Big Data and Analysis in Hospitality

Big Data and Analysis in Hospitality   -   Feb 3rd 2016

The hospitality industry is essentially low-tech. Has been for a long time really.

Why do the Online Travel agents (OTA’s) have such a foothold on the Hotel Industry without ever owning a property or Brand? The answer is because they saw the internet and booking trends coming before the Industry did. They made their booking engines easy and accessible. They adapted their Technology to what their users were doing. They became across most of them – the Amazon shopping experience for the Hotel room booking industry.

Yes –  I know they spend a huge amount on advertising – but Expedia themselves were quoted a few years ago as spending circa US $650 million just on their technology – just on the underlying system. How large a hotel group do we have to get to in order to reach that level of IT Spend on Software alone?

But underlying all this is two things I believe:
1.    An understanding of human behaviour – on the web – based on all the bookings
2.    Big data analysis of the trends and what is going on

Hotels are appalling at this. Hotel websites started off purely as large Brochure sites. The booking was more or less assumed as the end product without realising there was an easier choice.

Some OTA’s are very niche – Hotel Tonight only exists as an App – not even as a Website and addresses a particular kind of booking or traveller. Hotels own websites very rarely high-light or have something themselves highlighted for ‘just tonight’.

The Big Data piece at the back of all this is interesting. Hospitality is all so very busy ‘operating’ that it does not take the time to look at what is probably one of their most a valuable assets or commodities. Their own in-house data.
As far back as the year 2000 I was working in a hotel group of 120+ hotels. I downloaded a huge amount of data each month – nearly all via the accounting system. Eventually we started putting stuff in that was not exactly Accounting Info (staff data, Guest Questionnaire data) as this was the easiest medium to get the data into the OLAP Database (On Line Analytical Processer). It was then available to access directly using Excel as the ‘medium’.

I could then ‘slice and dice’ this data by geographical, brand, size or type. It also meant the information was always readily accessible in operations or Board meetings so that when the inevitable ‘operator question’ designed to confuse the issue came up – it could be answered right there and then.

An insight we gained at the time was that the hotels in the north and Scotland were very much more ‘leisure based’. We had a Leisure specific brochure which was then designed more for the North and advertising aimed at these areas. Commercial business dominated the South and South East. We were then able to focus our Sales team’s efforts in this area.  Other benefits including easy presented data with Graphs. It is amazing how the trend jumps of the page when you present it as a graph. It even helps with Fraud in the costs area.

So let’s get at that data hidden in the cupboard or consigned to the attic.

Let’s bring it out into the daylight and examine it. No operator can know it all and it is always entertaining to confuse management with the facts!