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The New Age of Meetings and Events

Onyx CenterSource ยท9h
In an age when travelers are used to being able to plan and book their travel with a quick search on their PC or a few taps on their phone, the world of meeting planning has remained largely a manual one.That is changing fast, however. With meeting and events bookings now representing a full third of the hotel market - or about $500 billion a year in business - a number of companies are recognizing the market potential and developing new technological solutions.From platforms that simplify and speed up the planning, booking, tracking and meeting management process to those that closely track payments and provide crucial data to help companies save money and make better-informed decisions, the list of startups is fast-growing.The less-promising news, however, is that recent surveys show meeting planners are still struggling to find effective technologies for their needs.According to one study, almost one of two meeting planners today says that event management technology is a primary pain point. And when it comes to venue selection, the biggest issues are a lack of transparency in pricing and poor responses to digital requests for proposals.Perhaps the biggest challenge, however, studies show, is that meeting planners are still struggling with how to use the new technologies to measure the overall return on investment post-event, and how to analyze and use that data to inform future event programming and design remains a challenge.Here at Onyx CenterSource, we've been studying this market and developing our own solutions to help alleviate pain points throughout the meetings and events lifecycle.To better understand what solutions are out there and where we see the market still lacking, download our latest article, "Meetings and Events: The New Frontier For Hospitality Tech Innovation."
Article by Robert Mandelbaum

Shifts In Revenue and Expenses Improve Hotel Food And Beverage Profits

CBRE Hotels 20 November 2017
To understand recent trends in lodging food and beverage sales, we analyzed the financial performance of hotel restaurants, lounges, room-service, and catering departments for the period 2010 through 2016. The information came from a same-store sample of 705 full-service, convention, all-suite, select-service and resort hotel operating statements taken from the firm's Trends in the Hotel Industry database. In 2016, the hotels in the sample averaged 365 rooms in size, 76.5 percent in occupancy, and an average daily rate of $201.99.Out of the RoomFrom 2010 to 2016, total food and beverage department revenue increased at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.5 percent. This is less than the 5.6 percent CAGR in rooms revenue, and 5.2 percent CAGR for total hotel operating revenue during the same period. With total revenue increasing at a greater pace, food and beverage revenue measured as a percent of total revenue has declined from 30.4 percent in 2010 to 29.2 percent in 2016. Being a same-store-sample, this reflects changes in existing operations. Given the recent proliferation of new limited and select-service properties, the decline in food and beverage revenue as a percent of total industry-wide revenue would be more dramatic.In 2016, six of the eight food and beverage revenue categories tracked by CBRE were greater than the nominal dollars achieved in 2010. The two sources of revenue that still lag are in-room dining and mini-bar. It is interesting to note that both of these sources of revenue are earned while the guest remains in their room. The decline in revenue from in-room sources is consistent with the emphasis hotel brands have placed on new food, beverage, workspace, and socializing concepts in the lobby area.On a percentage basis, the greatest increases in food and beverage revenue since 2010 have come from audio/visual rentals and service charges. Audio/visual services are frequently provided by a third-party vendor, and therefore less negotiable by hotel management. Service charges are frequently mandatory components of employee compensation, and therefore cannot be reduced or eliminated.Revenue from hotel restaurants and lounges (venues) has grown at a CAGR of 4.9 percent from 2010 to 2016. Beverage venue revenue (5.4 percent) has grown at a greater pace than food venue revenue (4.7 percent). The new self-service concepts have simultaneously reduced traditional restaurant sales, and reduced the average food check for per customer.During the early stages of the recovery, it was banquet revenue that led the growth in food and beverage revenue. At that time, hotels reached out to local sources for catering business that filled the event space left empty by the lag in group demand. Now, during the later years of the recovery, group demand has started to return, but has yet to fully recover. This apparently has thwarted the recent rate of growth in banquet revenue.Of the various four property types tracked by CBRE that offer restaurants, lounges, and catering, the greatest gains in food and beverage revenue have occurred at resort and convention hotels. Guests at these hotels are more captive to the events, services, and amenities occurring on-site. Therefore, these property-type categories have a greater likelihood of capturing in-house food and beverage patrons. Full-service and all-suite hotels, on the other hand, cater to more transient demand that has a higher propensity to leave the hotel to find a restaurant or lounge.Expenses and ProfitsLabor related costs represent the greatest share of direct operating expenses within the food and beverage department. In 2016, the combined cost of salaries, wages, bonuses and employee benefits accounted for 52 percent of total department expenses. From 2010 to 2016, total labor costs in the food and beverage department grew at a CAGR of 4.1 percent. Having grown just slightly less than the CAGR for department revenue, the food and beverage labor cost ratio has remained fairly constant the past seven years - roughly 44 percent. It can be assumed that hotel food and beverage department staffing requirements have been reduced considering the movement towards greater self-service options. Unfortunately, it appears that the recent surge in hospitality compensation rates has offset any labor efficiencies gained.The most significant expense savings have occurred in the cost of goods sold. From 2010 to 2016, the cost of food purchases has risen by a CAGR of 2.3 percent, while beverage purchases have grown at a CAGR of 2.8 percent. These growth rates are significantly less than the increases in revenue. Therefore, the hotel beverage cost ratio has declined from 20.7 percent in 2010 to 19.2 percent in 2016. An even more dramatic decline has occurred in the food cost ratio. This metric has dropped from 24.6 percent in 2010 to 22.5 percent. The savings in food cost are consistent with both the decline in prices for this commodity, as well as the shift in menu options at the new quick-service concepts.While food and beverage department revenue increased at a CAGR of 4.5 percent from 2010 to 2016, total department expenses grew by just 3.4 percent. With revenues growing at a greater pace than profits, the food and beverage profit margin has increased from 24.9 percent in 2010 to 29.5 percent in 2016. The net result of the relative changes in revenues and expense was a 7.5 percent CAGR in food and beverage department profits for the properties in our sample during the seven-year period.While food and beverage revenue as a percent of total revenue may be on the decline, a case can be made that more thought is being given to hotel food and beverage today than ever before. The major hotel companies are using the quality, ambiance, price-point, facility, and service levels of their food and beverage offerings to define their new brands. At existing properties, major changes are frequently being made to the food and beverage outlets during their renovations. As consumer habits change, hotel operators appear to have adapted, and brought more food and beverage dollars to the bottom-line.
Article by Xundong Ding

Diving deep into data intelligence to drive guest loyalty & hotel revenue

Cendyntm 20 November 2017
Why is hospitality such a data rich industry? The hospitality industry caters to millions of people daily. It is a data rich field capturing massive volumes of information, all generated from different systems like bookings, POS, PMS and loyalty. It's now possible to add public social media data, online review data, and other sources of guest information like service requests and post-stay feedback to the mix.Where are hotels focusing development in response? Hotels are trying to flow all data from different systems into a centralized location for future analysis and usage. They then develop a system to use the data to create a comprehensive guest profile, which can be referenced to create a unique customer journey and guest experience. That's where Cendyn comes into the picture with our hotel CRM solution. With customer data all gathered in a central place, it makes it easier to see the big picture. Hotels can then make better informed decisions when it comes to marketing and customer service.What is the biggest challenge in working with data and hotel systems? Most hotels use disparate platforms for daily operations like POS, PMS, email marketing and analytics, online reputation management, and others. They are powerful, but do not connect and share data with one another on their own. This makes it difficult to aggregate the data to gain insights and act either on a single guest or the guest database.What are the benefits of centralizing hotel systems to best use guest data?In an increasingly competitive industry, personalized actions will make the difference between an ordinary stay and one that is truly exceptional. A centralized CRM will house all data streams interlinked and create a global guest profile, which can be used to create a unique customer journey and guest experience. At Cendyn, we like to call it a "single point of truth." Hotels need to get familiar with their guests to deliver personalized, high-touch experiences that today's customers expect. They need to think about the relevance of their communications and service to each guest to increase guest satisfaction and loyalty.How can hotels use data intelligence to drive loyalty and revenue? By keeping guest information in a global CRM profile, hotels can personalize the customer experience and always stay one step ahead. Keeping an eye on preferences and the way people use the hotel, such as early morning alarm calls, favorite beverages, and gym use, gives hotels the opportunity to adjust services accordingly. Knowing when the guests are likely to travel and offering them a special deal or an especially warm welcome breeds loyalty. Over time, as you build a relationship with each guest, your profiles will keep growing and expanding, offering a 360-degree view to enable a truly personalized guest experience that drives loyalty and revenue.How can hotels harness aggregated guest data analytics? Once hotels combine data collected from guests in CRM, they can use analytics to segment according to booking trends, behavior and other factors to reveal their likelihood to respond to promotions and emerging travel trends. It is important for hoteliers to understand guest preferences (locations, activities, and room types), purchase behavior (frequency, length of stay, time of year) and profit potential to increase brand loyalty. Focusing on the wrong guests reduces profitability across the enterprise. For example, if a hotel targeted guests who would likely take advantage of spa services, golf and restaurants, rather than guests who only generate room nights, they could significantly increase revenues and profitability.Considering the future of hotels, where do you see data driving development next? Technology in the hospitality industry is getting more sophisticated every year. What's next? Using machine learning to predict future trends for customer behavior and revenue patterns, as well as how to handle large volumes of data for more intelligent processing.
Article by Dean Minett

How Virtual Reality Could Transform Guest Expectations

Minett Consulting 20 November 2017
Try before you buy is an old concept, and it's been applied to any number of things commercially. Cars, homes, electronics and vitamins -- just about every corner of the retail industry has offered no-risk money back arrangements with consumers. People want to know what they're getting into before they invest. It's also a powerful statement of confidence on the seller's (or manufacturer's) part. It says: You're going to be happy you own this. You're not going to want your money back.Until now, industries that are based in experiences rather than commodities were beyond the pale of "try before you buy" (unless you include Rekall in Total Recall). How are people going to try a surfing vacation before you go? How are you going to try a first class cabin on a train? Multi-media content (images and video) has brought us closer, but there's still nothing like being there, like actually standing in the space and seeing its dimensions first hand.Virtual reality has been around awhile, but early iterations made it something of a joke. The graphics were terrible, and the headsets were gigantic.Now that 360 cameras have become sophisticated and widely available (think about those latest holiday snaps your friends are posting to Facebook), VR technology can vividly put you in real places. You can stand on the veranda of that vacation villa you're thinking about renting. You can cruise down the streets of a faraway city at night in a Ferrari. You don't control the accelerator, but it's easy to let yourself be immersed in the details. Why? Because it's real detail. It's actual imagery. Most people who have tried the newer headsets -- such as the Samsung unit that makes use of a Galaxy phone -- are shocked by how detailed and immersive the experience actually is. Big electronics firms (examples) are running, not walking, into the VR space.Travel is one of the industries most obviously touched by the development of this technology. Effectively, VR means that "try before you buy" is indeed available in our industry -- at least to an unprecedented degree. If you're not sure about which type of room to book at a given hotel, you can be dropped into a 360 degree image or led on a VR walking tour. You don't have to rely on two-dimensional web site imagery, which rarely gives you an accurate spatial perception and definitely doesn't provide as much detail.Travel giant Thomas Cook is among the early adopters. In 2015 they worked with Visualise, a British VR production firm, to produce a series of immersive travel experiences for viewing at Thomas Cook locations around the world. The campaign featured professional filming in diverse locations, including Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, Singapore and New York City. A separate campaign for Thomas Cook Airlines gives the public an immersive experience on Thomas Cook flights to different locations, along with contests and promotional opportunities hidden within the VR content.There's little doubt that virtual reality and travel are going to mix even more in 2017 and beyond, which means there are tremendous opportunities -- along with fresh new pitfalls.As VR headsets and 360 degree content become more and more common, the big hotels are going to produce more content to pull people in. You'll be able to put on your headset and be immersed in that upper-floor suite, for example. And the next logical step will be seamless booking functionality.The problem of expectationsWhat does all of this mean for hotels? Among other things, it means that when a guest shows up, the difference between real and virtual worlds had better not be stark. While VR promotional content has tremendous potential, it sets the bar higher for hotels. Through this kind of promotion, it becomes even more important to deliver on promises, both in terms of amenities and service. Otherwise, people will feel distinctly misled and the online reputations of such hotels will suffer.(As discussed in a previous post, incongruous photographs have the same impact.)Some hoteliers will choose to steer clear of VR content for these very reasons. It's also true that VR content is still relatively expensive to produce, and the pictures themselves will grow old like any video or jpeg image. New content will have to be created.But what if it becomes cheaper to create and distribute VR content? What if "try before you buy" becomes the rule, not the exception, in the hospitality industry? Using such content to promote your hotel could feasibly become as widespread, or indeed as necessary, as using an OTA.In the end, VR will be productive tool for hoteliers who use it to set up the right expectations. And they'll strive to meet or exceed those expectations through strong fundamentals, attention to detail, positive interactions between guests and staff. But we need to ensure we are not too focused on the virtual experience because when you come right down to it, real hospitality experiences will always be what counts.
Article by Robert Meza

In-destination is worth billions but without mobile, forget it

The ENTERTAINER FZ LLC 14 November 2017
The in-destination market has long been ignored in favour of the flights and hotel booking business. From a money-making perspective, this doesn't make much sense - the reason most people travel is for unique experiences on the ground. Until recently most travel companies ignored this vast opportunity, or simply used tours and activities as a means to upsell.But now the reality is that mobile technology has advanced enough to become the driving force of the in-destination market. The pipes are now in place to deliver seamless instant digital experiences from suppliers to smartphone devices.Changing timesLet's take for example Expedia, which moved its T&A Local Expert division onto its app in 2015, betting big with a $6.4 million investment for US promotion. Booking.com launched its app-based Booking Experiences initiative in 2016 allowing travellers to instantly book and pay for attractions. According to comments made at this year's Phocuswright Europe conference, they have been testing in a few key markets, and the results are so far quite positive.Even Airbnb has caught on and launched its Trips platform last November, hawking "live like a local" experiences hosted by experts oozing cool factor. You might have even seen its new marketing collaboration with Millennial-minded VICE, sending lucky winners to trendy destinations such as Cape Town, Paris and Tokyo, for once-in-a-lifetime hyper-local adventures.Figure it outAccording to Phocuswright, which has extensively researched the in-destination market, travel activities, tours, attractions and events alone were worth about $135 billion worldwide in 2016 - dining and shopping not included.Elsewhere, new research from eMarketer shows that desktop travel bookings are sharply declining in the US with mobile sales set to total $75.85 billion this year, up 16.7 percent from 2016. Global travel, tourism and hospitality are clearly manoeuvring in this direction, so best to hop on board or get left behind.There are several innovative startups already attempting to stake a claim in this evolving space, such as Musement in Europe, and Klook in Asia, and of course established non-traditional OTAs such as Tripadvisor, which acquired Viator, tours and activities engine considered the first in this field.To be sure, Airbnb's Trips platform and others present healthy competition, but the market is wide open and large enough that it could still be anybody's game.Plenty of roomAfter all, most travel players did not start pursuing mobile as their primary play until recently. A "mobile-second strategy" ensures that mobile always comes, well, second. Expedia admitted to a "mobile-second strategy" until its 2015 shift.The in-destination sector will grow to suit what customers are craving - on-demand, on-the-go access - whether larger OTAs or innovative startups shine enough of a spotlight in there or not.Large and fragmented supply, together with basic technology and this lack of direct attention from the big fish, are a budding opportunity for companies who aren't afraid of risk-taking and real ingenuity. Mobile companies that take the time to carefully connect the dots within the sector, forming widespread networks and lasting relationships, will be in a prime position to reap some pretty powerful benefits.Mobile applicationsMobile is pushing innovation in the in-destination market like never before. Bigger brands are beginning to seek out new ways to entice and delight customers during their travels. For example, a telco that sells tourist SIM cards could use a mobile in-destination platform for added value, whereas airlines could benefit from such a platform as a means to connect with customers via loyalty programs.Consumers want to use their devices to explore, experience and share their travel. In the age of instant gratification, there is no reason why companies should not meet these requirements. At the end of the day, it's the things that people do on holiday that inspire travel in the first place. Those are the travel moments they value - arguably, much more often than a stress-free flight or even a nice hotel room.Building an in-destination mobile experience requires a lot of working parts to synch and align - dining offers, day planners, guides, and instant booking of tours and activities, or what have you.And customizing for specific partners, whether telcos, airlines or even financial institutions who want to connect with customer loyalty, adds another layer of sophistication and opportunity.But in the long game of trendsetters and trend followers, it's important to know which side you are on. In that way, the work can be very well worth it.
Article by Hammad Hussain

Push Notifications as a Tool for Hotel Marketers

Tink Labs Limited 13 November 2017
According to recent studies by Localytics, the conversion rate is about 15%, which clearly suggests that the content of the message in these notifications has to be relevant to the targeted audience and catchy.Often considered as a double-edged sword with a remarkable strength to yield best conversions, many hotels are now using this tool as a way to promote their restaurants or spa offer. But when do you stop being relevant and become annoying to the point you drive your guest away?The key point here is Relevance, here are two tips hotel marketers can consider:1. Segment your guest through data available on platformBy segmenting your guests' preferences as deep as you can be the easiest approach when you use data available through a CMS analytics tool. For instance, hospitality technology provider Tink Labs' solutions handy enables a full-fledged analytical platform named 'handyPortal' that gives hotels aggregated information about in-house guests.They can learn about their guests' preferences, interests or demographics. With the "handyPortal" tool, you can analyze and target the right in-house guest.2. Be selective of the messages that you push and whenHotels can get in touch with your in-house guests without appearing to intrusive. Get their attention with beautiful content and images. Set specific objectives with bespoke Call-to-Actions to generate leads for your namely time-sensitive promotions, event reminders, and promotional offers.For instance, if your restaurant has a low occupancy on the evening, sending a push message to all hotel guests in the afternoon and offer a complimentary F&B items, or, discount that will generate bookings with a call-to-action to a reservation link.Personalizing experience: a successful caseStarted in October 2016, the UK hotel group Ashley Hotels including eight properties, turned to handy for guests to enjoy a hassle-free travel experience, and they have leveraged the device's "send push message" feature to engage with their guests. The push messages will engage guest when they are inside or outside of the hotel."Push Notification for in-house guests allowed us to show our best offers and message for each user based on their interest in our properties, and delivered 3X return compared to usual printing visual materials" said Zamir Hirji, Director & Owner at Ashley Hotels.Ashley Hotels is able to design, manage, automate and send push message at any time to their guests. The handy device has in average 90% activation rate; therefore, Ashley Hotels was able to capture a communication gateway with its guests to constantly promote their mission and services.Once having set the push notifications priorities right, there are numerous ways to measure your success, such as call-to-action statistics, conversion rate and the one that would have hit the sweet spot of all hoteliers: incremental revenue increase.
Article by Michael Toedt

How to turn data into money?

Toedt, Dr. Selk & Coll. GmbH 9 November 2017
When Microsoft bought LinkedIn in 2016, Microsoft paid US$260 per active user. At that time LinkedIn had about 100 million active users which led to the unbelievable price of 26 Billion US$. The question is, how much would an investor pay for a hotel company with about 100 million guests? Most likely, the guest profiles were not part of the evaluation process, but how comes? The answer is simple, hotels have not created a model to monetize data.For sure data is the new oil, the foundation of the fourth industrial revolution, called Big Data. But data is first of all just a raw material companies have to make useable. In order to make oil valuable it must be refined for instance to get petrol out of it. First after the refining process it can be used. It is the same with data. Data needs to be refined, it needs intelligence to get value out of it.But how to make data valuable, how to transform Big into Smart Data into values? The way is simple to explain, but the way extremely complex: technology wise, organizational wise, people wise and it needs the sponsorship from the top. A Central Data Management strategy means a shift of responsibilities and these needs the support from the CEO first of all.The way of creating value from data can be described in five steps:Step1: Like an umbrella an above property system has to consolidate all relevant data sources. For hotels these are: PMS, POS, Newsletter System, Website, WIFI, questionnaires and table reservation system.Step2: Data cleansing: this is one of the hardest parts since about 75% of all data centralization projects fail due to poor data quality.Step3: Based on the consolidated and clean data a central profile must be created which shows a complete picture of each individual.Step4: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning is needed to create knowledge from the huge amount of available information. E.g. A click in a newsletter, a click on the website, an answer in the questionnaire, all this information can be used to learn who a customer is and to create fully automated interests and preferences without any manual interaction.Step5: Usage of the new knowledge. Big Data is all about quality, it is all about individualization for a better marketing, a better service or better decisions.Companies who follow these five-step approach will gain a complete different value set. The principle looks simple, but the change process requires a combination of leadership, an aligned team and the right partners. Hotels sit on a treasure of raw material like almost no other industry which waits to get refined. Hotels should start to fight back against the OTA's and use the new possibilities of Big Data.
Article by Alonso Franco

Finding the Right Balance: Three Ways That Hotels Can Automate Without Losing Their Personal Touch

Arrivedo 8 November 2017
Global peer to peer rental giant AirBnB recently earned the top spot on CNBC's Disruptor 50 list, and in March of this year, after raising another $1B in funding, was estimated to be worth the same as traditional hotel groups Hilton and Hyatt combined.Despite legal issues in tourist hotspots including New York and Barcelona, the company remains extremely popular, putting traditional hotels on the ropes with it's wide range of homely and affordable accommodation options, as well as a level of automated convenience which appeals to more independant travellers. Nowadays, aside from being able to handcraft their own travel experiences, users can also search for, book, pay for and then even gain access to apartments with minimal interaction with hosts.To stay competitive and reduce staffing costs, leading hospitality providers are looking for ways they can also 'automate' parts their processes to streamline services to the fast changing tastes of modern guests. 'Robot' hotels have already been launched in Norway and Japan, however experts warn that if hotels automate too many of their functions, they risk sacrificing the personalized level of attention and comfort which many guests still desire. Today's hotel differentiation is on services. What can replace the joyous feeling of returning to a room which previously resembled a disaster zone to find it in pristine order, or being pampered like a king and queen when on your honeymoon?Here are three ways that hotels can automate without losing the personal touch which guests love so much:1.Check-inWe have all been there. You have had a long journey, spent hours on layovers, in cramped planes, buses and taxis, and finally arrive at your hotel -- only to be met with a queue to check in. All you want to do is have a shower and rest your weary head, but you have to wait, register your card and passport, and make small talk before you can finally reach the sanctuary of your room.Check-in and other mandatory hotel processes are often drivers towards more autonomous AirBnB experiences, where keypads and key drops streamline the process for guests when they arrive. But there are ways which hotels can automate this part of the process too. Tyler Craig, VP of NCR Corporation's travel business states, "Customers are used to ATMs at the bank instead of tellers, checking in for airplane flights online, and they are now looking for that same efficiency when they arrive at a hotel."Using automated check in systems offered by companies like Ariane, guests could notify the hotel of their estimated arrival time in advance, fill out passport registration, select a room, and even leave a credit card for deposit -- Uber style -- all via an app. Upon arrival, guests could either pick up a keycard from a person at reception, with an alternative machine after entering their login details, or be sent a key code to their smartphone using a service such as Openkey.However, it is important to offer both automated and traditional forms of check-in. Certain guests -- such as non-digital travellers or those with special requests or needs -- are more likely to appreciate speaking to a human representative who can welcome them, outline the facilities and have their bags sent to their room. It is also useful to have a human representative to handle any complaints or issues which may arise should something go awry with bookings or if someone has a complaint. We all know that tensions can run high after a long journey.2. Room service / In-house servicesOne of the major appeals for AirBnB users, is the ability to live more 'autonomously' when travelling by shopping for and cooking their own food. When you want a midnight snack, some late night drinks, or to indulge in an eyebrow raising amount of junk food, you don't have to worry about whether it is too late to call room service, or whether you will be looked down on for ordering a burger for breakfast. Recent studies show that consumers prefer to order through automated systems, and actually spend more money when doing so. Leading restaurants have found that orders made via digital apps were on average 20% higher than those taken by traditional cashiers. And despite the fact that for many of us being able to phone down for a snack, meal or simply a glass of wine is one of the luxuries which makes the hotel experience so endearing, when Chili's launched self-service tablets, they witnessed a 20% increase in dessert orders. People seem more comfortable letting their hair down when they don't have to announce their planned indulgences to another human being.Aside from offering the anonymity of remote ordering, room service via an app or tablet could make the process more comfortable for guests who are visiting a foreign country too. A recent study found that consumers often avoid ordering things from a menu when they are unsure of how to correctly pronounce the name of the item. The researchers concluded that consumers might fear being misunderstood or appearing unsophisticated to representatives.To tackle this, hospitality providers could automate in-house ordering by rolling out a mobile guest engagement solution which allows guests to request items and services from the comfort of their cellphone, or they could simply have an interactive menu system installed on devices in the guest's room. Marriott hotels and Hilton group have already rolled out similar concierge apps which allow users to interact with staff, request services or order room service from their cellphones.3. ConciergeRecent studies show that millennials crave unique travel experiences and tend to be turned off by the cookie-cutter in-house activities offered by many traditional hotels. As such, AirBnB, which seems to be doing a good job of staying one step ahead of millennial trends, launched its experience service which has been extremely successful in cities like New York.While some hotels are doing a better job of marketing in-house facilities towards millennial tastes -- such as the Grande Bretagne in Athens which advertises it's rooftop 'selfie spot', or the Mandarin Oriental which offers a 'selfies in Paris' package including a Mercedes and a personal driver -- there is still a lot of room for improvement. Millennials are looking for experiences which stretch much further than the hotel grounds.Rather than handing out leaflets and brochures, hotels need to automate the concierge process, to show users what is available in the locations surrounding them digitally. The Hilton group announced last year its plans to roll out robot concierges named Connie, powered by IBM's Watson.However, while many smaller hotel chains won't be able to afford IBM Watson, they could create something similar to the QT Hotels & Resorts Concierge app which can answer guests' questions, and also point them in the direction of local restaurants and activities. Harnessing the peer-to-peer power of sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp, hotels could create automated tour guide native apps for their surrounding areas based on reviews and location.These tools could allow guests to really delve into the areas around them and handcraft their own memorable experiences, and would allow hotels to use the data about guests' activities to create packages, partnerships and offers which could make these apps profitable for hotels and local business owners.AirBnB deserves its top spot on the disruptor list. In less than a decade the company has turned the hospitality industry on its head, and is forcing even the biggest players to adapt, or die. However, before hoteliers change their services too much to appeal to more independant travellers, they must be sure they are not changing the exact aspects which make us want to fork out extra for an amazing hotel experience.
Article by Pierre Boettner

Can The Front Desk Really Be Measured?

hospitalityPulse, Inc. 7 November 2017
Ask industry experts how to measure the front desk, and they invariably say occupancy, ADR, by extension RevPAR, arrivals, and departures. But there's a (big) problem with this. The front desk has little to nothing to do with any of these. Occupancy and ADR are determined long before the guest ever gets to the front desk. While the quality of arrivals and departures falls to the front desk, the numbers do not. The only exception here is a small fraction of ADR that is attributable to upselling at the front desk.Front Desk management is reduced to scheduling staff and intervening in guest service issues. These things are not management. They are administration. The front desk administers check-ins and checkouts, and we aspire for them only to contribute to the bottom line via a small margin achieved through upselling.We can expect more and, therefore get more, from front desk management, but we must first measure. We have previously not had the means to see into their processes. To effectively evaluate the front desk, we need to know how many guests were needlessly upgraded. Needlessly downgraded? Is it possible that a front desk agent upgraded (in the interest of his commission) and displaced someone else, resulting in a downgrade? And what's the cost of this? Was the upsell worth it? How many guests received exactly the room they expected? We must be able to see how many and what type of rooms were available at the time of every transaction to get the big picture. We also need to know who does how many check-ins and checkouts. Which agents have the most discrepancies and the least?These things are the foundation of what the front desk staff does, their greatest contribution to hotel operations. They have an impact, but no one knows what it is. A lack of information of this degree should alarm hoteliers, especially given the depth of data we have about every other department.We do have the information now with insights. A freemium product, insights is a room operations BI tool, the first of its kind. Need to know how many suites were available when an agent upgraded a guest two days ago? And whether a guest arriving an hour later was downgraded, as a result? It's there. How many guests received exactly the room they reserved last Thursday? It's all there. Every hour, every agent, every room. As a development release, hotels can give direct feedback with ease so that we can make it work for you, giving you the tools to manage the rooms department for the first time.I prefer the version of that adage that says, "What gets measured gets improved." So often management and administration are used interchangeably. But when you start to measure you'll see where the needs for training and growth and new systems are--where improvement can happen. This is management.
Article by Ian Graham

Serving Up Profitability

The Hotel Solutions Partnership 7 November 2017
The principal revenue generating asset under management in a restaurant are the seats and tables - and this applies whether the restaurant is a stand-alone business, is in a mixed-use development, is in a theme park, is in an airport terminal, is in a hotel, or even is a pop-up business in a yurt. The seat is a hugely perishable asset - every minute that it is unoccupied there is a missed revenue generating opportunity. If you don't fill the seats this meal period, the revenue (not to mention the profit that you could have made) is gone - and probably elsewhere!So, it's clear that a key metric for best practice is Revenue per Available Seat Hour. RevPASH is calculated by getting the revenue for the hour and dividing it by the number of seats that you have. If the restaurant is only half full, your RevPASH will be lower than it might be; if everyone orders one course only, your RevPASH will again be lower again.Caroline Wilce is Finance Director and shareholder at Black and White Hospitality Management Ltd (the franchisor of the Marco Pierre White brands - Marco's New York Italian, Marco Pierre White's Steakhouse and Grill, Wheelers Oyster Bar and Grill Room, Mr White's English Chophouse, Bardolino). She says "the main key KPIs used by successful restaurant operators include:Revenue per available seat hour (RevPASH)Revenue per available square metre (RevPASM)Cancelled / No Show Covers as a % of Reserved CoversTime per Table Turn"The common ways to increase RevPASH are todecrease the amount of time each party spends at their table and/orincrease the average spend and/ordecrease the time that a table stays empty after a party leavesHere are some ideas to increase your RevPASH.1. Breakfast, Lunch and DinnerStelios Haji-Ioannou made a success of easyJet by first filling the aircraft then raising the price. Sweat your asset; how often do we see hotel restaurants closed for lunch. And branded restaurants closed for breakfast. Yet, one rarely sees small privately run restaurants closed - they are open all hours. The entrepreneurial owner/operator knows that the asset must be sweated.2. Seven days a weekBy increasing available seat hours, you give yourself the opportunity to spread your fixed costs. So, if there is a market, keep the restaurant open all week, all meal periods. If there isn't an obvious market, create one. Many hotels have found success with (champagne) afternoon teas. Pre-theatre dinners are a similar reaction to creating a market that enables the restaurant to be more successful.3. No more quiet nightsCapitalize on menu trends. The industry is seeing a need for more organic, healthy locally sourced options. In some cases, and locations, customers value these options and are willing to pay for them. You need to understand your customers, though, as opinions can vary depending on the market or region. Sundays and Tuesdays are traditionally toughest nights for a restaurant, so running promotions to fill the seats will at least get some revenue. Maybe link in with a local cinema, or run a series of promotions to encourage people to come out on your quieter nights.4. Increasing the number of turnsThe number of turns is the number of parties that sit at a table each night. Depending on your clientele and target market, you may be able to get another sitting in. Some restaurants do fixed sittings, say, 6pm and 8pm so that customers know if they are in the 6pm sitting, they need to be out by 8pm This works well if people are going to the movies or the theatre.5. Create a pool of ready dinersThe bar is a great way to increase your RevPASH. Customers have a couple of beers before dinner and are sitting there ready and waiting as soon as a table is cleared. The in-room TV, the lift walls, are opportunities to promote the hotel restaurant to guests. Better still, a recommendation by the receptionist at check-in can generate business that might otherwise walk out of the hotel for dinner.6. Increase your pricesMake sure your prices are right. Check the local competition and see how you compare. The big thing is to look at each sitting individually and try to optimise the results. Some restaurants do this without thinking about it. It is why there are separate lunch and dinner menus. After you evaluate what other restaurants are doing to drive sales a review of customer data might show that demand indicates that some menu prices could be increased without hurting sales.7. Table optimisationSome restaurants and cafes attract more singles and couples, others larger groups. If all your tables are for 4, it means that every single and couple is wasting seats and decreasing your RevPASH.8. Last minute offersIf you are having an unexpected quiet night, why not Tweet a special or post it on your Facebook page. Work hard to get those extra couple of tables in. It can be the difference between a loss for the night and breaking even. Customer traffic is one of the key metrics restaurant operators use to measure success. When traffic is down, many restaurants turn to new promotions or even consider lowing prices, but will these actions reverse the trend? Before you act, first take time to understand the change in traffic and the underlying causes. Two key steps in deciding how to address traffic issues are to determine if it is a sustained problem or a short-term trend and to determine whether the decrease is caused by internal or external factors. Guest count problems can be addressed in many ways. Once you gain an understanding of what causes traffic issues at a specific location, you will be better prepared to create solutions that address the true, underlying problem.Ally Dombey Northfield is a Director at Revenue by Design, creator of revenue management solutions for the hotel industry. In respect of restaurants, she says "..the focus needs to be on optimizing profitability through contribution margins, differential pricing, menu mix and price blending"Restaurant technology can and should be leveraged to provide better information to inform better decisions. Such tools provide insights into restaurant customer purchasing behavior enabling prediction of their reaction to future initiatives. Technology can be harnessed tomeasure the effectiveness and impact of limited time offersunderstand the impact of coupons and deciding on the most profitable offersquantify the impact of testing a new menu line or a new service concepthelp selecting the most representative restaurants to test brand innovationsreview loyalty programmes and recommend marketing initiativesThe National Restaurant Association in the USA believes that over 60% of sales in fine dining restaurants and 80% of sales in casual restaurants come from repeat business. So, remember that it is existing customers who are your most likely future customers - and through social media they can influence potential customers who have not yet experienced your restaurant. Leverage the database of existing customers (respecting GDPR of course).I hope some of these thoughts help YOU improve your profitability
Article by Benjamin Jost

A Winning Guest Feedback Formula for Your Hotel's Success

TrustYou 7 November 2017
In this piece, I'll be focusing specifically on review marketing - its three biggest benefits, and then how you can actually put review marketing into practice at your hotel.The Biggest Benefits of Review MarketingWe talk about guest feedback and we talk about digital marketing, often in the same sentence - but do you specifically devote time to "review marketing," the art and science of developing a marketing strategy that includes the pursuit of guest feedback and using that feedback online and offline in order to boost your hotel's reputation and guarantee greater success?Some hoteliers I speak to definitely see the value of reviews yet they don't have an actual strategy on how they are going to get more and better reviews, and what they are going to do with them once they do. Now you will.The Three Biggest Benefits of Review Marketing1. Encourages Travelers to Book DirectlyMore than eight-in-10 global respondents (83%) say they completely or somewhat trust the recommendations of friends and family, and two-thirds (66%) say they trust consumer opinions posted online, according to Nielson's Global Trust in Advertising 2015 report.Another report by BrightLocal shows that 84% of people trust ratings and reviews just as much as recommendations from friends and family.In order to build that trust, you can maximize guest feedback by using it in various places on your website: Embed reviews from TripAdvisor and/or TrustYou directly on your homepage (the former has more brand power but also competes with you for that traveler booking, and the latter has less brand awareness but doesn't compete with your hotel) Highlight social posts about your hotel by adding a social media widget/feed that automatically pulls reviews to your website In addition to making "reviews" or "testimonials" a stand-alone page on your website, you can reinforce guest feedback at every stage of the buyer's journey by also adding it to the footer of each page on your website (and relate it to the content on that page). For example, your amenities page would have reviews specifically about amenities (tools that categorize reviews for you would make this more efficient)2. Ensures Travelers Pick Your Hotel Over CompetitorsWith review marketing, you're building an online reputation - so travelers see one consistent story when they check out your website, or browse OTAs during their booking journey. A great example of a hotel that boosted their online reputation with review marketing is JollyTicket. JollyTicket wanted to give travelers a faster and easier search process as travelers search for reviews and information in order to complete their booking decision. They integrated reviews in the search results on their website, and included summarized review content that's easy to read and accessible everywhere travelers are searching.For example, on each of their individual hotel pages, you can see hotel meta review broken down into categories such as traveler type, ratings and the review score distribution (the amount of two-star, three-star, four-star etc. reviews). The meta data also enables them to show the quantity of reviews, badges for outperformance area, and summaries of the most mentioned attributes of each category. As a result, their data shows an increase of more than 15% is being spent on their detailed hotel pages where the hotel meta review data is published.The end result here is that travelers have a faster and easier search process, they can get verified information as they embark on the research phase of the buyer's journey and they can make a purchase decision much faster.3. Increases Your Hotel's Online VisibilityReviews do more for your marketing efforts than you may think. More review content for your hotel on third party platforms leads to more visibility, which means more eyeballs on your hotel vs. the competitors, and ultimately more bookings. A great example of this is B&B Hotels. They wanted to enhance their post-stay experience by getting more feedback from guests, and then turn that feedback into actionable insights to improve their property (part of the winning formula for operational success we talked about earlier). They used guest surveys to collect more reviews and allow guests to publish their reviews directly on Google. Within the first month after implementing the program, B&B Hotels increased its number of Google reviews by 740%, getting eight times as many reviews compared to the same period of time in the previous year.Easier Said Than Done?Now that you're aware of the three biggest benefits of review marketing, let's go back to a bigger question: in order to do review marketing, you need to have a good reputation in the first place. How do you manage a good online reputation?Advocacy ProgramsOne of the most in-demand jobs today are customer success managers or community/advocacy managers. While a new term and a new job, the role is what hotels have been trying to do for years: get their customers to be their advocates. Often, you'll see start-ups and technology companies talking about the need for customer advocates. What sets customer advocates apart from just regular happy customers are:They have large networks (online or offline)They're vocal about their feedback (they don't just tell their mom they had a great vacation, they tell their social networks)They're consistent (they don't tell their social networks once, but repeatedly)So how can you turn guests into customer advocates, and then use those advocates to help you ensure you have a positive online reputation, get more guest reviews and drive more direct bookings?Find Out Your Talk TriggersTalk triggers, as explained by marketer Jay Baer, are the things you do for your customers that people talk about. Talk tiggers have certain features: they are remarkable (enough so that a customer talks about it), they are consistent (every customer experiences it), they are realistic (too grand a gesture and customers are suspicious) and they are repeatable (they don't take a lot of time/money/effort).For the DoubleTree Hilton, for example, their talk triggers are chocolate chip cookies. Ever checked into a DoubleTree? After you get your room key, they also give you a chocolate chip cookie, and it's even warm. Search Twitter for "DoubleTree Hilton cookie" and you'll see thousands of tweets by guests posting about the free cookie they received at check in. It's consistent - it happens to every guest, regardless of your membership (priority, etc.), it's repeatable (every check in, every property) and it sets them apart. What's your talk trigger?Jay Baer lays out the five steps to creating your own talk trigger:Gather Ininternal Insights - From sales, marketing, and customer-facing departments.Analyze Customers - As they interact with your product. In this case, as they stay at your property.Score Your Customers - Based on complexity and potential impact (ideally, high impact so it stands out to your customer but is low on complexity so it's not hard to execute on)Roll Out a Pilot - Test and measure results.Expand to all customers and operationalize it.Using these five steps, you can unearth your own talk triggers that are as memorable to guests as the DoubleTree cookies are to theirs. The end result? Besides just happier guests, you'll also be getting online feedback and reviews that you wouldn't be able to get elsewhere.Create Guest Feedback ProgramsOne of the benefits of talk triggers is that they get your guests talking - but what do you do with what they say? That's where your guest feedback program comes in.Similar to talk triggers, there are five key elements that make up good guest feedback programs:It's easy to leave feedbackIt's asked for immediately post-stayIt's used by your hotel to actually improve a future guest experienceIt's multi-channel (you ask for it in person and online; and use it on multiple channels from social to OTAs to your website)It's categorizable (you can break down the guest feedback into categories - demographic that left the feedback, type of traveler, language of review etc.)Those five elements should be part of how you encourage guests to leave review - and how you utilize review marketing into your overall strategy.Key TakeawayEarlier on, we talked about the formula for success: review marketing and operational excellence = success. In this article, I've showed you why review marketing matters and its biggest benefits. Once you know why you should do it, I broke it down a bit further by showing you how you can actually manage your online reputation - because no review marketing is complete unless you have a good online reputation to begin with. That involves the creation of customer advocacy programs and identifying your talk triggers. Finally, once you've got those, you can come back to the idea of review marketing - understanding what makes up a good guest feedback program.Review marketing is one piece of the puzzle - but it's an important step in the right direction. In my next piece, I'll be focusing on feedback in relation to operational success - so you can use guest feedback not only to enhance your online reputation but also to see greater operational success.Reprinted from the Hotel Business Review with permission from www.HotelExecutive.com.
Article by Nicholas Tsabourakis & Katia Savoca

Total Revenue Management

Bespoke Revenue Management 2 November 2017
It is a fact that over the last years, we have seen a growing need for traditional revenue management (RM) to evolve from having sole emphasis in maximising revenue mainly from rooms, towards adopting a more holistic view and focusing on achieving profit maximisation across the whole organisation.The latest developments in technology and added pressure in the market have advanced RM to acquire a strategic and proactive planning role with emphasis in maximising all components of the customer journey, instead of being utilised as a short-term reactive solution. This gave birth to the idea of Total Revenue Management which should be implemented as a business philosophy and strategy as its principles take into account the entire operation.Total Revenue Management, (TRM), comprises both strategical and tactical procedures and aims to identify & optimise the customer journey. For this customer-focused role to be effective it is imperative to understand consumer behaviour and patterns before, during purchase as well as throughout the product utilisation in order to accurately identify and map demand forces with profit potential. TRM has remarkable potential and the main benefit of its application as a business strategy, is the formation of a mutual and clear vision that enables everyone to work towards adopting the right attitude and commercial approach while expanding knowledge and insights on factors that influence profit. Installing a Revenue culture, right from the start, is of outmost importance for successfully deploying TRM.A Revenue culture implies that all stakeholders have a common vision of what needs to be achieved, why, and how. By having a clear understanding of what the organisation stands for and the strategies & tactics used to reach set targets, it is easier to define standards of performance and establish expectations. Whilst not everyone will ultimately be responsible for achieving what is required, it is essential that relevant stakeholders will participate in the discussions and everyone is aware of decisions taken. This will improve cross-departmental communication, while having an overall view of the business will motivate and incite involvement that will give the team a sense of ownership. The implementation of a rigorous training program is mandatory to shape and instil the right mentality and guarantee a long term success. This will create an environment that celebrates opportunities, transparency and diversity.Moreover, the role of a Revenue Manager and its position in the organisational structure will need to be re-examined and expanded to include additional responsibilities. Beyond the analytical skills, the modern RM will also need to possess character traits such as impeccable communication, influential and leadership skills. As requirements will include focus on overall profitability, current metrics will need to be re-evaluated to reflect that. While RevPAR (Revenue Per Available Room) will still play an important role, TrevPAR (Total Revenue Per Available Room) will need to be established to measure overall performance, while GOPPAR (Gross Operating Profit Per Available Room) should be adopted to measure profit. Calculating GOPPAR could prove challenging as different organisations place different cost elements before or after GOP. Therefore, a universal re-positioning in financial statements will be required for the adoption of this fundamental metric.Furthermore, to increase benefits from a TRM system, it is vital to optimise the buying process and measure total spend, consider different type of customers, their purchasing power, needs and habits. For optimum results the process of segmenting customers will need to take into account the contribution of each segment in all revenue streams as well as the cost of sale. This will provide a detailed view and understanding of who the customers are while having the knowledge of which segment is more profitable, will offer a clear insight and enable the development of the Optimum Business mix. In fact, while examining only rooms may classify a segment secondary due to less booked revenue, the contribution in ancillary products combined with how they book can make it more profitable.To facilitate the above a seamless system that enables cross-departmental sharing of data will be a key element. While the benefits of technology are undeniable, the variety of systems used in different departments may present a challenge for implementing a TRM process. System integration is required to ensure that cross departmental data processing necessities are met and total spend can be accurately mapped. A seamless system will ensure constant communication between all outlets and provide with accurate, timely and complete information for successful optimisation while enabling and supporting better management forecasts.Additionally, to proactively RM the business not only by price point but also by cost of acquisition & contribution by revenue source, it is essential to understand the unconstrained market demand. Forecasting is an essential business-planning tool that allows a view of how business is likely to perform in the future and it determines the fine-tuning of long term strategies and the deployment of short term tactics. It is one of the building blocks of Revenue Management and offers a way to plot business activities so that future demand will be met.It involves the analysis of past booking and spending patterns combined with the current and future trading in order to project a detailed outlook and in a TRM system this needs to be performed not only by market segment but also by revenue stream. Moreover, knowledge of the market and the forces that drive competition is necessary as forecasts should not only be based upon what is happening within the establishment, but needs to include external factors that can influence demand as well as the perceived value of the product.Obviously, a forecast is only as reliable as the information on which it is based and therefore a well-designed system will incorporate all the required procedures to guarantee the quality of data collection. The accuracy of forecasts will determine key decisions on strategies to adopt for revenue maximisation throughout the organisation, while the ability to anticipate demand patterns and preference requirements will facilitate the design and availability of services and products.Optimisation, another key element, compliments the forecast outcome and is the ongoing process of controlling product availability and price to ensure revenue and profit growth. In a constantly changing market place, having a thorough understanding of booking patterns, lead times and cost of distribution will enable managing demand not only by price but also by cost of acquisition & contribution by revenue centre. With demand fluctuating, optimisation aims to highlight deviations from the strategies in place and suggests corrective measures. It takes into consideration the profit elements that influence performance in all revenue streams in order to decide potential reformulation of adopted strategies. Having the right revenue culture makes optimisation easier to implement as there will be times where a sacrifice in price will need to be made for a product in one department in order to secure a piece of business that has significant profit value in another. Looking at business displacement plays an important part in the optimisation process when deciding which pieces of business to consider or decline.The process of calculating displacement will need to include cost of sale, overall revenue contribution, contribution margins for different revenue centres, past performance over considered dates as well as forecast and external factors that might be influencing demand. When considering pricing it is important to keep in mind the perceived value for money and have a thorough view of the value themarket places on the product. To achieve this, it is essential to incorporate ranking and review scores in different sources as it can be a critical decision factor for potential customers.Even though the components emphasised in this article are by no means a definitive list for a TRM system they highlight some key focus areas. And while there are still challenges in the adoption of such a business practice it is an exciting time for Revenue management. Technological advances have led to systems with enormous potential for handling the complexities of managing revenue streams due to their abilities in advanced problem solving, reasoning and perception. This will elevate the role of RM and empower it to reach its full potential whilst allowing the whole organisation to benefit from its concepts.Republished from the Hotel Business Review with permission from www.HotelExecutive.com
Article by Laura Patterson

Are You Ready To Make The Shift To A.I.? (Part Two)

visionedge marketing 1 November 2017
This is the second part of a two-part series. See our first section Should You Use A.I. in Your Marketing?. According to BPMonline Insights, nearly 40% of companies struggle to convert data into actionable insight. We know from our research, and that of others, that there is increased pressure on Marketing to measure its contribution and optimize investment and decisions. Adam Berke, president and CMO of AdRoll recently echoed our mantra, "marketers need to look for smarter and more sophisticated ways to connect their activities to actual business metrics." Plus, the demand for predictive performance analytics is rising, as organizations try to anticipate future business scenarios with in-depth analytics of past and present performance data. According to the latest CMOSurvey.org study, spending on analytics is expected to increase from 5.5% of Marketing budgets to 18.1% in the next three years.In Part 1 Should You Use A.I. in Your Marketing?, we briefly outlined the value of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) for Marketing and some initial steps you can take to prepare you and your team. Artificial Intelligence allows you to understand the data generated by customer and prospect interactions so you can develop and implement more effective Marketing strategies and programs, improve your Marketing performance, and outperform your competition.The ultimate power of A.I. is to be able to drive better decisions through the intelligent use of data. In the words of Tomer Naveh, CTO of Albert, "data is unquestionably the domain of A.I." Thank goodness, because as of last count, we are creating 2.5. quintillions of data daily! It's no wonder organizations feel crushed by the deluge of data.Intelligent tools enable you to swiftly react to market changes, optimize mix models, and improve your processes, especially those that affect customer buying patterns. However, before you succumb to the lure of the latest artificial intelligence shiny new tools, be sure your data and analytics skills are up to snuff. According to research by the CMO Council, marketers are far less data-savvy than they may think. In their study, the CMO Council and RedPoint Global claim "They [marketers] don't know what data they have at their disposal, and they don't know how to use it. While today's omnichannel customers are more connected than ever before, organizations are failing to keep pace with customer expectations for frictionless experiences, despite the multitude of data, analytics and engagement systems in place." Tools are not the issue. According to the CMO Council, over the past five years, 42% of marketers have installed more than ten solutions across marketing, data, analytics or customer engagement technologies.Four steps to take before trying to apply A.I. to your data:Build your data and analytics skills. Data is the DNA of Marketing. Regardless of role, every marketer needs a solid base in data. Whether your hire it or outsource it, you need strong data and analytics skills to address the increasing need to generate insights from the constantly increasing volume of the data and the expanding number of measures and metrics being used to assess and drive Marketing performance. The CMO Council laments that Marketing analytics -- measuring and analyzing marketplace activity and marketing performance to improve decision-making -- are employed for 37.5 % of business decisions, but less than 2% firms say they have the right people in place to leverage the information.Create a Data Management strategy and a consistent set of standards. The purpose of data is to facilitate decisions. Therefore, you need clarity around which decisions are applicable for A.I.. Then you can build your data management strategy to address how data will be acquired, prepared and normalized. You will want to define how models will be developed, tested, and deployed.Fix your data silos. For any tool to be properly deployed to help you transform data into insights, the systems that house your data need to be connected. It's difficult to create seamless customer experience when data is siloed.Establish an analytics center of excellence (CoE). Your analytics center of excellence is comprised of a team of business and technical professionals who enable the ability to drive best practices around methodologies, tools, models, and techniques. The objective of any CoE is to improve effectiveness and gain efficiency across to the different business units.Remember the end goal is to be able to extract patterns from data so you can make intelligent and actionable decisions and improve operational excellence.Is A.I. the next norm for strategic Best-In-Class Marketing Organizations? Only time will tell. In the meantime, stay tuned for continued insights and tips from our experts. Subscribe to our blog for instant updates and check out our How Data Moves You from One-Size Fits All to Segmentation-Based Marketing recording.
Article by Patrick Landman

Creating an Effective Revenue Management Strategy for Independent Hotels

Xotels 1 November 2017
Independent and boutique hotels have the opportunity to capitalise on traveller appetite for unique experiences. Big hotel chains simply can't compete on this front. And your hotel is also able to completely differentiate itself from other independent hotels. Coupling this with the implementation of hotel revenue management best practices gives your hotel ample opportunity.Read our 10 hotel revenue management tips here to drive the success of your organisation:1. Focus on ValueIn a price-sensitivity sector, value and perceived value are king. It is important to differentiate the two: one, you need to provide the value to your guests that you say you will; and two, that value must be clear to potential guests when considering which hotel to book. It doesn't mean to undercut your competition at all. What a focus on value means is what the guest gets - where is the bang for their buck?You can bring value through outstanding customer service, food and beverage packages, free parking and so forth. Value-added extras that are unique to your hotel go a long way to making guest experience positive and memorable. This is the kind of value that leads to repeat stays and recommendations.2. Get your Distribution Channels RightAs an independent hotel, you may not have the marketing budget that many chain hotels have. For this reason, it is essential that you choose the distribution channels that will boost your revenue management strategy best. But how do you decide which channel is best for you?A number of factors are important. These include ease of channel management; their potential; the cost involved; marketing opportunity the channel provides; and not least, the technology it uses and its compatibility with your own property management system.3. Offer Direct Booking IncentivesBooking through external partners such as online travel agents is important, but direct bookings are the most desirable method of guest reservations. As a hotel revenue manager, you can implement measures to increase them in number.Direct bookings help create customer loyalty. You can encourage direct bookings by offering value-added incentives. These can include anything, from food and beverage discounts, reservation price reductions, discounts on future stays and so forth. The goal is to divert guests away from using hotel comparison sites, where they are more likely to choose a competitor. You can also promote a loyalty programme and drive the likelihood that guests recommend your hotel.4. Create a Culture of Perpetual Revenue Management ImprovementA culture of revenue management improvement creates focus and negates the threat of complacency. If a focus on hotel revenue management is pervasive through your organisation, it leads to awareness among all employees of its importance. This in turn leads to more thoughtful business decisions and behaviour, which ultimately help drive revenue.5. Maintain Organised Records of Key DataData is key to the evolution of your revenue management efforts. But the data must be pertinent. Some hotels collect a lot of extraneous data. This impedes rather than helps business decisions. Focus your hotel on the most essential - on quality over quantity, and on how it will be recorded and used.Not only will it be easier to store and interpret the data, but it will be faster and it will lead to more relevant insights. These insights will drive your entire revenue management approach.6. Always Keep up with Changing Consumer TrendsYour hotel must never lose sight of the importance of staying up to date with changing customer behaviour. This also plays an important role in supporting business decisions. You can do this through various means. For instance, a periodic review of the booking process will tell you if the channels through which customers make reservations change in any way, and of customer demographic trend movements and so forth.Monitor what guests say about your hotel online, on social media, blogs and hotel review websites. You must keep up with and respond to all online activity concerning your hotel, and involve the revenue management team. Knowing what customers are saying at any given time gives the revenue manager vital information that can assist decisions.7. Use Automation to Support, Not ReplaceAutomation has become omnipresent in modern revenue management. But, it is important to not fall into the trap of thinking that everything can be automated. It should be used to assist effective revenue management, which involves many complex decision-making processes that require human professionals.Automation is an excellent solution, particularly for time-consuming tasks such as data entry and reporting, but it is human capital that separates the best revenue management systems from the mediocre.8. Prioritise Website and Mobile ExperienceQuite simply, too many hotel websites are out of date or neglected. Considering the vast majority of guests make reservations online, it is paramount to have an updated, optimised website for computer, mobile and tablet. A professional website also requires periodic updates, taking into account technology updates, changing customer behaviour, design trends and security.An optimised website assists your search results. But you can also use it as a foundation for online marketing tactics including advertising via Google and social media as well as organic growth through your blog and social media accounts.9. Always Keep ROI in MindROI should be front and centre of a revenue management strategy. It underpins every choice made and helps the revenue manager evaluate the merit and potential benefit to the hotel of pursuing a given decision.With efficient use of KPI data, a focus on ROI also provides hotel management with greater insights during periodic hotel performance reviews. These insights shape the business direction of the hotel.10. Achieve Accurate Demand Forecasting and MappingForecasting hotel demand is essential to revenue management. Accurate forecasting informs the hotel of projected costs and needs, as well as expected revenues. But your hotel will also benefit from knowing where your demand originates. This is known as mapping.Through mapping, you can spot trends that tell you if demand is growing or declining from specific customer demographics - age, place of origin and so forth. Mapping can also reveal other vital information, including changes to type of reservation, average customer spend per age group and so forth. This can then support marketing and sales initiatives to increase future revenues.To implement these tips for successful hotel management, we recommend a comprehensive and large-scale review of your operations as a starting point. With these best practice tips, you will be well placed to increase efficiency and revenue across your hotel.Cheers,Patrick Landman @ www.Xotels.com
Article by Jos Schaap

Interview: StayNTouch CEO on how our digital life has profoundly impacted our expectations of everything

StayNTouch Inc. 31 October 2017
What was the impetus for starting StayNTouch?JS: I was on a bike ride with my dad (who went cross country), and we stopped at a coffee shop in Lander, Wyoming (mid-2012). When we ordered our coffee, the Barista took the order on an iPad and then turned it around towards me for me to swipe my card and sign on the tablet. This was the first time I experienced this type of transaction done on an iPad. I was intrigued by the interaction between the barista and myself - the fulfilling part of the transaction. I asked the manager a few questions about the technology and application they were using. That night my son downloaded the app, set up the POS on his iPad, and walked me through how to order a burger - only at that point, the app asked us to subscribe and pay a monthly fee in order to use it.I was really impressed that in addition to the great customer/staff experience, the technology was also straightforward to use and setup. Even my 12-year-old son could set up a full restaurant POS on his iPad without any training. I thought this was amazing. Over the next ten days, while on the bike ride, I had a lot of time to think. The key to great hotel service is all about people, but often people are separated by a Front Desk. This barrier was making most requests, including check-in, and check out more of a transaction than a really personalized guest service experience. It is then that it occurred to me - if hotel staff could access the entire PMS on a tablet, they could better assist and engage with guests, as well as become much more efficient. Add to that, the ease of use associated with an iPad or tablet app, especially in hotels with high staff turnover, and it was something that was badly needed. That is what initially sparked the idea of developing the first cloud-based mobile hotel property management system with integrated guest self-service solutions.What market segments need to step up their game when it comes to implementing new and innovative hotel technologies?JS: I think in general all market segments can work towards upping their game as it relates to implementing new technologies - primarily if they are existing hotels. To me, there should be an increased focus for hotels to provide more self-service options. We can see from our database that over 66% of the guests in hotels who use all our self-service modules (mobile check-in, and self-service lobby check-in), opt to check in through a self-service solution.Where do you see AI being used within the hotel industry?JS: This is an interesting question. I am not sure how to answer that at this point. Can we use Artificial Intelligence to find guests in our system? Can we use it to have guests use Siri or Alexa to check themselves in? Maybe, but I think we first need to do a better job of collecting data on the guest, so we can optimize the latest technology to provide a better experience. Using this data to be more targeted, offer the early check-in, late checkout, or package extras at the right time for the right guest, these are things we can do a lot with, and they are things guests will appreciate even if they might need to pay more. Working towards putting the guest in control of their stay is as important if not more important than AI.How do you think hotels can truly give the guest what they want?JS: The digital transformation of our culture has changed our expectations about everything we encounter. Look at the way you interact with people, consume information, purchase goods and services, and so on. Everything is immediate and personalized. Entire industries such as retail, telecommunications, and media, have completely transformed in response. Unfortunately, the typical hotel experience looks very much like it did 20 years ago. That is why we have a vision for helping hotels to align their service model with our new, digital lives. To be competitive in today's marketplace, we believe you need to free yourself from traditional assumptions about hotel operations. Our vision is to bring mobility to hotel staff and guests to create a genuinely guest-centric experience that parallels with your guests' lives and makes your hotel business more successful.Guests want their own way of entering and leaving the hotel; they want to choose how they interact, and they want to be in control.What's next for StayNTouch?JS: We are in the middle of piloting our Rover Connect APIs, together with our largest customers. One customer is building a new mobile app for their hotels and wants to deliver fully integrated check-in and out experiences. Our APIs provide just that. Be on the lookout for our general release of Rover Connect in early 2018. We also have, on the way, our multi-property features. In short, we continue to work on being the right technology for today's hotels and their guests!
Article by Robert Meza

Transforming the future of the travel experience, one mobile at a time

The ENTERTAINER FZ LLC 30 October 2017
There, waiting for you is a welcome message, along the lines of:"Welcome to Barcelona, Robert. Anything planned for those 12 hours of layover here?The Picasso Museum opens in one hour. Tap here to take a virtual tour and book your ticket to avoid the queue.By the time you're done, some of the best vegetarian Catalonian restaurants are within a ten-minute walk. Check out some of their special offers, and click on whichever one takes your fancy to make a reservation."Oh by the way, traffic is not looking very good right now, we suggest you take the metro. Tap here for directions."Next train leaves in ten minutes - swipe right to get your ticket."The tips can continue giving the user a whole host of relevant options and information tailored to his or her likes and interest - tours, special offers, theatre shows, maps, location-specific guides, restaurants.What's more, it'll take into consideration the time of day and the user's actual location - pushing to him or her only those notifications that are truly relevant.It's a personalised tour guide, a daily planner, a guidebook, a map, a concierge and a booking engine all on one ecosystem joining all the dots of the traveller's journey seamlessly.It's a complete in-destination mobile solution in the palm of your hand, which means that the traveller does not need to download four or five different apps to do this, but it could all exist within one solution, delivered on mobile.Sound feasible? The truth is that all the tools to make this reality exist today, however not many companies have invested in putting all of these together for the traveller.Fact or fictionNot many industries have embraced and adopted the advancement of digitalisation as much as the travel sector - and this is showing no signs of slowing.According to the World Economic Forum's paper entitled Digital Transformation Initiative Aviation, Travel and Tourism in collaboration with Accenture, over the next decade (2016 to 2025), digitalisation in the travel industry is expected to create up to $305 billion of value.It's no secret that what is truly driving not only innovation but also monetisation and profitability in travel is mobile technology.According to Criteo, fuelled by smartphone use, close to one-third of online travel bookings worldwide took place on mobile devices in Q2 2016, up from 24% just one year before.This trend is reiterated by Hotels.com's travel tracker, which reports that in 2016 42% of people booked a hotel on mobile, rising to 53% for under 30s.And according to the 2016 Expedia/Egencia Mobile Index, 84% of travellers want to access information from anywhere in the world. Some 60% admit that they would be unwilling to go on holiday without their mobile devise. In fact, 35% claim to use their mobile more on holiday than they would otherwise.Generation gamesI know there is lots of talk about Millennials and how they are driving mobile adoption. The want-it-now generation makes snap decisions and demands on-spot, personalised information at their fingertips.I would say that it is not just Millenials. Most of us (I am a Xennial if we have to label), are constantly on our phones, checking email, chatting on Whatsapp, posting on Instagram. It is just a natural progression that we are all moving towards the mobile device, because it lets us save time.It is herein that lies immense opportunities for companies to engage with their customers by giving them a mobile-driven travel experience.It's already happening.Room to improveLet's take hotel apps for example. For the most part, they have been focusing on the booking of the rooms, and perhaps on the check-in features, yet most hotels abandon their guests after the check-in. They don't invest or know how to engage people on the device they are on most of the day. Where is a traveller to look for advice on what to do? Why are the hotels not the ones providing this, not enabling guests to explore their properties, to know the city or the neighbourhood or even book tours, activities and attractions or reserve a table at a great restaurant?I am not going to say that no hotels are investing, in fact some are. Take for example Aloft, which recently launched its in-room app that controls the guest's room using Apple's Homekit and Siri.This allows guests to change the temperature, control the lights and television all using voice commands. Siri also acts like a real concierge, answering questions about the local area. Although yet to revolutionise the travel industry, voice-based commands are gaining momentum, especially as natural language processing evolves.What I see gaining ground is the chatbot, such as that used in Whatsapp and Messenger. Now brands are creating their own bots to automate and speed up the loop around how customers engage with content and ask questions.Take Holiday Inn as an example, becoming the first major chain in Japan to adopt the latest artificial intelligence chatbot concierge - Bebot.Bebot offers real-time assistance to guests by answering questions that only hotel staff or locals would know and then goes on to make restaurant or tour bookings.I know of other great examples of brands who are building bots (I have personally helped one brand with its first bot which is launching soon) to engage their guests while in destination, but the adoption is slow and scarce in the industry.If you have ever worked on a proper chatbot, you would know that a lot of the time has to be spent on the Chat UI, because you are building for intent, so the results are not known, as if you were building a website or app. If you think about it, for every answer a bot could give you, there are 1000 ways of asking.Once you have your ChatUI - you have to start getting enough data to make the bot smart - most people think that they can build a bot in a few weeks, and then they call the bot AI powered. Sorry to deflate the hype, but most of those bots have barely any machine learning applied to them. That takes time, training and it's not just done by the algorithms - companies that get it right have humans annotating and fixing queries.Of course you can't do everything on a bot, so as a company you will probably still need to use an app of some sort.Few companies can afford to rest on their laurels and continue to avoid engaging their customers on mobile. The travel giants are taking note, only in May this year we saw online travel giant TripAdvisor relaunch its native iOS app, making it more streamlined for its 150 million monthly hotel shoppers to search for hotels, book flights, tours and attractions.However it is not just the OTAs, hotels and airlines that should be engaging customers and investing or building for great mobile travel experiences. Banks and telecoms companies have travelling customers who are loyal and expect to receive these experiences, perhaps even tied to loyalty and rewards programs.Opportunity in the makingAccording to the World Economic Forum report, it is predicted that within travel$ 100 billion of value will migrate from traditional players to new competitors.Companies that have traditionally served a certain sector of the industry - such as airlines - are now crossing boundaries as roles are blurring. While providing flights remains their raison d'etre, airlines know that to build deeper and stronger relationships with their customers they need to provide more.The opportunity cost of not investing in mobile is that customers will start looking for alternative apps or bots, and the opportunity to gather data, behaviour, drive revenue and engagement will be taken by someone else.It is not a fad. A mobile solution for your guests if you are a hotel, for a passenger if you are an airline and for a customer if you are a financial institution is not a nice-to-have - it is what you should already be doing.It's worth remembering that the in-destination experience is central to any trip. The airline and the hotel are a means to experience a destination.Companies need to empower their customers - before and after the flight or beyond the hotel room - by giving them the tools not only to inspire but also to turn that inspiration into reality. Joining the dots of the entire travel experience means offering a highly personalized, 360-degree in-destination mobile experience.Through mobile technology, based heavily on accurate data collection, some of that $305 billion revenue predicted by the WEF could be yours.Now if you'll excuse me, I've an art gallery to go to.
Article by Paul Van Meerendonk

Profit Optimization is Not Just a Buzz Phrase for Room Revenue

IDeaS 30 October 2017
True hotel profit optimization leverages multiple hotel functions to ensure goals are aligned to achieve optimal results. It encourages hotels to intelligently decide which business to accept across multiple revenue streams at all times, based on greatest overall value to the asset. This holistic approach to revenue management goes beyond guest room rates and maximizes profits from the strategic management of other key hotel revenue streams; like sales with group bookings and meetings & events teams with catering sales.Maximize Meetings & EventsMeetings and events are traditionally underestimated by hoteliers as they are often a secondary revenue source to bring in more rooms revenue. However, given meetings and events revenue can account for a significant portion of a hotel's top line revenue, an increasing number of hotel groups are starting to focus on the strategic management of these activities to bolster their bottom line.Contrary to any narrow understanding of the benefits that meetings and events spaces can deliver to a hotel, these areas actually do more than just sell guestrooms. In fact, for many hotels, the profit potential of this revenue stream is so significant that it can contribute 40-60% of their total revenue.Surprisingly, many hoteliers still aren't leveraging their event spaces strategically today, which means they risk overlooking opportunities for substantial revenue generation. Many hoteliers fail to fully realize revenues through meetings and events due to the complex nature of the revenue streams across catering, function spaces and sleeping rooms overlapping. In addition, there are other streams of revenue like audio visual, event rentals and more that may involve a revenue share with third parties. These conditions add complexity to the overall business opportunity, which has stifled adoption of demand-based meetings & events strategy.To better maximize revenue opportunities from meetings and events spaces, savvy hoteliers have looked to try and fold revenue management strategies into sales and catering processes. However, despite the positive evidence to support an integrated approach to sales, catering, meetings and revenue management, there hasn't been a strong call for technology beyond sales and catering systems that function solely as a system of record. Until now.Today there are cloud-based, visual strategy management solutions on the market that help hotels analyse and dissect their business trends and meeting space performance at their properties. Where hotels have struggled with reporting and consolidation of their sales and catering data, these systems visually display data from other sales tools to help hotel teams strategically manage meetings & events performance through demand-based pricing strategies.Any increased focus on applying revenue management principles to meetings and events spaces also requires hoteliers to take a more holistic look at their sales and catering revenues, as decisions they make for their function spaces can have a major impact on the bottom line. To ensure that a hotel is optimizing revenues from their function spaces, hoteliers must establish and review KPIs for these spaces. They must start to think about performance measurements like space utilization, revenue per attendee and conversion metrics. Most importantly, hoteliers must also align their pricing strategy to demand indicators and forecasts to ensure that revenues from meetings and events are optimized.To achieve optimal levels of revenue from meetings and events, hoteliers also need to incentivize their sales team on achieving quality of business, rather than quantity. Having the right forecasting, data and metrics in place may not result in optimal business without the sales team delivering the ideal piece of business with greatest profitability impact to the hotel. Sales teams therefore need to be incentivized appropriately on the right measurements, to channel their focus on quality of business, rather than on one dimensional metrics such as number of room nights or revenue. Hotels now have the data to show that all revenue is not created equal so a solution that helps identify the most profitable revenue is paramount.Advanced solutions can also dramatically enhance hotel sales strategies for other meetings and events management like 'free sell' dates. The 'free sell' sales strategy commonly used throughout the hotel industry follows a fairly simple premise: If a meeting request for a date in the future comes in, and it has no guestrooms attached to its Request for Proposal (RFP), a catering or sales manager can't book the business without approval or unless it's within a certain number of days to arrival. While a designated 'free sell' period varies for every hotel, let's assume a property has a current free-sell window of four weeks in the future. In this case, any meeting-only RFP looking to book three months out is likely going to be turned away or at the very least well scrutinized in the anticipation for a more profitable piece of business (often with guestrooms attached). This is an approach which asks: why fill up your space prematurely when there's potentially better business with additional guestroom spend down the road?But what happens when that highly-coveted business doesn't actually end up knocking at your door? What happens if a hotel turned down a $15k meetings-only event over a typically quiet period because there weren't any guestrooms attached to the RFP and the meeting planner inquired too far out; but in the end the hotel didn't fill that space with more profitable business later on? Think about the potential revenue hotels are leaving on the table when they rely only on this kind of rationale.Trend analytics, intuitive visualizations and drill-down reporting capabilities provide hotels with critical insight into group lead times by month and status. Rather than relying on blanket 'free sell' periods established once a year, hotels can now evaluate lead times for every individual day, week or month-reviewing both past and present years-to understand when their strongest business is booking, and when exactly they should be filling their distressed dates with other business to avoid displacement.The revenue opportunities presented by meeting and event spaces mean that all financially savvy hoteliers need to have an integrated approach to sales, revenue management and meetings & events in place-and the right technologies to support this. Advanced cloud-based solutions can support meeting and event revenues, turning complex business challenges into opportunities for even greater hotel profits.Make Sure Group Business is Good BusinessGroup bookings account for a significant portion of hotel bookings these days; for many properties it accounts for up to half of their sleeping rooms business, not to mention the additional revenue brought in from food & beverage and ancillary revenue streams. Rightfully so, many hotels have teams dedicated to selling, servicing and managing this profitable segment of business.The challenge is that for every piece of group business that a hotel takes which adds revenue by staying over less popular nights or makes a significant food and beverage spend, there is another group booking which displaces other revenue, washes out significant rooms, or in hindsight costs the hotel profitability due to concessions. The key to ensuring group business is great business for a hotel, is to establish a strategy and make certain it integrates with the property's broader revenue goals for all segments.Today's most innovative hotel revenue technology provides the ability to forecast group revenues, going so far as to help hoteliers understand demand for a given date range by visualizing booked, turned down and lost inquiries. Leading technology also generates alerts with sudden changes for specific groups (like a wedding block whose potential bookings are not converting with a cut-off date looming) so it can optimize the hotel's strategy based on the new information before the change takes effect in other systems.These revenue management solutions forecast group bookings based on analytically understanding historical performance, the reasons for that performance, the current market conditions and the impacts of special events to get a true picture of group demand. It's not enough to just provide a rate for a given group in a matter of moments; hotels should have instant access to a full profitability displacement analysis of the group to ensure it is the best piece of business.Hoteliers require more than a tool that only replaces Minimum Acceptable Rates (MARs) or Excel spreadsheets. The most powerful technology can enable multi-property evaluations for a regional or global sales representative in addition to alternate date recommendations for the flexible or budget conscious group. The goal is to present a quote that not only meets the needs of the inquirer but also is the most profitable for the hotel. In other words, maximize the demand and minimize the risk of revenue displacement.Revenue Culture Breeds SuccessIt is very important that hotel executives recognize that a shift towards profit optimization means they may also need to focus on strengthening their internal culture. Moving revenue management past guestrooms into other organizational areas requires having a robust revenue culture in place across all departments, something the industry has fundamentally identified as an ideal environment for supporting initiatives that increase total hotel profits.Today's hotel leaders are tasked with converging the traditional roles of sales, marketing, meetings & events and revenue management with an inclusion of other departments like F&B, banquets and finance. Focusing these stakeholders around identifying, capturing and nurturing the most profitable business will result in the most lucrative results driven by a holistic approach to profit optimization.Reprinted from the Hotel Business Review with permission from www.HotelExecutive.com.
Article by Thomas Magnuson

Why putting your own twist on hotel design could increase customers

Magnuson 30 October 2017
If you're still on the fence about acting on your own vision when it comes to hotel design, these five reasons might change your mind.Stand out from the crowdWhen hotel chains are largely following the same cookie cutter style, it pays to be different. When travellers are trawling through pages of hotels that all look the same, yours will stand out from the crowd for being unique. With some great photographs, you can drive up traffic looking at your hotel, giving you a better opportunity to convert those heading to your area into customers.Consumers want experiencesThere's a bigger trend here that you can capitalise on. Consumers in general are buying less items and are more interested in having experiences. A hotel with a twist plays perfectly into this growing mentality. It's a particularly powerful way to attract millennial consumers who are truly embracing experiences. And with spending power that tops $65 billion annually, the millennial market is well worth tapping into.Travellers want a local vibeWhen travelling, consumers are increasingly demanding an authentic vibe across the whole of their holiday. Overall, tourists are less satisfied with staying in a hotel that looks exactly the same as one in their home town than they have previously been. Letting your local knowledge influence aspects of the design can be an excellent way to get more customers through your doors.Reach a new audienceIf your clientele is typically similar looking but you're wanting to grow into new markets, a style overhaul could be just what you need. Assess the type of tourism your area attracts and figure out what their priorities are to pull in new customers. It could mean going for a bold, playful design for young families or a muted, comfortable look for professionals.Improve word of mouth bookingsIf your hotel is just like hundreds of others it's not going to be worth talking about. But if you've got something a bit quirky about your design, guests will be informing their family and friends. Don't underestimate the power of word of mouth, it's just as valuable as marketing campaigns.
Article by Patrick Landman

The Top 5 Hotel Revenue Management Trends in 2018

Xotels 26 October 2017
Let's take a look at the top 5 trends and changes that are driving hotel revenue management.1. A shift to profit managementAn increasing number of revenue managers believe that hotel revenue management has already moved to a specific emphasis on profit management. This may well be what we come to call our profession before long. A focus on profit has become more prominent as revenue managers move on from a reliance on the traditional key performance indicators (KPIs) of total revenue per available room (TrevPAR) and revenue per available room (RevPAR).Instead, revenue managers will use gross operating profit per available room (GOPPAR) as the main KPI. This puts profit at the centre of revenue management strategy, and managers will increasingly search for new techniques to increase the profitability of their hotels.A KPI we have been advocating of as well is NRevPAR or NetRevPAR, it is a step towards GOPPAR from RevPAR, taking into consideration cost of distribution and marketing. It focusses on a net reservation value.ROI is the objective of any hotel investment, so it is only logical the focus on profitability and ROI will continue to sharpen.2. An increased focus on direct hotel bookingsRevenue managers know that one key area to drive profitability is to steer guests away from online travel agencies (OTAs) and book directly with the hotel. This increases brand recall and loyalty, and generates repeat business. It also offers a unique platform to market the hotel via direct communication channels with the customer, offer deals and upsell additional services or room upgrades.OTAs of course have an essential role as a reservations source but they come a distant second to direct bookings for the hotel that takes profit maximisation seriously. To persuade guests to book directly on the hotel website, the benefit must be clearly presented to the would-be guest. Why should they go to your hotel's website instead of to an OTA? What is the advantage? This is where revenue managers will ramp up focus.3. Greater efficiency in use of dataHotels are inundated with all types of data metrics now. There are many KPIs and types of data for hotels to work with. This makes it even more important to understand how to leverage it, to cut through the data thicket and mine it for its true worth. Efficient use of customer data provides key takeaways that in turn drive business decisions.An RMS that encompasses data reporting and analysis tools is increasingly seen as less of a luxury and more of a necessity. This helps drive profits via the insights that efficient use of data provide.Revenue managers are increasingly working out new and improved ways to combine KPIs with specific data types. Software including customer relationship management and resource planning tools provide essential data and will continue to proliferate in use.4. Technology enhancements in revenue managementThe technology that powers revenue management systems is constantly changing. One of the most important recent, ongoing changes is the increased presence of automation. RM systems with automation are much more preferable than without. Automation increases RM efficiency and helps managers focus on driving profitability. They can spend more time on strategy, while data entry and logistics are automated.As a bonus, an automated system helps with aggregating and interpreting data. Other new trends in RM technology are the increasing prominence of machine learning and predictive analytics tools.Technology that integrates with the revenue manager's workflow is key. This can include communication channels management systems, guest review systems and benchmark reporting systems.5. A continuing shift in focus to mobileThe shift to mobile is not entirely new. 2017 in particular saw a significant rise in mobile interaction and bookings. But, it is set to rise further. 2018 will see even greater focus on mobile. Increasing revenue and profits will be increasingly dependent on a mobile website that delivers high performance.For this reason, revenue managers will be keen to ensure that hotel websites are optimised for customer engagement, performance measurement and business generation. Moreover, websites must be continually updated and maintained for optimum performance. It will be absolutely critical to the success of a hotel in 2018.The final word on hotel revenue management trends and changes in 20182018 will be an action-packed year for revenue management. These are some of the most important trends that we at Xotels see coming. Revenue management has developed quickly and established itself as a dominant force in driving hotel success, but 2018 could be its most evolutionary year yet.Cheers,Patrick Landman @ Xotels
Article by Diana Dowell & Ikedi Onyemaobim

Security Shortcomings Exposed By Las Vegas Massacre Prompt Sweeping Security Overhaul Discussions Among Hotels In The United States

Stokes Wagner 25 October 2017
An Innkeeper's Liability for Guest SafetyInnkeepers are obligated to exercise "reasonable care" for the safety of their guests. This duty of reasonable care requires vigilance in the protection of guests from foreseeable risks -- a duty that requires not only warning guests, but also adequately policing the hotel premises. More specifically, innkeepers and hoteliers are liable for injuries to guests caused by the accidental, negligent, or intentional harmful acts of other guests, patrons, or strangers, if, by the exercise of reasonable diligence, the innkeeper could have discovered that such acts were being done or were about to be done and could have protected against harm either by controlling the conduct or giving an adequate warning to allow guests to avoid harm. That being said, innkeepers are not required to anticipate and guard against the unusual, unlikely or abnormal, or against something that reasonable care, skill, or foresight could not have discovered or prevented.In the context of a guest suffering a violent assault by another guest, a hotel may be held responsible if the hotel knew or should have known that the offending guest may become violent and it could have evicted that attacking guest. Guests of an inn, hotel, restaurant, or similar establishment are entitled to rely on that establishment operator to exercise reasonable care for their safety. In addition, the operator may provide its own security employees or use the services of a private security vendor. Further, innkeepers owe a duty to protect strangers from the acts of guests while at the establishment. Nevertheless, innkeepers are liable to such strangers for the act of a guest only when the hotel knew or, by the exercise of ordinary care, could have known the guest was likely to commit some act resulting in injury to the stranger.Whether a hotel is liable to its guests or strangers for a violent act by one of its guests primarily hinges upon the foreseeability of the act. Unfortunately for Mandalay Bay, hindsight is 20/20 and many questions will be asked about whether it should have noticed a guest making multiple trips to equip his 32nd floor room with an arsenal of guns and ammunition.Possible Next Steps in Hotel SecurityIt is no easy feat to balance the safety of guests with their desire for privacy. Also, the many intrusions and encumbrances of thorough security measures may at times seem antithetical to notions of luxury and hospitality. Most hotels have safety, security, and emergency response procedures in place that are reviewed frequently, tested, rehearsed and updated accordingly. Still, hotel security and guest safety measures remain imperfect. In fact, advances in hotel security have largely developed in response to breaches in security, changes in technology and other unfortunate acts. Admittedly, security in the hospitality industry is more reactive than proactive. However, given the devastation caused during the Las Vegas massacre, hotels must become vigilant in pursuing preventative measures.While many hotels already use closed-circuit surveillance systems, one such preventative measure may include installing state-of-the-art window locks and sensors to alert security personnel and law enforcement when a hotel window has been opened or broken. Additionally, many hotels may need to revisit their firearm policies to decide whether they will prohibit firearms on premises, or place restrictions on firearm possession, such as allowing guests to bring permitted, unloaded firearms for storage purposes only, and requiring that firearms remain locked in a firearms safe or container.With regard to the implementation of security checkpoints, some hotels may consider installing entryway deterrents, such as dog sniffs, metal detectors, X-ray machines and the like. However, despite having proven to be an effective method of deterring individuals from checking in at airlines with firearms, establishing a visible security presence at hotel entryways collides with the immense premium hotel guests place on their privacy. And, while replacing seemingly loose hotel security protocols with more robust security measures that target guest luggage may be an obvious solution for some, the fact remains that such deterrents often make guests feel less safe -- a concern that many in the hospitality sector can ill-afford to ignore.In short, any overhaul in hotel security practices would likely have to be at an industry level. Absent an industry-wide change in security practices, it is unlikely that hotels will undertake the expense of implementing state-of-the-art security measures. This is especially true if hotels fear a potential loss of business to competitors with less intrusive security measures. What is likely, however, is that the impact of the Las Vegas massacre will force those in the hospitality industry to take a closer look at their security measures and adapt accordingly.What does this mean for you? Before October 1, 2017, it may not have been reasonably foreseeable that a guest was going to check in to a hotel, arm himself, and use his room as a turret. Now, it very well may be. As a result, we suggest your hotel add this scenario to its list of considerations as it refines or develops a security program. At bare minimum, your hotel should ask itself (1) what measures are in place to prevent this type of tragedy; (2) if it occurred, what guidance is in place to ensure an appropriate and immediate response; and, (3) on a more mundane level, does the hotel's insurance policy provide or exclude coverage for such events?Hotel security will never be perfect, but hotels have a longstanding legal duty to protect their guests and other visitors. Let's all take a moment and reflect upon what else we may be able to do to ensure that safety remains a cornerstone of hospitality.
Article by Laura Patterson

Should You Use A.I. in Your Marketing? (Part One)

visionedge marketing 25 October 2017
In the words of author Malcolm Gladwell, A.I. is reaching a tipping point, "that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire." According to data from CB Insights, the number of companies and the amount of funding funneling into A.I.-based companies continues to rise. International Data Corporation (IDC) forecasts a 54% growth in Marketing spend on AI software over the next four years, from $360 million in 2016 to more than $2 billion in 2020. Why? Efficiency and transparency are the promise of A.I. - where a machine takes over a repetitive but vital task.What tasks? A.I. is being used by Marketing both behind the scenes and on center stage. A.I. and Machine Learning (ML) are already mainstays within the realm of customer experience. Chatbots are replacing face-to-face interactions in brick-and-mortar stores. Most of us are familiar with the data-fueled algorithms used by Amazon, Netflix and other to make personalized recommendations based on prior purchasing behavior. Behind the scenes, A.I. supports data analysis and automation. It won't be long before we can use A.I. and ML to support A/B testing experiments. A.I. can be applied to support media purchases, program analysis to enable faster course corrections, mix planning and predictive modeling.Before worrying about being replaced by a machine, it behooves us to realize that there are important and valuable uses for AI in Marketing that allows Marketers to be less stuck in the weeds and to play a more strategic role.How To Truly Utilize the Power of A.I.So far, Marketing organizations are experimenting with using A.I. on programmatic issues. The challenge today for most Marketing organizations isn't accessing data as much as it is interpreting and using it. It is a tragedy when Marketing doesn't use its data well, or worse, uses data incorrectly. The volume and constant flow of data is bringing many of us to our knees, actually increasing the analysis-paralysis syndrome. Gleaning information and identifying patterns is increasingly more challenging for the human brain. Before long we will reach the point when the value of the insights fails to increase in proportion to effort and investment.There is a true opportunity for Marketing to use A.I. to help identify patterns in data and guide better Marketing decisions and performance. A.I. and ML enables Marketing to uncover rich and new insights worthy of action - accurately and quickly. It will still require us to take these insights and apply our experience and expertise to make wise and meaningful business decisions about customers, markets, and services/solutions. This is the real power of A.I. - supporting strategic direction.Three actions every Marketing organization can do to tap A.I.:Take an integrated approach. There is tremendous power in being able to quickly understand the relationship between all the channels, touch points, and content, and sequence them to create a whole that is greater than the individual parts. This is the domain of A.I.Inventory your repetitive tasks. The immediate value of A.I. is the ability to automate repetitive administrative tasks that sap Marketing's time and energy. Determine how much time each task takes. Decide if some of these tasks are candidates for A.I.Establish performance parameters. On the performance management front, machine learning can help quickly detect when performance is outside of acceptable parameters and help reduce the increasing Marketing Performance gap.Understanding and harnessing A.I. and ML isn't something Marketing is going to do overnight. To be effective, we need to do more than beat the drum. We need to get smart about A.I. and how to use it to drive better decisions. Watch for Are You Ready To Make The Shift to A.I.? on our MeasureUp blog.In the meantime, everyone in Marketing needs to understand the fundamentals of A.I. and how we can use it, for example to improve customer experience, Marketing processes, Marketing performance management, and Marketing data management. For me, that means turning to trusted resources to come up to speed. For example, I'm checking out the latest book by my friend and colleague, Jim Sterne's: Artificial Intelligence for Marketing: Practical Applications. Have some other resources and books to recommend? Hope you'll post and share them in the comments.
Article by Tal Nathanel

Don't Budget for Costly Hotel Check-In/Out Apps; 'Widget' is the Way to Go!

MyCheck LLC 24 October 2017
Yes, "widget." A widget is a component of an interface that enables a user to perform a function or access a service. It's an add on to the hotel's website, mobile web or app, and it's designed to easily give guests a modernized, frictionless experience from check in to check out without sinking thousands of dollars into new software.Before explaining the benefits of a widget and how it drives revenues and guest satisfaction, here are a few statistics to consider. According to eMarketer. com, digital booking is on the rise and expected to approach $190 billion by the end of 2017, with nearly 40% coming from mobile devices (mostly smartphones).This year, more than eight in 10 Internet users will use a mobile phone to access the web regularly. As smartphone adoption slows, so will mobile phone Internet usage--by 2021, penetration will reach 86.5%.Nearly 15% of Internet users, or 40.7 million individuals, will have used only a mobile device to go online in 2017, an increase of 11.2%. The number of mobile-only Internet users will continue to rise as more people abandon Internet usage via desktop/laptop.Over three-quarters of Internet users accessed the Internet via both a mobile device and PC in 2017, adding roughly 9 million new users throughout the forecast period. With more people using just their mobile device for online access, the multidevice Internet user share will start to shrink by 2020.What this means for hotels is that as guests become more and more mobile-device dependent, they will expect to be able to use their smartphones and tablets to connect with you and the services offered by your hotel along each phase of the guest life cycle. If your hotel is not positioned to communicate direct-to-guests via mobile device, chances are high that you will lose out on securing a large part of the traveling public.Here are a few other stats to think about. According to Hospitality Technology's 2017 Customer Engagement Technology Study, 73% of hoteliers are planning to add a customer experience management platform in 2018 because 55% of guests said they want to be able to check-in via their mobile devices (although only 30% of hotels offer that today) and 57% said they want to check out via mobile device (but only 24% of hotels are currently supporting that functionality).Knowing this shift is coming, hoteliers need to be adapting their mobile apps and websites to be more convenient, functional, and service friendly to empower guests and offload work traditionally performed by hotel staff to save on overhead. But again, this can be costly. This is where the "widget" concept comes in.A widget offers some of the same functionality of a full-blown reservations app, but at a lot less cost because the widget works with the hotel's existing platforms. By simply adding one line of code to the hotel's website, mobile web and app, the widget is activated and ready to drive new revenues and higher satisfaction rates.Here are a few benefits of a mobile widget:A widget is built mobile first.It's fully responsive to devices and platforms.It's fully customizableGives staff full control over content and design to match your hotel's existing brandingIt's frictionless for IT staff; the PMS interface and the UX/UI interface is not implemented or managed by the hotel.Here's how it works: Guests access the Front Desk Widget on the hotel's website, mobile web or app by entering the confirmation number and last name (like they do with the airlines). Before they arrive, guests use the Widget to choose rooms, request upgrades, and receive room status alerts. Upon arrival, guests can bypass the front desk and go straight to their rooms. Onsite, guests use the Widget to view their folios (data is pulled in real time from the PMS). Upon departure, guests check out via the Widget, using their laptop, tablet or smartphone.Unlike the months it takes to develop an app and the high cost of integration, a widget can be up-and-running in less than 30 days, and it's available at a low monthly cost and no set-up fee. Hoteliers can sit back, relax, and watch the interactive guest experience unfold.
Article by Vikram Singh

Use Hotel Website Content to Increase Your Revenue

Vikram Singh 24 October 2017
Plenty of attention, and plenty of space, is given to photos and design. Hotel websites have started to look like clones, favoring heavy imagery and very light content; but that is a mistake. Your website is not an Instagram feed with a booking button. If you replace substantive content with photo captions and a parade of adjectives like Luxurious!, you are sending up red flags. Instead of giving a detailed description of your offering, you are just using generic marketing terms, which online consumers are too savvy to believe. And, by providing very little information that guests can use during the travel planning stage, you are sending your potential guests to other hotel websites or OTAs to get the information they need.It's your hotel content's job to build trust, answer questions, and capture your guests' attention. Good content will not only attract new visitors but also keep them on your website. The longer you can hold a visitor's attention and answer their questions, the more likely they are to book with you.You need more than photos to tell your story, and the time you invest in good content is worth it. Here are some of my top content guidelines for your hotel website.The Need for SpeedGreat content will never get consumed if it does not load quickly. Before you go about improving content, you must take a look at your website architecture and hosting. Your website visitors today are just like Tom Cruise in Top Gun: "they have a need...a need for speed." Google recommends that your web pages load in two seconds. To make this happen, your content delivery process must be highly optimized. This is hard to achieve when you are sharing your hosting environment with hundreds of other websites; and even harder if they also share a clunky agency-backed content management system.Using the right technology for content distribution will make sure all your hard work is served quickly to the desired audiences worldwide. Here are the two fastest ways for you to speed things up: Use a content delivery network (CDN). What's that? Well, it's system of servers (a network) that delivers web content to people visiting your website based on their geographic location. The main goal of a CDN is to solve latency issues. What's latency? It's the delay that occurs between the moment you request a web page until the moment its content appears on your screen. A CDN stores a cached version of your hotel website in multiple geographical locations to reduce latency. Optimize your photos. How can you make your images (and your whole website) load faster? Here are some steps you can follow. Use CSS Effects (gradients, shadows, etc.). CSS animations produce good resolution-independent assets that look sharp at every resolution and zoom level. Use Web Fonts. Web fonts allow you to use beautiful typefaces while preserving the ability to select, search, and resize text. Never encode content as part of an image. This decision doesn't just give you speed, but also represents a significant improvement in usability. Compress images. Don't use higher resolution images than you need; web images can and should be much smaller than images used in print magazines. You should also remove hidden data in your photos (eg, color profiles, geolocation metadata, etc.) Less is more and every byte counts. Also, use vector images vs raster images wherever possible. Vector images are zoom- and resolution-independent, which translates into better speed and usability. Fast load times will make your website visitors happy and drastically increase your chances of converting them into hotel guests.The 5 Fundamental QuestionsI always bring up these questions during my speaking engagements on digital and revenue optimization best practices.These are the five questions your hotel website must answer:Who are you?Where are you located?What do you offer?How are you different?How can I buy, or contact you?Looks like a pretty simple list, right? These are some of the easiest questions to answer for any property. However, somewhere along the way, in the quest for "cutting edge" branding and design, these simple questions are not getting answered. Unanswered questions - confused website visitors - loss of confidence - lack of revenue. Hotel websites are all starting to look the same. One massive image, accompanied by a few bold adjectives that mean nothing to your guests. Of course, these adjectives were highly praised during the "branding meeting." I suspect even a few high fives were involved.Get to the point! Tell guests who you are, where you are located, what are you offering, and how they can buy that or contact you right away. Superlatives and adjectives do not get people to take action. The best home pages drive people further into the website to read more. Relevant content invites people to click deeper. Answering questions = making connections.The Tagline FallacyFrom famous shoe companies (Just Do It!) to folks peddling diamonds (A Diamond is Forever)... everyone loves a good tagline. So why not your hotel? Sounds like a pretty good idea... right? Welcome to the dark and mysterious world of hotel website homepage taglines. Cue in Genesis's Land of Confusion.It's not practical to take a hotel experience and condense it into a few words. Different travelers have different needs. Counting on a few words to be memorable and reflect your brand and build trust and put your website visitors at ease? To quote the late Bill Pullman, "Game over man, game over." Your guests cannot act on something they cannot understand. Remember the core questions I highlighted above? No tagline can do the job of answering them. It's downright impossible.Now try telling that to a marketing agency's "branding guru" and watch the fireworks.Content Cleanup StrategyContent is one of the easiest things to access and repair on a hotel website. (This is especially true if your website is powered by one of my fav content management systems.) Time spent on improving content will generate results for you, if you do the following.Ask yourself one simple question: Would I describe my hotel to a close friend using the words that are currently on my website?Yes: Success, your content is good.No: Write down how you would describe your hotel to someone you know and care about. Then add all the extra information you would be giving them if this was their first time visiting your city from somewhere far away. That is the content your website visitors need.The hardest part for many hotel owners/marketers is realizing that your hotel content should not be about you...it's about your guests and the location they are visiting. Almost all the website content I see on hotel websites is focused on describing the product or experience, instead of highlighting the hotel's location and how guests can best enjoy it. Very few hotels are iconic enough to be a destination. Like Biggie said, never get high on your own supply (ie, don't drink your own Kool-Aid).Formatting for SuccessReadability is your friend when it comes to converting visitors into bookings. When a traveler has over ten website tabs open during the travel research phase, one of the best ways to stand out is to present readable, well-formatted content. Your website visitors are not reading a mid-19th century novel. Remember kids: everybody skims. People only click when something catches their attention or answers a question they are researching. If they don't find what they are looking for quickly, they just bounce off the website.Here's how to keep things readable/scannable:Fonts. Google wants you to stick with a base font size of 16 pixels. I personally prefer larger. (That's partly because I refuse to wear corrective glasses for my failing vision). The cute tiny little font size you are using might be directly contributing to your website bounce rate.Headers and Paragraphs. Don't let your content headers and subheaders become a parking spot for adjectives. These are tools to help make your content scannable and create a typographical hierarchy. Shorter paragraphs with descriptive headers are going to make your content easier to digest.Lists and Bullets. If Buzzfeed has taught us anything...lists work. "If you are looking for clicks, then you must make lists" is something I would say to a classroom of content writers today. (I also know they would all hate me for it!) Bullets, numbering, and bold highlighted content can help you break down large blocks of content into readable bits of information. Think of it like bite-size incentives to read the whole website.The assumption that website visitors will never have time to read anything on your website is a crime. They will make time for your content if you make it easy to read, and convince them bit by bit that your content is worth their time.Using Design to Boost RevenueHow you lead guests through your website comes down to your design and navigation. Great content that cannot be discovered will just perish in the shadows. Many hotel websites with good content lose their guests by using cutesy navigations, drop-downs, and irrelevant calls to action. Competing calls to action (Book Now, Check Rates, Sign Up for Emails) need to be addressed on a page-by-page basis.For those who want to read more about this, check out my guide to hotel website design. Don't design first and then stuff content in there. Design around content and watch your most relevant hotel website metrics point to the sky.Popup InterventionThree words: Don't Use Popups.Check out this banner I was shown within five seconds of visiting a hotel website:The fact that you offer better rates than the OTA's should never be a full-screen popup for someone who is visiting your website for the first time. Instead, let them read your new and improved, content-filled homepage and see what you're about before accosting them with an urgent message.Who Has the Best Content?A question that I get asked all the time is, "So who is doing travel content right?" I really wish I could say the name of one of the big hotel brands. They have been in the travel game for decades and their online content should probably be the best. Unfortunately, that's not the case. A not so little startup founded in 2008 in San Francisco has the best travel content in the game. I am talking about, of course, Airbnb.Hotels thrive when people travel. Shouldn't hotel content be inspiring and encouraging people to travel? Shouldn't your hotel take the lead in answering questions about your location and neighborhoods?One of the best examples of travel content is the Airbnb neighborhood guide that was launched in 2012.Not only do they have excellent content on these pages, but also give the pages extra credibility by adding advice from locals. They feature best-in-class writing with clear-cut titles. And they take the whole thing to a higher level by breaking down the attributes of each neighborhood, and even the moods you are likely to encounter in each location. Check out the killer segmentation matching travelers to their preferences:You would think the big hotel brands would be all over this because they do have the bandwidth and franchise fee revenue to produce this stuff. Instead, we get office desks taken out of hotel rooms and are told to travel "brilliantly."Here's another tip: people love maps! Adding curated maps with comments about different points of interest makes travel planning a breeze. It's amazing what you can create with the Google Maps API. It's in their header, folks: "Build the next generation of location experiences."And let's not forget the quality of the photography being used on Airbnb pages. He is my version of the Friday night lights quote:"Good content. Great photos. Can't lose!"- Vikram SinghToo many hotels are waiting at the bottom of the funnel for revenue to trickle down. Great content is the perfect opportunity to feed the funnel and create demand. Instead of squeezing the life out of a "book direct and save" campaign, how about participating in the guest's travel experience at a much earlier stage?ConclusionGood content is your competitive edge at a time when buying advertising is getting more and more expensive. With so many hotel and OTA websites competing on the web to attract travelers, content can be your salvation. If you have a content-poor, design-rich website, it is hurting your long-term revenue as well as your immediate conversions. On the other hand, the playing field is wide open for your hotel to start filling the travel-planning void. Inspiring and useful content will not only get you new business, but will also help you stand out in a crowd of mass-produced content-free websites. If you are not using content to capture the attention of people interested in your location, neighborhoods, and attractions...someone else will.
Article by Sarah Came

Are you keeping your guests' personal data safe? Interview with Alan D. Meneghetti

GuestRevu 23 October 2017
Having previously been a partner at Clyde & Co LLP and Locke Lorde LLP, and with a legal career that includes specialisation in data protection, privacy and IT, few are better equipped than Katten Muchin Rosenman UK LLP Partner Alan Meneghetti to offer guidance to hoteliers on how to handle sensitive guest data carefully.We chatted with Alan to get the expert's opinion on how hoteliers can ensure they are treating their guest data with the care it deserves, and in compliance with current and incoming data protection laws.Where did you first begin to work with hotels and the hospitality industry?My first venture into hospitality was working as a room attendant at Sir Rocco Forte's fledgling group's first hotel, the Balmoral Hotel, in Edinburgh. I went on from that to be a trainee hotel manager at the Balmoral and then to work as Restaurant Manager at Sir Rocco's first purpose-built hotel in Cardiff Bay, the St David's Hotel & Spa (which the group has since sold).I knew that I loved the hotel business and spent a long time trying to work out how I could combine it with law, which I had read at both the University of Cape Town and the University of Aberdeen.How do you think hotels will be affected by the new privacy laws coming into effect next year?Hotels, as with most other businesses, will need to ensure that they are up to speed with the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which commences across the EU on 25 May 2018, and ensure that their systems and agreements with their contractors are compliant with the requirements detailed in the GDPR (many of which are either new or extensions of the requirements under the existing European legislation).It is also worth remembering that the GDPR does not only apply to hotels operating in the EU, but also to those which offer services to customers in the EU (for example, gift cards, mail order and so on).With the rise of personalisation and hotels asking guests for more data than ever and often on different platforms, do hotels in general put enough emphasis on data security?No, but then I don't think most businesses do! Hotels hold an enormous amount of personal data and, quite often, personal data which is of a sensitive nature (for example, information about guests' medical conditions or meal choices which may indicate a religious preference), not to mention credit card and billing information. As a result of this, the data that hotels hold is particularly valuable and presents a prize target for thieves and fraudsters wishing to exploit vulnerabilities in a hotel's IT network.Hotels need to ensure that they know exactly what data they hold, how long they are holding it for, where they are holding it and what security measures they have in place to safeguard that data (as well as whether that security is currently sufficient - something which requires constant evaluation).Can hotels expect increased pressure to be transparent about how they are protecting guest data?Not necessarily so, in a general sense, although if there is an incident relating to personal data held by or on behalf of a hotel, the hotel must be in a position to respond to that. It is imperative that hoteliers have a plan in place for handling data incidents that is agreed upon and rehearsed in advance. Hoteliers also need to be prepared to explain to an investigating regulatory authority how its systems are set up and why it believes them to be sufficient to protect the data which the hotel holds.What is the first question a hotelier should ask when assessing whether their security measures are good enough?How strong, and where, is the weakest part of my network? This is where the vulnerability lies.Is there a chance that hotel staff could unwittingly be breaching privacy laws or regulations, particularly in smaller hotels?I think that there is every chance that this is the case. For example, does the hotel use a cloud service provider to back up its personal data and, if so, where does that cloud service provider physically store the data? If it is outside the European Economic Area (EEA), is the hotel able to point to a lawful ground (such as guest consent) to permit the export of this personal data outside the EEA?What advice would you give to independent hoteliers to ensure they comply with the new privacy laws?Spend a little bit of time getting to know your obligations under the GDPR and your network infrastructure. You can then work out if you need to update your customer and supplier agreements and your IT network, and create a plan to detail the areas that need addressing in order of priority.What's the best hotel you've ever stayed at?May I have two please? I love the Balmoral in Edinburgh because it is just so beautiful and perfectly decorated and I have watched it evolve since I first went there in 1996. Hadrian's and Number One are also two of my favourite restaurants - amazing food, great service, and both in settings which perfectly complement the food they serve. And then the Imperial in New Delhi, which has the most amazing food and service, and is a haven of calm and tranquillity in the middle of a thriving, bustling and generally very busy city.
Article by Abby Ward

Understand Your Guests to Increase Conversion Rates

Net Affinity 19 October 2017
Do you know who your website content should be targeting, who's visiting your site and who's actually parting with their cash to make the booking? If you can't answer those questions, it's time to start building a picture of your target market in order to better meet their requirements and wishes.You can do this by tailoring your rate plans and packages to suit various guest types. You can also use data segmentation to send and display the right content to the right people. Be it for email marketing campaigns, or display and remarketing ads.Whilst you should be looking at your own guests in careful segments on a property level, it's helpful to take a look at the industry at large. This data can tell you who you should be trying to talk to and on which platform and devices.Across our portfolio of clients with 12,800,000 hotel website sessions for the first half of this year, we have monitored each transaction to find out those answers. Of course, this data is purely for guests who made their booking online, so keep in mind that there are guests who book over the phone, or in some cases in person, who are not represented in these figures.Let's take a look at the demographic of people who have visited our client sites and those who booked, from Q1 and Q2 2017:Who VisitsWomen made up the majority of visitors. The ratio of female to male users is more than 2:1, at 69% female and 31% male. This may reflect that more women are doing research, or that women simply prefer to visit more sites during their research.The young adults are the most enthusiastic travelers. 56% of visitors to hotel websites are 25-44, and the strongest demographic is 25-24 (28.8% of users).Who BooksWhile more women book than men overall, this number is skewed by the higher number of women visiting sites. On the whole, men convert 1.5 times more often than women, although they contribute less revenue and transactions overall.As far as the age of your guests is concerned, the same pattern as above holds true for transactions and revenue as well. Those aged 25-44 make up about 55% of transactions and revenue.However, it's worth noting that those aged 45-54 and those over 65 convert more often. This suggests that by the time your more mature guests reach the website, they are more ready to book. Younger ones, most dramatically those age 18-24, tend to shop around a bit more before committing to a booking.5 Ways To Implement Guest Data Into Your StrategyAsk your guests for information at checkout: name, email address, age, gender, occupation.Train your front desk in collecting data for each guest. Such as what the purpose of their trip is etc.Tailor your packages for each of your top segments. This could mean using value ads such as a free drink on arrival, or by using local events to make your hotel standout to those attending them.Segment your data for marketing purposes. For example, send your Valentine's Day campaign to males, with a special offer to save them money and hassle.Make sure your data storage processes and systems are GDPR compliant. A new regulation coming into force in May 2018 has significantly tightened up laws around storing and using data, so make sure you're clued up on it.For more interesting insights from our client data, check out our Digital Trends Report.
Article by Richard Evans

I have my Exit Survey Results...now what?

The Revenue Report Card 18 October 2017
Exit Survey used in 1985.In 1985 I was fortunate to sit next to the general manager of the Waldorf Astoria at Cornell's general manager program. His presentation on exit surveying affected my hospitality life for the next 30 years! When I returned home I put what I had learned into play. I started a small exit survey business on the side and put a program into over 20 hotels. By following the exact "Waldorf" model, these hotels received a 63% average response from every guest that stayed with them. Who could argue? This was an amazing result. I'll share one of the tallied feedback reports with you below.What you see above is the exact exit survey used. It was simple, limited in scope and guests filled them out when presented at check-out at the front desk. I'll share the exact sequence of that presentation. It is why we received such high feed back.NOTE: Times, of course have changed and so too has exit surveying. The surveys today are emailed and more elaborate. They are sent after the guest leaves, and my understanding is that an average return is about 32%. It, however uncovered so many more aspects of guests' experiences, staff performance and an overall outlook of properties then what I was getting. Which is better? For detail, clearly today's model.I had the opportunity to recently discuss exit surveying with Kyle Buchner, the CEO of Navis (the Navis Way) who have taken exit surveying to the next level. They send 2 surveys, one while the guest is still in house (or mid-stay), and the extended version after check out. It allows management to quickly respond to in-house guest needs.Before I make this presentation, let me reiterate the theme:I have my Exit Survey Results...now what?In 1985 when a guest came to the desk to check-out the agent would say, "Mr. Smith, while I prepare your folio, would you take a moment to fill out this brief survey? It will help us improve." The agent would turn away and the guest would be left with the survey, an envelope and pen. The envelope would be sealed and dropped in a lock box. Again, 63% responded.TIP: A big part of collecting such a high number of surveys was in allowing the guest ample space and privacy while the folio was being prepared. TIP: In Vacation Rentals, during the check-out visit, the guest is asked if he/she would fill out a survey during the final walk through by the VR agent. This is also highly affective.Results should always be tallied within 2 days and the "Waldorf Plan" was put into playEach week a Task Force chaired by a senior manager and eight hourly staff members (hourly staff changed every month) met. Each would be provided with the tallied results and all guest comments. A real life example, without comments, is shown below.Since surveys then were tallied by an assistant administrator on excel, he/she would immediately create a requisition for housekeeping or maintenance regarding reported problems.NOTE: A dripping faucet irritating a guest at night might not have been uncovered for weeks. Now it could be identified and dealt with immediately. NOTE: Exit Surveys today are tallied digitally with a quicker turnaround time.The "task force" reviewed the feedback received:Exceeded ExpectationsMet ExpectationsFell Short of ExpectationsThe questions on the survey received the following scores on "Met and Exceeded Expectation" above:Hotel Overall 85.4%Check-in Experience 97.8%Comfort of Bedding 86.1%Quality of Housekeeping 89.8%Restaurant 82.6%These results were also posted in each department each weekHourly staff inevitably would go back to their peers and discuss results. As weeks went by staff would excitedly gather around the bulletin board to check the "scores" and discuss them. Guess what? Results improved. As scores rose the staff would congratulate one another. Recognition and reward became an important part of property improvement.TIP: We would present the most recognized staff members with a $100 check at the properties monthly luncheon.Would you consider staying with us again? A valuable question. The 90.6% affirmative response above meant that these guests were immediately placed on the email list. With all we spend in bringing guests to our properties, the Repeat Guest revenue channel, with an average channel cost of 3%, has the majority of revenue earned going directly to the bottom line.Staff recognition is also a powerful tool. It became a competition of sorts and everyone was proudly wearing their name tags!TIP: In over 8 years we would see the same winners time after time. (The concierge was always a shoe in!) So we changed the reward system so that each department would recognize their leader. The comment section is also extremely valuable. The question what did you enjoy the most was almost always the same. Most hotels I dealt with were oceanfront properties and the standard answer was "the beach", the ocean", "the beach", "the ocean"... So not much to be learned there most of the time.The question, what did you enjoy least about your stay is very valuable. It would bring things that needed to be dealt with, to our immediate attention and that brought about a great deal of task force discussion, problem solving and ultimately resolution.Example: Food arriving late or cold from room service, housekeepers speaking loudly in corridors before their shift, uncomfortable mattresses, requested towels never delivered and the like. TIP: The Navis mid -stay survey uncovers issues as the guest is experiencing them and allows management to recognize, correct and make amends with guests; and in close to real time!Each problem was solvable. The "task forces" duty is to discuss and find solutions and then to formally pass them on to the general manager. The GM would make an assessment of Page 5 recommendations and when appropriate, create Standard Operating Procedures to resolve issues.Staff looked forward to the "task force' meetings and their involvement gave them a sense of pride and feeling of "ownership" in contributing to the company's success.Finally, we would change the opening five questions on the survey periodically if conventions were in town, groups were in house or we wanted to test different areas our guests' stay and experience.Exit surveying, is one of the most powerful tools I have every used in operating hotels and vacation rentals.Thank you Waldorf Astoria!The "Definitive Study of Vacation Rentals" can be purchased by contacting me atRichE1212@gmail.com. It will be available on Amazon.

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