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Interview: Paul Lau, Teletext Holidays’ performance market specialist

October 5, 2013

(Published in TTG 06.03.13)

Teletext Holidays’ performance market specialist Paul Lau, one of TTG’s Tomorrow’s Travel Leaders, talks about his journey from finance to travel and shares advice on getting into online. Matthew Parsons reports

The numbers just didn’t add up,” recollects Paul Lau of his time studying for a Masters in accounting and finance in 2007. Considering the way the economy later took a turn for the worse, Lau perhaps had a point – and his decision to shun the City and instead look to the online sector has led him on an interesting journey.

“All that finance, I realised it wasn’t for me,” he says. “So I looked around, and there seemed to be more internet-based jobs. I managed to secure a place on the graduate scheme at price comparison website uSwitch. The company rotated graduates around the business. I learnt about content management systems, channels, affiliate marketing and emails. I was an analyst and got the gist of data. That’s how I became interested in user behaviour.”

Tangible assets
So began a step into the world of online, and despite later going on to set up a travel insurance division, his role as affinity partnerships executive was becoming too sales-orientated. “I didn’t enjoy it so much, I wanted something more tangible. I wanted retail, to be able to work from the product up, so it was not just all about commission.”

In November 2008, Hong Kong-born Lau joined luxury skincare brand Elemis as online sales and marketing executive, this time exploring search, SEO and PPC. However, following stints of visiting hotels with suitcases of moisturiser, Lau again looked elsewhere.

Technology challenges
One advert and four interviews later, Lau started at Teletext Holidays as online search executive in August 2010. He notes that a key factor in getting the job was his background in accounting and finance – and he recommends anyone wanting to find similar roles should have “some kind of science, mathematical or finance background”.

He joined the company in a period of change, as Teletext was preparing to switch off analogue and go digital-only in January 2011. The relaunch won Teletext many industry accolades, including “Most visible advertiser on Google” from Greenlight, and Lau says he never stops learning when working there.

That learning has become more intense, however, with further internal technology changes recently, including Syntec’s latest tool, Mousetracker, which tracks a user’s online journey to the actual phone call (see box). Lau says: “That was the last piece of the jigsaw, and we’ve been trialling it since August. More data means more questions, so it’s challenging. But it can help you make better decisions; it gives us more clarity. It is more about attribution and touchpoints rather than channels, and you have to find patterns.”

In the future, Lau would like to see it take a step further: “We’re working towards a different homepage for each user, based on the most relevant destination. It will take a while, building the silos, and it’s server intensive.” More change, meanwhile, is also on the cards, with managing director Victoria Sanders set to leave Teletext Holidays at the end of April.

Giving back
For now, though, Lau is relishing his position as one of TTG’s Tomorrow’s Travel Leaders, and grateful for the opportunity to meet “really talented people” – and people he says he would never usually get the chance to network with. “I recently sat next to Tui chief executive Peter Long, and we talked for 20 minutes. I’d imagine even at Tui’s AGM it would be rare to be able to sit down and talk one-on-one with him for that amount of time,” he adds. “But now we’d like to give something back – maybe visit universities to talk to students, or attend job fairs.”

Lau leaves the interview with BlackBerry in hand, saying he’s relieved there was no call from the office, after submitting reports ahead of the day’s board meeting. It looks like the numbers are adding up this time.

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