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Article by Alan Young

What Hotels of Tomorrow Can Learn from the Airbnb's of Today

Puzzle Partner Ltd. 24 April 2018
This competitive landscape stretches between hotels brands as well as between hotels and non-traditional accommodation models, such as Airbnb. With both service models existing within the same industry and catering to similar guest demographics, there is a wealth of experiential knowledge to be shared/gained as they strive to evolve and improve their respective offering(s). Our industry first welcomed the inclusion of Airbnb in San Francisco, California in August of 2008. The online marketplace and hospitality service for people to lease or rent short-term lodging including holiday cottages, apartments, homestays, hostel beds (and more) has surged in popularity over the last few years. Capitalizing on the modern travelers' desire for a more unique experience, affordability and sense of adventure, Airbnb soon grew into a $30 billion business. As of this year, the company has recorded 300 million check-ins by guests across 4.5 million rental listings. By comparison, the world's biggest hotel company, Marriott International, has 1.15 million rooms.We also must pay tribute to the growing appreciation for start-ups and entrepreneurial ventures, a dynamic which is supported by the open market in which Airbnb thrives. This style of marketplace allows for lower accommodation prices (as compared to some local rates at hotels) which are generally dictated by the natural ebb and flow of supply vs. demand. Since Airbnb is not directly responsible for any physical real estate, this is entirely possible and gives the hosts' complete control of their offering price and guests a plethora of choice. There's also something to be said about the unique ecosystem that Airbnb provides, as guests experience direct communication with the homeowner before, during and after their stay. This relationship allows for a more personalized experience -- within a metropolitan city it might give the guest a sense of home, and in a more exotic location, it might give the guest a taste of local culture. These factors all play a role in capturing the interest of a wide range of travelers, from millennials to families, bleisure guests and more -- a realization that may have acted as a rude awakening for some hotels. After all, it would be difficult for most hotel chains to rival the affordability, unique style and personalized ecosystem offered by Airbnb accommodations. And yet, as the company celebrates a decade of operation, we're realizing that they likely have just as much to learn from the hospitality industry, as we have to learn from them.While a primary argument for the widespread popularity of Airbnb is likely, it's unique accommodation experience, this element of the business model can prove to be a detriment as well. Where guests are seeking a more boutique, relationship-based and adventurous experience, they still crave a predictable service offering. In other words, they want to know exactly what they're getting when they book their stay. While the company screens their host applicants and offers user-generated reviews, guests might find themselves wary of newer properties that may not have adequate pictures or reviews for the vetting process. Where hotels deliver a standardized service structure applied to every room/location, Airbnb accommodation quality relies entirely on the host. Within this (more unregulated) model, some hosts may go above and beyond, while some might cut corners while using the platform as supplemental income. Guest complaints could include host to guest communication breakdowns, non-adjustable thermostats, undesirable bathroom amenities, location-related safety concerns and more. There is also the issue of hosts with higher cancellation trends, or who discriminate against specific guests (for seemingly unjust reasons).This is where the trouble lies, leaving Airbnb to take notes from the hospitality industry as they roll out a new program, Airbnb Plus. The new program entices hosts to apply for better promotion and higher rates but also demands they meet a 100-point checklist of hospitality quality (as verified with an in-person inspection by an Airbnb contractor). Airbnb Plus launched with 2,000 listings in 13 cities (Toronto included) but aims to hit 75,000 listings by year's end.After all, there's something to be said about knowing exactly what to expect when it comes to your travel accommodations. Hotels have traditionally excelled in this regard, but are striving to catch up in the realm of guest personalization and property differentiation. Expanding the traditional hotel framework to include different lodging formats (including communal spaces for the more seasoned, authentic traveler), unique amenities, more genuine hotel to guest communication, self-service technology, and mobile optimization will prove to be imperative in the success of the modern hotel.As we work to envision what the hotels of the future will look like, we would be daft not to learn from the Airbnb model. By understanding the ways in which Airbnb excels (and suffers), hoteliers can better conceptualize the ideal balance between the boutique travel experience, and one which is still entirely controlled and guaranteed.

HEDNA Releases Two Highly Anticipated New White Papers for Hoteliers

Puzzle Partner Ltd. 10 April 2018
HEDNA, the Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association, is pleased to announce the launch of two new white papers developed to help hotels leverage the plethora of content, diverse platforms, distribution channels and data to gain critical insights, optimize their distribution performance and operations. The insightful reports are a prelude to some of the topics that will be explored at the upcoming HEDNA Global Distribution Conference in Lisbon, Portugal.Hotel Descriptive Content White PaperPresented by the HEDNA Content Working Group, the white paper titled, "Hotel Descriptive Content: Considerations for Sourcing and Exchanging Content," describes the current state of content today, including the various content API standards available. The report identifies different content usage scenarios, the key attributes typically applicable to each, and examples of companies that have implemented those scenarios. It also explores the critical questions to ask when evaluating your content needs and the solutions that are available - with a listing of content providers who are offering access to an extensive collection of chains and properties.Highlights from the white paper:Addressing the "content conundrum"Available interface standardsDelivery methods - push and pullExample usage scenariosAddressing the challengesSelecting a content solutionContent providers matrixTo download a complimentary copy of the Content Working Group white paper, visit https://c.ymcdn.com/sites/hedna.site-ym.com/resource/resmgr/Publications/Content_Whitepaper-Mar2018.pdfHotel Distribution, Data Management, and Analysis White PaperThe HEDNA Hotel Analytics Working Group analyzed the results of one of the most abundant survey samples collected and published the outcomes in the white paper titled, "Hotel Distribution, Data Management and: A 2018 assessment on global and regional practices." The 20-part survey was released in October 2017 and over an 8-week period, generated 1,053 global responses, representing over 40,000 hotels and Management Companies. The Survey responders come from all major continents and represent hotels, management companies, and independents. The survey set out to quantify current practice in data collection, storage, and usages, as well as test respondents' overall data satisfaction. Next steps are for the Analytics Working Group to share best practice recommendations for the hotel industry.Highlights from the white paper:Objectives and methodologyA detailed breakdown of survey responsesMain takeaways from each specific segment (Chain, Independent, Management Company)Addressing the challenges in data quality, timeliness, collection, and storageDeveloping formal industry data management best practicesState of the industry and next stepsTo download a complimentary copy of the Hotel Analytics Working Group white paper, visit https://c.ymcdn.com/sites/hedna.site-ym.com/resource/resmgr/Publications/Analytics_Whitepaper-Mar2018.pdf"With the significant amounts of hotel data and content generated every day, it is more important than ever for organizations to acquire the tools and technologies necessary to gain business advantage and shape the standards for our industry," said Sarah Fults, President of HEDNA. "Associations like HEDNA, offer the ideal forum and opportunity to facilitate active dialogue and collaboration between the suppliers and users of hotel technology. The goal of our working groups and these white papers is to set the stage for future discussions leading up to, and including, the upcoming Lisbon conference in June."Registration is open for the HEDNA Global Distribution Conference in Lisbon, Portugal from June 4 to 6, 2018The theme of the Lisbon event, 'A Conversation with Tomorrow's Guest,' encapsulates the engaging content that will be featured during the three-day conference which takes place at the Sheraton Lisboa Hotel. Hospitality professionals should participate in if they want to stay informed, understand and compete in the dynamic hospitality landscape. To learn more visit https://hednalisbon.com. About Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association (HEDNA) HEDNA (Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association) is a not-for-profit trade association whose worldwide membership includes executives and managers from the most influential companies in the hospitality industry. Founded in 1991, HEDNA's mission is to be the leading global forum for advancing hospitality distribution through collaboration and knowledge sharing. Its vision calls for HEDNA to be known for creating an environment that fosters strategic collaboration toward business development in the global hospitality industry. For more, visit www.HEDNA.org.HEDNA CONTACT:Ann CramptonHEDNA Associate Director529 14th Street, NW, Suite 750Washington, DC 20045T +1 202 204 8400acrampton@hedna.org
Article by Alan Young

Paving the Way to the Future

Puzzle Partner Ltd. 21 March 2018
Today's world is constantly changing, and the travel and hotel industry is facing many technological challenges and intense competition. When competition is at such a fever pace, innovation is everything. Across various platforms and specialties, we are seeing the enthusiastic embrace of ambitious thought leaders, entrepreneurs and start-ups who are fearlessly carving out their vision of the future. In the past, there were yearly events that enabled travel and hotel technology providers to showcase their current solutions to prospective buyers. Now, due to the rapid change of technology and its impact on the industry, annual conferences and events have included innovation award segments within their regular program that are dedicated to the change-makers that are transforming the technology used by hoteliers. Within these competitions and events, industry professionals are granted the opportunity to display their latest innovations to panels of experts, earning exposure and praise across the hospitality landscape. This past year has been an eventful one for our industry, with no shortage of educational events, thought leadership panels and conferences to showcase the technology which will enhance hoteliers' internal processes and deliver a better guest experience. We've rounded up some of the highlights to give you an idea of what is to come and which travel and hotel start-ups to keep an eye on. Phocuswright 2017 InnovatorsFor nearly 25 years, the Phocuswright Conference has invited qualified attendees to 3 different competition stages (Launch, Summit and Battleground) to showcase some of the most exciting new technology our industry has to offer. The winner of the Travel Innovation - Startup Category takes home a check for $100,000 USD.conichiAward: Runner-Up for Travel Innovation - Startup CategoryWebsite: https://www.conichi.com/By digitalizing tedious hotel procedures like check-in/check-out, digital door opening and invoicing, conichi is taking an impersonal standard, utilizing it in a smart way to create a new standard in hospitality. Travelers can use an express check-in and can check out via mobile without queueing at departure. Payments are safely made through the app to ultimately save the hotelier and guest valuable time.HITEC TorontoHITEC is the world's largest hospitality technology show, bringing the brightest minds and new tech to one place. During the 2017 show in Toronto, 13 pitchers were chosen depending on the field of applicants. From this selected group, one person from each startup pitched for four minutes to a packed session room and a panel of judges.Each startup competed for the grand prize, or E20X Judge's Award winner, which took home $5,000 USD and guaranteed spots on HITEC show floors for the following 12 months.Stay WanderfulAward: E20X Judge's AwardWebsite: https://staywanderful.com/Stay Wanderful brings you instant rewards you actually want. No more waiting to accumulate points - just book on one of their hotel partner's websites and get real rewards you can use right away such as: exclusive retail discounts, free flight credits, free dining credits and free transportation credits. ArrivedoAward: People's Start-Up AwardWebsite: https://arrivedo.com/Arrivedo offers hotels globally an online platform to organize their knowledge via Neighborhood Guides. A Neighborhood Guide is a group of articles consisting of recommendations, maps, routes, essential tips and more relevant information that hosts can share with travelers. Each Neighborhood Guide created online is in collaboration with one of their certified Arrivedo travel writers. This content helps guests to learn about local activities and what to do in the neighborhood around the hotel during the booking process.HEDNA Innov8HEDNA's Innov8 session focuses on eight new products, services and businesses in the marketplace that are positively shaping the hospitality industry and the way we conduct business. This is an interactive forum, created to share the innovations made by leading professionals in eight minute, engaging presentations. At this year's HEDNA Austin Distribution Conference, Hopper took home the top Innov8 prize.HopperAward: Innov8 WinnerWebsite: http://www.hopper.com/The Hopper app for Android and iOS provides insightful, data-driven research to help travelers make better decisions about where to go and when to fly and buy. The app has now expanded its price prediction service to hotels, saving users $34 to $90 per night, on average, when booking a hotel room through its service.HT-NEXT AwardsHT-NEXT has quickly become the must-attend educational and networking experience for hospitality technology professionals and solution providers. The program combines two leading industry events each year -- Hospitality Technology's Hotel Technology Forum and HTNG's North American Conference.BeekeeperAward: The 2018 TechOvation Award presented by HTNG (Hospitality Technology Next Generation)Website: https://www.beekeeper.io/enBeekeeper has created a workplace app that digitizes hospitality workers who don't sit behind a traditional desk and don't have access to work email. By connecting operational systems and communication channels within one secure, intuitive platform, Beekeeper is helping hoteliers exchange information, share property updates, and communicate best practices within or across departments in 30 languages.With so many impressive contributions competing for these coveted awards, there is no doubt that the hospitality industry has some incredible, innovative technology in-store for 2018 and beyond. Don't forget to keep an eye on all off the innovators that pitch during these amazing events as one never knows where the next great idea will be born.
Article by Alan Young

How Amazon Go No Checkout Stores Will Influence the Future of the Hospitality & Travel Industry

Puzzle Partner Ltd. 13 February 2018
Our world is endlessly transformative, with a wealth of technological innovations and advances coming to life and capturing large-scale societal attention on what feels like a weekly basis. Self-driving cars, cryptocurrency, artificial intelligence -- the future seems to be arriving faster than some of us have a chance to take a breath. At the heart of most revolutionary technology exists the progressive desire for increased convenience and efficiency as it applies to our day-to-day lives, businesses and more. Staying true to this trend, Amazon Go recently opened a grocery store like we've never experienced (but probably always dreamed of) in Seattle. No carts, no lines, no cash and no waiting -- a completely cashless grocery experience in which shoppers enter through turnstile gates, grab the items they need and exit the way they came, just like that. While shopping, the store takes inventory of what you pick from the shelves and automatically charges your Amazon account. Could this be the future of shopping? It sure seems like it. According to most experts, there is little doubt that many, if not all of the concepts from the Amazon Go store will be adopted by A-level customer-centric industries over the next five years." If we think about it, the pursuit of automation and mobile optimization has long since begun its takeover. Self-checkout, server-less restaurants, Apple Easy Pay, Uber, mobile orders at places like Starbucks, mobile keys for your hotel room and the rise of voice-powered personal assistants, the need for technology-driven efficiency is paramount. So, the question becomes, how will a revolutionary (and potentially disruptive) advancements like the Amazon Go no checkout store, influence the future of other industries? Specifically, how will the hospitality and travel industry be affected or better yet -- how can it keep up? An Emphasis on Frictionless Experience Sometimes, cutting-edge tech solutions are rejected by consumers, and this occurs when the technology places increased cognitive stress on the consumer based on a complicated user interface. Increased efficiency can't be achieved without simplicity -- if the technology in question doesn't readily make the user's life easier, it simply can't be viewed as efficient. The key to wide-spread adoption lies in frictionless user simplicity and in the case of the hospitality industry, this requires solutions that are easy for both guests and staff to interact with and master.Using the Amazon Go store as an example, we can call attention to the simplistic nature of the "just walk out" process. There is no complicated user responsibility involved in the model; it presents a clear process that can easily be understood and adopted by the general public. For hoteliers, this emphasis on the frictionless experience will be expected at every touch-point, for every guest. No front desk lines, mobile keys, mobile payments for ordering items and special requests and immediate response to service requests. This type of interactions will quickly become the expected standard for hotels embracing the future of hospitality and advanced customer-driven solutions and sales. The Era of Self-Service Has Arrived The future is mobile. Hoteliers are feeling pressure, now more than ever before, to embrace their guest's desire for mobile optimization and self-service functionality. This applies to mobile booking, room keys, check-in, concierge, stores, notifications, payments and more. Guests want to hold all the power, right in the palm of their hand. We should also consider the consumer psychology at work within uninterrupted self-service and how it can empower individuals to spend more. Traditionally, the further we are removed from the "pain of paying" that's often associated with cash transactions, the less we understand how much we're really spending. Additionally, if stuck in a line at check-out, consumers are granted the opportunity to mull over their more impulsive purchase items and potentially change their mind. When you remove these two psychological processes with the help of automated payments and self-service technology, you are tapping into increased revenue potential. This same logic applies to the hospitality industry, as hoteliers can use the frictionless, self-service model to empower their guests to spend more while on property and, most importantly, continue re-booking. Automation Should Enhance Guest Service, Not Replace ItDespite the increased demand for efficiency and self-service, many guests still seek a high-touch, hands-on and personalized approach throughout their hotel stay. The increase in automation within a hotel's core processes should create a subsequent shift in staff roles, allowing them to focus more on helping and guest engagement, rather than transactions. The carefully curated provision of exceptional (and personalized) face-to-face guest service will, without a doubt, become a key competitive advantage and differentiator for hotels. As a hotelier, ask yourself, how can increased automation revolutionize the way your staff engages with your guest?

HEDNA Tackles Costly Payment Challenges at January 2018 Global Distribution Conference in Austin

Puzzle Partner Ltd. 8 January 2018
The upcoming HEDNA (Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association) Global Distribution Conference has become the go-to place for hotel industry payment insights, education and best practices. The nearly sold-out event will deliver the most comprehensive information, resources, and dialogue to help hoteliers gain control of the complexities associated with regulations, virtual payments, data security, GDPR and guest demands when it comes to payment strategies.The conference, which has attracted top delegates from hotel chains, multi-properties, independents, management companies, technology suppliers, payment companies and many others, takes place from January 29th - 31st, 2018 at the Sheraton Austin. This year, the payment tracks take center stage to address important topics including how to implement a 'guest centric' payment strategy, how to right size a hotel's third-party costs from a payment perspective, virtual payment trends, compliance, B2B payments, as well as solutions for upcoming issues such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The elite group of speakers and presenters is comprised of payment experts and influencers from Braintree - A PayPal Company, Ingenico, Edgar, Dunn & Company, Worldpay, Elavon, Hilton, JP Morgan, WEX, Onyx CenterSource, and Voxel Group. For a full list of topics and presenters, visit austinhedna.com/agenda.The Hotel Analytics Working Group will also share the wealth of data received from the 1,000+ HEDNA members and non-member participants in a recent survey. The analysis and White Paper provide recommendations and guidelines to educate hotels globally on how best to use their data to optimize both profit potential and long-term asset value.Other highlights of the event include the highly anticipated Innov8 session and a "Hackathon" produced in partnership with TNOOZ focusing on artificial intelligence and emerging technologies in hospitality.For more information and to register or sponsor, please visit AustinHEDNA.com.About Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association (HEDNA)HEDNA (Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association) is a not-for-profit trade association whose worldwide membership includes executives and managers from the most influential companies in the hospitality industry. Founded in 1991, HEDNA's mission is to be the leading global forum for advancing hospitality distribution through collaboration and knowledge sharing. Its vision calls for HEDNA to be known for creating an environment that fosters strategic collaboration toward business development in the global hospitality industry. For more, visit www.HEDNA.org.

2018 HEDNA Conference in Austin Attracts Global Industry Leaders and Attendees

Puzzle Partner Ltd. 19 December 2017
HEDNA (the Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association) is gearing up to host the Global Distribution Conference from January 29 through the 31, 2018. Leaders and experts from across the globe will meet in Austin, Texas for three days of technology and industry-focused keynotes, networking, breakout sessions and discussions.Innovation in Technology is the theme of this year's conference and the action packaged agenda is set to deliver the most comprehensive information, insights, and dialogue on emerging trends that impact the hotel industry. Across the educational tracks at the event, each session will present a snapshot of the most transformative ideas shaping the future of hotel distribution from tech industry leaders, hoteliers, entrepreneurs, executives, influencers and more. HEDNA, in cooperation with Tnooz, is also organizing and producing a "Hackathon" focusing on AI and emerging technologies in Hospitality.On its way to selling out, the conference has attracted top delegates from hotel chains, multi-properties, independents, management companies, technology innovators and many others. Attendees and sponsors include:HiltonWyndham HotelsHomeAwayExpediaInterContinental Hotel GroupDisneyMGMDuettoWorldPayOnyx CenterSourceMarriottCitizenM HotelsOmni HotelsSnapShotIDeaSTriometricsDHISCOPegasus SolutionsDataArt TravelhospitalityPulseCloudbedsDerbySoftKognitivSabre Hospitality SolutionsWEXLeonardoReviewPro"This is an incredibly dynamic time in our industry," said Sarah Fults, president of HEDNA. "It's vital that we engage in meaningful discussions and collaboration. This conference provides an amazing opportunity to do that. We are so proud to be attracting such great hotel and technology companies who are all focused on advancing the hotel distribution landscape."Another highlight of the event is the Innov8 session. During this interactive forum, eight leading professionals from our industry will share their innovations in eight-minute engaging presentations. Best of all, this year an award will be presented on the last evening of the conference to the best Innov8or.For more information and to register or sponsor, please visit AustinHEDNA.com.About Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association (HEDNA)HEDNA (Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association) is a not-for-profit trade association whoseworldwide membership includes executives and managers from the most influential companies in thehospitality industry. Founded in 1991, HEDNA's mission is to be the leading global forum for advancinghospitality distribution through collaboration and knowledge sharing. Its vision calls for HEDNA to beknown for creating an environment that fosters strategic collaboration toward business development inthe global hospitality industry. For more, visit www.HEDNA.org.HEDNA CONTACT:Ann CramptonHEDNA Associate Director529 14th Street, NW, Suite 750Washington, DC 20045T +1 202 204 8400acrampton@hedna.org

HEDNA Data Analytics Survey Generates Significant Industry Response, Results to be Presented at Austin Conference in January

Puzzle Partner Ltd. 30 November 2017
After launching its Hotel Analytics Working Group Survey only six weeks ago, HEDNA (the Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association) today announced a record-breaking first completion rate of over 1100 participants, who represent 45,000 hotels based on the submissions from international chains, hotel groups and independent hotels. The results of the comprehensive study will be presented at HEDNA's upcoming conference with plans to keep the survey open until Summer 2018.For more information and to register for HEDNA's Global Distribution Conference taking place January 29-31st in Austin, Texas, please visit AustinHEDNA.com.HEDNA's Hotel Analytics Working Group, co-chaired by David Turnbull (Co-Founder, SnapShot) and Matthew Goulden (CEO, Triometric) designed the survey to host a broad range of questions related to how hotels manage their data, including critical topics like the impact of integrations, cost of distribution and data reliability. The impressive sample size will enable solid analysis of identified trends, positive factors as well as efficiency shortfalls and opportunities to optimize channel mix and other operational areas. The success of the quality and quantity of respondents to the survey further underpins HEDNA's leadership position, at a time when data across all industries is increasingly vital to competitive survival.Sarah Fults, president of HEDNA, commented "With global coverage across many different categories, this survey represents one of the largest respondent samples in the industry. With the support of our members and Allied members, we were able to reach and gain valuable insights from hotels chains, multi-properties, independents, management companies and many others. We are keeping this survey open to gather as much input from hoteliers as we possibly can. Our goal is to bring together hoteliers and trusted partners to identify the facts that define the distribution landscape today and HEDNA is proud to be focusing one of our working groups on this important effort."HEDNA's leadership will leverage the insights to develop unique global and regional perspectives on how data is collected, stored and used from a distribution perspective. The first wave of these results is now being converted into actionable best practice guidelines to educate hotels globally on how best to use their data to optimize both the hotel's profit potential and long-term asset value."It is now more imperative than ever to fully embrace the data that impacts the hotel industry on a daily basis," stated Rajesh Vohra, Managing Director of Sarova Hotels. "The challenges that hoteliers face in managing not only their distribution strategy but fully understanding the costs associated with distribution and 3rd party interactions needs to be met head-on. Having an association like HEDNA targeting this challenge and helping the industry implement best practices is welcomed."Anyone wishing to participate in the survey should visit via https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HEDNA-analytics-survey. To learn more about the HEDNA Analytics Working Group, visit hedna.org/hotelanalytics_wgc.About Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association (HEDNA)HEDNA (Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association) is a not-for-profit trade association whoseworldwide membership includes executives and managers from the most influential companies in thehospitality industry. Founded in 1991, HEDNA's mission is to be the leading global forum for advancinghospitality distribution through collaboration and knowledge sharing. Its vision calls for HEDNA to beknown for creating an environment that fosters strategic collaboration toward business development inthe global hospitality industry. For more, visit www.HEDNA.org.HEDNA CONTACT:Ann CramptonHEDNA Associate Director529 14th Street, NW, Suite 750Washington, DC 20045T +1 202 204 8400acrampton@hedna.org

Puzzle Partner and HEDNA Join Forces to Deliver Quality Content for the Hotel Industry

Puzzle Partner Ltd. 9 November 2017
Leading travel and hospitality technology marketing agency Puzzle Partner, today announced their latest alliance with HEDNA, a global forum dedicated to the advancement of hospitality distribution anchored by a fundamental belief in strategic collaboration and knowledge sharing. HEDNA is making bold moves to lead the category and is looking to Puzzle Partner to support their initiatives and help take the association's industry impact to the next level.Puzzle Partner will be distilling and condensing working group content to ensure that HEDNA members are receiving valuable updates tailored to their needs and business, which will, in turn, also assist in driving membership for the association on a larger scale. The agency will utilize their team of writers, each with significant proficiency and insights relating to the hotel industry, to support the content and delivery of HEDNA specific publications. With the onset of this new engagement, Puzzle Partner continues to expand its reputation as the preferred marketing agency and content provider for the travel, tourism and hotel industry."The HEDNA community creates critical, relevant content that benefits everyone in hospitality and Puzzle Partner is the right choice for us as we broaden our scope," said Sarah Fults, President of HEDNA. "It is now even more imperative that hoteliers worldwide be fully aware and educated on the dynamics of hotel distribution so that they can make the best strategic decisions regarding where and how they sell their rooms inventory."HEDNA encourages an open exchange of information, continued professional development amongst members and the global conferences focused on the latest trends and dialogue in hotel distribution. This variety of expertise lends itself to the continuous advancement of member education, a core concept which HEDNA is focused on. The non-profit organization will be hosting its next Global Distribution Conference in Austin, Texas from January 29th-31st. The event is a renowned international networking opportunity dedicated to sharing the latest information, insights, and dialogue on emerging trends that impact the hotel industry. Sessions run during the conference will provide participants with the very best in transformative ideas and information as they relate to hotel distribution, shared by industry leaders, entrepreneurs, executives, influencers and more.Alan Young, president of Puzzle Partner, adds, "The delivery of top-tier content to specific hotel-centric outlets and social networks will deliver greater brand and working group visibility, an on-going benefit to both the association and its members. We are honored to be working with the talented team at HEDNA to inspire hoteliers and very much looking forward to a very successful long-term relationship."For more information about Puzzle Partner, visit puzzlepartner.co.About Puzzle PartnerPuzzle Partner Ltd. is a boutique marketing agency focused exclusively on complex B2B initiatives for the travel and hospitality technology industry. We are experts at combining strategy and tactical execution in a way that doesn't just maximize a company's potential; it redefines it. By delivering influential content, marketing services, and public relations rooted in the skills of our team and tested through real-world experience, we help our clients gain visibility, raise their profile and ultimately increase their sales revenues. To learn more visit puzzlepartner.co.About HEDNAHEDNA (Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association) is a not-for-profit trade association whose worldwide membership includes executives and managers from the most influential companies in the hospitality industry. Founded in 1991, HEDNA's mission is to be the leading global forum for advancing hospitality distribution through collaboration and knowledge sharing. Its vision calls for HEDNA to be known for creating an environment that fosters strategic collaboration toward business development in the global hospitality industry. For more, visit HEDNA.org.
Article by Alan Young

The Impact - And Importance - Of Virtual Reality in the Hotel Industry

Puzzle Partner Ltd. 12 May 2017
AR essentially takes virtual reality (VR) to the next level. Instead of immersing users in a different world, AR superimposes digital content over the real world. AR captured the world's attention with the success of Pokemon Go in the summer of 2016. Pokemon Go is a game where players hunt and capture Pokemon, tiny virtual creatures, that are hiding in real-world locations and visible only in a smartphone camera view.According to a recent Phocuswright analysis, "Tech's Fourth Wave Meets Travel," travel companies and hotels can learn a lot about future opportunities associated with AR from the Pokemon Go phenomenon, including the ability to engage guests, generate demand, and how the virtual world inspires real-world action that can translate into real revenue. And with investors pouring $2.3 billion into VR/AR startups, this immersive tech is set for rapid growth.Hotels from big brands to budget boutiques are slowly entering the AR arena. While big brands may use expensive connected glasses or mounted headsets such as Microsoft's HoloLens, many hotels rely on proprietary apps and AR-enabled smartphone browsers to do the heavy lifting. Users can aim their phone camera at a point of interest to receive images along with added information. Implementing an AR strategy using smartphones is an effective plan for hoteliers considering that 43 percent of tech-loving Millennials are on their phones every five minutes, 83 percent sleep with them, and now at 83.1 million strong, Millennials are poised to become the biggest customer segment for hotels worldwide.Hotels must step up their "technological game" if they hope to differentiate themselves and engage with this lucrative market. Let's look at some key ways AR technology will impact the hotel industry.Booking Rooms. AR technology will allow potential guests to explore rooms before they book. Travelers will be right there inside the room to see exactly what different sizes and floor plans are available. Potential guests may be persuaded to upgrade to a suite by seeing the additional amenities, incredible views and how spacious it is.Exploring the property. Instead of relying on website images and ordinary paper brochures, potential visitors will learn what a hotel stay "feels" like. Through interactive experiences, travelers can virtually visit a hotel's restaurant, spa or fitness center. An eco-friendly hotel might take users on a virtual tour of its rooftop herb garden or show off green building materials, helping to build customer loyalty. The Mansion at Casa Madrona uses an augmented, printed brochure that can be scanned to immerse the user in the luxurious property.Restaurant experiences. Hoteliers can embed AR content on their restaurant menu, enabling non-native guests to read it in their own language. Taking this a step further, imagine a guest sitting in a hotel restaurant and being able to get suggested drink pairings, read customer reviews and watch how the chef prepares the dish they're considering ordering. At the Inamo restaurant in London, AR images are projected onto the tables letting guests choose their own table theme.Local attractions. Guests often choose their hotel based on its proximity to area attractions. AR tech will not only allow users to view a hotel location but can also recreate significant historical events or cultural experiences of nearby destinations. Hoteliers could add an AR feature to their existing proprietary apps similar to "Paris, Then and Now" which shows users what different sites in Paris looked like in the past, based on where they're standing. Or guests can virtually try a local activity, such as a hang-gliding adventure, before choosing to go. In addition, opportunities for the hotel to advertise other services grows the longer a guest spends interacting with their app.Marketing. Hotels can leverage AR tech on their website or billboards placed in airports and high-traffic areas. Scanning through a smartphone camera will trigger images and information about the hotel. A beachside resort may entice potential visitors by immersing them in a video from the viewpoint of a guest lounging in the sun while sipping a cocktail, a promotion for their happy hour drinks hovering in the foreground. AR will increase guest satisfaction as well because they'll know what to expect before they book.Hotel Management. AR will also impact business and back-of-house operations. The advanced tech can bring blueprints and artist renderings to life, letting potential investors clearly envision the end result. And in the realm of staff training, hotels can create real-life scenarios that teach skills and help employees more effectively interact with guests.Although the AR trend for hotels is still in its early stages, it may not be long before cutting-edge virtual environments that include the feel of ocean breezes or the scent of cooking food become mainstream. The rapid adoption of Pokemon Go demonstrates how ready people are to embrace this innovative new tech trend, and hotels that ignore it will find themselves left behind. It's clear that AR has a profound role to play in the future of the hotel industry.
Article by Alan Young

The Travel Booking Conundrum: Closing the Gap Between Browsing and Transacting on Mobile

Puzzle Partner Ltd. 7 March 2017
During the summer of 2016, Puzzle Partner was lucky enough to become a business partner with Phocuswright, the unrivaled leader in travel intelligence and research. In their latest report titled "U.S. Mobile Shipping and Booking," Phocuswright addresses one of the biggest challenges for travel and hospitality brands in today's mobile-centric world; how to ensure that consumers book trips and hotels after their search process is completed and that they finalize their booking where they searched - using the mobile app.In this insightful report, there is some incredible information that every company in the travel industry yearning to perfect their booking technology delivery mechanism should understand. Three key elements reviewed in this research are:How travelers shop and bookWhere they shop and bookWhy they book on mobileOne of the most interesting facts derived from this study is that people booking hotels using mobile devices has actually slipped over the past year. Air shopping and booking have too declined from 2015 to 2016. In terms of the marketing funnel, the digitally connected travel shopper is using the mobile channel for the awareness and interest stage in their buyer journey. How is this possible?We see the impact of mobile use and its direct effect on buying in many areas of commerce. In fact, from 2014 to 2015 there was a 174% increase in mobile usage during the Black Friday sales*. The article from digitalturbine.com referenced below also pointed out that, in the retail sector, 88% of people use retail apps and for every four users that install a new retail app, one person purchased an item within the first 24 hours. Also, one in every three shoppers used their phone to make a purchase during Black Friday. These stats suggest that this area appears to be moving along at quite am impressive pace.So back to the original question. How and why is there a decline in mobile shopping and booking for travel and hotels? One of the underlying factors behind the slight dip is the changing mobile traveler population. In the past it skewed heavily younger toward millennials, but more older travelers start to acquire and use smartphones for some aspects of travel, but not booking. This is a natural cycle in how populations adopt new technology. Makes sense. The online travel purchaser is now getting older, and this will impact habit and behavior. We will even see this propensity become more prominent as time goes on.Smartphone shoppers tend to visit more sites to gather their information, and they are quite a bit younger. One in five smartphone shoppers are between 18 and 24, and they are not brand loyal. This is a huge concern for brands, and they will most assuredly be addressing this issue as a top priority ASAP. It also appears that airlines carry more clout than hotel brands as smartphone users are more likely to purchase tickets directly via the airlines brand.com, whereas they turn to OTAs to purchase hotel rooms. It seems that younger people prefer to book travel using mobile devices because they are comfortable using their smartphone to do everything for them. It's their social connection tool, their email repository, their internet browser, their gaming devices, their camera and yes, it also works as a phone.So how do companies selling travel online ensure that all the money they have spent on mobile booking apps do not go to waste? By understanding the types of traveler personas and ensuring that their messages are segmented based on these personas. It is clear that age needs to be a consideration, however personas can change based on the type of travel being booked. Is the trip for business or leisure? Are they traveling alone or with family? The list goes on and on. We need to recognize the unique nature of mobile, both in terms of the technologies at play and the shoppers' journey. Those who can bridge the gap, offering a seamless, cross-device booking environment will be able to attract more loyal, valuable omni-channel customers. What's important is giving travelers what they really want: instant, relevant information no matter where they are or what device they're using.We may see these trends change over time, but one thing is for sure, the population is definitely getting older.
Article by Alan Young

Enough Room for Everyone? How Hotels are Meeting the Airbnb Challenge

Puzzle Partner Ltd. 1 March 2017
Everybody has a place to live. And thanks to Airbnb and other rent-by-owner sites, everybody can turn their spare room into a moneymaking short-term rental. In the taxi industry, this sharing model let Uber crush the cab companies.The situation isn't that dire for hotels, yet; consumers are more likely to take a chance on an unknown provider for a 15-minute car ride than for a five-night stay. That doesn't mean hotels don't have to take the new competition seriously, however. Airbnb's $30 billion valuation is now larger than that of any of its hotel competitors--without owning a single physical property.The threat to traditional hotels is likely to increase as Millennial travelers come to dominate; this generation reached their twenties and started planning their own vacations just as Airbnb started up. Their limited budgets and craving of unique experiences made Airbnb a natural fit for them, plus they prefer the easy online booking, even via mobile devices, that Airbnb offers. A survey by Hipmunk found that 44 percent of Millennials prefer rentals to hotels.Combine that with the American Express report that more Millennials plan to increase travel frequency compared to Boomers (52.8 percent vs. 32.1 percent) and more Millennials plan to increase their travel spending compared to Boomers as well (58 percent vs. 41.3 percent), and the significance of the challenge becomes obvious.Hotels are taking a multi-faceted approach to tackling this challenge. The four main strategies are:Block. Not everybody is happy when their neighbor turns a home into a hotel, and many communities aren't happy about owners who don't collect hotel taxes. Local regulations in major destinations like New York City prohibit short-term apartment rentals, and new laws that impose serious fines may force some listings off the market. While the hotels haven't filed legal action themselves, they've partnered with organizations that oppose Airbnb and run social media and other advertising campaigns in support of restrictions, as well as speaking up at planning commission meetings and other public hearings.Compete in the traditional hotel market. Hotels are attempting to compete with Airbnb in two ways. First, by emphasizing the features that distinguish a hotel from an Airbnb property, and second, by integrating the Airbnb features travelers are seeking into their hotels.There are some travel sectors where hotels naturally have an advantage over Airbnb. It's difficult for Airbnb to match hotels' ability to offer blocks of rooms for meetings or group travel. Business travelers want a consistent level of service, and high-end luxury travelers want responsive, sophisticated service. Although Airbnb is attempting to compete in these markets, they can't yet offer the level of service provided by traditional hotels.Other benefits hotels emphasize are their 24-hours of operation--customers don't have to worry about meeting the owner to pick up the key if their flight is delayed or how to get help if the toilet backs up--as well as security and compliance with safety regulations. Hotel loyalty programs help draw repeat business.To attract customers who want the unique, personalized experience of staying in an Airbnb property, hotels are working to individualize their properties so they feel more boutique. Some hotels are now offering original guidebooks written by locals, while chains are creating collections of properties, like Hilton Curio, where the hotels are distinctive rather than cookie-cutter.Compete in the short-term rental market. Some hotel chains are competing against Airbnb on Airbnb's turf. Accor acquired onefinestay, which lists upscale homes, and the hotel chain is providing concierge services to the listed properties. Another chain moving into home rentals is Choice Hotels, which offers Vacation Rentals by Choice Hotels. Stays at Choice's vacation properties earn points in the hotel's loyalty program, and points can be used to book either hotel or vacation rental stays.Don't compete; partner. For some hotels, the solution to competing with Airbnb is to partner with the company rather than compete against it. Several smaller hotels now list their rooms on Airbnb's site. For these hotels, Airbnb's reservation fee, which is smaller than the fee charged by major hotel booking sites, makes working with Airbnb attractive. In some cases, hotels provide check-in services for Airbnb properties and allow Airbnb guests access to their amenities, blurring the lines between hotel and short-term rental stays.For hotels, the challenge of Airbnb is real, but not yet fatal. Revenue per available room has increased over the past few years despite all the additional capacity from the sharing economy, and forecasts call for continued growth of close to 4 percent in 2017. With innovative approaches to hospitality spurred by the new competition, hotels are likely to continue to thrive.

Make your digital marketing sustainable with evergreen content

Puzzle Partner Ltd. By Alan Young
Evergreen content is content that continues to be relevant to your audience well after it is first published. Alan Young, CEO and Co-Founder of Puzzle Partner Ltd., explains how to maximize the effectiveness of this timeless, and highly valuable, content.

Puzzle Partner Signs Hotel Technology Innovator hospitalityPulse as New Client

Puzzle Partner Ltd. 15 February 2017
Leading B2B travel and hospitality technology marketing agency Puzzle Partner announced today that it has been named agency of record (AOR) for hospitalityPulse, the innovative hotel technology company based in Santa Cruz, California. Puzzle Partner will support hospitalityPulse through strategic and tactical marketing initiatives, including messaging, communications, public relations, and content development.After a thorough search, hospitalityPulse selected Puzzle Partner based on the firm's industry focus and success in working with such notable travel technology brands as StayNTouch, TripCraft, NAVIS, Groupize, and Umapped. "You need a company at your side that not only understands our industry but also has a firm footing in the underlying technology," explains Pierre Boettner, CEO of hospitalityPulse. "It is clear that Puzzle Partner 'gets the industry' and how hoteliers think, and is in the unique position to help take our business to the next level. It was also critical for us to identify an agency that understood the complex B2B sales cycle to attract, engage, nurture and deliver qualified leads. The partnership with Puzzle Partner is off to a strong start, and I am confident that their expertise will help ensure that there's no limit for the future of our company."Founded in 2013, hospitalityPulse is a visionary solution, designed and engineered by hospitality technologists to solve one of the most complex and multi-dimensional problems plaguing hoteliers and their guests. The patent-pending solution ensures optimal room assignment at all times to all guests, and specifically those most valuable to the chain, the brand and hotel management, driving guest loyalty and spend. Too often the issue of incorrect room allocation has a detrimental impact on the hotel and its brand. hospitalityPulse understands that these errors occur from the booking process through the fulfillment process. The challenges of improper room assignment, when faced with direct, OTA and 3rd party booking channels, increases exponentially."hospitalityPulse is an industry pioneer, with a forward-thinking leadership team that has a great deal of experience within the hotel technology space," said Puzzle Partner President, Alan Young. "Pierre and his team are taking on a very definite problem that hoteliers face every day. Their focus and passion for fixing this costly and disruptive issue using sophisticated algorithms and machine learning keep everyone pointed in the right direction. We are honored to be able to contribute to their evolution and further solidify their market leadership position."This announcement comes on the heels of several other new business wins for Puzzle Partner, who continues to expand its roster of top-tier clients and strategic partnerships including the unrivaled provider of travel, tourism and hospitality market research Phocuswright.For more information about Puzzle Partner, visit puzzlepartner.co.About Puzzle PartnerPuzzle Partner Ltd. is a boutique marketing agency focused exclusively on complex B2B initiatives for the travel and hospitality technology industry. We are experts at combining strategy and tactical execution in a way that doesn't just maximize a company's potential; it redefines it. By delivering persuasive marketing content, services and public relations - rooted in the skills of our team and tested through real-world experience - we help our clients gain visibility, raise their profile and ultimately increase their sales revenues. To learn more visit puzzlepartner.co.About hospitalityPulsehospitalityPulse was designed by hotel technology and operations veterans tackling one of the most difficult problems hotels are facing: Room Assignment. Our patent-pending optimization mathematical modeling process, combined with an intuitive user interface, is helping hoteliers assign the most optimal room for every guest, every time, with consistent efficiency. Using the multi-dimensional roomPulse inventory engine, hoteliers can automate room assignments to streamline check-in. roomPulse dynamically optimizes each room assignment in real time, all the time. Visit us at www.hospitalitypulse.com.
Article by Alan Young

An Insider's Irreverent Guide to Travel in 2017

Puzzle Partner Ltd. 19 December 2016
It's been a heck of a year, hasn't it? Most of us are ready to say a big Sayonara! to the hangover that 2016 has become. But really, on the whole, the travel industry had a pretty solid year. While next year doesn't register signs of dramatic growth in the number of travelers, it does appear that travelers will spend more when they do travel.[i] Capturing that revenue will be more important than ever with the uncertain political and economic landscapes. Here's where the opportunities are in 2017 to grab some of that market share:"Get the heck out of dodge" takes on a new meaningWe know travel is about getting away from it, but this year, travelers mean business. Travelers desire the feeling of escape more than ever. And even if the destination isn't obscure, the journey may be, with unusual attractions and restaurants on the itinerary. As travelers search for hidden treasures, I'm guessing this is the year of even more interest in off-the-beaten-path vacation rentals and indie hotels.Travelers become more patientIf there's a level of service higher than on demand, aim for that, because travelers want it two minutes before they even knew they wanted it. It's not fair to put this all on travelers. It's more on the travel industry to respond to something that other industries have already embraced. What on-demand service amounts to at this point is just rethinking processes that have previously been time-consuming that we all know don't have to be. Check-in and room keys, for instance. If Amazon can open a storefront that doesn't require human staff, travelers know that they shouldn't have to stand in line to do something as simple as saying they've arrived. Airlines, hotels et al - it's time to "make it work!" What is more local than local?I'm honestly not sure how much more local "local travel" can get, but we're an intense bunch in this industry. I am sure we can find a way to put local on steroids. Perhaps travelers can sleep on a local's sofa and pick their own dinner from the backyard garden? Seriously, though, Airbnb's November launch of Trips is just one example of the industry responding to traveler desires for increasingly local experiences. And it's not just millennials who want real, local experiences. Turns out Baby Boomers are trending local, too, with 50% reporting they want to dine with locals while traveling and 40% reporting they want to tour with a local.[ii]Your Aunt Ethel's not the only one hearing voices anymoreWake words and IFTTT (If This Then That) are quickly becoming a part of our lexicon. In fact over half of iPhone users use voice recognition, and the number is growing.[iii] Just a couple of days ago Wynn Las Vegas announced each guestroom will have an Amazon Echo, and Apple is on a mission to transform Siri into a direct competitor with Alexa. My point is that the more we embrace voice recognition technology and artificial intelligence, the more it will change the way travelers plan, search, and buy. This means that as an industry, we will need to shift the way we market to travelers.Bleisure? Framily? These terms don't matter. Here's what does. Am I the only person who finds the new word mashups like bleisure a bit annoying? Honestly, we don't need these awkward terms to describe the way people travel. What we need are systems that capture data about travelers and then market to them predictively. Sure, trends are useful to understand, but the capability to understand your individual travelers and their desires and habits exists. Just use the expensive technology you, no doubt, already have at your disposal instead of marketing packages based on some broad idea that the industry threw out there.There's plenty more for me to go on about--bots, distribution, the very real unpredictability of what will happen with travelers this year given the political climate. But what's more important is keeping a close eye on all the microevolutions in the industry and staying on top of technology adoption. Don't let trends like voice recognition or artificial intelligence intimidate you. Instead, read up, hire the right travel technology strategic advisors, and, more than anything, know your travelers and how they are evolving and use that knowledge.[i] Choice 2017 Outlook. HotelNewsNow.com. December 2016.[ii] AARP Travel Research: 2017 Travel Trends. November 2016.[iii] Almost 40% of US Smartphone Users Use Voice Recognition. Parks Associates. Jan 2016.About Puzzle Partner Ltd.Puzzle Partner is a boutique marketing agency that specializes in helping hospitality and travel innovators achieve winning performance and dramatic growth. We are experts at combining strategy and tactical execution in a way that doesn't just maximize a company's potential; it redefines it. By delivering relevant, proven and effective marketing services and public relations rooted in the skills of our people and tested through real-world experience, we help our clients gain visibility, raise their profile and ultimately increase their sales revenues. To learn more visit puzzlepartner.co.
Article by Alan Young

2016 Phocuswright Conference: Top Picks for Presentations and Exhibitors

Puzzle Partner Ltd. 9 November 2016
The annual Phocuswright Conference has become the epicenter for travel innovation, providing an exceptional forum for global travel executives to discover and discuss the latest trends and opportunities reshaping the travel landscape. This year's event has a line-up of intriguing presentations from top-shelf visionaries, along with some of the most exciting exhibitors from around the world. One of my favorite segments is The Innovation Summit, where companies battle it out on stage to pitch, demonstrate and face off with the Phocuswright Dragons, a panel of the industry's most informed insiders.Known for its exhilarating atmosphere, the Phocuswright Conference has proven to be one of the most influential travel technology events for more than 20 years. Here are some of my 'can't miss' picks for the upcoming event.Learning From Thought LeadersAirbnb is certainly one of the most disruptive companies out there, and I'm really looking forward to the presentation by Chip Conley, Airbnb's Head of Global Hospitality & Strategy. As a highly respected business leader and author, Conley's attendance promises to offer insights into the future direction for private accommodation and the many challenges that lie ahead in this rapidly evolving landscape.Philippe Chereque, President, American Express Global Business Travel, is focused on modernizing the company's IT in the direction of cloud computing while capitalizing on analytics. Since joining the company two years ago, he has been working on increasing the proactive care for its customers. The company developed an application that automatically sends an SMS text message to travelers when an incident occurs, to meet the increased importance that its corporate customers place on the duty of care. It will be fascinating to learn about the latest concepts coming from Chereque, who has said that "the traveler is the key."Booking.com's position as the world's largest seller of accommodations ensures that the executive interview with the company's CEO Gillian Tans will be a fascinating component of this year's conference. Over the past 14 years, Tans has been an instrumental force in expanding the company to become a global leader in the travel space. Titled "It's All About the Booking," the interview promises to provide insights into hotel direct, travel tech, and the future direction of Booking.com.As the president and CEO of Expedia Inc., Dara Khosrowshahi has led the firm to become one of the largest online travel companies in the world. His executive interview, cheekily titled "Expedia Eats the World," is another must-see event at this year's Phocuswright Conference. Expedia Inc.'s massive footprint includes the operation of more than 150 travel booking sites in over 70 countries around the world. Its extensive portfolio of online travel brands includes Expedia, Hotels.com, Travelocity, trivago, and Egencia. Khosrowshahi's focus on driving innovation and positioning the Expedia brand for future global growth is evident from his success with the company, and I expect his interview to cover a broad range of exciting topics in the travel space.Industry Innovators And DisruptorsIn addition to the opportunity to learn from the top influencers, Phocuswright is an exceptional place to be exposed to highly pioneering brands and technologies that are breaking new ground the market.Airmule was founded in 2015 in Los Angeles to provide a method for people to earn money with their extra luggage space. Promising "affordable express shipping worldwide with trusted travelers," the company's tagline suggests that its potential customers can "ship with people, not boxes." Using the Airmule app, individuals who want to ship something find others who have listed upcoming trips they're taking, and they connect in the app to discuss package details. The two parties then meet to hand off the item, and the sender can track their packages and receive real-time notifications until the item arrives at its destination.Luna provides what it calls "a wedding planner for your honeymoon." The company's web application aims to enhance the online travel-planning experience by providing a collaborative environment where ideas can be shared in real time. The platform also offers pre-designed itineraries to make it easier to plan a honeymoon, while allowing couples to customize the trip to make it suit their particular interests. Luna also provides the ability to chat with its experts to receive assistance in coming up with the perfect getaway for two.Travel Appeal claims to assist hospitality managers with the complex tasks of controlling their reputation and providing exceptional customer service. The company has developed an algorithm that collects, evaluates and calculates the importance of data and subsequently rates each component from zero to one hundred. The platform is intended to save hospitality managers' time by analyzing reviews and posts, monitoring price trends and moves by competitors, and evaluating the quality of web and social media communication, while generating insightful reports to offer methods for improving overall reputation and customer service.Umapped offers the latest in collaborative itinerary and experience management for the travel industry. Available as a white-label or API solution, the platform delivers interactive, media-rich consolidated mobile itineraries with relevant offers, content, messaging and advice to travelers. Umapped helps travel brands, and advisors engage with their customers throughout their travel journey and maximizes productivity by streamlining business workflow. These are just a few of the speakers and companies that will be worth checking out at the event and represent only a small sample of the many inspirational presenters and trendsetters that I look forward to learning more about. If you are going to be at the Phocuswright Conference in LA and would like to connect, please reach out to me on LinkedIn.
Article by Alan Young

Google Trips: A Step in the Right Direction- But Only a Step

Puzzle Partner Ltd. 13 October 2016
Google Trips got a good bit of attention on its recent release in September, but I'm not sure I understand the fanfare. Per Forbes, Google Trips is a "fantastic... travel app you should download now." Many hail it as a personalized travel app, but I'd argue it's not quite there, yet.Here's what it can do. It scours my email to find itineraries and provides quick access to the original emails if I need them. Handy. It keeps my car rental details right there along with the air itineraries. I like this, except I mostly Uber these days. The best part of any of this is that it's available even when I don't have Wi-Fi, which isn't all that often anymore. I'd argue that Google Trips make travel more mobile-friendly.Otherwise, though, Google Trips is basically a smart destination guide. Using a combination of attractions that I select and my search history, Google Trips will craft attraction itineraries guessing at what my interests are. It's a nice feature.But not necessarily innovative.It's a useful tool that integrates some data, but it would be more helpful if it understood that I'm the kind of leisure traveler who flies into a major city, spends one or two nights then heads to the country. It isn't able to pick up much in the way of reservations outside of major cities as far as I can tell, and it definitely doesn't do attractions and restaurants. Not yet at least.What would be a game-changer is to make it more personal. Google Trips is on the cusp of doing this with the itineraries feature, but it must go further than this. It needs to understand how I travel more than it needs to understand what I like to do. What would be useful is to have the app locate where I am and design opportunities for me to get from point A to Point B. For instance, given Google's mapping capabilities, it could tell me which train station I'm closest to when I request an Uber, so I know where to go, or the easiest way to get from mid-town Manhattan to the Upper West side based on where I'm standing.My point is that Google Trips is a step in the right direction, but it's just that, a step. It's not going to revolutionize leisure travel in its current form (nor do I think that was the intent but the media seemed to think it was revolutionary).Where it has the potential to make waves is in shifting our data reliance as travelers. Should we choose to engage with it, it will incrementally give Google more power over our information by encouraging us to rely on Google, Gmail, Maps, Local, etc. more than we do other sources so that we can integrate with Google Trips. Most of us are already reliant on Google for a great deal, but in bits and pieces, it may shift travelers away from aggregators and reviews sites toward Google. Moreover, when Google follows with a booking engine, for instance, the industry might actually feel it this time.Oliver Heckman, VP of Engineering for Google Travel, said that the "master plan is to be the connector that builds awesome travel experiences, qualifies users and then sends them off to the right partners," but he also mentioned that this could eventually look like helping travelers plan and book travel. While this might not occur through Google Trips, it could in an adjacent, integrated app, such as Allo.At this point, I'll use it to get to my travel details. And maybe it's possible that when I'm in the app trying to get to my confirmation number for the millionth time, I'll use Google Local for attractions and restaurants or reviews. Maybe I'll end up skipping the TripAdvisor step eventually, which I suspect was Google's goal.There was some initial stock kick back in the industry among TripAdvisor, Expedia, and Priceline, but Google Trips doesn't really pose a grave risk until it ratchets up the kind of data it integrates so that it can personalize to the traveler, understanding who the traveler is, not what the traveler wants to do. If enough travelers engage with the app, this is likely, but I question how many travelers will rely on it in its current form.
Article by Alan Young

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning: What will be the Impact on The Travel Industry?

Puzzle Partner Ltd. 5 October 2016
There has been a great deal of "news" in our industry regarding the implementation and adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) within the travel industry.How will this happen and what will the adoption rate look like? More importantly, in a service based industry, what percentage of traveler will be open to this new wave of technology and who will dismiss it?The emergence of cloud and cluster technology enables the wide implementation of AI and Machine Learning. One of the most obvious choices for this new technology to be adopted is within the B2B framework of our industry. Revenue Management platforms that are being delivered to their clients using the cloud can now make recommendations to both airline and hotel companies based upon a huge amount of data. This data can be sliced and diced and then refactored to help the attributed users of RMS to make the proper pricing decisions on the fly. Now, don't get me wrong, I still think that even though this is indeed capable, it will take a little while for Revenue Managers and their respective companies to just "set it and forget it."Virtual assistants are at the core of AI adoption. Siri, Amazon's Alexa, Google Now and the highest profile solution, IBM's Watson, will become the next evolutionary step in the delivery of service within the hotel industry. The explosion of knowledge that the hotel and travel industry is now able to sift through enables these platforms to become highly intuitive and thus highly leveraged.Skift outlined within an article back in July 2016 that there are a number of startups looking to leverage AI and Machine Learning to change the way service is delivered, or data is consumed and then refactored. These companies include GuestU, Exa, SnapTravel, 30 Seconds To Fly and HelloGbye. Some of the companies are leveraging platforms already in existence, and some are creating chatbots to book the right room or to help out with corporate travel. I am positive there are more out there - however like most startups - they will need the capital to succeed, followed by the speedy and widespread adoption of the solutions. We'll see.In a recent New York Times article, there was a delicious discussion regarding Google and how it is investing resources and money to develop what the author of the article called "Turning the Google Assistant into a 'Star Trek' computer. This is pretty mind-blowing if you think about it. The 'Star Trek' computer can do anything. Anything at all! Imagine having a personal assistant to help with deciding where to go, booking travel, purchasing just the right outfit for the trip and also notifying friends, etc. about your upcoming excursion. Then, if there are any disruptions along the way, the assistant will take care of things for you and help you along the way. The opportunities to implement AI and machine learning are boundless.AI and machine learning technology will take some time to become widely adopted by both the companies that are good targets for these platforms, as well as the end user. However, you can rest assured that this level of advanced data gathering, analysis and the instant return of applicable answers and solutions will only continue to develop and grow, until one day, we may all have our very own personal 'humanoid' assistants like Sophia, Hanson Robotic's latest robotic creation, introduced at SXSW.So what do you think? Will Sophia and her robotic cousins someday bring about a Terminator-style Judgment Day?
Article by Alan Young

R.I.P. Startups: Why 90% of Travel Technology Startups Fail

Puzzle Partner Ltd. 5 August 2016
One of the hardest truths for entrepreneurs to accept is that as many as nine out of ten startups will fail. In an ecosystem full of enthusiasm and optimism, this harsh reality can be difficult to swallow. However, the fact remains that only a small percentage of travel technology startups actually manage to become viable businesses in the long-term. My biggest frustration is companies that are 'walking zombies'. They do not know they are dead and cling on long after they should have called it quits.At the same time, companies can greatly increase their chances for success by focusing their attention on the things that really matter.Identify A Market Need The most common reason that travel technology startups fail is due to a lack of market need. Although it may seem to be an obvious consideration, many entrepreneurs jump into development without effectively thinking through this essential first step. This can at times be called the "bright shiny object syndrome". The startup has a great idea and then runs with it without truly understanding if there is a need.In order to achieve success, a startup must solve a pain point in the market in a scalable way. Unfortunately, many companies don't focus enough on the viability of attracting potential customers, and instead center their strategy around the product itself. While it is certainly essential to develop an exceptional product, the concept must first be validated with potential customers to ensure that there is a market need. The reality is that many travel technology startups attempt to tackle problems that are interesting to solve rather than providing a product that fills a gap in the marketplace.Differentiate from Competition There is no question that the travel tech industry is highly competitive. When analyzing the companies that have been able to scale greatly, they generally either developed something new where there was a void in the market, or they built something that was much better than what was currently available.Some of the most successful startups, such as Airbnb and Uber, have managed to expand the market on the supply side in order to create new demand for their services. As an example, Airbnb has expanded the accommodation and hospitality market by enabling people to open up their homes to guests. This model provides travelers with new lodging options that are often significantly cheaper than staying at a typical hotel, while keeping the expenses low for Airbnb, as the company doesn't spend any resources on managing the properties.Although it is certainly challenging to determine whether or not a disruptive idea such as Airbnb has the potential to make money, the company's ability to expand the market greatly increased its chances for success.Adapt to The Changing Landscape Modern consumers have extremely high expectations for usability, convenience and immediate information. In order to achieve long-term success, startups must design their systems to be able to adapt to the evolving landscape with flexibility in both the back-end and user interface of their platform.Millennials are a highly sought-after demographic in the travel industry. In general, they are more socially conscious than previous generations and therefore seek out additional information about their purchases. For example, Millennials may want to know whether or not the hotel they'll be staying at in a foreign country pays fair wages to its workers. They are also very likely to be concerned about environmental issues, and may want to utilize as many ecologically-friendly transportation options as possible. Considering the massive amount of money this demographic has to spend on travel, it's certainly worthwhile to pay attention to these preferences when designing a travel technology startup.The Path to Success Although there is a certain amount of luck involved in some travel technology startup success stories, a great deal can be done to increase the long-term growth potential of a new company. The most important factor is ensuring that a startup is either solving a pain point in the market in a scalable way, or providing a significantly better version of a solution that already exists. Once a strong initial plan is in place, it's essential to identify a method to differentiate a company from other competing startups and established players. As the technological and consumer landscapes rapidly evolve, travel tech startups must be able to adapt to meet the growing expectations for convenience and immediacy of information. Companies that are designed with these key factors in mind will be well-positioned to gain initial traction and achieve success in the long-term.
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Cutting Through The Noise: Strategies To Stand Out In The Travel Shopping Journey

Puzzle Partner Ltd. 23 June 2016
Last week I had the opportunity to serve as a panelist on Leonardo's webinar, "Strategies to Thrive in Today's Complex Travel Shopping Journey." In this day and age, it's a topic on every hoteliers mind.The travel industry boasts one of the most complex digital landscapes out there when it comes to consumer browsing and purchasing behavior. Travelers are inundated with a multitude of resources when researching hotels, especially in the 45 days leading up to a purchase. According to Expedia Media Solutions, travelers visit up to 38 travel sites during the travel shopping journey; 15 of which are visited the week of booking!The problem for all hotel marketers is the same; how can I stand out from the noise and win more bookings?This article summarizes much of what I discussed on the webinar, to help hoteliers make a lasting impression on travel shoppers; one that leads to more bookings.Stop selling, start tellingFirst and foremost, focus on the experiences you are delivering to your guests. That is what's going to differentiate you from the crowd. Whether it's the Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, Starwood, or any other hotel brand in your market segment, they all offer the same thing - a bed, a bathroom, sheets and towels. What separates one from the other is the experience. Focus on those things you do exceedingly well. Identify what they are and start talking about them on your website.Remember, it doesn't always come down to the best price. If everyone bought on price, then we'd all be staying at the same $59/night motel. We buy based on perceived value. We buy based on emotion. Sure, you're going to get people that are uber price sensitive, but if you can show prospective guests your value, through great stories and fantastic images, then you have a much better chance of winning their business.3 ingredients to a successful hotel websiteYour website should look to create an emotional connection with travel shoppers, so that even prior to their arrival you have exceeded their expectations. You can do this through engaging content, online reviews and ensuring a simple website navigation.The more engaging your content, the more likely travel shoppers are to stay on your site and book. Your website needs to be inviting and super easy to navigate. My advice is to work with companies that produce websites and booking engines that are incredibly easy to use and navigate. You need to make the booking experiencecompelling for travel shoppers, and easier than on other sites.Another important element, which a lot of hotel websites overlook, is the importance of review content. When you go onto an OTA site or metasearch site, their navigation is primarily the same. However, their use of review content is impressive, and integral in helping travel shoppers make a purchase decision. I would suggest hoteliers start reproducing this review content (aka social proof) on their own proprietary sites. A 2014 study by TripAdvisor and PhoCusWright found that consumers read at least 6-12 travel reviews prior to booking. Don't give them an excuse to leave your website to find the reviews they're looking for. Include online reviews everywhere, especially at checkout.The cultivation effectClient advocacy is becoming incredibly important. Solutions such as Flip.to help grow your organic reach by leveraging your own hotel guests. By sharing their authentic stories about your property with friends and family, you can build a team of advocates who have a massive influence on your hotel's reach and bottom line.Client advocacy solutions like this are also worthwhile for uncovering your true hotel story in the eyes of your guests. For example, you might think that your strongest point of differentiation is your level of service, but your guests might think it's your location. Play to your strengths in the eyes of your ideal guest.Meta-review data is also an excellent source for uncovering your property's strengths. While individual reviews provide specific examples of the guest experience, meta-reviews are based upon the aggregate. For example, "76% of people like this hotel for its location" or "35% really didn't like the pool." This type of data should also be displayed on your website (the good stuff at least). It can also be used to help inform areas for improvement. I believe almost every review content provider or aggregator today has a capability to give you this type of information, so be sure to ask for it and put it on your website.Final thoughtsTravelers go down a long and unpredictable path when it comes to planning and booking a trip. Will they visit a lot of sites during their travel shopping journey? Yes, most likely. But there are ways to stand out and make a lasting impression; one that brings them back to your website with their credit card. The key is engaging content, a simplified user experience, and leveraging social proof like online reviews. It's not rocket science, but you'd be surprised how many hotel marketers aren't doing these basic things. And that's where you can gain an advantage.

Puzzle Partner, Phocuswright Sign Agreement to Deliver Innovative New Content Marketing Program for Travel and Hospitality Technology Brands

Puzzle Partner Ltd. 14 June 2016
Puzzle Partner and Phocuswright today announced a partnership to deliver cutting-edge research and thought leadership content for travel technology brands. The partnership provides access to Phocuswright's research library and Puzzle Partner's marketing expertise, in an effort to help companies grow their market share, increase brand awareness and drive overall revenue."The partnership with Puzzle Partner gives travel brands access to Phocuswright research in an entirely new and creative way," said Pete Comeau, Phocuswright's senior vice president, sales. "Phocuswright's data and analysis of the travel market is unmatched and Puzzle Partner's proven track record of helping build brands makes them the perfect partner for this endeavor. We look forward to working together as we bring new products to the global travel industry."Puzzle Partner and Phocuswright will deliver a unique content program using premium data and analysis from the Phocuswright research library to develop high-level educational articles and white papers. Travel brands can then leverage this content to build engagement and drive leads into their sales funnels."Pulling in an audience with content rather than pushing out endless marketing messages can be incredibly effective," said Alan Young, Puzzle Partner's president. "It helps influence, educate, nurture ongoing conversations, overcome objections, and build long-term loyalty. Our program goes beyond building awareness. It's about action, and it requires a strategy and expert guidance to make it meaningful. Leveraging verified research from a highly-respected source like Phocuswright, and weaving it into an actionable marketing blueprint is the ideal way to increase visibility, communicate trust and connect powerfully to your business goals.""Branded content based on Phocuswright research is exactly what our industry needs," stated Tony D'Astolfo, Phocuswright's managing director. "By communicating thought leadership, companies become part of the conversation early in the customer journey. All too often, companies gather a plethora of data and then don't know what to do with it. Now, with the combined forces of Phocuswright and Puzzle Partner, there is an affordable option to use valuable information in concert with engaging content to deliver relevant information to prospects, partners and customers."To learn more about this content marketing initiative and available packages, please visit www.puzzlepartner.co.ABOUT PHOCUSWRIGHT INC.Phocuswright is the travel industry research authority on how travelers, suppliers and intermediaries connect. Independent, rigorous and unbiased, Phocuswright fosters smart strategic planning, tactical decision-making and organizational effectiveness.Phocuswright delivers qualitative and quantitative research on the evolving dynamics that influence travel, tourism and hospitality distribution. Our marketplace intelligence is the industry standard for segmentation, sizing, forecasting, trends, analysis and consumer travel planning behavior. Every day around the world, senior executives, marketers, strategists and research professionals from all segments of the industry value chain use Phocuswright research for competitive advantage.To complement its primary research in North and Latin America, Europe and Asia, Phocuswright produces several high-profile conferences in the United States, Europe and India, and partners with conferences in China and Singapore. Industry leaders and company analysts bring this intelligence to life by debating issues, sharing ideas and defining the ever-evolving reality of travel commerce.The company is headquartered in the United States with Asia Pacific operations based in India and local analysts on five continents.Phocuswright is a wholly owned subsidiary of Northstar Travel Media, LLC. www.phocuswright.com

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