Reducing the noise: Gino Engels, OTA Insight co-founder, talks to tnooz

Reducing the noise: Gino Engels, OTA Insight co-founder, talks to tnooz

At the recent ITB meeting in Berlin, Gino Engels, co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer of OTA Insight, was interviewed by Nick Vivion, Editorial Director of tnooz.

Broadcast in this 10-minute video, Gino fielded a wide range of questions on the state of the hotel industry and the evolving ways people are booking rooms. He also addressed how hoteliers can better respond to these trends and their competitors’ prices by tapping into the actionable insight that cleverly structured and well presented data can provide.


We’ve assembled some of the highlights here, starting with an overview of OTA Insight, which Gino began his interview with.

“We collect data from the online travel agencies [OTAs], the metasearch websites, direct channels, and we visualise all of that data for hotels. So a person working in a hotel can see what the prices are for their direct competitors. But they can also see how their prices are distributed across all the online channels.”

Clear strategy

Observing how much data that is, Nick asked how OTA Insight is helping to “reduce the noise”.

“That’s a good description,” said Gino, “as that’s where we want to get to. We want hotels to have a clear strategy.”

It’s about collecting data, helping to visualise it and taking action when things are “out of line,” such as events and competitors dropping their prices, Gino explained. So, he added, hoteliers can spend time on other activities that drive additional revenue and avoid having to look at so many different screens, which they’d otherwise have to do manually by going to each of the OTAs in turn - “exactly like a consumer does”. (Recent research suggests consumers visit an average of 38 websites before booking a hotel.)

And because some hotels use a revenue management system (RMS), they’re “updating prices hourly, sometimes almost on a minute-by-minute basis,” he added.

Origins of the business

“So where did you start?” asked Nick. “Was it the idea of giving people notifications of these things?”

“We started in 2012 in the summer of the London Olympics,” said Gino. “That’s when myself and my business partners started. We saw a massive amount of hotel rooms that were unsold, whereas we thought there’s a massive demand in the city – everybody’s coming to see the London Olympics. And everybody was really panicky and dropping their rates significantly to try to fill it with demand that wasn’t there. So for us that was quite interesting because we were already quite conscious of the fact that if you want to book something you probably need to book it quite a lot in advance.

“And then we suddenly see all these cheap hotel rooms. We’re from Belgium and we had a lot of friends wanting to come to see the London Olympics, and they thought it was going to be so expensive. But all these cheap rates didn’t make sense. So Adriaan [Coppens] - one of my co-founders - he started collecting all this data and pulling it in, trying to see how it stacks up.”

“So you could almost do an advance warning,” added Nick, “saying hey, don’t drop your rate, because what’s going to happen is everyone else will.”

view-of-swimming-poolFair share of the pie

Said Gino: “Our investors asked: ‘what are you going to do if everyone uses your tool? No one’s going to be competitive anymore.’ But no, it’s brilliant! Because everybody, rather than dropping their rates, they know that everybody can get their fair share of the pie and everybody’s going to be profitable. Because if one person starts dropping, the whole market follows.”

Gino answered further questions on the role of OTAs - they’re “coming around from being confrontational to being a partner,” he suggested - on data-sharing and on commission rates, among others, which you can find in the video.

But we’ll share here Gino’s tips and observations, which concluded his interview.

Key tips and observations on hotel data

  • “What we strongly believe is making things simple. Make sure you focus on the outliers and try to address those first, in terms of pricing versus competition. If you see outliers across different channels, try to fix them and make sure you get to the root cause so it doesn’t happen again.”
  • “The first key point is make sure you have a clear strategy, that you’re not constantly fire-fighting and that you don’t know where the fire is coming from, so you’re not constantly putting out a fire, which is coming back the next day, because you don’t have clear control due to lack of strategy.”
  • Pinpoint where it’s going wrong. We try to help hotels fix the problem because we’re not just monitoring and showing them where it’s going wrong, we also help them to fix it.” Gino later added: “The point is we provide ‘actionable insights’, not an endless data dump, so we pinpoint to identify the root cause, then guide the user to the solution.”
  • “Then continue monitoring, because business models are changing, we kind of see now with Airbnb almost switching their business model and becoming an OTA, and the OTAs becoming an Airbnb. The situation yesterday or last week is not going to be the situation next week anymore. Changes are happening constantly. I think for hotels it’s important that there’s channels like us where you can stay up-to-date with what’s happening.”

Watch the video in full.

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