Insights from The International Luxury Hotel Association’s INSPIRE SUMMIT ’18

Las Vegas – December 12-14, 2018

Each year, the International Luxury Hotel Association (IHLA)
brings together hoteliers from all over the world to speak about
current topics affecting the industry with tips and insights on
building guest loyalty, increasing revenue, enhancing your
hotel’s brand, and more.

This year’s event focused on inspiring the luxury guest
experience. Many presenters brought new and interesting
perspectives on exceeding expectations of elite guests, while
industry insiders described the influence of technology on the
guest experience.


Looking Back and Looking Forward: A Message from Keynote
Speaker Ted Teng, President & CEO of The Leading Hotels of the

In the opening session, industry veteran Ted Teng, President
& CEO of The Leading Hotels of the World, looks back at his 40
years of service and shares his perspective of what the future in
hospitality may hold.

As Mr. Teng observes, what ultimately began with hotels as a
hospitality asset became hospitality as a financial asset. Hotel
owners are an asset group that want to maximize revenues from the
real estate, and not necessarily maximize hospitality. That parcel
of land could be anything from a parking garage to an apartment
building to a shopping mall. An owner-operator is far less common
today than when first starting out in his career. Today’s
emphasis is driven by return of revenue over a return of the

The principles of the hotel business today are:

  • Investment asset – divergent from the business of
  • Investment objectives – maximize revenues out of the
  • Investment mindset – highest possible revenue return
  • Holding period – short term of 3-5 years
  • Funding of the asset – introducing financial mechanisms in
    order to maximize revenue

What does the future look like?

Mr. Teng describes how the influence of the gig economy (and
apps that support this economy) can introduce more efficiency.
Labor costs are a huge item on the P&L, but what if this could
be driven downward, via an app services or alternative tech
platform, to simplify and streamline the routine and manual work
(think Handy or TaskRabbit)? Is this a viable model? What are the
risks? How will this impact luxury travel? These questions, plus
AI, robotics, and other technologies, present as many questions as
they do answers.

Mr. Teng theorized that a workforce dominated by the gig-economy
and enabled by apps can have broad-reaching implications to the
hotel business model. First, what will become of corporate
negotiated rates and the corporate travel RFP process? Instead of a
company investing in this old-school practice, more are simply
turning to a reimbursement level and leaving the choice of hotel
and rate up to the employee. Second, as the gig economy workforce
grows, the security of a steady stream of business diminishes.
Third, Mr. Teng labels the new workforce as “the good-enough
crowd,” because now the cost is on them for the guest stay and
not via a corporate negotiated rate. A luxury hotel or a hotel that
is “good enough” to meet the needs of a two-day business trip
are the kinds of decisions that will be made.


Personalizing Guest Experience – New Trends in


  • Rajeev Rai, CIO, Wynn Resorts
  • Dino Michael, Global Brand Head, Waldorf Astoria
  • Richard Millard, Chairman & CEO, Trust Hospitality
  • Kenan Simmons, VP Americas, Small Luxury Hotels of the
  • Matthew Evins, CEO & Chairman, EVINS Communications

What are the most influential travel trends in luxury travel
right now? How do you take guest recognition to guest
personalization? How can this be done without damaging guest
privacy? How do you personalize such services appropriately and

Simmons: The use of technology with human interaction is
critical. It all ties back to personalization. Are people traveling
for a certain reason? Why they are traveling is critical and that
will make it more memorable and more enjoyable if known and planned
around this.

Rai: How are we using all the info on the stay and how can you
tell the data to the front desk, to the restaurant? We want to
offer personalized services without crossing the line on privacy.
It is not a wow factor if it is an expectation. I have given you my
information and what are you doing about it?

Michael: High-tech and high-touch are contradictions but they
interact. It has to be a seamless marriage. How do you handle that?
For example, the front desk picks up that you have a cold and
brings you throat lozenges waiting in the room. You want to
leverage every piece of information you can when at the website and
at check-in. You want to be high touch and high tech.

The group consensus steered toward a balance of personalization
where it makes sense and can be operationalized. The operations
department at the hotel to get behind the effort and leverage
technology whenever possible. Having a level of acknowledgment of a
customer’s preference can go a long way and this comes back to
operationalizing the process as a key to success.

Leveraging CRM to Drive Guest Experience and
Personalization with Bridget Tran, VP of Global Digital Strategies
& Innovation at Nobu Hospitality

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a popular topic in the
industry and has proven its value in other verticals other than
hospitality. Bridget Tran of Nobu Hospitality presented an
interesting case study. The brand has been growing quickly (it
began as an upscale restaurant and has now branched into hotels)
and the Nobu collection now has 41 restaurants with 3.5 million
customers. In the words of Tran, “If we can get 10% of those
through the restaurant to market our hotels, this is a great target
audience to start with.” When CRM is mixed with an eclectic,
sushi-eating crowd of professionals, especially Millennials, you
face a demanding and scrutinizing audience. Tran describe the Nobu
target market as:

  • Instant gratification
  • Want hyper personalization
  • Want to feel they are the only ones that matter
  • Willing to pay for a premium experience

Tran’s recipe for success is to access as much guest profile
data as possible, clean and process the data, and then market to
the customer base in an efficient manner. The data has an inherent
value and is powered by using CRM. With the right data, any
marketer can customize the website, customize the booking engine,
and customize the entire experience to make for a truly one-to-one
conversation with the guest. “We can also pull in room controls
data like temperature, tv stations that you watch, and types of
snacks in the mini bar. I am trying to learn more about you with
the data,” she goes on to explain.

In summary what makes for a successful adoption by staff to use
CRM is to include these 4 objectives:

  • Personalization – make it personal but not intrusive
  • Frictionless – minimize hiccups in the entire workflow
  • Proactive – I can deliver the experience, I can be
  • Predictability – modify the strategy when necessary, don’t
    set it and forget it

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Insights from The International Luxury Hotel Association’s
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Insights from The International Luxury Hotel Association’s INSPIRE SUMMIT ’18