MarketHub Americas 2024: HotelBeds, technology and changes in the travel paradigm

As part of this new edition of the event, held last week in Las Vegas, United States, Travel2latam spoke with Gisela Blok, Regional Director Sourcing Latam at Hotelbeds

(Source: Travel2latam)

Could you tell us about your position and what the situation is in the region?

Within the company I am in charge of the commercial teams, both the product contracting part and the client part. The team for the region is made up of about 120 people. We are in different countries, we cover all of Latin America. We have four offices, the Cancún office is one of the most relevant. In the contracting part, we recently opened the Colombia office, from there we handle the entire northern part of South America and the Caribbean, because I have a position within the Caribbean as well. And we have an office in Buenos Aires and San Pablo. We cover the entire territory that goes from Mexico to Argentina. Then, beyond having offices, by having product and clients throughout Latin America, we have many people working in the main destinations as representatives of Latam. They are part of our team, but they are located. 

What are the trends in Latin America from both the emissive and receptive points of view? 

We have the traditional US market, and Europe, which always continues to be the number one growing trend. But something that we discussed today in our session at MarketHub is that other destinations to which Latinos did not travel as much before are really growing. Today, those destinations that are growing the most are Shanghai and Hong Kong, due to the curiosity of visiting Asia and having much more connection to those destinations. This is a traveler who increasingly seeks to go beyond the traditional. The Latino continues to travel to Europe, but we also find that traveler who seeks slightly more exotic destinations. Bali also appears on our reservation list.

It's a lot of hours, it's a travel effort. There are very cheap destinations when you arrive in Asia, but there are also expensive destinations. So at the end of the equation between flights and so on, they are expensive destinations. We also have a group of tourists from Latin America who have high purchasing power and are looking for new destinations. It is very much in the trend to go to more luxury, more exotic destinations. 

Luxury hotels are growing a lot, for tourists looking for luxury, something exclusive, different, unique. For example, lately entertainment or sports have grown, and there is a lot of tourism related to that topic. We see this in searches and reservations. 

The entire events part did not have the strength it has today, years ago a very strong change was made. After the pandemic, the topic of events is something that is increasingly vibrant. Tourists began to resume their trips, to want to travel, and that need appears connected to events, as well as the corporate market mixed with leisure. This is also given by companies that increasingly allow working remotely. Then one can continue his work outside his office. We see it a lot in some specific destinations where hotels are investing in having, beyond free internet, spaces where people can work. 

Do hotels generate “offices” adapting to the situation? 

They are adapting a lot to the situation because they are looking to have those coworking spaces within the hotels due to this trend. People go with their laptops and have meetings, calls, while sharing their vacations or part of the family is enjoying themselves and someone is working. 

How do they work providing different types of services?

As HBX Group we work providing all the client's products from the moment they begin their search for their trip. We are now incorporating the Travel Insurance platform so that you can buy your insurance when you travel with us, book your hotel, activities, flights and more. But we don't work on the Mice part, the group part. We focus on everything that our clients sell to the end customer or to individuals. 

Does the service you provide react to demand or do you work specifically to promote some destinations?

Of course, we listen to the demand of the nature of the business, the trends, where the traveler is going, depending on each market. We work globally, so it is very important to keep up with the trend of each source market and we have the possibility of analyzing the brokers. When a broker goes up, we look for product where we see that that broker is going up in demand for him, because it is a demand from our clients or our clients' clients. Many other times we listen to our clients and they tell us what the end client wants. 

For example, we are making a large investment in destinations like the Caribbean. There was a need to be able to have more product there, because it is growing very strongly and more and more needs to be covered. We also work from the other side, we have teams where we also work with many tourism entities, hotel associations, tourism associations from different destinations in the world. That is where there is the possibility of working hand in hand with tourist destinations. This gives us a lot of satisfaction because it helps destinations promote themselves as tourists, and that is what we contribute beyond trends.  

In Central America there is a very interesting case which is El Salvador, the growth it has had evidently has to do with the policy that they have carried out on the issue of security...

It is very interesting to see this and it gives me a lot of special satisfaction because I am in charge of Latin America. Seeing these destinations and how they move when one has a good tourism policy is very positive. El Salvador is an example of something good and that is where we seek to add strength. Of course there must be an air connection, but when one promotes this it also goes hand in hand with going together towards the airlines and seeking to get the airlines to look at the destinations and offer their direct flights. There is still a lot of work to do in the region. Another incredible example is the case of Colombia, which was named today. It is one of the Latin American countries with the most growth in recent years in the international market. The international vision of security greatly improved and from there come the international hotel chains that go and open their hotels. That promotes tourist destinations a lot. 

We have to work a lot on security. We have that commitment to the region so that more international volume comes. Of course, the national or domestic ones are present and we have a lot of intraregional market. 70% of the business is intra-latam. We have many businesses within Latin America in the most important corridors from South America to Mexico, a corridor from South America to the Caribbean, Brazil as a corridor to South America and vice versa. They are very strong in which we work to be able to have the product, not only the hotels, but also attractions and transfers.

What is the differential that you can offer?

At events like MarketHub is where you see the reality of what is happening. I was part of the preparation of the agenda to find the speakers and so on, and the trend is changing in tourism. It really goes beyond selling a product, it is an experience, and within this is what we sell. We are responsible for ensuring that this experience is the best for the final passenger. We have to adapt a lot to the technology that is coming to be able to improve that experience. My message about what is happening in the industry with all the data we have is that all the new technology trends can help improve the experience of our passengers. 


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