Fueled by a more tech savvy market with ever-changing demands and competition from bookings giants, the landscape of hotel technology is growing at a more rapid rate each year. Hotel tech companies are creating applications that bring the focus back to hotels, personalize the guest experience and build closer relationships with travelers. With this growth, independent hotels have the opportunity to take advantage of these new technologies and create a strategy to remain relevant in today’s high tech market.
The Evolution of Booking Technology
Hospitality tech has come a long way since it was first introduced in the 1960’s with the Central Reservation System (CRS) formerly used by airlines. The CRS grew into a sophisticated network where hotel companies could manage booking and room rates over various online channels. In 2000, integrated hotel tech took a new turn with the rise of Online Travel Agencies (OTA’s), distributing travel information on an even wider scale and stirring competition for direct bookings with brand hotels (traveltripper.com). As a result, OTAs (which include Expedia.com, Hotels.com and Bookings.com) experienced the greatest jump in bookings and "hotel direct" reservations — reservations made via direct calls and on property — decreased by 8.4 percent over the past 2 years. (travelclick.com).
Online travel agencies have commoditized the travel booking experience. This is creating price comparison platforms for travelers to take the process into their own hands. Most OTA’s have also become compatible with mobile booking, allowing guests to book last-minute and creating more “on the go” opportunities for business travelers. While these innovations seem positive on a large scale, they are taking away from the personal experience travelers are now seeking. Not to mention they are taking toll on brand hotels- especially in terms of direct bookings.
Over the past few months, there has been a positive buzz around the rise of third party tech available for integration with independent and boutique properties. These applications are being designed with better personalization capabilities and with a better guest experience in mind.
From the very first site visit to applications focused on building loyalty within guests, independent properties now have access to technology that was before only used by large brands. Some of the categories of technology that hoteliers can now consider when creating a direct booking and guest personalization strategy:
- Real time website personalization built by developing custom content and campaigns for different customer profiles. This is shown to increase direct bookings in an easy and seamless process.
- Post booking social sharing and customer advocacy to build reach through guests social networks.
- In-stay personalization through customer text and messaging systems to ensure guests are having the best experience, leading to higher reviews.
- Review management and guest streamlining to ensure guests needs are addressed, even after they’ve ended their stay.
- Email marketing platforms to remind guests of their experience and keep them up to date on packages and promotions running.
So what do all of these new technologies have in common? Guest Engagement.
Tech Strategy for Hotels
In order for hotels to take advantage of the growing abundance of technology resources available, a focused strategy must be developed. Properties will need to evaluate both the goals of the hotels and the preferences of their guests to devise the best marketing mix. It can be developed by understanding the booking process and catering to the customers needs from the trip planning phase through and beyond their stay.
By combining tools and resources that target different stages of the guests booking and stay, properties can implement personalization for their customer from the minute they hit the property website through their check out from the hotel. The growth of the technology landscape has, for the first time, given small and independently owned properties the ability to utilize an in- depth relationship management strategy that before was only available to large brands.