Breaking Travel News sits down with David Millili from Pegasus Solutions, the largest processor of electronic hotel transactions, to find out how he is finding his new role as chief executive, his priorities ahead, opportunities for hoteliers, mobile technology and what the future holds for Pegasus Solutions.
Breaking Travel News: How are you finding your new role as CEO of Pegasus Solutions?
David Millili: Pegasus has long been perceived as a technology company, which is only part of the story. First and foremost, we exist to help hotels and their suppliers generate guest room demand and sales. The last four months as CEO have been both challenging and exciting as I’ve worked to define our vision within the company and to the broader industry.
There is so much opportunity out there right now for hoteliers, and as a former hotelier myself, I’ve enjoyed connecting with our hotel clients worldwide who are ready to harness sales tools like mobile, connectivity, websites and search.
BTN: What are your main priorities going forward?
DM: My main priority will always be to listen and respond to the needs of our clients. Take the launch of Pegasus Connect+ earlier this month, which essentially consolidated the more than 80-year-old Utell representation brand. During the meetings I had with hotels and brands worldwide after being named CEO, I learned that Utell wasn’t delivering what they needed, so we adjusted our offering accordingly.
All hotels – independents, groups, and chains – need partners that will help drive guest room demand and sales. Aligning our various solutions under Pegasus Connect+ was a direct response to help hotels identify and use only the proven services they need.
BTN: There have been several leadership changes and new appointments at Pegasus in recent months. How have these been impacting business and the Pegasus vision?
DM: It’s no secret that there have been changes at Pegasus both recently and over the last few years. Pegasus launched the hotel switch in 1989 that made it possible for hotels to be sold electronically, and this defined us for several years. As the market and buyers evolved, we assumed new roles and identities without ever leaving behind our foundational role as the single largest processor of electronic hotel transactions.
Coming into this role, I wanted to reinforce our distinctive position in connecting hotels to crucial sources of business. To achieve this, we’ve made organizational changes that bring our team closer to the hotelier’s point of view. I’m a former hotelier, our chief sales officer is a former hotelier, and many members of our global sales team are former hoteliers. As we have taken the time to relate to and speak with hoteliers on their terms, the business has evolved accordingly.
BTN: What was your vision when you founded Open Hospitality?
DM: After spending several years as a hotel general manager in Manhattan, I recognized the need for hotels to have a trusted partner in providing hotel internet marketing services. I founded Open Hospitality to become the “go to” for the hospitality industry when properties needed design, website development and hosting, mobile platforms, online search, marketing and booking. We wanted it to be a company that hoteliers could know and trust for interactive services because it was built by hoteliers for hoteliers. When Pegasus acquired Open Hospitality a year ago, it was so the interactive services offering could be blended with the distribution and reservation services Pegasus already offered, presenting a more robust tool portfolio.
BTN: How does Pegasus differentiate itself from other technology service providers? What gives you the edge?
DM: We aren’t just a sales organization that sells technology to hotels and walks away, we’re hoteliers who are developing and implementing technology solutions that make a hotelier’s life easier – whether that’s an affordable and effective website, connectivity to online channels, business intelligence or mobile. And because we still maintain that enviable position as the largest single processor of electronic hotel transactions, we have a perspective gained from knowing the needs nearly 100,000 hotels worldwide have.
BTN: What advice would you offer today’s hoteliers to ensure they are marketing their products effectively?
DM: Know your markets deeply. Understanding changing market conditions helps hotels adjust to capture more demand. Business intelligence such as our PegasusView Market Performance reporting arms hotels with an understanding of both global and regional factors like channel performance, reservation volumes, rate growth, and guest stays so they can tailor marketing efforts to drive the greatest guest room demand and sales. I like to call this fishing where the fish are at.
BTN: To what extent are new channels such as mobile and social media a priority for Pegasus?
DM: As much as a third of hotel bookings today come from mobile devices, and we’re seeing tablets, namely the iPad, account for 80% of those bookings. Mobile is no longer a novelty or a “nice-to-have” for hotels. It has become a must for generating revenue, while some of the flurry over social media has waned.
Late last year, Pegasus became the first hotel reservation solutions provider to offer responsive web design for hotels, which allows hotels to deliver content correctly formatted to any mobile device. The solution, OpenFlex, offers hotels affordability and efficiency in providing mobile booking as an option for guests. Leveraging fluid widths, scalable images and adjustable layouts, it enables bookers to quickly access important details via their preferred point of mobile contact – any smartphone, tablet or operating system. It is also offered now in our PegasusConnect+ Premium package.
BTN: What new markets are you looking to tap into or increase your presence in over the coming months?
DM: We maintain 18 offices in 10 countries that span Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas. The question where we’re seeing market growth is best placed in the context of our recent agreement with TravelSky in China. While the partnership increased our presence in China, it also created opportunities for hotels worldwide to tap into the Asian market, which led to additional growth in the other markets we serve. Travel and hospitality is a global business where the rising tide tends to lift all ships.
BTN: Can you comment on any new innovations/products that Pegasus will be rolling out in coming months?
DM: The most significant innovation we’re focusing on in the coming months is Pegasus Connect+, which blends Pegasus’ powerful distribution, booking and business intelligence solutions with our strong heritage of hotel marketing-related services. Pegasus Connect+ allows hotels to simply make a property available on the GDS and through online channels at an affordable price if that is all that is needed, or to upgrade to another level to create new ways to drive business. This extends from identifying sales opportunities in the local market and making the brand website work harder, to delivering access to corporate buyers around the world to fill the gaps in the sales channel.
BTN: What are your predictions for the online travel space over the next five years?
DM: I never make predictions for the next five years. In fact, you’re lucky if you can look six months ahead with any hope of certainty. But, I do expect mobile and tablets to continue to have a huge impact on how customers book rooms. And Pegasus intends to be around for a very long time leveraging innovation and experience.