RSF Dublin Recap: Personalizing Commercial Strategy

May 19, 2022 | Sarah McCay Tams, Director of Marketing Communications.

Revenue Strategy Forum (RSF) Dublin saw a coming together of hoteliers, leading industry experts, and technology innovators at the Camden Court Hotel on May 18, 2022.

The half-day event delivered plenty of trends, predictions, and topics for discussion.

Chris Crowley, Chief Revenue Officer at Duetto, opened the event.

“We are here today to discuss the trends and forecasts influencing the hospitality industry. We are here to provide you with short-term, tangible, and actionable insights that will influence and impact your revenue strategy,” he told the audience.

Crowley then took the audience through a presentation on the state of the market, using the concept of VUCA ( Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) to outline the challenges and opportunities, and the benefits of operating a connected commercial strategy.

“VUCA was a concept born from the US military during the Cold War. Faced with a constantly changing and evolving set of circumstances., military strategists asked: ‘How can we take that and make it applicable to ourselves?’ Today we are also doing interesting and unique things, and VUCA is very applicable once again,” Crowley explained.

Crowley led the audience through the need for controlled automation and the combination of man and machine to help hoteliers deliver a connected commercial strategy built for profitability.

“If we embrace change and create agile and flexible hospitality models, we can meet the rapidly changing needs of the customer. Don’t lose this opportunity to be close to the customer,” he urged the hoteliers in the room. “The companies who put the customer journey first and foremost and work back from that will be the ones to succeed,” he added.

Understanding Technology Trends

Following the VUCA presentation, four technology innovators took to the stage to take the audience through the latest trends and opportunities in:

  •   Guest acquisition
  •   Guest experience
  •   The hospitality system of the future
  •   The role of automation

Guest acquisition

Ian Sloan, VP of Partnerships at Avvio talked about the benefits of good personalization, such as that seen on Amazon and Netflix, and how to use it to boost guest conversion rate. Explaining how Allora.ai delivers a guided booking journey, Sloan told us: “People don’t book the first time they come. But they are three times more likely to book on their second or further visit to your website. It takes, on average, four days and 4.5 visits to make a booking.”

According to Sloan, OTA bookings carry up to a 40% chance of canceling, compared to around 16% for a direct channel booking. And couples cancel twice as often as solo travelers or families.

“Use that data. Personalize or get left behind,” he said.

Guest experience

Ryan O'Sullivan, Account Executive, Oaky, considered the psychology of upselling and urged the hoteliers in the room to avoid choice overload. “Offer 4-5 room types. That is the highest converting amount,” he explained.

Oaky data shows hoteliers the best time to upsell. Deal conversions typically happen at 13:00 for leisure guests and 10:00 for business travelers.

And there was plenty of good news to go with this as O’Sullivan explained how today’s guests are more susceptible to buying upgrades.

“2022 has seen a great start: 40% of US travelers are more willing to treat themselves and spend money on their next trip,” he said.

The hospitality system of the future

Ciara Madden, Sales Director at Mews, looked at the benefits of operating a cloud-based tech stack and how this provides real-time access to data and improved uptime of 99.5%.

She took the audience through Mews’ Project Spacetime, which aims to help personalize the buyer journey and sell elements of your hotel, including features for marketing day use for rooms, long stays, co-working, parking, gym, and hotel amenities, and more.

“Properties now can offer the blended experience of work and leisure. The guest is staying for longer. Hotels need to be agile and create those experiences,” she said.

The role of automation

David Byrne, VP of Sales/Partnership, EMEA at Asksuite, talked about the need for the hospitality industry to accelerate its tech adoption, using Asksuite’s AI chatbot as a perfect example of automation at work.

He explained how the chatbot helps buyers move from searching to asking. To date, the Asksuite chatbot, which is available in more than 40 languages, has handled more than 31 million chats with travelers.

“Guests are happy and comfortable using the software,” he said. “50% of requests are about prices, group quotes, packages, and offers. And with 56% of chats being out of business hours it helps push the omnichannel direct reservation concept.”

The Future of the Hotel Market

Commercial leads from Staycity, The Innovate Room, and The Talbot Collection talked with David Goodman, Duetto’s Direct of Sales for EMEA, in a panel discussion on current trends and adapting strategy.

Key takeaways from the panel were:

Personalization and automation are key. Collaboration between teams is vital. Revenue Managers need to work with digital marketing and sales, The more we know our guests, the better because this drives direct bookings and more repeat guests. - Paula Mullaney, Chief Commercial Officer, Staycity

The beginning is the data. Get that right. Go back to the basics. - Flavia Serrano, Group Commercial Manager, The Talbot Collection

Take a step back and ask who is responsible for selling strategy do they have the tools and skills to do their job? what data are they using and how are they communicating that? You do need someone to own and manage those systems? If so, upskill and mentor that person to use those systems to the benefit of the organization. Then they can use that data and drive revenue. Marketing, sales, and commercial. This is a connected strategy. - Amanda O’Donovan, Consultant, The Innovate Room

The Evolution of the Travel Programme

Gillian Dowling, Global Travel Manager, Kerry Group, joined David Goodman, Duetto’s Direct of Sales for EMEA, for a fireside chat on stage.

Kerry is the world leader in the development of taste and nutrition solutions for the food, beverage, and pharmaceutical markets.

Taylor, in her role in Kerry, has been responsible for the global Travel Program since April 2020. Her responsibilities include managing and administering Kerry’s global travel program and developing strategic policies and programs for corporate travel and meetings.

Taylor talked about how the Kerry travel program has changed in the past two years.

“We previously ran an annual RFP. Now contracts are on a rollover. Our partners have been really good globally. We’ve managed to roll rates over with a lot of our properties, chains offered us different benefits, such as dynamic rates, ceiling and cap rates,” she said.

Talking about traveler expectations and what’s important to a Kerry traveler, Taylor told the audience that parking, room service, safety, and security were current key considerations.

“Last year, especially in North America, we saw people drive rather than fly. So parking is an important element of a hotel stay,” she said.

Talking of budget, she confirmed that the Kerry Group stance is to “get back out on the road if you feel comfortable.” She also remarked that many Kerry Group travelers are personalizing their stay through add-ons.

Travel: Simplified

Next in the hot seat to chat with Goodman was Mark Trimble, Director of Customer Success at Roomex.

Roomex is a travel management platform for the mobile workforce who carry out project-based travel. Roomex predominantly works with three-star hotels.

Trimble talked about how the company adapted to COVID as it also offered services to key workers. “During the pandemic, these clients needed some help because they didn’t know what hotels were open,” he explained.

Today, the international workforce is back traveling extensively. Roomex saw business run at 75% of pre-pandemic levels in 2020, reaching parity by mid-2021, and in 2022 is currently running at 180% of 2019 levels.

Talking to the hoteliers in the audience, Trimble explained: “What our clients need is to be agile. They may have a team of 5-6 guys needing a stay for 8-12 weeks at a time. They want flexibility around cancellation terms. They are also looking for facilities such as parking that can take a van, and they often want a late check-in.”

It’s a lucrative market. Roomex has clients working 200-250 nights away a year, primarily staying Sunday to Thursday. They eat on-property and rarely use additional services.

Standardizing Distribution

The day ended with Nico Dussart, Head of Strategic Partnerships at Google, talking about the many ways hoteliers can use the search engine and Google technology to their revenue and marketing advantage.

Dussart talked about:

  •   Hotel insights –how is the search interest for your hotel or region developing? Where are guests searching from?
  •   Business profile – how to make sure people see your property. Is your business visible on google maps and google search?
  •   Free booking links – how to drive more free bookings on your site by appearing where users search.

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