Gül Heper, Business Design Principal at BBH Stockholm, and co-founder of the international network CMO Goes Tech was invited as keynote speaker at Breakit’s event ‘Travel Tech’. The themes of the day were personification, the sustainable traveler and the sharing economy that enable more locally anchored experiences. With experience from having worked with brand development and innovation at companies such as Nespresso, HTL Hotels and Scandic Hotels, Gül gave concrete tips on how to create the right conditions for driving innovation and maximizing business value in the hospitality industry. On stage Gül challenged the industry to move faster to ensure a long term global success. Not least because Sweden is falling behind when it comes to innovation according to 2019 year's edition of the Bloomberg Innovation index,
We grabbed the opportunity to ask Gül a few questions on the topic of hospitality after the event.
- What would you say the main challenges in the industry are?
It’s a very conservative industry with many different forms of legacy issues and unfortunately still lack of customer focus. There are the old legacy systems, lack of digital competence and still low level of management buy in which doesn’t allow the full speed ahead to drive innovation and new business ideas.
- What do guests request today that perhaps they wouldn't have had requested a few years ago?
Macroeconomic trends have changed the guest — brand relationship and made it ever so important to provide experiences that are based on the preferences of the guest. We are looking for experiences, travel, accommodation, guiding in a completely different way today. There's a global demand for "off the beaten path" experiences. In addition, more travelers want to travel sustainable and requires super-fast bookings, simplicity and service directly on the mobile.
- What are the most important factors that will impact the industry in the years to come?
Go back to the foundation of the business. Understand your why and be ready to adopt to changing behaviour and competition from other industries. The use of machine learning/AI to create a personalised customer is key.
- How has the competition for the traveller's dollars changed in the past few years?
If we take Hotels as an example. Hoteliers are no longer in complete control of the experience. Online Travel Agencies (OTA's) have taken a big chunk of the market and owns a lot of important data that could be used to facilitate a better experience for the guests. The digitization in the hotel and travel industry has opened up for brand new players to take place in the market - and to help people experience more of what the world has to offer. Some private hospitality and travel brands that started to find their legs just a few years ago now sit side by side with the titans of hospitality.