As the hospitality sector is opening up again, hoteliers are looking forward to getting back to what they do best – looking after guests. So how will things change and what new opportunities might that bring?
At SiteMinder, one of our Business Partners, James Bishop, the Senior Director of Global Ecosystem, explains how their software platform is helping hoteliers prepare for future arrivals by providing insights which help them to get the best returns from all revenue streams.
Why was SiteMinder created?
SiteMinder was created to liberate hoteliers with technology that makes a world of difference, to them and to the world. We came about to give hoteliers opportunity and a real chance to find success, at a time when they were struggling to compete on this thing called the internet – and 14 years later we’re still doing that!
Tell us a little more about how you help hospitality businesses.
At its core, SiteMinder’s platform helps hotels navigate their way online and acquire guests, and we have a range of tools designed for properties of all sizes, from B&Bs to multinational chains, to help bring this to life.
Part of our motivation is a belief that technology should be implemented to enable hoteliers to continue being hoteliers. So, by building intuitive, yet powerful solutions, we provide hoteliers the freedom to look after their guests the best they can, with the knowledge that they’re reaching their full potential online.
What have you been doing to help your clients during the pandemic?
Very early on we saw a need for hoteliers to have access to better data, so within weeks of the pandemic beginning we’d spun up the SiteMinder World Hotel Index. The Index shows how current booking volumes are changing in real-time when compared to both the previous year and 2019, to give hotel and travel operators the best chance to prepare for future business as their markets recover. It also provides insight into traveller flows and behaviours, with a forward outlook on check-in dates, as well as the makeup of domestic and international arrivals.
Incredibly, the World Hotel Index has grown to become the leading indicator of hotel booking and guest arrival trends globally, but the initial idea was just to share our data to give hoteliers the best chance possible to prepare for their future guests.
We have produced a number of webinars with our partners in multiple regions to share experiences and tips on reading the data, and planning for recovery at various stages.
Finally, there was also HomeForHotels, which was a website that we launched with a number of our partners for hoteliers to share their personal stories and feel comforted to hear from their peers. We knew a lot of hoteliers felt isolated, particularly early on in the pandemic, and HomeForHotels was a reminder that they certainly weren’t alone.
What is your business aim for 2021?
I’ve been fortunate to have been with SiteMinder since its earliest days, and I can tell you that each year has been fast-paced and exciting, whether that’s due to growth in new regions, new products or the launch of unique partnerships. However, I’ve never been so excited at the start of a year as I am now. We’ve got some awesome announcements lined up for the year that I wish I could say more about, but we’ll definitely let you know when we can!
In terms of our aims for the year, we are about being ambitious yet flexible, as we’re as committed as ever to supporting our existing customers through the pandemic in many regions, while looking to make sure we continue the momentum that will help us support hoteliers not only now but well into the future.
What trends caused by the pandemic are here to stay?
I think there are a number of changes in traveller behaviour that will impact how hotels sell rooms and meet guest expectations for some time to come, to be honest.
Firstly, a hotel’s cancellation policies will definitely continue to receive scrutiny, and there’s a greater need than ever to maintain a flexible approach to bookings.
Additionally, we’ll keep seeing hotels having more of a focus on communicating their cleanliness standards and routines through all sales channels, to ensure that guests feel safe to travel and stay.
And I expect to see hotels continuing to embrace additional technology in their stack, to help them manage guest expectations, for solutions like remote check-in or registration, guest messaging and customer relationship management.
What would your customers say about you?
They say that your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room, so we’re hugely proud to have received the endorsement of our hotel customers and partners at the 2021 HotelTechAwards, which were based purely off reviews.
Our company jumped from third to second place in the Hoteliers Choice Awards, which recognise the most customer-centric global companies, and that means everything to us. We also retained our top position in the category of Best Channel Manager for the second consecutive year and came out among the top three in the categories of Best Booking Engine and Best Rate Shopping & Market Intelligence, which was great.
What’s your biggest success as a business?
What I’m most proud of is our ability to grow and scale, while continuing to innovate. We’re constantly looking to improve and have a very non-hierarchical structure which makes it easy to drive innovation. We don’t separate product and technical teams – they work together closely, alongside marketing, sales and support, so there’s no barrier to coming up with ideas.
We have got used to taking ourselves outside of the comfort zone in an effort to stand out from the crowd, and it’s this attitude that drives our teams and keeps things exciting.
What do you think makes the hospitality industry so special to work in?
I’ve always said that it’s the people in hospitality that make it such a great space to work in. There is a naturally high expectation of customer service from everyone in our industry, which stems from their own drive to provide a great service and experience. I get to be surrounded by people who are striving to deliver the best product and best service possible every single day, and that’s why I love it.
Additionally, our customers are typically naturally hospitable as well. For example, if something does happen to go wrong, they tend to be understanding and look for solutions rather than fault. Hoteliers are the first to admit that you can’t get it right 100% of the time, and when things don’t go as planned, resolution is always more important than assigning blame.
If you could only share one piece of advice for hospitality businesses to help them survive the next year, what would it be?
Stay on your toes! Use the data that you have to help you make great decisions but review those decisions constantly. We learned a lot in 2020 about a world we’d never seen, so lean on those lessons for 2021, and stay close to those around you in the hotel community.
You are an Institute of Hospitality Business Partner, why did you decide to work with us?
We decided to work with the Institute of Hospitality because of our shared desire to educate hoteliers. The Institute is a premier source of info and community that helps to guide the hospitality industry, and we were keen to join them in that mission. We love that we’re able to connect with hoteliers and partake in events with them to foster an even closer relationship with the backbone of the hospitality industry.
For more information, take a look at SiteMinder’s ebook (available to all members) on our website – Top booking revenue makers of 2020… plus predictions and tips for 2021 – Institute of Hospitality