Gautam Lulla is the CEO of Pegasus. He brings 23 years of industry experience spanning the breadth of the hotel reservations and distribution technology industry. He has worked on three different continents: the Taj Group of Hotels in India, Pegasus Solutions in the U.S. and Amadeus IT in France. He joined Travel Tripper in 2008 and spearheaded the company’s growth as a leading provider of hotel distribution and marketing solutions. Gautam led the 2019 merger between Travel Tripper and Pegasus, which combined Travel Tripper’s award-winning CRS, booking engine and e-commerce solutions with Pegasus’s GDS and global sales solutions and business intelligence tools.
It was announced in November that the combined Travel Tripper and Pegasus entity will retain the Pegasus name while introducing a new vision and rebranded platform that draws from both companies’ respective strengths. What’s the new vision?
Our vision is to be the #1 choice for hotels when it comes to distribution and e-commerce solutions. We want to be the most preferred vendor to our customers by having the best solutions in the industry — that means the best technology, the best features and functionality, and the best service and support.
Has the new vision been fully implemented or is that still a work in progress?
Bringing together two companies and two systems is never a simple task. Right now one of our main priorities is creating the most robust CRS platform in the industry. Not only are we working to bring together the best features from both the Pegasus and Travel Tripper platforms, we are also simultaneously building out improvements across the entire system, including better distribution capabilities, a more user-friendly admin interface, and an improved booking engine design.
Can you walk us through the rebranded platform? What are the key capabilities and customer benefits?
The Pegasus Platform brings together Travel Tripper’s award-winning CRS, booking engine, website and digital marketing solutions with Pegasus’ popular GDS and global sales solutions and business intelligence tools. Whether it’s strengthening direct bookings, optimizing channel mix, or securing lucrative corporate and consortia business, our platform offers the scalability and flexibility for hotels to execute complex distribution, e-commerce, and sales and marketing strategies easily and successfully.
What types of hotels, resorts and/or other properties are likely to benefit most from the new Pegasus strategy and platform capabilities?
With the innovative capabilities in distribution and e-commerce that Travel Tripper has brought to the table, combined with our five-star service, the new Pegasus is an ideal choice for mid-sized brands and hotel groups. We are there for the hotels that not only need best-in-class multi-property technology, but also want stellar customer service with prompt support and knowledgeable expertise. In fact, our service is one of the primary reasons that many of our top clients have stayed with us for many years.
Additionally, Travel Tripper had prior to the merger developed a number of unique casino loyalty features and integrations for the CRS, which had helped the company to gain a significant market share of casino hotels and integrated resorts in the U.S. (31% share or 85,000 rooms). Under the new Pegasus platform, we plan to continue expanding the functionality available to these types of hotels, which have been greatly underserved in terms of technology.
What are the results of your solution in terms of ROI? Are hoteliers able to track and measure the financial outcomes?
The goal of any CRS is to help hoteliers maximize their revenue and profitability by helping them increase overall demand to their hotel, while driving as much business as possible to their most profitable channels. Our technology and services are designed to help hotels do that, from generating demand for the direct and GDS channels, while also shifting business from high-cost OTA channels to more profitable channels. Hoteliers can track performance through our Distribution Analytics platform, which allows hotels to drill into historic, future and pace bookings at a highly granular level.
Tell us a bit about your career trajectory. What led you to your current role at Pegasus?
Funny enough, my first job at a hotel tech company was with Pegasus over 20 years ago — that tells you just how storied this company is! I joined as Product Manager and stayed for nearly two years. This is where I learned all about the inner workings of a CRS.
Later on, I accepted an offer from Amadeus to join their e-commerce team in France to build out tech solutions for hotels that would replicate their success with airlines. I subsequently moved from France back to the United States and continued with Amadeus for two years, during which time I became involved with our first prospective customer. But after awhile, I realized I was also far removed from the center of activity within Amadeus, so it became a real challenge to effect change at this behemoth company.
It was around that time that my friend and ex-colleague Kurien Jacob had founded a booking engine company called Travel Tripper. He asked if I wanted to run and grow the business, and I was ready for a new change of pace, so I jumped right in. When I joined as a partner in 2008, we were just three people. I’m happy to say that in the 10 years following that, we grew to become a full-blown CRS company. We developed a top-ranked CRS and booking engine with comprehensive distribution, as well as award-winning e-commerce and digital marketing solutions. We went from three people in a tiny closet of an office to 150+ employees across three locations worldwide.
Last year, the opportunity came along to merge with Pegasus. It felt like a destined match. Our solutions were quite complementary — Travel Tripper with its booking engine and e-commerce and Pegasus with its strength in GDS bookings and corporate/consortia sales — but our companies both shared the same values of innovation and customer service. With the backing of investment firm Accel-KKR, we officially joined forces in February 2019.
What, in your view, are the biggest obstacles and challenges hotel operators are likely to face over the next few years, especially in terms of technology?
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are big areas of opportunity in the world of travel distribution right now, but hotels will never have the same level of resources to invest in that sort of technology the way that OTAs can. And OTAs will use that advantage to continue to protect their ability to generate high volumes of reservations for hotels. Hotels will need to make demands of their tech vendors to adopt similar technologies and ensure that they can keep a level playing field.
Do you think hotel operators are prepared for the challenges that lie ahead? If not, what do they need to do to better prepare themselves – and, hopefully, ensure their ongoing success?
The short answer is that no, they’re not. Hotels are eager and willing to invest in new technologies, but technologies are only as useful as the people who use them. The most important investment hotels should be making is in recruiting and hiring technologically literate employees. We’re not just talking about management functions, but across all levels of the business.
For example, we have robots delivering luggage within hotels now. Ultimately the responsibility for operating and troubleshooting that robot will fall on the bellboys and front desk agents. Even those functions will need to know how to use and leverage technology.
For those that oversee primary systems like the PMS and CRS, it’s also important to hire employees that can bring understanding of technology at a deep level. They should know how systems work and what they want to achieve — this helps tech vendors to better cater to needs.
What, in your view, are the biggest opportunities that are now available to hotel operators due to recent advances in technology? How can they best take advantage of these opportunities?
Right now we’re all swimming in data — hotels have tons of it, but few have the resources or time to properly process it in a way that can provide insights beyond the usual metrics like RevPAR, ADR, and occupancy. Now with all the computational power and machine learning technologies that exist, there’s a huge opportunity out there to uncover insights at a very granular level. Just as an example, we could study the correlation between the lead time that a business traveler books a hotel vs. the average spend of that traveler.
Of course, you’d need a critical mass of data to accomplish such a feat. We’d love to see hotels and tech vendors come together in a consortium to pool data that could be analyzed in that way.
What will be the primary focus areas for Pegasus in 2020, particularly in terms of enhanced platform capabilities and/or entirely new solutions?
Following the merger this year, one of our first goals was to ensure our own customers could start taking advantage of the best features of the combined Pegasus platform. We’ve been working hard to integrate our various solutions across the entire platform, so that, for example, Pegasus customers can use Travel Tripper’s e-commerce solutions and that Travel Tripper customers could use the Pegasus Distribution Analytics platform.
In 2020, we plan to continue these integrations and expanding systematic functionality for our customers, as well as making some major user experience and design improvements to our CRS and booking engine and enhancing our e-commerce features. We have also been building out advanced business intelligence capabilities to allow hotels to bring together data into one centralized dashboard and analyze it in a more insightful way.
We’ve got a very ambitious product roadmap ahead, and we could not be more excited about it.