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[Webinar Recap] Why Now is the Time For Digitalization in Hotels

Why is now the time for independent and bespoke hotels to invest in digitalization? Hoteliers and technology providers from around the world came together to discuss this topic in a recent PhocusWire webinar. 

Moderated by PhocusWire Editor-In-Chief, Mitra Sorrells, the 30-minute discussion included:

  • Manuel Correia, Europe revenue director, Pestana Hotels and Resorts
  • Assaf Gal, vice president of revenue management and distribution, Club Quarters Hotels
  • Debra Wolman, group vice president for the Americas, Duetto
  • Eric Hallerberg, vice president of sales, Oracle

Together they covered why now is the time to invest, what should be behind your decision-making process, getting started with new technology, and how to drive usage once your new solutions are deployed.

You can catch the full webinar for free here:

Here we recap some of the biggest talking points from the discussion.

Why now is the time to invest

Duetto’s Debra Wolman kicked off the conversation by looking at why now is the time to invest.

“The industry is evolving, our guest expectations are evolving, our owner expectations are evolving and if you are not evolving you will be left behind,” she told the audience.

Wolman cited a recent  Duetto survey which found that 78% of hoteliers plan on heavily investing in technology in the next three years.

“If you are not part of that 78% then there is a real cost associated with doing nothing,” she added.

Part of that 78% was Club Quarters Hotels. Assaf Gal, vice president of revenue management and distribution, explained how the company had planned to invest in new technology before COVID hit, and the pandemic accelerated that process.

“This year we updated our entire technology stack from marketing to revenue and sales systems. In addition to that, we are going contactless. Our customer has changed, the expectations have changed, and we have to change with it,” he said.

Getting started with new technology

Mitra Sorrells asked the panel what the starting point for technology investment was and what the decision-making process should entail.

Eric Hallerberg, vice president of sales, Oracle, advised hoteliers to first identify their business objectives and then ask how they can enhance the guest experience.

He then took the audience through his ideal integrated tech stack:

  1. Openness.
  2. Modularity
  3. Create an ecosystem

“You need open APIs. It has got to be easy for hoteliers and third parties to integrate.

Modularity is about being able to pick and choose the solutions needed to create that bespoke guest experience,” he explained.

Talking about creating an ecosystem, Hallerberg drew synergies with the iPhone. “It’s a platform for third parties to come in through the app store and deliver all these enhancements. That is not the future, it’s the present,” he said.

Wolman admitted that sometimes thinking about digital transformation can seem overwhelming: “Start with the tech that has the biggest business impact. Start there and build a solid foundation. It’s about developing an ongoing strategy to help you solve your business challenges. By asking those questions you are already on the path to digitalization,” she said.

She also strongly advised looking for technology partners who have a long-term plan that is aligned with the hotel’s business objectives.

“Pick a partner with the right long-term vision, don’t pick on one feature they have today. Look at the roadmap, what will they be doing next and what do you think your challenges will be? Make sure they can grow and evolve with you,” she said.

The benefits of an integrated tech stack

Pestana has been using Duetto since 2015. The hotel company started with just a small number of hotels and now has 90% of its inventory optimizing revenue through the RMS. For Manuel Correia, Europe revenue director, Pestana Hotels and Resorts, the benefits have been many, with efficiency and strategy coming out on top.

“We are focused on sophisticating our revenue management department to evolve more of a revenue strategy perspective. Duetto has enabled us to deviate the focus from pricing to strategizing, and forecasting. Not only within the revenue department but with other teams such as marketing, and e-commerce; creating a connected ecosystem where all departments are working toward the same goal,” Correia explained.

Pestana Hotels and Resorts, which is the largest multinational group of Portuguese origin in the tourism industry and celebrated its 50th Anniversary this year, has an integrated tech stack that includes Duetto and Opera. Correia explained how this integrated approach helps save time.

“Having everything in the same platform makes us react faster to the changes we see in the environment and has increased results and performance,” he said.

For Club Quarters Hotels automation has been key to success.

“We are doing more today with less staff so automation is key; manual processes have to go away. An RMS that integrates well with a PMS and a reservations system is key for inventory, rates, reservations, and restrictions to be updated instantly and always live. Up-to-date data is key to the success of the hotel and making the right business decisions,” said Assaf Gal, vice president of revenue management and distribution, Club Quarters Hotels.

Gal is also seeing huge benefits from adopting the Duetto Open Pricing methodology.

“Open Pricing allows us to manage different segments, room types, and pricing without closing any of them. This allows us to maximize revenue. You set up the autopilot, pricing rules, guidelines, and Duetto - based on booking trends and demand - increases or decreases the rates as needed, enabling my team to focus on strategy. We’ve seen results immediately,” he said.

Competing with bigger brands

For independent hotels, small hotel chains, and owner/operator models, technology can be a huge lever in terms of competing against larger brands in the marketplace, and in the talent race.

“As independent hotels, where we have the advantage is with flexibility. We can adapt new tech faster than the big brands can. So that allows us to react faster to changes in technology and, as demand changes in markets and we see shifts, an RMS such as Duetto enables us to identify those changes quickly and adjust to them,” said Gal.

“Having robust technology also allows us to compete in the talent pool. It is easier to attract much stronger talent when we have a robust tech structure to offer,” he added.

Want to find out more about how independent hotels and small hotel groups are using technology to get ahead? Download your free copy of Revenue Strategy For Independent Hotels: How Technology Helps You Compete today:

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Sarah McCay Tams, Director of Marketing Communications.

Sarah joined Duetto in 2015 as a contributing editor covering Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA). In 2017, she was promoted to Director of Content, EMEA, and in 2022 promoted to Director of Marketing Communications. An experienced B2B travel industry journalist, Sarah spent 14 years working in the Middle East, most notably as senior editor – hospitality for ITP Publishing Group in Dubai, where she headed up the editorial teams on Hotelier Middle East, Caterer Middle East and Arabian Travel News. Sarah is now based back in the UK.

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