CON-X interview: Nigel Horne, CEO Europe at WebBeds

“Technology is a core competence for our business”

Next May 7, Nigel Horne will be in Mallorca at the first CON-X conference organized by the TravelgateX team. In this opportunity, Nigel shares with us his reflection on the challenges of technology and tourism.

-How did you become part of WebBeds Group team and what projects do you work on?

– WebBeds is the B2B division of Australian-based Webjet Group (an ASX 200 listed company) and Webjet’s first B2B acquisition was Sunhotels in September 2014. I joined as CEO of Sunhotels in November 2014 to expand the business with a focus on European source markets. After Webjet acquired JacTravel in 2017 I became CEO of WebBeds Europe, in our new regional structure, responsible for all WebBeds brands in Europe. We have been focused on expanding the European business and integrating the Sunhotels, Totalstay and JacTravel trading organisations. We recently purchased Destinations of the World, and have already made great progress with integrating them into the WebBeds business.

– What are the main challenges that your clients are facing at the moment?

Challenges vary by source market. The European macroeconomic situation is fluid and currently a little uncertain, which impacts confidence. We have some interesting political situations in key European countries but these are things our industry will deal with and has always dealt with. Technology is – and will always be – a challenge to our clients given the rate of change, complexity and evolving customer behaviour. Technology is a core competence for our business and an area we invest a lot of management time and resources in to provide solutions that help our clients sell more easily.

– What are the key elements from your value proposition to support your clients in their growth?

We are global and the second largest bedbank in the world. We are one of a few players able to offer clients a global inventory with competitive prices across the greatest breadth and depth of inventory. We do this by growing the number of direct contracts we offer, supplemented with a multi-supply aggregation strategy. This means we provide customers with a choice of 250,000 hotels and great availability. Our trading brands have the reputation as being industry leaders in customer service – both in terms of a sales team that can help our clients grow their business with strategic and technical advice but also operationally with highly trained call centre servicing clients in multiple languages.

–  You have great expansion plans; what essential features are you looking for in an ideal partner?

It might sound obvious but we want partners that are responsive and delivering quality today. Results are important to us. We are a company targeting booking growth rates 5x higher than the underlying market, so we need partners that will support and enable us to achieve this growth in an efficient, scalable manner. However, we also want a partner who is thinking about and investing in the future – adaptable enough to change course reactively in response to the market and new developments.

–  How crucial are technology to your business and specifically connectivity?

Technology is core to our business. It underpins our ability to efficiently, consistently and reliably deliver inventory pricing to our customers as fast as possible. Clients want to be able to connect quickly and easily to a vast range of inventory that also enables them to customise based on their specific business needs, and suppliers want connectivity options which allow them to reach the maximum desired distribution.

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