CEO Babis Kourtzis tells us about Upsell’s aspirations for Data Pitch and beyond.
Describe your Data Pitch challenge idea
Hotels and operators have very little idea how guests spend their time and money and even when have some understanding, they lack the ability to influence purchases at scale. Upsell helps hotels to drive revenue and reduce costs, and helps local vendors sell more local experiences. We are creating an end-to-end platform so that guests can book services, ask for help and provide feedback. We offer hotel wifi, mobile applications, chatbots, reservation management, feedback collection and engagement tools for hotel staff, all in one platform.
Travellers want authentic and personalised experiences, but the structure of the tourism ecosystem in resort areas results in fragmented experiences and missed opportunities. Hotels employ high-frequency marketing tactics and local vendors still fill up their reception desks with leaflets. In order to promote change in the industry, we will allow tour operators, hotels and local vendors to share information, allowing for seamless vacation experiences, offering unprecedented customer targeting.
What does the idea set out to achieve?
Our aim, by the end of Data Pitch, is to have created a cutting-edge hybrid recommender system for resorts and tour operators to consistently drive sales and improve guest satisfaction on a large scale. Firstly, there will be and API-endpoint offering “the best recommendation” to a guest for any given touchpoint (app, push message, wifi portal, email, chatbot etc) and context. Secondly, a powerful customer service chatbot for resorts that is able to delight guests and answer an array of questions to do with the industry, leveraging the wider set of data in the tourism sector. Lastly, the current Upsell platform itself will be revamped to include a CRM, mobile apps and web portal apps to support the whole.
What makes your idea different or unique?
In Mediterranean resorts, the bulk of inbound tourism is managed by major Northern European tour operators and their local partners. Operators, hotels and local businesses are operating in isolation, despite targeting the same families, and storing this data in isolation prevents relevant upselling. For guests this results in a fragmented experience when discovering and booking experiences. It is done offline and presented in a sub-standard manner, often on paper. We want to link up the tourism value chain with unprecedented data sharing and integrations, particularly by offering one-touch booking. With valuable data sets sitting isolated across multiple platforms, our team spotted various overlapping efforts and decided to break the data storage vaults by bringing the offerings of hotels, tour operators and local businesses together in one platform, enabling guests to discover curated services and personalised experiences. It seems that the market was ready for this kind of end-to-end solution, as in less than 12 months we managed to get six leading hotel chains and four of the biggest destination management companies, who control the 50% of inbound tourists in Crete, on-board.
Where did the idea come from?
The idea came about during a meeting with the owner of a leading tourism chain in Greece. He asked for a solution to motivate All Inclusive’s tourists to venture outside of the hotel, in order to reduce his operating costs. By speaking to stakeholders in the tourism value chain, we saw a unique case where the interests of hotels and destination management companies align, with the latter depending on selling local excursions and activities. In reality, guests were bombarded with messages from all sides, resulting in a negative experience. We saw a complete isolation of data systems and guest-facing interfaces, presenting us with an opportunity for technological disruption, via seamless integrations and unified mobile interface for guests. While our offering has expanded dramatically and now caters to the needs of all kinds of guests, it all started with All Inclusive!
What excites you about the challenge you applied for?
We strive to improve the tourist experience, leveraging technology and enabling hotel staff to deliver a personalised service. We therefore felt that the Data Pitch Tourism challenge was the perfect fit. Working on this project will allow us to take positive steps: building engaging chatbots, offering answers to a wider range of questions and identifying user needs via conversational user interfaces. Getting to know why tourists ask for something gives powerful signals to our AI-based recommender system and makes our apps and chatbots more engaging.
How did your team meet?
The team brings together expertise in marketing, data science and AI.The core of the Data Pitch project team met more than 15 years ago while studying at the leading technical university in Greece. Most of us have been working together over the past two years, building seamless guest experiences that drive sales.
What’s the best thing about working with data?
Quoting recent Deloitte research, the travel industry is “Rich in data, but poor in insights”. Bringing together data sets from hotels and operators, which have always been in separate systems, allows us to identify patterns, meaningfully divide the tourist pool and get personalised insights. The most fulfilling part of the job is when presenting our findings to hoteliers. The insights and actionable recommendations we generate lead to revamped processes, which typically affect multiple departments. This in turn leads to happier staff and guests, more positive reviews, increased revenue and reduced costs.
Anything else you want to tell us about your startup and why you do what you do?
There is a big data and AI revolution underway and we see a great opportunity for changing the way the tourism industry delivers services and experiences. We have gained a unique distribution advantage, having linked the systems and processes of hotels, tour operators and local vendors. We build scalable end-to-end solutions, offering tangible value to guests, which in turn rewards us with record engagement rates.
We love addressing guest and hoteliers’ biggest blockers, which requires active listening and a learn-fast mentality. Having the trust of leading hoteliers and operators, we test growth hacks across our network. As a result, the app’s download rate exceeded 35% (with the industry norm below 10%) and the average daily food and beverage spending of app users was 40% higher than that of non-app users. Building a state-of-the-art recommender system and leveraging conversational user interface through chat apps will further drive engagement and conversions.