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SPONSOR CON-X 2023: Interview Felix Shpilman, CEO Emerging Travel Group


In this interview, Felix Shpilman, CEO of Emerging Travel Group, shares his insights on decision-making and the main trends in tourism distribution today. Shpilman emphasizes the importance of experimentation and learning from mistakes, as well as the potential of Bedbanks 2.0 in the accommodations sector. He also shares anecdotes of the company's daring decisions, including the expansion into air and transfer services. Looking ahead, ETG has big ambitions for global expansion and is continuously growing its commercial team. Shpilman invites CON-X participants to connect with his team to access a wide range of accommodation inventory and the latest solutions in product and technology.

- We live in a period of high uncertainty, in which the main challenge for managers is decision-making. At Con-X we will talk about this, but could you tell us about your own case? How do you deal with decision-making in your company?

- There have been many books written about good decision-making, but two leaders whose approaches I particularly admire are Ray Dalio and Jeff Bezos. Dalio's approach emphasizes the importance of gathering different perspectives, using data and algorithms, making decisions based on principles, learning from mistakes, and embracing radical transparency. Bezos, on the other hand, distinguishes between two types of decisions: Type 1, which are high-stakes and irreversible, and Type 2, which are easily reversible and can involve experimentation and testing. Bezos encourages employees to make Type 2 decisions quickly and learn from the outcomes, and to take Type 1 decisions slowly and thoroughly.

When it comes to my own leadership team, I advise them to assess decisions according to these two types. If a decision is reversible, I encourage them to act quickly, get early results, and adapt tactics as necessary. For irreversible decisions, I recommend taking the time to weigh all the facts, analyze them carefully, and even seek my help if needed.

- What do you see as the main trends in tourism distribution today?

- As a company specializing in accommodations, we have a keen understanding of trends in this sector. One area we see great potential is the emergence of Bedbanks 2.0. These are the next generation of bed banks, utilizing advanced technology to provide real-time access to hotel inventory, pricing, and availability, thereby adding tremendous value to both hotels and intermediaries. We already have a few of them plugged in and integrated, and they are performing well. 

- Have you taken daring decisions in your company, and can you tell us some anecdotes?

- At ETG, we have a long history of making daring decisions. One such decision was our move to expand beyond selling just accommodations. When we decided to launch air tickets and transfers, many people told us it would be a distraction from our core hotel business and that we risked losing our shirts by adding ancillaries to our brands. But at ETG, we believe in a culture of experimentation, as that is how our entire B2B business was born – out of an experiment.

Despite the skepticism, we plugged in air and transfer suppliers during the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when many companies were struggling to stay afloat. To our delight, these new business lines quickly became profitable. Today, they are performing so well that we no longer consider them ancillaries but have separate product development teams for air, transfers, and rail services. We have shown that they add value to our customers, and some of our customers even discovered our core hotel booking services by trying our transportation first.

- What are your perspectives for this year? Where do you want to go?

- ETG has big ambitions and we're rapidly expanding our global reach. 

Our European results are already solid. We're conducting important, albeit expensive, experiments in Latin America and the USA, as we're committed to developing our presence in those regions and hope to see results that meet our expectations.

In the Middle East, we're opening a regional headquarters where we'll be making global decisions and further enhancing our presence in the region.

As for Asia, we're excited to explore this new market, and our launchers team is already doing research to help us pick a destination for our Asian hub.

We're continuously growing our commercial team, and currently have tens of job openings across the world.

- Why should CON-X participants talk to you, what can you offer them?

- My team on the ground is always eager to connect with buyers and sellers on the Travelgate platform. We take pride in our long-term partnerships and are constantly seeking new opportunities to improve and grow with our partners. When you partner with us, you gain access to over 180 carefully selected suppliers, expertly integrated and optimized to deliver the best results for your business. With our data-driven approach, we process over 20 billion hotel rates per day, enabling us to offer the broadest range of accommodation inventory available, including both merchant and pay-at-hotel options.

At ETG, we are committed to providing our partners with the latest solutions in product and technology, sprinkled with exceptional levels of service. By choosing to work with us, you can be confident that you are accessing the most comprehensive and reliable tools available in the industry.


ABOUT: Emerging Travel is an online travel group founded in 2010 that operates travel brands for individual travelers, b2b travel professionals, and corporate customers in over 190 source markets. Our products help clients book all types of travel services: more than 1.9 million hotels from over 65,000 properties contracted directly and 180 wholesalers, flight tickets of 350 airlines, transfers in over 150 countries, car rental, and other travel-related services.
RateHawk is an innovative B2B booking platform developed by the US company Emerging Travel Group, featuring hotels, flight tickets, transfers, car rentals, and other travel-related services. RateHawk’s mission is to offer users the best prices for any type of travel service in any location.