ABS Panel Discussion at HITEC 2022 Reveals Large Disconnect During Booking Between Guests, Hoteliers

Research by Stayntouch and NYU Tisch Center of Hospitality found that 85% of survey respondents weren’t completely sure that a guestroom would come with the features listed.
Michal Christine Escobar
Senior Editor, Hotels
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During this year’s HITEC, Stayntouch and NYU Tisch Center of Hospitality presented the findings from their first traveler sentiment study related to attribute-based shopping (ABS). Carolyn Fredey, Adjunct Professor at NYU and Area Director, Revenue Management Advisory Services at Marriott International, presented the study’s finds to a group of interested attendees that was so large, it became standing room only.

After providing attendees with a refresher on what ABS is and is not (for a deep dive into this topic check out our recent article on the subject), Fredey revealed that the traveler sentiment study surveyed thousands of travelers and asked each one of them 40 different questions. The objective was to identify the challenges in the travel hotel booking process, and explore traveler sentiments toward ABS in terms of transparency, clarity, and fairness, while also learning how different travelers hold different views and opinions on ABS.

According to Fredey, 85 percent of survey respondents weren’t completely sure that a guestroom they were looking to book would actually come with the features listed, and 30 percent actually called the hotel in advance to check.

“ABS can address the lack of transparency and poor customizability offered by the hotel booking process today,” Fredey noted. “By listing out each of these attributes during the booking process, ABS increases transparency of guestroom pricing. Respondents overwhelming thought ABS would improve their stay and also the majority said they would tailor their stay more.”

After Fredey presented the study’s findings, which can be reviewed more in-depth here, Michael Heflin, Chief Revenue Officer at Stayntouch; Klaus Kohlmayr, Chief Evangelist & Development Officer at IdeaS; and Safet Dokara, Director of Operations at the Valencia Hotel Group took questions from attendees.

Is there a risk that increasing customization during the booking process could become overwhelming to guests?

Klaus Kohlmayr: “We’ve been talking about ABS for 10 years and are very happy to see traction in the discussion, but it is an important factor to consider. Is this technology going to turn people off because there are too many options during booking? Balance must be achieved by giving people the choice to go down the path of dealing with attributes or picking pre-bundled offerings instead.”

What benefit does ABS provide to hotels?

Safet Dokara: “Guests have no problem paying a little more for attributes they are guaranteed to get on arrival. Hotels will be able to sell base rooms at a base price, and increase pricing–and by extension, revenue–as more attributes are added to the booking.”

Airlines are largely commoditized and book on price alone, does ABS help a hotel’s offering appear unique?

Michael Heflin: “It depends on why you travel and with who. You don’t control your space very much while flying, and from a flexibility perspective you control your environment much more in a hotel. Some people need very little to be satisfied, just a bed and some space to make their own. We want to use ABS to adjust a hotel’s space to fit the guests before they arrive. It was rational for ABS to get its start in aviation., but the future of ABS lies in hotels because there is significantly more than they can do with these capabilities.”

But will hotels switch over to ABS any time soon?

“The process of moving to ABS is going to be slow and cadenced,” explains Heflin. “We will see the industry go from offering traditional bookings, to some attributes, then slightly more complex options, and so on.  While it’s still up to hotels to offer a good experience, it’s better to err on the side of caution and offer the attributes guests desire up front, such as a good view. Every hotel is expected to execute this in a different way, and whoever executes best, learns, and improves as they go will set the pace for the rest of the industry.”