The ITB Berlin 2016 Experience
As VP of Marketing for Revinate, one of the things I love about my job is getting the opportunity to travel and speak with customers about the challenges and opportunities they face in 2016. In fact, we recently published a white paper that summarizes this.
This month I had the chance to attend the world’s leading trade show for hospitality and travel professionals, ITB Berlin. What better place to learn from and build an understanding of my customer’s challenges?
A variety of themes were highlighted this year, from continued industry consolidation, to OTAs as service providers, direct booking strategies and digital marketing. With all these topics being discussed, I found four recurring conversation themes.
Guest Experience is No Longer an Afterthought
We’re hearing more and more about personalization and guest experience, but as people’s expectations increase so do the levels of service they feel they deserve or demand.
This isn’t surprising. Companies like Uber, Netflix and Amazon are providing higher levels of service and personalized experiences. You and I grow accustomed to this service and have an expectation that we will receive it with all brands we engage with.
It’s also clear that hoteliers can’t simply ‘shout out’ their brand value proposition in the market through paid advertising. Now, guests can simply, and immediately, voice opinions about any brand, through public social review sites, based on their current experience.
The paradigm shift here is, that guests are in control of your brand reputation.
Size Now Matters
Your guest database size, that is. I have some good news and some bad news.
Let’s start with the good news. Most hoteliers have some idea about the size of their guest database. However, the bad news is that many were small relative to room count and lacked critical information like personal emails to communicate with their guests.
Based on our customer data, we see an average of 150-175 active email addresses per number of rooms per hotel. For example, a hotel with 100 rooms should have 17,500 guest contacts. When I shared our benchmarks with hoteliers, they acknowledged the need to improve in this area.
The discussion about data led to the question of who ultimately owns the customer relationship. Not surprisingly, every hotelier wanted to own direct relationships with their guests. Their challenge was not having complete guest contact information or the means to manage their guest data in a meaningful way.
Old School or New School?
As in any industry, there is a divide between “new school” and “old school” hoteliers, in their mindset and approach to business.
- Digital and data-driven
- Proactive and empowered (taking their destiny in their own hands)
- Acknowledge modern traveler expectations and are optimistic
- Goal-oriented with defined objectives and strategies
- Skeptical and hesitant (re: user generated online conversations, social, millennials!)
- Negative and reactive
- Operations-first approach, with ill-defined goals and objectives
Looking at these two schools of thought, one could make the argument that new school thinkers aspire to be in the hospitality business whereas old school thinkers may aspire but are really stuck in the lodging business.
The Paradox of Choice
With over 10,000 exhibitors at the show (many in technology), it wasn’t surprising to hear people feeling overwhelmed or spending more time in research and education.
Adding to this is the blurring of technology product lines from single value proposition features to platforms and co-opetition.
From these conversations, it was obvious that hoteliers who have a vision or strategy, with alignment from their management teams, are in a better place to know what they need versus those who do not.
ITB 2016 exceeded my expectations on all levels. From talking to customers, building partnerships and learning more about the trends that impact our industry, I’m excited about what the future brings for us all.
One thing is clear. Technology companies that serve the hospitality industry need to stop selling and start helping their customers be more successful. This means more focus around best practices, data-driven benchmarking and training.
I’m already looking forward to next year’s show. You can read more about my thoughts and others by signing up for our blog here.