Everyone in the hospitality business knows that having the right data at the right time can make all the difference when making key decisions, especially those about distribution. Having access to the data is one thing, but to get the most out of it, it needs to be actionable. Data management is the administrative process that includes acquiring, validating, storing, protecting, and processing required data to ensure the accessibility, reliability, and timeliness of the data for its users and to ultimately make the data actionable. This should be quite simple, but in essence getting data into a state where it is usable and informative is never as simple as it seems. Ultimately, the goal is to turn data into insight, intelligence, and action, enabling faster decisions, better real-time guest experience, optimized operations, and so on.
The hotel industry struggles with managing the plethora of data it has available due to the vast number of silos the data are stored within. Hotels have data stockpiled in operational systems, in secondary platforms such as online travel agency partners, and with tertiary platforms that enable guest check-in or messaging. Trying to pull all of this different type of data into an actionable format that hoteliers can use is difficult, especially when some of the third parties producing the data are not inclined to easily share or to cooperate.
Data that hotels can use is indeed around in great abundance everywhere and this is a very good thing. Hotels are now able to distil portions of this information from the operational systems they use by working with data analytics platforms and companies that can help them fine-tune either their operations or their distribution strategy. As more and more companies offer these types of analytic services, the types of data required and the format that the data is collected in and subsequently distributed will become uniform.
When the industry opens the floodgates of data, and is in a position to share the data across different systems and platforms, often using APIs, then we will see a remarkable transformation whereby hoteliers can routinely use the data to become more guest-centric focusing on what guests actually want rather than just what the hotel wants to offer. The capability to fully understand the lifetime value of the guest will now be within the hotelier’s grasp. By also being able to appear more customer-centric to the customer too. This means making the product offers and price offers aligned to customer desires.
Today, it would be fair to say, the hotel industry is weak regarding the implementation of best practices, standards, and processes when it comes to data. System fragmentation and lack of integration lies at the heart of this issue, which is not new. When this does happen, unfortunately, the hotelier does not have a great deal of leverage, and this is unfortunate. They tend to feel as if they are a small fish in a large pond and their “partners” are leaving them out in the cold. Hoteliers need the data in order to fully understand how to optimize their revenues and to be able to deliver exceptional guest service.
It is now time that the OTA’s and other external distribution systems, as well as social platforms, begin sharing the data that they have amassed with the hoteliers that fuel their profits. It is not only OTA’s that don’t share; it can at times be challenging for hoteliers to get their primary operation systems providers to work with each other. In reality there should be a spirit of collaboration between like-minded hoteliers to lean on the third party suppliers and technology providers to deliver the data that is needed to fuel business growth.
The picture is definitely not all doom and gloom. Some companies are opening up their data to hoteliers, and there are aggregators that help manage the immense amount of information available to make it comprehensible. We still have quite a long way to go, but with every day, the focus on the benefits of using and sharing data gets sharper and the industry gets a step closer.
The HEDNA Hotel Analytics Working Group has been formed by technology suppliers and hoteliers alike, to raise awareness of the opportunities data analysis can bring. In particular to optimize cost and conversion and, thereby, empower hoteliers to collect, store, analyze, and action their data to make intelligent decisions about their distribution strategies. At the group’s inaugural session, held during the HEDNA conference in Dublin, hoteliers and their system providers recognized that now is the time to start laying the foundations for industry-wide standards and best practices. A survey of today’s hotel data distribution landscape is the starting point for recognizing emerging impediments to optimizing distribution and developing strategies to remove them.