Season 2 Episode 1
Since my last post, there have been several changes in my area of focus — the key being my move from financial services to the travel & hospitality space. In a way, the title of this blog — and the wanderlust it suggests — made that change a self-fulfilling prophecy. The new start also warranted the change of Season.
For those of you who have not read previous editions, HTNW covers a broad spectrum of topics. Now, the focus is on travel & hospitality with an emphasis on digital, distribution, commerce, loyalty, and other core hospitality building blocks, as well as sections on technology innovation, design thinking, and random restaurant and production innovations. The goal always is to have a “Choose your Own Adventure” format that allows readers to browse through topics or hit links that grab their interest.
In addition, from time to time, thoughts around my Ironman training might accidentally find their way in.
Hospitality Industry — 2023 Recap and 2024 Outlook
It’s interesting to look at how the global hospitality industry performed last year and especially, how it compares to pre-COVID numbers. This excellent analysis piece from HVS has great insights from an ADR, RevPAR, and Occupancy perspective as well as a broader 2024 outlook based on macro influences from both demand and supply.
There are interesting observations, including how RevPAR growth in the U.S. is fueled by ADR rather than occupancy, which continues to lag behind 2019 levels and affords opportunities in 2024. This is in stark comparison to the strong growth reported in the Caribbean.
A quick summary of my observations across U.S., Mexico, Canada, Caribbean, and LatAm can be found in this LinkedIn post.
Loyalty — Battle Royale
The loyalty battle continues to heat up, with Hilton having a strong year and reducing the deficit with Marriott. One observation is the clear impact on loyalty that co-branded cards have created for early movers like Marriott as opposed to others like Accor and IHG.
The other interesting aspect is the Owner Experience angle — covered in the next section.
Source : skift.com
Note : Growth is measured over last 5 years. Refer to article for more details.
In a previous post, I covered the importance of Total Experience and enabling the employees to deliver world class experiences. The article on loyalty got me thinking about the experience of hotel owners : with the trend towards asset light franchise models in hospitality and the increased presence of private equity and other tech-savvy asset owners, it is key that loyalty programs also understand the impact of these programs on hotel owners — the delicate balance between added occupancy with loyalty members vs. charge out rates needs to be actively managed for maximum revenue generation.
This is even more significant in high growth areas (& areas dominated by independent hotels), like CALA and Asia Pacific, where demand often surpassing supply (with construction slowing due to investment headwinds). The regular articulation of relative benefits for prospective owners adopting a hotel brand and it’s loyalty programs is a great opportunity for the brands to integrate into the owner’s playbook.
Hotel brands’ ability to be data driven and innovative around charge out rates, flexible affiliation agreements, brand enforcements, and other monthly fees — along with sophisticated reporting — can shape the growth battle.
As someone who grew up in the lending and investment banking space, the topic of payments and the vast opportunities it provides in terms of new audiences & products, differentiated experiences, and overall efficiencies is close to my heart.
In my mind, the four fundamental questions that need to be asked by hospitality brands when investing in overhauling a payment ecosystem center around:
- Growth Alignment — Are the brand’s growth plans in terms of guest segments, products, and regions aligned to payment preferences and patterns
- Payment Products — Are there opportunities to reach additional segments through offerings like BNPL, Price Locks that are already table stakes in retail and airlines?
- Digital Wallets — Are there efficiencies of scale, seamless experiences through disintermediation opportunities? (There’s a great diagrammatic representation here on a 2-step v/s a 9-step payment process.)
- Industry Co-opetition — designing an ecosystem that is scalable, and extendable through industry standards and allows relatively easy product, partner, and property onboarding while allowing the brand to maximize efficiencies
On that note, I’m excited to attend the HEDNA conference this January . If anyone is around in New Orleans, it would be great to connect.
In my conversations with clients and consultants across the industry , one of the consistent themes in evolution to new age property management systems is the change and transition management given the scale and the peripheral systems involved at the property . Here’s an insightful piece from Ravi Evani on peripherals migration and how to approach these.
Signing off 2023 in Style
Now that we’ve all had some some well-deserved, end-of-the-year down time, I wanted to take a moment to share some mind-boggling stats around the achievements of the dinning, travel & hospitality sectors during the last few days of 2023:
- The TSA estimated over 2.5 million people at airport security on New Year’s Eve weekend.
- OYO (the Indian hospitality chain) saw its pricing engine go through 16.8 million separate price modifications on 620K+ bookings on NYE alone
- Here are some impressive stats from NYE consumption in India . (My favorite is the 610 kilograms of ice in an hour — that’s 1350 lbs.
Nowhere In Particular
The need to convert the kilograms into pounds reminded me of this hilarious SNL skit on America’s weights and measures
When we think of hotel brands , I bet the first names that come to mind are probably not Garner, StudioRes, Spark, Paradox, Ying’nFlo, and Siro. These are all brands introduced by leading hotel chains, including a few in 2023. An excellent piece from Chekitan S. Dev, Ph.D., CHC, ISHC on the hospitality branding bloat.
Interesting side note — I also happened to be going through his Cornell University piece on hotel branding drivers from 2009 earlier this week. For those who are numbers-oriented, a PWC study at the time estimated 300 hospitality brands in existence — that number is well over a 1K in 2023!!