This morning The Direct Booking Summit: Americas once again opened its doors for the smartest minds in the hospitality industry. Delegates from across the US, Canada and the Caribbean joined us in The Statler in Dallas to discuss the current challenges they face and share their best practices for continuing to drive direct.
Day 1 of the Summit offered participants an agenda packed with keynote speeches and panel discussions. The program was built on three major pillars: Distribution, Marketing and Technology.
Technology in focus
Charlie Osmond, Chief Tease of Triptease, kicked us off by reminding the audience about the endless possibility technology offers to the guest journey. "This industry isn't as far ahead as Netflix - but it's beginning. Personalization is powerful."
Bill Ramsey, Senior Director Mobile and Emerging Channels, Choice Hotels International, stepped on stage next to talk to the audience about exploring emerging digital channels. Bill walked us through the process - from hypothesis to conclusion - of testing and learning voice assistance in the hotel booking process. "Our theory was that augmenting the experience with voice could be very powerful," Bill shared.
"We didn't want to spend 24 months in development. We took our best guess based on small data, combined it with some big data, and got it out there."
Sessions ended with the question on everyone’s minds: to automate or not to automate? This time, we’re talking about chatbots. Our Co-Founder & Chief Product Officer Alasdair Snow moderated a debate between Melinda Berman, Manager of eCommerce at Four Seasons; Kathryn Buttle, Assistant General Manager – Revenue at Lord Nelson Hotel and Suites; and Calvin Anderson, Chief of Revenue Optimization at RLH Corporation.
"The main purpose of chat for us was enhancing the guest experience," Melinda shared. "We were very strategic in terms of how we launched it - we wanted to be where our guests are and where they're already messaging. Chat had to be valuable for all of our guests."
Over the last eight hours or so, we've yet again seen something that we can never get enough of: the direct booking community coming together to develop and grow via debate, discussion and networking. Delegates established a forum discussion on the Summit’s mobile app, and didn't hold back as they asked our speakers challenging questions at the end of each presentation.
There's more to come tomorrow, so stay tuned for a round-up of Day 2. For now though, it's time for our hoteliers to let their hair down at the legendary Direct Booking Summit party. All we'll say is that it involves both bowling and a pool... you heard it here first.