Cookies on HFTP Bytes

This site uses cookies to store information on your computer. Some are essential to make our site work; others help us give you the best possible user experience.
By using the site, you consent to the placement of these cookies. However, you can change your cookie settings at any time. Read our Privacy Notice to learn more.

I understand
  • Next Event


    Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference

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

  • Upcoming Event


    Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference

    Minneapolis Convention Center

    June 17-20, 2019

  • Upcoming Event


    Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference

    November 12 - 13, 2019
    Festival Arena
    Dubai, UAE

Article by Martin Soler

Food for thought: some thoughts post-ITB, are marketplaces a thing now?

Soler & Associates 12 March 2019
Food for thought.Marketplaces, are they happening now?Booking launched their hotel software market place, is this going to be enough to tip the scales and finally make them mainstream? About 5 years ago eRevMax launched the first marketplace concept with LiveOS, followed by SnapShot and then Siteminder. Yet none of these have taken off yet. I'm not counting PMS marketplaces, those are just PMS companies doing their jobs with integrations as a good friend D. Turnbull pointed out. Independent marketplaces have struggled to be relevant. Two main thoughts about that, one is that it is hard to change habits of how people select and buy software. We're not looking at a market size of billions, not even millions. The second thought is that hotels are all about processes. The people in hotels aren't all tech nerds geeking out on the new app. They're janitors, housekeepers, front-desk people and many on minimum wage. So training and implementing a new software process in a hotel is rarely fun. The idea of switching app over-night is exactly not the idea of fun and freedom. It's not quite as plug-and-play as what the marketing and product managers tend to think. But that doesn't mean it can't work. And maybe Booking manages to push the category into mainstream....I wonder if there'll be a "book direct" campaign by software companies.BOOKING.SUITE APPSTOREMore Hotel Brands, Smarter Than You ThinkThe idea of sub-brands for hotel companies has been is often criticised as either really dumb or really confusing. However there's a reason growing the number of brands is a good idea. In the current environment of choice overload, the concept of single product loyalty is a thing of the past. It's why we get yearly smartphone updates and multitude of other constant product updates. The appetite for the newest has grown far beyond what it was 20 years ago. But the reassurance that there's a strong brand behind a product does guarantee a certain level of quality and standard. When faced with the choice to book a hotel in an unknown area and the choice is between a branded hotel and a boutique, brand has an advantage which is standards. The guests know that they have standards to uphold and it reassures. But guests also want to try new things, hence the sub-brands strategy actually is pretty good. Now enter the spanner in my theory as someone quite rightly pointed out that this is merely a strategy to get more investors to buy hotels with their brands.THE DEATH OF PRODUCT LOYALTYMcDonald's Better Service Than a Hotel?The fast food chain is known for a lot of things but better service than hotels isn't one of them. And yet they're managing to get better at service than the ultimate service industry (hotels). The self-service screens that are being installed around the world apparently increase order size. More importantly they improve service. Rather than waiting in line to order one's food one can do it oneself at one's own speed. Then one doesn't need to stand in line to pick-up the food as the staff now come and bring it to the table. And if one has a question one can now speak to a human waiter rather than a half-human order taker at the counter. Hotels still have half-human order takers at check-in. They're stuck to following a process, rather than helping the guest get what they want as fast as possible. Computers were meant to help hotels take care of guests. ADDING TABLE SERVICE TO MCDONALDSTell Trends: Order nowAs I mentioned above, independent and knowledgeable source of information in the industry is quite limited. Those who seem to be quite independent aren't that knowledgeable and those who are knowledgable aren't independent. Tell Trends is a rare mix of both. Get your copy today.SECURE YOUR COPY TODAY
Article by Martin Soler

Food for thought: Loyalty is this better? personalization a pipe dream?

Soler & Associates 26 February 2019
It has shipped! Tell Trends report has finally been printed and shipped. It started as a crazy idea last summer, the conclusion that there just isn't really any big picture report on the trends in the industry. Between "breaking news", sponsored posts and advertorials it is hard to see the forest from all the trees. We decided to bring together independent writers who didn't have any particular company line to tow and take a bird's eye view of the trends. And it worked!!! We shipped the first edition which is great (for those who haven't experienced startup life - shipping has a very special feeling that comes with it.) You can get your copy, there are still some left. Unlike software products, this has a limited supply. Buy yours here: Best, Martin.Food for thought.Loyalty Schemes, is this better?Last week was an interesting time for Loyalty schemes. Marriott launched their ad campaign for the oddly named Bonvoy program and Accor launched ALL. Both chose high profile football (soccer for some) teams to launch the campaigns. I posted a quick overview of these that you can read in the link below. Overall the system is growing, at least Accor seems to want to grow beyond the hotel rewards system which is interesting. But none of these systems have yet found that large friction/pain point that they need to remove in order to make them great. In a story about the hugely successful Amazon Prime they only did it to solve something people hated with a passion, shipping costs. By giving free shipping it changed the way people shopped. Could hospitality find such a pain-point to remove? BONVOY AND ACCOR ALL COMMENTSPersonalization, Segmentation of One etcI had the honor of being invited to speak on a panel at Opportunity2019 in London recently. It's one of the better conferences in hospitality. Still comprised of a lot of hoteliers and not just a large amount of sales pitches from vendors. A recurring theme at the conference was personalization. The topic is broad, complicated and not always practical. While there is great progress to be done for OTAs and large hotel chains, at a hotel level there are still too few players really trying, at the conference it seemed to be summed up to Avvio and Oaky (I'm sure I've forgotten some). After a great 1 hour panel we could summarize the key takeaways for hoteliers to A) Work out what you're really good at as a hotel and make sure that's the main thing you're promoting. It's really old-school but that's still the best way to "personalize" for your guests because you sell what you do well. B) a large part of the real (sales and marketing) personalization will happen on platforms outside the hotel, get ready for them by preparing your data, your hotel's attributes and search for providers who can help future-proof your IT.GET READY FOR OPPORTUNITY2020Tech in hotels should bring more humansThe eternal debate about technology in hotels taking away the human touch is more about scrambling to find an excuse than a real problem. Nobody loves to stand in line and way to check-in. Nobody enjoys having to wait behind 5 other anxious guests, anxious about having to haggle over the final invoice. The transactional interactions to discuss money and pay are not fun. Part of what Uber and Airbnb great is they completely removed them from the equation. Few hotels are getting this right, Raffles Singapore is converting the front desk team into butlers which makes a lot more sense. Adding technology to the front desk should be about adding people who can service guests. It's not about saving costs - it's about raising quality. NO MORE FRONT OFFICEAmazon in travel, welcome, but...Amazon has made multiple tries into travel. So far nothing major has stuck, save probably for their advertising channel which is not very deep nor particularly travel focused. Travel is one of the few industries that has shifted almost entirely to digital for sales and marketing. Amazon are the undisputed leaders in everything e-commerce. And I'm sure many would welcome a third player (we could argue that Google is already that). But on the other hand, here's a company that has grown to large and so widespread, which is known to slash their own profit in the name of taking market share. It isn't totally clear what it would do to the industry. PS: If hotels are concerned about 20% commission to OTAs, consider 40% to sell on Amazon.A SERIOUS LOOK INTO AMAZON AND ANTITRUSTTell Trends: Order nowAs I mentioned above, independent and knowledgeable source of information in the industry is quite limited. Those who seem to be quite independent aren't that knowledgeable and those who are knowledgable aren't independent. Tell Trends is a rare mix of both. Get your copy today.SECURE YOUR COPY TODAY
Article by Martin Soler

Food for thought: The real future of direct bookings

Soler & Associates 16 October 2018
The 50th edition in a bit under 24 month. Thanks for holding up this long :-). This one is about Direct Bookings, not planned that way but that's just the way things turned out after going through the recent news. Hope you enjoy it. Best, Martin. PS: If you're executive level, don't forget to sign-up for Tell Trends.Food for thought.The obsession of Direct BookingsDirect revenue has unfortunately become a way to get attention in the hotel marketing world. The problem with such buzzwords being used and abused is that in the long run it is like conspiracy theories, all one needs to do it say the words and suddenly it isn't credible anymore. Yet there is inherent value retaining control and a fair share of direct bookings. The most recent debate of should hotel obsess about direct or not is really splitting hairs. Hoteliers should obsess about having a healthy distribution mix. That means a fair share of direct, OTAs and other channels. Too much direct is as risky as too much OTAs. It may look better short term as one believes one makes more profit, but long term one will soon notice how demand just doesn't match or become too expensive. To the defence of those campaigning for more direct, there is more often a lack than an abundance of direct revenue.TO OBSESS or NOT TO OBSESSBrand-jacking on Google is about to growGoogle recently changed their trademark policy and it's not good news. In short, anyone who is somewhat affiliated with selling a hotel's rooms is now allowed to advertise on the hotel's name. And for those who know, protecting one's brand is the single most efficient way to ensure direct revenue. This concept that one needs to pay to protect one's brand is one pretty much created by Google and which has become a tremendous cash cow. Imagine having to pay to keep your front door from being taxed by third parties, that's pretty much what you're doing. But until now there have been some safety measures one could take to ensure things didn't go out of control. It seems even that party is soon over.NEW GOOGLE TRADEMARK POLICYThe long game for Direct RevenueWe can grow direct revenue. We can even guarantee that direct revenue will work on the long run, but it wont be through hacks and quick fix solutions. Despite the apparent "huge success" of direct booking solutions and increasing costs of advertising. Having looked at the numbers for hundreds of hotels, direct revenue in the independent hotel space is declining. The long game isn't a battle for price parity, suing OTAs for last room clauses etc. The long game educating guests and travelers to always check direct before booking. It's one that every branded or independent hotel can get with. One where we need to create a "Got Milk?" campaign for the entire industry and work on for years. Retail industry failed at doing just that and so Amazon and other major players are taking up the slack. If the hotel industry actually sat down and built a concerted global campaign in some years, direct would retain it's market share.HAS DIRECT BOOKING REACHED PEAK?Tell Trends, more insightsTell Trends will ship shortly. It's going to have much more insights than this newsletter from more experts who don't just have opinions, they have expertise in their domains. They can see where the industry is going and what is coming next. It's a paid news magazine that will be delivered online and off-line. If you're looking to see what is really happening in the hotel marketing and tech industry, it might be for you.SIGN UP FOR EARLY ACCESS
Article by Martin Soler

Food for thought: A recap of Click by booking, technology and guest experience

Soler & Associates 26 September 2018
Guest experience and technology are regularly reported as one and the same. They're not. Great human relations and guest experience are. But technology should give humans more time to spend with guests, and that's where things are interesting. Here's a mid-week recap for some thoughts.Food for thought.How much technology do we need?Because technology and digital disruption are a thing, there are companies and thinkers that try to turn everything into a technology problem. But do we really need technology everywhere? Turning off the lights in a hotel room with a switch is still a lot easier than through an app or a tablet. Trying to wedge in tech solutions everywhere doesn't necessarily make the guest experience better. What we need to do is focus on the guest, many things can be improved with better technology and often that might be little things in the background that the guest will never know. But just like improving the plumbing in a hotel, those little things that guests never notice can change the experience and compounding those little things will make a big difference.TECHNOLOGY EVERYWHERE + FOCUSING ON THE GUESTOn TripAdvisor's new platformDespite an unclear press release and futile attempt to take the new social TripAdvisor out for a spin, it is clear that adding that level of personalisation to a review platform isn't just some marketing spin. As soon as one attempts to recommend a solution one needs much more personalisation than a simple ranking. But the odd thing is why now? Why would users want to give away more data now, when many are trying to rebuild their right to privacy? The comments on this linked in post below point to some critical issues with the platform. Even if few believe in the chances of success, it makes sense. The timing of the launch and the fanfare with which it was launched with remain, however, hard to understand.FRAUGHT WITH OBSTACLESMessaging and Automation are Much More Than Marketing.Messaging and automation are hailed as the future of digital marketing. But it's a lot more than that. Messaging is one of those technology pieces that can improve guest experience at all levels. But without the right level of automation, it is also one that can make a mess out of things. Sending a message to order room service is so much easier than calling, holding, ordering, waiting. But how can the system route the message to the right person? Done right this isn't just about marketing, it's about serving the guest based on their needs. Having guests hold the line while they're being connected is one of those "process before guest experience" workflows that could (and should) disappear. But then, there are always some who prefer to pick up the phone :-)MESSAGING, AUTOMATION AND AIRLINESThe Guests KnowsThe research customers do today before buying or booking is second to none, they know things. But how are hotels improving the internal processes to reflect that? Front desk indicates where the elevator is and what time breakfast starts, but soon guests will know that already. Speaking to someone at front desk who rattles off a script might not be a lot better than getting a text message (that is not the solution). A great hotelier once told me they trained staff to welcome guests as if they were being welcomed to their home. Do you tell your guests what time breakfast is or where the restrooms are before they ask? Guests know a lot these days, the best solution isn't necessarily more technology but more intelligent conversations. If they don't ask for breakfast maybe they don't care, or they know.INFORMED DECISION MAKINGClick (by Booking), a recapClick just finished and below is a recap by someone who was there (I wasn't). An interesting event and a very welcome one. Some interesting takeaways, Booking's CMO discusses how guest journey has changed and the level of intent online is very low thus they need to increase personalisation. And how people expect instant gratification on getting their questions answered. Booking's CEO explained that travel research takes more time than the trip itself which is a problem they're trying to fix. There is a whole lot more and it's worth reading. The event seems interesting but unclear as to who the audience is and what they should be getting out of it. Is it tech companies, if so why? Is it hoteliers, but then why all the inspirational speakers? In any case, great to see the community building at Booking.IN THE SUGAR FACTORY WITH BOOKINGTell Trends, mainly for executivesThe quarterly magazine, Tell Trends, will be going out soon to select people who purchased their editions. The magazine is approximately 50 pages of experts taking a look at the major trends of the hotel marketing and tech industry. Those who don't have the time to read the daily news and want to understand where things are going.SIGN UP FOR EARLY ACCESS
Article by Martin Soler

Food for thought: The future of Revenue Management and maybe Starbucks + more

Soler & Associates 31 July 2018
Food for thoughtHotels Moving Into Adjacent SpacesA while ago AccorHotel's CEO correctly pointed out that Hotels have been slow to catch onto trends and thus lost some competitive advantages to the likes of OTAs, Metasearch companies and Airbnb. Determined not to do that again, hotels have been looking at growing their offering into additional channels. Some have gone out to buy apartments to rent them out with hotel services, some are starting coworking services within their hotels, there's no lack of ideas. But which one will stick? Wework's apparent success does makes one wonder why more hotels aren't going that route. In the end, when it comes to building and managing assets for services, hotels know a thing or two.DISRUPT OR BE DISRUPTEDWill Guests Outsmart Revenue Managers?Google's recent "Price Insights" for hotels open a crack in the perfect paint job of revenue management. What if the (often random) price fluctuations of hotel rooms suddenly become predictable by the guests? What if Google and Hopper (and probably many others) begin to analyse patterns in rate fluctuations and guests start to know before hotels when is the best time to book. And what if that get's automated on a large scale and guests just book with some bot in the background cancelling and re-booking every time the price goes down. It's not that hard to do. Will room prices even-out or will the fluctuations increase? Hard to say but the possibility it there.PRICE INSIGHTS APPEAR IN SEARCH RESULTSNew Retail, We Still Don't Get ItThere's a concept in China that we're not grasping. It's called New Retail. We look at Amazon Go as a weird experiment of the future thinking it will probably fail, while China is moving along building a whole new retail concept. While we watch out retail industry slowly get eaten up by online sales. Probably because we've been so good at retail for so long we think it's too big to fail. And yet, it is doing just that. Few question the process of making a customer drag their goods to a Cashier, wait in line, fumble around with bags and credit cards while the next in line looks at us as if we're forcing them to hold their breath. Yet it is the epic example of putting the customer second. Starbucks, for all their success, is more important than their customers. If it wasn't so we wouldn't wait in line. Probably because China is just getting started at retail they're more akin to question everything. And the way things are going, they're more likely to succeed.HOW LUCKIN COFFEE IS BEATING STARBUCKSHotels and Tech Companies Need to Figure it OutA few years back the future for hotel companies was obvious: become tech companies and stay relevant. It was obvious because they weren't bringing in new clients anymore (OTAs do that) and brands were less relevant than before (the internet took care of that). But AccorHotels has been trying and just like marriage, it's not as easy as it seems. If brands would provide all the best IT tools, management skills, operations standard, negotiated discounts etc one could imagine it would be a no-brainer. But when it comes to IT, hotels companies just don't really seem to know what to do with it. Agile, Scrum, Standups, Horizontal structures, Brutal Candor and all those things just don't work with hotel companies. Who have built political empires founded on processes that go back, way back. It's a tough marriage, but it might be a necessity. Because the competition isn't coming from the brick and mortar world, it's coming from the tech world.BITING THE BULLET ON $288MBrands are not DeadThinkers in the advertising world seem to believe that advertising is dying and so are brands. That the internet giants and distributors favour only product and price and that building a brand no longer is relevant. The idea is daunting. On the one hand we want to believe that huge change is coming (and we're a little comforted to believe we predict things) on the other, we like to know that our zone of comfort will work for a while. I don't believe brands are dead, but I agree that their, almost religious, positions are being chipped at. In the hotel space we've a lot of this. Probably the future is niche, and that might be a great thing for hotel brands (who seem to be working their way there already). But it's also a great thing for entrepreneurs who can create a group of hotels and actually make a statement.THE DEATH OF ADVERTISING
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

Request Information

Thank you for your request, we will get back to you as soon as possible.
Please enter your contact details below and we will get back to you with the requested information as soon as possible.
An error occured, please check your input and try again.



Thank you for subscribing. Your email address has been added to our mailing list.
To subscribe to the HITEC Bytes Newsletter please enter your contact details below.
An error occured, please check your input and try again.
I do want to receive the HITEC Bytes email newsletter.
By submitting this form, you have read and agreed to the Privacy Notice of HFTP.
You may unsubscribe to these emails at any time.