With mobile phones and tablet devices now a significant part in the travel planning, buying and in-house guest experience, the workshop focused on how hoteliers can embrace the latest technology and develop effective mobile revenue strategies to drive hotel profitability.
After a brief introduction from HOSPA's Warren Mandelbaum, separate round tables of delegates heard from three distinguished industry experts to gain insight into how to best incorporate new revenue management innovations into their business. The format allowed your round table group to spend 20 minutes with each expert, discuss hot topics, ask those burning questions, and share best practice with fellow attendees.
Uli Pillau, managing director of Hetras started our session by outlining his view on the future of revenue management using cloud technology, replacing the requirement for hardware and servers. He predicts hotel reservation, distribution and operating systems will grow alongside developing mobile capabilities, and the winners will be those hoteliers who embrace the next generation guest and lead technological change within their respective businesses. Consensus amongst participants was that over time the general 2- to 4-star hotel market will come under severe revenue pressures due to increased competition within the hotel sector (and aspects of the growing serviced apartment and vacation rental markets in my view), and this sector needs to adapt quickly to become more efficient in an increasingly competitive market. Pillau referred to Hetras' product which can help deliver increases in hotel productivity; efficiencies in revenue management and distribution; additional guest services and operating efficiencies, with no requirement for continual updating of 'physical' hardware product. He also felt email communication would decline over time, replaced by other mainstream social media communication channels.
Pillau believes hotels who engage with the local community, while integrating with the continual development of their brand, will prosper. An example of a boutique hotel with this focus is the 'budget boutique chic' Citizen M. Launched in Amsterdam, the Citizen M footprint has extended to Glasgow, Edinburgh, and is already in Bankside London with more to come.
The management team has already turned the hotel build rule book upside down, and is taking a disruptive approach to the future of hotel marketing, truly embracing its 'Citizen M community' guest following ( 17,732 twitter followers for example, as of 20/09/13). Rather than simply focusing on room bookings, the company encourages guests to 'meet', engage and experience more pre / during and post stay. They are happy to use a select list of OTAs to drive incremental occupancy with fresh guests, and then place lots of emphasis on generating repeat direct booking based on 'slicing and dicing' the guest profile data collected as a result. Delegates agreed this was an effective strategy but some had experienced an increase in OTAs attempting to retain as much data about their hotel bookers than previously.
Mike Berry from Tripcraft was next to host our round table. His products are all mobile applications developed in conjunction with Amadeus' approach to revenue management. Designed to offer a 'one stop shop', Tripcraft aims to drive additional revenue based on pre / during and post guest stays. Berry was asked whether he had examples of hotels using mobile data segmentation to identify the most and least profitable guest, and hence any differences in their receptiveness to hotel mobile marketing tactics. It's clearly early days, and he used Sam Nazarian's SBE Group as an example of a brand which finds its top five per cent of profitable guests really receptive to mobile marketing efforts, particularly with a focus on 'getting personal' and knowledgeable about their guests and engaging a loyal following within social media channels (SBE had 85,794 twitter followers as of 20/09/13).
Matt Willacy, corporate sales manager at Guestline, emphasised the need for dedicated focus on how mobile booking and marketing can influence revenues with some amazing statistics based around current and future user growth. "The importance of offering real-time mobile Internet booking (which isn't as widespread as you'd probably expect on independent hotel websites) can't be emphasized enough. The conversion to booking percentage is quicker and much higher from a mobile device than PC for example," said Willacy.
In closing, revenue managers felt the challenges to mobile revenue growth were the integration of numerous cloud technology innovations with the ageing operating systems currently being used; the temptation to continually bolt-on software; staff buy-in and training requirements; and concerns with how behind the times the hospitality sector is in comparison to travel and retail industries, for example.