Looking back and ahead – hotel merchandising evolves

As we reach 2016, Tnooz is unveiling its customary series of reflections on the year behind us and what the travel, tourism, and hospitality industry might expect looking ahead.

And, as always, we’ve asked friends and family of Tnooz to help us out.

Here is the final part of our 13-section bonanza – shifts in hotel digital marketing

Valyn Perini is the vice president of strategic relationships for Nor1, a travel merchandising services provider

From the beginning of time, the hotel guest, once on-property, was ‘owned’ by the hotel.

The hotel controlled or influenced almost every aspect of the guest stay, from the front-desk staff assigning a room to the concierge making dinner or show reservations to the bellman booking a car service.

Technology has changed all that. Now guests can pick their room ahead of time, can research and book their own tours and activities while in-house, and can order up an Uber, all from their mobile device.

And because almost every single traveler staying in a hotel these days carries some type of mobile device, that guest behavior isn’t going to change.

The convenience of a computer in the hand definitely trumps picking up the phone to call the concierge or bell stand, and it gives control of the guest’s experience back to the guest.

Hotels were slow to see this coming, and were on their way to become disintermediated from their guests when guests were actually on the premises, the place where the hotel could and should have the most influence over guest behavior.

But hotel companies are working hard to become a trusted provider of some parts guest experience, and for many good reasons, including:

  • Better utilization of facilities
    By attractively merchandising its own facilities in that convenient and familiar mobile form to the guest just before arrival or while the guest is on-property, the hotel can drive the guest to under-utilized facilities (slow demand times in the spa, the bar, the restaurant or room service)
  • Channel shift
    By communicating with the guest while they are on-property, the hotel has the opportunity to establish a relationship with that guest and potentially influence future booking behavior by providing incentives to book direct instead of via a third-party distribution channel
  • Share of wallet
    When the guest stopped using hotel staff to book third-party activities, hotels generally gave up commission revenue shared by their activity partners. I don’t know too many hotels who wouldn’t like that revenue back.
  • Driving loyalty
    Merchandising those services on the mobile device is a way for hotels to again own the experience, and convince the guest their property or brand is worth a return visit.

Global hotel brands, like Starwood, Accor, and IHG have all made announcements about their current mobile capabilities and future plans.

There are also lots of third-party players in this space, either providing products and services to the hotel brands to facilitate merchandising, or competing with those brands for guest attention and loyalty.

The evolution of hotel merchandising and guest-centric services is heating up, and 2016 should be a fascinating year in this space.

Check out our other 2015 year-end expert views on key travel tech sectors including on hotel IT consolidation, online travel agency power, and how hotel marketing is changing.

NB: Image of a high-tech guest-room phone at The Peninsula in Hong Kong.

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Valyn Perini

About the Writer :: Valyn Perini

Valyn Perini is a contributor to tnooz and the Vice President of Strategic Relationships for Nor1.

She was most recently the CEO of the OpenTravel Alliance, where she oversaw the operations of the organization, including developing and executing strategies to reach the goal of standardized electronic distribution of travel and traveler information.

Her travel career includes stints with InterContinental, Westin and Swissôtel, with PricewaterhouseCoopers as a travel technology consultant, and as the director of product strategy for Newmarket International.

Valyn speaks on industry topics at events around the world, and writes about travel when she can find the time.
Originally from Atlanta, Valyn now lives in Boston.

 

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