2018 has arrived and with it, a fresh set of challenges for hoteliers. The overwhelming consensus from those we’ve spoken to is that 2017 was a buoyant year; rates and occupancy levels all moving in the right direction. An influx of hotel technology vendors has helped moved the industry forward and empowered hoteliers to start bridging the gap between their own systems and the advanced platforms that have enabled OTAs to forge ahead.
The coming year will bring an abundance of changes, challenges and opportunities for hoteliers. We took time out to ask some of our clients at 80 DAYS; what’s important to you and your business in 2018?
Personalisation of the guest experience
According to a recent PWC report, London starts 2018 with more than 150,000 rooms available. Competition is hotting up and with 149,999+ other options available, how do you encourage a guest to choose you? Personalisation helps differentiate your product, marketing, website and overall guest experience. Creating truly memorable stays at every touch point must become the new ‘norm’. Red Carnation Hotels have always excelled at providing exceptional experiences and enjoy a consistently high TripAdvisor ranking, especially in London. Their VP of Marketing, Distribution and Revenue Management, Suzie Thompson, is keen to embrace new technologies that enhance and personalise the guest experience;
“Our key focus for 2018 is on designing and managing the consumer journey through the integration of data, technology, marketing and revenue management in order to increase efficiency and improve the overall customer experience.
We plan to work strategically with our key distribution partners (OTA’s, Meta etc) in order to broaden reach and acquire new customers, whilst remaining mindful of profitability and staying focused on the direct / repeat customer journey utilising conversion optimisation and personalisation tools.”
This is a strategy echoed by Thwaites Hotels‘ E-Commerce Marketing Manager, Sam Wilson;
“Top of the list for me is a microsite approach to digital marketing. Working closely with 80 DAYS to create location specific, experiential led websites based on benchmarking data and focusing on increasing direct bookings.”
However, using data to personalise your guest’s digital experience is set to become more challenging in 2018, with the introduction of GDPR.
Gathering Data? Please Read…
A top priority for hotel marketers in 2018 is, of course, the changing regulations concerning the handling and processing of guest data. The General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, becomes enforceable on May 25th, 2018 after being adopted nearly 2 years ago. It’s set to standardise how data is handled, placing the power back into the inboxes of consumers. It’s potential impact was hotly debated throughout 2017, but rather than be observed as a threat, responsible marketers who already maintain good practice are seeing it as an opportunity. Indeed, Thwaites Hotels’ Sam Wilson, suggests the new regulations could potentially help, not hinder, hotel marketers;
“It’ll be interesting how GDPR will affect marketing activity but I’m expecting a much improved open rate in email with quality being at the core rather than quantity. Tying in with that is CRM and really getting on top of the legislation to fine tune all our on and offline marketing communications.”
No matter how much data you capture, it’s not helpful to your business unless it’s actionable. There’s nothing worse than receiving a report that presents data without rationale, recommendation or conclusion. Focusing on actionable data that helps drive continual improvement is a top 2018 priority for Amro Khoudeir, Director of Digital & Distribution for Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts, who notes;
“With over 80 hotels around the world and an expanding portfolio, easily accessing and using data for our digital activities can be a challenge.
In 2018 we’re looking to leverage “big data”, combining different data sources so we get a complete picture of cause & effect and where opportunities to improve further lie. As in any large organisation, a lot of time is spent producing and analysing reports but our focus is to automate reporting as much as possible, so time can be better spent on taking action.”
Actionable data underpins why we created our new benchmarking service in 2017 too, 80 DAYS Benchmark. Hoteliers can now compare their digital marketing and website performance against the industry, quickly highlighting issues and spotting opportunities.
More choice than ever before
Cloud-based PMS, hospitality specific CRM, revenue management platforms, benchmarking tools, etc. The hotelier’s toolkit is overflowing. With so many established systems, processes and teams, the impact of change is significantly amplified. Fortunately, one of our new clients from 2017, Fingal, has a ‘clean slate’ upon which to build, as they look to launch a spectacular new 5 star ship hotel in Edinburgh. As their Brand Director, Fiona Strauss, notes;
“Being part of the launch team for Fingal, a ship with a unique history, starting a new chapter as an exclusive use venue and luxury accommodation on Edinburgh’s waterfront, means that we are looking at absolutely everything in 2018. We have already successfully appointed 80 DAYS as our digital marketing experts and are now concentrating on how we incorporate the unique aspects of being a ship with our guests needs.
As Fingal is one of a kind, everything we consider from our PMS and revenue management strategy to the customer journey and social media activity must have that point of difference that is unique to Fingal’s brand.”
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI and machine learning continue to evolve at a dramatic rate. Voice activated technology like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home are rapidly becoming commonplace in our guests’ homes, with 55% of US households expected to own one by 2020. Incorporating these new technologies into the booking experiences of our guests is a massive challenge, especially for more complicated bookings. Can you imagine Alexa’s response to: “Alexa book me an interconnecting family room on the ground floor with breakfast, dinner on the first night and extra pillows”? That said, strides are being made with 2017 seeing the industry’s first AI powered booking engine, as Sam Wilson of Thwaites Hotels highlights;
“In recent years there have been some great technological breakthroughs from price comparison engines to chat bots and I really do think 2018 will be the year for us to play catch-up with other industries such as airline and retail. One to watch in 2018 – Allora, the AI booking engine. Frank and the team at AVVIO have worked wonders to showcase this tech and I’m excited to see how it pans out!”
So, 2018 is going to be a busy year, full of challenge and opportunity. Competition will increase (both among hotels and alternative accommodation providers), GDPR will place more importance on responsible marketing and OTAs will continue to invest heavily in operational tools in a bid to become more ingrained within our industry. Travellers will be presented with more choice than ever before. And, of course, we have the added uncertainties of brexit in May 2019.
However, all things considered, hospitality and difficult trading conditions are familiar bedfellows and we’ve every confidence that the industry will rise to the occasion.
We’re looking forward to helping our clients through the next 12 months and beyond – do let us know if we can help support your business too?