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  • Next Event

    HITEC DUBAI

    Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference

    December 5–6, 2018
    Dubai, UAE

  • Upcoming Event

    HITEC EUROPE 2019

    Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference

    April 10–11, 2019
    Palau de Congressos
    Palma, Mallorca - Spain

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    HITEC MINNEAPOLIS

    Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference

    Minneapolis Convention Center

    June 17-20, 2019

Article by Alan Young

Heading to Nashville For Hotel Data Conference? Don't Miss These 5 Sessions

Puzzle Partner Ltd. 14 August 2018
Nashville is known for many things; live music, nightlife, food, and from August 15th until 17th that list expands to include the Hotel Data Conference (HDC) hosted by STR. A yearly, sold-out event staple in the hospitality industry, the conference covers over 20 exciting, insightful presentations, industry outlooks, tips, trends, and so much more. Taking place at the Omni Nashville Hotel, attendees can expect to join in on conversations with industry leaders and panelists and leave with data-backed insights to enhance their hospitality offering in 2018 and beyond. After all, with the trend of hyper-guest personalization continually gaining traction across our industry, the intelligent utilization of data is quickly becoming the key to a hotel's success and longevity.With hoteliers from across the globe getting ready to board their flight to Nashville as we speak, we've compiled a list of 5 can't-miss sessions to check out while attending HDC this year. Life stage, not age: Demystifying guest psychographicsWhen: August 16th 10:45 - 11:45 AM What: Millennials. That seems to be the latest industry buzz-word on everyone's lips as hoteliers race to get ahead of emerging trends relating to guest expectations. While the millennial generation has no shortage of buying power and, without a doubt, represents a major travel segment -- guest behavior and expectations have much more to do with life stage than age. It's not a matter of lumping guests into presumed behavioral brackets based on their age; but rather, indicators are shown by their life stage and those subsequent experiential expectations. Why You Should Attend: This panel will share best practices on how to identify your guests by their life stage and what that means for service, marketing, technology, amenities and more. Panelists: Dave Rubin, Greystone HotelsJeff Senior, KSL ResortsKathleen Hodge, Hilton WorldwideRobert Arnold, Vizergy Fee for all: How hotels are maximizing ancillary chargesWhen: August 16th 10:45 - 11:45 AM What: Leave no revenue opportunity under-maximized. As we speak to revenue drivers for hotels, ancillary charges such as cancellation and resort fees are becoming a focal point of the conversation. Why You Should Attend: Panelists will discuss the risk/reward of instilling ancillary fees within your property, the best way to structure those policies and communicate them to guests, and how ancillary revenue can affect your revenue management strategy and guest satisfaction. Panelists:JB Cooke, AshfordLinda Gulrajani, Marcus Hotels & ResortsPaul Mengacci, Prism Hotels & Resorts Increase revenues with review dataWhen: August 17th 10:50 - 11:15 AM What: We have long-since entered the age of social sharing and feedback. With so many open networks, reviews can become the defining factor in the success of a business. With this in mind, it's no surprise that 96% of guests have left a review for a hotel, and 95% of travelers read reviews before booking accommodations. Why You Should Attend: This session will provide an overview of the top review sources by channel over the past five years, helping hoteliers to understand better operational improvements inspired by trending categories of positive and negative reviews. With this information, hotel properties can better adhere to guest expectations and increase revenue. Presenter: Valerie Castillo, Vice President of Marketing, TrustYou Non-traditional revenue managementWhen: August 17th 12:00 - 12:25 PM What: The question on every hotelier's mind: How can we continuously increase revenue? Are we truly maximizing the revenue opportunity of every hotel room and service? Or are we leaving untapped potential from ancillary revenue streams? Why You Should Attend: This session will explore the topic of "non-traditional" revenue management, focusing on a Las Vegas Strip Resort case study to exemplify how even some straightforward strategic and operational changes can drive strong results. Presenter: Dan Skodol, Vice President, Revenue Analytics, RainmakerIndependents: No flag, no problemWhen: August 17th 10:15 - 11:15 AM What: As guests continuously express a desire for hyper-personalized, unique experiences within the hotel's they frequent, independent hotels have the opportunity to capitalize on their boutique model. With independent hotels representing nearly 30% of the U.S. hotel room inventory, this segment has no shortage of unique challenges and opportunities. Why You Should Attend: This panel will discuss the modern hospitality landscape and the opportunities it presents for unaffiliated hotels, making note of independent key performance indicators, measurements of profitability, distribution options and competing in a highly competitive industry. Panelists: John Davis, Woodbine Development CorporationRaj Contractor, Host Hotels & ResortsStacie Bushaw, NAVISTim Franzen, AJ Capital PartnersThis is my first time attending this event, and I am genuinely looking forward to learning new things, meeting new people and seeing old friends. Our industry is at an exciting time related to technological adoption, and data will be the foundation of every hotelier's decision-making process.It's not the data that matters; it's how we use it. See you in Nashville.
Article by Alan Young

How Everything We Learned in Kindergarten Can Impact the Hotel Technology Industry

Puzzle Partner Ltd. 17 July 2018
There is a great deal to be said about attending Kindergarten. It is the beginning of one's educational journey that will hopefully have a lasting impact on his or her life. If the career journey you have chosen is within the hotel technology industry, then the impact of Kindergarten will likely be even more significant. I am not suggesting that at the tender age of 4 or 5 you will start to code the next great guest engagement platform. Nor will you be given the educational value that will ensure you fully understand API's or XML Schema. However, at the core of what we learn in Kindergarten are some guiding principles that will always impact the hotel tech industry. First, let's take a look at the basic curriculum framework for Kindergarten which focuses on some very basic elements of communication, the understanding of community, and continuous learning. Below are the main components of today's Kindergarten classes:Aesthetic ExpressionCitizenshipCommunicationPersonal DevelopmentProblem-SolvingTechnological CompetenceSpiritual and Moral DevelopmentI would like to concentrate on three key sections to delve a little deeper into their impact on the hotel technology landscape.CommunicationCommunication is at the core of hospitality industry, whether it occurs during the booking process, on-property or any point during a trip. It is the bedrock on which the hotel industry stands. If we don't communicate effectively with our guests and exceed their needs, then we will likely lose their trust and business. Communication at the technological level is also paramount to the industry's overall success or failure. We have embedded a myriad of systems into the hotel operations world, and if these systems do not communicate with each other, there can be catastrophic outcomes that detrimentally affect the hotel's operations, profits, and relationship with their guest.Problem-SolvingProblem-solving may seem basic, however, in our industry, it can be quite challenging. The demands of our guests tend to drive the development of solutions and platforms that will address their needs. Today's guests are much more difficult to read and often quite fickle. Mobile has entered the fray and is now the primary tool for guest engagement on a daily basis. The industry has jumped at the challenge to address this mobile-centric environment by developing a plethora of guest engagement applications, guest communications platforms and almost everything else under the sun. Have we solved a problem or developed one? The core of problem-solving is understanding the issues that are affecting the guest or the industry at large. Sometimes we do this in a bubble and develop what we think the guest will need - without ever asking their opinion. I sincerely wish that more technology providers invested time interviewing guests and asking them questions that are genuinely relevant to the application or solution development. Grassroots problems-solving through the use of real-world market intelligence is key to the success.Technological Competence Having technological competence included in as part of the Kindergarten curriculum is quite an eye-opener. In our advanced, connected world, children are much more in tune with technology. Such immersion will bring an amazing amount of knowledge and insight into our industry in the near future. Whenever I am traveling, I see children everywhere glued to their smartphones and tablets where they are continually learning unless of course, they are watching movies, but I guess it depends on the movie. In our unique industry, we must always be learning to innovate. We need to learn from our guests, from our peers, and from our mistakes, but most importantly, learning is a constant. We, as an industry, need to cultivate young minds and support them so we can create the most relevant and useful technology to our guests.I personally don't remember very much from my earlier years, but I do understand that those years had an enormous impact on my life and career today. The people around me, the teachers, the mentors, my parents and siblings, all influenced who I am today. Each and every day I am learning from people within our industry, and I thank them for publishing provocative articles, developing great software and for being innovative. It all started with Kindergarten.
Article by Alan Young

Alexa for Hotels - The Good, The Bad and The Creepy

Puzzle Partner Ltd. 28 June 2018
This past week marked another successful HITEC, the culmination of which left hospitality experts with a lot to think about as it relates to industry-wide innovations positioned to make major waves in 2018. One of the more notable discussion points is the mainstream integration of voice-powered assistants (AI technology) into hotels. In fact, Amazon.com Inc recently announced that it has partnered with Marriott International Inc to help increase guest access to amenities with Alexa, through its voice-controlled device Echo, in an attempt to expand its presence in the hospitality industry. This is an exciting prospect for hotels, as implementing Alexa in a hospitality setting could assist in a personalizing room settings, ordering room service, housekeeping, calling the concierge and so much more. Of course, in the same excited breath that we speak to the potential conveniences which Alexa (and other voice-activated tech) can provide, we have to consider the on-going concern of data security. Especially with the recent implementation of GDPR, the protection of guest data and the proper attainment of documented consent for all data collection should be paramount. However, voice-activated devices are admittedly trudging into uncharted waters, as their ability to gain uninhibited access into user's conversations and preferences comes into question.With this in mind, we've delved into the good, the bad (and even the creepy) that is in store for hoteliers eager to branch into the world of Alexa for hotels. The Good Alexa for hotels offers a wide range of exciting possibilities, including room temperature regulation, turning on lights, sending emails, ordering room service or housekeeping, asking for local recommendations and so much more. Alexa will offer 24-7, efficient and hands-free customer service for every guest, tapping into the desire for increased personalization without over-extending hotel staff. Ideally, Alexa should help hoteliers provide a seamless guest experience as part of the myriad of programs and devices in place to improve hotel operations, and better connect with and serve guests. According to Marriott International, consumer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive thus far. And as far as guests readily engaging with the device? That's been promising as well. According to Volara, for every 1,000 occupied room nights, it is automating an average of 240 item/service requests and 700 guest questions about the hotel and surrounding area. Throughout these pilot programs with Alexa, guests requesting for the device to be removed from their rooms has also been very low. Volara CEO David Berger assures, "We are not capturing transcripts or recordings, and we don't know guests' identity. Just their room number. Meanwhile, Amazon, which does capture recordings once a person says "Alexa," to improve the devices' natural language processing capabilities, does not have access to the guest's identity or room number, ensuring that the information is always anonymous.The Bad Speech-recognition software is by no means new, with the likes of Siri often being used as our iPhone-enabled personal assistant while on the go. However, as the capabilities of speech-recognition and AI evolve within technology such as Alexa, Google Home, smart refrigerators and hotel rooms, the technology continuously becomes smarter. Using real-time experiences (machine learning) to identify and respond to user needs more accurately, these devices are continually collecting and analyzing data. Essentially, in order to serve us, these devices must learn about us -- a concept which may leave some users feeling unsettled or subject to invasive data collection.The concern here is that it's not always clear when Alexa is listening, although it's noted that"Amazon and Google insist their smart speakers do not record voices until someone directly addresses the device with a 'wake word' such as 'Alexa' or 'okay, Google. However, It is possible to accidentally 'wake' such devices, which means it is not always clear when they are listening."Further to suspicions of idle data collection, it's also unclear who should have access to what data, since multiple individuals will typically use the device at different times, which makes for complex privacy boundaries. We also have to consider the fact that the evolving capabilities of voice-powered assistants on such a public scale leaves room for error -- there are bound to be some initial learning curves that leave users feeling vulnerable. An example of such a privacy mishap recently unfolded in Portland, Oregon, when a local woman had private conversations secretly recorded by the voice-controlled Amazon virtual devices in her home. Those conversations were then sent to a random contact in Seattle. While cases like these are a rarity, the user-friendly simplicity of the device which makes it so popular to the general public, also means the security protocol may mirror that simplicity when it should be more complicated. As we'll delve into more later in this article, Alexa is triggered into action by a 'wake word', an exchange which could easily be misinterpreted and mis-triggered. For those of us particularly concerned about Alexa accidentally "listening in," an easy fix is to unplug or mute the device in moments you know you won't need its service. So the question becomes, can we trust Alexa?As the technology continues to improve, we can only hope that these virtual assistants become better equipped to identify different types of information with varying layers of security to prevent private information from being mistakenly shared. As mentioned above, user concerns regarding the misuse of their private information should (mostly) be put to rest, as any information collected is anonymous aside from room number.The CreepyAs Alexa's popularity has picked up momentum, so have the odd-ball stories circulating the web claiming witness to strange or otherwise unexplainable reactions from the device. These include, but aren't limited to, sudden laughter, unsolicited and seemingly random replies, or Alexa speaking without being woken up by a wake word.On one forum, a married couple described the time in which Alexa interjected into their dispute."My wife and I were arguing about something. No clue what it was, but it was getting a little heated. I don't know what Alexa thought she heard, but she suddenly interjected with, "Why don't we change the subject?" It was just unexpected and relevant enough to be creepy. We both heard it, and we both still talk about it years later. There was nothing in the app logs." Another woman detailed that her Mother's Alexa suddenly turned on one day (started glowing) and her Mom asked, "Alexa, what are you doing?" to which Alexa replied, "I'm trying to learn new things." Her Mom replied, "No one told you to do that" and Alexa replied "okay" before turning back off. Of course, while we may love to assume Alexa has an ulterior motive aligned with some sort of Sci-Fi horror movie, there is a reasonable explanation for these occurrences. ZDNetnotes that the most likely cause of an Alexa spontaneous reaction is a misinterpretation of sound. Given how sensitive Alexa has to be to process wake words, sometimes Alexa will react to a sound (even one we might not hear or notice) and interpret that as a wake word or command of some sort. After all, Alexa's sound processing system has to be able to take the sound waves and do its best to interpret what the humans speaking are asking for.AI technology and voice-powered assistants are undeniably one of the hottest topics following the close of HITEC 2018, and there's no doubt they will continue to be a prominent focal point moving forward. Love it or hate it, Alexa is likely coming to a hotel room near you -- and I don't know about you, but I'm interested to see the way in which this technology evolves within our industry.
Article by Alan E. Young

Can I Book My Next Trip on Amazon? An Open Letter to Jeff Bezos

Puzzle Partner Ltd. 6 June 2018
Dear Mr. Bezos,Amazon has long-since established itself as the fabric that holds together a world of consumers looking for an easy, effective and value-oriented environment to purchase almost anything - except for travel. As a veteran of the hospitality and travel technology industry, I believe Amazon should extend its footprint and offer travel and hotel products to deepen its relationship with customers and position itself as the ultimate end-to-end travel ecosystem. Though Amazon has offered flash deals and travel-related services in the past and Amazon Destinations tested the waters briefly, you have never really taken a true leap of faith. Admittedly, the evolution of travel purchasing (from planning to fruition) has been a bit of a roller coaster. What began with travel agents has grown to include OTA's, metasearch providers, direct booking tools, and now the explosion of mobile complicating the market even further. With many travelers expressing an on-going propensity for the inclusion of activities, local experiences, and tours in their trip planning process - stitching a trip together can prove to be challenging. Further to that, the uncontested dominance of large players such as Expedia, Priceline, TripAdvisor, and Airbnb can create a great deal of angst for any prospective traveler trying to decide how to book a trip or even a single hotel room. These tools and industry giants are meant to make the travel process more accessible, but in reality, that process is still rife with compromise, overwhelming choice, competing channels, and the pressure to make timely decisions and reservations.We have been told for years that a time when this will all become effortless, is just around the corner. Not just for the consumer, but for the travel provider as well, with the creation of a truly open marketplace where all elements can combine to ensure that everyone with a stake in the game gets exactly what they want. But, unfortunately, we still seem to be a long way away from this desired outcome.In a recent Skift article, Brian Chesky, the CEO of Airbnb stated that they are ready to develop Airbnb into a true "ecosystem" or "one-stop shop for travel." This one-stop shop would include experiences, activities, tours, community, and more. In fact, he believes that there will be a massive economy based on experiences - and I agree with him entirely.However, this only takes the travel booking evolution so far.Amazon represents a pillar of frictionless e-commerce and convenience. Shoppers from all demographics find themselves looking to Amazon for daily necessities, specialized items, brand favorites that are no longer available at their local stores, gifts, equipment, competitive pricing -- you name it. With next-day or two-day shipping, ensuring a sought-after item is at your doorstep within 48 hours can be as easy as asking Alexa to place that purchase. Now, imagine if the entire travel process, from start to finish, were also that easy? How can Amazon apply its model of immediate efficiency and ease to the demands of the modern-day traveler? What can Amazon achieve that Airbnb can't? Aside from securing travel specific reservations (flights, hotel rooms and more), imagine the convenience of pre-ordering any travel necessities for your trip, all through one channel? For example, if a young couple is planning for an upcoming vacation to Belize and wants to purchase some new swimsuits, sunscreen, and beach towels, Amazon could represent a one-stop shop for reservations and travel supplies. Even further, travelers could ship those items directly to their destination (timed according to their trip) rather than packing them in their luggage. Perhaps that same couple wants to purchase a book about Belize to commemorate their trip but doesn't have room in their bags -- they could buy it directly from Amazon on their phone and ship it to their home. The travel planning process could shift from one which demands weeks of effort across various channels and contacts to one which can be completed from start to finish in one, trusted online space. And this isn't just an appealing offer for the modern consumer and traveler, but a potentially lucrative shift for Amazon as well. Morgan Stanley notes that his firm's rough ad efficiency analysis (ad spend/transaction) speaks to Amazon's ability to drive repeat/direct traffic, as its estimated $0.75 ad spend/transaction is a fraction of what Booking/Expedia spend. He goes on to predict that Amazon could make $600 million of profits a year if it builds an online hotel business roughly half of Expedia's size.We also have to consider the widespread embrace of voice-powered AI technology. With the continued rise in popularity of Amazon Alexa (and more), consumers all over the planet are demonstrating a desire for complete convenience through means of voice-powered assistants. While AI chatbots and voice-powered search technology is in development within the hospitality realm, it has yet to come to seamless, consumer-approved fruition the way in which Alexa has. An Amazon travel experience could capitalize on this momentum, by including the capability for consumers to book every aspect of travel using a handheld device or via Alexa. Much like having a travel agent at your disposal, 24/7, in the comfort of your home and ready to address questions and requests. I like the sounds of that, and I have a feeling other travelers would too.Let's not forget about Amazon's powerful recommendation engine - the one that lets me know what I may like or need, even before I do! Claiming conversion rates of about 60%, up to 35% of what consumers purchase on Amazon come from product suggestions based on such algorithms. Of course, we're still missing one critical element of the trip planning process -- the vetting of destinations, hotels, activities and more. How do most of us start on our process of elimination leading to purchase? Online reviews. And what online platform has the most in-depth reviews of almost every product available to the average consumer? Amazon. Word of mouth feedback from trusted consumers is one of the most valuable pieces of information to a traveler, especially those looking to achieve a unique travel experience. Evolving the engaged community of Amazon users into a travel ecosystem would help to ensure every user feels entirely confident and informed about each decision they make as it relates to their upcoming trip. Without even setting its sights on the travel sector (yet), Amazon already has a potential lead on this movement towards the creation of a true travel and hospitality ecosystem. Tapping into the established success and underpinnings of the Amazon experience to include travel would enable the Amazon Purchase Ecosystem to deliver on what travelers want, from start to finish.So Mr. Bezos - what do you think? Can I book my next trip on Amazon?
Article by Alan Young

Hotel Tech Sales Has Changed: Decisions Are Made Before Buyers Even Call

Puzzle Partner Ltd. 30 May 2018
According to a recent survey by Forbes, B2B customers progress more than 70% of the way through the decision-making process before engaging a sales representative. This stands as an alarming realization for some companies, as they may find themselves resorting to aggressive last-minute sales tactics and discounts in an attempt to seal the deal within that final 30%. And, yet -- for those who truly understand the value that content brings (holistic, value-focused and cadence-savvy content, specifically) brings, these findings come as no surprise. Further to that, they are seen in a favorable light, because that 70% represents an exciting opportunity to connect with each consumer in a more engaged manner.Without a doubt, the most successful businesses are those which understand (and cater to) their prospective customer's journey, using the provision of high-quality content to lead them smoothly through the path to purchase.Think about it: If you hit a prospective customer with a hard sales tactic at the outset, why should they feel inspired to invest in your product or service offering? Using that approach, you've done nothing to get to know your customer or provide them value. You're basically embodying a first date gone wrong, barking demands at a relationship that has yet to be established as soon as you've taken a seat at the table. Moreover, if you're a marketer or a business who feels threatened by that 70% / 30% statistic, you're essentially coasting through the first two-thirds of that date, and panicking come the last half hour while you wait for the bill and hope to determine where you stand. Don't be that company. Rather, use content as a critical tool to cultivate a gradual nurtured B2B sales process that is relationship-centric. Take it slow, get to know your potential customer(s), and give them a reason to trust your brand and remain engaged. That's where you will find the coveted sweet spot of content marketing, and that's where you'll see the influx of opportunity within that initial 70% of the decision-making process. Using this model, the first 20% of your engagement with a prospective customer should be entirely focused on addressing the needs of their research with the delivery of high-value, engaging material. Your aim should be to answer the questions your target audience may have or solve a problem while positioning your brand or business as a trusted industry resource and leader. You should use this opportunity to gain insight into your customer demographic, making a note of the way in which they engage with your content -- what they like, what they don't like, what keeps them on the path to purchase and what (where applicable) seemingly pushes them off that path. Combining content that is relevant, timely and personalized with technology that can trigger next-step communications will help to solidify and automate the buyer's journey on their terms, with the purchase goal intact as the destination. This becomes especially helpful in the case of renewal opportunities, or times at which customers seemingly second guess continuing their engagement with your offering. Not only that, but this takes pressure off the marketer, as intuitive technology enables your staff to focus more on quality of engagement rather than timing estimations and tactical guesswork.Product or services aside, the content you create on behalf of your brand should be viewed as an essential part of your core offering. Why? Because, without this precedent of customer-centric content investment, B2B marketers are (metaphorically) pouring water into a leaky bucket. Sure, you can funnel your marketing budget into ad efforts and SEO all you want to increase traffic, but your conversion rates won't reap any rewards if your content doesn't resonate with that traffic. This content includes your landing page, forms, blog, social media presence, email marketing, etc., as these are often the content-rich pillars of your brand's first impression. Don't keep pouring into a leaky bucket -- invest in a new one, and then crank that faucet on at full force to fill it up. Utilizing that initial 70% of the buyer's decision-making process, your brand has ample opportunity to make a lasting impression on each prospective customer. So much so, that by the time that final 30% of the process comes around, that customer doesn't require any drastic sales tactics to be closed. Rather, they're ready to invest in your offering, just as you've invested in them and the natural cultivation of their trust in your brand.To learn more about becoming a thought leader to grow your brand and sales, click here to download our free e-book, "Thought Leader, Market Leader" of visit http://www.puzzlepartner.co/thought-leader/
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.
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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?
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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.
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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
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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
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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.
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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?

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