Maud Bailly joined AccorHotels as Chief Digital Officer in April 2017. She is head of the digital, distribution, sales, data and information systems divisions and a member of the company’s Executive Committee. In an interview with ITB Berlin News, she began by explaining why she was chosen for the role without a techie background.
I actually don’t see my role as techie first; as a CDO, my main mission is to educate, to share – at each level – what is at stake behind digital transformation, and to make sure this major change becomes everyone’s in our non-digital native organisations. For sure, I have to understand the technological challenges of hospitality; but part of my resume, working on the Uber/taxi conflict at the French government, on digital regulation on tax affairs, or on data privacy, gave me a deep understanding of the importance of humans behind any digital innovation. Over the past years, we’ve been hearing about the digital revolution in travel and tourism.
OUR CHALLENGE IS TO HAVE THE AGILITY NOT ONLY TO ANTICIPATE FUTURE CHANGES BUT ALSO TO BE AT THEIR FOREFRONT
How is digital affecting the hospitality industry today?
Our industry has been shaken up by massive transformations over the last 15 years. While we, hoteliers, focused on our products, our brands and our many concepts, a range of new digital players brought about a client-centric culture that entirely reshaped the way we did business in travel and tourism. And we shall not underestimate the depth of this revolution: hospitality is for sure one of the most disrupted sectors, and we have to be aware that many people have been working for years – decades – in this industry without any understanding of the need of search, metasearch, buying words online to increase the visibility of their brands, or increasing their investments in their IT ecosystem. The digital revolution has raised huge and legitimate expectations among our customers in terms of fluidity, user experience, personalisation and proactivity of the offers. Today’s customers interact at every stage of their journey and a great experience (and, conversely, a bad one) is likely to be exposed 10 times as much as ever before through social networks and recommendation platforms.
THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION HAS RAISED HUGE AND LEGITIMATE EXPECTATIONS
What are the main factors you are working on when it comes to the digital transition of AccorHotels, and what are the biggest challenges you’re facing in this respect?
After a three-year process of radical transformation, which saw AccorHotels restructure and develop two business lines that are currently delivering record results, we believe that, in the interest of both businesses, the time has come to spin off HotelInvest into a subsidiary – namely AccorInvest – and sell the majority of its capital. Our digital transition aims to accompany this larger transformation through two core principles; scalability, which means that the services and tools we deliver need to be bought, adopted and used by hotels; and profitability, for as salesmen and women, we ought to bill and sell our services to optimise the group’s net revenue through better channel management.
What are the biggest challenges for the industry in the mid-term?
Other hotel groups are no longer the sole players: purely digital players have also taken their fair share of the market, on many segments, including BtoB as BtoC, which is true for every sector of our economy, though the hospitality industry, with the advent of OTAs and sharing platforms, has been among the most heavily impacted. Our challenge is to have the agility not only to anticipate future changes but also to be at their forefront.