ITB 2019 Special Reporting
Hotels in China Dig Deep to Evaluate What Makes Data An Asset
By Ritesh Gupta, ChinaTravelNews
Wednesday, 21st August 2019

The result-oriented approach is starting to stand out as hotels are now assessing ways to use insights, both via automation for digital touchpoints as well as equipping their staff at a property level, to serve their guests better.

Hotel companies in China are increasingly looking at an enterprise-wide approach to data integration and deriving meaningful insights.

“There are two core aspects related to capitalizing on data available – first to acquire, store and manage, and second, working on data models and analytics to use it,” says Michael Zhu, Vice President of New Century Hotels & Resorts.

At a strategy level, organizations need to ensure there is no barrier in terms of how data is managed and eventually, with a common set of goals and objectives across projects, data should end up being an asset. This is done by sharing data across the enterprise in a repeatable manner.

“Data is going to be a critical differentiator – how hotels use data and evaluate the behavior of customers. Initiatives around data stand for data collection and analytics – being collected from various systems including CRM and PMS, and putting proficient data models to work,” added Mr Zhu, who will be the moderator for the Executive Roundtable of “Digitization of Traditional Hotels” at the Hotel Forum of the upcoming 2019 TravelDaily Conference (in Shanghai, 27-29 August).

Specialists point out that data processing needs to be feasible and done in a defined format. As for integration, a tool like data platform where all of the data comes together from various data sets make data accessible for analysis by different teams. Mr Zhu believed having a centralized place for querying and analyzing to derive business values is a significant aspect of the whole exercise.

Depending upon the project, raw data collected is converted into a dataset (known as pre-processing) for analysis. After training and testing the model on data, evaluation is done as a part of the model development process. For instance, a model could be about product recommendations. “What differentiates a hotel from another is the efficacy of a data model that is being used,” said Zhu.

Michael Zhu, Vice President of New Century Hotels & Resorts

A major shift in data warehousing has been the emergence of the cloud data warehouse. Different challenges come along with cloud-based data set up, such as understanding the infrastructure cost structure, security of data in the cloud, movement of data from and to the cloud seamlessly into an organization’s enterprise data flow.

“Cloud computing has been around for a while, but hotels aren’t using it widely here (in China). Since there are questions over cloud computing, these can’t be ignored since hotels run a round-the-clock business,” said Mr Zhu.

Serving travelers

Hotels are looking at stepping up their guest/ passenger-facing capabilities with data and cloud infrastructure.

Roger Huang, COO, GreenCloud pointed out that hotel companies have been looking at cloud as part of their focus on modernizing and transforming their business to offer the services their guests need, exactly when and where they need them. GreenCloud’s cloud products include PMS, e-Commerce, service interconnection and a data platform.

Roger Huang, COO, GreenCloud

Organizations are counting on speed and agility benefits of cloud computing. Citing an example, Huang mentioned that a hotel’s staff can look up for a mobile phone number or reservation order number to quickly locate the guest information in the hotel front desk system, and connect with facial recognition or kiosk machine to automatically identify a guest’s identity to accomplish a quick check-in. “Cloud products can integrate guests’ other transactions and room orders in a unified membership platform, bringing more benefits to guests,” he said.

More travel companies are now evaluating and updating their respective technology stacks, focusing on DevOps concepts while leveraging an open API and flexible cloud platform.

Technology specialists mention that such offerings can be quickly deployed, considerably reduce the total cost of ownership and are seamlessly scalable. With customer-facing apps running on open API platforms in the cloud, companies can improvise and deliver faster according to evolving travelers’ needs.

Hotels are now focusing on making the most of their data, working on segmentation and attempting algorithm-based personalization via such offerings. For instance, hotels today can better harmonize and facilitate access to their data across multiple systems and data sources to empower the front-end staff.

Sharing an example, Mr Huang said not only the check-in process is streamlined, but hotels can add extra service that can make a big difference. “If a guest’s check-in coincides with their birthday, hotels can work on special activity/ a promotion in advance to improve the guest satisfaction level,” he said.

While hotel companies are working on plans to overcome the issue of sharing/ accessing data and building a cross-functional team via an astute data strategy, another critical aspect is the preparedness of the front-end staff.

It is a vital touchpoint in the case of hotels. It is the front-line team, at the reception or in the property that implements these projects. There can be apprehension, both about the impact on the performance of the staff as well as the overall guest experience, with any new guest-serving interface.

“The way it works is – the front-end staff at the time of check-in searches for the profile of the guest. The history automatically crops up, along with it a recommendation for the same guest. The system would come up with a relevant offer/ suggestion that would serve the guest or result in an upsell. A capable system means less training. It should just prompt the staff, should deliver on its own without the staff making any big effort. That’s what is expected from the technology to achieve,” Mr Zhu remarked.

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