Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference
Metro Toronto Convention Centre
Toronto, ON, Canada
Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference
November 14–15, 2017
LMA Communications Inc. 5 June 2017
Product placement has been part of the Hollywood scene for decades as savvy producers must find ever-creative ways to squeeze every ounce of profit out of their films - something that looks especially worthwhile when such brands are willing to pay upfront and thereby offset the usual cashflow issues of movie production. After all, if the script doesn't specify the specific type of automobile being driven, smartphone adjacent to the name actor's ear or beverage being consumed, why not earn some decent bucks in the process?More recently, hoteliers have started to realize that hotels can offer perfect symmetry with many brands that want trial from their target audience, especially when those brand's key demographics match that of a property's guests. Examples abound and now that you are fully aware that this is a going trend, no doubt you'll spot this everywhere.Notably, in the luxury car category, BMW, Lexus and Mercedes Benz have all established programs where their vehicles are offered to hotels for guest use. Or how about a Land Rover Driving School at an East Coast resort? I've seen these partnerships displayed prominently on hotel websites - while I may not know much about the property, a complimentary use of a classy auto has a tremendously positive halo whether I actually take them up on the offer or not.Outside of the automobile world, partnerships with local retailers can transcend short-term promotions to include ongoing discounts and personal shopping arrangements. For example, Le Printemps department store has a relationship with Raffles Le Royal Monceau in Paris whereby hotel guests receive a 10% discount, personal shopper assistance and same day delivery service for their purchases.The nuance comes in deciding what truly is product placement versus just a supplier substitution for one brand or another. To help you discern which is which, here is a set of rules on the issue of developing these brand partnerships.Brand substitution should augment your property's guest offering. Substituting Coke for Pepsi products (I'm neutral on both) is really a price proposition with your local distributor and has nothing to do with your guest. I am fairly confident that you will not lose any guests because of your selection for one or the other.Look for brands that mirror your guests' needs then take it up a notch. Most everyone drives, so offering better - that is, premium price - vehicles for visitors to enjoy during their stays makes strategic sense. The quality of the brand should therefore deliver a positive 'halo' to your property.Differentiate your property. Do your homework. If your comp set has one brand, select another. Creating the relationship is just the start; it must be a win-win for both parties. Remember that you are getting the product for guest use. Hence, expect that you will have to provide all necessary information - such as the data resulting from a specific product's onsite use - back to the selected partner.Expect a lot of upfront time investment. Any relationship has the usual myriad of paperwork. No one is going to drop off half a million dollars' worth of steel and rubber under your porte-cochere without a full-fledged contractual agreement. Factor at least a year from idea to on-property execution.Don't expect immediate measurable results. The overall goal is to value-add your guest relationship through product differentiation, whatever that product may be. Rarely do programs of this nature lead to trackable revenue gains with direct accountability and ROI. As an offset to this rather nebulous aspect of product placement, there may be little to no investment in capital or expense.It's all about the guest! Sorry, but that Ferrari is not for your personal use on weekends. Treat these goodies with respect.(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in Hotels Magazine on Tuesday, April 4, 2017)
LMA Communications Inc. 31 May 2017
Why is it that this one markup grinds guests' gears more than almost everything else? Perhaps the wording of 'unmistakably exorbitant' offers a clue.When a commoditized item like bottled water, is commonly understood to be sold at a certain base price - let's say $1 for 300ml for simplicity's case - then any inflated price that's paid forward to the customer will be instantly discernable. And when you charge, say, seven bucks for what generally costs only one in the supermarket, then it is builds distrust in guests' minds."This is a blatant rip off! What else are they marking up to pad their pretentious wallets? What other tricks are they pulling to price gouge me? What are they hiding?" These are not the sorts of questions that you want running through your customers' minds. It's not a healthy start to a good relationship and it's just bad business.Think about it even further. What does such a tremendously large price tag for bottled water say about your property, and importantly, about your sense of hospitality? Moreover, this one singular markup can become a reflection of all other prices for any good or service sold at your hotel. That is, bottled water price gouging may instill the idea in guests' minds that your abode is needlessly expensive, so much so that it hinders said customers from dining at your restaurants, visiting your spa or setting foot in your gift shop.Besides this deleterious psychological effect, I do indeed understand the rationale from a return on costs perspective. There is a solid argument for affixing a huge price tag on that oversized bottle of water to make up your margins on other costs. Still, though, stop thinking like your hotel's accountant and start thinking like a hotelier - someone that cares about your guests and treats them like they are at home.In other words, stop being pennywise and pound foolish! Being stingy about small expenditures such as water will ultimately cost you in the long run when it comes to the more important matters such as overall guest ratings. In this particular case, you may indeed get some small returns, but what are you losing in return?Here's a thought. Take that bottle, remove the price tag altogether and replace it with a tag that simply says, "Our home is your home. Thank you for staying with us. Please enjoy this with our compliments. Sincerely, (name) General Manager; or (name) Executive Housekeeper."Now, with this tag in place, ask yourself how guests will feel. It sets a good pace for the rest of their stay with you. Moreover, it dispels any concerns they might have had about price gouging elsewhere, thus helping nudge them towards using your restaurant and other amenities. Next, these good vibes may translate to tips for the housekeeper - that is, a morale boost for your frontline - as well as a sure-fire increase to your online review scores.I was reminded by several veteran hoteliers that success in our business is measured in thousands of small increments. This freebie is just one suggestion that is will go a long towards winning the hearts and minds of your guests.And as a final aside, if you are completely intransigent when it comes to pro bono features like this, then at the very least consider dropping the price to something that isn't as obvious. This applies to economy and limited-service providers as well as though luxury properties where guests can afford the expensive water bottles. Just because they 'can' doesn't mean they 'should', so please stop this practice before it damages your hotel's reputation any further.
LMA Communications Inc. 22 May 2017
In fact, the future of screen technology is everywhere, pervading every point of interaction that a consumer has with your hotel. And the more you work to undo the antiquated notion that TVs are only for bedrooms, you will end up discovering new opportunities right under your nose to enhance the guest experience and drive revenues.To help our grasp of what this future means for your hotel, I interviewed Fred Crespo, Director of Technology & Business Development at Samsung Electronics. Before we jumped in to any science fiction forecasts, we first discussed how smart televisions have now overtaken regular TV sales and what that means for the evolution of the in-room viewing experience.Smart TVs are more than just eliminating the top box and any other screen accessories. As a now democratized piece of technology, they can drastically improve a room's functionality through the integration and automation of such things as lighting, the drapes, climate controls, alarms, room billing, streaming services and even the do not disturb sign. Many of these will also help you eliminate paper and realize substantial energy consumption savings. One of the latest drives with smart TVs is to reduce forced obsolescence so you no longer must replace your sets every three years - a task accomplished with internal firmware that is adaptable to future content needs as well as the ever-increasing bandwidth requirements. Lastly, automation and integration are working to drive down the cost of delivery of, for instance, in-room movie rentals so that they are more closely aligned with the consumer benchmark, thus leading to fewer perceptions of price gouging, heightened consumption and, ultimately, increased consumer satisfaction.Moving away from the centerpiece screen but still staying with the guestroom, there are many other opportunities to enhance the guest experience through the clever deployment of electronic replacements. Imagine a small digital picture frame on the nightstand that syncs with an individual's social media so that an image or slideshow of this person's family can be on display to make the room feel that much more like home. Next, try to visualize yourself brushing your teeth in front of the bathroom mirror, only your Instagram feed was cycling through on the top row while the bottom row showed the weather and the news. There are now several ways to subtly layer these types of information over portrait mirrors without being intrusive, and they also present yet another vector by which to display some hotel messaging or showcase a few features that guests may enjoy.Exiting the guestroom, there are numerous instances where digital signage can now be deployed in such a way that they are both bespoke to every individual guest and sync with in-room activities or preferences. You need only think of every touch point from the time visitors arrive at a hotel to the time they leave.Electronic signage can act as a sense of place enhancement via impressive art displays, to answer questions about check-in prior to talking directly with a clerk at the front desk or even to guide people from the elevator corridor to their specific rooms - this last one being particularly useful for buildings with massive floor plans. In essence, what we are seeing is a complete convergence of in-room screens with on-property signage, especially when you next throw into the mix outdoor patchwork screens that are extremely durable and cold to the touch. At the most recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (CES 2017), LG unveiled their 'Wallpaper TVs' which deliver reasonable resolution for large diameter screens that are only a few millimeters thick and are capable of being plastered onto glass surfaces or exterior cement.This is but scratching the surface in terms of how you might go about upgrading your hotel with new devices that enhance the guest experience through augmented technological engagement - a trait that is in demand for the ever-budget-conscious millennials. What's great about our industry in particular is that we have the CapEx budget for incremental installations of this nature - albeit spread over several years - so it would be wise to at least be receptive to what an arrangement of integrated screens and devices can do to continually improve your property over the long-term. Think of these multinational conglomerates like Samsung, LG, Panasonic, Sony or Philips less so as low cost vendors and more so as premium tech partners, ensuring that you collectively arrive at the best solution to meet your hotel's unique needs.And in terms of what's on the horizon for 2017, Fred wrapped up our chat by emphasizing that this year will see evolutionary steps but not revolutionary ones. While virtual reality - the current talk of the town - is still a decade away from universal applicability, smart TVs are now a mature product, meaning that everyone is focused on operational efficiency, mobile integration and user interface enhancements. Thus, don't expect anything game-changing in the immediate future, so use this 'lull' to strategize about how the current slate of adaptive screen technologies can work for you.(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in eHotelier on January 30, 2017)
LMA Communications Inc. 3 May 2017
In fact, the future of screen technology is everywhere, pervading every point of interaction that a consumer has with your hotel. And the more you work to undo the antiquated notion that TVs are only for bedrooms, you will end up discovering new opportunities right under your nose to enhance the guest experience and drive revenues.To help our grasp of what this future means for your hotel, I interviewed Fred Crespo, Director of Technology & Business Development at Samsung Electronics. Before we jumped in to any science fiction forecasts, we first discussed how smart televisions have now overtaken regular TV sales and what that means for the evolution of the in-room viewing experience.Smart TVs are more than just eliminating the top box and any other screen accessories. As a now democratized piece of technology, they can drastically improve a room's functionality through the integration and automation of such things as lighting, the drapes, climate controls, alarms, room billing, streaming services and even the do not disturb sign. Many of these will also help you eliminate paper and realize substantial energy consumption savings. One of the latest drives with smart TVs is to reduce forced obsolescence so you no longer must replace your sets every three years - a task accomplished with internal firmware that is adaptable to future content needs as well as the ever-increasing bandwidth requirements. Lastly, automation and integration are working to drive down the cost of delivery of, for instance, in-room movie rentals so that they are more closely aligned with the consumer benchmark, thus leading to fewer perceptions of price gouging, heightened consumption and, ultimately, increased consumer satisfaction.Moving away from the centerpiece screen but still staying with the guestroom, there are many other opportunities to enhance the guest experience through the clever deployment of electronic replacements. Imagine a small digital picture frame on the nightstand that syncs with an individual's social media so that an image or slideshow of this person's family can be on display to make the room feel that much more like home. Next, try to visualize yourself brushing your teeth in front of the bathroom mirror, only your Instagram feed was cycling through on the top row while the bottom row showed the weather and the news. There are now several ways to subtly layer these types of information over portrait mirrors without being intrusive, and they also present yet another vector by which to display some hotel messaging or showcase a few features that guests may enjoy.Exiting the guestroom, there are numerous instances where digital signage can now be deployed in such a way that they are both bespoke to every individual guest and sync with in-room activities or preferences. You need only think of every touch point from the time visitors arrive at a hotel to the time they leave.Electronic signage can act as a sense of place enhancement via impressive art displays, to answer questions about check-in prior to talking directly with a clerk at the front desk or even to guide people from the elevator corridor to their specific rooms - this last one being particularly useful for buildings with massive floor plans. In essence, what we are seeing is a complete convergence of in-room screens with on-property signage, especially when you next throw into the mix outdoor patchwork screens that are extremely durable and cold to the touch. At the most recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (CES 2017), LG unveiled their 'Wallpaper TVs' which deliver reasonable resolution for large diameter screens that are only a few millimeters thick and are capable of being plastered onto glass surfaces or exterior cement.This is but scratching the surface in terms of how you might go about upgrading your hotel with new devices that enhance the guest experience through augmented technological engagement - a trait that is in demand for the ever-budget-conscious millennials. What's great about our industry in particular is that we have the CapEx budget for incremental installations of this nature - albeit spread over several years - so it would be wise to at least be receptive to what an arrangement of integrated screens and devices can do to continually improve your property over the long-term. Think of these multinational conglomerates like Samsung, LG, Panasonic, Sony or Philips less so as low cost vendors and more so as premium tech partners, ensuring that you collectively arrive at the best solution to meet your hotel's unique needs.And in terms of what's on the horizon for the next three quarters of 2017, Fred wrapped up our chat by emphasizing that this year will see evolutionary steps but not revolutionary ones. While virtual reality - the current talk of the town - is still a decade away from universal applicability, smart TVs are now a mature product, meaning that everyone is focused on operational efficiency, mobile integration and user interface enhancements. Thus, don't expect anything game-changing in the immediate future, so use this 'lull' to strategize about how the current slate of adaptive screen technologies can work for you.
LMA Communications Inc. 7 April 2017
A major issue that many hotels confront is the cyclical nature of their revenues and occupancies. Although seasonality affects resorts and rural properties more so than urban hotels, the latter can also suffer from week-to-week or intra-week fluctuations due to their targeting of primarily the corporate and groups segment.Even though most of these suggestions pertain to the leisure segment where the highs and lows are more pronounced, making weekend traffic at business-catering urban hotels should still be a foremost initiative. In fact, regardless of your particular situation and however much your occupancy vacillates, there is room for improvement if you address the issues now instead of waiting for the next ball drop in December. Real and healthy change takes time, and you will need a full nine months to set up these new, viable programs.The first step is to embrace the offseason and be transparent about it with any offers you present to customers. That is, most savvy consumers will already be primed to expect, for instance, seaside properties or ski resorts to be relatively quiet during their respective off-seasons. However, these same consumers may not immediately recognize that this nadir of occupancy means incredible savings for them and interrupted access to all the hotel amenities and facilities because of the lack of crowd.Advertise incredible deals is not enough, though, especially if these loss leader rates are going to cut into your margins. There has to be a hook. During peak season, this comes easy - it's the beach, that perfectly manicured golf course or hitting the freshly powdered slopes. But when those physical draws are inaccessible, you have to rely on 'softer' promotions, boosting ancillary features and giving them extra attention so that they can help sell. No matter what discount you offer, if there isn't an attraction - something entertaining for guests to do while onsite - then you won't sell many rooms.Food and beverage programs are always a good way to garner attention because no matter the weather outside, people have to eat! This is doubly true now that the foodies and locavore movement have become widespread with many people always on the lookout for innovative and unique culinary expressions. If you know that you will be experiencing some downtime in occupancy within the next year, you can plan a large-scale food event set over the course of a few days or even with some repetition to accommodate multiple groups. Beyond such extravaganzas, wielding F&B to generate interest in the offseason can also mean subtler tactics like weekly specials, vendor sponsorships, extended happy hours or low key tasting events.The next lowest hanging fruit is to target your past guests or your loyalty program members. After all, these are consumers who are already primed to receive your messages and will thus be more receptive to take you up on a special promotion or exclusive discount, even if it is for a less desirable period. Reward redemptions can work even better, though, when combined with, again, some form of entertainment. Just because they're loyal doesn't mean they won't allow want something to make their experience memorable. Moreover, if you offer them just a heavily discounted room and nothing else, then it may be rejected or, worse, turn them off completely because they won't perceive any value from long-term loyalty.Thirdly, and bridging the gap between leisure and business, look for ways to draw in groups during your offseason. To do this, you'll need a good sales team but also a solid activities program to occupy a corporate retreat or any other crowd in between sessions and meals. After all, when it comes to meetings and conferences, most hotels already have the basics covered insofar as good audio-video support, configurable rooms and acceptable F&B, so how are you going to convince an event planner to select your property over the competition? The answer is in what entertainment you offer that is unique to your particular location and what you do to neatly package these experiences.Fourth and finally, look to boomers who are currently reaching retirement in droves and with a healthy surplus of funds specifically designated for vacationing now that the work life has subsided. This demographic is far less constrained by when they are able to travel and will be much more receptive to offers that not only promise a good deal but also a unique experience in a less-than-pure-chaos environment afforded to visitors in the off-peak months.Above all, the emphasis is that you start now towards the grand objective of eliminating the offseason entirely. If you are already planning the packaging, events and seasonal promotions for 2018, then you should be able to create and hone specific programs that will ensure that all downtimes are reduced or not eliminated altogether.(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in HOTELS Magazine on March 31, 2017)
LMA Communications Inc. 3 April 2017
With daylight savings flipping our clocks an hour forward on the 12th and with the sun crossing the equator this past weekend during the March equinox, we are now officially into spring. This stretch of time can be quite variable for the books so it is deserving of particular attention so that you can set a precedent for recurrent stability and healthy occupancy.While corporate and groups are perennially strong during this time with the zenith of group activity coming only after the schools have resumed the tail end of their semesters, the season can be meddlesome for the leisure front excluding any spring break family or college student getaways. Still, though, there is much that can be done to drum up sales between now and Memorial Day which traditionally marks the beginning of summer and the peak travel period.First off, there aren't many 'rallying points' during this stretch - that is, landmark holidays by which to anchor a package or promotion. The top three that come to mind are the Easter Weekend (Friday, April 14th to Monday, April 17th), Cinco de Mayo (Friday, Map 5th) and Mother's Day (Sunday, May 14th). In other words, slim pickings. Taking a glass-half-full approach, however, this dearth of festivities and natural vacationing tentpoles simply means that you have to get creative.Before listing off some ideas, the preliminary exercise you must do is to figure out who your customers are and what would entice them to splurge on a weekend getaway, stay at your property midweek or at the very least attend an event. In a very general sense, spring marks a renewed sense of adventurism and appreciation for the outdoors, and this is the energy that your marketing must capitalize upon.Whereas winter represents a dichotomy between brisk activities out in the snow (in the West, Heartland, and Northeast) and relaxing in the warmth of a cozy indoor location, spring can be flexible. It's a season when certain vigorous outdoor pastimes are ideal - the ones that are hindered by the presence of both the frigid colds and the sweltering summer heat. Without stretching the mind too far, think bike rides, hiking trails, birdwatching or outdoor aerobics classes. Playing upon nature's reinvigorated growth during these weeks, your hotel might also organize wild berry picking excursions or mycology tours.These are all great ideas, but they only work for rural resorts. This mindset of renewal, however, can be adapted for an urban hotel or any property under the sun for that matter. Consider hosting classes, be they culinary ones focusing on ingredients that can be grown locally, indoor mind and body workouts like yoga or Pilates, arts and crafts like painting, pottery, flower arrangements or birdhouse making, or garden starting classes. The theme throughout should be one of enriching people's lives with something inspirational and highly seasonal.Building off of the cooking class suggestion, food and beverage is a banner for which you undoubtedly have yet to reach your full potential. Great for cementing bonds with regional suppliers, consider hosting a small farmer's market with under a dozen vendors. Although yours probably won't offer much in the ways of fresh fruits and vegetables due to logistical concerns, preserves like jams, syrups, baked goods, chocolates, candies or cosmetics. Along these lines, a fantastic nighttime or midday weekend event would be a spring harvest festival with live music, delicious food and fun for the whole family.The point here is that there are many ways for you to generate a few extra dollars during this steady-but-not-great few weeks of the year. What's essential is to decide upon one or two that will help your hotel stand apart from the competition and that are unique to your particular location. Don't overstretch yourself or the offers that you present to your guests. Then, give it all of your attention so that you can implement it quickly without any compromise on quality.(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in HotelsMag on Tuesday, March 21, 2017)
LMA Communications Inc. 15 March 2017
When it comes to technology, hotels are often seen as laggards to adoption, but I don't see this as the case. Quite the opposite in fact, with our resources and the diverse range of operations, the next nine months of 2017 should prove to be exciting times for new hardware and software installations, but only if you have vision. To help you stay on the forefront of what's available to help grow your business, here are five industry trends as well as a few companies that I consider to be game-changers for the remainder of the calendar year.1. Energy efficiency everywhere. Whether or not you are a proponent of climate change is besides the point that adopting cleaner, more efficient electronics and equipment can save your property upwards of millions of dollars on your annual energy and utilities bill. To highlight that third word in the first sentence, energy savings are no longer the solely the domain of fringe appliances or incompatible devices. Just about every operation can be more efficiently managed - to name three, laundry units that more effectively recycle water, new OLED TVs that cut down on power usage or smarter thermostats that better regulate room temperatures. There are also guest-facing savings programs like towel reuse, keycard-activated lighting and carbon offset donations, all of which help to some degree and, more importantly, help people become accustomed to this new normal.2. Further proliferation of smart televisions. It used to be that your TV was designed for the sole purpose of entertainment via the delivery of movies or cable channels. Now, however, they have more in common with computers as they can handle all the mandatory viewing experience channels from broadband to streaming services (and all without the need for an external box) in addition to integrating with other room devices such as the blinds, lighting or that shiny new smart thermostat. That's just the start, though, as now these smart TVs are moving beyond the guestroom with a myriad of uses in public spaces such as replacing signage, acting as in-elevator touchpads or even serving as lobby wall art. One of the most fascinating applications came from a demonstration by Samsung whereby they replaced a bathroom mirror with a device that let you comb your hair while you also checked the weather forecast and swiped through your Instagram feed.3. The housekeeping technology revolution is nigh! If there ever was a bona fide slowpoke on the technology adoption front, it would be the housekeeping department - more so than any other, an operation where great social capital is integral to success. Even with companies like Maidbot, Intellibot and Savioke, realistically we are still a couple decades ago from having robots clean our guestrooms instead of living persons. In the interim, though, there are quite a few innovators striving to make your housekeepers better at their jobs through the use of various technologies. There are now numerous software modules that seamlessly integrate with nearly any PMS to more effectively schedule shifts while other providers are focused on accountability and reducing shadowing time such as Lobster Ink with its online learning platform or Novility which combines a live, motion-capture training apparatus with a back-end monitoring system.4. Easily integrated future upgrades. Forced obsolescence will itself soon be obsolete, somewhat at least. Many consumers these days are hesitant to purchase unproven or next gen devices because they fear that they will have to through the entire buying cycle within three years' time because their current slate is already out-of-date. It's a headache that many providers are addressing by only introducing forward-thinking devices and firmware that are adaptable to future innovations so you don't have to constantly blow your capex budget on new electronics. To build upon the previous points, smart TVs now has excellent internal operating system upgrading abilities while most other software tools have migrated to cloud-based systems that only require a browser and no disruptive installations whatsoever.5. An unending democratization of devices. We've seen this throughout the modern era whereby a certain piece of technology starts off at prices too expensive for the average person only for new entrants and economies of scale to bring those prices down to fair market levels. Barring some exponential leap in virtual reality processing ability - that is, solving the display latency problem - there's nothing truly 'game changing' hitting the market in the next six to twelve months insofar as major innovations that will forever impact the ways we interact with the world. Instead, companies are largely focusing their efforts on maturing what's already out there by increasing accessibility to next gen iterative devices and expanding functionality. We're seeing this for smart TVs which have better prices for larger sizes with each passing season alongside more robust integration with other nearby electronics, more advanced internet-based services and interesting new uses beyond their traditional placements in the guestroom. While you might initially think it wise to keep waiting for prices to drop to the commoditized range, this is folly because by the time you are ready to upgrade, everyone else already has and your new tech won't have any emotional impact on guests. In other words, knowing that this democratization is endless, it's your duty as a leader to stay on the forefront by implementing change before the average household or office building has done so.As is the case with many incremental upgrades, it's no longer a matter of what you can do but of what you should do. That is, while it would be great to revamp every crack and crevice with the latest gizmos, you must first address where your core pain points are, and then research what technologies are available to ameliorate your problems. For a final suggestion, make plans to go to HITEC, the tradeshow focused solely on hospitality technology, which for the first time ever has a European show at the end of March followed by the annual June exhibition happening this year in my hometown of Toronto.
LMA Communications Inc. 6 March 2017
Right as the weather in Canada starts to become actually palatable near the end of June, it is time once again for the annual pilgrimage to the best hospitality technology tradeshow in the world. Taking place this year down in sweaty New Orleans, I entered HITEC 2016 (standing for Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference for the neophytes among us) as a man on a mission.A seasoned veteran of the convention, very little fazes me these days. Not to bloviate too much, but after six immersive years of new product launches, flashy booth designs, artfully worded press releases, an onslaught of collateral materials and enough espresso to make a turtle win the 100-meter dash at the Olympics, it all gets a bit blurry. Instead, the Big Easy was an opportunity for me to address the most important issues facing the hotel industry with the people best poised to make change.There's not a doubt in my mind that technology will save your property from any problem it currently faces. But only if it is deployed strategically and used wisely.The vendors at HITEC can be counted as some of the smartest people in the business, and each company presented some highly creative yet straightforward ways to enhance the guest experience, streamline operations, optimize revenues or all of the above. Tackling every exhibitor, though, would be too audacious for a single report. The show is just that large now. So, this year I focused on the top dogs - the property management system (PMS) exhibitors - to see how they were planning to lead us towards greener pasture.As if I had a seat at the head table for some sprawling corporate meeting or wedding reception, I was honored to sit down with senior executives from Agilysys, Infor, Maestro, Oracle MICROS and Springer-Miller. If HITEC is a room full of brains, then these folks are the prefrontal cortex. My mission was to deduce how each individual was going to help with the high commissions and dilutive branding of the OTAs, the proliferation of alternate lodging websites such as Airbnb, and the vast evolution in travel behavior with millennials at the vanguard. Compiling my notes from all interviews, the following were the most salient topics broached.Know Thy PMSWhereas I may be a tad hellfire and brimstone in my prognostications, each of these executives calmly and diligently answered my questions and presented clear solutions for how their respective firms can guide hotels through this turbulent period. First and foremost, managers must make a constant and diligent effort to thoroughly learn all the functions of their PMS.This was a shared belief amongst all the software gurus, and even though I'm wise enough to see through any tooting of one's own horn, the point is nonetheless valid. Every major PMS is a mature product, which means its core functions are stable and robust. Moreover, with each passing year and software iteration, new features are tested and added. Most of these are built to aid hotel executives in making sense of all the granular data - how are people finding your property, what channel are they booking in, where are corporate groups coming from, what does the revenue forecast look like, what are the margins on each channel, are labor expenses being managed efficiently, how do we capture more ancillary revenues from onsite guests, and so on.Any question you might have, your PMS should be the first place to look for the answer. Aside from the issue of a manager's aptitude with the software - which can be ameliorated through continual retraining, monthly webinars or attending users' conferences hosted gratis by each provider - integration must next be tackled. As the PMS is the heart of any hotel's technological arrangement, you can increase vascularity by ensuring that all other systems feed data into this central repository.After all, the business intelligence capabilities of any system are only as powerful as the quality and quantity of information that feed into it. If a peripheral piece of software doesn't push data to the PMS, the justification for its sustained usage better be good. As Bernard Ellis, Vice President of Hospitality Industry Strategy at Infor, demonstrated, via the generation of customized financial reports, a PMS can now precisely account for how much each revenue stream costs by factoring in all booking commissions as well as service and labor charges, and all on a single page that's easy to digest for harried managers. From there, you can analyze the opportunity cost of shifting laterally to focus on a different market segment and what the binary threshold is for when that changeover becomes fiscally prudent.Such examinations will help with other top decisions such as whether you are allotting too much inventory to the OTAs or if your marketing efforts to a certain target audience are actually effective, all done internally and without any necessary comparisons to the competitive set. Additionally, with regard to changing traveler behavior, every PMS has diagnostic tools to show year-over-year evaluations of all business by demographic so that you can pivot to meet any future trend.Lastly, if you are ever feeling overwhelmed by the purported omniscience of your PMS, pick up the phone and call your rep. Every provider has upped its customer service game. They are more than willing to give informed counsel on how to maximize your usage of the software or even assist with a specific business situation.Guest Profiles Are The FutureAnother compelling reason for total integration through the PMS is that this will merge all customer profile data and guest preferences into one dossier. While we pride ourselves on the human aspects of the hospitality, the future of our industry will increasingly rely on digital ones and zeros, as amassing and acting upon that guest data will help your hotel with all three of the abovementioned problems.Otherwise known as customer relationship management (CRM), these systems are the biggest advantage of any property, as noted by Ray Carlin, Vice President of Hospitality Strategy and Solutions Management at Oracle MICROS. While the first two years of the MICROS acquisition were focused on developing seamless product integration, the company is now at an inflection point as it figures out how best to harness Oracle's omnipotence.Mr. Carlin explained the OTAs will never be able to get as granular with their customer profile data as a hotel can because they simply aren't onsite. They won't be able to customize the guest experience by preselecting his or her favored bed type and room temperature, or to go fully microscopic, by preparing a welcome tray with one fruit that the guest loves most. Folding amenities like spa into the PMS will tell you what treatments a customer prefers so you can leverage that information for highly specific promotion offers targeting return guests. Other POS terminal incorporations, particularly F&B, can also be used to tell you if a guest likes craft beer or is a boring old Budweiser sort of guy (or is abstemious and won't take kindly to your happy hour e-blast).The possibilities are endless, but only if you have the data. The more you can track guest preferences, the better you can tailor the onsite experience in order to build advocacy and capture as much revenue as possible.In this sense, optimizing your CRM is a necessary step in modernizing your loyalty program because you can customize the perks to give faithful guests exactly what they want. Michael McCarthy, President & CEO of Springer-Miller, put it best, "Mercenaries will always sell to the highest bidder, but soldiers can only a part of one army." Right now, the average traveler is a member of multiple loyalty programs. They don't endorse any one brand in particular nor do they care to learn about what makes each product exceptional. Joining a loyalty program is purely transactional. But this trend can be effectively reserved if we incentivize guests based upon what they've already told us about them.Not only can a pervasive CRM help level the playing field between large hotels and independents, but it is also your best defense against Airbnb and the overly picky demands of millennials. Hospitality is a service industry, and what better way to serve your guests than by giving them exactly what they want? Alternate lodging providers are able to provide consumers with a unique room and atmosphere, but they will never be able to match us when it comes to service delivery.Take heed, though, while actualizing guest profile data is today a value-add, millennials are a smart bunch and as they become more accustomed to travel this will soon transition into an expectation. In other words, hop on the bandwagon, and do so before it leaves town for good.The Mobile Of ThingsAnother vital activity that all the major PMS companies have completed behind the scenes over the past few years is to migrate their system to the cloud. Not an easy feat in the slightest, this grand movement has helped to unify the many disparate and fragmented onsite tech installations to allow for real-time guest tracking and a more refined 'service as a service' model of automatic update deployments that are immediately available to all legacy clients.The next phase, however, revolves less around technological upgrades and requires more a mental shift. When we first clued in to the true power of the internet to record human behavior on an unprecedented scale, we called it Big Date because we expected the inferences to be earth-shatteringly big. Then when we discovered that most of these findings told us things we already knew about ourselves - that we are selfish, shortsighted and exceedingly lazy - we politely renamed it 'The Internet of Things' in some vain global PR stunt.As smartphones continue to usurp laptops and desktops as the primary user device, it is time once more to reframe this as 'The Mobile of Things' so that we can properly comprehend what's needed to become a mobile-first industry that's in touch with where the mindsets of consumers are headed. As the eternally quotable Mr. McCarthy elaborated, "Mobile will only really arrive when we stop talking about mobile." Tossing this through the Mogelonsky translator, shut up and make mobile a reality because your guests are already one step ahead!Despite all the hullaballoo, there's light at the end of the tunnel. Dr. Peter Agel, Global Segment Leader for Hotels at Oracle MICROS, introduced me to one of the first applications of this - the Hotel Mobile app which allows frontline staffers to update such back-of-house operations like housekeeping and maintenance information as well as check-in and checkout directly from their phones or tablets. It won't let a senior executive control all top-level functions like revenue management from his or her mobile device, but it's a huge step in the right direction. Even in its current iteration, Oracle's Hotel Mobile can be a game changer in terms of operational efficiency and enhancing guest satisfaction.With every other major PMS following suit with their own native apps, the onus will soon fall on the everyday hotelier to curb the perception of mobile as secondary by deploying these wireless upgrades and encouraging all associates to maximize their usage. Picture a hotel without a physical front desk or any hardwired POS stations. Imagine a property where an app on your phone checks you in an hour before you are onsite, sets the guestroom environment to your liking and coordinates with the F&B team to have a bottle of Dom Perignon chilled and popped for the moment you open the door.Mobile wallets, near field communication keycards, location analytics heat mapping - this is where hospitality is headed. It's only a matter of time and whether you are nimble enough to wield mobile-first to your advantage.Reward Tech FluencyReiterating the previous point about zipping your mouth and getting your hands dirty with what your software is capable of, no more the tool it all boils down to people. The tech world is so vastly complex nowadays that no single manager has the time to keep track of it all. Instead, it is the responsibility of everyone to constantly refresh their knowledge in this area.Mr. Ellis framed it rather eloquently. The millennials have grown up in a world of constant electronic change, so much so that they are thoroughly accustomed to it. The hotels that will survive are those that adopt a similar mindset, and it all starts with the people who are in charge.With technology taking over nearly every aspect of our industry, it is becoming abundantly clear that we hoteliers no longer have the software wherewithal necessary for effective decision-making. To fix this, we must start promoting those individuals who are fluent in IT to senior roles as well as develop incentive programs for current team members to modernize their skillsets. Understanding technology is a primary trait of all future executives, not only to make processes every efficient and cost effective but also to discover new growth opportunities.My closing notion for you is to kick off this process by reaching out to your PMS and asking what else they can do to help grow your business. Finally, be sure to attend HITEC 2017 taking place in Toronto next June, it's first time on Canadian soil.(Article published by Larry Mogelonsky in Today's Hotelier on November 1, 2016)
LMA Communications Inc. 18 January 2017
Five hundred years from now when historians look back at the early modern era, they'll likely identify the advent of the screen-based technologies - that is, the still camera, the motion picture projector, the cathode ray tube and so on - as one of the most important discoveries right alongside the transistor, nuclear power and the theory of relativity.Understanding how humans lived prior to these inventions helps gives us some perspective. A friend of mine used to glibly remark, "A fire is nothing more than a caveman's TV," as we huddled together around a blazing pit late at night while up at the cottage. He couldn't be more right. Prior to the mass adoption of home television sets, the fireplace was the centerpiece of a room, and before that innovation (yes, even the chimney wasn't a household commodity until the Renaissance), most families used to sleep together in a central hall around an open flame.In little over a century since theater patrons dove from their seats while watching a steam engine plow directly into the screen as part of a scene from the Great Train Robbery, televisions and all other manner of screens have come to dominate the spaces we inhabit. Nowadays, I dare you to find me a living room without a large flat screen dominating the space. Moreover, it's become somewhat of a luxury to have an auxiliary 'sitting room' in your house as a social place that does NOT have a television. Compound that with millennials' irresistible urge to check their smartphones every five seconds and the message is clear. Screens dominate our lives and, except for some Buddhist monk in Tibet, we are all but dependent on them.So where do we go from here? And more to the point for the harried hotelier, how does this impact your property and your livelihood?I'm going to leave the content and marketing side of this answer for another article, and for now only comment on some of the physical and technological advancements that you can capitalize upon to revolutionize the onsite guest experience.My imagination was opened up to the vast possibilities for screen technology beyond mere outlets for your favorite movies and episodic programming while attending the HITEC 2016 tradeshow down in New Orleans as well as ogling all the latest unveiling at the more recent CES 2017 in Las Vegas. After having a chaperoned tour of the Samsung booth (and to a lesser extent, the LG booth, the other major hotel screen supplier), it was easy to get a better glimpse of what the future of screens looks like.While the screens themselves are getting bigger, brighter and sharper, one the most practically improvements is that they are becoming exceedingly interactive. Via 'casting' integration, your mobile devices are able to sync with a larger monitor so that your smartphone not only acts as the universal remote but also so your personal preferences can be uploaded.This comes in very handy for such minutia as not having to plug in your Netflix account credentials while in traveling. Importantly, though, it can lead to greater CRM applications such as remembering room services favorites or housekeeping preferences so that the guest experience can be fully customized, stored and further modified all through the guestroom's television set. Additionally, the newest thermostats are now capable of talking to smart TVs which means that you can set your chosen climate controls without ever touching the actual wall-mounted sensor and then adjust conditions remotely via your mobile. Throw in the fact that many flat screens now have touch features and it's easy to see how the television's role as the centerpiece of a living space will only grow in the coming years.To understand the next clear and present application of modern and future screen technology, you have to think outside of the living room and beyond what fits in the palm of your hand. That is, you must think spatially and not just in terms of newer electronics will slightly better or thinner screens and a billion rich colors instead of the previous model which only has a hundred million.After all, most of these incremental upgrades are hyped up the nth degree by corporate marketing teams while only providing logarithmically curved utility to the purchaser or your guests. Right now, 4K Ultra HD is all the rage, but once sales for those models plateau, undoubtedly the tech conglomerates will unveil 8K Ultimate HD. This pattern will eventually echo that of Marvel Comics which has already run the gamut of superlative adjectives as it has relaunched its main superhero lineup every two years using names like incredible, amazing, superior, uncanny and 'all new, all different'. Coming soon in 2025, 16K Astonishing HD with a trillion pixels!Instead, imagine every flat surface you encounter throughout the day and then picture those surfaces as thin TVs. Smart touchscreens will replace your bathroom mirrors so you can read this morning's headlines while flossing. Lightweight, small, durable LCD (or LED) panels will be built onto walls in every shape possible whereby all the individual panels act in concert to display one seamless graphic or an endless procession of images, effectively replacing static wall art. Those same panels will also be punched in as floor tiles to do everything from show advertisements, run a stock market ticker or give off the appearance of walking on neon water. Or to get a bit of breathing room between one and the next couple dining at a fancy seafood restaurant, instead of building a physical divider out of wood and drywall, just install a freestanding, two-sided screen with a preprogrammed fish tank screensaver.And then when there are no walls left, obelisks or cylindrical kiosks will be erected in the middle of rooms with each surface covered by a high resolution screen. All this sounds a bit space age, but based on my tour of the Samsung booth at HITEC as well as what's coming out of the Consumer Electronics Show, I can tell you that these are already possible.Knowing that this is all within your grasp, the real question now is what can you afford? That is, given the wire-thin margins on your budget, which futuristic screen installation would have the greatest impact towards boosting the onsite guest experience?As each hotel is different, I cannot say for certain what will work best at your property. But I do know that while so much attention is being given to the next big thing - integrating mobile to improve bookings and operations - perhaps you should also give some thought to the next-next big thing which will involve using screens in unconventional ways. Well, unconventional for the time being, but soon to be the norm, so best get on the bandwagon while the cart is still being built.
LMA Communications Inc. 18 November 2016
Renovations on our 35-year-old home pose a never-ending battle of dust and noise. As the carpenters, electricians and plumbers scurried about during the most recent project, I noticed a remarkable corollary to our industry.Each tradesman's tool belt was uniquely customized to fit the job at hand. While the hammer was a centerpiece of the carpenter's girdle, it was nowhere to be found on the plumber's frame or the electrician's where the respective hallmarks were the pipe wrench and an assortment of pliers. Yes, we all know about specialization of labor and its impacts on hospitality - the revenue manager has a specific skill set completely different from that of the rooms divisions manager, for example, while both act in concert to keep the hotel's revenues afloat.But we seldom make the connection in terms of a specialization of technology where, like a carpenter's hammer, each device or piece of software has a predefined range of functionality. Even though you wouldn't hire a plumber to do an electrician's job because he or she lacks the proper tools and expertise, the overarching goal of any laborer is to make the house work. As the home owner or contractor, it's your job to wrangle all these disparate parts.Similarly, as a hotelier, you need to act as the project manager. Each piece of technology has a specific tool belt for very well-defined tasks that it can handle in order to optimize your business. While you don't necessary need to know the nitty gritty of how each part does exactly what it does, you must certainly know which piece is best suited for the job at hand. Just as you wouldn't want to hire a landscaper to fix your locks, you should aim to have a cursory understanding of the many technology resources available to your property so that you can make informed decisions as to how to allocate your budget accordingly.I bring this now because, as I'm writing this, I've just gone over my notes from my visit earlier this year to the largest hospitality technology tradeshow in the world - HITEC. Held annually in late June, this convention is a literal celebration of technology, providing hoteliers with a gourmet smorgasbord of the latest high-tech tools designed to up your game, including the global mega-conglomerates like Oracle and Samsung to the first-timer startups occupying quaint ten-by-ten booths on the periphery of the convention floor.For those with a hunger for gadgets and gizmos, there are enough grand ideas here to fill anyone's stomach. Everything is for sale, and there's quite a bit I'd recommend buying. Moreover, this show brings together some of the smartest minds in the industry, and collectively they can help you solve any problem at hand.Technology will save our industry, even if it's carried out one hotel at a time. Coming off my tradeshow euphoria, I'd like to offer you an overview of not only what I saw at HITEC but also a practical guide on how to assess each piece of technology and give you a basic understanding of many company's offerings in the process.It All Starts with Your PMSThink of your PMS (property management system) as the hub of your property's technology tool belt. While at HITEC, I spoke with senior officers at Agilysys, Oracle, Infor, Amadeus, Maestro and Springer-Miller, easily representing most of the North American hotel installed base. Brilliantly conceived and expertly managed, all of these systems not only provide a foundation for the management of your rooms' inventory, but offer tremendous interconnectivity with other property operational systems.The foremost duty of a PMS is to integrate and streamline all revenue streams, not necessarily to manage them. A modern PMS helps hotels automate complex data sources, forecast all revenue types by market segment and predict future interactions so that you can make the better decisions. And ultimately, these systems are now designed to help the senior executive team make the best possible choices for the rest of their businesses.The sad fact, though, is that most property operators have barely tapped the surface of what their own systems are capable of. For example, PMS data automation can now anticipate customers exploiting the cancel-rebook loophole in search of lower price tags. Additionally, payroll management subroutines can highlight fruitful streams that are in fact underperforming when staff costs are recognized.By most estimates, the average PMS has under 10% total utilization, and there is a vast swath of features that managers would benefit from learning more about. Many of the modules designed to optimize various aspects of your operations are either already incorporated within the system you currently own or are in the development pipeline. So, before you whimsically surmise that you need a new system, talk it over with your PMS rep in order to discover of else they can help you fully utilize the software. Moreover, shopping for a new PMS is not something you want to undertake lightly, as conversion can be an excruciating, labor-intensive affair. It's a nightmare, really, and there's also a chance of lost guest profile data.Linking to your PMS are a number of revenue, forecasting and channel management tools, all helping augment each department's profitability. This is a rapidly growing field with many entrants which makes it hard to pick a clear best of show. Functionality sets differ, so your choice will be based upon your property type and business style. Among the ones that should be on your review list are Rainmaker, Duetto, TravelClick360 and Siteminder.From the PMS to Your GuestWhereas the PMS is your inventory backbone, what matters to your guest is your website and that all-critical booking interface. Your customer doesn't see the PMS and will never interact with it directly. Instead of looking at tables and reams of data, they want simplicity, imagery and fluidity in how they are guided through the electronic experience.Technology in this regard has seen tremendous improvements, as the UX (user experience) has been at the forefront of all B2C software design. Given how tech savvy the average traveler is nowadays, if your website doesn't wow a potential guest will powerful visuals, fast page load speed, a pleasing layout and interactivity, he or she will go somewhere. Most importantly, you have to think mobile, as this mode has crossed the 50% threshold of bookings and an even higher proportion of travel-related searches.If your property is branded, with a web presence limited to a corporate site, spend a few minutes to review your pages from both an iPhone and Android as this replicates what your prospective guests will first encounter. Make any necessary alterations to the web text and photos - which will be in your control and not bogarted by your corporate overlords - to effectively communicate your value proposition as best you can. Think keywords; think telling a succinct story; think giving customers the most pertinent information as quickly as possible.For independents as well as properties where the brand authorizes vanity sites, there is a plethora of terrific tools available to enhance your presence. For starters, do a competitive analysis to see how your website stacks up with the competitive from a UX point of view. Does your website fit a modern design with seamless animation, striking photography and everything accessible from the homepage? In more ways than one, websites are like cars; an old clunker can still get you from Point A to Point B, but it won't be turning heads on the street nor will any of your friends feel safe going for a ride. As a rule of thumb, if your website is over five years old, it's definitely time for a change.If you can't afford a complete redo of your online presence, there are quite a few 'bolt on' solutions to help you deliver a satisfying online experience. One new software enhancement that should be on your radar is Crowdriff, a service that loads photography from social media social media directly onto your site. The net result is a cornucopia of authentic imagery of real people doing real things. This not only adds value to your site, but also provides a meaningful context to what the prospective guest will experience. In terms of online booking engines, most independent properties are free to choose their own interfaces, creating a burden to ensure you choose a functional, secure version while also affording you the opportunity to further differentiate your branding. Looking at the most cost effective, companies such as b4CheckIn provide the latest in good UX coupled with a host of further guest-related enhancements.Learning about how guests feel about your property is now a function of social media aggregate software platforms that integrate your entire digital presence from Facebook and Twitter to TripAdvisor and Yelp onto one dashboard for real-time management. These tools are now essential to have on your belt as they will give you invaluable insights as to what your guests emotionally value and if there are any easy opportunities for improvement. Keeping track of your channels any other way is no longer possible given the tight allocation of resources to this aspect of operations.Services such as Revinate not only capture every review, but continuously monitor and note changes. You can also compare your scores versus that of your key competitors and develop performance benchmarks. Thinking more in terms of proactive and less reactive, platforms such as Kaptivating work to actually identify potential guests - or 'in market' travelers as they are now called - through their social media tweets, allowing you to introduce your property early on in the research process.Back of HouseJust as you utilize programs to maximize revenue in terms of occupancy and revenue, there are numerous technology tools available to boost your team's productivity. Ensuring productivity means getting the most out of your employees in addition to heightening accountability and finding those eager staffers to be earmarked for promotion.Consider housekeeping - labor intensive yet critical for ensuring your guests' satisfaction. Just look at any hotel's TripAdvisor page to confirm this. Consider programs like Knowcross that allow you to optimize your housekeeping efforts, not only by improving productivity, but also by augmenting the overall quality of the team's work via granular management of supplies and time. Furthermore, housekeeping is your most injury-prone department. Keeping your custodians healthy can be optimized by new training programs like Novility which start by offering many of the proper accountability and tracking tools, and then directly enhance housekeeper performance through motion sensor guided training programs.Secondly, maintenance is vital. Caught in time, small repairs can be undertaken quickly and cost effectively to prevent out-of-order inventory or guest-identified issues. But how do you get the information to your engineering team so that they can react in real-time? Consider a product like HotSOS that helps your cleaning staff immediately record anything they see that is out of order and electronically transmit this information to the switchboard. With this mature and many others already in the 'mature' phase, there is no reason for you not to have a rapid response internal communications tool so that pesky problems never become obstacles to guest satisfaction.ConclusionFor every supplier or vendor, there are many competitors, so this list is in no way complete. I have not even mentioned the wide variety of bespoke guest mobile apps, contemporary food and beverage delivery programs or specialized tools for golf, spa and even parking.The best way to start is to define your needs or objectives, then establish parameters to evaluate return on investments. You will find that some tools are used more often will become essential for your belt, while others merely look good but offer limited or narrowcast benefits.Importantly, though, there has never been a better time to start shopping for additions to your hospitality tool belt. If you have a pain point, there is definitely a technology solution out there. And lastly, be sure to mark your calendar and attend next year's HITEC, set for late June 2017 in my hometown of Toronto.(Article published by Larry Mogelonsky in Today's Hotelier on October 3, 2016)
LMA Communications Inc. 22 August 2016
I'm fascinated by the sounds of a hotel or, should I say, the distinct lack of sound.But before I delve into this topic, here is a quick basic primer. Sound travels in waves and you can't see them. The amplitude of a sound wave is a measurement of how forceful the sound wave is. This measurement is expressed in decibels, or dB of sound pressure. A decibel meter allows you to measure just what level of sound exists in any environment.We all hear (pun intended) about extremely loud noises and the dangers of prolonged exposure to such cacophony. In fact, there are maximums to the acceptable environmental standards for worker exposure to sound. It is important for hoteliers to understand this for back-of-house locations such as the laundry, kitchen, machine shops and boiler/furnace rooms.The following chart gives you a standard scale of sound levels. The amount of sound energy doubles every three dB, so moving up the scale by ten dB is roughly a tripling of total sound energy.Whereas we all share safety concerns at the higher levels of the sound scale, my interest, is at the lower end of the spectrum, namely the 'sound of silence'. Your guests whose home is a midtown Manhattan brownstone may tolerate a higher level of background noise in their guestroom than a guest from Alaska. The simple fact is that everyone appreciates a quiet bedroom.Moreover, it's not just the 'base' level of sound that your guests experience. Our minds have an awake-alert system programmed to detect changes in sound levels. Outside street noise is always an issue, but the biggest culprit is self-induced by the property. A reasonably quiet room punctuated by a single 'cycle on-off' of a mini-bar fridge compressor can be highly disturbing to a night's sleep. Traditional window-side HVAC units found in some mid-range properties are also disgusting noise hogs. Newer units are markedly improved, but I've still had to shut them off completely and suffer the hot or freezing consequences for the sake of getting my REMs.A free mobile app, dB Meter Pro, allows any member of your team to quickly grasp the sound levels on property. For the past year, I've been measuring the sound level of guestrooms, specifically the sound of the bed pillow at night. Remember that sound levels vary by distance. So the location of the pillow relative to any noise source is a major consideration.There are a wide number of noisy interlopers that will disturb your guest's blissful night's stay. Wall mount AC units, traffic noise, bar fridges and mini-bar compressors, street noise (police sirens are unavoidable), trash compactors, night-time garbage collection, connector doors between rooms, plumbing, gas-powered gardening equipment, corridor elevators and even distant train whistles all contribute to this 'symphony of sounds' that a guest may experience while at your property.The previous chart defined a quiet bedroom at 30 dB. This is all fine and good for a theoretical chart, but my data on hotel guestrooms reveals a much wider range. To me, quiet equates with luxury, and the quieter the better. My own results measured across a sample of 50 properties suggest a direct correlation between hotel quality and ambient sound level.Setting the record for the quietest guestroom I've experienced is ARIA Sky Suites with a 32 dB 'pillow' measurement. Logically, suites tend to be quieter as the bedroom is located further away from the corridor. On the opposite end of spectrum, my meter recorded a supposedly 'quiet night time' at an older Holiday Inn property at 57 dB. Needless to say, I did not get a very good night's sleep at this accommodation. And just in case you think that an airport hotel means noisy accommodations, the Novotel Airport Hotel in Auckland registered a low 36 dB during my stopover there.As an interesting sidebar, there is no AHLA standard for guestroom sound levels. It's purely at the whim of management to consider this factor in the design.Some of your guests are deeper sleepers than others and will quite literally sleep through a jet landing nearby. Still others are plagued by a snoring partner (as my wife will testify when I have a bit of a cold), rendering any sleep all but impossible.So, what can you do, apart from poking the snoring offender? First, download the free mobile app and take some recordings. Appreciate and recognize your guest's need for quiet. If you are concerned, hire a sound engineer to explore ways to reduce the sound level in your guestrooms. This is critical if you are in the process of renovating. And remember, when it comes to sound, less is more.
LMA Communications Inc. 1 August 2016
A recent stay at a big brand's 'core' product reinforced a key flaw that ails many properties around the world.The property in question was located in the heart of a major city close to the convention center. The non-descript hotel edifice had easy street access with a standard yet intuitive front desk, elevator and signature restaurant layout within the lobby. Door and front desk staff were both courteous and personable.The guestrooms were likewise typical in their design, carved out of the directory of some long-passed interior decorator's dream of ergonomic living. The idea here is that based upon years of road warrior travel and clad in total darkness, any businessperson could easily navigate his or her way from the front door to the desk, bathroom or bed.On the same note, everything in the room worked correctly - no housekeeping or maintenance shortcomings, a 42" LED TV dominating the dresser storage unit, a few sheets of bedside memo paper, and the singular millennial upgrade of USB ports in the alarm clock. As for the bathroom, there was no separate tub and shower. A single sink dominated the bathroom's large laminated countertop with towels stacked properly and amenities standing at the ready in their little plastic holder-base.Looking around, it occurred to me that there was absolutely nothing wrong with this hotel. But then it hit me; there was also nothing to differentiate this property from the comp set or to align it with any brand in particular. Was it a Hilton, a Marriott or a Best Western? Unless you actually knew the respective color schemes or paid attention to the TV welcome advertisements, you would have no way of knowing.So, why does this trouble me? After all, this product would have scored very highly in any property rating system and has decent TripAdvisor scores. Troubling me is that if our industry is going to pull itself out its current macro-stagnation, we're going to have to do a lot better job at how we present ourselves to our customers.Average is no longer good enough and the middle of the road appeals to no single driver in the left or right lanes. A hotel can be flawless and indeed most branded operations manuals will tell you how to ensure just that. But if you aren't taking chances with your decor, in-room technology and amenities, then you won't emotionally impact a guest. Apathy will rule the day, and this state of mind means little in terms of memory retention. In other words, if there's nothing poignant to differentiate you from your comp set, guests will stay at your competitors.For the hotel chains, getting excited about some new fringe lifestyle sub-brand is fine in the moment, but more energy must be given to distinguishing the core product which happens to be a hundred times the size of said new brands.Examine the aggregate number of rooms by sub-brand in any chain portfolio and you'll see what I mean. It is obviously 'sexier' for hotel managers to work on one of the new products. But the managers that take the time to fix the core product will be the real heroes of our time.Take a cue from General Motors. They fixed Cadillac and the share price barely budged. Now they're on to Chevy, and with it, results are bound to be even more impressive for the shareholders because that's a more less niche product.While this may seem to fall on deaf ears as moving a major hotel chain in the direction of bolder pastures requires a thousand minds to align, your singular voice can still make a difference. Look towards making small and incremental upgrades on a property-by-property basis which draw upon whatever has inspired you in the past.The USB ports in the alarm clock are a good first step to appease the smartphone-addicted travelers among us. But alas, it is one step. What other in-room tech upgrades can you implement over the next two years? Think smart TVs with built-in climate controls, remote-controlled drapes, multi-colored lamps to adjust for different times of day or even bathroom motion sensors. As for imbuing a charged sense of place, how about floral arrangements in the lobby or purchasing some impressive wall artwork from local painters?Boldness and differentiation is built upon ideas as well as the execution of those ideas. Start small, and then see what happens!(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published by Hotel Interactive on July 12, 2016).
LMA Communications Inc. 27 July 2016
This is something I find myself saying almost every day now. Senior hotel managers must understand technology or they're dead! And for good reason, technology will save your property if you are smart about it.And so, this brings us to late June in New Orleans, Louisiana for HITEC 2016 to learn about the latest and greatest in hospitality technology. While the evenings would find my stomach hungering for crayfish remoulade and Cajun-spiced gumbo, my two days at the eponymous tradeshow were a flurry of amazing new devices and software that can help hotels solve their business needs.Unlike previous years where I came in with fresh eyes, this time I attacked HITEC with a singular purpose. I wanted to know specifically how each product or company would help alleviate problems associated with OTA dependency and the proliferation of alternate lodging providers. Several dozen interviews later, I am eager to share six companies with you that I see as viable candidates for helping you drive online direct bookings and improving the onsite guest experience.To inject a little fun, I've organized these in an awards show presentation. And please keep in mind that these are the six that piqued my interest, although there are lessons to be learned from every single exhibitor. The vendors at HITEC really are the smartest people in the room, and I would encourage you to attend next year in my hometown of Toronto.Best First Timer: CrowdRiffNew to the show and with unmistakable innocence on their faces, the company's founders were nevertheless in fine form as they debuted their intriguing platform that pulls images from social media and embeds them onto website landing pages. Rather than pay for expensive photoshoots with retouched models and overly staged settings, CrowdRiff lets you tap into any social network to source compelling visual content for your site as well as switch out any of these photos or videos from an intuitive content management system. I'm a big fan of local, authentic experiences, and this platform allows a brand.com to showcase just that.Strange Attractor: NovilityA strange award for an unorthodox usage of technology, this promising Dutch startup uses motion capture to record and retrain housekeepers on proper etiquette and mannerisms to guests heighten efficiency and improve their interactions with. Although they have plans to extend their product to all types of frontline staff, the initial focus is on this critical back-of-house operation. In other words, it's Microsoft Kinect for your housekeeping team, with the added benefit of boosting accountability, reducing hours devoted to direct oversight or training and, above all, augmenting online reviews by making room cleanliness a non-issue.Best Sleeper Product: b4easypost by b4checkinA quaint ten-by-ten booth with a modest spread of brochures and small lizard keepsakes to advertise their premier booking engine platform couldn't hide the fact that this tech startup has developed an industry first for online credit card payments. The b4easypost product is PCI compliant and has already been fully vetted a select group of hotels across the southern states. By helping eliminate manual authorization forms, this software bolt-on will all but eliminate human error during credit card processing while simultaneously heightening security and adding new data points to guest profiles.Environmental Award: EcoSmart by TelkonetWhile the last few years have seen the rise of smart thermostats to augment energy efficiency, the next couple will see the elimination of thermostats altogether. That is, why have a separate wall-mounted device when such functionality can be easily controlled via your television and universal remote control. Not only has Telkonet developed a fluid software interface for a smartscreen near you, but all preferences are also saved and added to that guest's profile, meaning that those exact conditions can be instantly replicated for any future stay and deployed well in advance of the customer's arrival onsite.Most Improved Player: KaptivatingI stumbled across these guys last year with their barebones, last-minute cubicle being manned by the president, CTO and owner. Normally such a paltry effort would only yield a cursory glance, but the product was beyond clever. By using their targeted algorithms, hotels can send real-time offers to potential customers through social media, effectively circumnavigating OTA channels and any inscribed rate parity contracts. Fast forward 12 months and Kaptivating lives up to its namesake, commanding a booth four times the size with impressive displays and a full sales force. I thought the product was genius at Austin in 2015, and indeed by the time I once again rolled by in New Orleans they looked the part and were more than ready to scale.Best in Show: SamsungYes, I went with a juggernaut here, but for good reason. While UltraHD and 4K are still in their infancy on the price and content side, Samsung has moved beyond mere pixel quality upgrades as they now pose the question: how can we use screens to change the way people interact with a physical space? Rather than plop down an oversized yet standardized tradeshow kiosk, Samsung constructed a bespoke mini-hotel for hoteliers to highlight how their plethora of smartscreens are changing not only the in-room guest experience, but also back-of-house controls and all manners of interior or exterior design.Interactive bathroom mirrors, bedroom televisions with seamless device casting functionality, see-through screens perfect as partial wall dividers, weather-proof outdoor displays and Tetris-like multi-screen wall art are just a taste of what they are offering to help usher hotels into the 21st century. My key observation from my guided tour of Samsung's booth is that these sorts of impressive smartscreen upgrades are near-impossible to replicate by independent Airbnb hosts. Yes, such futuristic televisions and monitors represent a hearty capex, but they represent a decisive way to visually differentiate your property and inject new life into a weary environment.
LMA Communications Inc. 13 July 2016
If you've been following my writing over the years, you're well aware that I'm not a fan of the OTAs. They are strong marketers, and exceptionally well run. Now that the 'book direct' war cry has caught on with some of the major chains such as Hilton and Marriott, it's time to reinvestigate what actions you can take.In a way, I'm awed by the OTAs' clout. But, nothing personal, I see their business model as contrary to many hospitality organization's long-term goals. Three key arguments I've inculcated are margin erosion, commoditization and brand dilution. To sum them all up in a neat bow: the design of an OTA website subliminally conditions a user to search for the cheapest room available and not to take into consideration the unique qualities of each particular hotel brand.Although the OTAs extol the fact that they are taking on a big chunk of the marketing burden on behalf of hotels, this does not negate the often-gigantic commissions they command, nor does it remedy the psychological effects of becoming accustomed to using one website for all hotel queries instead of visiting branded pages. After awhile, hotel customers who utilize the OTAs for research and bookings become the OTAs' customers, not yours.Spouting hellfire and brimstone like this, however, is not productive. The OTAs are here to stay, so we have to learn to work with them. Now that rate parity laws are beginning to show their cracks (and indeed repeals are well underway in some EU countries), it seems like the perfect time to lay down a few of my OTA strategies that I've led discussions about in the past.1. Conversion Through Education. A fair share of OTA customers simply don't know the advantages of booking direct. The re-education process begins online from the moment you identify an OTA customer that has made a reservation. If you can send them promotional emails prior to check-in, try and find out a bit more about what they are looking for in a hotel (that is, get data on them) and also explicitly state the advantages of booking direct next time, such as loyalty points and complimentary upgrades. Once they are onsite, your staff should be specially trained to prompt this topic through conversation and also try to get these customers to sign up for the newsletter. And importantly, make sure your front desk team captures their email data.2. Reputation Management. Part of my stink against the OTAs has to do with how the websites display properties. When each hotel is shown in roughly the same page layout with the same colors/fonts, there is very little to visually distinguish one from the other. To mitigate this, ensure that you own your pages and that you keep the property descriptions crisp and brief while uploading the best possible photography. While layout uniformity is an issue, one clear advantage of the OTAs (and other third-party travel websites, meta-search or social networks) is their review systems. Respond to every criticism in a timely, professional manner and act on the issues addressed - other users will judge you on how you react.3. Get Around Rate Parity. Even though this may not be an issue in five years time, it is right now for most of us, so we may as well deal with it (at least until it's time to renegotiate these contracts). If you can't compete with the OTAs on price, then offer your guests clear incentives for booking direct. At the most basic level, these perks can include access to fast or premium-tiered WiFi, F&B vouchers, complimentary bar beverages, or free amenity trials.4. Disruptive Technology. While I'm not going to mention any specific names, rest assured the OTA dilemma is not something privy only to managers within the hotel ranks. There are quite a few companies working to solve our problems for us, whether it's through image-rich, pay-for-performance apps or advanced algorithms that target the right consumers and personalize each marketing message for maximum conversion. Read the trades, attend trade shows and always be on the lookout for 'the next big thing'.5. A Great Guest Experience. The OTA websites are designed to favor location, price and date searches over specific properties. However, once a guest is onsite, you have to work hard to impress them and demonstrate why your hotel is unique so that they will indeed remember you for a return trip (and likely to book direct for this revisit) and spread your name through online praise and word of mouth. If you have friendly staff with impeccable service delivery and you wholly fulfill the modern demand for a local authentic experience, then I see no reason why more and more customers won't go to you direct.Just keep in mind, when OTA customers enter your property...They are your guests, but they aren't your customers...And they don't know that they are not your customers!
LMA Communications Inc. 8 July 2016
A recently published white paper on the state of the hospitality industry by Egon Zehnder's executive search and leadership consulting team brings into focus the need for senior managers in the hotel industry to holistically re-examine how they approach their business, and ultimately their hiring practices, to meet their future needs.I had an opportunity to carry on a three-way conversation with the authors, Hicham Sharaa from the Dubai office and Paul Liu in Shanghai.The paper is based upon interviews with CEOs and Chairmen of two dozen major hospitality companies around the world. Their research in the sector highlights three major trends.Digital engagementFirst, digital engagement with customers is the game-changer for the hospitality industry, even though the interviewees admit to falling short in this area. Elaborating further, it was stated that CEOs must now have both the curiosity and insights to drive functionality in digital strategies for revenue management, financial controls and the customer experience.If senior management simply knows numbers and traditional hospitality without a fluency in technology, the organization is doomed. Consumer behavior no longer tolerates subpar web or mobile experiences, while print and broadcast are dying as influential marketing channels. Top executives must not only acknowledge this trend, but understand that more tech-savvy companies such as the OTAs are already miles ahead. It is not a matter of simply catching up to the OTAs, but striving to surpass them by giving customers a simple value proposition with catchy marketing in channels that are relevant, good loyalty perks, interesting onsite features and a seamless digital user experience.Market focusSecond, hospitality corporations will need to put an increasing focus on the Chinese, Indian and Southeast Asian markets. Three-quarters of respondents stated that China's growth will redefine the industry. They identify that there are leadership gaps and the sector will need to look to balance centralized management with rapidly evolving market requirements.Again, the battle with the OTAs abounds in this arena. Top executives must become familiar with the unique characteristics of each region with regard to distribution channels, social media, mobile usage and customer behavior if they are to succeed. Each country is different, and a North American or European approach often won't work.DiversityThird, diversity in leadership teams will bring fresh perspectives, creative stimulation, more agile management and breakthrough insights on how to engage customers. In essence, the interviewees are stating that the future leaders of our industry will not come from the hotel school of thought. As chilling as this may sound, you can arm yourself for a future overslaught by immersing yourself in technology and how each digital channel works.Hospitality and technology will only become more intertwined as time goes on, so a thorough understanding of the latter will serve you regardless of your career trajectory. This might require innovation at the board level, where disruption might be necessary to support change.Overall, it would seem as though hoteliers are being thrust into a world dominated by technological innovation. The OTAs and Airbnb, for example, thrive in a world where they can focus their efforts on digital and mobile platforms with zero investment in physical elements. In doing so, they have created exceptionally guest-oriented programs which help keep them top of mind for travel research and bookings.Hotel chains, as well as independents, need to respond with innovations of their own. This might be the greatest challenge facing our industry since its creation, and it is one that we all will have to confront.You can download the white paper in PDF here.
LMA Communications Inc. 12 May 2016
Any specialty, and hospitality is no exclusion, comes with its own set of technical jargon and acronyms. We hoteliers are bombarded daily with ADR and RevPAR as well as, to a lesser extent, the latter's two smaller siblings, RevPOR and RevPAG. Even though they are less common, they are still quite handy in certain situations, and today our focus will be on RevPAG.Let's get the acronyms out of the way so there's no confusion:RevPAR = Revenue Per Available RoomRevPOR = Revenue Per Occupied RoomRevPAG = Revenue Per Available GuestThe first term, RevPAR, is the most commonly used these days, but as I've advocated before, it may not be the best overall indicator of a property's financial or business health. Hence, I vouched for using the second term, RevPOR, as it incorporated occupancy percentages to better forecast actualized revenues instead of projecting a figure based on 100% rooms booked. It's a subtle change, but one that can nonetheless have a tremendous impact when evaluating quarter-over-quarter or year-over-year.Even though most diligent managers will throw RevPAR through an average or 'per capita' occupancy grinder for a more accurate calculation of earnings, it is still hard to account for seasonal disruptions. That's where RevPOR shines through; by factoring occupancy into the equation from the start, it can act as a better barometer for shifts in consumer spending habits, indicating whether or not some of your 'upselling' efforts have actually paid off.RevPAR still has the advantage of being the 'quick snapshot', but the purpose of RevPOR is to measure the total capture per occupied room, thus allowing for quality inferences about individual spending habits over time. RevPAG goes a step further as it takes into account the total number of guests, regardless of how many are staying in each room.This third term is what has been employed by all-inclusive resorts under the guise of other nomenclature such as 'package revenue' as the basic provisions in tandem with 'non-package revenue' to denote all additional capture such as dining upgrades, day trips or above-board spa treatments. For these properties, comparing a summary figure like RevPAG with its package and non-package constituents can have profound effects on future income streams.The goal for many all-inclusive resorts is to find a package price that's high enough to cover costs and turn a profit without inducing sticker shock and lowering occupancy. However, evaluating this package price without weighing it against RevPAG can leave money on the table in the form of low non-package revenue figures. Many guests feel a psychological need to spend more while on vacation, but if there's already too much included in the basic package - that is, a more expensive price tag - the ancillary, heavily marked-up services may go underutilized.Thinking in terms of guests instead of rooms like this brings us back to the grand old days of hospitality when it was never just about putting heads in beds. The action was downstairs, in the lobby bars, in the restaurants and in other facilities. It was a guest-centric, customer-is-always-right playing field where the room was almost always secondary to the other lavish services provided, and where you were paying more for the privileged status that accompanied a guestroom booking rather than the guestroom itself.Somewhere in the latter half of the 20th century, we deviated from this principle. We started to think in terms of rooms, and, like any self-fulfilling fallacy, that's exactly what we got. Rooms were filled, sure, but we lost our stranglehold on other operations; we must now compete with independent restaurants, private meeting facilities, unaffiliated spas and so on. If we can learn anything from the all-inclusive model, it's that RevPAG rather than RevPAR will help subtly realign our values with a more holistic approach to hospitality.I've witnessed this progression firsthand at HITEC where PMS platforms now have extensive integrations with other POS software providers to scrupulously track ancillary revenue performance. As well, there are now dozens of business intelligence and total revenue management solutions so that managers can make informed decisions about balancing or maximizing ADR with additional onsite capture.While RevPAR has its merits, a holistic approach requires moving beyond to RevPOR or RevPAG. Regardless of the advanced software deployed, the decision ultimately rests with the manager and how he or she chooses to perceive the numbers. If you think in terms of guests instead of rooms, the shift in perspective may help you achieve new heights in revenue and consumer satisfaction.
LMA Communications Inc. 21 April 2016
Read the title carefully. I've been a longstanding backer of offering WiFi to hotel guests for free as a means of increasing guest satisfaction (or, at the very least, meeting the modern expectation of complimentary WiFi services). But restaurants are different. This is a specific instance where promoting complimentary wireless internet access may not be the prudent method of garnering consumer advocacy.Unlike hotels, where the primary components amounting to profitability are ADR and occupancy, many eateries live and die on the number of turns per day. And what we are seeing now is that due to the prevalence of smartphones, ready access to the internet is slowing down how quickly a server can deliver meals and turning tables over for the next group of patrons. Even minor, incremental distractions add up to an insurmountable sum of lost time, including:Diner is seated and immediately checks, say, a social network instead of looking at the menu and deciding upon his or her order;Diner asks about free WiFi access and spends time trying to log in instead of looking at menu and ordering;Diner has trouble connecting to the WiFi service thereby arresting the ordering process and taking up server's time as both attempt to solve the problem;Diner so engrossed by smartphone that he or she makes a mistake or is unclear in communicating the order, and then sends the food back when it arrives;Diner stops to take mediocre pictures of his or her food instead of diving right in;Diner takes longer to eat because he or she is responding to email or bombarded by text messages that 'absolutely must' be answered at that instant;Diner finishes food and, instead of signaling server for the bill, goes right back on his or her phone and ignoring the world around;Diner pays for meal but then lingers a few minutes to, check a social network once again, thus preventing the server from swooping in to clean the table and get it ready for next group.All these actions may only be one or two minutes in length, but together they can effectively chop the total number of turns at a restaurant during breakfast or lunch hour in half. And that's a lot of money! Of course, one may counter argue that diners will want to use their smartphones to talk about your restaurant in social media, TripAdvisor, or Yelp. A valid point, but in my experience, rarely is this done at the dining table.Mitigating this modern problem is difficult as you can't stop people from going on their phones, especially the tech-addicted millennials. Or can you?As a start, dropping the restaurant WiFi in entirely in your control. That way, when a patron does inquire about it, your server can reply with a definitive, "No." followed by, "Are you ready to order?" This alone will help move the sales process along as many will limit data cellular plans will be discouraged to go through their 3G/4G when WiFi isn't available. And to speed this up even further, signage stating 'Sorry, No WiFi Available at This Time' may also do the trick. It may sound draconian, but you might want to give it a try.While banning certain guests for excessive time wasting is an extreme measure, I have seen several restaurants institute a no cell phone policy. Right now this appears to be an action relegated to the lofty Michelin or other haute cuisine establishments where exorbitant prices also connote a higher degree of dining etiquette. But as operators wake up to how much smartphone usage is adversely affecting turns, such a policy may become more widespread and thus more readily accepting by the masses.Note that you can purchase WiFi/3G/4G blocking technology, so that even if your patrons wanted to go on their phones, your restaurant will be a dead zone. But this is not recommended, and it may be put you in legal jeopardy. You should consult your attorney if you plan to take this route, as a blocker is indiscriminant and will probably affect your neighbors as well. Or, you could place your restaurant in a subbasement bunker underneath a couple hundred tons of concrete and rebar. While these last two ideas are almost entirely impractical, cutting out the complimentary WiFi is not.
LMA Communications Inc. 31 March 2016
Great hotel managers not only work incredibly hard to lead their teams and propel their respective properties to new levels of success, but they must also keep a pulse on where the industry is headed, especially with regard to technology.This 'tech' word can be fairly broad, though, with so many new devices and software coming available each quarter to help managers increase guest service delivery and make better business decisions. It can be hard to narrow your field of vision and focus on any one particular aspect of emergent technology. However, where I've spent the bulk of my career - and where it is imperative for all managers to have at least a basic understanding - are the evolving electronic tools to actually get guests to stay at your property. Because if you can't get consumers onsite, then no other technological upgrade matters.To this end, I was fortunate enough to land an interview with John Hach, Senior Industry Analyst at TravelClick (a company that needs no introduction). Ebullient and razor-sharp, John outlined what he's observed about the hospitality world based upon the priority information afforded to a person in his position. Overall, he proudly declared that when it comes to hotel websites, booking engines and all other digital processes, the technology has caught up with the ideation.This means that if you can think of something you want your web presence to capture or express, there is a technology that can now fulfill that need. It's indeed a very good time for hoteliers to reinvest in their electronic channels, but it also means that traveler expectations are likewise escalating. Hoteliers should act prudently to move in the same slipstream as their consumers, particularly with regard to mobile and responsive design in order to keep direct reservations.As a booking engine pundit, John explained that the industry has almost entirely moved to digital, both in terms of how customers are first introduced to hotel brands as well as the overall usage of e-commerce channels. Moreover, we are currently witnessing a split in user behavior whereby those people seeking a quick trip (less than a week) prefer a more transactional 'one screen, one click' booking process. He's observed that an additional click during the sales funnel can cost up to 50% of customers. On the other end of the spectrum, longer stays demand the creation of an experience and a 'sense of discovery' during the booking process.While a website should load quickly, there is a steadily increasing demand for video content - a trend that John has been privy to observe following TravelClick's acquisition of hotel video solution provider TVtrip. These video enhancements are becoming excellent tools to differentiate room types for boosting upgrade sales and ancillary revenue streams like amenities and F&B.As additional areas of differentiation, John touched on two lucrative opportunities. The first was the need for personalization of the travel experience via mobile app CRM software. And next was the near-future milestone of extreme localization. That is, with every building now mapped on cloud-based GPS mobile apps, properties can enhance their competitive advantages on a microscopic level. For example, if you are located directly across the street from a convention center when your closest competitor is over one block away, reorienting your web appearance and SEO to clearly express this minor proximity advantage will allow you to moderately heighten your ADR. Other top localized differentiators include museums, retail destinations, beaches, top-rated restaurants on Yelp or TripAdvisor, airports, train stations and business hubs.To reiterate, if you can think of a physical property advantage or have an idea to make your onsite product more unique, there is a technology that can reflect this and effectively tell this aspect of your story to consumers.Addressing my two favorite industry culprits at the moment - Airbnb and the OTAs - John remained optimistic yet cautious. From his analysis, there appears to be enough business to accommodate alternative providers such as Airbnb without rampant erosion, except for compressions such as massive citywide events where there is a statistically substantial impact. We hoteliers must remain vigilant, however, as this erosion may drastically increase once the OTAs unveil their own alternate lodging booking engines.And speaking of the OTAs, whereas I'm a believer in driving direct web sales by any means necessary - that is, converting business from third-party sites - it may be better to reach a symbiotic co-dependency with these companies as their marketing efforts can be a powerful force for hotels. Moreover, as John remarked, many customers will always opt for the convenience of a one-stop shop that also includes airfare and car rentals. These travelers are likely to never convert to booking direct or to becoming loyal to a specific brand. It would be better to focus your efforts on optimizing your property's display within the OTA system to best attract consumers with this behavior.To finish off, John shared with me some statistics from the open of January 2016 that give a better picture of how the hospitality world performed in 2015 and what market segments will present growth opportunities for 2016:Committed occupancy for the full year of 2016 is up 3.1% compared to a year agoNew commitments added over the last month (pace) are up 5.3%Nineteen of the top 25 (76%) of North American markets are showing committed occupancy increases compared to a month agoThe group segment is up 3.5% in committed room nights over the same time last yearNew group business added over the last month (pace) is up 11.1% over the comparable period last yearTransient room nights booked are up 2.0% over the same time last yearBusiness demand, which includes weekday transient negotiated and transient retail segments, is down -3.6%Leisure demand, which includes transient discount, transient qualified segments and transient wholesale, is up 6.1%Average Daily Rate (ADR) is up 4.0% based on reservations currently on the books for 2016(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published by eHotelier March 28, 2016).
LMA Communications Inc. 5 October 2015
Let's get the acronyms out of the way so there's no confusion:RevPAR = Revenue Per Available RoomRevPOR = Revenue Per Occupied RoomRevPAG = Revenue Per Available GuestThe first term, RevPAR, is the most commonly used these days, but as I've advocated before, it may not be the best overall indicator of a property's financial or business health. Hence, I vouched for using the second term, RevPOR, as it incorporated occupancy percentages to better forecast actualized revenues instead of projecting a figure based on 100% rooms booked. It's a subtle change, but one that can nonetheless have a tremendous impact when evaluating quarter-over-quarter or year-over-year.Even though most diligent managers will throw RevPAR through an average or 'per capita' occupancy grinder for a more accurate calculation of earnings, it is still hard to account for seasonal disruptions. That's where RevPOR shines through; by factoring occupancy into the equation from the start, it can act as a better barometer for shifts in consumer spending habits, indicating whether or not some of your 'upselling' efforts have actually paid off.RevPAR still has the advantage of being the 'quick snapshot', but the purpose of RevPOR is to measure the total capture per occupied room, thus allowing for quality inferences about individual spending habits over time. RevPAG goes a step further as it takes into account the total number of guests, regardless of how many are staying in each room.This third term is what has been employed by all-inclusive resorts under the guise of other nomenclature such as 'package revenue' as the basic provisions in tandem with 'non-package revenue' to denote all additional capture such as dining upgrades, day trips or above-board spa treatments. For these properties, comparing a summary figure like RevPAG with its package and non-package constituents can have profound effects on future income streams.The goal for many all-inclusive resorts is to find a package price that's high enough to cover costs and turn a profit without inducing sticker shock and lowering occupancy. However, evaluating this package price without weighing it against RevPAG can leave money on the table in the form of low non-package revenue figures. Many guests feel a psychological need to spend more while on vacation, but if there's already too much included in the basic package - that is, a more expensive price tag - the ancillary, heavily marked-up services may go underutilized.Thinking in terms of guests instead of rooms like this brings us back to the grand old days of hospitality when it was never just about putting heads in beds. The action was downstairs, in the lobby bars, in the restaurants and in other facilities. It was a guest-centric, customer-is-always-right playing field where the room was almost always secondary to the other lavish services provided, and where you were paying more for the privileged status that accompanied a guestroom booking rather than the guestroom itself.Somewhere in the latter half of the 20th century, we deviated from this principle. We started to think in terms of rooms, and, like any self-fulfilling fallacy, that's exactly what we got. Rooms were filled, sure, but we lost our stranglehold on other operations; we must now compete with independent restaurants, private meeting facilities, unaffiliated spas and so on. If we can learn anything from the all-inclusive model, it's that RevPAG rather than RevPAR will help subtly realign our values with a more holistic approach to hospitality.I've witnessed this progression firsthand at HITEC where PMS platforms now have extensive integrations with other POS software providers to scrupulously track ancillary revenue performance. As well, there are now dozens of business intelligence and total revenue management solutions so that managers can make informed decisions about balancing or maximizing ADR with additional onsite capture.While RevPAR has its merits, a holistic approach requires moving beyond to RevPOR or RevPAG. Regardless of the advanced software deployed, the decision ultimately rests with the manager and how he or she chooses to perceive the numbers. If you think in terms of guests instead of rooms, the shift in perspective may help you achieve new heights in revenue and consumer satisfaction.