The power of traveller-centric technology

Michael Dykes, vice president, Asia Pacific, market management, Expedia Group highlights the importance of meeting travellers’ needs and shares ways on improving guests experiences at hotels

The current power of planning travel online puts choice in the hands of the traveller in ways that would have been inconceivable 25 years ago.

With a simple search, millions of travellers can be connected to their choice of brands and experiences. Travellers can select how they want to travel by sharing preferences, instantly enabling them to compare options for where they might want to stay. Powerful back-end and user interface development, paired with supply from partners, has put the power firmly in the fingertips of the traveller.

While this clearly benefits the traveller, it’s clear that the online travel market has become too price conscious rather than the right product at a fair price.

Fortunately, this is now changing. What we are currently seeing is a realignment of the online travel booking experience, with technology putting the traveller’s considerations at its core – with the aim of providing an exceptional guest experience.

In order to deliver better results for travellers, and for hoteliers looking to improve their business, there are a series of ways in which hoteliers can adapt to better suit the traveller’s needs. The reasons to focus on guest experience are clear: better guest experiences lead to higher rates of rebooking, greater brand loyalty, and better reviews which lead to additional bookings. By using technology and marketplaces which put the traveller experience at the centre, hoteliers can drive better traveller experiences and better outcomes for all.

Understanding travellers’ experience better
The ability to accurately gauge a traveller’s perception of different aspects of their trip or experience is important for understanding where they can improve, and to hear about the elements of a trip that travellers particularly value. Technology which enables hoteliers to listen for signals that indicate a great guest experience is crucial.

The need to be attuned to the traveller’s needs is underlined by findings that 53 per cent of consumers are likely to spend with companies if they trust they’ll get what they were promised. Using technology that tracks and analyses key touchpoints – from guest reviews, cancellations, and in-stay feedback, to call propensity and relocations – can all help to build an accurate picture of the overall experience. Knowing where a hotel is overpromising and underdelivering is important to understand how to make improvements, eliminating the guessing game and helping to inform actions to improve traveller satisfaction.

A marketplace in step with guest experience
While this feedback helps to improve a hotelier’s offering, this information is also helping to improve online marketplaces for hoteliers and travellers alike. For example, Expedia Group is reimagining its marketplace by rewarding partners that deliver great traveller experiences with more visibility. Historically, offer strength, which reflects factors related to a property listing – factors like content, images, and price availability – have been a significant component to our marketplace. Expedia Group is introducing changes to our marketplace where a hoteliers’ visibility will reflect two types of signals: offer strength and guest experience.

The intent behind the guest experience signals is to give travellers an accurate and clear picture of what they can expect when they book their accommodations by meaningfully elevating the importance of the guest experience. Some of the signals impacting this score will include staff and service ratings, cleanliness ratings, relocation rates, amenity ratings and more.

This traveller-centric shift will reward accommodation providers that have delivered positive guest experiences with increased visibility and performance, and more opportunities to create connections with guests. Using a marketplace which takes into account price consideration and availability alongside how a hotel has performed for guests in the past, delivers an equally positive experience for the hotel and traveller. After all, many hoteliers consider providing a great experience the core value that they offer to travellers. Indeed, across Asia-Pacific, the industry takes pride in our ability to provide exceptionally high levels of customer service and hospitality – as evidenced by the importance of omotenashi in places like Japan.

When the traveller wins, we all win
Previous iterations of the overly commodified online travel experience don’t best serve the traveller’s needs, and don’t offer the best value to hotels. Traveller-centric technology, such as a marketplace that rewards partners and displays rooms and experiences which take into account previous guest experiences, much better reflects travellers’ preferences.

Without adopting technology that puts travellers at its core, hoteliers risk being left behind as travellers seek an online travel booking experience that best serve their holistic interests – not just price. By adopting the right technology, hoteliers can expect a richer suite of tools to better understand and serve travellers and better businesses because of it.

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