- The power of personalisation: Hotels' roadmap to 2020
But balance with Thailand’s traditional human touch.
As the International Hotel Investment Forum in Berlin (IHIF) takes place this week, Grant Thornton’s latest report indicates an urgent need for hotels to leverage cutting-edge technology, in order to personalise the customer experience, but always in balance with the traditional human touch.
With separate research showing that plans to boost R&D spend are low across the global tourism industry, and as Airbnb’s success shows no signs of abating, Grant Thornton warns that firms who fail to act on personalisation enabled through digital risk being cut adrift and growth could suffer as a result.
The new report from Grant Thornton, The power of personal: Hotels' roadmap to 2020, highlights a number of key pressures facing hotels today including the growth of sharing economy providers, the increasing influence of online travel agents in the booking process, and the rapidly evolving needs and expectations of guests. It argues that mastering Big Data and harnessing its potential in order to provide the personalisation that guests will expect and demand is fundamental to addressing these challenges. Despite this, separate research from Grant Thornton’s International Business Report finds that just one in ten (10%) tourism companies globally plan to increase R&D spend in 2016.
Tom Sorensen, Partner and hospitality and tourism leader of Grant Thornton in Thailand, comments, “Technology is a major driver in our hotel industry today. In particular, the Internet of Things and Big Data helps us to accurately understand and predict guests’s behavior. Too many hoteliers are yet to fully embrace Big Data. Without analytics technology and sufficiently trained staff to make sense of the noise, they can’t plot how to enrich guest experiences from pre-arrival to post-departure. At the same time, the new tools that allow for more targeted services risk diverting attention from the very skill on which the hotel industry was built – human interaction.”
“With disruptors threatening the very fabric of the sector, these are crucial months and years ahead for hotel brands. Greater investment in technology and in training staff must be a priority if they are to keep pace.”
Grant Thornton’s report provides examples of hotel brands already making innovative use of data to personalise the experiences their guests receive. They include Starwood Hotels, where guests can bypass check-in and unlock their rooms with their smartphones; and the Bratislava Sheraton’s use of guests’ social media ‘likes’ to present tailored gifts upon check-in.
The report offers seven areas where hotels can deploy technological and human innovations to improve the customer experience. They include understanding that the guest journey begins long before they arrive in reception, and using ad-content algorithms to show customised offers to customers based on searches. At the hotel, technology can be developed to let customers check in, control their room temperature and even customise the room layout. And once guests leave, recording individual preferences can ensure a smoother and more enjoyable repeat experience.
Tom added, “Technology is reshaping the world we live in and the hotel industry is not – and should not – be immune to that. But hotel brands must ensure that if they invest in better data management technology, they can measure its impact on guest satisfaction. Or, that they are getting the balance right between data harvesting and respecting customer privacy. To do this, hiring new staff or retaining existing employees with the right skills will be critical.”
“The most innovative hotels are already responding to these challenges. Those brands that are slowest to react to the demand for greater innovation will increasingly find themselves cut adrift.”