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An interview with Red Planet Hotels’ Chief Technology Officer – Executive Interview Series

Meet Jai Govindani, Chief Technology Officer at Red Planet Hotels

Currently Chief Technology Officer at Red Planet Hotels, Jai oversees the entire technology stack: both internal and guest-facing. Jai was responsible for architecting and implementing the end-to-end guest experience as part of Red Planet’s rebranding in 2015 and continues to drive innovation in that area.

Meet our Interviewer – David Gabriele, CEO of Swayy

David is the CEO of Swayy: the world’s leading influencer booking, campaign, and relationship management tool in the hospitality industry. Swayy streamlines the entire collaboration process of finding the right on-brand social media influencers, arranging campaigns and maintaining relationships to drive higher ROI. In 2018, Swayy won the Disrupt Awards at TTE Europe.

Interview Highlights

What is happening in the technology space regarding hotel marketing?

Jai sees the current climate as varied and disorderly. He says that hotel brands are following an attitude of “throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks“. Brands are showing little consistency, and each one is trying their own thing. Younger teams, in particular, seem to be more experimental.

What should be happening in hotel marketing?

Brand building should be based around lower costs of customer acquisition or increased repeat business. He explains that “if you’re spending over £100k in marketing you need to know the lifetime value of a customer and the cost of acquisition”.

Marketing and branding is about making more money strategically over the longer term. Influencer marketing must be viewed with long term goals accordingly.

Jai’s stance echoes that of Warren Buffet who famously states that building a competitive moat through sustainable brand advantage is one of the ways you can be more profitable over the long run. It is a medium to long term strategy though, not a quick overnight win.

Your business relies on guest data – what data is key for hotel marketing?

Jai states that hotels make money from guests, so the first data point should always be people. Even if that person hasn’t booked, it’s a valid data point if they’ve had a touch point with the hotel (e.g. visited website, called hotel, visited Instagram page etc.).

Due to this, he says, you should track everything if you can. “Who is that person? Tie it to an email, and track that on Facebook and elsewhere“.

To achieve maximum success, technology team members should work with operations and specifically marketing, to obtain all the relevant data for a potential guest.

Hospitality businesses are generally slow adopters of technology. Why do you think that is? What are the main challenges hotels face when adopting new technology?

Jai makes it clear that there is one general reason for this – divergent incentive structures between owners and operators. This means that the whole process of technological advancement within a company is “not aligned“. But who wants what in this inefficient system?

1) Owners are incentivised by… NOPAT (Net Operating Profit After Tax) – “they don’t care about guest satisfaction and brand value“, and are therefore not as strategic.

2) Operators are incentivised by… long term plans. They are “happy to lose money on a local property level if they’ll make money at a national level. They will do more strategic things, such as turning off Google Genius to run a 6 month trial on their loyalty scheme which will pay back in 2 years“.

3) Tech teams are incentivised by… “building cool tech that is pragmatic and makes money“. Having the best possible experience for the guest will translate into money.

4) Marketing/social teams are incentivised by… social engagement growth, content created, bookings, revenue and ROI. “Their aim should always be to maximize possible overall revenue over the long term“.

How can a hotel (or group of hotels) manage this difficulty?

Jai emphasises that hotels must ensure that these differing incentives are managed and streamlined, so that revenue and marketing aims are fully aligned. Further, the “only way for strategic vision is for the brand to control spending“, or that the hotel owner is large enough and integrated enough into the brand to “recognise economies of scale“.

What if they’re not a hotel brand – what if they’re a small independent hotel?

Make the implementation short – it’s too long at the moment. It should be easy to start and easy to integrate“. Jai adds that those high up in a business must speak to each other, while software “needs to be integrated“. Integration is a competitive advantage and a barrier to entry.

How important is keeping up with technological advancements for hotel businesses?

“Well”, Jai hits back, “how important is it for any business? If you’re running 90%+ occupancy and hitting RevPar targets and ADR is great, you don’t need to upgrade your tech. Tech must be used as an avenue to generate business over the long term. I believe that’s where branding and influencer marketing come into play.”

How active are Red Planet hotels in the influencer space?

Jai sees Red Planet as “probably somewhere in the middle” of the spectrum between the most active and most passive hotel groups in the influencer space. One key agenda item they’re currently looking at is “brand building” as opposed to ROI-based spending.

What business case would you make to help educate, even the smallest or most traditional of hotels, to invest in new technology?

It is clear to Jai that tech is key – it must be “an enabler“. He says that “new tech must save time, hassle and help hotels adapt to consumer behaviour in 2019 and beyond”.

In the influencer space, if there was a tool that didn’t need any integration at all and that helped embrace data like the way that you’ve mentioned, would that be something you would urge hotels to try?

“Yes absolutely, if it’s a tool that sits on it’s own. It must have a clear business case that ultimately helps deliver value to guests or makes the pie bigger over time. For example, in the influencer space if you generate content which is used on other channels to help enhance the guest experience, even before they arrive, this will turn into revenue later down the line.”

For more top tips from industry experts, check out our recent interview with Jérémie Lannoy – Director of Marketing & Communications at W Hotels.

Interested in working with full time, pre-vetted hotel influencers? Click here to find out what Swayy can do for you. If you are an influencer interested in a collaboration, click here to see how Swayy can help you find the best hotels. 

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