There’s a growing divide that we can no longer ignore within the accommodation industry.
In spite of servicing the dynamic and interconnected world of travel, we know that the accommodation industry is largely behind when it comes to technology adoption. This is especially true when hoteliers are compared to other industries, such as retail or banking, which are more commonly perceived to be at the cutting edge of embracing new technologies.
Today, it isn’t uncommon to find many small accommodation providers who still rely on old-school methods, like spreadsheets and manual emails (or printed planners), to arrange bookings and interact with their customers. And, while those methods may seem invisible to the customer, we now know the opposite is true.
The gap in technology adoption is a perception shared by the public, with only 18 percent of Australians believing the accommodation industry is ahead of technology adoption when compared to other industries. A further 62 percent say the level of technology adoption is merely ‘average’, with almost two-in-five young Australians perceiving the industry to be ‘behind’.
This survey, recently conducted by SiteMinder, also found that 49 percent of Australians feel that their booking experience and stay onsite could be better if accommodation businesses were more tech-savvy.
Collectively, these findings should be taken as a call to arms for hoteliers looking to bridge the gap between a perceived delay in technology adoption and the ever-rising expectations of their guests.
Indeed, the accommodation industry is perhaps better positioned than any other to take advantage of the huge variety of technologies available to improve the experience of their customers.
Addressing the reliance on technology for discovery and planning
SiteMinder’s Changing Traveller Report 2023 has found the Australian traveller is the most likely of any traveller globally to start their accommodation research via a search engine, at 36 percent.
Unlike other countries, Australia’s reliance on the Internet suggests we live in an undoubtedly digitally-dependent nation. When commencing their planning, only 11 percent of Australians ask their friends for recommendations, and just 4 percent read magazines or books about the location, highlighting just how reliant Australians are on digital platforms.
This is further illustrated by the fact that approximately two-thirds plan to book their next stay either via a hotel property’s website, a search or metasearch engine, or via an online travel agency – rather than offline or via email.
As travellers globally become more capable e-commerce users, a property’s website is a prime example of a channel that should be viewed as a revenue-driving machine, not simply a box to be ticked.
SiteMinder’s research has uncovered that approximately 45 percent of local travellers (and 51 percent globally) have decided not to proceed with booking their accommodation online because of a bad experience, with clunky processes, followed by a perceived lack of security, the primary concerns. This highlights just how much potential revenue slips through the fingers of local accommodation businesses each and every day online.
When booking their accommodation via a property’s website, travellers are demanding an experience that’s as easy and secure as when they’re engaging with a leading retail business or financial institution. And, not only that; they want to be inspired and know they are getting a good deal, too.
According to SiteMinder’s survey data, almost 55 percent of Aussies (5 percent above the global average) currently see ‘packages and offers’ as a top priority when browsing a property’s website, while almost half see quality videos and images as one of their top needs. This means that if businesses aren’t delivering these elements in an engaging way, they are significantly less likely to convert today’s guests.
Boldly embracing technologies of the future
There is an innovation imbalance that currently sees accommodation providers not meeting the demand for a tech-driven experience, particularly from today’s younger traveller. The timing is right for Australian accommodation providers to put plans into place now to keep up with how the traveller of tomorrow could evolve.
Particularly as intelligent solutions grow in competence, and their usage in all parts of a person’s life becomes ever-more mainstream, the hotel industry should be looking to technology to incorporate more automated and digital experiences for their guests before, during and after their booking.
Having typically been somewhat behind in the digital stakes (especially at the smaller end of town), the accommodation industry is well-poised to take advantage of the growing normalisation of innovative technologies and use them to gain and retain guests at a time of increasing competition.
And, it’s clear from those guests that that time is now.
Jonathan Kenny is the Chief Operating Officer of SiteMinder. He is an experienced COO with a demonstrated history of working both in pre-IPO and ASX-listed, high-growth technology businesses. Prior to SiteMinder, Jonathan was the Chief Financial Officer at 3P Learning, Bravura Solutions and Chief Operating Officer of Corelogic Australia.
With a passion for building strong teams, Jonathan is skilled across the full spectrum of operations and finance, from banking to strategic planning, business process improvement, change management, product management and M&A.