CIO50 2022 #19: Mark Leadbetter, House of Travel

  • Name Mark Leadbetter
  • Title IT Director
  • Company House of Travel
  • Commenced role October 2015
  • Reporting Line Chief Executive Officer
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Technology Function 34 staff, four direct reports
  • The acute impact of Covid on the travel industry’s revenue meant that House of Travel’s IT Director Mark Leadbetter had to reduce his IT team by 60%.

    Despite a hugely reduced workforce the team worked hard to deliver an innovative House of Travel (HOT) API layer. 

    The House of Travel group has 10 different companies, and consumes content from many third-party organisations such as airlines, hotels, rental cars, cruise lines etc. Traditionally there have been bespoke connections for each business. 

    This has been difficult to maintain as these connectors and content providers change rapidly. In the last 24 months the HOT team have re-engineered their 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,” says Leadbetter.  

    The ability to leverage on the API layer to create many innovations helped the business survive during an extremely challenging period. 

    “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. 

    HOT has started selling IT systems built using our API layer to other partners in the travel sector, this has enabled the company to transform from being an IT provider to an IT reseller and profit centre for the business.  This has delivered a revenue source that was essential at a critical time, says Leadbetter.

    2022 has brought a rapid return of demand for travel.  “We have worked to meet this demand although we have less resources to do so. Although we are recruiting additional staff our API based systems have allowed us to capitalise on the demand that we have seen. We have been delivering 82% or 2019 sales numbers in 2022 with 61% of the staff.  We are rapidly transitioning our business from being survival focused to being focused on the future. A big part of our future will be leveraging this API layer.”
    The company is now looking at other markets in which it can resell its technology. As business has returned, they have seen other opportunities to maximise the API layer, including solutions for holiday packaging, corporate travel automation and automated rescheduling tools.  The team has begun to develop these tools and will have minimum viable products (MVPs) available for them soon. 

    “The API layers and the tools we have developed from that layer have been diverse and have brought countless benefits to the entire group. As travel returns and we look towards the future we have a powerful world-class platform that we can use to maximise business opportunities across all parts of our business,” says Leadbetter. 

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