Daniel Wishnia, a digital marketing consultant at the German group GCH Hotels, could not be more enthusiastic about what new technologies can and are delivering for hotels.
“The behaviour of our children, our people and ourselves is changing all the time. We [as hotels] need to be focused and open; to change direction, to test things like artificial intelligence. We need to take a position and implement technologies that [not only] make sense to us, but also impact the bottom line.”
Speaking at EyeforTravel Europe, Wishnia said that GCH was putting virtual reality, chatbots and even drone technologies at the centre of its strategy to drive direct bookings.
Today 97% of searches start in Google where people find images, videos and maps.
“That is where people start and we absolutely need to be there. If we want to expose ourselves [in Google], we need to think clearly about where to put the effort and maximise exposure to drive direct bookings.”
On one thing Wishnia is clear – that today most people, and not just Millennials, have mobile devices with them 24/7. So mobile remains a strong focus and an important platform for executing its strategy.
#1 Viva VR
GCH’s research shows that more people than ever before are using VR to make decisions. For this reason, the firm is working with VDRoom to build a 360-degree VR reality experience of every single hotel (an example here of how it is being used by Wyndham Duisburger Hof Hotel).
“When used in advertising, we see a clear shift in conversions and engagement.”
Wishnia believes that people want to see everything from the view from the hotel, to a glass of wine on a table and even the bathroom. And the proof, he says, is that page views are 3x more likely when VR technology is used.
The technology is SEO driven so if a customer is, for example, looking for a meeting room, they will taken directly to the VR image.
“They can see the image, and they can book immediately.”
#2 Choose chatbots
This year GCH has implemented Emma, the chatbot, which is operated by Gooster, a company delivering a ‘hotel concierge in your guest’s pocket’. Emma, derived from the name element ‘ermen’ in German – meaning whole or universal – has been developed to help travellers at every stage of the journey.
According to Wishnia, Emma will be personalised for every hotel, be they in a mountain park, by the sea or near a popular shopping district.
“This [chatbot technology] is a trend. It’s a real trend.”
Wishnia adds that after four months of testing, people are starting to use it both in the pre-booking stage, as well as while they are in the hotel and even post stay.
Doing more ecommerce with Emma is something that is on the cards.
#3 Engage with drones
GCH is also using drone technology to engage with guests.
“We are using this around €700 technology to film hotels from the outside, to show where they are situated. This is a beautiful way to see a hotel.”
As an example, the technology has been used to showcase the Wyndham Stralsung HanseDom Hotel and Recreation Park, which Wishnia argues is “an excellent example of how a 50-second drone clip can shift engagement and shift the exposure”.
A costly business?
Cost is a common concern. However, Wishnia argues that while these technologies may not work for everybody, and it is up to the hotel to make the leap, they are fairly inexpensive to test.
GCH’s investment looks something like this: VDRoom comes in at around €40 per month per hotel, while a chatbot costs around €100 to set up, followed by a rolling fee of around €50 per month. While costs of drone technology vary, for GCH the investment has been around €700.
On a final note, however, while Wishnia believes strongly in voice, VR and chatbots, he also believes that there needs to be a strong combination of graphics and text.