What's new for hoteliers at Expedia Partner Conference

John Kim, Expedia's chief product officer and Greg Schultze, senior vice-president of Global Tour and Transport for Expedia, Inc.

John Kim, Expedia's chief product officer and Greg Schultze, senior vice-president of Global Tour and Transport for Expedia, Inc.

LAS VEGAS — Expedia says they are listening to hotel partner feedback and have made several innovations this year that will help attract guests, boost ADR and improve hotel/guest communication.

The innovations were announced at the 16th annual Expedia Partner Conference held this week at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas and attracting 3,023 attendees from more than 60 countries.

Aman Bhutani, president of Brand Expedia Group, talked about changes to the Expedia.com home page, to better allow people to look at flight, hotel and car rental options without having to follow a certain path for each option. “That's not how shopping is done,” he said, giving the example of how his family bought a wide range of Halloween costumes on Amazon by dropping items into a shopping cart and later deciding what to keep. 

That approach can't easily be transferred to travel because prices change and the inventory is super-perishable, Bhutani said, adding that they are working to leverage the power of real time systems and inventory. 

Expedia also announced an investment in ALICE, info.aliceapp.com, a software-as-a-service provider that enhances the hotel guest experience, and also gives hotels a workflow management tool to improve operations.

ALICE’s cloud-based workflow management platform allows hoteliers to deal with guest problems and requests in real time, keeps track of the progress of these requests and provides reports so that they can understand and optimize their operations.

“It addresses the little things, like the lightbulb that's burned out and gets into a review,” said Arthur Chapin, vice-president Global Product at Expedia. “With 30 million user reviews, a lot of these little negatives get through.”

ALICE also has a guest app that makes the experience of requesting services much easier. From the moment guests book to the moment they check out, they can use their mobile devices to manage their in-hotel experience including ordering spa treatments, room service, late check-outs, housekeeping, and concierge services.

Expedia is constantly testing and innovating, and they are looking for hotels of every segment and size to provide regular feedback via their Hotel Partner Panel. The hotels may be asked to evaluate a tool, and possibly pilot a project. When Expedia started the panel last year, Benoit Jolin, vice-president Global Product was worried they would get only six responses. Instead, there are now more than 5,800 hotels participating. The panel helped make more than 540 enhancements to Expedia PartnerCentral (EPC), Expedia's hotel interface, last year alone.

New innovations include::

1. An EPC mobile app that gives hoteliers the power of EPC 24/7, so that they can manage properties on the website from their phone.

2. The EPC activity feed that uses thumb identification rather than a user name and password. It can let the hotelier see how many bookings they lost, which hotels got the booking, and put those hotels on a market watch. It can also help hoteliers take action to improve their standing on the sort rate. The EPC Accelerator can increase visibility and raise the position in the sort.

3. Last year, EPC introduced Real Time Reviews. This has been refined over the past year to include specific items that guests can identify and hotels can act on — rather than general topics like “room”, a specific item might be “room temperature.” Hoteliers can send private replies to the guest only and make sure the problem is fixed. They can receive notifications via email or push notifications in their mobile app.

4. EPC Value Add Promotions make it easy for hotels to offer promotions that will make their listings stand out on factors other than price. For example, the Bellagio hotel could offer a $50 discount on food and beverage, simply by clicking on a few buttons and a calendar. The promotion is showcased on a green bar that appears throughout the booking process.

5. Last year, EPC introduced the Expedia Content Score to show how complete a hotel's listing is on Expedia. For example, 10 per cent of Expedia hotels have a pool but fail to mention it, and 40 per cent offer Internet at a surcharge but neglect to include the cost. Details like this can make a big difference in numbers of bookings.