Of late, there’s been a lot of chatter about the benefits of independent hotels. Most of the debate has been centred around the value of the brand name vs the royalty, loss of control, etc. But the real value provided to a hotelier by a big operator doesn’t get noticed or published all that much.
Consider the Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG), encompassing 645,000 rooms in over 4,400 hotels spread over seven brands and 100 countries. During the first six months of 2009, 66% of total room revenue was booked at these hotels through IHG channels or by the 47 million Priority Club members.
Aside from reservations, there are many more ways in which IHG helps hoteliers reduce costs and improve revenues and customer service. Here’s a few examples:-
Onboard:- IHG’s hectic pace of new hotel openings (439 globally and 375 in the US in 2009) requires a strategic plan – deliver what hotels need, when they need it.
To add another layer, IHG wanted the plan to be flexible enough to incorporate changes in tune with new hotel innovation. This they accomplished through a program created in 2006, called Onboard.
IHG mapped out the sequence of steps involved in the opening process, and created a map that depicted the journey of a new owner from selecting the IHG brand to an open and operating hotel.
Onboard breaks up this process into an 8-phase approach, with IHG only sending the hotelier the opening materials needed for the current phase.
Results - Revenue and bookings jumped over 50% on opening day for hotels that opened using Onboard. As an added bonus, IHG saves $133,000 in shipping and printing costs with the new kits.
Hotel-in-a-Box:- Selection of tech vendors for an IHG hotel has been refined into a very precise operation by means of a collaboration with IBM, which created an integrated technology package called Hotel-in-a-Box.
Under this arangement, there are no piecemeal purchases, vendor negotiations or integration issues.
For all their requirements, IHG franchisees simply pick from a list of certified vendors, each of whom has already agreed to offer below-market rates, and their products and solutions have been tested to make sure they integrate seamlessly with others on the list.
Results – Savings of 10% off the overall installation cost, one window tech support via IBM, and 50% reduction in technology installation and implementation timeframe.
Green Engage:- The debate over whether being green helps a hotel attract more customers is still open, but there is no doubt that green practices reduce costs and conserve resources for the hotel. The way it works is simple but effective.
Hotels directly input data on site, and the system compares the data against IHG hotels of a similar nature across the world and lists a series of actions that the hotel can take to reduce waste and consumption of energy and water.
Results – Offers hoteliers potential energy savings of upto 25%. IHG estimates that if all their hotels adopt Green Engage, it would lead to a combined savings of $200 million.
Virtually Me:- Virtually Me is a human-computer interaction system that will be able to catch public broadcasts pertaining to guests’ personal needs and preferences from their mobile devices.
On the other end it will provide the hotel property with precise matching information to help improve the guest’s stay. A hotel will know if a guest is a priority loyalty customer, and things like musical tastes, health information and food choices.
This will help the hotel prepare for guest arrivals by pre-setting rooms with the preferred music and ambient temperature, making sure room service is able to fulfill requests, etc.
Bill Peer, Vice President, Enterprise Architecture, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), says that Virtually Me will be a reality in four years. He made a really neat presentation (see videos – 1, 2, 3) about Virtually Me at Genesys G-Force Orlando last year.