Thai hotels, which invests heavily in new technology, are urged to align their investment in order to support growth and invest more in their resources or risk missing out on prime growth opportunities.
According to the first Thailand hotel industry report by Grant Thornton in Thailand, 89 per cent of Thai hotels see technology and digital strategies as important, whilst almost 2 of 3 have a digital strategy linked to the overall business plan. Although 91 per cent have confidence in their IT security and privacy, nearly half agree that it is a big concern and hampers further investment. There is also reluctance due to whether or not a fair return on investment can be achieved and how staff capabilities will measure up to the new technology.
“Hotels need to fully integrate their digital strategy and technological improvements into their overall strategic plan. We all have a lot of information about our customers now but the key is having the technology to support the use of that information," said Andrew McBean, Partner at Grant Thornton and expert in technology, media and telecommunications.
The survey, conducted durign April and May, covered chief executive officers, managing directors, general managers or other senior executives of 66 properties with 4 and 5 star in Thailand.
“The power of technology is phenomenal. There are many new trends available for us to consider, especially in social media. Hotels need to make sure their social media and digital strategy are strongly linked with their business strategy. They need to fully integrate their digital strategy and technological improvements into their overall strategic plan. And hotels need to invest effectively in technology in order to not only attract more customers but to personalise guest experiences.”
Results also show that investment in technology and digital strategy for budgets up to the end of 2016 is still growing among most Thailand properties. 73 per cent are investing more in 2016 than they did in 2015. 56 per cent have their own resource to manage technology and digital strategy, and 35 per cent use both in-house/HQ staff and outsourced vendors. Only 10 per cent were not confident in their digital strategy and these hotels were not part of global chains.
Many were worried about achieving a fair return on their technology investment, with 2 in 3 sharing this opinion. Other concerns included staff having the skills to utilise the technology being introduced. 51 per cent voiced this as a concern with another 48 per cent worried about guest privacy and confidentiality. A mix of slow response times for investment from owners, as well as a fear that the chosen technology would become outdated or more expensive once implemented were of concern, but time is of the essence and those who don’t invest wisely and with some haste may lose opportunities.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is aiming for 12 per cent growth in tourism revenue, bringing it to 2.89 trillion baht in 2017. This is in part due to the economic recovery but also the effective cooperation among tourism-related agencies and private operators.
Hoteliers who can deliver great guest experiences by balancing technology and human touch should see a very positive ROI, the study said.
Michael Marshall, Chief Commercial Officer at Minor Hotel Group, commented, “If used correctly social media will drive revenue. It has also become a big search engine so hotels need to ensure they are maximising all of these platforms. It’s a very easy tool to use and it’s very cost effective, which can be a big concern when digital strategies are being considered. New technologies are appearing every day, just look at Airbnb and how quickly that grew and continues to grow. Voice recognition is also becoming a more valuable tool. We need to be working with all this new technology rather than ignoring it.”
Aline Massart, regional director of Digital Marketing for Accor Hotels, commented, “Hotels started out creating a product and brand but sites like Airbnb allow people to experience a dream by playing to their emotions. Hoteliers need to shift from the product and brand thought process to be more about the customer concept and be at each step of the customer journey. Only 20 per cent of people will mention the hotel name on social media but by using digital tools, such as Local Measure, to tap into that other 80 per cent, hoteliers can create emotion and personalise a customers stay making them feel valued and recognised.”
Debrah Pascoe, senior vice president of Commercial at Onyx Hospitality Group, said that the group is continuously evolving their digital strategy in order to engage customers, expand their reach to new and untapped markets, and showcase products in an engaging and compelling manner. Technology is used to personalise services and inspire repeat business.