Hari Nair on how Expedia is tackling hotel industry challenges head on

Hari Nair on how Expedia is tackling hotel industry challenges head on

Like its counterparts globally, the Australian hotel industry faces many challenges, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rising operating costs, increased competition for talent, and changing traveller expectations have forced hotels to adapt quickly to remain competitive.

At the recent EXPLORE conference in Las Vegas, Hari Nair, SVP, Hotel Market Partnerships at Expedia Group, spoke with Travel Weekly about how Expedia is emerging as a crucial ally for hoteliers, offering solutions to navigate these challenges effectively.

Operating costs and talent acquisition

Operating a hotel has become increasingly expensive in a post-COVID environment. As Nair noted, costs have surged significantly, mirroring the steep hikes in everyday expenses like groceries. This surge in costs puts immense pressure on hoteliers’ bottom lines. Moreover, the competition for talent has intensified, with remote working becoming more prevalent, making it challenging to find skilled staff willing to work on-site.

“In a world where remote working is a thing. You are paying top-notch dollars to get talent. To be a housekeeper or a bellman, you need to show up; you can’t do that from home. And there are not many such people out there,” Nair said.

To address these challenges, hotels are focusing on optimising revenues while minimising costs. Expedia recognises the need for hoteliers to streamline operations and maximise their presence across various channels to achieve this balance effectively.

Understanding the power of B2B

One revelation for many hotels working with Expedia Group is the realisation of its substantial role beyond consumer-facing operations. While Expedia Group is known for its business-to-consumer (B2C) platform, it also powers a vast network of other companies, shaping travel experiences for millions of travellers worldwide. This understanding underscores the importance of leveraging Expedia Group’s reach and resources to optimise hotel revenues.

“They underestimated the power of B2B and don’t understand that we power 60,000 other companies. Some go directly to the hotel side; some come to our site. And then there are some travellers who are very loyal to other companies that they’re most comfortable with. And the fact that we power them is a completely new revelation,” Nair explained.

“I think where the opportunity for us to help our hotel partners is how we make it easy for them to manage through our channel, give them the data and insights and give them the tools that make it really easy for them so that they’re not overwhelmed in this web of complexity.”

Enhancing guest experience

A key aspect for hotels in maintaining competitiveness is providing exceptional guest experiences. Expedia Group emphasises the importance of delivering consistent quality and service to guests, regardless of the booking channel. Through tools like the Guest Experience Score, Expedia Group helps hotels identify areas for improvement and provides actionable insights to enhance guest satisfaction.

“Once we have delivered the customer. Are you treating them right? Are you treating them just like the way you would treat a customer who came directly to your own website? This is the one element where I think a lot of our partners talk about in reviews,” Nair said.

“But in the last two years, we’ve been very purposeful about educating partners about the importance of doing that and not discriminating based on what channel our talents used.”

“We amplify certain dimensions, friendliness of staff, the cleanliness of the hotel, do they relocate customers, when they call you, so on and so forth. You could be doing great in a few dimensions, and you could be terrible at others. We want to be transparent with the travellers about what you can expect when you visit the hotel. And we want to be transparent to the hotel, saying this is what the travellers are saying about you,” Nair explained.

“We make it easy for a hotelier to say, all right, I think I need attention here. This is what Expedia recommends.”

Tailored solutions for Australian hotels

Australia holds a significant place in Expedia Group’s global strategy, given its mix of domestic and international travel. Expedia Group’s acquisition of Wotif underscores its commitment to effectively serving Australian travellers and hotel partners. With a focus on delivering both staycation experiences and attracting international travellers, Expedia Group offers tailored solutions to meet the diverse needs of Australian hotels.

“Australia is an exciting and important market for us,” Nair explained. “We have the ability to give our partners the kind of the best of both worlds not just in Australia but everywhere as well if that’s what you need. You have to be very clear about what your objectives are to us because it helps us give them recommendations.”

Future opportunities and a focus on sustainability

Looking ahead, Expedia Group sees significant growth opportunities in the business-to-business (B2B) segment, irrespective of the hotel’s category. Additionally, the luxury segment, driven by travellers seeking unique and meaningful experiences, presents promising prospects for growth.

Addressing sustainability concerns remains a crucial yet complex task for the industry. While progress has been made, much work remains to achieve sustainable practices across the board. Nair acknowledged the industry-wide challenge and explained how Expedia Group is committed to supporting its partners in adopting sustainable initiatives.

“We say the word ‘sustainability’, but we don’t really quite understand what it means yet. And I think the entire industry struggles with it. We all are trying to play a part; everybody has a net zero goal, but this is an industry, surprisingly, that is still struggling with it.”

“We take it upon ourselves to figure out how best can we provide, be transparent to the partner, to the travellers about what they can expect and give you the ability to say whatever it is that you practice at your property,” Nair explained.

Expedia Group’s partnership with Australian hotels goes beyond mere booking transactions. It offers solutions to the industry’s evolving challenges, empowering hotels to thrive in an ever-changing landscape. By leveraging Expedia Group’s expertise and resources, Australian hotels can confidently navigate uncertainties, ensuring memorable travel experiences while maximising their sustainability and profitability.

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