Welcome to “Insider Perspectives”, an interview series featuring travel industry insiders and veterans.
One of our panelists was Kyle Christianson, Enterprise Account Director for the Americas at OTA Insight. With 20+ years of combined experience at hospitality group and hotel tech , Kyle has developed expertise across a range of areas including leadership of strategic online partnerships with OTAs; revenue optimization; business analysis; and distribution.
As you’ll soon find out from this interview, Kyle has never stopped exploring the world of travel through both professional and personal experiences.
What’s your professional background? How did you start your career in the hospitality industry?
I started my hospitality career in 1999 in a call center taking hotel reservations for Carlson Hospitality (now Radisson Hotel Group). After working in Reservation Services, I moved to IT as an Associate Business Analyst, where I worked on the Central Reservation System and brand websites. When the OTA world really grew, I consulted with hotels to increase their distribution landscape and grow revenues. That experience led me to spend most of my career in Revenue Management and Distribution.
What made you decide to make the career transition from hotel to hotel technology?
I love how technology can solve problems, specifically in the hotel industry where there are so many complexities, especially in distribution and revenue management. I wanted to be part of a team that delivers those solutions to hotels.
What inspired you to join OTA Insight?
OTA Insight’s solutions, mission, and culture were the right fit for me to grow. As its former customer, I benefited from OTA Insight’s solutions, and that experience made me hungry to be part of something very special and unique.
What’s your role at OTA Insight and what’s the most interesting, exciting, and enjoyable part of your job?
As Enterprise Account Director, I get to work with the major hotel chains to help them solve challenging business problems and find new opportunities to enhance and optimize their business.
Having come from that side recently, it’s interesting for me to see that the problems, opportunities, and challenges confronting hoteliers are relatively similar, the enterprise chains are taking different approaches to address those challenges.
The most enjoyable parts of my job are facilitating those solutions in partnership with some of the best industry minds, as well as working alongside the amazingly talented and team-oriented individuals at OTA Insight.
What are the biggest challenges and opportunities for hotels in managing their partnerships with OTAs?
Challenges: OTAs offer a considerable number of opportunities and they continue to produce more and more creative solutions. For hotel groups, staying informed and determining what solutions work for all hotels, some hotels, or no hotels can be time-consuming.
Opportunities: The good thing is that there are a lot of “opportunities” to enhance and grow business with OTAs. Hotels are the ultimate supplier of the guest product being sold on the OTAs. It is their valued asset. I think it’s important that hotels communicate their objectives to their OTA account directors, market managers, etc. and ask them how they can support the hotel objectives. In my experience, individual hotels and large chains will jump on opportunities where value is shown; and conversely, they will put up their guard and battle with OTA partners when they feel they are taken advantage of. Working in partnership to drive mutually beneficial results is key.
What are the biggest opportunities for growth for you and your company?
OTA Insight has evolved and diversified itself into a multi-product company in the past few years. We started with a simple and easy-to-use rate shopping tool, Rate Insight. This is our flagship product and it’s fast becoming a market leader. As our customer base grew, we gather large amounts of direct hotelier feedback on key pain points and it became increasingly clear that hotels were in real need of better insights to aid in parity management and revenue analysis. So it was a natural progression for OTA Insight to develop these tools and they remain key opportunities for us to help hoteliers harness the power of their data.
A lot of us who work in this industry are passionate about traveling. So what’s on your bucket list for travel?
Norway is definitely on my bucket list. A large part of my family heritage comes from Norway and I have yet to go. It’s a must and hopefully, soon I will.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
I have many, but two come to mind: 1) The first time my wife and I took our daughter to Disney World; seeing the magic through my daughter’s eyes will be forever etched in my mind, and 2) The Oregon coast. I love that coastline.
Do you have a side hustle or passion project outside of work? Or what are your hobbies?
My passion outside of work is spending time with my family. I love (American) football, so the fall usually includes a full weekend of football.
How do you plan and prepare for your leisure trips?
I think I plan and prepare differently for each trip. Most are usually planned, prepared, and booked online, mostly with direct airlines, hotels, and car rental. For the larger, extended family trips, I have used a travel agent, which was fantastic. Our agent took out all that stress of multiple family members arriving and departing from various cities and helped with varying accommodation needs, etc. For spur-of-the-moment trips, I usually book online and will use sites like Hotwire.
We have also used VRBO, Airbnb, and miscellaneous vacation rentals and had some great experiences (booking and staying). Being in the industry, I think mixing it up has been great because I can experience their technology solutions first-hand and fully understand the guest value and experience.
More About Kyle:
Kyle Christianson is Enterprise Account Director for the Americas at OTA Insight. As a hotel technology enthusiast and expert in account management and partner relations, he works closely with global chain hotels to solve challenging business problems and find new opportunities to enhance and optimize their business.
With 20 years of experience working for the Radisson Hotel Group, Kyle has developed expertise across a range of areas including leadership of strategic online partnerships with OTAs; revenue optimization; business analysis; and distribution. He now looks to apply his extensive hotel and hospitality experience to help hoteliers overcome the difficulties of the changing distribution landscape.