Penned by: Frederick Sabty, Vice President of Hospitality Solutions, Avaya International
Tajawal. Trivago. Hotels.com – As a hotel executive in the Middle East, you are likely to know these brands very well. All of these offer Arabic language platforms, aimed at attracting the growing digital population of the region. With hyper smartphone penetration rates and a growing tourism source market, it is hardly surprising online travel agencies (OTAs) are targeting the Middle East.
So, how can hotels deliver distinctly better booking experiences and continue to differentiate their brand through service? Looking at the results of a 2017 survey of GCC travelers by Avaya, we can suggest three ways.
No. 1: Innovate at the First Point of Contact
A key reason guests book through OTAs is undoubtedly because their websites are tailored to be easy to use. Avaya found that GCC travelers prefer to book their room online, with 39% choosing to use an OTA, followed by 37% using the hotel’s website, and 27% the hotel’s mobile app.
It’s imperative that hotels innovate at the first point of contact by transforming the web user experience—whether this means meeting customers during the actual booking process, or delivering unmatched expertise via chat as they surf the web for deals.
Imagine a world where customers can simply click a button on your website to be instantly connected with the right staff member from any department. This kind of natural engagement drives customer experience and more lucratively, brand affinity. So, stop limiting your hotel staff with outdated tools and empower them with supportive multi-channel communications capabilities.
No. 2: Offer a Contextual Mobile App Experience
Travelers in the GCC are embracing digital solutions to enhance experiences, with 89% surveyed found to have used a hotel mobile app. This signals the need for two things: a mobile-optimized website (after all, bookings via desktop are still alive and well), and a high-functioning mobile application.
The mobile app is especially important, as consumers are increasingly seeking digitally-inspired solutions to simplify their hospitality experience. As such, this app should include unique mobile features that let hotels gain an inherent understanding of travelers’ intentions and motivations for improved bookings.
Yet, it shouldn’t end with booking. The purpose of a mobile app is to simplify and enhance the customer experience as part of the end-to-end guest journey. Tracking of bill changes and charges was found as the most useful element in a hotel mobile apps for GCC hotel-goers, at 25%, followed by the ability to explore hotel surroundings, such as nearby attractions, at 22%.
No. 3: Invest in Advanced Resource Matching
A major issue among OTAs involves a lack of transparency, from adding unexpected fees at check-out to having blurred refund policies. Worst of all, imagine arriving at the property with your family, only to find that the hotel does not even have your reservation? It happens.
Hotels can capitalize on this digital distrust by working to offer authentic and relevant information that streamlines booking—specifically, through intelligent resource matching. When selecting the most crucial factor in evaluating their stay in the hotel, GCC travelers cited a smooth and fast check-in as the most important at 31%.
Resource matching ensures customers are quickly and intelligently routed to the right subject matter expert, regardless of where the expert is within the organization. For instance, if a customer starts a conversation about billing with an agent via web chat, the customer can be immediately placed in contact with a staff accountant who’s headed back to the office from lunch.
Best of all, an advanced customer engagement platform can track customer conversations and consolidate that data across virtually any interaction channel—web, mobile, contact center. This creates a real-time data repository that workers can use to transform customer service. This includes (you guessed it) better booking, and ultimately check-in, experiences.
Differentiate Your Booking—and Guest Stay—Experiences
It may seem that OTAs have the upper hand, yet there’s an undeniable value of personal, human service. Case in point: a global industry study found 93% of customers strongly agree that despite digital advances in the travel industry, the value of personal service cannot be replaced.
Hotels should strategically capitalize on this with competitively differentiated booking experiences—and keep building from there to improve the overall guest experience.
To learn more about how Avaya is working with the hospitality sector to take guests beyond the digital experience, browse this resource guide.
ABOUT FREDERICK SABTY
An experienced veteran of the communications, hospitality and business services industry, Frederick is responsible for delivering industry-specific solutions to the world’s passionate hospitality providers.
Frederick joined Avaya in early 2007, bringingover a decade of experience in hospitality-specific consultancy. Prior to his role at Avaya, he was the Director of IT for Jumeirah Group’s Burj Al Arab, and has been a key implementer of integrated solutions for hotels in the Middle East and around the world.With 17 years of regional enterprise experience, Frederick is an advocate of technology-driven innovation with business-impact. Frederick graduated from the Haute École d’Art et de Design de Genève, with a focus on Interior Architecture.
Avaya’s hospitality solutions offering empowers the industry to deliver service beyond the digital experience, with a portfolio coveringCX within hospitals, hotels and other hospitality-related enterprises. Along with his team, Frederick enables 9 out of 10 top global luxury hotel brands to deliver seamless experiences through communications, software, and networking solutions.