Hotel leaders discuss tech, attack OTAs

Wyndham CEO: “We have to be one-to-one with the consumer”

At the opening general session of the 18th annual Lodging Conference in the USA last week, hoteliers looked at expansion, mergers and acquisitions and technology issues. Hoteliers are generally upbeat on development in the hotel market.
Tom Corcoran, chairman of FelCor Lodging Trust: “We’ll see a building boom in the next 10 years that’s phenomenal. Real estate is going to do great. […] The smart guys that got out in ’07 and bragged about it are getting back in.”
However, bigger hotels need to become more efficient. Joe Berger, area president of the Americas for Hilton Worldwide: “We need to shrink [full-service hotels with 200 to 300 rooms], make them much more efficient. They really need to become very, very upscale limited-service hotels with highly efficient lobby space.”
On technology, Berger said that hotels are moving to a self-service environment, with mobile devices used as room keys. “[Guests can] interact with staff at the hotel when they want to. I think the industry is going to move toward self-check-in. In the airline business, you can choose your seat; in the hotel business, you get assigned your room.”
The panelists agreed that online travel agencies are continuing to lose hoteliers money. “The OTAs have to be a channel to fill hotels, but it doesn’t have to be the channel,” Eric Danziger, president and CEO of Wyndham Hotel Group, said. “The relationship has to be one-to-one with the consumer and not have a relationship with a third party. It’s the brand’s responsibility to reinvigorate the one-on-one relationship.”
Jim Abrahamson, CEO of Interstate Hotels & Resorts, agreed. “Third parties involved in our business, that’s the real danger to our business. We as an industry need to get control of our inventory.”
[pictured: Wyndham Hotel Xiamen]