hospitalitytoday.com | 7 well before the guest checks in. As a result, they are winning control of the customer’s ‘off property’ experience – when travel is still only an idea, the destination undecided and “which hotel?” is a far-off decision. Tourism Minister David Evennett (above) said: “These impressive figures show that our nations and regions are increasingly benefitting from this thriving sector. Drawing more visitors in from key markets like China and the US is fantastic news for the whole country and shows our tourism strategy is working.” VisitBritain Director Patricia Yates (below) said: “Our innovative digital marketing campaign using the hashtag #OMGB continues to drive tourism across our nations and regions, spreading its economic benefits across the UK.” “Hotel Groups Losing Territory To OTAs” Research released this month by Egon Zehnder, a global leader in executive search and leadership advisory services, has highlighted the challenges faced by traditional hotel groups in an increasingly globalised world. Egon Zehnder’s ‘Global CEO Hospitality’ study indicates that while the established groups continue to focus largely on customers’ ‘on property’ experience, Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) and other digital and technology disrupters such as Airbnb are tapping into mobile and social technologies to offer customer experiences and build relationships The investment markets also seem to be acknowledging the impact of these new players by putting a serious premium on OTAs over large global hotel groups. For example, Priceline, owner of Booking. com, has a market capitalisation greater than Marriott, Starwood, Hilton, IHG and Hyatt combined. But the study contends that “the game is not lost” for the big hoteliers: it is more a question, the authors say, of whether they have sufficient will and, crucially, the “tech-savvy talent” with which to reassert their influence. The sector’s ongoing evolution, characterised by increasing consolidation, presents groups with a “tremendous opportunity to leverage technology, strengthen customer loyalty programs and appeal to multiple customer segments”. In the interviews conducted for the research, several executives argued that companies with effective loyalty programs, enhanced with stronger digital platforms, would be able to sustain a core customer base which would render OTAs much less of a competitive threat.