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Converting Hotel Lookers into Bookers: An Interview with the COO of Travel Tripper.
By Ron Callari
Tuesday, 6th September 2011
 
As an international entrepreneur, Gautam Lulla has earned a world renown reputation having logged time on three continents with the Taj Hotel Group in India, Pegasus Solutions in the US and Amadeus IT in France.

With over twelve years of solid hotel industry experience spanning the breadth of the reservations and distribution technology industry of recent date, he was instrumental in bringing together a team of professionals to launch Travel Tripper.

Image: Gautam Lulla

Although there are a number of hotel reservations systems online today, many of these legacy booking engines have not kept current with the times.

In just a few short years, Travel Tripper and its latest iteration, RezTrip 2.0 have broken that mold. This innovative technology has not only improved the functionality of these dated systems but has also developed a streamlined platform that reduces reliance on costly third party distribution channels, garnering greater ROI for its hotel clients.

In a current interview, Gautam provides us with some insightful feedback as how he and his team have achieved success in this field.

How did Travel Tripper come about? How did you become involved? Is the vision for the company the same as when you started?

Travel Tripper was born of a burning desire to reduce hotels' over-dependency on OTAs and capture more direct online business for hotels through a state-of-the-art web booking engine.

I got involved in Travel Tripper after moving back to the US from Europe, having tired of the large company work environment. Travel Tripper was scrappy, ambitious and had a unique vision. It only helped that I'd be working with old friends, all of us having started our careers together in the same company.

The vision has matured but the foundation is still the same focus on strengthening direct distribution for hotels through technology that generates demand, converts more lookers into bookers, and drives more revenue per booking than any other distribution system in the market.

Give us your 30-second elevator pitch as to why hotels should consider using Travel Tripper's RezTrip 2.0 and how it compares to other booking engines.

RezTrip 2.0 generates demand, converts more lookers into bookers and converts it at higher revenues per booking than any other distribution system in the market. It does this through several unique pricing and merchandising innovations on both the back-end (which help hotel revenue managers) and on the booking engine itself.

What has the response been from both your current customers and new customers regarding the upgrade to the new 2.0 version?

The product has been tremendously well received. Current customers that migrated are enjoying more transactions and revenue. New customers are consistently impressed when they see the product, which is a very rewarding response to us. They love the level of innovation we've brought to an industry that was plodding along making incremental improvements to tired technology.

How have conversion rates and RevPAR increased for hotels who have moved from a legacy booking engine to RezTripTM 2.0?

With RezTrip 2.0, we're seeing conversion rates that are higher than we've seen at any of our competitors' hotels, often by a factor of 2.5. Our engine has increased the average length of stay as well as the average daily rate for our customers. If, as a hotel, you're successful at increasing these three metrics, you've hit a home run.

How does the current Travel Tripper and EZYield partnership benefit your joint hotel customers?

The partnership with EZYield allows hotels to update base prices in RezTrip through EZYield's channel management tool. This removes the need for the hotelier or revenue manager to separately manage pricing our system and reduces operational overhead.

We have a similar relationship with Rate Tiger as well, and we also offer two-way connectivity for PMS' or other systems to automatically update RezTrip 2.0 with prices and availability.

With a number of your hotels now integrating with Flip.to, how do you see this social media platform improving a hotel's ROE, ROI?

Hotels and all businesses are in a state of frenzy over social media. But very few understand how to achieve measurable ROI increases from using the social network. The combination of RezTrip 2.0 and Flip.to, however, will drive substantial revenue growth by providing an incentive for hotel guests to promote a hotel; thus stimulating high quality demand to the property. This kind of win-win incentive approach is unique, innovative and will drive great results.

RezTrip 2.0 is the first booking engine with a deep integration with Flip.to. Without giving too much away, what is one of the upcoming features of that integration that you're excited about?

I'm excited with what I saw, and am looking forward to integrating it in RezTrip. We have some ideas of our own which we want to bring to life together with Flip.to.

I think both companies have a mindset of bringing innovation to the market. Flip.to is, of course, operating in a space that is entirely new social media while Travel Tripper is innovating within the constraints of a very old industry.

Social media will be woven into the fabric of RezTrip 2.0. E-commerce applications will not have a choice but to do this.

What is the best low-cost vacation you've ever taken?

Camping across southern France and Spain with my family was the best low-cost vacation I took.

Ron is the VP of Business Development for Flip.to ( http://flip.to ), a marketing solution for the travel industry that helps convert guests into advocates and provides brands with a distribution channel extending advertising reach via social networks.With over 25 years of travel industry experience, Ron has held sales and marketing posts internationally with Marriott Hotels & Resorts. As a well-known social media strategist, Ron was a selected member for a 2011 Chinese Tourism Mission, has been interviewed by BBC radio, writes a weekly social media marketing column for several websites and is the author of a graphic novel about Facebook.

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