5 Takeaways from Phocuswright Conference 2019

That’s a wrap! The dust has settled on a busy week at Phocuswright in Ft. Lauderdale. Every year, Phocuswright attracts senior executives from the top travel businesses around the globe, ranging from technology providers to investors to hotel executives and more.

Overall, it was a great experience, and we came away with fresh eyes on the hospitality industry. Of everything we learned, five trends and takeaways stuck out:

1. It all starts with data

At the core, the hospitality industry is suffering from a significant problem with siloed data.

The good news is that the tide is turning with a heavy focus on integrations, profile synthesis, application programming interfaces (APIs), and data security to make sense of and securely store all of this first-party data.

Amadeus said it best, “The future of travel is open,” meaning there is a significant rise in the use of APIs in the hotel industry. These APIs are the future of technologies speaking to each other.

Revinate similarly set out to solve these data problems with our Guest Data Platform, with Rich Guest Profiles at the core. This integrated platform allows hoteliers to build stronger relationships with their guests through personalized and targeted marketing, while also using that data to create better experiences that inspire guests to become advocates after their stay. 

2. Google SEO headwinds

Across all regions, OTA gross bookings growth rates slowed in the first half of 2019, according to Phocuswright’s latest travel research report.

Expedia and TripAdvisor both placed some blame on Google for weaker Q3 earnings. On their Q3 earnings call, Expedia’s CEO and President Mark Okerstrom said, “Generally, what we saw was a continued shift of, essentially, the free links further down the page by other modules that were inserted and, ultimately, a shift of traffic from the SEO channel over to some of the other products—whether it’s flight metasearch or hotel metasearch over time.” Google is effectively pushing down other companies in search to prioritize their own travel businesses, a playbook they’ve used in other industries like retail.

TripAdvisor’s CEO Stephen Kaufer also addressed this head-on on stage at Phocuswright. He says the imperative for his company, competitors and hotel brands is to build a better product that gets consumers to visit their site directly, bypassing Google altogether. Actionable hotel CRMs like Revinate can help hoteliers with this mission to increase direct mindshare and bookings.

3. New OTAs emerging

Facebook Messenger or SMS aren’t the first places you think of for hotel deals, but that’s changing. At least that’s the goal of SnapTravel, a unique company where consumers can search and book hotels and flights privately via messaging. In his keynote, SnapTravel’s Co-founder & CEO Hussein Fazal said they would explore other verticals before other channels like web. That’s a big bet on messaging and we’re interested in tracking the company’s progress.

Another OTA alternative, of course, is Airbnb, as the marketplace increasingly gives travelers choices between hotels and homestays. The acquisition of HotelTonight signaled to the industry that not only was Airbnb competing with homestays but actively looking to enter the business of booking hotel rooms. If they have even a slice of the success they’ve had in the home market, Booking.com and other OTAs should be very wary of how their entrance will affect the industry.

4. Beyond the stay

Airbnb has also made one of the most robust efforts to integrate its Experiences venture with its traditional homestay product, accompanied by a recommendation-fueled itinerary management service in its mobile app. According to Joe Zadeh, Airbnb’s head of experiences, “We are seeing the growth of experiences to be even faster than the growth of our personal homes visits because we already have an engaged travel audience that wants to have a real local experience.”

On a macro level, this means that travelers no longer have to spend hours before a trip planning the best experience; they can now do so via the same apps they’ve used throughout the planning process.

Hotels are also getting into the mix. For example, last July, World of Hyatt launched FIND, a new well-being experiences platform also shaped by consumer interest in experiences over “things.” Eligible World of Hyatt members can earn and redeem points on a curated selection of well-being experiences, both in and outside of hotel stays.

5. Diversity and inclusion

Lastly, on Wednesday morning, over breakfast, women and men came together to discuss women’s leadership initiatives in the industry. Research from McKinsey & Company reveals that companies with strong female representation on executive committees perform better than those without women in the C-suite. 

During the breakfast, the conversation went beyond just female representation. For example, with respect to hiring, we discussed how it’s essential to have a diverse slate of candidates, women and men, industry veterans, and horizontal technologists, to ensure a diverse range of perspectives around the table. 

Another topic discussed was confidence among men versus women. You’ve probably heard the following statistic: Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them. In other words, women take written job qualifications more seriously than men. This may or may not be true, but to quote Harvard Business Review, “It’s more important that we believe less in what appear to be the rules.” Strong words to ‘work’ by.

That’s a wrap on Phocuswright 2019! If you’re interested in learning more about Revinate’s Guest Data Platform and solutions, my team is here to help. Reach out today to learn more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *