Last week, our team had the chance to attend a conference on the importance of digitalization in sunny Crans-Montana, Switzerland. This was both an opportunity to pitch our company and to discuss the challenges brought about by the digital age. The majority of the audience was composed of small businesses and independent hoteliers looking for ways to grow their company through online media and communication.
We quickly realized that most of them approached digitalization as a necessary evil of our time; in fact, it would be an understatement to say that the prospect of diving into the matter was less than thrilling. After discussing the subject further, it appeared that the main reasons for this foreboding were rooted in misconceptions about the very concept of digitalization. Even though we were able to verbally address these concerns during the conference, we felt like an article would be the perfect opportunity to debunk all of the “fake news” plaguing online presence and communication.
In this post, we will, at first, try to understand the precise meaning of digitalization in the context of hotels. Then, to sharpen this definition, we will deconstruct one by one common misconception entrepreneurs have with regards to digitalization, notably by drawing on questions asked during our conference in Crans-Montana. Once these misconceptions are lifted, we can start analyzing, on the same and solid grounds, the benefits for all hoteliers to develop a digital strategy as well as the risks of missing the digital revolution.
Before exploring further, let’s establish a clear definition of the notion of digitalization in the hotel business. In short, one can describe digitalization as the process of integrating digital technologies to support your business. For instance, in our context, this applies for hotel bookings (which are moved online), marketing/communication, room management and more. Some of the immediate benefits of digitalization are self-explanatory: improved productivity/time management, better online presence (especially international), facilitated customer journey/experience, etc. However, Hospitality stays, at its core, a traditional industry and, as such, is often on the slow slide when it comes to change. This reflected during the conference, as questions came in doubting the value of digitalization.
One recurring concern the audience had was the fear that adopting digital technologies would be too time-consuming. When one of the speakers took the time to introduce tools to build a digital strategy, a lot of questions came in along the lines of: “All of this looks nice, but how long does that take you?”. Of course, this is a legitimate worry for hoteliers, who are often flooded with work. Although, one does not need necessarily to allocate lengthy hours to successfully take advantage of digitalization.
Take for instance social media management. The only tool you need is a smartphone to take photos and videos. Snap a few pictures of your hotel here and there, maybe a video of a recipe from your restaurant and, without even the time to realize it, you already have good content to share on social media. This example applies to other fields of digitalization: think about the time you need to register on platforms like TripAdvisor or Google: My Business. This hardly takes a hard toll on your schedule. Concretely, the best approach is to set up a schedule: try to block a few minutes a day/ a few hours a week dedicated to digitalization (it can be anything from posting on social media, researching new solutions/system or simply to get familiar with the technology).
Moreover, on the same idea, there also exist digital tools that can help gain time and productivity. This would be time-management systems such as Toggl or Rescue time. Altogether, digitalization is not as time-consuming as it may appear at first. Once you get the hang of it, it can become not only useful but also an enjoyable part of your day.
Another striking remark was made during one of the talks and seemed to find an echo throughout the assembly: “I’ll never be able to manage it, I’m just bad with new technology”. The prospect of diving into digitalization can be daunting and reinforces the “time-consuming” issue we raised earlier.
But once again, things are not as bad as they might seem first-hand and you don’t need to be an expert to be using digital tools for your hotel. Resources online are plentiful, with videos, charts, and articles (you are already on the right track by reading this!) often available for free on the Internet. Support can also be found via Chatbox/bot or email directly on the websites of the tools you might have trouble with. Finally, you can also register for an actual conference discussing digitalization, just like the one our team participated in in Crans. But most importantly remember that you are not alone in this, people are willing to help!
Now that we are, hopefully, on the same page regarding the definition of digitalization, let’s inspect further why you should be willing to embrace it.
The number one challenge of digitalization for hotels is exposure. Indeed, with almost 9 out of 10 bookings made online, the internet has become the go-to method for everything travel-related. As such, to get ahead of the competition and attract more guests, you want to be as visible as possible on the web, which translates into improving your online referencing. Without going too much into the tech vernacular (you might have heard of SEO, SEA, …etc.), to achieve this goal, you want to be posting a lot and on different channels. Whether it is social media posts, special offers or blog articles, everything is good to improve your online visibility. You can even boost your exposure further by paying for sponsored content/Pay per Click advertisement on platforms like Google AdWords or Facebook. In any case, you don’t want to miss the digitalization train as it could result in a concrete loss in revenue.
Another risk you take by dismissing digitalization altogether is losing touch with your customer base. As we discussed earlier, the internet is above all a window for global exposure. But it is also a contemporary agora, where everyone gathers to discuss ideas and opinions. And what better way to adorn your window, than by displaying satisfied guest reviews?
Platforms such as TripAdvisor or Yelp would be the obvious choices when it comes to public review websites. But you can also find plenty other, less known and more niche forums that might do the job just as well if not better. Furthermore, you can make use of your social media and share comments and posts about your hotel directly on your main page. Why not also encourage guests to post more by offering a little something in exchange for a review. You can even go the extra steps and hire influencers to promote your hotel on social media. But most importantly, keep in mind that guests are your hotel’s best ambassadors, so look after them!
Last but not least, you want to be able to make use of all the useful connected tools brought about by the digital age. We already mentioned some of them, such as Toggl or Buffer, however, you can find many more in pretty much every single field of hotel management. Let’s focus for a moment on one of the key aspects of running a hotel business: the pricing strategy. This happens to be our area of expertise and we truly believe that, with the right system and assistance, you can easily boost your hotel revenue.
PrivateDeal was created to help hotels achieve that goal. Our solution appears as a widget on your hotel website and lets guests submit their own price for a room. Upon receiving the offer, the system will, if necessary, automatically and instantly negotiates with the guest the best price for both parties. This allows for increased customer attraction and lets you optimize your hotel pricing.
If you are interested in the solution, want to know more or just feel like continuing the talk on the digitalization, feel free to contact us/visit our website via the links down below:
In summary, hereafter are the actions we recommend you to take:
- Have a regular digital schedule: dedicate some time every week to improve your digital exposure
- Get familiar with digital technologies: Learn by reading articles, watching videos and attending conferences on digitalization
- Look after your customers and let their opinion shine online: Use review websites and social media to improve your online reputation
- Don’t be afraid of using new solutions: There exist a lot of helpful products online that can help improve your productivity/ hotel revenue, be on the lookout for them!
Thanks for reading us all the way down here, you can share your opinion on this topic by leaving a comment!
 You can check out, for example, the blogs of popular social media channel managers like Hootsuite and Buffer for relevant insights.
 Tread carefully when dealing with review platforms like TripAdvisors as bad ratings can undermine your business. We recommend taking the time to answer the negative reviews directly on the platform in order to keep guest confidence up.
 Oyster.com or Trust you (white brand rating system) come to mind