On an early September morning me and Atomize CEO Alexander jumped on the tram from our office location in central Gothenburg, on our way to do an interview with one of our most prestigious customers, Gothia Towers. When Gothia Towers, with its three stately towers appeared in my sight, from my seat on the tram, it struck me what an amazing landmark this is for Gothenburg. It got me thinking about how cool it is that Gothia Towers, one of the biggest hotels in Europe, actually were one of Atomize first customers. They have always been very forward thinking and a very important customer for us. Gothia Towers together with The Swedish Exhibition & Congress Centre is one of the Nordic region’s most attractive meeting places. With 41,000 m² of experience areas, 1,200 first-class hotel rooms and suites, and five popular bars and restaurants, they form Europe’s largest fully integrated hotel and events venue and attract more than 1.8 million international visitors every year. *Images copywright owner: Gothia Towers
Are you wondering what the secret behind Gothia Towers success is?
We recently got the chance to sit down with members of Gothia Towers’ team to learn about their progress and what areas they are focusing on to enhance the guest experience and continue their success story. Lisette Norberg, Director Front Office and Spa, Johan Forsberg, Director of Revenue Management and Veronica Nyblom, PR & Communication Manager together have close to 50 years of experience from the hotel industry and shared some of the tricks of the trade the picked up along the way.
Developing Gothia Towers – a story of success and growth
The Swedish Fair, the first of its kind in Sweden, was inaugurated by King Gustaf V in 1918. Five years later, in 1923, Gothenburg organized an anniversary exhibition to celebrate the city’s 300th anniversary. The original 40,000-sqm site has since grown to 145,000 sqm, of which 41,000 sqm are exhibition and conference space. Unsurprisingly, the ever-growing Swedish Exhibition Centre created the need for a nearby hotel, the Gothia Tower. Today, Gothia Towers consists of three towers and is a unique venue with everything under one roof and Gothenburg’s bustling city centre at its doorstep. Its complete package, which includes everything from hotel accommodation, shops, a theatre, a spa and restaurants to exhibition halls, meeting rooms and auditoriums of various sizes, attracts all guest segments, including private leisure, business and bleisure travellers. Both Johan and Lisette have seen the hotel grow a lot since they joined in the early 2000s. From being a one-building hotel, Gothia Towers has grown to three towers with 1,200 rooms, making it the largest hotel in the Nordic states and one of the biggest hotels in Europe.
“It was a big step to go from 750 to 1,200 rooms. Adding another 500 rooms when the third tower was built meant we needed a very different operation to manage that kind of volume,” says Lisette Norberg.
“It has been a very exciting journey to be part of and going from only a hotel business to adding value through new concepts. Enhancing the guest experience with a spa, more restaurants and a theatre has let us reach broader guest segments,” Johan Forsberg added.
* Images copywright owner: Gothia Towers
An insight-driven approach to understanding the guest journey
As the property grew, Gothia Towers also had to develop the tech stack to support the increasing number of customers and the new service concepts.
“From the start we had the vision of an ideal system, covering all aspects of our business, such as conference and exhibition bookings, supply and demand as well as hotel and spa reservations. We soon realized this kind of solution didn’t exist for us, because we have a unique property with unusual demand patterns,” Johan explains.
“We tried many different systems and made some bad choices in the past, but we have learned a lot along the way. I believe this journey has been very important for us, and we are not afraid of trying new tech if it promises better results and smoother operations,” Johan adds.
Digitization is a priority for Gothia Towers and has been for several years. Apart from testing new tech, this also means understanding macro developments and knowing what customers and guests want.
“A challenge for us, and I believe for many hoteliers in general, is fragmented data. We want to understand what type of customers we have at our venue at any time. Is it an exhibition visitor, a private hotel guest or both? If we can’t merge the data, it’s hard for us to know the purpose of their visit. This is why we are working on an internal project to get an overview and better understand and follow the customer journey,” Johan explains.
Achieving this would permit Johan’s team to move towards an insight and data-driven organisation, rather than relying on their gut feeling. As part of this project, Gothia Towers have started analyzing the guest journey in various segments and have gained interesting insights into guests’ behaviour.
A versatile offer with something for everyone
One of Gothia Towers’ key success factors is their dynamic offering which can accommodate different types of events, experiences and guests, and change from one day to another. For example, a medical conference and industry exhibition attracts 10,000 visitors. They are all there for different reasons and have various objectives. Fulfilling their diverse needs, often on short notice, sets Gothia Towers apart.
“When we reached 1,200 rooms we took things to the next level. From then on, we began competing for bigger corporate contracts and started getting conference requests for larger conferences and groups of people,” Lisette says.
Of course, the venue’s location is another success factor. With downtown Gothenburg just around the corner and Landvetter Airport only a 20-minute drive away, Gothia Towers is ideally positioned. Adding the Upper House, Gothia’s 5-star luxury hotel concept, further broadened the range of experiences the hotel could offer guests. By featuring both 4- and 5-star options and a variety of restaurants, more different customer segments find the hotel attractive.
“Widening our offer and having everything under one roof has also led to an increase in staycation guests from within Sweden. I believe people enjoy the convenience of having a diverse destination nearby and they prefer to travel here rather than go abroad, both to save time and for environmental reasons,” Lisette says.
*Images Copyright Owner: Gothia Towers
Understanding demand and optimizing cost
The wide offering means a lot of different revenue streams and cost control functions to optimize the total revenue for the hotel and convention centre. “Our revenue management team and the business controllers work closely together to keep track of our KPIs and look at total revenue in all parts of the organisation. In terms of streamlining these efforts, Atomize Revenue Management System has greatly helped us automate and optimize our pricing,” says Johan. Learn more about Atomize Revenue Management System > After starting this process, the next natural step is for Johan’s team to explore Total Profit Management together with Atomize and learn how to optimize both their pricing and costs in relation to supply and demand in all parts of their organization in real time. “When it comes to following KPIs that matter, we’ve come a long way last year. We’ve learned how to quickly react to current demand to maintain a smart, accurate sales forecast and control cost. Variable costs like man-hours are important for us to continuously monitor and adapt according to demand and occupation,” Lisette outlines. Another great example of technology which analyses demand and optimize cost is Gothia Tower’s food purchasing solution. By automatically placing an order in the system based on the week’s recipes and forecasted demand, the head chefs save a tremendous amount of time, waste is reduced and the restaurants’ operation runs more smoothly.
Balancing OTA and direct bookings
Like many other hotels, Gothia Towers have a channel rotation strategy based on different customer and market segments and guest loyalty. “OTA commission is a huge cost factor for a big operation like ours. We often have discussions with the controllers about how we can strategically and tactically operate to reduce that cost,” Johan explains. “If a new guest from abroad who hasn’t heard of Gothia Towers, books a room through an OTA, that’s fine since we might not have reached this guest otherwise. If it’s a returning customer, there is no reason for them to not book direct,” Johan elaborates. One of the hotel’s incentives to increase direct bookings is the customer loyalty club where they offer special members-only deals. Combined with targeted SEO and SEM initiatives, Gothia Towers rapidly increased the proportion of direct bookings among returning guests.
Putting convenience and guest satisfaction first
To keep increasing their occupancy and return rate, Gothia Towers continuously works to make everything from the booking process to check-in and check-out easy and convenient.“In our ideal world, guests who have stayed here once don’t have to enter their data again. During the stay everything must be simple and convenient for our customers. For example, we are currently installing Chrome Cast on all in-room TVs, so guests can easily stream their choice of entertainment,” says Lisette. The perfect future image is that guests can do everything from their mobile phones, but this also decreases the opportunities for direct interaction with guests. “Customer feedback shows that personal interactions with our staff are an important part of the overall guest experience. That means we always have to stay on our toes and make sure we are there for our customers in every situation and provide personal service,” Lisette explains. “While this might be easier in a small hotel, we are very proud of the feedback we receive about our personalized service. Our guests feel taken care of and our staff is mentioned by name daily,” Lisette goes on to say. To keep customer satisfaction high and continuously improve service, Gothia Towers takes all feedback into consideration. Another important factor for the guest experience is the room standard and interior design. Gothia Towers regularly renovate and update their facilities to accommodate their target group’s needs. Right now, for example, they have built a well-equipped gym and are right now updating all the rooms in Tower 1. *Images Copyright Owner: Gothia Towers
Capitalizing on existing hotel facilities
Gothia Towers have a 50/50 mix of business and leisure guests due to the broad service offering which appeals to a wide range of target markets. On weekdays, business guests make up the majority, while the hotel is full of leisure guests on the weekends. The nearby Liseberg amusement park and the Universeum Experience Centre across the street play an important role here. Especially during the summer holidays when it is high season for leisure guests, there is an increased need for parking and the hotel’s spots quickly filled up. This was solved by using empty exhibition halls as parking areas during the summer. “This is a perfect example of a win/win for all parties. We can offer more parking lots to our guests and by using our own exhibition halls, we create more revenue from this space during a period when we have no exhibitions booked,” says Johan Forsberg.
A bright outlook for Gothia Towers
Gothia Towers and the Swedish Exhibition and Congress Centre are owned by The Swedish Exhibition & Congress Centre Foundation, which is financially independent. This means they have no external owners or investors. Any surplus is reinvested in the business to retain and improve the venues’ attractive position.The future looks bright and The Swedish Exhibition and Congress Centre have big visions for the future. Right now, they are planning to build their 4th tower with up to 400 rooms. “Adding a couple of hundred rooms more will not be a problem for us since we are used to handling volume. We feel secure in being a big operation and managing large flows of visitors,” Veronica says confidently.We at Atomize share Veronica’s positive stance and look forward to working on revenue and pricing optimization with the team at Gothia Towers for many years to come.