Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference
Metro Toronto Convention Centre
Toronto, ON, Canada
Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference
November 14–15, 2017
"The Millennial Generation is another wonderful wave of people discovering us and becoming part of our family," commented Allyson Cavaretta, Director of Sales and Marketing for the family owned Meadowmere Resort in Maine. "It is exciting to see the generations join us and change over the past 30 years."Resort properties with a focus on outdoor and adventurous activities have been among the first to experience this shift in generations."This Millennial Generation enjoys an active vacation that is purposeful," commented Tracey Welsh, General Manager of Red Mountain Resort in Ivins, Utah. "It fits well with what Red Mountain has been doing for nearly 20 years."Some properties in this segment have not seen much generational shift. For example, as a high-end luxury property located in a semi-remote location, Nemacolin Woodlands primarily serves Baby Boomers and Generation X. Similarly, The Otesaga Resort Hotel in Cooperstown, New York also continues to serve a more mature guest."We haven't noticed much of a shift, yet," commented Tjibbe Lambers from the Otesaga Resort Hotel. "However, we have started to adapt our guest service procedures to the needs of Millennial guests as part of our long range plans.""Seasonally, our resort guests are families and vacationers," commented Susan Engler, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Blue Harbor Resort in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. "We do see the business traveler and corporate participants getting younger as Millennials are joining the workforce. We have been paying close attention to their needs."For many luxury resorts, this change in traveler demographics is creating an opportunity to re-energize their operations and add new programs. Their nickname is the "Experience Generation" and these Millennials want to immerse themselves in their surroundings. To accommodate these preferences, properties are revamping their recreation programs and food & beverage offerings, as well as the public and private spaces on property."The shift in our guests is bringing a fun, renewed sense of energy to the Chateau," commented Tanya Walker from Chateau Beaver Creek in Colorado."The older demographic are generally looking for quiet, peaceful, relaxing experiences while younger generations are often in search of more active, adventure, sporting and group "live-for-the-moment" experiences - the more local the better," Marc Rodriguez, General Manager of Esperanza Resort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.Millennials have high expectations that their technology needs will be met on property. While it has been their voracious appetite for bandwidth that has been driving hotels and resorts to upgrade their guest connections, all guests benefit from the faster Wi-Fi speeds."Millennials want a very high level of service, food standards and technology, however they want it in a very casual and comfortable setting." commented Carol Sullivan, Director of Sales and Marketing for The White Mountain Hotel & Resort in North Conway, New Hampshire. "We have redesigned our restaurant and are redesigning our guest rooms to meet these requirements."Guest communication takes on many forms with Millennial guests. They are less inclined to pick up the phone or visit the front desk and more likely to want to be able to communicate with the property via their app of choice."With Millennials, response times for requests are typically shorter, as are booking windows," mentioned Mark Rodrigues, General Manager of Esperanza Resort.Many properties report upgrading their website to streamline the booking process and be more mobile friendly. They are developing rich content to share on social media and listening to the various channels to ensure they are part of the conversation."We have not altered our core product - a great family vacation with a cozy, comfortable feel," commented Cavaretta of Meadowmere. "However, how we help create the story of that great vacation has evolved as the tastes and interests of our customers have changed. We present the Meadowmere not just as the place to stay, but the place to have that great Ogunquit adventure."
One of the widely known hospitality industry mottos is "heads in beds," and another should be "invest in people and they'll invest in you." A positive guest experience in hospitality is won or lost based on your staff's attitude and aptitude. From check-in to check-out, guests evaluate their experience based on how they are treated, so it's important to lead by example. We've outlined how investing in your hospitality employees can boost your bottom line.Elite Training Creates Memorable Guest ServiceThe importance of properly trained hospitality staff has never been more important. With so many competitive options, guests can pick and choose where they want to spend their money. Those decisions are increasingly based on past experiences - both their own and those they have read about online.Two of the best ways to ensure a guest has a top-notch experience is to A) resolve their issues quickly and skillfully and B) exceed their expectations. Whether it's an unsatisfactory meal or lost luggage, going above and beyond to correct the issue will impress your guests and encourage them to return.Invest in proper training and set processes for all your workers to follow in any given situation when addressing guests' concerns. This creates operational efficiencies, enhances the customer experience, and establishes your internal company culture.Happy Employees Improve Company PerformanceYour team is arguably your company's most valuable asset; it only makes sense to keep your staff as content as possible. Bob Kelleher, the President and Founder of The Employee Engagement Group, believes that your staff - not your guests - should be your top priority. Additionally, hotel staff is in high demand so doing everything possible to reduce turnover is crucial. Companies should focus on keeping employees happy and engaged. But how do they do that?Kelleher suggests that successful engagement includes a learning culture, transparent and frequent communication, the pursuit of higher performance, and alignment with company and individual goals. These are all areas you should consider investing into boost staff members' satisfaction levels. Happy employees are more productive, tend to better take care of customers, and more likely to become quality brand ambassadors. All of these translate to an increased bottom line.Elite Training + A Happy Team = Improved Bottom LineIt's evident that employees are an integral part of elevating your company's performance. Colleagues who believe their employer is invested in their success are more likely to give their best at work. That means a great ROI in your people, which is music to a CFO's ears.
Inline translation technology opens the door to a new level of connectedness with your entire staff, making our world smaller (in a good way). Language has always been the toughest barrier in globalization, but we've made great strides in breaking it down with tools like Google Translate, Facebook's own translation system, and countless others that can be tailored to fit specific needs.Hiring translators and individually translating every important piece of information isn't sustainable--it's far too costly and time-consuming. That's why businesses have turned to AI (machine learning) to do the hard work for them and create an environment that's more open and connected.Here are four ways your business will benefit from adopting inline translation technology:1. An inclusive workforceThe global workforce is a beautiful blend of different ethnicities, cultures, and languages. Everyone should feel comfortable at work, and sometimes that means putting in a little extra effort to be more inclusive.Workplace diversity is something to be celebrated and contributes to global expansion efforts by making non-English speaking customers feel at ease. If your staff speaks a multitude of languages, you'll have more avenues in which to communicate with customers from all over the world. And if you employ inline translation technology, you can communicate directly with your staff.Additionally, your staff will feel a bigger sense of belonging with the ability to make friendships within the workplace through peer-to-peer communication that was previously hampered by the language barriers within workgroups and departments.2. Improved safetyWorkplace safety depends on everyone speaking the same language, figuratively speaking. The entire company must be on the same page and management should do everything it can to ensure nothing gets lost in translation when distributing critical information both internally and externally.Some miscommunication risks may be minor (like misunderstanding a cleaning schedule), but many risks are much more serious--even fatal. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reported that language barriers contribute to 25% of all workplace injuries and loss of life, according to estimates from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Problems arise when workers are not able to communicate hazardous working conditions or cannot fully understand safety protocol.3. Faster and comprehensive information sharingSpeaking different languages at work is a global challenge for corporate communications. For example, 21% of U.S. residents speak a language other than English at home, and more than 25 million U.S. residents report they either don't speak English very well, or don't speak it at all. And these are just U.S. numbers--the gap between everyone speaking the same language is even larger globally.Employees should be able to read as much content in their preferred language as possible for maximum comprehension. With an effective inline translation system in place, you give everyone the ability to be a part of the dialogue, without the back-end hassle.4. Room for expansionTargeting your business to fit an international market opens the door to limitless opportunities. But to be successful, management must be able to communicate business goals with the entire team. Poor communication and language barriers cost companies tons of money each year. And 64% of senior executives polled said poor communication skills have negatively affected their plans to expand internationally. By utilizing an inline translation technology, everyone could communicate efficiently and with understanding, allowing globalization to occur faster.
Hospitality Net 20 June 2017
"I was a millionaire on paper at the time everyone believed the web will revolutionize the world," Weizman tells me with a nostalgic smile. Then he goes on talking about the odd financial machinations of the time when investors advised failed startups to wipe investments from their portfolio just to keep the investor's portfolio positive. Back then, he worked for a company that was a pioneer in GPS technology that had a good product."But when the industry crashed all investments stopped suddenly. So, the company I worked for did not sell. I left the company. I lost my dreams," Weizman recalls. This was a valuable lesson later on. The young entrepreneur left NYC and returned to France where the overall negative environment triggered by the failure of so many startups presented a career building challenge.He then worked in investment banking, later as CTO for Dane-Elec, till the high-tech wave started over and he returned to innovating in web technologies."Being innovative is not a noun but a verb," Weizman says, describing his career path. "It is a continuous movement where you are in the dark, where you don't know if you're doing right. Many people talk about successes or failure, but few describe the journey. When you discover that the path you explore won't make it, after investing so much time, energy, money, and taking the decision to move forward with a new idea, you feel your soul crushing like the waves of a tsunami. It is hard to maintain a family life because you basically get married to your project. There is no other choice than to focus totally on the project. In this context, I lead a team of ten engineers to build My Ditto, a NAS you could access remotely with literally zero configuration. I filed 5 patents and was awarded patent rights. Then things went so fast: we were awarded CES Innovation Award in Las Vegas in 2010, then Best of Macworld in 2011. But the company I worked for did not understand marketing and sales strategy. When they finally agreed to invest in marketing, it was too late, and they failed. I don't blame them, but I felt frustrated."This anecdote is one of the many Weizman has to share from his past. He finally decided to become his own boss, and, with RoomChecking, he has a successful product since 2013. RoomChecking was founded in 2013 as a project between Jonathan Weizman , Aaron Marz, and Emile Lugassy. The company is already a Microsoft Ventures Paris promising startup and has a dedicated customer base of 150+ hotels. Earlier in 2017, they got 750,000 EUR late seed-funding from Astotel Group, Maurice Hurand Hotels, and BPI. The road was not easy, but the lessons learned from the past helped develop a product which provides hotels the tools to improve guests' experience and deliver total customer satisfaction.Microsoft Ventures helped the project a lot, Weizman says. "At Microsoft Ventures I was the only guy who pitched with a two-pages Word document! Some other participants told me they thought I was old school and laughed at me, but it looks like I made it. Microsoft Ventures gave me so much: support, training, access to top entrepreneurs, and networking." These are the things small startups need to succeed, the CEO of RoomChecking believes, although he is aware that the "B2B hospitality market suffers from being too small or too hard to penetrate.""It is difficult to be honest because, as in every human interaction, when you fail you tend to blame the other parties involved," he told me relating RoomChecking's quest for funding. "We met with over 30 investors and the overall feeling was that they did not buy our vision."Surprisingly though, the funding came from the people who needed RoomChecking the most: hotel groups looking to diversify and move into the technology space. "Investment came from existing clients who understood the value of RoomChecking because they were using it for a year or so," Weizman said, and this is the takeaway of the journey: when you look for investment to develop a valuable product, ask the people who need it the most for help.
GBTA 16 June 2017
Each year, most travel programs work closely with their hotel suppliers to negotiate rates and amenities, so they can find the best partners in this space. Typically, 12 percent of the properties are dropped and 13 percent are newly signed as preferred providers. Three-quarters of companies issue the same RFP around the globe, while 21 percent have customized RFPs for different regions. Overall the process lasts an average of 3.2 months.In general, most travel managers are satisfied with the RFP process (66 percent), and those who rely somewhat on a TMC for this task have notably higher levels of satisfaction (75 percent). The 33 percent of overall travel managers dissatisfied with the RFP process note several factors driving their dissatisfaction including how long it takes, no tangible benefits from going through the process every year and lack of resources to dedicate to the process.Companies with larger travel spending also have higher levels of satisfaction with the RFP process possibly because they are able to solve some of the complaints mentioned and have greater resources. More organizations with higher travel spend of $30 million or more (67 percent) claim to rely on a TMC somewhat or a lot compared to those with travel spend of less than $30 million (50 percent).In 2012, the GBTA Foundation and the GBTA Hotel Committee worked to develop a Hotel RFP template to try to standardize the process. Two-thirds (66 percent) of those surveyed are aware of the template, while two in five (40 percent) say their companies currently use it. Organizations with travel spend of $30 million or more are more likely than those with lower travel spend to not only know about the GBTA Hotel RFP (80 percent vs 60 percent) but also more likely to use it (59 percent and 26 percent respectively).When looking at specific modules like the Groups/Meetings module and the Corporate Social Responsibility module, a majority of survey respondents indicated they use those modules for informational purposes only, rather than as part of the decision making process.The top three reasons travel managers use the GBTA Hotel RFP template are the ability to add user-defined questions, the fact there is no cost associated with its use and the ability to choose which modules to use. Most travel managers use the Blackout/Fair Dates (85 percent) and the Safety and Security (82 percent) modules."The results of this study confirm the value that TMCs bring to the RFP process, as this is one of their core areas of expertise. By relying on a TMC to assist with the RFP process, travel managers are able to focus on other areas of responsibility, and ultimately deliver more value to their travelers and suppliers alike," said Dorothy Dowling, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Best Western Hotels & Resorts. "This study is valuable as it truly allows us to better understand the Hotel RFP process from the perspective of travel managers, which will ultimately help brands such as Best Western implement changes to improve the process."How can travel managers and suppliers make the Hotel RFP process a more efficient one? Use TMCs for time-consuming activities related to the RFP process while staying involved in the decision-making process. Understand there is not a one-size fits all approach and while yearly reviews may work for some programs, others may be successful with every-other-year reviews.Travel programs should analyze their decision making process to understand the key elements relevant to them, organize them in tiered levels of importance and identify the top elements as essential to making decisions. The bottom-tier elements may not necessarily need to be collected every year. With this method, travel managers can save time and resources and suppliers will know which data is truly needed to develop strong partnerships with travel programs.More Information:The report, Hotel RFPs - The Decision Making Process, is available exclusively to GBTA members by clicking here and non-members may purchase the report through the GBTA Foundation by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.Methodology:This GBTA Foundation conducted an online survey of 161 travel managers who are Direct members of GBTA in the United States and Canada. It was conducted in February of 2017.
Net Affinity 16 June 2017
How do you design a successful rate plan for your hotel? Why are some rate plans more successful than others?When you create rate plans, try and tap into your inner hotel shopper psyche. Is your customer planning to visit your hotel for business, or pleasure? What are their expectations when they make their initial date search? When they're visiting your hotel website, what do the images they see on the homepage represent? What do your images and copy in the Bedrooms, Food and Beverage, Golf and Spa pages represent?Every rate plan has purpose. However, not every rate plan has a valid purpose. Is the rate plan there to, for example, keep your chef happy that you're promoting the restaurant, or is there a real financial value for the hotel in having it there?Below are 4 examples of the most profitable rate plans hotels typically offer, along with a breakdown of why they're valuable and how to use them.1. Room Only: Book Direct to Find the Best Available RateOffer a room only rate with a Best Rate Guarantee to your own website. In short, no matter the scenario, guarantee for guests that the best available rate for your hotel will always be when they book direct. Here's a study from Cornell that gets into the specifics of how customers prefer to see BAR displayed on your site.A word of warning: offering this rate plan to any third parties or other openly available sources opens up the opportunity for them to margin test your rate to secure a booking through their own website.Margin testing is when an OTA tests the margins of the rate you are providing them, usually by taking 2% - 4% off the rate and selling the rate cheaper online. The hotel will still receive the correct rate for the booking, but the OTA will have taken the hit in commission by 2% - 4%. This percentage won't concern them, as in most cases they are still making a further 12% and in some cases 15%. You can eliminate this risk by only offering "room only" rate plans directly on your official hotel website.2. Bed and Breakfast: Save EUR5.00 When You Book Your Stay with Breakfast OnlineBed and Breakfast rates are one step up from Room Only rates. They are the first opportunity to upsell your guests, so be creative! Be descriptive when you tell your guests what is included.Make sure to incentivise them to book Bed and Breakfast instead of Room Only. This can be achieved by potentially having a lower breakfast supplement online as part of the price differential between Room Only and Bed and Breakfast. For example, you might sell your breakfast as part of the package at only EUR10.00, instead of the in-hotel cost of EUR15.00. Make sure to let the guest know in the description what the saving is.Depending on your hotel's location - for example, city centre versus near the airport - the rate plan including breakfast and savings may be all the more important. Make sure you've got 'Breakfast' in the headline.3. One Night Escape: Dinner, Bed and Breakfast - Enjoy a Welcome Drink on Us.Every hotel wants guests in their restaurant. Guests in your restaurant also come with the potential of indirect revenue spend in the bar before or after their meal - but how do you evaluate this?There are two ways to look at it. A busy bar means other guests will come in. A good atmosphere at the start or end of their evening will attract some guests in for a nightcap, and secondly, it may attract walk in guests. Offering that free welcome drink gets people in for their first drink, and the savings may convince them to stay for a second.Why should a guest book the dinner package in your hotel, then? Again, it comes down to incentive.At this stage, consider reviewing your dinner supplement. What's the allocation the Food and Beverage department gets from a dinner package?Consider a guest who has stayed in your hotel previously and dined in the restaurant. They might remember that the early bird is EUR30.00 per person for a three course meal. Then, if the supplement is EUR60.00 on top of the Bed and Breakfast rate, they know they are paying the same rate they'd be paying if they walked into the restaurant.Offer a welcome drink as part of the package to your direct booker, or potentially a EUR20.00 Spa or Golf credit if that option is available to you.4. Advance Purchase: Pay Now and Save 10% - Exclusive Hotel Website OfferAdvanced purchase rate plans are, of course, an extremely popular rate plan across all hotels. However, there are certain aspects you must identify and focus on if you are offering this package, or planning to.If offering Room Only rate plans on all your distribution channels, try applying the Advance Purchase discount to the Room Only rate plan on your website. This reinforces the idea that guests can only secure the best rate guarantee by booking direct. If Room Only is only available on your own website, consider applying the Advance Purchase to the Bed and Breakfast Rate instead.What are your property's lead times for bookings? If you tend to get long lead bookings - 50+ days - have a minimum booking window of 60 days for an Advanced Purchase option. If it's shorter, e.g. 30 days, put in something more like a 7 day Advanced Purchase option.Alternatively, become a trend setter in your market and offer two options: a 15% discount for bookings 60+ days out, and 10% discount at 30 days.ConclusionRegardless of the type of rate plans you're creating, the name of the rate plan is paramount. Make it is as descriptive as possible. Remember, a lot of your guests are likely visiting your website via a mobile device, so the rate plan description may not be clear or as obvious as it is on desktop. Take a look at your analytics to find out how many visitors you get on mobile, and make sure you look at your rate plans on your phone so you know how they display.The rate plan names we've used above are strong messages for why a guest should book direct when searching for their next hotel stay. You should reinforce this message throughout all your online advertising, and even on your home page with a call-out box or a different feature to draw attention.
StayNTouch Inc. 15 June 2017
Everyone experiences second-rate service from a trustworthy brand at some point. Some recent examples of large brands plagued with a reputation for poor service include wireless service providers, airlines, auto manufacturers and Internet service providers. One need only look at Twitter feeds to see the angst that their customers are feeling. In the airline industry, United Airlines seems to be getting the brunt of customer complaints and media coverage as of late due to the infamous dragging of a passenger from one of their flights that went viral. Now, they are once again in crisis management mode because a United employee tried to wrestle an 18th-century violin away from a passenger who wanted to carry on the rare and valuable violin but was being forced to check it in .Apart from the odd exception, top brands are not able to retain their status as market leaders as long as they used to. As companies grow, they try their best to ensure that service standards are maintained at the highest levels possible. However, in the long run, a decline in quality of either products or customer service is one of the greatest risks. There are many reasons for this degradation. When companies shift more focus on cost savings, they may consider outsourcing offshore to cut costs. Also, as hospitality management evolves, companies that develop software may have employees that are not up to speed on the latest variations made to the software. This all but ensures they will short on helping their clients with technical issues. Large companies can also become constrained by the fragmented departments and processes they put in place to streamline operations, but these processes can backfire and actually slow down responsiveness. In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, McKinsey claimed that disloyalty is caused by a lack of understanding of the various touch points rather than by customer dissatisfaction with a single interaction.It takes a long time to steer a big ship In the hotel technology industry, some big companies have experienced declines in service because they have not been able to adapt to change quickly enough. Their infrastructure is aging quickly. We live in a world of instant gratification. For a software company in the hospitality space, the delivery of reliable, knowledgeable service and support is paramount to building a successful business. Software that runs a hotel or connects a hotel to its guest needs to be working at all times. When something does occur that inhibits the software from performing correctly, there can be no delays in a resolution to the issue. Smaller hotel technology brands can be more agile, modern and responsive.Domain expertise makes all the difference The people on the front lines of hotel software service and support not only need to have exceptional knowledge of the software in varied configurations, but they also need be specialists on how the hotel business works. They need to be able to identify if the issue is of an operational nature or related to the technology itself. Without an adequate background and understanding of the complexities of our industry - service, and support can quickly fall apart. One survey discussing customer dissatisfaction states that a whopping 91% of its respondents complained about customer service because they had to contact the same company several times before their problem was resolved. Regardless of industry, exceeding customer expectations requires the right mix of personal service, quality interactions, and first-call resolution.It is time that customer service returned to its roots With customer service often being a key differentiator, companies cannot settle for declining service levels, especially in the hotel industry as high touch service is the hallmark of our business. The first step for hotel technology providers to stay on track is to determine what constitutes superior customer service, and learn how to deliver it. The next step is to be aware of industry trends and new technologies that emerge as they impact not only on the industry, but they also impact software with issues like new integration requirements, compliance and more. Finally, companies should always plan for success rather than planning for failure. If you plan for success, you will be able to ramp up your support services to address the growth of your company and thus be able to meet the needs of your customers.No matter how big or small our companies may be, as software providers, we are part of the service value chain right down to each and every guest. By providing excellent service to hotels - we enable them to provide exceptional service to their guests. Hotel software companies need to maintain the highest levels of support to ensure that their technology does not negatively impact hotel operations or their ability to exceed guest expectations. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/news/united-accused-of-wrestling-musician-for-her-antique-violin/
DataArt 13 June 2017
What are the top five ingredients in the race for 'first to adoption' that both hoteliers and tech suppliers share? DataArt's unique domain experience of delivering successful solutions to vendors and operators positions it to offer an inside track on successfully implementing an integrated guest-engagement strategy.The rules of engagement with hotel guests are changing as their needs, motivations and budgets evolve. We have identified several vital ingredients in ensuring optimal guest engagement and all the positive things that flow from having fully engaged customers: consistency of approach, frictionless interaction, and providing tools to establish guests enjoy their 'experiences' before, during and after their hotel stay.DataArt's experience designing and building travel and hospitality software solutions uniquely positions it as a master builder in all aspects of the digital journey. This knowledge, which spans from online tour operators (OTAs), to hotel operators and technology suppliers to the hotel industry, allows DataArt to shine a light on the critical areas that operators and suppliers alike need to champion:1. Deliver a consistent, holistic approach that offers good valueTripAdvisor recently reported (Ref i) that 34% of travelers want their accommodation to offer mobile check-in. However, this is only part of the story. In cases where a hotel actually offers this capability, how will they communicate it to the guest? There is a continual obligation on the hotel to engage with the customer, not the other way around. Furthermore, do the existing systems and data even allow the hotel to make the guest aware of this service in the first place and support it in each transaction? OTAs and many indirect, and sometimes even direct, booking channels either don't provide the hotel with the guest's contact details, or preclude it from using it for reasons that may be perceived as marketing or promotion, therefore making it impossible to fully interact.It is essential for both supplier and hotel operator/management company/chain to spell out in detail the end-to-end guest experience and explore all pitfalls and opportunities from a system and data point of view. A third-party facilitator, who can act as a catalyst for the strategy and bring technical expertise within the context of the business needs, will help design a well-thought-out and holistic solution, and may, perhaps, deliver this integration itself.2. Guests want to enjoy their experience. Make sure your touch points are enjoyable, i.e. simple, intuitive and work as promised. Guests expect their 'stay experience' to go beyond the walls of the hotelWhen Airbnb announced its "Trips" platform in November 2016 (Ref ii), it meant they were embarking on becoming a full-fledged travel company that would allow its customers to become immersed not only in their accommodation, but in their destination.Guests want to enjoy their experience, and travel technology needs to be frictionless - that is, allow the guests to do whatever they need in an intuitive way. Our experience at DataArt demands that our customers, be they hotel operators or technology vendors, have a clear view of what makes their end users (guests) tick, what motivates them and how a solution can be enjoyed the most.Integration and highly-efficient, well-designed interfaces between systems are essential. For instance, a guest may book a room and then pre-order a spa service. If they subsequently change details of their room booking, they expect their spa reservation to follow suit. Our experience shows this is often not the case - an example of a non-frictionless experience that must be avoided.3. Have a clear vision of what you want your systems to do, and why it will make the guest experience betterClarity of vision and ownership of your systems and what you provide your customers creates a pure identity of what it is you offer (thus helping you communicate your message). It also limits tangential changes that fundamentally alter the scope of your product or service, helps maintains quality and consistency and enhances the engagement with the customer you can achieve by keeping their use of your systems straightforward.While an operator or vendor should have a clear view of what it is THEY want to provide, early and active involvement of users can also make the difference between success and failure. Our preferred approach, and that which we believe is more likely to succeed, is to utilize a user-driven design. Non-user driven products can fail for the smallest reasons that could have easily been prevented with the right amount of user involvement at the right moments. DataArt encourages championing the users and develops software around a framework of iterative cycles, often involving end users.4. Ensure your guest interaction is fully integrated. Disengaged guests are less likely to return: but only 20% of guests feel fully engagedAccording to Gallup (Refs iii and iv), hotel guests that are fully engaged spend 46% more per year than actively disengaged guests. Full engagement means that customers are emotionally attached and rationally loyal - they go out of their way to obtain their preferred product or service. Offering tightly integrated and fully interfaced solutions means guests can engage with a hotel at any point and can rely on consistent interaction, thereby maintaining their emotional involvement. Since engagement rests heavily with the emotional as well as rational connection between customer and provider, consistency is key.Outstanding systems design, analysis, prototyping, proof of concepts, development, maintainability, documentation and execution are all critically important to the successful implementation of a system, and again an area where expertise delivers results.5. First-to-market is not the objectiveIt's commonly believed that first-to-market is a measure of success. While that is important, DataArt believes a greater measure of success is first-to-adoption: that is, optimal active take-up by users of any new solution or product.DataArt has been helping travel and hospitality practitioners, as well as suppliers, gain first-to-market and first-to-adoption advantage for nearly 10 years. Its breadth of experience of developing diverse application software, middleware and integration tools in its chosen sectors are second to none, and have been harnessed by some of the leading global travel and hospitality brands. The consultancy has successfully completed over 1,600 projects over 20 years in operation.Ref i - http://ir.tripadvisor.com/releasedetail.cfm?ReleaseID=919990Ref ii - http://www.businessinsider.com/airbnb-trips-launch-2016-11Ref iii - http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/192710/brands-aren-winning-millennial-consumers.aspx?g_source=HOSPITALITY&g_medium=topic&g_campaign=tilesRef iv - http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/172637/why-customer-engagement-matters.aspx
Kennedy Training Network (KTN) 12 June 2017
As anyone who has worked in the profession of hotel sales and catering sales for 10 or more years knows, the skill-set required to be a top performer is quite different these days. Today's sales superstars still have to have exceptional "people skills," which today is more formally referred to as emotional intelligence.Equally as vital, however, is the need for sales colleagues to develop an excellent organizational skillset. These days, one has to be good at both "people" and "process" skills in order to succeed. This is because today's sales teams are dealing with an overwhelming flow of electronic correspondence throughout the sales cycle and it is therefore essential to be highly organized.First, there is an overwhelming number of leads coming in via electronic channels, as meeting and event planners reach out to a long list of hotels via a few key strokes at CVENT, Starcite, CVB sites, Meeting Broker, or Wedding Wire and The Knot. Thereafter, once a prospect becomes a client, communications regarding key details start flowing in piecemeal in via texts and emails at all hours of the day.Therefore, it's essential that sales professionals evolve their skill-set tool box to adapt to all of these changes. Following are a few of my recommended best practices from KTN's sales training for today's era of electronic inquiries and messaging.Give up the paper and embrace your electronic tool. Whether you are using Delpi, Opera Sales & Catering, Salesforce, or one of the many other lead tracking systems, fully commit to using all if its features. There are just too many leads floating around to track any other way. Searching through a stack of print-outs of leads is way too time consuming when a prospect calls in; as is going through the stack when it's time for follow-up.Similarly, stop trying to make Outlook into a lead tracking system. While Outlook can be an excellent email platform, and the calendar features are useful, if you take time to fully embrace your lead tracking platform you will probably find it has far more features and functionalities that will make you a better organized sales person.Enter all "right sized" leads as soon as the come in. Print RFP's and inquiries as PDF documents and attach them to the contact. (This will also help your revenue manager better track demand for meeting space and also lost business.) Then - and this may be hard for many of you - toss that paper into the recycle bin!Immediately trace the next step. Ideally, it is good to respond right away but of course this is not always possible. Just trace the lead for "today" until you have responded and then re-trace for the actual next step.Respond by phone. Unless the sender specifically requested not to be called, find a reason to pick up the phone and engage your prospect with some intelligent investigative questioning. A good way to start the call is by saying "I just have a few questions that will help me better respond in more detail..." If you can't reach them, leave this in a voicemail and you will at least be showing intent to out-service the competition.Next, personalize the correspondence sent out. Start the cover email or cover letter by paraphrasing and re-stating a few key details you have learned from the inquiry (or hopefully the phone call if you were able to connect.)Customize the proposal templates. Most hotels have several templates already, but by making a few changes to the textual copy and also the images included you can make it real for the recipient. If it is a company or association, drop-in their logo.Respond both inside and outside of the platform (where possible.) Ensure that your response does not get lost in the long list by also sending it directly to the planner's email if it was included, or at least shoot over a note saying you have responded in the platform.If your sales tracking system is not integrated with your email platform, then copy and paste key email exchanges in the comments or notes field.Encourage a phone call. Rather than saying "call me if you have questions" or "I'll reach out to answer questions..." say "I hope to connect with you by phone to review this proposal and to hear more about your unique needs. I'm currently open tomorrow between 3:15pm and 430pm and the following day between 9am and 10:45am, so please click back a time that would be good for us to connect."Your cover message should also request that the recipient confirms receipt. Do not rely on Outlook's "Return Receipt Requested." Most planners read emails on multiple devices and it's just too easy for them to accidentally delete it. If they do not confirm, then reach out again.Include a headshot and link to your Linkedin profile in your email signature.After confirming receipt, trace for a follow-up appropriate to decision making timeline. This is typically three to five business days after they have received the proposal, while they are still early enough in the decision for you to try to influence it.Alternate between phone calls and emails for at least two or three follow-ups, typically spread a few days in between.Never throw guilt at your prospects with statements such "Since I haven't heard back from you..." or "I've left you several messages now..." Instead just keep reminding them how much you want to host their meeting or event. "Hello, just reaching out to see what else we can do to secure your business."Whenever you do connect, enter key details in the "notes" or "comments" section. Then keep referring back to these during subsequent follow-up voicemails, emails and conversations such as "When we last spoke I know you were going to meet with your colleagues at the head office..."To really stand out from the competitors, try using some "hi tech" tools for "old school" relationship building.Give video email a try. The hottest thing I have discovered this year are the new platforms for sending video email correspondence. (Note: For a sample of how to use this contact me personally email@example.com )Offer to contact the prospect via Skype or Facetime. Especially for social function planners, these are great options to make a personal connection and to stand out.- For a personal touch, send camera phone pics of property features, views, meeting set-ups, amenities etc...- Use screen sharing tools to walk prospects through the proposal and to offer "virtual FAM tours." It's often hard to get prospects out to visit the hotel prior to the decision making these days, so use a tool like join.me which is free of charge. They will be seeing whatever you are viewing on your desktop. Then just open and review the proposal, share stock images or floorplans, or walk them through highlights of your website.
Jumia Travel 9 June 2017
Currently, there are approximately 345 million internet users in Africa, representing 9.3% of the total population and a penetration rate of 27.7%. These analytics presented in a hospitality report by Africa's leading online travel agency, Jumia Travel, reflects the opportunity that lies for tourism and hospitality industry players in exploiting the internet to grow e-tourism.The growth of 4G network has also extended to more than half of the African countries, with 72 live LTE (Long-Term Evolution) networks in 32 countries as at mid-2016. Although its adoption still lags behind the rest of the world with only 20% 4G population coverage, taking advantage of 4G solutions currently in the market will provide more efficiency and convenience to any e-tourism business.For instance, the report identifies Wi-Fi as a top priority preference for hotel guests in Africa with 23% demand. For this group of travelers, most likely those who take up 31.4% of business spending are looking for a fast and reliable network connection and a huge amount of bandwidth to ensure their dealings continue uninterrupted. Investing in the 4G therefore can help hotels provide more personalized guest experience as well as improve operational efficiency.Mobile services and technologies, generated 6.7% of GDP in Africa (around USD 150 billion of economic value). This is expected to increase to more than USD 210 billion (7.6% of GDP) by 2020, while the number of unique subscribers is estimated to reach 725 million.In this case, the more internet connected Africa becomes, the more likely the pressure will be for service providers in the tourism and hospitality industry to adopt the internet and rip from its massive advantages. Capitalizing on technological advancements presented by the invention of the internet as well as its massive penetration in the continent, is sure to give players like hoteliers a competitive edge. Possible direct ROI is prospective from increased bookings from new and return customers.A notable fact from the hospitality report is that low levels of digital skills remain a major barrier to mobile internet adoption especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. Supporting digital literacy by tourism stakeholders in the continent is therefore an essential element in promoting e-tourism in Africa. In its aim to connect the whole world to the internet, Facebook launched its Free Basics initiative in 2016; connecting almost half the African countries to its free internet service. Furthermore, African Union recently launched the Africa domain name for the continent, a move that gives Africa its digital identity and aims to decrease the cost of acquiring a URL which then allows people and businesses to better reach the world.
RAR Hospitality 8 June 2017
Meet the MoneyAt Meet the Money last month, we learned that capital is still available for the right sponsor with the right location, brand and equity. The glass remains half-full, not half-empty. And we heard that consolidation will likely continue. Perhaps Mike Cahill's presentation on behalf of the Lodging Industry Investment Council (LIIC) said it best with the title "Forecasting Clear Skies with Some Clouds and Slightly Cooling Temperatures."Many of the sessions included a discussion on a reduction of Chinese investment and an increase in Private Equity to finance most hotels and many attendees seemed to believe the economy had more runway at least in 2017. The biggest fear seemed to be new supply. In a session that I moderated called, "Brands, Soft Brands or Independents: Who Wins?" the operators on my panel were very savvy in explaining how level the playing field is today between these three entity types, especially in dving market share.Additional topics discussed at Meet the Money were development and redevelopment, the economy, lodging industry metrics, financing availability, EB-5, modular construction and valuations. This conference might be one of the last industry conferences of this "extra-inning" recovery period that has a positive tone on financing. Lenders still sounded relatively bullish--let's see how NYU fares on this point as the new supply pipeline crosses the threshold of demand levels later this year.Speaking of NYU, this is a much larger version of JMBM's Meet the Money. JMBM's annual event, developed almost 30 years ago by Jim Butler is great and with less than 400 attendees, it is easy to approach all speakers, panelists, JMBM staff and attendees over the two-day period. The NYU Hotel Conference is a monster event, with a broader array of topics that will include all of the above but will also delve more deeply into design, travel trends, OTAs, asset management, technology and much more.I expect that the CEOs that kick off the event will not all agree on where we are in terms of the economy, Airbnb, OTAs, minimum wage and financing. They will likely agree that consolidation will continue but might disagree on whether or not REITs are hot or not. All of these subjects will be interesting because we are at a "tipping point" where several facets of hotel marketing and operations are going to undergo change. These include:RoboticsMinimum Wage GrowthOccupancy and Rate GrowthAirbnb and OTA ImpactsMillennialsRobotics or utilizing Artificial Intelligence will increase because of the combination of wage growth and availability of technology. We just unveiled a robot at our newly-opened Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott. Created by Savioke, the robot delivers supplies or food and beverage to guests and is absolutely adored by guests and staff alike. This is clearly a trend as it will reduce operating costs over time--and no paid overtime, no PTO or sick days. Look for more of this activity in housekeeping and food and beverage.Minimum wage growth must slow down because average rate growth will be slowing down as the economy transitions to a soft-landing over the next couple of years. The large cities have not been spared this significantly increased cost and when added to health care costs, will dramatically increase the cost of doing business. A very recent study tried to claim that only inferior restaurants will go out of business as a result of wage increases but it was a limited and flawed study.Airbnb is at war with hotels and frankly OTAs are as well. The truth is, we can all co-exist but tell that to a hotel owner who no longer fills during peak periods due to Airbnb or sees shrinking margins due to distribution channel cost increases caused by OTA dominance. In a publication by Kalibri Labs, sponsored by AH&LA, distribution costs have ramped up markedly and hoteliers must understand how to obtain direct to web business.Millennials are becoming the powerhouse that Bill Marriott predicted just 5 or 6 years ago. They represent more than half of the traveling public now and are driving decisions about design, marketing, digital services and much more. This trend will continue for a very long time as those of us who are Baby Boomers know that we dominated the mix for three decades.Being a hotelier is a great and noble profession and we should see a very strong summer ahead--smile and keep those chins up and rates growing! Enjoy the ride while it lasts!
Reknown 8 June 2017
Having survived and thrived as a consultant for almost ten years, I've learned a few ins and outs. Here's a summary of my top recommendations.Do you have what it takes? Really?Be aware that calling yourself a consultant can raise eyebrows. The consulting profession has a rather sketchy reputation because virtually anyone can claim to be a consultant. The title is often used as a euphemism for unemployed.As a qualified consultant, you should have extensive experience and expertise in a given field. Companies or individuals must be willing to pay for your advice, analysis and problem solving, and you should be able to help them improve their business.Excellent communication skills are critical too. You will need to convey information and ideas clearly and credibly, in writing, in visuals, and in front of groups.Getting startedCreating a clever name and a slick website can be fun, but at the outset your priority should be finding paid work. Besides, your services are likely to evolve over time.When I started out I used my name as my business and built a simple web page. A few years later, after I had established a viable business, I created my company name, Reknown, and invested in a more elaborate (but still simple) website.If possible, keep your day job until you have lined up enough work to pay the bills for six months or more. That means securing solid commitments and contracts. Those clients who promised to follow you when you break out on your own have a way of disappearing.Produce quality contentIt's a classic scenario: you set up shop and then sit back, waiting for the phone to ring. It doesn't. If you want work, you will need to source it, find the right contacts, and ask for it.But there is a workaround. I built my business through content marketing. I write articles on topics of my expertise and publish them on my blog or submit them to trade publications, many of which are starving for good (free) content. Then I sit back and let SEO and social media work their magic.Find your medium, whether it's articles, blog posts, videos or podcasts, and produce high quality, timely, relevant content. Eventually the leads will roll in.Prioritize large projects and long-term relationshipsAny consultant will tell you that landing and executing small, short-term projects can take as much time and effort as large, long-term contracts. Focus on securing big contracts to form a base for your business, and use smaller projects to fill the gaps.I have had the same handful of clients for over five years, and I don't have to write detailed proposals or prove my worth to them. I simply do what they ask, do it well, on time and on budget, and the work keeps flowing.Know when to invest a lot of time in proposalsSome people will make you jump through hoops to secure their business, and then they will go dark, without even the courtesy of informing you they have moved in another direction. It's poor etiquette, but it's a reality of business.Save yourself the outrage, the withering retorts you will never send, the plotting for revenge, and assume you will receive no response after submitting a proposal. That way you will be pleasantly surprised when you do.I stopped putting a lot of effort into proposals a long time ago. I've learned to sniff out the time-wasters, the spineless, the people fishing for free information. I send them an email summarizing my services, quote my highest fees, and move on.Don't undervalue your servicesAs a consultant, you can bill for only so many hours per day and will work many hours that you can't bill for. You have to pay the costs of running your business, and companies will save money by outsourcing to you rather than hiring a full-time employee. So don't be shy about charging your worth.If you're not sure how much to charge, start with a good annual salary for an executive in your field of work, divide the amount by 280 (52 weeks at 40 hours), and add 25%. That should give you a reasonable hourly fee to quote.Personally, I increase and decrease my fees according to how much I want or need the work. It's called dynamic pricing, and lots of businesses do it.When quoting for a project, provide a total fee, a breakdown of estimated hours, and the hourly fee to ensure there are no misunderstandings. Ask new clients to sign an agreement and provide an advance deposit of 25 to 50 percent of fees, and then bill monthly for work performed.If you're invited to speak at a conference, inquire about a speaking fee and travel expenses. Preparing a presentation takes a lot of time, and you're sharing your expertise. As an independent you don't have the luxury of your company paying your way, and it's a safe assumption that you won't get new clients out of the gig.Treat every client like they're the only oneClients are like lovers. They know you're probably seeing other people, but they don't want to hear about them. Treat every client like they're your only one. If you can't make a requested meeting or deadline, propose an alternative, but there's no need to say why.One exception: When prospective clients are dawdling over a proposal, feel free to nudge them into a commitment by mentioning that other suitors are lined up.The advantage of working for yourself is you can pick and choose your relationships. When you love your clients, everything else is easier. Align with people who share your values and recognize your worth.Business is never as bad as it seems or as good as it seemsBe prepared for major ups and downs. When business is slow, the fear and self-doubt can be crushing. Keep busy by creating work that adds value to your business. Go for coffee with other freelancers who can commiserate and provide encouragement.When you feel isolated or lonely, take your laptop to a cafe or shared workspace.When the work is rolling in, resist the urge to hire help. Business tends to ebb and flow, and chances are you'll soon be back to wondering how you'll pay the rent.Instead, keep overhead as low as possible, and maintain a network of trusted freelancers to subcontract to. Personally, I hoard my work, working day and night through the busy times, knowing they won't last.Social networking, or socializing, not working?Social media can be helpful for keeping up on industry news and connecting with others, but I find most activity to be superficial, fleeting, and distracting from meaningful work. Maintain a presence, but know when to shut things down and get to work.When Woody Allen said that 80 percent of life is showing up, he didn't mean to a Twitter chat. Remove your pajamas, drag a comb through your hair, and show up at industry events. Invite people out for coffee or drink, or ask to drop by their office to say hello.Nothing is more effective than face-to-face contact for finding opportunities, understanding what's happening in the field, and building relationships. I learn more from a one-hour lunch with a colleague than from hours of skimming news online.Work smartAs a self-employed person, you have a responsibility to flaunt your freedom on behalf of all nine-to-fivers who can't. Go for a run or yoga session in mid-day. Bring your laptop to the park. Extend your vacation by another week, and do your work by the pool.Find out your most productive time and block it off for your most important work. Schedule meetings, invoicing and administrative work outside of these hours. When you're on a roll, keep rolling. When things aren't flowing, take a break.I get some of my best writing done on weekend mornings. Then I don't feel so guilty when I can't get going on Monday morning.Keep learningLast, remember that your knowledge is your equity. Don't let it go stale. Set aside time every day to keep up on the latest trends, technology and best practices.That way no one will ever question your credibility as a consultant.
shareNL 7 June 2017
Business travel is a trillion dollar industry that is just about ready to go online and in the midst of going mobile. Only a fraction of the industry has embraced the sharing economy, Airbnb for instance, accounted for only 0,27 percent of lodging expenses in 2016. This signals a huge untapped potential. What steps can you take to go after this one trillion opportunity?PART I: Don't miss the platform train.From the Apple store, to Youtube, to Uber, to Airbnb. The world's most successful companies are all platforms connecting supply and demand directly. This offers many advantages but one of those is the diversification of the supply. Whether it is the types of homes on Airbnb, or the content on Youtube, no single company could offer a supply as diverse as platforms do.One hotel chain that got on the platform train is Room Mate Hotels. Through their own platform called BeMate, they allow private apartments to be rented out the same way Airbnb does, but fully serviced. Here's what this innovation brings to Room Mate Hotels:Without having to invest in infrastructure, the company is enlarging its supply.By offering all additional services, like 24 hour reception, key exchange, breakfast, transport, this concept strikes the right balance between a unique accommodation that feels like home, and the professionalism of a hotel.By diversifying its supply, this hotel chain gets to know a new consumer segment and is a frontrunning player in catering the business traveler of tomorrow.The online platform is an ideal place to test out new technologies.The online platform is an ideal place to connect to other travel services.The Room Mate, BeMate concept is a telling example of how traditional hotel owners are able to match and sometimes surpass the newcomers. One can imagine similar concepts from restaurants and home restaurants, but also in mobility and tours. One thing is for sure. If you cannot jump on the platform train today, you lack the basis for implementing new technologies such as Blockchain, Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and Robots tomorrow.This is part 1 of a 5 part series on the change in business travel. Next: Go hustle free with blockchain and IoT.By Pieter van de Glind & Harmen van Sprang - co-founders of shareNL
StayNTouch Inc. 6 June 2017
There are many important questions every hotelier should ask before investing in any new hotel software system. There are questions regarding features, functions, integration, SaaS or license, cloud or on premise, training - and the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, one of the big questions that often gets overlooked and doesn't get researched enough is the question of service and support.Service and support of your hotel software platform is integral to the success of your hotel on many levels. Yes, there may be the occasional hiccup during the initial implementation phase, but where the rubber meets the road is when you have issues that impact your operations and your revenue. It could be a system outage or a central interface that fails. However, every time something unexpected occurs to your hotel technology, you want to feel secure that the support and service you receive is quick, effective and rectifies the situation as quickly as possible.Companies very rarely plan for success but they do plan for failure. They plan for market conditions that could impact their sales, they plan for changes in guest buying habits but planning for success...this seems like a strange thing to do. Companies that plan for success can prepare for the future and staff up their help desk department to effectively meet the needs of their customers. This can be a tricky balancing act, but ensuring that the technology provider that you have partnered with has this "success vision" will be critical for you in the long run.Here are just some very basic technology service and support realities:Happy customers are more likely to tell other hoteliers about your productAngry customers gossip more than happy onesIf you are known for great customer service, it gives you the flexibility to try new thingsIn a McKinsey report, 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer is being treated and supported. This rings incredibly true when delivering selling, implementing and supporting hotel software. Hotels are in the business of delivering great guest service and hotel technology providers should echo this important element.Service and support is important related to client retention. As stated above, when you have an angry customer, they are more likely to look elsewhere but in a White House Office of Consumer Affairs report, it is 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain a current customer.Hoteliers are fed up with the quality of service current models offer. The future: human-centric service and support. A human-centric service model revolves around people. It is a model that recognizes clients are a valuable resource, key to a company's success, and therefore all aspects of service and support is designed to go above and beyond to help them. It means anticipating customer issues and addressing them proactively. At StayNTouch, we pride ourselves in delivering amazing high touch, human-centric service and support. It is in our DNA. We know that your property's success depends on our ability to deliver exceptional products and support services. Keeping you informed, being incredibly responsive and adding a consultative approach to the mix are all contributing factors to our support philosophy. It's more than just providing answers; it's an important part of our promise to its clients."The service we have received with StayNTouch is not even comparable to any other companies we have come across in the property management systems space. In general, everyone on the team is extremely competent and passionate about the StayNTouch solution. Their service and support is excellent."Marco Burlimann, Area Manager, Modus HotelsThe line between products and services is blurring, and customer service has become part of the product itself. Keeping service and support top of mind during your PMS purchase decision is imperative. When you're ready to make a move, do your homework. You can use social media outlets as well as LinkedIn groups to read direct feedback from front end users of almost every hotel technology system. Check references and speak to your peers. A long feature list is nice to have, but you should make your choice with a broader framework in mind, keeping service at the top of that list. Not only do you need to know what support channels are available, but also how quickly you'll be helped and with what level of competency.
LMA Communications Inc. 5 June 2017
Product placement has been part of the Hollywood scene for decades as savvy producers must find ever-creative ways to squeeze every ounce of profit out of their films - something that looks especially worthwhile when such brands are willing to pay upfront and thereby offset the usual cashflow issues of movie production. After all, if the script doesn't specify the specific type of automobile being driven, smartphone adjacent to the name actor's ear or beverage being consumed, why not earn some decent bucks in the process?More recently, hoteliers have started to realize that hotels can offer perfect symmetry with many brands that want trial from their target audience, especially when those brand's key demographics match that of a property's guests. Examples abound and now that you are fully aware that this is a going trend, no doubt you'll spot this everywhere.Notably, in the luxury car category, BMW, Lexus and Mercedes Benz have all established programs where their vehicles are offered to hotels for guest use. Or how about a Land Rover Driving School at an East Coast resort? I've seen these partnerships displayed prominently on hotel websites - while I may not know much about the property, a complimentary use of a classy auto has a tremendously positive halo whether I actually take them up on the offer or not.Outside of the automobile world, partnerships with local retailers can transcend short-term promotions to include ongoing discounts and personal shopping arrangements. For example, Le Printemps department store has a relationship with Raffles Le Royal Monceau in Paris whereby hotel guests receive a 10% discount, personal shopper assistance and same day delivery service for their purchases.The nuance comes in deciding what truly is product placement versus just a supplier substitution for one brand or another. To help you discern which is which, here is a set of rules on the issue of developing these brand partnerships.Brand substitution should augment your property's guest offering. Substituting Coke for Pepsi products (I'm neutral on both) is really a price proposition with your local distributor and has nothing to do with your guest. I am fairly confident that you will not lose any guests because of your selection for one or the other.Look for brands that mirror your guests' needs then take it up a notch. Most everyone drives, so offering better - that is, premium price - vehicles for visitors to enjoy during their stays makes strategic sense. The quality of the brand should therefore deliver a positive 'halo' to your property.Differentiate your property. Do your homework. If your comp set has one brand, select another. Creating the relationship is just the start; it must be a win-win for both parties. Remember that you are getting the product for guest use. Hence, expect that you will have to provide all necessary information - such as the data resulting from a specific product's onsite use - back to the selected partner.Expect a lot of upfront time investment. Any relationship has the usual myriad of paperwork. No one is going to drop off half a million dollars' worth of steel and rubber under your porte-cochere without a full-fledged contractual agreement. Factor at least a year from idea to on-property execution.Don't expect immediate measurable results. The overall goal is to value-add your guest relationship through product differentiation, whatever that product may be. Rarely do programs of this nature lead to trackable revenue gains with direct accountability and ROI. As an offset to this rather nebulous aspect of product placement, there may be little to no investment in capital or expense.It's all about the guest! Sorry, but that Ferrari is not for your personal use on weekends. Treat these goodies with respect.(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in Hotels Magazine on Tuesday, April 4, 2017)
Solar Plexus Inc., dba Travel Outlook 2 June 2017
The reason? The study suggests that there is a direct correlation between the revenue increase and the explosion in online reviews. With vastly increased exposure, independent hotels can now reach more potential guests than ever before. In terms of hard numbers, the study found that for every ten reviews received, independent hotels gained a 1.7% boost in revenue.This suggests a vitally important takeaway: independent hotels that offer exceptional service can enhance their online reputation, which can have a direct impact on their bottom line.There are opportunities for creating a strong impression and incentivizing positive online feedback throughout the hotel stay. But guest perceptions, and by extension your entire reputation, can often hinge on a single interaction - the first contact with a reservation agent.Beyond a personal greeting, a well-trained reservation agent will take the time to learn about a guest's needs and preferences ahead of time, and this can dramatically impact the entire perception a person has about your hotel.For instance, a carefully suggested room recommendation, a top tip for a local restaurant, or surprising a guest with a free upgrade to celebrate a special occasion can make their whole experience more memorable.In a world of cookie-cutter chain experiences, going beyond expectations and showing a desire to help and add value carries immense weight.And over time, the impact of providing exemplary service from the first encounter can elevate your whole brand reputation - encouraging positive reviews that have the potential to create a measurable growth in booking revenue.This is one in a series of short essays by John Smallwood, CEO of Travel Outlook Premium. Reservations Call Center about voice reservations, the second most profitable revenue channel. Travel Outlook is a hospitality company that takes voice reservations calls for its clients.
EHL 2 June 2017
The hotel room of the future is likely to be a combination of the high-tech and high-touch. EHL's YU Virtual video highlights the former, with virtual reality creating the ambiance we want in our hotel room. And what then of artificial intelligence (AI) and robots? What role will they play in hospitality?EHL's prestigious International Advisory Board (IAB) met recently in Lausanne to discuss disruptive innovation in hospitality and education. In a panel discussion on the topic 'Leading through disruption', Wilhelm Konrad Weber, a partner at Swiss Hospitality Solutions, said technology is definitely driving the hospitality industry but it also poses a threat "because hoteliers are not necessarily early adopters." The internet came along, he said, but hotels failed to build the best online booking engines. The online travel agencies or OTAs moved into the space, leaving hoteliers lagging behind.The industry has become fragmented, he continued, with customers having far more choice than they had previously. Consequently, there's "a lot less loyalty.""Most of the guests using our properties are much more savvy in the use of technology ... than us actually providing it. So that's probably going to keep us challenged."Disruption in hospitality has, by and large, come from outside the industry - whether in terms of the OTAs and alternative accommodation platforms - although, one rental site, HouseTrip was set up by two EHL alumni, Arnaud and Junjun Chen Bertrand (AEHL, 2008) who were both panelists at the IAB session. (The digital platform was sold to TripAdvisor in April 2016 after raising some $60 million in funding).Arnaud Bertrand candidly stated during the panel discussion that he would have preferred to have taken the start-up to an IPO (initial public offering) but admitted they had made many mistakes along the way ("probably every mistake we could make, we made")."I don't have any regrets," says Arnaud Bertrand, adding that they had learnt "an enormous amount" from the HouseTrip experience. "Were I to do it again, I would do everything differently and that's why we're creating a new start-up (the virtual reality dating platform, LovInVR) to try to be even better this time."Weber says that although Accor has been "bold", listed hotel companies are having to meet the expectations of analysts, investors and journalists, so innovation in hospitality tends to be evolutionary ("something that everyone expects you to do") rather than revolutionary and disruptive ("something nobody expected you to do.")"What we're lacking in these big companies is this revolutionary thinking, this radical change," he says, adding that "the reason we're lacking it is because it's very tough at the C-level' and few are prepared to risk "doing something crazy."Artificial intelligence is at the core of tech firm Afiniti, whose chairman and CEO is Zia Chishti. Afiniti sifts through publicly-available data, using AI, to pair customers with call center agents to maximize sales. "The AI-ness of what we do is around behavioral prediction for both customers as well as for internal agents. And then the construction of a prediction of behavior between the two. So that's at the heart of what we do."The venture is on course for an IPO ("this one will probably go out somewhere between $5-10 billion into the public market ... having said that, I've been incorrect in my prediction evaluation every time I've made such a prediction") but Chishti calls himself a disruption and AI cynic."I think disruptions have actually slowed, if not completely stopped over the last 10 years." The internet as an 'information retrieval and exchange system' and the smartphone have been "somewhat derivative" and have not made us any healthier or happier, he says, whereas antibiotics and motorways have had a profound effect on "human lifespans, levels of income and how societies function.""There's a perception that AI will change everything but it's not like that. AI is just a set of statistical tools and various incarnations of this have existed for the last 40 or 50 years. It's just that the machines in which these tools run have become somewhat more advanced and more powerful over the years, but this is not a seismic shift. There's no dramatic and disruptive event happening here. It's just the slow and steady emergence of a technology that's been around for quite a while."Robots have already appeared in some hotels, particularly in Japan. Suggest to Chishti, however, that robots may end up having a major impact on society as fewer people would be working anymore, and his response is "that's not going to happen.""If you take all of the computational capacity that exists in the whole world today - every single smartphone, mainframe, supercomputer, every single PC and you put it all together - it's approximately equal to the brain power of a dog. That's an extraordinary figure if you think about it. The best estimate for the entire computational capacity in the whole world, approaching that of a human brain is five to seven years out. The best estimate for a single machine approaching human level intelligence is north of 30 years out. And the cynical view ... I bet, it's north of 50 years out.""What is more likely to happen is a re-distribution of work. So in many cases AI actually enhances human labor productivity and should increase labor demand. There are some areas where the increasing power of computational systems in AI will absorb labor capacity but it'll do so in a manner that enables rather than destroys.""Symbolic systems are maybe 100 years out to compete. And between here and there - and the hospitality industry is part of it - we create a magical experience that borders on art and borders on beauty that enable our customers to come back. That just doesn't get replicated by machines. The twinkle in the eye that a waiter has when they serve a particularly delightful meal will not be replicated by machines in the next 30-50 years, so I wouldn't worry about it."Weber of Swiss Hospitality Solutions says he gets somewhat nervous "if somebody is talking down AI." Citing the MIT online experiment, Moral Machine, he adds that artificial intelligence, built into self-driving cars, may have to make life and death decisions on the roads. "It's not like the big hype that ... there will be no doctors anymore, but I think it's going to impact us a little bit more than revealed."For an entrepreneur like Arnaud Bertrand, self-driving cars could have a massive impact on the hospitality industry if the automobile becomes a de-facto mobile hotel room. "If you don't drive the car anymore, what do you do inside it? You entertain yourself, you work, you sleep, when you travel. Sounds familiar? Where do you normally do that? In a hotel room, right?"Should AI have a bigger impact as we move towards a leisure society, we would likely have more time to engage in continuous learning activities. For Jean-Marc Tasseto, the co-founder of Coorpacademy and a former senior Google executive in France, there will be a shift from professors reading out research articles in a lecture theatre to a 'blended' learning approach which integrates digital teaching elements. Tasseto, who sees himself more as a 'marketing guy' than a disruptor, says the continuous learning market may be worth some 150 billion dollars, with e-learning possibly worth around 15 billion dollars. Education, he says, has still to be disrupted, perhaps with the emergence of a major tech firm like Google, but this time with an education focus. The potential is huge; so Tasseto's advice is, "invest in education."
Guestware 2 June 2017
New technology is more affordable, easier to implement and supportMobile apps and cloud computing were only a vision when full service hotels began automating maintenance and guest response processes in the 1990s. In those days, logging every guest request and work order helped associates optimize work flow and improve management reporting. Those same benefits are still at the core of the product category today, but now vendors promote the latest cloud and mobile trends to impress hoteliers into using the latest technology. Although the capabilities in this software category have expanded significantly over the years, cloud and mobile computing now make it much more affordable, and easier to implement and support than ever before.Automated guest response and maintenance software is now simple and cost effective enough to achieve widespread adoption throughout the select service and small hotel segment. When you compare the labor costs of the hotel staff with the value from efficiency and quality gains, the software costs are almost insignificant. Spending a couple thousand dollars a year on a system (give or take $1K depending on hotel size and system) is nothing when you look at the labor involved in managing thousands of work orders, guest requests, PM's and inspections each year. The return on investment is achieved by staff productivity gains, improved accountability to the owner, eliminated costly mistakes, and improved guest satisfaction.Hoteliers are ready to automate and streamline manual processesThe primary purpose of a Guest Response system is to streamline the process for managing guest requests and urgent work orders. Requests and work orders can be reported many ways including a guest-facing mobile app, phone call or directly from staff, and each request generates a work ticket in the system. Business rules automatically assign, prioritize, and notify the appropriate worker on their mobile device. Tasks can be created, updated, or completed from the associate mobile app, and escalation messages can be sent to management. The staff appreciates streamlining the process while management can use the data collected to identify trends and improve service quality.Automating preventive maintenance ensures the scheduled work is getting done on-time to maintain the facility and protect the valuable capital investments made by owners. Managing all these assets, check lists, and scheduling the work using manual processes is painfully labor intensive with little accountability. Properly maintaining the facility using an automated system creates a more enjoyable and problem free stay for the guest.Understanding what it takes for ongoing success A critical aspect of achieving ROI with any system is the implementation and successful use of the system by the hotel team. Corporate and hotel managers cannot expect instant results without leading the change management aspects of the implementation. Beware of the vendor that promises instant success or talks more about cool features than people and processes. Experienced vendors effectively communicate expectations and have well-defined processes for implementation and ongoing success management. Sustainability requires a vendor with effective online training, tutorials, knowledge base articles, and a responsive support team that knows the hotel industry.Evaluating the right vendor and productAs you would not judge a book by its cover, the same is true for software. Slick demonstrations are nice, but also look under the hood at the company behind the software. A clean user interface is important, but the configurability often shows the true robustness and quality of the software. Software without good configurability restricts flexibility for essential tasks like setting up a new inspection, maintenance check list, adding new equipment, or custom report filters. The number of vendors in this category has easily doubled in the last 10 years and continues to grow so it is important to evaluate at least three vendors before you make a decision.The benefits and rewards for a hotel that successfully automates their guest response and maintenance processes are huge. New technology is now available for small boutique and select service hotels to move out of the dark ages to "How did we ever run our hotel without it?" Hotel Executives who can lead their teams to successful adoption of this technology will reap the rewards along with their staff, owners, and guests.
ALICE 1 June 2017
Marketing to your guests isn't just about winning them over at planning and at booking. There's actually seven steps to the customer journey, and technology can help you optimize your marketing, every step of the way.When marketing your hotel to your guests, it's tempting to think there are only two phases of the guest journey that matter: planning and booking. As a result, many hotels optimize their technology for just these two stages.The reality, of course, is that the guest experience doesn't end at booking. It's actually cyclical - cycling from planning through booking through the guest's stay to planning again. While the exact number of phases in the guest journey is up for debate (Google says five, we say seven), what's important is there are multiple stages of the guest journey that together create the guest experience. In each of these stages, the hotel has the opportunity to use technology to optimize the guest experience for more bookings, more loyalty, and more revenue.The Seven Stages of the Guest LifecycleDreamTechnologies: Search engines (Google), social media networks (Facebook, Instagram), online media (Conde Nast Traveler), discovery apps (Hitlist).Every hotel stay begins with someone dreaming of going to a particular place or having a particular kind of experience.In this phase, the guest hasn't yet honed in on your hotel. They have an idea or a dream: a Hawaiian escape, New York City with friends, or a conference for work (maybe not a dream, but a requirement!). They have a certain experience in mind, but are still exploring the opportunities and finer details. The hotel's role in this phase is to be as relevant and discoverable as possible. Hotels will want to optimize their search engine presence, be visible in the media and on social media, and make sure they're on the radar of travel discovery apps, like Hitlist or Hotel Tonight.https://www.hitlistapp.comSelectTechnologies: Your website, OTAs (Expedia), your affiliations (Leading Hotels of the World, Skylark), review sites (TripAdvisor).The average traveler visits over 20 different travel websites before making a booking decision! Your hotel's challenge in this stage is to cut through the noise and stand out from the competition.In this phase, the guest needs a reason to book with you instead of with your competition. Selecting your hotel over others will come down to a variety of factors. Given TripAdvisor's influence online, a decisive factor will be your hotel's reputation (TripAdvisor appears on the first page of organic search for 99% of unbranded search terms, and 93% of travelers say they're influenced by online reviews). (In this regard, your hotel's reputation is in many ways is a reflection of the level of service at your hotel (something we'll get to later...)).Also important in influencing the selection of your hotel is your website (how optimized for search is it? How compelling is its imagery? Is it optimized for mobile?), your presence on the OTAs (are you discoverable?), your membership with affiliate brands (like Skylark) and whether or not offline affiliations (like membership with Leading Hotels of the World) aid in online discovery.https://skylark.com/BookTechnologies: Your website and its booking engine (TravelClick, Avvio), direct booking technologies (Triptease, SiteMinder)At this phase, the guest needs a reason to book on your website instead of anywhere else. A booking engine optimized for your website (like Avvio) and an effective loyalty program help here. So too do innovative technologies like Triptease's Direct Booking Platform and SiteMinder, which work with hotels to improve their direct booking conversions. Of course, an optimized website (facilitated by companies like TravelClick) is a must as well.https://www.triptease.com/PrepareTechnologies: Pre-arrival guest messaging (ALICE, Checkmate), upsell platforms (Nor1), trip-planning/concierge services (Porter & Sail).The time of booking is when your guest is perhaps most excited about your hotel and their upcoming trip. Hotels will want to capitalize on this phase by engaging with their prospective guests. Use this phase to learn the reason for the guests' trips and help them plan their stays.If hotels have an in-house concierge, they can use messaging tools like ALICE to help their guests plan activities prior to arrival. Hotels can also outsource their concierge to services like Porter & Sail, which will work with your guests to plan activities as soon as they've booked their stay. Hotels can also use this time to upsell guests on rooms, amenities, and activities, with tools like Nor1.Developing a relationship with guests in this phase will help you provide them a better in-stay experience and increase the chance they'll share their experience and return.http://www.nor1.com/StayTechnologies: Guest messaging (ALICE), service optimization technologies (ALICE).Many hotels don't think of the stay phase of the guest journey as a "marketing" phase, but they should. In fact, as we often say here at ALICE, the customer experience is your best marketing, strongly influencing the same guest's propensity to share their experiences and return (and inspire others in the dream and selection phases of their journeys as well).Much of the guest experience comes down to the quality of service your hotel provides and, increasingly, the degree of convenience you offer your guests. ALICE improves your guest service by helping your staff get on the same (digital) page. ALICE's request management platform connects your staff departments for seamless communication and streamlined task management. And ALICE's dedicated concierge technology gives concierges the tools they need to excel at their jobs and exceed guest expectations.Meanwhile, ALICE's guest platform, which includes mobile apps, an open API to plug into your existing mobile app, and messaging (SMS), puts all your hotel's services and amenities at your guests' fingertips, for the ultimate in convenience and guest satisfaction.http://info.aliceapp.comShareTechnologies: Review collection technologies (Medallia), social sharing and advocacy platforms (Flip.to), online review sites (TripAdvisor).It's a natural impulse to want to share good experiences with others. Three quarters of U.S. travelers share their trip experiences on social networks, while 97% of Millennials say they share pictures while traveling (on channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat).Hotels should encourage guests to share their experiences. For one thing, the collective reach of your guests is enormous and incredibly targeted. Your guests can introduce you to travelers just like them--the perfect demographic for your hotel--before competitors have even had the chance to win the relationship.Plus, according to Cognizant, word of mouth is the single most important factor in selecting a hotel. And 84% of people say they trust reviews from friends and family over any other type of advertising.Encourage promotion of your hotel through your guests with tools like Flip.to, the marketing platform that lets guests become advocates and introduce your brand worldwide.The platform earns and tracks new bookings while growing brand awareness, web traffic, warm leads and a library of authentic content highlighting the travel experiences your guests are sharing with your hotel at the center.You can use this user-generated content on your website, and share guest content via your own social channels, which will help influence other guests early on in their own customer journeys.TripAdvisor is also an important channel for the share phase of the guest journey because of its outsize influence on the early phases of other guests (80% of travelers read 6 to 12 reviews on average before booking a hotel). While encouraging guests to share their experiences to TripAdvisor is important, but so too is responding to these reviews. Indeed, 85% of users say a thoughtful management response to a bad review improves their overall impression of a property.Lastly, inspiring guest sharing isn't just about generating contributions to public forums like review sites and social media. Encouraging guest feedback via internal channels is also an important part of hotel marketing during the share phase of the guest journey. This is because it can allow you to preempt issues before they make their way to public forums, and also because soliciting customer feedback can lead you to make improvements to the guest experience that will increase the likelihood of his or her return. Services like Medallia help hotels collect this guest feedback across a variety of channels.http://www.flip.to/ReturnTechnologies: Email marketing, remarketing campaigns, social media (TravelClick CRM, Cendyn)It's no secret a returning guest is "cheaper" than a new guest. But a returning guest means so much more than money saved in marketing - it's the surest sign you've provided an exceptional guest experience. And it's also a virtuous circle. Every time a guest returns to your property you have the opportunity to "know" the guest a bit more, allowing you to increase your personalization and improve the guest experience with every stay.While the experience on property is the best marketing to influence a guest's return, tools like email marketing, remarketing and social media (your hotel's and other guests'), as well as a compelling loyalty program can also help remind the guest of the fantastic time he or she had on property and ensure their return. Investing in a CRM, like Cendyn's, is the surest way to have the data and functionality to run these email, remarketing, and social campaigns.http://www.cendyn.com/***As you can see, marketing to the guest is much more than guiding them from planning to booking. In fact, marketing has a role in all seven phases of the guest journey: from dream, through stay, and all the way until return (and return again).Most importantly, marketing to your guest doesn't just concern his or her online interaction with your hotel. It also concerns the guest's actual in-person experience on property. By reconceiving marketing's role to extend to all seven phases, hotels have a tremendous opportunity to craft a lasting and impactful relationship with the guest - a relationship that can be nurtured and strengthened by the right technology.
Cloud5 Communications 1 June 2017
Let's review the top 5 mistakes that hotels make in delivering HSIA to guests, and how to fix them and get on the path to your best hotel online guest experience!#1 Ignoring guest usage trends.Don't' make the mistake of not listening to your guests. By listening, we mean understand your data analytics. Knowing when your peaks and valleys of demand occur and the type of applications your guests are accessing allows you to ensure you have the right service available.The key metrics you want to follow are:Number of user sessions online per hourTime session startedLength of sessionBandwidth utilizationData transferred (both upload and download), indicating the range of apps from video streamline to emailMake sure your HSIA provider offers reporting that demonstrates trends and provides insight into improving service levels for your guests. These insights will help you understand when you need to increase capacity, offer tiered service levels and load balance high traffic periods.#2 Deploying for yesterday instead of tomorrow.Hotel guest Wi-Fi usage trends will not decline if your hotel is growing and occupancy is on the upswing. So, plan for your next phase of growth today. There are more bandwidth-hogging applications on the horizon that your guests will be logging into soon. Be prepared. It is more cost-efficient to have a Wi-Fi growth strategy that's agile and can change with your needs.Ask your HSIA provider for strategies that keep you ahead of the bandwidth game:Load balancingSD-WAN bandwidth orchestrationNetwork management toolsQuality of Service (QoS) prioritize network traffic#3 Thinking no one will notice you don't meet your brand standards of service.Believe us. Guests will notice. Standards are set because they matter to your guests. When you don't keep up with brand or industry level recommendations. Service to your guests suffers and so will your hotel ratings. Guests rate good Wi-Fi at the top of the list for hotel requirements, right alongside a comfortable bed and free breakfast.The first thing that guests do when the Wi-Fi service is poor is take to social media sites like Facebook or TripAdvisor. Bad scores have a long life online and will impact your bookings and ADR.Some top hotel brands are seeing their guest satisfaction scores plummet due to poor enforcement of standards.If you have HSIA standards, enforce them with your properties.If you don't have HSIA standards today, get them. (Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on the right standards from your hotel type and size.)#4 Losing extra revenue available with tiered service.Don't be afraid to charge your big bandwidth users. For guests with multiple devices and high demand for streaming apps like Netflix or Hulu, introduce a tiered service. Guest that want reliable streaming services will pay the small incremental fee and it will prevent service quality issues for your other guests. It's a nice revenue stream that can go towards helping fund your next project.#5 Installing it and forgetting it.Don't assume your network won't change - quickly. Your network is a living ecosystem. It changes daily based on your guest profile, occupancy, and events being held at your property. Make sure you and your HSIA partner are monitoring your network 24/7 for bandwidth management, service interruptions and traffic fluctuations that impact your service. A typical HSIA network is upgraded every three years and during that time, you may add additional features such as Enterprise Network Management, Conference/Event Wi-Fi service, or additional bandwidth.
EHL 1 June 2017
The term 'disruption' is widely used by the media to denote a form of breakthrough that takes place in rapidly-changing markets. It can mean different things to different people, along a continuum from incremental change to radical transformation. According to conventional wisdom, a provocative marketing campaign may be seen as 'disruptive' as an affordable-luxury hotel concept with shared bathrooms.What disruption means to academics - and some business leaders who have been influenced by the theories of Harvard professor Clayton Christensen - is somewhat different. According to Christensen's well-known (and oftentimes misused) theory, disruption describes a process whereby relatively small companies with few resources are able to successfully challenge, often to the point of up-ending, incumbent businesses. Disruptive innovations are however differentiated from sustaining innovations. The former originate either in low-end markets or new-market footholds, whereas the latter make good products better. As such, there are few innovations that can truly be labelled 'disruptive'. Yet, few terms have so affected the collective psyche that companies in virtually every industry now seem to face constant disruptive innovation.But the fear or hope of emerging disruption is exaggerated and misleading. For example, Christensen argues that Uber does not qualify as a genuinely disruptive company as it didn't originate either as a low-end opportunity or in a new market, primarily targeting non-consumers. In an article published a year ago, I made a similar claim about Airbnb. Yes, Airbnb's sustaining innovation effectively capitalizes on improving the efficiency of the system -- in a dishonest way, some would argue -- but it will not break the established industry's rules anytime soon. Rather, as my colleague, Professor Cindy Heo contends, Airbnb will develop into another major player in the industry.Self-driving cars will be truly disruptive for the automobile industry if they are aligned with their developers' ultimate goal: that consumers will no longer need to have their own personal car anymore.What is then a potential disruptive innovation in hospitality? No one has a crystal ball and is able to predict the future with any accuracy, so we must rely on intuition to forecast possible ways in which the hospitality sector may open up or see a fundamental change in the way hospitality is delivered to customers. Consider these two examples:3-D printers: Hotels 'printed' using concrete will open up a new field for hotel/temporary housing development, valuation and real estate. Using the currently-available technology, a San Francisco-based start-up, Apis Cor, can 3-D print a hotel in one day. 3-D printing of buildings will allow accommodation hosting opportunities to develop and disappear very quickly in new areas, according to changing destination popularity, or to extend capacity following a surge of visitors, for example.Virtual reality: headsets or physical spaces will change the very notion of tourism. We will virtually travel not only to places, but in time as well. As another colleague, senior lecturer Remy Rein, commented to me recently: why would we physically travel to 21st century Rome, if we can 'virtually' visit Rome in the 1stcentury BC and experience 'real-time' how the Colosseum was built?
GEMtech Inc. 1 June 2017
Dressed DownMe and my big mouth, err, keyboard, I made a passing mention of the notion that it's a myth that the Waldorf Salad was invented or even served there. My initial source of the information seemed as credible as could be: she was a veteran banquet cold pantry sous chef my hotel school class encountered at the Waldorf during a back-of-the-house tour we got on a class trip in the late eighties. Clearly fatigued from being asked by students a few too many times where the Waldorf salads were made, she said "Hon, there are plenty of fruits and nuts around this place, and I'm one of 'em! But you won't find them in any salad here at the Waldorf=Astoria." Her colleagues behind the cold line nodded "no" in such violent, indignant agreement that their stovepipe chefs' hats nearly twirled off. Talk about an authentic, local experience for my classmates and me, one whose power is demonstrated by the fact that I'm here talking about the encounter almost thirty years later.Fake News! Mea CulpaBut, in reality, how authentic was it? In several of the press pieces paying tribute to the hotel's storied past last week, not only are departing hotel employees not denying the hotel's role in the salad's origins, they appear to be owning it with such sentimental ferocity that the new Chinese owners may have to ask their government to add it to their list of territorial disputes! The ultimate truth may well have walked out the door Friday, leaving behind this powder keg of salad bowl controversy for later generations to diffuse. But for my part, and on behalf of GEMtouch, if we have played any part in adding to the growing body of fake news and alternative facts that are polluting our social media, we are mortified and sincerely apologize!But this does raise an important question not covered in the first article: in purchasing those "authentic local experiences" directly from purveyors online, or perhaps from intermediaries whose "cubicle curators" are likely to be hundreds of miles away, and in so doing, bypassing any endorsement or guidance that would have leveraged their host hotel staff's institutional and deep local knowledge, how will travelers be able to know how authentic these experiences really are? If we accept that the Experience Economy will play an ever greater role in forming the very fiber of our society, then it stands to reason that there needs to be someone who fact-checks the authenticity of local experiences being offered in the digital marketplace. Why won't it be self-policing by customer reviews, you may ask? Local tour operators will indeed do everything they can to get those positive reviews. They really have no choice, since they unfortunately can't rely too much on repeat business. After all, the "Experience Economy" is driven by people wanting new experiences, not the same ones over and over again. Those stellar reviews may accurately represent many measures of quality, but don't count on authenticity being one of them. That's because the reviewers may not have had any way of knowing any better either, and people don't usually spend their holidays taking multiple tours of the same attraction to make sure the information was consistent, certainly not during the same trip. That would be like reading multiple newspapers every day, and while there are certainly intellectual types who do that, they probably don't do it when they are on vacation.How about high end guidebooks? Can we trust them to know what's authentic? Well, the most reputable tour and activity guidebooks usually got so reputable because they apply a standard method of what to measure and how to measure it. To achieve that consistency, they primarily rely on research done by internal teams who have been trained on those methods. Those people are undoubtedly well educated, love to travel, and love their craft. But those people are just as undoubtedly not given a lot of time, not left with a lot of energy, and most importantly, are not locals--ironically not even in their home towns after a while, since they are on the road so much.Who else then? Airlines? Hotel or Alternative Lodging Brands? Online Travel Agents? They all want you to have good experiences that make you loyal to their brands, but not necessarily to any one destination--that actually threatens the relevance of a national or global brand. The same is true of those guidebooks we were just discussing. Some locals may buy each year's new edition, but given that 73 percent of local consumers think a review is no longer relevant after three months*, that business can't exactly be booming. Otherwise, Guidebooks really don't expect to sell anyone more than one copy for one destination, so don't expect much from them in guaranteeing authenticity either.No, the guarantor of experience authenticity, the guest's true local host, needs to be their hotel's staff, as it was in days past. How can I even say this, you might wonder? When it's looking like a few hotel employees working in cahoots may have caused me to live most of a lifetime with everything I know--everything I hope and believe--about the origin of the Waldorf Salad, to be based on nothing but lies? And especially when hotels have their own activities to sell, how can they be trusted to be objective, when they clearly have a dog in the fight? Well here's what's different: when you think about it, local hotel staff are really the only ones who have a vested interest in getting you to return to that property in that destination.As stated earlier, most independent activity operators "from acupuncture to ziplines" as we like to say at GEMtouch, probably won't expect to have your business twice in one lifetime, let alone twice in one trip. The same may well be true at hotels and resorts for any given activity, but they are much more likely to offer multiple activity types, and resorts by nature either provide or locate themselves near the types of activities people actually do want to do over and over on the same trip, like visit the theme park, play golf, hang out in a beach cabana, or hit the ski slopes--after all, that's why people want to stay close to them in the first place. They obviously don't want to have to find a new place to sleep every night, or face a long commute after a full day of enjoying their activity of choice. They also weren't really there for the food, and their main goal was just not to be gauged.To address that risk factor, the all-inclusive resort was invented. Ok, so the all-inclusive resort may not be the first destination that comes to mind when thinking of where to find authentic experiences. The concept doesn't seem like one that can survive the Experience Economy and the growing dominance of the tech-savvy, wandering-eyed, spontaneous, adventure-seeking participants who have defined it.But maybe that's exactly why it will, more than a la carte hotel segments. That topic deserves its own article, but for now I'll just summarize that, between getting guests' dining arrangements sorted out, and pushing them to on-site tour desks who are actively encouraged to woo them off property and away from the all-included resources, it's in these resorts' DNA to be sure guests are always having a full experience with plenty to do. To get their share of the Experience Economy and retain ownership of the guest relationship, regular hotels need to find a way to do this too.So, just as the venerable Waldorf=Astoria goes dark and stops being a source of authentic experiences, in some cases for two years, in other cases perhaps forever, many new hotels that had been in stealth planning for years are now opening in New York City. So many, they are learning, that they are expected to outpace demand for the foreseeable future. As the opening teams recast their projections, and they tighten resources just at the time when they should be investing in their brand and forming long lasting relationships, will these new hotels find a way to fill the void and take a more active role in ensuring their guests have access to truly authentic local experiences?Fake News Now Fake Travel?"Stop being so melodramatic," some might say. "We're not talking about curing cancer; we're just talking about people's vacations and 'bleisure' trips, usually Millennials at that!" And if the reaction is, "and anyway, who cares if it's not totally authentic, if the reviews show lots of people still seem happy with the experience, what's the harm?" While it would be easy to just write off that reaction as an homage to places like Epcot, Bush Gardens, Paris Las Vegas, i.e., places with inauthentic experiences that people love so much, that they have become authentic in their inauthenticity, there's a more chilling interpretation: that essentially the "Fake News" industry will have been joined by a "Fake Travel" industry, which for a while will be just as lucrative. But soon enough, helped by the likes of Siri, Alexa, or Cortana, along with whatever the dominant virtual reality technology of the day is, people will realize they can essentially "travel" as much as they want, and a lot more cheaply, without ever leaving their homes. So please, let's make sure our industry has the tools, the people, and most importantly, the desire to actively prevent that outcome. I don't know about you, but that kind of an Experience Economy is not an economy I want to experience!
IDeaS 1 June 2017
Hotels set themselves apart competitively by offering distinctive room types and lush amenities, dog-friendly atmospheres, Zen lifestyle packages with yoga mats and serene spaces, and gluten-free and vegan-friendly menus. These are available options guests can choose from to help minimize the disruptions caused by traveling. And when you look at innovation in the technology space, it takes guest options and competitive opportunities for hotels even further. Mobile apps, keyless entry software, digital newspapers and room service robots have become all the rage in recent years-and they are all geared to ultimately influence the guest's choice to book with the brand family.In fact, choice is even one of the cardinal themes embedded in nearly every brand ethos. A quick look around the Internet and words like "unique," "memorable," "diverse," and "curated collection" are frequently used to describe any given portfolio of hotel brands. Company credos "No matter your travel style, there's a Sonesta to suit you" and "Brands to fit every lifestyle and occasion" from the likes of Sonesta and Hilton, respectively, further exemplifies just how much value hotel organizations place on appealing to every type of traveler. From high-touch luxury properties to low-touch limited service facilities to vacation timeshares, the choices are all there-and they fulfill virtually every possible guest need.All of these aforementioned guest options, incentives and choices are ultimate reflections of an overall brand strategy. However, choice shouldn't be a message embodied only within the vivid description of a brand promise, its contemporary lounges or the high-tech amenities and ultra-modern guestrooms. For organizations with a unique portfolio of hotel brands, choice also needs to be a primary theme that permeates into every one of their properties' revenue strategies-and it needs to be supported by advanced revenue technology.Here are some considerations for how hotel organizations can identify the ideal revenue technology for executing a cohesive, profitable and productive revenue strategy across their entire portfolio.It Starts With Choosing the Right TechnologyThe first step in developing a unique revenue strategy that supports the needs of an entire portfolio is identifying the flexible technology capable of doing so. While many brands are recognized for their consistent brand standards and unique business vibes, every property-regardless of its branding-will have its own market environment and guests that differentiate it from its sister properties. For many hotel organizations around the world, selecting the right technology for one single property can be a significant undertaking. So when it comes to choosing the best technology for multiple hotels in different markets with different needs and different guests, it can become nothing short of a daunting and pedantic business decision. The importance of selecting the right technology for a portfolio of hotels has such far-reaching impacts, in fact, that Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson recently cited it as potentially the biggest risk in their industry merger with Starwood.But what exactly makes this first step just so complex? Well, for starters, hotel organizations need advanced revenue technology that adapts to a broad range of markets, brand categories and guest personas to meet the different demands within their wide portfolio. Differences in market environments and brands means there are also differences in property technology requirements, hotel pricing and inventory strategies and staff. It is essential that hotel organizations evaluate any impacts of technology, whether nuanced or grossly significant, when looking for their ideal technological fit.Thinking through existing technology requirements, it's critical to evaluate how revenue technology can integrate with current systems. If hotel technologies can't seamlessly integrate together, it often results in eventual financial implications down the line, which may require upgrading or changing technology. It's important that organizations select technology that communicates well with a variety of their other hotel systems, such as a PMS, CRS or channel manager. This is not only a critical component for sharing and communicating data back and forth between software, but it also significantly improves overall hotel productivity by reducing manual procedures and human errors.There are also analytical aspects that help hotel organizations drive a unique and profitable revenue strategy. Some of these considerations include high-performance forecasting capabilities; granular data and decisions that can be broken out by different departments, segments, room types, day parts and rate codes for multiple hotels; predictive analytical tools for understanding how changes impact their revenue strategy; advanced pricing and inventory controls that maximize revenue opportunities; and emerging data sources such as reputation, competitive performance, rate shopping and value of demand that are integrated into unique decision outputs for each hotel within every portfolio. All of these different aspects lend themselves to the choices hoteliers have when evaluating their potential for analytical capabilities.It Layers in Strategic Pricing & Industry DataProfitable hotel pricing is a passionate topic of conversation for hoteliers at all levels of the organization, and when it comes to finding the right strategy for multiple hotels, there are different strategies for how hotels can effectively use rate to increase profits. This is important to remember when selecting technology for an entire portfolio because a one-size-fits-all pricing approach won't be the optimal option for every property in the portfolio. This is a large reason why revenue technology needs to offer hotels different pricing and inventory strategies. Here are some considerations hotels use to establish their ideal pricing strategy, and why the right technology needs accommodate all of these unique facets:What are guests looking for at each hotel brand and in each market? Is there a specific type of rate that guests prefer? Some regions or audiences may be used to a certain pricing processes and changing it may cause dissatisfaction or lost clientele. For example, some guests like knowing how their stay breaks down in cost by each day. In this case, technology that can determine and automate daily pricing strategies would be an ideal choice. Other guests in other markets or hotel brands could largely prefer the simplicity provided by one rate for their entire stay. In these cases, technologies that deploy length-of-stay pricing strategies would be the best fit.There are alternative considerations that also identify the need for different portfolio pricing options. For example, a hotel with airport transient guests averaging one-night stays is often a better fit for daily pricing strategies. Luxury destination hotels, on the other hand, often see longer lengths of stay. As a result, a flexible or length-of-stay pricing strategy would be a better fit for them.If an organization's revenue technology can't accommodate all of the different pricing needs for their hotel segments, they might be forced to have different technology for different hotels, or use a one-size-fits-all pricing strategy that doesn't drive optimal profits.Industry data also gives hotels a tremendous opportunity to refine and customize their revenue strategy for their brands and respective markets. Most hotels have some type of technology that tracks basic shopper activity on their website; however, it's been fairly limited when forecasting demand. This is where the availability of travel intent data - and its strategic implementation - has become a critical focus point for developing unique revenue strategies. This market intelligence gives hotels personal and human-focused insights, such as shoppers' ages and hobbies, so they can market strategically with better ad placements, customized experience packages and personalized offers.To efficiently use this new data, hotels are incorporating the practice of 'futurecasting,' which encourages them to analyze how and why outcomes occurred. It fuses traditional revenue management data with demand intelligence for better insight into what drives people to book, and what their ideal price is in every selling channel. Using this powerful data in this kind of strategic fashion allows hotels to offer more attractive and personalized choices for their guests.It Depends on Having the Right People & ProcessesHaving the ideal revenue technology, pricing approach and industry data are no doubt critical pieces of a profitable revenue strategy, but they all rely on having the right people in place to support and oversee the execution. Organizations also have to choose who's going to implement their revenue strategies-an onsite revenue manager at each property, a cluster manager overseeing multiple hotels, or perhaps even an outsourced team of revenue professionals that can take over the heavy lifting.Thoroughly planning for potential changes in technology or revenue strategy requires a comprehensive development plan. Hoteliers can begin this process by focusing on improving their data collection, as well as planning and implementing better business practices. To execute effective revenue strategies for every hotel within their portfolio, organizations could also consider whether they need to add new leaders, redesign job roles and responsibilities, or develop higher standards of skills and capabilities.When it comes to the embodiment of choice throughout organizational branding and culture, hotels all around the world are leading the charge and they're not going to be usurped from that throne any time soon. And when it comes to developing a unique revenue strategy to support an entire hotel portfolio, having different choices for technological capabilities, pricing approaches and organizational structures is another prevailing theme that continues to reign king.Reprinted from the Hotel Business Review with permission from www.HotelExecutive.com
hospitalityPulse, Inc. 31 May 2017
The retail industry is presently innovating at a rapid pace. Traditional big box stores like Walmart are buying cutting-edge online retailers like Jet.com solely to provide a better buying experience. Physical retail spaces are reconsidering their entire purpose because the offline and online experiences are shifting. Some previously online-only retailers are creating stores, while traditional stores are creating experiences like wine bars and DJs. Why? Because many of the same products can be purchased anywhere - so they are in a daily fight 'for their lives'. For hotels, the situation is a bit different. Distribution technology remains fundamentally unchanged since the times when GDS was the only option in the distribution space. These systems, originally built to sell seats on flights, became the basis on which all distribution technology is based. To this day, we continue selling hotels rooms, as if, like on a plane, everyone arrives and leaves at the exact same time, all rooms are ready to accommodate all guests at one predetermined time, and each guest occupies exactly one unit. This overly simplified view of a hotel's business allowed rapid growth in electronic distribution, but as it grew, these very significant differences also created a need for ever more workarounds and manual processes, to get the guest into a room that she can actually occupy for the duration of her stay, and that corresponds to her desires expressed at booking.Disruption has become synonymous with technology, but disruption is much more than that. Disruption is reconsidering what we offer and how we offer it. Disruption is a response to the marketplace - and the marketplace says that consumers don't shop around anymore. Consumers today are well educated about what they want, and they know how to find what it is they want when they want it. So it becomes of utmost importance to pick them up right there, the very moment they have decided to make the purchase. Instead of choosing a retailer, they choose the best path to getting precisely what they want. They choose the path that is sure to give them what they want without risk of defect, the one that will deliver quickly, or the one that makes returns simplest.Before you dismiss these retail examples as irrelevant to hotels, remember that Airbnb and HomeAway are busy right now taking a bite out of hotel revenues - and it's not just because travelers like home stays. These travelers know the experience they want, and these platforms are serving up clear choices in a format that travelers like.So what do they get when they shop on a hotel website? They get a choice between two beds or one bed, and between several price classes. Most travelers have enough experience to know they may not even end up with what they selected when they arrive.What will it take to renovate the shopping experience for hotel guests? Recognition that we have a problem, of course. The proper response to fix the problem is to give hotel guests genuine choices during the booking process; choices that we know, we will deliver to them when they arrive at the hotel. Delivering inventory in a way that allows guests more control over their experience. This should be the industry's primary focus.And the latest innovation from hospitalityPulse FIRE does this. FIRE stands for Feature Inventory Response Engine, and it means that guests can shop and buy features that they expect during their stay. This is not (yet another) fancy way to make an easier selection into a room type they may or may not end up in. It means they can buy a view, a bathtub or a shower, a balcony, a high floor, a low floor, and so forth. In a way, it is the return to selling individual bedrooms, without the effect of fracturing inventory and leaving lots of potential empty. Guests can shop for the experience they want--adding features to a shopping cart and getting more of exactly what they desire. Moreover, this technology guarantees they will receive it when they check in.Transforming the buying experience is a natural next step for the hotel industry that has exhaustively tried to figure out how to be more appealing to guests. Start with giving them more of what they want from the very beginning. Shift the focus from social lobbies and cocktail hours to giving them choices about the product they came to buy--their accommodations and the attributes and amenities they want.Be on the lookout for our big orange booth (because it's the color of FIRE, of course) to take a tour of a truly disruptive booking platform at HITEC 2017 in Toronto.
Hotelogix 31 May 2017
Hotels (big and small) are promoting initiatives to make their hotels more sustainable, reduce carbon footprint and make sure there is no adverse impact on the environment. Emphasis on green practices is stronger than ever, not just by property owners like you, but also your guests. According to a recent TripAdvisor survey, 62% of travelers in the US, are environmentally-conscious when opting for hotels, transportation, and meals.There are multiple ways in which energy consumption and eco-friendly practices can be adopted by your hotel. Let's identify some of them to implement strategic control over energy use while being true to the value you deliver to your guests.Set up the energy management program and teamMake sure you are setting the right objectives to implement the plan of energy management. Not only this, identify a core team with key staff members who will be primarily involved in overseeing energy conservation plan. For instance, define a timeline to achieve the goal, such as saving 20% over the next two years. Simultaneously, create an environment to appreciate people who are meeting the milestones of energy management.Determine efficiency targetsTo begin with, the first step to determine efficiency target is to measure where energy is being utilized within your hotel. In order to target key areas for improvement and to get maximum returns, it is imperative to identify areas of high and low energy use. Occupancy rate and operating expenses are two of the most important variables that should be considered while determining efficiency target.Energy assessmentBy conducting the regular energy assessment, energy savings opportunities can be identified. This kind of energy analysis audit will help you derive at preventive measures for savings. Additionally, by effectively utilizing your operations and maintenance staff, hotels can improve their bottom line while cutting capital costs.Identify energy saving opportunitiesIrrespective of the departments in your hotel, every employee should go through awareness programs on green energy initiatives - greater use of solar panels to heat water, switching to LED lights that save energy, installation of thermostats in each room to regulate temperature, effective treatment of recycled water, and so on. Energy management training should be given to employees onboarding your hotel as it will help instill the value how to use energy more efficiently. Adopting the environmental practices at each department can serve as an effective tool for reinforcing the importance of energy management. Make energy efficiency an integral part of your hotel's culture.Calculate costs and paybackTimely evaluation and calculating costs and payback period becomes the core strategy for energy management program. The savings can be re-invested to enhance the guest experience, provide better operational procedures along with emerging environmental technologies. Given the competitive nature of the hotel and lodging industry and the associated difficulty of incremental revenue, the potential for reduction of operating costs is a compelling reason for hoteliers to consider investment in eco-friendly technologies.In the past couple of years, the number of guests seeking sustainable hotels has doubled. Based on the findings Booking.com's 'Global Sustainable Travel Report' 65% of global travelers prefer to stay in the eco-friendly accommodation. 68% confirm they are more likely to consider opting for lodging knowing that it was eco-friendly while 36% would choose an eco-friendly accommodation because it provides a local feel to their stay.Hotel chains are playing their part towards their commitment to sustainability. But all that said, sustainability measures only can work with the involvement of all stakeholders. Sustainability policies should be implemented by each hotel. However, to make eco-friendly practices the rule and not the exception and to make sure the guests are participating in the sustainability practices is not an overnight process. It can be accomplished with the involvement of all stakeholders and communication with staff, industry, investors and co-operation with guests.Switch to green practices for your hotel with our fully integrated hotel management solution now!
LMA Communications Inc. 31 May 2017
Why is it that this one markup grinds guests' gears more than almost everything else? Perhaps the wording of 'unmistakably exorbitant' offers a clue.When a commoditized item like bottled water, is commonly understood to be sold at a certain base price - let's say $1 for 300ml for simplicity's case - then any inflated price that's paid forward to the customer will be instantly discernable. And when you charge, say, seven bucks for what generally costs only one in the supermarket, then it is builds distrust in guests' minds."This is a blatant rip off! What else are they marking up to pad their pretentious wallets? What other tricks are they pulling to price gouge me? What are they hiding?" These are not the sorts of questions that you want running through your customers' minds. It's not a healthy start to a good relationship and it's just bad business.Think about it even further. What does such a tremendously large price tag for bottled water say about your property, and importantly, about your sense of hospitality? Moreover, this one singular markup can become a reflection of all other prices for any good or service sold at your hotel. That is, bottled water price gouging may instill the idea in guests' minds that your abode is needlessly expensive, so much so that it hinders said customers from dining at your restaurants, visiting your spa or setting foot in your gift shop.Besides this deleterious psychological effect, I do indeed understand the rationale from a return on costs perspective. There is a solid argument for affixing a huge price tag on that oversized bottle of water to make up your margins on other costs. Still, though, stop thinking like your hotel's accountant and start thinking like a hotelier - someone that cares about your guests and treats them like they are at home.In other words, stop being pennywise and pound foolish! Being stingy about small expenditures such as water will ultimately cost you in the long run when it comes to the more important matters such as overall guest ratings. In this particular case, you may indeed get some small returns, but what are you losing in return?Here's a thought. Take that bottle, remove the price tag altogether and replace it with a tag that simply says, "Our home is your home. Thank you for staying with us. Please enjoy this with our compliments. Sincerely, (name) General Manager; or (name) Executive Housekeeper."Now, with this tag in place, ask yourself how guests will feel. It sets a good pace for the rest of their stay with you. Moreover, it dispels any concerns they might have had about price gouging elsewhere, thus helping nudge them towards using your restaurant and other amenities. Next, these good vibes may translate to tips for the housekeeper - that is, a morale boost for your frontline - as well as a sure-fire increase to your online review scores.I was reminded by several veteran hoteliers that success in our business is measured in thousands of small increments. This freebie is just one suggestion that is will go a long towards winning the hearts and minds of your guests.And as a final aside, if you are completely intransigent when it comes to pro bono features like this, then at the very least consider dropping the price to something that isn't as obvious. This applies to economy and limited-service providers as well as though luxury properties where guests can afford the expensive water bottles. Just because they 'can' doesn't mean they 'should', so please stop this practice before it damages your hotel's reputation any further.