5 February 2018
Paul Townsend, head of digital and cloud products at UHY Hacker Young’s London office, comments on the increasing importance of AI systems for the independent hotel sector.
Many hotel industry observers won’t need a crystal ball to predict that 2018 will witness the continuing negative impact of both online travel agents (OTAs) and companies like Airbnb on the turnover of independent hotels.
In recent years there has been a massive transfer in value from the hotel sector to OTAs, creating an ongoing need for hotels to improve the web experience for visitors to their websites – especially as OTAs are able to aggregate content and present consumer and business travellers with an instant and wide-ranging choice.
New AI-based platforms could be the answer that hotels are looking for. They capture visitor requirements and tailor incentives and promotions that maximise conversion and repeat bookings. What AI does is to personalise a marketing approach for each customer by focusing on search patterns, requirements and booking history.
With the rise of Airbnb (which is seeing double and even triple digit year on year growth) the need to personalise marketing for consumers is becoming more important. With its stated intention to capture 30% of the corporate travel market by 2020, this also underlines the importance of improving enquiry to conversion ratios and matching customer requirements with the appropriate room and service proposition.
Whilst the objective of any personalisation strategy should be to increase hotel revenue and conversion per search, the choice of technology is essential if a customer’s journey is to be tracked and the information shared with CRM systems.
As mentioned above, there are a number of innovative new platforms such as Voyat for hotels and serviced apartments that can create personalised online experiences and help drive direct bookings. When connected to a CRM system, the AI platform allows websites to gather information about visitors as they journey around sites and then provides opportunities to up-sell at the point of booking, adding personalised touches to future communications.
We were speaking to Avvio recently about the range of e-commerce tools available to hotels enabling them to compete directly with the OTAs, and they told us about their new booking platform, Allora. Allora collates and analyses vast amounts of data, including a website visitor’s geography, guest history, booking preferences, website interactions and conversions to better understand their behaviour and offer results tailored to a visitor’s needs. The result is a fine-tuned marketing approach which also saves money and time.
With AI tools constantly learning and evolving with every interaction, tools such as Allora can optimise the booking journey and drive conversions, increasing the efficiency of websites in increasingly competitive times.