Andy Ryan grew up in Switzerland, and has also lived in the UK, the USA, Australia, and Argentina. He studied Geography at Cambridge University, and completed his Master’s thesis in Sustainable Tourism and Indigenous Communities, subjects in which he maintains a great interest.
Andy began his career as a business analyst at JP Morgan Private Bank in Geneva and New York. He made the decision to leave finance and dedicate himself to tourism while watching the sun set into the Pacific Ocean from a Costa Rican beach. Since then, he spends most of his time learning from – and being inspired by – passionate tourism professionals, and seeking ways to help them to succeed. He is known around the company for saying, “I am not detail-oriented, I am perfection-oriented.”
Andy Ryan is CEO of 3BaysOver, the online business-to-business networking platform for tourism and travel professionals. Andy is dedicated to building and leading a world-class team to work with him on his mission to transform how travel professionals around the world connect, communicate, and collaborate. In his spare time, Andy plays soccer, watches crime documentaries, and chases storms. Andy also speaks fluent English, Spanish, and French.
Travel Research Online (TRO): What was your motivation for leaving the finance field and pursuing a career in tourism full time?
Andy Ryan (AR): My work in finance actually began as a way to more quickly pay off debts I’d incurred whilst travelling (mainly backpacking in South America and Australia after university). I then stuck around longer because it’s never easy to give up silly pay, but I always knew my time in banking would be temporary and that I’d end up doing something in tourism and hospitality. My motivation was simple: to work in something that I love doing. Finance paid well but didn’t make me happy, whereas everything I do in tourism brings a smile to my face. In this industry, we work with not only the best products but also the best people, and I’m thankful every day that I made the switch to tourism.
TRO: Where did the idea for 3BaysOver come from? What exactly did you see lacking in the travel industry that you felt 3BaysOver could be the answer?
AR: 3BaysOver actually began as a B2C platform. Like so many other travel startups, I saw a problem as a traveller and I set out to resolve it. That problem was the lack of a simple and efficient way to connect a traveller and his or her need for reliable, expert local advice about a destination with experienced travel professionals on that particular destination. However, the more I worked on that initial idea and the more I met with travel professionals at trade fairs and networking events around the world, the more I realized that there was in fact a much greater problem: the inability for travel professionals to connect amongst themselves, and to share their own expertise, product updates, and market news in a simple and efficient way. In other words, there was a huge B2B problem that also needed addressing.
At this point, I decided that 3BaysOver should focus 100% on tourism’s B2B side, and so we set about building the industry’s first networking and collaboration platform. The idea is to make it much easier, quicker, and cheaper for industry members to connect and interact with each other, by bringing much of this interaction online. For example, if a travel agent in the USA wants to expand her network in Thailand and learn about new products there, then she should have the tools that allow her to do this from the comfort of her own office or home, without having to go on a FAM tour or attend a trade fair or get her information from outdated brochures.
I want to point out an important point however; 3BaysOver does not want to replace all face-to-face interaction in our industry. On the contrary, we believe that in tourism – where relationships and trust are so important – in-person interaction will always be a critical part of the industry. However, in such a fast-paced business environment, where trends such as product personalization and a growing appetite for local experiential travel, mean that travel agents, tour operators, and other travel professionals need to be more responsive and more competitive than ever, there really needs to be a way to find new contacts and to collaborate with partners online. Also, not all travel professionals can afford to attend, much less exhibit at big trade fairs, yet that is no reason for them not to enjoy stronger market access. At 3BaysOver, we’re hoping our solution will be the right one to meet these needs.
TRO: Tell us about your day-to-day role at 3BaysOver.
AR: As CEO, my role focuses on tasks related to leadership, business, and communication (as a technology business, I wish I could code and build software myself, but I can’t so I am not actively involved in that!). I set the vision for the company, make sure our team is happy and knows what to focus on, and look for new talent to join us when we are hiring. I participate actively in the growth of our user base, ensuring our users are happy and know how to use the platform, and I work to attract bigger tourism businesses and organizations to 3BaysOver. I speak with the trade press and help them understand our vision and our plans.
For young companies like 3BaysOver, it’s important that we establish win-win partnerships with important industry organizations like tourism boards and trade associations, so I spend a lot of my time speaking to them and finding out how we can help them. I find it fascinating to learn more about their challenges, and equally fascinating that in 2016 so many of their activities still happen exclusively offline.
TRO: The company began development 2 years ago in 2014 and launched this past March. How is the startup process different when building a new company in the travel industry vs. other markets?
AR: One of the big challenges when building a technology business for the tourism sector is the pace at which such innovations tend to be adopted by industry members. One of the wonderful things about our industry is that it’s not all about profit and the bottom line: while those things are, of course, important for any business, in tourism people care more about delivering an unforgettable service and providing customers with memories that will last a lifetime. This means there can be some resistance to what people refer to as “innovation”, and people often have an attitude – which I can understand perfectly – of, “If it works now, then why should I change what I am doing?”.
The issue is the following: for a tourism business to remain competitive well into the future, it has no choice but to adapt to technological innovations, even if we may prefer how things were done in the past. The best tourism professionals today don’t focus on maintaining a small existing network, they focus on actively expanding their network and creating new partnerships in new markets. They know that is the only way they will be able to thrive in a market where consumers demand ever-greater levels of customization, product quality, and responsiveness.
Finally, I think this is a key point: what tourism cannot do is simply adapt to technologies that were created for other industries or for other purposes. Using Facebook, LinkedIn, or Whatsapp to expand one’s industry network and collaborate with partners simply won’t do; tools are urgently needed that are built exclusively for this very special, and rather unique, industry.
TRO: Is 3BaysOver only for travel professionals such as consultants and agencies, or are suppliers and other members of the hospitality industry welcome as well?
AR: 3BaysOver is for everyone who works in the tourism and hospitality industry. We’re building a platform that has lofty ambitions: to connect the global tourism industry online. If we are going to succeed in that, then our a solution must provide real value not just for travel agents and consultants, but also for hotel owners, tour operators, DMO’s, trade associations, guides, transport providers, travel marketing experts, trade event organizers, travel bloggers, etc. – no matter where they are in the world. And that is exactly where we see 3BaysOver’s unique value: in allowing buyers and sellers from all sectors and from all countries to find and interact with each other on one centralized platform. And I should also add: this platform is 100% free to use for any tourism professional.
TRO: 3BaysOver has already grown to include users from over 156 different countries. When you started developing 2 years ago, did you imagine it would grow to this level this quickly?
AR: We expected to see a positive response from the industry, and strong growth in certain key early markets, but we’ve been blown away by how rapidly the community has grown and how enthusiastic travel professionals from all corners of the globe are about the concept. I think this alone confirms that travel professionals today are already aware that they need better ways to connect and collaborate.
TRO: The heart of 3BaysOver seems to be a passion for fostering communication and new networking opportunities between travel professionals. Tell us more about that.
AR: That’s absolutely right. We’re building 3BaysOver because we believe that a major pain-point for many tourism professionals today is how difficult and expensive it is for them to find new partners, to showcase their expertise and their company’s products, and simply to communicate and stay up-to-date with their existing partners. Tourism is an inherently social industry, where nothing is more important than personal relationships when it comes to ensuring that the products and services you deliver are of a very high quality. If relationships are so important, then it follows that networking is also a critical element of our industry, and that’s why we’re so passionate about providing travel professionals with better networking and communication tools.
TRO: What is your favorite travel destination to date?
AR: I say this not to be diplomatic but to be truthful: it’s impossible to single one, or even just a few, out. I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to visit over 90 countries, and many of these stand out in their own unique way.
But it would be a pity not to mention a few of my favorite destinations, which include: Tanzania, Costa Rica, Argentina, Peru, the Caribbean, Israel, and Spain. I am from Switzerland and spend most of my time there, but I also love discovering new places in my own country, which just shows that you don’t need to travel far afield to discover special new places and to create wonderful travel memories.
TRO: What is on the horizon for 3BaysOver?
AR: The company is still in its early stages, and for now we are still focusing on developing the product (ie. the platform that users sees when they visit www.3baysover.com) and collecting as much feedback as possible from our early users to make sure that the platform meets their needs and expectations. Later this year, we expect to be growing our team so that we can have a more active presence in more local markets around the world, which will allow us to grow the community even more effectively.
We’re investing a lot of time and effort now to develop tools that make it easier not just for travel professionals to connect with the people and companies they want to do business with, but also to allow new business opportunities to find the right travel professional even when they may not be looking for new business. That is the magic of the internet: it allows the demand for services and expertise, and the supply of those services and expertise, to connect incredibly rapidly and efficiently, and even automatically. SO we are convinced that everyone – suppliers, wholesalers, retailers, and consumers – will benefit when tourism has its own online B2B marketplace.