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The New Era of Hotel Experience Marketing: Moving Beyond Search
and Booking Engines to Building “Experience Engines”
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January 2009 - Following on from the earlier articles, Back to the Future: Meet the hotel guest of 2020 (September 2008) and 5 Future Developments that will revolutionize Online Hotel Marketing (October 2008), here are some thoughts on the role of Choice in successful Hotel Marketing of the future. I presented these ideas at the recent Revenue Management and Pricing Middle East Conference in Abu Dhabi.

As we mature into the Web 2.0 world and slowly inch our way to a more Semantic web, technology has made collaboration, connectivity and finding what you want easier than ever possible before. Combine available technology with the challenges posed by the recession and the timing for a Revolution of “Choice” is absolutely perfect!

Today, hotel guests have the option of various online tools that aid transparency, search and booking. However the research and booking process can still be pretty clunky and fragmented. I believe we need to move beyond the era of Search and Booking Engines to building superior “Experience Engines”.

The idea behind an experience engine is remarkably simple. Break down the units that constitute a guest experience like hotel rooms, spa treatments, restaurant meals, sport reservations, sightseeing, etc and make them bookable so guests can CHOOSE exactly what they want and BUILD an experience.
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The advantages of Experience Marketing are many-fold:
  • A leap in guest targeting – pull vs push: Going beyond the current sledgehammer approach of intrusive marketing to attracting guests. With experience engines and choice marketing, you’re offering something that guests WANT – a much easier way of ‘pulling’ customers to you.
  • Personalization to the max: This goes beyond building standard brand packages and what YOU think guests want. This is the long-tail created by guests themselves…after all, who knows guests better than guests themselves? Letting guests build their own experiences is the ultimate way of personalizing and pampering.
  • Internal and external dynamic packaging: When you break down your experience units, you can use them both internally on your own systems as well as deploy them for sale on 3rd party systems, thereby increasing your reach, flexibility and ability to squeeze as much return as possible out of your yieldable products & services.
  • Ability for suppliers to discover which services and amenities work and which don’t: Again, the simple act of breaking down your experience units gives you an idea of what works. Those units that consistently perform well represent great opportunities for yielding and enhancement, while those that don’t get booked very much need a relook. Scrapping add-ons and services that don’t get booked is also a great way of trimming the ‘fat’ and making your business leaner, meaner and more profitable. 
  • Total Revenue Management becomes a snap: Most savvy Revenue Managers now agree that just deploying yield management on rooms is too narrow a focus. Total Revenue Management basically considers the big picture and looks at guest potential based on overall spend history and likelihood…just the way it should be. Creating experience units, then, greatly simplifies the ability of Revenue Managers to deploy a Total Revenue Management strategy.
  • The evolution of OTA’s focused on providing superior experience engines: There’s no reason why existing Online Travel Agencies and 3rd Party Suppliers can’t adopt the choice model too. In fact, given their tech expertise and considerable reserves of marketing $$$, they’d probably be the first to leap forward and build GREAT Experience Engines, featuring a variety of options greater than ever possible through individual suppliers. Who knows…the Expedia of today may be the “Experia” of tomorrow! 
  • A new era of online destination marketing: Choice marketing and experience engines can bring us into a whole new era of destination marketing too. Destination sites that offer the greatest variety of bookable experiences combined with destination information and rich, immersive content will do superbly! Imagine going to just ONE site when visiting a destination for the first time to learn about it’s history and holiday options on video, take a virtual tour, build your experience and holiday schedule, book everything and even talk to a service rep in real-time if you have to. Any takers?  
So there we go… the great thing about the Internet is that it’s changed human lives irreversibly in just a short span of time (It’s been barely 6,000 days since the technology was born…and the Web we know today began to spread in earnest just 3,000 days ago). The reason we love it so much is because it breaks down physical boundaries and allows us to BE, to EXPLORE, to LEARN, to COMMUNICATE….and to CHOOSE.

The time for Choice to be crowned the new ‘King’ is nigh.



What are YOUR thoughts on the article above? Have you taken steps in your business to prepare for the upcoming revolution of “Choice”? How soon do you think we’ll see a full fledged “Experience Engine”? Are you taking steps in your business to build such model/s? Visit www.HoteleMarketer to read, share your opinions and collaborate on these issues. 

Disclamer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views, developments or outlook of Starwood Hotels & Resorts.
 

About the author: At work, Jitendra Jain (JJ) is employed with Starwood Hotels & Resorts in Dubai as an E-Commerce Manager and handles hotel online marketing & distribution. At play, he is the founder of various online initiatives like www.hotelemarketer.com, www.thetalentjungle.com and www.younghotelier.com (among others) that dream, connect, educate and share all that is glorious about hospitality, technology and most importantly…the people that define our times
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Contact:

Jitendra Jain
jj@thetalentjungle.com 

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Also See: Meet the Hotel Guest of 2020 / Jitendra Jain / September 2008
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