How technology is putting choice in the hands of the traveler

By Hari Nair

Today’s travelers have an unprecedented level of power when it comes to booking their trips online.

With a simple search, millions of travelers can be connected to their choice of brands and experiences. Travelers can select how they want to travel by sharing preferences, instantly enabling them to compare options for where they might want to stay. Powerful back-end and user interface development, paired with supply from partners, has put the power firmly in the fingertips of the traveler.

While the benefits for the traveler are obvious, new challenges for the industry have arisen as the online travel market has become too price conscious, losing focus on offering the right product at a fair price.

Thanks to technology advancements with the traveler’s considerations at its core, the industry is beginning to see a realignment of the online travel booking experience.

For hoteliers looking to deliver better experiences for travelers, and to improve their business in the process, there are a number of ways in which they can adapt to better suit travelers’ needs. The reasons to focus on guest experience are clear: better guest experiences lead to higher rates of re-booking, greater brand loyalty and better reviews, which lead to additional bookings. By using technology and marketplaces that put the traveler experience at the center, hoteliers can drive better traveler experiences and better outcomes for all.

Gaining a deeper understanding of the traveler experience
The ability to accurately gauge a traveler’s perception of different aspects of their trip is important for understanding where hoteliers can improve. Technology that enables hoteliers to listen for signals that indicate a great guest experience is crucial, as it provides valuable insight into the elements of a trip that travelers particularly value.

The need to be attuned to the traveler’s needs is underlined by findings that 53% of consumers are likely to spend with companies if they trust they’ll get what they were promised. Using technology that tracks and analyzes key touchpoints, such as guest reviews, cancellations, in-stay feedback, call propensity and relocations, can all help to build an accurate picture of the overall experience. Knowing where a hotel is overpromising and underdelivering is important to understand how to make improvements, eliminating the guessing game and helping to inform actions to improve traveler satisfaction.

A marketplace in-step with guest experience 
Not only does listening to traveler feedback help to improve a hotelier’s offering, this feedback loop is also helping to improve online marketplaces for hoteliers and travelers alike. For example, Expedia Group is reimagining its marketplace by rewarding partners that deliver great traveler experiences with more visibility. Historically, offer strength, which reflects factors related to a property listing, such content, images and price availability, have been a significant component to our marketplace. Expedia Group is introducing changes to our marketplace where a hoteliers’ visibility will reflect two types of signals, offer strength and guest experience.

The intent behind the guest experience signals is to give travelers an accurate and clear picture of what they can expect when they book their accommodations by meaningfully elevating the importance of the guest experience. Some of the signals impacting this score will include staff and service ratings, cleanliness ratings, relocation rates, amenity ratings and more.

This traveler-centric shift will reward accommodation providers that have delivered positive guest experiences with increased visibility and performance, and more opportunities to create connections with guests. Using a marketplace which takes into account price consideration and availability alongside how a hotel has performed for guests in the past, delivers an equally positive experience for the hotel and traveler.

When the traveler wins, we all win 
Previous iterations of the overly commodified online travel experience failed to best serve the traveler’s needs, and in turn did not offer the best value to hotels. Traveler-centric technology, such as a marketplace that rewards partners and displays rooms and experiences which take into account previous guest experiences, much better reflects travelers’ preferences.

Without adopting technology that puts travelers at its core, hoteliers risk being left behind as travelers seek an online travel booking experience that best serve their holistic interests, not just price. By adopting the right technology, hoteliers can take advantage of a richer suite of tools to better understand and serve travelers, boosting their businesses in turn.

Hari Nair is global SVP/GM, account management at Expedia Group.

This is a contributed piece to Hotel Business, authored by an industry professional. The thoughts expressed are the perspective of the bylined individual.