Making digital technology COUNT for the hotelier

“Digital” has come a long way since its origins as 1s and 0s and has quickly evolved into a strategic priority for nearly every company. As organisations wrestle with the talent and leadership implications of digital, a major obstacle to making critical decisions is often a lack of agreement about what the term even means.

We classify digital as the broad range of technology-enabled advancements — including e-commerce, social media, big data and mobile computing — that are transforming how consumers live their lives and how consumer companies operate.

Digital enables growing price and performance transparency, simultaneously raising customer expectations and the stakes of a competitive landscape. As channels expand and new disruptors emerge, consumer companies will need to rethink their talent strategies in a digital world where desire for seamless, personalised experiences and rich, engaging content will only continue to grow.

Travellers can almost instantly bridge the distance between two locations with the simple swipe of a touchscreen, one

of many illustrations of how drastically digital has changed a sector that dealt primarily in printed tickets and phone reservations in the not-so- distant past. Today, customers demand seamless booking and travel experiences via the digital tools they use in their everyday lives. While hotels, airlines, cruise lines, car rental companies and other traditional travel businesses have been incorporating digital into their strategies, online travel agencies (OTAs) and other disruptors have opened up a host of new and often instant options for customers, creating an even more competitive landscape.

When hospitality is the product, the ability to be an excellent host — characterised by the anticipation of a customer’s needs and creation of truly personalised experiences — is invaluable. Digital has created unprecedented transparency around quality and cost. Readily available online reviews from sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor are major forces shaping the customer purchase decision. According to an independent study commissioned by TripAdvisor, 77% of travellers usually or always reference the site before choosing a hotel.

An exceptionally strong brand experience is the one of the few incentives that can sway a customer who is presented with the choice of two comparable hotel rooms, with the only apparent difference being price.

Companies across the travel spectrum, from 100-year-old hotel companies to recently launched OTAs, recognise that digital is rst and foremost an enabler of relationships. At the same time, the advancements of digital are changing the nature of those relationships — online check-in, mobile boarding passes and keyless hotel rooms are boons for convenience and saved labour costs, but also remove the person-to-person interaction that historically have been hallmarks of the sector.

All reasons to stay abreast of technologies, and one step ahead of the competition.