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A SIMPLE search on Google reveals that a typical online travel consumer is exposed to more than 38,983 micro-moments in a 60-day timeframe and visits an average of 18 websites via multiple devices across eight sessions before making a hotel booking. This means that technology continues to play a significant role in travel. For instance, tools like voice search, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and contactless payments aid to reduce friction and cut waiting times.

More than that, the emergence of more meticulous hygiene practices as a result of Covid-19 has also brought some other travel-related technologies to the forefront including mobile check-ins and cleaning robots that minimise direct human contact.

In terms of hospitality management, digital technology like revenue management and customer relationship management (CRM) are fast becoming part of the new norm, making their way into every facet of the industry.

However, there are still a number of Malaysian hoteliers that have yet to adopt even a fraction of the digital solutions. Instead, these hoteliers have continued relying on manual practices and this ultimately results in an inability to maximise opportunities and reduce inefficiencies.

More than the recovery of hospitality and tourism, there is a need for consistent efforts to digitalise these spaces to not only help traditional hoteliers through the tourism resurgence, but to also ensure their long-term growth.

Types of tech and what they each can do for hoteliers

Enhanced technology and operational capabilities can ensure seamless management of a property, from accurate revenue tracking, automated price adjustments, and ensuring memorable day-to-day guest experiences. Moreover, technology like omnichannel distribution across online and offline channels have demonstrated notable effectiveness. For instance, OYO reports that the hoteliers under its umbrella have experienced 90% guest occupancy after implementing its system.

However, before delving into omnichannels, traditional hoteliers are still struggling with issues like selling rooms at optimised prices and reaching their customers through the right channels. This is where the predictive capabilities of revenue management technology (RMS) can help forecast demands and optimise prices to increase occupancy and revenue.

Furthermore, communication with customers is key to business success in this service-heavy industry. Manual processes such as bookkeeping through excel sheets can be tedious and highly ineffective.

Created to streamline work processes, CRM technology can be utilised to cleanse and eliminate data duplicates while also powering guest satisfaction surveys, marketing automation and loyalty programs, not to mention guest pre-stay, in-stay and post-stay communications. On the other hand, CRM propagates a further customer understanding to proactively impact online reviews and ratings.

Lastly, digital marketing is an inevitable part of all future-forward businesses as it is used to engage travel consumers in the dreaming and planning phases, acquiring them in the booking phase, and re-engaging them in the reminiscence and post-stay phase. Combined with the use of RMS and CRM, hoteliers will be able to create a novel experience for guests, while also optimising the hotel’s resources for maximum potential.

Investment into travel technology will, in the long run, directly address these issues and lead to improved cost, time and manpower efficiency, while also enabling hoteliers to track and assess business performance.

Over 800 hoteliers nationwide under OYO record an average 2.5 times increase in bookings.

More can be done

By understanding hoteliers’ reluctance to digitalise and the potential they could be missing out on, the key question now is what can be done to help these small and budget hotel owners overcome their barriers and eventually convince them to adopt travel tech. It boils down to education. Hoteliers need to be more open to education surrounding the digitalisation topic, and be receptive towards change that can bring about a positive and long-lasting impact. Industry players, including associations and other hotels, should band together and organise support campaigns and outreach initiatives to aid fellow industry members especially within the small and budget segments.

Moreover, in pushing for digitalisation in this industry, incentives, grants and subsidies will continue to play imperative roles. For instance, hoteliers should continue leveraging the RM600 million Penjana Tourism Financing that was announced during Budget 2022’s tabling, which will enable them to receive the financial support needed as they look to implement tech-centric solutions to better manage their premises. In the same vein, RM30 million was allocated in matching grants for repair of 738 budget hotels. This was indeed a much needed aid that restarted many hotel businesses that were badly affected by the pandemic.

Given these government-linked initiatives and the digitalisation gap that continues to exist in hospitality management, there is a huge opportunity for digital platforms to help merchants move from offline to online, especially in the short stay accommodation market. OYO’s business model can transform fragmented, unbranded and underutilised hospitality assets into branded, digitally-enabled storefronts with higher revenue generation potential at compelling price points.

Its asset-light, technology-driven business model has provided hoteliers with a strong competitive advantage in the short-stay accommodation space. OYO has also developed a two-sided technology platform focused on comprehensively addressing key pain points of both hoteliers and hotel guests. As a travel tech provider, OYO will continue to implement our digitalisation and solutions in easing hoteliers into the transformation process.

At the end of the day, the hospitality industry too must actively work on defining Hospitality 2.0 in the new normal. For OYO, we believe that technology combined with human commitment is the key in making all of this possible.

This article is contributed by OYO country head for Malaysia and Singapore Tan Ming Luk.

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