Mapping each room in thousands of hotels is a huge project, but more undertakings like that are needed to bring the hotel industry into the 21st century.
IHG Hotels & Resorts recently rolled out a function that allows guests to find and book rooms based on certain attributes, a project it says has been years in the making.
Through the IHG app, guests can search for rooms at most hotels based on features, such as it being on a higher floor or having a certain view.
The new feature allows hotels to sell individual room attributes — not just the rooms alone at a standard price — creating a new source of revenue.
“You can price a standard room very differently from a room with a view or a room with a higher floor, and then be able to offer that up digitally,” said George Turner, chief commercial and technology officer at IHG.
IHG hotels now also have the ability to offer add-ons to guests, such as prepaid parking, food and beverage credits, special in-room amenities, and more. More than 100 hotels will have this capability live by the end of 2023, the company said.
When a guest selects a certain attribute for a hotel room, IHG said they pay an average of $22 more per night for that booking. For the hotels that enable the upsell feature, guests that use it pay up to $41 more per night.
The attribute-based listings are part of a newly relaunched app, now available in 20 languages, which contains enhanced loyalty capabilities and other features. IHG said the app is its fastest growing revenue channel, having driven more than half of all digital bookings in 2023.
The upgraded app includes the ability to save properties to a “wishlist,” which the company plans to make shareable in the future. There’s also a feature that enables a guest’s mobile device to connect to a property’s Wi-Fi automatically.
IHG has more than 6,000 hotels in more than 100 countries, with more than 1,900 more in the pipeline. Its portfolio of 19 brands spans from luxury brands, such as InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, to economy brands, such as Holiday Inn.
A ‘Monumental Effort’
To enable the attribute-based selling capabilities, IHG first had to shift its entire estate to a cloud-based reservation system — which contains information about a hotel’s inventory — which it completed before the pandemic in partnership with Amadeus.
Then, owners and general managers had to take inventory of each room of each hotel worldwide over several years. That was the only way that the company could sell unique features.
“That was a monumental effort,” Turner said.
“We had to go and understand the makeup of every single one of those hotels across the entirety of our estate. There’s only going to be so many of them that have got a room with a view; there are only so many of them that are on a high floor. So you literally go room by room.”
The company and its brand teams also had to define attributes and room standards across each brand, ensuring that what a guest orders is consistent from one property to the next.
For IHG, its primary goal is to increase direct bookings for hotel owners. That effort has also included rebuilding each hotel’s website, which has been done with over 80% of the company’s portfolio.
Paving the Way for Personalization and AI
IHG’s attribute-based selling is in line with what the industry is pushing for when it comes to the next stages of personalization.
The process of mapping the rooms at IHG is an example of the amount of work it will take to make hyper-personalization a reality in the future.
The transition to the cloud-based central reservation system was a significant step in that journey for IHG.
“I call it, if you like, a heart transplant. It unlocks a huge amount of capability for us to be able to do many things in terms of offering up different capabilities and options to our guests,” Turner said. “And … it enables owners to be able to digitally merchandise their product in a different way, not simply be selling a room at a price.”
And that brings IHG a step closer to being able to implement a useful AI concierge tool in the future, something he envisions will give guests the ability to self-serve at a higher level
“That’s an area where we’re really starting to focus,” Turner said.
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Photo credit: InterContinental Phu Quoc Long Beach Resort in Vietnam, showing a room with a view. IHG Hotels & Resorts / IHG Hotels & Resorts