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    HITEC DUBAI

    Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference

    December 5–6, 2018
    Dubai, UAE

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    Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference

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    June 17-20, 2019

Article by Martin Soler

Food for thought: Booking's Pepijn Rijvers says "more direct" and more

Soler & Associates 3 July 2018
As the holidays are coming up, maybe it's a good time to think about bigger pictures. Learn from other industries and shifts to get inspired how we can do better. Think about the opportunities with technology and how to continue to Wow guests beyond the smile and standing up when they arrive. This edition hopefully has some thought starters.Food for thought.The Slow but Constant Shift in Retail?One of the largest shifts in commerce is retail. In travel the shift happened quite fast, we've pretty much shifted to a mainly online distribution. But retail going slower is managing to work at that change. Alibaba's New Retail, combining online with brick and mortar is pioneering it. In China tests are being done to use hotels as part of the New Retail combining one's room with online shopping. And there's so much more to be done and watching the relationships between online, offline, the old and the new distributors is interesting. And hopefully inspiring new ideas.WALMART, ALIBABA, AMAZON, CARREFOURBooking says "do more direct"!This 25+ minute video from Skift with Booking's CMO, Pepijn Rijvers is worth at least 24 1/2 of those minutes. Booking says use OTAs for customer acquisition and then convert return guests to direct. It's rare that we hear OTAs pushing direct and refreshing when they do. The statement is cool, even though return guests to individual hotels is only about 9-12% of the customer base it is still a good evolution. Booking feels about Google, the way hotels feel about OTAs - dependent. There's more and as Skift says, when Pepijn speaks, hotels listen. What is particularly good about the video is how much Pepijn is willing to say and pretty candid too.WHEN PEPIJN SPEAKSMore Connected Hotel TechOpen APIs, connected hotel technology, PMS integrations, phrases that are usually uttered with disdain, might soon be a thing of the past. Siteminder joining the ranks of hotel technology connectors/hubs/marketplaces is great news for the industry. The more modern PMS companies have understood that they need to open up. The incumbents are beginning to get there, Oracle Hospitality's new CEO promises change which is refreshing. With innovations such as Alibaba's New Retail push coming, hotels are going to be left out if key players don't open up fast. Long ago, I believe some people predicted that the future of the internet isn't the web but connections (aka. APIs) if that's the case then we're still discovering the web.SITEMINDER EXCHANGE + ORACLE OPENS UPWhat is a Data Platform (and why should you care)?Hotels have always had a lot of data. Data on so many things it is hard to keep track of. But since hotels aren't technology companies, marketplaces or stock brokers the data usually sits in "vaults" until it dies of old age. And it's understandable, hoteliers have much bigger problems than data analysis, after all the main reason for hotels is serving guests and that's done in the lobby, in the rooms and talking to guests, not staring at screens. Yet so many little friction points can be avoided making the experience exponentially better if data gathering, analysis and use was easier. So that's why you should find out what a data platform is and how it works. If you don't the competing hotel will and you wouldn't want that.WHEN SILOS INTEGRATEWhy does Expedia, Booking and Amazon's design work?Some things are mysteries to anybody that has worked in the graphic arts. One of those is how does the design of internet giants above work. The pages are essentially information overload, unfriendly, message heavy and, one would think, a user experience nightmare. Yet they're the best pages in terms of results. It turns out that too clean an experience can give the impression that something is being hidden. It's just too easy. Is that because we've been educated the there should be friction or just the way people think? I'd recommend this short article for anyone who is in the business of selling online. If it works for them, then there's something to learn for hotels.A $5.6B DESIGN SUCCESS
Article by Martin Soler

Food for thought: When distributors replace brands, a battle for customer ownership and more

Soler & Associates 15 June 2018
There are a couple of big changes coming to the hotel distribution space and hotel tech industry. AI will affect many of them, I think we're coming to an end of what is humanly possible to do in terms of connecting dots with the huge amounts of data we have. CRM is something that is becoming increasingly important (and complex). It is a great time to be in hotel technology. Best, Martin. PS: Don't forget to sign up for Tell. TrendsFood for thought.Is Making Easy Travel Booking Wrong?In theory booking travel will become easier through assistants. In fact it might become so easy it could be commoditised just like buying (really expensive) light bulbs. But maybe that's wrong. Maybe spending time browsing, searching, looking for the best deal etc is the whole point. It could be. I don't think there is an absolute answer. The trick will be finding the right balance between the satisfaction of having found the right deal while avoiding the remaining frustration.TRAVEL RESEARCH IS FUNWhen Pipes Replace BrandsWe've witnessed the change. A few decades ago Brands were the power of distribution. Branded hotels have an incredible distribution advantage over non-branded hotels. Branding a hotel was like plugging into a power line. Distribution systems were hardly known. Today things are quite different, travellers are more aware of distributors (the pipes) than the brands. But what happens next? Do these pipes (OTAs) get replaced by newer pipes (AI providers)?A POST ADVERTISING WORLD IS COMINGThe Battle for Customer OwnershipWe understand the problem. But there are two concepts that need a bit of work. First "customer ownership" is really a concept from the 80s (ok maybe 90s). In today's world, I don't think anybody owns customers. Customers don't marry brands anymore, they have affairs. And if we replace the concept of ownership with seduction it might work a bit better. The second is the battles, of course, we like to talk about battles. But rather than battling within the industry let's try to work on battling the innovation inertia that we need, to build better relations to guests. Hospitality is the best industry at caring for customers. How do we take those skills and grow them beyond the hotel walls? To the before and after experiences?BEYOND AIRBNB + WATCHING AMAZON AND GOOGLEThe Next Hotel Tech Phase is CRMThere have been three major technology advances in hospitality, the first was PMS, then came channel managers to manage the online distribution change, then came reputation management tools followed by revenue management systems (still a lot of work to be done there). The next big technology advance at hotel level is CRM. The question is where does the definition of CRM begin and end for a hotel. Repeat buyers in individual hotels are only about 10% of the business in most cases. Does the CRM pick up on first interaction? Does it end on check-out? All this and more needs work, but the fact remains, interacting with the guests, helping them arrive, helping them during their stay and following up afterwards is interesting for experience and revenue.OPINIONS ON GUEST EXPERIENCE TECHDemystifying AI for HotelsI had the chance to work with Avvio and try and understand AI for hotels. What is hype, what is real and more. A lot of it is hype. In many many cases, tech companies throw the AI word behind anything that the customer can't see which is mildly complex. And technically it might be true. But does that mean it will improve results for hotels? In many cases no. I don't think AI will change everything on the flip of a switch. But as Booking recently said, in a few years there will be AI behind just about every touch point on their funnel. One designer once told me the emotional impact is in the big things, but the experience is in the little things. I think AI will affect the little things.AI GLOSSARY FOR HOTELS
Article by Martin Soler

Food for thought: How Airbnb markets to hosts, The rising costs of advertising and more

Soler & Associates 30 May 2018
Online advertising is changing, costs are going up (just like hotel franchise costs it seems) and returns are becoming harder to get. Direct revenue is losing market share to OTAs and in the middle of all that, people are talking about AI as the solution-to-everything remedy. This week let's try and cover some of these points. Best, Martin PS: Did you see the new Tell. Trends website?Food for thought. Is it an Evolution for Communication?It seems that all one needs to do is mention the word chatbot for investors to start throwing money at startups. And yet, the chatbot trend really needs a lot of work. The added value it brings to a hotel website isn't orders of magnitude larger than putting a booking engine. Yet, all the big tech companies are falling over themselves trying to build chat platforms (Google, Apple, Facebook). But what if it isn't about making more reservations and is just simply the replacement of the phone? Today we're more likely to try and text/chat than call. What does that mean for room-service, arrival questions, reservations and all the upsells?GOT WHATSAPP FOR BUSINESS?Debating today's Hotel Tech sceneThree people with some knowledge of the market debate today's hotel tech scene and it's quite thought-provoking. Is meta-search incremental revenue or is it just chipping away at other revenue streams? If it was one should see the effect on increased direct revenue shares, but numbers are hard to find. How the battle against the OTAs is just a repeat of the old battle against the GDS and more great thoughts on where the hotel tech scene.PUNDITS ON PHOCUSWIREChinese Payment system disrupting US?Alipay and Wechat pay systems have changed the payment landscape in China, but with banks being government controlled overcoming them was easier than in the west. Yet it is just a matter of perception. If enough people decide they'll fill up their alternative payment accounts rather than checking accounts the tide could change. It's cheaper for the merchants and more convenient for guests. But can that change happen in the west? Google have it a shot and shelved it, Apple is trying but it isn't a runaway success. Maybe it takes Alipay and Wechat to come over and show how it's done. ALIPAY IN HOTELS MAGAZINE + BLOOMBERG EXPLAINSThe Rising costs of AdvertisingThe costs to advertise are going up, as the ad channels reduce (it's down to Google and Facebook essentially) the costs rise and hotels are feeling it. Google's shift from pay-per-click (AdWords) to Hotel Ads might be efficient, but it also raised the cost per click. Maybe the solution is on the buyer side. Hotels have mostly managed online ads like a website, that is; set-it-and-forget-it. Maybe this is where AI, machine learning, and automation can have a first major breakthrough in hospitality. Optimizing advertising and distribution costs to increase revenue with lower spend. Several players are working on it, but can they work on it together to make a holistic system?WHO CAN BUILD A COST EFFICIENT SOLUTION?Airbnb's marketing automation funnelThere's a lot to learn from Airbnb when it comes to marketing, that is :-) In hospitality we're so accustomed to procedures and processes that we lose sight of the fast-paced world that is online ads. Changing methods, switching tactics, improving conversions and always increasing efficiency is a "growth hackers" process. It goes against pretty much everything hotels are used to doing. Yet, that might just be exactly what hotel marketers need to be doing. It's not a cheap solution but considering how direct revenue is losing ground to OTAs and the rising costs to generate direct revenue, that might be the only way.A TECHNICAL LOOK AT AIRBNB'S AD PROCESS
Article by Martin Soler

Food for thought: Deloitte's look at travel future, Google search is changing

Soler & Associates 15 May 2018
In addition to the two projects* I mentioned in last post there's one that I am particularly looking forward to, The Hotel Yearbook 2019, I'm honored to be the guest editor for this edition and we have been working with a bunch of exciting contributors such as KasselsKramer, citizenM, Ctrip, Paolo Torchio from Two-Roads Hospitality, Philippe Vaurs from Elegancia Hotels and many more. Digital marketing has changed from the pure performance and clicks that we used to associate with it. We'll cover topics like how brand building and brand integrity is now managed online. Excited to show it to everyone. *The two projects I mentioned are Tell. Trends a paid quarterly report of the trends in hotel marketing and you can get on the waiting list. And the Marketing Workshop for Hotel Technology Companies happening later this year.Food for thought.Google Maps becoming the ultimate travel appIt is arguable that Google Maps is the most used travel app. The reviews are growing at an incredible pace, the contributor community is actually a community with exclusive events at Google Offices and that's just a small part of it. With recommendations this is growing even more and removing the travelers "where should we eat tonight" struggle. For hotels and trips this eventually means more (paid) opportunities to get discovered at the right moments.ANALYSING GOOGLE TRAVEL APPSThe change in hotel searchHotel marketing has changed a lot over the last few years, the really short version is that today marketing a hotel is more about building a brand (through the experience) and great revenue management. The search for hotels is mostly about matching price, experience and location than it ever has been. As search platforms grow it more accessible building fewer generic hotels and more personalised experiences. There will always be tension between direct and third parties because third parties will try to lower costs to consumers and increase fees to partners, but they don't matter if one can charge the right price to the right guest.GOOGLE SEARCH AND HOTELSDeloitte looks at the future of tech in travel"Over the past two years, travel start-ups raised a cumulative $30 billion in funding - almost totalling the amount raised over the past 10 years." Deloitte's recent look into the future of travel tech is quite interesting and includes a very easy to understand overview of the 5 main sectors of travel technology that will shape the future: Artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, Voice, Automation and Blockchain.WHAT TECH WILL SHAPE TRAVELPreparing for Voice tech in HotelsThat voice technology is coming to hotels is not new. We know it is coming, the problem with such new technologies is what should hoteliers do, today, to prepare for it when it comes. It isn't viable to invest into such technologies heavily today since we don't know where it will go. But if anything, online distribution has taught us that waiting it out is a bad idea. Because nobody knows exactly when and how it will change, the only thing to do now is get prepared. This article has some pragmatic steps to do to prepare for the coming changes.GETTING READY FOR VOICEMarketing Lessons from the Movie IndustryThe movie industry has built one of the most efficient marketing machines we know. The risks are huge, the costs are extraordinarily high and the product has a limited lifecycle. Many similar (but smaller) conditions exist in the hotel industry, so learning from some of their marketing ideas can only help. Even if they have the star power, budgets, storytelling and graphic teams that beat any hotel or hotel group, there is still something to learn.SPENDING MILLIONS
Article by Martin Soler

Food for thought: Tours and Activities, a fad? State of AI in travel and more stories

Soler & Associates 2 May 2018
With two exciting new projects on the way and a lot of travel, the newsletter has been delayed. The two projects are, Tell. Trends which is a paid quarterly report on the trends, possibilities and benchmarking ideas for the hotel technology and marketing industry. It will be published both online and in paper together with several independent thought leaders of the industry. The second one is The Marketing Workshop, for hotel technology companies. Which I have briefly mentioned before. And with no further ado, let's look at what is happening.Food for thought.Tours and Activities, a fad?The recent attention on Tours and Activities has made this one of the hottest trends in travel tech recently. Even Google is beta testing their own platform. Is this because growth in the hotel space is evening out or is it really the next big thing because guests want to spend more on experiences than great hotels. And should hotels turn to building better experiences and activities within?EVERYBODY WANT A PIECEHotel's data sharing problemWhile this may or may not be limited to the hospitality industry the problem (think costs, politics and archaic system) of data and sharing amongst technology providers is one of the biggest road blocks to building a better industry. As hotels consolidate into bigger and more efficient establishments they also lose a bit of soul. Much of that soul could be regained with better technology. If PMS see themselves as operating systems for hotels (huge maybe) then they also have a responsibility to ensure other developers can build on top of that.AN OVERVIEW OF THE PMS INTEGRATIONS SCENEAI is good for travel, and hotelsWe focus a lot of our AI discussions on replacing humans and robot driven hotels. But that's mainly a pessimistic look. Reality is that humans hate repetitive tasks and machines love them. Humans are brilliant at creativity and machines aren't. If AI and machines could remove all the repetitive tasks from humans in hotels we'd have people to turn most hotels into a level of service rarely experienced. And with the ever growing competition in the space our industry should be focusing on making exceptional experiences. That will require more people, who aren't busy doing repetitive tasks they don't like doing.THE AI IN TRAVEL STATE OF THE UNIONA look into hotel P&L changesThe upside of duopolies (Expedia/Booking or Google/Facebook) is that it becomes much easier to distribute. The downside is that they control costs and investors make pretty sure those costs always go up. A look into hotel P&Ls shows that agency fees are growing at 6% rate when room revenue is growing at 2%. The open question is when will this reach breaking point. The OTA/Direct battles aren't always rational, but they might become the best way for hotels to keep their profits.HOW MUCH LONGER WILL IT WORK?OTAs really have a PR problemIn reading a quite interesting analysis into the recent acquisition by Booking of Fareharbor one thing struck me, the writer doesn't seems to look at it as a great thing for the Tours and Activities industry. The OTAs haven't (and don't seem to be trying very hard) fixed their perception problem. Big product brands tend to build a passionate community around them (Nike, Apple, Disney etc) and people are proud to associate themselves with those brands. True, it is harder in the platform/marketplace space. But Amazon is succeeding at it. If customers don't care, then they're probably not really loyal anyhow. If suppliers don't care they just consider it a necessary evil. Maybe it's time OTAs work on building great relations with suppliers.AMAZON'S TREASURE TRUCKSMoving away from tech?Whilst AccorHotels has been busy acquiring companies over the last years it seemed the tech route was becoming more and more of a focus. Except, is it really? Is AccorHotels moving away from tech back to more hotel brands? Companies have a DNA, they're hardwired in a certain way. Changing the DNA isn't easy, the switch from a hotel company to a tech company is tremendous. Yet on a recent Skift interview Sebastien Bazin aspires to be alongside Google, Facebook in terms of consumer engagement. There is no doubt about the future potential and growth in doing that. The question is how to it.ACCOR ACQUIRES MOVENPICK
Article by Martin Soler

Food for thought: Accor, Hilton and more CEOs discuss brands, Google is really going the OTA route and more

Soler & Associates 3 April 2018
As an industry we're at the cusp of much more growth than the last many years. Not only is technology going to help improve guest experience, but it is making travelling easier. And the more people travel the more they need a place to stay. This week, some interesting thoughts and links that hopefully will help fuel some new ideas. Have a great week.Best, MartinBrand CEOs agree that brands are greatAre hotel brands the future or have they passed their prime. Hotel CEOs meeting at IHIF in Berlin and speaking to investors agreed that brands are great, that OTAs and guests love brands and want more of them. The arguments aren't totally wrong, but they do seem a little bit too "peaches and cream". The fact is for the majority of guests, the actual brand matters less than the comfort, price and location of the hotel. Obviously brands have better negotiation power with OTAs and suppliers, and there's a definite advantage. But it will take more than that to win the hearts of guests. One great hotel expert once told me the way to differentiate the hotel brand from another is the color of the curtains... I think he was being sarcastic.MORE OR LESS BRANDS?Google isn't an OTA, they sayI'm not a fan of the "is Google becoming an OTA" headline. But when I look at the evolution of their hotel search product (and how they are adding hotel+flights packages) it is just hard to stick with the line that they're just an advertising platform. The design, the way the filters are working and the whole tendency is moving much closer to the OTA than to the Advertising business. In advertising there's a concept of helping people discover products being advertised, which Google's hotel product lacks. It is more about monetizing after the guest has discovered. So no matter what they say and we try to think, the fact is the line between Google Hotels and OTAs is blurring more every day. But then again, who wants to go out to hotels today and say "Hi, we're a new OTA".GOOGLE HOTELS REDESIGNCost of Acquisition per Ad ChannelEverything has a price, also means everything has a cost. At the recent Fastbooking Digital Lab they shared an interesting slide I haven't seen before listing the cost of acquisition by hotel advertising channel. The results are quite interesting. I don't know how they came to those figures (did they factor in the agency costs?) but with this data and adding it to the other channels one could make a pretty good estimate of the various channels and where to invest the most.METASEARCH CHANNEL COSTSVoice for travel booking, it's complicatedThe possibilities for voice and chat systems in the travel space are huge. With the breadth of data that computers can analyse one could quite safely say that in 10-20 years this will make travel a much easier product to buy and it can help balance the over-tourism risks that loom over certain cities by proposing alternatives. The results would be quite good for all the secondary and tertiary locations that could see traffic grow tremendously. But for now, that remains a futurist vision. Because a) searching by voice is really weird and convoluted. Looking at a calendar of rates is so much easier for example and b) The understanding the questions are more often wrong than right. There is still a lot of work to be done there.STOP SHOUTING AT THAT THINGArtificial Intelligence, thoughtsFollowing the above piece, this very factual (if not too flattering) look at artificial intelligence in travel is quite correct. The problem with AI is we tend to expect it to get plugged in and revolutionize everything. It will most probably not happen that way. The truth is, AI will change everything and we will not notice the shift. Small incremental improvements in hotel websites managed by algorithms that learn and improve. Or pricing systems that become better at predicting upcoming surges and lows. In operations, systems that optimize the sequence of room cleaning based on guest habits, similar trends, upcoming occupants. All these systems exist already and bit by bit we're going to change a lot.THE TRUTH ABOUT AIThe evolution of Digital MarketingI was invited as the Guest Editor in Chief for the Hotel Yearbook 2018 that is coming out in October. It made me think hard and long about what is happening with Digital Marketing for hotels. The fact is that the days of looking at digital marketing as a pure clicks and conversions game are numbered. Digital marketing has grown up. Hyper optimising was great a few years ago during the "SEO gold rush" but those days are over. We're coming back to marketing basics of brand building, telling great stories. The question remains, how does one do that in the digital space?THE HOTEL YEARBOOK
Article by Martin Soler

Food for thought: What is Booking Doing? A report on Design in Tech. the ITB Keynotes & more

Soler & Associates 23 March 2018
What is Booking doing?It seems Booking knows that the OTA model will eventually be disrupted by someone or something. And it's not going to happen this year or next, but considering the fact that two large players are entering the market (Airbnb and Google's Hotel service) it seems only wise that for Booking to be testing a lot of new things. This recap by Sean at Skift should be published once a quarter to keep us normal people in the know of all that they are working on.BOOKING GOES TRAVEL AGENTITB: A lot has changed in 10 yearsITB used to have a love/hate relationship with hotel and travel tech. While being the biggest show for travel, the tech scene was pretty small and limited to the big players. The startups and other companies were relegated to side halls, really really far from the main scene. This year was quite different and it shows how much innovation in hotel and travel tech is becoming a mainstream concern. Was it all useful, no. But what is great is to see how the sector is growing and more importantly how busy the tech halls were. The keynotes are becoming more interesting as well. This article from Tnooz has a few of the best ones. Sadly, Airbnb's keynote was mainly a product pitch rather than real insights on where they are going or where the industry should be.DISCUSSING TRAVEL AT ITBGetting InspiredHaving managed plenty of social media campaigns for hotels, there typically comes a time in the day, week, month or career where one runs out of ideas of things to say or do to engage with one's audience as a hotel. But here's a brilliant resource for when that creative block happens, a resource of the best hotels currently on Instagram, sortable by country. Something to bookmark.THE INSTAGRAM LEADERSDesign in Tech Report 2018In the hotel industry our tech companies make software and applications. Most of them look functional (barely). They look like Google of the 1990s, when the only design guide for the company was, does it work. Building a marketing and brand positioning strategy for a company that hasn't understood the fundamentals of design is hard, extremely hard. Because the more exposure they get and the more people get to see the product, the less they will want to get the products. Good design isn't the paint that goes on the house after it is built, good design is the architecture and proper thinking of the house itself. The hotel and travel tech (think GDS) needs a lot of work to level up the standard in design. This extends to processes in hotels, check-in (and out) is an extremely badly designed process that has been replicated by an entire industry. Now's a pretty good time to upgrade.DESIGN IS ABOUT DE$IGNSecurity, The Questions Nobody WantsIn speaking with hotel tech startups I've come to see just how bad the security level is with hotel PMS. Discussions of accessing databases and exporting them with no friction are pretty scary, but also common. It seems that on premise systems are the easiest ones to access. The big hotels normally have processes in place to avoid that, the smaller ones not. Just getting a local IT person to check it out is a great start. The point being it is rarely spoken of, and most definitely a topic.ON PREMISE IS VULNERABLE BUT FIXABLEStart with WhatYes, Simon Sinek's legendary TED talk on Start with Why, is great. But it is also really misunderstood. Starting with Why is a common storytelling rule. One builds the reason for the hero's current state and thus builds empathy with the hero and where they want to go. But so many people think "Start with Why" is a marketing strategy. It isn't, it's just how one tells stories. When building a positioning strategy, a tag line, a product marketing plan one should start with What, what is the product, what is the company. Then one explains How, how the company achieves it, or how the company works. Then one explains Why one does it. And now the audience is listening and can believe. So start with Why when building the story, but start with What when figuring out the positioning strategy.START WITH WHYPS: I'm setting up TELL WORKSHOP in July, a 3 day marketing and sales workshop for hotel tech companies. More will be announced later. Email me if you're interested, it will be limited to 15 companies.
Article by Martin Soler

Food for thought: Airbnb has a killer feature, discussing loyalty (again), what is AI for hotel marketing and more

Soler & Associates 6 March 2018
With ITB coming up in just a couple of days this is going to be an exciting week. I'm hoping to discover some new innovative solutions, or at least confirm those I've heard of. Hoping this will not just be an ITB marketing buzzword show. But even if you're not going, I hope this week's newsletter lives up to your expectations. Best, MartinLoyalty: Will we solve it this year?Existing loyalty schemes are ripe for disruption. So many parts are seeming stale that we need to look into new methods. The main use is to give discounts and perks to those who stay often, that small segment who travel much. But wouldn't it be more interesting to find ways to make the huge segment of less frequent guests loyal? Then there's the issue of identifying guests. But we're in 2018, having to recognize guests with a number or a card is so 1980s. There are phones, emails, cookies and plenty of other ways to recognize guests. The question is will we manage to create a new and better system this year?BUYING LOYALTYEmbracing Artificial Intelligence for HotelsArtificial intelligence is cool. It must be cool because all the cool kids are talking about it. But as one leaves the tech sphere and returns to real life (where most hoteliers live) one realizes it isn't quite as revolutionary. It doesn't fix leaks, it doesn't make beds and all those things. But still it can help generate more revenue and optimize the revenue we make. Maybe the point isn't AI but what it can do (for real, not in a science fiction novel). This great post from Triptease on automation is worth a read.FREEING UP STAFF FOR GUESTSWhy Brands Win?Related to loyalty is brand. Building brands is long hard work, but it pays off with repeat business and better margins. The opposite is commoditization. Every hotel is a brand, even chains are actually comprised of many small brands. Independent hotels are as much brands as the chains on a different scale. It is something that too many forget. Being a place to sleep is being a commodity. The fallacy of trying to be generic keywords in Google is ultimately chasing the goal of being a commodity. So here's a simple writeup of building a brand from a startup founder who did it wrong and then did it right.BUILDING A BRAND IN 6 STEPSA lesson in app design for travelAt some point or another we are or will be faced with designing things. Either a website, an application, a product or a hotel. If we got into industrial age a century ago, we've probably moved into the design age now. Everyone should have an idea of the process that goes into designing things. This case study of how a team of designers re-designed the Lonely Planet app is a good place to start.WHO WHY WHAT WHEREAirbnb's "killer feature" is communityThe one feature Airbnb has which no other OTA can compare with isn't inventory, budget, technology or an upcoming IPO. It's community. The OTAs, having been in the 1990s, are great at e-commerce and conversions. But building communities was never part of that DNA. Airbnb on the other hand, came along after the internet had evolved from an information platform to a community platform. The question now is will that community be stronger than $5b yearly ad budget?FUTURE OF AIRBNB AS AN OTA, DEBATE

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