Hotel performance data can be useful to executives but costly to owners and even depreciatory to truly providing what guests want, according to experts.
LONDON—Hotel databases and the information they contain need to be better, even if that call to action has been sounded numerous times before, according to panelists at Deloitte’s recent 30th European Hotel Investment Conference.
These databases contain more information than ever, but the hotel industry has done a lousy job understanding what that data is, what it means, how it can translate into favorable profit-and-loss numbers and how to share it between in-house disciplines, sources said.
Speaking at a panel titled “Operating through change,” Michael Levie, COO of CitizenM, said the simplest way of engagement is to know that a guest is a repeat guest, something that is far from being a given.
“It is not always about sophistication,” he said. “The more (guests) come back, the more they have made that decision to be a repeat client.”
While it might sound obvious that hoteliers must embrace technology to get the best use of their data, panelists said the practice is far from universal.
“(AccorHotels has) 100 million customers per year in our hotels in Europe, so how did you personalize that mass of information?” said Franck Gervais, CEO of Europe at AccorHotels. “It is for technology to better connect guests with hotels and its staff.”
Another consideration about data is who pays for bandwidth, working hours, cutting-edge gizmos and technological wonders.
“There are two (types of customers), the end-user and the owners,” said Simon Vincent, EVP of Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Hilton. “Owners are focused on (branded hotel firms) being easy to work with and acting like owners ourselves. We have to always be cognizant we’re working with others’ money.”
Andrea Jones, SVP of international development at Marriott International, said data also has a role beyond the booking process to understanding the guest of the future and the new brands they might be looking for.
“When we look at brand segmentation, it’s not just age but key travel groups,” she said. “This allows us to understand what new generations of travelers want, and it also allows us to look at those white spaces we do not have already.”
Marriott’s Moxy brand is a prime example of this, she said.
“Affordable lifestyle was one find, something edgier, cheekier, more fun, and you do not have to be a millennial to want that,” Jones said. “That allowed us to make a business case, and Moxy was launched.”
Jones added this was an important realization for Marriott when developing it outside the U.S.
“Marriott is a little conservative and not immediately happy (about Moxy),” she said. Executive Chairman Bill Marriott “leaned towards bringing over to Europe our Fairfield brand and adapting it, but (Moxy) is our biggest growing brand.”
CitizenM’s Levie said differentiation among brands is a good thing.
“We are not trying to be everything to everyone,” he said. “Differentiation allows people to make their choices, and this will continue.”
Vincent said data does not necessarily lead to new brands or segments.
“We looked at the hostel market, but the feedback to us was that people do not want to share,” he said.
Marriott’s data showed loyalty remains at the core of its distribution decisions, according to Jones.
“The real learning curve was around loyalty within the (Marriott-Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide) deal,” she said. “At the time, we thought, maybe there’d be 50% overlap between members of the two programs, but it was 11%. What that told us is that your loyalist customer is loyal to their program.”
Levie said such notions are for those who have the luxury or hindrance of scale.
“(CitizenM’s) resources need to be very focused,” he said. “We want to be as sticky as Facebook and as easy as Uber.”
In fact, the hotel industry could use more innovation, Vincent said.
“Much more Silicon Valley-like thinking is needed in the sector, and it (is a) shame on the industry that we do not cater to some demand,” he said. “It has taken the rise of hostels to get brands such as (Hilton’s) Motto and (Whitbread’s) Zip (by Premier Inn).”
Jones said Marriott is not placing its bets on developing a product within the hostel market despite its recent decision to partner with rental management company Hostmaker to market private rental homes.
“We have been watching the space as everyone has been. … We’ve vetted and curated (Hostmaker’s) stock and it is to be placed under our Tribute (soft) brand with a minimum-three-night stay,” she said. “It is for customers who have different travel demands with each trip.”