Tech Trends - Redefining Hotel Online Distribution
With travel demand coming back to pre-pandemic levels in most geographies, there has been a major shift in guest booking behaviour and hotel online distribution trends.
In a recent chat with Mr. Andrew Morsi, Founder President, eRevMax – RateTiger, we discussed about the key trends RateTiger witnessed as a hotel technology provider during these last couple of years, acceleration in technology adoption, the role of intermediaries and the way forward for hotels in the post pandemic world.
1. What are the key trends you see as far as travel demand revival is concerned?
Covid 19 pandemic has been a black-swan event for the global hospitality industry. While the recovery varies from region to region, there is surge in travel demand. While the recovery in North America began earlier, Europe is also showing strong rebound given the summer season. International travel is looking up and is starting to get closer to pre-pandemic level in some regions.
The pandemic and long period of lock down / restrictions have had a profound impact on the guest behaviour and their priorities have shifted. The recovery is driven by the pent-up demand for travel, but health and safety remain a concern for travellers. Guests have new expectations and preferences. There is a distinct change in the spending pattern. Local and domestic travel are on rise. Understanding and reimagining the customer experience would be crucial for recovery of the hospitality industry.
2. The pandemic had a grave impact across industries. How did it reflect on the travel tech service providers like RateTiger?
2020 was a year of rude awakening and a lot of learning. It shook the entire industry and a lot of businesses closed, some temporarily and others permanently. Truth be told, the initial months were one of the most difficult times for us.
Companies like us that depend solely on the hospitality businesses were very hard hit when everything was shut down and hotel reservations went to around 5%. We provide online channel management, connectivity and business intelligence solutions to hotels worldwide and operate on a subscription and reservation fee model. With most hotels having to shut down temporarily during the lockdown phase, we were severely impacted as the revenue streams dried up very quickly.
Every organization had to rethink various aspects of their business to find efficiencies and new revenue opportunities. The biggest challenge for us was to discover the delicate balance between cost cutting, revenue generation and maintaining customer experience. We had to unlearn and relearn!
We had to acquire new skill sets and reinvent our sales and marketing efforts as well as product orientation. The way the entire team rose to the occasion is something that I am extremely proud of. Our team members had to go through crisis situations, both at a personal and professional level. For many of us, adapting to work from home processes was a huge challenge. However, the teams did not let that impact our commitment to customers. I believe that the pace and agility with which we responded, has made us stronger as an organization and it will be a legacy of this pandemic.
3. Various industries witnessed the technology adoption acceleration due to Covid. What impact did you see in context to the hospitality industry?
‘Exponential technology’ is the term often being used by technology experts. The hospitality industry has been adoptive to technology – hotel managers typically use 8 -10 technology tools to manage daily operations. The real change is the acceleration of the tech-adoption. Hotels need to find a solution to optimize profit, maintain strict sanitization and safety protocols while keeping in mind the guest experience.
Digital technology like the smart capabilities and contactless service have become the keyword. While hotels are investing in smart technology, the immediate concern is to drive occupancy and boost revenue. From our experience so far, we have seen a sharp increase in demand for online connectivity and booking engine solutions.
4. The hotel industry continues to look for ways to reduce dependence on intermediaries for distribution. How will channel managers like RateTiger be facilitating it?
For years now, hotels are trying to reduce dependency on intermediaries. However, we need to keep in mind that online distribution channels are technology powerhouse that offer wider exposure and reach for even smaller hotels. Hotels need a solution that can streamline their distribution mix, while giving access to critical information for decision making.
Being a pioneer in Rate Shopping and Channel Manager for hotels, RateTiger is the first to have launched a platform-based solution. We have created an integrated interface which enables ARI updates, booking management and track Budget, Pace, competitor rates, channel performance, promotions, update errors, among various other KPIs that hotels need to monitor daily. RateTiger enables hoteliers to have a 360 Degree view and total control over their online business – all from one dashboard.
5. What according to you are the key tech investments that a hotel should make in the post pandemic world?
Hotels need to improve their operational agility and financial resilience for recovery. I would recommend hotels to invest in technology to streamline hotel operations, revenue management, reservations, housekeeping, such that they can improve efficiency and reduce human errors.
All the while they must keep in mind the need to understand the changing guest preferences and behaviour. An integrated solution which can offer customer insights based on data mining can be one of great use.