Expedia report finds big hotels embrace technology

BELLEVUE, Wash. – A recent survey of hoteliers by Expedia found that large players were more willing to invest in technology. Smaller properties find the cost of technology is a barrier to embracing new tools.

By Peter Mitham

BELLEVUE, Wash.

Technology has given homeowners the power
to be hoteliers, allowing them to host guests in secondary suites and rental
properties. But when it comes to dedicated lodging providers, a recent study by
Expedia Group has found that smaller properties are unlikely to plan
significant investments in technology.

“Chain hotels are nearly
twice as likely as small independent properties to prioritize technology
investments when asked what they would do with their non-operating capital if
they had to pick one thing to bet it all on,” a news release summarizing the
findings said. “Alternatively, small independent properties are 1.5 times as
likely as chain hotels to prioritize room renovations when asked to select
their top priority for capital expenditures outside of keeping the lights on.”

The findings were based on a
survey of 1,215 hoteliers Expedia Group conducted this summer. It leveraged its
global hotelier panel to compare spending on technology between chain hotels
and small independent properties. Chain hotels are classified as properties
self-selected as part of a chain affiliation or group of properties with more
than 100 rooms, while small independent properties are classified as properties
with no chain affiliation and 100 rooms or less.

Abhijit Pal, head of research with
lodging partner services for Expedia Group, said the difference in investment
choices indicates, “a gap in technology
investment strategies and priorities among different hotelier segments.”

The different priorities may mean small hoteliers are
missing out on tools that could help them, according to Expedia. While
improving the quality of rooms is important, technology can automate many
routine functions and boost margins. Digital marketing, guest check-in and
payment processing, as well as customer relationship management are among the
five most common areas where hoteliers are embracing technology.

The investments aim to boost productivity, improve guest loyalty
and encourage repeat traffic. Ironically, these are very often goals targeted
by renovations and refurbishments. Beyond this, technology can also help reduce
costs by automating basic processes and freeing staff to spend more time
improving the guest experience rather than shuffling paper.

This has been the case in other sectors, including
agriculture, winery tasting rooms and restaurants. The rise of online ordering
from quick-service outlets, which have orders ready for pick-up on arrival is a
case in point; integrated sales systems are improving the handle wineries have
over their engagement with customers, while enabling them to get a better
handle on what’s selling and for how much.

The failure of smaller hoteliers to embrace technology may
also contribute to a widening technology gap.

“Technology has the power to level the playing field for
hoteliers of all sizes,” Expedia reported. “More than half of the chain hotels
prioritize technology that seamlessly integrates with their existing systems.”

A host of new apps have come out that aim to engage smaller
property owners and encourage more seamless interactions with an increasingly
digital and mobile customer base. The rise of automated check-in, payment and
other services are creating new so-called frictionless ways for hoteliers to
engage with guests. Expedia believes smaller hotels need to get on board.

“Technology providers in the lodging industry should seek to
offer low-cost and basic feature solutions that focus on a frictionless user
experience for smaller hotels,” Expedia said, noting that it has invested more
than US$1.6 billion in new technology over the past year to match travellers with
lodging.

With more than a million listings, many of them small,
independent properties, Expedia believes technology can have a value not only
for guests for the people who host them.

It says easy-to-use revenue-management, marketing, distribution,
and guest-management tools are among the applications its technology
investments have supported.