What. A. Day. Google Analytics, wholesalers, metasearch, loyalty, OTAs, guest experience, automation and EU regulations. There isn’t much we didn’t cover on the first day of the European edition of the Direct Booking Summit.
The hundreds of hoteliers that joined us here in Barcelona spent the day debating, networking and even indulging in a spot of bingo. It was tough to narrow it down, but here’s our pick of today's best moments:
It's time to talk contracts
It truly feels like there's been a sea change in terms of what hotels realise they can demand from their partners - OTAs and wholesalers alike. Our keynote speaker, Geneviève Materne of Hyatt Hotels Corporation, said her most important piece of advice to hotels would be:
"Check your terms and conditions! Right now you're giving wholesalers everything they need to sell your rates on OTAs and metasearch. Don't be angry at them - evaluate your own contracts."
Similar advice was given during our closed-door panel on Managing Wholesale Distribution in the Digital Age. It's not OTAs like Amoma that we should be angry about, one hotelier contended. It's up to hoteliers to be strict with their contracts and penalise wholesalers when necessary.
Nobody can get enough of CRM
CRMs, or Customer Relationship Management systems, were the topic du jour among hoteliers at the event. The Set Hotels's Brian Gore was one of the many to mention the ultimate goal of a 'single source of truth' - a centralised data bank of everything you know about a guest. It's this 'truth' that can then be leveraged for The Set's long-term aim: personalisation. It's this that will be 'key' to winning over guests and encouraging them to stay again, Brian told us.
Bilderberg's Arlette Gilbert told us how to make big data manageable for the small(er) hotel. "Move the data away from the experts," she says. "Move the projects into the hands of people who want to improve the guest experience or drive higher sales." As a self-confessed data 'non-expert', Arlette's advice was to start small and build up your data bank over time - there are too many disparate systems to try to integrate all at once. And most of all, she says, leave your preconceptions at the door.
"As hoteliers, we have all sorts of assumptions about what will drive our business. Take a step back and let the data surprise you."
Hoteliers will never stop amazing us
Today, we found out we were in the presence of some direct booking rockstars. A straw poll of the delegates revealed that several had managed to grow their direct bookings by more than 20% this year. Two even managed to get the increase above 30%. A remarkable feat that quite rightly drew some oohs and ahs from the crowd.
Of course, we asked for the ingredients to their secret sauce. The first’s recipe for success was nailing Google Analytics. A deep dive into that data helped him run really effective campaigns. The second - Celine Montefusco of Egypt's Orascom Development - played hardball with OTAs and cut off supply. A brave and risky move, and certainly not something that could be replicated by every hotel - but one that can clearly work for some, despite the best efforts of OTAs to convince us otherwise. Both solutions won well-deserved rounds of applause and a key to unlock a secret cocktail at tonight’s beach party.
Speaking of which...
Even as I type, today's speakers and delegates are sipping on some much-deserved cava before being whisked away to the Direct Booking Summit's exclusive party at the W. They'll soon be tucking into tapas and paella, before a performance from the best Flamenco dancers in Barcelona (at least, that's what we've been told!)
It’s the perfect preparation for day two’s workshops, which include a deep dive into the modern hotel guest’s path to purchase and insight from our Chief Tease Charlie Osmond on how to turn the booking process into a booking experience.
There’s plenty more to keep you occupied in the meantime. Check out our latest report, Spotlight on… Online Guest Experience: a exploration of what makes a really effective hotel website. We’re hosting a webinar on the subject too and you can book your place here.
We’re off to change into our dancing shoes. See you back here tomorrow for more from the Direct Booking Summit!