Interview with BookedHappy founder, Charlotte Gossage.

I took the time to talk to BookedHappy founder, and Dubai travel expert, Charlotte Gossage on life, business and travel.

Hi Charlotte, so how are you enjoying life in Dubai?

Hey Ryan, I love Dubai! Life is good mixed with the inevitable start up dramas but I feel fortunate to be in a city which is constantly working so hard to support the start-up ecosystem. As I type I am hiding out in a café in Dubai Mall (yep the biggest in the World) a 3-day MEGA sale has just started, it’s insanely busy already and the weekend hasn’t even started. People will be flying in just for this.

That sounds manic! So what is going on right now from a Dubai tourism point of view?

Retail tourism this weekend for one! A recent “Dubai Tourism 2.0” announcement indicated something big but for now all we know is marketplace and block chain! The slowdown is coming as the summer heat hits and this year could be tough but a great opportunity for the industry to see how Dubai fairs as Ramadan will begin around the 15th May and then the low season continues until the end of August. Key markets in the GCC, Russia and Europe will
continue to visit the emirate and hotels will focus on staycations and special rates for UAE residents, the neighbouring emirates will also entice the huge expat community to take advantage of attractive rates during the summer.

Interesting, sounds like there are a few bargains to be had! Are you noticing any trends or behavioural changes from either inbound tourists or tourism
service providers in Dubai?

DXB Airport has been breaking records. The top source markets seem to stay fairly consistent, GCC countries and India being the highest number. The Russians are back and Dubai went all out in welcoming Chinese visitors during Chinese New Year. Dubai is definitely following and riding the experiential wave and the mid market hotel push is proving that visitors want to spend more money on enjoying the city rather than on expensive 5 star stays. Emaar Hospitality; Jumeirah Group have both introduced mid-market lifestyle hotels to the market and they are doing incredibly well, putting a lot of other mid markets in the shade but it’s up to each hotel to strategize and shine as well.

That’s definitely a trend we are noticing, a shift from staying in nice places, eating well, to having a more remarkable holistic experience, creating unforgettable memories. So what do you think the biggest challenge faced by hoteliers is right now?

In Dubai, the next 4 months is going to be a challenging time in general, the summer sees an inevitable slowdown and with supply being over demand all hotels will hopefully work on realistic forecasts. I think that a lot of mid market hotels face some big challenges as new hotel groups/brands enter the market. I hear “no money in the pot” but again this comes down to looking at new innovative ways and being proactive to cut costs and increase the bottom
line. GM’s should always open up the floor to everyone in the hotel to come up with ideas, there are hidden gems in every department.

We previously talked about challenges being faced by hotels to increase margins, driving direct sales. Is that still the case and how do you think hotels and service providers can address this direct booking challenge?

It’s definitely still the case. I do believe that hotels and their websites hold the key to this. Becoming platforms for the city instantly creates more opportunities and exposure for the consumer, the business partners and of course the hotel. Complacency within the hotel industry was acknowledged at Arabian Travel Market this year and hoteliers can’t keep blaming OTA’s, there are many ways to increase direct bookings. We are in era of innovation, resistance to change will always happen but hotels in the region have to be more open to non OTA partnerships and reduce distribution channels to free up time for their teams to focus on direct business.

That’s great. And of course, you have a potential solution for this too. So please tell us a little more about BookedHappy, where did the inspiration come from?

I initially created a business plan for a model I called Staycationer which was about helping hotels fill last minute rooms, more app focused but it just wasn’t quite right and missing something. Hotel Tonight got it right! BookedHappy evolved; improved overtime with ideas from friends and family.

What are your plans for BookedHappy? How can you see this positively impacting the industry?

I really hope that BookedHappy creates a buzz not only for consumers but with hotel partners. This model has so much potential to give hotel sales; marketing teams the chance to be part of the decision-making process and understand what their guests really want. The industry can seem segmented, it’s never quite clear how much hoteliers support each other and the businesses around them, BookedHappy is about supporting the sharing economy and there is no better city than Dubai to show off what can be done by keeping it simple, fun and remaining focused on supporting the city as a whole, particularly in the run up to Expo2020. It’s really exciting to see how Dubai is going to help BookedHappy scale into established and emerging markets.

And now for the 3Sixty quick fire questions:
- Favourite place on earth? My mind always goes back to Tokyo
- Where are you holidaying this year? Hopefully Bristol and if time and money allow Chicago is top of my list
- Best book you’ve read? I have to admit I am not the biggest “book” reader although I am slowly reading through ‘Principles’ by Ray Dalio and WEconomy. Otherwise, The magic Porridge Pot.
- Favourite quoteDon’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.” Sarah Blakely, Spanx Founder.

Charlotte, it’s been great chatting. We are all looking forward to seeing how BookedHappy progresses over the next few years.

Thanks Ryan and thank you to 3Sixty, I feel very fortunate to have the support of such a talented team, something I have learned to be invaluable and never to be taken for granted when there is genuine support and belief in your idea.

view of city from the sky