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Article by Melissa Magnuson

The 3 tips hoteliers need to know to expand their reach

Magnuson 20 September 2017
Get social - Social media is a proven way to reach out to new customers and stay in their minds. Different platforms give you the ability to reach out to various segments too. If you share the right type of content you have a good chance of your posts being shared, quickly spreading beyond your current influence. Don't forget that as a hotel, you should be showing off visually too, from your own facilities to the surrounding area, which gives your updates a better chance of going viral. Mobile presence - Don't underestimate the importance of mobile accessibility in the modern world. In many countries, portable devices are used more frequently than desktops to access the internet and concerns around placing bookings through smartphones and tablets is going too. A mobile response design will ensure your able to engage with a range of customers and helps to boost your Google ranking too. Join a network - You might be worried about joining a network if you value your individuality but it doesn't have to mean giving up what makes you unique. A network makes it simpler for businesses to access a wider customer base while respecting that what make them different is often what attracts travellers. Hotels in a network benefit from connecting with customers that have stayed at other hotels under the brand, giving them an opportunity to attract new customer groups.
Article by Sarah Came

Technology and the luxury guest experience: Interview with Arun Kumar

GuestRevu 19 September 2017
From his first role on the front lines of guest satisfaction as a room service waiter to management positions at four- and five-star InterContinental and Hilton properties, Arun Kumar's impressive hospitality career has taught him a thing or two about keeping guests satisfied.With around two decades of experience in the hospitality industry, Arun is an indisputable thought leader in his field, and has been recognised on "The Brit List" as one of the UK's Top 25 Most Influential & Inspirational Hoteliers and has earned a place on the Boutique Hotelier Power List for 2017.Arun's impressive credentials attracted the attention of Indian luxury hotel group Lalit Suri, which afforded him the opportunity to oversee the redevelopment of a grade II listed building in London into the group's first European hotel, The Lalit London.We asked Arun to share some of his guest experience wisdom, and tell us how technology will influence the management of luxury hotel guest satisfaction in the future.Where did you begin in the hospitality industry?My foundation for a successful hospitality career started with my first role as room service waiter.What's your role now?I am now General Manager for The Lalit London.What would you say are the cornerstones of a luxury hotel experience today?I would say that humility, trust, a good personal rapport and personalised and professional service are essential for creating an excellent luxury guest experience.You were a key part of launching The Lalit London hotel, was there an initial focus on the guest experience and what would make this up?Everything we do here at The Lalit London revolves around our guests, both internal and external. Right from the construction and design stage of the Lalit London, every aspect of this project was focused towards guest experience.Based on your experience, have guest expectations and demands changed with the rise of mobile technology?I think there has been a huge change, the online world is changing how efficient our clients expect a business to be, and with mobile technology there is now an expectation of 24/7 service. Additionally, the word "fast" in the hotel business has been redefined by social media.Does the feedback you get from guests and your online reviews play a role in how the hotel is managed?Client feedback is vital for any organisation's success; a clear sentimental analysis of guest experiences has always helped us to prioritise operational and service improvements.A lot of hotel general managers talk about the importance of using big data in terms of exceeding guest expectations - what does big data mean to you at this point?Big data is invaluable in helping us to provide an exceptional guest experience. It helps uncover a lot of hidden patterns and opens up new opportunities, helping us to design new services and products to present to our clients. It also plays a key role in better and faster decision-making processes.How do you think guest expectations might evolve over the next 5 years?I believe it is clear that guests will want a more personal, connected and informed experience, and technology will be a major brand differentiator. Areas such as virtual experiences will play a major role. At the Lalit London we have already changed the traditional model of hotel check in with our in-room check in.What's the best hotel you've stayed in and why?The Royal Mansour Marrakech - the architecture of the building, service, food everything is perfect.
Article by Helena Rowe

Meeting Internal Challenges For Revenue Management

Net Affinity 18 September 2017
It's challenging being a Revenue Manager! Whether you're in a large city-centre hotel, or a small countryside hotel, Revenue Managers face similar challenges & stresses. Too much to do, too little time, being number one! Many of these challenges come from client demands, but in this piece, we're discussing the internal challenges faced by Revenue Manager, or the member of staff with responsibility for Revenue Management. These are generally a little easier to fix than external factors and can have a big impact on a Revenue Managers efficacy and efficiency.Organisational CultureFirstly, we need to look from the top down, as this is where most of the work culture in business organisations come from - General Managers, we're looking at you! It's imperative that the Revenue Manager has the support of the GM in the hotel for them to do their job effectively and efficiently. The GM needs to instill the culture throughout the entire hotel that everybody has a role to play and responsibility for room sales in supporting the RM.Communication between DepartmentsIt's important that all HODs, as well as their teams, understand the Revenue Strategy and what the GM & RM are looking to achieve this month and this year. Especially important is the communication between the sales team and RM as they should be working together for the same goals, but equally for the Front Desk & Reservations team to know why rates have increased or dropped, why an incentive is being offered to encourage guests to book on your own site or over the phone and to encourage OTA guests to book direct next time.Ensure that the most current forecast is shared with all departments - this has a symbiotic function - to help all teams drive sales, but also help other departments with forecasting their sales and staffing.Food & Beverage allocations can be a thorn in a RMs side, so open dialogue as to why these need to be decreased or increased needs to take place - especially if the hotel is looking to offer an incentive such as Free Breakfast if the guest books direct.Another specific example of communication issues are over-bookings - Night Managers are often terrified of this word! Again, communication is the key, the RM should collate stats on No-show rates, prove what is achievable through overbooking and work with the Front Desk team to have a plan in place for the team if things go wrong and they need to book out a guest.Online ReviewsTeam members need to be aware of how their interactions with guests have an impact on room sales. Reviews are often discussed when we speak with clients, especially in highly competitive markets. It's a lot easier for a Revenue Manager to increase rates for a hotel with a 4.5-star rating on TripAdvisor than it is a 3.5-star rating. All departments in the hotel play a role in this, as you know from reading TripAdvisor reviews, they can be about any element of the guest's stay - cleanliness of the corridors, to the quality of the food, to the temperature of the jacuzzi in the Leisure Centre.This is not just on TripAdvisor however, it impacts reviews left on OTAs, on your own site and just as importantly, word of mouth. All online reviews should be audited daily and management as a whole take responsibility for improving and maintaining high scores. Issues within departments can then be highlighted to the HOD, to ensure that they are resolved and avoided in future.Training and UpskillingRevenue Management is a relatively new field in Irish Hospitality - there is still a talent gap that needs to be addressed. The RM needs to be allowed both the time & resources to attend conferences, keep up to date with industry newsletters & advice.In addition to this, the rest of the hotel team need to understand the role of the revenue manager. The Revenue Team could hold regular RM workshops with other Heads of Departments & Front Desk staff to ensure that they are trained in the basics of Revenue Management and understand what they can do to assist the RM and bring these techniques into their own roles. This should be done on a 6-monthly or annual basis to allow for staff turnover and refresh the skills of staff.Too often, when speaking with hotels, we are told that the RM is the only person who knows how to use the booking engine or channel manager meaning that when they are not at work, no dates can be closed out, rates can't be optimised and opportunities are missed out on. It's important to ensure that at all times at the hotel, there is someone trained on the systems employed by the hotel and empowered to make decisions on these matters. This will also allow the RM to be able to go offsite for conferences & workshops or run them internally without having to worry about the daily running of the hotel.Technology / EquipmentIf a chef needed an extra mixer in the kitchen to ensure there was enough bread for the day, we suspect the GM would see little issue with making the investment into this equipment. However, it can be a different story for the RM, who may not have the correct tools in place to do their job effectively, and just as importantly, efficiently. The role of an RM is made a lot simpler with the most up-to-date and correct type of software - an up-to-date Property Management System with a solid reporting system, an easy to manage Channel Manager and most importantly, in our eyes, a responsive website with a great user experience with a strong Booking Engine. If the Revenue Manager must spend hours pulling reports before getting to the analysis or update rates on several channels individually, it will mean that they won't have time to delve into other revenue opportunities or even do it at all.As well as ensuring they have the correct software, don't forget about the hardware - a good PC that isn't slow and invest in a second monitor for your PC - it makes the job a lot easier!Workload & a Quiet OfficeEspecially with small properties, it may be difficult to find the time for a RM to focus on the role specifically or have the physical space to give a Revenue Manager their own office. While it is important that they have good communication with the Front Office & Reservations team and understand and supervise their work, it's impossible to concentrate on a good analysis or work on forecasting when you need to regularly drop what you are doing to answer the phone or emails or are sitting at the front desk. The RM needs to have the time to dedicate to Revenue Management as well as somewhere for them to retreat to for these tasks without having to worry about the phones or check-ins, even if it's just a morning scheduled once or twice a week in the GMs office with no interruptions.Once these challenges can be addresses in the hotel, it can make a huge difference in top line sales achieved and also allow the RM to concentrate on channel strategies, impacting the bottom line stats - the profit made per room sale.
Article by Margaret Ady

How To Keep The Heart Of Your Hotel Beating

Snapshot GmbH 14 September 2017
Technology is the beating heart of the hotel. Without a PMS, how would we even begin to serve guests? Without distribution channels, how would guests book rooms? Without a CRM, how would we create loyalty? Right now, most hotels get away with disorganized technology, because they've had no choice. Legacy systems haven't meshed with new cloud-based systems and a patchwork of different technologies for different purposes have been cobbled together. As with cooking, everything works better when all the moving pieces work together because no one tool does everything on its own.Right now, we have all of these systems--the PMS, CRS, CRM. Then there are the ancillary tools, such as mobile check-in, travel review monitoring, social media tools, distribution tools, forecasting technology, room allocation software, and so forth. Multiply each of these by four or five and maybe, just maybe, you'll get close to the number of different systems that must integrate in order to keep a hotel running. And the biggest problem is that they rely on one another, but they don't play well. They don't integrate, at least not with ease. We have each of these systems with its own data, and one system's data isn't talking to another system's data without complicated intervention. It's a mess. But it doesn't have to be.Instead of this mess, it should be structured and organized, much like Julia Child's peg-board full of organized pots and pans. While organization is useful of course, the key value is having each and every piece of technology integrated. No more missing pieces--data falling off from point A to point B. No more silos, where data from point A can't even get to point B. If A needs B in order to work, it's right there, ready and waiting.The ramifications of a fully integrated tech stack are many. Creating custom applications becomes a possibility because integration is no longer a setback. Guest outreach can be personalized (for real this time). Service levels can be improved--and monetized. Consider if the housekeeping app above speaks automatically to the mobile check-in app, which then triggers a text to a guest with an early check-in option for an additional fee. Or a guest survey app speaks to the email marketing app, which triggers an offer for a guest based on specific keywords the guest used in the survey. Best of all, a fully integrated tech stack allows hotels to compare all data sets and glean truly actionable insights about their guests and their business - insights that can drive more revenue and more efficiencies.Further, the benefits of a tech ecosystem of this nature include consistent data security and faster communication between technologies. As Todd Hotaling of Lodging Hospitality Management said regarding major issues affecting system integration in the hospitality industry, "My priority is how frequent (speed) and seamless our systems interface (direct connect) with the often urgent and significant revenue-impacting decisions being made throughout the day" (Hospitality Technology). Increased frequency of communication (a by-product of integration) between technologies is the foundation for better information, faster solutions, and, most importantly, increased revenue.In the 1940s, the University of Illinois formalized the idea of the "kitchen work triangle," a set of rules that defined the location and distance between the sink, the oven, and the refrigerator for optimal efficiency and use. Most modern kitchens are designed based on this notion that the essential tools of the kitchen work best when they are aligned in a specific way. We are at a critical juncture in the hotel industry, one that requires that our growing number of technologies begin working together seamlessly, that our essential tools are aligned. The beating heart of hotels depends on our redefining the way we organize our technology in a way that we can successfully build upon. It isn't as simple as a triangle, but it is as accessible.
Article by Kasia Russell & Bomie Kim

2016/17 United States Hotel Franchise Fee Guide

HVS 14 September 2017
Please note that the study results are not indicative of the impact an individual brand may have on a hotel's overall profitability because only the costs, and not the benefits of the franchise affiliations, have been analyzed. Furthermore, the study does not reflect, nor does it claim to address, operating results of any one brand or any particular brand affiliation upon any single hotel property. The 2016/17 U.S. Franchise Fee Guide is meant to illustrate a basic comparison among franchise fees charged by participants.HVS has extensive experience with assisting clients in selecting the appropriate franchise and/or management brand for their proposed or existing hotels. This service also includes assisting with or managing the negotiations in coordination with experienced attorneys and other industry professionals.Types of Hotel Franchise FeesBrand attributes play a crucial role in a hotel investor's choice of franchise affiliation. When evaluating a potential hotel franchise, one of the important economic considerations is the structure and amount of the franchise fees. Second only to payroll, franchise fees are among the largest operating expenses for most hotels.Hotel franchise fees are compensation paid by the franchisee to the franchisor for the use of the brand's name, logo, marketing, and referral and reservation systems. Franchise fees normally include an initial fee with the franchise application, plus ongoing fees paid periodically throughout the term of the agreement.Summary of FindingsDisclaimerHotels are complicated investments. Selecting an appropriate franchise affiliation for a property entails exhaustive research and investigation by an investor. The information presented in this guide was developed to provide insight into franchise-fee structures and should not be relied upon by an investor other than as a preliminary resource. HVS has researched and gathered data from authoritative sources, and all efforts have been made to verify the accuracy of these data; however, given variances in reporting methods and franchise terms, HVS cannot guarantee the accuracy of all the data contained in this study. Finally, it should be noted that the 2016/17 version of this guide is not necessarily comparable with previous versions because of the new methodology of calculating franchise costs, which considers historical data for each brand and does not subject all brands to uniform assumptions.Click Here for a Complimentary Copy of the 2016/17 HVS Franchise Fee Guide
Article by Kris Troukens

GDPR - Advice for the Hospitality sector

Quality Hotel Services 13 September 2017
SITUATIONGDPR, what is it, and is it important to the Hospitality Sector?The General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) is a major overhaul of the EU data protection law. It comes into force on May 25th, 2018. It requires any business (including hospitality industry businesses) that handles personal data of a EU citizen to have adequate measures in place.What is meant by "adequate measures"?By "adequate measures" they mean data should be properly protected, and any theft or misuse of this data cannot occur. The EU citizen (the guest) also has specific rights on the data that you are holding about him. (see below)Does GDPR only apply within the European Union?No, it applies to data stored on EU citizens, wherever they are staying around the world. This impacts the entire hospitality sector, worldwide.What if I am not compliant?If a EU citizen files a complaint, the hotel may face some hefty fines. The maximum fine is set to 20 million Euros, or 4% of the annual global turnover (whichever is the greater).HOW TO PREPARE in 13 STEPSThere are several steps that the hotel can take to properly prepare for GDPR. Some of them may already be in place. They are listed below.1) Create awareness in the hotel.Buy-in of the hotel management team is also essential. There may be changes in procedures or systems, so all managers should be aware of GDPR, fully understand it, and be able to understand the impact on their department.2) Create a "data-register"You should be documenting which information you are holding, where it is stored, where it comes from, whom you are sharing it with, and if the guest has given his consent to you collecting all this data. This "data-register" will map all your data streams.All processing steps should be recorded, and this may require the compilation or review of existing policies and procedures.3) Communicate to your guests about your new privacy rulesMake sure you ask the guest for his agreement on giving you all required data, and document that agreement. This could be easily done on the registration card, or when checking-in on line. Adapt your legal statements and customer agreements to the new legislation. You will need to disclose for which purpose(s) you intend to collect data, and how long you will be keeping it.4) Guests rightsThe European guest has several rights, and you need to ensure he can exercise his rights, which include:The right of access to his dataThe right to rectificationThe right to eraseThe right to restrict processingThe right to transfer his data to another partyThe right to objectThe right not to be included in automated marketing initiatives or profilingMany of those rights may already be in existence today.5) Guest access requestsYou will need to be ready to handle a guest request coming in about his rights. You are not allowed to charge for this service, and you have a maximum of 1 month to provide an answer. If you refuse a request, you must inform the guests about your reasons, and provide any details about the Privacy Commission and the name and contact details of your DPO (Data Protection Officer, more on this below), so that the guest understands how to file a complaint.6) Lawful basis for processing guest dataWhile the hotel is collecting data, it can only do so if there is a lawful reason. You need to review and ensure all questions you are asking (on registration cards, online forms etc...) are absolutely required for you to process the guest. As an example, the departure date of a guest is a required piece of data. However, asking for the guest's birthday may be more difficult to justify.7) Guest consentIt is important to review how you are obtaining, and recording the guest consent. He may be arriving via a travel agent, via a telephone reservation, or it may be a walk-in. All these cases need to be considered.At all times, there must be a clear "opt-in" given by the guests. There cannot be any pre-ticked boxes where the guest agrees to give his data; opting in is never by default. Also consider how you will handle the case of a guest who withdraws his consent.8) ChildrenThere's an additional consideration for children under 16. Authorisaton to process a minor's data should be obtained from their parents or responsible adult. The hotel needs to prepare for this scenario.9) Data breaches or theftThe hotel should be ready to detect, and remedy any data theft concerning personal data. The data register should be able to provide insight into which pieces of data are concerned.Any incident should be reported within 72hrs to the Privacy Commission, for all cases where there is a risk that guest data may have been compromised.By extension, this implies your network and storage systems should be up-to-date with the latest intrusion detection programs and should have successfully passed penetration testing.10) Data protection by design, and Data Protection Impact assessmentsFor any new systems or major changes, it would be wise to keep the "Data protection by Design" in mind. Indeed, when discussing requirements for a new tool or procedure, you can already include the data protection principles, right from the design stage.An Impact Assessment is required when major new technology is introduced, or significant upgrades are taking place on systems which contain personal data.11) The Data Protection OfficerWithin your hotel or company someone should be tasked to become the Data Protection Officer (DPO). Make sure this is someone who knows and understands the importance of personal data processing. This can very well be an additional task for an existing employee or manager.It is mandatory to appoint a DPO when you are handling large volumes of personal data records, such as medical or criminal records. In a hotel, large amounts of credit card details are processed, so it is eminently sensible to have a DPO in place.The DPO should always understand and be aware of all data flows in the hotel, and he should ensure that he has an updated data register at all times, in case any queries arise.The name of the DPO should be mentioned on all privacy statements on any media. When filing a complaint, the guest will reference the DPO by name.12) International and Group HotelsIf you are an independent hotel, this point does not apply.For hotels with multiple properties, or in multiple EU countries, it is important to align the procedures, and to identify who is taking the lead (presumably the country or regional office) for the coordinated GDPR efforts. If you are present in multiple EU countries, it is required to identify a "main establishment", and also the country lead supervisory authority.13) Existing ContractsIt is likely that for the processing of your data you are assisted by third parties or subcontractors. Make sure you are aware of who they are, and what your current contractual obligations are. It would also be an excellent opportunity to review these contracts to include any GDPR related aspects and ensuring the contractor is aware of his obligations under GDPR and that services or systems help you meet your GDR requirements.MORE FAQ'SWho is overseeing the introduction of these new regulations?Every country has one central organisation to oversee the introduction of the new regulation. For Belgium this is the "Privacy Commission" (https://www.privacycommission.be). Any queries or complaints from guests will be addressed to them.Who is responsible?Ultimately it is you, the hotelier who is responsible. So, if any of the above points fail, and a guest files a complaint with the country authority, it will be addressed to you, and you will have to justify your actions to the Privacy Commission.What if I need assistance?Quality Hotel services can help you in several ways:Compile a comprehensive awareness campaign, tailored to your propertySet up a "data-register" for you, or provide you with a workable templateMaking sure the necessary "consent" statements are included on all printed and electronic media where you collect guest dataRecommend processes on how to obtain consent from guests, and childrenEnsuring your network and data storage devices are 100% safe and protectedDesign an "Impact Assessment Analysis" template documentCompiling the job description and procedure manual for a DPOCompiling your "Data" supplier list, and reviewing/suggesting contractual amendments
Article by David Lund

Hospitlaity Financial Leadership - Global Hotel Revenue Management

The Hotel Financial Coach 12 September 2017
Global is a big word and now that we have your attention I want to define global in a hotel setting. Global refers to all sources of revenue and their corresponding profit picture. A global perspective on revenue management yields the highest possible profit because we understand and apply a BIGGER view to our business.I think the title and buzz word that has our industry locked on "revenue management" is entirely the wrong way to look at it. It is not revenue we are after, it is profit. Revenue is where we start but it is always profit that we end up with. Understanding what happens to the room revenue and resulting profit from different segments is the starting point to a much more effective outcome.We essentially have three types of customers in hotels: leisure, contracted individual and groups. Let's have a look at the profitability profile of each major segment of the rooms business.DO NOT PUT ALL YOUR EGGS IN ONE BASKET. Warren BuffettUnderstanding this lesson and applying it to your hotels "global revenue management" strategy in turn helps you understand your hotel's DNA. Knowing the DNA and how we can affect it is the highest and best use of the profit maximization strategy.Leisure, on the surface, is the most desirable customer in most people's eyes. They normally pay the highest rate and we like to think they spend lots in F&B, parking and the spa. But not so fast on this one. What we need to examine is the cost to get the leisure customer. First, they book through an OTA (online-travel-agent) or the company website and both are very expensive sources of distribution. Typically, 15-20 percent of the rate comes back to the operation as a commission or reservation expense. Second, most leisure customers will use the hotel's facilities, but they also are busy seeing local attractions, including restaurants and bars. Long gone are the days when leisure guests stay put.Third, it is hit and miss with leisure guests and how they treat their room. If it is a multi-occupancy family stay, the housekeeping department better have lots of supplies and staff for service. This segment as a whole is the hardest to service. We do not know when they will arrive but it is often early. We do not know when they will leave but frequently it is a late checkout and they always pay with a credit card that attracts a nice two-plus points of total spend. The last aspect of leisure we need to be aware of is they are predominantly weekend or seasonal customers. I say the leisure guest is at best tied for second place in my preferred customer profit profile.Next up is the contracted individual or, as some hotels describe it, corporate individual traveler. In many hotels, the contracted traveler serves as a base for the rooms business. Hotels pop up all over the place and in many instances, they want to plant themselves close to other businesses and offices. This location effect attracts business travelers to the hotel. Business travelers are a desirable element for hotels to nurture as they have several positive attributes. Generally, they use the hotel throughout the year, less holidays. They typically arrive late, after 6 p.m., and leave early, before 9 a.m.Housekeepers love the corporate guest because usually it is just one customer and he or she uses the room very lightly. The use of the room cannot be overlooked. With renovations needed as early as 5-6 years in some properties, a good mix of corporate business can push the renovation out a year or more.On the distribution side, there are costs but almost always fewer than leisure because there is ability to negotiate the distribution. Corporate customers are normally hotel breakfast customers and quite often you will see them in the hotel bar having a beverage after the business day is over.Another very positive aspect of the corporate customer is he or she has the potential to bring other corporate customers, as well as small to bigger meetings, to your hotel. So, nurture your relationship with these repeat customers. Let's just say the corporate customers are easy. Overall the preferred customer rating I would assign the corporate individual traveler is tied for second. In this case, like baseball, the tie goes to the runner and the runner is the corporate individual traveler.The big cohune in most hotels is groupsAt first glance at your rates, you might conclude that the group average rate is low. Do not stop looking there. When you look at the sheer economics, groups often win the top prize.First, take the distribution costs. If the hotel is well run the group is booked through a rooming list or another low-cost reservation method. No OTAs or central reservations need be used. In effect, this adds 15-20 percent to the group rate. The group may come with a commission from a third party, but many do not, especially if you have your own sales team.Second, consider the group movement. The group arrives, moves in-house and they leave together. This is very desirable from a labor and efficiency perspective. On third base is F&B. Groups meet, eat and drink together at the same time. This effect is the most powerful profit combination. A good group with breakfast, coffee breaks, cocktail receptions and dinner are the perfect profit combination. In demand situations, hotels can place groups perfectly in their need periods. In addition to the room and F&B revenue, groups almost always need AV, display space, drayage and best of all meeting room rental.Third, the cherry on top of the group cake is they almost always pay their invoice with a check. Groups business is the number one desired customer in my book.How does a hotel measure these different sources of business and decide which way to go? The easy answer is you need all of them to be uber successful. Like Warren said, "Do not put all of your eggs in one basket." Having a diversified customer segmentation means you can better manage when one or more segments faces headwinds. If you were running a hotel in the last financial crisis, you know what I mean by customer segment diversification.Knowing what each piece of business is likely to spend and where is key. Most hotels have tools to analyze the spending and the profit to come from that revenue. Global hotel revenue managers are looking at the profitability of each piece of business, weighing the operational challenges with the economic benefits.Hotels are a pure example of the supply and demand principle.If you would like a copy of any of the following send me an email at david@hotelfinancialcoach.comPolicy Inventory OutlineF&B Productivity Spreadsheet Rooms Productivity SpreadsheetFinancial Leadership Recipe F TAR WFlow Thru Cheat SheetVisit my website today for a copy of my guidebookThe Seven Secrets to Create a Financially Engaged Leadership Team in Your Hotelwww.hotelfinancialcoach.com
Article by Guilain Denisselle

Hotel technology Infographic: PMS more "Slow and quiet" than "Fast and furious"

tendancehotellerie.fr 12 September 2017
The world is changing fast, technology even faster. The PMS takes its time, the PMS imposes its deadlines, the PMS slows everyone down, the PMS is obsolete. If the PMS was only for its publishers, it would not matter. The problem is that an entire vertical economy furiously depends on the PMS, which is the operational IT root of the industry. In a hotel, there is no possibility of disconnecting technology: a hotel works 24/7, 365 days a year, and especially when others rest and unplug.Reminder of the hotels IT architectureException aside, hotel technology is primarily based on the PMS. Why is that? Because the billing system and then the planning were the first to be mechanized and thereafter to be computerized.Step by step, the hotels asked their PMS partner to interface with other solutions that would help them in their daily operations. For simplicity and due to a lack of strategic vision, hotels have chosen this path. From a PMS perspective, this is a great opportunity not only to increase its average basket but above all to increase its customer dependency, which makes the divorce even more complicated. PMS' interest is THE top priority, the interest of its client only comes second. Don't you agree? Well, consider the PMS global leader's behavior.Shall we throw out the baby with the bathwater (this is a typical French remark "Faut-il jeter le bebe avec l'eau du bain")? Today, NOT AT ALL. Why? Because otherwise how would hoteliers manage their daily management and suit their customers.In this context, the strategy of CitizenM which really controls its technology and especially its data should guide other hoteliers to think and to act.To change the ecosystem, a few solutions are emerging that put the PMS back to its true role: the PMS handles operational and only operational. Before confirming that this a the best available stragegy, best is to wait and see how smoothly the daily operations run.Where are these PMS based?89% are based in Europe, of which about 65% are in France.A hyper-fragmented market41% of companies make no more than half a million Euros annual sales, 50% less than one million, 61% less than two million ... With such a low turnover, it must be difficult to run a R & D department (Research & Development) with a real "R". Not a single thriving technology company can do without a strong or very strong "R". In this context, how can we hope for innovation?Cloud is taking the lead40% are cloud based, most of them with a SaaS model. 38% are privately installed, either on premise or on a private server with a Citrix-like bridge, or as a mix. The balance, 22%, are hybrid and can be instaled either on premise or in the cloud or both.Connectivity makes no sense!50% have 10 interfaces or less. How do we get to "10 interfaces" ? Take the two or three dominant channel managers in a market, one third party PCI partner, two or three customer reviews & marketing tools, two or three POS, and you'll get even more than 10!Only 22,9% have more than 20 interfaces.Conversely, 1 in 8 does not have a single interface!What does it mean ? That the hotel is either locked into a short list of third-party solutions that do not necessarily suit him or he is sentenced to manually manage other tools.Superman Syndrome? Of course not!88% think they can meet the needs of Luxury Hotels, 69% of Palaces hotels. Yet they are only 50% to have more than 10 interfaces.There is no worse blind man than the one who doesn't want to seeThey are 90% confident about their own future and "only" 80% for their sector in generalStrangely this statistic does not reflect the other statistics: of those who make less than 500 k EUR of annual turnover, those who have little or no interfaces, those who do not know the cloud...Standards are not for them62% do not know HTNG (Hospitality Technology Next Generation), the association which has set up a large number of technological standards, for example the tokenization environment which allows PMS to delegate the storage of their customers' payment card data to a trusted third party, a "virtual safe".PCI-DSS: 35% are not compliantAnd many are in the process of becoming compliant by 31 December 2017, which means that the compliance rate at the beginning of September 2017 is closer to 50% than 65%.Of those who are compliant, 21 do so using a trusted third party and 10 by themselves.40% want to be paid double for each interfaceWhen a third-party solution asks to interface with PMS, 40% of them ask for a financial counterpart, either a single "account opening" fee or a revenue share over time.Don't forget that the hotel is already paying the PMS:A first time subscription to an interface to the PMS catalogEvery month/quarter/semester for interface maintenance. It is not uncommon for the monthly interface maintenance cost to be higher than the third-party solution's itself.Half only have written specifications readyWhen a third-party solution wants to interface with a PMS, the classic rule is that the PMS provides its written and illustrated technical specifications. 50% of them are therefore not ready to interface.ConclusionIn a context of globalization and acceleration of technology, it looks obvious that PMS are globally in total discrepancy with the present century. French hotels still have a long way to go before they become truly technologically agile.Can we extend to Europe? The other European markets are different, of course, but the trend towards small PMS businesses and the "blocking" of connectivity are elements that can be noticed everywhere.This means that there are real opportunities for bold entrepreneurs who are not afraid to come up against the reflexes of the last century. It's the future that counts!
Article by Stuart Dickinson

Back to basics: What is a chatbot and does my hotel need one?

GuestRevu 12 September 2017
And chances are you've already interacted with a chatbot. Think about Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana, Google Assistant or Amazon's Alexa - these are all advanced forms of chatbots. Or put simply, computer programs powered by artificial intelligence (AI) that are designed to simulate conversations with human users.What is a chatbot?If you're familiar with instant messaging platforms (like Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp and so on) you'll understand the basics behind a chatbot. A chatbot is essentially the next generation of this instant messaging technology that we use every day. Run using artificial intelligence, a chatbot is basically a computer answering your guests, instead of a person.Talking to a computer may not sound like a very personal experience to offer guests, but with the help of natural language processing, chatbots can expertly mimic a real, human conversation.According to Chatbot Magazine, there are essentially two types of chatbots:A chatbot that functions based on rules:This bot only responds to very specific commands (it's only as smart as it's programmed to be). If you say something it doesn't understand, it will typically reply with an error message.A chatbot that functions using machine learning:This bot has an artificial brain (artificial intelligence) and gets smarter as it learns from the conversations it has with people. You don't have to be extremely specific when you're talking to it, and it understands language, not just commands.How can a chatbot help me delight my guests?So, if we consider that a chatbot is essentially your own messaging app powered by AI, that can plug into larger messaging platforms that you already use - like Facebook Messenger, text messages, etc. - and that no human needs to man it, hotels using chatbots to provide their users or guests with information will help them achieve their goals quicker, making their user experience quick and painless.Having a chatbot means that your guests can get on-demand information in a natural and conversational way, 24/7 and in just one click, and the chances of losing a guest during the booking journey reduce considerably.Large hotel companies like Hyatt and Starwood have recently installed chatbots to act as convenient, helpful customer service channels, while Expedia, Skyscanner and Booking.com have also made use of this technology to assist their clients in different ways.Meet Edward - Edwardian Hotels use a chatbot called Edward to help guests with a variety of things, from online check-in, to letting them know their rooms are ready. In fact, Edward is so good at his job that many guests thought they were dealing with a real person, and praised him with glowing reviews on TripAdvisor."Edward kindly secured me a late check out and was keen to help with anything else I needed," wrote one happy TripAdvisor user. A guest even brought an envelope to down reception with a generous tip!In April 2016, Voyages-sncf.com created a chatbot in Facebook Messenger that interacted with people after they made a booking. The bot handled simple requests, while humans picked up the more complex questions. Thanks to a large tech team, this service has since evolved to allow people to share their train ticket with friends and book together via Messenger.Weighing up chatbotsChatbots are still relevantly new to the hospitality industry, with large hotel brands and OTAs mostly taking advantage of them. For independent hotels and smaller chains, human-maintained instant messaging systems are still providing a good, cost-effective alternative while the tech matures.Below we weigh up some of the pros and cons of implementing your own chatbot system.Pros:Help enhance guest communicationThey are always on, and provide guests with 24/7 smart communicationThey can be multilingual, catering for international guestsBots help move guests along the booking path faster and more efficientlyReduce workload of your staffImproved profiling of guests to help you later in your efforts to boost loyaltyCons:When needed, they can't provide that human touchThe complexities of languageThe best chatbots are expensiveLet's look at these in more detail...Benefits of using a chatbot1) Enhanced guest communicationBecause the messaging system is managed by AI, chatbots are there for guests 24/7. This promptness can help make them feel special and greatly enhances brand loyalty. Additionally, chatbots can be multilingual, helping international guests feel far more at ease when they deal with your hotel in their own language.A chatbot can also help guests check in and out on the fly with their mobile device, and provide a seamless platform to ask questions or raise complaints that can be dealt with quickly by staff.2) Increase booking conversions and reduce abandonmentA chatbot can quickly direct guests down the booking path, and reduces a hotel's dependency on online travel agencies to increase direct, non-commissionable booking revenue. If your bot is always present within popular messaging apps used by millions of people every day, eventually guests will start to use this method as a natural way to book their trips.3) Reduce workload of your staffA chatbot frees up staff from the often time-consuming task of responding to hundreds of guest requests. Now they can focus on enhancing hotel functions that only humans can do. And as mentioned above, hotel staff might not be able to give guests the instant satisfaction that only a ChatBot can.4) Improved profiling of guestsBecause a chatbot interacts with guests at most (if not all) stages of their stay, you're able to gather valuable information which can later be used to automate personalised services for current or future stays. This enhanced personalisation also goes a long way towards building brand loyalty.Read about pre-stay communication techniques that help improve guest experienceConsidering the negatives1) Failing to meet expectations"The expectations of people who use bots are very high," says chief experience officer at travel firm Travelaer Mike Slone. "They think they should operate like something they see in a movie, whereas the reality is that conversational bots are quite immature today."Certain situations require a human touch, and having a bot reply to a stressful request with an automated response will often only make the situation worse.2) The complexities of languageHuman language is incredibly complex. Words have different meanings in different situations and contexts, and getting artificial intelligence to fully understand that can be massively challenging. Guests will have to understand that to get the most of a chatbot, they should use simple, direct requests.Multiple languages can also pose a problem. How do you accurately communicate with guests from countries that speak different languages?3) ChatBots are expensiveIt's estimated that building a chatbot from the ground up can cost anywhere between $30,000 and $150,000. It's a complex task to build a friendly, reliable and helpful bot that won't give you headaches along the way, so be prepared to pay the premium.There are cheaper ways to construct chatbots through pre-built apps, but these are basic shells that will need to be fleshed out further by developers.All things consideredWhile chatbots still have room for improvement (and a few complex hurdles to overcome), it's an exciting new technology that has the power to help you improve customer service, increase revenue and drive bookings.If you have the budget and need to automate the guest interaction process, then a chatbot is definitely something worth considering.
Article by Bronwyn White

Why Chatbots Are Transforming the Travel Industry

MyTravelResearch.com 11 September 2017
Chatbots can be simply defined as artificial intelligence programs that conduct conversations with humans through chat interfaces.Consider a chatbot as a personal assistant who can respond to enquiries or give recommendations on a certain topic in a real-time manner.Research shows that more consumers are using messaging apps compared to social networks, and this trend is fast extending to the travel industry where we are seeing chatbots as messenger apps being rolled out as a new and immediate interface of customer interaction.According to a report from BI Intelligence in 2016, for the first time ever, messaging apps have now caught up with social networks in terms of users. In fact, messaging apps are now even more popular than social networks. The combined global monthly active users of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn are between three and 3.5 billion, which lags compared to the combined active users of messenger apps including WhatsApp, Messenger, WeChat, and Viber at around 3.7 billion.How Chatbots will Change the Travel IndustryChatbots are ideal for customer centric businesses and destinations. They can serve as 24/7 front-end customer care specialists. Gone are the days of responding manually to comments and enquiries in your blog, website, and social media channel.Chatbots are capable of totally transforming visitor servicing in destinations after hours. Frequently asked questions and enquiries can be answered any time of the day or night, including when travellers are arriving at a destination and the visitor information centre / welcome centre is closed.Responses can be automated using intelligent chatbots that can efficiently carry out basic requests for information. Chatbots meet the "instant" in instant messaging.Customers can be served quickly as time spent on hold waiting for enquiries to be answered is reduced / removed.Chatbots drastically reduce overheads (particularly for contact centres).Chatbots promote relationship management. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, bots are great at managing relationships with human beings. With thoughtful pre-programming, chatbots can supplement the entire travel experience, beginning with automated pre-arrival reminders, to suggesting nearby entertainment spots and transportation facilities at destination.Humans are open to using chatbots. In a recent study by Retale, when asked whether or not they had ever used a chatbot, almost 60% of respondents answered "yes". And of those who hadn't tried a chatbot, 53% said they were interested.It is market research as you go. From a research perspective, imagine the rich qualitative data you will collect concerning your customers. You can refine, change and develop travel products as you see trends emerging.Chatbots are multilingual. Imagine the diverse markets you can reach!Post-trip, bots may send out feedback forms that can solicit valuable information on how your business could further improve a guest's travel experience.Expedia leading the wayExpedia is leading the rest of the field in terms of deploying chatbots to engage customers on their websites and social media. Chatting with Expedia in Messenger allows the traveller to book a hotel within the app, only being redirected to the Expedia website to input payment details.Some 4 to 5 years ago, this simple process was one of the main reasons why hotlines were always busy. Now, with chatbots, customers can easily manage their own bookings without needing to wait on the line for the next available representative.Kayak is one of the best-loved bots in the travelling scene. All the information you will ever need about flights, rental cars, hotels, and activities are fully integrated into its program. But it doesn't stop there. Kayak goes beyond by giving travellers the option to view a list of places they could go on a specific budget, and keeps travellers updated on future travel plans through Messenger. This practically draws the traveller back to the marketing funnel, creating a loop in the customer life cycle, which translates to maximised returns.By using intelligent chatbots to respond to traveller enquiries, your business can concentrate on other areas of opportunity such as mapping out plans to increase repeat business and gaining loyalty for future travels.Learn MoreLearn more about how bots can help your travel business. My full blog on chatbots is available here.
Article by Kevin McCarthy

Trade in Sentimentality for a Future Proof PMS

Movenpick 11 September 2017
My team and I have now converted 36 properties to Opera Cloud PMS and another 10 confirmed for migration in 2017, and 20+ to come in 2018. This is one part of a bigger project including Cloud Revenue Management, Cloud CRM, Cloud POS etc. The shift from license upfront payment to the subscription model has brought with it an unexpected hurdle. As we work with our property owners and management for the increased investment into the new suite of cloud systems, being first on Opera Cloud PMS means it's not an easy negotiation, due to the fact a very successful pricing model has been retired and a new unconventional one for the hospitality industry has emerged.While discussing this conundrum recently with a colleague, he mentioned it was like trying to get someone to buy a brand-new state of the art Mercedes when they have a perfectly fine 10-year-old BMW. This thought provoking point leads me to explore this hypothesis a little more.Imagine if you will, in your drive-way you have a nice black 2007 BMW 5 Series. You have had it since new, and boy has it served you well. It still looks great, it doesn't look out of date at all, alloys have a few nicks, couple of scratches but no crashes. Inside, the leather is a little scuffed but those seats are more comfortable than ever. The air conditioning works fine, albeit if you have the internal circulation switched on and the back-left blower closed. All the electrics work fine, well, except the left mirror, but come on, how often do you need to move that mirror anyway? These are the things you must spend some time explaining to your family when they borrow your car. The stereo is still the factory version and the 10-disc CD auto changer and tape deck work perfectly well, should you ever find a tape or CD again. OK so the built in Sat Nav now thinks you're just off-roading all the time, but on older highways it's great. Driving is smooth as day 1, even after 120,000 kilometers, it still runs like a dream, barely any problems with the engine, there was that one-time last year when the battery went flat, the fan belt snapped and the bearings went on the front right, but that's to be expected, yes, the parts are expensive from BMW as the car is a little old, they are harder to find. Even with fixing a few bits and pieces, couple of services, you only pay a couple thousand a year maximum to run the car. Yes, you are a little nervous on every service as to what may need to be fixed, but you will cross that bridge when it comes. It doesn't have parking assist, or rear cameras or any other of those new fancy gadgets, but those are just a gimmick anyway, you're not interested in that. Your 10-year-old BMW is part of who you are, and has served you so well you owe it the respect to never trade it in.Now as you imagine sitting in the scuffed seat enjoying the memories from those nicks and marks of your dash, think about your PMS system. Re-read the last paragraph but replace the car analogy with the name of your lovely onsite PMS system.It has served you well,It still looks the part,You and your staff know it inside and out and you feel at home using it,There are a few ''scuffs'' AKA bugs, you are used to, the provider has little to no plans to fix minor issues like that,There are some workarounds needed, and training staff can take a little longer to explain all those things,Some of the functionality is now outdated and no longer used,New features don't come automatically,System glitches and failures don't happen too often but when they do it does take a little more to get it resolved.Upgrades are always a nerve wracking time, as the success rate starts to decline with age and often side effects bring more problems and costs.Your yearly maintenance has little impact on your budget, as that great deal on the license 10 years ago has paid for itself 100 times over.Overall, everyone is happy with the familiarity and is sentimental to the system they use 8 hours a day, hey they are using this system more in 24 hours than they sleep.Some of this sound familiar? I am sure it does, now imagine I am the Jaguar salesman who has just pitched the new E Type 0 to you, and not to buy it, to lease it, with the promise of a swap over every year for the next 5 years for a lease cost, 3 times more expensive than your BMW's worth today. Your first thought I am sure includes a bridge somewhere and me leaving it in some violent way.You tell me why on earth would you need an all-electric car in Dubai, the gas costs nothing here. You don't need all this gadgetry in your life, you have survived this long without it what's the point? Not unlike todays PMS systems, why on earth would you need to upgrade to a more expensive system that has a pile of bells and whistles and a technology roadmap for something that has no concern to you today. The answer is simple, you need to get ready...The Cloud PMS developers today are daydreaming in hyper speed to anticpate what will come next. When selecting your provider, it's not so much anymore what's under the hood that matters rather what will be under the hood. Ask for the roadmap in your first meeting, what's the current dream of the provider, if its 1 developer or 100, the bigger the dream, the bigger the advantage for you. Yes, you need your core functionality of check in and check out, but for how long will check in be done from behind a desk, or even in the actual hotel building itself? Hospitality is re-inviting itself at a fast pace and technology needs to not only keep up it needs to be ahead. Millennials and their screen addictions and hungry infant impatience levels have molded an uncertain period within hospitality and its technology, whereby hotels need to care for my father who arrives to a hotel wanting a big smile, a key in hand, a long chat about the weather and a breakfast menu at check in and then there is his son just wanting the WIFI login as fast as possible so I can skype my daughter to say good night, and mumbling ''I'll figure it out'' about your hotel as I navigate the exam to WIFI victory on my device while never once looking you in the eye.The race for future proof technology is here, let's be honest, how comforting is it to know that when the latest and greatest technology is released you will have it automatically. Your iPhone, your laptop, your TV, even if you're lucky enough your Tesla does it too. You don't have to order the guy to come and upgrade your system with Cloud PMS, your system sits in your providers Datacenter and they upgrade it. Not unlike getting that shiny new lease once a year, the butterfly feeling for the new car smell is just the same when release notes come out from your Cloud PMS provider and you see a list of 150 modifications coming your way, and like the Electric Jaguar on lease you don't have to pay extra for the new rear view camera which although life today is fine without it, you do realize after some time that having a camera on the back of your car to help park in that tight spot or more importantly to look out for that wandering toddler really is impacting.Sustainability, a trendy word in hospitality. What are the carbon emissions on your current PMS system? How would they match up to a Cloud solution? You may say minimal, sure, that's what the first critics would have said about the Toyota Prius too. The emissions on a Prius today is calculated as 70, and the Tesla Type X is 0, only in the space of a few years have we seen the impossible come to reality in the complex and oil driven automotive industry. We only calculate like for like on costs of the servers, the cooling systems in the server room, the electricity to power it but what's the cost to the environment for building it and sustaining it? Why can't your IT systems be green too? Logic says if every hotel chain used one Cloud a footprint should diminish. It may not save you money but helping the planet should count for something. Not so long ago I checked the hotel availability of the hotel I was travelling to in my Cloud PMS system for my reservation on the dashboard screen of my Tesla Taxi enroute to the hotel from the train station in Switzerland. That has to be the alpine green in the CO2 world and something I believe we should all strive for.With the news, this week of Jaguar Land Rover now declaring all their future cars will be electric only, this is just another sign of an ever-changing world and our collective need to get ready for the unexpected, remember that confidence of sitting in a new car, knowing for now, you are safer than everyone else on the road and my, the fun playing with that new control system. As I prepare for my next version release of Opera Cloud, I eagerly anticipate seeing my teams test results on the enhancements we logged and the features we are waiting for and although we have challenges, the trade in for the subscription package and the future proof confidence that comes with it is already starting to erode the sentimentality of days gone by.
Article by Terence Ronson

The next 12 months in Hotel Tech

Pertlink Limited 8 September 2017
It's that time of the year again when I gaze deeply into my virtual crystal ball and speculate what the technology trends for the next 12 months in the hotel industry will be - so here goes.Firstly, I believe there will be a tectonic shift at the heart of the industry - Property Management Systems (PMS). For far too long, many have been fixated on the importance of this tool, beholden to less than a handful of players (whom some people allege operate monopolistic practices), locking both corporate and individuals into platforms they do not enjoy using, but are paying highly inflated fees for.Advances in technology - both hardware and software as well as use of Cloud services and the emergence of a plethora of start-ups to replace PMS, will make a significant dent into this space. In fact, the ground is already shifting, exacerbated by the often-bureaucratic policies these major players employ to protect their service contracts.Another area of contention is Point of Sale (POS). For far too long servers have been tethered to fixed terminals for order entry. That will inevitably change when benefits of tableside ordering outweigh this long-held practice. With prices for Android tablets becoming more competitive, everyone can be given their own to use on shift which would greatly enhance the efficiency and service levels of these often-low paid employees. Enhanced service by the server, could lead to better customer satisfaction and can result in a higher tip.Since eWallets have become main stream (they are easily identifiable as they all have "pay" at the end of their branding), cash and credit cards as we know and love will slowly fade away. As use of eWallets increase, QR codes for payments will become more popular.The printing of folios must disappear from the checkout process, and will simply be emailed to the appropriate department for processing. If a guest needs a receipt, then a POS type receipt could be issued similar to those issued in supermarkets or Apple store. One innovative hotel group - Aryaduta Hotels already practice this in Indonesia, and so if they can do it, WHY CAN'T THE REST FOLLOW?Robots are rapidly finding their ways in hotels, not just as fun things behind the Reception counter like we've seen in Japan where a Tyrannosaurus Rex greets you. They are now becoming functional like the Savioke's Relay which delivers housekeeping amenities and I suspect very soon, food. Some hotels already use these for replenishing housekeeping trolleys and supplies overnight when service elevators are used less.Voice activated rooms are still in their infancy, but given the advances of so many platforms developing their own voice and back-end AI systems, these will grow in popularity and usefulness. Concerns will remain about open mics, privacy and language handling, but the commercial opportunities will drive the suppliers to overcome these hurdles. If you have not seen the funny spoof video called "Eleven" whereby two Scotsman try and use a voice-activated elevator, it will make you chuckle. Jokes aside, voice has a place whether for people with disabilities (PWD), or for my favourite -- for integration with phone functions to replace the remaining dinosaur in hotel rooms - the telephone.I know I always talk about Wearables, and hope this year will be the year they finally make it. I continue to be bullish on their usefulness. The next Apple Watch version 3 is rumoured to have a SIM inside, so this will enhance its attractiveness. And once developers step up to the challenge of recognizing this new revenue stream, more apps will be generated. So, it will come... in time.Security is a major concern with threats both externally and internally. I cannot stress enough the importance of focusing on this critical area and making sure the network which every aspect of your business runs over, is nuke-proof. There are a lot of malicious groups out there intent on adding hotels to their Hit list (including the Russians!), so please recruit an ethical hacker to test and certify your defences. Whilst it won't be 100%, your CSR (Client Social Responsibility) will be met.See you in 2018!1st appeared in HOTEL TECH Conference program 7 SEP 2017
Article by Pierre Boettner

If You Don't Give Guests What They Want They'll Go Elsewhere

hospitalityPulse, Inc. 7 September 2017
Today's discerning travelers not only want individualized experiences tailored to their priorities, but they expect their hotel rooms to provide more than just a bed to sleep in. Guests want the ability to customize their stay, with price being only a secondary consideration. They want to be able to select - and are willing to pay for - the room features and amenities that are most important to them. Hotels looking to differentiate themselves can do so by giving customers what they want - exactly what they want.Room Features Over Room Categories It's no longer a simple question of whether your customer prefers a standard double room or a suite. A recent report from Oracle Hospitality, "Creating the Coveted Hotel Guest Experience," showed that in-room features are used more by hotel guests than on-property services. In addition, 77 percent of travelers say that amenities play a fundamental role in their decision whether to book accommodation, while nearly half want the ability to select a specific room location. Today's guests think of their hotel room as a personal refuge, a "home away from home," filled with the features and creature comforts they value most.Complimentary Wi-Fi, mobile check-in, and the ability to stream personal content on a hotel room television are quickly becoming the expected norm. Beyond this, however, specific room features desired by guests can vary widely, and require greater customization. A good desk and high-end coffee maker may be important to a business traveler, a leisure traveler may want to ensure their room is on a specific floor and includes a balcony, and the couple on a romantic getaway wants a room offering heart-stopping views or a cozy fireplace where they can snuggle at night.For better online conversion, sell combinations of room features rather than offering broad room categories. The hotelier who can guarantee the room features their guests will be ready and waiting for them when they pull into the hotel parking lot is well ahead of the game when it comes to building loyalty and gaining repeat business.Include Room Features in the Booking Flow The traditional way of booking a hotel room does not satisfy this growing demand for personalization in specific room features. Hotel shoppers no longer want to wade through a bland list of room categories that may or may not include the amenities they desire. And they don't want to arrive at a hotel only to find that their wishes can't be accommodated. The key is to include room features and amenities within the booking process. A hotelier that automates room assignments with the exact features and amenities their guest's desire creates stronger customer engagement and goodwill.Does your guest want a chilled bottle of champagne waiting upon arrival? After a busy day of exploring, do you prefer to shower, and then drop into the crisp sheets of linens changed daily rather than the standard 2 or 3 days? With each opportunity to select another service amenity they want - a potential guest moves further along the booking path. Guests watch their dream vacation experience being transformed into reality, making it much more likely they will hit that "book room" button.A Natural Way to Increase RevenueBy selling room features as opposed to room categories, a hotel operator stands out from the competition. Sidestep the old-school commoditization model and stop focusing your efforts on simply trying to gain higher profits. Instead, through the use of automation and intelligent technology solutions, focus on allowing guests to customize their rooms with everything they want even before they arrive. Doing so will increase your customer satisfaction, build loyalty and grow repeat business which will naturally lead to higher revenues.In addition, hoteliers can capitalize on the room features people want most. Today's travelers care about more than price point. When presented with opportunities to choose the room features they desire, such as a great view, or optional extras like a bottle of wine or in-room massage, guests are willing to pay more for the amenities they value.The future of hotel success lies in selling features and services directly within the booking process, thus guaranteeing you give your guests exactly what they want when they want it. Through the power of personalization, hoteliers can transform dreams into reality, increase guest satisfaction and in the process, their hotel's bottom line.
Article by Max Starkov and Carmine Fischetti

Hotelier's Action Plan to Maximize Revenues from the Google Ecosystem

HeBS Digital 7 September 2017
Background:Over the past several years, hotel advertising on Google has become increasingly complex, due to changes instituted by Google itself, changes in travel consumer planning behavior, and advancements in technology. Here are just a few of these developments:Desktop: By removing the right rail on desktop searches, Google decreased advertising "real estate" by 67%. This change has resulted in increased competition (i.e., there are four ad spots now, whereas before there were 11) and higher CPCs, which means that the same budget yields less clicks at a higher cost per click. Fewer clicks mean fewer bookings.Mobile: Over 60% of Google searches are now done via mobile devices, where the competition for limited advertising "real estate" is especially fierce. There are less than three listings per search result, which means higher CPCs. In addition, many of the clicks result in phone reservations, which are only trackable with a sophisticated call analytics solution.Travel Planning/Purchasing Behavior: Online travel planning and purchasing behavior has become increasingly complex. Today's online travel consumer visits 18 websites via multiple devices in eight sessions before making a hotel booking (source: Google Research).Technology: From programmatic ad buying, dynamic rate marketing (DRM) and data marketing, to creating marketing personas and targeting look-alike audiences, today's advertising and targeting options have become more technology-enabled, more targeted, and exceedingly complex.These changes should affect how hoteliers execute various advertising formats in the Google Ecosystem and what initiatives they use to reach travel consumers through the travel planning journey:Upper Funnel: Increasing Traveler EngagementYouTube TrueViewGmail AdsLower Funnel: Increasing Traveler ConversionGoogle Search NetworkGoogle Display Network (GDN)Google Hotel Ads (Meta Search)Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA)Customer Match - targeting look-alike audiencesThe Google Ecosystem - A Fully Integrated Advertising PlatformBased on all of these developments, hotel marketers must plan accordingly and understand that the Google Ecosystem has become a fully integrated advertising platform where all advertising formats are intertwined and work in concert, user engagement in the upper funnel influences conversions in the lower funnel, and a campaign in one advertising format influences the results from all other formats.For example, the interdependence between the traditional Google Search Network (paid search) and display advertising on the Google Display Network (GDN), though not always transparent, provides good insight into the importance of running both ad formats as part of one cohesive campaign and reporting on blended results from the Google Ecosystem. Here are a few reasons why:The Google Search Network and the GDN work in tandem to push users through the sales funnel. In the U.S. market, consumers exposed to a display ad show an average lift of 49% in site visitation and 40% in brand-name searches. With the travel planning journey of today's consumer involving over 18 different touch points before making a booking, it is important to use all tools in the toolbox to engage the consumer throughout their journey. Engagement via paid search ads, followed up with GDN retargeting, helps ensure more users will come back to the property website to complete their booking.GDN utilizes keyword targeting as one of the most successful targeting formats, where real-time "knowledge transfer" happens between paid search ads and GDN.Utilizing just traditional paid search without GDN retargeting leaves the travel consumer exposed to ads and engagements from the competition, OTAs, and even other destinations. Running both paid search ads and GDN together under the same Google AdWords interface allows for higher conversions, better analytics, and attribution tracking.The rich user data that comes from paid search ads and organic search data directly benefits GDN ads. GDN campaigns can use intent-driven search data to create contextually targeted or behaviorally targeted strategies. Using Google Search Network data to refine the audience profile helps GDN display strategies to achieve more granular targeting and be more precise with display bidding/media planning.Using demographics data gathered from GDN campaigns can help advertisers better identify their audience and use that same information in the targeting of search campaigns. Identifying the key target audiences for the hotel not only guides keyword research and development but has a direct impact on ad copy as well. By using granular audience targeting, advertisers keep search network clicks hyper-qualified, which means more bookings for the same amount of spend.GDN retargeting pools can be used for Google Search Network targeting as well, so that unique messaging can be presented to those who are further along in the booking process. Users who have already interacted with GDN display marketing can be served different and more targeted ad copy rather than generic messaging, which will increase a user's likelihood to book. Having both advertising formats working together is what allows for this type of unique marketing opportunity.The connection between the Google Search Network and the GDN allows one to feed off the other. Running on GDN display marketing groups compiled from Google Search Network users' search history is a great way to build a qualified audience. The same can be said in using the Google Search Network to build a quality GDN retargeting audience. You can get even more granular based on what keywords users searched and the pages visited. This symbiosis between the Google Search Network and GDN lowers advertising costs and results in much lower blended return on ad spend (ROAS).The GDN and Google Search Network connection can also benefit YouTube campaigns. Running these formats together under the same interface allows the advertiser to make a unique pool of users who viewed the hotel video, in order to then follow up with either Google Search Network or GDN campaigns. This is an effective way to capitalize and convert a branding effort into a revenue driving endeavor.Hotelier's Action Plan to Maximize Revenues from the Google EcosystemHere are some concrete action steps to help you make the most from the Google Ecosystem, and generate the highest returns and ROAS:You should no longer be fixated on stand-alone results from the various advertising initiatives on Google, but rather focus on the blended results from the entire Google Ecosystem, including the Google Search Network, GDN, RLSA, Google Hotel Ads, and Gmail Ads, among others. In other words, you should ask yourself: "If I invest $10,000 in the Google Ecosystem, what would the return be? 5 times? 10 times? 12 times? 15 times?"Do not split various advertising initiatives on Google among different agencies and vendors. This is the best way to waste precious advertising dollars and achieve mediocre results. Utilizing a single partner to manage your Google Ecosystem allows for higher conversions, better analytics, and attribution tracking.Make sure you utilize the services of a Google Premier Partner Agency whose employees are certified by Google to manage all of the ever-evolving and increasingly complex advertising formats in the Google Ecosystem, as well as handle ongoing, Google-specific SEO services and technical SEO. Ask questions like: "How many of your employees are Google AdWords certified? Can your agency manage Google Hotel Ads campaigns that include real-time inventory availability and pricing? What is the name of your agency's dedicated Google rep?"Ask your agency to manage all property campaigns on Google (e.g., Google Search Network, GDN, and RLSA) from the same Google AdWords account. This approach allows for monitoring the property's Google budget as a whole, as well as shifting ad spend in real time between ad formats, based on performance, to achieve maximum results.Make sure the GDN is part of the marketing mix. The GDN offers a lower cost ad format with no added DSP/programmatic fees, which could run into the thousands of dollars, as in the case with most traditional online media buys.Take advantage of the full spectrum of advertising formats in the Google Ecosystem--including Google Search Network, GDN, Google Hotel Ads, and RSLA, among others--to engage, retain, and acquire travel consumers throughout their travel planning journey.GDN Targeting is the perfect solution to expand hotel marketing reach and attract new customers at the top of the funnel.GDN Retargeting serves as a great "reservation abandonment recovery" and "brand reminder" tool.The Google Search Network is perfect as a "deal closer" ad format to convert new customers already exposed to GDN ads and for customers who know where they want to go.Utilize GDN Targeting, in addition to GDN Retargeting. The GDN offers highly successful, direct-response type of targeting capabilities:KeywordsAudiencesRetargetingSimilar UsersEmail AddressManaged PlacementsMake Google Hotel Ads (HPA-meta search) part of your evergreen marketing initiatives. This advertising format nicely compliments your property's SEO efforts, Google Search Network ads, and Google Business Listing to provide real-time availability and pricing right at the point of user engagement.Employ the Google Ecosystem as an integral and indispensable component of any multichannel marketing campaign where a consistent marketing message or promotion is pushed across all marketing channels and devices to achieve maximum engagement and bookings.Focus your campaigns in the Google Ecosystem on geo targeting in the main feeder markets that produce the most bookings, and not on national targeting. Use marketing creative with "It Pays to Book Direct" messaging and offer perks or value ads to close the deal, such as "Book Direct and Get Free Wi-Fi" (or free breakfast, free parking, and et cetera). Offer some form of exclusivity to direct bookers to help increase perceived value.Make sure your Google My Business Listing is fully optimized, and your property listing on all local search engines, directories, and main data providers is uniformly optimized.Finally, make sure your agency can deliver Google-specific ongoing SEO services, and can handle very complex Google-specific technical SEO requirements including schema.org, Google AMP, Google Sitemap XML, Google Search Console dashboard management, and more.Conclusion:Over the past several years the Google Ecosystem has become a fully integrated advertising platform where all advertising formats are intertwined and work in concert, user engagement in the upper funnel influences conversions in the lower funnel, and a campaign in one advertising format influences the results from all other formats.Hotel marketers should no longer be fixated on stand-alone results from the various advertising initiatives on Google, but rather focus on blended results from the entire Google Ecosystem, including the Google Search Network, GDN, RLSA, Google Hotel Ads, and Gmail Ads, among others. In other words, if you invest $10,000 in the Google Ecosystem, what would the return be? 5 times? 10 times? 15 times?Hiring different agencies and vendors to run various aspects of advertising on Google is a recipe for mediocre results. Partner with a single Google Premier Partner Agency specializing in hospitality to manage all of your campaigns in the Google Ecosystem in order to achieve higher conversions, better analytics, and attribution tracking.Carmine Fischetti is Associate Director, SEM Dept. at HEBS Digital.
Article by Thomas Magnuson

The areas where hoteliers can save money

Magnuson 7 September 2017
Balancing the books can be quite a challenge, especially for smaller boutique hotels. Carefully weighing up where you should be investing your money and where you should be making cost savings has a huge impact on your success. The customers that you attract and the segment you're hoping to tap into will play a role. But there are some areas where hoteliers across the board can save money.Labour - For most hotels, labour will be one of their biggest outgoings. The people that keep everything running smoothly are vital. We don't mean you have to start making redundancies here but simply using your employees better can help. With the right training, you can get each member of staff to cover multiple different aspects, reducing your reliance on short term or part time staff when you're at your busiest.Marketing - Marketing shouldn't be something that you cut out altogether but you should assess what's working for you. If you're spending a lot of money and getting little in return, it might be time to look at marketing alternatives that cost less, you might even find that they're more successful for your business.Routine tasks - This one might require a bit of investment upfront but it's well worth it. Routine tasks that can be automated, such as reminding customers about reservations or taking payments, free up the time of your staff. With one less task to do, they can focus their efforts on other areas that can improve your business and grow revenue.Create partnerships - Creating effective partnerships with other local businesses can bring down your frequent monthly outgoings. Many firms will be willing to offer a discounted price for regular orders they can rely on. It'll help you build effective working relationships too.
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Proven Ways to Guarantee Your Hotel Tech Supplier Has Your Back

StayNTouch Inc. 5 September 2017
The purchase of a hotel system is only the beginning of the journey. More planning is needed to use the software to its full potential. In today's hectic hotel operational environment, the one thing you don't want to worry about is the support of your technology platforms. If you need something fixed, tweaked or replaced, you want to feel secure that your technology supplier has your back.Here are a few ideas to help hoteliers maximize value from their technology investment: Dedicated Champion On-Property: Make sure that you have a dedicated individual who acts as your technology champion on property. This may indeed be your IT person, but for several hotels that cannot afford an IT resource, it may be your Front Desk Manager or another person on staff. If you have a champion on the property, then your technology partner knows whom to deal with when the time comes to help with service and support issues. Support Forums: Ask your technology provider if they have a support forum. Some do, and some don't. However, if they do, this can be a great tool for hoteliers to discuss issues with their peers and even omit the need to talk to a support representative. Having a support community can make a significant difference in many ways, providing helpful tools at your fingertips. If your technology provider does not have one, ask to see if they can organize a group and moderate it. Education: It is no secret that there is extreme turnover in our industry so confirm that each new person joining your team is well educated on using the technology you have on the property. If you spend the time and effort training a new hire on the systems they will be using - there will be far fewer support issues to deal with. Work with your technology partner to make sure that new hire training is in place and available. Prioritization: It is important for your team to understand the severity of any issue you may have with your on-property technology. Is the issue an emergency or is it something that can be handled within a 24-hour period? Some departments may think that not having data that they can use is disrupting their work day, but this may not be an issue that is an operational emergency. You should have a grading system related to the severity of problems. Back to the first point, if you have a technology champion on the property, they will be able to assess the issue and then decide what the best course of action is. Is it to send an email, click-to-chat or to call the 800 number? Feature Requests: Maybe you have an idea that you may have for a new product feature or enhancement. Technology providers always want feedback from their users, and so a feature request is something they want to know. Find an effective way to communicate these types of needs, outside of the usual support lines. It makes sense to facilitate a discussion with them about your idea and provide input into how the platform grows and addresses ongoing operational issues. Take Advantage of Automation. Automating remote diagnostics, monitoring, and issue isolation and resolution can reduce preventable issues dramatically. By taking advantage of these advanced problem-solving capabilities, your hotel can equip itself for proactive prevention, rapid resolution and continual optimization of systems. Do Your Homework: When you are deciding to move to a new technology provider, do your homework and investigate their service and support department. Make sure that they will be able to meet your needs and talk to other hotels that are currently using their platform. Be informed as the ongoing support of a system is just as critical as how it helps you operate your hotel. Other points could be noted. However, the areas discussed above should be top of mind. If the support backbone of your system fails, your guests will ultimately pay the price. An unhappy guest is much harder to manage then a happy one.One last point, in today's "social world" - check online regarding the feedback related to the support of system you are looking to implement. It can be quite enlightening. Here is a quote that we found on Reddit regarding one of the largest property management companies in the world and their support level:"Dealing with [provider name] support is some of the worst things you can do. I do it for a living. You need to understand how the system works. At one end, you have support staff that is paid for how many tickets they can process. Not solve, process. So, expect to get sent around in a loop of different 'techs' that do minimal work on the ticket and passes it on to the next person."In the business of hotel technology - we are always striving to reach that nirvana state where everything is perfect. While there isn't a silver bullet to futureproof your hotel's technology challenges, selecting the right technology partner to match your goals and strategy will help you to set your hotel up for success moving forward.
Article by Paul van Meerendonk

Don't Get Lost in the Sea of Data

IDeaS 5 September 2017
It's safe to say "data" is not on the list of topics nobody is talking about. Data -- what data to use, where to use it, how to use it and when to use it - has been strategically dissected at the corners of nearly every industry discussion to date.Data is also heralded as the core of intelligent and gainful decision-making. It's been reported that companies at the top of their industry for data-driven decision-making are 5% more productive and 6% more profitable than their competitors.Over the years, the pool of data sources hotels utilize within their business strategies has grown exponentially larger. The propagation of its importance within the development of short- and long-term vision and strategic planning has also become more commonplace than in years past.Innovative breakthroughs in technology and analytics mean organizations continue to see more opportunities to leverage data in meaningful ways. However, the alternative side is the steep volumes of data can be dauntingly large and intricately complex.Some organizations liken this complex data environment to needing a bigger boat for a sea of data. But when it comes to capitalizing on industry data, size isn't what matters. Organizations that focus on using the right types of data -- with an infrastructure that can effectively leverage it -- can confidently reach ambitious profit goals. An era of big data requires that critical business information is not just easily accessible, but easily digested and understood. In many organizations, data related to operational forecasting, revenue forecasting and annual budgets are housed in different systems and accessed by different departments. This disconnect between both systems and departments can inevitably lead to inefficiencies and manual errors.This article explores how hoteliers can use the right mix of data for a comprehensive picture of the business, while supporting the intricate relationships between departments to improve operations and enhance business performance.Establishing the Ideal Mix of DataProfitable outputs require optimal inputs. For hotel organizations, this means data quality has significant implications on the quality of their strategy - especially when it comes to its financial returns. As organizations continue to leverage evolving data sources, it's important to be thoughtful about the data used within their technology and strategies. Simply adding more and more data - rather than focusing on adding the right data - can actually counter positive results.Here are some common data sources hotels use within their strategies, and how using them impacts their overall profit potential: Online Reputation SentimentsOnline social platforms, such as TripAdvisor and Booking.com, represent an unprecedented purchase power for today's consumers. The reviews on these platforms can also leave a heavy impact an organization's bottom line - either positive or negative. And since reviews are published on many different online websites, they have the potential to reach innumerable prospective consumers. This not only illustrates the importance of guest reviews in today's age of technology, but the opportunity hoteliers have to factor their reputation into short- and long-term business strategies. By evaluating this data, organizations can evaluate their opportunities to influence purchases at the point of decision making, as well as identify their opportunities to increase guest satisfaction. The correlation between a hotel's rate and reputation helps hoteliers identify new pricing opportunities. It has been reported that for every point increase in ratings, hotel bookings increase by 14.1% and average daily rate by 11.2%. Competitive Rate Shopping DataPrice is important to hotel demand, and it has an important role in a revenue management strategy. However, hotel organizations not only have to evaluate their own pricing approaches, but their competitors' pricing as well. This is because competitor pricing can have a direct and indirect impact on their own demand.For example, changes to competitor rates could indicate an intent to steal market share, which directly impacts demand as guests are shopping for the best deals. Competitor rates also have the ability to influence fair market price perceptions. A guest might purchase from a hotel if they expect the competitor price to be higher, but might pass on them if they expect the available rates from competitors to be lower. This means that competitor rates could influence guest reference prices for a given hotel.br>Organizations can use this data in their revenue technology to understand how guests are reacting to their pricing and how their rates are positioned within the market. Technology can use this data to estimate the effect of price on demand, and help hotels make adjustments based on price position relative to their competition. Regrets & Denials DataThere have been many discussions around using customer traffic data for demand forecasting. Much of this stems around using regrets and denials data to unconstrain hotel demand. Unconstrained demand refers to the amount of demand that exists for a product, independent of any constraints. In the hotel world, this demand represents how many hotel rooms could be sold on a given day if there was unlimited inventory available.There are two considerations in the discussions around using regrets and denials data to measure unconstrained demand. The first is the important distinction between "denials" because of unavailability and "regrets" from price or other factors. Secondly, many reservation systems are unable to capture the difference between a regret and a denial. Unconstraining demand affects the entire pricing and revenue management process, and using this data has been largely unsuccessful to date. This is because denial data from direct websites only represents a partial amount of data. When used to determine unqualified transient demand, the demand for other market segments and channel behaviors goes ignored. In addition to this, there is also a high potential of inaccurate coding practices and same person inquiries, as well as high look-to-book ratios against generally flat booking volumes. These are a few of the considerations that make this data unreliable to use in forecasting technologies. Cancellations and Re-BookingsThe practice of cancelling and re-booking is a troubling guest behavior for hotel organizations. Thousands of people cancel and re-book online reservations every single day, and it has left many hotel organizations fighting in a one-sided booking war.This particular booking behavior has the potential to negatively impact hotel's forecast and profit potential. This practice can also be difficult to accommodate for within today's technology, especially in solutions using regrets and denials data to forecast. For example, when repeat shoppers are counted as new units of hotel demand, it can significantly inflate the demand forecast over that time period.However, recent advancements in technology are helping properties account for potential revenue lost by estimating the effects of rate changes. Cancellation and re-booking patterns vary by property, market, season and day-of-week, so technology that properly accounts for these patterns offers analytical insight to optimally balance price and demand. Forward-looking Market IntelligenceMore recently, hotel organizations have identified newer ways to capitalize on data through increased interdepartmental collaboration. One type of data in particular encouraging a previously unlikely partnership between marketing and revenue management teams: travel intent data.The availability of travel intent data has become instrumental in developing a hotel's revenue strategy. This data uses search and booking data from third-party booking sites and OTAs to help quantify the demand a hotel can expect for future dates. This powerful market intelligence puts names to faces, and gives hotels human-focused insights.Hotel revenue managers use this data to strategically futurecast, a practice that builds upon traditional forecasting practices to look beyond the face value of a number and fully understand how and why a particular outcome occurred. It also helps hotel marketing teams develop and execute more specific ad placements, experience packages and personalized offers.Industry technology plays an extremely critical role in helping hotels profit from this data. The ability to integrate information previously inaccessible to hotels (such as the relationships between intent to book and pricing) elevates a hotel's forecast and its subsequent revenue opportunities, such as offering tailored package add-ons based on guest preferences.In addition, technologies providing this extensive level of insight offer hotels distinct competitive advantage when it comes to pricing their rooms, personalizing marketing efforts and aligning the overall consumer experience across all booking channels.Bringing It All TogetherEvaluating the ideal data to inform an intelligent revenue strategy is the first step in managing the sea of industry data. The next step for organizations to take is identifying how this data can help their different departments work closely with one another. The most successful hotel organizations achieve this through a strong foundation of education and routine discussions around how to use data to reach mutual department goals.Selecting the optimal infrastructure has been another topic of interest and area of opportunity for hoteliers in this process. The right infrastructure - also known by its trendier moniker "tech stack" - allows hotels better visibility and control over their revenue streams. "Tech stack" generally refers to the group of integrated solutions that work together to help a hotel achieve its business objectives.This could include data exchange between their property management system, revenue management system, central reservations system, sales and catering systems, and customer relationship management solutions. It's important for hotel organizations to evaluate their existing integrations between current and prospective software for optimal decisions and insights.Using an ideal mix of data and an optimal set of technologies provides hotels with a comprehensive view of business intelligence and encourages stronger team alignment - supporting cross-functional marketing, sales, catering and revenue teams in working together productively and profitably.Reprinted from the Hotel Business Review with permission from www.HotelExecutive.com
Article by Michael Schubach

Is Bigger Data Really Better Data?

Infor 31 August 2017
In the world of hospitality, the collection and use of data are the industry's game changers. Location, location, location is now everywhere on planet Earth, and the room product ranges from pup-tents through the royal suites set aside for the exclusive use of the Sultan of Brunei. Despite the dizzying panorama of possibility out there, the truth is that within any given price and service class there isn't a great deal of differentiation in products and amenities. We depend on data to deliver the differences that turn personal travel into opportunities to collect life experiences and unique memories, and to tailor personalized service; it's access to data that gives Millennials and business travelers efficient access to availability, price shopping and loyalty / reward points.But all data is not created equally. As I look across the kinds of information that we use to find and serve our guests, I see four distinct data types, distinguished by their method of manufacture:ActiveWhen we specifically elicit information from a guest or customer, this is active data collection. We can either ask in person (What is your last name? Could you spell that for me, please?) or on a form, but either way we are telling the provider what we wish to record so that we may use that information in a manner that somehow benefits him or her - at least, that's the theory.Active data is typically the best information you can retain; unless your respondent has something to hide or simply does not want you to have access to the requested information, what you get is accurate according to the best source possible. It's important to note, however, that even active data has a shelf life: last name, address, age (as distinct from birthdate), marital status, smoking preference, need for ADA accommodation or assistance can all come and go. "Eternally true" is not a property that we associate with guest data; there is a need to ask and reconfirm all kinds of data on a regular basis.PassiveDuring the course of conducting routine business within a hotel, a great deal of routine data is generated. Keeping this data available and using it to make future operational decisions is an example of passive data collection. One might assume that since the data is factual (e.g., the guest slept in a king room the last time s/he stayed at the hotel), it is a realistic reflection of preference (the guest prefers sleeping in a king-sized bed). It is also reasonable to assume that there was some deliberate data collection step involved in the assignment of the room (Do you prefer a king bed or two double beds?). Thus the king room, duly noted, would seem a clear preference for future room assignments, correct? The official answer in this example is "maybe or maybe not." Reusing this type of data implies that an active choice was made and a clear preference is reflected in its presence.What is not clear is if the prior circumstances are an expression of an ongoing preference. Even less clear is what was actually being selected at the time - what if the question the guest answered was "Do you prefer two double beds on the first floor facing the freeway or a king bed on the concierge floor overlooking the waterfalls?" Did the guest select the king bed or acquiesce to the situation? What was actually selected? Was it a king bed or a higher floor or a premium view? Asking the unfettered question, "All things being equal, what kind of bed do you prefer?" is entirely different than giving your guest a choice between room 104 and 2227. Passive data collection produces true facts that can be misleading when used to make derivative decisions.AssumptiveFrom my perspective, assumptive data is that which is based not on me or my personal responses, but rather because I "fit the profile" of a particular affinity group about which data is known. Assumptive data exploits the old marketing maxim that calls out flocking tendencies of "birds of a feather." An example from outside the hospitality industry that illustrates the risk of using assumptive data is the fact that I've lived in a "deep red" southern state for nearly a decade. This could imply something about my cultural values and/or political leanings - or it might not. In an industry example, a revenue manager from a very large chain that focuses on moderate priced hotels for the business traveler, once told me that if I call on a Monday or a Tuesday to request one night's accommodation within that same business week then, with statistical certainty, I will request and will be willing to pay extra for a king-bedded room.Statistically, I'm sure she was correct. I, however, always get a room with two double beds so that I can throw luggage, clothes and papers on the other bed. Assumptive data works well if your guest is not a statistical outlier; for outliers your data point, regardless of probability, is wrong.AggregatedAnother way to get actionable data is to collect and retain large quantities of raw data, assuming that the more you have or observe, the more apt you are to extrapolate meaningful information from it. This is essentially the "secret sauce" of big data: the whole is more revealing than any of its parts. Parsing a passel of data is how we compute averages, spot trends and evaluate statistical possibilities. Armed with this information we may not always win, but we are certainly playing the odds and betting with the house; this is "mathe-magic" of aggregated data.Consider my earlier question of the king size bed with the waterfall view. In that one single transaction it's difficult to determine the guest's motivation in the selection. If however, a guest stays eighteen times a year, and fourteen of those times are in a king room, we can, with gathering confidence (nearly 90%), be justified in thinking that the guest's room preference is being accommodated. The best evidence to support our conclusion is the frequency with which the guest rebooks the hotel; something must be to the guest's liking, even if it's just location, location, location. The lesson we take from this particular example is that more data can indeed make us righter.Another example of the power of big data is the way it can improve hotel service. Because today's systems have the capacity to process and store massive quantities of data, service rendition can be analyzed in detail and can be used to predict service outcomes. Properly architected service optimization systems produce a wealth of data as they monitor and record request fulfillment. By tracking lapsed time of each incremental step from initial order through final fulfillment, we can track staff productivity and harness the data for predictive purposes.For many years, the industry used standard statistics against which performance was measured; for standard guest rooms (think about a roadside Holiday Inn here), a housekeeping room attendant was expected to turn the room in thirty minutes, finishing sixteen rooms in an eight-hour shift. Of course, a slew (a precise term for an imprecise quantity) of variables affected the actual outcome. Sixteen rooms was simply a target number that was deemed to be challenging but practically attainable, and variations either "came out in the wash" or were used to identify consistent over or underachievement. It was really as much practical measurement as circumstances permitted; short of holding a stopwatch to a room attendant, it was a rule of thumb that generally worked.But today, the memory stopwatch is abundantly available, and can be used for every room attendant on every room assignment. And those slew of variables? We can passively record almost all of them: we can know the size of the room assigned, the number of occupants lodged within, the level of service requested or due today, the time of the assignment (for shift or day-part analysis), the travel time from room to room, the inspection time, any come-back requirements to correct inspection discrepancies, and last but certainly not least, the room attendant him or herself, with whatever tracking is permitted or useful there, things such as age and years of experience. We know everything but the weather conditions.Now, let all these data points collide over a span a thousand room turns - that's 12.5 full-time weeks by the old reckoning - and a desk clerk can be told that the room s/he needs, a king-bedded junior suite with terrace and a park view, that was vacated three hours ago, requires full checkout service that takes the assigned room attendant forty-four minutes and forty-five seconds to complete. It will take the inspector an additional twelve minutes and fifteen seconds to arrive, inspect and release the room, with a nine percent chance of requesting corrective action, which could (but likely won't) add another fourteen minutes to the completion. Since the room is already in progress, the attendant having started on it thirty-nine minutes ago, the room is now estimated for completion in exactly eighteen minutes. Sending both the attendant and inspector an automatic "guest is waiting" request to expedite the room will shave six minutes off that estimate. That leaves the guest a theoretical wait time of twelve minutes - just enough time to enjoy a complimentary cup of coffee while the room is finalized.So does data really light our way, allay our fears and give us warmth? Maybe in a somewhat strained analogy, one out of three isn't bad. Data is most certainly a part of enlightenment. While it might be short on warmth and reassurance, it is what makes guest recognition and superior service a practical reality. It allows you to personalize guest service, assuming, of course, that you train and field personable, hospitable service providers. Understanding data collection, interpreting it well and making it accessible when appropriate is the key to surpassing guest expectations and delivering memorable and differentiating hospitality experiences.Reprinted from the Hotel Business Review with permission from www.HotelExecutive.com
Article by David Lund

Hospitality Financial Leadership - Leadership vs. Technology

The Hotel Financial Coach 29 August 2017
One incredibly challenging aspect of hospitality is the ever-changing technology. In a modern full-service 500-plus room hotel you have more than 50 different systems and apps to manage, integrate and upgrade. Most people do not see the massive amount of technology being used in hospitality and this article is about leadership in the face of that ever-changing landscape.I remember when we upgraded from Micros 4700 posting machines in the front office of my hotel to an IBM System 36. Back in the late 1980s, the PC was just coming into widespread use in hotels but networks and programs were almost nonexistent. The System 36 was the size of a bathtub.In those days, we did not have email; we had Merlin. Merlin was an email type of system but only for people within our company. I still remember my Merlin code, LUN0007. We had just installed a back-office GL and AP system that was PC-based and not on a network. All the GL files and data were on the one PC in the accountant's office and the AP data was on another PC. At month-end, we needed to take the AP data on a disc from one machine to the other. Accounts receivable was an out service. We input data and when we were done the data disc came out of the machine, the courier picked it up and a day later we reviewed the paperwork to see if our fingers made all the right moves.Payroll was the "one write" system where you used a peg board and carbon paper paychecks. We hand wrote each check and simultaneously recorded the details - en masse - via the carbon paper. When we finished we totaled each column of pay and deductions to balance the payroll sheet. Completing approximately 30 of these sheets equaled the hotel bi-weekly payroll. Adding them all up was a pay period journal entry. Talk about complicated and tedious.I also remember every time we upgraded systems just how stressful it was for most people. I vividly remember our accountant Walter keeping a complete manual general ledger while the "system" ran parallel books. He was not asked to keep the manual books but he did so because he did not trust the PC. He is also the same guy who welcomed hockey legend Jean Beliveau in his office for a friendly visit on a regular basis. He was an incredible individual with great knowledge and a wonderful sense of humor.I remember asking him why he kept the paper ledgers and he smiled, took a big puff of his cigarette and said, "One day it will all stop working and I'll still have the score." I have often thought about his comment in that moment. He was near retirement and the thought of change was so frightening he was willing to double his work to try and compensate. Not only did he double his work but, by not trusting the technology, he did not see that it would allow him to do other things.That is always the driver or the road block. It is the driver if we believe our lives and our personal well being are going to improve. It is the road block if we are afraid of our own redundancy and self-worth. He really believed the GL and the PC were against him. Why could it not have waited another three years until he was retired before it had to be installed?Where is the lesson in all of this?I believe Walter suffered in this situation because of a lack of leadership. His leadership, yes, but much greater leadership was missing. It is always what is missing when it comes to change, with technology and the way we embrace the human aspect of change management. What did Walter need in that scenario to successfully navigate the PC's GL system and go from paper to automation?People need to think that change is at least partly their idea. Who asked Walter what he thought and what he would like to do, or what he needed? Quite literally the box arrived, a few days later a technician, and the following week the PC was alive and blinking on a desk in his office. Nobody asked Walter for his thoughts. The decision was made to automate the GL and he was going to change how he worked. It was that simple. But wait a minute; he had over four decades of knowledge and skills.Why didn't anyone stop to make sure he was part of the technology change? He could have liked the idea if it was his idea to start with. How can we get people to like the things we need to change? Answer: Get them to think it is their idea to start with.How do you do that? You can accomplish this most of the time by putting more effort up front before the box arrives. What would Walter have had to experience to get him excited about the new system? What would it have cost and where is the ROI on that?A few years later I experienced a similar event in a completely different way. We were replacing System 36 and moving to a PC-based network (LAN) system with new modules for the GL, AP, AR and income. To get us ready for the change we were sent to Florida for a week of training and I must tell you I was scared before I spent that week in Tampa. I was scared because I did not know what this new system was all about. I could navigate the old system and - as mechanical as it was - I knew each piece and how it all came together.By the end of the week in Tampa I could:See there was something emerging that I could work with.See that some thought had been put into this.Ask lots of questions and do much of the setup of the new system.Be part of the process.Bingo! for change management and technology upgrades.Get your people involved from the get-go."People don't resist change. They resist being changed!" -- Peter SengeIn hotels with so many systems and upgrades to be managed, the act of getting your staff involved is not only necessary it is the silver lining. Many hands make light work, my mother would say.That is the battle cry when embracing technology change in hospitality.If you would like a copy of any of the following, send me an email at david@hotelfinancialcoach.comPolicy Inventory OutlineF&B Productivity SpreadsheetRooms Productivity SpreadsheetFinancial Leadership Recipe F TAR WFlow Thru Cheat SheetVisit my website today for a copy of my guidebook - The Seven Secrets to Create a Financially Engaged Leadership Team in Your Hotel www.hotelfinancialcoach.com
Article by Stuart Dickinson

6 Must-ask questions to consider before buying a PMS

GuestRevu 28 August 2017
Change is a constant reality in the hotel industry - new technologies, online competition and modern guest expectations are just some of the major driving forces, and nearly all aspects of hospitality are affected.Keeping ahead of these changes, as well as new emerging technologies, is a daunting task for anyone. But to ensure that your hotel keeps ahead strategically, a good place to start is taking a critical look at your PMS and making sure that it supports your growth.A good PMS controls and automates a number of processes within a hotel, ideally reducing time-consuming tasks and inefficiencies within your operation.It's not just about capturing bookings or keeping track of finance, but as technology evolves and expands, so does the need for your PMS to play an integral role in guest experience and loyalty management. Ideally, it should form the core of almost all hotel activity.According to the 2016 Smart Decision Guide to Hotel Property Management Systems, the biggest benefits of having the right property management system include:Improved guest satisfaction and quality of the guest experienceStreamlined hotel operations and reduced costsIncreased hotel occupancy, revenue and profitabilityImproved performance reporting and business intelligenceThe considerations of a new PMS might vary depending on the size and needs of different hotels, so we have taken a look at some of the most important questions you should ask during the research and evaluation process, as part of the study mentioned above.1) Does the solution offer flexibility in functionality, including data access and performance reporting?According to 87% of hoteliers interviewed in the study, gaining access to PMS data and business insights is "important" or "very important".A good PMS offers unprecedented visibility that allows you to take full control of your hotel's administration, and will come with a wide array of options when it comes to data report dashboards. Having said that, it's still important to find out what level of custom reporting is available to you before buying.Tip: Confirm that the solution is flexible in terms of keys areas of functionality, including custom report generation.2) How easily and seamlessly does the PMS integrate with third-party technologies and data?With the constant development of new technologies, having a PMS with a growing integration partner list is becoming more important. An integrated partner could be anything from a channel manager to a mobile app or online guest feedback system. Less integration opportunities could mean that you end up with data spread over a number of different applications, or having to settle for apps that don't serve your needs like they should.A great place to start is to make a list of all the third-party providers or applications you work with, or would like to work with, and check how many of them can be integrated with the PMS you are assessing.Tip: Ask about PMS compatibility and interoperability with third-party technologies in place or anticipated.3) How long will it take for problems to be resolved?It's important to have a clear understanding of the PMS platform's customer support process before making a buying decision. It's also important to consider what kind of training is provided to hotel staff who will be using the system for the first time. More than 80% of hoteliers agree that user training is a key success factor in getting the most out of a PMS.Tip: Make sure that problems will get resolved in a timely manner. Some solution providers will go so far as to guarantee response and case resolution times.4) What is the total cost of ownership? Are there "hidden" costs?Thanks to rapid developments in technology, PMS platforms today aren't nearly as expensive as their predecessors.However, whether you choose a cloud-based or traditional computer-based system for your hotel, it's important to find out if you'll be making any surprise payments down the road - some examples include future software updates, technical support, infrastructure or maintenance etc.Tip: Ascertain that all associated installation, licensing, maintenance and ongoing service as well as support fees are included in the pricing.5) What return on investment (ROI) can be expected?How much time your new PMS will save in terms of managing front desk activities, like check-ins and check-outs, consolidating guest accounts, and managing rates and availability across all of your different channels (OTAs, travel agents and so on) is a critical consideration to make.How will the new system improve sales revenue? Will it help you increase bookings thanks to seamless booking engine integration, or allow you to increase your average daily rates using integrated revenue management and forecasting tools? Analyse how the PMS will improve your ROI.Tip: Keep in mind that enhancing the quality of the overall guest experience through the deployment of a next-generation PMS should lead to a greater number of repeat guest stays and a higher volume and intensity of positive brand advocacy. The correlation between favorable guest reviews and positive economic outcomes should factor into the equation.6) What is the PMS solution provider's track record of success?Lastly, it's important to look at the company's track record before making a buying decision. Even if they've been in business for years, check their client base to determine how reliable they are. The last thing you want is to be promised the world, only to be let down by poor service delivery.Tip: Seek information about what, if any, performance issues may arise through conversations with existing clients, preferably ones in the same hotel category.Making the right decision for your hotelThe right PMS can help you streamline your business and save you hours by automating repetitive front-desk tasks, help with bookings, channel management, housekeeping and finances, to name a few.But before you make your final decision, consider:Does the solution offer flexibility in functionality, including data access and performance reporting?How easily and seamlessly does the PMS integrate with third-party technologies and data?How long will it take for problems to be resolved?What is the total cost of ownership? Are there "hidden" costs?What return on investment (ROI) can be expected?What is the PMS solution provider's track record of success?Having a firm grasp of the answers to these questions will place you in a much better purchasing position, and set you on the path towards streamlining every aspect of your hotel's day-to-day operations.
Article by Larry Mogelonsky

HITEC 2017: A Show About Integration

Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited 24 August 2017
Frankly, the same question may be posed by those who attended as well! Putting aside the exceptional educational seminars, the exhibition show floor now resembles a miniature version of the world's largest technology trade fair, the annual Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas each January. Some of the HITEC supplier booths have even gone to great lengths to replicate hotel facilities in order to elicit the same levels of customer excitement generated at CES. Most also have ample space for lively conversations and intimate customer presentations.Spending as much as is humanly possible of 15 hours of allotted open time on the actual exhibit floor, I ended up speaking with dozens of vendors. Walking every aisle, I attempted to absorb all the various product and service offerings. According to my trusty health monitoring app on my iPhone, I traversed some ten kilometers in the process. It's a big show after all!But what did the visitor see aside from the glitz? Here's my take. None of these are big ideas in and unto themselves, but together form a consolidation of reoccurring themes critical to the success of each and every hotel property.Integration. Need a solution? There are multiple vendors all offering ways to provide the services you want. At this day and age, what is the point of a standalone solution provider? Thus, the discussion is less about the product offered, but more about integration with various property management systems (PMS) - a critical task that nearly every vendor is now acknowledging. Every PMS handles data differently, and some PMSs encourage third-party add-ons while others do not even allow middleware solutions, seemingly so that they can capture maximal dollars from their 'locked in' clientele. No hotelier wants to manage multiple databases or manually enter data into their PMS from other satellite platforms, so seamless integration and consolidation of software solutions was the dominate theme of this year's show. Hoteliers beware: if you are in possession of a piece of software that doesn't push its data to the PMS, add it to the chopping block.Cloud. Cloud computing is not a new concept. This HITEC, however, represented the tipping point between locally-based server solutions and the cloud option. The general forecast is that our operations and data centers will be fully cloud-centric in the few years, particularly if you are operating within the sphere of influence of a major PMS and not using any obstinate legacy systems. It is certainly not a good time to invest in a local data center as all future updates will only be for cloud-based technologies.Security. Data is a precious commodity. No one wants to 'own' a data breach. Systems that separate public access from private or provide additional levels of data security are to be lauded and promoted. In speaking to the vendors, one of the primary concerns remains hoteliers who continue to use legacy operating systems (such as Windows XP or, heaven forbid, MS-DOS) that are no longer fully supported and can serve as a backdoor into any system. One weak access point like this can be exploited to serve as an easy entry for hackers.WiFi. Five years ago, the discussion was about offering WiFi to the guest for free. Today, however, the issue is about how much WiFi bandwidth you leave available for guests, both as free and at a premium level. The answer is never enough! There is an insatiable appetite for this as more devices hit the hotel threshold and as we adopt casting technologies that better facilitate additional streaming hours. Advanced hardware solutions can now allow the hotelier to take charge of bandwidth by temporally managing allocations and creating customer equity.Screens. It is no longer called merely a television. Call it a visual display panel. Numerous sizes and configurations were displayed by key manufacturing conglomerates, thereby demonstrating their versatility for every corner of the guestroom and every nook of public hotel spaces. Other accessory companies were demonstrating how their solutions fluidly linked these panels with the PMS to create a robust dashboard for the guest with property information, purchasing opportunities and all the regular broadcast features. There are many solutions, and again the issue of system compatibility is a key factor.Employees. Recognizing that labor is the highest cost facing any hotel operator, several vendors were displaying ways to maximize staff utilization. Some worked to enhance the beginning of any journey in hospitality by presenting a more streamlined approach to hiring and retaining good staff. Others presented a means of increasing the onboarding efficiency of staff members once they are hired via mobile apps, thereby reducing training costs and offering a comprehensive online resource for all internal company education. This appeared to be one of the few emerging fields at this year's show as not many vendors or hotel properties have yet to fully embrace how cloud-based technologies can work to heighten staff training.(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, originally published in eHotelier on July 5, 2017)
Article by Larry Mogelonsky

Thoughts on the Major Chains' Cancellation Policy Change

Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited 22 August 2017
Taken together, these three chains dominate the largest segments of the hospitality marketplace and one should anticipate that many additional hotel companies operating in other niches will soon follow suit. And for good reason, too! But first, you must understand why policies have been undertaken at this particular moment in time rather than, say, ten years ago or even five decades ago when they were equally applicable.It all has to do with the sweeping changes related to how technology has affected consumer behavior. The rise in whimsical last-minute and mobile bookings - with a plethora of websites and apps to facilitate this form of conduct - means that cost-conscious travelers can easily find cheaper accommodations (sometimes even within the same property!) in the short timeframe prior to their arrival.Hence, a customer might book in advance on a hotel's brand.com then rebook at the last minute through a third party at a much lower price. Some of these 'get it cheap' sites are so proficient that they can even be set up to notify the booker of cost savings, thus eliminating the need for the user to regularly check up on availability. While this behavior has existed since the creation of the first website that allowed for last-minute bookings, it has only now reached a critical mass whereby it's forced the largest companies to act.A 24-hour or 48-hour cancellation policy will help to seriously reduce some of this arbitrage. It will also work to alleviate some of the stress on revenue managers who want to push leftover inventory to these third parties without cannibalizing their pre-existing reservations. I anticipate, though, that the discount sites may adjust their own rules to stay in stride with what has been dictated by the world's largest hospitality companies.So, what does this mean for the business and independent hotel consumer? Putting aside the last-minute savings focus, the obvious risk is cancellation penalties resulting from changes to business plans. Large businesses with travel policies will probably collaborate with their hotel account managers to add some degree of flexibility to these rulings into their corporate plans during any renegotiations. For smaller businesses, it may mean that they too should consider joining groups or negotiating directly to secure a workaround to this potential constraint.For the independent traveler, it will eventually lead to a minor shift in how individuals approach their planning. For most, it won't matter at all as last-minute re-bookers hardly represent the majority of hotel customers, even though this niche has grown large enough for the major chains to take notice and update their policies.For this rebooking subset, however, they may simply become more conscious of the time restrictions now in place and adjust their 'deal making' to fall just outside of the penalty window. Worse, they may be more hesitant to reserve a room in the first place - thereby giving hoteliers less information about future occupancy - or they may decide to only give their money to hotels that do not have this type of strict cancellation policy.Alternately, I would expect that some of the larger, traditional travel agencies will have the clout to negotiate some exceptions for their preferred clientele. It is interesting to note that these three companies' actions may swing the pendulum back towards this third-party 'old guard' of the industry. Concurrently, since most OTAs already have similar cancellation policies in place, this could be a small but important bonus for them.Unfortunately, there will be some travelers who will be disadvantaged by this move. For example, suppose you have a late change in plans that's outside of your control such as a meeting running late or a flight alteration. Under the current rules, you could call up until the afternoon of the arrival date to make the necessary adjustments. Such changes would now be impossible without incurring a penalty, although I suspect that the top tiers of Marriott, Hilton and IHG's loyalty programs will have some exemptions from these cancellation polcies.Overall, though, I see this as a step in the right direction insofar as ensuring that travels don't take our fragile product for granted and I'm glad to see these chains leading the way.(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, originally published in Hotels Magazine on Tuesday, August 1st, 201
Article by Ravneet Bhandari

Your Guests' Booking Habits are Changing, Yours Must Change Too

LodgIQtm 16 August 2017
The only consistent aspect in the way people plan travel is that it's constantly changing. Each decade brings new ways for customers to connect with the hospitality experience because of both changes in technology and customer behavior.Think about it this way, the industry has come a long way since a sign out front touting air conditioning and color TV were enough to attract a customer; that is, if they could find you. It wasn't all that long ago when finding a hotel meant pulling off the road because you saw a sign, or by researching a potential stay by utilizing thick books published each year by Mobile or AAA.There were also the big annual printed guides from each hotel brand, which eventually morphed into the first hotel internet sites. Of course these sites were essentially electronic brochures and not bookable, but eventually, online booking came into play. At that point, we entered a decade of where travelers spent long hours in front of a desktop computer monitor researching available hotels. Now of course, everything has changed yet again, and it's pushing hoteliers to rethink how they attract guests.Society ShiftsThe simple answer is that smartphones are changing everything. But it's much more than that. To better understand where are now, we must better understand how people's desires and interests have changed in the last decade.Prior to the Great Recession, culture and society focused more intently on collecting things. In fact, the consumption of things was such a part of mainstream American consumerism culture at the time, even then-President George W. Bush included a line about materialism in a 2006 speech. "And I encourage you all to go shopping more," said Bush. The idea was that by spending money, we could keep the economy going strong.That all changed when the Financial Crisis of 2008 struck, cratering spending and rejiggering financial priorities. People began realizing endless spending on things was no longer satisfying. It ushered in the modern "experience era." Rather than spend money on 'things' such as jewelry or a fancier car, people began spending more money on travel and dining out. People started realizing that collecting memories was more rewarding than collecting possessions.Take a look at global hotel revenue, it's increased from $346.75 billion in revenue in 2010, according to Statista, to an estimated $490 billion in 2016. In 2018, revenue is expected to top $553 billion. The same holds true for U.S. restaurant sales. In 2016, restaurant sales were expected to total $782.7 billion, a near $200 billion increase in sales since 2010.While other factors do come into play, these revenue numbers illustrate how people are looking more to connect with other people while doing things rather than buying more stuff. At the same time culture shifted, technological advances gave customers new ways to interact with brands, independent hotels and the entire travel booking experience.According to Statista, the number of smart phones being utilized in the U.S. alone more than tripled from 62.6 in 2010 to 207.1 million in 2016, with an expected increase of another 50 million users by 2020. Together, these two elements are reinventing what customers want from a hotel experience and how they go about booking a hotel in 2017.Booking TrendsThe way people book travel is changing. Sure, there are generation specific trends at play, but for the most part, above mentioned societal changes and massive advancements in at the fingertip-available technology are reinventing how people explore and book travel.A study completed in Fall 2016 conducted by comScore, and commissioned by Expedia(r) Media Solutions, looked at the 45-day period prior to a travel booking. The study examined online travel bookings from various device types and considered elements such as content, resources utilized, destinations considered and digital advertising across the three countries.During this time people crave new information, engaging more often with content via a mobile device than desktop computers. It's why we see research interactions soar during the 45 days prior to booking a trip. Digital users are actively seeking travel related content, and are receptive to new information; nearly one third or more of online travel bookers across the three countries were influenced by advertising.The research discovered consumption of digital travel content is soaring at a growth rate of 44 percent in the U.K., 41 percent in the U.S. and 18 percent in Canada. Travel content is also widely consumed in each country by 75 percent of digital users in the U.K., 70 percent in Canada and 60 percent in the U.S.There's an old American phrase regarding travel that "getting there is half the fun." For travelers, research is the new "fun," supplanting the old ideal as people flock to the research process with incredible gusto. According to the report, Canadians visited travel sites 161 times, Americans visited 140, while those in the UK had 121 separate interactions. And the way they are interacting with research information is changing too.In all, more than two-thirds of travel bookers said search engines, along with recommendations from friends and family, were used most to inspire travel. During the research phase, OTAs and hotel specific websites are considered most frequently. However, the mobile movement isn't just affecting the method in which a customer researches travel, it affects how he or she interacts with information, further upending traditional booking practices. Rather than sit for extended periods of time, research is conducted in short bursts of activity.Mobile Morphing How Customers EngagePeople rely on their mobile devices all day long, and according to Google's "Micro-moments" report, 87% [of users] have their smartphone at their side, day, and night; the average person checks their phone 150 times per day and spend 177 minutes using them. This includes all interactions, not just travel specific ones. Additionally, according to eMarketer, U.S. adults spend nearly three hours per day on "nonvoice activities on mobile devices."Together, these stats point to a massive sea change regarding how customers interact with hotels and are reinventing booking patterns. Take the average commuter who steals glances and interacts with their phone throughout the day. When a trip is approaching, they're most likely researching travel products in bite-sized slivers while on the go, perhaps reading hotels reviews, watching social media consumer created content, or exploring local offers pushed directly to their smartphone as stated above. This means now is the time for hoteliers to rethink how they connect with their customers because instant and meaningful connections are what matter most Then being able to deliver the right price at the right time, every time to secure that booking.Adapting to the New RealityCreating the right price for customers espousing these new booking habits is about understanding the overall value of the individual consumer. For hoteliers, this means we've moved beyond basic revenue strategy into the era of more nuanced revenue optimization.It's such an unanticipated change, it requires reinventing how pricing is achieved, starting with eliminating the departmental silo approach to fully maximize opportunity across the entire consumer journey described above. Analytical capabilities, coupled with the art of designing a consumer specific message, are required to reach today's consumer. An outside-in viewpoint, while keeping the customer perspective in mind, allows hotel executives to understand the full picture, the entire journey, and therefore enabling them to optimize each part of the value chain. This means examining and weighing more data points than ever before. It's no longer good enough to rely on historical data combined with what the perceived competition is charging on any given evening.It's about acknowledging all relevant demand and price-elasticity signals across the consumer journey that provides a common thread of information to the savvy hotelier.Whilst we established that the game, the rules, and the players are changing, it is imperative to be cognizant of emerging and waning channels as consumers move in tribes from one technology platform to another.On average, global media revolutions occur every 50 years. Think about how society shifted from reading multiple newspaper editions daily to radio. Then onto television, electronic brochure style websites, and now social media where reviews and user generated travel content dominates. It moved not only tribes of like-minded people, but shifted generational information consumption.It's therefore critical to be cognizant of emerging channels, and the waning ones too - for example, video viewed on the internet is soaring, while traditional television viewing wanes; mobile devices overtaking laptops and researches anticipating that generation alpha will not use laptops at all whilst Wi-Fi for connecting is out and Li-Fi (Wi-Fi via Light waves) is in. And as every one of these information resources becomes more prominent, it shifts customer booking habits.Modern MetricsAdditionally, we must recognize that each consumer has different priorities for each trip he or she takes - meaning, during each excursion they're more apt to be seduced by a different price, upending everything the industry has held sacrosanct regarding perfect pricing. The rules of customer engagement have permanently changed, and revenue managers must recognize and adapt to this new reality.The old metrics are outdated, and despite the smart advancement of looking at RevPAR, we're now entering a post RevPAR metric world where considering Net RevPAR is essential to better connect with the modern travel buying customer. Whilst definitions can vary, this metric accounts for what the hotel earns after guest acquisition costs are considered, including distribution costs and commissions. This sharpens focus for hoteliers to understand the channels more deeply in which their guests are coming from, while providing insight into how to better appeal to that customer and their behavior displayed.To fully achieving optimum financial results at the property level, the industry must wake up to this powerful realization: Mobile technology and changing customer behavior is inexorably altering the way in which customers interact and engage in the hotel booking experience. Because potential customers are booking differently, hoteliers must work differently to connect with those individuals. The good news; hoteliers reinventing their revenue optimization strategy will not just connect more meaningfully with potential customers during one of those myriad micro-moments, they'll achieve better pricing.Technology, culture and customer behavior have all conspired to change guest booking habits. However, by clearly understanding just how customers interact with hotels in 2017, smart hoteliers cannot only adapt to these changes, they can be better leveraged for both higher profitability and customer loyalty.Reprinted from the Hotel Business Review with permission from www.HotelExecutive.com.
Article by Jos Schaap

Service excellence and the hotel industry is in our DNA

StayNTouch Inc. 15 August 2017
Technology, at its foundation, is developed either to make one's life easier or to enable people to communicate more effectively. The problem with developing technology for technology's sake is that companies become too highly focused on the development of the technology, forgetting to understand its full impact on their end users and audience. There can also be a huge void between the development of technology for specific industry vertical if the founders and developers do not have a thorough understanding and knowledge of the targeted industry.The hotel industry in incredibly unique. There is a myriad of different styles of hotels with diverse priorities. There are the smaller properties or those more transactional in nature and on the other end of the spectrum, there are large properties that offer every type of service and amenity available. When we look at today's guest, they are far more complex than they were twenty years ago. There are those looking for that transactional environment while others crave being fawned over. Some are traveling on business, and others are on vacation. Mix the guest requirements or expectations with the different type of property, and now you have an extremely intricate industry. Fairmont Hotels Heritage Place even has a page on its website to educate the traveler on how it differentiates their brand versus others.Service has always been the glue that holds the hospitality industry together. The service experience starts at the beginning of the guests' journey. They start looking at locations and their associated hotels. Their immediate reaction can be based upon the visual and textural content to help them make a decision. Conversely, if they place a call to a reservations center, they have now connected with a person who must exude service at the initial contact phase. When arriving at the property, the service element is heightened. First step is checking in at the front desk and here, they are met again, with someone who must focus on developing a relationship with the guest and providing exemplary service. The guest may wish to forgo the formalities of checking in at a front desk, so the hotel must offer the self-serve options for the guest to go directly to their room. This is an example of a fundamental use of technology as a service. The service element and technology requirement continues as the guest dines at the property restaurant, lounges by the pool or orders room service. It is always there and always expected.When hotels and hoteliers are under such scrutiny related to ensuring that they deliver the service that today's demanding guest expects, they should not have to worry about the technology that supports their operations.The technology provider needs to recognize the hotel landscape and how it has changed over the years - along with guest expectations. The technology partner must have some of the same priorities and objectives as the hotelier and what is needed to optimize efficiently and profitably. The technology partner actually needs to serve as a technological extension of the hotel itself. The relationship is truly a bond.When your technology partner has effectively the same DNA within their team as the hotelier has within their operations, the service element is at the forefront. A hotelier needs to feel confident that their tech partner has' got their back' at all times - whether there is an issue with the platform or there is a front desk person who just needs a little help. If the technology partner has a knowledgeable support team with the same passion for service that hoteliers have for their brand promise to their guest, then this is truly a win-win scenario.When deciding on a new technology platform a large number of hoteliers will look at features, functions and how well the platform will integrate with their other systems. These are all very valid areas of concern that need to be addressed to determine the right fit, however hoteliers need to spend more time reviewing the support and service that they will be receiving from their technology partner. A good place to start is asking for references, talking to their peers and researching the support operations center performance. If the level of service is not there, then the implementation will not be a success, and there will likely be long term negative consequences.Service excellence and the hotel industry DNA need to infiltrate every department within your technology partners' business. If it isn't there, maybe you need to take a look somewhere else.
Article by Barbel Pfeiffer

What To Do When Your Hotel Rooms Aren't Selling

Text Spot On 15 August 2017
Now, enter a hotel website to book a room. Most hotels treat their core product as a sideshow. A nice image of a room, a list of features next to it and that's the end of that presentation. Not the optimal way to get business and successfully close a sale, is it?Why don't you tempt prospective guests with a shopping experience they'll really enjoy and in the process, sell more rooms? Making your hotel store look appealing and inviting is relatively simple if you pay attention to three key points:Reduce room categories to sell more roomsToo much choice can lead to fewer sales. In his 2004 book, "The Paradox of choice", American psychologist Barry Schwartz shows that offering limited choices helps reduce shoppers' anxiety.Imagine you need a new printer. You go online, google "inkjet printer" and up come 1,894 hits under Amazon.com. Perfect - lots of choices and all you have to do is make the decision. But exactly how many printers do you need to view to find the one that's "right" and how do you know this one is really the optimal choice? Anxiety starts creeping in and you become indecisive.It's no different in, let's say, a supermarket. Ever looked at 24 different brands of jam on display and tried to make a choice? That's what Sheena Iyengar, author of " The Art of Choice," and TED presenter asked her test group to do in an experiment. Turns out that of the people who were exposed to such a large selection of jams, only 3% made a purchase. When, for a different group, the selection was reduced to 6 jams, 30% (!) of the customers made a purchase.Use Yield Management carefully. Once things get too complex, your guests won't spend the time and energy to figure it out.Revenue management enables hotels to predict demand, optimize inventory and maximize revenue. It's a great tool that helps hotels sell smarter. That is, as long as it doesn't get too confusing and complicated for potential guests...Visit some hotel websites and you'll find up to 15 different room categories, 4 different seasons, small print with taxes that are still to be added and special discounts that are applicable, if (...fill in the blank...) Terms, conditions and further instructions are all over the place and after one long look, your potential guest just wants to leave.A great hotel shopping experience looks different. It highlights your "best" room, provides choices below and above that category, and showcases rates and availability in a way that is simple and straightforward. Guests aren't forced to think things through, rather, with two or three clicks, are presented with all the information they need.Believe me, the more complex it gets, the quicker your prospective guest will abandon the booking process, and once they're gone, this direct booking has very probably been lost forever.You've highlighted your great looking hotel features, but how will your guests benefit from this?Do you buy shoes because of their patented foot bed or great arch support? No, you purchase shoes that are comfortable, make you look nice and deliver a great walking experience.The same goes for hotel rooms. Your guests are not looking for real estate or interior design, but for a great hotel experience. Don't get me wrong. Your rooms have fabulous features and you should proudly show them off. But if you met a guest in your hotel lobby and he asked you about a recommendation, how would you respond?You'd probably have a nice chat, ask him a few questions about his requirements and needs, and depending on the answers you'd be able to suggest the ideal room in your product line - the room that provides the best benefits to that guest.If you did a good job, your guest would happily walk away to book the room.Have a look at how innovative hotels gained an edge over their competitors by having framed their guests' "shopping experience" differently. They've created an emotional connection with their site visitors"You will find so much space in your 35m2 large room that you could comfortably do a little happy dance in there". The Madison in Hamburg adds one single sentence that not only gets the message across, but also personalizes the hotel and builds an immediate connection with the prospective guest.Or look at The Dylan Amsterdam. It let's one of their managers speak about the rooms which instantly helps build some trust.They've made booking a room fun for their guests and let them have a say Kimpton Chicago has created a booking experience that's engaging, appealing and enjoyable. They've made it super easy and very gently lead you deeper and deeper into the sales funnel as more and more details enfold. The layout of the booking page is classy and simple and feels just perfect.Even better, before you get to the actual "book your room", a beautifully designed page offers you ad-ons of your choice. "A dozen chocolate- dipped strawberries anyone?" From wine to other goodies, it gives you a taste of the experience to come - VERY tempting indeed.They've made it super easy for their guests and presented all information at a glanceMotel One, London Towerhill, very cleverly presents you with all the basics right there on their homepage. From price to guest feedback to check out time and contact info - it's all there at one glance. No searching, no clicking through - handy information that helps you make a quick decision.They've made signing up for a rewards club rewarding!Check out Virgin Hotel Chicago that has turned hotel rewards into something truly special. "Get in the Know" is the name of the program and it let's you know that YOU decide what's a special treat in your books. You're asked to complete a questionnaire full of witty questions and while you're having fun completing it, Virgin Hotel Chicago collects valuable information about your preferences.When they're finished, they know all about your preferred mini bar treat to your favorite artist. Invaluable information that helps the hotel make you feel super special during your stay.It doesn't take much to make your online store more attractive, but if you miss out, you'll lose the opportunity to close the sale!
Article by Sarah Came

Hotel valuations and online reputations: Interview with Nam Quach

GuestRevu 14 August 2017
With a background in investment banking and a solid portfolio of deals he has helped to facilitate, including the sale of the Danube hotel portfolio (seven intercontinental hotels in Europe) for MSREF to a private investor, the sale of four iconic luxury Concorde Hotels for Starwood Capital to Constellation Hotels and the sale of Hilton International to Hilton Hotels Corp, if there is one thing Nam Quach can spot excellently, it is value - particularly in the hospitality and leisure sector.We decided to find out what attracted this Managing Director of the UK branch of merger and acquisition firm, DC Advisory, to working with hospitality and leisure clients, what he looks at when evaluating businesses in the sector, and what he believes the true value of online reputation is for hospitality and leisure brands.Where did you begin in the hospitality industry?I started my professional career at a Swiss bank called Warburg Dillon Read (now known as UBS) and worked as an analyst in their investment banking division focusing on Leisure & Hospitality. It was a small team and I learnt a great deal from the people there. I enjoyed the sector so much that 17 years on, I am still focused on that industry.What is your position now?I've recently joined DC Advisory as a Managing Director. We're part of Daiwa Securities and we focus on mid-market M&A transactions as well as raising capital for our clients across Europe.What role do sites like TripAdvisor play when you're evaluating a hotel?When we assess potential hotel opportunities for our clients, particularly portfolios, TripAdvisor is a very useful tool in gauging customer feedback. In particular, it allows us to assess quickly on a desktop basis the relative quality of the hotels in question vs. competitors in the area.In some of our presentation materials to investors we would analyse the relative TripAdvisor ratings and highlight some of the feedback that comes up most often. This could be positive, such as great customer service or quality of rooms, or negative, for example the upkeep of the bathrooms. Nothing could replace an onsite inspection of the hotels, but if you had a portfolio of say, 30 hotels to assess quickly, TripAdvisor was a great initial tool to get an overall impression.How does a hotel's online reputation affect its valuation?Managing the online reputation of a hotel is very important. Valuation is made up essentially of two parts; the cash flow of the business, and the multiple that investors are willing to pay for this cash flow stream.Firstly, from a trading perspective, a better online reputation will lead to more visitation and higher spend. This will appeal to repeat customers and attract new ones, and increased cash flow will lead to higher values. Customers today analyse a number of different touch points before making a buying decision, and analysing the online reputation (through sites such as TripAdvisor) is one important component.Secondly, a better reputation online may signal other traits such as a well invested business, and therefore additional upfront investment required to address any shortfalls could be less. This could be in form of physical assets (carpets, the restaurant, etc.) or human capital. A hotel that has a good reputation online could also signal that it is well run from a CRM point of view and that it actively manages customer feedback.Are there specific things that you look at when deciding on a valuation?Every investor will look at valuation differently, and that is what, essentially, creates the market. The most common valuation factors when looking at hotels is a measure of profit and cashflow, say EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) or NOI (net operating income) and the yield or multiple which is applied to these earnings. DCF (discounted cash flow analysis) is another way of assessing value by discounting the future earnings stream of a business. Every investor will have a different view on the earnings potential and the future, and will have a different view on risk, and hence value.If a hotel wanted to ready itself for a sale, what are the key things you would advise it to do?The key thing is preparation. These intense processes last a number of months from start to finish. Preparation is not just important from the transactional perspective that I focus on, but is also important for the business itself and the people affected by the sale (be it employees or management). It is often forgotten that hotels are a people business. Not being fully prepared could add delays to the process, or, worse still, give the impression to investors that it is poorly run. Being upfront and efficient with material portrays to investors that management is on top of the details.Making sure that management and employees are continuing to drive the business forward during a sales process is also critical. This can be managed in a number of different ways (confidentiality, incentives, etc.) but the last thing we would want to see is a trading dip as employees are switched off. This will affect valuation.What's the best hotel you've stayed in and why?After 17 years in the industry I've stayed at a number of hotels, but for me the best hotel I have ever stayed in was the Conrad Pezula in South Africa. It was off-season, so very few guests were around. The hotel was beautiful and I had a lovely suite. I remember opening the doors in the evening as the sun was setting and just hearing nature play its song - truly spectacular.

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