Fornova sounds like a fascinating company – what’s the idea behind it and how do you help your customers achieve success?
The idea behind Fornova was born out of a clear industry need for superior business intelligence across the travel, hospitality, and retail sectors. Years ago, data was truly ‘exploding’ and virtually everywhere, but there really wasn’t anyone that could make sense of how to monitor and make use of it. We knew then that we could tap into technology that could gather data at scale and enable companies to optimise their revenue and distribution while reducing costs. Our products now help customers gather various data points across a variety of regions to better inform their own business decisions. In fact, we are the market leader with the most comprehensive global data set in travel and hospitality. We track over 100,000 hotels, dozens of OTA;s, metasearch, and car rental websites every day, and we monitor 1.25 billion rates from over 75 different countries every month. Add the fact that our team is 200 people+ and growing, across 10 countries and 4 continents, and you can get a sense of the scale we’re operating at.
What was the one issue you pointed out within the travel industry that needed fixing?
The biggest industry issue was and still is pricing. Take for example two individuals who are located at opposite ends of the world and are planning their upcoming vacation in New York over the Christmas holidays. If they’re both looking for the best hotel to stay at and run across the same sale point online, they’ll ultimately receive two different price offerings. Why is that? Well, pricing is based on the country you’re searching from. The question of ‘do I have the right price?’ is very important. It’s not enough to check one online travel agent (OTA) and analyse current rates; I need to go to various OTAs across several countries and then analyse how competitive my offering is. I need to go to that hotel from seven different countries that compose the main source of guests visiting that country. For example, take Ibiza in Spain. A lovely, sunny destination, but mainly catered to folks coming in from Germany or the UK. Again, it doesn’t matter what the price of a hotel room is in Spain but rather what that same price fluctuation is for customers looking to book from London or Berlin. We’ve now fixed that issue and help a range of businesses, including hotels, OTAs, car rental companies, turn data into profit by using real intelligence that aligns their entire organisation (from revenue and distribution to sales, eCommerce, and operations), so they can make smarter and more effective business decisions and stay ahead of the competition.
The partnership with Bright Data is an interesting one, can you elaborate more on how that has been progressing?
There are many companies out there that can gather hundreds or thousands of public web data points daily, but when you have hundreds of thousands or millions and more, you need very sophisticated technology to really squeeze the most out of that data. This is where Bright Data steps in and helps us become amazing at what we offer our customers. You must understand that web data within the sector travels quickly and in large volumes. Our customers need to be on top of the latest price changes from various dispersed regional points in an instant. Bright Data’s Data Collector platform offers us the flexibility to be able to tap into web data across the globe and the dynamism to alter our parameters to fit our customers’ requests. And trust me, there are many! Since working with them, we’ve been able to speed up our processes dramatically and remove the need to set up cumbersome data centres and data links in between regions to tap into that data. That also saves us money and time, so being able to not worry about it is extremely crucial to us.
It sounds like there’s a real need for raw public web data to tap into some of this actionable intelligence?
Yes, there is! We work with the largest hotel chains and the largest online travel agents who constantly ask questions such as: ‘How competitive is my property?’; ‘How is my property presented on different distribution channels?’; ‘What is the right rate to price this at?’ In order to answer any of these questions, we have to go out and gather large volumes of data, analyse it, and then find information within it. Without web data at the core, the word ‘information’ or ‘intelligence’ becomes useless. There’s a real need for us to tap into public web data and turn it into actionable intelligence that turn profits for our customers and their consumers.
What are your plans and goals going forward into 2022?
If the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic will diminish, as we all hope and pray that it will, 2022 is going to be a very revealing year, especially for the travel, retail, and hospitality industries. The sub-verticals of corporate, groups, and events have suffered massively during the pandemic, especially when you compare these to pre-2019 levels. The only vertical that is about to bounce back and is expected to do well in 2022 is the leisure vertical. We’ll continue to see people travelling abroad for both work and leisure, but we’re now beginning to see much more astute purchasing. Consumers are looking for the right channel, timing, and pricing before fully committing to a purchase. This means that the importance of the above questions is much higher, with consumers looking to make the most ‘bang for their buck’. As such, consumer ‘sensibility’ is a key parameter we must monitor in the future and account for when tapping into web data and the information it offers – which means we must gather more public web data in order to always address these questions.