Hotel Brands Miss Opportunity to Build Guest Connections

As travelers begin to venture out again, at least in the short term, demand will be scarce. Hoteliers will have to fight harder than ever to lead their markets in recovery, and will be looking for any advantage they can get to stand out. The hotel companies that get ahead will be the ones who can use data to best connect with guests – both returning guests and new segments of travelers. By building better guest connections, hotel companies – or brands – can increase their brand value tremendously.

Today, most hotel companies are missing an opportunity to use data to tailor a better guest experience. When guests book direct, hotel companies can follow the guest throughout their entire journey – from the exploration to the booking phase and after they have departed. Most hotel companies lack connectivity to the actual “stay,” which means they are not capitalizing on the most critical piece of guest engagement.

But, due to a lack of connections into the PMS at the hotel level, it’s rarely happening today. By tying into the hotel PMSs and centralizing and normalizing guest data and exposing APIs, brands can get a full picture of the guest through their entire guest journey and use this data to better personalize each and every experience. They can also widely deploy mobile solutions to support contactless operations. Even when a guest books through an OTA, there are ways the hotel, and subsequently the brand, can learn about the guest – including loyalty information, preferences, past stay history – before the guest arrives on property.

For example, when a guest checks in, he or she will often give the hotel their loyalty number. The hotel company may get this information from the hotel and then take action to better connect with the guest while he or she is on property. But this rarely happens. In most cases, the guest data isn’t passed to the brand until after the guest checks out, when it’s too late to make that all-too-important guest connection.

As we monitor recovery, early signs are that third-party distribution partners will earn much of the returning business. Travelers like having options and being able to compare different properties at different rates. But, OTAs are in a similar boat as hotel brands today: Without connections to the hotel PMS, they have access to a limited amount of data on the guest journey. From the time the guest arrives on property until the time they check out, OTAs have no visibility into guest actions. 

The difference is that hotel companies can access the PMS data and APIs with the right connections. Unfortunately, today, very few of them have been able to accomplish this.

Improving the data collection process

With a connection to each PMS at the hotel level, hotel companies can get the data necessary for a full, 360-degree view of the guest. This would give them an upper hand over the OTAs and the ability to provide a more complete and personalized guest experience. But almost none of the brands have built these connections, and therefore they’re missing out on a key advantage over third-party distribution partners.

When a guest books directly with a hotel company, the hotel company immediately has the information they need to start communicating with the guest, understanding their preferences, and putting the steps in a motion to deliver a more tailored experience. In fact, even when a guest books with an OTA, there are ways brands can start building those connections pre-arrival. Once a booking hits the CRS, the brand can send an automated email to connect directly with the guest and then begin matching that guest profile with data residing in the other systems. Now you have a better understanding of who is staying in what room and for how long. 

For example, an email could go to an OTA guest that asks for more information by suggesting they disclose their loyalty account number or providing an opportunity to upgrade rooms. Should the guest respond, now the hotel has a preferred mode of communication and can surface prior stay history and guest preferences. At this point, the brand – from a centralized location – can begin merging data from the CRS, the CRM and the PMS to begin building a full view of guest actions.

Putting together the puzzle pieces

In most cases, PMSs at the hotel level are not connected to the parent hotel company. Even when they are, the guest data isn’t sent to the parent company until the guest has checked out. 

Hotel companies would benefit from building APIs to each of their hotel-level systems to begin extracting that data earlier in the guest journey. This is Hapi’s specialty. When a hotel company partners with Hapi, integrations are built to each individual PMS – even if hotels throughout the system use different PMSs – and the data is centralized, cleaned and normalized. Then it can be matched with data in a CRM.

Now brands have access to the guest information in time to actually do something with it. For example, if corporate hoteliers can see that a guest spent a significant amount of money in the hotel restaurant last time they visited a hotel in your portfolio, now they might offer them a pre-stay dinner reservation. 

They can invite the guest to engage for a contactless arrival or submit online requests at the corporate level, not necessarily the property.  When the hotel brand is able to provide a more personalized guest experience, they can start to build better connections with each and every guest. This gives them a leg up over OTAs, and finally hotels can give guests a good reason to book direct. For hotel companies, it starts with owning guest engagement when it counts – in the hotel.

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