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Artificial Intelligence... the new bent

Tuesday, January 23, 2018, 15:06 Hrs  [IST]

The hotel websites being revamped; business travellers getting more than satisfied for they could connect to an important meeting, as most of the hotels provided Digital Conferencing Facilities under their MICE facilities. These were some of the developments in which technology brought convenience to the hospitality industry in 2017. Akshay Nayak speaks to industry experts from the hospitality industry’s technological drivers’ segment to decode what novel ideas are heading in the New Year to integrate profitability of the hoteliers and guest satisfaction.

Picture Courtesy: ASSA ABLOY Hospitality

Technology has exhibited its vivacity in a multitude of segments of its application... The hospitality industry is yet another one to throw its doors wide open to welcome it for easing down the otherwise complex operations carried out within the industry. Functions like- Bookings, blogs, revenue optimisation, distribution, feedback, and many others are made less cumbersome for both the visitors and the hotels through structured execution of technology on the respective fronts.

With Chatbots, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of things (IoT) taking a toll over the hospitality services like- informing the guests about their preferred food, or escorting them to the various facilities of a hotel like Spas, Fitness Centre, etc., this technological drift has been adding the ‘Awe’ factor and marked popularity in terms of rightful use of technology in Hospitality industry for the year 2017 from the view of the guests.

With the new year headed, the industry experts especially the technology drivers of the hospitality industry spoke to Hospitality Biz to talk a blue streak on how and what developments will be driving the technological aspects in the year 2018.

Technology swing in 2017
The hospitality industry saw many innovations in technological development to provide the guests with maximum satisfaction at their disposal like- Chatbots, WIFI, Digital conference facilities, Cloud services and many others. These were not only beneficial to the visitors but were in turn profitable to the hoteliers as well with heightened revenue management along with systematic gradual

track record of various aspects like the RevPAR, ADR and much more. Sharing the experience of the technological nuances applied in the hotels in 2017, Aditya Sanghi, Co-Founder and CEO, Hotelogix, says, “Virtual reality, Big Data based revenue management, robotics, IoT and artificial intelligence were some of the technological disruptions in 2017. These technologies will continue to dominate in the next few years to enhance the guest experience and help in improving the operational efficiency of hotel owners. And of course, we will continue to see more mobility in tech trends. Hotel owners will have more mobile technologies put in place as its convenience cannot be overlooked.”

Focusing on the mobile-friendly development in hotels in 2017, Binu Mathews, CEO of IDS Next, says, “In 2017, we saw hotels increasingly adopting several technology solutions to offer a memorable stay to their guests. This trend will remain same in 2018, too. This would include hotels allowing guests to pre-check in a room of their choice, enabling guests to chat with a hotel, raise service requests from their mobile, give real-time feedback for a service in a hotel, and many more. This trend is becoming mainstream now.”

Talking on similar lines, Gavin Jeddo, Founder, STAAH says, “Focus is on guest experience from booking to departure, Tools to improve higher conversion from a visitor. This includes Booking Engine integrated with remarketing Ad Campaigns across Google & Facebook. Supporting the blockchain cryptocurrencies and making the entire booking experience seamless.”

Widening the concept of Chatbots and their use in the upcoming years, Avijit Arya, founder, Internet Moguls, said, “2017 opened our minds to bots and most forward-thinking brands have adopted and saved time and money in getting back to their customers and deeper use of automated bots will happen in 2018 with bots replacing 50% of our redundant work across pre-arrival and post-arrival.”

Technology Trends in 2018
Speaking on the technology trends with respect to distribution, revenue optimisation of hotels in 2018, Sanghi says, “Just having high occupancy rate is not a good indicator for a hotel’s profitability. Implementing the right business processes, technologies, and performance metrics will help in driving better revenue management strategies for hoteliers. Any hotelier today in the absence of a revenue management system is running his/ her business at a competitive disadvantage.”

Revenue management, a crucial concept to be considered to maximise a property’s profit, optimisation of revenue is need of the hour, and to keep timely updates about the same, Technology plays an anchoring role. “Sophisticated revenue management technologies such as forecasting tools that can automatically assess hotel performance and provide powerful insights for business demand will impact on Average Daily Revenue (ADR), efficiency and improve operational performance across the hotel,” Sanghi added.

Donning light on how technology will be driving the revenue distribution in hotels, Mathews says, “Distribution is going to continue to be a key focus area for a hotel. Revenue is a derivative of distribution. With increasing competition, hotels are going to adopt many new strategies and tools to achieve a healthy bottom line. Distribution is going to get even more intelligent. Distribution tools are going to use smart algorithms to recommend which channels to close and which channels to keep open in order to attain maximum yield.”

Presenting views on the trends in hospitality industry’s technology, Jeddo says, “Profit Per Room is what matters, Revenue Managers have to keep in mind not just on rev bookings & revenue, but also cost of bookings. Today OTAs & Traditional agents control up 80% hotel bookings. One of the key drivers is to plan strategies around direct booking.”

Decoding the benefits of using AI leading to profitability and growing hotel’s revenue, Jeddo adds, “Using data and Artificial Intelligence is going to play a big role in determining prices and growing revenue. This will help in determining the right rate to be sold at the right time. More and more SaaS technology companies are offering cost-effective revenue managing solutions that will certainly help to achieve this. STAAH’s dynamic pricing is a simple tool that comes included with STAAH Max that has helped hotel increase their RevPAR up to 30%.”

Speaking about the current scenario of technology in the hotels and explaining the upcoming drift by technology, Udai Singh Solanki, CTO & MD India, eRevMax, says, “The global hotel distribution has become more complex due to the restriction of data exchange within technology systems. While an average mid-size hotel today uses over 15 tools for daily operations, the tools do not talk to each other and work in isolation. With the growing popularity of automation and artificial intelligence, hotels are looking at a solution which would seamlessly integrate data from all technology tools that would work like a central hub and allow interoperability of their systems like PMSs, CRSs, OTAs, and RMSs. Blockchain has been the buzz word of 2017. But it’s in the next few years that we are going to see its impact on travel. The hospitality industry, one of the most vulnerable sectors to data security, might find the much-needed transparency, data security, and process simplification through Blockchain. However, the technology is still in its infancy, and that’s why I don’t see a revolution coming in the next 12 months.”

Arya says, “We still don’t have an integrated revenue social digital ecosystem and that would be the ideal technology going ahead. Meanwhile understanding data analytics to drive smarter decisions and Chatbots to convert more guests and get restaurant and MICE reservations would go up.”

Going through the detailed views of the industry experts, we can see that the Hospitality industry is steadily blooming not only in servicing its customers with state-of-the-art facilities but at the same the hoteliers are learning about the technological applications for calculating and understanding aspects like- where to invest, how much to invest, how to carry out certain operations like- high fixed costs and lower variable costs of rooms, chatbots to personalise a guests stay at the hotel, social media reviews, etc., all leading to the integrated profitability in terms of revenue generation and its positive management by the hotels.

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