By Malcolm Noden
October 21, 2019
To coin a phrase from an old song by Bob Dylan, “The times they are a’ changing”. Recently, the hospitality trade press has noted the increasing speed of technological change, and its impact upon many aspects of the hotel business.
Hoteliers continue to search for new ways to attract customers to their establishments, and, as a result, many new ideas are constantly being examined, and deployed, in the search for ways to keep their rooms filled with happy customers, who will come back again and again in the future.
Among the many challenges that such activities have stimulated is that of distribution. Simply put, how does the hotel attract the potential customer in their search for the “right” hotel for their purposes. The right location; the right price; the right room; etc., etc. The need to answer those questions, has created a whole slew of organizations, that have found a profitable way to act as intermediaries, in the incessant demand for hotel accommodations.
Travel agents, including the on-line variety, were once one of the primary sources of distribution, but of late, new technology has made the process of finding, booking, and paying for a hotel room, something that can be done from the comfort of the living room, and assured by the knowledge of getting the best price for the room.
Now comes along what may become a whole new channel of distribution.
One of my long-time colleagues who runs a major hotel consulting practice, has noted that the major players in the home delivery business, are becoming involved in the business of “delivering” services as well as durable goods. He suggests that Amazon may well be the next mammoth player in the hotel biz.
Given that Amazon uses their 100 million proprietary listening devices, Echo, and its voice Alexa, for the purposes of gathering ever more information about each consumer that has one in their home or office, it can easily be seen that the data they collect can then be used to create the necessary algorithm to permit not just the booking of a hotel room, but also all of the associated interests of special pricing packages, amenities, travel plans, etc.
So now the next big thing may sound like this: “Alexa find me a nice hotel room for two people in Amelia Island, for my vacation on July 10 to 15. Keep the price below $100 per night, and let me know if there is a car rental place there so that I can rent some wheels to do some sightseeing”
Are we ready?
Editor’s Note: Malcolm A. Noden, who is the (Retired) Senior Lecturer in Management, Economics, Marketing and Tourism at the School of Hotel Administration, at Cornell University, is a well-known expert in the applied economics of hospitality and tourism policy, promotion and development.
Noden is the past Chairman of the New York State Tourism Education Task force, an advisory board appointed by former Governor George Pataki of New York. Noden serves on the editorial board of TEOROS International, a theoretical research journal for education in tourism, and was the Cornell University representative to, and a founding member of, the World Tourism Organization, Educational and Training Board.