NEW YORK—To say technology is evolving rapidly is an understatement. “Technology isn’t just progressing quickly right now, it is leaping through huge evolutions,” wrote Rich Tuckwell-Skuda, president of Avvio North America and member of the HX: Hotel Experience Board of Advisors for Sales, Marketing and Education, in his new whitepaper for the industry, “The Connected Hotelier.”
Tuckwell-Skuda, who has been involved on the technology side of hospitality for 15 years and helms a direct booking platform company, sought to examine the correlation between buyer behavior, developments in technology and guest engagement. He urges hoteliers to pay attention to these areas: how to map a trend, record customer journeys, statistically engage or emotively upsell a booker.
“I realized there is such a knowledge gap in the independent market and wanted to share what can be done to bridge that,” said Tuckwell-Skuda. “There’s a technology gap and a trend mapping gap that hotels don’t understand. If they really want to drive direct revenue, stop focusing on bad OTAs and look at the many tools they could be using, such as deploying more marketing spend and getting those bookings anyway. This whitepaper gives a brief overview of the industry for technology. We look at the metrics and tell people what is good and what is bad.”
In a Q&A with Hotel Business, Tuckwell-Skuda gives a preview of the whitepaper and shares what hoteliers can do to improve the bottom line.
How does Avvio work with hospitality clients?
I say to clients, ‘Let’s lay a benchmark. This is what we think across the industry as Avvio. We looked at the industry, what is the average metric and what should we be striving for. In terms of booking, we can see this is why you have no direct revenue.’ If they can get the digital marketing right, let’s get the 35% conversion into a booking engine and make sure it’s geomapped and there’s trend marketing. The money is putting better leads into the booking engine to convert at a higher rate.
What are some of the problems you’re seeing in the industry?
We are in hospitality and, sometimes, we are inhospitable when it comes to working together. If we all pull together for the greater good, everything drives itself further. Let’s accept we need OTAs—on a slow January day, there’s low occupancy and suddenly hoteliers love them. There’s a rise and fall in every situation and we should look at increasing our knowledge to find that sweet spot, which is that place where a hotelier’s OTA business is 30%, the direct business is 50% and then I’m OK with that. If I can make it 70% direct booking in a few years, then that’s amazing.
What is the correlation between buyer behavior, technology developments and guest engagement?
If you have a fantastic technology platform, but you don’t understand why buyers are buying or bookings came to you, then you will always be disconnected. I try to help people understand it all better. For example, how do I maximize my ADR by including that in somehow? If your emotive marketing and digital marketing isn’t appealing to the right people, you still have a disconnect. It has to have all three working in unison. We all know buyers change behavior at will, but you can look at stats and journey mapping and emerging markets. I’m baffled when hoteliers have no knowledge about the China or India market; there’s no structure for how to sell to these people and no idea what they want to see.
Chinese OTAs know how to market your hotel to their market. If you marketed better, those guests would find you anyway. With careful attention to technology, buyer behavior and the guest journey, you’d get these bookings anyway. If there’s an understanding of each area and a strategy with each area, you will see a positive return.
What should hoteliers be thinking about in terms of harnessing next-gen technologies?
Machine learning-based software is imperative. Things like chatbots can massively create a personalized journey. Avvio has artificial intelligence technology in the booking engine, and it personalizes the journey. If you book one of our properties and go back, the booking engine now will greet you by name or tell you the dates of stay, give you the ability to try ancillary services or offer you services based on the previous stay. You’re making life easier by predictively personalizing something that is completely personal. It brings your journey mapping, guest engagement and revenue strategy into a space where next-gen technology is handling that for you.