Graham Perry is the Managing Director for the Best Western Hotels & Resorts, Australasia. I was lucky enough to grab a few minutes of Graham’s time during the hotel group’s National Convention held at Noosa. I was invited to the event as the official podcast media host, in an innovative effort by the Best Western to ensure important conversations discussed during the event were continued post conference. It was great to chat with Graham and learn about his experience, career challenges and valuable insights into the ever-changing accommodation industry.
Technology & Distribution
Hailing from North London, Graham moved to Farnham in Surrey when he was eight years old. After completing high school Graham undertook a degree in Hotel Catering and Tourism Management. While it may have been study that set his career path in motion, it was the twelve years Graham spent with the once largest global hotel reservations and marketing company, Utell, that created the foundations of the successful career Graham still enjoys today.
Graham explains to listeners that Utell was a very progressive and leading-edge company with a great company culture. While it’s usually consumers or technology that lead change, in Grahams experience it was often Utell who were one step ahead of competitors. During his time with the company, Utell led the way by introducing an automated hotel reservation processes into all their Utell offices, and embraced laser disc technology when it first appeared on the market. Utell also released an innovative solution which revolutionised the way in which hotels connected though to Global Distribution Systems (GDS) such as Sabre, Amadeus & Galileo. A ground breaking solution for its time, which graham explains further during the podcast.
Graham provides his views on the downturn of Utell. Sharing details of a meeting he believes reshaped the path of a company who was renowned for leading the industry through the distribution of innovative technology. Adding that if the meeting had produced a different outcome, it may have led to Utell being as successful as the current day Expedia. Definitely an interesting point to ponder.
The Value of Partnerships
Graham and I agree that partnerships are critical, for the simple fact that you can’t be good at everything. What you can do though, is understand what you are good at and then look to form partnerships that add strength to weaker areas of your business. Graham takes us through what the Best Western Hotels & Resorts brand is really good at and how capitalising on the strengths gained through partnerships has assisted in building a loyalty program with over 40 million members.
We chat about the need to be selective in partnerships, entering into all agreements with a strategic approach. We discuss the need for both partners to benefit from any arrangement, highlighting that both sides need to be able to add value to the other party, for a partnership to truly work. Graham explains that thirty partners were invited to the conference, examples include their major partner Foxtel, IVvy, an online management system for hotel groups, and Hunter Amenities. Graham provides some great tips on what to look for in partnerships like these, stressing to listeners that choosing the wrong partner can lead to damaging outcomes for any business.
Tapping into the Consumer Perspective
I’m interested to hear more from Graham on how he adapts, as our short chat is loaded with so many instances of change. Shedding light on this topic, Graham explains that being strategic and taking a holistic approach can help immensely when adapting to change. Graham adds that to stay ahead of the game it helps to take an outside look in, to look at everything from a customer’s perspective.
Graham shares how the Best Western Hotels & Resort’s extensive loyalty program is an incredible resource of customer insights. He explains that 49% of all revenue that comes in from the USA is from reward member bookings, highlighting that making sure members are happy is paramount to the company’s success. Graham shares with listeners how Best Western is keeping on top of what consumers want and personalising experiences to ensure these wants are met and guests leave with a desire to return.
This leads the conversation to the importance of reviews, and the vital role they play in understanding a consumer’s wants. Graham shares information on innovative technology which aggregates feedback from multiple review platforms, making it easier to find and capitalise on feedback. He shares with us that 30% of the Best Western Hotels & Resort’s Quality Assurance (QA) process is now heavily based around the voice of the consumer, using feedback garnered through reviews to highlight what each hotel in their extensive network needs to improve.
Graham stresses to podcast listeners that these tools are incredibly important. Adding that it doesn’t matter what hoteliers think their hotels are delivering, if it doesn’t align with the customers perception then there’s a challenge that needs to be overcome. Perception is reality. In order to be successful, it is crucial that businesses align their offerings with the expectations and perception of its customers.
Also, in this week’s podcast
In this week’s episode of the ‘That Bad Review’ podcast series, Graham and I also discuss:
- Building trust into brands
- Benefits of loyalty programs
- The need for passion in any career
- Reviews as a tool to measure success
- Incorporating additional experiences into accommodation bookings
- The art to building productive and mutually beneficial partnerships
- How Artificial Intelligence (AI) is leading the way in information discovery
- Disruptions within the industry and the need to have a unique point of difference
- Best Western Hotels & Resorts Concierge Program – A mobile platform personalising the guest experience
- Grahams career highlights including Euro Disney, See Australia, Fairfax Digital & Travel Land
- Technology solutions designed to maximise revenue and customer satisfaction simultaneously