Key Takeaways from HSMA E-Day
After a tumultuous year and a half, it was amazing to be able to once again gather with hospitality colleagues from all over the region at HSMA’s e- & MICE Day. Of course, the COVID-19 crisis shaped many of the topics and discussions at the event. The impact the pandemic has had on the hospitality industry was difficult to overstate.
Given the major changes we’ve experienced in the industry over the last year, there were a number of popular topics of discussion at the event including the always-relevant topic of sustainability, how to adjust contracts to cover pandemic-related externalities, and data – how to manage and work with data in different scenarios. Naturally, the topic of Hotels vs. OTAs was brought up, except in this event the focus was on blockchain and the possibility that this new technology might fill information gaps, replace other tech solutions, and potentially reduce dependency on OTAs.
Finally, at another popular talk, the big question of the PMS status quo was raised. Many hoteliers, the talk posited, will centralize PMSs yet expect them to deliver decentralized services like CRM or CMS. Yet they’re not willing to change their system if it doesn’t work. The main takeaway from this was – to be truly flexible, even disruptive, hoteliers must question what tech can actually do for them, which is where the “cloud” comes in. “Cloud” can mean many things in different contexts, which is why we must look at it beyond the buzzword and marketing speak, and better understand what our tech can really do for us and how a cloud-based PMS can help hotels with their specific needs.
It was interesting to observe how the pandemic impacted various hospitality businesses differently. While business travel suffered, some leisure travel did not. The hoteliers who were already hands-on and proactive with their business operations seemed to succeed during the pandemic whereas the businesses that were hesitant to act during the pandemic seemed to suffer more.
Tech disruption has never been evenly distributed, and this became even more defined during the pandemic. Pre-pandemic, hospitality was not a first-mover industry. Instead, we simply used what the airline and other industries developed first. However, during the last 1.5 years, some companies have managed to use the down time to make impressive leaps forward. Now, there are a number of exciting digital solutions that have taken the opportunity to really innovate, not just for hospitality tech, but for tech in general.
The Transparent Guest (aka Single Guest Profile)
My talk at e- & MICE Day centered around the concept of the “Transparent Guest,” which is until now, the elusive idea that we can have a single guest profile across all relevant data touchpoints. Essentially, the “Transparent Guest” is another way of looking at what the tech world calls the “Single Guest Profile.” From a systems point of view, it is a single guest profile, but from a hotelier’s point of view, it is about knowing the guest at every part of their journey within the hotel. While this concept was difficult to achieve just two years ago, today, we believe it’s possible. Here’s a real-world example I used in the talk to illustrate this evolution:
Vila Vita Hotels, a European hotel group with properties across Portugal, Germany, and Austria, is a prospect we’ve been in touch with for the last two years and are now currently working together on a number of IT projects for their properties. When we first began our talks, we discussed how to approach their IT strategy, given the complexity of their business operations – they have hotels, vineyards, event spaces, dining from fine dining to mom-and-pop shops, and more. Two years ago, it was difficult to design a holistic approach that would cover that level of complexity. However, we’ve come a long way since then and are today able to clearly picture how a hotel group like Vila Vita can map their development or decision-making steps to get a complete, transparent guest profile – one that is interactive and connected to all relevant data points, whether it be the spa, vineyard, or a conference where the guest is just visiting for the day.
How to Organize Your Data for The Transparent Guest
If a hotel really wants to get more out of their data, the first thing they need to understand is what their target or goal is. There are many types of data that can lead to better services, higher prices, better occupancy, cross selling, or finding out why guests book your hotel or where they’re traveling from. Some hotels may only need a little data to reach their target while others, like Vila Vita, have a complex operational ecosystem that requires exchanging different types of data across several parts of the business.
Once there is a clear goal in mind, hoteliers then you need to define the stakeholders. There are many stakeholders, including employees who must be properly trained and management who must be aligned with their employees. If you forget one stakeholder, the process can easily fail. Hoteliers also must consider bringing in external parties in the case that they do not have the necessary expertise available in-house
Then, comes the system evaluation: What kind of budget do you have? What vendors are you already using? Are they future-oriented? Do they have open APIs? Consider the functionality of your systems. For example, your PMS may have the right features, but does it have the right kind of data for your Marketing team? Also consider your company size. Can you handle the risk of a new startup vendor you work with going out of business? These are only a few questions that hoteliers must ask when evaluating their technology stack.
Last, but not least, overall data security must be part of that process. Most hotels do not have sufficient data security in-house, where in this case, it’s best to let a specialized lawyer look at this in order to consider all pitfalls and set the business up for success.
This is just a quick peek into the “Transparent Guest” concept. We’ll be sharing more detailed content and actionable tips on how to improve your hotel’s data operations and guest profiles in the future. Make sure you don’t miss out and sign up for our newsletter today.