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  • Next Event

    HITEC EUROPE 2019

    Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference

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

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    HITEC MINNEAPOLIS

    Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference

    Minneapolis Convention Center

    June 17-20, 2019

Article by Helen Gore-Grimes

3D Floor Plans offer vital visual information for the less physically able

Visrez 18 January 2019
Throughout my life independence has been vital for me to overcome my disability and feel equal to my peers. Travel has always been a passion of mine. Travelling with a disability brings its own set of challenges. Accessibility is essential. In my determination to push boundaries in my youth I have found myself in some extreme situations - once through an embarrassing lack of research I found myself in a basket strapped to the back of a sherpa trekking up Mount Everest! This was definitely a step too far and that experience made me much more careful in my pre-travel accessibility research.Even after thorough research I have found myself many times in a situation where a property is not as accessible as it appeared (or claimed to be) on its website. It has been well known that Hotel Photography can be misleading and camera angles can be used to make be a space appear wider than it actually is which can be hugely problematic as a wheelchair user. The fact however that Hotel photography lacks the visual information included within a 3D Floor Plan.The practical ease of using 3D Visuals during the booking process is of particular personal interest to me. Photo-realistic 3D Floor Plans made to scale are so exact that guests who require accessible accommodation can book in confidence knowing that on arrival they will be able to enjoy their stay - whether travelling alone or with family and friends - and with the same level of dignity and independence that everyone else can take for granted. One 3D floor plan provides a wheelchair users more visual information than might be contained in twenty or thirty photographs. This aids the decision making process when it comes to booking a room or suite. Our goal at Visrez to make the process of generating photo-realistic 3D Visuals as efficient and cost effective as possible for our clients.
Article by Raj Singh

Major Trends to Watch for at HSMAI NY Conference

Go Moment 17 January 2019
As I think about what to get excited about at HSMAI's Digital Marketing Strategy Conference 2019 taking place later this month in New York, the fast-evolving guest experience comes to mind. And, of course, hotel guest experience in 2019 will be enabled by more and better technologies. Here's what I see trending:The Impact of Voice-Enabled Intelligent AssistantsSmartphones already come with voice-activated assistance built-in. Amazon recently revealed it had sold over 100 million Alexa-enabled devices. Google announced that 1 Billion devices support its Assistant product. This news validates that people are not only getting used to giving voice commands to their phones but that they want to control everything with their voice. "By 2022, Juniper Research predicts that Americans will be using nearly 900 million voice-assistant-enabled devices across smartphones, tablets, PCs, speakers, TVs and cars, a 95% increase over today," writes NPR's CMO Meg Goldthwaite in Ad Age.Think about the implications of this. Consumer adoption of AI has finally reached a tipping point. People's behaviors and expectations of technology-enablement are changing once again, especially when the technology - voice-activation -- is so easy to use that it doesn't feel "techie" at all. Google's data shows that 70% of Google Assistant requests are expressed in natural language and that one in three people globally will use digital assistants to search for and book travel. In fact, just this week, Google announced that it had added hotel booking and flight check-in for U.S. users of Google Assistant. According to Phocuswright, as many as 35% of those age 18 - 34 and 28% of 35 - 54-year-olds are already using smartphone digital assistants to book their hotels.What guests are already doing with their smartphones and in-home devices, they also want to do in their hotel rooms. As early as 2016, Aloft hotels started integrating Siri voice-activation into their rooms. By May 2018, Microsoft's voice assistant Cortana had a working integration with Alexa-enabled devices, and in June 2018, Amazon launched Alexa for Hospitality with Marriott onboard -- guests can use their in-room Alexa to personalize their experiences and request hotel services. Hyatt and Google also just teamed up to bring Assistant to more hotel rooms. And at this month's massive CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, voice tech was everywhere: from trash disposals and other household appliances to cars, televisions, and shower systems to name a few. Voice is where it's at: when a trend proliferates at CES, we all better pay attention.Innovative Technologies Will Continue to Disrupt HospitalityWhen I think of hospitality disruption, my Top Three are artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML), the Internet of Things, and voice. I just covered voice, so let's discuss the other two. I recently wrote a piece, "A Guest-Centric Future Powered by AI," in which I described how AI works and how it can be used to automate and simplify many of the rote volume tasks that hotels have to contend with every day. These days, guests value their experience above all else. AI can also be used to improve guest experiences by anticipating and delivering useful content, extracting useful guest feedback, and drastically expediting service.Because the programs informed by AI are capable of improving over time, they can continue to improve the speed, quality, and relevancy of guest communications. This learning power makes AI an incredible tool for accelerating predictive analysis and decision-making. Think of all the various decisions hotel management contends with on a routine basis. Decisions about pricing and revenue optimization, inventory management, marketing, staffing, guest services and more. Then imagine having the hard, predictive work already done. Management can make decisions faster, or, in some cases, have decisions fully automated and already put into action. AI even learns from and avoids the repeating of bad decisions, something that's sometimes hard to teach to its human counterparts.When it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT) and its application in hospitality, I've already referenced the emerging appearance of intelligent assistants in hotels. Connected devices guests already use at home and in their own lives -- smart thermostats and room lighting, smartwatches and fitness monitors, mobile-activated keyless entry, wireless headsets, smart TVs, even medical and safety alert devices - are also beginning to be offered at hotels. Hotels are also concepting useful IoT that guests might want but which they do not find at home -- things that will further surprise and delight them: A wall-length smart mirror in front of which they can do their morning core-toning regime and on which their vital signs appear. A projected keyboard that turns the in-room smart TV into a fully-functioning work station without the guest having to lug a laptop on vacation. A smart wine dispenser that pours a perfect glass of wine that's ready by the time the guest merely opens the door. This is the kind of enhanced hotel stay future we can expect with IoT.Advancing personalization while managing consumer trust and GDPR Personalization has been an elusive holy grail for the travel industry. What guest wouldn't want an experience that wasn't completely and perfectly customized for them, right? The problem is that this kind of perfect personalization is still nearly impossible to pull off. There are too many disparate data sources, too many duplicative guest records, and guests are not yet ready to willingly part with all of their data in order to get the kind of personalization that we all imagine they want. Layer on top of this the new European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and very public data breaches like the one Marriott revealed late last year and delivering this kind of optimized personalization becomes even more of a challenge. The industry has to contend with both technical and consumer trust issues. Look for this to be a hot topic for both marketing and hotel operations.As we look at the year ahead, it's clear to see that the mounting pressure to provide extraordinary guest experiences will continue to force hospitality marketing and operations closer and closer together. As hoteliers continue to adopt and adapt to new technologies, they'll be challenged to do so at an ever-faster pace. It makes for an interesting landscape, with a select few players having actually elevated the guest experience for tens of millions of guests. The interesting question to ponder at HSMAI may be, who will deliver a fully-connected and seamless guest experience to one billion guests first?
Article by David Millili

The Modern Guest Experience & How Hotels Can Achieve It in 2019

runtriz 17 January 2019
Websites and apps were once supplementary to the experience. They gave a guest more information than she would get over the phone and via brochure (remember those?), but the digital pieces of the pathway weren't considered a part of the guest experience. The tech experience was a precursor, a conduit, to the actual hotel experience. As such, it didn't have to "wow" the guest; it just had to be attractive enough and, hopefully, representative of reality in as much as it could be. Technology was mostly at the service of marketing, and it quickly evolved into a way to drive direct bookings in the fierce competition with OTAs. This is still true. But what is different is that the guest expects the tech experience to be a part of the overall experience. The digital presentation can't be separated from the property; it is, instead, an extension of the guest experience. The website and app and social media form the pre-trip. The technology during the stay--mobile access, texting, social media, again--make the stay more convenient and fluid. And, we all know, everything goes up on Instagram and Facebook afterward. Post-stay surveys can be served via app or email or text. And guests follow up on the trip via all manner of feedback platforms, telling the world what they did or did not like, perhaps airing the latter most loudly.What hotels need to know in order to appeal to the modern guest is this: the digital experience is the experience. Ironically, the more it stays in the background, the better the guest experience is. What travelers are looking for is "experiences." Every single survey about what guests want will tell you this. They want to dig in, get local, and create singular memories that are hard to replicate. Nothing cookie cutter. When the technology doesn't deliver at any stage, it interrupts the depth of the guest experience.An honest representation of your property is critical--and this applies to not just imagery and content, but also to how you convey your property through technology. The digital piece should be in line with what you can offer once they've arrived. Further, if the technology doesn't deliver, this is a signal to the guest. A problem with booking, either via website or app and as simple as a slow loading speed, and you might as well give them the phone number to your competitor down the street because they aren't going to stay. We live in a world where no one has time to waste on inconveniences in the process, and a hotel's booking engine capabilities, the ability to book with ease on a user-friendly system that gives guests' choices that they feel confident will be delivered upon, is now a deciding factor. The proof? The travel industry has one of the highest cart abandonment rates of any industry at 81.8% (Statista). Problems with mobile check-in and checkout interfere with those golden memories, and standing in line to do one or the other is a death knell. Google will deliver groceries in two hours and services like Instacart will shop at virtually any big store and bring it to your door--and every step of the consumer path is completed online. However, we continue to ask guests to look at a menu in a book and walk across the room to use a landline to place an order from a restaurant that's a few floors down. The point is that guests should be able given the tools to do everything at their fingertips so that the nuts and bolts of decisions and processes fade away into the background and the trip itself, the memories the guest came to create, rise to the surface.There is a thin veil between the experienced world and the digital world; they seep into one another so that the two sometimes cannot be separated readily. Unless your hotel is in the country that intentionally does not have Internet access or televisions in the rooms, it is not your role to have an opinion on this modern condition but, instead, to lean into it, budget as much as possible for it, and deliver on the parts that you can control, which is quite a bit.The words seamless guest experience have been jammed together so much they hardly have meaning anymore. So let's just say that we're looking for harmony. Flawlessness. A lack of interruption. To deliver on this, hotels must think in terms of this thin veil, specifically the mobile device in the hands of the guest, that conduit between the digital and the tactile world. Instead of trying to "wow" the guest with bells and whistles, consider what capabilities will create the kind of fluidity that allows the "must-dos" to slip into the background of the guest's experience and the "want-tos" to move to the foreground.Two-way chat, for instance. Guests really should never have to pick up the hotel phone again when they already have a device in their hands most of the time. All manner of guest's requests can and should work through an app, whether on an in-room device or the guest's own. This includes mobile concierge, housekeeping, in-room dining, and front desk. Multiple languages should be no sweat. Some of these things may seem like givens. However, a 2017 survey of hotel apps showed that only 34% of the apps had been updated in 2016 and 20% hadn't been updated since 2015 (Skift). A strategist at L2 Inc., which conducted the survey, called the latter of these "left for dead." Leaving any part of the digital path behind, at this point, has dire consequences. The hotel that does will go the way of the outdated app--left for dead.An ideal tech experience allows guests to focus only on the travel experiences they are hoping to take home, the moments they want to treasure unburdened from inconveniences and problems in the hotel stay. Much of a hotel's ability to deliver on the modern guest experiences lies in technology that puts the humdrum in their hands and executes in a way that they hardly have to think about the process of getting whatever it is they want.It's surprising where our capabilities are as we start in 2019. It's been almost a quarter of a century since the first hotel websites, and now a guest can walk into a hotel and check-in to a room without ever speaking with a human. Other times, I believe we could be further along in adoption. But it's all part of the messy process of creating something new. Part of this thing we're building is a new way of living--one that allows us to do so much in such a short period. Hotels are tasked with helping guests live their best moments, giving them the backdrop for trips they can talk about for years to come. As such, hotels must also extend their experience flawlessly to the digital world, because this is how we live.
Article by Jeremiah Magone

Is this mistake hurting your hotel tech sales?

Hospitality Copywriting 17 January 2019
If sales haven't been as strong as you'd hoped in 2018, there are probably as many reasons for that as there are ads on the Internet...But over the past 6 years, as a copywriter and marketing strategist for hospitality tech companies, I've found that a lack in sales generally comes down to one key problem: sending the right message, but at the wrong time.The big problem with this is - if you don't address that issue first, you're going to keep struggling.Because even if you have the best thing since sliced bread, if you're not getting any traction - then you don't have a chance of bringing in well-qualified leads for your sales process. And that means you're starved for sales.So, let me help you get that right.First, by demonstrating where things are most likely going wrong in your current 'market-to-message match'...And second, by helping you dial that in, with some key questions to ask hoteliers at each stage, so you can create more win-win partnerships moving forward.And I think it would help if we had a simple example to keep referring back to, so let me BORE you with a story about my little backyard paradise, to show you why you SHOULDN'T be talking about how great your technology is all the time: My backyard paradise is a little deck I built, deep inside the Tecolote Canyon. Looking south, I'm surrounded by nearly a mile of green scenery, and I have almost complete privacy. In fact, I'm the only one down here, except all birds that call this valley home; doves, sparrows... humming birds... There's even a family of hawks. And, even though I live smack dab in the middle of San Diego, for all intents and purposes... ... this little hideaway makes me feel like I'm right in the middle of the country. I'm sure you can see why this is one of my favorite places in the world.At this point, you're probably asking: Hey, Jeremiah. Why should I care about any of this?You shouldn't! And that's the point.I'm leading with what's important to me... but unless you were in the market for a new house in San Diego, this messaging is all wrong.Do you see how the timing's off?Unfortunately, this is the fundamental mistake that most companies are making every dayAnd this is why most hospitality tech salespeople aren't getting much traction.They're going on and on about how great their solutions is... thinking they're addressing a prospective client's needs...... but they're not. Because they're not meeting hoteliers where they're at, and that's why they're missing their sales targets.People aren't getting a real sense of 'What's in it for me'...... or how their lives and their businesses might be better with your solution in place...... and that's why it's hard for them to see WHY they should invest a bunch of time and effort, just to try it out.Let's dive in a little deeper for clarification on the right way to set things up.How to 'sync up' with your market'Syncing up' with your market is all about creating the right context for a productive conversation.Say I were selling my house (which I am not!)...... how do you think I should go about catching potential home-buyers' attention and developing those leads into red-hot leads?Most hotel tech companies do this sort of work by making cold calls, putting out PPC ads, buying leads, or good ol' fashioned networking... and I'm not saying any of these things are wrong...These are all proven ways of putting names on a list.Where they're falling down is in the next step; when it comes to using the right messaging, to turn those contacts into opt-in subscribers.This is why, even large, established brands are having an extremely difficult time producing high-quality leads with any consistency, these days.Let's not fall into that trapBefore spending any time... money or effort in generating a list of contacts, the first thing we need to do is sit down and map out the 3 stages that every buyer needs to go through before we can call them an actual, qualified lead.This starts by reminding ourselves that: it doesn't matter who you are, and what you're selling (it could be room nights, management services or technology), your prospects are always at some point along a spectrum of awareness; between being relatively unaware of solutions, focusing in on a few solutions, or desperately in need of any solution.And, because of that, we should never talk to these 3 different groups in the same way, right?That would be out of sync.Each one of these groups needs to know different things to make different decisions, at each stage - before they're ever going to feel comfortable moving ahead.So the real question we need to ask is: how can we make sure we're never 'out of sync' with our messaging, ever again?Sometimes you should NEVER ask for commitmentLet's answer this fundamental question by first putting ourselves in our prospect's shoes.If you're targeting someone who is relatively unaware of your solution (which is the most common situation, when it comes to selling technologies) you'll rarely ever win if you go directly for the sale.Why's that?Going back to my house example, let's say you just happen to be in the market...You'd never start your search by randomly booking flights and randomly visiting open houses all across the US, would you?The first thing you'd do would be to start figuring out which state you wanted to live in. Then you'd start narrowing it down my region, city, and then eventually pick a neighborhood and focus in from there, right?In other words, you'd go from big decisions to small decisions. It's only natural.So it would be ridiculous for me to invest in cold calling, sending you direct mail or pestering you with any other social media stalking tactic, at this stage, right?And even if I convinced you to visit my open house, what are the chances that you'd ever sign on the dotted line? One in a thousand?So it would be a complete waste of my efforts, to go for the sale at this point - because the timing's all wrong!Even if I had the best house and the best price, the sheer volume of options out there would almost always scuttle the sale.And it's the same story in selling hospitality technology.You can have the most amazing technology with stunning case studies and tremendous support, but all the other options out there are going to make it nearly impossible for people to reach a final decision.That's why your goal at this point SHOULDN'T be to sell, it should be to influence buying criteria.Creating a tactical advantageSome of my favorite media options to create that tactical advantage include; side by side comparisons, flow charts and quizzes.I like these options because each one of these media types are quick and easy to use.And as potential buyers walk through these high-level, SWAT type analysis of their options, they come away with a much better understanding of their needs - so they appreciate your efforts.And that, in turn, gives them confidence, which is key to working with you, down the road.Going back to house example, again, this where I'd like people to realize, yes, San Diego is expensive, but the weather lets you enjoy nearly every day of the year outside, so you don't really need such a big house.Because if I could just help people realize that...... and I could get them thinking, "Hey, if I don't need a big house, then I don't have to spend so much. So maybe San Diego isn't as expensive as I thought...,"... then voila! I'd have an actual chance closing a deal.So what kinds of questions could I use in my media to help buyers reach this all-important conclusion?Maybe something like this: Hey, if you can only enjoy the outdoors for one or two seasons a year, doesn't that mean you spend a lot more time doing things you DON'T like doing, like shoveling the driveway... and warming up the car every morning...etc.? Doesn't all that time, stuck indoors kind of drive you crazy, making it harder to get enough exercise, or see friends and family? And if you didn't have to spend so much time inside, wouldn't that also mean you wouldn't need such a big house? In fact, if your house WAS smaller, that be better... because you wouldn't have to clean as much... and that means you could spend even MORE time outdoors, doing more of what you love, right?These are just a few examples, but I think you get the picture.The right questions at the right time can help set critical buying criteria for your prospects and that can give YOU a big leg up over all the other options out there.The second stage of awarenessAfter transitioning away from the first stage of awareness, which is called divergent thinking, BTW... our prospects are now actively converging on a much smaller group of possibilities. That's why this stage is aptly titled: convergent thinking.Prospects at this stage are much more qualified for your sales process... so your demos have a higher chance of success...But that DOES NOT mean you can rush into things with any kind of blatant, feature and functionality dump.In fact, I've very, very rarely seen a sale made at this stage by talking about how great any one solution might be, which far too many inexperienced sales people are prone to do...Because, unless you're talking with someone who has already gone through YOUR marketing...... and, because of YOUR marketing, they've gone from the divergent to the convergent mindset - then you might NOT be working with buying criteria that's favorable to your offer. i.e. they might already have 2 or 3 other 'suitors' in mind.So if you spend all your time talking about how amazing your solution is, in that context, you're probably going to get a fairly tepid response. Again, it's not you. It's not them. It's because you're not meeting them where they're at.So how should you engage prospects at this point?At this stage, meeting your audience where they're at means engaging in an open and honest problem-solving conversation. You need to provide genuine consulting here.You can do that by using special reports, articles and webinars with titles that give your prospects:Ideas to overcome known problemsExamples of cost saving strategiesOr checklists that help quantify and break problems down into manageable action stepsAs before, you're going to want to embed questions throughout your media that will help move your prospects forward in their decision-making process.For example, if I were trying to sell my home, I'd include questions such as: Would you like it if you could be 20 minutes from downtown, 20 minutes from the airport and 20 minutes from the beach, but feel like you were living in the country? Would it make your life easier if you never had to worry about parking, so it was always easy for friends to come over, and, because of a weird quirk of urban development, there was never any traffic in your neighborhood, either? And don't you think it would help you buy with confidence if you knew that houses in this area have appreciated at least $10k every year, over the last 20 years, and now that they're putting a train station at the foot of the hill, land values were projected to go up by another 10%?Yes, these are leading questions, so they're a little more-heavy handed.But that's welcome at this stage, because each one of these questions helps paint a picture of what life will be like after making a buying decision, and that helps people understand how your solution fits in with their needs.Because success is all about the win-winRemember, I'm using these examples, here, because this is where I see most hospitality technology companies striking out these days. And that's an absolute cryin' shame!Because most technology platforms deliver an enormous ROI these days...5X, 10X, even 50X are not unheard of.So fewer sales isn't just hurting your bottom line...... it also means hotels aren't earning as much as they could.And that means, when you look at economic forecasts for 2019...... with THE chief Japan rates strategist at Nomura predicting that we're in for more volatility...... "signs of a slowdown strengthen through the first half of 2019..."... and even going so far to say that we're now on "an irreversible path to an economic downturn"... as you can see in the chart, below...There's ample cause for concern.Especially since, downturns have always hit the travel industry first, just like we saw with sliding ADR and occupancy rates in 2008.So the bottom line is: if you aren't doing everything you can to meet hoteliers where they are on the strategic decision-making spectrum - right now - and helping them smoothly transition towards a place where they CAN make an informed decision, then you're putting yourself, and the industry at large, in a much weaker position.Fortunately, there's a silver lining...The good news is that human nature is nothing, if not resilient.And so it's only natural that, as the industry start to shimmy and shake... either because of volatility... or falling consumer confidence... more and more hoteliers are going to start taking bigger and bolder moves to modernize their operations.Most people remember what happened in 2008, after all.That's why I predict that hoteliers are going to be the #1 driving factor in your sales process over the next 12 months.In other words, 'the writing on the wall' will help more and more people to step out of the comfort zone and get them into the cognition stage; where a marked departure from the standard operating behaviors is finally possible... as long as you can show 'em the ROI, of course.They're going to have to.Because 'the writing's been on the wall' for some time now.In fact, way back in January 2017, Michael Dominguez, Chief Marketing Officer for MGM, raised the 'clarion call of warning', at HEDNA's digital distribution conference in San Diego, declaring, point blank, "40% of the people in this room will be irrelevant in 5 years... because you can't change."There was absolutely no way to misunderstand what Mr. Dominguez was saying here.Shape up or ship out!And while this message might signal good news for your company, because that's going to help facilitate change, and make it much easier for you to sell your solutions...If this is the only thing holding up your revenues, then you need to realize that Michael Dominguez was speaking to you, too.Because if you're only going after the 1 or 2% of the market that are in a true, do-or-die cognition state of mind, then you're always going head-to-head against every one of your competitors. That means it's incredibly easy to burn through your marketing resources trying to compete for attention. And,Where happens when times change... and prospects stop doing all the heavy lifting, for you, just like we saw in 2009-12, when quick and easy distribution solutions became the preferred methods of driving revenue. We need to remember that whenever there's a crisis, selling solutions that require any time or capital investment becomes exponentially more and more difficult...So, let me be frankYou have something incredibly valuable to offer, and you know it can generate a substantial ROI for a wide range of hotels out there...... but if your demos are always getting 'wrapped around the axel' of how you go about generating that ROI, then you're probably losing a majority of those demos. And those numbers can quickly deteriorate if Nomura's credit crunch forecast comes to bear.So why not stop going after the minority...... and turn your eyes to that 95-97% the market that still hasn't heard the warning bells...... so you can start helping them go from distracted and divergent to confident and convergent...... and develop some much needed familiarity and trust along the way?Because if you do that well... and if you're the only one that's in-sync with your target audience, just think about how much better... and how much stronger is your businesses chances are going to be in this, uncertain economy.People buy from people they know, like and trust, as the old axiom goes.The key to accomplishing that is to put your marketing system together in a way that's in the greatest alignment with where your prospects are, mentally.That's how you start relationships off, the right way.That's how you prove you deserve their business - because you've already DEMONSTRATED that you speak their language.And THAT'S how you convince people you'll continue to caring for and nurturing those relationships, long after a hotelier signs on the dotted line.And isn't this is one of the most important, and powerful marketing messages there is?So let me give you a little vignette...... to help you remember that success in selling is all about being in-step with your prospects.Imagine you only had 2 choices between equal 'suitors', and you just one dance to decide who you were going to marry...Would you rather go with the one who who's light on their feet, and knows how to dance with you cheek-to-cheek?Or the one who keeps stepping on your toes and talking about him or herself all the time?It's pretty obvious, isn't it?But we forget about these simple truths sometimes when there are so many whiz-bang features involved...So just remember, it's just the same in love and relationships... as it is in business.You have to meet your prospects where they are and build from there.Do that the right way, and you won't have to 'sell' your solutions anymore.The relationship will naturally make the sale, for you.About the author:Over the past 6 years, Jeremiah has worked as a direct response copywriter for a wide range of hospitality technology companies, helping them elevate their marketing game, from the typical transactional, race-to-the-bottom approach, to value-based selling that results in high-margin repeat sales.
Article by Patrick Landman

2019 Plea to Hotel PMS providers for Distribution Cost Tracking Functionality

Xotels 16 January 2019
Over the last few years there has been much discussion in the the world of hotel revenue management on managing GOPPAR and NREVPAR over only REVPAR. Understanding the cost of distribution is vital to the financial success of every hotel. For this we would need our systems to support us in registering and calculating such costs. Unfortunately many hotel Property Management Systems (PMS) have not yet evolved sufficiently in this area.In a discussion on my last post on the Hotel P&L the topic came up. I have made this plea various times already to PMS providers. So I am using the start of 2019 to make a public plea to request all hotel systems to develop a comprehensive cost of sales functionality.As hoteliers we need to be able to track our cost of sales properly. This includes not only base commissions but also overrides and other transaction fees or costsTherefore, we need a system that allows us to program the cost for each channel. When talking commissions the functionality should administer standard OTA commissions, but also take into consideration commission overrides. This data should be included in the reservation delivery interface, avoiding laborious manual corrections on the hotel side. Some OTA have a mix of sell (gross) and net rates. This would all need to be well recorded on a per booking basis.But we don't only pay commissions to OTA. How about groups an travel agency reservations? Again here we would need for a standard commission to be applied based on a contract. This most PMS allow for. But what if there is a commission override? Can we post this to the group folio to be recalculated over all the reservations?And override commissions on FIT and Wholesale contracts, we should be able to record these as well as a cost of sales. On this segment another question comes to mind, should we be able to add a markup to have a gross rate, when comparing to BAR and other public rates?And then, there are the GDS and CRS, what do they cost by month and transaction. How can we configure our systems to track this as well. Same goes for chain and representation fees. Booking Engine, Channel Manager and interfaces costs should also not be overlooked.Meta-Search and Adword advertising are also important costs we should look to incorporate in our cost of distribution. However the cost of these bidding models cannot be allocated to individual reservations. So maybe we need a module allowing us to administer advertising costs on a scheduled basis. This could either be per month, day or week. But take note the spending moment equals the booking date but is not related to the stay date. Would a calculation considering booking lead time allow us to assign costs effectively?This type of distribution cost functionality will finally allow us to move beyond a proverbial 'garbage in, garbage out' era, and enable hotels to gain much better insight in the true cost of sales. Hoteliers will finally be able to make an apples to apples comparison on Net-ADR and Net Revenue Contribution per agency, channel and segment. It is time we get a full understanding on how each and every single reservation contributes to the bottom line.This is of course highly complex, and as you can see I don't have all the answers. But I hope this post will start a public debate amongst hoteliers on which requirements we have as an industry from our technology providers. This would give them the full specs on what to build, and hopefully we will see some great developments by our system partners in 2019.Look forward to everyone's feedback, both from hotels and PMS vendors of course ...Happy 2019 everyone! Patrick Landman @ Xotels
Article by Larry Mogelonsky

Ten Questions to Ask Your Team for 2019

Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited 14 January 2019
It's a lengthy, grueling process, but one that can be quite rewarding if you have a vision of where you want to take your hotel. The key for the upcoming year is to plan for a gradual and continuous change, and the first step towards this is to align with your team.As for the coming year, it is definitely not business as usual. There are disruptors lurking in the dark alleys of the travelsphere, and if you aren't careful you'll suffer from diminishing occupancies and withering group ROB.As one potential harbinger of doom that I'm constantly reminded of, the sharing economy has already prompted all hoteliers to re-evaluate their approach. If you think that you're immune from this wave, it's time to ask your executive committee to get with the program. In this vein, I've assembled a series of ten questions that should provoke some lively conversation as well as provide a better focus for the coming year.Who is the customer right now and who will the customer be five years from now?Setting aside RevPAR analysis, what are we planning to grow incremental revenue - to build RevPAG as they say (revenue per available guest)? In other words, can you express the revenue forecast on a total revenue basis rather than rooms-only?Can you examine the total revenue-per-room sold net of commissions for the business from OTAs, traditional TAs, direct leisure/FIT and groups? How has this data trended?Does it make sense for your hotel to continue using Google Adwords? Are you still buying your own hotel's name as a means of owning the lower funnel? If so, what is the return and would you get the business anyways?Why would anyone stay with you (answer separately for leisure, corporate and groups)? How does this compare versus your competitors?Are you giving your external agencies the ammunition they need to help deliver the best services they can? Have you asked them to demonstrate success stories from their other customers that you can learn from?How are you using your CRM to build loyalty and personalized offers that generate repeat visitation?Are you maximizing bleisure opportunities (hybrid travel)? How do you encourage group patrons to extend their stays?What are you doing to integrate yourselves with the community and generate goodwill amongst both local patrons as well as neighborhood associations?At the end of next year, what one single activity will you be able to confirm as mission accomplished?
Article by Margaret Ady

How to compete with Airbnb by thinking like a tech company

apaleo GmbH 14 January 2019
Airbnb is the scorpion of accommodations. There's one, actually more like five, in that downtown condominium complex right around the corner from your hotel. These accommodations have snuck into your hotel's turf are hiding in plain sight with low operating costs and a cozy kitchen where guests can make their own breakfast that's better than the cereal at your free breakfast buffet.Back in 2016, Brian Younge of Colliers International Hospitality and Leisure Group noted that Airbnb not only has an impact on hotel demand but that impact will be felt most by limited service hotels. Airbnb supply "siphons demand from a lot of the limited-service properties in core markets and high tourist areas," said Younge (BisNow). Makes sense. Luxury travelers still want the services that Airbnb doesn't provide so the upscale market just won't see the same hit.This isn't the only way that the Airbnb scorpion stings limited service hotels. Pair this with a reduction in compression nights, when hotels would normally fill rooms at a much higher rate during big events, and limited-service hotels are in a tight squeeze. Compression nights have been on the decline, and it's mostly because of the likes of Airbnb and HomeAway. Dina Gerdeman writes for Forbes, "That's bad news for hotels, which have traditionally earned their biggest margins when rooms were scarce and customers were forced to pay higher rates."The (potentially) fatal blow: limited-service hotels are seeing the most growth, with 407,000 rooms coming online in 2018-2019 in the U.S. alone, which means not only competition from private rentals, but also stiffer competition from your hotel peers.What's a hotel, particularly a limited-service hotel, to do? Get in the head of the scorpion. Strip Airbnb down to its core. Peel back the hospitality mask that it wears and under the surface, you'll find a technology company (As is Uber. As is Expedia.). Each is built on savvy core technology where budgets and innovation go toward creating a better user experience. Limited-service hotels don't have this luxury, since, you know, they're saddled with an actual product on real estate with investors and owners. However, the chief way this hotel segment will compete against the scorpions of the hospitality world is to think like a technology company. Invest in user experience (in other words, the guest journey) wherever possible. Create administrative efficiencies via technology. Use technology to help you grow and generate more revenue.To do this, hotels must break out of legacy software that doesn't connect. In fact, it's not just legacy software that's problematic--even some tech that was released just yesterday doesn't integrate. This is where you must dig deepest when committing to new technology. You must ensure that you have open access and the ability to bring on new innovations that will change the way you do business. Opening up the possibilities of trying out new technologies that work seamlessly with core systems is the only affordable and viable path for hotels to slyly transform themselves into technology companies.So little is about the room anymore when it comes to hotels and so much is about the guest's experience of being able to choose how he or she wants to engage (i.e., automated check-in/out, texting for housekeeping, etc.). The technology for this category likely stays in the background because most midscale and economy properties aren't going to be adding tech bells and whistles to the rooms without taking a chunk out of already tight room margins. 2019 will be this behind-the-scenes technological innovation gives urban hotels competitive superpowers, becoming the scorpions that nobody saw squeeze through the door.PS: If you want to start thinking like a technology company, but don't know where to start, here's a tip - update your core system so that it can adapt to any new technology that you throw its way. This buyer's guide is a good starting reference.

The Room Key: Five Tips for Growing a Career in Luxury Hotels

mycloud HOSPITALITY 11 January 2019
How can a recent hospitality school graduate find success in the luxury hotel segment? Hospitality school graduates exit school with more than just a degree; they have an excitement for the future and are eager to start and build their career. Pursuing a successful career in the luxury hotel segment takes dedication. This segment of hospitality is one that takes added knowledge as well as passion for exceptional personalized service. The guest expectations are high, and having this foundation supports the creation of the memorable guest experiences that luxury guests are looking for.
Article by Jos Schaap

Online Ripple Effects: How Digital Tech Changes Guests' Offline/On-Property Expectations

StayNTouch Inc. 10 January 2019
Bill Gates was famously quoted saying "We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten." Over the last decade, we have witnessed a period of rapid technological evolution. Our world is, seemingly, in a constant state of digital advancement and change. Emerging tech has entered our households, changed the way we do business, and the way brands connect with consumers and ultimately altered the way in which we live. This is exciting, in many ways -- but continuous digital innovation comes with its own set of rules. From a business standpoint especially, industry leaders must remain privy to how increased digital opportunity inspires a subsequent increase in consumer expectations. Digital technology provides countless consumer touch-points -- far more than those which existed within the traditional consumer structure. Rather, with the nudge of technology, brands and leaders have forged a direct path to consumers, to connect with consumers in a genuine, effective and targeted manner. This shift becomes especially relevant within the hospitality realm, as our industry is built upon the consistent provision of exceptional experiences and the curation of guest-centric relationships. While digital applications help to effectively offset the operational load on staff (for those tasks which can be streamlined and do not require high-touch treatment), they also open the floodgates to an influx of new guest touch-points and expectations. In fact, studies show that 67% of customers say their standards for good experiences are higher than ever, but 51% of customers say most companies fall short of their expectations for great experiences. Not only are guests hyper-connected to their devices as they travel and engage with hotel properties, but they're spending a more significant portion of their travel experience 'connected' to their social network. So, what does this mean for hoteliers? How can the hospitality industry effectively react and adapt to these large-scale changes in the tech ecosystem and, in turn, meet and exceed evolving guest expectations both online and offline? Online Doesn't Mean Impersonal It's easy to assume that the effective optimization of processes within an online platform, mobile app or device means a blitz of hands-off, impersonal interactions. This isn't the case at all. Or at least, it shouldn't be. While technology helps to streamline processes in an effective, productive manner, the prioritization of a more efficient user experience shouldn't come at the expense of genuine customer service. Guests may prefer the mobile experience for the majority of their travel touch-points, but they are still human and, as such, expect human/personalized engagement delivered through the mobile and on-property journey. Digital technology should be leveraged across all aspects of guest engagement to create a humanized experience and showcase hoteliers' understanding of what guests value. In fact, according to studies, 76% of consumers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations and 84% of customers say being treated like a person, not a number, is very important to winning their business. As Kristin Smaby so eloquently states, "In an era when companies see online support as a way to shield themselves from 'costly' interactions with their customers, it's time to consider an entirely different approach: building human-centric customer service through great people and modern technology." If anything, the utilization of digital platforms should inspire heightened responsiveness and instant gratification; catering to this generation of travelers who expect 24/7, uninhibited access and convenience. Ultimately, the real potential of the digital guest journey can only be capitalized on when hoteliers recognize that digital tech should be utilized as a driver/conduit for exceptional and hyper-responsive guest service. So, when considering new technology for your property, ask yourself -- will this enhance my hotel's ability to connect with guests in a real, personalized manner? Will the implementation of this platform enable my staff to curate a more relevant, memorable in-person experience? Using Data Responsibly With big data, comes big responsibility. The demand for personalization has become notably paramount across industries, and especially within the hospitality realm. Recent research shows that 57% of consumers are willing to share personal data in exchange for personalized offers or discounts. However, the 2017 State of Personalization Report also states that just 22% of shoppers are satisfied with the level of personalization they currently receive. This, in itself, embodies the increasing responsibility associated with digital access -- if the use of online technology provides brands with a more direct line to their consumer, those consumers want to be heard and understood. The same concept applies to hotels. If the implementation of a progressive, tech-savvy operational model and/or native apps creates more new touch-points, hotels have increased access to valuable guest data and, as such, should be empowered to curate a more personalized experience. Guests expect a streamlined journey and, more importantly, targeted and relevant engagements with your hotel, before and after every stay, both online and offline. The Hybrid Service Advantage Regardless of available mobile technology, any guests' experience with your property will be comprised of online and offline interactions. Depending on each guests' specific set of unique expectations, they may prefer a high-touch, traditional experience, or appeal more to the low-touch, self-service experience. This represents an integral opportunity to hotels, as their guest service model can expand to cater to each guests' respective needs and preferred interaction model. Those travelers who are in a rush can rely on fast, efficient mobile or self-service experiences while those travelers who crave a more high-touch relationship can benefit from dedicated, genuine staff attention. This ensures that guests receive the care and level of service they expect, while hotel staff is empowered to effectively allocate their energy and resources to those touch-points which need it most. The continued emergence and widespread embrace of digital technological innovation marks an exciting era for hospitality. Hotels across the globe are continuously raising the bar in their adoption and understanding technology and its' impact on the guest experience. Not only is the guest service model changing and reaching new heights, but guests are implored to interact with your property in new ways across social media channels, apps, and on-property with self-service and immersive technology. Those hotels which effectively capitalize on this opportunity for an enhanced connection with modern guests are, undoubtedly, setting themselves up for success in 2019 and beyond.
Article by Terri Miller

Evolution of the Hotel CRM

Concilio Labs, Inc. 10 January 2019
The success of any hotel hinges on its ability to curate memorable guest experiences and lasting customer satisfaction. Of course, this mission rests heavily on a hotelier's shoulders when we consider the many competing demands associated with running a hotel. Maximizing revenue streams, empowering staff and training new employees, monitoring guest feedback, streamlining operations -- these are just a few of the considerations on a hotelier's mind at any given time. So how do hoteliers ensure customer satisfaction is always top of mind in today's highly competitive hospitality industry? And in an increasingly connected world, how do hoteliers cut through the noise to effectively develop relationships with their existing and prospective guests? The answer lies in CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software. CRM platforms integrate into a hotel's operational structure to build a comprehensive database of guest information, playing a critical role in the cultivation of loyal, satisfied customer bases.But, like the dinosaurs, hotel CRM platforms will become obsolete if they stay in their present form.Customer satisfaction has always played an integral role in the success of any business -- but none more than those within service-based industries (such as hotel, tourism, food, and beverage, etc.). In these industries, it's never just about the product or service; much of the consumer's impression of that brand or business will be derived from experience and relationships. With this understanding, the demand for CRM software quickly became paramount. The term "customer relationship management" was coined in 1995, paving the way for the creation of the first CRM software programs (which were mostly just filing cards with customer details). By 1997, CRM had already moved away from customer solutions to enterprise resource planning (product planning, manufacturing, marketing and payment functions). Then in 1999, Siebel launched the first mobile CRM (with PeopleSoft, SAP, and Oracle quick to follow suit), with the eventual advent of cloud CRM. However, in a digital era of increasing competition, hotels need a more holistic view of the guest journey. The ecosystem has evolved from single sources of guest history information to secondary data available on multiple channels that can be leveraged for guest scoring, profiling, personalization, revenue management and forecasting. After all, to ignore or leave in proprietary silos the information available through all channels, including social media channels, would mean leaving an integral connection to the modern guest entirely untapped and under-utilized. Further, with the advent of AI, Machine Learning, and Big Data, hotels can now tap into unrealized trends, patterns, and discover guest and operational insights to optimize revenue, productivity and loyalty. It's also no secret that employees are at the forefront of hospitality, and the drivers of any hotel property's success. Systems, guidelines and amenities aside, it's up to the staff who are constantly interacting with guests to ensure the guest experience meets and exceeds expectations. With the seamless integration of an advanced CRM software that is not only rife with competitive insights but is also visual and user-friendly in nature, ensures that the value of the modern CRM is never lost amongst frequent staff turnover. Instead, hotels can adequately prepare and empower their workforce at every turn, to enhance productivity and, in turn, guest satisfaction.With innovation, easier implementations, and lower prices, the next-generation of CRM systems is moving from sales, marketing, and service to enabling frictionless, customizable guest experiences, and can facilitate a unique advantage. However, this is only the case if the implementation includes easy integration with other core systems and processes. Modern CRM solutions should have this in mind, creating a flexible, open technology that can interact with a hotelier's data and current systems. So who is the person behind each reservation? The future of CRM should tell you exactly that... and so much more. Want to learn more about using technology to advance hotel - guest relationships? Let me know.

Free WiFi as the Easy 2019 Goal

Hotel Online 9 January 2019
As now is the time for New Year’s resolutions, let’s start off with a ‘low hanging fruit’ – an easy victory that will resonate strongly with any guest no matter the travel modality. But first, to show you how much times have changed and why this is an important project, we need only compare two frequently asked questions posed to the front desk. Whereas, “Do you have free WiFi?” was common a decade ago, nowadays this is more likely to be, “What’s the WiFi password?”

Upgrade Your Guestroom in 2019 with These 5 Technologies

Hotel F&B 7 January 2019
Anytime we consider adopting new technology for business, there is risk that we are too far ahead of a trend or too far behind it. The art becomes knowing when exactly is the right time to adopt technology and that rarely means being the first or the last to do so. So how do you know when to adopt a new technology for your hotel business?

Maximizing Hotel Space for More Profit

mycloud HOSPITALITY 6 January 2019
It's a new year, and all around the country, people are creating their New Year's resolutions. Maybe you want to lose some weight, make more money or be more organized. But what about your business? Have you set goals beyond your standard budget and marketing plan? How will you develop your potential for profitability in the new year?

Lodging Forecast 2019: Industry Threats Yet Growth

Hotel F&B 3 January 2019
Reading forecast content from the plethora of prognosticators out there can drive one into craziness. Clearly, the current economy has strengths like consumer confidence, employment levels, low oil/gas prices, and purchasing managers sentiments as expressed by the Institute of Supply Management (ISM). Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been growing at a strong 3 percent +/- rate and most pundits expect a 2-3 percent increase in revenue per available room (RevPAR), largely attributed to average daily rates (ADR).
Article by Adam Hoydysh

Why Hotels Should be Serving Up Self-Service to Gain a Competitive Advantage and Inspire Guest Loyalty

Plum 3 January 2019
The basic premise is that guests should have choices available to them, within every stay, that allows them to navigate a hotel property in a manner which appeals to their individual preferences. In some cases, this may call for a high-touch experience, developed through frequent, personalized and direct interactions with staff. In other cases, this may call for a low-touch stay designed for those guests who are more interested in an experience which is defined by seamless and efficient service -- often of the self-service variety. In fact, over the last few years, we've witnessed a widespread consumer shift towards self-service automation through the likes of TV streaming sites (such as Netflix), the debut of Amazon Go's first automated retail stores, Uber, Ritual, Uber Eats and so much more. For many consumers, this represents an exciting opportunity to experience a fast, efficient shopping or service process that puts them in control and maximizes their time at the simple touch of a button. In a recent survey, 66% of shoppers admitted they prefer self-service technology over interacting with a retail sales associate.There's no denying it -- the self-service model is rapidly growing in popularity across industries and is, subsequently taking the hospitality realm by storm as well.From hotel check-in and airport kiosks to car rental stations, keyless entry to hotel rooms, mobile concierge and more, the self-service revolution is demonstrating compelling staying power across various guest touch-points. While some guests will always prefer a more traditional hospitality model, providing guests with alternative options for how to interact with their hotels allows for a seamless, often digitalized and instantaneous experience that benefits guests and hotel staff alike. Moreover, while the self-service revolution began with an emphasis on mobile check-in/out and hotel apps, it's quickly expanded into the realm of in-room appliances too. From in-room Nespresso machines to Alexa voice-activated assistants and on-demand wine (by the glass), hotels are aptly realizing the revenue opportunity presented by self-service, in-room offerings.Consider this: reports show that US wine consumption sits at over 770 million gallons, with total US wine sales sitting at $62.7 billion in 2017. There are 4M luxury and upscale hotel rooms globally, and 90% of the guests who stay there are wine drinkers. 58% of this fine crowd drink wine weekly, and 78% monthly. There's no denying it -- wine remains a dominantly popular beverage choice amongst various generations.However, some guests (depending on the nature of their travel) are less likely to stick around public areas (bars) and would prefer a self-service option. The hotel in-room wine experience has remained largely unchanged for nearly 50 years. Meanwhile, guest preferences have changed dramatically. Business travelers want to enjoy a glass of wine while they catch up on email or watch TV in the privacy of their room. Leisure travelers want to be able to take advantage of a resort property by enjoying a sunset on the balcony. This is where PLUM comes into play -- offering by-the-glass, chilled wine to guests automatically, within the comfort of their hotel room.Business travelers, as an example, often have strict itineraries that dictate the course of their trip. With meetings to attend and deadlines to meet, corporate guests are likely to show a preference for streamlined features such as mobile hotel apps, in-room coffee in the morning and perhaps an on-demand glass of wine at the end of the day. Providing luxury, non-essential amenities with the help of self-service technology allows for increased visibility, purchasability and, most importantly, convenience for each guest. However, does the increased propensity to buy stem from more than just convenience? In a recent study, it was found that when a liquor store changed from face-to-face to self-service, the market share of difficult-to-pronounce items increased by over 8%. The researchers concluded that consumers might fear being misunderstood or appearing unsophisticated. Not only that, but a 2004 experiment revealed that when using a self-service kiosk, McDonald's customers spent 30% more on average. These examples are likely influenced by a few factors: decreased social friction (the elimination of any perceived judgment surrounding an order), complete control over the purchase and a desire for privacy. While not every guest will express the same purchase motivations or tendencies, the inclusion of self-service options simply allows each guest to choose their preferred purchase experience -- representing an essential step toward hyper-personalization.The self-service model also helps to reduce demand on room-service staff, allowing for a more streamlined service model. As we've already witnessed across other touch points (check-in/out, keyless entry, etc.), the embrace of new technology allows hotel staff to focus on the in-person touch points that matter most, while other low-touch touch-points are swiftly addressed via high-tech amenities. Within this structure, hoteliers also arrive upon an opportunity to further enhance the guest journey. With Plum, hoteliers can reward VIP guests and celebrate special occasions with complimentary wine, as well as instantly recover a service experience before it has a chance to become a negative review. Considering that companies lost $75 billion in 2017 from customers switching to competitors due to lousy customer service, any opportunity to prove attentive service and consideration to guests' needs is pivotal. Think of this as another customer service insurance policy, by enabling hotels to instantly recover service such as noise, odor, or a broken remote control by granting a guest a complimentary Plum pour. And with seamless integration into your PMS and POS, the decision to enhance your in-room food and beverage strategy is that much easier.With this in mind, it's no surprise that hoteliers are looking for more opportunities to tap into the on-demand dynamic that so many modern guests seem to prefer. From seamless check-in to seamless, by-the-glass wine, self-service amenities can truly represent an integral, memorable differentiator for each guest and each stay.Is your hotel looking for a way to stand out from the competition, increase revenue and keep guests coming back? If so, we can help. Click here to learn more.
Article by Raj Singh

Generation AI - How Hotels Are Adapting to the Demands of More Millennial Guests

Go Moment 3 January 2019
In the year 2020, one short year from now, the oldest millennials will turn 40, a milestone birthday. This means that millennials, currently the most significant consumer demographic, have been booking hotels stays for nearly 20 years. They have been the first generation to be able to use the Internet and mobile technology to research, book, and experience their stays. For this reason, they're called the Do-It-Yourself Generation. And these DIYers demand experiences that have caused hotels to scrutinize many aspects of how they do business.Hoteliers recognize that millennials -- and their successor Gen Zs -- communicate differently. They also want experiences that are personalized, context-aware, and unfolding in real time -- something humans aren't always capable of delivering. To evolve and accommodate these next-gen guests, hotels have implemented changes, from hotel design and amenities to guest services. Some of the most recent technological adaptations for hotels bring together human expertise and machine intelligence creating a seamless, better real-time experience for the guest. Generation DIY is opening the door to Generation AI.A New Era of Customer ExperienceMillennials are incredibly focused on experience. They earn less money and take fewer vacation days, so they want to make every vacation dollar spent count. They command extraordinary experiences with top-notch customer service - 56% of Millennials moved their business from at least one company in the past year due to poor customer service. In fact, customer experience is increasingly defined by customer service, with 76% of all generations now viewing customer service as a "true test" of how much a company values them.However, millennials, unlike preceding generations, don't want in-person interactions when it comes to customer service. Sixty-six percent of millennial travelers avoid talking face-to-face with a real person to receive service, and 72% believe a phone call is not the best way to resolve a service issue. Instead, this DIY Generation wants instant, self-service solutions. It's almost a visceral need: 69% of millennials say that they feel good about themselves (as well as the company they are doing business with) when they resolve a problem without talking to a company representative!To meet the millennial guest where their guest experience needs are, hotels must understand millennial communication preferences. What do they prefer?Using connected devices, especially their smartphones - according to the Adobe Digital Index, on average, millennials own 7.7 connected devices and use 3.3 each dayTexting, because...They want responses fast, on-demand and without added friction, but...They like, want and expect brand engagement, and...They're open to experimenting with new and more intelligent devices and platforms like voice-commanded assistants.The disintermediation of frontline human customer service by millennials led one recent headline to summarize their preference this way: "Help Me Help Myself or I'm Out."Getting by with a Little Help from AIFortunately for hoteliers, there's another new intelligent platform on the scene to meet millennials where their demand lies: the smartconcierge. Inspired by human concierges, the smartconcierge is a machine learning tool powered by artificial intelligence, which is programmed to anticipate and meet guests' needs, instantly. Weak Wi-Fi signal? Ask the smartconcierge for help. Need a sushi restaurant recommendation and reservation. The smartconcierge can handle that. Want poolside bar service? Ping the smartconcierge. A response will be returned in less than one second. First generation smartconcierges deliver service through smartphone messaging, but they are also now being integrated into voice assistants as well.The smartconcierge's AI enables it to interpret guests' needs by context, preferences, and prior requests. Then, the smartconcierge delivers timely and relevant answers, additional content, and special offers. Its powerful technology not only adroitly meets the needs of millennial guests, but all guests, freeing up hotel staff to focus on more complicated requests. And when the smartconcierge can't handle a request or a cannot satisfy a guest, it knows to elevate the request to a human counterpart in guest services to take over. At that point, the smartconcierge updates the guest with status alerts until the matter is fully resolved. A happy guest is a loyal guest.The smartconcierge also provides "up-serving" and guest experience enhancement opportunities. Hoteliers can push VIP invites, special gatherings, event tickets and more through the smart concierge.All of these smartconcierge features serve to surprise and delight the DIY Generation who then do what every hotelier hopes they'll do: write rave reviews of their stay and shout-out their awesome smartconcierge. In short, hotels that want to drive incremental revenues and capture the imagination and loyalty of high expectation-propelled millennials would do well to adapt to emerging AI tools like a smartconcierge quickly.
Article by Reza Etemad-Sajadi and Marie Schopfer

Testing Guest Interactions with Robots

EHL 27 December 2018
EHL is currently working on a project aiming to improve customer experience through a robot concierge solution. Lead by the team of Associate Professor Reza Etemad-Sajadi and working with partners from heigvd (Professor Andres Uribe's team) and Swiss company Avatarion, this Innosuisse-funded project uses a Pepper robot whose movements, gestures and conversation skills are controlled remotely via a real live agent, mimicking the behaviors of a human concierge. The goal of this project is to evaluate how customers perceive the quality of service delivered and provide insights for service companies using an avatar as a concierge.Based on the evaluation survey done right after people interacted with our robot, the team outlined here some of the key findings their pilot unveiled.THE IMPORTANCE OF EMOTIONAL APPEALThe emotional appeal of the interface has a major impact on how satisfied users turned out to be conversing with a robot (See Figure 1).In this particular context, experiential aspects such as focus on fun, playfulness and emotional worth appeared to be important criteria to actively engage customers in the interaction. In some cases customers even developed feelings of empathy for the robot they were interacting with.In terms of marketing, we know how important the emotional connection with guests is and the emotional appeal of any avatar-based interaction should be taken into account.SERVICE QUALITY AND DESIGNTo define the core aspects of service quality of our robot-based service should be evaluated upon, we measured the behaviors of our robot based on the 5 below service quality dimensions (adapted from the SERVQUAL model):Reliability (ability to perform the promised service dependably and precisely)Assurance (knowledge and courtesy of the robot and its ability to inspire confidence)Responsiveness (provide prompt service)Aesthetic/tangibles (visual, equipment)Empathy (individualized attention given to customers)Although the robot-as-a-concierge was positively perceived across the five dimensions, the most important score appeared to be around the "aesthetic" of the experience, through a visually pleasing design and equipment. Beyond merely supporting typical engineering requirements to deliver a performant experience, good design can be used to establish the premises for a good human/robot relationship.Figure 1: Service quality resultsTECHNOLOGY ACCEPTANCE Several other dimensions, such as the ease of use, usefulness, social presence, scare of robots, etc., have also been measured.One interesting result we observed was around the somewhat "innate" reluctance to use robots, partly due to the threatening nature of robot-based interactions for humans (part of the users indeed expressed concerns about the fact that robot might replace humans in the future). Even though the final score ranges in the middle of the results scale, this aspect should be taken into consideration when designing an avatar-based experience.GENDER PERCEPTIONAlthough our results showed that women tend to judge robot-based experience more positively than men (see Figure 2) - in terms of ease of use, usefulness, social presence, reliability, responsiveness, and empathy of the robot - it is interesting to note that they express more fears about robots' taking over humans in the near future.Figure 2: Comparison Men vs. Women PerceptionAlthough we know that new technologies can be very quickly obsolete and replaced by new ones, we found that the "usefulness" and "enjoyment" perceived by users interacting with the robot have a significant influence on their desire to use the robot in the future. Indeed, if the only goal is to increase service productivity with robots, the impact can turn out to be very negative for companies. To truly live up to the challenge of increasing the customer experience through robots, aspects pertaining to the human touch should be taken into consideration.Hospitality robots in actionThe hospitality industry has already taken some steps towards implementing robot-based solution to improve and/or complement the service experience it provides to guests. Here are a few example of hotels and restaurants using robots as part of their daily operations.Henn na Hotel - Nagasaki, Japan - The world's first robot-staffed hotelMulti lingual robots at front deskRobotic arm locker servicePorter robot transporting luggageFacial recognition software to open doorsSpyce Kitchen - Boston, USA - A robotic-powered restaurantRobotic kitchen, capable to cook relatively complex mealsBionic Bar - On the Royal Caribbean Cruise ShipA pair of robots that can stir, shake and strain all types of cocktailsGuests can select on a tablet predefined drink recipes or create their own beverage

A look at what's been top of mind for industry experts

hotelnewsnow.com Featured Articles 26 December 2018
This roundup of content focuses on issues that were top of mind for industry experts in the last six months, such as Generation Z, 2019 digital trends and revenue management.

A Few of My Favorite Takeaways...

Hotel F&B 22 December 2018
I will admit that I am still slightly confused by when and why “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music became a holiday classic, but I’ll go with it to launch into this pre-Christmas countdown. Looking back at 2018, Hospitality Technology was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity for in-depth conversations with leading tech stars from hotels, restaurants, technology companies and beyond.

Hopefully Marriott's breach marks a turning point

hotelnewsnow.com Featured Articles 21 December 2018
While I’m sure officials with Marriott International wish the recently reported breach of legacy Starwood systems had never happened, there’s still a chance it could prove to be a positive for the hotel industry in the long run.

Tech-free moments in hotels: Reconnect to disconnect

hotelnewsnow.com Featured Articles 21 December 2018
Technology is an integral part of the travel experience, but sometimes guests are looking for ways to disconnect during a hotel stay. Here’s how hoteliers can help.
Article by Greg Abbott

Will Marriott data breach herald the death of personalization?

DataArt 21 December 2018
This analysis could be titled in a number of ways, each with a lean towards what was disclosed by Marriott last week when it emerged some 500 million guest accounts had been hacked.Because of the size of the breach and the underlying issues that may have caused it, many may point to the hotel sector's drive towards personalization and trigger a major rethink.Alternatively, stopping the next Marriott-like data breach may simply be a question of implementing many of protocols and strategies outlined below.Or, perhaps, it's more of a rallying cry for stronger legislation - at least in the U.S. - which will ensure that brands across the travel spectrum take security (more) seriously.But first some background...I recently attended The Phocuswright Conference, where some of travel tech's mightiest flock to debate industry trends. Apart from a few companies that are leveraging machine learning to battle the "black hat" hackers, security was absent from the agenda.It was not on a single marquis, nor was it the subject of a hot debate or an executive interview. Let's face it, as far as tagline topics go... "security" may be one of the least exciting topics at a conference covering the market's leading innovation.In short: despite the growing number and scale of security breaches, hospitality companies are still slow to invest in security.But why?!A number of factors may be at play.First of all, there is no upside to security. It doesn't drive new revenue or customer acquisition, making the "cost" of increased security measures difficult to justify (until now, anyway).Furthermore, hotels' complex, distributed IT systems (internet booking engines, distribution systems, customer relationship management and hotel local systems) call for sophisticated, multi-dimensional, and expensive security measures.Below are some ways that hospitality companies can improve their security and avoid data breaches. Personally identifiable information (PII) has become the new target for attackers, and organizations are still making too little effort to protect it.PII is often duplicated across multiple systems, un-encrypted, and kept longer than needed and can be easily exported in bulk.A sensible approach for handling PII is data "pseudonymization" whereby personal information is transferred to a separate database with adequate security controls (encryption, access control, audit, etc.) and each person is assigned a unique ID.All other systems operate with unique IDs instead of actual PII, which can be retrieved via a separate process. Any PII that is not required for immediate business needs should be deleted or archived.Most organizations focus on their perimeter security at the expense of breach detection and response within the internal network.They simply ignore the fact that attackers need only find a single flaw in a vast landscape, while defenders need to cover the entire attack surface. Even if they do so, there is a range of "unfair" attack methods, including social engineering, zero-day flaws, and insider attacks, that are not possible to cover by perimeter defense.Hotels need subscribe to regular audits and penetration testing of their infrastructure, both internal and external.Red pill, not the blue pillA recent trend among advanced organizations is to employ "red teams," which are independent groups that take the adversarial point of view and challenge the effectiveness of a security program."Red teams" use various techniques, including social engineering, phishing, or posing as a company employee, to penetrate the internal network. During such simulated attacks, companies get a realistic view of their defense capabilities.Traditional perimeter defenses such as firewalls, IDS/IPS, patching, anti-virus, etc, are still required, but IT security teams need to go further, assuming that the perimeter is compromised and taking a proactive approach to detecting malicious activity.Here are some essential controls that are often overlooked but can massively improve security:Enable outbound traffic filtering where possible, as it allows detection of attackers when they attempt to copy the stolen information to their servers.Deploy group policies on non-IT staff computers that detect suspicious activity such as running PowerShell, opening a reverse-shell, making network attacks, etc.Run regular social engineering simulation exercises to train the staff to react appropriately.Update password policies that check new passwords against dictionary words or common patterns that attackers use during brute-force attacks (in most attacks, after the perimeter is bypassed, attackers access accounts with weak passwords).Enforce MFA for privileged accounts and sensitive areas.Collect audit logs from various sources and ship them to a central secure server with separate access control.Finally, I submit that it is time for the U.S. - home to some of the largest and most advanced technology companies in the world - to introduce legislative data security measures and force the travel industry to take data protection seriously.The evolving nature of cyber threats calls for a continuous legislative effort as well as for collaboration with other governments, industries, and academia.At the time when personalization is a critical driver of innovation and progress, it is imperative that data security takes center stage.This article was first published on phocuswire.com
Article by Paul Van Meerendonk

Breaking Down Silos and Building Up Profit on the Quest for Total Revenue Management

IDeaS 21 December 2018
Down-to-earth business leaders at hotels and resorts probably don't feel like they have much in common with someone like Indiana Jones or Lara Croft, but attaining total revenue management for their properties is an ambitious mission, and one that may be treacherous.How many years has this been the "hot topic" of the hotel industry? Professor Sherri Kimes of Cornell, ever the adventurer blazing a trail for hospitality revenue management, was pushing studies on restaurant revenue management and total revenue management dating back to 2004 and even earlier. 10 years later, IDeaS Revenue Solutions launched its Function Space Revenue Management Solution to help hotels expand their revenue management strategies beyond guest rooms. Yet, here we are in 2018, and total revenue management is still an enigma, wrapped in a puzzle, hidden away somewhere in a dark back office at a few select hotels or in the minds of quirky innovators at the corporate offices.Few hotel companies have achieved a successful holistic revenue management strategy. Most hotels still manage revenue generating business units in isolation. The good news is that, as silos come down, total revenue performance comes into view. Hotels must adopt the tools and best practices that bring together key business stakeholders from marketing, sales, meetings & events, food & beverage, revenue management and operations to unify goals and profit potential.Indiana Jones always faced three main obstacles on his quests: traps & puzzles, other adventure seekers, and team members with other agendas. Despite being in a wildly different line of work, leaders at hotels and resorts often face these same challenges in trying to implement total revenue management.Traps & PuzzlesA key component of effective revenue management is the ability to collect and analyze data. For rooms revenue management, that data sits predominantly in the property management system and, most of the time, is fairly accurate. But, when we start venturing outside of the core rooms business, we find the challenge of accurate access to data becomes a critical issue that prevents us from effectively applying revenue management techniques to other revenue streams. I am often shocked when visiting hotels and meeting with local teams to discover that, despite having many meeting and event spaces, they do not have a sales & catering management system.When meeting with a spa management team, they might look surprised if I ask them what systems they use to make reservations and maintain schedules of treatments. Then they point me to their colorful Excel workbook. Golf tee times? Where's that trusty pencil so they can record them in a big book that sits on the desk in the pro shop. Surely, in the hotel restaurant this will be different with advanced, point-of-sale systems in place? And yes, there are generally better systems found in restaurants, but the data quality does not always meet expectations. Moreover, integrating these systems to give a cohesive and clear picture of demand across outlets is still a widespread challenge.To find our way through this problem, the industry needs to align on technology. Integration challenges do not only occur across the various rooms reservation systems-they permeate down to the property level where local or homegrown systems are prevalent, and features and functionality can vary wildly. In order to navigate this minefield, it is time for technology companies to sit around the table and develop industry minimums and standards when it comes to non-rooms systems. Data integrity and integration will be the key to unlocking some of the doors blocking the way to the treasures within. There is light at the end of the tunnel here, with indications that hotel owners across the world are finally taking their technology investments more seriously with increased funding.Total revenue performance requires sophisticated analytics technology integrations to aggregate and transform large, disparate data sets into actionable intelligence. That means all those complex numbers in databases stop collecting virtual dust and start creating a real competitive edge. Advanced software systems can be enabled to analyze data through powerful algorithms to make more accurate demand forecasts and strategic pricing decisions for all streams of revenue across entire properties.Other Adventure SeekersWhy is total revenue management not higher on the priority list? I believe it is mainly due to competition. Not from the hotel down the road, but from the industry's obsession with room revenue management and distribution techniques and channels. Attend any industry event or google the latest news on hospitality revenue management, and 9 out of 10 times, the topics you come across will speak of the battles with the OTAs, the opportunities that lie in new technologies for distribution, the latest channel insights, or new algorithms and machine learning to improve room optimization. And not without reason. Rooms still generally are, after all, where the biggest revenues and profits are to be found.Hoteliers have always put the focus on rooms because they knew they could make an impact there on both the top and bottom line. This has often left other departments to fend for themselves and try to make do with limited funding and focus. But as many hotels and hotel groups have run out of new ways to maximize rooms revenue management, they are increasingly looking to other areas of the hotel to bring in additional gains.There is a significant opportunity to improve overall performance of an asset by focusing on the other operating departments in a hotel. For resorts and all-inclusives, the opportunity for ancillary revenue is even greater with spa, golf, resort facilities, beachfront activities and more often forming considerable revenue streams that have the possibility to be optimized and deliver real returns for both owners and operators.To maximize profits and blow past today's fierce competition, it's important to consider all revenue streams in relation to one another. This shift toward a more holistic revenue management strategy represents an evolution in the hotel industry.Team MembersWhile we may often be reticent to admit it, the ultimate barrier to total revenue success is gaining the support and cooperation of your own team members. As is often said, culture eats strategy for breakfast. Well, if we want to optimize those breakfast revenues, we will need more than strategy to change the culture within the operating departments.Hospitality has always been the pinnacle of the service industry, and nowhere more so than in the restaurants, spas or other facilities of the hotel. Turning away unprofitable diners or changing menu prices on the fly is often seen as blasphemy by many service-oriented hoteliers. And rightly so-guests, diners and experience-seekers are the bread-and-butter of loyalty in the industry and need to be treasured and appreciated accordingly.But this is not a black-and-white situation, where the choice is between hospitality or profit. Data analysis, technology, and analytics can go hand in hand in optimizing the guest journey. By ensuring product, price, and availability are matched to demand and client expectations, hotels can optimize revenues and profit while maximizing the guest experience. The human touch that is essential within non-room departments can become even more effective when supported (not replaced) by technology. It is this understanding that needs to lay the foundation of the change in culture that needs to happen in hotels.When you take a holistic approach to managing hotel revenue, you might have to experiment with different levers to find the perfect profitability balance. After all, total revenue performance cannot occur in a vacuum. With the right data in hand, you can shift prices in a variety of hotel areas to optimize revenue streams. For example: lowering room prices on a given weekend may boost spa and restaurant reservations. While each stream is adjusted individually, they all affect the big picture. Think about these adjustments as using the right pulleys and levers to keep the hotel running like a finely tuned machine.As hotels move toward total revenue performance, it's also necessary to rethink how teams interact and realign business processes. This becomes the right time to implement new educational approaches and evaluate job roles and scope. And while it can be a complex undertaking, the reward is worth the effort. Building a long-term total revenue performance culture gives hotels an undeniable competitive edge, which means less stress and climbing growth charts.And this is ultimately what will lead us to that holy grail. Only when all departments work together with the common goal of revenue, profit, and guest-experience optimization will success be achieved. Surely this is the start of the next epic journey and our continuing pursuit of unknown treasures and riches in the world of hospitality revenue management. Let's get the boulder rolling.Reprinted from the Hotel Business Review with permission from www.HotelExecutive.com

Predictions for Hospitality Tech in 2019

Hospitality Technology Magazine 21 December 2018
Every new year presents us with an opportunity to start fresh and improve ourselves for the future. As we start to get our personal resolutions ready, we should also recognize the opportunity that 2019 presents us to find new ways to differentiate and improve our guest experience. Of course, one way to do this is to leverage technology that solves problems for not only your guests but for your teams as well. With no shortage of gadgets and buzzwords to weed through, here’s a look at some of the technologies and trends that will surely help shape the landscape in 2019 and provide you with an opportunity to provide a stellar guest experience.

Personalization & Experiences: The Travel Industry in 2018

Hotel F&B 20 December 2018
In 2018, Leonardo traveled around the globe. We scheduled meetings, attended industry events, and listened to talks from industry leaders. We are committed to keeping on top of current travel trends and news while keeping our eye on the ultimate goal: making travel better for travelers. We’ve compiled some of our team’s key takeaways and opinions about the state of travel in 2018.
Article by Shep Hyken

Do Your Customers Trust You This Much?

Shepard Presentations, LLC. 19 December 2018
There was a magic shop in Washington, DC owned by Al Cohen. I met Al when I was a teenager. As I started to perform more and more for money, I could afford to be a regular customer of Al's. Whether I bought tricks from his newsletter or came to the shop in person whenever I was in town, Al would consider me one of his "regulars." One day Al said, "Shep, I know what you like. I get new magic books and props in here every week. If you want, I can take your credit card number and send you whatever I know you'll want. If I'm wrong, send it back."Without hesitating, I handed over my credit card info. Every so often I would receive a package from Al's shop. He was never wrong. Not once did I return an item. He knew me so well - and treated me so well - that I trusted him.About ten years ago I had a little convertible. I bought it on eBay for a few thousand dollars. I referred to it as my "hunk of junk." It was fun to drive, and it was mechanically sound. The car was 35 years old, and most regular car dealers wouldn't work on it because of its age and the difficulty to source parts. I found a mechanic who had one bay in an industrial area and knew how to work on these older cars. I remember taking my car in for service and asking him, "What's this going to cost me?" He replied with a smile, "Half of what the dealer charges. You'll have to trust me." Well, I did, and he never disappointed me. Whenever he worked on my car, it was always less than I thought it would be, and I'm sure at least half of what a typical dealer would charge. I'm glad I trusted him.Not long ago I had dinner at one of my favorite restaurants. The owner asked if I trusted him to surprise me with a meal that he knew I would enjoy. I reminded him I didn't like mushrooms. He prepared an amazing meal. It wasn't on the menu. I had to trust him, and he didn't disappoint. I can't wait to go back and trust him again.These are simple examples just to make the point. It doesn't matter what type of business you are in, trust creates loyalty. Earning your customers' trust typically takes time. It comes from a predictable and consistent set of experiences. Your customers know what to expect, and you deliver every time. They also know you won't take advantage of them. So, how much do your customers trust you?

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