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[Update] Can digital technology aid hospitality?

Accommodation providers have this unique opportunity to be in direct contact with the customer in what is a very powerful sphere of intimacy. But before securing a booking, what is the cost of customer acquisition? How to build customer loyalty? How to better meet their expectations before, during and after their stay? Since the advent of the Internet of Things and web apps, many solutions and tools are now available to accommodation providers to help improve customer experience.

In May 2022, Uber announced the launch of its super app that allows you to go "anywhere and get anything". The American giant is not the first to take an interest in the customer journey as a whole. It was beaten to the punch in 2019 by Booking.com, which is pursuing its ambition of integrating all stages of the journey into the services offered by the OTA.

Tools that aid decision-making

In the era of Big Data, the mass of data available and the analysis capacities developed by digital tools make it possible to predict short-term activity trends to help facility managers adjust their pricing policies to market fluctuations.

On the consumer side, in May 2022, Google launched a feature that allows users to compare flight prices via Google Flights, for example. This tool is in line with the habit that travellers have of making very last-minute decisions. It is also a tool that responds to the growing trend of nomadism among consumers. The system then sends push notifications to inform the user of price variations, thus creating bargain effects. The Californian firm has added another planning service with Explore, which allows users to focus their searches according to the weather or the average price of accommodation. These are all arguments that help Google encourage airlines to become their partners on the one hand, and accommodation providers to fill in their company and commercial details on the other.

Digital technology for a reduced impact on the planet

Beyond the in-room experience featuring tools that allow power in the rooms to be cut off when they are unoccupied, there is also the close monitoring of all the operating parameters in establishments. This action makes it possible to mobilise energy consumption as accurately as possible and to optimise workforce requirements in order to maintain the best possible service quality.

On the service side, more and more hoteliers are relying on digital technology to free their employees from non-value-added tasks. Check-in kiosks, self-check-in and room service ordering are all tools that allow staff in customer-facing roles to dedicate more time to customer relations and advice.

Tools to fuel dreams of escapism

Driven by the crisis linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Chinese giant Alibaba has launched livestreaming operations designed to encourage Chinese people to travel. By showcasing destinations, the marketplace succeeded in generating desire for the comeback of tourism domestically and, to a lesser extent due to health restrictions, internationally. Livestreaming allowed viewers to interact in real-time with the speakers, giving them a sense of genuine connection with the destinations on show.

In the West, the Prado, the Louvre and the British Museum were not to be left behind. For example, the British Museum generated 100,000 likes and 2,000 comments.

The Hôtel des Invalides was also filmed from all angles by Google Street View, who joined forces with the Musée de l'Armée to mark the tool’s 15th birthday. It is now possible to take a virtual tour of the site, which also offers an attractive view over the whole of Paris.

Better flow management

An increasing number of destinations are relying on applications or web apps to offer their visitors experiences outside of the norm.

"Par ici" was launched by Charentes Tourisme at the beginning of July 2022 and provides suggestions for excursions according to the weather and the interests of the users. The web app, which is accessible via a QR code, also uses geolocation and the time of day to offer a range of suggestions drawn from the events currently on offer. The tool contains other services to facilitate users’ stay in the area, it can direct them to water points for example.

Wyndham Hotel & Resorts launched the Road Trip Ready app in May, allowing guests to plan and book their road trips at Wyndham properties. The app plans routes with travel times and distances and also allows guests to follow recommendations based on their preferences.

Tools to recreate a direct link?

If these tools facilitate the customer journey and help with the operation of establishments, how can customer value be retained? Perhaps by more often interacting directly with them. Via an Instagram story or a video on Tik Tok, for example. As long as these media are properly contextualised, the tools make it possible to maintain a community and unite it around an identity that builds customer loyalty. By creating the right buying tunnels, it is also possible to generate more direct sales.

Norwegian Cruise Line seized the opportunity to develop its community by launching an auction in April for a collection of NFTs by the artist Manuel Di Rita for its new Prima class.

India's OYO relies on gamification to nurture its community. It allows its customers to win stays by playing video games. 10 video games pull in people that have the OYO application, and they are thus encouraged to keep the app downloaded on their mobile all year round.

Amazon's connected speaker has been adapted to be used in hotels. Alexa Smart Properties for Hospitality is available at the Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel Hotel, the first European hotel to offer it.

From welcome messages to fitness classes to meditation sessions, Alexa will be able to accompany our guests throughout their stay. Our desire to innovate has always been driven by our desire to provide unforgettable experiences for our guests, and the completion of this project allows us to explore new horizons in the personalisation of service. Our teams will be able to rely on Alexa to create links and human exchanges which remain a priority for us. Says Andres Lopez-Dafonte, Deputy General Manager of the Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel Hotel

In terms of digital interaction, the traces left by customers are a mine of information which, if properly exploited, can be used to further refine the service offer, pricing or design of certain products.

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