A well-known family of hotels had a goal of becoming the number one travel and leisure company worldwide, but was losing its share of the leisure travel market and had little recognition for offerings it provided outside of lodging, like its many Michelin star restaurants.
Renovate the company’s website search so natural language queries, and query intent in general, are better understood. Promote dining options with easy-to-use, custom-designed search. Provide property recommendations for a new way to discover destinations.
The website now gratifies vacationers wanderlust with recommendations for “most viewed properties” and “trending offers.” Diners can easily find their ideal mouthwatering meal at one of the many restaurants housed at the hotel properties by filtering to their tastes.
The hotel’s website search ran on an Endeca platform, a once best-in-class search engine that now has seen better days. End-of-lifed and not updated in years, the stagnant search platform meant the hotel couldn’t take advantage of all the benefits progressive search engines offer both businesses and their customers.
No personalization; property order presented strictly as a function of distance; customer reviews not mined for sentiment analysis; there was a ton of enrichment possible.
The biggest hindrance, according to the hotel, was the inability to understand the user intent behind search queries. Natural language and longtail searches resulted in missed opportunities rather than connections.
By replacing Endeca with a modern search engine backed by machine learning, its website’s search and discovery capabilities would be dramatically improved. Furthermore, the new functionality could be used to evangelize its restaurants and drive growth in the leisure travel market.
Microsoft Bing was initially chosen to replace Endeca because of the leverage its robust knowledge graph could provide. But the project with Bing went awry and the hotel decided to partner with a different search provider moving forward.
Then the pandemic hit. Initially, travelers stayed home trying to squelch the spread of COVID, and hospitality organizations hunkered down to survive. By November 2020, people began to peek out from beneath the covers into a new normal and the hotel knew it was time to act.
The hotel predicted that people itching to get back out into the world would create rapid post-pandemic growth in the leisure travel market that outpaced pre-COVID expansion. All the more reason to fight for its share of vacationers with modern website capabilities designed to delight and satisfy their desires.
To dip its toe in the water, the hotel decided to restart the overhaul of its website by breaking restaurant and dining options into a customized search experience. Until then, although its restaurants generated nearly $13 billion in annual revenue, and it offered golf packages and other recreational experiences, only lodging was included in its website search. By providing search for food and beverage offerings, the hotel could begin to change the perception that all it offers are hotel rooms.
The hotel chose Lucidworks as a partner in this progressive step, enticed by the sophisticated query-intent-understanding capabilities of its search engine.
Starting with a request for a location, the food and beverage search built by Lucidworks shows all restaurants housed at the hotel’s properties within the area. The restaurants can be filtered by cuisine type — American, Asian-Fusion, Italian, Steakhouse, and so on — to help find the style of dish you’re craving. Results are displayed as a list with a picture offering a peek inside the restaurant, a short description, and then a ”more” button, which drops down an additional section with hours, location, and contact information.
Everything feels clean, inviting, and easy to navigate.
The launch of the food and beverage search was such a success that confidence grew in the partnership with Lucidworks and all that it could enable. When the hotel decided it was time to dive into the deep end and upgrade its leisure-travel hotel reservation portal it looked to Lucidworks for help.
The project, spearheading the drive toward its principal goal of becoming the number one travel and leisure company worldwide, had high visibility within the organization. Everyone from the developers to the C-suite was interested in being involved. As new stakeholders bought into the project, Lucidworks was asked back again and again to demo its search for different audiences.
During one product demo, a hotel executive requested Lucidworks execute a search for a specific hotel brand name “in Austin with free wifi and indoor pool for less than 250.” The executive said these natural language style queries are the type of requests customers submit on its website that its current search couldn’t effectively respond to. If Lucidworks search wasn’t able to understand the query’s intent, there was no reason to move forward with the project. It was that simple.
As the Lucidworks team typed the query into the demo search box, the search system began to do its work:
This is the flexible search experience the hotel had hoped to provide to its travelers.
Prior to engaging with Lucidworks, there were no recommendations on the hotel’s website, and very confined ways to look for lodging. Now, Lucidworks drives the recommendations engine that populates the hotel’s homepage.
Trending offers, most viewed properties, etc, whet the appetite for unanticipated destinations, an enticement for the recreational traveler to daydream on its website and book at its properties when the dream becomes reality.
With new recommendations and dining search catering to foodies and vacationers, and upgraded property search on track to go live in the coming months, where will the hotel take its website capabilities next?
Lucidworks Smart Answers is being considered to improve chatbot capabilities that will reduce the high volume of customer phone calls and provide faster service. Requests like “which hotels are pet friendly” or “find me a hotel that has valet parking in New York City” can be quickly answered online by a friendly, Smart-Answers-powered virtual assistant so customers can knowledgeably book a stay and be on their way, rather than on hold.
Flexible website search and recommendations offering more to discover is just the first step for the hotel to showcase all the experiences it provides. Soon, when you get a few days off and want an easy, all-in-one destination for high-quality cuisine, a round of golf, and a nice place to stay, this will be the first name you type into your browser.