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How can technology help hotel players bounce back to the new normal?

Wednesday, August 4, 2021, 17:00 Hrs  [IST]
HBI Staff | Hyderabad

By Sudeshna Datta, Co-Founder & Executive Vice President, Absolutdata

The pandemic has caused worldwide disruptions and it is no secret that the hospitality industry was amongst the most brutal hit. With the advent of lockdowns and social distancing norms, even the large-scale hotel chains had to stop their operations for an unknown period, which inevitably resulted in a revenue loss of over INR 1.30 lakh crore during the fiscal year 2020-21, as stated by the Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI). 

The global coronavirus crisis has pushed the hotel industry to reorient its operational strategies, and embracing technologies like AI and data analytics is no longer an option but a necessity to address this problem. For instance, with the growing safety concern, hotels have invested in touchless technologies – like contactless hotel check-ins and scannable QR codes to access food menus - to prevent human contact and boost customer confidence. 

The more these businesses leverage technologies, the more they generate data, and hence the more opportunities they get to analyze and convert these data points into actionable insights. For instance, hoteliers can collect customer data when they visit or browse around their websites and monitor their path before making a purchase using AI and data analytics. To explore more, let’s look at how these technologies help hotel owners reshape the customer journey in the post-COVID world. 

Dynamic Pricing 

With the help of data science, hoteliers analyze customer purchasing patterns and make accurate demand predictions while considering multiple parameters like market dynamics and seasonal changes. For instance, global chains like Marriott International have deployed intelligent tools and technologies to leverage hundreds of factors, including data on weather, market prices, popular upcoming events, etc. This helps them define an optimal room rate in real-time and adjust prices on the fly by constantly recalculating the demand/ supply spectrum. This process is called dynamic pricing. 

Actionable Reviews 

In today’s smartphone and the internet-driven world, it has become a practice for people to read reviews and check star ratings of a hotel or restaurant before checking in. Similarly, customers also share their thoughts, be it good or poor, as per their experience. Here, hoteliers can use AI and ML to automatically extract these data points from across multiple online sources, deeply analyze them, and eventually create and offer personalized guest experiences throughout the journey, from booking to dining to checking out. 

For instance, the Luxury hotel brand Dorchester Collection had identified that guests were more inclined towards having breakfast than dinner as a meal. Hence, they used a significant chunk of their investments in crafting a fine dining experience by enabling guests to personalize their breakfast menus. It was a huge success. 

Sentiment Analysis

Nowadays, guests can instantly write and share their reviews on various social media platforms, which can be very useful for a potential customer and harmful for the business – in case of negative reviews. To address such issues, hoteliers should quickly assess and respond to customer feedback. 

Further, to add speed to this process, they can leverage AI and NLP solutions to monitor customer sentiment and immediately resolve issues. Once integrated, these tools can extract relevant insights from the feedback shared and pinpoint areas that call for urgent attention. 

Virtual Assistants

Virtual Assistants have been an excellent success for many companies, including travel booking platforms, to address customer queries. They are fast, can replicate humans, and drive interesting customer interactions with high satisfaction levels. Following their footsteps, hoteliers have also started deploying chatbots on their websites to interact with customers and help them out with basic FAQs. 

As technologies evolve, we would see more hotel businesses investing in voice-activated services to offer digital assistance to guests throughout their stay, starting with searching and discovering hotels on the internet. In the future, hoteliers can equip their rooms with these devices, allowing customers to control everything, be it room lighting, music, or temperature, using simple voice commands. 

Driving Loyalty 

By leveraging AI and ML, hoteliers can engage with guests at an individual level. These tools can enable them to compute dynamic clusters of guest types that might change in real-time and thus improve customer experience. Likewise, hoteliers can use this method to identify their most profitable customers and provide them with unique and personalized offerings – like reward programs for first-time customers and other such perks to repeat guests - to keep them intact. 

After serving customers with different innovative products and services, hoteliers can also identify which techniques worked and which didn’t. Accordingly, they can make revisions and modifications in their product portfolios to serve existing customers and prospects more seamlessly than ever before. Combining these methods can help hoteliers make customers loyal to their brand and check the loyalty of their existing ones. 

Summing up

We have already seen the power of technologies, especially AI and data analytics, and how these can restore customer confidence and help businesses recover from the recent losses. Moreover, these solutions, with their innovative applications, also transform the way hotels operate in the pre-pandemic era. It indicates that technology is imperative for hotel businesses to run successfully in the new normal.  
 

 
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