“Digital hospitality” can cover everything from robots and reputation management, but technology is the servant, not the master, of the guest experience.
This was one of the themes which emerged from the latest DataArt Question Time event held in London this week, produced in conjunction with Tnooz.
Chris Roe runs sales and distribution for Accor UK and when asked about the hotel of the future responded with the idea that the hospitality industry “needs to get the basics right first,” from making sure the wifi works across the property to addressing the time taken and processes around check-in and check out.
Digital can play a role in helping to deliver the basics, such as Accor’s Mercure brand introducing mobile check-in and check-out at hotels where the data shows a lot of guests have booked on mobile . And digital then helps the guests to spread the word.
Suzie Thompson, chief marketing officer of Red Carnation Hotels said that “digital reputation” was a natural benefit of “prioritising the customer experience” and that, generally, Red Carnation’s approach was to concentrate on the guest experience and to partner with specialists for the tech and digital side of the business.
“OTAs vs direct” is never far from the surface when hospitality people talk shop. Thompson acknowledged that booking.com was a big source of business for the chain. “Intermediaries need to be respected, she said, “and there is a cost to direct distribution which is often hidden because it doesn’t show on the balance sheet as a big OTA commission line.”
Another guest on the panel was Elliott Pritchard from Triptease, who has a vested interest in direct as its what the business does. It is organising what he claims is the first industry conference with an exclusively hotel direct agenda.
His take is that at the same time as hotels are looking for more direct business, the OTA market will consolidate further as the big players not only add hotel IT services to their portfolio but also squeeze out the medium-sized OTAs. The challenge from the OTAs therefore will be broader and bigger.