Simon I'Anson: We are at a crossroads in the evolution of the industry; competition is intensifying and increasingly coming from nontraditional sources - for example, the growth of Airbnb. Distribution remains a contentious issue for many as the online travel market continues to grow; many hoteliers are struggling with the concept of offloading control of the booking process. Investment cycles are shortening, and the return on those investments is subject to rising risk and volatility. Even so, the demands guests place on hoteliers are only increasing.
I don't think any hotelier can afford to be a 'data bystander' in this environment. It is already complex enough for owners, operators, managers and other vested stakeholders to focus their decisionmaking - doing so without a good grasp of multiple, relevant data sources is risky. At Hoist Group we firmly believe that a data-centric approach to doing business will drive increased efficiency, loyalty and profitability for hoteliers. Adoption of a data strategy, regardless of a hotel's size or business model, has probably become the most important building block for securing long-term growth and improving the bottom line.
Broadly speaking, in the hotel world there are three types of source data. First, structured data, which springs from other types of data and is held in the CRM, CRS, PMS, rate management tools and so forth. Semi-structured data is derived from infrastructure on property, the PBX, BMS and IoT beacons. Finally, there's unstructured data, which encompasses things such as customer web reviews, social media commentary, email and documents.
The challenge raised in that model is a lack of overall cohesion. While structured data is normally easy to analyse, many hotel legacy systems operate in silos and are not really designed to interact with each other over above the level of a basic interface. As a result, much of the information is passive, report-based and derived from multiple dashboards, so the workload is manual and heavy.
Semi-structured data is much harder to analyse. The number of data sources starts to increase exponentially and - with limited staff on property - efforts to make sense of this information can be overwhelming. Then, unstructured data - such as social media reviews - is all too frequently addressed in a non-systematic, ad hoc way.
We, as an industry, have to work more closely in adopting a new philosophy where the application is superseded by the data it creates as the permanent asset. Once that data is cohesive and well-structured, it opens a raft of opportunities. First, a more efficient understanding of data analytics allows hoteliers to upsell more effectively as they better understand guest preferences. This leads to more customised guest services, higher satisfaction and increased loyalty.
It is those little touches that make a huge difference to my overall satisfaction with the hotel I'm staying in, so for the hotelier it starts with knowing your guest; what their preferences are, what they consumed and what they said about you after they checked out. If most of your data resides with a disparate group of third parties, making sense of data flows is difficult, as is retaining proximity to the guest.
Better understanding data usage helps, in turn, to make investment decisions more efficient. With the right data at their fingertips, hoteliers will know precisely what guests want and when they want it, thereby reducing, for example, costs on staff and food produce. Advanced analytics also enables hoteliers to price smarter and balance distribution to better serve their financial aims.
In short, it is a consultative and collaborative process. It also has to make sense to the hotelier, as budgets are never infinite. By aggregating data from the right systems into a range of profiles encompassing consumption patterns, preferences, usage behaviour and revenue profile, among other metrics, hotels can create a richer understanding of their guests.
This can be achieved through Hoist dashboard, our dynamic and easy-to-use system that creates a single and proactive data repository, allowing hoteliers to monitor and measure service performance and metrics in real time.
Once this data-centric view is in place, learning how to engage your guests in meaningful and value-creating ways will become much easier. After all, the key to good service is knowing what your customers want before they ask for it.