HMH CEO Laurent A. Voivenel In a Panel Discussion at Tourism Innovation and Transformation Forum organized by ejtemaat in Collaboration with UAE Ministry of Economy and UNWTO
Laurent A. Voivenel, CEO of HMH – Hospitality Management Holdings, participated today in a panel discussion on ‘The Future of Travel Distribution Systems’ at Tourism Innovation and Transformation Forum organized by ejtemaat in collaboration with UAE Ministry of Economy and United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). There were three other experts on the panel including Richard Wiegmann, CCO and MD of Sabre Hospitality EMEA, Germany.
Global Distribution Systems (GDS) & Central Reservations systems (CRS) are complex systems that have changed the way travel itineraries were booked since 1964. In the session, the experts critically analyzed the role and relevance of distribution within hospitality & travel, how it has changed the business, innovations within it and how it connects and interacts with the travel ecosystem including Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), airlines, hotels and tour operators. The speakers looked at the latest trends to map the future of travel distribution and how it may impact revenue and costs.
Touching on the subject of brand websites versus OTAs, Laurent highlighted some of the key challenges facing regional hotel management groups in terms of distribution. He said, “OTA penetration has been much higher in the Middle East region since the hotel sector here is extremely fragmented. There is need to drive more bookings through hotel websites as well as to have more added value from distribution partners given the budget limitations local groups have compared to global hospitality giants. Channel Integration has become more and more complex and dense with distribution costs increasing year on year.
Elaborating on the expectations of UAE travelers, Laurent said, “UAE travelers are looking for SEAMLESS integration of mobile technology into travel. The key words are SMART, MOBILE, SEAMLESS, INTEGRATED. They want Efficient Personalization -‘My Stay, My Way’ and wish to be connected through automation. They want ENGAGEMENT be it through smart apps, web chat or social media. It is all about IoT (Internet of Things) as currently 80 things connect to Internet instantly. Therefore, there is need for more user-friendly Arabic and mobile Internet Booking Engine.
When asked about what he believes influences “brand loyalty” for travelers in this region, Laurent emphasized on customer centric approach – enticing and rewarding guests with value added offers. Excellent digital and mobile experience combined with a human touch is a must. There needs to be two-way conversation engaging customers to offer a personalized experience that makes travellers’ lives EASIER, SIMPLER & MORE CONVENIENT. To gain loyalty, hotels need to ‘Sell on Value’ Vs ‘Sell on Rate’ strategy of OTAs.
Intuitive Technology – including facial recognition, biometric sensors and brainwave readers – now allow brands to customize guest experiences based on anticipating needs and desires of guests. Laurent stressed, “With more than 50% of consumers now willing to share data in return for tools that help customize their stay, we hoteliers have an enormous opportunity to fulfill unmet needs through the use of data and technology – not only helping consumers make their decisions, but bringing their hidden travel preferences to light.