HB on the Scene: Leaders discuss state of travel at ALIS

While the uncharacteristic L.A. rain put a damper on the usually boisterous outdoor meeting area, the first day of the 2024 edition of the Americas Lodging Investment Summit (ALIS), held at the JW Marriott/Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles L.A. Live, featured several insights and a mostly cautiously optimistic crowd.

During the “State of the Industry” session, moderated by Geoff Freeman, president/CEO, U.S. Travel Association, featuring panelists Danielle Bozarth, senior partner, McKinsey & Company; Christine Duffy, president, Carnival Cruise Line; Bill Hornbuckle, CEO/president, MGM Resorts International; and Peter Kern, vice chairman/CEO, Expedia Group, while there remain problems with easing visa wait times for international travelers, the outlook was optimistic.

One trend that Borzath noted is that companies throughout the travel industry are increasing their use of frontline intervention to help their employees. “One great example is in the area of training,” she said. “I am [looking] at my employees; I understand from their statistics and the data they are producing what they are good at in terms of delivering from customer experience perspective and frankly, what they’re not good at. We’re seeing folks tailoring their training very specifically, so folks spend more time doing what they are good at.”

Hornbuckle discussed the state of travel in Las Vegas. He said after the closures because of COVID, it took about six months to get going, but “once we did, it took off,” he said. “The luxury segment of our business is what took us to the place we are today. A unique synergy of efforts came together and we ultimately got a brand new stadium, we had T-Mobile and the Golden Knights, Las Vegas and our company had its best year ever by far.”

Freeman asked the panelists what areas they are investing in.

Carnival’s Duffy said that the company has been able to leverage the data that they have about their guest and their behaviors. “We know what people like to eat what they don’t and we can make those changes almost immediately,” she said. “So, I think the whole thing that we see about travel and how and where we invest is better understanding our customer knowing who the customer is, and then build to your point, keeping in touch with the customer before they ever get to the vacation. And then after the vacation, really paying attention and hearing what worked, what didn’t and how do we get them back as quickly as possible.”

Expedia’s Kern said his company is investing in technology, “We’ve invested a huge amount in the last four years, obviously pushing the bounds with generative AI, more machine learning, more personalization,” he said. “Part of that is to provide more data to our partners about our customers, as well as just to improve the service.”