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HSMAI Europe Chief Distribution Officer Executive Roundtable 29th June 2022

On June 29th 2022 , HSMAI Europe hosted a round table event inviting Hotel Distribution experts to share their insights on current trends and crucial steps to take to navigate through these uncertain times.

From left: Remy Merckx, Senior Advisor – Head of Travel & Hospitality at eClerx – Frederic Toitot, Founder & Managing Director at Hotel Games – Mathijs van Dijk, Global Demand Manager at citizenM – Evert Schuele, CCO at HRG Hotels – Max Runfeldt, Head of Distribution at Scandic Hotels

Sharing experiences has never been more important

Evert Schuele, Chief Commercial Officer at HRG Hotels has been the chair of the HSMAI Europe Sales Advisory Board for a few months now. As a warm-up to this session, he executed a temperature check with the distribution professionals to their perception of the current status of our industry.

”We all live in an ever-changing environment, especially the landscape of distribution has seen seismic shifts. Roundtables like this help the industry to understand, manage and master these changes better!”

The participants mentioned that for the past 2 years a lot has changed in the distribution landscape, with new challenges (human resources, demand generation, channel management…) and new opportunities (tech development, innovation…). They agreed that it is not so much the distribution channel (direct vs. indirect) that matters the most, but the customer as such. Hospitality will soon move from traditional to behavioural segmentation (archetypes), where customers’ search and booking patterns will be monitored and used to price and set conditions for their stay on top of allowing brands to personalise their marketing communications.

The capacity of the hotels to recognize their customers and reward their long-term loyalty (customer lifetime value – CLV) is considered critical by the experts around the table. Hotels should not be blurred by short-term profitability. Total profitability by channel should be thoroughly measured to kill preconceived and simple judgments.

The question of the ownership of the data was raised

Some big players (OTAs…) are now slowly but surely starting to use the enormous amount of data that they own and sell it in “packages” to their clients (hotel brands).

Another question was raised: should General Managers be in charge of their P&L, and by extension of the distribution efforts? While most hotel chains are struggling with this issue (in a more and more complex technological environment) some hotel chains have decided to free the hotel management from these tasks and make them focus full-time on their customers and staff.

To the question: who should be driving distribution in hotels? Revenue, Sales or a dedicated Distribution team? Most participants agreed that there will be a strong integration of revenue, distribution, commercial and data management into brand new organizations. Their impact will be more vertical – down to profitability level.

Automation in the post-pandemic world

Automation has also been a major topic discussed during the meeting. Participants believe that machines and systems have gained a lot in terms of pace & accuracy, leading to a greater trust in automation in the hotel processes (front desk, reservations, revenue management…).

But the value of automation varies according to the expectations of the hotel company (collection of data, revenue decisions, guest service…) and depending on its size and structure (number of brands with different systems, franchised properties…). Participants agreed that web content should be considered as “data to monitor” too, throughout the guest journey.

Automation has also been discussed as a trend that is enabling, freeing people (both front and back offices). Thanks to the automation, staff will not waste time focusing so much on irrelevant and minor price & inventory updates, but instead focus on strategic decisions that will make the difference, for the hotel revenue and for its customers, based on customer experience and also profitability.

Participants were asked to rate, from 1 to 10, how they perceived the advancement of automation in their respective companies: scores ranged from 1 to 5!

Participants were asked, as a conclusion, about their perception about the future of distribution.

Key insights were:

  • Subscription models are becoming the “new loyalty programs”, with customers acting as better ambassadors, with a stronger sticking effect
  • Pandemic has made all of us learn, but it is more a (strong) evolution than a revolution. Customers tend to forget quickly, as time passes, and revert to old habits. We already witness this situation
  • Technology, and data management, will continue to evolve to the benefit of hoteliers
  • Metaverse could be a new distribution “channel”, to boost customers’ experience, with “bonuses” such as gamification content, exclusive deals…
  • Distribution tools and channels will be integrated more and more in the “global technological platform” of hotels, with some companies already consolidating PMS, CRS, RMS, M&E, Channel Manager systems together. This comes as a consequence to the fast progress of technology, the huge benefits this consolidation should leverage for hotel companies, and the expected shortage of staff in the coming years.
  • Blockchain technology – with its exclusive peer to peer relationship – it is a very promising avenue that hospitality should conquer. It could boost the overall data security and privacy (bookings, payments, inventory & revenue management, customer intelligence…) with potentially great features such as wallet-based identification and facial recognition.

Chief Distribution Officer Executive Roundtable summarized by:

Frederic Toitot

Founder & Managing Director at Hotel Games. Formerly, he is the Vice President, Global Learning & Development at Accor. He is an active member of HSMAI Europe. He is currently serving on the HSMAI Europe Revenue Optimization Advisory Board and is the past chair.

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