ScotHot finalist, Julie Grieve CEO and founder of Information Apps, says that the dominance of online travel agents (OTA) is a lesson for the tourism sector, which must now focus on using technology for the best customer experience.
The goal is to encourage visitors to book and communicate directly with the operator, rather than seeing the OTA as their gateway.
Technology in the form of the OTA has shaken up the hotel sector. For the customer it has been a revelation, but many operators, unprepared for the impact of the likes of Booking.com and Expedia and the customer experience they deliver, have found their margins squeezed by the fees charged. The most common response from the hotel sector has been to remove perks offered to loyalty customers unless they book direct.
OTA tech has been all about making it easy to book, no barriers and limited clicks. Now, however, according to Julie hoteliers and owners of holiday accommodation should take the initiative and start to explore how to embrace new digital services to enhance their customer service. Accommodation providers need to up their game in terms of their websites and methods of communication – and stick rather than carrot doesn’t work when it’s to do with guest experience.
During Scottish Tourism Week (March 15-23, 2017), Julie is exhibiting Criton, the UK’s first self-build digital concierge for the travel sector. She says:
“Today’s technology puts big business tools in the hands of businesses of all types and sizes – and the hospitality sector, fundamentally changed by the likes of AirBnB and the tech savvy reviewer, needs to keep pace with their customer and explore how they can use digital services.
“Ultimately we know now that more than 50% of all hotel bookings are made on a mobile device, it’s the way guests book their accommodation. And we all know it’s the way people consume information. The development of apps is an easy, spontaneous and flexible way to build connections with visitors before, during and after their stay.”
Tech start-up Information Apps has designed Criton to enable owners of all forms of holiday accommodation to transfer their guest information book into a branded, bespoke app, including easy to follow directions and instruction videos on how to use appliances, through to recommendations and links to nearby restaurants and attractions for a flawless customer experience.
Criton literally puts the who, what, where, when and how about a place to stay in the guest’s pocket. Free to download from Google Play and The App Store, it works where a there’s no phone signal and can be easily translated.
“Technology delivered as software as a service (SaaS), such as our guest book app, opens up new opportunities for hotels and holiday accommodation of all types and sizes. Subscription based, it means there is no big up-front investment and most will offer ‘future-proofing’ by offering upgrades and new features as part of the service. There are also ways to tailor the features offered for a specific business or operation. The sector needs to use technology to its advantage and it is becoming ever easier to do so.”