Skift Take

To remain competitive and optimize revenue, hoteliers need to think like retailers and shift their focus from filing rooms to providing unique guest experiences. True hospitality is about more than just providing a place to stay.

This sponsored content was created in collaboration with a Skift partner.

The hospitality landscape is undergoing a significant transformation driven by technological advancements and a shift toward more personalized and comprehensive service offerings. Like the airline sector, hospitality is starting to capitalize on selling “extras” beyond the basic room offering. 

Unlocking the full value from this transformation requires an advanced retail platform that can manage both room and non-room offerings in a unified way. For example, Sabre Hospitality’s Retail Studio offers a portfolio of retailing solutions that help hotels sell not just rooms but also unique offerings such as merchandise, policies like early check-in and late check-out, on-property and off-property experiences and services, and gift cards and vouchers. This allows for the creation of new revenue streams and emphasizes personalized guest experiences. 

SkiftX sat down with Mykola Sheludko, VP of product management at Sabre Hospitality, to discuss the current hospitality landscape, the increasingly important role of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), and how Retail Studio’s newest product, SynXis Retailing, helps hoteliers keep up with customer demands by shifting focus from filling rooms to providing personalized experiences for guests and non-guests alike. 

SkiftX: Can you chart the evolution of Sabre Hospitality’s retailing solutions and explain why retailing is a key area of focus?

Mykola Sheludko, VP of Product Management
at Sabre Hospitality

Mykola Sheludko: Over the past few years, retailing has emerged as a critical area of innovation for us, driven by customers’ evolving needs. With the surge in travel demand, the challenge for any hotelier was to capture that growth and retain guests through personalized offers. As a major technology partner, we had to rethink what constitutes an offer from a hotelier’s perspective and how it can be presented to guests. 

Historically, our product capabilities included bundling room bookings with limited ancillary options. Now, SynXis Retailing users have tools to curate an unlimited variety of highly customized add-ons, allowing guests to personalize their selections. This summer, we will further innovate by decoupling retailing offers from room bookings, enabling hotels to sell services, experiences, and goods not just to guests but to anyone. These steps reflect our commitment to adapting and innovating in response to customer needs and market trends.

SkiftX: Can you share an example of an offer a hotelier might sell outside of the room?

Sheludko: SynXis Retailing enables hoteliers to sell anything. Curated offers can match various retailing opportunities available to a specific hotel, given its location, property type, and other factors.

Typical examples of offers sold to non-guests are amenities like pool passes and spaces like cabanas. They can be especially relevant in areas with a high number of transit travelers. For instance, someone arriving on a cruise ship in Miami might stay in the city for the day and want to enhance their experience by booking a cabana and a pool pass at a local hotel.

Another example involves high-end hotels that offer various on-property experiences and services, such as spa treatments and dining experiences that can be marketed to non-guests. Meanwhile, economy hotels can retail things like to-go items, parking spaces, or even slots for electric vehicle charging stations. A hotel near a sports facility might sell branded goods from a local sports team. It’s all about going beyond the room — and even beyond the property — to identify what’s in demand.

SkiftX: Can you walk us through Retail Studio’s new capabilities? 

Sheludko: We have significantly expanded Retail Studio’s range of tools. For example, we gained advanced gift card retailing capabilities with our acquisition of Techsembly last year, and we’re scaling up its adoption rapidly. 

Our overall vision is to be the preferred retailing partner for any hotelier, which means we offer a variety of tools and develop multiple go-to-market models to work with hoteliers at any stage of their retailing journey. This is crucial because many hotels are in the process of building their retailing capabilities, and we aim to find the most helpful solutions for them and guide them through the process.

For example, some hotels might not be well positioned to start directly with retail ancillary items. In such cases, gift cards are an excellent entry point into retailing. They can be configured in a few days, generate revenue quickly, and serve as effective marketing tools.

Additionally, this summer, we are releasing new automation tools to simplify our product usage and onboarding process further, making it even easier for our customers to get started with retailing using any of our products.

SkiftX: How does the expanded functionality of SynXis Retailing align with current trends in hotel retail management?

Sheludko: We are noticing a growing interest in various types of offers, including room-centric attributes, selling on-property and off-property items, and incorporating third-party content. Hoteliers are expanding their retailing avenues and exploring how to maximize revenue from existing guest interactions.

However, a key issue is that these tools are often disaggregated, leading hotels to use multiple retailing solutions for different purposes, such as upselling and offering add-ons and gift cards. This fragmentation creates a significant management burden and reduces efficiency, preventing hotels from fully realizing the value of their retailing solutions due to the lack of a unified view of the guest and their journey. We aim to address this issue by integrating all offers in our direct booking channels, such as SynXis Booking Engine and SynXis Voice Agent, and leveraging other capabilities available on the SynXis platform to simplify and enhance the guest experience.

SkiftX: Could you provide insights into how adopting AI and machine learning in SynXis Retailing enhances personalization and upselling opportunities for hoteliers?

Sheludko: Personalization in retailing is crucial to conversion. As various offers are presented to guests, the goal is to capture their interest immediately and give them the confidence to add items to their basket. Knowing more about the guest and their journey is a key success factor.

Hotels usually have great insights, so they can curate offers that closely meet the specific needs of their guests. Additionally, our AI- and ML-based Recommendation Engine, available to all our retailing customers, further enhances this personalization. It uses information about the room booking to understand whether the guest is traveling alone or with family, the purpose of their trip, the length of stay, and more.

By analyzing these parameters, the machine learning model segments customers over time, adapts and learns what products to offer each segment, and displays the most relevant offers first, improving conversion rates. In essence, the Recommendation Engine shows the most pertinent offer at the optimal moment, increasing the likelihood of a purchase.

SkiftX: Can you share any metrics highlighting SynXis Retailing’s impact on hotel revenue and guest satisfaction?

Sheludko: SynXis Retailing currently features over 700 live offers individually curated by hotels. Customers following best practices have been able to expand their virtual stores quickly, and the best-performing properties are already on track to generate over $1 million in ancillary revenue annually. In a data analysis comparing SynXis Retailing with the tools we offered previously, we consistently see an average uplift in revenue of three times, a success we attribute to the ease of booking and improved user experience. In addition, we know guest engagement is up since our customers have seen an average of $300 spent on ancillaries with a room booking, driving a substantial increase in total revenue. 

SkiftX: How do you quantify the impact of gift card and voucher sales on a hotel’s revenue?

Sheludko: With a 75 percent chance of overspending upon redemption at the property, gift cards offer a lucrative opportunity for upselling. Our 2024 data reveals an average of $645 per order spent on gift cards. Interestingly, there are clear seasonality patterns with demand spikes throughout the year, creating opportunities to maximize the value of local and global marketing events around specific seasons such as Christmas, Chinese New Year, Mother’s Day, and others. Overall, we expect a typical medium-sized luxury chain to generate at least $3 million annually in the value of sold gift cards, with further upside from promotions and expansion of offers like vouchers. 

SkiftX: What are the upcoming features or integrations planned for SynXis Retailing?

Sheludko: We are moving quickly. In the last two quarters, we released over 20 new features. These updates have been focused on ease of use and scalability, making it easier for larger customers to adopt our products. Our next big milestone is the summer release, which will primarily focus on enabling standalone offers, allowing our customers to make retailing offers to non-guests.

Among other updates planned for the remainder of the year, we are working on the features that facilitate integration with Nuvola, our task management tool. This integration will allow any ancillary purchase to be converted into a ticket managed in Nuvola, automating much of the manual work related to fulfillment on the property.

Many customers would benefit from leveraging the combination of our retailing tools and task management capabilities, and we are committed to supporting these integrations to enhance their operations.

To learn more about Retail Studio, Sabre Hospitality’s portfolio of retailing solutions, and to request a demo, click here.

This content was created collaboratively by
Sabre Hospitality and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.

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Tags: booking, guest experience, hotel revenue, retailing, revenue strategy, Sabre Hospitality, SkiftX Creative Studio, SkiftX Highlights, SkiftX Showcase: Hospitality, SkiftX Showcase: OTAs, SkiftX Showcase: Technology

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