Recap of a joint panel discussion with eBerry by Nordic Choice Hotels, Barceló Hotel Group and Sabre Hospitality Solutions.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted tourism on unprecedented levels and as such has been a catalyst for a long-simmering change in the hospitality industry. Patterns, norms, and challenges have changed, and hoteliers have been forced to rethink what their product is or can be in the future and how they approach content and product creation, distribution and fulfilment. Technology plays a key role in this time of change, but how can it help hoteliers learn and adapt to the post-pandemic circumstances, and what role will it play in the future of the hospitality industry? This was the topic discussed in a panel event held by Sabre’s development center in Krakow as a part of the Sabre Campus initiative, on Thursday 15th April. During the event, leaders from the hotel industry including Carl Oldsberg, CEO eBerry by Nordic Choice Hotel; Raúl González, EMEA CEO of the Barceló Hotel Group; Frank Trampert, SVP & Global Managing Director – Commercial, Sabre Hospitality Solutions; and Sebastian Drzewiecki VP & Managing Director of Sabre Poland discussed how technology can match the shifting landscape of hospitality..
The extreme changes brought about by the pandemic mean that for the hospitality industry, historical norms and patterns pre-Covid-19 are no longer valid as predictors. New patterns are also emerging in recovery that are unrecognizable, and the data we are seeing today is not telling us much about tomorrow. Technology will therefore play a major role in recovery, enabling hoteliers to adapt and ushering in a new era of personalized travel that will present more opportunities for businesses and a better experience for travelers.
“Last year we saw the true impact and potential of technology and innovation on our industry, and we all experienced it ourselves while traveling. Technology transformed both the travel experience and the way it was served,” said Drzewiecki.
As the impact of the COVID-19 virus spread, the travel marketplace became much smaller and business declined dramatically. As such, companies were forced to take quick and decisive actions to improve their resilience. Hoteliers had to work to allocate limited resources in support of core business strategies such as channel optimization, and tech companies such as Sabre therefore took important steps to best support their customers.
“We revisited our strategies and reorganized ourselves, placing our resources at the core where our customers needed us most. We also addressed decision-making processes around the development of features and functionalities, working with partners to create better processes to provide information in a more qualitative, distinct way, so that all parties could make better planning decisions,” said Trampert.
During the pandemic and into recovery, hospitality businesses have had to rethink who their guests could be, the kind of experience they want and how to deliver that, and as such technology has become even more important. Connected, seamless and personalized experiences are expected, and the use of digital solutions has increased. This, in turn, has generated further data, thereby creating a wealth of new possibilities for hoteliers.
“Guests want to be more in control of their experience and their journey, so we are seeing a tremendous increase in the usage of our app and digital touchpoints. A bi-product of that is the data – with more digital interactions we can learn more about guest behavior. At the moment we are reacting to guests’ needs and what they are communicating to us, but when we have more data available we will be able to be more proactive and come with suggestions before they ask for it,” said Oldsberg.
With guest data and a more local perspective, hotels are in a prime position to open up many new revenue streams, increase loyalty and trust and appeal to a wider segment of guests while building resilience in times of recession and increased performance in periods of growth. Hoteliers have had to rethink what the product is or can be in the future and what the new systematic needs are around content and product creation, distribution and fulfilment – it is no longer only a rate attached to a room for a certain period of time. This is where technology has and will help.
“I believe that technology can help hoteliers in three different ways; revenue – by defining the best rate for each customer in each moment, cost efficiency – by reducing costs across the entire customer journey, and improved customer experience. Technology will change our lives and our businesses,” said González.
With personalization being the new expectation in so many industries, travel must deliver the same tailored experience and as such new technologies such as AI and ML are becoming increasingly important.
“We’ve had a lot of success with AI incorporated into the app and due to the pandemic this has evolved and will only accelerate. The in-room technology is where we will see AI accelerating the most, especially through voice technology. We have seen an increase in all usage on digital touchpoints, but it is the data and the insights that will allow us to really improve and personalize the customer journey” said Oldsberg.
While no one can predict exactly what the future travel will look like, especially on the other side of this pandemic, there is no doubt that tech companies will continue to innovate, and to provide services and solutions to help hoteliers learn, adapt and develop. In this time of recovery, hoteliers are looking for a shift from siloes and fragmentation to a more holistically integrated environment that makes it easier for hoteliers to manage and help to drive revenue and reduce cost and understand customers better.
“In the hospitality industry creating an ecosystem is quite challenging because of the legacy integration of the multiple applications that are out on the marketplace, along with the geographic differences and the need for localization. At Sabre we are creating a new environment where a customer experience is delivered holistically pre, during and post stay across the whole ecosystem of agency, airlines and hospitality,” concluded Trampert.
This piece is based on the Sabre Campus event Q&A in presence of:
Carl Oldsberg, CEO eBerry by Nordic Choice Hotel;
Raúl González, EMEA CEO of the Barceló Hotel Group;
Frank Trampert, SVP & Global Managing Director – Commercial, Sabre Hospitality Solutions;
Sebastian Drzewiecki VP & Managing Director of Sabre Poland
The recording of the event is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1snFxH-jyBk