Food for thought: some thoughts post-ITB, are marketplaces a thing now?
By Martin Soler, Partner at Soler & Associates
ITB has come and gone, for some it was a burden, for others it was too many parties. But it still is the biggest and most influential travel show and in my opinion, if it isn't at ITB it's probably not important. Some of my takeaways from the show: Technology in travel is growing fast. There's still tons of innovation happening and more to come. Operations tech is still uncharted territory save for a few companies. Customer relationship technology is finding a bigger space in hotels, but is it a marketing tool or a service tool? PMS space competition is ramping up for the first time in a long time. Personalization tools are growing and it's becoming the next buzzword. And below a bit of food for thought. Best, Martin
Food for thought.
Marketplaces, are they happening now?
Booking launched their hotel software market place, is this going to be enough to tip the scales and finally make them mainstream? About 5 years ago eRevMax launched the first marketplace concept with LiveOS, followed by SnapShot and then Siteminder. Yet none of these have taken off yet. I'm not counting PMS marketplaces, those are just PMS companies doing their jobs with integrations as a good friend D. Turnbull pointed out. Independent marketplaces have struggled to be relevant. Two main thoughts about that, one is that it is hard to change habits of how people select and buy software. We're not looking at a market size of billions, not even millions. The second thought is that hotels are all about processes. The people in hotels aren't all tech nerds geeking out on the new app. They're janitors, housekeepers, front-desk people and many on minimum wage. So training and implementing a new software process in a hotel is rarely fun. The idea of switching app over-night is exactly not the idea of fun and freedom. It's not quite as plug-and-play as what the marketing and product managers tend to think. But that doesn't mean it can't work. And maybe Booking manages to push the category into mainstream.
...I wonder if there'll be a "book direct" campaign by software companies.
More Hotel Brands, Smarter Than You Think
The idea of sub-brands for hotel companies has been is often criticised as either really dumb or really confusing. However there's a reason growing the number of brands is a good idea. In the current environment of choice overload, the concept of single product loyalty is a thing of the past. It's why we get yearly smartphone updates and multitude of other constant product updates. The appetite for the newest has grown far beyond what it was 20 years ago. But the reassurance that there's a strong brand behind a product does guarantee a certain level of quality and standard. When faced with the choice to book a hotel in an unknown area and the choice is between a branded hotel and a boutique, brand has an advantage which is standards. The guests know that they have standards to uphold and it reassures. But guests also want to try new things, hence the sub-brands strategy actually is pretty good. Now enter the spanner in my theory as someone quite rightly pointed out that this is merely a strategy to get more investors to buy hotels with their brands.
McDonald's Better Service Than a Hotel?
The fast food chain is known for a lot of things but better service than hotels isn't one of them. And yet they're managing to get better at service than the ultimate service industry (hotels). The self-service screens that are being installed around the world apparently increase order size. More importantly they improve service. Rather than waiting in line to order one's food one can do it oneself at one's own speed. Then one doesn't need to stand in line to pick-up the food as the staff now come and bring it to the table. And if one has a question one can now speak to a human waiter rather than a half-human order taker at the counter. Hotels still have half-human order takers at check-in. They're stuck to following a process, rather than helping the guest get what they want as fast as possible. Computers were meant to help hotels take care of guests.
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