Understanding customer behavior, optimizing revenue, driving higher occupancy, facilitating the booking experience, implementing new marketing strategies – these are just some of the areas that can be easily enhanced by the application of the Expedia's new technologies.
Björn Vöhl is a fan and has made it his life’s work to enthuse about the benefits of digital transformation in the areas of travel, consumer and retail. A senior executive, strategist, general manager and leading light in defining and implementing digitalization in the workplace. His global mindset? In a digitized age, establishing and keeping a global view on business and customer is vital.
Q&A session: Björn Vohl, senior director, market management, DACH & Nordics at Expedia Group.
What do you see as critical areas where data can create opportunities for hospitality businesses at the moment?
Technology is at the heart of everything we do at Expedia Group. In 2018, we invested more than $1.6 billion in technology and content, resulting in new consumer features and developments for lodging partners. When used correctly, data plays a hugely important role in helping companies in the hospitality space understand customer behavior and adapt their strategy as needed to ensure they are capturing their customers in the right way, at each point on the booking journey.
Equally, from the supply side, it can also mean harnessing the power of data to optimize revenue. As the distribution landscape continues to evolve, the data used by revenue managers to make informed decisions is now more important than ever. We understand that analytics impact every efficiency we make to improve the booking process, and drive higher occupancy, ADR and RevPAR for our lodging partners.
Our revenue management tool Rev+ translates data into market insights and makes recommendations for hotel partners to take informed actions, which lead to measurable results. Rev+ also enables lodging partners to access a comprehensive database of local events and offers them the ability to check public prices at the point of sale in the local currency.
Companies like Expedia have completely rearranged not only the hospitality industry over the past 2 decades but also travelers’ customer journey: How can traditional hoteliers effectively leverage Expedia's technologies?
We have evolved beyond distribution to a full-service platform designed around building experiences that redefine the meaning of partnership in the travel space. We listen to all types of partners and our job is to empower all lodging partners on our marketplace. This means that we work in partnership with each one of our lodging partners to understand the strategic needs for their property and to help them solve problems so they can achieve their goals.
We have a variety of technological tools available on Expedia Group Partner Central, our free-to-use technology platform available to all lodging partners that work with us. Take for instance, an independent hotelier on a coastal town who’s struggling with seasonal demand challenges. Our teams of market managers work with the hotelier to define the problem and suggest a strategy that could involve targeting more international travelers in off-peak seasons, or even targeting a certain group of travelers, such as mobile-only, with deals to boost demand, for example.
What, in your view, are the biggest obstacles and challenges hotel operators are likely to face over the next few years in terms of technology?
Instead of challenges, I prefer to look at the opportunities!
I think the impact of Voice will continue to grow significantly in the industry. By 2021, there will be 7.5 billion digital assistants in the world. 1 in 5 U.S. adults have already shopped using a voice assistant and of those, over half used their mobile device (something that more than 90% of the population has) and there are over 1 billion Google Assistant devices in the market.
The market has seen a rapid adoption of these new technologies within the past years and we’ve continued to iterate and develop voice assistant applications because we want to make sure that Expedia Group's customers are able to get the travel information they need, exactly when they need it, to make travel booking easier and easier. Voice and Chatbot adoption are huge opportunities and we will continue to focus on them as hospitality technology evolves.
What are the 2-3 major trends that are reshaping hospitality right now?
I think personalized travel will continue to grow, helped with the increased importance and use of Machine Learning.
ML allows us to understand our customers better to cater to their travel needs - things like predicting trends in the market, whether the price is likely to go up or down in this market this summer period, etc. We also provide our customers with personalized recommendations if they have saved/favored specific hotels or itineraries in their profiles.
We may even see this trend continue to grow outside of lodging, to the wider travel industry. In the next decade, it is possible that travelers will purchase add-ons via mobile apps based on their preferences and pocketbooks, like VIP entry through special security lines, transportation from the curb to the gate, packaged meals provided before boarding, in-flight curated content, in-flight WiFi, and pre-arranged transportation from the airport. While many of these services are available today, they need to be purchased separately and, by bringing them together on one platform, it would be more valuable to both the traveler and the supplier.