By Bhupender Singh
Bhupender Singh, CEO of Intelenet® Global Services, says the hotel sector needs to utilise innovative technologies in order to keep its head above water
A decade ago, using a travel agent to book your hotel and entire vacation was not considered an antiquated process, reserved only for your grandparents. Fast forward to 2018 and the travel industry has undergone a seismic shift. There’s an app for virtually every traveller’s need, whether you want a luxury apartment – right now, this second – or a quaint cottage (complete with hot tub) in the back-of-beyond.
Tech giants are rapidly expanding their footprint in the travel ecosystem, with big players like Google and major online marketplaces such as Airbnb making it increasingly difficult and expensive for hotels to reach customers.
Digital technology is rapidly enabling new business models and ways of working, placing pressure on the hotel sector to examine their businesses end-to-end and reinvent themselves in order to remain competitive. With the battle for the customer being higher than ever, hotels need to focus their energies on customer satisfaction in order to avoid the risk of brand damage.
But despite the rise in digital competitors, it is clear that demand still remains for traditional hotels. The US hotel industry’s revenue expected to reach 553.8 billion dollars by the end of 2018 – according to a report by Statista. However, if this customer demographic is not given good reason to preference the services of traditional hotels, they will undoubtedly look elsewhere.
In a brand agnostic age, attention to customer care is more important than ever in order to ensure customer longevity. As the lines between technology and travel increasingly blur, hotels need to prioritise providing efficient and hassle-free booking options to stay ahead of agile start-ups and tech giants. Innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and automation can be utilised in order to achieve this, in their ability to drive accuracy and productivity for front-line staff.
Throughout the year, one of the biggest challenges for hotels and hospitality companies is manually inputting rates, booking and property information, including promotional rates and updating daily changes to availability – while adhering to each contract’s policies. This practice can be incredibly monotonous and time consuming, and runs the risk of resulting in human error, which can lead to huge retail losses.
For instance, if a $600 hotel rate is mistakenly entered as $60, most travel service providers would typically feel obliged to honor the advertised rate, which in turn, could severely impact profits. Disclosing the error to the customer could result in discontent, and at worst, impact brand reputation.
However, next-generation automation solutions can significantly reduce this risk by reading data off any source, using AI to process business rules, capture relevant information, accurately upload it, perform company and property-specific calculations and output the resulting data into client reservation systems. Deployment of such solutions can positively impact cost and time-to-market, driving an on-average 30 percent improvement in productivity, while reducing the risk of manual errors by up to 90 per cent.
In an ‘always-connected’ world, customers expect fast and accurate results, smooth transactions and a service that always delivers. Through automation, hotels can ensure that they provide the highest level of service, using the most reliable and cost-competitive data available. During busy travel periods – but also throughout the year – attention to customer care is more important than ever in order to ensure customer longevity and remain relevant in the ever-shifting travel space.