Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference
November 14–15, 2017
Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference
April 11–13, 2018
RAI Amsterdam Convention Centre
Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference
June 26-29, 2018
Hotels.ng 25 July 2017
In the hospitality industry, one which is built around making the customer alpha, communication and information transactions must be smart, swift, insightful and analysable. Chatbots are hence the perfect tool for this type of communication and service provision. They live in messaging apps where today's internet user spends a significant portion of his time, they are also cheap in the long run and can provide deep insights into customer preferences that can greatly improve offerings for the the customer, the alpha.In 2017, the key players are still trying to figure out how to build the perfect chatbot - smart, capable of understanding complex semantics, and conversing with the customer as an experienced service rep would. Today's chatbots, limited as they are by the available underlying technology have been deployed by several players in the hospitality industry - flight providers, hotels and more.Hotels.ng, a Nigerian OTA looks at existing and projected applications of chatbots and attempts to estimate the net effect that they might have on the entire industry in years to come.Bookings and reservationsBrands that require that bookings be made - flights, hotels, tour guides and more are already rolling out functional chatbots. Using these bots is convenient, simple and gives an air of chatting with a friend. Hipmunk recently upgraded their chatbot to allow for group planning and chats on their Facebook Messanger based platform. It's easy to see how this can be adopted for OTAs providing group tours.Expedia and Kayak are some other early adopters of chatbots for the purpose of making reservations.Learn user preferencesBy silently sitting in the background, and potentially collecting information such as correlation between geolocation and time versus brand-specific actions carried out, smart deductions can be made as to the user's behavioural tendencies and preferences. Also, past responses, questions and queries that the customer made can be automatically processed to give actionable insights into the customer. Brands can as a result offer personalised and customised services to the customer and increase the chances of delighting him and spending less to acquire each dollar from him than they normally would.Customers can also be retargeted in the future with higher precisions. Brands are able to engineer a greater correlation between the time of the customer's need, and the content and timing of chats sent with a marketing intent.Upselling to clientsWith chatbots, brands can more easily induce customers to make more expensive purchases, upgrades, and add-ons thereby increasing the chances of squeezing more value out of the client without appearing over enthusiastic. Products and services can be upsold or cross-sold through casual suggestions to the client.Top-of-mind awareness (TOMA)The modern day internet user spends more time on messaging apps than they do on social media. In the fight for users' eyeballs, chatbots which mostly live in messaging apps therefore provide very great opportunities for subtle top-of-mind awareness campaigns. TOMA is defined as awareness campaigns aimed at making a brand the first a customer thinks of when asked an unprompted question about a brand's category.Cost effective customer supportEventually, AI driven chatbots become smarter through learning. When they become sufficiently smart and are able to handle complex queries, brands spend less on the supervision of chats, customer support, and can dedicate saved funds into other segments of the brand.Challenges & ControversiesAs with most novel technologies, chatbots too have controversies and challenges tied to their successful implementation. A few pressing ones are discussed below:Threat to existing jobs: As in all forms of automation, job shifts occur and jobs designing and managing the automation always displace the jobs that previously ran the processes. Markets will always demand for more reliable, cost effective, and faster processes making these threats to jobs an occurrence that can be managed but not eliminated.Sharecropping: To tap into what makes chatbots powerful for brands - large audiences, they have to be sharecropped on platforms that host the most people thereby expanding the potential reach and influence of the brand. Facebook, Wechat, and Amazon Echo are a few popular platforms that host numerous chatbots. They are popular because people want to interact with brands on platforms where they already interact with friends. Understandably, this hands over reins of control to the messaging and voice AI giants, but it's a reasonable compromise that should be made.-Privacy concerns: Chatbots have the potential to offer so much personalised information and services that they might come off as intrusive. Care must therefore be made while designing them to handle information transactions at levels of personalisation that are at par with the target audience's temperament toward AI. Helpful can easily become creepy.-High cost of build: Chatbots can be expensive to build. In the long run however, they are almost always smart investments as they bring down operational costs, open up new opportunities for brands and help generate more revenue.-Lack of empathy: Chatbots can come off as stiff or robotic. While this is not a problem for many, a few people are put off by it. Most primitive chatbots work like a search engine that search for some keywords that then trigger predetermined responses. AI driven chatbots are however more capable of handling more complex queries and conversing as a human would.ConclusionChatbots are simple, ubiquitous, and highly effective. AI driven chatbots also become better and smarter with use so while the wide adoption by hospitality brands will create job shifts, it will also create new opportunities that will allow for better personalisation of experiences for the customer.In one line, the hospitality industry will be benefit greatly from the adoption of chatbots.
Hotels.ng 23 June 2017
Take a spin back to 1950, and you'll be sure to find a well written and animated article on the subject - the hotel room of the future. It's an interesting subject for players in the hotel space, a culmination of unhinged literary creativity, and fairly logical projections based on the trends and technology of the day.More than ever, hoteliers will in the future strive to offer unique and personalised experiences to the guest, and to immerse him in an environment that is closest to his ideal throughout his stay. The changes and advancements in the hotel business have always been driven by this quest, and with technology, the leverage is greatly increased.In the hotel business, there is such a race towards automation and robotics that in a couple of decades from now, hotels are expected to re-introduce human concierges and attendants. This will be in a bid to revive the personal touch that will be missing from a lot of service provisions. One can hence expect, that the stoic, friendly, discreet, and polite hotel attendant will be a character that is re-introduced after robot butlers become less popular.It's not all bad news for technology however, as it's expected that technology drives augmented reality which in turn drives seamless guest-specific customisations. The hotel will eventually evolve past one block of rooms with similar themes into a grouping of less dependent room units that are differently customised on an as-needed basis to have themes and settings required by the guest.Interactions that guests traditionally have with rooms are driven by sight, smell, and touch. In the future, these interactions will be redefined with at least a fourth added - sound. Window panes will be transformed into a gateway to the guests imagined destinations - a stretch of the Sahara, or the heart of the Amazon... The walls will change colours through light to match the guest's mood and temperament. The boring mirror will be transformed to an interactive surface through which guests can input room commands or access the internet. The guest is expected to be immersed into a realistic augmented environment where theme-specific ambient sounds, smells and feel are programmed to his taste.The gym experience should also be affected as rooms are even today, being merged with the gym. Simple set-ups like the treadmill or the workout bike can be coupled with augmented reality to provide outdoor-like experiences for the guest as they exercise - a walk, jog, or run through Thames Park, Central Park or the Harbour of Sydney - all from atop a mechanical contraption.The bed. This is the single most important and prominent feature of any hotel room. One imagines that in years to come, the science of levitation is fully mastered and that guests will be treated to resting on floating masses of warmth and softness, with an ever so gentle rock now and then as guests retire for the day.Voice control, a novelty of sorts today will tomorrow be a norm. All functions and room settings that are typically controlled by a button or a tap will be controlled hands-free in tomorrow's hotel room, all with a voice command or two. Already, Starwood line of hotels such as Sheraton Hotel, and Le Meridien Resort are already experimenting with this feature.Several other impressive and guest centric features that revolve around technology will define the future of the hotel room. All the advancements will be geared towards making the guest king, a customer to be tended to and feted on one hand, a guest who knows what he wants and is unafraid to take charge on the other hand.It will be all about the guest, giving him control, providing him impeccable services, and customising every aspect of his stay to the closest that technology's complex algorithms will allow.The future is a long time away, but if this writer witnesses these changes, he'll be glad to sit back and do a hearty kids, what did I tell you?!
Hotels.ng 4 January 2017
2016 was chaotic, adventurous, disruptive or productive - it depends on who you ask. If you ask the players in the travel industry however, you're likely to get an "Oh! It was great" response laden with a smile or two.Why? Because the travel industry despite its challenges really did grow. The growth experienced is expected to create a wave into 2017 and Hotels.ng, an online travel agency assesses and outlines the patterns and trends to expect;First, it's important to discuss the two main drivers that will shape the travel trends that we see in 2017. One; technology, and two; millennials (a fancy name for the world's largest generation - people that reached young adulthood around the year 2000).Technology has led to exponential advancements in all spheres of life, travel included. It's shaping the way we want to travel, how travel agencies interact with us and the places we want to go to. Millennials constitute the age group that is most exposed to technology, they have an immense travel spending potential, higher tendencies to travel, and also dictate to a great extent the future of travel and the trends to expect in 2017.Here goes the list of trends; Rise in the demand for authentic local experiences and activity packed tours: Before now, travel outside of business focused more on relaxation and change of scenery. Where the older generation would mostly travel for these reasons, millennials are more inclined to travel with the goal of having immersive and interactive experiences, learning something new while travelling in Peru, living the life of the locals in Mexico, exploring Lagos, and having more action packed trips outside of mere sightseeing. This trend was prominent in the past year, and is expected to continue strongly into 2017 as the millennial generation which is adventure driven continues to dominate world travel. Through VR, travel marketers will take locations to potential tourists and travelers:The trend of taking the location to potential travelers gained some traction in the past year mainly through the use of Virtual Reality technology. In 2017, players such as airlines and travel marketers are expected to improve on the technology and exploit it even further.In the past, Delta airlines have used VR to showcase new cabin features to potential travelers so as to convert them, or to make them upgrade their chosen flight cabins. Amongst others, Virgin Holidays have demonstrated the potential of this tech by creating virtual experiences for potential travelers of the locations that they plan to visit - a feel of the Kajuru Castle in Nigeria from Oslo, or a Caribbean beach experience from New York city.In 2017, it is expected that this marketing strategy becomes a trend that is embraced by players in the travel industry. The year of travel bots on messaging platforms: The year before, the travel industry saw the introduction of messaging bots from hotel chains, airlines, ridesharing services amongst others. It was mostly experimental and only a slight dip into the big sea of potentials the technology can offer. These travel bots are powered by artificial intelligence and they are programmed to anticipate and answer travel related questions that clients or potential travelers might ask. In 2017, after the experimentation phase that we saw last year, it is expected that more players in the travel industry roll out their own travel bots and that it becomes a norm. Improved sync of all sectors of travel:Through technology, the entire travel schedule for most travelers is pre-planned. This usually involves booking flights in advance, booking a hotel in the desired destination, car rentals and navigation through digital maps. For the bulk of travelers, these activities are done in isolation. Several technological platforms that manage the entire travel through just one portal are however becoming popular. In a world that is increasingly becoming dependent on technological solutions, the roll out of all inclusive travel management platforms will be a trend in 2017. A blend of business and pleasure travel:Today's work pattern and culture is different from what it used to be. Today, work typically has a looser structure. This makes it easier for business travelers to indulge in activities that count as pleasure and take time out to experience the work location as a leisure tourist would. Business travellers who are increasingly becoming millennials are blurring the distinction between business and leisure travel, and in 2017, it's expected to be even more so as fun increasingly becomes an integral of work. A push for direct bookings by chain hotels:In most of the world, OTAs such as Hotels.ng act as middle men that connect travelers with hotels. Top hotel brands in the developed world that have several chains of hotels under them and lots of capital are expected to attempt to cut out OTAs by aggressive marketing targeted at the travelers themselves. Smaller brands and hotels are not expected to follow this trend as it requires a lot of capital and poses a risk of losing out on clients if no relationship with OTAs exist. Considering the strenuous relationship between top hotel chains and OTAs in recent times, the hotels are expected to lead a noisy campaign that will help them to be independent of OTAs in 2017. Increased users on OTA platforms:Despite the predicted push by top hotel brands to cut out OTAs, it is expected that OTAs worldwide record a surge in their clientele as internet becomes more available worldwide and cheaper too. This wave that has been growing for the past few years will also benefit from the crashing prices of smartphones and is expected to continue into 2017 as millennials who are the major travelers are also very tech savvy. It will be all about the consumer:Customer is king - a cliche that we hear all the time. This phrase is even truer in the travel industry as all the players realise that 2017's traveler will be the guy that is used to having all the information and services that he needs at the snap of a finger, a guy who is used to having options. Today's traveler does not go out searching for services, the services and options must come to meet him. As a result of this, in 2017, the travel industry will bend over even more to satisfy the modern traveler.The travel industry promises to offer another bumpy ride in 2017, but from all indications, it will be a positive year as the industry has grown its platforms over the years to meet today's demand.