IHG reservation system advances with direct business firmly on the roadmap

InterContinental Hotels Group is pinning a lot on its new Guest Reservation System.

GRS is being developed on a community model by Amadeus with IHG the first hotel company on board and therefore, the one currently in the driving seat.

That gives it, IHG claims, first move advantage in terms of the direction of development of the system.

During updates to press and the investor community this week, IHG chief executive Richard Solomans and chief commercial officer Keith Barr put a little more flesh on the bones of what GRS will do for the group.

At a high level, it’s hoped the system will increase revenue and provide IHG with access to more data as well as, improve and personalise the booking experience for customers and provide hotel owners with more flexibility around rates and ancillaries.

Also key is the system’s ability to be able to plug in other software and services such as revenue management and CRM tools with Barr saying GRS alongside IHG proprietary tools will be “transformational” over time in what it enables the group to do.

The reservation system will play a big part in IHG’s direct sales strategy with the technology enabling the hotels to offer different rates and products and services via different channels.

Barr says:

“The hotels will have the ability to only offer this functionality to guests who book direct, a far richer set of booking options. GRS will be an additional and significant driver of our direct strategy.”

The group has said it is already seeing success with its Your Rate strategy – the initiative gives loyalty members access to exclusive rates and benefits.

Solomans says the 4,500 hotels in the Your Rate program are still using online travel agencies but that the company is seeing increasing growth in the direct channel and a slowing in the OTA channel.

Explaining how the system will cut across the whole guest journey (dream, plan, book, stay), Barr says, for example, that it will enable the company to sell to guests in the dream phase based on previous preferences and purchases. Then, in the planning stage, it will enable guests to search in more flexible ways such as by room type, open dates or budget.

Hotel owners should also be able to bundle up hotel and food packages at all-inclusive resorts with meetings inventory also to be added in and offer additional services whilst guests are on property.

Barr maintains it’s not just about charging more but “wanting to understand what guests want, what they’re willing to pay for and charging them accordingly.”

The planned (and phased) rollout of the system will begin early next year with testing before a full pilot in 100 hotels across regions around the third quarter of 2017.

The pilot will be with smaller, limited-service properties before “larger and more complex” hotels are unleashed on to the system. The hope is that the full estate will be on the system at the end of 2018 and IHG can kiss goodbye to Holidex.

The presentation to analysts was preceded by the standard ‘cautionary note on forward looking statements’ which has context for this project because as with all major technology developments, there are risks.

Risks in rollout, in integration of other systems and risks in the community model with other hotels needed to come on board to bring benefits of scale. Amadeus has said it is in discussions with many players on this.

And, Solomans adds that many hotel groups are facing the same issues it faces in terms of their reservation systems.

Meantime, IHG, is palpably excited by the prospect of all GRS might deliver.

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