Since birth, Tim Hentschel, CEO and co-founder of hotelplanner.com, had the world of hospitality in his bloodline. Coming from a family of hoteliers and tour operators it was a natural transition for Tim to enter into this world. A natural innovator, Tim’s entrepreneurial spirit married his background in hospitality with his experience in finance and tech which led him to launch hotelplanner.com- a leading force in group hotel bookings. But it’s not all work and no play for Tim- he’s also an avid sportsman and philanthropist who believes in giving back to the community and is also a partner in the round the world Clipper Race. Here Resident Magazine caught up with this dynamic entrepreneur who is a trailblazer in the hospitality world.
What was your background and how did you get started in hospitality?
I have a unique background, my grandfather owned hotels in Palm Springs and my father was an Executive at Hyatt and later started developing and owned his own hotels in California and Hawaii. They also launched American Tours International- a large tour operation company that has been around for over 40 years that brings travelers from around the world and hosts tours in America spoken in their native languages. This is where my background in groups and hotels comes from. I went to Cornell University and graduated from their hospitality management program. From there I worked as an analyst for an investment bank in NYC that specialized in tech investments which helped me to build my own business plan to raise money to build hotelplanner.com and launched in 2002. I always knew I wanted to go into something related to hotels and technology.
What are some of the solutions that hotelplanner.com provides?
Our company has always been working towards having a virtual planner but for hotels. This industry is huge. Last year we booked hotels for over 650,000 groups and expect to reach 900,000 in 2018. We see a growth rate of 40% per year. The industry consists of 9 million group bookings annually with a predicted spend of $200 billion in 2019 for group bookings in hotels worldwide whether it’s a wedding, conference or a business meeting. Around 10% of group bookings source their hotels through our system annually. Sites such as Kayak, hotwire, weddingwire.com, and theKnot.com send their group booking traffic directly to hotelplanner.com and our platform powers all of the other online travel companies when it comes to group bookings.
Of the 900,000 group bookings around 250,000 are weddings and another 20% are sports teams. TheKnot.com and weddingwire.com are very interesting because when it comes to weddings they dominate the industry. Their wedding planning tools are quite sophisticated which is integrated with our system so their users can book hotels directly and have it confirmed through our technology.
With every group that comes through our system, our AI (Artficial Intelligence) system becomes more intelligent. Our system also sources and lists the top 10,000 events going on around the world which affects rates and spikes rates of hotels in that area on those dates with charts that can predict the rate fluctuations down to the day to adjust your group budget accordingly. We cull the collective data from the 4,211,797 group bookings since we launched. With our rate predictability tool and proprietary technology we can assist in aggregating all of our group hotel bookings in bulk for that city on particular dates to negotiate a lower price. Prices are constantly changing. One of the advantages of using hotelplanner.com is that we guarantee the lowest rate and every minute we are checking the rates on behalf of all of our groups to see what is in the market. If our group rate becomes uncompetitive we absorb the difference and allow our members to book the lowest rate from a network of more than 100,000 quality hotel partners worldwide.
So how does your AI work and what do you have planned for the future?
Artificial intelligence is the future. HotelPlanner is the only company in the world with enough recorded group booking conversations and transactions for such a development. Drawing from historical data spanning nearly a decade and half, as over 3,000 groups per day interact with our hotel partners around the globe, we are feeding this information into two new virtual products we just launched. The first is Julie, a Virtual Planner, who will source and organize group travel bookings for consumers. The second will be Jessica, a Virtual Group Sales Manager available for license to suppliers through Meetings.com’s SAAS technologies. Both products will be available through Amazon’s Alexa, a product with over 8.2 million users worldwide and users can interact with them through voice.
What are some of the charitable events you are involved with?
We launched the HotelPlanner Scholarship Program, designed to provide financial assistance to veterans of the United States military, along with the spouse/partner and children of U.S. military veterans, who are pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree related to technology.
This scholarship is just one small way for us to give back to the men and women of our military who make such an extraordinary sacrifice to protect us. As the CEO of a global company, I know this world needs more candidates who exhibit the type of strength, integrity, dependability and tenacity that is core to those who serve. It is our intention to help educate these men and women so they are well-prepared for their next phase in life.
We also support and raise proceeds during our annual American Group Travel Awards held in NYC. We also have two award shows for groups in the travel space. One is the American Group Travel Awards where St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is our official charity partner. The event recognizes leading suppliers delivering outstanding services and group travel experiences in North America with awards given out in 22 categories. Additionally, the event presents an opportunity for industry professionals to unite and show support for the St. Jude mission. I chose this charity because it reflects similar values, including its generous no-bill policy, nurturing environment for patient families, and noble dedication to finding cures for childhood cancer to help save children everywhere.
We also have the European Travel Awards in Germany that happens in Berlin during ITB- the largest travel conference in the world with 60,000 attendees. Paul Oakenfold will be our afterhours entertainment.
As an avid sportsman, what do you have planned as a partner for the Clipper Race around the world?
As a first time Clipper Race Team Partner we launched a fully branded hotelplanner.com yacht that will visit six continents during the 11 month voyage around the world which provides us with a unique opportunity to reach an international audience on a daily basis. We will use the global reach of the Clipper Race to increase brand awareness especially in key markets such as the Asia- Pacific. With our extensive experience in providing hotel services with professional sports teams over the years we felt that this was a perfect fit for us in our exciting and ever growing company with offices in London, Europe, Hong Kong, and the USA.
As a travel technology company always striving to set industry firsts, we respect the extreme endurance, confidence, and fearlessness exhibited by the event’s brainchild Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, and the sailors who set out to confront Mother Nature’s most epic challenge. We are honored and excited to partner with the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.
So the next time you are looking to book that group getaway whether it’s a family reunion, wedding, or friend’s getaway rest assured that hotelplanner.com will guarantee a seamless experience with the lowest rates possible.