TECHNOLOGY has been disrupting traditional industries for decades now. Think about what Amazon did to bookshops, or what eBay did for auction trading. But perhaps one of the sectors most impacted by technology and online opportunities is travel, and in particular, online booking.
Edinburgh-based entrepreneur Julie Grieve, a veteran of the holiday lettings industry, has watched the market, looked at travellers’ behaviour, examined their experiences. She is the founder and CEO of Information Apps, creator of Criton, the UK’s first self-build digital concierge app for the travel sector.
Grieve’s tech start-up information apps designed Criton to enable owners of all forms of holiday accommodation to transfer guest information book into a branded, bespoke app.
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It includes easy to follow directions and instruction videos on how to use appliances, through to recommendations and links to nearby restaurants and attractions for a flawless customer experience. It’s technology like this that allows small start-ups like Grieve’s to take on the big boys in the sector.
Grieve said: “Today’s technology puts big business tools in the hands of businesses of all types and sizes. The hospitality sector, fundamentally changed by the likes of Airbnb and the tech savvy reviewer, needs to keep pace with their customer and explore how they can use digital services. Ultimately, we now know more than 50 per cent of all hotel bookings are made on a mobile device. It’s the way guests book accommodation. And we all know it’s the way people consume information. The development of apps is an easy, spontaneous and flexible way to build connections with visitors before, during and after their stay.”
The dominance of online travel agents (OTA) is a lesson for the tourism sector which must now focus on using technology for the best customer experience.
Grieve says the disruption has severely shaken up the hotel sector. For the customer, it has been a revelation, but many operators, unprepared for the impact of the likes of Booking.com and Expedia and the customer experience they deliver, have found their margins squeezed by the fees charged.
“The most common response from the hotel sector has been to remove perks offered to loyalty customers unless they book directly,” Grieve said. “Guess what, guests don’t care about your operations, they care about a seamless and easy booking experience.”
Grieve says hoteliers and owners of holiday accommodation should fight back, take the initiative and start to explore how to embrace new digital services to enhance their customer service. Accommodation providers need to up their game in terms of their websites and methods of communication.”
Grieve says start-ups have a significant advantage, as they don’t have to be concerned about legacy investment and the “we’ve always done it this way” attitude.
They are free to develop using the latest technology, and to employ staff with the latest skills.
It enables hoteliers to spend more time with their guests, because they have less administration, and for the savvy millennial traveller it means a joined up booking experience.
Michelle Rodger is a communications consultant