Digital has played a major role in the hotel business, driving direct bookings and repeat business.
Phillip Taylor, CEO and founder of Hospitality Plus, addressing delegates at the Tourism, Hotel Investment and Networking Conference (THINC Africa) in Cape Town, said three critical technologies had emerged over the past few years and enabled the business models that we know today – namely the cloud, social media and mobile capabilities.
Outsourcing Digital Solutions
“M-Pesa, launched from Kenya, has reinvented financial services, along with brands like Uber, Airbnb, TripAdvisor and Booking.com, who have reinvented ways of doing business in their sectors,” said Taylor. He explained that most hotel groups now outsource their digital solutions, enabled by the cloud.
These services include competitive shopping, rate parity management, reviews, remarketing and upselling additional services at the time of booking, as well as website content management, including regular monthly forensic reporting. “There is a direct correlation between digital investment and balance sheet value. It works in tandem. The more you invest in digital, the more your balance sheet will be worth,” said Taylor.
Panelist Sam Matthews, CTO at Gosh Digital in London, advises being proactive on social media in the hotel industry is as crucial as understanding the audience, picking the appropriate channels and creating great content. Reactive social media must include timeous response to enquiries and complaints as well as tracking responses.
“Speed is king,” he says when it comes to download times and recommended hosting in Europe as opposed to Africa for optimum performance and speed.
Michael Schäffner, director sales and marketing at Serenata, said data and relevance are key when it comes to CRM. “CRM is about cleaning data and building a central infrastructure. There is so much data coming into our industry and to get that one central data profile is a really big challenge. It’s becoming more and more challenging with more devices and more data. Our vision for CRM is to make the most relevant offers to guests,” he said.
The hospitality sector has very complex payment requirements and security is the biggest issue,” said panelist Barry Coetzee, CEO of Ivery. “Today we have many hospitality clients who only work on e-commerce. All their income comes in through a website which means internet security is the front door to all their cash flow, which is a very big deal.”
According to Ivery there is generally very low card fraud in Africa compared to the rest of the world. “We’re very conservative and our payment infrastructure is heavily regulated and complicated,” he said.
James Vos, MP, DA shadow minister of tourism, told delegates, “We must use the many technologies available to market destinations, connect stakeholders, promote products and provide services. In fact, the recently hosted Africa World Travel Market in Cape Town selected the use of technology in tourism as its theme,” he said.
He encouraged the support of the application of electronic visas as a means to streamline tourist facilitation to the country, stating that e-visas for visitors to South Africa protect jobs in tourism, present significant advantages by cutting turnaround times for issuing travel documentation, and are, in fact, more secure than existing permits.
“Electronic visas have proven highly effective in countries like Turkey, which is widely regarded to have the best international practice when it comes to visa applications,” he said.
Source: HVS SA and THINC Africa.