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  • Writer's pictureRyan Haynes

IHTF 2023 - How Real Hotels Group uses technology for the guest journey

Joined by Alexandre Pereira from Real Hotels Group we explore how the portfolio approached the guest journey and developing a strategy, ahead of his IHTF 2023 presentation "Maximising revenue at all stages of the customer journey" which will go into specific detail for improving revenue performance.


In this conversation, we discuss:

  • Maximising revenue across the customer journey - why is it so important today

  • Understanding revenue and revenue performance - the technologies in the Best Western tech stack to help address the customer journey

  • Tech to integrate to maximise revenue

  • Selecting revenue technologies

We are also joined by Calum McIndoe, Director of Sales UK & Ireland for Infor Hospitality Solutions - discussing the value of IHTF and key criteria to consider as part of tech buying. Company Profile Real Hotels Group is the result of the merger, in 2020, of two national hotel groups, the holders of the REAL brand and NEWPALM, IHG’s Holiday Inn Express operator, becoming the biggest merger of the Portuguese hotel industry in the last decade, with 16 hotels, 2,100 rooms, spread over Lisbon, Porto and Algarve.


Programme Notes


Ryan Haynes:

Hello and welcome back to Travel Market Life. I'm your host, Ryan Haynes, and this is part of the pre-International Hotel Technology Forum 2023 conversation series, speaking to hoteliers about the presentations that they're going to be delivering, all about their digitization and technology strategies, how they've addressed staff's shortages and the much needed platforms for digital engagement with guests. We're also going to be speaking to vendors and the importance of selecting the right criteria to ensure that it meets your much needed strategies around digitalization and technologies. The International Hotel Technology Forum is happening between the 28th and the 30th March 2023.


Ryan Haynes:

We will be there. We'll be having a link live from the session, as well as follow up interviews with the hoteliers at the event. In today’s episode, we're going to be speaking to Real Hotels and Infor.


Ryan Haynes:

Joining me now is Alexandre Pereira, the head of Commercial Strategy at Real Hotels Group. Thanks ever so much for joining me, Alexandre. Now you are going to be looking at maximizing revenue across the customer journey at IHTF. Why is that so important today?


Alexandre Pereira:

Hi Ryan. Thank you for the invite. It's always a pleasure to exchange some of the great ideas in our hospitality landscape at Real Hotels. Group Max revenue across the customer journey is very, is strategic for many reasons. First of all, the characteristics of our hotels. We have a portfolio of 14 hotels, very different from each other. We have a resort - My City Corporate, which we had until December, an all-inclusive hotel that depends a lot on our customer journey and its revenue spending in its journey. We have resorts with a lot of outlets and even our city hotels are very much, very much faced in an f and b point of view to the locals.


Alexandre Pereira:

The locals in the cities at the hotels are. So that is when first, first reason. A second reason is, of course, revenue wise. We have an excellent opportunity to increase, increase untapped revenue and the total revenue from FNB and even our spas represent approximately 35 to 40, 40% of our total revenue. I call it clean revenue, clean. It's because we don't have any third parties between us and our guests. So this is an excellent opportunity for us to increase, increase profitability and also to have to fulfil a full guest experience.


Alexandre Pereira:

Third is exactly the point. We are a business that is very much orientated to our guests, and to our customers and having these offers, making them personalized, and making them direct to our client's expectations, I believe that it has an extreme impact on the overall guest satisfaction. Our fourth reason is this makes us, and I think these reasons are very much aligned with each other, and this makes us responsible to have a correct implementation of all our standard operating procedures that guarantee service excellence, enhance operational efficiency, and at the end of the day, increase the profitability for our stakeholders.


Alexandre Pereira:

Last but not least, and again, these things are, are very much aligned. This is the cultural mindset that we want to be consistent in all across our organization. So, we need to move definitely to total profitability. So, all these stages that I said before and these examples, very much, very much contribute exactly for us to having that mindset across the organization. From the CEO to the front office agent, everybody needs to be aligned in this mindset.


Ryan Haynes:

I mean you told me to call this untapped revenue and I'm wondering what's changed as well, you know, how has that ma made it accessible now? What, what's changed within the organization or within your mindset or, or capabilities to be able to tap into this kind of revenue?


Alexandre Pereira:

Yeah, basically, it's been very much led by our clients. So, our guests are more and more demanding or more and more searching for a full vacation experience. So, okay, it's not just only a matter of the room anymore, it's not just only a matter of the location, it's a matter of taking advantage and enjoying each of the days during their stay at our hotels that have made us move forward and that has made us look at, at this piece of the business that wasn't yet so much exploit previously in, in order to, to, to ensure exactly that type of experience for our customers.


Alexandre Pereira:

Okay. Along that, of course, there has been a giant leap in terms of analytics. We have made our analytics more and more accessible. There are more, more and more of our colleagues that have more literacy and understanding of that data and knowing it, how to maximize it on a day by day level.


Ryan Haynes:

Thank you very much indeed. Now at the IHTF in Vienna 2023, your presentation is on maximizing revenue at all stages of the customer journey is really going to be exploring how you address this within real hotel groups and give people an idea of how they can actually implement that within their strategy. And what we understand is that you know, revenue and revenue performance and really understanding how that's working is essential. So, as you mentioned you talked just now about data, can you tell me some of the technologies you are currently using in your tech stack to really help you address this digitization of the customer journey?


Alexandre Pereira:

Yeah, from a revenue point of view, we acquired rather recently, two years ago, a revenue management system. Okay. And that makes it possible to free up the time from the revenue managers and make them more and more strategic and less on a day-by-day level. So again, we have the technology that helps us and, and, and, and with that sense, the revenue managers can look further, not only on the room perspective maximisation but also look at the total revenue. Okay. So that was decisive for us. Another thing was from an analytics point of view, we were, we have all our data extracted from the PMs available for basically everybody in the organization.


Alexandre Pereira:

Though, we're using the Power BI model. So, we are able to monitor on a day by day and even on an hour by hour matter what is happening on our top line. And our expectation is that we are able to cross our costs and be able day by day to control what is our bottom line figures. So that was a giant step mainly from the revenue management point of view and also for making the analytics accessible, able to monitor, control and optimize it at the end of the day. So, that was great.


Ryan Haynes:

Excellent. Wonderful. I mean, you know, these tools have really come into their own over the last few years, and particularly having that insight during the pandemic helped a lot of companies be able to respond to the real market changes and be competitive in the pricing. But I, I guess you know, this, this, this transition digital transformation hasn't quite finished yet. You're still on that journey. What's the next phase of development for Rio Hotels? And since IHTF is all about technology, what other tech are you looking to integrate to help you maximize the revenue?


Alexandre Pereira:

Yeah, we are definitely looking at how to get closer to our customers in all the different stages. Okay. We like to label the different stages of the customer journey in first the client gets inspired and then he starts to research after the research. He books, and after he books, he stays at the hotel and then he leaves the hotel. So, we are looking at technology from a CRM point of view that is able for us to make the most of the digital contact that we have with our clients. Okay. So definitely that. And then we want to reward the clients that stay with us by making, by having a good, strong personalized and complete loyalty program.


Alexandre Pereira:

Okay. So I would say that these are the two main perspectives and technology that we are looking forward to developing in the next couple of years. We realize that a big majority of our clients are from the new generations. And the new generations more and more are getting more and more comfortable. And actually, the preferred platform for them to communicate is digital. Okay. So we are, we are looking to adapt to that. Of course, our main purpose is ex exactly to guarantee that there is a seamless integration within all our systems. So, that is always a challenge, but with that said, we want to continue the journey of being more and more focused on our customers and to make the contact that we have to do with them in the different stages, more enjoyable for them at the end of the day to have a nice experience in our hotels.


Ryan Haynes:

Thank you. Now, I mean, you know with all the hoteliers that are going to be attending IHTF, having conversations with vendors, finding out what sort of systems and applications are available to help them with that digital transformation, and you haven't been through this a bit already, what advice do you give to the hotelier in selecting technologies to, to assist you with these strategies?


Alexandre Pereira:

The first thing is to focus on the return on investment and not on the cost. So, we've been through that. I can say that we have had more over the last couple of years. We have more than 75 or 75 options across all the different types of technology. So, we need to do a full examination. We not, we should not focus on how much it is going to cost, but at the end of the day, how much can you return that investment that you do? Now the second thing is, you know, we, I've discussed this a couple of minutes back. We need to guarantee that there are seamless real time integrations with all our different systems. I mean, today, if you look back 10 years ago, we would manage two systems.


Alexandre Pereira:

We would manage the PMs and then some financial systems. But now at 10 o'clock in the morning, I can say from my experience, but above all from the frontline operational teams, we have been already looking at, I don't know, 10 or 15 different systems since maintenance from CRM, to revenue, to OTA rate shopping. I mean, it's crazy. So, that needs to be fully assured. The third thing is, I mean, we have that quote that says, would you rather go fast or go far step by step. We need to have a full alignment from the operational team in order that we, you know walk the path at the same speed because, at the end of the day, you can, you, you know, acquire a super high tech best in the market technology, but if you don't have operations aligned, it won't last long.


Alexandre Pereira:

So, take it to step by step, involve operations on board, involve your marketing teams, your sales teams, on board when you, when you acquire this type of technology.


Ryan Haynes:

Lovely. Thank you very much, Alexandre. We look forward to meeting with you and certainly hearing your presentation in Vienna. We'll also get an interview with you as part of our series hotelier's voice, so I look forward to seeing you there.


Alexandre Pereira:

Thank you so much, Ryan. And it's you in March


Ryan Haynes:

Joining me now is Calum McIndoe, the director of sales UK and Ireland at Info Hospitality Solutions. Hi Calum, thanks ever so much for joining us. What's a particular interest to you for IHTF and the value it brings as an event?


Calum McIndoe:

Hi Ryan. It's good to be here. Thank you for inviting me. We've been long time people coming to IHTF for over many years and there are several values it brings together. You get to meet some very high up people within the hotel world who are actually looking to do something. They're looking for systems. So, the value is within a 30 minute meeting with a high up person and a hotel organization, you can quickly identify whether or not there's a synergy happening. And it saves a lot of time on both sides trying to get telephone calls and meetings in place and within 30 minutes you can identify if is there something happening. Do we need to catch up later or don't we? It's very, very, it's what I call corporate speed dating, which is an interesting analogy for it. So, it's fantastic from that perspective.


Calum McIndoe:

It's also then great to meet people in the other sessions, not just that, the kind of one-to-one sessions from the networking, from having a, a cup of coffee over a coffee break or a glass of wine in the evening with both the hotels and the other suppliers and people in the industry. It's a very sociable event, so, we thoroughly enjoy it. It's also very beneficial in the fact that around, sorry.


Ryan Haynes:

Yeah, I mean, you know, as we were, we were sort of just talking as well regarding the fact that the, we, we've been so focused on having to work with virtually with everybody and do the whole sales and marketing process virtually. Here we are coming together in one room, actually having those face-to-face conversations. What are we getting from face-to-face conversations that just isn't happening through virtual and digital engagement?


Calum McIndoe:

There are so many people I speak to in our industry who are so happy we're doing personal events again, we are, we are people to people industry in the hospitality. We are like nothing better than getting in front of somebody and having a chat virtually all very well and good and it does work. Virtual has a place in the marketplace, but there's nothing like getting together with someone to have a cup of coffee and a chat. So that's fantastic. We're, we're back doing that again. Really cool.


Ryan Haynes:

So, things have changed so far quickly over the last couple of years and you know, there's a lot of concerns that we might have knocking on our door as we come into 2023, particularly staff shortages, inflation and potentially a recession. What are you hearing are the key concerns and issues your hoteliers are particularly focusing on for identifying those solutions?


Calum McIndoe:

There is a lot of concern in the marketplace. You know, we're hearing of hotels who can't fill all the bedrooms because they can't find the staff to clean them. Restaurants that are shutting for the winter season because they can't afford to heat the place with the gas prices being so high just now have a lot of concern in the marketplace, but people are looking towards certainly software for ways in which they can find tools, help the organizations and they could be budgeting and market budgeting and forecasting tools. How am I looking at this share? I need to forecast what I'm going to bring into the organization, but I need to forecast and re-forecast on a continual basis. So that's very important. Financial systems are obviously very important to them so they can really account for every single penny across these states on a real time basis.


Calum McIndoe:

The guest experience has been for a while now absolutely key in what we do in hospitality. So, people are looking for solutions that provide the guest experience I can have enhanced experience together within the world in which we now live the remote check-ins. Can I order my room service from my room? Can I get my bill and my phone on the way out? So being able to interact and give the guests that enhanced experience through technology. So, it's those sorts of solutions that people are looking for just now.


Ryan Haynes:

No, I mean there are so many solution providers out there, a huge number of vendors that do a lot of the same thing or, or might sort of tiptoe on across over on one another. Where would you say is the value that Infor offers her hospitality customers and, and the opportunities available by working with you as a partner?


Calum McIndoe:

I've been with Infor now, oh, 19 years this year actually. So, I'm an old hat with these guys and I wouldn't be here for the long term if I didn't like what they do. We've just come off a customer event in London last week where we had a hundred odds customers who came in for a two day event and we bring in, our heads of development for our products. We bring in our implementation people for our products and we impart to everyone what we're doing. This is our plan, this is our roadmap. And then we break into breakout rooms and we discuss maybe our sales and catering platform in one room, our property management in one room, our revenue management in one room, and we discuss with them what we're doing and we get feedback back from our clients. It's really an affirmation of what we're doing. So, a big thing in what we do is we have a partnership with our guests.


Calum McIndoe:

So if they, with this particular development they want to see within the product, we listen, you know, I won't always say we'll always do it, but we'll certainly listen and we'll take a consensus and if that works well, we can go down that road. So, it's very much a partnership with our clients as opposed to us dictating what we feel is right in our products.


Ryan Haynes:

Now, what has the industry got to look forward to from Infor in 2023? Is there anything new coming from you guys or have you got a particular focus that you are keen to support the industry with?


Calum McIndoe:

We're very lucky in for, we actually carry quite an extensive product suite. So, anything from financials to business intelligence to budgeting, forecasting, planning, property management, sales and catering, blah, blah, blah. We, so we're very lucky here on every one of those products. There's always something happening. So, within the property management system, we've got a new central reservations solution coming out. We, you know, we had one, we revamped it, and we're now releasing that back to the marketplace. So that's quite exciting to have that central res solution for multi-property environments. So that's coming in. Our sales and catering module is now being deployed not just in hotels but also within Stadia and events throughout the world. So that's a fantastic one. For our financial solution, we've done some architectural work in the background to make it much more cost effective for the small hotelier.


Calum McIndoe:

So, for example, I've got a 50 bedroom property in central London that wanted our financial solution because they've only got a couple of users and it's now affordable for them to move forwards. So, there are a lot of things happening coming into 2023 and beyond, which is exciting.


Ryan Haynes:

Excellent. Callum, thank you ever so much for joining us today and really explaining the value you get from IHTF and how hoteliers really should be looking at the market through this year.


Calum McIndoe:

A pleasure Ryan. See you there.

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