Accor to double down on digital marketing with learnings from … – Web In Travel

Bar tending requires pretty similar skills to revenue management, when you think about it. Both require you to be good at reading signals, except with the former, it’s reading human cues on the spot and with the latter, it’s about reading data that “indicates the potential buying behavior of a customer”. And, of course, both require you to maximise profit.
Ollie Ansell, Vice President of Commercial Market Strategy at Accor, across Southeast Asia, South Korea, Japan, and India, should know.
Ollie Ansell: “With hotels, whether it’s about driving pricing or managing teams, it’s also all about people. You read data that suggests traits of somebody and you apply some level of psychology to it. You blend data with human instinct.”
Before he got into hotel revenue management and later, digital marketing before taking on commercial, he worked as a bar tender in Australia for six years. “Both jobs are about people – the secret lies in understanding your product and customer. At the bar, it’s about conversing with your customers, knowing how to use the products you have, and then selling the products with the highest margin.
“With hotels, whether it’s about driving pricing or managing teams, it’s also all about people. You read data that suggests traits of somebody and you apply some level of psychology to it. You blend data with human instinct.”
In the last five years, Bangkok-based Ansell, who oversees more than 400 premium, midscale and economy hotels in his territory, has seen the digital marketing landscape evolve but the most dramatic change happened during the pandemic.
“We learnt how to better tap into local marketing channels such as LINE and Kakao, and worked with new distribution partners to reach domestic customers. We now know how to better optimize those channels and they are greater part of our marketing mix today.
“These pandemic learnings have valuable longterm gains.”
Getting stronger in local markets also means the ability to drive more loyalty members and direct business. In 2019, web direct business held 30% share and in 2023, that number has grown more than five points, he said.
“There is a real opportunity to retain these direct booking trends of the domestic market. Of course there is a possibility that OTAs will steal that share back – though this is mainly because of the recovery of international flows now that borders are fully open.”
Ansell said, “Right now, we are still seeing strong domestic trends, very strong inter-Asian flows, with softer contribution from China, where the recovery is well below 50%.”
He said that Accor would remain focused on localized strategies – “applying learnings not just for the domestic market, but also for how we target inbound markets”. Group-wide for his region, he said, domestic is still 50% of business, 10 points higher than in 2019.
Thailand, in particular, saw a dramatic shift in customer behavior from offline to online. “The way online players doubled down on Thailand – launching quarantine products at the start of the pandemic, working with government subsidies to kickstart domestic travel – drove a greater share of online booking behaviour, and we see that trend maintaining.”
With 85 properties in Thailand, Accor is the biggest international hotel brand in the country and is in a good position to ride on both Thailand inbound and outbound markets. “In terms of Thai outbound travel, Japan and South Korea are still the top destinations,” he said.
Ansell said the strong performance being seen in digital marketing across Accor’s properties was also driven by hotels investing in digital marketing. “During the pandemic, there were no trade shows and sales trips and it allowed hotels to test in new areas. They saw that content strategies, when applied well, can deliver a great ROI.”
Ansell said one key challenge is “the real lack of talent in our industry to drive digital strategies”. “There was an exodus from hotels to e-commerce during the pandemic and it’s challenging to get the talent back.”
It’s also an opportune time to “look at what we could be doing to transform our team further”, he said. “Not just the reallocation of budgets, but also resources and the balance between sales and marketing talent. We need to develop new skills in our sales and marketing teams – content creation, storytelling and digital distribution – to drive online performance.”
And then of course there’s generative AI and what areas of digital marketing it could be applied to within the limits of corporate governance and guidance. “We have hundreds of people working on projects with an AI component across the business. Our use of AI already touches a number of spaces in digital marketing; improving our customer experience through personalization, increasing the productivity of our teams with code generation and SEO tools, and better decision making through solutions for Revenue Management. AI is a big opportunity for us and we continue to accelerate, especially with the recent emergence of gen AI.”


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