Comment: Boutique hoteliers overestimate the price of technology

Comment: Boutique hoteliers overestimate the price of technology
Phan Le
Published: 10 February 2020 - 10 a.m.

The demand for boutique hotels around the world continues to increase, this according to a recent report by industry analyst Market.us global. Major players like Marriot International and Hyatt aggressively market themselves for a bigger share of this valuable market. They’ve bought out others, they’ve scaled down existing properties within their portfolio and they’ve rebranded to give their properties that authentic boutique feel that travellers are looking for.

What sets the boutique chains apart from the smaller independent operators, located in towns and cities in every country, is their access to technology which gives them the edge when it comes to delivering an all-round authentic experience. Tools like data analytics and related sources provide an integrity and promise that many independents struggle to compete with.

The tide is turning however. The travel tech industry, which larger chains have enjoyed for years, is shifting, allowing smaller hotels to operate on a much more level playing field. There are tools out there that are affordable to the independents, providing a much needed boost in this market. Tools that are giving boutique hotels the opportunity to compete with the big chains while maintaining their unique bijou charm.

Being boutique means that you are flexible, with the freedom to implement new tools. Technology can help you manage guest experiences and problem-solving while your guests are with you. It’s the promise of a personalized, attentive hotel stay for visitors.

Apps available today (like Alexa for hotels) are able to use local knowledge which will enhance hotel guests’ stay – “where the local markets are, best street food and so on”, As a boutique hotel this tech maintains your authenticity because it’s more commonplace among the majority of visitors. They use it every day and it’s very affordable.

While apps offer a relatively cheap means of improving the guest experience, the real challenge for small hotels this year is how to improve hotel management. This is the engine that drives everything and if you get that right then the other hotel operations - marketing, sales and customer services will fall into place.

Hotel property management systems (PMS) schedule and manage daily operations, enabling hotels to handle front office workflow (booking, guest check-in & checkout etc). This helps hotel staff to better coordinate the operational functions across all the departments by streamlining operations, saving man-hours and serving guests.

Revenue Management Systems (RMS) automate your analytics, determine the right price for your rooms to maximise revenue and profitability. Put simply, a good RMS will enable you to sell the right product at the right time for the best price across the most effective channels.

Multilingual chatbots will boost your room sales. This smart technology provides a potential customer with a direct mode of communication to the hotel, who can answer any questions a prospective guest might have before they make a booking. Prospective guests are able to make an informed decision, and far less likely to book with a direct competitor.

All great stuff but well over budget, right? Wrong.

A New Ecosystem
For small hotels, finding the right software fit is critical, but more importantly it has to be affordable. Large hotel chains have been using these systems for years and many boutique hotels, with limited budgets, have been playing catch up ever since. For most small hotels these stand-alone systems have been out of reach. What we are moving towards now however is a new ecosystem, where tech companies and booking platforms like VLeisure are forging key partnerships that allow them to share this technology. These industry collaborations are making sales and distribution processes a level playing field for all hotels regardless of their size and budget. This tech is no longer exclusive to large hotels with deep pockets. So, a PMS and an RMS is now a reality and not a pipe dream.

The Future Is Bright
As more travel businesses like ours work together with tech providers, the greater the opportunity for independent properties to tap into these resources presents itself. Unlike the retail industry, which is seeing more independent stores disappear from the high street, the travel industry is offering new opportunities for small hotels to thrive and compete. It’s the next stage of the boutique renaissance. Keep your ear to the ground because the future is bright for small hotels.

Phan Le is an experienced marketer within the travel industry and VLeisure (www.vleisure.com) is a B2B global travel network platform.

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