10 Questions For (30): Wouter Blok of Easy To Book

Happy to present a Twitter Friend @Wouter Blok to you:

Wouter-Blok-and-Son-Bram-in-Zermatt-Switzerkland

1) Who Am I according to…
My passport? Wouter Blok, born on the 4th of September 1979 in Heemstede, The Netherlands. Travels abroad on regular basis. Uses retina-scan Privium for fast custom passage and use of their excellent lounge on Schiphol. Trip details will follow in Q’s 5-9.
The Dutch Government? Wouter Blok, CMO of EasyToBook.com, in relationship with Anneloes Visser, flight attendant KLM, one son Bram(1), one child on the way (ETA mid July). Living in Haarlem, the Netherlands. Wouter could slow down a bit in traffic, considering his speeding tickets.
My colleagues? Marketing director, who leads the team that spends quite a bit, but every euro with good ROI. Loves to present, an ambitious young dog that is very eager to bring EasyToBook.com to the highest level possible.
My ex-colleagues? Sales guy that sells ice to Inuit, energetic Sales Trainer, manager and participant in startup ClearSense which was sold to World Directories in 2007.
My friends? Although he wasn’t cut out of the right wood to finish KLM Flight Academy, he surely has found his true calling. Has swapped the wild lifestyle for family life, lot’s of travelling and the occasional crazy night in town with friends.
My wife? Ask her!
My son? His biggest hero and driver of ‘auto papa, hard’ which means ‘daddy’s car, fast’

2) What do you like about what you do?
Wherever I work, I want to be able to work like an entrepreneur. I have that feeling very strongly with EasyToBook.com. Why? It’s a young (average age around 30), international (13 nationalities amongst 45 employees) and fast growing company (aiming for the top 20 Deloitte Fast500 this year). My responsibility is, together with the VP operations, to roll out our ambitious growth strategy. In one sentence: get people to find us, like us and book with us again and again. This is done through SEO, SEA, metasearch, display, our unique affiliate program, smart DB marketing and clever use of Analytics. In the process I get to work with big companies like Google, Kayak and Tripadvisor, and smaller renewing ones like Trivago and HotelVideoReviews. All online possibilities that might add value are explored, like Twitter (@easytobook for hotel queries and @wouterblok if you would like to connect with me). To stay ahead of the game I go to the trade fairs like Adtech, Eyefortravel and ITB to meet interesting people and get inspired even more. The results of our endeavours are visible each minute, so we can steer where we have to. It’s a fast game and I love it!

3) What don’t you like about what you do?
It’s not my own company. ;-)

4) Please tell us all about your site and your aims with it.
EasyToBook.com offers over 35,000 hotels in more than 6,000 destinations worldwide. A site for all who need to make a hotel reservation with the best rates and availability (with lowest rate guarantee). We strive to show the most relevant and complete content, in combination with a killer usability. We find it very important for travellers to be flexible. Therefore most bookings are changeable up to 24 hours before arrival and payment is done at the hotel, upon departure. The site is in constant development to achieve an even better (information) offering, user interface, usability and connectivity. And frankly, we are not easily satisfied!

wouter-blok-scuba-diving-seychelles

5) Your top 3 destination experiences you’ve ever stayed to date and why?
1) Island hopping in the Seychelles. By far the most romantic trip I’ve made with my girl. Walking on the beaches of Anse sous l’Argent is a very unreal experience. It was very quiet and felt like we were in the movie ‘the blue lagoon’. Scuba diving was even more special, with an up and close encounter with a Whale Shark and tons of other magnificent creatures.
2) Cape Town, South Africa. I almost moved there. What a vibrant city, beautiful people, good partying, amazing countryside, wines to die for, cagedives with Great Whites…. If you like to go off the beaten track, hire a convertible and go to Worcester Glider club and take a flight with one of the instructors. http://www.cgc.org.za/
3) Zermatt, Switzerland. My favorite skiing resort. Although expensive, the area is worth it. Where else in the world can you ski from 3880m and descent to 1500m in one go? The views on the Matterhorn are priceless.

6) Your top 3 accommodations you’ve ever stayed to date and why?
1) Equatorial Bangi Hotel near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Where the monkeys steal your golf balls, the sushi is pure art and the service is unsurpassed. The building is very nicely built in a colonial style.
2) The Westin Grand Cape Town Arabella Quays. Where you can moon the city from the rooftop sauna.
3) The Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai. Exquisite service, perfect pool and an incredibly dedicated staff that will not let a terrorist attack keep them from going to work. They are rebuilding the damaged floors in record time, an unknowing guest will not notice anything happened there last November. I especially appreciated this hotel, because the night before I stayed in hotel Kushbu, see question 8.

7) Your top 3 most memorable food / wine experiences to date and why?
1
) Restaurant Buerehiesel, Strasbourg. This used to be a 3 star restaurant. When the parents retired and the son took over, he decided to keep the great cooking, but drop the stars. That way he could lower the threshold for mere mortals to enjoy the splendid kitchen www.buerehiesel.fr.
2) Muratie Wine Estate, Stellenbosch. One of the oldest estates in the Cape area and my goodness, the thought of the Ansela van de Caab Red wine still makes my mouth www.muratie.co.za/
3) Restaurant Aqua, Hong Kong. Located in Kowloon on the 20th floor overlooking HK island. I had my first ‘fatty tuna’ sashimi there, while the city lit up in the light show and fireworks lighted the sky www.aqua.com.hk/.

Wouter at Bharat's Wedding Party in India
Wouter at Bharat's Wedding Party in India

8) Your 3 worst destination/ accommodation /food experiences to date and why?
1) Haggis in Glasgow. Perhaps I should have had it before I got sober and hung over?
2) The B&B Villa de Roses in Beau Vallon, Seychelles. Breakfast was the same for the whole 2 weeks. only 1 egg, you couldn’t get 2. Service included a very grumpy lady that moves in slow motion. The location made up for this of course.
3) Hotel Kushbu, Keshod, Gujarat, India. Last May my Indian colleague Bharat got married and didn’t want to mis it for world and flew over there for 1 weekend. (if only I had more holidays). His place of birth was 2 flights and a 3 hour ride away, we were the first foreigners to come there. The nearest hotel was in Keshod, had no shower, no toiletpaper, no towels and beds so dirty, we wrapped our dirty laundry around our pillows. All worth it, considering the ceremonies we attended were beautiful and derived from ancient traditions (they spoke in Sanskrit), and the presence of foreigners (Omri, founder ETB and me) meant a lot for the family.

9) Can you offer the readers 3 destination/ food / accomodation / things to do tips about the city you are currently living in?
1) Steak restaurant Castell in Amsterdam. If you like nice, wood-grilled steak, www.castellamsterdam.nl/.
2) Restaurant Willendorff in Haarlem. My old colleague Michel Boesmans runs the kitchen and does an excellent job! www.willendorf.nl/.
3) Visit Amsterdam on Queensday, wear something orange and act as if you are just as completely bonkers as the rest of us.

Capetown
Capetown

10) Any Question(s) you’d expected me to ask that you would like to answer?
“If you didn’t have to work anymore, what would you do?”

He who’s in love with his job, shall not work another day in his life.

My take:
Well done Wouter! Just before the arrival of son nr 2. Thanks! Good luck with the delivery!
A question: What makes Easy to Book different or better than the likes of Booking, Venere and Expedia? Why no Blog?
Awesome scuba shot and good skiing taste, although you really need nice weather for Zermatt, otherwise the lifts close down early in comparison to other resorts in the neighbourhood (been there several times:-).

Update: After years…better l8 than never… Wouter has started his own Blog, Wouter Blog…I just wonder if this is a prelude to him setting up his own company:-)

Last edited by GJE on August 16, 2011 at 1:55 pm

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15 Responses to 10 Questions For (30): Wouter Blok of Easy To Book

  1. Dear Guido,

    Thanks for inviting me to answer the 10 (or 12? :-)) questions.

    In the last 5 years, We´ve become one of the last, privately owned, independent Online Hotel consolidators.
    We have become a major Pan European international player, in a highly competitive market, without any external investors.

    You name the two whales, in comparison to which we are a dolphin in both size and speed of growth.
    We offer the best content, rates and availability in carefully selected cities, our year on year growth
    (more than half in comparison to 2008) shows that travellers like our product a lot.

    Our brand new affiliate program is unique in the marketplace with it’s multi level commission scheme.

    The blog of Venere I like a lot, if only we could open a can of editors to create it.
    For now we will start with video reviews, created by our guests, to increase the amount of user generated content.

    Tweet soon,
    Wouter.

  2. Thanks Josiah, for your kind comment.
    The flexibility in the sense of pay when you stay and up to 24 hour cancellations are now even copied by Expedia. So it seems the market is shifting in the favour of the traveller.

  3. Great interview and always good to hear from new players in the hotel-only online players arena.

    I need to ask this question to Wouter (been thinking about it for a while).

    Could you say in your hear to heart that Easytobook.com is not a pale copy of Booking.com?

    I know I am a bit controversial but I am not the only person to believe that. What this website does is taking the same UI of Booking.com. I believe this must be deliberate knowing how succesful the Priceline sister company is today.

    Funny enough Booking.com is Dutch with HO in Amsterdam and so Easytobook. And also I believe an employee at Easytobook.com used to work at Booking.com…

  4. Time will tell! Successfully Easytobook.com gained a big market share where Booking and Expedia were dominating the market.
    But that is history by combining the best of both worlds, rather use the competition than invent something that does not work!

  5. Hi Guido,
    I don’t usually read interviews of people I am not familiar with, but this one is a very engaging and inspiring one! i would have to read your entire series now!!

  6. @ All: Thank you kindly for your comments.
    @ Andy. Haggis is not really that bad. It depends a bit on the company. I once had the privilege of attending a real Burns night in the company of the Brighton and Hove Scottish Society….dancing and all. It was a lot of fun!
    @ Jen
    I just hit upon your blog via another way and really like it! And yes off course you are invited to read the whole series. My own 10 answers are also among them:-)

  7. @ Guido Thank you very much! No such plans I can assure you, the easytobook.com rollercoaster is way too much fun. I started blogging because I felt the urge to put my thoughts down in HTML and get feedback!

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