Chris Hartley, CEO of Global Hotel Alliance on Global Audiences, Artificial Intelligence & Millennial led Sustainable Tourism

Chris Hartley, CEO of Global Hotel Alliance explains the importance of providing a global voice to independent and family owned hotels and hotel collections.

As mega hotel brands consolidate, focusing less on asset attainment and more on rapid revenue growth, it’s the smaller family owned and independent hotels that appear to have the upper hand when it comes to an authentic and passionate travel experience for guests. Despite this advantage, it can be difficult for the smaller hotel chains to compete with the extensive client bases and access to technological advancements that come hand in hand with the sheer size and revenue generated by mega hotel brands. To combat this, owner-operated and managed hotels as well as small public-company owned hotel collections are joining Global Hotel Alliance (GHA).

Formed out of a necessity to pool resources to compete with the mega brands, GHA provides a global voice to independent and family owned hotels and hotel collections.  At the forefront of the alliance is GHA CEO, Chris Hartley. Chris has been instrumental in the growth of GHA and was the first employee when the company was formed in 2004. Chris has witnessed the incredible growth of the GHA network over the past 15 years, with the alliance today boasting a membership of over 550 hotels with representation in over 75 countries.

Local Brands with a Global Audience

The hotel industry was born through the establishment of hotels in key cities by private landowners, with many family owned hotels established more than 150 years ago. Overtime hotel owners came to realise that the costs of operating a hotel was prohibitive and in the early 1970’s family owned hotel companies started building large hotel brands, significantly changing the shape of the hotel industry. Today approximately 70% hotel assets around the world belong to mega brands and approximately 30% are privately owned. With increasing competition within the industry being led by the mega brands, Global Hotel Alliance provides a competitive edge for the old school family owned asset companies, offering a support network, client base and access to technology to rival the mega brands, otherwise unattainable for smaller privately-owned hotels. Access to the alliance ensures boutique hotels can remain local and not sell out to the bigger brands, continuing to provide a unique and genuine travel experience to their guests.

Artificial Intelligence

Joining the alliance provides members with access to research and technology beyond what they would be able to afford using their own individual budgets. One exciting new development GHA is exploring is the use of virtual reality headsets to read consumers emotions as they look through different types of hotel room designs. Customers are somewhat reluctant to provide criticism, even when it is considered constructive. To combat this, the use of the headsets allows researchers to record how the wearer reacts instinctively to the design of areas within hotels such as bars, bedrooms, restaurants and even the contents of a mini bar. Artificial Intelligence like this allows companies to better understand guests and assists in developing personalised guest experiences, something that is extremely difficult to do through traditional marketing methods.

Millennial led Sustainable Tourism

With the cost of travel reducing and one in eight people within the worlds eight billion population expected to travel within the next 12 months, it’s no wonder millennials are voicing their concerns about over tourism and its effect on our planet. Their worries of overrun cities and resorts, of oceans suffering from the effects of over tourism and ruining tourism opportunities for future generations, are well founded. In this episode, Chris explains that one way to combat this issue is to encourage travellers to visit secondary locations, instead of congregating in popular, well known holiday spots.

Regional cities, local councils and tourism providers can benefit from partnering with developers to ensure the development of hotels that meet international tourist expectations and to establish infrastructure to support increased visitation, such as reliable transport systems. Research into how to position a region, focusing on what each area has to offer visitors would be beneficial. Capitalising on local natural attractions and working with local tourism assets such as wineries, restaurants, galleries and events are great ways to build a destinations appeal to potential domestic and international visitors.

The next step is to market these secondary regions to potential visitors. People travel to popular tourist locations because they have heard about them, through marketing and from fellow travellers.  Hence the need to provide less known local brands with a global audience. GHA understands this market well and is committed to helping local hotels in secondary destinations to increase their overnight visitation, which has a positive flow on effect for local economies.

Lessons gained through Travel

Life lessons are learnt through travel, people become more sensitive to the needs of others and more culturally aware after visiting other countries. Global problems and the effects of travel become prominent within their thoughts and well-travelled individuals tend to become better people than they were previous to travelling. We have the pleasure of working in an attractive industry, there’s very few people at some point in their life who don’t want to travel. Everyone should have the opportunity to experience the world in which we live. Supporting local businesses, developing adequate infrastructure, understanding travellers needs through advancements in technology and responsible travel will ensure future generations will be able to experience first-hand the beautiful word in which we are lucky enough to live.

Additional topics Chris and I discuss in the podcast include:

  • Using Artificial Intelligence to customise customer correspondence and marketing collateral
  • GHA’s Discovery Program – Introducing a charitable component into the travel experience
  • Benefits of customer focus groups
  • Benchmarking your business
  • Travel and Tourism as the world’s biggest employer
  • Discovering the world in which you live
  • Travel putting perspective into learning

Listen to the episode here.