The Indian Hotels Company (IHCL) may not have pioneered digital gaming in the hospitality industry, but a concerted push orchestrated over the past year has resulted in a 27% increase in online revenue , a 30% increase in room reservations. , as well as additional bookings of 25,000 tables over the past nine months.
Chinmai Sharma, revenue director of Taj hotel group, said the new technology platforms – which include revenue management systems, table management systems and an integrated cloud-based architecture for better recognition of customers – all fit into a command center at the corporate headquarters, where everything from customer complaints to online discussions around the brand is tracked.
Officials at Taj, the country’s largest hotel chain, say they engage in 1,500 to 2,000 conversations per day and cut response time to online queries about the brand from what took a day to less than 15 minutes now.
“We don’t let them get away,” said Sharma, referring to millennials, who make up more than a third of members of IHCL’s Taj InnerCircle loyalty program. The company reports 120% growth in registered members, 100% InnerCircle-related revenue and 127% mobile revenue. This is important given that the Taj has historically fallen behind with its loyalty program compared to Marriott and Hyatt.
Today, online travel agencies, or OTAs, are the primary digital engines of hotel marketing and sales, leaving hotels with no choice but to join their ranks. While hotels run their own websites, the search landscape is dominated by OTAs. “If you were spending money on traditional media, you probably talk to six million people when you might only want to talk to 60,000 people,” said Rajiv Kaul, president of Leela Palaces, Hotels & Resorts. “This is sniper targeting against carpet bombardment,” he added.
It’s not uncommon for the Taj to fish digital waters for business. Automotive players such as BMW launched cars exclusively online as early as 2010, with the goal of interacting with customers who spend more time on the web and not in showrooms.
Sudhir Gupta, CEO of TLC Group, a loyalty program company for hotels, said that while many companies are going the digital route for marketing and sales, the Taj Group command center is operational around the clock. “You can send a bottle of champagne to a regular who’s walked in or report a crisis to a manager as it appears and it’s all done in minutes,” he said.
Digital is targeted because it can be done on the back of data analytics and therefore can be changed both in terms of the actual message and the goal of the campaign. “In that sense, it’s part of an overall strategy with real-time results monitoring,” Gupta added.