HITEC: Trends to help both travellers and bottom lines

It’s time for a dutiful reminder of all of the ways in which the latest trends and innovations will continue to change how we help travellers

Kyle Zwaagstra and Joerg Wagner of Axxess Industries.

Kyle Zwaagstra and Joerg Wagner of Axxess Industries.

By Larry Mogelonsky, MBA, P. Eng. 

HITEC 2015 – the premier North American hotel technology show – has come and gone. Much has already been said about the exhibitors and their products in the immediate aftermath of this June-set convention. Now that it’s September and summer is in the rearview mirror, it’s time for a dutiful reminder of all of the ways in which the latest trends and innovations will continue to change how we help travellers and earn a buck in the process.

Exhibitors, attendees, media, small booths, large booths, two-story booths, tablet kiosks, LCD monitors, live demonstrations, handouts, swag bags and an endless flow of fresh coffee – all these and more coalescing to represent what the next five years will look like for our industry. Emerging onto the showroom floor as the opening bell rings, a vigorous positivity is immediately palpable. Every vendor is hungry for sales, funding, new product insights or business growth, but they bring with them the conviction that their wares will help hospitality operators succeed in our current, ever-disruptive market. 

Let’s look at the big trends, both present and upcoming, as well as a handful of the more fascinating vendors to give you a better picture of how your hotel might benefit from what debuted at HITEC 2015.

Predictive just-in-time marketing

The rise of Big Data has given birth to an endless stream of trillions of numbers ready for analysis. Data scientists, a relatively new job title geared expressly to this end, work to use past behaviour to forecast how consumers will act in the future. However, it has only been a recent development whereby predictive analyses have merged with just-in-time capabilities in order to deliver personalized advertisements to consumers at the exact moment when they are most susceptible to absorb the message and predisposed to make a purchase. 

Kaptivating is a company that wholly embodies the best of how this approach can help you increase revenue. Using proprietary algorithms that evaluate individuals based on their social media footprints, hoteliers can then send targeted promotions to prospective customers who have announced their plans to travel to a given region. A hotel can preselect offers’ parameters so they can be automatically distributed at the most favourable time after a guest states his or her intentions, which is often within minutes of this declaration. Better still, because these promotions are exclusive to each person, they don’t have to conform to rate parity agreements with the OTAs.

Holistic revenue management

First there was RevPAR, then came RevPOR and now we are moving towards RevPAG. While Revenue Per Available Room looks to give you a broad benchmark for determining a property’s gross potential, Revenue Per Occupied Room goes one step further and brings an estimation of per cent habitation into the mix. Revenue Per Available Guest not only includes this occupancy figure but incorporates assessments of other ancillary income streams. 

When revenue management first took root within the corporate structure, it looked to efficiently supervise the ever-diversifying channel mix and control average daily rates to maximize margins with the highest attainable occupancy numbers. Nowadays, however, senior executives have the tools necessary to answer far more complex questions about what channels are actually the most effective and which guest mix will yield the best gross revenue. 

For example, an interview with members of the Rainmaker team brought to light an interesting situation whereby free independent travellers would be favourable over groups during a consecutively peak travel period. Normally groups reign supreme as there are fewer management overheads and service requirements. But, in a few special cases, FITs’ command of higher ADRs and more onsite capture make dealing with, say, 30 separate check-ins favourable over one or two group arrivals.

Another meeting with the people from Infor Hospitality elucidates the role that a contemporary PMS plays in this picture. A modern PMS helps hotels automate complex data sources, forecast all revenue types by market segment and predict future ecosystem interactions so that executives can make the optimal decisions. This helps mitigate the emergent problem of too much Big Data whereby managers find themselves drowning in numerical minutia to the point where they miss the forest for the trees. 

The Infor team backed this up by revealing how sophisticated data automation can now anticipate customers exploiting the cancel-rebook loophole in search of lower price tags. Additionally, the company showcased its dynamic payroll management feature which can highlight fruitful streams that are in fact underperforming when staff costs are deducted. While revenue management has already reached maturation, these new features are demonstrating that there’s still a bit of juice left to squeeze.

A frictionless environment

Mobile has already forever changed the ways consumers behave and interact with their environments, and this evolution will only continue in the near future as new applications are explored. 

No hotel should be without its own mobile app. That is the space where guests are increasingly looking for answers to their questions instead of approaching the concierge or calling down to the front desk. Three years ago, a vanity mobile app might have been perceived as a value-add for incoming guests, but today such programs are expected. Such apps are no longer dedicated onsite companions, but are designed for travel research prior to arrival as well as for continuing the relationship long after departure.

Three prominent mobile app companies I interviewed included Monscierge, Alice and m-hospitality. Monscierge is a clear frontrunner when it comes to highly integrated, information-first branded apps where the goal is to give guests all the pertinent details with the lowest number of buttons clicked. A simple, breezy design like theirs can work wonders for hotels that are part of a larger chain or those seeking straightforward, content-centric software builds. The latter two emphasize more of a graphical interface (downloaded in its entirety to the phone to reduce load times) with creative skins that are unique to each hotel and aim to bestow more emotion to the user experience. 

With the power of Big Data and unremitting analyses of clicking behavior on a mobile device, these developers can pinpoint guests’