The problems for our clients, in a nutshell, are old, dated, and under-performing (sometimes non-existent) hotel websites.

Digital design is an increasingly important element for businesses in the hospitality sector, and Ryan Parker is at the forefront on this particular field in Thailand. After starting out as a creative designer in Brighton, Ryan made his way to Thailand to establish himself as the Founder and Creative Director of Placeworks, combining his passion for travel and design within a single venture.

Placeworks is today celebrating its tenth anniversary, and during the past decade Ryan has helped the company to build an impressive portfolio of hotel clients, with more than 200 hospitality partners on the books. Ryan agreed to share his thoughts with on the role of digital design in modern hospitality, and explain how Thailand has become such a prominent hub for both tourism and digital innovation. He also provides the shortest and most sensible answer in Hotelintel’s interview history, with an expert no-nonsense response to a topic which many hoteliers seem to think is much more important than it really is.

Tell us about your journey to the hospitality industry? Why hospitality and not something else?

Travel is, and has been a big part of my life. Exploration and different cultures, constantly on the move, trying new things, exotic locations and interesting people, places, architectures, food – together with my passion for all things design, it was a very natural evolution working with hotel brands. I wouldn’t say there was really a big decision or a key moment where I moved in that direction – it all came very naturally. I initially worked with some hotels in Koh Lipe and Koh Tao from organic connections almost  20 years ago, and from there I never looked back, building our portfolio to what we have today – a global network of some of the biggest and brightest hospitality brands, and over 200 hotels partners to date.

Placeworks Office Located in Thonglo 

What kind of problems can Placeworks solve for hotels? What are the most common issues you've seen in the past 10 years?

The problems for our clients, in a nutshell, are old, dated, and under-performing (sometimes non-existent) hotel websites. We revamp them into fast and powerful digital experiences that command measurable direct booking conversions, and drive considerable revenue through what was previously an underperforming channel. That means that saving those expensive commissions from OTAs by driving direct bookings is a big part of what we do.

You have just celebrated your 10th work anniversary; tell us about your darkest moments and how you overcame them?

Covid was particularly difficult for us, as it was for everyone, and certainly hospitality professionals felt the full force of that downtime, both financially and professionally. During that time the challenge was to be able to pay our talented, hand-curated team their full salaries while hotels were closed with no new projects coming in, and more than 80% of our continued contracts were on hold. We had to weather that financial storm, but we found value in dedicating the time to our own operating procedures, business development, and training, but we were certainly glad to get things moving again once travel resumed! Investing inwards during that time has paid dividends in the years after.

Why do you believe Thailand is a strategic location for digital innovation in hospitality?

Thailand has fast become a huge digital and hospitality powerhouse. The changes I’ve seen over the last 20 years have been insane, and it’s right up there now with anywhere. Obviously hospitality in Thailand is renowned throughout the world, the sheer volume of hotel rooms here is astounding. Together with the digital nomad revolution, and with staff (and clients/guests) working and booking rooms around the clock from all over the world, and with our head offices here managing our nerve center, it’s the perfect location for our operations. Big tech companies like Agoda have also chosen to locate here, which is proof that Thailand has emerged as a hospitality tech center with forward-thinking and ambitious business professionals.

How do you see the role of digital agencies like Placeworks in changing in the future hospitality landscape?

There’s so much innovation throughout hospitality, from the fantastic locations and architecture, experiences, people, food, photography, interiors, video, brands - you name it, hospitality is rich in culture and feeling and is forever cutting edge with new ideas and innovations. I wouldn’t say our role is to change the future of hospitality, I feel that's a ball in motion that evolves so fast, I’d say our role is to provide the best and highest standards in digital design and bring that to the table for our clients, supporting their efforts with stunning digital experiences that match the amazing locations, wonderful staff, and exciting experiences they offer – and ultimately supporting their business objectives with our talent and knowledge of the hospitality digital space.

If you want to learn more about Placeworks and how Ryan Parker can help with your digitalization, email him here.