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Interview: James Bishop, Director Partnerships SiteMinder

James Bishop
"Over the past eight months, we’ve seen many parts of our technology industry rise up to help both hotels and travel technology providers to better understand new and emerging trends, as they happened. I’m proud to say that SiteMinder and TravelgateX are examples of this".

In this Interview, James Bishop, Senior Director SiteMinder, explains to us what his company's prospects are for next year 2021, in addition to analyzing what the learnings have been in this year of pandemic. James also explains what the collaboration between SiteMinder and TravelgateX is like within the technology and tourism sector.

What are some of the biggest challenges for your sector right now?

Through any time of frequent change, attempting to plan for a future that’s difficult to predict will always be the biggest challenge.  From the concern of not being ready for international and business travel when they recommence, to the threat of further government restrictions, accurately forecasting what’s next as a hotelier right now is a tricky prospect to navigate. With uncertainty comes the opportunity for growth, however, and one of the silver linings is that the industry has learnt the upsides of working in a more agile way. This time has also allowed the hotel sector to develop new revenue opportunities that are sure to benefit it into the future as well. 

What are the priorities SiteMinder is working on and how are they projected for 2021?

Our focus remains firmly on our customers and the broader hotel industry that we serve. We’re constantly reassessing our priorities to make sure that our time and efforts are focused on what will bring the greatest value. For example, we’ve just launched the SiteMinder Partner Program, which allows hotel advisors and PMS vendors to gain access to critical training, educational resources and dedicated online support from SiteMinder so they can, in turn, provide a more holistic offering to their hotel clients. We’ve also put a lot of emphasis this year on streamlining the user experience for our customers, to make it a more automated and seamless journey, and to allow them to get more out of their investment sooner.  While I can’t share more, I can tell you that 2021 will be a game-changing year for SiteMinder, so watch this space!

What do you think are some of the biggest opportunities that may come from this time for your sector? For the travel industry?

Covid has created a time of forced reflection that has reshaped many hotel businesses around the world. For the majority, it’s provided the chance to focus more closely than ever on their guests, whether that’s been focused on creating a safer, more comfortable experience throughout the stay or focused on attracting and retaining those guests at every other stage of their customer journey. Many of our hotel customers have also used this time to upgrade their technology, seeking solutions that will enable them to streamline their operations and work more intelligently.

Some have moved planned renovations forward and, perhaps most pleasingly, a number of hotels that we have spoken to have treated this as a time for personal growth, investing heavily in upskilling their staff as they wait for regular travel flows to once again resume.

Whatever the focus has been, the common opportunity has been in innovating for a stronger, more agile tomorrow. Every business in the world has learnt this year about the risks of growing complacent or standing still, and they’re not risks that those within our industry can afford to take. While travel will look different in the future, it will re-emerge strongly and, in fact, we’re already seeing a number of hotel markets return to or surpass pre-Covid booking levels.

Do you consider that companies are aware of the relevance of innovation and technology? More now even at the moment that we are living?

Overall, there’s still a long way to go in the adoption of technology within the hotel industry. Of course, as in any industry, there are always early adopters and you can see the clear benefits that those companies are getting from their investments. Large hotel chains, for example, form a segment that across the board take the technology they use very seriously, and they gain great advantages from doing so.

On the flip side, smaller hotel businesses have historically found it more difficult to see the value of investing in technology. Cost was a significant barrier for many years, but with cloud technology and greater integration between platforms now being so widely available, we’ve seen that more small independent hotels now understand that the same technology, if not better, is now readily available for them to take advantage of. So, there is certainly a growing awareness of how critical technology is to enabling the success of a hotel business, and, in the years ahead, I believe we will continue to see an increased rate of tech adoption for the one million hoteliers currently servicing guests worldwide.

What would you say to your partners or potential customers? How to help them from SiteMinder and TravelgateX?

Over the past eight months, we’ve seen many parts of our technology industry rise up to help both hotels and travel technology providers to better understand new and emerging trends, as they happened. I’m proud to say that SiteMinder and TravelgateX are examples of this. We were quick to make our data available publicly, and, in doing so, we helped the industry to more deeply understand what was really happening around the world, at both a macro and micro level. This spirit of openness lies at the core of everything we do at SiteMinder and, as we continue to usher hotels into the Intelligence era—the new era of distribution—I would encourage our partners and potential customers to get in touch with us to see if we can help them further. We’re also open to discussing any potential collaborations that would benefit the industry as a whole.

What do you think about TravelgateX and how has this connection technology contributed to your company?

TravelgateX has been an instrumental partner for SiteMinder, with their marketplace platform enabling demand partners (that add value to our hotels) to reach their inventory through the SiteMinder platform. The benefit to SiteMinder is that we are able to work with a single technology provider to serve multiple partners, which gives us a greater level of confidence in the connectivity, and offers us more flexibility when onboarding new partners. I personally have gained great experience and knowledge by having the TravelgateX team available to speak with, as they are so well plugged into the travel technology ecosystem. And, of course, TravelgateX’s Con-X conference last year was amazing for our industry, pulling together some incredible speakers and content which was greatly appreciated. I look forward to this returning as soon as we can travel again!

What is a crazy or out-of-the-box product or technology that you would personally like to see attempted for the travel industry?

Maybe not so crazy, but I’m looking forward to a world with more sustainable travel, where environmental impacts are greatly reduced through the advancement of technology, especially in air travel. The world is getting smaller and, until this year, the number of us travelling for work and leisure had been increasing greatly due to lower cost and higher demand from international business. If there had to be one industry with the biggest impact on the environment, I wouldn’t want it to be ours. I’d love to be able to travel with a clearer conscience. I’d also love to one day be able to get from London to Australia in a few hours, and for that to be an affordable alternative, rather than reserved for just those with deep pockets.

What is your favourite thing about working in hospitality / Travel / Tourism?

100% it’s the people. I started my career many years ago in hotels and I fell in love with the industry, but it’s the people who drive this industry, the passion they have for their product and service, and their attitude to just get things done which continues to resonate with me. I also love to travel, myself, and being able to combine this with my role at SiteMinder has been amazing.

How can I start working with TGX?