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Hotel tech at HITEC: Brands’ 2016 focus

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This month, our VP of Business Development Josiah Mackenzie attended the NYU Hospitality Investment Conference where the focus was on knowing your guests inside out. This week, Josiah is attending HITEC in New Orleans with our CEO RJ Friedlander so here’s a quick rundown of the key takeaways from NYU Hospitality Investment Conference as HITEC gets into full swing!

Last year’s NYU Hospitality Investment Conference was all about the shift in hotel brands moving from being real estate companies to technology and data companies. That theme continued this year with executives such as Lance Miceli, CMO at G6 Hospitality observing his guests “living and breathing through their phones,” creating unprecedented feedback touchpoints and opportunities for service.

This week the world’s largest hotel technology show, HITEC, will take place in New Orleans. Here’s some thoughts from hotel brand leaders at NYU to keep in mind as we head into this week:

Knowing your guest is more important than ever

“Investors will not spend on technology guests will not use,” observed Rajiv Trivedi, EVP at La Quinta. If you’re spending, you better be clear on what your guests want – not just what’s trendy. Brands that provide owners and investors the highest ROI will grow fastest.
At RLHC’s Guest House brand in the economy space, a clean room is the #1 priority for guests, so it’s the #1 thing they track on both the hotel and brand level versus their competition.

Preferences change at RLHC’s other brands, where (for example) fitness-focused guests are asking for more protein at breakfast and staff that can point out the nearest SoulCycle or Barry’s Bootcamp. This focus on identifying guest priorities and then delivering them has caused them to grow so quickly over the last few years.

Make sure you can answer “What do our guests want from us?”

Your database = your brand value

The importance of a world-class customer database has never been higher. Christophe Alaux, CEO of AccorHotels, went so far as to say that for hotel brands today, “Brand value is the earnings potential of its database.” Hotel-specific guest CRM systems from companies such as CendynONE, Serenata and Guestfolio help their clients organize and use guest knowledge – and have made big improvements over the last year. Keep an eye on them.

Loyalty: An engine of long-term profitability

Hotel brand executives across the board agreed on the importance of loyalty. “Nothing is more powerful to our long-term profitability and brand value than loyalty,” shared Geoff Ballotti, CEO of Wyndham. For Kevin Jacobs, CFO at Hilton, loyalty is “the most important growth tool in our toolbox.”

However, “Loyalty isn’t just about points – it’s about recognition and access, engagement and meaningful interactions,” said IHG’s CEO, Richard Solomons. From what he’s observed, technology makes travelers more educated, more picky, and more discerning than ever. But it hasn’t changed what inspires true loyalty – the sort of loyalty where travelers not only prefer to stay at your hotels, but will go out of their way to do so.Loyalty is earned by “Delivering on our brand promise – over and over again in creative ways,” noted Solomons.

Empowering staff to serve

Today we have better guest insight and CRM systems than ever before, but making measurable improvements in guest satisfaction requires putting this insight in front of your operational staff – both at the corporate level and those interacting directly with guests.

“Operating capabilities need to support the expectations of the brand,” observed G6’s Miceli. Those expectations are set by your guests – and differ from brand to brand as noted above. This makes it the brand’s responsibility to listen closely to their customers, and help their teams understand who they are serving.

The success of any new technology initiative should be measured by your guests’ reaction. Revenue comes from loyalty, and loyalty comes from happier guests.

Are your guests happier and more loyal than they were a year ago?

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