Innovation and technology to remain central to hotel operations as consumers go mobile

A roundtable focussed on the fast-changing consumer behaviour and the need for assimilation of technology and innovation into hotel operations saw spokespersons detail their organisation’s efforts in that direction. Excerpts.

Chinmai Sharma
Chief Revenue Officer, Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces

On technology and innovation
Infrastructure is what it is, but we have got to learn from some of these countries, as well – which are probably one-tenth in terms of what has to be offered, but the whole experience and infrastructure is a lot cooler. We hope to see investment in technology. Technology in this part of the world is cheap. So, technology and innovation, kind of, go hand-in-hand. With a heritage and unique brand like us, we are hoping that the concoction will deliver a very good punch.

On Aggregators
Well, with all these disruptors coming into the market, it does upset the applecart in some segments. But as Rahul said, the good news is that more people will travel and more bookings will happen. As a brand, we feel we are more aspirational than some of these segment of hotels.

Rahul Puri
Area Director of Revenue Strategy – South Asia, Marriott International

On investment on mobile interface
I will talk about on a Marriott global scale, the investment in technology is at an all-time high, in the past two years. I think Marriott is investing a lot in technology – not just for the booking source but also for the guest experience part of it. Mobility is our number one focus to reach out to the consumer who is booking direct through smartphones. Gone are those days, even in a hotel, when a consumer would go to his room, pick the phone and order in-room dinning. He is booking meals through apps, right after he is done with his work. What we have seen is, from a source market point of view, there are small cities in India, where we have previously seen hardly any booking coming through, are now emerging and booking direct through smartphones.
They could be booking through OTAs, Marriott’s website or other voice channels.

Dawn of aggregators as a challenge
The good news is that the industry is changing. The good news is that OYO or Airbnb are consolidators, who are putting hotels on a platform where consumer behaviour is changing – looking at how they are booking. Do we see it as a risk? No. Because over 80% of our portfolio, whether in India or in the Asia Pacific, is between four to five-stars. What we are catering to is more from the business angle. I mean, our 70-80% of focus within Asia-Pacific, in terms of brand portfolio is still in the business segment.
When we look at OYO and Airbnb, they are more on the leisure side. So, we do not see it as a risk. On the positive side, we are looking at consumers who are booking differently. I am, again, combining that with mobility.

Sandeep Dwivedi
Chief Commercial officer, InterGlobe Technology Quotient

On innovation and technology
When a customer books through any agency, he needs a single PNR. He needs a single booking for hotel and air-movement, both. Whether engines are capable of doing that or not? That is the first question. So we keep on evolving in that space as a company. We have developed our own booking tools, too, which are for the Indian market. Forget about these bigger chains, but do two-star and three-star hotels have the APIs to connect to the system. That is the main challenge.
We keep on investing in these things, because we are GDS and we see more opportunity in the hospitality sector. Much has been done on the air-side, it the hotel side which, now, needs to connected – and OYO is one particular example in that direction.

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