A Devon-born businessman has checked back into the UK following an extended stay in Singapore, where he has enjoyed international success with his digital hospitality business.
John Bowen, Founder and CEO of MediaConcepts, an integrated digital solutions provider offering bespoke software and services for the hospitality industry, has made the move back to Exeter after having lived and worked abroad for almost 30 years.
In 1988 John and his wife Sian decided to leave their homes to travel across Asia. The pair settled in Sydney, but after nine years in the city John was offered the role as CTO for the Lotus Consulting division of IBM working out of Singapore. In 2002 he decided to set up his own business MediaConcepts.
By developing customised websites and mobile apps that capture customer information before, during and after their hotel stay, MediaConcepts helps hotels to tailor each guest’s online experience, helping to attract and retain customers. By utilising key information about users, MediaConcepts’ Jasmine software also enables hotels to offer relevant suggestions, discounts and information to engage and convert customers directly on their brand website.
The software has the flexibility of integrating with other technology providers within the hospitality or tourism industry, to create a seamless guest experience. This helps individual properties as well as small and medium-sized hotel chains to compete with online travel agencies by building customer loyalty.
John explained: “When someone books a hotel through an online travel agency, the hotel only receives a small amount of information about the customer as well as a reduced share of the sale. This means not only are the hotels reducing their profitability but they are also losing their ability to build a relationship with their guests and therefore to build loyalty.”
“In contrast, our platform not only helps to drive customers to the hotel’s own website, it gathers the information provided by the customer by tracking the user’s actions and analyses the data to better understand the user. This allows the hotel to offer the best possible user experience. This can be anything from setting your preferred room temperature before your arrival, receiving alerts about the weather at your destination or receiving a list of events near your hotel.”
The company currently provides services to well-known hotel chains such as Thistle, Marco Polo and Ascott, with 25 staff operating from offices in Singapore and several other employees dotted across Asia in both India and the Philippines.
John said: “The digital nature of the business means that my employees are able to operate remotely all over the world, I regularly keep in contact with colleagues in Singapore via Skype and email, and when I do need to travel to Asia I can easily get to London to catch a flight.
He continued: “Whilst my family and I enjoyed living in Singapore, it seemed like the perfect time to move back to the UK, both from a personal and professional perspective. Having set up MediaConcepts in Asia and experienced growth across the continent, we have now started talking to several European hotel chains. I decided to focus on growing this area and being in the same time zone as clients does help to build relationships. At the same time, Sian and I felt that we wanted our children to enjoy the same healthy and balanced lifestyle that we did. As we are both originally from Devon, we were keen to move back to this part of the country and Exeter, with its thriving tech-scene and great connectivity seemed like the obvious choice.”
In the coming months John is looking to grow the business and employ new members of staff, including a project manager, web developer and two designers either in his Exeter offices or in Singapore.
John said: “Technology allows for the business to be run remotely whilst still working closely with our colleagues and able to collaborate on projects. I am looking for the right calibre of person, so I’m not going to be held back by where in the world they are based. I’m happy to get the right person for the role and will integrate them into the team via digital communications and regular trips to the Singapore office.”
Cllr Rosie Denham, Lead Councillor for Economy and Culture at Exeter City Council said: “It is a real testament to our city that someone like John Bowen, who has spent so much time living and working overseas, sees Exeter not only as his home, but also as a great place to do business.
“We are seeing more and more digitally-focused businesses in the area, as Exeter provides all the necessary amenities, like superfast broadband and good connectivity both nationally and internationally as well as a fantastic work-life balance.”