Recurring theme of hotel distribution in technology-focused sessions on the opening day of WTM London, Hospitality News, ET HospitalityWorld
Hotel distribution was a recurring theme in technology-focused sessions on WTM’s opening day London.
Startups, futurists, brands and tech providers presented their own perspectives on the current landscape for hotels and alternative accommodation, the demands placed on the sector by post-pandemic travellers, and how hotels can benefit from broader developments in e-commerce and technology.
A larger trend that many hotels are part of is payments, which in turn is part of “fintech” – the technological reinvention of financial services. Many travel companies, including hotels, are thinking more strategically about how customers can pay, as well as how money flows up and down the supply chain.
Many establishments have been forced to adapt their systems and business relationships to allow customers to pay in their own currency, using their own credit card. For example, allowing Chinese customers to pay with their Chinese bank.
However, fintech innovations have moved beyond accepting a wider range of currencies. Cryptocurrencies have the potential to achieve scale in hospitality, according to Rohit Talwar, a futurist whose keynote opened this year’s WTM London. Talwar suggested that hotels should treat cryptocurrencies exactly the same as traditional currencies. He told attendees that 350 million people worldwide hold crypto, 25% of US travelers would like to pay in crypto, and a growing number of people are being paid in crypto. He added that Visa, Mastercard and most major financial institutions are now on board with crypto.
However, Talwar suggested that the public should consider alternative payment methods beyond cryptocurrencies. He suggested that “everything we own is an asset”, from the parking space in front of our house to the clothes we carry on our backs. There are platforms, he said, that have the potential to convert these assets into “a means of payment that travel agencies and hotels can accept.”
A platform focused on innovation and likely to interest hoteliers emerged during a roundtable organized by the media brand Travolution. Pinktada is a marketplace where travelers can “sell” their reservation to another traveler, regardless of the original hotel or purchase channel. Co-founder Ronald Homsy explained that the platform is a Web3.0 game, built using blockchain. Its advantage for hotels is that they can increase volumes on non-refundable inventory sold, as travelers have the option of reselling the room themselves if they need to cancel.
Pinktada is a new player in hospitality, founded in 2020. But in addition to start-ups, some of the world’s biggest hotel brands have also shared their stories of innovation.
Media brand Phocusfil hosted a session in which attribute-based shopping (ABS) was revealed as one of its trends to watch. ABS allows hotels to set prices based on specific room attributes and on-site amenities, resulting in better revenue. However, to fully exploit the opportunities, hotels must be able to not only index a property’s features, but also integrate that indexing into the search, store and booking flow, while ensuring that operational systems are also aligned.
Technology milestone sponsor Saber Hospitality Solutions is committed to ABS and now has some hotel customers using it. Its vice-president Frank Trampert used the example of beach or pool cabanas as an attribute that hotels may price differently depending on duration or at different times of the day, week, or season. “This is just one example of how ABS can help hoteliers sell ‘beyond the room’ and think like a retailer.”
While many speakers were looking at medium to long-term horizons, some hoteliers are very focused on the role of technology today and how it will support the recovery of the industry. During a session at the end of the day, Markus Keller d’Accor told the audience that the work-from-home/work-from-anywhere trend that emerged in the wake of the COVID shutdowns was not only embedded in the industry, but also represented a opportunity for hotel chains, travel management companies and technology partners.
“Mixed-use travel is here to stay,” he said, “and we’re excited about the new opportunities that are emerging in response to how hotels are changing and how technology can be used to respond. to these new needs.
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