E-distribute Your Way Out of Recession: Trampert.
By Yeoh Siew Hoon
Sunday, 14th June 2009
Some people say you sell your way out of a recession:Frank Trampert believes you e-distribute your way out of it, our writerpresses the vice president, revenue generation of Carlson Hotels Worldwide, Asia Pacific, for more answers.

Q: There are some who believe you can sell your way out of a recession, but you think e-distribution's the way to go? Why?

Considering that we have currently 23% global penetration for Internet and 43% for mobile phone usage (both growing at double digit numbers), the way to connect is through e-distribution. The numbers speak for themselves.

You also want to automate as much as you can so team members can spend time on strategising ideas and concepts rather than being bogged down with administration.

Q: What is it about e-distribution that can help hotels navigate their way out of the recession?

Assuming that a hotel company and/or individual hotel has invested into their e-capabilities over the past years to allow for online access to their products, it is now the time to leverage this investment as consumers shift more and faster from offline to online. It's very simple, you have to be where you customers are and not the other way around.

Q: There's been greater focus on revenue management of late in the face of declining demand. Do you think hotels in Asia are still only paying lip service to this and don't fully grasp the concept yet?

It's not about Revenue Management it's about revenue optimizing. Revenues have declined in some markets up to 40%. There is not much revenue to manage. However, if you have the tools to (1) identify who your customers are and (2) systems to reach them, you will be in a pretty good position to spend the little money that is left on highly targeted and relevant revenue driving campaigns.

Q: At HICAP (last month in Singapore), Robert Hecker (managing director of Howarth HTL) said new revenue management models have to be created because customer booking patterns have shortened and the historical data's not as good anymore. Do you agree?

I agree that Revenue Management systems need to change as the traditional approach focuses too much on inventory and price control. The new breed of revenue optimization tools has a more holistic approach by taking historic, current, future, market and competitor data into consideration when making rate suggestions ideally all in an automatic fashion.

Q: What new technologies or features are you looking at in Carlson Hotels Worldwide to maximise e-distribution? Mobile? Social Media? Or you think it's all too much hype at the moment and the important thing is to get the basics right? If so, what are the basics?

I believe that the hotel industry has grossly overlooked the mobile channel and companies just have started to enter this new medium. At Carlson Hotels Worldwide Asia Pacific we have learned a great deal over the past 12 months about Mobile and Social Media and we have some cool projects cooking.

In addition to innovation and keeping up with trends, I am of the firm opinion that recessionary times drive people into panic mode. It is of no help to run around like a headless chicken in the search for a corn ($) when your customer facing touchpoints are not relevant, display the wrong information or do not give a comprehensive picture of your product capabilities. We have several processes in place to ensure that hotels have the best possible information displayed on their online brochure (Brand Website). Absolutely, having the basics in place is vital to stay in business. When the heat is turned up, many forget about this.

Q: Your thoughts on search? Is it driving us down to the lowest common denominator where it's all about keywords and price? Where does "brand" fit into all this?

Search is important and remains one of the most critical aspects of ecommerce that a hotel company needs to understand. The landscape is ever changing and it remains problematic to constantly keep up with all the changes. At Carlson we have partnered with companies such as Brand Karma or Amplify (AU based Agency) to optimize our potential. We are very happy with the results.

Q: KP Ho, executive chairman of Banyan Tree Holdings, said at HICAP, "In good times, a good brand thrives. In bad times, a good brand is the difference between life and death." Do you agree?

I concur that brands are important. However, loyalty is the issue. Today's consumer are less attached to a particular brand and they are happy to move from one to another.

Marketers need to find new metrics and techniques to connect and retain customers. The more relevant and the more personalized you can make the experience, the more likely you are able to grow your share of the business even in recessionary times.

|Yeoh Siew Hoon, one of Asia's most respected travel editors and commentators, writes a regular column on news, trends and issues in the hospitality industry for 4Hoteliers.com.

Siew Hoon, who has covered the tourism industry in Asia/Pacific for the past 20 years, runs SHY Ventures Pte Ltd. Her other writings can be found at www.thetransitcafe.com

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