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Travel & Hospitality

How Hotels Can Use Digital Tools to Build a Competitive Edge

Nick Zettler
VP of Business Development
Grant Arle
Program Director
Tyler Convey
Product Marketing Manager

When you think about the hospitality industry, the number one, no-brainer customer that comes to mind is the guest. However, the large brands that dominate the global hospitality space have a second type of customer that they’re competing for - hotel developers. This may not be obvious at first glance, but the business model of these global players makes the brand-owner relationship incredibly important.

All of these brands operate with what they refer to as an “asset-light” business model - owning very few of the physical properties that fly their flags and instead relying on franchise relationships with individual owners and hotel management groups. This is key because the major brands are in fierce competition with one another to quickly enter new markets, grow their key count, and put heads in beds.

There are effectively two ways for a brand to accomplish any of these growth goals - build a new property or convert an existing hotel to their flag (either from a competitor’s brand or from an independent hotelier). In today’s environment that’s characterized by high material costs, construction delays, and a restricted lending market, conversions are a particularly attractive option - with Marriott CEO Tony Capuano going so far as to refer to them as a ‘silver bullet’ for offsetting the impact of COVID-related construction delays. Regardless of project type the build and renovation process is typified by inefficient manual processes, wasted time, and legacy tools that keep stakeholders tethered to their desks - all of which translates into missed opportunities for growth.

Providing a suite of digital tools aimed at modernizing these processes is a shortcut to becoming a preferred brand partner for developers. Tools that improve speed-to-market and bring greater transparency to the process add value for hotel developers and make a brand easier to do business with. These tools can run the gamut from a mobile app that enables Brand, Construction and Operations teams to easily conduct and document site visits, to a consolidated web portal that provides stakeholders with access to critical information about a specific property - be it a Product Improvement Plan (PiP), construction documents, or hotel performance reports.

Regardless of the specific use case or form factor, brands should keep speed-to-market in mind as the end goal when building solutions, and focus on applications that help to:

  • Shrink timelines by eliminating manual tasks and removing friction
  • Reduce the per-property lift of the conversion review and approval process
  • Provide owners with transparency in project activity and status
  • Provide your teams with better access, wherever they are
  • Capture and consolidate property information

We know how impactful this can be, because we’ve built apps like this before. Global hospitality leader Hilton asked WillowTree to work with them hand-in-hand to build out their BOSS application (short for Brand Operations Support System). This application is Hilton’s system for conducting hotel-level Quality Assurance inspections, creating PiP mandates, and managing the approved waivers (exceptions) for each property in the Hilton network and is used extensively across new build, conversion, and renovation projects (to learn more about some of the work we’ve done with Hilton, check out our case study).

This is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to internal, owner-, developer-, and employee-facing applications in the hotel development and conversion space. In future posts we’ll look at other pain points and bottlenecks in these processes and apply a digital lens to dive deeper into exploring what potential solutions could look like.

If you’re in the hospitality space and looking to learn more about this type of digital workplace initiative and how it could impact your business - we’d love to talk. Feel free to connect with us personally on LinkedIn and reach out to the WillowTree team to start the conversation!

Nick Zettler
VP of Business Development
Grant Arle
Program Director
Tyler Convey
Product Marketing Manager

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