Recently I gave a series of talks, that I’d like to share here as well. It’s about getting together the hotels and in-destination activities & tours providers and how to work hand-in-hand to better serve the real user: the guest/traveler, and also both players to benefit. New technologies, new products, new interactions aiming to make each guest’s trip a unique experience.

There are “products” – I am referring here to software products – that can join the traveler during all aspects of the stay: pre-stay, during the stay and after the stay, for better services and easier access to the right point of sale. Those products thrive on highly personalised experiences.

Big data is what technology is counting on in order to offer real-time personalization. This means the industry, more exactly the software providers from the travel industry – have to move from the old, descriptive analytic model to the new era of predictive analytics and why not, one day, to real prescriptive software able to auto-pilot not only the properties but also matching the in-destination activities and tours to the user’s preferences.

So how do we define a great guest experience in a hotel?

My most beautiful experience as a hotel guest was spending 3 hours on the hotel’s terrace, in the mild sun, in between a late check-out and an even later flight, and doing absolutely nothing. A few meters away, a business man was reading his emails while evidently deeply enjoying the sun.

Maybe a few other in-hotel experiences one could add to extend this list, but to be honest: in terms of hotel experience the list is limited.

waiter-serves-red-wine
While the hotel experience is an important factor on one’s trip, it’s also limited to a finite set of experiences.

Why? Why are we going places? It is not for the accommodation but for the experiences we are going to have. We are seeking new experiences, we are living experiences and we do remember our most impressive experiences, in both live and travel.

The pre-stay, the time between making travel & accommodation arrangements until the trip begins, is the time the traveler is dreaming and preparing his next experiences.
This is where tours & activities marketplaces such as Viator, GetYourGuide or Musement are tapping into. This is where Booking.com and Expedia are aiming to win the battle for in-destination experiences. And this is where I see Google playing too.

One part of that journey, in particular, where brands can really make a difference in impacting consumer loyalty and perceptions is during the stay, when the guest is on site. Having a concierge who can offer helpful suggestions for things to do during their stays, moreover dealing with reservation or offering an easy-to-use platform to the guests is a start. “95% of Guests believe hotels will look to new tech to really personalize customer experience” (#IHTF2015, Jeremy Ward, Chief Operating Officer, iRiS Software Systems Ltd)

We, the travelers, embrace commodities. Lack of time, task segmentation, life segmentation, abundance of options & information drove us to embrace commodities. And to appreciate consistency.

We, the hoteliers, have to move away from the room-centric approach, from a focus on RevPAR to profitability metrics.

We, the software providers from the hotel industry, need to become more skilled into guest profiling and curated experiences.

One would expect that delivering experiences beyond the room to be a real pedestal for hotel tech companies nowadays. It is a new battleground where hotels have a fair chance.
And it is not only for helping hoteliers to monetize better, but to adjust the strategy based on the market & guests’ preferences and to engage the guests to interact with hoteliers’ brand: on mobile or traditional website, on social channels or at the hotel’s desk, during the booking process or before/after the stay.

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary recently said: “I have this vision that in the next five to 10 years that the air fares on Ryanair will be free, in which case the flights will be full, and we will be making our money out of sharing the airport revenues; of all the people who will be running through airports, and getting a share of the shopping and the retail revenues at airports.”

Couple on a city trip
People don’t go on trips to stay in their hotel rooms, the destination is what drives travel.

This is something that could be true for the accommodation industry as well. If the demand for great experiences is shared between hotels and in-destination operators, there is a big opportunity for shared revenue through shared experiences. The question from our point of view is: how will technology support this?

We, protel, have a massive opportunity here (like other players in the industry) and I think we could take a lead step into it. It is time to push the progress (tech & BI) into our main businesses for both B2B and B2C.

Most important is the combination with “big data”, collecting data about guests and putting in place a recommendation engine which generates dynamic packages suited for each guest or just personalized experiences. Later this will we improved by machine learning techniques which will find results from situations a human cannot directly see.

We’re going to use technology…
…to give hotels around the world the power of branding themselves.
…to give travellers around the world the power of making each experience unique.
…to give them the right information, at the right time and in the right context.

And this is just the beginning.

Manager Research and Development

Ecaterina Paun is the Head of User Experience for protel hotelsoftware, the largest independent hotel software company in Germany.

With a Master of Science in Online Marketing and an Honours Bachelor in IT applied in Economics, Ecaterina has a long experience in user experience design, SEO and SEM, as well as a strong technical background. Starting her career as a web developer helped her understanding SEO and UX from the bottom up. As a consultant at Venere (an Expedia company) she gained experience in the hotel industry which she has been able to actively utilize and expand on at protel. She truly believes that protel can make a difference in the Travel Industry.

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