Global hotel groups need to use data to increase brand loyalty and continue to innovate the guest experience to limit the role of OTAs and fend off competition from the sharing economy.
So says Eric De Neef, executive vice president, global chief branding and commercial officer of Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, who believes hotel groups are waking up to the new challenges of the online marketplace and customer needs within it.
Data, he told Travolution, can help hoteliers provide a highly-tailored experience, if used correctly.
For the big brands, creating loyalty is key to driving direct sales, De Neef said. Carlson Rezidor’s portfolio includes Radisson, Park Inn and Park Plaza.
He said: “A lot of data that exists today is never used because it’s not relevant. The issue with big data is that we need to transform the data dump. Data is the name of the game but we need to structure it.”
De Neef said there were “two stories to data” – front end customer data and performance-led back-end data. “We are working on an integrated system from point of sale through to reservation systems,” he said. “You can then have an integrated approach.”
Looking at this data might show companies when potential customers are looking at travel sites, but De Neef explained that it needs to be integrated with which hotels customers prefer and which destinations they like.
“Once we know how you book, where you book and when you are with us, then we can engage with you,” he said.
“To be sure that the engagement you have with us as a customer or a guest is relevant to your needs, I need to understand what you are looking for.”
De Neef added: “There will always be OTAs in the landscape, and there will be the potential for some consolidation. We need to learn from them and use them for what they need to be and realise that we need them in some markets.
“But the experience we can deliver at the property level will help hotels become the brand of choice and encourage customers to book directly.”
Innovations in hotels like check out apps at hotels have been popular in driving direct hotel bookings, De Neef said, and he added that hotels can look to airlines and how they have implemented pre-payment mechanisms as a means of generating cash flow and giving customers that option.
He also said hoteliers can learn from Airbnb on localism but believes the sharing economy will always be behind the hotel industry in terms of safety and security.
Hotels can also drive direct bookings through adding value on websites, he said.