Looking to the future
Last Thursday 20th of November, HOSPA hosted their annual HOSPACE conference at the Sofitel in Heathrow. There were 400 people in attendance. The conference commenced with an industry overview and future outlook. Both London and the provinces have experienced growth, London at a faster rate than the provinces and this growth is expected to continue into 2015. The regions are still in the recovery phase and have some way to go before they reach pre-recession levels. Most of the growth is coming from budget and economy markets followed by the upper and luxury markets. The global economic outlook is mixed and remains weak in the Eurozone compared with emerging markets (India and China).
Leaders’ panel discussion on the key issues, trends and developments within the industry.
All the panellists were in agreement that the UK was out of the recession, but there is a long way to go and turbulent times lie ahead, especially with the general election looming. The market has certainly become more competitive and customers are more cautious as to where they spend their money and how much they spend. All the leaders’ businesses had experienced good growth, a success they attributed to their revenue managers. There was a shared belief that there is lots of opportunity for further growth and that technology will play an important part in facilitating this. The challenge lies in what technology to invest in. Because of the abundance of technology available, how can businesses decide what is most appropriate for their organisation?
Marketing will also be vital to the growth, with social media becoming increasingly important, but there is still a role for more traditional marketing in order to raise brand awareness. Whitbread for instance are still heavily reliant on TV and billboards.
Spotlight Session: How the hospitality industry can get the most from the data insights revolution?
This session sparked much debate but the main message from this discussion was that there is too much data around, which can be overwhelming and people stop using it. The key is to structure data, such that it delivers value for the customers, employees and partners. All the panellists were in agreement that it is important to understand the objective of the data made available. It is difficult to achieve an industry best practice for data, as every business will either use different data or use it in a different manner. It will be more worthwhile for organisations to look at their objectives and see how data can achieve those objectives. This personalization then becomes best practice, which in turn will vary from business to business. The attitude towards data and what is correct will vary across the hierarchical structure.
The general consensus was that big data certainly helped the independents, but also helped large brands. Brands have had to listen to their customers and tailor more to their needs. Data will play an effective role in strengthening the relationship between the customer and the brand, by creating an experience that is more relevant and personal to the customer. The most successful brands do not stand still and evolve with changing demands – the prime example used was Nandos.
Hospa Spotlight: What keeps us awake at night? The issues? How to trade coming out of a recession?
In this session many topics were discussed, but the most topical included the worry that we are not ready to deal with emerging from the recession, as most people in the industry have only worked during the recession. This will have a huge impact on decision making, such as pricing and planning for future growth.
Another topic that fuelled a healthy debate was OTAs (Online Travel Agents) and customer ownership. Who actually owns the customer – the hotel or OTA? The panel were divided on this. One panellist believed that industry had let the OTAs take ownership, as the OTAs have been better at dealing with the online community, they understand the local community and they are good at merchandising and closing the sale. Another panellist was of the opinion that no one owned the customer, it was the customers’ choice to choose who they booked with and it was up to the hotels to make themselves the company that the customer wants to come to.
The conference provided a lot of food for thought and showcased some very sophisticated use of technology from Google glasses to live polling. With the recession behind us and the return of consumer confidence, an exciting future certainly lies ahead for the industry.