We recently sat down with our valued partners, GuestJoy, and chatted all things direct booking-related. Like all of us at Net Affinity, our Business Development Manager Niall Lenihan is pretty passionate about the hospitality industry, the current state of hotel technology, and how we as a company can help to drive as many direct bookings for our clients as possible at a very competitive time.

Here’s what Niall had to say to GuestJoy!

So, what are some of the current issues in the hospitality industry that Net Affinity tries to help solve for clients?

The industry is always changing, and rapidly so. Hotels need to have a strong online presence that will help them to control their own guest relationship. Our goal is to grow the direct business of independent hotels by providing suitable software for them to do so. The industry is changing so much, especially when it comes to technology. We’re constantly updating and adapting our technology to ensure we’re offering the latest solutions to clients. Hoteliers tend to work with a lot of different solutions that may not sync up. We make sure our tech can communicate with systems from other providers, so the hotels we work with get the most out of what they’re using. It’s really this ‘tech-stack combination’ which is the biggest challenge in the industry at the moment, and a lot of providers are competing instead of communicating with each other.

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And what are the gaps you’re trying to fill for hoteliers with your product?

Legacy issues are the biggest ones out there. We need to approach hoteliers with transparent solutions, showing them that there is added value in a tech-stack (multiple programs, softwares etc). The solution is solid integrations. We want to have good synergies with like-minded companies, because we’re confident that our partners add value. Our MD William recently wrote an article about this very subject. We’re passionate about the added value Net Affinity provides alongside additional technological innovations from partners like GuestJoy.

We do need investment from the side of hoteliers, too – they need to be open to new solutions because IT is changing and can be a source of competitive advantage.

This is where our internal focus comes in. We ensure hoteliers know that their transition to Net Affinity will be smooth and easy. A stand out feature in our booking engine currently is our access to metasearch, especially to Google Hotel price ads. This is becoming the largest meta platform globally, so it’s the product’s star USP right now.

A bit more on metasearch from us here!

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What makes you unique compared to your competitors?

Competitors are good for us because they motivate us to do better each day. There’s always room for improvement, and our competitors can help to highlight aspects that we might need to refine further! We often find inspiration in them.

What makes us unique is that we develop our own technology based on the demands of the industry, so this allows us to have full control over our software. This is particularly helpful when a customer comes to us with feedback – we can immediately adapt and change the software according to their needs.

We’ve recently made changes to our booking process and it will be further simplified again as we continue to adapt and refine.

Moreover, we are putting strength and time into our mobile process and providing SaaS based solutions, because they are so effective and becoming more relevant. In addition to all of this, what distinguishes us most from our competitors is our team; 44 people of 14 nationalities, the majority of us with a hospitality background. It’s important that we hire industry experts because, at the end of the day, we are solely focused on hospitality.

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Why is it so important for hotels to invest in technology?

The most important reason is that booker behaviour and the wider industry has changed so significantly. There is a certain type of hotelier who uses legacy programs, and they may not have not changed their booking processes for years. If this is you, my advice would be for you to look at what, and how, you can improve. This includes potentially bringing in additional partners who offer an upselling tool or a price comparison for example. You can find out a bit more on why upselling is so important here.

Hotels need to invest in technology, because today’s booker and their expectations are changing! They demand information immediately and they want easy access to it. Put yourselves in your guests shoes: they want a seamless experience. Invest in a tech-stack which communicates well together, and update your rates & availability.

What’s your ultimate piece of advice to hotels?

Take a step back and look at your online business. Look at the percentage breakdown: what’s the difference between your brand’s website and your OTA? Why would guests prefer your website? What added value are they getting from it?

I like to visit different hotel websites and booking engines to test how easy they are to book on, check what their language availability is like, and how easy things are to understand from the customer’s point of view.

As a hotel, look at what you’re doing well, and where there’s room for improvement. For example, could you put your property on a new platform? Could you add an advanced purchase plan or become more flexible with your bookers? We can help you with this. For hotels with a strong OTA presence, we offer an OTA analysis where we access their figures and prepare a strategy for them to improve their own website.

My final piece of advice is this: it’s crucial that your revenue and marketing teams develop a clear line of communication with each other so your marketing team can replicate the online strategy that your revenue team is trying to achieve. More on this in our recent infographic here!