Exclusive email interview with Rachel Grier, Area Managing Director Asia Pacific for IDeaS: The days when a clean room, a warm shower and a decent breakfast were the only requirements for a satisfactory stay are well and truly over.
1/ Question: How are guest behaviours changing and what does this mean for hotels?
Answer: The days when a clean room, a warm shower and a decent breakfast were the only requirements for a satisfactory stay are well and truly over. Guests expect nothing less and demand more. ‘I want a clean room’ is being replaced by ‘I want a relevant experience.’ Shareability, likeability and aspirational drivers are often the key emotional motivators when choosing where to stay.
At the same time, the way hotels display themselves to the booking public in many cases does not reflect the change in consumer expectations. Booking engines and booking paths are essentially unchanged from 20 years ago, but consumer behaviour and expectations have evolved significantly—ask for a location, a check-in and check-out date and get a (long) list of hotels and room types that don’t create clear differentiation.
A new approach is needed which enables the consumer to choose the components of an experience and customise it—such as including a combination of rooms with food and beverage vouchers or entertainment tickets—if they wish to do so. As a result, hotels will be able to differentiate themselves more effectively against the online travel agencies, create better engagement with the customer and, in turn, drive loyalty.
2/ Question: How can hotels better target technology-savvy guests like millennials?
Answer: Increasingly, it will be those hoteliers that understand consumer trends and best cater to these changing needs of guests that will be advantageously positioned to attract and retain the guest of the future. Hoteliers need to appreciate that consumers no longer look to purchase just products or brands. They want to buy experiences which can be shared. The guest of the future won’t search for a room or a hotel, or a hotel brand. Rather they will look to stay in unique, authentic properties (including apartments) that offer tailored experiences and personal relevance.
Millennial guests are more likely to value authenticity over big-brand experiences. They want to experience the local way of life, not be cut-off from it in a generic five-star property. This means hoteliers looking to attract business from this demographic should diversify their offerings in both hard and software—which has recently been reflected in the proliferation of brands by the big global hotel groups.
IHG’s acquisition of Kimpton and the launch of Hotel Indigo are all signs large hotel groups are attempting to cater to unique, sometimes niche needs with equally unique hotel ‘personalities.’ Hoteliers are beginning to understand that customers want more choice and are moving away from chains that offer only cookie-cutter experiences.
3/ Question: What role will personalisation play in the future of hotel operations?
Answer: A hotel’s ability to personalise a guest’s stay is key to growing a loyal and diversely segmented customer base in the future. While most hotels are exploring options to make guests feel valued and create unique experiences, the concept of ‘customer-choice pricing’ is getting more and more airtime. We’ve all experienced customer-choice pricing before. Take for instance the car-buying process.
Most vehicles include the basics: an engine, some seats, four tires, etc., and there’s the obvious cost difference between luxury and economy. But beyond that, at a more granular level, the price can still vary quite a bit. Some buyers may seek nice-to-haves like heated seats or built-in navigation. Others may not care for those frills but still want some automation like cruise control and anti-lock brakes. The minor differences from one customer to another become important factors in determining price.
It may be the case that this same value-decision framework could soon apply to hotel-room booking. A bed and bathroom is to be expected, and rooms with balconies or kitchenettes already come at a premium, but some guests may be willing to pay a higher rate for the assurance of a quieter room, away from the elevators and other busy areas. Leisure seekers may enjoy a comfortable lounge and TV space, whereas business travellers are fine with just a desk. Families with kids will see more value in a sofa-sleeper.
Through sophisticated data analytics and a more detail-oriented online booking experience, this next level of dynamic, bespoke pricing is set to become a tangible reality. Hotel guests will appreciate the choice to avoid paying for things they don’t need while gaining more options that truly matter to them—and that they are therefore willing to pay for. In the process of providing greater personalisation, hotels can introduce new opportunities to create more revenue.
4/ Question: What new technologies should hoteliers be aware of?
Answer: As technology in business advances, people expect more than easy access to content; they want to experience it, touch it and interact with it in their daily routine. To fully engage staff and ensure they can access, interpret and present key operational data in their roles, hotels must offer a more immersive and seamless experience through new platforms like AI and IoT devices.
Even though many local hotels have adopted cloud technology, data remains disparate, the challenge remains around how staff can access the right data at the exact moment of need. Voice-interaction technology, like Alexa or Google Assistant, makes that possible.
Opportunities for integrating revenue management data with voice-enabled digital assistants will be here in the future. Owners and general managers will no longer need logins to a system they access once a month, nor will they need training to view hotel performance within the software. Instead, they can communicate with a voice-controlled assistant sitting on their desk and never have to remember a rarely-used password again.
Even internal meetings become more efficient and productive. Hotels no longer need to run standard reports for standing meetings every day. They can literally ask their technology to recite that information to them at each meeting. Now, a voice-enabled system can save employees time and resources while still providing key performance metrics whenever called upon. It’s your personalised, on-command data assistant with immediate access to historical, future and market data.
5/ Question What are the adoption rates for new technology in the APAC region today?
Answer: Hotels across the APAC region are rapidly incorporating new technologies into their business. From digital in-room assistants, property-specific mobile apps and chatbot concierge services appearing at hotels—solutions that enhance guest experiences are rolling-out across the region. However, the uptake of new hotel operational-focused technologies can be slower at times given management’s focus on satisfying guest needs first. This is not to say new technologies cannot significantly benefit a hotel’s backroom operations.
For instance, new mobile solutions can enhance the working practices of key executives overseeing multiple properties, working remotely and automating mundane tasks to create more time for strategic activity. New cloud-based operational technologies mean hotel executives will need to spend less time tied to a desk, or a single property, and make mobile work a reality for the future.
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Rachel Grier is Managing Director Asia Pacific for IDeaS Revenue Solutions - A SAS Company