The online hotel reservation system has seen many trends in its growth over the years. From basic ticketing systems to Central Reservation Systems (CRS) to all-in-one hotel reservation systems, it has come a long way. As anybody would tell you, an all-inclusive and advanced online hotel reservation system would comprise of all the travel booking needs of travel agents and agencies and offer advanced analytics thereby helping the hotel industry to grow. The top features to look out for in 2017 would be –
- Full integration
- Predictive intelligence
- Change in revenue model
- Chat bots or Mobile Travel Chat (MTC)
- Real-time and mobile
- Connected intelligence
- Conversational interfaces
- Augmented reality and virtual reality
- Payment and data security
- Mobile data integration
Let’s have a look at the top trends and features in more detail below.
Online hotel reservation system trends and features for 2017 –
- Full Integration –
The biggest problem of the travel and hospitality industry is not lack of data, but too much data. Travel businesses simply have a lot of data but they find it difficult to manage it, let alone make meaning out of it. With so many different modules and software developed in an online hotel reservation system to serve different purposes and so many points of distribution with variable fees, the hotel industry is stuck with data silos and have inadequate systems for determining the true cost. Without this information, informed decisions are not possible. The hospitality industry is busy scrambling this data striving to make sense out of these silos but without proper integration, the data is not much usable. The first step towards effective utilization of this data is integration. The technology to integrate this data into dynamic dashboards and make it more usable is at the disposal of hotels and we will see it grow smarter once we see widespread adoption. Those who adopt these technologies and measures will get an edge in the speed and accuracy of analysis as well as decision-making, over their competitors. Guests’ acquisition is yet another essential data point among many that should inform sales and marketing decision.
- Predictive Intelligence –
Although integration is the first step in proper utilization of data, it also helps in reducing complexity that help further in developing strategies to service the guests. One of the important online hotel reservation system trends is predictive intelligence which takes bits of information like age, geography and travel patterns and allows hotel businesses to send communication specifically designed to reach the right guests at the right time. It is also important that the data collected allows the front-line to over-deliver consistently. This ensures the best use of data and effective understanding of guests so hotels can offer more relevant choices and improve the booking experience of travellers. The fewer moving parts that are required to make this happen, the better, because complexity often results in lack of adoption and if an uninformed or random decision is taken, it can result in failure and wastage of money.
- Change in revenue model –
The hotel industry has moved from revenue-based model to a model based on value-to-the-guest. Growth is predicted in the expenditure of money on travel although the number of travellers is expected to remain the same this year. The hotel industry needs to grasp this trend and utilize this opportunity to generate loyalty and thereby revenue. The data outside the force of hotel businesses in this migration, like weather, events, competitors, etc must be integrated for maximum revenue management opportunities. Ab initio the hospitality industry has relied solely upon Property Management Systems (PMS) and Central Reservation Systems (CRS) to set business rules. These systems have so far failed to leverage a growing number of data sources that are required to progressively manage inconsistent demands in most hotel markets. Recognizing this fact is the first step towards addressing it. One of the growing trends in the online hotel reservation system is the observation of mechanisms developed to make revenue management more effective. These mechanisms on big data help hotels integrate internal and external data thereby allowing hotels to generate collective meaning out of it.
- Chat bots or Mobile Travel Chat (MTC) apps –
Mobile Travel Chat (MTC) or Mobile Travel Concierge applications harness the power of machine learning and natural language recognition to offer personal and hassle-free experience to book travel. In 2016, the chatbot technology allowed travellers to have a better booking experience because of the way they interact with users. The MTC applications learned travellers’ habits and patterns and offered a more natural and free-flowing experience by providing the right deals to the right travellers at the right time increasing their probability of booking by up to 5 times. In 2017, this technology is expected to evolve beyond and offer internal communication between hotels and their guests as they will soon be able to share files and data with each other facilitating hotels to offer in-time deals about additional services at the hotel to increase revenue. Read this article to find out how mobile travel chat is expected to cause a revolution in online travel booking.
- Real-time and mobile –
Consumers not only use their mobiles more than desktops but also research and book on their phones. This trend is increasing rapidly and poses a great opportunity for hotels to tap into, as travellers carry their mobiles everywhere. Mobile communication is not only faster but also more effective from an operational standpoint. When it comes to big data, going real-time and mobile is imperative to ensure multiple people on a property have the same access to same high-level data at the same time for informed guest service and best strategic thinking.
- Connected intelligence –
So far, the hospitality industry only focused on what they can know about travellers. In 2017, it is important for hotels to also understand what they might like to know as connected intelligence is designed to drive continual process improvement. Hotel businesses that understand this opportunity have the potential to quickly outstrip their competitors. Automation also remains one of the most important trends in the evolution of online hotel booking system as it allows travel and hotel businesses to take care of great share of itinerary building and filtering to save time. There will be greater integration between bots and humans, for instance, airlines will be able to improve resource allocation by tracking staff and physical resources using proximity beacons and hotels will be able to improve guest experience by knowing guests’ location in the property and increase revenue through targeted promotions.
- Conversational Interfaces –
By initiating conversation with travellers, whether by voice or by text, hotels can gather lucrative data and decide where and how to be accessible through them. We will see these interfaces become more refined, capable and integrated in online hotel booking systems and businesses will be able to make strategic decisions out of them. Message-based interfaces that inspire two-way interactions and seamless conversation with computers will have dramatic impacts on travel. Hotels will then have to decide whether a mobile-app or a message-based interface makes strategic sense. Companies can also cut down on social complaints by addressing all issues via a pre-existing message service instead of addressing solutions on social platforms. Perhaps the most innovative trend among all trends in 2017 would be the ability to manage entire inventory via voice. Some companies like Amazon already have a service named Echo, which offers agents a hands-free way to quickly access traveller information.
- Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality –
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) will continue to be path-breaking in the hospitality industry. We will see travel agencies targeting advertising on platforms where VR content is being consumed to inspire and upsell their customers. One of the biggest successes in VR was Pokemon Go and hotels are expected to tap into similar opportunities this year that will change the entire landscape with location specific digital content. VR allows guests to check the hotel premises on their smartphones before booking enhancing guests’ experience. Hotel chains like Marriott and Starwood have already put the beacon technology to inform guests and visitors of discounts and deals on their mobile devices and inform the housekeeping staff when the rooms were vacant so they can clean up. Marriott took a step further and used this technology to allow users to virtually visit eight cities all over the world. Airlines will tap into VR as a way to position and sell premium products to customers.
- Payment and data security –
The top priority of any advanced online hotel reservation system is beefed up security. The booking systems today need to incorporate top-of-the-line industry standard SSL encryption to protect travellers’ data from security breaches as guest privacy has become more of a challenge.
- Mobile data integration –
Hotels can use the lucrative data collected from customers and other mobile and reservation data to integrate and help upsell customers such as information on the customers’ past and current location. This provides hotel companies valuable insights into guests’ behaviour that can create strong relationships moving forward.