Breaking Travel News interview: William Cotter, managing director, Net Affinity

With the company having been nominated for the title of Europe’s Leading Hotel Bookings Solutions Provider at the upcoming World Travel Awards Europe Gala Ceremony, Breaking Travel News editor Chris O’Toole here sits down with Net Affinity managing director William Cotter to find out more about this quick developing technology company.

Breaking Travel News: Could we begin with a brief overview of Net Affinity, what is it the brand brings to the hospitality space?

William Cotter: Net Affinity is an award winning technology, design and marketing company working exclusively with hotels with a strategy to drive more direct bookings

Typically for a client we design their website, add in our booking engine to the site to facilitate bookings which feed directly to their channel manager or PMS.

We then proactively market the site to the main online marketing channels such as search (Google), social (Facebook), meta search (Trivago) and direct (email) to convert as much direct business as we can through the hotel’s site at a lower cost per acquisition relative to other online business sources e.g. Booking.com

Our business USP is our booking engine platform which converts at a higher rate than the industry average.

This strength in our technology is complemented by our highly skilled and competent team who are so passionate about what we do.

They care very deeply about our clients and their business and work so hard to make a real difference to their business.

BTN: Although you are based in Dublin Net Affinity is globally focused. Which markets are strongest for the brand and where do you see Net Affinity growing in coming years?

WC: Our client base is changing and reflects the emerging ownership landscape of hotels that now exists in Ireland.

Notable domestic clients include the Griffin Group, Tetrarch Capital, FBD Hotels, Select Hotels, Talbot Hotel group, Mc Gettigan group, Irelands Blue Book and Irish Hotels Federation.

From an international perspective with also work with Interstate Hotels, Corinthia Hotels and now Historic Hotels of Europe.

The priority for us is to look after our existing clients who are the bedrock of our business.

We need to maintain a razor sharp focus on our clients business and the service we provide ensuring that we delight them as much as we possibly can.

As our business grows we need to carefully manage this expansion making sure that we don’t over stretch ourselves while maintaining the level and quality of service we provide.

Thankfully we have a highly skilled and competent team who are so passionate about what we do.

They care very deeply about our clients and their business and work so hard to make a real difference to their business.

BTN: Do you feel hotel owners and operators are awake to the ever growing potential if technology in the hospitality industry?

WC: The pace of change in technology, devices and how users interact with hospitality services is having a huge impact on how hotels market and manage their guest relations.

The seismic shift to mobile devices, social sharing and the corresponding shift in user behaviour is causing real and understandable difficulties for hoteliers who are struggling to keep up with such technological change and for the most part are insufficiently resourced both in terms of personnel and expertise.

This is particularly true with social media where we see an immediate impact for hotels with the growth of review sites like TripAdvisor for example.

Suddenly every aspect of a hotel’s business is open for scrutiny and debate, particularly so with Generation Y whose confidence with all things digital, ‘demand’ transparency and honesty in how companies communicate with them.

The shift to mobile devices is having a similar impact on a hotels business in terms of how guests book a room, reserve dinner, to more recent advances such as remote check in and mobile based payment solutions such as Apple Pay being used to settle a bill.

Indirectly, you have social sharing sites such as Airbnb which almost overnight opened up a who new category of accommodation, giving consumers access to rooms and beds in accommodation types that we’re previously unavailable to book online.

This will have more of an impact in time as consumers become much more comfortable with the sharing concept as they look for more authenticity and value, particularly in city destinations.

BTN: You recently announced a $1 million multi-phase investment in a technology, research and development project. Can you tell us a little about that?

WC: We’ve embarked on a large scale development and research and development project spanning over two years which will see us develop our cloud based technology platform further to take into consideration the rapid developments in mobile and social media.

As part of this development we will be placing mobile firmly in the centre of our business, looking at every aspect of our client’s use of our system regardless of device.

Furthermore we will examine end consumer engagement with our booking platform in particular in areas such as conversion.

All business growth has been organic and funded from retained profits and internal resources.

This strategy has worked well in the Irish market particularly during a deep recession where we really need to keep a close eye on all input costs.

It works also in the scenario where you wish to retain as much control over a business until such a time that it’s right to seek external capital to super charge business growth.

Our investment in our technology is the right strategy for us now and will put us in a much stronger position when we look to expand our business in European markets.

Right now there are huge opportunities for companies in the travel technology and services sector, particularly for those based in a high competitive market such as Ireland.

We plan to expand our business further in Ireland and when the time is right we will look to grow into the UK and Europe.

BTN: Net Affinity has been nominated for the title of Europe’s Leading Hotel Bookings Solutions Provider  at the upcoming World Travel Awards. How does it feel to have been recognised by this prestigious organisation?

WC: It is an honour to be once again nominated for a prestigious World Travel Award as the brand is recognised globally as the ultimate hallmark of quality.

The World Travel Awards are acknowledged across the globe as the ultimate travel accolade and aim to celebrate brands like ourselves that are pushing the boundaries of industry excellence.

The World Travel Awards are voted on by the global travel industry and so carries a great significance to be voted for by your clients, peers and industry colleagues.

We have huge confidence in our technology and recent investments have only strengthened our booking engine platform allowing us to maintain a system that converts above the industry average and secure our place as one of the foremost technology leaders serving the European hotel industry.