Harnessing the power of technology with travelling

November 29, 2023 | 11:12
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Offering a technology platform for more than 71,000 travel distributors across 190+ source markets, HBX Group now handles four billion requests per day from users around the world. Vice president for Asia-Pacific of HBX Group’s Bedsonline brand Peter Jones talked with VIR’s Nhat Ha about the company’s plan to penetrate Asia.

How do you evaluate the impact of digital transformation in the tourism and hotel industry?

We talked at the MarketHubs event in Bangkok [last week] about efficiency in businesses, and the right investment in technology and innovation is a key part.

Harnessing the power of technology with travelling
Vice president for Asia-Pacific of HBX Group’s Bedsonline brand Peter Jones

From a retail travel agent perspective, one of the strengths of HBX Group is that we allow our hotel partners access to all these travel agencies based all over the world. HBX Group is the umbrella brand for several brands like Hotelbeds, Bedsonline, TravelStack, and Roiback.

A hotel chain probably wouldn’t have the resources to go and visit all the travel agencies in Vietnam or in Australia, so the power that we give them is access to all of those. Just in Asia-Pacific alone, we have served around 1,000 travel agencies and booking platforms on our systems.

The strength of a digital and technology ecosystem like Hotelbeds is to create direct relationships with hoteliers, experiencers, service providers, car rentals, and all those things for the industry. We bring all that together into one place. When the travel agent is making those bookings, they can literally buy everything all from us. Our technology platform keeps everything much simpler for all.

When we travel, we often want to keep things simple: we don’t want to keep going to one place for a hotel, another place for a car, another place for excursions, for instance. By working with Hotelbeds, they get access to everything all in one place on the same website.

What does HBX Group offer to compete with other platforms?

We are still growing and still evolving in business-to-business (B2B) space. I think that’s probably what differentiates us from many of our competitors is most of our competitors operating B2B and business-to-consumer (B2C). So ultimately, they’re actually also competing on the B2C side with the customers that they’re actually selling to on the B2B side as well.

One of the reasons our customers love to work with us is because they know we’re not their competitor. We’re partners and if we grow, our customers grow, and we grow together. With a close partnership, there’s no conflict of interest between us.

In addition to the sales team, we then have specialists who will work with each chain to help them manage those big global relationships. So it’s not just a general agreement, we manage the close-knit relationships that help us set up partners with our customers to design fantastic products they want.

Does the Vietnam market hold enough potential for your next targeted expansion?

Absolutely, Vietnam owns huge potential. Vietnam is a really exciting market for us because of the speed and pace of growth from many elements. The amount of investment that’s going into Vietnam today, both foreign and and domestic, is significant. The amount of international brands that are investing and have their brands in the market is becoming even more relevant and exciting.

For us, Vietnam is very much a growing destination, and we are very excited with high expectations. What we see in our booking platform is that customers from Vietnam know what they want to book. An average 70 per cent of bookings choose to travel for more than four days, and stay in 4-star or 5-star hotels. We see that more than two-thirds of Vietnamese travellers book the higher-end luxury products.

For this market, a lot of our customers, particularly international travel agencies, are choosing Vietnam for organising their conferences and events. While we’re looking at different destinations for hosting our regular market hubs, Vietnam would be a great option. Southeast Asian countries in general have been top destinations for us, a critical market, and we expect to see a positive recovery.

Furthermore, we do have local sourcing colleagues based in Vietnam. They often contact local hoteliers, airlines, and travel agencies directly to market our website and technology platform. Additionally, my team in Vietnam often attends travel and hotel events in Vietnam, such as the International Travel Expo in Ho Chi Minh City or tourism seminars and fairs, to meet and reach potential clients in key cities.

Despite these events not being as big as the Markethub we hosted in Bangkok, our Vietnamese team works well with travel agencies, hotel owners, airlines, and retail brands to introduce our technology platform.

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By Nhat Ha

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