Startup Focus: Themis Anthrakopoulos, Founder of HotelMate
By Phil Butler, Partner at Pamil Visions Public Relations
Phil Butler: How is the HotelMate alternative booking and revenue channel different from conventional OTAs?
Themis Anthrakopoulos: HotelMate is designed to reduce distribution costs for hotels, while increasing their occupancy. Considering that the position of OTAs is growing more and more controversial regarding the tools they use to drive bookings (higher commission percentages in exchange for higher hotel rankings in OTAs pages), hoteliers should at least avoid outsourcing their internal market segments, to already established OTA channels & drive the revenue and visibility within hotel industry.
Phil Butler: Why do you think other OTAs or even big chains themselves have never attempted to create such a platform?
Themis Anthrakopoulos: For OTAs it would be really difficult to provide such a business model since they focus on creating revenue through high commissions, while at HotelMate we focus mainly on increasing occupancy first at hotels and rewarding hotel associates and that's evident enough through our pricing model.
On the other hand big hotel chains, have actually incorporated a business model for their own employees only though. Major hotel chains consider their employees a market segment large enough, to avoid outsourcing their bookings to well established OTAs, while the rest of hotel industry does nothing about this.
The majority of hotels though, still end up paying high commissions to OTAs, for receiving reservations by fellow hotel employees, through their distribution channels. You see, for big hotel chains, this is an obvious win — win situation. By offering room rates discounts to their employees not only they motivate and reward them, but they also use it as a way to fill their rooms especially during low occupancy periods.
Phil Butler: How will HotelMate monetize since it is a commission free channel?
Themis Anthrakopoulos: Instead of imposing high commission fees, we ask our member hotels to offer at least 10% discount on their lowest online rates as displayed on other commission based OTAs, applicable to registered hotel employees and under conditions to their families and friends. Member hotels can choose from, either a subscription fee of 99 € / year without any commission costs, or a flat fee of 10 € / reservation with no up-front costs.
Phil Butler: Do you see the platform growing into something more similar to an OTA in the future?
Themis Anthrakopoulos: We have no intentions to become another OTA. With HotelMate our goal is to enable the development of a collaborative and participatory hotel industry culture. One that drives employee engagement, improves morale and reflects reward. Hotels should reflect & define what their industry values are and build a system around rewarding good customer service, which will only improve perception & awareness for the hotel industry as a whole.
Phil Butler: Can you tell us about early adopters of your system? What are the early prospects?
Themis Anthrakopoulos: Even though all these issues are quite obvious, there hasn't been a collective reaction to any of these issues and therefore we still struggling to take off. While we have some early adopters from Europe mainly, we strive to bring awareness to the hotel industry. For that to happen, hotels need to acknowledge that each Online Travel Agency and Meta-Search site and Vacation rental site, represents a formidable marketplace with a large amount of inventory, offering a wide range of accommodation options to potential guests.
So, when an Online Travel Agency grows in power, it's power and influence grows over the whole hotel industry and not just over a single hotel. In the long run therefore, the risk is clear that it may become obsolete for any hotel to have a distinguished online marketing presence, such as its own website. OTAs know that and their future strategy depends on that. It's about time hotels set the agenda and realise how inherently dangerous the status quo is to their future.