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Article by Kevin McCarthy

CRM + PMS = Time to wake up and smell the Coffee

Movenpick ·9h
One stands out, a coffee, George Clooney is a fan too of this brand, we have one of their coffee machines in our kitchen in Dubai, that we bought 4 years ago when we lived in Switzerland. It works. Never broke down, never falters. The coffee tastes as good today as it did back then and the flavor variety increasing ensures our trust remains. Last Christmas we received complimentary cups, a coffee pot and free coffee capsules from the local provider. We never need to speak to anyone, apart from the operator who takes our order over the phone for the coffee order to be delivered, we never have an issue, it just works. Its so trusty that even Movenpick has machines in many hotel rooms with its own brand capsules today.Now consider, how many earphones, TV's, Cars, shampoo, airlines, coffee machines have you used and are loyal to? In today's life we often seek the deal first, competition is ferocious for your dime, the modern marketing methods and supporting technology is everywhere you are today. The tradeoff for the deal, the gambler instinct provoked wins more often than not but becomes counterproductive as cheap rarely signifies a resulting loyalty in a product. The virtual coffee machine graveyard of my past is a significant example.The hotel room landscape is just as busy and confusing as the rest. I spent time recently on a well-known OTA and the ''secret deals'' and jargon filled deal wordsmanship assaults the senses, a popular search engine is currently under fire for manipulating searches in the same fashion. A new industry of products is emerging of tools to help the consumer find the real cheap flight due to meta searches methods as the unsuspecting customer can't see the trees for the forest when trying to complete a purchase.With this confusion, loyalty only to the pocket, how do business's today the world over, including coffee makers attain the hearts and minds of an ever-changing mind set of our diverse humanity, from impatient technology obsessed Generation Z to traditionalists who still recall a world without internet, the answer is a simple one: experience. A consistent, memorable, trustworthy experience.I have seen many companies in hospitality with CRM technology, they build up tremendous email databases and then fire off 1000's of emails a day to Hotmail and Gmail accounts the world over. They jump up and down about a 1% conversion rates and slap each other's backs about the miracle solution they plugged in.CRM is not just an email tool, it is not just a profile database, it must be exploited as a mechanism of empowerment of every other solution and objective you say and do for your guests: a feeling of belonging, a familiarity, a sense of worth, and not just seen as an ID number who's only objective is obtaining complimentary something's.When you try to map out a customer experience, I have learned and continue to learn, through the current long days and nights of my current CRM project, some little wisdoms I want to share:You are the key: It may surprise you, but the best resource of information is you, as you are a customer, so is the GM you will eventually expect to use the system. Our teams have spent a lot of time reflecting as well as gathering. Stay in other hotels, stay in 2 stars, stay in quirky. Map everything out, don't just take a plug and play approach. Envision your future and visualize the next generations expectations, brainstorm and expect to end numerous workshops with 100s more questions than answers. Go back to the pedigree of hospitality, I recently spoke of a small B&B in Northern Ireland I stayed at last year, daily I would return after a hard day at work, around 7 pm. It was cold, wet and dreary as one would expect in February in the province of Ulster. On my second evening, there was a hot pot of coffee and a fresh scone in my room awaiting my return, nothing else, no sign of the intruder of kindness, and this continued every night. The only system that was behind that, a natural kindness borne out of true hospitality. These experiences are the mission for every hotelier on this planet, and when you build a system, build it with a scone and a heart of the provider and receiver in mind.Detangle your Tech:The maze of technology that you have today can be counterproductive to your guest experience. Detangling and re-prioritizing your systems and putting CRM as the nerve system is the key for your customer experience enablement. PMS is the heart of every hotel, so CRM must be the soul. The heart keeps beating, keeps the blood flowing, but the soul gives a reason to the heart to pump. Interface, stop jumping in and out of huge applications, make seamless transitions if you must. Make sure interfaces work, don't trust the results excel, see it yourself, make sure all the needed systems talk to each other, properly and extensively. Make sure every possible aspect you have in PMS can reflect in CRM and vice versa. Prove it works. Ask for more from your interface, don't take no for an answer and be wary of workarounds. Ensure when your PMS is upgraded that it will still work. Look at every possible system you have today and question it within an inch of its existence. Don't move your problems from one old system to a new shinier one. Prepare to throw things out, prepare to think about tomorrow and not today. Look at the roadmaps of the systems you are buying, forget about how it looks today, what will it be tomorrow. Talk to the developers, the company leaders, what's the vision and does it fit your ambition. Ask your CEO what his dream hotel looks like, his dreams may be your future headache.Daydream:Innovation is manufactured from mistakes. Some say Facebook is already obsolete, some say email is dying, some say chatbots, augmented reality and facial recognition is the now, the future. Accordingly, try to imagine, and gamble on a future with no front desks, no door handles, and hotel rooms inside shipping containers, robots cleaning while you sleep, a world where you don't book anymore on OTA's rather you book by experience and by WhatsApp only, direct and not based on price or location. Be Africa, skip the landline and go straight to mobile. Imagine a future where our children will stay in hotel rooms in Manhattan but have the windows showing a live feed of the Matterhorn, while a hologram butler selects their window seat for their flight home.People:It's all about people. CRM is the kinder element of systems, its built around relationships, it's in the name, the key thing is ''it's for the people, by the people''. Your end users are as important as the vendor, they need to speak to each other, you need to speak to all of them, all of the time, tear down any vendor/customer fence and become one team, that will be your key driver of your success. Think about the worst vendor you have ever come across and think if you had just had dinner and a drink with your foe how would things have turned out at the end? Ok sometimes some people just don't get along but then change your mind and find partners who encourage your imagination, find partners who have imagination and fight and argue until the result is an exhaustive best possible environment for everyone.Smell the coffee:If my current project has thought me one thing, it is that we need to bring the human touch back into hospitality technology. The machines are taking over. We are being swayed into buying cheap things we don't want in our everyday life, let hospitality bring the soul back into systems. Before you make your next big decision, before you sign your next project charter, before you select the cheap but useful CRM system, remember CRM and PMS intertwines and roots into your business for a very long time, consider your vision of the customer experience, perhaps over a nice cup of coffee and then jump to the future.
Article by Norman Harvery

Where Is Hotel Technology Going?

HospitalityTechGuru ·9h
Although a lot of people have their own opinions about hotel-related technology, the fact remains that new solutions can improve the business, improve management, increase productivity and revenues; and, well, this is what matters.One of the biggest reasons why people in the hospitality business aren't so open to new technology solutions, computers and robotics is because their business relies on "the human touch" to provide great service and make their customers happy. A lot of them fear that they will lose their human touch and not be able to create one-on-one interactions with their customers.The technologies we will cover in this article are designed to give guests a better experience. It is the direction in which hotel technology is heading. If you think about it, implementing it can only help hotels improve their service.Making hotel management easierToday a lot of hotel operators are adopting modern hotel PMS and newer technologies that streamline all of their operations, help them manage their finances more effectively and deliver their guests amazing hospitality. Managing a hotel is a non-stop commitment, especially where a manager needs to take care of multiple properties.With cloud-based hotel PMS managers can access important information and perform actions whenever needed. By accessing a hotel PMS, a manager can review performance, change rates, and monitor reservations, no matter where he or she is located. They can rest assured that their system security is top tier, and at same time, they get better technology at a lower price.There is no need for manual paperwork, organization or using multiple systems to get the job done. This means that managers are faster and ready to deliver their guests the needed results in a timelier manner. A single, cloud-based and integrated hotel PMS can allow operators to connect with all hotels and coordinate between them effectively, to give their respectable guest the experience they need.IoT smart roomsMany hotels are considering implementing IoT devices, as they are very cost-effective and can improve your guests' experience. The guests need to feel like the room knows them and like they know it as well, and with this kind of platform they are able to voice control everything in their room, use a device to control lighting and temperature, and connect these devices to their smartphones to do things.One of the biggest factors for improving the level of comfort is to digitalize the whole experience for the guests and allow them to do things like they are used to doing in their everyday life. Additionally, there are many virtual room services where customers can order what they need or address issues through their mobile devices.Not only does this provide a better experience to users, but the concierge is also quicker to cater to their needs. Some hotels have already started implementing interactive elements within their rooms, where guests can move or adjust things with their gestures. For example, Smart TVs have been around for a long while, and they do just that - you can make a gesture with your hand use it as a remote.,There are many similar hotel technology solutions and although you cannot implement all of them, it's important to understand in which direction the industry is heading to improve the experience of their guests using technology.AI and machine learningSince these technologies started being applied in different solutions and became more readily available to the general public, many industries have implemented them. This is why machine learning and artificial intelligence is also a hot prospect in the hotel industry.A lot of organizations and brands are experimenting and planning on implementing AI in their hotels. There are already many chatbots that hotels use to help their current and potential customers. However, as AI is getting better and more complex, there is more potential for handling complicated tasks, and this means that hotels could be able to reduce their overhead operational costs.On the other hand, AI can be used to gather valuable data from guests. When using a management system that is integrated with all the devices in a hotel and with an AI, it can collect data, sort it and draw valuable conclusions. The more it learns about guests the easier it will be for the AI to figure out new actions that can make their experience better.These are the hotel technology trends that are expected to reign supreme in 2018. As with any other industry, technology can offer great innovations that can help brands increase their profits and make their organizations more efficient from within.
Article by Robert Rauch, CHA

Next wave of hotel tech puts guest needs, control first

R. A. Rauch & Associates, Inc. 19 March 2018
Hotel technology will continue to be led by mobile, digital room keys and in-room entertainment, but another emerging technology is blockchain.A continuously growing list of records, which are linked and secured using cryptography, a blockchain is resistant to modification and is an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions such as membership loyalty programs.In regard to pre-stay communications, we have used Flip.to, which makes it easy for guests with reservations to share deals and tell friends about their upcoming stay.Another trend worth watching occurs just after rooms are booked. This began with metasearch giant, Kayak, and has led to a lack of room rate growth as hotels deal with the commodity mindset, where guests feel that they can get a better price if they continue to search. Google is adding a price tracker for hotels with which guests can receive price fluctuation alerts after booking, their apparent goal being to become a first-choice booking service rather than solely a search engine.Once guests arrive, mobile check-in, text and chat take center stage. Mobile check-in has been around for the last few years, but will hit full stride as the technology is refined. If a guest does not utilize mobile check-in by going directly to their room, they will check in at a pod rather than a formal front desk. These pods will be tablet-based kiosks where guests can pick their room directly from their phone and the door lock will be programmed to open only when that mobile device is nearby.Taking this idea into the rooms themselves, some brands have moved away from traditional guestroom phones and opt for in-room tablets controlling every aspect of the room. Ideally, these two sets of technology will merge so guests can control everything directly from their mobile device.Texting guests in response to "in-the-moment" needs, security issues and eliminating language barriers are all technologically feasible. Texting provides ancillary revenue streams (we've beta tested an "eat, play or shop" app that guided guests to local deals). Chat is already global, and chatbots are AI customer service assistants. Services like Zingle offer automation and communication with guests from one central hub.The internet of things (IoT) translates the smart home experience into the hospitality world. Technologies such as sensor-activated thermostats, digital room keys and in-room streaming services are all possible today. Getting the IoT upgraded to the network is coming soon and voice activation will be at the top of the list, enabled both by mobile users and Amazon's Echo or Google's Home.The emergence of artificial intelligence into the guest journey is already here. Hotels like Fairfield Inn & Suites San Diego North/San Marcos have had a Relay robot for almost a year. AI is a fast-moving technology enabling machines to perform tasks that previously only humans could.Robots will continue to impact areas of the guest or associate experience in 2018, a benefit being the data provided as guests utilize the services. In-room technology is vastly different than it was at the turn of the century. Today's guests expect the in-room entertainment experience to be on demand and better than what they have at home. Additionally, customizable technologies such as custom lighting, smart mirrors and in-room tablets allow hotels to tailor to guest preferences before arrival.Data and analytics lead to winning the loyalty game. Data can segment guest profiles to infinite degrees, creating a comprehensive picture of who's staying at our properties. We can track guest habits, interests, preferences, reason for travel, booking date, date of last stay and more. Data and analytics must be mined to measure successes, look for new ways to improve our guest experience and market toward specific demographics. Search engine marketing, optimization and advertising initiatives are crucial to our hotels' success in this digital age.Online travel agencies continue to impact our market share and will likely become involved with more guests and their stays. The Expedia Travel Platform will continue their involvement with meeting planners and most likely disrupt other areas soon. OTAs want to own the guest at every step from pre-stay to post-stay. That means we must use caution in embracing them in areas where we can do it ourselves. Perhaps blockchain will be our savior.Blockchain, which is a clear and incorruptible path from the hotel to the guest, has the ability to create more direct and lower fee transactions. This direct route is a potential disruption to OTAs as they continue to grow and impact our industry. Let's at least get their commissions back down to the 10% we always gladly paid travel agents. Wouldn't that be nice?
Article by Harvery Norman

The Future of Hospitality: PMS and the Rise of New Technologies

HospitalityTechGuru 19 March 2018
Few years ago, we were excited when a hotel staff bought us the daily newspaper to our room and offered to wake us up toward the beginning of the day, also inviting us with sweet treats and a warm and kind smile. Today, all we need is the Wi-fi password.As new innovations rise, our necessities and desires continue changing, influencing hoteliers to take their guest experience to the next level and give the most ideal guest experience. The key to an extraordinary hospitality service is always has been personalized experience, yet these days that means something altogether unique than ever before. Hence, the future of hospitality business is certainly here, so read on to explore the ways the hospitality business is grasping that future.Hotel PMS as the Backbone of Effective Hotel ManagementRelatively every hotel today depends on a PMS (Property Management System) to operate and streamline the majority of their day by day activities and steadily enhance their business. A PMS has turned out to be one of the must-have tools for hospitality business with regards to manage daily task, particularly monotonous ones that require excessive time.Without a reliable hotel system, Hotel supervisors and other staff would spend the majority of their time stuck in heaps of reports or attempting to discover their way through in a pack of Excel sheets. Without an appropriate hospitality system, they would not have much time to focus on providing guest with the quality service customized benefit & personalized service.Yet, new and rising innovations are opening the doors to plenty more opportunity for productive and compelling Hotel management. They are demonstrating that there is a considerable amount of potential beyond a PMS system.This certainly doesn't mean that Hotel PMS has turned out to be outdated. An incredible opposite, keeping in mind the end goal is to take full advantage of Hotel software, you have to integrate it with new technologies that are changing the hospitality business. If you do that, you will rethink guest experience and boost your revenue, taking your business to a whole new level of success.Integrating PMS with Other software's and innovationsIntegrating your hotel PMS with other software systems is a critical step for making your data more usable. When you have information in large numbers, it can be really difficult to understand everything and deal with all of data you have available to you.When you integrate your lodging system with other important systems that depend on emerging innovations, you will approach dynamic dashboards that will empower you to have a reasonable knowledge to all of your information. You will have a total perspective of your guests, knowing precisely what they expect, enabling hoteliers to adequately deal with pricing, promoting, segmenting according to demand.Besides, you will have the capacity to build solid relationship with the guests and motivate their loyalty, since hoteliers can integrate hotel software with real-time communication tools. Moreover, you will have access to reports, analytics, and guest reviews and ratings, which will enable you to enhance your service and drive more guests.You can incorporate your Hotel PMS with a POS, CRM (Customer Relationship Management) framework, CRS (Central Reservation System), Payment gateway, Revenue Management System, Sales and Catering System, Wi-Fi, Mobile Check-In Check-Out program, door lock, accounting system etc.The Rise of Artificial Intelligence and Chabot'sArtificial intelligence (AI) is totally redefining the hospitality business, empowering hoteliers to deal with various functions that require lot of time and effort. AI-driven systems rapidly and effectively complete those functions, giving precise information reports and adjusting to guest interactions, with the goal that they can give magnificent customized service and tailor everything to particular guest needs.Incorporating your Hotel PMS program with AI system will save you lots of time and money, increase your effectiveness, eliminate human errors, and result in exceptional guest service.The most widely recognized AI application in the hospitality business is chat-bots. Chat-bots are amazing with regards to guest benefit, as they can speak with humans progressively by means of online chat or direct messaging services, giving them moment and pertinent solutions to their inquiries 24/7Accordingly, chat-bots are totally important to hoteliers; as they free up time for the staff and provide fast response that customer anticipate. Additionally, they give them customized benefit and fundamentally improve their experience, since they depend on AI, that is, NLP (Natural Language Processing) and machine learning.The Power of MobileMobile innovations are crucial for the fate of hospitality business, since they quickly engage in hotel guests and provide them with various choices for astounding hotel experience. Mobile is particularly important to millennial, as they need to utilize their smart phones to book a hotel room, pay for the room, check-in and check-out, order room benefit, peruse amenities, and to communicate with supervisors.Empowering hotel guests to consistently utilize their smart phones for all available in-room services is the thing that can definitely enhance their hotel experience. It can enable them to frame an unimaginable impression of a hotel that would make their stay incredible, as well as influence them to need to return again and appreciate the hotel's faultless service.Versatile combination with your accommodation software opens the door to significantly a larger number of potential outcomes than check-in and check-out of your hotel. It empowers your guest to peruse through the menu on their mobile phones and effortlessly make a request to be delivered to their room.They can also utilize their smart phone for all the in-room entertainment (TV, DVD, etc.), and additionally to pay for the in-room services and speak with your staff progressively. They never need to leave the space to get the service they require, which is uncommonly advantageous and exactly what travelers these days anticipate.Empowering mobile access to hotel PMS is essential for your staff also, as they can get ongoing data on their devices and fundamentally enhance guest experience. They don't need to be attached to the reception or some other spot keeping in mind the end goal to convey quick and excellent service. They can get to your hotel PMS from anyplace and take orders, charge each in-room service, manage housekeeping, manage restaurant service, and much more.This is the reason hotels need to convey mobile friendly systems, and also build mobile apps for considerably more prevalent experiences. For example, Hilton Hotels and Resorts have a mobile application that empowers their guests to book their stay, make room demands, checkout specials, and even unlock the door.However, another smart hotel programming integration that each hotelier ought to think about WhatsApp Business. It is an Android application worked for a consistent collaboration with customers, and it is ideal for sending welcoming messages to each hotel guest, introducing them with all the services you offer, giving them brisk answers all time, and giving access to your business profile that exhibits your website, address and email. This application goes past mobile in that you can send and get messages on your work area.As should be obvious, new advancements offer incredible opportunities for making a ultimate guest experience. The eventual fate of hospitality definitely goes way beyond a hotel PMS, yet hoteliers ought not just look beyond it, but instead connect it with all the exceptional tech options that are rapidly taking the hotel experience to an unheard of level.However, the human touch still remains the most critical factor for success, so finding the right balance between innovation and human touch ought to dependably be the best need of each and every Hotelier.
Article by James Grills

What is 3D touch technology and how will it be integrated into future apps?

Cumulations Technologies 15 March 2018
Apple is not just a brand's name but it certainly has been able to bring about a huge transformation in our outlook towards technology and unlike twenty years back from now, technology is quite a familiar, friendly and useful word. Thanks to brands like Apple for having made modern and advanced technologies increasingly simple and acceptable among the people.In fact, whenever we talk about innovative technology, Apple is the brand that first crosses our mind for most of us, isn't it? It's because of its futuristic outlook towards technology as well as its persistent initiative to being about the right mix of the modern technologies through its various devices, be it a mouse or a highly advanced smartphone.As a matter of fact, it was Apple that was the first to introduce multi-touch technology and the concept at once changed the way apps had been used till then with Tap, Swipe, and Pinch on iOS devices. Eventually, there had been a huge increase in iPhone and iPad users back then.The "Force Touch" Feature The Force Touch Feature based on pressure sensitivity technology wherein users could carry out several tasks like expanding reminders and dates much quicker than ever before by using different levels of force.This concept was also introduced first by Apple and the technology was well incorporated in Apple Watch, MacBook, MacBook Pro and Magic Trackpad 2.Have you heard of Apple's new invention, 3D Touch?A lot of us must have already heard of it but how many of us really know what it really means? Well, this is certainly Apple's next big move to take Force Touch Technology to a completely new level of effectiveness with the help of high sensitivity and it is going to work with a brilliant combination of capacity sensors with the display on iPhone 6s and 6s Plus.How Does the 3D Touch Technology Work?The 3D Touch feature is certainly going to be even smarter than the Force Touch in terms of functionality. It will make things even faster and productive for the users. With 3D Touch, launching your Camera App would not be required in order to take a Selfie.You only need to press lightly on the Camera App to get the option to take a Selfie on the Homescreen. Isn't that brilliant? You might find it a bit hard to believe but this is exactly how it's going to work. Even so many ios app development companies are working on this technology.Peek and PopIn order to use the 3D feature to the best, it's absolutely important for you to understand the Peek and the Pop. While Peek stands for a light touch, Pop stands for a hard touch.For instance, if we consider a message, you can press it lightly if you only want to peek and in case, you want a full view, A Pop or a hard touch is what it will take.Force Touch Vs 3D TouchForce Touch is really effective in distinguishing among the various pressure applied on the screen and it is fast to a certain extent. However, 3D is just a step ahead of it with a lightning-fast response and what makes it possible is the right blend of capacity sensors and strain gauges.A lot of users will certainly find it by far more productive than the former technology of Force Touch.What's the Future of Touch Technology going to be like?The future of Touch Technology is pretty bright and considering the increasing number of iPhone 6s users, it surely is going to get a whole lot better in the upcoming years. Considering the kind of convenience and productivity it has brought about in the lives of many of its users, it is certainly here to stay.From the perspective of the Smartphone makers, the concept of 3D Touch is a brilliant feature to invest on as they have begun to realize that it's going to help them accentuate the user experience of their device to a massive extent.It's absolutely commendable about the way Apple has been contributing to making lives increasingly convenient and easy for the people. Most importantly, Technology is no longer limited to just a few people and Apple has had a huge contribution to helping people fall in love with Technology. Almost, all of their concepts have been greatly effective and this one is going to be a massively successful either.Author Bio: James Grills is a technical writer with a passion for writing on emerging technologies in the areas of mobile application development and IoT technology. He is a marketing advisor - currently associated with Cumulations Technologies a mobile app development company in India.
Article by Jos Schaap

If Your Hotel PMS Doesn't Include These 6 Things, Your Competition May Be Winning

StayNTouch Inc. 15 March 2018
The world of hotel property management systems (PMS) has become somewhat confounding lately. There are a myriad of new entrants, and the legacy systems are trying to hang on by wrapping their old solutions in new costumes (a.k.a. putting lipstick on a monkey). One thing is sure - the guest is evolving and becoming more educated, on-demand and needs instant gratification, that's why offering your guests with the latest hotel technology is paramount.Competition for the guest is fierce. Hotels struggle with Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), Airbnb, the review ecosystem that is TripAdvisor and many more elements that affect the hotel PMS decision. These external pressures can sometimes feel daunting, but hoteliers can control one incredibly important aspect of their operations that every hotel has in place. The control can come from the PMS and its capability to amplify the guest experience. So, here are five things that your PMS needs to ensure that you are outperforming your competition.MobilityIn our instant-access world, guests expect quick responses. Gone are the days where hotel staff need to be chained to their desks and your guests are aware of this! The front desk idea is old and antiquated, and it creates a barrier between hotel ambassadors and the guest. The new PMS world should be focused on mobility enabling your staff to roam the lobby - or anywhere for that matter - and help guests upon arrival and even encourage some upselling. Mobility should also place power into the guests' hands by empowering them to book, check-in and out as well as order anything via their mobile device. Mobile hospitality is the future of our industry, and it should be at the top of the list.Design Flexibility & UsabilityOur industry experiences a great deal of turnover when it comes to staffing hotels. Even the best PMS system is useless if your employees don't know how to use it. The hotel PMS technology needs to be easy to use, easy to train and more importantly - be flexible enough to address all the changes that are occurring in the new hotel technology ecosystem. These changes can include new interface requirements, new additions to the application itself, as well as the capability to be open. Older PMS's are closed, and third-party vendors and their hotel clients can wait months, if not years, to get their system integrated. This can be debilitating to your operation, so make sure that your new PMS has this capability and overall philosophy. A good PMS doesn't just fit your hotel's current needs, but also has the potential to grow with you: it should include multiple modules, features and endless possibilities for integration.Cloud & SaaSThere has been a great deal of focus on cloud developed platforms because this delivery method is the future. If your PMS is not cloud-based, then you will be lagging behind. Your PMS of choice should not require you to put in a lot of work upfront. Also, ensure that the PMS company offers a SaaS pricing that includes not only the platform but critical updates as well. When it comes to SaaS from an investment perspective, it makes a great deal of sense as the cost implications to the hotel are much lower than the older, tradition license, maintenance and support model. SaaS service makes administration easier; provides automatic updates and management; ensures compatibility; enhances collaboration and provides access to users from any device capable of accessing the internet.Service & SupportHoteliers need to feel secure that we, their technology providers have their back when it comes to maintaining, supporting and servicing the solutions that they purchase from us. Hoteliers cannot wait on hold. Imagine if hoteliers asked their guests to continually wait for the delivery of extra pillows from housekeeping or a martini at the lobby bar. Hotels are in the service business, and hotel technology providers need to emulate this level of service. Do your homework on possible new PMS companies and make sure that they have a stellar service reputation.Guest EngagementWe hear a great deal about guest engagement these days in the hotel world. Your PMS should enhance guest engagement and improve your guests on and off property experience. If your guests' want to purchase something that they want placed in their room before arrival; they should be able to do so. If they would like to schedule a spa appointment at the same time, the system should enable this to occur. The guest is in charge, and the system that you choose should empower the guest to decide how they want to manage their stay and how they want to interact with the hotel and its employees. True guest engagement is letting the guest do what they want when they want with as much support from the hotel as they need.Data & ReportingThe truth is that every guest you have really is your only guest, at least as far as they are concerned. They expect you to treat them with unsurpassed care as though your entire success depends upon their ongoing satisfaction -- which it does. A PMS should also enable your staff to easily answer guest questions, access and gather data as well as offer relevant services. This way your PMS not only facilitates personalized service, but also positively affects your revenue. Anticipating shifts and trends is much easier when your PMS provides forecasts, past performance levels, guest stay cards and so forth.There are most likely ten to twenty more specific items that a hotelier should be looking at when they are choosing their new PMS to stay ahead of their competition - but these top six areas should be prominent in the decision-making process. If you are not currently using an advanced mobile PMS system, chances are you are giving up an opportunity to further differentiate yourself among your competition. Now may be a good time to consider the many ways your hotel brand would benefit by implementing an innovative new hotel PMS technology.
Article by Alex Shashou

Getting Ready For The GDPR: What Hoteliers Need To Know

ALICE 15 March 2018
IntroductionALICE has been working hard to fully understand the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (Regulation (EU) 2016/679) and its obligations on us and our customers. We'd like to share what we've learned in order to help hoteliers and anyone else who has to figure out what is going on.1. What's the GDPR and why should I care?In essence, the GDPR was brought into effect to strengthen and unify data protection for all individuals within the European Union (EU). Building upon the 1995 Data Protection Directive (Directive 95/46/EC), the GDPR was approved by the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union, and the European Commission on April 14, 2016. After a two-year transition period it will become enforceable across the 28 member states on May 25, 2018.The GDPR gives power back to the consumers by forcing companies to become transparent in how they are collecting, storing, and sharing their customers' personal data information. Although the GDPR applies to any organization or business collecting data on EU citizens, the nature of hotels and the various data holding sources such as OTA bookings and PMS systems escalate the regulation for travel and hospitality industries.As ALICE grows and expands to new markets, we are complying with the GDPR to ensure our privacy settings are being adequately integrated, allowing our partners to adapt at every stage of the life cycle of customer personal information data.2. Which hotel staff need to know about the GDPR?Decision makers and key people in EU and EEA-based hotels should be aware that the law is changing to the GDPR. This would include at least the following roles, if they exist: General Manager, Head of Marketing, and the Revenue Manager. Each of these roles deals with a significant amount customer and employee data. These leaders should read this FAQ and look further into how to comply within the areas they are presiding over.3. What kind of information should a hotel be cautious with?All data about persons in the EU are covered under the GDPR. This includes both guests and employees. Hotels should document what personal data they hold, where it came from and with whom it is shared. Hotels may need to organise an information audit."Personal data" is any data about an identifiable person. A person can be identified by their name, phone number, email address, reservation number, IP address, or any information that allows them to be uniquely identified.The GDPR grants extra protections for "sensitive data." This includes personal data that reveals any of the following:trade union membership, which may be revealed by event attendancebiometrics for the purpose of uniquely identifying someone, such as a fingerprint stored for opening doorshealth status, which may be disclosed in guest requestssex life or sexual orientation, which may also be disclosed in some guest requestsThe following are less likely to show up in hotel systems, but should still be understood to be sensitive in case they do show up:genetic dataracial or ethnic originpolitical opinionsreligious or philosophical beliefsAll of the above types of sensitive data can only be handled with explicit consent. If this kind of data is collected incidentally, it should be removed immediately to avoid undertaking new obligations for the protection of that data.4. How does GDPR affect the software hotels can use?All rules that hotels must follow also apply to the software they use. If a hotel uses a product to process its data, that product must adhere to all the same obligations that the hotelier has. Every single vendor who receives personal data from a hotel must share a Data Processing Agreement (DPA) with the hotelier to confirm that the vendor is compliant with the rules of the GDPR. The DPA must dictate the purposes for which the processor is processing the data.If a hotel is using a software given to it by its brand or flag, it may not be in complete control of how the gathered information will be used. In that case, as joint controllers of the data, the hotel and its brand would need to draw up a contract that explicitly states their relationship with regards to managing data. Both parties would need to communicate the relationship to both guests and employees.5. Can EU hotels use software vendors or software on servers based outside the EU?Yes, but there are limits to how data can be transferred outside of the EU/EEA. Most major cloud service providers and many other companies, such as ALICE, have systems in place to address these rules. To confirm that a cloud service is compliant with the GDPR, hoteliers need to make sure:They have a Data Processing Agreement in place. These agreements are required for all data processors, not just international ones (GDPR Art.28[3]).There is a lawful basis for transfering the data (GDPR Rec.39, 40, 41; GDPR Art.6[1]), which can be through the service provider's membership in the Privacy Shield, signed standard contractual clauses, or other mechanisms allowed under the GDPR. Most companies will be relying on the GDPR's standard contractual clauses.The transfer is mentioned in the hotel's privacy policy and the purpose of the transfer is explained.6. What do hotels need to do about their vendors?For each vendor that processes guests' personal information, a hotel needs to do the following:Determine the type of data the vendor processes.Determine the purpose for which the processing is happening.Obtain a Data Processing Agreement.If the vendor is outside the EU, sign the standard contractual clauses (usually part of the Data Processing Agreement mentioned above), or confirm that the vendor is a member of the Privacy Shield.Mention the vendor in the hotel's privacy policy, along with the purpose of the vendor and how the data will be used.Confirm that the vendor can handle data rights requests with a SLA under one month (e.g. 25 days).7. How should a hotel communicate privacy notices to guests?You should review your current privacy notices and put a plan in place for making any necessary changes in time for GDPR implementation. You should review how you seek, record, and manage consent and whether you need to make any changes. Refresh existing consents now if they don't meet the GDPR standard.Hoteliers may need to speak with customers at check-in if explicit consent is required for any forms of data collection that require it, such as consent to marketing communications. All loyalty programs need to be examined for similar requirements if data is used in a way that requires consent.8. Do hoteliers or vendors need to encrypt their databases?It depends. The GDPR recommends that companies take steps to protect all personal data, but it does not specify what those steps have to be. Instead, companies are asked to identify the risks to personal data and do what is appropriate for those risks. Encryption is one of many options available to protect data, but it is not specifically required by the GDPR.Article 32 of the GDPR gives the following options, none of which are strict requirements, but which should be considered for their benefits to your guests' data privacy:the pseudonymisation [obscuring the identities] and encryption of personal data;the ability to ensure the ongoing confidentiality, integrity, availability and resilience of processing systems and services;the ability to restore the availability and access to personal data in a timely manner in the event of a physical or technical incident;a process for regularly testing, assessing and evaluating the effectiveness of technical and organisational measures for ensuring the security of the processing.9. How can hoteliers make sure they are able to honor requests for data portability, correction, or erasure, a.k.a. "the right to be forgotten"?Customers, employees, or anyone whose personal data is stored at a hotel may request that their data be erased. They can also ask for a copy of all of their data (right to data portability) or for their data to be corrected. There are cases in which this does not need to be honored, for example if there is an ongoing contractual or legal requirement to retain the data. But in most cases, the request will need to be honored. Recital 59 of the GDPR requires these requests be answered within one month. This period can be extended under exceptional circumstances, by requesting for another month.In order to be able to handle these requests in time, hotels need to plan in advance how requests can be honored. Each location where data is stored should be mapped out with a plan on how to address the rights request for data in that location. Each vendor also needs to be vetted to confirm they have a similar plan in place. Vendors should have an SLA that is less than a month (e.g. 25 days), in order to give time for communication between you and the vendor on each end of the process when a request happens.For data portability requests, the law requires the data be given to the customer in a standardized format for transfer to other companies. Since at the moment there is no industry standard for this kind of data to be transferred from a hotel, you must use a generic but easily transferable format, such as text files with headers and comma-separated values.10. How should hotels handle children's data?Within the EU/EEC, a "child" is defined as someone younger than a country-defined age between 13 and 16. For most cases, hotels will not need to rely on children's' or parent's consent to process guest information, since the primary basis for data processing is handling reservations. However, in cases where consent is the basis for data processing, for example, for marketing purposes, children's data needs to be handled with extra care.You should start thinking now about whether you need to put systems in place to verify individuals' ages and to obtain parental or guardian consent for any data processing activity. Children's data can only be handled with explicit consent when consent is required.Best practice is to avoid collecting and storing data about children unless it is legally required or absolutely essential for handling a reservation.11. Do hotels need to hire Data Protection Officers (DPOs)?You should designate someone to take responsibility for data protection compliance and assess where this role will sit within your organisation's structure and governance arrangements, even if you are not formally required to have a DPO. You should consider whether you are required to formally designate a Data Protection Officer, and this designation depends on the volume and sensitivity of the information. At the chain and large group level, a DPO is almost certainly required, but for individual hotels, the law is not yet clear and you should seek guidance from your local counsel as to whether it is required.12. Do hotels outside the EU/EEA have to do anything to comply with the GDPR?According to Article 3 of the GDPR, the regulations cover activity happening within the EU or data processing by organizations based in the EU. When an EU citizen travels outside the EU, their activities outside the EU are no longer protected by the GDPR unless the organization processing the data is based in the EU.However, a booking process that happens between a person in the EU and a hotel outside the EU is considered covered by the GDPR. Data that is collected in the EU during that process is an activity happening within the EU. So hotels outside the EU do collect data that is covered by the GDPR as part of the online reservation process. This data needs to be protected with the appropriate safeguards dictated above.13. What are the consequences for not complying with GDPR?Businesses can have fines of up to 4% of annual global turnover or $24.6 million (EUR20 million), whichever is higher for not complying with the GDPR rules.
Article by Dean Minett

The BYOD Revolution and What it Means for Your Hotel's Bottom Line

Minett Consulting 15 March 2018
It makes sense that hotel rooms would come next. Recent surveys conducted by Expedia and Hotels.com suggest that taking a mobile device, for the average traveler, is now more important than taking a toothbrush. If this is true, why should guests use a special remote or control panel when they can use their own devices to control just about everything in the room?Let's start from the beginning: You're on your way to a hotel during the evening rush. You tap your mobile device and check-in using the hotel's app. A digital key is delivered to your device, which you hold up to a scanner at the guestroom door. All of the waiting and chaos associated with checking in has just been eliminated.Mobile check-in addresses one of the most common complaints in our industry: Guests don't like queuing up for those room keys. The only way to offer mobile check-in, however, is to upgrade each individual lock in your hotel. (Salto and Miwa are two of the leading manufacturers of next-gen room locks, but hotels have been slow to adopt.)Once you've dropped your bag and kicked your shoes off, it's time to order some dinner. Using the hotel's proprietary app (or a third-party app such as Mi-Room, which uses robust PMS integration to facilitate a wide range of services from guest devices), you browse the menu and put your order in. It's even possible to change your order, or chat with kitchen staff to request extra napkins.Now that your food has arrived, a bit of entertainment is in order. And if you're like most guests (this is according to a 2015 study by eHotelier), you prefer to access content through your own digital devices, rather than using entertainment portals provided by the hotel. It's true that smart TVs allow guests to sign into their own streaming services - but even this is clunky compared to screen mirroring. Only when guests can broadcast from their own devices to the in-room TV screen have we reached the most natural and fluid solution.There are many companies offering this technology to hotels, including Teleadapt, whose Roomcast solution allows guests to use Apple or Android devices to broadcast from their own screens.So you've got your dinner, and you've got your favorite show - but it's getting a little cold in the room, and the curtains are still open. What to do? Unfortunately, your mobile device probably can't help you here. Companies like Evolve have compelling solutions that make it easy to control everything from room temps to lighting - but for the most part, in-room automation still relies on dedicated control panels and special tablets. The challenge for these manufacturers is to design automation solutions that 1) are affordable for everyone, not just luxury hotels, and 2) are easily controlled from the guest's own device.As with many things in the digital age, the BYOD revolution is less about adding and more about subtracting. The supercomputers in every guest's pocket are powerful, and by leveraging them in the right ways, hotels can theoretically trim their own technology spending while giving guests more of what they want.Screen-mirroring and hotel service apps (like the aforementioned Mi-Room) are affordable and effective, and there's a great case for getting on board. The realm of digital check-in and room automation, however, is more expensive and varied. For discerning hoteliers, it may be worth doing some things the old-fashioned way - at least until the argument for upgrades is stronger and clearer.
Article by Jeff Zabin

Don't Buy a Revenue Management Solution Before Asking These Two Questions

Starfleet Research 14 March 2018
According to The 2018 Smart Decision Guide to Hospitality Revenue Management (click here to access), more than one-quarter (28%) of hoteliers who have not upgraded their revenue management within the past 3 years plan to do so in the next 12 months.By asking the right questions, decision makers can determine which hotel revenue management solution on the market best fits their needs and is most likely to deliver the benefits they seek, with minimal risk and expense. Needless to say, the hotel's revenue manager(s) -- people who know the nuts and bolts of inventory management and length of stay control and who understand, for example, how to calculate group rates and apply rate fences -- should be included in the evaluation process.According to the research, most revenue managers want solutions that provide visibility. They want to be able to look under the hood and dive into price sensitivity data and observe at a detailed level what inputs are behind the system outputs that are being made and how adjustments to the decision model would change revenue outcomes. They do not want to wait for actual booking numbers to come in to understand the impact of their strategies and determine whether they made the right decisions. In short, revenue managers need to be comfortable that the new solution will enable them to do their jobs with maximum effectiveness.The following are two must-ask questions that decision makers and influencers may wish to explore with solution providers to ensure that, once implemented, the revenue management solution will enable them to achieve their desired business outcomes.Will the solution provide the answers we need to our pricing questions?To be effective, revenue managers require tools that will enable them to answer all of their day-to-day pricing questions. These questions may be voluminous, and some may be difficult to always know in advance. Such questions might include: By how much should we increase or decrease our rates for a given type of room? How many groups, and what size groups, should we accept on a given day?How much should we charge walk-in guests? What should be the floor and ceiling for our rate range? Are the changes in demand and bookings likely to represent a short-term or long-term pattern - and, if the latter, what actions should we take in response? To what extent should we discount negotiated rates? What should our best available rates be for the coming year? What discounts and promotions, and to what target customer segments, are likely to perform well right now and in the near-future? What discounts would likely dilute profits and should we therefore avoid?To what extent should we mark up our premium rooms, based on the current and near-term demand patterns? What competitors' price moves would likely affect these demand patterns and how should we respond if those moves become reality? How can we counteract cancellations and no-shows, group wash, extensions and early departures to capture optimal profitability?Smart Decision Guide Tip: Compile a comprehensive list of pricing questions and verify that the solution will be able to address these questions in a straight-forward manner.To what extent does the solution offer depth and flexibility in data analysis and reporting?Revenue management is a quantitative puzzle with ever-changing numbers, patterns and results and a need for continuous refinement. Delving into the data, testing different if/then scenarios, and collating actual results requires a high degree of flexibility. Not all data queries can be anticipated. A significant percentage of pricing questions may, in fact, need to be investigated on an ad hoc basis. Out-of-the-box functionality may satisfy the needs of novice users or small properties with relatively simple needs. But it is likely to be insufficient for more sophisticated revenue managers and larger properties with multiple room types, customer segments and ancillary revenue streams.A solution should provide for flexibility, which is important when it comes to setting pricing, noting special events, adjusting segmentation schemes, etc. A solution should also make it easy to accommodate virtually any need, including the need to monitor and measure individual property, portfolio, and departmental performance, the need to create customizable hierarchies for different geo-markets, channels, room types, time periods and loyalty programs.Important questions might include: Once problem areas are identified, can the solution guide users on how to take appropriate action? Can tactical decisions, including the overall impact, be tested live? Can the dashboards provide exception reporting, identifying areas needing the most attention?Smart Decision Guide Tip: Verify that the solution is flexible in terms of keys areas of functionality, including custom reporting, and validate all of the vendors' claims. If customized reporting is possible, find out what is involved in the process of filtering and sorting data according to a specified set of parameters.
Article by Robert Post

It's Time for Hotel Brands to Wake Up and Re-evaluate Their Voice Channel

Cloud5 Communications 14 March 2018
The voice channel delivers from 20 to 50% of bookings for hotel brands. So why has the Contact Center become such an overlooked hospitality distribution channel? In my opinion, our industry has forgotten the impact of this valuable asset, its power to generate revenue, and the customer service it can provide to satisfy the demands of today's busy traveller.In a recent survey, we discovered a startling fact - Contact Centers are an increasingly poorly managed channel. In fact, we learned that a surprising number of organizations did not have a handle on their voice revenue conversion. And even when they had these numbers, there was no industry standard for comparing them to their competition.But let's go back to the forgotten revenue stream. How is it possible that one of the most valuable distribution channels in our industry has become so misunderstood that hotel operators - especially larger brands - manage it from the cost side, not the revenue generation or guest engagement side?There are three main reasons why:Compared to digital and social channels, voice is just not sexy. What operators don't realize is that voice is not old school; it is a key enabler of their mobile and social media strategies.Inconsistent metrics, high turnover and pressure for profits have operators keeping the Contact Center at arms length. They don't understand it, don't know how to make it work, and don't have time for it.They undervalue the "experience." Plain and simple, the Millennial demographic is telling us that experience is what they look for. The "YOLO"-driven Millennials are spending more and traveling more than any other demographic - even Boomers*, and Operators need to adjust the Call Center strategy to accommodate.But there is a path for Brands to evolve the perception of the Contact Center to better suit the consumer and their financial goals. Here's how.The Contact Center -- Your Brand's Best AdvocateYou've spent precious time and money to enhance your brand through social media and digital channels. Brand recognition and smart marketing are getting some results, but your margins could be higher. Ensuring that call center staff have been well trained and possess a deep knowledge of the brand and property(ies) will increase the bottom line through incremental conversion and upsell revenue. Plus, call centers that benefit from the latest agent-pairing software can boost conversion up to 6 points by connecting consumers with agents that have the best demographic/psychographic fit for the caller. That proactive matching delivers on a deeper consumer connection throughout the booking experience. This level of service is priceless to consumers and is one of the key value propositions of Cloud5 Contact Centers' brand advocate training for its agents.A Surprising Lack of InsightAlthough there are key performance indicators in play across the industry, it has been a "hit or miss" exercise for many operators who are looking to capture and track revenue conversion rates and other key performance metrics. This surprising lack of insight into their voice channel has resulted in missed revenue opportunities and the perceived lost profitability of the Contact Center.We know that when managed properly, the Contact Center can be a thriving, high-value revenue center that connects with and builds loyalty from its customer base, unlike any other channel.The Human FactorIn today's increasingly competitive landscape, low conversion rates and the pressure for new revenue continue to challenge hospitality owners, asset managers, brand managers and CFOs. With the growth of the sharing economy and the omnipotence of OTAs, brands become diluted and it's nearly impossible for hotel operators to break through the noise.What the industry seems to have forgotten is the value and importance of human interaction, particularly when it comes to brand loyalty. The trend to chase lower costs results in customer dissatisfaction. Brands that focus on cheap per-minute costs, as opposed to providing brand advocates, experience a breakdown of their brand connection. The fact remains that when good people, great processes and the proper technology to monitor KPIs are in place, operators will find that the Contact Center generates high-margin revenue and delivers brand protection.The time is now for operators, hoteliers, and brand managers to stop leaving money at the door. Re-evaluating the notion that this channel is a cost center instead of what it really is - a valuable revenue stream, is the next step.Click here to download the Cloud5 Voice Conversion White Paper and learn more about why the Contact Center is the best defense (and offense) for driving hotel market share and increasing revenue.*MMGY Global 2017 Portrait of American Travelers survey
Article by Robert Stevenson

A Case for Investing in Technology During the Design and Development Process

KEYPR 13 March 2018
Businesses should be ostensibly "future-proofing" their properties, considering that technology and user expectation for more privacy and a customizable experience have taken precedent. A guest's hotel stay is no longer just about the brick-and-mortar aspects, it's now extended out to an entire brand experience. When it comes to designing for the modern traveler, designers need to be up-to-date with the latest in emerging technology usage when crafting a space. It's no longer enough to flaunt location or chic interiors, hotels need to be looking ahead to build out an extra level of functionality for their tech-savvy guests.There are easy solutions for the future-proofing dilemma that hoteliers are facing, it takes finding the best tools for the property. There are now emerging platforms in the technology marketplace that can provide guests with instant control over their experience: mobile check-in, keyless entry, streaming music, and reservation management available through an accompanying app. If hoteliers install an in-room tablet component that marries all of the things, the user desires are met for a seamless visit. The additional perk of hospitality platforms is that they do all of the above, while providing the hotel numerous behind-the-scenes capabilities to manage operations, and stay ahead of guests' needs.It's far more cost-effective to consider technology in the development stages of a new property than to make changes down the road. As it stands, more than 50% of hotels are making guestroom technology upgrades a priority, so why shouldn't this aspect of the guest experience be factored at the design-level of development? According to HT's 2016 Lodging Technology Study, 54% of hotels are devoting more of their spends on technology to match escalating guest expectations. If tech specs are factored into the construction as a proactive measure, the costs are far significantly lower than knocking into completed walls, dealing with lock upgrades, or the associated costs that go into redoing Internet and in-room controls infrastructure. Playing with these aspects in advance invites more creativity and can save money in the short term.Once technology factors are integrated, new levels of guest experience can be optimized. The physical flow of mobile check-in, the casual sleekness of in-room design with the tablet- these subtle tweaks epitomize how people are defining and value luxury. Additionally, there's money on the table when considering that technology can provide upsell points tied to geolocation or time of day, or analyzing the guest's experience for potential recovery should any hiccups occur while they're still on the property. The LBMA 2017 Global Transitions Trends Report found that 25% of marketing budgets are spent on location-based marketing, and over 50% of brands are using location data to target their customer base. There are literally 10s of millions in ad revenue up for grabs if hotels use localization and customer targeting with in-room tablets to connect guests with local culture- neighborhood dining, must-see events, and finding various hidden gems.Considering investing in technology during the design process of a new hotel property can only promote innovative ideation, allow hotel brands to expand on their experience, and save on installation costs. With the rise of Airbnb and the litany of problems that come with its scattershot approach to "quality," the designers behind tomorrow's hotels have an opportunity to elevate the brand experience by factoring in how users engage with tech.
Article by Tucker Johnson

What will the future hold?

University of Houston 12 March 2018
I read an incredibly interesting paper by Bain and Co. a few weeks ago titled "Labor 2030: The Collision of Demographics, Automation and Inequality", and it really got me thinking. Here is a snippet:"The Bain Macro Trends Group has analyzed a range of technologies at or near commercialization, including humanoid service robots, collaborative robots (cobots), drones, artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms. These technologies will transform primarily the service sector of most advanced economies and some emerging economies."What really got me thinking was the idea of cobots (robots that work alongside humans). I recently spoke with a colleague who told me that his class was having a discussion on robots in restaurants. He said that they all concluded that they will always need people to provide services and robots would never be able to replace waiters and waitresses. While I agree that they may never be able to completely replace people, I think it would be reasonable that eventually robots could help enough to cut current staffing levels by 90 percent. Payment, ordering, and food running could easily be automated - this would free up more of the server's time, allowing them to take more tables.Based on Bain's analysis the automation of beverages and kitchens is a foregone conclusion:"Today, a set of robotic arms can fully staff a bar and mix drinks to spec on a cruise ship full of thirsty guests. Within a few years, we expect continued cost reductions will make a strong business case for the automation of many tasks in restaurant kitchens and bars. Already, high-dexterity service robotics are being experimentally deployed in settings ranging from food preparation to assisting in hospitals and nursing homes."I'm looking to hotels and wondering, "What will the future hold?" I spoke with a GM today of a Full Service Hilton. He told me that about 10 percent of their guests check-in on their phone and use their phone as their room key. They never come by the front desk. Their hotel utilizes Kipsu to communicate with guests via text message; many guests have no face-to-face human interaction. All these changes are more efficient for the guest, but will have a lasting impact on the industry and career opportunities.I know where I'm focused right now: technology, robots, and AI. Housekeeping Robots are already here. Room Service Robots are already here. More robots are surely coming. A 2013 Study by the University of Oxford predicts the probabilities of Restaurant Cooks becoming automated at 96 percent, Hotel, Motel, and Resort Desk Clerks at 94 percent, and Waiters and Waitresses at 94 percent. The good news: Lodging Managers' chance of automation is less than one percent.I try to always have an eye towards the future of hotels, as well as the future of education. I can't picture an industry that will not be changed by rapid advancements in technology and I want to make sure that I am in a position to succeed in this changing environment. The best boss I ever had used to use the phrase: "Don't skate to where the puck is; skate to where it is going to be." This idea of looking to the future, and critically thinking, in order to be successful is something I have always tried to follow.Right now if I was starting my career, especially in the service industry, I would make sure that I had a solid understanding of technology, what it can accomplish, and where it is headed. If I didn't have an exceptional understanding of basic computer programs (Word, Excel, Outlook), I would make that a priority. I would then google "hotel technology" each week and select the news results. Reading these results will keep you informed and allow you to stay up-to-date. Like it or not, automation is coming. Now is the time to put yourself on a trajectory to take advantage of it as it becomes more and more commonplace in the future. It's time to "skate to where the puck is going to be."
Article by Phil Butler

SGS On Task Benchmarking the Guest Experience

Hospitality Net 9 March 2018
Late last year SGS released a comprehensive program for the industry. Hospitality Experience (HX) is a complete platform designed to help businesses maximize their brand reputation and the all-important guest experience. I caught up recently with the company's Head of Travel & Hospitality, Peter Hvidberg, in order to discuss his firm's offering and take on this important industry offshoot. Here is that discussion condensed.Peter Hvidberg, SGSPhil Butler: Where do hotel operations most often fail with their varied systems for risk management?Peter Hvidberg: Until now it has been the norm to only focus on standard risk categories like food safety, water safety and building safety, but as we know the hospitality industry is a very dynamic sector, with many new and emerging threats that can affect hotel operations. On top of that we have seen how the use of internet and virtual payments have taken over how travel is managed and booked, creating a new data and cyber security risk. The latest statistics indicate that 75% of global travel is booked online. Globally, we also face issues relative to security, hoteliers need to be protected or have all the procedures in place to prevent any attack or event that can affect guests. We also have seen the immediate impact of the social networks, and how a simple comment or a picture taken in poor context can affect the reputation of a Brand on a global scale. Studies show that 46% of all travelers read online reviews before booking their stay.For this reason, SGS have been working directly with industry influencers to hear what the needs are and as a result have designed a unique solution called HX (Hospitality Experience Program).This certification program consists of four modules, each focused on a specific industry need:Risk Module. This also contains the following submodules: [?] Food Safety[?] Water Safety[?] Building Safety[?] Security[?] Cyber Security[?] Business ContinuitySustainability ModuleCorporate Social Responsibility ModuleQuality of Service Experience ModuleTo give you some context as to how important addressing these risks can be, SGS has been collecting data from past Hotel audits and discovered that unknown conformities are more common than hotel managers think. Of over 10,000 audits performed:75% of issues detected were related to building safety15% of issues detected were related to water safety10% of issues detected were related to food safetyWith this program, our auditors can help properties to detect and prevent probable risks before they become a trend or real danger.Phil Butler: With reviews playing a bigger and bigger role in driving bookings to hotels, how can HX help hoteliers with guest expectations?Peter Hvidberg: The impact of new technologies and social media networks is huge for this industry. These technologies can make our lives easier when we would like to make a reservation or if we would like to look for information of a destination, but our guests can use them to share a bad or a good experience in our hotel, if is good great for us, but if it's bad we can't control the impact of that review.For this reason, the implementation of program like HX help the organizations to prevent risk and have more control of that kind of situation. With HX the GM will have a better view about what is going on in their hotel and with the expertise of our teams we can help to prevent any damage to the reputation of the hotel.Also, differentiation is becoming more and more difficult for hotels especially since entry of new players to the market is becoming more apparent. Three of the HX modules highlight certain values that customers are looking for when they book for hotels: QX highlights good service experience, sustainability highlights responsible use of energy / environment and management of wastes, and CSR highlights transparency and social responsibility. Depending on geographic markets, these could be attractive differentiators that if hotels practice and are certified under, could help bring more customers in.Phil Butler: Why the three levels of certification?Peter Hvidberg: First, we need to say that the HX is based on common industry painpoints that our experts have collected from performing over 10,000 property audits.HX as a management system is based in the principle of "continuous improvement". We would like to be seen as a partner of the hotelier, partners that are going to accompany the hotelier on this journey.In an ideal world, all organizations expect to achieve the big recognition, but the reality is that in very few times we find that everything is perfect. Thinking in that evolution based, in continuous improvement, the level of certification will increase with the maturity of the management system of the organization.Phil Butler: In your literature, on HX you discuss market intelligence as a facet. Can you tell us a bit about how the service enables hoteliers?Peter Hvidberg: One of the revolutionary aspects of HX is that it is a Global Recognition that combines common International Hotel painpoints, with Highly Experienced Auditors, and Big Data.As we all know, Data is power. Our HX solution is based on a very innovative IT platform that enables us to create patterns and detect trends faster than ever, using this information we can help our clients offer more accurate data that could help them to take decisions and of course help us to design more customized solutions to our clients.Phil Butler: What is "next" from SGS for the hospitality industry?Peter Hvidberg: With the success of HX, we see an even bigger need to expand the service to other aspects of the hospitality industry, apart from Hotels. For example, cruise ships, tour operators, and so on. We are beginning to partner with industry universities as well and offering internship programs to many of the graduate students. We hope to continue to grow these relationships and expand our roots into the Travel & Hospitality world. From a content perspective, we are investing heavily in several thought leadership initiatives and plan to continually release relevant industry cases and papers. Recently we were featured in Hotel Yearbook with a piece on Sustainability and we found the response to be quite positive. In our eyes this shows us that we have only scratched the surface of what HX can do and how SGS can partner with hotels and push them to be the benchmark.So, the industry is changing rapidly because of internal and external forces that decision makers must address. In order to keep abreast, hotel operations (independent or corporate) must have a fleet footed operational toolset to coincide with traditional hospitality norms. One key to solving these new flexibility and scale issues for hotels will be the engagement of global companies like SGS, which is the world's leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. I think a great many hoteliers will find it fortuitous that a company with more than 2,000 offices is already on task.
Article by Kyle Killion

How the New Airbnb Offerings Impact the Hotel Industry and What Hotels Brands Can Do to Win in the Sharing Economy

Suiteness 8 March 2018
Longtime hotel industry rival, Airbnb, continues to make headlines with its latest offering. In an effort to own more vacation accommodation bookings, the company, which built its business on being the anti-hotel alternative, now offers more boutique hotel listings than ever before. But, even as Airbnb adds more hotels into the mix, hotel brands are not featured. Despite this, there is a lot that hotel brands can do to stay competitive in the sharing economy.Why are hotel brands letting Airbnb win?Hotels have experienced strong growth since 2008, but alternative accommodations like Airbnb and HomeAway have been chipping away at their market. Phocuswright projects private accommodation bookings will grow from 12% to 16% of total bookings this year. The trouble is that the amount of pressure being felt within the hotel industry to adapt doesn't meet the danger that faces them. This is the opening that vacation rentals are exploiting.The response to the rise in vacation rentals falls into two extremes: denial and alarm. The denialists argue that vacation rental companies like Airbnb serve a different customer -- someone hungry for local flavor and authentic experiences that can be achieved by renting an extra room in a home or apartment. However, the majority of bookings are with hosts who offer more than one listing, essentially running unlicensed hotels [1]. Plus, travelers are predominantly looking for entire homes or apartments [2]. And, while Airbnb brags about its hosts as a major differentiator in the crowded travel accommodation marketplace, the most likely scenario is that the host and guest never meet in-person, creating an experience similar to a hotel without a front desk.The alarmists correctly point out that vacation rentals are barely regulated, taxed or scrutinized compared to hotels, similar to what the delivery industry faces from Uber and Lyft. While hotels enjoy advantages like prime locations, often more desirable than the residential properties of vacation rentals, they are often outweighed by regulatory forces. In this case, the location may be outweighed by the at least 15% price advantage of not having to pay an occupancy tax, a notable revenue stream for cities, helping them build and maintain communities around these tourist destinations. A benefit of Airbnb's significant lobbying investments. Not only does the concept of Airbnb being a mom and pop home sharing site no longer hold true, communities are losing out on funding that directly translates into economic development.How are hotels battling back?The hotel industry has a difficult balance to maintain. It needs to appear unruffled by vacation rentals to the public while appearing proactive to investors who are increasingly concerned about vacation rentals. The playbook so far has been focused on lobbying.We've gotten a glimpse into the lobbying playbook recently. The laws that have emerged have ranged from outright bans to simple tax collection. In my opinion, the bans help no one because short-term rentals do meet a real need, and by obstructing them hotels suppress innovation. There is a balance to be struck through registering and taxing short-term rentals instead of outlawing them entirely so that both consumers and the travel industry benefit.Real regulatory change is just starting to happen in places like New York and most recently in San Francisco where Airbnb had to drop 50% of its listings. Airbnb will have to add hotels to make up for its lost inventory and when that happens they will no longer have a price advantage because they are selling at the same rates as everyone else.If hotels can level the playing field and get local governments to tax and regulate vacation rentals as hotels, it will be a big win for local communities, hotels, and even consumers who will be paying more, but getting more safety in return. Hotels will know that they have fought their way out of this quagmire when they are on equal tax footing with vacation rentals. The first step is happening now with municipalities setting up laws to tax individuals. The next step is when municipalities require the sites selling short-term rentals to report the taxes that should be collected.So what should hotels be doing to compete?Regulatory changes will take years, if not decades to come. So hotels also need to be thinking about changes they can make today to remain competitive.Focus on what it means to stay at a hotel: Location, amenities, and service. An average Airbnb host cannot compete with an established hotel in these three areas. The hotel industry as a whole should be playing up these attributes:Location: Location is consistently rated the most important factor in accommodation purchasing decisions. Most hotels have an advantage with central locations and easy access to transportation. Vacation rental maps often look like a donut around the center of the city because they are in residential neighborhoods.Amenities: While some vacation rentals may have a pool they definitely don't have a spa. Hotels have great services like restaurants, spas, clubs onsite. We know that travelers want these amenities because of the companies that focus on getting vacation rental customers access to hotel amenities.Service: Service is one of the hotel industry's biggest strengths. The staff that sometimes is seen as a cost center is really one of the most valuable distinguishing factors in favor of hotels. The amazing recommendation from a concierge and the attentive staff member are what travelers remember. Most Airbnb hosts don't have the time to cater or are even in the same city as their listings. The hotel experience is the luxury experience, with an entire staff at a guest's beck and call. Plus, issues such as broken plumbing, inoperative air conditioning, that would normally just result in getting a new room can't be solved by hosts that don't have the ability to move customers around.Give the people what they want. There are plenty of hotels that have a large portion of suite inventory, most of them with the ability to convert to a multi-room suite. And still, hotels continue to lose families and group vacationers to short-term whole home and apartment rentals. One big reason is that friends and families can book multi-room inventory easily on these home share platforms. They can have the shared kitchen, living room, balcony where they can be together.Even in a place like New York, 35% of Airbnb's listings are two or more bedrooms. The truth is hotels already have the kind of inventory that can attract these customers, but most of that inventory is paid for only 30% of the time. This is because of legacy technical reasons, lack of marketing the best hotel inventory, and inter-departmental turf wars.One of the things we've done is create ways to get around these limitations thereby giving travelers exactly what they want -- the space and multi-room inventory akin to an Airbnb with the safety, service and quality assurance of a hotel. Hotels are already seeing the difference that multi-room inventory makes. Two-bedroom connecting suites are booked 3.3X times more than regular suites. For the consumer, this kind of inventory means getting what they want at better prices -- travelers can save up to 36%, compared to similarly sized stays elsewhere.Where do we go from here?As an industry we need to remember that travel is about the people. Airbnb succeeded by bringing the human element back into travel, not from just "staying like a local" but by providing a space for people to stay together. Today's travelers want to reconnect with their friends and families. The traditional hotel mindset of one-size fits all one king, two queen hotel room needs to change.Eventually, Airbnb will start adding hotel inventory to their site just like the major OTAs now include vacation rentals. The catalyst here will be when short term rentals start getting taxed at the same rate as hotels. When that happens, what it means to be a hotel will fade away unless we do something about it. For those of us who love hotels, we won't let that happen. Let's get to work and adapt!Sources:[1] AIrDNA.co shows that for the month of Mar 2018, there are a significant number of hosts who manage multiple listings on Airbnb. 19% hosts in New York manage more than one listing while in Las Vegas the number is as high as 36%. In other words, these are unlicensed hotels taking customers away from traditional hotels.[2] The popular belief that Airbnb bookings are mostly shared room or private room bookings is also not true -- most are actually entire place and multi-room bookings. AirDNA.com data shows that 52% of New York listings are entire homes or apartments while Las Vegas is 68% entire home/apartment listings.
Article by Terri Miller

Turn Data into Insights to Know What Your Guests Want, Creating Memorable Hotel Guest Experiences Along the Way

Concilio Labs, Inc. 8 March 2018
This small discussion illustrates an issue that hoteliers face every day. Beyond the obvious differences of luxury vs. budget, business vs. leisure, and Brand A vs. Brand B, what truly drives a guest to your hotel, and what makes them loyal? While the retail industry has been quick to adapt to these changing consumer expectations, the hospitality industry has lagged, and is only now realizing that today's guest expects the same personalized experience as shoppers in retail and grocery stores.By analyzing consumer data and understanding demographic groups, psychographics, and values, hotels can guide their guests towards the products or services best suited to their needs. This is the personalized touch that we all have come to expect. Today's consumers engage with companies that not only reflect their values, but also those companies that know what they want - seemingly even before the customer even realizes it is their desire. Using Data to Drive Marketing & ExperiencesUnderstanding your guest's ever-evolving expectations requires the collection, analysis, and application of actionable insights gathered from various guest behavior indicators. These may include: booking tendencies, travel type, entertainment preferences, purchase behavior, social media, and more. Armed with this information, hoteliers can carefully curate customized services, as well as off and on-site engagement. As you determine actionable campaigns and offers from the data collected, ensure that you have a clear objective in mind - loyalty or new customers? Or is it owning the hotel experience?. Turning Data into InsightsGreat retail-specific examples of leveraging data include Amazon, which curates its next purchase suggestions or 'daily deals' based on products you've viewed and expressed interest in before. Similarly, retail giant H&M recently partnered with the online game MyTown to gather and use information on customer location. If potential customers are playing the game on a mobile device near an H&M store and check in, H&M rewards them with virtual clothing and points; if they scan promoted products in the store, it enters them in a sweepstakes. Early results show that of 700,000 customers who checked in online, nearly half went into the store and scanned an item.By using software that provides actionable insights, this is also within the hoteliers reach. You can track pages that guests visit, how they interact during their stay at your hotel property, what they spend on services, and how they pay. If you notice that first-time guests traveling with children tend to engage mainly with family-friendly activities, you might send them a specialized offer for on-property daycare/camp for the kids, and an adult-specific activity for the parents. You can also curate timed offers, such as flash sales, which display a countdown mechanism to show how quickly time to claim a special offer or upgrade is running out. You also should to take into consideration the purchase channel preference each guest has --via mobile, desktop, phone, email, or app. If your data reveals many of your guests prefer to receive offers on the go, for example, ensure that upgrades and specials are easily redeemable from your mobile platform. If you are losing bookings on desktop devices, add an extra "book now" special incentive, such as a hotel credit.In the case of my peanut butter debate, I had a digital coupon, and the grocery store's app reminded me this was one of my most popular "frequently purchased items." The woman I met chose the store brand, primarily because it was cheapest. Had she been served a targeted offer, might she have purchased elsewhere? We'll never know.These technologies already exist. They will transform each guest's experience with your hotel, and also the way in which your hotel understands and engages with each guest. Ask yourself, as a hotelier, are you keeping yourself relevant, leveraging data and advanced guest insights to exceed expectations? Ultimately, the more you invest in understanding your guest's needs (even better than they do, at times), you can trust they will always invest back in you.If you're interested in talking more about Concilio's Insight Engine, feel free to contact me at terri@conciliolabs.com. I'll happily bring some peanut butter treats to our discussion.
Article by Jeff Zabin

Upgrading Your Hotel Revenue Management Capabilities? These Considerations Will Help Ensure Success

Starfleet Research 8 March 2018
The following is excerpted from The 2018 Smart Decision Guide to Hospitality Revenue Management, which is now available for complimentary download.Most hotel operators, particularly those with properties in popular destinations, have a lot to celebrate. In the United States, the industry has enjoyed eight straight years of RevPAR growth. Industry analysts agree that the party may be far from over. STR and Tourism Economics predict that U.S. hotel occupancy rates this year will increase to 66 percent, ADR will rise 2.4 percent, and RevPAR will increase 2.7 percent. The luxury and independent chain segments are expected to report the largest increases in occupancy, according to these research firms, while independent hotels are forecasted to see the most substantial growth in ADR and RevPAR. PwC forecasts occupancy to reach the highest level in more than 35 years.The steady climb in hotel occupancy rates and record-breaking RevPAR growth continues, albeit at a slower rate, even despite the emergence of some very real challenges to the hotel industry. These include the onerous commission structures imposed by online travel agencies (OTAs) and the effect of Airbnb and smaller online marketplaces operating in the so-called sharing economy. In addition, there is the simple fact that, in many markets, supply consistently outpaces demand, reducing hotels' pricing power. Many hotels have been hampered by internal challenges, as well, not the least of which, in some cases, is the limited number of rate codes imposed by legacy property management systems, constraining the number of price points a hotel can offer potential customers.The widespread adoption of data-driven revenue management strategies and advanced technologies no doubt deserve a lot of the credit. These capabilities make it possible for hotel operators to yield rates more aggressively than ever before. Data is the new oil, as they say, and analytics is the engine that converts the data into increased profitability, as evidenced by these record levels of RevPAR growth.Until recently, the idea of a revenue manager gazing into the dashboard equivalent of a crystal ball and generating precise demand forecasts for every night of the year across every room type and every guest segment was the stuff of fiction. Now, revenue managers have the tools to generate millions of new forecasts based on analysis of demand forecasts, competitor rates, market conditions, price sensitivities and demand drivers like seasonality, day-of-week differences and market dynamics.A state-of-the-art solution is capable of generating tens of thousands of optimal pricing decisions on a daily basis, and there is reason to believe that revenue management capabilities will get even better as the analytics continue to evolve. In fact, according to research conducted for The 2018 Smart Decision Guide to Hospitality Revenue Management, more than half (53 percent) of today's hotel operators believe that revenue management will become even more automated with further advances in data analytics capabilities.So, which technology solution is the right one? How can a hotel operator be assured that the solution they implement will best meet the needs of th hotel and enable revenue managers to achieve optimal results? The following are just a few key buying considerations to keep in mind.Technology interoperability and data integrationHotel operators today can gain a deep, unprecedented understanding of their guests --who they are, what they do, what their preferences are, and how much they spend across the property. Combining the platform capabilities of a next-generation property management system (PMS) and an advanced revenue management solution, hotels can automate decision-making processes in ways that can make a world of difference in terms of pricing and inventory management.Technology integration is key to revenue management success. The PMS, the central reservations system (CRS) or channel manager, and the revenue management solution all need to seamlessly connect and share data --preferably, in a real-time manner. Inventory-related data needs to flow into all distribution channels, including direct booking platforms and call centers, as well as the global distribution system (GDS) and OTAs. The CRS needs to publish optimal pricing decisions and channel recommendations based on input from the revenue management system.In short, no revenue management solution can be treated as a standalone application. It needs to seamlessly integrate with multiple data streams. It needs to integrate with marketing, sales and distribution systems as well as with OTAs and other third-party channels.Internally, point of sale (POS) data needs to integrate with PMS data to provide a holistic view of a guest's stay, including their ancillary spending on food and beverages, guest services, spa visits, etc. Buyers need to know that all technology components and data sources are compatible with the solution and also that all historical PMS data can be readily extracted and validated.Cloud computing data processing powerAdvances in data processing power, largely enabled by the rapid growth of cloud computing, are enabling solution providers to develop capabilities that revenue managers have been striving towards for more than a decade. Advanced revenue management solutions are able to process increasingly large volumes of data, and faster than ever.With the advent of a next-generation hospitality platform built for the cloud, the grand movement to unify the disparate and fragmented technologies and data silos has become an achievable goal. Hotels can connect and seamlessly share data in the cloud across all parts of the property or properties and across all of the various hospitality solutions.For a large property, the totality of the data set may include dozens of guest segments, a dozen or more room types, several years of historical booking and reservations data, and upwards of a dozen length-of-stay buckets. Advanced processing power makes it possible to include real-time integration of customer lifetime value (CLV) into pricing and availability, modeling consumer behavior from click-stream data, and integrating loyalty and total property spend data.Add to the mix competitive rate data, demand data, multi-market economic data, and even air traffic and weather predictions, if desired. Combining all of these data sets for just one hotel could amount to several hundred million observations. Generating the pricing and distribution recommendations could easily require result in thousands of decisions being generated each day for every day into the future. Multiply that number for a hotel chain with dozens of properties and it quickly becomes clear that, more than anything, revenue management is a big data challenge.As an example, one major hotel brand recently revealed that it generates more than 45 million forecasts nightly for each hotel, segment, room type, and channel for the next 365-day period. Needless to say, the processing and algorithms require an enormous amount of data storage and processing capacity to accomplish this task. While even global hotel brands may not have data processing requirements that are in the same league as Amazon, Apple, Facebook or Google, their data processing needs are certainly large enough to constantly stretch the limits of on-premise data storage and computing capacity, hence the need for cloud-based deployment. Prospective buyers need to know that any revenue management solution under consideration can handle the rigors of big data processing and optimize pricing calculations in highly compressed timeframes.Channel management and optimizationRates and inventory information need to be reflected accurately across all systems and touchpoints, including OTAs and other partner- and guest-facing channels. Otherwise, the prices that are presented to prospective guests on some channels may be lower than desired or rooms presented on some channels as available may, in reality, be unavailable, and the property may be overbooked. Inputting room rate and availability changes manually can result in errors that damage the brand's reputation and lead to revenue loss. It is important to understand the extent to which room change updates are handled automatically rather than manually and what the average lag time is in implementing channel updates.Customization to user and property needs Because users have differing needs, any solution will invariably require some degree of customization. Revenue managers should be able to create notifications based on their own predefined triggers. They should be able to define the data inputs and dashboard views based on their own priorities and display preferences. Flexibility in configuration is needed to mine the right data and generate actionable insights. Prospective buyers should have a high level of confidence that any solution under consideration has flexibility and customization capabilities to meet the needs of the property as well as those of the revenue manager(s) and other end-users.Group sales optimization Buyers with group business goals should check that any solution under consideration provides group sales optimization. This means being able to evaluate group requests by forecasting the impact and displacement of transient guests while calculating ideal group rates. Some solutions offer pricing recommendations by room type to maximize inventory and can provide meeting planners with a blended price quotation. Some solutions suggest alternate dates for flexible groups based on projected demand and availability to drive business to dates where the hotel stands to gain the most profit. Some solutions offer simultaneous evaluation of multiple properties to identify which one would be the most profitable for the entire enterprise. Having profit-based price evaluation capabilities enables sales teams to understand unsold and undersold meetings and events space as well as less-than-optimal displacement of group business.Just published by Starfleet Research, The 2018 Smart Decision Guide to Hospitality Revenue Management is currently available for complimentary download.
Article by Magnus Friberg

How to Pick the Right Mobile Key Technology for Your Hotel

Zaplox AB 7 March 2018
Your room key isn't working and your initial perception of the hotel has been tarnished.This is something we have all experienced at some time, and while traditional room keys are by no means nearing total extinction, mobile keyless technology has been making significant waves within the hospitality landscape. Modern guests, especially those of the millennial generation and younger, are continuously demonstrating a desire for increased mobile functionality and convenience. This desire conceptualizes in the form of integrated hotel apps, mobile check-in, and mobile keys, just to name a few. In fact, it is reported that guests using a digital key generally rate a hotel seven points higher than keycard guests.Of course, there is a wide selection of mobile key applications available to today's hotelier looking to stay competitive. So, the question becomes, how do you determine which one is right for your hotel?1. Integration is KeyThe mobile door-lock technology you install can't work unless you have compatible hardware on your door locks. With this in mind, when considering door lock application providers, ensure that their technology integrates with all the leading door lock companies. If this seamless integration is lacking, some mobile lock formats could require you to replace the whole door lock, which isn't cost effective.Also, in order to leverage the mobile key system as fully as possible, you may also need to integrate it with other sources of information. That means you need to ensure the application also integrates with the property management system your hotel currently has in place.When it comes to embracing mobile key technology, seamless integration should be at the top of your list.2. Perfect the BasicsEfficiency should always be top of mind, and new technology will not be readily embraced if it doesn't perform its primary function flawlessly. While 'bells and whistles' can provide an exciting boost to guest engagement and revenue generation, nothing is more important than the delivery of the core functionality.Does the lock and unlock function work every time, without any glitch? Is it reliable and highly secure? Does it require the guest to be within 5 feet of the door to their suite, or closer? Does the unlock function work quickly, or does it take a few tries before it registers? Does the app enhance the mobile experience, allowing the guest to effectively bypass lines and receive notifications/alerts tailored to their preferences? Is there a user friendly management tool for the system which includes dashboards, configuration, automation and analytics? Does it have strong security to ensure that the lock can't be hacked?Also, keep in mind that introducing a new technology can be tricky - and even more so if that technology is not intuitive as to how you currently work. Consider an intuitive mobile key system that your team can quickly get up to speed with - and is backed by expert support when you need it.These are all key components you need to consider when determining which mobile key technology provider is the best fit for your hotel.3. Is it Future-Friendly?It is critical to invest in technology which demonstrates a clear grasp on the future of guest engagement; from reservations, pre-arrival messages, mobile check-in, and access to a hotel room with a mobile key, to offers, upgrades, and mobile check-out. While the perfection of the 'basics' may rule in terms of priority, guest expectations are always evolving and embracing new trends. With this in mind, determine if the technology you are considering has the capacity for advanced capabilities - and available on all platforms. This could range from the functionality of hosting a digital key on more than one device, smart-watch compatibility, mobile concierge to ensure guests aren't missing the personal touch traditionally received from front desk staff upon check-in, and more.The mobile key technology you choose today, will stay with you for many years to come. Make sure you choose a future-proof system that can handle the extremely rapid developments in usability and functionality on the hospitality market. What works today may not work for you next year. Or tomorrow. If your current system isn't evolving with your hotel's growth and change, then it is time to shop the options. Look for mobile key technology partner that has the flexibility to grow and change with your needs. It's what we like to call 'Future-Friendly'.
Article by Kashmira Lad

Why should a hotel's online reputation matter for every hotel owner?

Hotelogix 7 March 2018
How a hotel's online reputation impacts revenueOnline hotel reviews can be source of motivation or worry for hotel owners! We live in times when everyone who has an opinion about a product or service shares the same on social media channels. It's common for customers to surf the web for hotel reviews before the hitting the "Book Now" button. For professionals in the hospitality industry, guests leaving online hotel reviews and detailing their experiences can be a matter of concern as it affects their click-through rates (CTR) and hotel revenue.A hotel's online reputation therefore holds value for travelers seeking to explore new destinations. Travelers check review sites and OTA platforms for not only the best deals, but to get a broader perspective of your hotel. The new-age traveler seeks to understand what others are saying about your hotel before confirming the booking status. Often, opinions of previous guests tend to influence the minds of the reader. Which is why, a one-star rating or a 5-star rating on a reputed platform often dictates the kind of revenue that can subsequently flow in for your hotel.Why should your hotel's online reputation management matter?1. *A survey by Statistic Brain mentioned 57% of travel reservations were made online in 2017.What does this signify? Your target group is out there, surfing online and reading reviews via various devices.2. 81% of travelers find online reviews important for a hotel and 49% will not make a reservation for a hotel that has zero reviews.What your hotel guests say about your property in the form of text, photos or videos is the kind of content that is influencing the minds of the potential guests. Review sites such as TripAdvisor have a direct impact on the revenue for hotel owners.A hotel's reputation management is not a mammoth task if done correctly. Besides, you certainly need to track your online reputation as it has a direct impact to your hotel's revenue.How does the online reputation connect with a hotel's revenue?Hotel reviews have a direct impact on your hotel's demand. A positive review from happy guests can influence the minds of the next reader toying with the idea of booking your hotel. Negative reviews on the other hand, can tarnish the image of your brand. Your hotel's online reputation therefore holds tremendous value and must be a part of your marketing plan.So, how can you manage your hotel's reputation online?Pay attention to your guest: It's simple, really! Creating an enhanced guest experience begins right from the time a customer books your hotel. Ensure your hotel staff pay close attention and seek feedback during the time of the stay. This will give you enough time to manage any queries or concerns raised by the guest at that moment. Pay attention, store a guests' preferences for future use and exceed expectations every time. A happy guest will ensure others know about your property by posting photos or videos that indicate the guest satisfaction levels. These naturally turn into testimonials that speaks volumes about your property.Take the negative reviews in a positive light: Sure, not every guest will be a happy one. And, then, the grudges flow online. It's ok to be stressed a little, but you can turn the situation in your favour with a response that aims to address the issue. Be polite, understand what your customer says and demonstrate how far you'd go to ensure the problem is resolved. As you respond, there'll be many other concerned travelers who will read and notice your approach. This shows your professional attitude that will help build trust and connect with your target group.Use Automation Software: Technology has made online reputation management quite an easy task. Be it independent hotel owners or a chain of hotels, smart reputation management tools are helping hoteliers drive more bookings. Instead of requesting a guest to fill up a feedback form at the time of check-out, you can automate the review collection process.A property management system that integrates with a tool such as Review Express by TripAdvisor is much advisable for all hotel owners. With Review Express, you can customize your emails easily to obtain feedback. The PMS in turn can save the information and guest data for the future. Such emails remind guests to respond without the need for hotel staff to intrude in their personal space. Besides, the email is sent out as soon as the guest checks out. This process helps increase your TripAdvisor ratings and reviews, and displays latest reviews online. All these help you to generate more bookings.While you indicate that you value their opinion, you can also use it to improve your service where required. A sound reputation of your hotel will have a direct impact on your hotel occupancy levels in the long run. With the help of technology, you can leverage online reviews to increase business, boost your ratings and stay ahead of your competition. What are your ideas for online reputation management? Do let us know.
Article by Doug Kennedy

How Much Does It Cost To Generate A Voice Reservations Inquiry? How Much Are You Investing In Properly Following-Up?

Kennedy Training Network (KTN) 6 March 2018
Despite that there is more information for guests to view online than ever before in the history of the lodging industry, the phones continue to ring in reservations offices and at the front desk. Simultaneously, hoteliers continue to increase direct bookings. Hardly a day goes by that I don't see another article on this topic, yet when I click on them the discussion is almost always on website bookings; rarely do I see a mention of voice as a distribution channel. If you are truly committed to increasing direct voice bookings, read on.A first step that I always do with my consulting clients and also with participants in our KTN reservations training workshops is to calculate the costs of making the phones ring. Granted, this is not a perfect science, but even an approximate number is eye opening.What does it cost to make the phone ring? Depending on what type of hotel (branded verses independent), the market mix (business, leisure, bleisure, group, contract / BT), and the geographic location, immediate direct costs include:Direct email campaigns.Pay-per-click search.Organic SEO Optimization costs.Direct mail.Print.Staff to executive these.There are so many other intangible costs too, such as the investment in the website itself as a primary driver of voice. Google research shows that mobile searches in particular are very likely to result in a "click to call." The most recent statistics I can find show this happens 70% of the time. Granted these numbers are now 5 years old and not hotel specific, but this is certainly an indicator. If you want solid - if anecdotal - evidence, just ask your reservations agents how often they receive calls from those who are calling from a smartphone while driving or watching TV. Another intangible cost is time and money spent to optimize property information and images in OTAs and the GDS, because many OTA visitors and also travel agents end up calling. Again, when you talk to the frontline agents it is clear that the so-called "billboard effect" is not dead.For argument's sake, let's take a conservative number of just $5.00 cost to generate each reservations inquiry call, and I would say that is very conservative indeed.Now, let's assume a hotel reservations agent makes $15 an hour, and plus taxes and benefits it is costing a hotel $20. At a call center, an agent might take 60 calls a day, so 7.5 an hour based on an 8-hour shift, so it is costing another $2.67 to field that $5 call. Now our imaginary hotel has $7.67 invested.And what is the potential revenue that call can generate? Again this varies greatly by hotel type, location and segmentation. As an example, let's take a transient ADR of $119 x a transient ALS of 1.33 nights, and that tells us that there is $158.27 at stake each time the phone rings.Yet what happens? Besides being in the training business, KTN also conducts thousands of reservations calls each week both to our clients and also to comp-set hotels that are evidently not using training. What do we hear most often? I hear reservations and front desk agents responding to these high-cost, potentially high-value leads as if they are providing "tech support" for someone who needs help searching a website. Specifically, I hear our callers saying:"Hi, just wanted to find out the rates..." and the agent simply states the rates.For resorts, I hear us saying "Which room would you recommend?" and un-trained agents saying "Well they are all nice. Have you visited our website? There are pictures of the actual rooms."I hear our mystery callers saying "Okay, I see that same rate at (insert OTA name), hmm.... (long pause)... okay, thank!" and I hear agents saying "Thank you for calling."When you do the math as suggested above, here is what they should be saying:"As I'm checking rates for your dates, are there any questions I can answer for you about our location or amenities?""We always quote the lowest rates here directly at the hotel. May I ask where you are seeing that lower rate?""Yes, our rate is the same, but why don't you let me confirm that for you now. I can enter you directly into our system, confirm a specific room type and make a note of your special requests.""Let's secure that for you now. This way it's locked in. If your plans fall through, you can always have the option of cancelling..."Of course some callers will still hesitate. Some are honest and say they are going to shop around. Others say they have to check with their traveling companions - and if they are traveling with a large party of family and friends this might even be true! If your hotel is really committed to direct bookings and fully cognizant of both the investment in making the phone ring and in the revenue potential, then your agents should be following-up each phone inquiry by proactively sending an email. Here is an example of what they should say:"Hello Douglas. It was wonderful meeting you by phone today! How excited to hear about your plans (insert a few brief remarks about specifics.) Below is a recap of the options we discussed along with my contact direct information. I've made a note to reach out again by phone in a few days to see what questions you might have and what else I can do to assist you in planning..."Next, they should trace the lead for follow-up from one to three days later and at that time make a follow-up phone call and the next day send one more brief email.Organizing the follow-up action steps of a call and email takes some work on a process. It is certainly possible to test this by using a log book, Excel spread sheet or calendar tasks. However, if you are really committed you should check out TRACKPulse Hospitality Software www.trackhs.com
Article by Martin Soler

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

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

If I'd had more time, I would have been a Data Scientist

Snapshot GmbH 2 March 2018
Nearly 20% of business time is spent searching for information.[i] That's one full day per week. I know the impact of this lost time all too well. During my many years spent running an outsourced revenue management service for brands like citizenM and 25hours, my team of revenue managers racked up countless hours collecting data. Not to mention the tiresome process of formatting the data in Excel. It genuinely pains me to think about how much more analysis time my team could have performed if they'd had clean data available at their fingertips.Back in 2012 already, I knew there was a better way. And I knew it involved killing those spreadsheets and gaining back that productive time. This is how SnapShot came to be. We replaced the time spent digging around for data and the cumbersome formatting process with a demand management application (DMA) for hotels. Launched in 2014, it put into the cloud all the tools (forecast, budget strategy) a hotel would need to manage its demand. However, the DMA wasn't flexible enough for our customers, especially hotel groups, whose bigger pain wasn't being given a new interface to manage the data, but rather the flexibility to access the right data at the right time.Snapshot On Demand was the answer. Built to sit both above PMS as well as above property, it gives data and insights to hotel groups at the push of a button. This means no more scrambling for hours to get the data and visualize the quarterly reports, and no more banging your head against the wall when the MD wants a spontaneous deep dive on a demand or revenue issue.Moreover, it permits to hotels to clean and map segments across properties and regions so that data is understandable and actionable. It's crucial to understand how fundamental this ability to clean and map key performance data (especially on a multi-property level) is to reporting and BI projects, and why so many of these fail.Data scientists spend 60% of their time normalizing data. And these are data scientists. They are not revenue managers or marketing directors or reservations managers or group sales directors or general managers, all who almost certainly have far less experience dealing with mass amounts of data. Imagine how long it takes for the average commercial analyst or revenue manager to clean up and segment data across varied properties. The answer: too much. (Note, also, that second to the amount of time spent cleaning data, data scientists spent the most time collecting data. The problem spans industries.)Forbes [ii]The most frequently overlooked step when it comes to data is the last one--the visualization. According to Dataconomy, visualization is one of the only means humans have for understanding complex analytics. Our brains are only able to process two to three pieces of information at one time and frequently consumer behavior requires understanding more than that.[iii] When represented visually, however, we can grasp the patterns and trends that emerge from large amounts of information. If we skip this step, however, the data becomes far less actionable.We have heard from the market that hotel groups spend a lot of time, effort and budget on BI projects via providers like Tableau and PowerBI that have ultimately gone nowhere because it's too hard to get the data. That's why we added a BI Connector to On Demand, which pushes reports to tools like Tableau automatically so that the data can be easily visualized and reported upon, allowing hotels to complete those pesky--and vitally important-- projects that have been on hold for ages.On Demand comes with a third component, a dedicated API, where groups can build custom applications and dashboards. The opportunities are endless: create a customized dashboard interface, or an app that tracks channel costs and automatically pivots your inventory strategy based on pre-set criteria; or one that ties housekeeping and check-ins together to improve efficiencies; or one that predicts guest behavior. The list could go on and on.Despite the obvious arguments that developing and implementing such proprietary applications and algorithms is a distraction from a hotel operators core focus, the reality is that hotels will need time to explore and identify patterns in their data. Investing now in resources that make the sharing of key PMS and Non-PMS data will yield positive results, before the first "idea" for a custom app has been committed to.What it comes down to is this: in the past, effective data collection and visualization has been such a pain that hoteliers sit paralyzed rather than actioning their data. With SnapShot On Demand, there are no excuses. The issue of how much time and effort it takes to deal with data has been solved, so hotels don't need to sit restlessly on valuable data anymore. So, it's time to ask yourselves, if you could gain back one day of productivity each week, would you take it?David and the SnapShot team will be hosting drinks at ITB this year in Hall 8.1, stand 127, beginning at 4:30pm on Wednesday and Thursday. To learn more about SnapShot On Demand, RSVP to the event here.[i] https://www.cottrillresearch.com/various-survey-statistics-workers-spend-too-much-time-searching-for-information/[ii] https://www.forbes.com/sites/gilpress/2016/03/23/data-preparation-most-time-consuming-least-enjoyable-data-science-task-survey-says[iii] http://dataconomy.com/2017/05/big-data-data-visualization/
Article by Jeremiah Magone

Will VR replace your 'Rooms' pages in the near future?

Hospitality Copywriting 2 March 2018
If you're finding your PPC costs going up, without a noticeable improvement in revenues...... the majority of people bounce from your website in less than 2 minutes...... or you feel your TripAdvisor reviews aren't an adequate reflection of the investment you've made in your property, then Daniel Wishnia, Digital Marketing Consultant at GCH Hotel Group, says VR might be the solution.I had a call with Daniel a few weeks ago and, after chatting a little while, I was struck with the possibility that VR might actually replace a website's 'Rooms' pages, in the near future, as their most profitable direct booking real estate. That's a pretty big deal, wouldn't you agree?So, below, I lay out why I think this is a possibility, and what this shift might mean for your revenues.To begin, Daniel told me that back in 2005 he was one of the first marketers in Europe to start using VR as an advertising platform.So, naturally, I asked him what first got him interested in shooting in 360deg."The first thing is the immersed sensation you get when you're looking at 360deg images," he told me. "And the second is what I call 'exploratory navigation.' It's just a lot more enjoyable to explore a website by looking around, instead of navigating menus."Looking back at how computers have evolved over time, this last point makes a lot of sense.First it was the keyboard, then the mouse came along, and that was a major breakthrough. Then touch screens were invented, and now computers are so intuitive that toddlers can use them.So, as everything's moving towards an easier user experience, it's not a big leap of faith to guess that companies will start selling computers with voice control and visual exploration as standard, built-in features, as well.Of this evolution, Daniel explains that this gives marketers a big advantage."When you are looking at a 360 image, the pictures are connected somehow, so you naturally start exploring. You are behaving more like a human, moving through the environment. And this gives you the impression that you are experiencing the unvarnished truth. This satisfies a guest's need to know, before they book, helping your marketing connect on a deeper level."If you compare this impression to another hotel's website, which might not even have more than 3 or 4 pictures of each room type, the advantage is clear. The more a guest knows about your property, the easier it is for them to book with confidence.So, if:You find yourself lowering your rates on the day of arrivalYour 'book direct' efforts aren't giving you the results you want, orYou're worried that 'outsourcing' your marketing to the OTAs might mean you're 'outsourcing' your job, as well... then this might be the competitive advantage you've been looking for.Let's go over a few of the reasons VR isn't "just another shinny object for marketers to play with.""Like all new technologies," Daniel says, "the early adopters are usually the ones who reap the biggest rewards. One of the images I put up recently on Google Street View, for example, has gotten more than 2 million views! This is amazing. But, unlike 'views' and 'likes' on social media platforms, VR helps you achieve 3 strategic goals, at the same time. And this drives direct bookings." Targeted audiences"Remember," Daniel says, "TripAdvisor grew to become the largest travel website in the world, simply because people are hungry for reviews. But if we can give them something even better (an objective, instead of a subjective view of your hotel) then people will start using VR content in their travel planning, as well. And that means you'll get more targeted traffic to your website." Higher engagement rates"At one of the hotels we're working with, the Radisson Sas in Germany, we've seen viewership for this kind of content grow to over 2,500 unique visitors in the last month. This basically doubled their traffic, and the average user experience is just over 4 minutes." Direct bookings"I mentioned earlier that people enjoy looking around, exploring. This is intuitive. So, when they find something they like, the booking process needs to be intuitive, as well. That's why we've made sure that they're able to book that room, within the VR experience. In this way, we think VR will be able to replace a hotel website's 'Rooms' pages, which are the most valuable pages on many websites.""So, when you take these 3 goals together, and you see how easy it is for marketers to KPI each one, you start getting a much better picture of how important VR is going to be as a direct booking channel, going forward." And that led to my next question: Why does VR technology need to be designed specifically for the hospitality industry?"Because travel is becoming a culture," he said."With low-cost fares... and because it's so easy for people to discover hotels these days... people will start searching for hotels based on the experience they want to enjoy. Whether it be a shopping experience... or beach experience...""This is especially true when we think about first-time travelers from developing countries. They don't want to leave anything up to chance, and many times they don't speak the language... so hotels that have this kind of intuitive, experiential content will get their attention. But only if it's easy to access. That's why we decided to develop a browser-based platform, instead of requiring people to download an app. That's a huge barrier.Instead, VR needs to be built for people that are busy; for people that are in the middle of comparing one hotel against a dozen competitors. That means it needs to be so easy to use that, if someone clicks on your VR link using mobile, tablet, desktop or VR goggles, they instantly jump into the experience; there should be no barriers. That's how you make a strong first impression." "Can you tell me a little more about the benefits?" I asked.Here are a few of the points he listed:VR content is indexed in a wide variety of ways on Google, which drives up your search engine rankingYou can do PPC ads tied to a single room in your tour. This makes your offers more specificAnd can also use VR to share your surrounding area. This helps sell your location, location, location!So, if you've ever found yourself thinking, "if people just walked around our property, they'd know why we have higher rates - and why we're still a much better value," then this is a good way to give people that experience.You could even say this is the most experiential medium we have.And since the travel industry relies on people buying into experiences, based on first impressions, I think we're just beginning to discover how we can use VR in our marketing to bring prospective guests in for a closer look, answer questions and build trust.And on the internet, where reviews are not always to be believed... and blemishes can easily be photoshopped and cropped out - giving people the unvarnished truth so they can feel confident in their decisions, is, really, some of the best marketing you can do.Which is why I think 'VR experiences' could easily replace 'Rooms' as the highest converting page on a hotel's website in the near future. To see what I mean, check out this VR example at the Wyndham Duisburg.
Article by Pierre Boettner

The Technology You Don't Want to Miss at ITB This Year

hospitalityPulse, Inc. 2 March 2018
Running from March 7th-11th, ITB Berlin is an international, annual tradition featuring the best of the best in new travel technology, guest experience enhancements, networking opportunities and more.For those of you with a vested interest in the technology portion of the trade show, we've rounded up the top 3 technology segments to check out while at ITB Berlin 2018.1. Artificial IntelligenceArtificial Intelligence (AI) has been on our industries' radar for quite some time but only recently has it become a solidified movement in various industries. With tech giants such as Google, Apple, Amazon and more investing in AI, it's not hard to imagine the way in which AI could transform the hospitality industry as it relates to an entirely responsive and customized guest experience.Recently, Personal Assistant technology (Google Mini, Amazon Echo, etc.) has effectively captured the interest of consumers everywhere and are becoming a favorite hotel offering for the modern guest.Of course, it doesn't end with Personal Assistants -- rather, that's just the beginning. Already, Hilton hotels have adopted 'CONNIE' which is able to provide tourist information to those guests who interact with it. It even adapts to the guest as they ask it more questions and CONNIE begins to learn what is important and relevant, thus delivering specific responses that enhance the experience. This technology also extends to AI-based chatbots, which various hotels now have in place to provide personalized service to their guests, anytime and anywhere.Hoteliers have now understood the advantage of AI in their business set-up and the wide range of things that it brings to their tables.Artificial Intelligence is the fourth industrial revolution which is bound to change the entire scene how business is being operated and looked at.2. Augmented RealityOften confused with Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality (AR) uses computer technology to enhance the real-world environment of the participant, in real-time. Instead of replacing reality (with a virtual environment), AR introduces digital components into reality by overlaying information over a live picture of a physical environment.This technology is of particular interest to the hospitality realm, as it allows hotels to enhance the physical environment they are offering to each guest, such as the hotel property, hotel rooms and on-property services and entertainment. Further, the modern hotel guest is continuously in search of information to empower their experience. With the help of AR, hotels can make far more information readily available to customers on a 24/7 basis, which cultivates a more in-depth, customized experience for each guest. We also have to consider the rise of millennial travelers, who are known to value experience over previous generations and favor digital-forward hotels and businesses.3. Hotel Booking InnovationWhen it comes to booking their next stay, guests not only want the online booking process to be easy, mobile-friendly and fast, but they also want to pick the attributes and features of the room they book. This means moving away from the traditional model of manual room assignment upon check-in, in order to provide guests with complete control over the rooms they book. Preferences can include specifics such as selecting a room further away from the elevator, on a high floor, near friends they are traveling with, or with a balcony or specific layout.Modern, cutting-edge online booking technology like the platform that hospitalityPulse has developed, empower hotels to offer their guest complete control throughout the booking process. With the help of these new booking platforms that focus on the room attributes, hotels can entirely personalize the guest experience to let the guests choose what they want and guests are left with the assurance that each stay will meet (and hopefully exceed) their expectations every time.ITB Berlin 2018 is officially only a couple weeks away. Be sure to come see hospitalityPulse at ITB - Hall 8.1, Booth 124a and look at our new INSIGHTS product. INSIGHTS is a free of charge hotel operations BI tool that allows you to keep your finger on the pulse of your operations.
Article by Diego Lowenstein

Going Local - How to Attract Locals to Your Hotel's Restaurant & Why It's Key in Today's Hospitality Landscape

1 March 2018
1. As a hotel owner/developer, why is it important to engage locals as well as travelers?When you own and develop hotels, you're always looking for the "next big thing" that will separate your property from your competitors' properties and bring excitement to the community. This often manifests itself in new restaurant outlets, a singular lobby, and pieces of technology or design updates that 'wow' potential customers. However, updates like this typically only cater to those who stay at the hotel, segmenting off a huge potential market a property can tap in to: locals.When a property engages locals at a high level, it adds a steady stream of revenue that can help the property's bottom line during slower times of year. It also provides a groundswell of support for the hotel from a marketing standpoint. The more locals that have positive interactions with your brand, the more likely you are to receive positive feedback on review sites, which we all know lead to more interest in your property. Having locals patronize a hotel property also translates itself to opportunities for stayover guests to network which is one of the fundamental principles of why people travel in the first place.2. What are a hotelier's best tools to engage locals?Hotels that are seeking to engage locals need to think about what offerings are most likely to bring someone through the door. In Miami, like most cities, that means a happening lounge, luxury spa offerings and unique restaurants. Both of these offer hotel owners and developers an opportunity to capture the attention of a local who is looking for a relaxing day off, a night out on the town, or a place to grab a bite to eat and be seen.How hotel spas draw in locals --and how successful they are--may vary. The Exhale Spa at the Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour in South Florida, for example, offers multiple products for treatment and relaxation of hotel guests. Additionally, the hotel also features specific amenities and classes in aerobics, core training, yoga, fitness and meditation that appeal to residents of the local community as well. Many hotel spas don't do that.This strategy captures not only a traveler who wants a massage, but also a local user who has the potential for higher frequency of use. In Bal Harbour, many nearby residents come in regularly for those classes during the week and then transform into traditional spa clients as well.The F&B offerings at a hotel can be a great tool to attract locals, looking for a completely unique dining experience. Whether hotels bring in celebrity chefs or simply create an unmatched atmosphere that leaves a great impression, locals will talk about it and want to go back. Overall, by putting in the effort to develop places where locals can work, relax, eat, and enjoy their city any time of year, hotels can build in a steady revenue stream they can count on to help boost the bottom line.3. Let's discuss restaurants a bit more -- How big of an impact do celebrity chefs have on the ability to engage locals? On a hotel's bottom line?Today, it seems like more people are interested in the fast-paced restaurant world than ever before. Shows like Top Chef, Master Chef, and Hell's Kitchen have introduced people across the globe to the world of culinary invention and, as a result, the chefs who create the food we eat. Hotels that take advantage of this excitement over food and partner with a celebrity chef or recognized restaurant brand to serve guests are likely to see strong returns on their investment.From a local standpoint, celebrity chefs or local "homegrown" chefs go a long way toward creating the buzz and excitement that restaurants need early on in their lifecycles to stay operational. More than that, though, they give locals the opportunity to get to know the chefs on a regular basis. In other words, they help foster trial and encourage repeat visits because locals want to be a part of the chef's world; they want to learn more about the chef through his or her food. This can have a significant impact on the hotel's bottom line.Case in point, Tatel Miami at the Lionstone Development-owned Ritz-Carlton South Beach, which features former Nobu Executive Chef Nicolas Mazier--and is owned in part by Enrique Iglesias, Pau Gasol, and Rafael Nadal--drew crowds of locals during its first few weeks, including a number of local, regional, and national press, which helped raise the profile of both the restaurant itself and the hotel. Since then, the exquisite, traditional Spanish food and breathtaking design have helped turn the restaurant and bar into a mainstay for local dining and nightlife.4. From a design point of view, what can a hotelier do to make a restaurant space more local-friendly?The goal of any hotel owner or developer looking to engage locals should be to offer a space that encourages gatherings in the manner that best fits the locale. One way to do this is to open up the kitchen and offer seating that overlooks what's happening. This makes the dining experience more exciting and, if you have a celebrity chef, allows locals to feel like they're getting to know the chef a little more every time they visit. We have developed this at our Virgin Chicago property.Another strategy is to add group gather or lounge areas. This could mean a library room where guests sit with friends and play board games or a private social room with dedicated service to make locals and their guests feel like VIPs. Remember, the idea is to provide a space where locals will want to bring friends on a regular basis. Hoteliers need to consider restaurants that move away from cookie-cutter dining options and differentiate themselves with a truly unique offering and experience.5. What other strategies can hoteliers employ to ensure they're offering an F&B experience that will turn locals into regular customers? Anything else to add?Being locally minded in design and approach to food and beverage options is a key strategy to help keep stayover guests who are looking for fresh experiences on-property and attract locals who will champion homegrown talent. Providing catering options that employ this locally-driven mentality to local groups is also a clever way of maintaining engagement and growing revenues. Locals have many options to dine out in restaurants that are standalone, and hotels that create barriers through elevated parking charges and pricing premiums will always be at a disadvantage.The key here is to minimize the pain points and embrace the changes and nuances that need to be provided to locals to get them to periodically visit a hotel restaurant. Not easily done but many in markets across the country have proven that this is totally achievable.Finally, promotional activity is also paramount to maintain locals' engagement with any given hotel restaurant. That means a proper public relations and community outreach strategy needs to be developed and sustained at a property and restaurant level. This will help foster trial and keep the restaurant and property top of mind for locals and traveling visitors, alike.
Article by Alasdair Snow

Embrace the new era of automation

Triptease 28 February 2018
Triptease was founded on a very simple idea. We believe direct is best. We believe the best place to buy a hotel room online is from the hotel itself. When a customer and a hotel transact together, everybody benefits. So, our strategy is simple. We want to shift the world to direct by dramatically improving the guest experience for direct bookers.Automation has been an obvious tactic for us, both because of the benefits it can bring to the guest but also because of the weight it can lift from the shoulders of already over-encumbered hoteliers. So let's talk about what automation means.Automation is nothing newA lot of the time when we think about automation we think about robots, like Boston Dynamics' SpotMini robot dog. It's undeniably a little unnerving to see a robot dog turning a handle and opening the door. These machines have learned to navigate their environment. They've worked out how to do it themselves - and for me, the really scary thing is that they're working as a team! There's a huge fear of the unknown that arrives whenever we see something like this. Where will it lead us?Let's look back at automation through history before we get too caught up in our existential dread.Automation is nothing new, and it's definitely not all about robots. Indeed, automation is arguably what makes us fundamentally human. Technical progress has been nothing if not a steady march of automating increasingly complex repetitive tasks. Rather than ripping our hands to shreds trying to do everything ourselves, we have always worked to delegate that burden to technology. As humans we're constantly looking to drive efficiency to free up our time to do other things. Automation is the drumbeat of human progress.But, just like the knee-jerk jolt of unease most of us get when we watch those clever robot dogs opening a door, there has always been a fear of automation. Think of the Luddites. In case you haven't been brushing up on your history recently, the Luddites were highly-skilled artisanal cloth weavers in the early 19th century. They were particularly upset about the mechanization of the loom and how it enabled unskilled laborers to manufacture cloth. So, they smashed the looms. As a result, 'Luddite' has become a byword for people who aren't too happy about technological advancement. In the 21st century, their place has been taken in part by headline writers:The fears on display here - of losing jobs, of being ruled by the machines - echo those felt by many at the advent of the Industrial Revolution. The rate of automation indeed exploded in the 19th century, but it didn't destroy economic employment. It raised the level of economic activity, creating more wealth, more demand, and more jobs. New technology does not lead to higher overall employment in the economy. Rather than destroying jobs, it changes the composition of the economy itself. In fact, 85% of jobs the next generation will do haven't been invented yet.This new era is driven by exponential technical growthSo, automation is nothing new - but we're definitely entering a new era. In 2017 Ke Jie of China, the number one Go player in the world, was vanquished 3-0 by AlphaGo Master, developed by Google Deepmind. Go is an ancient abstract strategy board game, thought of by many as the most complex in the world. It has been around for millennia, but AlphaGo Master was deploying tactics and strategies that Ke Jie couldn't have dreamed of. Ke Jie's post-match comments after the match highlight the extent to which AlphaGo Master was operating on a different plane:"To me it's like a god of Go. A god that can crush all that defies it [...] AlphaGo can see the whole universe of Go. I can only see a small area around me."This really speaks to the new agenda of automation driven by exponential technical growth. We have taught machines to do repetitive processes on our behalf - check in guests, check disparities. Now we can teach machines to identify repetitive processes and create novel solutions to them all by themselves.This is machine learning. Rather than teaching a machine how to do something, we give it a problem and it works out how to do it by itself. Above you can see Google Deepmind's AI teaching itself to walk. It's been given a basic anatomy, limbs, the ability to move and set an objective, get from point A to point B. From that, it's worked out how to walk, jump balance, handle gravity... it doesn't look much like you or I, but it gets the job done.What's enabled this is massive exponential growth in computing power? Intel's co-founder Gordon Moore observed just over 50 years ago that the number of components in an integrated circuit doubled every year, and projected the same pattern to continue - and he was right. The growth of computing power has not been linear but an extraordinary exponential curve.It's very important to understand exponential growth. It moves very fast, and shoots up in a way that can feel sudden and unexpected. You might have heard that if you take 30 steps, you'll travel around 30 metres. But if you take 30 exponential steps, you'll go to the moon.We can see this pace of growth across lots of areas: the ability for machines to recognise images, understand speech, and perform natural language processing is advancing at a phenomenal rate. Most importantly, the companies that are advancing these abilities are sharing their technology and research - Google with their Vision API, IBM with Watson. They've all learned that there's lots more to be gained by making this stuff publicly available than by keeping it behind closed doors.In previous rounds of automation, the machines replaced our muscle power. This time they're replacing our cognitive abilities - and are doing so in a way that we can't even come close to competing with.Luxury experiences will be within reach of everyoneI started by saying that this new phase of automation would bring luxury experiences within the reach of almost all hoteliers and guests. I want to talk about some specific applications of this form of automation that could have an enormous impact on the quality of guest experience.What distinguishes a 5-star hotel from a 3-star? A great deal of it is to do with the luxury of a meaningful relationship between hotelier and guest, where the hotelier knows who the guest is and what they like, and can tailor their experience to them personally.Automation can help us do that in a totally new way. Machine learning can be applied to innocuous data points and turn them into rich, meaningful guest profiles, giving an in-depth insight far greater than could ever be achieved at the check-in desk. Just a couple of pieces of information - time of booking, search parameters, location - would be enough for a trained machine to compare one guest against the thousands of others it has learned from, then construct a fully fleshed-out guest profile from your hitherto anonymous online booking. Then, it's up to you what you do with it. It could be used to optimize marketing automation tools, or hotel staff could use it to enrich the in-stay experience.Knowing your guests in detail means you can start to tailor their experience perfectly to their needs. At Triptease, we help hotels think about how to send relevant and attentive content to guests to help them navigate their site and make a direct booking. Something I've personally spent time thinking about is how websites might adapt their content to convey the most relevant information to each individual guest. So, rather than having three preset content 'buckets' that you put guests in, you have content that is dynamically reformulating according to the needs and characteristics of each specific visitor. Generative neural networks could be used to create this personalised content - they already are elsewhere. Wordsmith by Automated Insights is being used by the Associated Press to write quarterly earnings reports, business news articles and sports reports.Luxury is about tailoring the experience, but it's also about listening attentively and giving each guest one-on-one attention. With Natural Language Processing, this is possible. Machines can parse meaning from human speech and formulate an appropriate response. A digital assistant at your hotel could talk to all of your guests simultaneously: the luxury experience at scale.Auto-AgentA key part of the Triptease platform is our live chat, Front Desk. The purpose of Front Desk is to extend the hospitality experience to people browsing your website. It's about bringing hospitality online. We know that a lot of potential guests run into trouble or have questions before making a booking. Front Desk allows the hotel to field those enquiries and facilitate a direct booking.We're now bringing our learnings from Front Desk together with a lot of the technology I've discussed above. Introducing: Auto-Agent.Auto-Agent analyzes guest requests and sends informative replies. Through automation we can deliver the kind of exceptional online service that customers expect but can only be achieved with significant cost of training and staff. So, it's great for the hotel. Machines don't sleep. They don't get tired. They don't get cranky. They don't become irrational. They don't need a pay rise.It's also great for the guests. As consumers, we've grown accustomed to always-on, real-time messaging experiences, but most hotels are still struggling to cater to that demand. We know first-hand how important getting this right is to hoteliers. The story is there in the numbers: we see a big initial jump in online conversion rate when hotels begin to manage chats via Front Desk. But the jump is bigger still when the bot works with the human to handle all enquiries. Why? Well, it gets back to the guest straight away. Politeness is programmed in. And, ultimately, we're teaching it to understand what questions to ask and how to steer the guest towards making a direct booking.Cognitive automation frees up staff for richer guest engagementI'm not preaching the advent of general artificial intelligence, or that the machines will put us all out of our jobs. The near-term consequence of this sort of automation is that staff will be freed to develop even deeper relationships with guests.At this point, it's worth noting Moravec's paradox. Hans Moravec was part of a team of AI researchers in the 1980s whose essential conclusion was, contrary to traditional assumptions, 'hard' tasks require little computation whilst 'easy' tasks require an enormous amount. Moravec wrote: "it is comparatively easy to make computers exhibit adult level performance on intelligence tests or playing checkers, and difficult or impossible to give them the skills of a one-year-old when it comes to perception and mobility."What does this mean? Machines are limited. Intelligence is very narrow, and handling sensory inputs is really hard. AlphaGo Master can play Go better than you, but it couldn't help a child tie their shoelaces. A bot can easily field questions about your breakfast menu, but it couldn't judge the respective moods and needs of a family arriving at a hotel.It's still very difficult for computers to navigate this messy and complex world - but they can navigate certain tasks far better than a human ever could. Let them do the hard stuff and use the time you reclaim to attend to more complex guest needs. Those Associated Press journalists having their articles written by Wordsmith aren't out of work - they're just no longer churning out corporate earnings stories, and have moved onto meatier big-picture articles. The reception staff at CitizenM aren't job hunting as a result of automated check-in desks; they now make coffees for people arriving and chat to them about the local area.The next wave of automation will deliver incredible guest experiences at very low cost. This is the era of bringing hospitality online.
Article by Harvery Norman

Drive Customer Satisfaction and Direct Bookings with Artificial Intelligence

HospitalityTechGuru 28 February 2018
The use of artificial intelligence for optimizing both guest experience and hotel processes is a popular trend that many industries began to adopt in 2017. But this year AI will dominate the market, especially in the hospitality scene.According to Hotel Management recommendations, it's important to start preparing and developing an AI strategy to take effective action toward more personalized customer care. After all, it's in the best interest of both clients and hotels, since Kalibri Labs' analysis shows that direct bookings or bookings via official hotel websites bring higher profitability for at least 9%.Why Direct Bookings Matter?Hospitality is a business in service of the people. Introducing a third-party for collaboration and communication between clients and a hotel can only lead to misunderstandings that could damage the hotel's reputation.By choosing to induce direct bookings, the hospitality business chooses to better understand its clients and enhance the customer service, as well as to:Encourage repeat visitsProvide more information and options to target customersIncrease customer loyaltyReduce service costsImprove brand valueAmplify the quality of service via mobile-led customer experienceWhat is Hotel Booking Software?A hotel artificial intelligence software is a reservation system that hotels implement for processing secure online reservations made directly on the official hotel's website or through hotel ads, campaigns, etc. The special benefit is that the system can be synced with Facebook as well, so that you can provide guests the convenience of reserving rooms via social media accounts. The hotel booking software is an ideal tool for small hotel managers who want to grow the business and increase their bookings. However, the majority of large hotel establishments use it as well, to sell rooms to capacity and to appeal to a worldwide audience. In addition to direct bookings online and through social media, the system is also able to provide additional resources to customers such as high-operating hotel representatives.How Can Hotel Automation Software Boost Direct Bookings?There are a couple of efficient ways the hotel automation system can help to maximize direct bookings. Among many software perks, you can take advantage of:The Ideal Booking Solution. Many hoteliers miss out on the booking opportunities when real-time booking is not available. However, the hotel automation software allows you to verify the availability and rate of the hotel room(s) for a particulate date. In other words, customers can immediately book available rooms and you don't have to lose booking opportunities ever again.Flexibility. Thanks to the booking engine, clients can search, select, book, and arrange the payment process within minutes, while the system automatically sends the booking confirmation to users.24/7 Availability. The software reservations are available to customers around the clock. This increases the booking chances and assures clients that the hotel is always at their service.Elimination of human errors. Third-party service providers and traditional booking processes can lead to booking cancellations and customer dissatisfaction, due to unforeseen errors with reservations. But with the use of hotel AI software, the guests can examine all reservation details before the checkout, making the bookings more accurate and free of human errors.Commission-free tool. Another advantage of automated direct bookings is that there are no commission fees. In addition, hotel managers get full control of their pricing.Reduction of employee efforts. Since the web booking program is linked with the PMS system, the whole booking process is automated and doesn't require any staff efforts. Plus, this means that there is no room for double bookings or similar issues to arise.Customer data. The software collects and holds an array of customer information that hotels can use to optimize their marketing campaigns. With an in-depth insight into your clients' personal information, you can create more personalized and alluring offers, thus increasing the rate of bookings and lead conversion.Tying Direct Booking with Pop-Ups. Once on a hotel's website, potential guests can be alerted via pop-ups about the cheaper rates and affordable booking opportunities. This is a powerful attention-grabbing tool that helps to further increase the number of direct bookings.Website Incentives. Along with the pop-up, you can offer incentives for direct booking, such as room upgrades, free room service and more, to boost the chances of someone booking a room.Mobile Bookings. The hotel booking engine also allows mobile optimization for direct booking via smartphones. This is yet another benefit for hotels, considering that the majority of the population uses mobile or tablet devices for booking their travel accommodations today.Adopting hotel booking software means investing in customer satisfaction and your brand's development. While the customers get to enjoy the convenience of 24/7 fast and easy booking arrangements, small hotels can gain the much-needed competitive edge.All in all, this system improves the efficiency, reputation, and quality of service, which is why it will soon become the industry standard and a must-have tool for growing hospitality businesses.

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