Free Wi-Fi in hotel rooms is not enough. Alitrip, Alibaba Group’s online travel booking platform, wants to help hoteliers improve operational efficiency by bringing greater innovation and Internet integration to the hospitality industry.
At a press conference today in Shanghai, Alitrip officials unveiled their “Hotel of the Future” program, which ultimately aims to use network and Big Data technology to enhance customer service and improve innkeepers' ability to attract travelers and retain them as loyal guests. Under the program, Alitrip said it will explore the launch of a greater variety of services, such as online self-selection of rooms by guests and self check-in systems, in partnership with China's hotel industry.
Alitrip also plans to boost collaboration among independent hoteliers to encourage the integration of loyalty programs. “Through joint industry efforts, Hotel of the Future will become the new industry model,” said Li Shaohua, General Manager of Alitrip, in a prepared statement.
Alitrip has already launched a service that stands as an example of the type of innovation envisioned under Hotel of the Future. Called “Post Post Pay,” the service allows qualified guests to reserve rooms through Alitrip without paying a deposit and to enjoy express check-out. About 5,500 hotels in China, including high-end brands—among them Starwood, Shangri-La, Jinling, New Century and Landison—as well as budget hotel groups such as Home Inn, Huazhu, Podinns, 100 inn and Yinzuo have joined the program.
Post Post Pay was launched by Alitrip and Sesame Credit, the credit agency under Alibaba-related Ant Financial Services Group. Upon check-in, travelers whose Sesame credit scores make them eligible for Post Post Pay do not need to provide their credit card information for room deposits, so check-in is faster and travelers enjoy greater data privacy. Because room charges and incidental room expenses are automatically debited from users’ Alipay accounts, when leaving guests only need to return their room keys at reception, skipping the usual check-out routine.
Sesame Credit can also help address the common problem of guest no-shows because hoteliers can better determine customers’ creditworthiness in advance. Alitrip said they expected that hoteliers can reduce the industry average no-show rate of 40-50 percent to less than 30 percent.
With middle-class incomes steadily rising, more Chinese consumers are booking air travel, hotels and rental cars online. Online travel in China grew 29 percent to 220.5 billion yuan ($36 billion) in 2013, according to Chinese research firm iResearch.
To meet growing demand, Alibaba Group last September invested in Beijing Shiji Information Technology Co., which develops hotel information management systems and is a leader in systems used by five-star hotels. Aliyun, Alibaba Group’s cloud-computing subsidiary, plans to develop a cloud-computing service platform for the hotel industry with Shiji Information and leading industry solution providers.
By leveraging Aliyun’s cloud computing and big data services, companies can create a full range of online services such as check-in, catering, sales and reservations, and membership programs, according to Alitrip. The hotel industry can also use Aliyun services to analyze business and customer data, enhancing their capabilities in management and marketing.
Zhang Rungang, chairman of the China Tourist Hotel Association, said in a statement that Alitrip’s Hotel of the Future program can be a catalyst for the industry. “The new online travel booking platform not only improves hotels’ efficiency, but also enhances the guest experience, with the Internet+ hotel model holding great potential for development,” Zhang said.