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CON-X 2022 | Jonathan Bedford,  Chief Sales Officer at SiteMinder

Jonathan Bedford

Can you tell us how you became part of the SiteMinder team, and what projects you are currently working on?

I joined SiteMinder three years ago, after 25  years’ working in sales and marketing for some of the biggest names in IT and technology. What initially attracted me was SiteMinder’s disruptive vision for the hotel technology space, and the way the company fuses the creative energy of a tech startup with a global leader’s scale, reach and ambition.

Today, SiteMinder is publicly listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, with offices in Bangkok, Berlin, Dallas, Galway, London and Manila, and tens of thousands of customers across 150 countries. Our next generation platform, launched in April, is purpose built for the hotel commerce era, putting each hotelier at the centre of their own ecosystem, to empower them to sell, market, manage and grow their business. 

The dynamism which first attracted me here is growing every day, along with the company. I’m currently leading SiteMinder’s global commercial operation, which means guiding and mentoring our expanding sales team, with responsibility for driving net new customers and revenue growth. 

Competitiveness is increasing every day, and large companies continue to grow exponentially ... Is there any limit?

This is a transformational time for the hotel industry, which is once again growing globally as it approaches 2019 booking numbers, in the context of a wider travel recovery, shown by multiple sources recording increased air traffic and arrivals around the world. Spain, for its part, has long surpassed 2019 hotel booking numbers, and is growing compared to where it was before the pandemic. Now is the time for accommodation providers to grab this opportunity with both hands, and increase their share of a growing market. 

On the other hand, as hoteliers know, it’s also a tough, competitive landscape. The guests they are welcoming today are not the same as those they knew two years ago. Consumers have become accustomed to a world of omnichannel commerce, and expect to hop seamlessly between different online and offline channels, while enjoying a consistent and personalised brand experience. These expectations have been set by retail, banking and other sectors, and the hotel industry is, unfortunately, found lagging behind. 

And it’s precisely this pain-point that SiteMinder is dedicated to resolving. We are at the forefront of maximising hotels’ potential to drive growth and positive change. We firmly believe that by investing in the right technology and meeting the challenges of the e-commerce era, hotels can be more than just passive recipients within the travel industry, they can be a motor of growth for travel as a whole, and ambassadors for their communities and countries, helping to attract guests there, and benefiting the entire local ecosystem.

There is no limit to the opportunity for hoteliers in this era. With the right tools, we see a universe of possibilities for hotels which has only just begun to be explored. 

How important are technology and connectivity for your business?

Absolutely vital. SiteMinder is the world’s largest open hotel commerce platform, giving hoteliers the tools to design holistic strategies and view, manage and implement these all in one place, with one log-in and one interface. Today’s hotel guests demand a frictionless guest journey, and those hotels who are up to the challenge will corner the market, while those who do not risk being left behind.

How do you think travel companies are adapting after two long years of crisis? 

We see accommodation providers responding positively. While the hotel industry remains one of the world’s least digitised, the past two years have opened the industry's eyes to the potential of real time travel data to help them assess market recovery and opportunities, and to know their guests better. As a result, hoteliers are increasingly adopting more holistic commerce strategies, as shown by the rise of a vast range of specialist apps, as well as the diversification of booking channels. This has paved the way for forward thinking platforms, which is where we come in, to help the industry take the next step into the hotel commerce era.

What future do you expect for companies and innovation, and where are they going to grow?  

One thing we can observe from the varied disruptions since 2020, is that the demand for travel is extremely resilient, and that whenever people are allowed to get on the move, they will, even if this means foregoing other goods and services. So far we’ve seen that travel always finds a way, even if unexpected situations arise. 

However, the guests which hotels are welcoming back today are not the same ones they knew before the pandemic. Consumers have become accustomed to a world of seemingly endless digitally enabled commerce opportunities, frictionless solutions and a personalised service - and they expect the same from accommodation providers. 

As a result, hotels have responded by adopting more holistic commerce strategies, allowing them to provide guests with the smooth and consistent customer journey they expect, while responding to the preferences and behaviours of new consumers, meeting the challenges of new competitors, driving better experiences and increased monetisation of each guest’s stay. 

Technology will be essential in guiding these strategies through consumer and competitor insights gleaned from Big Data, as well as being a fundamental tool for hotels to design, implement and manage their growth strategies. We’ve seen this up until now with the rise of hotel commerce technology, which really took hold during the past two years, and which is continuing to grow as a new sense of normalcy establishes itself.  

New companies, new ventures. What do you think will be the next disruptive technologies of the future, and how will the travel industry benefit? 

Travel and technological innovation are intrinsically linked, and we will likely see this accelerate over the next decade, with increasing disruption from AI, machine learning, augmented realities in the Metaverse, and more. 

In this ever changing environment, hotels will benefit most by ensuring they place themselves at the centre of the online commerce ecosystem, where technological innovation will touch every part of a guest’s booking process. SiteMinder’s move to a platform-based model reflects hoteliers responding to consumers’ evolved expectations, in order to design holistic and nimble hotel commerce strategies, based on dynamic market data, and a panoramic view of each consumer. In short - having access to relevant, streamlined data, and the technological tools to utilise this effectively, will be key to hotels’ success. 

If current trends continue, these developments will be at the centre of the future growth of the industry. Our vision at SiteMinder is for hotels to not only catch up and stay apace with the world’s leading e-commerce trendsetters, but themselves to become trailblazers of change.

Why should members of the tourism industry participate in meetings like Con-X? 

All business is ultimately about people, and that is nowhere more true than in the case of travel, which is fundamentally about human interaction. It’s vital to connect, reconnect and nurture relationships with customers, partners and thought-leaders in our industry!