Offering an ideal answer to travelers’ issues with their journeys

Pippa Williamson, VP for Commercial-APAC, HBX Group

Brand TD speaks with Pippa Williamson, VP for Commercial-APAC, HBX Group. In the dynamic realm of the travel industry, HBX Group stands at the forefront of adaptability and innovation. In an interview with Pippa Williamson, VP for Commercial-APAC at HBX Group, she claims that a pivotal aspect of HBX Group’s success lies in its approach to building enduring relationships with clients. Williamson highlights a focus on longevity and meaningful demand, tailoring solutions to meet the unique KPIs and objectives of each partner.

Hotelbeds’ introduction of group brand, HBX Group, comes at a transformative juncture, coinciding with Asia’s recovery, shifting consumer buying behaviour, and the rapid evolution of technology. The four pillars of HBX Group – people, technology, data, and products – position the company not just as a distributor but as a solution provider, offering enhanced efficiencies, cost control, and growth opportunities for both suppliers and clients.

Brand TD: In light of the evolving landscape of the travel industry, and changing customer preferences, what strategies would you employ to ensure HBX Group remains agile and adaptable in meeting the needs of its diverse customer base?

Pippa Williamson (PW): I think it is really important that we have people on the ground right. And for us, we have a broad team, we have over 850 people worldwide that work with our hotels on a day-to-day basis. So, it gives us a constant understanding about what the guests preferences are in the hotels that that we deliver business to what the trends are that we are seeing in each of the different micro markets so that we can look at it at a micro level as well.

And then on the client side, the same thing as having a large team on the ground in each of the markets where we can consistently get feedback. We sit on a huge amount of search data. We processed about 4 billion searches a day through our servers to put that in context, Google produces about 9 billion so we sit on about the half the search data that Google has. We combine that data with the context that we get from our on the ground teams to make sure that the data has context to it. And then we can make decisions very quickly based on that and then provide feedback to our partners to enable them to make those decisions as well. We can use our new technology to rapidly change the way that we sell and who we sell to depending on the different demand cycles that we see real time.

Brand TD: Can you share your strategy for fostering strong relationships with hotel partners and ensuring their continued satisfaction and loyalty?

PW: So for us, our approach towards our hotel partners is one of longevity. It is about connected meaningful demand for what the hotels want. When we talk to our hotel partners, we really try to understand what their KPIs are, what they are trying to achieve, and make sure that we can use our broad range of over 77,000 network partners to deliver the demand that they want, the periods that they want, and the volumes that they want in a meaningful way.

Brand TD: How will the rebrand impact existing clients and stakeholders of the HBX Group?

PW: I mean, the group brand came at a pivotal time, right? Not only is Asia recovering. Not only is the whole way that the consumer buys, not only the way that our partners work, the proliferation, and acceleration of technology. It is the perfect timing for us to launch HBX Group and the four pillars of HBX Group are so important all the four different quadrants of our “X,” being people, technology data, and then having the product that meets that. So, with those four elements taking that to market is it’s super important.

I think for our partners, how does it impact them? The new products that we will be rolling out means that we are no longer just a distributor of product. We become a solution for some of their pain points and their needs. We provide better efficiencies for both our suppliers and our clients. We give them more cost control, and we give them more ability to grow their business in a meaningful way.

Brand TD: What is HBX’s roadmap for APAC in 2024?

PW: For us, we are really excited about the opportunity in Asia Pacific. I mean, the data is showing that there is an extraordinary amount of a tank of intent that sits in the market today. If you look at the data, over half of the world’s population sits in the Asia Pacific region. So, for us, we have a massive opportunity, the growing middle class in this region, something that we have seen as the trend, new markets that are coming up, such as outbound from Thailand has started to grow rapidly. Outbound from Vietnam, which has been an interesting surprise, and something that we have realized in on as well. Our strategy for this region is to keep growing new markets to continue to capitalize on the markets where we’re already strong, such as Thailand, Indonesia, and then look at the wave riding the travel recovery, which we expect to come mid-2024 as well.

From it from a recovery perspective, the hotels in our region and Southeast Asia, if you look at our occupancy levels, we are right up there with the rest of the world. And we have managed to do that without China contributing. So, if there has been any lesson to anyone during COVID is having a huge amount of diversification in your source mix is really important. Not only does it reduce risk, it evens out seasonality for the hotels, in particular. And price overall, I think it has been a positive learning. When China comes back it will add value to this region. But I do not think the region will ever be is over reliant on a single source market again.