It’s rare you attend a conference these days without Google weaving its way into the conversation. The 5th annual Hotel Data Conference, which we hosted this past week along with our parent company, STR, was no exception.
Randy touched upon the proverbial 800-pount gorilla briefly during his annual fireside chat, where he riffs on nearly every topic you can imagine. He said Google is good for the hotel industry, arguing the company’s presence shakes up the distribution landscape to create more competition among the online travel agencies.
I’d second that notion, while adding the benefits extend beyond competitive pricing.
Google shows invaluable insights into the way consumers shop, share and search online. Case in point: Rob Torres’ presentation during Wednesday’s “Kicking off: Establishing the industry’s position” opening general session.
The head of Google’s travel industry practice shared three key trends shaping the world of travel and tourism:
1. Hospitality is no longer defined within the construct of a physical experience.
The guest experience starts well before the physical check-in process, as would-be guests enter the discovery phase’s periphery of the booking funnel, Torres said. From then on, how your hotel and brand is represented online matters.
And by online, I’m talking on all personal devices and platforms. Consumers are device agnostic, Torres said. They’ll switch from their smartphone to tablet to desktop seamlessly. If your online presence doesn’t follow in step, kiss that potential business goodbye.
“It’s critical that all of us in this room understand that,” Torres said. “We can’t control where people are consuming this information. They’re getting it wherever they want.”
2. Relevance is reality.
The hotel industry has only just begun to leverage the potential of big data. Our biggest obstacle? Big data.
“We have an abundance of data available. … More and more people just get inundated,” Torres said. “Those that win are the ones that actually will use the most relevant data.”
He pointed to Hotel Tonight as a strong example. The smartphone app, which allows hoteliers to offload limited rooms for same-day bookings, created a highly relevant avenue to complement a rise in same-day reservations. Guests don’t have to sort through thousands of available rooms. Instead, they get exactly what they want when they want it.
3. Experience matters.
A bit of a no-brainer, right? Good hoteliers know guest experience is everything. But the best hoteliers know it isn’t the only thing, Torres said. If the actual experience differs from the experience promised online, guests will not only be unhappy, but they’re increasingly likely to express their dissatisfaction across a variety of channels.
“How people experience your brand and how they share that brand through social media is very important,” he said. “More and more, people basically are giving up on a brand if their offline experience isn’t the same as their online experience or vice versa.”