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CIO50 2021 #10: Mark Leadbetter, House of Travel

  • Name Mark Leadbetter
  • Title IT Director
  • Company House of Travel
  • Commenced role October 2015
  • Reporting Line CEO
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Technology Function 30 staff, four direct reports
  • House of Travel IT director Mark Leadbetter says the greatest innovation his team has delivered in the last 24 months has been the House of Travel (HOT) API layer.

    “The House of Travel group currently has ten different companies. We consume content from many third-party organisations. This could be airlines, hotels, rental cars, cruise lines etc. Traditionally there have been bespoke connections for each business,” he says.

    “This has been difficult to maintain as these connectors and content providers change rapidly. In the last 24 months we have re-engineered our connections to create a HOT API layer. This allows us to create catalogues of standard APIs that can be consumed in different ways by different divisions of the organisation. These APIs are quite unique as they reflect the unique Airline and Travel systems that are used in the APAC region. We refer to these APIs as our lego blocks as they can be configured in different ways for different businesses or business requirements.”

    Covid has had a massive impact on the business, as its revenue stopped overnight. It has been able to leverage the API layer to create many innovations that have assisted in the business’s survival.

    “We have created booking platforms for many different markets. While our borders have been closed, we have been able to sell travel in different markets, this includes the UK, Australia and North America. The revenue from these systems has allowed us to maintain our online booking levels at 20% higher than our peak in 2019. This is made up of travel in different markets and has been critical to our survival as a business,” he says.

    New systems

    “The API layer has allowed us to reduce IT costs within the business. We have used the API layer to replace some more costly systems. This includes our hotel aggregation system, air consolidation systems and other smaller systems. The resulting cost savings has delivered an annual 15% savings on organisational IT costs,” he says.

    The API layer has also enabled HOT to create new systems such as airline credit management systems. Until Covid they had never had a requirement to process and manage large volumes of airline credits. This system has processed over 70000 customer credits and has saved 15 minutes processing time for each of these credits. 

    “Covid has forced us to reduce our IT team by 60%. While this has been tragic for all involved the remaining IT team have been able to continue delivering critical developments such as those above. This is due to the API architecture allowing us to quickly and efficiently innovate new solutions. In 2020 we were able to deliver 80% of work that we delivered in 2019. This was with 55% of the project staff,” Leadbetter says.

    Team diversity

    Leadbetter says HOT has a very diverse team, and that in IT there are 54% women and 46% men, with half of the IT management team being women. There are also 15 different nationalities. 

    “It is important we have a strong representation of women within the IT team. Our business is 70% female but traditionally within IT we have been much lower, we are working towards balancing that ratio. We send members of the team to women in technology summits to empower greater diversity. We are also part of the University of Auckland internship programme where we provide placements and mentoring as part of their post graduate course. This allows us to provide real world industry experience for the next generation of IT professionals and has led to full time placements within our team,” Leadbetter says.

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