aim is to help hoteliers make smarter pricing decisions and stay ahead of their competitors,” says Gino Engels, CCO and co-founder, OTA Insight, a leader in providing data intelligence for the hospitality industry.
Gino was recently interviewed by GTP Headlines and explains exactly how the OTA Insight concept was born in 2012.
“The business has since grown from a small disrupter challenging an established marketplace, to a business supporting over 40,000 clients in 168 countries,” Gino tells us.
As co-founder and CCO of OTA Insight, Gino is driven by working with the industry’s most progressive innovators alongside established global and local players to deliver first-class solutions. He and senior colleagues lead the delivery and continued development of OTA Insight’s dashboard and reporting capabilities to enable hoteliers to support a profitable revenue and distribution strategy. Gino’s customer-focused objective is to deliver affordable revenue tools to hotels and continuously develop new solutions to help those in the hospitality sector overcome technological barriers.
Prior to co-founding OTA Insight, Gino had a successful career with roles at some of the world’s largest corporations. These include Sony Pictures Entertainment and AB InBev where he worked with leading global retailers to develop profitable retail strategies both online and offline.
In this Q&A, Gino tells how OTA Insight can drive revenue and parity for hotels; and also gives his top tips for hoteliers.
“For hoteliers to remain competitive in a busy, dynamic market they need access to on-demand intelligence that is reviewed and revised regularly.” – Gino Engels
GTP: Tell us about OTA Insight: how did it start and why?
Gino Engels: It all started at the summer Olympics in London in 2012, with my two co-founders. Looking for accommodation online, we noticed that the room availability and prices weren’t at the levels we expected. This raised questions about how revenue managers were making pricing decisions. Was it based on inaccurate and incomplete data on their competitors’ rates and market demand? If so, it explained why they were dropping their prices when they didn’t need to.
So co-founder Adriaan Coppens started collecting all this data. He pulled it into one platform to start analysing it.
This gave birth to OTA Insight and our rate shopping tool, now known as Rate Insight. A year or so later we got our first sale. It grew from there and in December 2017 we won $20 million of growth funding.
We now provide industry-leading business intelligence dashboards, offering cloud-based revenue maximisation solutions for hotels around the world. We recently passed the 40,000-property mark. Last year, we launched two complementary tools: Revenue Insight and Parity Insight. And in September 2018, we were nominated as “One to Watch” in the Tech Track 100 by the Sunday Times, which ranks Britain’s top 100 private tech companies.
By simplifying complex data from different channels, our goal is to develop solutions that empower revenue managers to make better pricing and distribution decisions. This helps them optimise total hotel revenue.
GTP: In a competitive landscape, what are the key data considerations for hoteliers and what puts them ahead?
Gino Engels: There are two key issues that hoteliers need to consider when it comes to data.
Firstly, it’s crucial that it is real-time, accurate and granular. For hoteliers to remain competitive in a busy, dynamic market they need access to on-demand intelligence that is reviewed and revised regularly. It needs to provide in-depth insight into market nuances and competitive changes.
Secondly, this data needs to be presented in a way that is simple and actionable. Otherwise, what’s the point?
OTA Insight’s main aim is to help hoteliers make smarter pricing decisions and stay ahead of their competitors. We also design our dashboards to be as easy as possible for everyone across the company to use. So that’s everyone from head-office revenue management through to front-office staff.
Keeping a close eye on how competitors structure their rates gives you an immediate advantage. The live-shopped data within OTA Insight is broken down in detail – by room type level and length of stay. This powerful insight helps build demand forecasts and enables pricing decisions. This empowers hoteliers to make pricing decisions based on the full spectrum of rates.
GTP: How can data create a better balance and ease tensions between hotels and OTAs?
Gino Engels: More and more bookings are made through OTAs. The budgets they work with are vast. Managed properly, this can actually boost your revenue. Also, higher visibility on OTA sites can often lead to more direct bookings. So paying attention to these channels is necessary in making the relationship work for the bottom line.
Carefully balance working with OTAs and driving direct sales. Knowing when to use OTAs and when to push for direct bookings helps maximise revenue. Consider the best dates for focusing on direct bookings when you know that demand is at its highest. Keep a close eye on local events or public holidays in key source markets to maximise direct bookings for those periods.
Some hoteliers are struggling to work well with OTAs. But ultimately, they should be treated as a sales channel alongside all other booking routes.
GTP: What are your top tips on hotel data?
Gino Engels: I believe in making things simple. Focus first on the outliers, addressing them in terms of pricing versus competition. If you see irregularities across different channels, fix them and make sure you get to the root cause so it doesn’t happen again.
Make sure you have a clear strategy, that you’re not constantly addressing small problems without knowing the cause of them.
Pinpoint where it’s going wrong. We don’t just monitor and show hoteliers where things are going wrong, we also help them to fix things. We provide ‘actionable insights’, not just lots of data. It’s about identifying the root cause, then guiding the user to the solution.
Then continue monitoring, because business models are changing. We can see that now. Airbnb is shifting its business model to become a bit like an OTA. OTAs are becoming a bit like Airbnb. The situation yesterday or last week won’t be the same next week. For hotels it’s important that there are sources like us who can keep you up-to-date with what’s happening.
GTP: Gino, what message would you like to pass on to Greek hoteliers reading your interview?
Gino Engels: Hospitality in Greece has had some noteworthy new investments recently. Its major cities, Athens and Thessaloniki, have attracted funding capital by operators who are looking to create new boutique city hotel projects, and also reposition and upscale existing hotels. Crete, the Dodecanese islands, Corfu and the Cyclades have also seen new luxury resorts and hotel projects, not to mention Mykonos and Santorini, where there is notable activity in new luxury villas and boutique hotels.
In such a competitive environment it is important to have a trusted partner that can provide the vital information for smarter revenue strategy and to stay ahead of the competition.
GTP: Who is OTA Insight’s contact in Greece?
Gino regularly contributes his expert knowledge on the hospitality sector to articles on current trending topics for publications including The Washington Post and also frequently speaks at industry events across the globe such as the SmartGuest Analytics and Best Western International Revenue Conferences in the US, HSMAI and Revenue Forums across Europe and Fastbooking Digital Labs across Asia.