Hotelopia isn’t just about accommodation – they provide a full range of travel services from transfers, sightseeing tours, activities and car hire to customers and workplaces in more than 185 countries worldwide. Here, we talk with Jon French, head of B2B2C Solutions, to discuss the company’s unique position in the employee benefits market, why employers need to think outside the box with their packages, and the company’s plans for further expansion.
1. Evidently, Hotelopia is quite a unique concept. What would you say makes you stand out from your competitors?
I would say the main factor that makes us stand out is, rather than give cashback where you pay full price and store credit for future purchases, we believe it is better to offer that discount upfront from the first booking. For the employer partners we work with, we are able to provide significant discounts from our normal public price.
Of course, we don´t sell the kitchen sink; therefore, we like to focus on fewer key hotels to provide better discounts to pass on to our customers. It’s only natural from being in business for 15 years that we’ve managed to developed great relationships with our hotels as well as due to our beneficial position forming part of Hotelbeds Group, the business-to-business provider of services to the travel industry globally.
2. Should more UK organisations provide this benefit, or something similar, to their employees?
Definitely! Not only does it create value, it’s also a powerful internal marketing tool to motivate your employees by offering unique benefits in travel shopping. Travel is considered a non-negotiable ‘right’ by many people, and this has proved to be a no-risk benefit at no cost to the employer other than advertising it.
These days, people look for more than just cash-remuneration – this employee benefit is a way to stand out from other employers. Employees are no longer looking for just a salary – they want a unique package.
3. Could you talk a bit more in-depth about the White Label offering?
Hotelopia White Label is designed to generate value for your employees, as well as customers, by offering either corporate or loyalty discounts. A customised web page is created with a company’s logo and corporate information, and if they wish, they can choose between offering a discount only to their staff members or a mixture of discount and commission.
Fortunately, we don´t charge for the White Label service – creation is completely free, quick and easy process and an assigned, dedicated key account manager will be on hand to give support to each client every step of the way. In terms of commercial models, we can offer: a discount directly to employees; a mixture of a discount of employees; and also commission to the employer so it can be developed as a revenue stream to the company.
4. Why did Hotelopia decide to expand and target the employee benefits industry?
There is a huge potential in the corporate benefits field, since the audience is substantial, varied and worldwide. The potential growth is very interesting for us to explore as we are truly global, and the market is turning more and more competitive with customers becoming experts in their search for the very best deals. To succeed, it’s fundamental to be able to offer the best price, and Hotelopia can offer very competitive discounts across our entire portfolio.
Also, we have looked at the cost of acquiring new customers, and have found this to be a cost-effective business model and a win-win situation for all involved: the business, our partners, and the customer.
5. How much traction is Hotelopia receiving from UK businesses as an employee benefit?
The UK is one of our key markets. We cooperate with some of the largest companies offering employee benefits, including market-leading airlines, high street and food retailers such as John Lewis. But we feel that there is still a lot of room left for us to grow and approach other sectors.
6. What would your advice be to employers who would like to introduce an employee benefit such as Hotelopia, but are intimidated by the costs involved?
The good thing is that we do not charge any implementation, maintenance or development costs. Once both parties agree to go ahead, it is free for the employer. It is a quick and simple process and you will be supported by your key account manager throughout the process.
The only thing we do ask from companies is to have us as a link via their websites, or even a newsletter they send out, which encourages staff members to take full advantage of the benefits we can offer to them. Obviously, those companies making an effort in communication of the White Label are experiencing the best results.
To get the word out there, it is crucial to establish a communication strategy for employees to be aware of the benefits, and we can fully support this by supplying marketing material, prize draws and exclusive offers.
7. What challenges do you face in persuading new and potential clients to go ahead with Hotelopia as an incentive, and how do you combat these challenges?
The biggest challenge we face is acquiring enough internal traction within the companies and getting clients focused on what they can achieve by implementing Hotelopia.
Our key success stories are normally with companies that have a specific focus on benefits and communicate it accordingly; we can work with our partners to showcase how it all works, as well as provide a revenue stream for them depending on the commercial offer involved.
Recent industry discussion has shown that it’s not just about money for employees – engagement is paramount for staff retention. Especially when budgets are tight, if you can give employees perks, then that in itself can make a huge difference.
8. Are there any new developments that Hotelopia as a company is working on at the moment?
Yes, we are constantly looking at ways we can improve our customer experience, and adding new and exciting product to sell to our customers. We get great feedback from our partners and customers for ways to improve, and we always take that on board!
Hotelopia has seen quite a bit of traction in the employee benefits industry within the last three to four years, and actively targeting the sector within the last year or two. We’re expecting more and more people to offer this kind of benefit as, clearly, there’s a high demand for it.