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Hotels serve up business lessons with tech

Hotels have been around for centuries, but the hospitality and accommodation sector has certainly embraced the digital age by using the latest technology to improve operations.
After you’ve checked in to your hotel (once you’ve tried to score a discount or upgrade), you head up to your room, put your bags down and look around – in addition to the mini-bar, there’s a tablet on the desk where there used to be a room service compendium. The tablet is connected to the hotel’s free Wi-Fi. Welcome to the contemporary hotel experience.

And that only scratches the surface of how the latest tech is changing this industry. For the modern hotel owner or manager, creativity and innovation have become as important as check-ins and housekeeping.

There’s a lot for the wider business sector to learn.

  • Revenue management technology

Revenue management software with complicated algorithms set the rate on your room, you likely checked a review site like TripAdvisor® before you decided on it, and the loyalty program you’ve signed up to determined what room you received based on all the other times you’ve stayed.

When it comes to where you stay, the technology is working towards two goals: to make your time as pleasant as possible and put money on the bottom line.

Few industries have variable pricing when it comes to their products, but hotels have long altered their pricing on a day-to-day, week-to-week and month-to-month basis – capitalising on peak periods and stimulating demand when times are leaner.

Few industries have variable pricing when it comes to their products, but hotels have long altered their pricing on a day-to-day, week-to-week and month-to-month basis – capitalising on peak periods and stimulating demand when times are leaner.

And driving this behaviour is sophisticated revenue management technology and forecasting that uses a bank of historical data to predict the level of demand at any given time – strategies that can be used by any business in any sector.

Identifying what data you have, where it comes from, and organising it into a digestible format can tell you a lot about your processes, customers and business. In turn this should help you improve business operations. For example, if you see more foot-traffic in December, sales and promotions might be less required. If you know client budgets get signed off at the end of the financial year, it might be worth putting more effort into marketing around this time.

  • Make the most of add-ons

The immediate “product” when you think about a hotel is the room itself, but complementary services like spa treatments, massages and hotel restaurants can make a big difference to the bottom line. That said, hotels must effectively promote and sell these services, not simply make them available and hope for the best.

With research suggesting 30 per cent of hotels do not provide guests with the opportunity to purchase add-ons when booking directly through the business website, there appears to be room for improvement. On top of this, more than four in ten hotels say they either never ‘upsell’ once the guest has arrived (10 per cent) or only sometimes upsell, but with no defined policy (32%).

So what’s the lesson for business? Look beyond your main product and into services that can deliver ancillary revenue – add-on sales can make a big difference to the bottom line and can offset a reduction in the main product price to get people in the door.

  • Make processes digital

Remember the old room service compendium? The big, leather-bound tome that gave guests an overview of the hotels’ services and the room service menu? It’s being replaced with tablets that automate the ordering process and can be tailored to individual guests.

Again driven by data, tablets can provide timely meal offers and promotions in real time and orders are sent directly to the kitchen, removing the middle-man and reducing human-error in the process. Using the latest technology, the hotel sector is seeing the benefits of going paperless.

  • Encourage (digital) word of mouth

Four years before Facebook launched, TripAdvisor was bringing user-generated content together to shape brand perception of hotels across the globe, putting hotels at the mercy of their customers’ opinions publicly, long before it affected other industries.

As a result, customer service became even more of a priority, as did encouraging loyalty and establishing a presence online. For businesses, particularly in the service industry, the role of social media and managing your digital presence is more important than ever.

Benefits of social media for a business include:

  • Revenue
  • Brand development
  • Attracting new customers
  • Networking
  • Research
  • Recruitment
  • Online presence
  • Know your customers

Embracing technology, creativity and innovation helps hotels learn more about their customers: what to sell them, when to sell to them, and how much they’re willing to pay. By using new technology to improve the customer experience and streamline processes, they’re able to sell more to happier customers, without overinvesting in resources.

Want to learn more about using technology to reach more customers and increase revenue? Discover Telstra Business Digital Marketing Services.