Glh, the largest owner-operator hotel company in London, is poised to roll out its ‘choose your own room’ booking platform as it seeks to transform way the sector operates in the digital age.
The parent company of Amba Hotels, Claremont, Every Hotels and Thistle launched the functionality as a pilot in June 2015.
Speaking this week at the launch of The Future of Travel report from specialist digital marketing agency Qubit, glh director of digital transformation Caroline Cartellieri said:
“In other sectors the value chain has been redefined since the advent of digital. In travel it’s only now that aspects of this model are emerging.”
Cartellieri said glh’s ambition is to transform the customer experience and the ability to book individual rooms has been identified as a key unique selling point.
As well as this glh has responded to the challenge of the likes of Airbnb to completely change its structure by allocated a named host for ever room guests can interact with before they book.
This focus on customer experience reflects the growing influence of TripAdvisor reviews on sales while the impact of where a property comes in Google results becomes less important.
In May chooseyourownroom.com will be re-launched with more properties and additional functionality as glh looks to establish it as an OTA in its own right for the hotel sector.
As well as bringing other hotel brands on to the platform, third party retail partners could also integrate so they can offer individual room booking.
“Our aim is not less than to transform the way the hospitality industry operates,” Cartellieri told delegates at the event in London. “We believe that this is ground breaking in the industry.”
Glh claims to offer officially the world fastest hotel wifi at its Charring Cross Amba property allowing it to trial other digital services, said Cartellieri.
She said this was all aimed to developing a single customer view “maybe not in the next six months, but we will get there”.
But glh says technology alone will not guarantee it meets the challenges of the future.
Cartellieri said: “How can a relatively small player in the industry compete with the big boys? We cannot compete on scale and marketing spend.“We are leveraging technology and people. Neither of these can operate in isolation but together they can be quite a powerful combination.”
What glh refers to as ‘radical hosting’ is already having a significant impact on its property’s ranking on TripAdvisor.
“We now have three hotels in the top 50 in London. That’s very much being driven by the warmth of the staff. They treat guests as they would treat a guest in their own house.”
Operationally, glh has ripped up the traditional hotel management model installing ‘value centre manager’ below the general managers.
They are tasked with overseeing all areas of the guest experience as well as managing pricing and even paid search marketing. As a result, glh has seen a 75% reduction in head office head count.
The operator has also fully embraced the move to cloud computing and is due to switch off its last physical server before the end of the current financial year.
It has ditched Microsoft Office in favour of Google and has built its own API for OTAs, which has helped to cut out “several intermediaries” and reduced the back office workload for its hotels.
This is being trialled with booking.com ahead of a roll out to other partners in the next few months.
Cartellieris said glh’s vision is “game changing”. “The PPC arms race is definitely over for everyone except for those with deep pockets.
“However, you can still win over the customer with technology with the human touch.”
The Qubit Future of Travel Report includes contributions from futurist Glen Hiemstra, robotics expert Brennon Williams and senior executive from Expedia, Thomas Cook, glh Hotels, and Crystal Ski.
Produced in association with Travolution and Travel Weekly, it is available to download now for free from the Qubit website.