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Article by Larry Mogelonsky

Cautiously Reaching for the Cloud

Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited 13 April 2018
But before you treat it as a panacea for whatever technology pain point or automation problem your hotel may have, there are two gaping drawbacks to migrating all of your processes online that you would be wise to first understand, especially given the risk for a cybersecurity breach.Loss of ControlWith cloud-based systems, you are never in total control because it is not your system. Whether the information is housed with Google, Apple or any other major supplier, if they go down, your hands are tied. And please don't shrug this off because of the trust you might have in such large tech companies - it can still happen! Depending on the cloud architecture and how your information is hopping around from server to server, it may take a long time to get your data back or, worse, there may be no data left to recover at all. With on-premise data management, however, system availability is never a problem.Moreover, all this hopping around represents a potential point of breach as you will not have full control over the security of your information. As well, the more middlemen, storage devices, administrators and governing bodies you fold into to this processing chain, the more weak points you are also introducing. The bottom line is that the bigger the cloud you host your data with, the more users there are on the system and the more possible access points there now are.A straightforward hybrid solution for this is to install a local backup for seamless business continuity. This ensures that the moment you lose your connection to the cloud, you can work on an on-premise backup then sync the information once the internet is fully functional again.Man-in-the-Middle AttacksIn its most basic form, a Janus or man-in-the-middle attack (MITM) happens when someone impersonates the digital identity of a trusted online authority then, for instance, warning a user that his or her account might be compromised and requesting sensitive details to remedy the situation. Believing that the correspondence is being made on behalf of an official source, victims would then enter their passwords or other private information via what appears to be a secure access point, thereby giving the attacker the key to their email records or online data backups.Phishing is a common form of a MITM attack with the objective being simply eavesdropping or something more malicious like the installation of ransomware. This occurs when a phisher secrets relays or possibly alters the communications between two parties who both believe that they are communicating directly and privately. Every online service you recruit thus presents yet another opportunity for a MITM attack as you are introducing yet another form of communication between the hotelier and the cloud. First, relying on a trusted vendor means that there is now the potential for a phisher to impersonate this supplier. Second, once someone has gained access to your online data systems, it is far easier for them to do damage or delete records.A straightforward example of how a MITM attack might occur at a hotel would be when a guest tries to access the WiFi network. A hacker can create an online portal that looks legitimate and asks for the guest's name, room number and possibly a username or password. It seems trustworthy, but now the phisher has a back door into the guest's system. And worse still, there's already a limited variety of WiFi auditing and vulnerable device collection software available for everyday purchase that allows nearly anyone to perform a MITM intercept.What's on the HorizonAs cybersecurity is of tremendous importance to not only safeguard your guest's sensitive credit card information but to also protect your hotel's reputation, the near future will present many possible solutions to the current forms of data breach. However, it's a bumpy road, and in this arms race where hackers are going ever-more creative with their techniques, there will be new problems cropping up that you must also keep in mind.The most relevant issue to follow is the deregulation of online data privacy and net neutrality currently afflicting companies operating in the United States. Unless the European Union which is moving towards increased regulation of the cloud, this rollback has the potential to amplify those kinds of cyberattack addressed above.Next is the act of skimming which was traditionally used by identity thieves to illegally collect data from the magnetic stripes of a debit card, credit card or even those used to manage guestroom doors. Moving towards keyless entry has reduced the likelihood for this old-style form of skimming, but has then presented a more pernicious mutation where hackers can now hijack information via RFID (radio-frequency identification) or NFC (near-field communication) processes. These forms of transactions are considered contactless because they rely on proximity and generally do not require any form of 2FA (two-factor authentication) like simultaneously punching in a pin number. The scary part is that there are tools that can spoof a card's details from as far as 50 yards away.Third is the proliferation of augmented reality (AR) devices which can be used in tandem with a traditional computer monitor to different content display. With AR equipment synced to a set of software protocols, basic security is heightened as you can all but eliminate the problem of shoulder surfing whereby sensitive information will only be projected onto a user's glasses and not onto the big screen's desktop.Lastly, although only tangentially related to cybersecurity, the realm of biometric and intelligent video analysis is worth mentioning as oftentimes any online attack is accompanied by an onsite activity of some sort such as locally accessing your property's WiFi network or leaving a device plugged in. Increased security measures in this regard translate to significantly better real-time facial recognition as well as object analysis. For instance, monitor systems can now tell when someone leaves a bag unoccupied and alert personnel to investigate.Any way you slice it, this will be a hot button topic for many years to come. With the potential for enormous damage, though, it would be prudent for you to keep apace with how cloud technologies are progressing, especially given the fact that they are not as safe as you may have been led to believe.
Article by Larry Mogelonsky

Ten Ways To Revitalize A Senior Hotel Job

Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited 9 April 2018
Years ago, it was simple - reaching 65 meant retirement. You got your gold watch, or other memorabilia of recognition, and set out into the sunset of your time on earth. Perhaps a life in Florida or Arizona was in the plans, with many thinking that their last days would be spent in the bliss of endless golf games and beach walks or inspirational hikes.At least, that is what the television commercials wanted you to believe. I vividly remember advertising for Sun Life Insurance where the current marketing slogan was 'Freedom 55' which envisioned a happy future starting ten years earlier than the mandatory retirement age.How times have changed. No longer is there a fixed rule on retirement dates. At the same time, our overall health has improved, attributed to a reduction in tobacco use, less alcohol consumption, better eating habits, more exercise and improved medical options. This means that you can be in perfectly good health and still performing at your mental peak well into your senior years. That's great news if you love what you do and indeed many veteran hoteliers have already answered the call by remaining on the clock well into their emeritus years, lending their wisdom to every task and extending their mentorship to all new hires.Setting aside the ability to work longer or a financial need to do so, all these older team members make retirement a question rather than an answer. So, how do you know if it's your time to throw in the towel for good or if you are perhaps just going through a temporary malaise with your line of work?For this, we must look beyond the telltale signs of aging like lower energy levels, shorter attention spans and general impatience. With the average life expectancy now reaching upwards of the high 80s, there is no reason to retire just because you've reached 65. Here are some ways to breathe new life into your current job so you can stay active and help inspire those around you.Tackle technology head-on. I'm sorry if you're not a gearhead, but you have to become one! If you can keep abreast of technology and all its jargon, you will never be anywhere close to the top of your trade. As painful as it seems, you have to read the journals, visit the websites and attend the webinars. Ask questions and learn. Review your property's technology capabilities as well as all current trends in other industries and consumer behavior in general.Mentorship. Take on one or two newbies in your organization and work with them. Let them understand your love for hospitality and tutor them on all the elements of guest service they just don't teach at college.Get out of the office. Attend the key tradeshows like ALIS and HITEC. Or better yet, drop in (as a surprise visit without advance warning) to a few of your sales missions to see your team in action. Be a roving ambassador for your business.Departmental cross-pollination. Spend a half day working in each of the following departments: housekeeping, laundry, front desk, reservations center, concierge, kitchen, sales, marketing, public relations and catering. Go on a sales call to a corporate client or be a part of a wedding sale. I guarantee you'll learn a lot more about your business than what is told in planning committee meetings.Eat in the company cafeteria at least twice a month. Talk to your team. Learn about what the issues are. Ask how things are going. Want to learn about the competition? I'll bet they know more about occupancies and issues in your comp set than your sales team!Take all of your vacation. You've been in the business for over 30 years, so a week away once a quarter is mandatory. And make it a real recharge by telling your second-in-command that you will accept only one email per day, delivered at precisely noon summarizing the previous day. Do not read your daily reports or any other nonsense. Read hotel journals or a novel instead. Stay at hotels where you can learn something to bring back to the home front.Move or redecorate. You've probably had the same office for years. If you cannot move it, then while you're away have it totally redecorated. Get rid of those old mementos because, remember, you want to live in the present and future, not the past. Make your office look 20 years younger. One of the best GM offices I ever saw had no desk and just two sofas, two chairs and a coffee table. When asked, the reply was, "If I need a desk, I'll go into a boardroom."Spend more time with your senior staff. Plan your month to have one-on-one meals with all of your planning committee members individually. Seek their personal counsel on issues where the business is heading as well as those within their own departments. Diarize key thoughts and take advantage of initiatives that are identified.Lead a local or national hotel association. With the advent of new competition on steroids from the sharing economy, now is the time that our hotel associations need help on all levels. Don't just be a member sitting quietly in the back sipping on crappy coffee. Participate and be a part of an active leadership team.Remember your family. Your spouse and children are everything. While it is difficult to involve them in the business (assuming you do not own the property), ask them for their opinions on your property. Your children are a wealth of information just waiting to be tapped, especially if they are millennials or younger as they are the future and see matters sizeably different from previous generations. Bet that they know the best restaurants in town, the most useful apps for branding your business and what makes Airbnb so terrific compared to every other hotel chain in the world.
Article by Larry Mogelonsky

What Winesday Teaches Us About Restaurant Marketing

Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited 26 February 2018
While this a good start for boosting those slow midweek cycles, numerous other eateries already have these types of programs fully set up with established marketing engines. And when everyone else is running something like this, how will you stand out by directly imitating your competitors?You can't, not unless you change the rules slightly or design a promotion that is truly differentiated from what's expected.This brings us to the title of this article and its simple play on words - for which I am highlighting and expounding upon a very well-known example, although numerous other creative taglines like this are already out there for you to utilize. Whether your promotion actually falls on a Wednesday or not as 'Winesday' references, a catchy title alone can pay off through its heightened memorability, regardless of the customer savings on display.Aside from the pun itself, a phrasing such as 'Happy Winesday' implies a more elevated experience, one that's a celebration worthy of this millennia-old beverage. To live up to this disguised expectation, you must think not just in terms of a monetary incentive such as 'half off wine by the glass' but in terms of how you can transform such a promotion into an experiential event.While reduced prices on alcohol may spur someone to buy another round or have a glass with a meal when not originally intended, this by itself is not adding depth or another dimension to the overall dining experience. Hence, there's only a modest boost to meal satisfaction and little word-of-mouth transference or increased appreciation for the parent hotel.However, when you build a vino-centric calendar of events with, for example, small glass flights, tastings themed by growing region, supporting materials describing the flavor profiles or wine origins, thoughtful cuisine pairings, exclusive imports and even guided tasting by a professional sommelier, you are augmenting a promotion with customer education and activation of more sensory inputs than just taste.Education is, after all, one small step away from appreciation. Adding in a morsel of the former will thus increase your chances of the latter. As well, all of the above examples will help make your wine event more dynamic and fun, thereby further increasing positive sentiments from participants. Whether you name your promotion 'Winesday' or something else not directly connoting wine immersion, the bottom line is that you should always look to complement any special offer with components that enhance its interactivity and its entertainment factor in order to realize its full potential.To close, I would also emphasize that less is more. That is, it's best to focus on fully developing one promotional event for a given day of the week than to try to create middling offers for every possible instance in the workweek or the entire month. Wine has and will always be a great tool in your arsenal to build your restaurant's reputation, but you must do so prudently by starting slow and perfecting the entire experience of a single event before expanding the program.
Article by Larry Mogelonsky

Keeping Hoteliers And Guests Happy Through Training Technology

Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited 23 February 2018
This leads to the question about how to keep your staff happy? While this necessitates a multifaceted answer identifying both long-term and short-term tasks, one that has gained a lot of recognition of late is using ongoing education as a means to heighten motivation. As is very often the case, though, this is far easier said than done, and nurturing a culture of continual retraining requires a wholehearted and passionate commitment from senior executives if you are to achieve any semblance of fruitful results.While in the past, ongoing education might have meant organizing a few days outside the office for teambuilding activities and some outdoors exercise with a few intensive instructional sessions sandwiched in-between, nowadays the younger generations want to learn in a different way.Modern LearningThe two buzz words that best describe the current mindset are 'microlearning' and 'bite-sized learning' where instead of the hours-long concentrated classes, employees are left to learn the syllabus on their own time, cramming while in transit to and from work or during the few available minutes each night before bed. For example, instead of a two-and-a-half-hour tutorial, a new recruit might be left to his or her own devices and given a two-week deadline to complete the course, followed by an online test and a compressed interactive component with a supervisor.At this stage you might point out with a slight whiff of cynicism that this mentality is a negative result from all the attention-depleting, dopamine-inducing bombardments from the glut of instantly gratifying technologies like social media, video games and helter-skelter television programs that today's youth enjoys so much. While you wouldn't be wrong in recognizing millennials' lowered attention spans versus those of older generations, psychological evidence has long since shown that bite-sized learning is actually far better for memory retention. Thus, while adopting a microlearning culture might be better for attracting and keeping younger team members, it can also be quite beneficial for veteran hoteliers.And of course, the key facilitators for this contemporary proliferation of microlearning environments are the very same digital innovations that have given millennials their ADHD stereotype, including online blackboards, short training video libraries on websites and mobile apps, to name three. Knowing that such devices can enhance so many other aspects of your operations, applying their merits to set up an incremental training program for all employees - young or seasoned, staff or manager - will likewise achieve incredible results.Fiscal BenefitsOne critical aspect of these microlearning platforms is that, through automation, they help to drastically cut labor costs associated with internal education. For instance, if you set up an online team training app that new associates can download onto their smartphones (the device through which young staffers prefer most for bite-sized education), then the initial phase of job shadowing can be cut in half because so much of the grunt work is shifted out of the classroom setting and onto the cloud. In an ongoing capacity, such apps might also be used for lateral promotions as team members opt to explore new expertise in other areas of operations while staying in their current roles within the organization so that there aren't any 'hiccups' when it comes to succession planning.Concurrent to the cost savings in supervisor or manager manhours devoted to training, there's also the motivation angle which needs some further substantiation. Like any family - albeit one that may be a tad dysfunctional given how frenetic a hotel environment always ends up being - we want those closest to us to experience personal growth and enrich their lives on a meaningful level. For this reason alone, any resources you devote to upgrading your training programs will make everyone involved all the happier. Aside from the abovementioned reflection on guest satisfaction, increased morale also means a more productive team and less employee turnover - two elements that not only play a large role in labor costs but can also factor into what ideas your team brings forward to help improve operations.ImplementationWith all these advantages, it's clear that migrating your instructional programs to an online platform is a worthwhile project. However, agreeing to this initiative is the 1% inspiration, yet it still leaves out the 99% perspiration to make it functional.First is you need a project leader - someone to make the decisions about what training platform to setup and who's accountable for its success. Next, and equally as vital, you need a content supervisor, which is often the same as the project leader. This is the individual who is responsible for uploading all the necessary materials and designing the training courses in addition to performing regular upkeep of the platform and completing enrollment. Lastly, there is the recurrent issue of ensuring sustained engagement or daily active use; this is another topic altogether but, to give you an idea here, some worthy tactics include staff rewards, internal gamification mechanisms, regular in-person prompting or even the establishment of consequences for inactivity.Above all, don't assume that it is a cinch to transition to a cloud-based learning environment. The results, however, will more than compensate for any headaches in this regard. And once you are in a groove with such new age incremental training platforms, you'll find that your team is happier, more motivated and fully ready to rise to the challenge of making your hotel better.(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, originally published in HOTELS Magazine on October 13, 2017)
Article by Larry Mogelonsky

Group Sales Tune Up

Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited 5 February 2018
Managed by your sales team, group efforts are typically forecast based upon previous years' volume and cyclical trends. While that's fine when trends are up, what happens in those cases when your occupancies have not met expectation? Moreover, how do you know if the number of room nights your team delivered in previous years is the most they could accomplish?A good sales team always wants to learn more, accepts constructive criticism and is eager to find any way they can to generate more occupancy. Common to all successful sales teams are the following mantras or guidelines.Business is conducted between people, not companies. With selling being a relationship business, your sales team's contacts are invaluable assets.Get close to your customer. Loyalty should never be taken for granted and a sales contact should never be left unattended for a long period of time. Use trade shows and direct follow-up to maintain these all-important relationships.Everyone likes to be sold something. Many people believe that properties sell themselves but that's hardly the case and salesmanship is a vital skill to have.Creativity counts. Boring does not sell and an important part of the process is making an exciting pitch.Selling is not a water tap. It cannot be quickly turned on or off, and as such sales requires planning and patience.It's always risky business. If your accounting department likes your sales offers, chances are they probably won't deliver the level of business you hope they will. Successful sales programs are always on the cutting edge. Customers know real deals and if you fool them once, you'll quickly find that they never return.Love what you do. Good sales associates are adequate in what they do while great sales associates sustain the effort year-in-year-out and are driven by their passion for the business.Stay focused. Keep to your core audience at first as your property is not for everyone nor should it be.Selling is a team effort. Solo acts rarely sustain themselves, so keep this in mind when developing your staffing and general approach.Sell the sizzle not the steak. Appeal to property's emotional benefits rather than just the logic-based features.Getting Started with Ten QuestionsIn developing any sales plan, it's a good idea to start with the basics. There are many questions that need to be answered and it can be fatiguing to run through them all. In doing so, however, you'll be able to work within a framework that will allow you to maximize marketplace success.While many of these questions may seem perfunctory, it is often surprising to discover gaps or disagreements within the responses that clearly need to be resolved before a plan is formalized.What are your property's key features? This may seem straightforward, but remember that you're looking for a business-oriented and not a leisure-oriented feature set.Who are your competitors and how do they compare? Once again, look at the comp set for groups, which may be almost completely distinct from the leisure one.Are your resources up-to-date? While this sounds simple enough, it's amazing to me to see websites with defunct occupancy charts, out-of-date photography and discontinued catering menus.What are your limitations and restrictions? Review calendars and check for local events, citywide activities and statutory holidays. Understand the impact of planned renovations on guest and meeting room availability.What repeat customers can you secure? Customers who work with you annually or on a regular basis should be included from the onset. Don't take them for granted, though, but ensure that they can be well-accommodated.What is your pricing program? To give you a reality check, pricing is governed by many factors outside of your control. Remember that you may want to increase your rates, but if the market is going the other way you rarely have a choice and must follow suit.What concessions are available? Here, experience and product availability will be an important guide. I'm a fan of value-adds that reflects the strengths and unique qualities of the product offering.What has worked in the past and what were the specific circumstances? Sometimes an old promotion that failed may be worth reconsidering with the new understandings that you've gleaned over the years. Similarly, if you've run an annual offer that has worked for the past few business cycles, don't be so quick to abandon it simply because you want to stir things up.What are your annual room night goals and are they realistic? These are typically based upon a combination of history, spending and marketplace conditions, and any single elements can alter the outcome. Make sure that your goals are pragmatic so that you can 'sell' them to ownership.What's in the pipeline? Don't forget to factor in the going-in data that reflects tentative and definite room blocks that are already been established.Creating Your Unique Selling PropositionThe purpose of a unique selling proposition (USP) is to position and differentiate your property in the minds of your target customers. It should answer the question, "Why should I book my group with you and not someone else?" In response to this question, the USP should reflect the irrefutable advantages of your property as comprised by both product features and consumer benefits. Great USPs are highly memorable and emotionally charged.In a simplistic manner, think of USPs as selling lines for your hotel. In the world of big brand advertising, there are numerous examples that you can draw upon - think Coca-Cola, FedEx, McDonald's or a car manufacturer. However, in this case your USP is targeted at the purchasers of group room blocks, so USPs like 'The biggest meeting room west of the Mississippi' or 'Meeting rooms with giant bay windows so you can see the lake' would make a whole lot more sense.Ten-Step Sales Planning ProcessSimplifying the sales planning process into ten steps is always a beneficial exercise for retraining your team to think about sales properly. With the previously background work complete, your associates should be able to assemble a 'killer' sales program.Basics checklist. Is there anything critical? What are the specific priorities and how is the timeframe looking?Build an annual sales calendar. Examine booking dates in comparison to the actual utilization timeframe. Maintain 12 months of activity and don't forget to incorporate seasonality into your schedule.Define objectives. Use both seasonal and experience logic, and then assign individual team goals accordingly. Think in terms of SMAC - specific, measurable, achievable and compatible.Develop your initial offers. Brainstorm ideas with your team and encourage participation. At this stage, no idea is a bad idea.Offer refinement. Apply parameters to fine tune your ideas and make them stand apart from others that are being touted by your comp set. Think about offer uniqueness and building a competitive edge while never forgetting customer benefits. And of course, be open to bottom-up initiatives.Get creative. Start by theming each offer. Create in-house involvement and be sure to check operational sensitivities. Always relate the chosen theme back to your USP.Tactical elements and budget development. Here you want to look at all the ways you can communicate your offer to potential customers. This list includes traditional advertising, direct marketing, website, telemarketing, social media, e-newsletters, search engine marketing, in-house collateral materials, past customer mailers, tradeshows and public relations. Remember, though, that you can't have it all. You need to budget which tactics you believe will work best.Build the creative elements. Now take your creative and apply it to the selected tactics. Ensure consistency with your USP and themed offers. Be eye-catching and provocative while also thinking positively.Execute the campaign. Follow-up on leads generated by your sales plan. Bend the rules a bit and have fun selling, but above all don't forget to close the sale.Measure results. Listen to your team and record customer comments. Be prepared to adapt to necessary changes and don't ever give up.What's Your Offer?There are many ways that your offer can be expressed. Primarily, you will want to add something special to this list that reflects the specifics of your property.For example, a morning walk through the historic part of town, local wine tasting or yoga on the beach. And there is no limit! That's the magic that will differentiate your offer. Using your best salesmanship, utilize base 'steak' elements the following list, but be sure to add some unique 'sizzle'.Meeting room pricingRoom discountsAttrition rate spreadsMaster billing discountOne room free with X roomsSuite upgrade for convenerLate checkout or early arrivalComplimentary portageFree WiFiLoyalty pointsWaived parking feesAudio-visual discountsCoffee breaksVenue travelBreakfast or other snacksUse of key amenitiesWaived hotel or resort feesPre- and post-stay extensionsBonus creditsSpa discountsFollow these steps is the necessary effort required to make your sales campaign tangible. Develop your USP and build a creative plan that follows it. As your team executes the plan, work hard and have fun. After all, there is no such thing as an unhappy sales team member that has exceeded his or her goals. That kind of result makes GMs and owners smile too!(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, originally published in Today's Hotelier on October 25, 2017)
Article by Larry Mogelonsky

Hotel Trends in Technology for 2018

Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited 18 January 2018
1. Wielding Your CRMIt's been a long road from simply trying to comprehend what a CRM is to full data terminal integration and leveraging the inferences based from these interconnections. In 2018, those ambitious hoteliers who have fought to amalgamate all their hotels' various guest profile databases into one unified system will now see the fruits of their labor. With a rich CRM you can drill down to craft highly targeted and overly effective promotional offers. You can also design better onsite programs to capture more ancillary revenue. Above all, knowing guest preferences lets you build a more bespoke experience. I will admit, though, that attaining a unified CRM amongst all of a hotel's databases is a bit like pulling teeth, but it's a necessary evil nonetheless.2. Smart TVs Become a RealityThe epitome underlying any technological democratization is the gradual lowering of prices so that the new toys become more accessible to the masses. While smart televisions were fun to demo at past conventions, many of us never really gave them much thought beyond that. Now, however, with sticker shock waning, a bulk order of new in-room wall monitors may be just the ticket for your 2018 upgrade budget. Further, the table name electronic brands like Samsung have built the latest iterations of these devices with greater degrees of compatibility than ever before so that they have significantly less depreciation and more utility over the long-term, especially for when you eventually decide to upgrade to a smart thermostat, digital door signage, bathroom wall displays or any other component that can integrate directly into the television.3. Casting as ExpectationAs streaming services like Amazon and Hulu usurp traditional broadcast as the primary medium for television consumption and cord-cutting becomes ever more prevalent across all demographics, having casting technology in the guestroom is likewise moving from a value-add to an expectation. Put another way, if you can't facilitate a proper connection between guests' phones and the in-room televisions so they can stream off their own stored profiles, you risk making the overall experience feel dated and mediocre at best. In tandem with the spread of smart TVs, the good news is that there's also democratization at work here, meaning that this tech is now cheaper and simpler. Not only are casting boxes provided by companies like SONIFI easy to install and use, but televisions are also more amenable to these kinds of software and hardware connections.4. Digital ArtIt's time to think of screens as more than just mediums by which to watch sports or scroll through endless movie options on Netflix. When you consider a public space, screens have the potential to display whatever programs they are instructed to run. While you can start small by playing around with cool new electronic corridor signage that helps to evoke the core of your brand, you can also make quite a splash by recruiting an interior designer to transform a series of parallel monitors into a lattice of locomotive yet eloquent artwork. With OLEDs drastically cutting the energy cost and new screens built specifically for outdoor durability, digital art will soon see wide deployment to increase the allure of hotel lobbies or other public areas. If you're interested in pursuing something down this road, your first action should be to recruit an art consultant to help you source the people and develop the theme.5. Training Goes TechIn search of new and creative ways to cut costs, hoteliers are now looking for technology to solve their staffing woes. Building a mobile app for associates to learn the fundamentals of their job responsibilities like what's offered by HubEngage represents the base level for this, as it can sharply reduce a supervisor's time spent on job shadowing as well as a manager's time on one-to-many communication bulletins. Looking beyond mere cost savings, though, harnessing the power of tech for training can heighten team accountability, eliminate legacy issues and boost overall morale which in turn translates to less employee turnover and absenteeism. The pinnacle for this silo is Novility which teaches SOPs as well as corrective exercises through a motion-sensor training station. In short, training hardware and software helps to enrich your team so guest service delivery is never compromised.6. ...And Wellness for AllTwo population trends are contributing to the rise of wellness programs at hotels such as Hilton's Five Feet to Fitness or throughout any of IHG's EVEN properties. First is the overall aging of the Western World, which will inexorably lead to an increased demand for care products, of which tech can play a role in helping to facilitate this demographic's extended independence. Meanwhile, millennials and the iGeneration have largely been raised under the belief that diet and exercise are essential for one's health, and these digital natives are always on the lookout for brands that can motivate them in this regard. Whether it's apps that track their daily movement patterns or interactive tools to stimulate them to fit in a workout whenever its possible, this health consciousness can mean big business for any hotel brand that wishes to capitalize upon it by using tech to help get people moving.
Article by Larry Mogelonsky

Using Gamification to Sell Guestroom Upgrades

Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited 13 December 2017
But once the consumer purchases a specific room type, how do you entice them to spend a little extra to get something even better than what they've already confirmed? While there's the age-old approach of prompting them either through a pre-arrival email or phone call, or once they are physically at the front desk, many hotels are trying something new.Several chains now utilize programs that immediately offer all confirmed reservations a standby upgrade rate, typically at a discount versus the full upgraded cost. These programs can be quite effective in generating further revenue from participants. After all, ten bucks more for that better room (versus double that on the rate card) is better than nothing at all.As a personal example, consider my most recent flight to Los Angeles for which I booked an economy return fare. The email here was received shortly thereafter, offering me not only an opportunity to make an upgrade, but to competitively bid for this upgrade with other passengers. Thus, the upgrade decision was not a binary yes-or-no at a fixed price, but one that had a sense of play involved.Just like an online auction, I was notified each time my bid was beaten by another fellow passenger. Regretfully, I had a limited budget and ended up flying in the gulag. I do not know the exact value of the victorious bid, but my cut-off point was $250 each way and clearly this was not enough.The key component of any simple gamification like this is participation. Unlike a simple 'Do you want it at this standby price?' situation, involvement, variability and sense of control add to consumer excitement and interest. As with most games, there is an element of chance, thus the ubiquitous signoff of 'Good luck!' at the end of the email.Now imagine offering customers an opportunity to upgrade their superior rooms to deluxe, a suite or perhaps one of your signature rooms with a bidding system introduced? After the initial hurdle of setting this system up, your revenue management team can then easily control the situation, adding minimum bids and possibly a random success element as well as awarding one weekly participant with an upgrade at no incremental cost. Tangentially, imagine what this will do for your social media efforts when you post the weekly winner?The airline industry has shown strong leadership in yield management. Here is another idea that we can 'borrow' from them to add to our success. Now is the time to use the principles of gamification to your advantage.
Article by Larry Mogelonsky

Using Microlearning and Training Tech to Boost Team Morale

Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited 22 November 2017
This leads to the question about how to keep your staff happy? While this necessitates a multifaceted answer identifying both long-term and short-term tasks, one that has gained a lot of recognition of late is using ongoing education as a means to heighten motivation. As is very often the case, though, this is far easier said than done, and nurturing a culture of continual retraining requires a wholehearted and passionate commitment from senior executives if you are to achieve any semblance of fruitful results.While in the past, ongoing education might have meant organizing a few days outside the office for teambuilding activities and some outdoors exercise with a few intensive instructional sessions sandwiched in-between, nowadays the younger generations want to learn in a different way.Modern LearningThe two buzz words that best describe the current mindset are 'microlearning' and 'bite-sized learning' where instead of the hours-long concentrated classes, employees are left to learn the syllabus on their own time, cramming while in transit to and from work or during the few available minutes each night before bed. For example, instead of a two-and-a-half-hour tutorial, a new recruit might be left to his or her own devices and given a two-week deadline to complete the course, followed by an online test and a compressed interactive component with a supervisor.At this stage you might point out with a slight whiff of cynicism that this mentality is a negative result from all the attention-depleting, dopamine-inducing bombardments from the glut of instantly gratifying technologies like social media, video games and helter-skelter television programs that today's youth enjoys so much. While you wouldn't be wrong in recognizing millennials' lowered attention spans versus those of older generations, psychological evidence has long since shown that bite-sized learning is actually far better for memory retention. Thus, while adopting a microlearning culture might be better for attracting and keeping younger team members, it can also be quite beneficial for veteran hoteliers.And of course, the key facilitators for this contemporary proliferation of microlearning environments are the very same digital innovations that have given millennials their ADHD stereotype, including online blackboards, short training video libraries on websites and mobile apps, to name three. Knowing that such devices can enhance so many other aspects of your operations, applying their merits to set up an incremental training program for all employees - young or seasoned, staff or manager - will likewise achieve incredible results.Fiscal BenefitsOne critical aspect of these microlearning platforms is that, through automation, they help to drastically cut labor costs associated with internal education. For instance, if you set up an online team training app that new associates can download onto their smartphones (the device through which young staffers prefer most for bite-sized education), then the initial phase of job shadowing can be cut in half because so much of the grunt work is shifted out of the classroom setting and onto the cloud. In an ongoing capacity, such apps might also be used for lateral promotions as team members opt to explore new expertise in other areas of operations while staying in their current roles within the organization so that there aren't any 'hiccups' when it comes to succession planning.Concurrent to the cost savings in supervisor or manager manhours devoted to training, there's also the motivation angle which needs some further substantiation. Like any family - albeit one that may be a tad dysfunctional given how frenetic a hotel environment always ends up being - we want those closest to us to experience personal growth and enrich their lives on a meaningful level. For this reason alone, any resources you devote to upgrading your training programs will make everyone involved all the happier. Aside from the abovementioned reflection on guest satisfaction, increased morale also means a more productive team and less employee turnover - two elements that not only play a large role in labor costs but can also factor into what ideas your team brings forward to help improve operations.ImplementationWith all these advantages, it's clear that migrating your instructional programs to an online platform is a worthwhile project. However, agreeing to this initiative is the 1% inspiration, yet it still leaves out the 99% perspiration to make it functional.First is you need a project leader - someone to make the decisions about what training platform to setup and who's accountable for its success. Next, and equally as vital, you need a content supervisor, which is often the same as the project leader. This is the individual who is responsible for uploading all the necessary materials and designing the training courses in addition to performing regular upkeep of the platform and completing enrollment. Lastly, there is the recurrent issue of ensuring sustained engagement or daily active use; this is another topic altogether but, to give you an idea here, some worthy tactics include staff rewards, internal gamification mechanisms, regular in-person prompting or even the establishment of consequences for inactivity.Above all, don't assume that it is a cinch to transition to a cloud-based learning environment. The results, however, will more than compensate for any headaches in this regard. And once you are in a groove with such new age incremental training platforms, you'll find that your team is happier, more motivated and fully ready to rise to the challenge of making your hotel better.
Article by Larry Mogelonsky

HITEC 2017: A Show About Integration

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

Thoughts on the Major Chains' Cancellation Policy Change

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

The Proof of Prix Fixe

Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited 11 August 2017
The best prix fixe menus not only feature a restaurant's signature dishes as selected and perfected by your chefs, but they also offer a few options within broader course grouping. For instance, if you offer a simple three-course dinner, you might give two choices for appetizers, three as mains and another two for desserts. This way your patrons don't feel as though they are being coerced to go down one specific track where the perception would be one of inevitable boredom unless, of course, your unalterable menu entries are of Michelin caliber. Limited optionality gives guests the illusion of choice, while at the same time allowing members of the same table to vary their individual selections so that the differences act as talking points to add to the overall experience.The opposite of prix fixe would entail those restaurants where the menu is far too long, typically bordering on double digits in page length. In these situations, guests end up perusing the menu for a tad longer than if the menu were displayed on one to three pages - that is, increasing the time per seating - or they give up and go with something similar. Both cases inevitably lead to reduced meal satisfaction. In the former scenario, too much choice leads to indecisiveness which subconsciously causes people to be unhappy with their final selection as they always wonder with a hint of regret what could have been. And in the latter, the order that's familiar won't win your kitchen much praise because you aren't wowing people with a unique creation.Ultimately, a prix fixe menu can help to streamline meal delivery (and thereby increase turns if deserved), reduce total ingredient number and boost revenue per turn in situations where customers wouldn't opt for a full meal (including appetizers and sweets at the end, also called a perfect check) and only order a main. While it's all but a given for banquet or big catered events that a fixed meal be used, many restaurants shy away from fully investing in this approach for their regular fare because it's felt that - to offer two reasons of many - it may limit the overall ingenuity of the kitchen or hurt meal satisfaction by restricting the total breadth of what's available.When done right, though, you can move to a permanent prix fixe outline. The first step is to identify your most popular menu items for each category then design a prix fixe menu around them, offering a bit of choice for each course. Next, look to set up a daily or semi-daily rotation of prix fixe menus like how you would for the specials. This second step will inform you as to which combinations of dishes are working best as well as whether there are preferred days of the week for the prix fixe option. From there, and undoubtedly after a significant amount of feedback and fine tuning, you can aim to make this the centerpiece of your restaurant by offering multiple prix fixe menus at different price points with all substitutions or a la carte selections at an extra charge.Adapting this broad methodology to other hotel operations reveals that there are sizeable parallels for more efficient service delivery, significant cost savings and increased sales, all based on the psychological principle of limited optionality or partial choice. It's this last aspect of heightened revenues that can be particularly handy when it comes to upselling on rooms or amenity packages.For instance, if you are on the senior planning committee for a resort, what types of all inclusive, prix fixe packages might you offer to potential customers so that they can experience the best of what your property has to offer and get a good deal in the process? While you might want to silo off the golf from the activities, spa and dining components - and indeed you may be restricted in this regard by software systems that are incompatible with your PMS - it may be worthwhile investigating how you might set up a multi-operation promotion that includes accommodations and the guest's choice of amenities from a selection of onsite or partnered facility offerings.Obviously, this mixing-and-matching would have to be properly balanced so that you recover your margins, but the bones of the idea is that you are incentivizing people so that you can capture more ancillary revenues upfront while also keeping them involved in the overall process by giving them a bit of choice. As an extension, you might consider offering a resort-wide voucher where credit can be applied towards any amenity with better deals for the more nights that are booked.In my experience as a hotel marketer, I've helped build numerous packages of this nature, so let me finish by saying that these generalizations barely scratch the surface as to the amount of work required to properly get moving in this prix fixe direction, especially when you take into account on-property software conflicts, third-party supplier agreements or any region-specific challenges that your hotel may be currently facing. Nevertheless, as has been proven time and again, promotions with clear messaging and a somewhat flexible offer will work. If you want to discuss further, I'm only an email away!(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, originally published in HotelsMag on June 14, 2017)
Article by Larry Mogelonsky

The Four Pillars of Hospitality Technology

Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited 7 August 2017
Nowadays, hoteliers are so inundated with technology that the tasks of prioritization and selection have become far more than just daunting; research and procurement are practically a job title unto themselves! Unless you have specific objectives with a firm plan and budget in mind, you'll easily be intimidated by the sheer myriad of options for consideration.With this in mind, I will attempt to simplify your journey through this process by defining hospitality technology according to four distinct pillars. While each pillar interconnects with the others in various forms - notably, guest service delivery as well as the nightly rates that you can get away with charging - breaking them down into these silos will help you weigh the matters financials as well as ensure that no single area goes overlooked for too long a stretch of time.First Pillar: Physical InfrastructureThis first pillar is the most readily understood as well as the most established and expensive to upgrade. Infrastructure systems include those that run the physical structure of your property such as lighting, HVAC, telephones, in-room sensors, in-room tablets, laundry units, water treatment, kitchen appliances, smartphone door keys, mobile wallet receives, security instruments, televisions, cable boxes, entertainment devices, WiFi routers, point-of-sale terminals, housekeeping dispatch and engineering equipment to name but a few.For each of these systems, there are multiple vendors offering solutions designed foremost to reduce costs from a labor as well as from an energy management standpoint, for which there are opportunities to save millions on your yearly utility bill. It's rare, though, to find a revolutionary, game-changing new device in this arena as typically such hardware is quite expensive at the outset - both in upfront charges along with all the increment maintenance fees accrued due to the technology's yet-to-be-fully-stable nature. Moreover, such incredible advancements don't usually push for hospitality industry as their primary entrance to the market. While we are often laggards in adoption, this would never stop you from breaking formation with the rest of your comp set and taking a risk on an unproven piece of technological infrastructure that might have tremendous benefits in the long-term.If you are working on a new build, your task of deciding which vendors to court is somewhat simpler as you are less burdened by retrofit requirements and legacy contracts. For existing structures, infrastructure improvements can be straightforward or they can be a nightmare. As one example, some installations will require hardwiring and CAT6 cabling through walls which might make their implementation cost prohibitive. Then you have to worry about how all these disparate systems will talk to one other in order to produce some semblance of automation.Last is the discussion of your in-house servers responsible for your digital storage, cyber-security and information distribution requirements. Triple redundancy is one of the most fundamental prerequisites these days given how reliant we are on electronic data. Many properties are now opting for cloud-based solutions that eliminate the need for the traditional home-based server, but a complete removal of the on-property requirements in this regard is a long way off so do your due diligence and upgrade accordingly until that time.Second Pillar: Management SystemsParamount here is your property management system (PMS). This is like the central nervous system for your property, connecting all the various pieces of physical infrastructure as well as automating the communication between them and processing any credit card data. Moreover, it's here where you take the reins to yield manage your room distribution channels and connect in any ancillary revenue streams to make packaging a cinch.If these ancillary management systems can't connect to this central processing bank, I strongly recommend that you consider replacing them as your PMS is also where your guest profile data is housed. Commonly referred to as customer relationship management (CRM), guest profiles are becoming ever more sacrosanct to our operations as it is through the amalgamation of this rich data that we can better analyze how we are performing, what entices our visitors to spend and what each individual guest prefers.Thus, an effective CRM will both help you improve guest satisfaction on an individual level by remembering each person's specific preferences as well as reveal opportunities for growth on the macro level. The two keys to make this happen are to first ensure that as many points of contact between the guest and your property as possible are set up for quantified recording and next that all data is being compiled into a singular bank so each guest profile is as rich as it can be.Various CRM tools are available to lever this data towards building a new and improved guest marketing program. A complete 'tool set' would include such touch points as voice reservation activities, data gleaned from the website, check-in confirmations, post-checkout surveys and newsletters in addition to all the onsite touch points and points of sale.In terms of how to improve in this regard, first know that the PMS is a mature piece of software, meaning that every single one has a plenitude of features that you have probably never used before. Start by reaching out to your provider for a refresher as many of these features are designed to enhance your profitability by computing the data in various ways to offer new insights into how your operations are performing. Most PMS companies offer webinars and regional meet-ups on a regular basis so this shouldn't be hard to arrange. After all, the more you use their software, the more output you get from it and the happier you are as one of their customers!Third Pillar: Digital Marketing ChannelsI've separated digital marketing from the aforementioned internal management systems because these are external efforts that largely exist beyond your property's borders. CRM technology is primarily concerned with database while communications activities encompass all your efforts to target the consumer at large and move them down the sales funnel right up until they input their credit card data.Whereas a PMS contains specific, and hopefully secure, information about each past guest, digital marketing is broader and more ambiguous. These channels include your website, search engine optimization (SEO) activities undertaken in tandem with your website updates, search engine marketing (SEM) such as Google Adwords, email newsletters, blogs, social media, mobile apps, what OTAs you push inventory to and your approach to third-party review websites. There are still many others but these should definitely help you paint a good picture of what's involved here.While there is a lot of overlap with your CRM as these include both sales and relationship channels, the differentiating factor for this pillar is that every aspect is outbound. Like fishing, you know roughly what you are going to catch - specific age groups, psychographics, consumers living in a certain geographic radius and so on - but you cannot say with absolute certainty. Some channels cast a wide net, such as the OTAs, while others can be refined to the nth - for instance, Facebook's promoted posts and how they can target well-defined interests.The technological advents in this arena pertain mostly to automation and business intelligence. That is, software that will help reduce labor costs or those that will unveil new growth opportunities in certain audience groups or markets. As an example in the social media camp, there are tools designed to assist your team in disseminating posts to various social media and responding in a timely fashion, all from a central screen. As well, several technologies are available that provide you with an instantaneous snapshot of your guest feedback on social media and third-party review channels, thereby allowing you to take remedial actions to your guest service delivery or to address product deficits with end-to-end accountability.Fourth Pillar: Your StaffThat's right; the oldest piece of technology in the hospitality industry is still the most vital. While some companies are working on building robots to ostensibly replace humans in increasingly non-rudimentary tasks, we are still several generations from android substitutes capable of fully usurping all that your team members do to build the guest experience.In terms of giving your team a technological upgrade, essentially what we are discussing is training, something that many hoteliers put on the backburner once an employee has been fully onboarded. But training is now an ongoing process and crucial for motivating your staff to perform at their best. With mobile apps and cloud-based blackboard curriculum software paving the way for the e-learning revolution to come to the hospitality industry, you would be wise to investigate your options to see how you can enhance your team training in this regard.Both universities as well as several private service providers offer online courses that can reduce the costs of onboarding as well as improve your guest-facing 'soft' skills. While e-learning can cover the basics like language skills, SOPs, operations, guest service delivery procedures and concierge knowledge enhancements, there are also more advanced systems that have already hit the market. For example, there are motion capture stations that can be deployed to enhance your housekeeping team's muscle memory so they perform repetitive movements with proper form to thereby reduce their chances of incurring a chronic injury. Next, using artificial intelligence, there are training units that can measure how well a staff member responds to an irritated guest or a heated complaint then offer suggestions to improve this individual's demeanor and tone of voice.A Checklist For AcquisitionFew hoteliers, if any, can afford to access every technological advance available. There are just so many initiatives that your IT folks can handle simultaneously, let alone the budget. Before you fall head over heels in love with a new piece of technology, check with your team and ask the following questions to ascertain both the feasibility and necessity of each acquisition.1. Will this new technology reduce operating costs?If so, what is the payout or breakeven point on the investment?What assumptions have been taken in calculating the payout such as staff reduction, interest rates, software installations or server upgrades?Have the costs of training and implementation been factored into these calculations?2. Will this new technology improve guest service?What service gap will this technology fill?How easy or intuitive is this technology for the guest to both understand and utilize?Will significant staff time be taken explaining this technology to the guest?3. Will this technology improve the lives of your team?How will your staff benefit from this technology?How difficult will it be for them to adapt or learn its use?How will you be able to monitor the team's compliance and utilization?4. Will this new technology build revenue?Will we gain efficiencies in how we execute our existing programs?Will we learn more about our guests, thereby leading to improved long-term success?Will it give us access to new markets or business opportunities?5. Who on our team will champion the technology?Will there be a service interruption and, if so, how will we manage this?How complex will the technology be for the team to learn?How long will the installation and learning curve take?6. Will this technology integrate with my current PMS?If no, is this integration necessary?If yes, will you need to install any additional, and possibly expensive, plugins?Who on the team will manage this integration?Clearly the outcome of these questions will guide your decision and help to develop a list of priorities. While revenue and cost savings are always important, don't forget the long-term asset value enhancement through improved guest service delivery as well as how this can work in your favor to heighten the overall perception of your hotel.To conclude, the late Steve Jobs once said, "Technology is nothing. What's important is that you have a faith in people, that they're basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they'll do wonderful things with them." Remember that the technology you incorporate into your property is designed not to take the place of personal service but to enhance that which you already deliver to your guests.(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in Today's Hotelier on June 1, 2017)
Article by Larry Mogelonsky

Building Summer Occupancy for City Hotels

Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited 28 July 2017
Temperatures rise. Humidity creeps up. Sounds like time to pack up and head to the nearest beach. While your team may be thinking 'vacation', you should be thinking 'revenue' when it comes to your leisure segment.Every resort owner knows that the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day is peak. The kids are out of school by mid-to-late June, making it family time. For a moment, though, let's focus on city properties. Bricks and mortar are depreciated all 12 months of the year. There are no summer breaks in your debt service even as the meetings and conference segment wanes. You need a plan to cover your business through a quarter that will see limited, if any, group activity. So, let's examine the fundamentals of a solid leisure plan.Know and be a part of your market. Product knowledge is essential. Look beyond your property's walls to see what is happening locally. Typically, there is a schedule of activities covering everything from music, to sports and, of course, food. Get involved by sponsoring those events that are consistent with your brand strategy and target guest interests. Being the exclusive hotel partner is not necessary. You want breadth of coverage in this case and not necessarily depth.Flag your summer activities. It's great to be a sponsor. I'm sure that some local, and perhaps regional, advertising and promotions are included in your sponsorship package. That's simply not enough these days. You need to broaden awareness on your website and through other relationship channels such as e-newsletters and in-house materials. Then add your own onsite features to elevate your property from just a hotel to an outright destination.Everyone eats. What was considered exotic a decade ago is now thoroughly mainstream. Sushi, Thai, deep dish pizza, crazy burgers, gourmet tacos and even poke bowls and all have widespread awareness and appeal, meaning that you won't be surprising anyone or winning accolades for their inclusion. Your guests want to try something new so you can just imitate what was trendy two years ago. As well, while it may sound sacrilegious to send a guest off property to eat, you must face the fact that unless you're a destination resort in a remote location, guests will want to roam. Why not give them the tools to do so effectively and thereby stay relevant in the conversation?Everyone also drinks. Separate from food, beverage is a critical component in delivering a truly local experience. Most every region has local wine, craft beer or small-batch distilleries. Your responsibility is to proudly demonstrate your community spirit by giving your guests an opportunity to sample these unique creations, adding to their local knowledge and creating a memorable touchpoint. The lure of supplemental revenue from the national brands is strong, and I'm not advocating walking away from those long-established relationships. Rather, I'm suggesting a balanced approach that augments consumer choice.Bring back a little something. When traveling, I'm always looking for some souvenirs. Nothing distresses me more than seeing the same items in the hotel gift shop that I can find at a Walmart (with no disrespect to this fantastic retailer). Think of your on-property store as less of a profit center and more of a guest service reinforcement. If the goods are ho-hum and overpriced, you may make a buck or two more but, as a consequence, imbue a feeling that, once again, the guest is being taken for a ride.Summer is not just for kids. My wife and I travel extensively during the summer period, and our kids are definitely not in tow. Re-examine your marketplace positioning and consider outbound materials that show adult enjoyment, not just a bunch of screaming kids by the pool. Examine your property's ability to simultaneously manage families with kids and those without. Once you've figured it out, amp up your promotions as the empty nesters are a vastly underserved demographic at present.Balance is key. You need to be true to your product. Know your limitations and plan accordingly. Resist temptations to overload your pool or restaurants. That additional bus tour stopover might have looked like great revenue when you booked it in February, but when they arrive in July and max out your facilities - thereby choking off high paying transients - well, you get the idea. While everyone strives for occupancy over 90% during these peak periods, your staff must be appropriately trained and services properly allocated to handle this surge, lest you tick off a few customers whose needs aren't adequately met.(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, originally published in HotelsMag on June 16, 2017)
Article by Larry Mogelonsky

The Housekeeping Training Revolution

Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited 7 July 2017
Of course, this all relates to technology - putting your internal curriculum onto an online portal, thereby enabling e-learning. It works because it fosters an environment of microlearning - that is, allowing your team to learn at their own pace and in bite-sized, modular chunks, both of which are better for knowledge retention over the classical intensive and condensed period of instruction. Additionally, by putting your curriculum online, it frees up your supervisors' time as well as allows associates to explore other aspects of your operations that are beyond their current job description but nonetheless a subject of interest for prospective lateral promotions.While it may seem too good to be true, obstacles present themselves during the implementation process and in getting your team to adjust to the new system. And these growing pains are most evident than in the housekeeping department.Likened to the last holdout against the invasion of purely technological processes, your housekeepers are now prone to disruptions on nearly all fronts. Training manuals can be put online or plugged into motion-capture performance tracking stations for new employees to quickly learn the basics before job shadowing begins in earnest. New mobile-centric software platforms offer real-time synchronization to streamline internal communication, shift priorities on the fly and appease the current demand for 24/7 room readiness to the point where the morning lineup is all but obsolete. And then there are engineering firms working to build robots that can fold laundry and clean rooms, thus eliminating the need for human housekeepers altogether, but this is still at least a few decades away from practicality.Additionally, you must consider the health and safety of your housekeeping team. Unlike most other desk jobs, theirs is one of physical rigor, lending itself to a much higher risk of repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) as well as everything that results from that - lowered team motivation, erratic staff scheduling and long-term disability payouts to cite three.While it's a much more straightforward line of thought between how technology can benefit your property from a training perspective, there are also significant implications for how it can be utilized to also boost the wellbeing of your team. Firstly, most contemporary SOP training modules teach the proper techniques which minimize injury. Next, there are now platforms with dedicated ergonomic curriculums so that your housekeepers can get in the habit of using the correct muscles for any given cleaning-related task.This is but a quick overview of how technology can work to propel your team into the 21st century and I would highly recommend you investigate your options. I've purposely left this article company agnostic for brevity's sake, but if you'd like the names of a few to help get you started, email me and we'll discuss what will work best for your specific hotel.
Article by Larry Mogelonsky

Mutual Success Through Product Placement

Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited 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)
Article by Larry Mogelonsky

The Downfalls of Overcharging for Bottled Water

Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited 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.
Article by Larry Mogelonsky

Guestroom TVs are Only the Beginning for Electronic Displays

Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited 22 May 2017
In fact, the future of screen technology is everywhere, pervading every point of interaction that a consumer has with your hotel. And the more you work to undo the antiquated notion that TVs are only for bedrooms, you will end up discovering new opportunities right under your nose to enhance the guest experience and drive revenues.To help our grasp of what this future means for your hotel, I interviewed Fred Crespo, Director of Technology & Business Development at Samsung Electronics. Before we jumped in to any science fiction forecasts, we first discussed how smart televisions have now overtaken regular TV sales and what that means for the evolution of the in-room viewing experience.Smart TVs are more than just eliminating the top box and any other screen accessories. As a now democratized piece of technology, they can drastically improve a room's functionality through the integration and automation of such things as lighting, the drapes, climate controls, alarms, room billing, streaming services and even the do not disturb sign. Many of these will also help you eliminate paper and realize substantial energy consumption savings. One of the latest drives with smart TVs is to reduce forced obsolescence so you no longer must replace your sets every three years - a task accomplished with internal firmware that is adaptable to future content needs as well as the ever-increasing bandwidth requirements. Lastly, automation and integration are working to drive down the cost of delivery of, for instance, in-room movie rentals so that they are more closely aligned with the consumer benchmark, thus leading to fewer perceptions of price gouging, heightened consumption and, ultimately, increased consumer satisfaction.Moving away from the centerpiece screen but still staying with the guestroom, there are many other opportunities to enhance the guest experience through the clever deployment of electronic replacements. Imagine a small digital picture frame on the nightstand that syncs with an individual's social media so that an image or slideshow of this person's family can be on display to make the room feel that much more like home. Next, try to visualize yourself brushing your teeth in front of the bathroom mirror, only your Instagram feed was cycling through on the top row while the bottom row showed the weather and the news. There are now several ways to subtly layer these types of information over portrait mirrors without being intrusive, and they also present yet another vector by which to display some hotel messaging or showcase a few features that guests may enjoy.Exiting the guestroom, there are numerous instances where digital signage can now be deployed in such a way that they are both bespoke to every individual guest and sync with in-room activities or preferences. You need only think of every touch point from the time visitors arrive at a hotel to the time they leave.Electronic signage can act as a sense of place enhancement via impressive art displays, to answer questions about check-in prior to talking directly with a clerk at the front desk or even to guide people from the elevator corridor to their specific rooms - this last one being particularly useful for buildings with massive floor plans. In essence, what we are seeing is a complete convergence of in-room screens with on-property signage, especially when you next throw into the mix outdoor patchwork screens that are extremely durable and cold to the touch. At the most recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (CES 2017), LG unveiled their 'Wallpaper TVs' which deliver reasonable resolution for large diameter screens that are only a few millimeters thick and are capable of being plastered onto glass surfaces or exterior cement.This is but scratching the surface in terms of how you might go about upgrading your hotel with new devices that enhance the guest experience through augmented technological engagement - a trait that is in demand for the ever-budget-conscious millennials. What's great about our industry in particular is that we have the CapEx budget for incremental installations of this nature - albeit spread over several years - so it would be wise to at least be receptive to what an arrangement of integrated screens and devices can do to continually improve your property over the long-term. Think of these multinational conglomerates like Samsung, LG, Panasonic, Sony or Philips less so as low cost vendors and more so as premium tech partners, ensuring that you collectively arrive at the best solution to meet your hotel's unique needs.And in terms of what's on the horizon for 2017, Fred wrapped up our chat by emphasizing that this year will see evolutionary steps but not revolutionary ones. While virtual reality - the current talk of the town - is still a decade away from universal applicability, smart TVs are now a mature product, meaning that everyone is focused on operational efficiency, mobile integration and user interface enhancements. Thus, don't expect anything game-changing in the immediate future, so use this 'lull' to strategize about how the current slate of adaptive screen technologies can work for you.(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in eHotelier on January 30, 2017)
Article by Larry Mogelonsky

Getting Creative With How You Use Your Guestroom TVs

Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited 3 May 2017
In fact, the future of screen technology is everywhere, pervading every point of interaction that a consumer has with your hotel. And the more you work to undo the antiquated notion that TVs are only for bedrooms, you will end up discovering new opportunities right under your nose to enhance the guest experience and drive revenues.To help our grasp of what this future means for your hotel, I interviewed Fred Crespo, Director of Technology & Business Development at Samsung Electronics. Before we jumped in to any science fiction forecasts, we first discussed how smart televisions have now overtaken regular TV sales and what that means for the evolution of the in-room viewing experience.Smart TVs are more than just eliminating the top box and any other screen accessories. As a now democratized piece of technology, they can drastically improve a room's functionality through the integration and automation of such things as lighting, the drapes, climate controls, alarms, room billing, streaming services and even the do not disturb sign. Many of these will also help you eliminate paper and realize substantial energy consumption savings. One of the latest drives with smart TVs is to reduce forced obsolescence so you no longer must replace your sets every three years - a task accomplished with internal firmware that is adaptable to future content needs as well as the ever-increasing bandwidth requirements. Lastly, automation and integration are working to drive down the cost of delivery of, for instance, in-room movie rentals so that they are more closely aligned with the consumer benchmark, thus leading to fewer perceptions of price gouging, heightened consumption and, ultimately, increased consumer satisfaction.Moving away from the centerpiece screen but still staying with the guestroom, there are many other opportunities to enhance the guest experience through the clever deployment of electronic replacements. Imagine a small digital picture frame on the nightstand that syncs with an individual's social media so that an image or slideshow of this person's family can be on display to make the room feel that much more like home. Next, try to visualize yourself brushing your teeth in front of the bathroom mirror, only your Instagram feed was cycling through on the top row while the bottom row showed the weather and the news. There are now several ways to subtly layer these types of information over portrait mirrors without being intrusive, and they also present yet another vector by which to display some hotel messaging or showcase a few features that guests may enjoy.Exiting the guestroom, there are numerous instances where digital signage can now be deployed in such a way that they are both bespoke to every individual guest and sync with in-room activities or preferences. You need only think of every touch point from the time visitors arrive at a hotel to the time they leave.Electronic signage can act as a sense of place enhancement via impressive art displays, to answer questions about check-in prior to talking directly with a clerk at the front desk or even to guide people from the elevator corridor to their specific rooms - this last one being particularly useful for buildings with massive floor plans. In essence, what we are seeing is a complete convergence of in-room screens with on-property signage, especially when you next throw into the mix outdoor patchwork screens that are extremely durable and cold to the touch. At the most recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (CES 2017), LG unveiled their 'Wallpaper TVs' which deliver reasonable resolution for large diameter screens that are only a few millimeters thick and are capable of being plastered onto glass surfaces or exterior cement.This is but scratching the surface in terms of how you might go about upgrading your hotel with new devices that enhance the guest experience through augmented technological engagement - a trait that is in demand for the ever-budget-conscious millennials. What's great about our industry in particular is that we have the CapEx budget for incremental installations of this nature - albeit spread over several years - so it would be wise to at least be receptive to what an arrangement of integrated screens and devices can do to continually improve your property over the long-term. Think of these multinational conglomerates like Samsung, LG, Panasonic, Sony or Philips less so as low cost vendors and more so as premium tech partners, ensuring that you collectively arrive at the best solution to meet your hotel's unique needs.And in terms of what's on the horizon for the next three quarters of 2017, Fred wrapped up our chat by emphasizing that this year will see evolutionary steps but not revolutionary ones. While virtual reality - the current talk of the town - is still a decade away from universal applicability, smart TVs are now a mature product, meaning that everyone is focused on operational efficiency, mobile integration and user interface enhancements. Thus, don't expect anything game-changing in the immediate future, so use this 'lull' to strategize about how the current slate of adaptive screen technologies can work for you.
Article by Larry Mogelonsky

Goal for 2018 - No More Offseason

Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited 7 April 2017
A major issue that many hotels confront is the cyclical nature of their revenues and occupancies. Although seasonality affects resorts and rural properties more so than urban hotels, the latter can also suffer from week-to-week or intra-week fluctuations due to their targeting of primarily the corporate and groups segment.Even though most of these suggestions pertain to the leisure segment where the highs and lows are more pronounced, making weekend traffic at business-catering urban hotels should still be a foremost initiative. In fact, regardless of your particular situation and however much your occupancy vacillates, there is room for improvement if you address the issues now instead of waiting for the next ball drop in December. Real and healthy change takes time, and you will need a full nine months to set up these new, viable programs.The first step is to embrace the offseason and be transparent about it with any offers you present to customers. That is, most savvy consumers will already be primed to expect, for instance, seaside properties or ski resorts to be relatively quiet during their respective off-seasons. However, these same consumers may not immediately recognize that this nadir of occupancy means incredible savings for them and interrupted access to all the hotel amenities and facilities because of the lack of crowd.Advertise incredible deals is not enough, though, especially if these loss leader rates are going to cut into your margins. There has to be a hook. During peak season, this comes easy - it's the beach, that perfectly manicured golf course or hitting the freshly powdered slopes. But when those physical draws are inaccessible, you have to rely on 'softer' promotions, boosting ancillary features and giving them extra attention so that they can help sell. No matter what discount you offer, if there isn't an attraction - something entertaining for guests to do while onsite - then you won't sell many rooms.Food and beverage programs are always a good way to garner attention because no matter the weather outside, people have to eat! This is doubly true now that the foodies and locavore movement have become widespread with many people always on the lookout for innovative and unique culinary expressions. If you know that you will be experiencing some downtime in occupancy within the next year, you can plan a large-scale food event set over the course of a few days or even with some repetition to accommodate multiple groups. Beyond such extravaganzas, wielding F&B to generate interest in the offseason can also mean subtler tactics like weekly specials, vendor sponsorships, extended happy hours or low key tasting events.The next lowest hanging fruit is to target your past guests or your loyalty program members. After all, these are consumers who are already primed to receive your messages and will thus be more receptive to take you up on a special promotion or exclusive discount, even if it is for a less desirable period. Reward redemptions can work even better, though, when combined with, again, some form of entertainment. Just because they're loyal doesn't mean they won't allow want something to make their experience memorable. Moreover, if you offer them just a heavily discounted room and nothing else, then it may be rejected or, worse, turn them off completely because they won't perceive any value from long-term loyalty.Thirdly, and bridging the gap between leisure and business, look for ways to draw in groups during your offseason. To do this, you'll need a good sales team but also a solid activities program to occupy a corporate retreat or any other crowd in between sessions and meals. After all, when it comes to meetings and conferences, most hotels already have the basics covered insofar as good audio-video support, configurable rooms and acceptable F&B, so how are you going to convince an event planner to select your property over the competition? The answer is in what entertainment you offer that is unique to your particular location and what you do to neatly package these experiences.Fourth and finally, look to boomers who are currently reaching retirement in droves and with a healthy surplus of funds specifically designated for vacationing now that the work life has subsided. This demographic is far less constrained by when they are able to travel and will be much more receptive to offers that not only promise a good deal but also a unique experience in a less-than-pure-chaos environment afforded to visitors in the off-peak months.Above all, the emphasis is that you start now towards the grand objective of eliminating the offseason entirely. If you are already planning the packaging, events and seasonal promotions for 2018, then you should be able to create and hone specific programs that will ensure that all downtimes are reduced or not eliminated altogether.(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in HOTELS Magazine on March 31, 2017)
Article by Larry Mogelonsky

Spring Is Here! What Are You Doing About It?

Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited 3 April 2017
With daylight savings flipping our clocks an hour forward on the 12th and with the sun crossing the equator this past weekend during the March equinox, we are now officially into spring. This stretch of time can be quite variable for the books so it is deserving of particular attention so that you can set a precedent for recurrent stability and healthy occupancy.While corporate and groups are perennially strong during this time with the zenith of group activity coming only after the schools have resumed the tail end of their semesters, the season can be meddlesome for the leisure front excluding any spring break family or college student getaways. Still, though, there is much that can be done to drum up sales between now and Memorial Day which traditionally marks the beginning of summer and the peak travel period.First off, there aren't many 'rallying points' during this stretch - that is, landmark holidays by which to anchor a package or promotion. The top three that come to mind are the Easter Weekend (Friday, April 14th to Monday, April 17th), Cinco de Mayo (Friday, Map 5th) and Mother's Day (Sunday, May 14th). In other words, slim pickings. Taking a glass-half-full approach, however, this dearth of festivities and natural vacationing tentpoles simply means that you have to get creative.Before listing off some ideas, the preliminary exercise you must do is to figure out who your customers are and what would entice them to splurge on a weekend getaway, stay at your property midweek or at the very least attend an event. In a very general sense, spring marks a renewed sense of adventurism and appreciation for the outdoors, and this is the energy that your marketing must capitalize upon.Whereas winter represents a dichotomy between brisk activities out in the snow (in the West, Heartland, and Northeast) and relaxing in the warmth of a cozy indoor location, spring can be flexible. It's a season when certain vigorous outdoor pastimes are ideal - the ones that are hindered by the presence of both the frigid colds and the sweltering summer heat. Without stretching the mind too far, think bike rides, hiking trails, birdwatching or outdoor aerobics classes. Playing upon nature's reinvigorated growth during these weeks, your hotel might also organize wild berry picking excursions or mycology tours.These are all great ideas, but they only work for rural resorts. This mindset of renewal, however, can be adapted for an urban hotel or any property under the sun for that matter. Consider hosting classes, be they culinary ones focusing on ingredients that can be grown locally, indoor mind and body workouts like yoga or Pilates, arts and crafts like painting, pottery, flower arrangements or birdhouse making, or garden starting classes. The theme throughout should be one of enriching people's lives with something inspirational and highly seasonal.Building off of the cooking class suggestion, food and beverage is a banner for which you undoubtedly have yet to reach your full potential. Great for cementing bonds with regional suppliers, consider hosting a small farmer's market with under a dozen vendors. Although yours probably won't offer much in the ways of fresh fruits and vegetables due to logistical concerns, preserves like jams, syrups, baked goods, chocolates, candies or cosmetics. Along these lines, a fantastic nighttime or midday weekend event would be a spring harvest festival with live music, delicious food and fun for the whole family.The point here is that there are many ways for you to generate a few extra dollars during this steady-but-not-great few weeks of the year. What's essential is to decide upon one or two that will help your hotel stand apart from the competition and that are unique to your particular location. Don't overstretch yourself or the offers that you present to your guests. Then, give it all of your attention so that you can implement it quickly without any compromise on quality.(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in HotelsMag on Tuesday, March 21, 2017)
Article by Larry Mogelonsky

Looking Ahead Nine Months For Hotel Technology

Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited 15 March 2017
When it comes to technology, hotels are often seen as laggards to adoption, but I don't see this as the case. Quite the opposite in fact, with our resources and the diverse range of operations, the next nine months of 2017 should prove to be exciting times for new hardware and software installations, but only if you have vision. To help you stay on the forefront of what's available to help grow your business, here are five industry trends as well as a few companies that I consider to be game-changers for the remainder of the calendar year.1. Energy efficiency everywhere. Whether or not you are a proponent of climate change is besides the point that adopting cleaner, more efficient electronics and equipment can save your property upwards of millions of dollars on your annual energy and utilities bill. To highlight that third word in the first sentence, energy savings are no longer the solely the domain of fringe appliances or incompatible devices. Just about every operation can be more efficiently managed - to name three, laundry units that more effectively recycle water, new OLED TVs that cut down on power usage or smarter thermostats that better regulate room temperatures. There are also guest-facing savings programs like towel reuse, keycard-activated lighting and carbon offset donations, all of which help to some degree and, more importantly, help people become accustomed to this new normal.2. Further proliferation of smart televisions. It used to be that your TV was designed for the sole purpose of entertainment via the delivery of movies or cable channels. Now, however, they have more in common with computers as they can handle all the mandatory viewing experience channels from broadband to streaming services (and all without the need for an external box) in addition to integrating with other room devices such as the blinds, lighting or that shiny new smart thermostat. That's just the start, though, as now these smart TVs are moving beyond the guestroom with a myriad of uses in public spaces such as replacing signage, acting as in-elevator touchpads or even serving as lobby wall art. One of the most fascinating applications came from a demonstration by Samsung whereby they replaced a bathroom mirror with a device that let you comb your hair while you also checked the weather forecast and swiped through your Instagram feed.3. The housekeeping technology revolution is nigh! If there ever was a bona fide slowpoke on the technology adoption front, it would be the housekeeping department - more so than any other, an operation where great social capital is integral to success. Even with companies like Maidbot, Intellibot and Savioke, realistically we are still a couple decades ago from having robots clean our guestrooms instead of living persons. In the interim, though, there are quite a few innovators striving to make your housekeepers better at their jobs through the use of various technologies. There are now numerous software modules that seamlessly integrate with nearly any PMS to more effectively schedule shifts while other providers are focused on accountability and reducing shadowing time such as Lobster Ink with its online learning platform or Novility which combines a live, motion-capture training apparatus with a back-end monitoring system.4. Easily integrated future upgrades. Forced obsolescence will itself soon be obsolete, somewhat at least. Many consumers these days are hesitant to purchase unproven or next gen devices because they fear that they will have to through the entire buying cycle within three years' time because their current slate is already out-of-date. It's a headache that many providers are addressing by only introducing forward-thinking devices and firmware that are adaptable to future innovations so you don't have to constantly blow your capex budget on new electronics. To build upon the previous points, smart TVs now has excellent internal operating system upgrading abilities while most other software tools have migrated to cloud-based systems that only require a browser and no disruptive installations whatsoever.5. An unending democratization of devices. We've seen this throughout the modern era whereby a certain piece of technology starts off at prices too expensive for the average person only for new entrants and economies of scale to bring those prices down to fair market levels. Barring some exponential leap in virtual reality processing ability - that is, solving the display latency problem - there's nothing truly 'game changing' hitting the market in the next six to twelve months insofar as major innovations that will forever impact the ways we interact with the world. Instead, companies are largely focusing their efforts on maturing what's already out there by increasing accessibility to next gen iterative devices and expanding functionality. We're seeing this for smart TVs which have better prices for larger sizes with each passing season alongside more robust integration with other nearby electronics, more advanced internet-based services and interesting new uses beyond their traditional placements in the guestroom. While you might initially think it wise to keep waiting for prices to drop to the commoditized range, this is folly because by the time you are ready to upgrade, everyone else already has and your new tech won't have any emotional impact on guests. In other words, knowing that this democratization is endless, it's your duty as a leader to stay on the forefront by implementing change before the average household or office building has done so.As is the case with many incremental upgrades, it's no longer a matter of what you can do but of what you should do. That is, while it would be great to revamp every crack and crevice with the latest gizmos, you must first address where your core pain points are, and then research what technologies are available to ameliorate your problems. For a final suggestion, make plans to go to HITEC, the tradeshow focused solely on hospitality technology, which for the first time ever has a European show at the end of March followed by the annual June exhibition happening this year in my hometown of Toronto.
Article by Larry Mogelonsky

Control Your Data To Control Your Hotel's Future

Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited 6 March 2017
Right as the weather in Canada starts to become actually palatable near the end of June, it is time once again for the annual pilgrimage to the best hospitality technology tradeshow in the world. Taking place this year down in sweaty New Orleans, I entered HITEC 2016 (standing for Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference for the neophytes among us) as a man on a mission.A seasoned veteran of the convention, very little fazes me these days. Not to bloviate too much, but after six immersive years of new product launches, flashy booth designs, artfully worded press releases, an onslaught of collateral materials and enough espresso to make a turtle win the 100-meter dash at the Olympics, it all gets a bit blurry. Instead, the Big Easy was an opportunity for me to address the most important issues facing the hotel industry with the people best poised to make change.There's not a doubt in my mind that technology will save your property from any problem it currently faces. But only if it is deployed strategically and used wisely.The vendors at HITEC can be counted as some of the smartest people in the business, and each company presented some highly creative yet straightforward ways to enhance the guest experience, streamline operations, optimize revenues or all of the above. Tackling every exhibitor, though, would be too audacious for a single report. The show is just that large now. So, this year I focused on the top dogs - the property management system (PMS) exhibitors - to see how they were planning to lead us towards greener pasture.As if I had a seat at the head table for some sprawling corporate meeting or wedding reception, I was honored to sit down with senior executives from Agilysys, Infor, Maestro, Oracle MICROS and Springer-Miller. If HITEC is a room full of brains, then these folks are the prefrontal cortex. My mission was to deduce how each individual was going to help with the high commissions and dilutive branding of the OTAs, the proliferation of alternate lodging websites such as Airbnb, and the vast evolution in travel behavior with millennials at the vanguard. Compiling my notes from all interviews, the following were the most salient topics broached.Know Thy PMSWhereas I may be a tad hellfire and brimstone in my prognostications, each of these executives calmly and diligently answered my questions and presented clear solutions for how their respective firms can guide hotels through this turbulent period. First and foremost, managers must make a constant and diligent effort to thoroughly learn all the functions of their PMS.This was a shared belief amongst all the software gurus, and even though I'm wise enough to see through any tooting of one's own horn, the point is nonetheless valid. Every major PMS is a mature product, which means its core functions are stable and robust. Moreover, with each passing year and software iteration, new features are tested and added. Most of these are built to aid hotel executives in making sense of all the granular data - how are people finding your property, what channel are they booking in, where are corporate groups coming from, what does the revenue forecast look like, what are the margins on each channel, are labor expenses being managed efficiently, how do we capture more ancillary revenues from onsite guests, and so on.Any question you might have, your PMS should be the first place to look for the answer. Aside from the issue of a manager's aptitude with the software - which can be ameliorated through continual retraining, monthly webinars or attending users' conferences hosted gratis by each provider - integration must next be tackled. As the PMS is the heart of any hotel's technological arrangement, you can increase vascularity by ensuring that all other systems feed data into this central repository.After all, the business intelligence capabilities of any system are only as powerful as the quality and quantity of information that feed into it. If a peripheral piece of software doesn't push data to the PMS, the justification for its sustained usage better be good. As Bernard Ellis, Vice President of Hospitality Industry Strategy at Infor, demonstrated, via the generation of customized financial reports, a PMS can now precisely account for how much each revenue stream costs by factoring in all booking commissions as well as service and labor charges, and all on a single page that's easy to digest for harried managers. From there, you can analyze the opportunity cost of shifting laterally to focus on a different market segment and what the binary threshold is for when that changeover becomes fiscally prudent.Such examinations will help with other top decisions such as whether you are allotting too much inventory to the OTAs or if your marketing efforts to a certain target audience are actually effective, all done internally and without any necessary comparisons to the competitive set. Additionally, with regard to changing traveler behavior, every PMS has diagnostic tools to show year-over-year evaluations of all business by demographic so that you can pivot to meet any future trend.Lastly, if you are ever feeling overwhelmed by the purported omniscience of your PMS, pick up the phone and call your rep. Every provider has upped its customer service game. They are more than willing to give informed counsel on how to maximize your usage of the software or even assist with a specific business situation.Guest Profiles Are The FutureAnother compelling reason for total integration through the PMS is that this will merge all customer profile data and guest preferences into one dossier. While we pride ourselves on the human aspects of the hospitality, the future of our industry will increasingly rely on digital ones and zeros, as amassing and acting upon that guest data will help your hotel with all three of the abovementioned problems.Otherwise known as customer relationship management (CRM), these systems are the biggest advantage of any property, as noted by Ray Carlin, Vice President of Hospitality Strategy and Solutions Management at Oracle MICROS. While the first two years of the MICROS acquisition were focused on developing seamless product integration, the company is now at an inflection point as it figures out how best to harness Oracle's omnipotence.Mr. Carlin explained the OTAs will never be able to get as granular with their customer profile data as a hotel can because they simply aren't onsite. They won't be able to customize the guest experience by preselecting his or her favored bed type and room temperature, or to go fully microscopic, by preparing a welcome tray with one fruit that the guest loves most. Folding amenities like spa into the PMS will tell you what treatments a customer prefers so you can leverage that information for highly specific promotion offers targeting return guests. Other POS terminal incorporations, particularly F&B, can also be used to tell you if a guest likes craft beer or is a boring old Budweiser sort of guy (or is abstemious and won't take kindly to your happy hour e-blast).The possibilities are endless, but only if you have the data. The more you can track guest preferences, the better you can tailor the onsite experience in order to build advocacy and capture as much revenue as possible.In this sense, optimizing your CRM is a necessary step in modernizing your loyalty program because you can customize the perks to give faithful guests exactly what they want. Michael McCarthy, President & CEO of Springer-Miller, put it best, "Mercenaries will always sell to the highest bidder, but soldiers can only a part of one army." Right now, the average traveler is a member of multiple loyalty programs. They don't endorse any one brand in particular nor do they care to learn about what makes each product exceptional. Joining a loyalty program is purely transactional. But this trend can be effectively reserved if we incentivize guests based upon what they've already told us about them.Not only can a pervasive CRM help level the playing field between large hotels and independents, but it is also your best defense against Airbnb and the overly picky demands of millennials. Hospitality is a service industry, and what better way to serve your guests than by giving them exactly what they want? Alternate lodging providers are able to provide consumers with a unique room and atmosphere, but they will never be able to match us when it comes to service delivery.Take heed, though, while actualizing guest profile data is today a value-add, millennials are a smart bunch and as they become more accustomed to travel this will soon transition into an expectation. In other words, hop on the bandwagon, and do so before it leaves town for good.The Mobile Of ThingsAnother vital activity that all the major PMS companies have completed behind the scenes over the past few years is to migrate their system to the cloud. Not an easy feat in the slightest, this grand movement has helped to unify the many disparate and fragmented onsite tech installations to allow for real-time guest tracking and a more refined 'service as a service' model of automatic update deployments that are immediately available to all legacy clients.The next phase, however, revolves less around technological upgrades and requires more a mental shift. When we first clued in to the true power of the internet to record human behavior on an unprecedented scale, we called it Big Date because we expected the inferences to be earth-shatteringly big. Then when we discovered that most of these findings told us things we already knew about ourselves - that we are selfish, shortsighted and exceedingly lazy - we politely renamed it 'The Internet of Things' in some vain global PR stunt.As smartphones continue to usurp laptops and desktops as the primary user device, it is time once more to reframe this as 'The Mobile of Things' so that we can properly comprehend what's needed to become a mobile-first industry that's in touch with where the mindsets of consumers are headed. As the eternally quotable Mr. McCarthy elaborated, "Mobile will only really arrive when we stop talking about mobile." Tossing this through the Mogelonsky translator, shut up and make mobile a reality because your guests are already one step ahead!Despite all the hullaballoo, there's light at the end of the tunnel. Dr. Peter Agel, Global Segment Leader for Hotels at Oracle MICROS, introduced me to one of the first applications of this - the Hotel Mobile app which allows frontline staffers to update such back-of-house operations like housekeeping and maintenance information as well as check-in and checkout directly from their phones or tablets. It won't let a senior executive control all top-level functions like revenue management from his or her mobile device, but it's a huge step in the right direction. Even in its current iteration, Oracle's Hotel Mobile can be a game changer in terms of operational efficiency and enhancing guest satisfaction.With every other major PMS following suit with their own native apps, the onus will soon fall on the everyday hotelier to curb the perception of mobile as secondary by deploying these wireless upgrades and encouraging all associates to maximize their usage. Picture a hotel without a physical front desk or any hardwired POS stations. Imagine a property where an app on your phone checks you in an hour before you are onsite, sets the guestroom environment to your liking and coordinates with the F&B team to have a bottle of Dom Perignon chilled and popped for the moment you open the door.Mobile wallets, near field communication keycards, location analytics heat mapping - this is where hospitality is headed. It's only a matter of time and whether you are nimble enough to wield mobile-first to your advantage.Reward Tech FluencyReiterating the previous point about zipping your mouth and getting your hands dirty with what your software is capable of, no more the tool it all boils down to people. The tech world is so vastly complex nowadays that no single manager has the time to keep track of it all. Instead, it is the responsibility of everyone to constantly refresh their knowledge in this area.Mr. Ellis framed it rather eloquently. The millennials have grown up in a world of constant electronic change, so much so that they are thoroughly accustomed to it. The hotels that will survive are those that adopt a similar mindset, and it all starts with the people who are in charge.With technology taking over nearly every aspect of our industry, it is becoming abundantly clear that we hoteliers no longer have the software wherewithal necessary for effective decision-making. To fix this, we must start promoting those individuals who are fluent in IT to senior roles as well as develop incentive programs for current team members to modernize their skillsets. Understanding technology is a primary trait of all future executives, not only to make processes every efficient and cost effective but also to discover new growth opportunities.My closing notion for you is to kick off this process by reaching out to your PMS and asking what else they can do to help grow your business. Finally, be sure to attend HITEC 2017 taking place in Toronto next June, it's first time on Canadian soil.(Article published by Larry Mogelonsky in Today's Hotelier on November 1, 2016)
Article by Larry Mogelonsky

This Year Means Screen Domination

Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited 18 January 2017
Five hundred years from now when historians look back at the early modern era, they'll likely identify the advent of the screen-based technologies - that is, the still camera, the motion picture projector, the cathode ray tube and so on - as one of the most important discoveries right alongside the transistor, nuclear power and the theory of relativity.Understanding how humans lived prior to these inventions helps gives us some perspective. A friend of mine used to glibly remark, "A fire is nothing more than a caveman's TV," as we huddled together around a blazing pit late at night while up at the cottage. He couldn't be more right. Prior to the mass adoption of home television sets, the fireplace was the centerpiece of a room, and before that innovation (yes, even the chimney wasn't a household commodity until the Renaissance), most families used to sleep together in a central hall around an open flame.In little over a century since theater patrons dove from their seats while watching a steam engine plow directly into the screen as part of a scene from the Great Train Robbery, televisions and all other manner of screens have come to dominate the spaces we inhabit. Nowadays, I dare you to find me a living room without a large flat screen dominating the space. Moreover, it's become somewhat of a luxury to have an auxiliary 'sitting room' in your house as a social place that does NOT have a television. Compound that with millennials' irresistible urge to check their smartphones every five seconds and the message is clear. Screens dominate our lives and, except for some Buddhist monk in Tibet, we are all but dependent on them.So where do we go from here? And more to the point for the harried hotelier, how does this impact your property and your livelihood?I'm going to leave the content and marketing side of this answer for another article, and for now only comment on some of the physical and technological advancements that you can capitalize upon to revolutionize the onsite guest experience.My imagination was opened up to the vast possibilities for screen technology beyond mere outlets for your favorite movies and episodic programming while attending the HITEC 2016 tradeshow down in New Orleans as well as ogling all the latest unveiling at the more recent CES 2017 in Las Vegas. After having a chaperoned tour of the Samsung booth (and to a lesser extent, the LG booth, the other major hotel screen supplier), it was easy to get a better glimpse of what the future of screens looks like.While the screens themselves are getting bigger, brighter and sharper, one the most practically improvements is that they are becoming exceedingly interactive. Via 'casting' integration, your mobile devices are able to sync with a larger monitor so that your smartphone not only acts as the universal remote but also so your personal preferences can be uploaded.This comes in very handy for such minutia as not having to plug in your Netflix account credentials while in traveling. Importantly, though, it can lead to greater CRM applications such as remembering room services favorites or housekeeping preferences so that the guest experience can be fully customized, stored and further modified all through the guestroom's television set. Additionally, the newest thermostats are now capable of talking to smart TVs which means that you can set your chosen climate controls without ever touching the actual wall-mounted sensor and then adjust conditions remotely via your mobile. Throw in the fact that many flat screens now have touch features and it's easy to see how the television's role as the centerpiece of a living space will only grow in the coming years.To understand the next clear and present application of modern and future screen technology, you have to think outside of the living room and beyond what fits in the palm of your hand. That is, you must think spatially and not just in terms of newer electronics will slightly better or thinner screens and a billion rich colors instead of the previous model which only has a hundred million.After all, most of these incremental upgrades are hyped up the nth degree by corporate marketing teams while only providing logarithmically curved utility to the purchaser or your guests. Right now, 4K Ultra HD is all the rage, but once sales for those models plateau, undoubtedly the tech conglomerates will unveil 8K Ultimate HD. This pattern will eventually echo that of Marvel Comics which has already run the gamut of superlative adjectives as it has relaunched its main superhero lineup every two years using names like incredible, amazing, superior, uncanny and 'all new, all different'. Coming soon in 2025, 16K Astonishing HD with a trillion pixels!Instead, imagine every flat surface you encounter throughout the day and then picture those surfaces as thin TVs. Smart touchscreens will replace your bathroom mirrors so you can read this morning's headlines while flossing. Lightweight, small, durable LCD (or LED) panels will be built onto walls in every shape possible whereby all the individual panels act in concert to display one seamless graphic or an endless procession of images, effectively replacing static wall art. Those same panels will also be punched in as floor tiles to do everything from show advertisements, run a stock market ticker or give off the appearance of walking on neon water. Or to get a bit of breathing room between one and the next couple dining at a fancy seafood restaurant, instead of building a physical divider out of wood and drywall, just install a freestanding, two-sided screen with a preprogrammed fish tank screensaver.And then when there are no walls left, obelisks or cylindrical kiosks will be erected in the middle of rooms with each surface covered by a high resolution screen. All this sounds a bit space age, but based on my tour of the Samsung booth at HITEC as well as what's coming out of the Consumer Electronics Show, I can tell you that these are already possible.Knowing that this is all within your grasp, the real question now is what can you afford? That is, given the wire-thin margins on your budget, which futuristic screen installation would have the greatest impact towards boosting the onsite guest experience?As each hotel is different, I cannot say for certain what will work best at your property. But I do know that while so much attention is being given to the next big thing - integrating mobile to improve bookings and operations - perhaps you should also give some thought to the next-next big thing which will involve using screens in unconventional ways. Well, unconventional for the time being, but soon to be the norm, so best get on the bandwagon while the cart is still being built.
Article by Larry Mogelonsky

Hospitality Technology Predictions for 2017

Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited 6 January 2017
While there have been many heretofore predictions about the coming year, both for the hospitality industry and for technological advancements, none thus far have effectively bridged the gap between these spaces. When it comes to technology, hotels are often seen as laggards to adoption, but I don't see this as the case. Quite the opposite in fact, with our resources and the diverse range of operations, we're very well situated to be the benefactors of many incredible tools soon to be released.Hence, it would serve you well to keep pace with what's on the forefront so that you can make a better decision about what will work for your particular hotel. Highlighting general industry trends and a few companies that I consider to be game-changers, here are my top five hospitality technology predictions for 2017.Energy efficiency everywhere. Whether or not you are a proponent of climate change is besides the point that adopting cleaner, more efficient electronics and equipment can save your property upwards of millions of dollars on your annual energy and utilities bill. To highlight that third word in the first sentence, energy savings are no longer the solely the domain of fringe appliances or incompatible devices. Just about every operation can be more efficiently managed - to name three, laundry units that more effectively recycle water, new OLED TVs that cut down on power usage or smarter thermostats that better regulate room temperatures. There are also guest-facing savings programs like towel reuse, keycard-activated lighting and carbon offset donations, all of which help to some degree and, more importantly, help people become accustomed to this new normal.Further proliferation of smart televisions. It used to be that your TV was designed for the sole purpose of entertainment via the delivery of movies or cable channels. Now, however, they have more in common with computers as they can handle all the mandatory viewing experience channels from broadband to streaming services (and all without the need for an external box) in addition to integrating with other room devices such as the blinds, lighting or that shiny new smart thermostat. That's just the start, though, as now these smart TVs are moving beyond the guestroom with a myriad of uses in public spaces such as replacing signage, acting as in-elevator touchpads or even serving as lobby wall art. One of the most fascinating applications came from a demonstration by Samsung whereby they replaced a bathroom mirror with a device that let you comb your hair while you also checked the weather forecast and swiped through your Instagram feed.The housekeeping technology revolution is nigh! If there ever was a bona fide slowpoke on the technology adoption front, it would be the housekeeping department - more so than any other, an operation where great social capital is integral to success. Even with companies like Maidbot, Intellibot and Savioke, realistically we are still a couple decades ago from having robots clean our guestrooms instead of living persons. In the interim, though, there are quite a few innovators striving to make your housekeepers better at their jobs through the use of various technologies. There are now numerous software modules that seamlessly integrate with nearly any PMS to more effectively schedule shifts while other providers are focused on accountability and reducing shadowing time such as Lobster Ink with its online learning platform or Novility which combines a live, motion-capture training apparatus with a back-end monitoring system.Easily integrated future upgrades. Forced obsolescence will itself soon be obsolete, somewhat at least. Many consumers these days are hesitant to purchase unproven or next gen devices because they fear that they will have to through the entire buying cycle within three years' time because their current slate is already out-of-date. It's a headache that many providers are addressing by only introducing forward-thinking devices and firmware that are adaptable to future innovations so you don't have to constantly blow your capex budget on new electronics. To build upon the previous points, smart TVs now has excellent internal operating system upgrading abilities while most other software tools have migrated to cloud-based systems that only require a browser and no disruptive installations whatsoever.An unending democratization of devices. We've seen this throughout the modern era whereby a certain piece of technology starts off at prices too expensive for the average person only for new entrants and economies of scale to bring those prices down to fair market levels. Barring some exponential leap in virtual reality processing ability - that is, solving the display latency problem - there's nothing truly 'game changing' hitting the market in the next six to twelve months insofar as major innovations that will forever impact the ways we interact with the world. Instead, companies are largely focusing their efforts on maturing what's already out there by increasing accessibility to next gen iterative devices and expanding functionality. We're seeing this for smart TVs which have better prices for larger sizes with each passing season alongside more robust integration with other nearby electronics, more advanced internet-based services and interesting new uses beyond their traditional placements in the guestroom. While you might initially think it wise to keep waiting for prices to drop to the commoditized range, this is folly because by the time you are ready to upgrade, everyone else already has and your new tech won't have any emotional impact on guests. In other words, knowing that this democratization is endless, it's your duty as a leader to stay on the forefront by implementing change before the average household or office building has done so.As is the case with many incremental upgrades, it's no longer a matter of what you can do but of what you should do. That is, while it would be great to revamp every crack and crevice with the latest gizmos, you must first address where your core pain points are, and then research what technologies are available to ameliorate your problems. For a final suggestion, make plans to go to HITEC, the tradeshow focused solely on hospitality technology, which for the first time ever has a European show at the end of March followed by the annual June exhibition happening this year in my hometown of Toronto.(Article published by Larry Mogelonsky in Hotels Magazine on December 13, 2016).
Article by Larry Mogelonsky

Building Your Own Hospitality Technology Tool Belt

Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited 18 November 2016
Renovations on our 35-year-old home pose a never-ending battle of dust and noise. As the carpenters, electricians and plumbers scurried about during the most recent project, I noticed a remarkable corollary to our industry.Each tradesman's tool belt was uniquely customized to fit the job at hand. While the hammer was a centerpiece of the carpenter's girdle, it was nowhere to be found on the plumber's frame or the electrician's where the respective hallmarks were the pipe wrench and an assortment of pliers. Yes, we all know about specialization of labor and its impacts on hospitality - the revenue manager has a specific skill set completely different from that of the rooms divisions manager, for example, while both act in concert to keep the hotel's revenues afloat.But we seldom make the connection in terms of a specialization of technology where, like a carpenter's hammer, each device or piece of software has a predefined range of functionality. Even though you wouldn't hire a plumber to do an electrician's job because he or she lacks the proper tools and expertise, the overarching goal of any laborer is to make the house work. As the home owner or contractor, it's your job to wrangle all these disparate parts.Similarly, as a hotelier, you need to act as the project manager. Each piece of technology has a specific tool belt for very well-defined tasks that it can handle in order to optimize your business. While you don't necessary need to know the nitty gritty of how each part does exactly what it does, you must certainly know which piece is best suited for the job at hand. Just as you wouldn't want to hire a landscaper to fix your locks, you should aim to have a cursory understanding of the many technology resources available to your property so that you can make informed decisions as to how to allocate your budget accordingly.I bring this now because, as I'm writing this, I've just gone over my notes from my visit earlier this year to the largest hospitality technology tradeshow in the world - HITEC. Held annually in late June, this convention is a literal celebration of technology, providing hoteliers with a gourmet smorgasbord of the latest high-tech tools designed to up your game, including the global mega-conglomerates like Oracle and Samsung to the first-timer startups occupying quaint ten-by-ten booths on the periphery of the convention floor.For those with a hunger for gadgets and gizmos, there are enough grand ideas here to fill anyone's stomach. Everything is for sale, and there's quite a bit I'd recommend buying. Moreover, this show brings together some of the smartest minds in the industry, and collectively they can help you solve any problem at hand.Technology will save our industry, even if it's carried out one hotel at a time. Coming off my tradeshow euphoria, I'd like to offer you an overview of not only what I saw at HITEC but also a practical guide on how to assess each piece of technology and give you a basic understanding of many company's offerings in the process.It All Starts with Your PMSThink of your PMS (property management system) as the hub of your property's technology tool belt. While at HITEC, I spoke with senior officers at Agilysys, Oracle, Infor, Amadeus, Maestro and Springer-Miller, easily representing most of the North American hotel installed base. Brilliantly conceived and expertly managed, all of these systems not only provide a foundation for the management of your rooms' inventory, but offer tremendous interconnectivity with other property operational systems.The foremost duty of a PMS is to integrate and streamline all revenue streams, not necessarily to manage them. A modern PMS helps hotels automate complex data sources, forecast all revenue types by market segment and predict future interactions so that you can make the better decisions. And ultimately, these systems are now designed to help the senior executive team make the best possible choices for the rest of their businesses.The sad fact, though, is that most property operators have barely tapped the surface of what their own systems are capable of. For example, PMS data automation can now anticipate customers exploiting the cancel-rebook loophole in search of lower price tags. Additionally, payroll management subroutines can highlight fruitful streams that are in fact underperforming when staff costs are recognized.By most estimates, the average PMS has under 10% total utilization, and there is a vast swath of features that managers would benefit from learning more about. Many of the modules designed to optimize various aspects of your operations are either already incorporated within the system you currently own or are in the development pipeline. So, before you whimsically surmise that you need a new system, talk it over with your PMS rep in order to discover of else they can help you fully utilize the software. Moreover, shopping for a new PMS is not something you want to undertake lightly, as conversion can be an excruciating, labor-intensive affair. It's a nightmare, really, and there's also a chance of lost guest profile data.Linking to your PMS are a number of revenue, forecasting and channel management tools, all helping augment each department's profitability. This is a rapidly growing field with many entrants which makes it hard to pick a clear best of show. Functionality sets differ, so your choice will be based upon your property type and business style. Among the ones that should be on your review list are Rainmaker, Duetto, TravelClick360 and Siteminder.From the PMS to Your GuestWhereas the PMS is your inventory backbone, what matters to your guest is your website and that all-critical booking interface. Your customer doesn't see the PMS and will never interact with it directly. Instead of looking at tables and reams of data, they want simplicity, imagery and fluidity in how they are guided through the electronic experience.Technology in this regard has seen tremendous improvements, as the UX (user experience) has been at the forefront of all B2C software design. Given how tech savvy the average traveler is nowadays, if your website doesn't wow a potential guest will powerful visuals, fast page load speed, a pleasing layout and interactivity, he or she will go somewhere. Most importantly, you have to think mobile, as this mode has crossed the 50% threshold of bookings and an even higher proportion of travel-related searches.If your property is branded, with a web presence limited to a corporate site, spend a few minutes to review your pages from both an iPhone and Android as this replicates what your prospective guests will first encounter. Make any necessary alterations to the web text and photos - which will be in your control and not bogarted by your corporate overlords - to effectively communicate your value proposition as best you can. Think keywords; think telling a succinct story; think giving customers the most pertinent information as quickly as possible.For independents as well as properties where the brand authorizes vanity sites, there is a plethora of terrific tools available to enhance your presence. For starters, do a competitive analysis to see how your website stacks up with the competitive from a UX point of view. Does your website fit a modern design with seamless animation, striking photography and everything accessible from the homepage? In more ways than one, websites are like cars; an old clunker can still get you from Point A to Point B, but it won't be turning heads on the street nor will any of your friends feel safe going for a ride. As a rule of thumb, if your website is over five years old, it's definitely time for a change.If you can't afford a complete redo of your online presence, there are quite a few 'bolt on' solutions to help you deliver a satisfying online experience. One new software enhancement that should be on your radar is Crowdriff, a service that loads photography from social media social media directly onto your site. The net result is a cornucopia of authentic imagery of real people doing real things. This not only adds value to your site, but also provides a meaningful context to what the prospective guest will experience. In terms of online booking engines, most independent properties are free to choose their own interfaces, creating a burden to ensure you choose a functional, secure version while also affording you the opportunity to further differentiate your branding. Looking at the most cost effective, companies such as b4CheckIn provide the latest in good UX coupled with a host of further guest-related enhancements.Learning about how guests feel about your property is now a function of social media aggregate software platforms that integrate your entire digital presence from Facebook and Twitter to TripAdvisor and Yelp onto one dashboard for real-time management. These tools are now essential to have on your belt as they will give you invaluable insights as to what your guests emotionally value and if there are any easy opportunities for improvement. Keeping track of your channels any other way is no longer possible given the tight allocation of resources to this aspect of operations.Services such as Revinate not only capture every review, but continuously monitor and note changes. You can also compare your scores versus that of your key competitors and develop performance benchmarks. Thinking more in terms of proactive and less reactive, platforms such as Kaptivating work to actually identify potential guests - or 'in market' travelers as they are now called - through their social media tweets, allowing you to introduce your property early on in the research process.Back of HouseJust as you utilize programs to maximize revenue in terms of occupancy and revenue, there are numerous technology tools available to boost your team's productivity. Ensuring productivity means getting the most out of your employees in addition to heightening accountability and finding those eager staffers to be earmarked for promotion.Consider housekeeping - labor intensive yet critical for ensuring your guests' satisfaction. Just look at any hotel's TripAdvisor page to confirm this. Consider programs like Knowcross that allow you to optimize your housekeeping efforts, not only by improving productivity, but also by augmenting the overall quality of the team's work via granular management of supplies and time. Furthermore, housekeeping is your most injury-prone department. Keeping your custodians healthy can be optimized by new training programs like Novility which start by offering many of the proper accountability and tracking tools, and then directly enhance housekeeper performance through motion sensor guided training programs.Secondly, maintenance is vital. Caught in time, small repairs can be undertaken quickly and cost effectively to prevent out-of-order inventory or guest-identified issues. But how do you get the information to your engineering team so that they can react in real-time? Consider a product like HotSOS that helps your cleaning staff immediately record anything they see that is out of order and electronically transmit this information to the switchboard. With this mature and many others already in the 'mature' phase, there is no reason for you not to have a rapid response internal communications tool so that pesky problems never become obstacles to guest satisfaction.ConclusionFor every supplier or vendor, there are many competitors, so this list is in no way complete. I have not even mentioned the wide variety of bespoke guest mobile apps, contemporary food and beverage delivery programs or specialized tools for golf, spa and even parking.The best way to start is to define your needs or objectives, then establish parameters to evaluate return on investments. You will find that some tools are used more often will become essential for your belt, while others merely look good but offer limited or narrowcast benefits.Importantly, though, there has never been a better time to start shopping for additions to your hospitality tool belt. If you have a pain point, there is definitely a technology solution out there. And lastly, be sure to mark your calendar and attend next year's HITEC, set for late June 2017 in my hometown of Toronto.(Article published by Larry Mogelonsky in Today's Hotelier on October 3, 2016)
Article by Larry Mogelonsky

The Sound of Silence: In Search of Quiet Guestrooms

Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited 22 August 2016
I'm fascinated by the sounds of a hotel or, should I say, the distinct lack of sound.But before I delve into this topic, here is a quick basic primer. Sound travels in waves and you can't see them. The amplitude of a sound wave is a measurement of how forceful the sound wave is. This measurement is expressed in decibels, or dB of sound pressure. A decibel meter allows you to measure just what level of sound exists in any environment.We all hear (pun intended) about extremely loud noises and the dangers of prolonged exposure to such cacophony. In fact, there are maximums to the acceptable environmental standards for worker exposure to sound. It is important for hoteliers to understand this for back-of-house locations such as the laundry, kitchen, machine shops and boiler/furnace rooms.The following chart gives you a standard scale of sound levels. The amount of sound energy doubles every three dB, so moving up the scale by ten dB is roughly a tripling of total sound energy.Whereas we all share safety concerns at the higher levels of the sound scale, my interest, is at the lower end of the spectrum, namely the 'sound of silence'. Your guests whose home is a midtown Manhattan brownstone may tolerate a higher level of background noise in their guestroom than a guest from Alaska. The simple fact is that everyone appreciates a quiet bedroom.Moreover, it's not just the 'base' level of sound that your guests experience. Our minds have an awake-alert system programmed to detect changes in sound levels. Outside street noise is always an issue, but the biggest culprit is self-induced by the property. A reasonably quiet room punctuated by a single 'cycle on-off' of a mini-bar fridge compressor can be highly disturbing to a night's sleep. Traditional window-side HVAC units found in some mid-range properties are also disgusting noise hogs. Newer units are markedly improved, but I've still had to shut them off completely and suffer the hot or freezing consequences for the sake of getting my REMs.A free mobile app, dB Meter Pro, allows any member of your team to quickly grasp the sound levels on property. For the past year, I've been measuring the sound level of guestrooms, specifically the sound of the bed pillow at night. Remember that sound levels vary by distance. So the location of the pillow relative to any noise source is a major consideration.There are a wide number of noisy interlopers that will disturb your guest's blissful night's stay. Wall mount AC units, traffic noise, bar fridges and mini-bar compressors, street noise (police sirens are unavoidable), trash compactors, night-time garbage collection, connector doors between rooms, plumbing, gas-powered gardening equipment, corridor elevators and even distant train whistles all contribute to this 'symphony of sounds' that a guest may experience while at your property.The previous chart defined a quiet bedroom at 30 dB. This is all fine and good for a theoretical chart, but my data on hotel guestrooms reveals a much wider range. To me, quiet equates with luxury, and the quieter the better. My own results measured across a sample of 50 properties suggest a direct correlation between hotel quality and ambient sound level.Setting the record for the quietest guestroom I've experienced is ARIA Sky Suites with a 32 dB 'pillow' measurement. Logically, suites tend to be quieter as the bedroom is located further away from the corridor. On the opposite end of spectrum, my meter recorded a supposedly 'quiet night time' at an older Holiday Inn property at 57 dB. Needless to say, I did not get a very good night's sleep at this accommodation. And just in case you think that an airport hotel means noisy accommodations, the Novotel Airport Hotel in Auckland registered a low 36 dB during my stopover there.As an interesting sidebar, there is no AHLA standard for guestroom sound levels. It's purely at the whim of management to consider this factor in the design.Some of your guests are deeper sleepers than others and will quite literally sleep through a jet landing nearby. Still others are plagued by a snoring partner (as my wife will testify when I have a bit of a cold), rendering any sleep all but impossible.So, what can you do, apart from poking the snoring offender? First, download the free mobile app and take some recordings. Appreciate and recognize your guest's need for quiet. If you are concerned, hire a sound engineer to explore ways to reduce the sound level in your guestrooms. This is critical if you are in the process of renovating. And remember, when it comes to sound, less is more.

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