Technology offers travelers more choice when booking their trips and, while this presents a challenge to hotel brands, they should be tapping the opportunities it brings.
Sabre Corporation has released a new travel trend report that outlines a clear path for hoteliers to successfully retail to modern travelers. Sabre’s report, The Future of Hotel Booking – A Guide to Hotel Retailing, explores recent technological innovations within retail, technology, media and travel industries and offers practical, actionable recommendations to help hotels apply these practices to a successful retailing strategy.

The report identifies 10 distinct trends powered by technology within three key focus areas – World as Media, Intimate Intelligence and Instant Service – and examines the applications to the hospitality industry.

The explosion of consumer-facing technology services has multiplied the paths to purchase and inundated consumers with a flood of information from price comparisons and reviews to promotions and deals.

While this rapidly expanding travel marketplace is an advantage to travelers, it presents a challenge for hotel brands looking to connect with their guests in a meaningful way, particularly when it comes to booking a stay.

As a result, hotels must develop retailing strategies across channels including online, social media, mobile apps and aggregation websites to meet connected travelers’ growing demand for interactive, personal and immediate service and offerings.

“Technology presents the single largest untapped opportunity in the hospitality industry today,” says Alex Alt, president of Sabre Hospitality Solutions. “The goal of this report is to help hotel owners and operators leverage the retailing best practices of other industries into successful strategies to grow revenue and cultivate loyalty.”

The report’s key finding on hotel retailing success include:

* Convert through context – whether offering deals or perks at the right moment or providing relevant follow-ups or reminders, technology increases conversion rates by capitalising on moments when travelers are more inclined to complete a transaction.

* Reduce friction – technology that identifies pertinent booking details, uses known data to auto-fill forms or creates one-click transactions can close the gap between discovery and purchase and smooth the booking process.

* Sync the cross-channel experience – integrated technology systems can share data across channels and devices so travelers have a unified and consistent experience at every stage of the purchase path regardless of where they book.

* Help guests envision the ideal trip – virtual reality and live-streaming platforms allow hotel brands to immerse their guests in the sights, sounds and feel of a destination before booking.

* Use customer data and preferences to treat guests like old friends – every interaction that a customer has with a brand’s digital or physical property gives the hotel insights to uniquely tailor every touchpoint with that individual guest.

Sabre solicited input from some of its hotel customers in preparing the report. Hotel operators confirmed their desire to take a customer-centric approach to retailing.

Kristie Goshow, senior vice-president: commercial at Viceroy Hotels & Resorts commented on the importance of an omnichannel strategy in achieving Viceroy’s retail goals. “Our goal is to engage consumers on their path from discovery to purchase. We must sell the way our customers wish to buy and ultimately, that means we need to distribute ourselves ‘brilliantly’ across all consumer facing touchpoints.”

Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants distribution director Nadine Pagel spoke on the importance of creating a unique, personal experience for Kimpton guests. “In the decision-making process, first impressions are paramount. We believe in delivering highly personalized guest service anchored by local insights and recommendations, all before you even walk in the door – that’s what makes the Kimpton experience truly unique.”