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(February 2017) posted on Wed Feb 08, 2017

From big data to Airbnb, this year’s lodging investment summit in Los Angeles showed forward-thinking concepts can have major return.

By Christina Green

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Of course, everyone heads to Americas Lodging Investment Summit (ALIS) with money on her or his mind. But this year’s conference, held Jan. 23-25 at the JW Marriott and Microsoft Theater at L.A. LIVE, was as much about tomorrow’s trends as last year’s numbers.

Several sessions touched on the evolution of data collection and its possible implications on the guest experience. Responsive robots, including a replica R2D2, roamed the ballroom corridors. Innovative and reimagined hospitality models—from the evolution of what it means to be boutique, to flipping existing apartment buildings into pop-up luxury hotels, to new brand incubator concepts—were at the forefront of the three-day summit’s hot topics. And while most speakers prefaced with “politics aside,” many noted they were “cautiously optimistic” about the Trump administration’s impact on the U.S. economy and what it will mean for the travel industry.

Here a few takeaways from the conference’s roster of panels:

Big data may have a big impact: “You already have the data—your guests are giving it to you—you’re just not using it,” said James Whittaker, Microsoft’s “distinguished technical evangelist,” during a TED-style talk in the Microsoft Theater. With the World Wide Web’s migration to “the Cloud,” data that was once scattered can now be organized. This is why machines, such as self-driving cars, are smarter than ever, noted Whittaker.

What does this mean for hoteliers? Well first off, they need to leverage their social media in a new way. Whittaker said intent to travel starts on platforms like Facebook and Twitter and operators shouldn’t wait for guests to download a brand’s app or find the hotel’s website. Instead, he suggests they use data to find out who is looking for properties like theirs—as well as gauge upcoming guests’ preferences.

In an earlier session the same day, Christine Warner, Facebook’s U.S. head of industry, travel, said the guest experience starts 43 days prior to arrival and that in that time, customers are spending more time on Facebook than any travel site. She suggested using digital platforms like Messenger to connect with guests before their stay. However, if that information doesn’t make it from marketing to the front desk to housekeeping, it’s pretty much useless, noted Alexander Shashou, president/co-founder of ALICE-App, a hotel operations platform.


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