In an ever globalising world, tourism is growing more and more popular as travel times grow shorter and more low-cost carriers appear. The tourism industry has undoubtably become an integral part of many nations’ economy. Despite the real issues revolving around over-tourism, a large influx of travellers can be hugely beneficial to countries.

According to analytics company GlobalData, the number of international visitors to the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region alone numbered over 120 million in 2018 and is only expected to grow. With that many tourists to cater for, hotels and lodging services are in high demand. Unfortunately, most tourists might only know of the big name hotels such as Holiday Inn or Hilton, even though the number of independent hotels vastly outnumber these huge brands.

Thanks to the sheer number of independently operated hotels in Southeast Asia, individual hotels might get lost in the crowd. These hotels have to find ways to differentiate themselves in order to become more visible to tourists seeking lodgings. In today’s digitised age, being able to market your hotel online has become paramount.

“We realised that the majority of the bookings on online travel agency (OTA) platforms go to branded chain hotels even though they make up a small portion of the overall number of hotels. The chains have invested in technology and resources to optimize on OTA platforms while independent hotels are lagging in those areas as they cannot afford to invest in technology and expertise,” said Vikram Malhi, co-CEO and co-Founder of ZUZU Hospitality Solutions, on the plight of independent hotel owners.

SMEs like ZUZU were founded to help the independent hotels be better at managing their online distribution and revenue. With approximately 60,000 hotels in Southeast Asia, and about 93 per cent of them being independent hotels, there is a huge underserved market.

Over the past few years, both the demand and supply of independent and boutique hotels have skyrocketed. More and more tourists are seeking out independent hotels over big chains and they expect a higher level of service and are increasingly seeking an experience. This presents a dilemma for hotel owners who are in a rather saturated market.

“The biggest challenge independent hotels have been facing and still face today is their failure to take advantage of online penetration because they have trouble leveraging online channels due to lack of technology and resources,” said Vikram.

Traditionally, these independent hotels have worked with offline travel agents and corporations to drive demand into their hotels. Thanks to the digital transformation of the world, there is an increasing online penetration in the travel markets. Consumers are shifting to OTAs to make their hotel booking. These hotels need to shift their focus to online platforms or risk losing business to their competitions. One option available to them is to outsource their online marketing to platforms like ZUZU.

“The key idea is to help the independent hoteliers generate more revenue by providing them with technology and service offerings to manage online distribution and revenue. Each of these independent hotels delivers a differentiated and local experience.”

“By outsourcing their yield management, these independent hoteliers would be able to focus all their energy on delivering a great hospitality experience for their guests. It is extremely important for independent hotels to deliver a great guest experience as most travellers will look at hotel’s reviews before making a booking. By getting positive online reviews, the hotels can then get higher demand and thereby command a higher price than competition,” said Vikram.

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