Written by: Xuanying (Charlene) Ren
Throughout the decades, the hospitality industry has been constantly changing, following the steps of emerging trends such as the latest technology and evolving guest behaviors. Surely, the industry also has to be capable of dealing with emergencies — like the sudden outbreak of the pandemic. In recent years, the “experience economy” has become the new preference for guests. They now prefer to spend their money on memorable experience, rather than the product itself. Therefore, hoteliers have spent tons of time trying to implement the best technology into daily operations to impress guests with an extraordinary experience. There are several focused areas where technology could be implemented in the near future for the hospitality industry, including the hotel booking system, hotel direct booking channel, the emphasis on sustainability, and the development of future hoteliers. This article will mainly discuss the essential needs to develop a universal hotel reservation system.
As previously mentioned, hotel guests today do not consider a hotel only as a place to stay during their travels. Instead, they expect to experience as many of the hotel facilities and services as possible to learn and understand the culture and meaning behind it. These experiences may include not only hotel rooms, but also food and beverage outlets and spas inside the hotel. To fulfill these needs, hotels have put forward various packages which are usually a room type, plus other non-room inventory items. Some guests may see these packages as appealing. However, most of the time, guests may desire something more customized, DIY packages which can include everything they would like to experience in a hotel. Therefore, the assumption has been proposed that the hotel packages came out of necessity while reflecting the inability of inventory distribution and sales systems to offer effective product combinations through distribution channels. The solution to this inability is to create a universal hospitality booking engine (UBE).
Think about a full-service hotel in a city’s downtown area: it has hundreds of rooms, a few conference rooms, one grand ballroom, a spa, a fitness center, and five restaurants. The hotel now has separate reservation systems for the front office, food and beverage, sales and spa departments for guests to book their reservations. Therefore, guests need to find each department separately if they want to modify information regarding the booking. That is why a UBE is needed for future hospitality development.
UBE is a channel-agnostic platform which works similarly across all market-facing channels. These channels include web, mobile, messaging, and voice, as these are all means for future guests to make a reservation. In addition, UBE should be an omni platform for all inventory sold in the hotel — guest rooms, food and beverage, spa, fitness, conferences and transportation. With the interrelated information available across the departments, hotel staff can share all inventory reservations made by each individual guest to learn his or her hotel facility preferences. Hence, hotels can learn what are the most popular combinations and package the options accordingly. Moreover, with the omni platform, it would save guests’ time since they could make changes to all their reservations in a one-stop reservation platform. Lastly, a UBE should be operated in two faces: one for guests to make self-service bookings, and one for the hotel reservation department to modify any changes on behalf of guests. This ensures customization and flexibility for guests, as well as efficiency whenever they encounter problems which can be solved by the hotels.
As a result, a UBE can ultimately extend the customer journey experience. Usually, the interaction starts when guests book their reservation and stops when they check in at the hotel kiosks. With a UBE, the touchpoints can be extended to the stay and post-stay periods. The platform allows the guests to be flexible to change their reservations during the stay and leave reviews after the stay. Hence, full potential is seen for UBE to be developed and implemented in the future to further improve the guest experience.
Xuanying (Charlene) Ren is a graduate student currently pursuing the Master of Science in Global Hospitality Business program, which is in partnership of three schools: EHL, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and University of Houston.