On March 6-10, our Market Managers and Direct Booking Coaches met with hundreds of hoteliers at the world's leading travel trade show – ITB Berlin.
Across several exhibition halls, visitors caught up on the latest travel trends, destinations and technology at ITB Berlin Convention. The biggest topics for discussion: luxury travel trends, Chinese outbound tourism and emerging technologies. Read on for highlights from the talks and panels.
Chinese outbound tourism trends
“50.7% of Chinese tourists use OTA apps to enrich their travel experience,” revealed Sophie Zhang, Senior Manager for Programs and Projects, World Tourism Cities Federation (WTCF). To get more direct booking in this segment, she advises using local OTAs such as Ctrip for the billboard effect.
Hotels should look to emulate what Ctrip does best: provide Chinese customers with relevant content on both your hotel’s and third-party websites, as well as on local social media channels.
Mobile payment is currently the leading trend in the Chinese market. Discounts and seasonal promotions on the hotel’s website are also effective in increasing the direct booking rate.
According to Sophie, over 90% of Chinese travellers share their travel experience online. WeChat, Weibo and QQ Zone are the top three local social platforms, but the ever-changing dynamics of this digital landscape make it hard for hotel brands to cover all platforms on the market. Get to know your ideal audience, and target them with relevant content on their favourite social apps.
Changing customer demand (luxury)
‘Transformational travel’ - the desire to get physically and mentally enriched by a trip - has replaced ‘experience travel’. That was the idea put forward by Chris Cahill, CEO of AccorHotels Luxury Brands during a panel on luxury travel.
Luxury hotels need to analyze their data to provide top-of-class brand engagement and experiences, Chris suggested. Unlocking customer data can help hotels better understand their guests’ needs and desires, and then tailor offers for each individual website visitor.
Another hot topic on the panel - branding. “Don't confuse branding with marketing,” warned Chris. To cater to the contemporary luxury traveller, he suggests finding the balance between brand consistency and local experiences.
Puneet Chhatwal, Managing Director & CEO, Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces shared that Taj delivers the same brand promise and standards across all hotels, but takes local approaches to their service and experiences.
Digitalization is important, agree the CEOs of AccorHotels Luxury Brands, Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, Steigenberger Hotels and Metropolo Hotels. But digital interaction should not be the only option for your guests. They should still be able to meet and connect with your staff if they wish to.
Learnings from the OTAs
In an on-stage interview, Mark Okerstrom, CEO, Expedia, stated that he believes the term ‘big data’ is outdated. Instead, Marc spoke about ‘streaming data’ - using the travellers’ data to model artificial intelligence (AI) and drive automation.
Mark also commented on Expedia’s “awkward” relationship with Hilton: “We understand what they’re doing. We do the same thing versus Google!” The global hotel chain still lists on Expedia-owned OTA sites despite their viral direct booking campaigns.
The main strategy for Expedia Group today is ‘being locally relevant globally’, says Marc. Expedia’s acquisitions of OTAs in specific regions allow them to provide locally relevant payment types, tone of voice, content and marketing campaigns.
Guest data, AI and automatization
‘90% of companies’ data is unstructured and unused’, shared Lutz Behrendt, Industry Leader Travel, Google Deutschland in a session on the future of hospitality in times of artificial intelligence.
Smart data can make a hotel’s direct booking offers unique and personal. “It can make your customers think ‘they know me better than OTAs,’” says Clinton Anderson, President, Sabre Hospitality Solutions.
Chris Silcock, Executive Vice President & Chief Commercial Officer, Hilton, believes the future for hotels is in real-time embedded algorithms that can provide website visitors with tailored offers, and hotel guests with a seamless personalized experience.
Chris shared that the Hilton chatbot has 25K moments of contact per week on average with the website’s guests. The ‘trained’ bot can already answer most questions, and when it can’t it will pass them on to customer service agents.
Making their digital marketing content even more granular is at the top of Hilton’s data management plans. Chris shared the company’s vision of picking out the guest’s search history or social sharing to ultimately produce better personalized offers.
While we were busy picking up the best content from ITB's panel discussions, our Direct Booking Coaches were offering bespoke website analysis and advice to hoteliers at the Triptease stand. If you didn't get a chance to meet the team in Berlin, you can book a meeting with us at these upcoming events:
- Ahic, Apr 09 - 11, Arabic Emirates
- HITEC, Apr 09 - 11, Mallorca
- The Direct Booking Summit: EMEA, Jun 12-13, Paris