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Hotels should explore new ways of “staying close” to customers – particularly with the rapid changes in technology.
The prominence of review sites such as Trip Advisor meant it was important for hotels to find new ways of interacting with guests, according to Patrick Fitzgibbon, senior vice-president of development for Hilton Worldwide.
“Trip Advisor has changed the way we interact with customers,” said Fitzgibbon. “Hotels can now find out what customers think about your property while they are pretty much still there in the hotel and you can also find out what people think of your competitors.
“You need to deliver what they are expecting from the hotel and what they might not be expecting. If you don’t stay close to your customers, then your competitors will.”
He was speaking at a session on investment and finance in the hotel industry held by the Institute of Hospitality at WTM.
Fitzgibbon cited the rapid growth in the use of iPads as an example of how technology was changing the way hotels will have to operate.
“The way we interact with customers has changed because of technology – you cannot ignore it,” he said. “But you will also never move away from that high level of service and personal touch.”
Russell Kett, managing director of hotel valuation firm HVS International, added that it was important “not to forget about the luddites” in the rush to introduce more technology.
“For those who are older than average, technology is not so important so you need to go down both tracks so you are keeping all your customers with you.”
The session heard that financing for new hotels remained “scarce” but there are more financing options available than a year ago – although this money was not coming from banks but other potential investors.
Arthur de Haast, chairman of Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels, said that most hotels in fast-developing countries such as China were being built in mixed-use projects which also included apartments and offices.
“It’s a very successful model in these marketplaces,” he said. “But in Europe it’s challenging to find sites that are big enough in major cities for these types of projects.
“This is why you get hotels in London adding a floor or trying to make the most of their existing space such as looking at the converting of the reception area or meeting rooms.”