Digital Transformation In The Hospitality Industry

Ajay Bakaya, Managing Director, Sarovar Hotels & ResortsHaving completed his MBA ­ Hotel Administration from the IMHI Cornell Essec Paris, Ajay has been associated with Sarovar for over 23 years now, and played a key role in its growth journey so far.

Ever since the hospitality industry has adopted the digital platform, the dynamics of the industry have changed a lot by leveraging technologies, all with the single aim of adding further client focus to a Customer-Centric Business. In this era, booking rooms is not the only objective, hotels are focused on profitability, increasing internal efficiency, understanding guests' ever-changing preferences and targeting a larger audience through the utilization of different mediums. It taps the digital consumer across demographics: millennials who are already at the age to make their own booking and organize trips; as well as mature groups who have incorporated the internet in their buying process, which can be checking prices, reviews from other travellers, property, services, facilities, and more.

To fully optimize the use of this platform, the hotel industry is making multiple operational changes. Hotels have increased digital marketing budgets to engage with today's guest on social media platforms to convert potential guests into actual stays. Investment into SMAC ­ Social media, Analytics and cloud has become mandatory to maintain and enhance the overall hotel business. There is an increased focus on investing in AI and Virtual reality, since high quality images and video of hotel place an important role in attracting potential guest.

Online marketing has become a very crucial, economical and efficient way to reach today's tech savvy target audience in the shortest possible time. It is very important for the industry to have their digital visibility on every path to purchase every
platform such as on official website, Google search, social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn), third party website, OLTS and meta search. By strategically using the power of digital marketing, hotels can achieve their budgets and capture market share in a small period of time as compared to traditional marketing tools. Online reviews also form an important part of the traveller's decision making process. As reviews increase brand trust, an online reputation management system helps hoteliers to monitor real time reviews, act quickly and manage guest satisfaction. Reviews help to increase online exposure and Local SEO. Feedback Loop and Customer Intelligence through Google Business Reviews helps hotels to gain more visibility.

As reviews increase brand trust, an online reputation management system helps hoteliers to monitor real time reviews, act quickly and manage guest satisfaction

Apart from this, hotels have to deal with positive as well as negative reviews and posts on the internet, operational staff is trained to continuously check with guests about their experience during the stay at differenttouch points. Any guest service issues observed by hotel staff are addressed immediately much before the checkout of guest; lest an unsatisfied guest post the same on various available social media platforms and on other mediums. Today's traveler goes through at least 20 websites and reviews about a hotel online before booking. Hotels have started investing in `Online reputation Management (ORM) applications to ensure that guest complaints are dealt with properly so that negative comments are avoided.

Digital transformation also facilitates the industry to know guest preferences to create a wow factor and retain them through the use of cloud based QMS to do data analysis of guest feedback on various operational areas. Data analysis helps hotels in designing guest friendly future hotels. Technologies that help in digital marketing of hotel and Big data (Analytics and cloud) based applications for better decision making are used to know about loyal guests, their likes and dislikes via CRM to retain them. Data analytics helps hotels in knowing room rate as per market demand to sell it better. Evaluating new data analytics and Artificial Intelligence technologies to understand guest preferences, companies are giving business, so that hotels can offer them best rate depending on business volume to ensure repeat business.

The trend which is growing very rapidly amongst the millennial is the adoption of the smartphone channel for booking hotels and other thing. In the coming two years, 80 percent of the guests will use their personal phone for hotels booking, room check-in prior to arrival, interactive digital concierge services and securing other facilities. The guest of the future will look for more real time experiences. Hotels must integrate multi-purpose spaces within and outside the hotel to offer a completely new level of flexibility to guests, while serving new customers.