The ‘Old’ 2020 is gone – big data, unpredictable guest needs and digital-savvy staff at a distance are on the way for the hotel sector.
Three leading hospitality industry technologists gave crisis recovery advice to hospitality industry leaders in the fourth I Meet Hotel industry webinar, 6 May, organised by Bidroom. The three said that the ‘old’ 2020 is gone. Hotels need to embrace big data, not be overwhelmed by it, and understanding new requirements of guests in the aftermath of C19 will be crucial to survival.
They said that a “wrecking ball” had been taken to the hospitality industry. However, the biggest threat was not C19 turbulence — but applying yesterday’s logic to a C19 and post-C19 world.
Kris Glabinski, Chief Business Development Officer at Lybra, Ryan Haynes, Director & Lead Consultant at Haynes MarComs, and Ali Beklen, Founder & Managing Partner at HotelRunner, told moderator, Bidroom Director of Business Development, Caroline Dal’lin, and a webinar audience of 190 hospitality professionals, that the hospitality landscape was now defined by four new realities, namely:
The Tension Between Big Data and Unreliable Data
“We are overwhelmed by data. We need conclusions instead,” said Glabinski. Revenue managers used to spend 75% of their time analysing data, 25% acting upon it. Now they have no long-term reliable data to work with. Even when people switch on the TV, information is inconsistent between countries in Europe, for example, on the use of masks and the implementation of social distancing. Artificial intelligence and algorithms can only take us so far because the rules-based world built on precedent is over. There is no new data to draw on.
New and Unpredictable Guest Needs
There is also a new conflict between emotion and logic. What guests say they will do and what they will do is untested. Beklen reported a survey saying 35% of respondents won’t book an international holiday even next year. Other respondents said they might, but it would depend on a range of factors such as availability of free cancellations, money-back guarantees, special price deals, and personal health and safety assurances.
Beklin said there was initial evidence guests would want bigger, more spacious rooms such as suites and executive rooms. However, they said they wouldn’t pay more. But they would stay longer.
New and Costly Operational Realities
However, when guests check out, hoteliers may have to budget for the cost of room sterilisation. It may be days before the room can be used by the next guest. Even when government lockdowns are lifted, and hotel operations are ready, customers may self-impose their own lockdown. They may simply refuse to go to busy restaurants or hotel lobbies. Hoteliers must not be shy to drop services where they are not getting enough, or any profit.
The Need to Empower Staff
Even before C19, Haynes said that the hospitality sector was undergoing rapid transformation due to an “always-on” culture, cloud technologies, integrated systems, real-time communications, the rise of the subscription economy, 24/7 bookings, and even digital apps that were redefining concierge services. Millennials now want last-minute bookings via smartphone, mobile check-ins, digital room keys on their phone and more geolocation services in the hotel neighbourhood.
“With reduced contact in hospitality, there will be an increased rise in digital,” said Haynes. “We must give staff more autonomy. Allow them to focus on the creative and strategic elements of hospitality.”
Dal’lin (right) said that whatever the new digital skills required of young entrants into the hotel sector, it is imperative that they place a commitment to hospitality at the centre of their mindset.
“Technology and digital priorities come and go, but a commitment to hospitality links it all together,” she said.
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