Exclusive Reporting: Last week I attended the 20th IHIF followed by the ITB and what was interesting for me to see was the blurring of the lines between the hotel groups and the OTA’s.
It’s clear that as technology evolves, OTA’s are getting into a better position to invest more money in their platforms, and hotels are trying as hard as they can to keep up with these huge investments.
Exploring and spending lots of time at hall 9 at the ITB – the traditional home of for many years of the hotel companies and Rent-A-Car brands one can’t ignore the huge stands the big OTA’s have.
So, what do I see coming?
The “Collections” have already entered the global lodging scene with examples such as:
“The Autograph Collection” by Marriott, “Tribute Portfolio” by Starwood, ‘CURIO by Hilton” as well as by soft brands like Best Western Offering Best Western's “BW Premier Collection”
OTA’s just need to follow the lead set by the global hotel brands and create their own “Virtual collections”. A classic “Me2” philosophy. The OTA’s will take the idea of “collections”, re-engineer it and offer it via their online mobile platforms.
These “collections” (the exact names will be created in one of those leading branding companies) will offer the public the same services hotel groups offer on their own web sites:
- Own “hotel collection” Branding in different categories
- Ease of booking and better, more flexible cancelation policy
- Loyalty membership including a full rewards program
- Ability of booking all travel arrangements and auxiliary services under one roof
- Flexible, round-the-clock 24 hours Check- in and Check-out times
- New “super-saver” basic economy categories which will offer an unbundled basic room rate
How will the OTA’s get there?
Artificial Intelligence or in short AI is at the heart of big data analytics and personalization.
The Leading travel and technology companies – OTA’s, including among others, Google, Facebook, Priceline, Expedia, TripAdvisor are currently working on the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to address the needs of their customers in a more efficient and customized way in order to increase conversions and loyalty.
We will also see the integration of chatbots and virtual assistants the likes of Amazon’s “Alexa”, Google’s SIRI and Google’s “Google Assistant” into the OTA’s “hotel Collections”.
All of this technology costs a lot of money to develop as well as to integrate. Tens of millions of dollars that Individual hotels, local & regional chains simply don’t have the money to develop their own technological solutions.
Big global lodging groups are investing in both AI and virtual Assistants.
In 2016, Accor - the French lodging giant - bought “John Paul” which is the first technology enabled concierge equipped with a proprietary Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and data platform based on a behavioral profiling and a 360° personalization, as well as a network of over 50,000 partners in more than 50 countries.
Hilton, Marriott, Wyndham as well as other global hotel companies are investing in their own virtual assistant solutions.
Will that be enough? I am not sure. Mr. Sebastien Bazin, who spoke this week at the 2017 IHIF titled “Beyond the Digital Revolution – What are the next Global Hotel Group Models”, stated that nowadays on each single reservation arriving to hotels via direct distribution channels – i.e. Hotel web sites and Apps, five bookings are generated by non-direct channels i.e. OTA’s.
Try fighting that!
Joseph - Yossi - Fischer the CEO of Vision Hospitality & Travel - international lodging & Travel Solutions and a regular contributor to 4Hoteliers.com with exclusive writing and views.
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