The distribution landscape is changing, and it’s essential to keep an eye on the future, according to executives at the RLH Corporation Brand Conference. But one thing that should remain on the forefront is maintaining quality assurance for guests during their stay.
LAS VEGAS—If there’s one thing hoteliers need to know in today’s ever-changing landscape, it’s that “you can’t wait for the future, you really need to create it,” according to Greg Mount, president and CEO of RLH Corporation.
While technology remains a forefront of RLHC’s strategy, quality assurance is just as key, Mount said at the company’s brand conference.
“And I mean that more now than ever before,” he said. “The world is changing; by day, by hour, by minute. You have to look to the future.”
He said the disruptors are getting disrupted, and owners and franchisors need to be ready for it.
The internet owns your reputation
Gary Sims, COO at RLHC, said at the end of the day, a hotel’s reputation is no longer owned by them—it’s “owned by the internet.”
“It’s where we are today,” he said.
Mount said the customer acquisition is a “billion-dollar business in its own right and often completely different from where it was just a month ago.” And one of the things owners need to be responsible for is quality assurance and customer experience, Sims added.
“You have to have a good, clean product, you have to have great customer service; those two go hand in hand,” Sims said. “We can do all the brand stuff, we can do all the fancy websites, we can do all the distribution channels” but if that customer arrives at the hotel and the basic necessities are under par, “then we have just wasted every penny of acquisition of that customer.”
That’s why quality assurance is key, he said, in addition to reputation management.
Amanda Marcello, SVP of brand strategy at RLHC, said as the travel industry evolves, consumer expectations are also shifting. They want “a simple, straightforward user-friendly process, courteous and helpful staff, Wi-Fi that’s fast and reliable, great TVs and quality in-room entertainment,” she said.
And while knowledge of data is a great marketing tool, “in the end you need quality brands that evolve to deliver performance,” she said.
No one really “owns the customer anymore,” Mount said, and the customer’s path to direct channels is changing.
He said going forward it will be tough to predict a customer’s purchasing behavior. He said more people are now accessing the web through their social media rather than an organic search.
“The new challenge is over winning placement—organic and paid,” he said. And both organic and paid placement are best gained through relevant content, he added.
What’s on the digital horizon
Calvin Anderson, chief of revenue optimization at RLHC, said mobile usage has leapfrogged desktop use globally, which isn’t a new realization, he said, but it’s still the way of the future.
Anderson predicted paid messenger interactions will become mainstream and virtual assistant purchasing, like Amazon Alexa, will be more fine-tuned. He added that augmented reality “will drive product discovery and brand interactions, which means you have the ability to see exactly what you’re buying” before even making the purchase.
“Everybody is going to have a world where we know what you want, we’re going to start to stack-price you, we’re going to know who you are, we’re going to target you,” he said.
And content “will be king,” he said, meaning having great photos and videos on a hotel’s website is incredibly valuable in selling the product.
The power of brands
Sims said without the power of brands, “we become nothing.” Some discussion in the industry revolves around whether brands even matter anymore, he said.
His short answer is they do.
“It’s important you have a strong brand,” he said, because the brand can be the difference between success and failure.
Sims said RLHC is close to franchising nearly 1,500 hotels, and the asset-light company is remaining “very nimble. … We can move things very quickly (and) our game plan is to always stay ahead of the curve.”
Editor’s note: RLH Corporation paid for hotel accommodations. Complete editorial control was at the discretion of the Hotel News Now editorial team; RLH Corporation had no influence on the coverage provided.