Quick Q&A: Charlie Marsh, Jetstream

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Charlie Marsh, director of global markets at Jetstream, tells SAN why serviced apartment operators should be listing on Airbnb and how her company is ready to take off in Europe.

• What is your career background?
"I spent my first university holiday working for TUI in Turkey as a watersports instructor and never looked back. I always wanted to learn everything about the travel industry and over the last 12 years I've held various managerial roles in operations, marketing and business development in exciting and growing companies. I've worked in the French Alps, London, Western Canada and most recently Palma, Majorca."

"I joined Jetstream two years ago, when it was operating under the Leavetown brand and started the product and purchasing team, now known as the B2B team. I met the current COO when I was taking the 'summer off' managing the reception of a beautiful resort on the west coast of Vancouver Island.  We got talking and he told me to get in touch when I was ready to get stuck back into a bigger role."

"In my first six months at Leavetown I got to know all aspects of the business, working through the contracting of all our existing Canadian partners, launching our US contracting, exploring opportunities in Asia and the South Pacific and, of course, Europe.  With a team of superstar market managers in our Vancouver HQ busy signing up new partners in North America I now focus the majority of my time on our European expansion plans and have recently relocated to Palma to do so (whilst catching some rays)."

• Tell us about Jetstream - how the company started and what it does
 "Jetstream is a creation of Leavetown, an OTA based in Western Canada specialising in experiential vacations. Over a decade of working closely with resorts and hotel managers, particularly those with condos and suites, our CEO, Mike Liverton, saw that our partners were not completely satisfied with the bookings they were getting from traditional OTAs, nor were they representing themselves on vacation rental marketplaces. He had a hunch that these marketplaces would continue to grow in popularity and were the key to reaching a worldwide network of travellers - travellers who are looking for condo/apartment style accommodation and tend to stay longer and spend more on their trips. In 2012 the idea for Jetstream was born - a simple solution to bring our partners more quality bookings leveraging our custom-built technology."

"The concept of Jetstream is simple, we help serviced apartment, aparthotels, resort and boutique hotel managers connect to vacation rental marketplaces such as Airbnb, HomeAway and Flipkey just like they'd connect to traditional OTAs. Partners can choose from a simple technology solution to connect their existing PMS and channel manager to the multi unit/rep level, instant book APIs of Airbnb, HomeAway and Flipkey. Alternatively, and this is by far our most popular solution, we offer a full service model that sees us take on all of the work to get our partners quality bookings. We currently integrate with a variety of channel managers and PMS systems including Synxis, TravelClick, YieldPlanet, AvailPro, Apartool, Resalys, Flag Systems and Inntopia and we are continuously adding more integrations."

• How can Jetstream help serviced apartment companies and how much traction have you got in the sector?
"In my opinion, all serviced apartment companies should be leveraging vacation rental marketplaces to boost their sales. Our multi-unit/rep level APIs were built for professional accommodation partners and we are one of the only solutions available to sell multiple identical units of accommodation behind a single representative listing. It's a two-way connection which enables instant book and reduces the back and forth with guests." 

"For those unsure of how to approach these marketplaces our full service solution includes the creation and ongoing optimisation of all content. We look after the customer journey too, responding to enquiries and ensuring a 100% response rate. We reply to all posted reviews by guests and also provide reciprocal guest reviews on our partners' behalf, all of which are essential for SEO ranking within each marketplace. Most importantly, everything we do is focused on conversion - after all, it's easy to open up a new sales channel, the hard bit is making sure it works for you."

"In terms of traction I'd say we're the number one solution in Canada and North America for multi-unit/rep level properties, some of our partners already generate over $1 million dollars per year through our distribution. We started to work with European partners about three months ago and are quickly gaining traction in Europe."

• Have you encountered any resistance among serviced apartment companies to listing on platforms such as HomeAway and Airbnb?
"There's a lot of misconception floating around. From companies not being entirely reassured it's legal, to concerns about paying tax, believing that these platforms are their competition or that it'll cheapen their brands. Prospective partners often aren't aware that Airbnb guests are looking for fully serviced apartments, with receptions, cleaning services etc. nor are they aware of the increase in corporate travellers using these platforms. Of course we're able to counter these arguments with case studies and success stories. We've battled through each of these many times and know how to overcome each obstacle."

"During the closing comments at the recent summit, one of the quotes shared was 'Technology itself is not the disruptor. Not being customer-centric is the biggest threat to any business.' And that's where we come in. We're here to guide and help serviced apartment companies ensure that this new technology is interfaced correctly with their current systems and that everything remains about the guest - 'Delivering Guest Delight' is our number one core value."

• What are the biggest challenges and opportunities facing Jetstream in its expansion in to Europe?
"The opportunities are endless, the sheer volume of inventory in Europe blows North America out of the water.  And we're happy to say we've already come across many open-minded accommodation suppliers who are keen to use these platforms." 

"Education on our product, how it can help and the pain points we can solve are the biggest challenges we face. It's essential that we encourage prospective partners to join us in these early stages and be the trail blazers."

• What are your targets for growth in Europe over the next few years, in terms of team size and turnover?
"As far as I'm concerned the sky's the limit. The opportunities in Europe are endless and I'd love to see this side of our business expand to the same size, if not bigger, than what we already have in North America where we have a team of 30 serving 100+ multi-property partners representing more than 30,000 keys."


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