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The Big Interview: Kristian Valk Co-Founder of Hotelchamp

Leanne Donovan 19 May 2017
The Big Interview: Kristian Valk Co-Founder of Hotelchamp

Can you tell us about your background and how you came to your current role?

For the past 12 years I have been an ecommerce entrepreneur. I have founded and sold 55 webshops in competitive b2b and b2c markets. After selling my ecommerce company, my cofounder Kasper Middelkoop approached me to join him as the CEO of Hotelchamp. Looking back, Hotelchamp has experienced  extreme fast growth in the past 2 years, demonstrating a clear demand in the hotel industry for smart technology.

What is the best part of your job?

With our goal to connect with thousands of hotels in the coming period, we are aiming for growth capital to scale even faster. Therefore, we are travelling to many inspiring places to meet the biggest venture capital companies in Silicon Valley, UK, Germany and The Netherlands. We are building the network which we can approach once we open our next funding round. It is great to meet so many experts in the field and experience their enthusiasm about our ambitions. That provides me with the energy to drive the company further.

What are some of the key issues facing the hotel industry today?

OTA’s invest millions in tech, user experience, data management and analysis to have a conversion advantage. Nowadays, 80% of online bookings go through Booking.com and Expedia. They have used their dominant position to increase commissions and change contracts in their benefit.

Globally, hotels are searching for solutions to improve sales through their direct channels along with guest experience. With a majority of people booking hotels online, technology has become the ultimate disrupter where hoteliers need to align their strategy to compete fairly.

What’s driving this disruption?

There is huge momentum in the hospitality industry. Every hotel in the world is facing the same challenge in the distribution of selling their rooms. Third parties like Booking.com and Expedia are very dominant and hotels are depending on their bookings. As a result of the rising commissions, there is a big need for more direct bookings. Offering a solution to solve this problem is the main driver for the disruption. We are empowering hotels being less dependant on third parties and gain back control over their revenue, profitability, customer engagement and data.

Do you see any emerging trends in the hotel industry in the future?

I believe the next big step in the industry relies on using smart technology to personalize online guest experience. What we see with leading companies in other industries such as KLM, Netflix, or Spotify is that personalization makes online user experience unique and adjusted to every customer’s needs. The hospitality industry should be at the forefront of these innovations to rebuild guest relation online. Smart technology should be used to help hoteliers creating outstanding customer experience, building guest relations and engaging from the very beginning of the booking process.

What are your main priorities at Hotelchamp?

Two years ago we started our great mission to disrupt the hotel industry by helping hotels to be less dependent from online travel agencies like Booking and Expedia. Hotelchamp is achieving this mission to boost hotels’ direct revenue and improve guest relations. Now, 24 months after founding the company, we already have over 1.000 hotels connected from more than 35 countries. Overall, hotels have a big need for more direct bookings and it’s great for us as a company to deliver the solution for them. As the CEO of Hotelchamp, my main focus is to motivate our 50 employees and execute our long term strategy of being the global leading company in the field of boosting direct hotel bookings and empowering hotels to be independent again.

What are Hotelchamp’s plans for the future?

Our aim is to disrupt the hotel industry by creating a healthy balance between direct versus third party hotel bookings. We want to create a sustainable future where hotels are less dependent on third parties and have more control over revenue, profitability, customer engagement and data. Which in the end, will benefit the hotel guests as they receive more value for money. The hotel industry is huge with over 500.000 hotels world wide and 550 billion revenue. Since we connected over 1.000 hotels, there is an enormous growth potential for Hotelchamp.

Quick fire questions:

Last hotel you stayed at?

Last month, in cooperation with the Royal Dutch Embassy, Hotelchamp organized an event in Stockholm. We stayed in Hotel With Urban Deli.

Your favourite food?

A healthy fresh salad.

The one item of technology you can’t live without?

Besides my smartphone and addiction to always have a clean inbox, I can’t live without my Garmin Connect app and all my running statistics. Although i’m extremely busy with Hotelchamp, I try to run at least 1 or 2 marathons like the ones in New York and Berlin.

What is the most important life lesson you’ve learnt?

Do what you love most and are extremely passionate for, then there are no limits.

Kristian Valk is the co-founder of Hotelchamp, combines 14 years of experience in highly competitive markets where he founded more than 50 webshops. Since selling his successful e-commerce business at the end of 2014, he joined fellow co-founder Kasper Middelkoop to establish Hotelchamp. Within 6 months, Kristian and his team of 35+ employees have already helped hundreds of hotels from over 20 countries boosting their direct bookings. Kristian’s ambition is to help hotels worldwide gain more direct bookings and restore a fair balance between their direct channels and third parties.
www.hotelchamp.com