GuestJoy is international. At the office, we speak about 11 languages fluently, and we are proudly present in 25 countries. One of the most interesting markets we have our foot in is Iceland where we have recently partnered with Godo, an Icelandic PMS provider. We interviewed Birkir, Godo’s marketing manager. Read ahead to find out about his ideas on hotel marketing, trends in hospitality, and how his company is thriving to create something outstanding on the Icelandic and global market.
Q.: Hi Birkir, would you like to introduce yourself?
Birkir: I am Godo’s marketing manager. Although most of our staff come from the hospitality industry I come from a slightly different background. I am the traveller, the guest. I was on the other side of the market, as I was travelling for years and freelancing for various ad companies. I worked in a wide variety of positions, design, marketing, programming, producing ad campaigns, but mostly digital marketing for global companies. While these jobs were connected to travel and hospitality companies, my main experience is being the end-to-end user. That is partially why I am at Godo now, I noticed a lot of opportunities for improvement in hospitality. With our technology, I am certain we can make a positive change.
Q.: So what is the story behind Godo?
Birkir: Maybe you remember that in 2008 Iceland had a financial crisis and moments after the recession one of our volcanoes erupted, so we were all over the news. These were very hard times but Iceland pushed through and eventually – possibly thanks to the media coverage our tourism started booming! Starting in 2012, Godo was a travel site, where you could find everything from rental cars to tours and hotels. We observed that hotels would not sell on our website. That’s because they were still trying to handle their bookings on paper, in a notebook while lacking knowledge about OTAs, booking platforms and general hotel technology. So we decided to develop a PMS software to support hoteliers.
Q.: Tell us about how does Godo help hotels?
Birkir: Godo provides a large variety of services. We understand that hoteliers are often enthusiastic, communicative and are great with people but not so much with technology. So we are doing our best on the tech side and provide excellent client support including accountancy. We are integrated with all the existing accountancy programs in Iceland.
Q.: That’s great! I assume no hotelier wants to spend extra hours on their revenue management. Besides that do you have any other unique selling points?
Birkir: We believe in innovation, integration and putting the customer first. Establishing a bond with our customers is key to knowing their business, so we can tailor our product to their needs. We have a great call centre and provide guest communications, revenue management, and services like Travia; for travel agents to book directly in Iceland, without any emails, calls and the hassle that follows. We get most of our leads by word of mouth, which is wonderful because the real testimony is that of the client. It doubles as great feedback for us, we know that we are doing something great for our customers.
A happy day at the Godo office
Q.: As a professional with a strong marketing background, what could you recommend hotels? What is it that they should be doing?
Birkir: In one word: personalization. You can easily pull up info that people already put online, do quick, basic profiling and use that to target them. Personalize their whole experience. Especially with people who are coming to your property for the 20th time or with younger generations. Similarly to when you have GuestJoy, just try to provide people with anything that would make their stay outstanding. Most restaurants already have this, like you’d get ice cream on your birthday… it’s not at all expensive, but these small things really change a guest’s vacation. There is very little loyalty in the hospitality industry, but if you invest, your guests will come back. I like using the word extraordinary because it implies the only thing you need to do to excel is just giving a little more. Most tourists visit Iceland for its nature, but after a long day of hiking, you just want to be comfortable in your room and relax with some drinks and snacks. Add these to your hotel! Tourists are now discovering Icelandic craft beers; we have plenty of great breweries, why not offer that with traditional local sliders?
Q.: What do you think is most important at the moment for hotels to focus on? Any challenges, or technological improvements hoteliers should look into?
Birkir: Well, there is a lot of discussion about people losing their jobs due to machines, and there are quite a few tech-pessimists out there while middlemen, workers, cleaners are gradually harder to find. So we need to simplify business with technology.
“We need to create automated systems, then focus on the people behind hospitality, putting our energies into customer service.”
Specific to Iceland, we have a very new demographic in travelling, meaning that we get people from all around the world that previously had no access to such tours. We strive to accommodate them properly, and that calls for different kinds of services and languages.
Q.: What does this mean for the hotels technology-wise?
Birkir: I think legacy PMS systems are generally outdated. These old systems, built in the ’80s or 90’s need to be seriously refreshed. In addition to that, the industry is generally lagging behind. We see that almost 97% of our clients are still using desktops.
Q.: Wow, a lot of professionals in the industry say that!
Birkir: I think the PMS, GDS and CRS industry needs to be rethought on a grand scale; to be as simple as it was meant to be in the beginning. It’s full of opportunity and customers are calling for automation, innovation and simplification of their business.
“Because technology is ever-changing, if you are not one step ahead, you are getting behind. That, of course, includes the hospitality industry as well. Hotels need to use technology to approach their customers, and to keep them satisfied, to make their experience seamless. If your competition is using better solutions that simplify their business that will give them time to focus on the important things around their property. And if you are not, you are at a disadvantage.”
Q.: We share the same mentality at GuestJoy. Guest communication should be automated, yet personalized and seamless! Since we share a lot of customers, do you get any feedback about us?
Birkir: We often hear that these little technological investments, like GuestJoy are the real game-changers in the long run. GuestJoy can really make a big impact on upsell, room service, ratings but it’s so much more than that. These unique experiences for customers make their stay much more than just an average holiday. Hotels make more revenue by selling targeted products and services, which also improves the guest’s vacation, which can break a business in the hospitality industry. I would recommend GJ to anyone who wants to give their lodging that extra push.
Q.: Let’s get back to your travel stories! As you travelled full time for a while you must have some great tales for us.
Birkir: Yes! I have travelled about 40 countries, and you can imagine, as an Icelandic seeing rainforests in places like Central America was astonishing. Just to hear that every inch of the forest is alive really struck me. My favourite place is Costa Rica, fruits, culture, people, all is wonderful. Even though I once got robbed by a machete gang, it just made my holiday more eventful because we ended up riding the bus and staying with locals in the countryside because we had no money. They were so accommodating! We made great friends and stayed at some local springs drinking with them and their families. My next dream destination is the Middle-East, the cradle of human civilizations.
Q.: And lastly, what do you recommend for those who would like to visit Iceland?
Birkir: Every Icelander can tell you about the wonders of nature, and the raw, powerful landscapes of the country. I for one has been always fascinated by the toughness the Icelandic life requires, especially for people before modernity. Yet they still had time to develop their culture, poetry, and much more. I would advise tourists to look beyond nature when they are in Iceland.