The hospitality industry is sometimes known for playing catch up with other sectors when it comes to new trends in technology, and none more so than the concept of “Big Data”. Hoteliers are usually more concerned with delivering great experiences for their guests, which means ensuring guest satisfaction, service delivery, great food, an appropriate atmosphere and so on. As such, “Big Data” is understandable a long way from their thoughts.
But if the end goal of hoteliers is to exceed their guest's expectations by ensuring all of their needs are satisfied, this kind of mindset is counterproductive, argues Michael Heinze, co-founder of SnapShot. As Heinze and fellow co-founder David Turnbull pointed out in a recent interview, each guests generates massive amounts of data, from their initial hotel search to checking in to everything they do at the hotel before checking out. And all this data, largely ignored by thousands of hoteliers all over the world, could actually be leveraged by hoteliers to bring the quality of services they offer to previously unknown heights.
“The future for data and analytics in the hotel sector is limitless,” says Heinze. “Predictive analytics done through machine learning of trends and correlations will help hotels see things they never saw before.”
Heinze describes a vision of the future in which hotels can tap directly into data sources from the world's financial markets, or from the transport sector, and use that data to predict future increases or decreases in room bookings. He also sees a future in which hotels can analyze customer profiles and predict their needs, based on publicly shared social media information, thus allowing them to provide better guest experiences and launch new marketing intiatives.
“With proper analytics we’ll be able to help hotels look into the future and improve guest experience by adjusting today for things that will be happening in the future,” Heinze says.
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The good news is that this kind of data-driven approach to hospitality won't be the sole domain of larger hotel chains like the InterContinental Hotels Group and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. What with the rise of specialized Big Data analytics firms like SnapShot and others, hotels no longer need to devote massive resources into building up an IT infrastructure, hiring IT experts and so on. Instead, all of this will be outsourced and affordable so that even smaller boutique hotels will be able to adopt a data-driven approach to their business.
Heinze says that hotel analytics is such a highly specialized field that it actually makes sense for hoteliers to work with partners who specialize in it. He argues that the hotel sector has particular problems and specific needs that only a specialist could fully understand.
“Managing a hotel’s inventory is quite different to managing physical inventory of goods,” Heinze says by way of justification. “While some data and correlation techniques will be the same or similar to many other industries, many of the techniques used will not.”
“In the hotel sector we have often custom built software for brands and maybe that works for them,” Heinze said. “But I believe that hotel companies are the best at delivering great guest experiences, and that using partners who specialize in specific verticals will give much better results because they can focus on their core job and become even better at that while letting the data and analytics people deliver to them.”