Due to unparalleled digital landscape, a range of external influences impact hospitality business. To face these ‘disruptors’, industry experts should address these issues in the early stages to be on a par with competition.
A special session, held recently at Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) in Ras Al Khaimah, addressed prevalent issues on the theme ‘Day of Disruption’ with experts from PwC, Google, Coca Cola and Accor. Jonathan Worsley, Chairman of Bench Events and Founder of AHIC, said, “The ‘Day of Disruption’ flagged a huge number of thought-provoking viewpoints on potential disruptors to the industry and how hoteliers should react to these. The advice from speakers both within the industry and outside of the sector was to revolutionise our way of thinking. It’s no longer enough to respond to change; we need to anticipate it, alter our vision and commit to delivering on it.”
Julie Hamilton, Senior Vice President—Chief Customer and Commercial Leadership Officer, The Coca-Cola Company, explained why and how the company decided to dramatically change its business model. “We could wait for someone to disrupt us or we could disrupt ourselves. We chose the tougher path, the riskier path, the one that was most uncomfortable, to disrupt ourselves. So it may not seem like a big thing but when for 109 years we primarily focused on one brand in three packages to move to a vision of being a total beverage company, that’s big. It doesn’t sound big, but it’s like turning the Titanic around.”
Maria de la Fuente Corrales, Travel Industry Analyst, Google, spoke about the need to analyse and make use of data in order to tap into what customers want. She revealed that 80 per cent of the total searches for hotel accommodation are related to destination while 70 per cent of total travel searches come from mobile. “In mobiles, if your site takes more than three seconds to load, more than 50 per cent of people will just leave. They will not wait for the site to load. You are missing more than 50 per cent of your traffic to your website because you have not optimised your site,” she asserted, highlighting the Uber app as an excellent example of real-time digital service.
At PwC, Senior Manager Chinmay Shukla said that mobile search was relevant when it comes to millennials, two-thirds of whom search for a hotel room on their smartphone device and make their bookings through a smartphone. “Millennials are the disruptors to watch; impacting hospitality businesses through every single element of the value chain. Millennials are expected to make up more than 50 per cent of hotel guests worldwide by 2020. If there is one segment that needs to be targeted, it’s the millennials. Based on studies for the next 15 years, millennials will be at peak spending power.”
The ‘Day of Disruption’ also featured interviews with leading hoteliers. In an insightful session led by Nick van Marken, Managing Director, van Marken Limited and Sébastien Bazin, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Accor, said it was time the industry moved away from being ‘product-centric’ and focused on being ‘client-centric’. He said that his next focus in the transformation of Accor was to compete with digital players like Facebook and Amazon by “enlarging the net and increasing frequency with our clients”. Bazin explained that the advantage these companies had was their weekly, if not daily, contact with customers.