Sean Fitzpatrick, CEO
Born in 2012, OTA Insight has grown quickly with its mission to give hotels the data and tools they need to optimize bookings and improve their business intelligence.
A former Oracle, Nokia and HotSchedules executive, Sean Fitzpatrick arrives with a recent investment round in the company's war chest and in a marketplace that continues to throw up new challenges.
What have these first few months at OTA Insight been like for you?
It’s been an awesome experience. Your first impression of a company doesn’t always hold true, but OTA Insight has exceeded every expectation.
The team are young, high-energy, humble and totally committed to bringing the most innovative solutions to the hotel industry.
I’ve spent my first few weeks visiting our offices, meeting our teams, customers, partners and investors. The level of talent for such a young company blows me away and I feel genuinely privileged to be serving as their CEO.
OTA Insight received a $20 million funding round in December 2017. How are you using that capital?
We now serve more than 30,000 hotels worldwide in over 140 countries and are growing fast so we’re very focused on scaling our global operation to meet market demand, delivering best-in-class customer support and continuing to invest heavily in innovation.
We just opened a new technology hub in Belgium and are expanding our offices in Dallas, London, Sydney and Singapore.
We also recently released two new products to complement our market-leading Rate Insight product: Parity Insight and Revenue Insight. These new tools are experiencing strong initial growth so we need to scale to meet demand across a number of fronts.
There’s more competition than ever across the distribution landscape – not just the big OTAs but smaller players, Airbnb bringing on hotels, Google expanding its services and talk of Amazon joining the fray. Do more choices mean more power for hoteliers?
It’s a great time to be a hotelier, with the industry as a whole going through record period of growth with the US and European markets enjoying eight and nine years, respectively of consistent RevPAR growth.
Supply is growing, demand is growing and the number of channels to market is growing. With the market growing significantly during a period of disruption and transformation, hoteliers need the right tools to help them stay ahead of the game.
We’re empowering hoteliers to make better decisions and maximize their revenue by connecting real-time demand data with internal supply data across multiple channels.
We correlate huge amounts of data to simplify a very complex and dynamic marketplace, putting the data, power and decision-making back in the hands of the hotelier.
Do you sense that hotels will be eager to participate in the new platform being offered by Airbnb?
Airbnb’s shift to accommodate hotels is an interesting move. With its recent partnership with SiteMinder, qualified hotels will be able to easily list their inventory on Airbnb’s platform.
The key word here is “qualified.” Not all properties will be able to simply place their properties on the platform, although Airbnb will still have the final say.
Lower commissions and no formal contract requirements are obvious draw-cards for hotels. However, we’ve seen trepidation from many hoteliers due to their early experiences with OTA channels.
What's the biggest challenge facing a mid-scale independent property these days - resistance to joining so-called "soft brands" provided by chains, figuring out a strategy with OTAs, or maintaining a profile with their own marketing spend? Or something else?
It all boils down to finding the best combination of sales and marketing activities to grow revenue and maximize profits through channels that work for your property.
Independent properties don't enjoy the economies of scale of larger groups so they have to be strategic but nimble with their marketing spend.
The data and tools are available so it’s easier than ever for independent operators to figure out which channels to market are most profitable and generating the right mix of business for their property.
It’s an increasingly competitive and dynamic market but data can be their friend so once they devise a revenue strategy that works for their property, the tools are there to drive the outcome.
Imagine you're a hotelier than can only maintain or afford one of OTA Insight's products - which one is the most important that you should be using?
It’s difficult to choose one product as they each solve hoteliers’ challenges in unique and innovative ways.
We have a very simple subscription model so customers can sign up for individual products but more and more customers are subscribing to the entire suite.
Our customers typically start with Rate Insight because it provides the industry’s most complete and accurate real-time market demand data, visualized in a simple, actionable interface.
Understanding market demand and competitive rates across multiple channels in real-time empowers hoteliers to make dynamic distribution decisions that drive real top-line revenue.
Do you see a future for OTA Insight outside of traditional hotels, such as property management companies in the vacation rental sector?
While there’s a world of data and opportunity out there, we’re laser-focused on solving the challenges of the hotel industry in the simplest and most innovative way possible.
We're witnessing a fascinating scrap between the major intermediaries to dominate the private accommodation sector. How do you see this playing out over time?
Companies like Airbnb and HomeAway are disrupting lodging markets by adding a lot of dynamic room supply, often during peak demand periods like high-season and holidays.
That's great news for customers but not so great news for hotels, who have traditionally earned their highest average daily rates when rooms are scarce.
In addition, we now see major OTAs welcoming small boutique private properties, while Airbnb is welcoming hotels, blurring traditional boundaries in the lodging market.
Ease of access and price transparency through multiple channels is forcing all providers to raise their game. Again, it's more important than ever that providers have the same visibility as prospective customers and that's where OTA Insight comes in.
Our users can see local demand, rates, rankings, events and other key information, empowering them to make good revenue decisions.
Rate parity continues to be a contentious issue – banned or limited in some countries and completely unregulated in others. What are your thoughts on the future of rate parity clauses?
Rate parity continues to be a major ongoing concern for hoteliers.
Companies like Airbnb and HomeAway are disrupting lodging markets by adding a lot of dynamic room supply. That's great news for customers but not so great news for hotels, who have traditionally earned their highest average daily rates when rooms are scarce.
In our recent Hotel Parity Report for North America, we’re seeing significant parity loss issues across major chains as well as independent and local chains with issues occurring 24 percent and 48 percent of the time, respectively.
Hoteliers continue the fight to maintain the balance across online distribution channels, but OTAs will continue to focus on finding ways to grow their market share and their bottom lines as price is one of the key conversion factors.
We’ve seen significant growth in metasearch providers - providing prominence to a whole range of smaller, non-contracted OTAs where rates are provided at wholesale price or marked up at the non-contracted OTA’s sole discretion.
These channels are causing parity headaches for hotel operators and making it difficult to maintain a consistent pricing and channel strategy for their hotels.
Again, our tools provide the visibility to identify these issues and with proactive management of the issue we’ve seen parity issues drop to low single digits, which has a huge impact on overall revenue.
What are one or two priorities you have for your first year at OTA Insight?
My top priority is keeping up with our growth potential while maintaining the values that made us successful in the first place.
We come to work every day with a genuine passion to develop the most innovative business intelligence solutions in the industry but are humble enough to know success is not a given.
We have incredibly high customer satisfaction levels resulting from great products and incredible customer service but we can't take it for granted. Our team understands that we need to work hard every day to continue to earn our customers respect.
How have your prior jobs prepared you to be CEO of OTA Insight?
In my early teens I started out as a kitchen hand in hotels and restaurants before I discovered my passion for technology.
I know it’s a cliche, but that job gave me an appreciation of how important hard work and resilience are in business.
I've been privileged to have worked in a number of technology verticals, but I've spent the past number of years working in hospitality technology.
The hospitality technology industry is very unique as you need to provide solutions that serve the needs of large multinational brands, to small owner operators and everything in between.
You need to have a deep understanding of your customer’s business to successfully meet their needs.
At OTA Insight, we hire product and operations talent from the hotel industry and team them up with some of the finest engineers and data scientists. It’s this rare combination of backgrounds that makes OTA Insight so successful.
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