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  • Next Event

    HITEC EUROPE 2019

    Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference

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

  • Upcoming Event

    HITEC MINNEAPOLIS

    Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference

    Minneapolis Convention Center

    June 17-20, 2019

Hopefully Marriott's breach marks a turning point

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

Tech-free moments in hotels: Reconnect to disconnect

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

Will Marriott data breach herald the death of personalization?

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

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

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

Predictions for Hospitality Tech in 2019

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

Personalization & Experiences: The Travel Industry in 2018

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

Do Your Customers Trust You This Much?

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

HITEC Dubai 2018 Highlights: FX1 launch, humanoid robots, AI, VR, and more

IDS Softwares 19 December 2018
The 2nd annual HITEC Dubai, now the world's largest hospitality technology exposition and conference brand, recently came to a close on December 6th. This year's showcase garnered a great deal of anticipation from hospitality leaders, as the Middle East is fast becoming a favorite tourist destination to MICE and shopping travelers given its investment in airports and infrastructure and interest in hosting large-scale events. Dubai is expected to have 155,000 new rooms by 2020, with a further 10,000 plus rooms that need to undergo refurbishment prior to the Expo 2020 event. With Dubai being leveraged as a hotspot for massive industry growth and evolution, HITEC Dubai was created to provide Middle East buyers with access to top hospitality solution providers across the globe. Throughout the two-day expo, participants were expected to engage in a top-notch education program and witness the exciting debut of the latest (and greatest) in hospitality technology. Not only that but for the first time in Dubai, HFTP's expanding Entrepreneur20X (E20X) competition was introduced to give startups the opportunity to present their breakthrough business concepts to the industry. This year's show recorded more than double the number of attendees along with the debut of many new prominent exhibitors. And of course, all of this comes just in time for 2018 to come to a close, providing hoteliers with the tools they need to truly empower their infrastructure for 2019. So, what did you miss at HITEC Dubai this year? We've included some of the highlights below: IDS FX1 Launch IDS was especially thrilled to have the opportunity to showcase our intelligent, cloud-based hotel platform, FX1, which offers chain and independent hotels an integrated solution that operates across front office, housekeeping, incident management, CRS and POS modules. Not only that, but it offers an open API to ensure seamless integration with various applications across a hotel's operational structure. This is the world's first 'intelligent hotel platform,' and HITEC represented the perfect opportunity to extend reach across the region and support the rapid growth which Dubai's hospitality industry is currently experience. With the platform also offering access to 24/7 support (backed by a comprehensive, 365 days/year support center), hoteliers can trust in true, anytime availability as they become familiar with the platform and the ways in which it can enhance their offering. Binu Matthews, IDS CEO, looks fondly on the HITEC launch, "We had a great launch with FX1 with a great deal of interest coming in from both chains and groups. Seeing how well our enterprise cloud and mobile solutions were received by industry leaders, we are excited to continue this momentum into 2019." GBM and IBM Introducing VR and AI Solutions Not only that, but Gulf Business Machines, known as the number one provider of IT solutions, showcased their partnership with IBM as they look to break into the hospitality realm with VR and Watson based AI solutions. GBM has built much of their success on leveraging industry-leading technologies to drive real business results for clients, so witnessing their vested interest to branch into hospitality with emerging technology is truly exciting. A New MC: Promobot Over the course of the two-day expo, regional and international case studies were featured in tandem with panel discussions and demonstrations from 70+ other solution and service providers. Amidst all the industry interest surrounding the widespread emergence and exploration of artificial technology (AI), an intelligent humanoid robot named Promobot was even given the unique opportunity to take center stage. With Promobot leading the proceedings, it's no surprise that AI-powered robots and their impact on hotels were a major discussion point throughout the conference. Throughout each demonstration, it became clear that robots represent a cost-effective, future-friendly opportunity to use sophisticated technology to enhance the guest experience across all touch-points. In fact, a report released by McKinsey & Company recently suggested that by 2030, as many as 800 million workers globally could be replaced by robots. But, don't be mistaken, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF), robots in the workplace could create double the jobs they destroy (133 million jobs created, to be exact). Hospitality CRM on Dynamic Platforms We are also witnessing the rise in Hospitality CRM hosted on Dynamic Platforms, with the help of Microsoft. These platforms are promised to provide a solid foundation that helps to address industry-wide requirements and pain points, while effectively streaming hotel operations. This will help hoteliers to automate sales, enhance marketing and customer care processes, and implement their CRM strategy on a more reliable and robust platform. With Dubai representing a global hub of innovation and technology development (especially with the implementation of large-scale conferences such as HITEC), it becomes especially important to utilize the power of disruptive technology with strong partnerships, such as GBM and IBM. With big players investing their resources into the curation of an enhanced guest experience, through means of AI, VR, intelligent PMS/CMS and more, the future of global hospitality has never looked better.
Article by Adam Hoydysh

The ROI of Exceeding Guest Expectations

Plum 18 December 2018
The answer is, indisputably, yes.Any hotel that understands the ever-increasing importance of guest satisfaction, can easily recognize the ways in which a more seamless and personalized offering is becoming paramount across the hospitality landscape. Why? Because if you aren't meeting (or ideally, exceeding) guest expectations, you aren't attracting guests or establishing long-term guest loyalty. And if you aren't creating a community of loyal guests, well... another property will.In a recent whitepaper published by Deloitte, it was noted that "In order to win and retain guest preference, hotels should be more thoughtful about how people and technology, powered by insights, weave together to deliver authentic hospitality." After all, building long-term, guest loyalty is an on-going investment, one which can be supported across various touch-points of the hospitality experience.So, let's take this understanding a step beyond guest check-in and operational technology, all the way into the hotel room of each guest. How can hotels affirm their dedication to a more modern, personalized experience with the provision of non-essential, luxury items and in-room services?Guest Relations Manager at The Thief Hotel, Dominic Gorham, explains, "I believe the future of service will be based in informality. It has to be more relaxed, more instantaneous." In fact, today's concept of luxury has evolved in tandem with industry shifts in guest expectations. Moving beyond the high thread-count sheets and impeccable rooms with sprawling design and amenities, modern luxury focuses more on the complete guest experience and provision of instant gratification. And while the cornerstones of 'luxury travel' will remain, the marriage of traditional service and new-age technology allows for a leaner, more accessible version of modern luxury. Because guests today aren't just looking for a bed to sleep in; rather, they crave an experience that allows them to indulge and feel catered to both on and off property.This can be achieved through luxury service staples, as well as the basic amenities. After all, guests expect hotel properties to meet their expectations with luxury upgrades, but if you exceed their expectations on the non-essentials too, demonstrating that you've truly considered every aspect of their stay, they'll surely take notice.Ultimately, non-essential luxury and in-room services represent a wealth of opportunity for hotels to go above and beyond for their guests, which is the true competitive differentiator in today's landscape. This can include a number of amenities and considerations such as free, in-room WiFi, a Smart TV with Netflix etc., extra chargers, in-room Nespresso, a built-in iPad control for lights/temperatures and, our personal favourite, in-room by-the-glass wine. After a hectic day of travel, work or sightseeing, many guests may prefer a low-touch, self-service model that allows them seamless, instant gratification and luxury.Virtualizing an amenity, such as by-the-glass wine, allows hotels to not only significantly reduce labor costs, but appeal to an instantaneous, low-touch service model for each guest. Forget waiting around for room service to serve up a cling-wrapped glass of wine after a 20 minute delay and added surcharges, or scrambling around in the hotel minibar. Instead, hotels can offer each guest an automatic, perfectly preserved and chilled glass of wine on demand. The in-room appliance uses cloud software to automatically track and bill guests, while also alerting housekeeping when it is time to replace an empty bottle. This not only represents a unique and modern offering to hotels of various sizes, but caters to the modern guests' evolving demand for convenience across every touchpoint of their stay.And in case you're not entirely convinced that the inclusion of luxury, non-essential amenities and services will provide your property with the ROI of an enhanced customer experience, consider this:A 2014 study of the Value of Customer Experience amongst two $1 billion+ businesses published in Harvard Business Review (HBR) managed to quantify the effects of good customer experience. The researchers found that "after controlling for other factors that drive repeat purchases in the transaction-based business (for example, how often the customer needs the type of goods and services that the company sells), customers who had the best past experiences spend 140% more compared to those who had the poorest past experience". And considering that 68% of the customers change brands/providers due to poor customer service, the argument for the prioritization of customer service becomes undeniable.So, ask yourself -- are you ready to invest in an enhanced guest experience that paves the way for the long-term ROI of happy, loyal guests? If so, we can help. Click here to learn more.
Article by Kevin Duncan

What the Changing Distribution Landscape Means for Hotels in 2019

The Rainmaker Group 18 December 2018
Changing Travel Shoppers = Changing Distribution Players Guest paths to purchase are changing as customer demographics transition from Baby Boomers to Millennials. On the plus side, travel is showing itself to be a top priority with Millennial families driving that growth.1 And with regard to loyalty, a Deloitte study, "Winning the Race for Guest Loyalty,"2 found that Millennials will pay a higher rate per night and travel up to 15 minutes out of their way to patronize their preferred brands. In addition, these "digital natives" value mobile capabilities and unique, exclusive experiences - a travel mindset which has expanded into older generations as well.This changing audience behavior has led to seismic shifts among the major distribution players. For instance, the rise of the experiential travel trend has led to the growing demand we see today for alternative accommodations through sites like VRBO and Airbnb. In 2017, more than 330 million people searched the Airbnb website3 for accommodations. This is leading B&Bs, independent, and boutique hotels to take advantage of Airbnb's marketing power, showcasing their properties on the platform for fees that are significantly lower than most online travel agency (OTA) commissions. Changes like these require hotel managers to view their business from new angles and necessitates taking a fresh approach to their distribution strategy. Let's take a closer look at key factors affecting the distribution landscape and how those factors impact hotels.FACTORS IMPACTING DISTRIBUTION Group BusinessAfter experiencing a downturn in the wake of the Great Recession, recent data shows group demand is on the rise,4 with Millennials accounting for the largest segment of business travelers.5 Savvy hoteliers are capitalizing on this growth by implementing group sales enablement tools that allow them to more efficiently prioritize requests for proposals (RFPs) and respond quickly with instant, optimal pricing on group bids. This enables group sales teams to optimize revenues by applying the same RM principles for groups as their revenue teams do for transient and leisure business. Another factor to consider with regard to groups and distribution is the trend toward "bleisure,"6 - with more than half of Millennial travelers combining business trips with leisure travel.Reputation Management Online reputation management has emerged as a way for hotels to both increase bookings and foster customer loyalty. Approximately 65 percent of consumers check online reviews7 before making a purchase. And with 3.2 billion global users, social media has become paramount for obtaining positive and negative feedback from guests. One study reported in Harvard Business Review8 showed that when hotels thoughtfully respond to reviews - both positive and negative - they actually receive more reviews and their overall ratings increase.Beyond Facebook & Twitter In addition, social media is being harnessed to build effective brand recall, with 97 percent of Millennials posting while traveling,9 and 75 percent posting at least once per day. Many hotels understand the value of being active on Facebook and Twitter, but are less aware of the importance of including Instagram in their social media marketing plan. The Facebook-owned social network has grown exponentially over the past few years and now has more than 1 billion active monthly users. Furthermore, U.S. consumers rank Instagram10 as among the most influential platforms for travel advertising (along with YouTube and Snapchat).THE TRANSFORMATION OF SEARCHAlthough social media continues to be an important factor with regard to your distribution strategy, search engines have actually overtaken social media11 as the top referrer of traffic to content sites. Nearly half of U.S. travelers begin trip planning via a search engine, with Google ranking first12 for obtaining information and pricing. As a result, hoteliers who master the nuances of SEO keywords and Google AdWords campaigns will achieve more direct bookings.MetasearchMetasearch engines began mushrooming not long after OTAs entered the distribution game, and they now account for 45 percent of global unique visitors13 in travel. They're popular with travelers due to their comparative rate model. And hotels appreciate their ability to nab the top spots in search engine results, driving direct and indirect bookings. In addition, metasearch advertising is largely based on a pay-per-click (PPC) model, so hotels with tighter budgets eliminate high OTA commissions, only paying for their hosted ad when someone clicks on it.VideoAn important development for hotels to consider with regard to search, is the increased use of video to generate bookings. Hospitality has historically been a great vertical for visual content, and by 2021, 80 percent of all Internet traffic is projected to be video.14 Travel content is extremely popular on YouTube and 67 percent of hotel bookings are more likely to occur when you have a video tour. Moreover, of the Internet shoppers who view your video, an astonishing 89 percent are more likely to book.15Voice We're also seeing steady growth in voice search, with ComScore estimating that more than half of searches will be voice based by 2020. This significant change in search behavior has huge implications for hotels, particularly with regard to SEO strategy. While a search query typed into a browser delivers the travel shopper hundreds of pages of search results, voice searches through virtual assistant technology such as Siri and Alexa deliver far fewer results, sometimes only one.INNOVATIONS IN TECHNOLOGYMobile While most hotel bookings still occur on desktop computers, mobile is catching up. The number of smartphone subscriptions is forecasted to reach 7.2 billion by 2023,16 making the ubiquity of mobile undeniable. A study from HotelsCombined revealed that hotel bookings on mobile devices increased 67 percent in the U.S. between 2015 and 2016. This, combined with the facts that Google is beginning to prioritize mobile-first indexing, and mobile apps are Millennials' preferred method of interacting with brands,17 means that it's becoming essential for hotels to provide an app or have a mobile website that accommodates these on-the-go travel shoppers. Even further, last-minute hotel bookings are on the rise and up to 80 percent of those are now made on mobile.18Artificial IntelligenceArtificial intelligence (AI), is impacting hospitality technology from revenue management solutions to AI chatbots, which have proven themselves effective in boosting direct bookings. Hotels benefit from a chatbot's ability to provide an efficient 24/7 concierge at a fraction of the cost of a standard support team. And a HubSpot survey suggests that many consumers enjoy communicating with chatbots because of their ability to respond instantly.BlockchainAlthough still in a relatively nascent stage, blockchain technology is poised to become an effective medium for hotel distribution. The technology is making OTAs nervous because it eliminates third-party costs and commissions, encouraging direct provider-to-consumer interaction.19 As an example, the blockchain company, Lockchain, provides a platform where customers can book rooms directly with hotels using any currency they like for a minimal fee of 1 to 3 percent. Or they can book using Lockchain's special "LOC token" and pay no booking fee at all.The ultimate takeaway from all these developments, is that in order for your business to thrive in 2019, you must not become complacent. You should continue engaging in established channels but consider investing in fresh approaches such as creating visual content and becoming active on Instagram. And it's no longer a question of whether or not to adopt technology, but rather what technology to adopt. Be vigilant concerning new developments in the distribution landscape - consider the costs and returns expected from each - and get a firm grasp of each catalyst. Then craft a sophisticated approach in your distribution strategy, one that effectively drives occupancy, engagement, and revenue.
Article by Mark Lewis-Brown

The GDS=Good, Darn Sense

Vertical Booking USA 18 December 2018
Today, hoteliers spend most of their time trying to 'beat the OTAs' by focusing primarily on increasing their direct bookings; that's a fantastic tactic BUT it's not the only one that you should be using to boost your property's occupancy, ADR and RevPAR, while cutting the cost of acquisition.Here's a throwback for you - remember the GDS? In recent years, has your property been using it to bring in high-value, corporate guests or other guests who decide to book with travel agents?Or have you put it aside as, yet another, time-consuming task that won't yield as much as revenue as the online channel?If you're most hoteliers - especially those at small, independent properties with a small revenue management team - your answer would most likely be the latter.Are you guys fans of Michael J. Fox? (Who isn't... am I right?) If so, you'll love this article because I'm going to bring the GDS Back to the Future! While it has been overlooked by many hoteliers, the GDS is still a very viable booking channel - and one that you should reintegrate into your revenue management strategy today!Here's why the GDS just makes Good, Darn Sense as a new/old distribution channel:It's not old-school; it's a classicAbout 15 years ago, when the OTAs were gaining steam and consumers were jumping onboard the online train, headed west (or east, or north, or south), most hoteliers decided to throw their eggs (rooms) into one basket (channel) and put the tried-and-true methods (the GDS) on the back-burner when they experienced the success of the online channel. And, yes, I know that this played out during a recession when tourism was tanking and, because of the OTAs, many properties survived that very difficult time. That being said, the online channel wasn't a saving grace for all segments of the industry; as its popularity grew, the need for travel agents (and the GDS) plummeted, leaving many (formerly) successful travel agents without jobs. Fast forward, 15 years...The use of travel agents is, once again, on the rise - in fact, 2018 was actually nicknamed the "Year of the Travel Agent" by some - as they are now highly valued for their expertise and prized on their ability to build complex, multi-stop itineraries quickly, affordably and with little fuss. They also appeal to the luxury segment of travelers, who want to the best possible experience and are happy to pay a little bit more to make sure it happens.Did you know that, in 2016, GDS bookings were outpacing direct bookings? Seems crazy, but it's true: "hotels' direct bookings increased by 0.8%, whereas the GDS channel increased by 1.3 % during the same period, a rate that is 60% greater."Lower cost of acquisition than typically paid to the OTAsBlame in on the long-term effects of sky-high OTA commissions rates, but it seems like hoteliers today balk at the mere mention of a fee or commission on a booking; taking home anything less than 100% of the revenue from each booking has become unacceptable, so I can understand why many hoteliers are automatically disinterested in travel agents and GDS, simply because there is a fee associated with obtaining bookings through that channel.I totally understand that feeling; after years and years of giving away huge chunks of revenue for each booking, I'd probably feel the same way. But, do you remember that saying: "That's like cutting off your nose to spite your face"? Well, that's exactly what hoteliers are doing when they eliminate effective distribution channels just because they have a cost of acquisition, based on principle alone.Yes, fees suck... we all hate them; however, "hotels pay a fee of about 20 percent on a booking when they sell a room on a global distribution platform," so, on average, it is a much smaller percentage than what most hotels pay in commissions to the top OTAs.If you're like most hoteliers, even though you'll gripe and grumble about the OTAs all day long, you still use them - and pay the high commission rates that the top sites charge - because you know it works. The same applies to the GDS.With the GDS, you have the opportunity to sell your rooms in bulk (hello, corporate bookings!) and, via travel agents, your property will have visibility to even more potential guests. Win/win! Mo' GDS, Mo' MoneyThe cost of acquisition of a booking from the GDS/travel agents is lower (than the OTAs) AND it gives your property visibility to a whole new segment of travelers: corporate and/or luxury travelers. Unlike leisure travelers (many of whom book based primarily on price), corporate travelers are less concerned about the rate, and instead are more likely to choose a hotel based on the location, business amenities available onsite, etc. than on price. In addition, business travelers typically spend more money on-site (on food and beverage, etc.) per stay than leisure travelers (hurray for expense accounts!), increasing ancillary revenue earned from their stay as well.Unlike the OTAs (where you're just throwing 30% of your revenue out the window), you are more likely to break-even on GDS bookings because the higher room rates PLUS the ancillary revenues earned from business travelers will often offset the fees/commissions paid to obtain the booking.As you can see, there are lots (three... at least!) of reasons that the GDS is, once again, a viable distribution channel for your property - no matter your property type, your location or your star rating - so adding the GDS back into your property's distribution strategy today, just makes...Good, Darn Sense. Will we see your property on the GDS in the coming weeks/months? Let us know your thoughts at info@verticalbookingusa.com.
Article by Tracy Oppenheimer

The Travel and Hospitality Bot Renaissance

Helpshift 17 December 2018
When considering how traveler preferences for planning have evolved alongside technology, chatbots are the logical next step.Travelers used to rely on travel agents. Nowadays, most prefer to plan their trips on their own thanks to the online capabilities and booking sites that make it so easy to do so. Chatbots facilitate self-service but make the experience even more convenient and conversational. It's the best of both worlds.Quite a few travel and hospitality brands rely on chatbots to keep their customers close and engaged. Many help travelers navigate their websites, FAQs or plan their next trip. Some allow travelers to make travel arrangements through Facebook Messenger or give customers better, faster customer service options around the clock.But other travel and hospitality brands are taking bots to the next level.Here are some of the ways that travel and hospitality brands are ushering in the new era of chatbots -- from the traditional, to the novel, to the truly outrageous.The TraditionalistsExpedia was an early adopter of chatbot technology. In 2016, the travel booking site launched three different chatbot channels: a chatbot for Skype that travelers could use to find and book hotel rooms, manage reservations, or confirm and cancel flights and hotels; a new "skill" for Amazon Alexa that travelers could use to retrieve details about their itineraries; and a Facebook chatbot that travelers could use to browse and book hotel rooms.Scott Crawford, Expedia's vice president of product management, has high hopes for chatbot technology, "Online travel agents democratized travel 20 years ago [but] one could argue that the paradigm of booking a holiday online hasn't evolved in huge leaps since then," he wrote. "Chatbots represent the next seismic shift that will evolve not only the travel booking process but also the customer service experience for decades to come."Many other travel and hospitality brands seem to agree with him.Kayak also has a Facebook Messenger chatbot that offers travelers a wealth of information about flights, rental cars, hotels and activities. It also keeps them updated on future travel plans and travel opportunities specific to their budget -- a signature Kayak offering.Amtrak's virtual assistant Julie can help with booking reservations, navigating the Amtrak website and providing information about train stations. While she doesn't fill out travel information for travelers, she can advise them on how to do it correctly.And Booking.com has a support chatbot -- the Booking Assistant -- that uses artificial intelligence to help customers self-serve by answering questions on payment, date changes, transportation, pet policies and internet availability. As of last year, the Booking Assistant was handling about a third of customer inquiries -- in under five minutes per inquiry.As explained by James Waters, Booking.com's global director of customer service in Travel Weekly: "AI is not about replacing human interaction, but is instead a vehicle to facilitate an even more personalized, instantaneously gratifying and frictionless travel experience for consumers."In a recent interview with CRM Exchange, Helpshift CEO Linda Crawford commented on how the travel industry can use bots to better both the customer experience and brand operations."Artificial intelligence is in a unique position to promote a better customer support experience that also comes at a lower cost," Crawford said. "Chatbots make customer support processes more efficient and streamlined, allowing more bandwidth for human-provided high-touch assistance when necessary. Using bots in this scenario will enable consumers to get instant answers. The next phase of customer service is proactive -- not passive or reactive and brands who want to stay ahead of the competition should take this to heart."The NovelThe Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas launched a chatbot concierge named Rose, with the hope that Rose would convert guests into direct customers. When guests check in, they're given Rose's phone number and invited to text her with questions. Rose can help with everything from pizza at 3 a.m. to requests for fresh towels. She also comes loaded with a bunch of restaurant and entertainment recommendations -- plus a dose of wit and a sense of humor.As Travel + Leisure reports, "In addition to providing restaurant and bar recommendations, Rose can also play games with you, such as 'Kiss Marry Diss,' 'Would You Rather' or 'Two Truths and a Lie,' or take you on a tour of the hotel's art collection."Two years later, she's paying dividends: Rose's mission was to transition guests into direct customers. Since introducing Rose, 43 percent of Cosmopolitan guests who interact with her and return to the hotel do, in fact, book direct.Like Rose, but housed in a physical robot, Hilton's "Connie" is a concierge, with the ability to inform guests about nearby places of interest. Connie "is about as personable as a robot can get, able to provide travelers with as much information as they require," reports Social Tables. "It can even help to plan excursions."But JetBlue founder David Neeleman took things to a whole new level when he recently announced plans to launch an "app-powered airline" that will rely on chatbots to replace human support agents for all but a handful of high-level inquiries."The real innovation here is more flexible and powerful processes," wrote Dave Michels in NoJitter. "Most interactions with airlines are self-inflicted. Moxy will proactively reschedule customers as a result of cancellations. Customers can accept the new schedule within the app without ever speaking to anyone. Clearly, Neeleman intends to rethink the workflow, and that likely means lots of AI and, yes, chatbots."The Truly OutrageousJapan's Henn Na Hotel, which claims to be "the world's first hotel staffed by robots," has truly thought "outside the bot," if you will.Visitors to the Henn Na Hotel are greeted by a velociraptor and an android but, conspicuously, no humans. Check in happens on a touchscreen and guest rooms are unlocked by face recognition. Inside the room, another robot controls the heating and lighting. If requested, it can also provide a weather forecast or sing. This walks the line between what is practical and useful, and what will lead to the dystopian AI future we all are taught to fear in the movies.The Guardian's Monisha Rajesh visited the Henn Na and found that, while the property itself was beautiful and the robots were amusing, the hotel seemed to be more about novelty than creating a better experience for the customer. "Henn-na, said to be the world's first hotel run by robots, turns out to need a surprising amount of human intervention -- except where you would most like it," she wrote, concluding "Robots may be the future, but for hotel hospitality, you still can't beat the human touch."So as long as brands don't treat chatbots as the experience itself but instead as a means to improving it -- both throughout the booking process and during the stay -- chatbots will continue to add massive value for the travel industry.
Article by Linchi Kwok

Something to look forward to in 2019

CAL Poly Pomona 17 December 2018
The holiday season is around the corner. It is a good time for us to review the major events discussed in 2018. A quick overview will very likely inform us what we can expect in 2019.Airbnb: Into which market will it expand in 2019? This year marked the 10th birthday of the company. I wrote 24 commentary articles (excluding this one) in 2018 about the industry updates and trends, among which six (or 25%) was about Airbnb.Looking forward, Airbnb and hotels will fight in a bigger battleground in 2019. On one hand, more hotels, including Marriott, have entered the short-term residential rental market. On the other hand, Airbnb introduced two new brands --- Airbnb Plus and Beyond by Airbnb, which offer many "certified" enhanced services that are usually found in a traditional hotel.In February, Brian Chesky, the company's CEO announced "Airbnb for everyone." Besides the new products of Airbnb Experience, Airbnb Plus, and Beyond by Airbnb, Airbnb has also taken on several new initiatives, including adding hotels to its listings, teaming up with local hotels to ease the check-in and check-out experience, building peer-to-peer residential-rental-ready properties, and rewarding Airbnb's loyal customers. As an enterprise in the tourism industry, Airbnb is competing directly with OTAs (online travel agents), such as Expedia and Priceline.The most recent update is Airbnb is set to enter the real estate market as early as in 2019 --- Airbnb will soon design and sell residential homes. Airbnb is definitely more than just a room-sharing company. The question is what new territories will Airbnb get into in 2019.Other discussions about the room-sharing business in 2018 include the similarity-attraction effect in short-term residential rentals, price positioning on Airbnb, and buyer-seller similarity in room-sharing business. Tech trends: What can't be replaced by machines? Technology appeared to be another hot topic in our discussion in 2018, with five (about 20%) commentary posts. Technology products are helpful in at least four major areas: enhancing the guest experience, improving service operations, supporting sustainability, and protecting cybersecurity, according to my observations in HITEC Houston 2018 and the Hotel Experience Show in New York City.Many hotels and restaurants, however, focus more on using technology to enhance guest experience and improve operations; they might have underestimated the risks of cybersecurity. For example, McDonald's opened a new headquarter and planned to add more self-service kiosks to its stores, aiming to provide better service to the customers, and companies can now use AI in hiring and selection. Nevertheless, if companies have invested more in cybersecurity, the recent data breach in Marriott could have probably been avoided.For most workers, the advancement of technology creates major concerns to job security. The fact is machines are replacing more and more humans at work. Most recently, we also heard about the concept of self-driving mobile hotel rooms. Machines will soon complete most tasks that are perceived to be performed by human beings only.One reason why Marriott workers participated in the largest hotel strike in the U.S. history in 2018 was they worried if their hours would be cut. I am glad the strike is finally settled, but nothing can stop the advancement of technology. Tech trends will forever remain to be a hot topic.Hotel loyalty programs: Is bigger necessarily the better? Almost every hotel wants to be the "big" player in the market. This idea was supported by numerous examples of hotel mergers and acquisitions.When hotels are getting bigger, so do their hotel loyalty programs. Marriott, Accor, and Hyatt, for example, have introduced their newly combined loyalty programs. As a matter of fact, Hilton, without any big acquisition or merger in 2018, also updated its Hilton Honors Program. Even though there were glitches and confusions among the travelers for the new Marriott Reward Program, the problems are expected to be solved soon (hopefully). Let's see how being bigger will play out in 2019.Gen Z: They are taking over.Gen Zers, either defined as those who were born after 1996 or 2000, are growing up. This generation is even bigger than the Millennials in the world population. They also began entering the workforce. More discussions will probably follow in 2019 as we get to know more about this generation.Innovations and sustainability: They will never go away.Innovations and sustainability are closely related to the advancement of technology. As shown in the example of McDonald's flagship store, technology plays a critical role in service innovations. In another example where airlines, restaurants, and hotels are switching to more sustainable products, the development of green products also relies on the advancement of technology.Other topics In terms of business strategies, I discussed the dynamic pricing strategies for restaurants, hotels, and Airbnb listings. Suggestions are made for DMOs (destination marketing organizations) to improve their service to hotels. Additionally, I reviewed two predictions, one for the travel industry and the other for the restaurant industry. Lastly, I offered travelers some tips to avoid hotel hygiene horrors.As a review, what event(s) happened in 2018 caught your attention? Looking forward, what are your predictions for the travel and hospitality industry in 2019?

Hotel Recruiting Obstacles: Budget, Brand Reputation, and Location

Hotel Business Review by hotelexecutive.com 16 December 2018
Every property, management company and travel tech company (and really any organization) has recruiting challenges to overcome. While no two properties are exactly alike, there are commonalities that tend to appear, and can be lumped into three buckets: Budget, Brand and Location.
Article by Nancy Huang

Why And How You Should Apply The Netflix Model To Your Hotel

Travel Tripper 14 December 2018
It's easy to forget that Netflix started out as an ambitious DVD-by-mail company that nearly went out of business. Back in 2011, Netflix was being savaged by the media and its stock price was plummeting. Today, it's the second-most valuable media company in the world and boasts 125 million subscribers.In the following post, we'll reveal what hotels can learn from the Netflix success story, including how to utilize personalization, consumer psychology, and an experimental mindset to compete with the OTAs, offer incredible customer service, and win more direct bookings.1. Netflix obsesses over making the right recommendationsNetflix knows it needs to capture attention in under 90 seconds. If members haven't found something to watch within that time, it's very likely that they'll move onto another activity. That's why Netflix has made huge investments in its AI-powered recommendation system.Using sophisticated algorithms, customers receive tailored viewing suggestions based on an array of factors, including what they watch, their past viewing habits, when they pause, rewind or fast-forward content, and their browsing and scrolling habits. However, what often gets forgotten is how this recommendation system has changed over time.Previously, recommendations were made based on a user's expressed preferences. But the shows and movies a user claimed to like the most was found to be a less than perfect way to recommend new content. In an interview with Wired, Netflix's former VP of Product Innovation Carlos Gomez-Uribe explained:"People would rate movies like Schindler's List high, as opposed to one of the silly comedies I watch, like Hot Tub Time Machine. If you give users recommendations that are all four or five-star videos, that doesn't mean that they'll actually want to watch that video on a Wednesday night after a long day at work."Netflix learned two important lessons: that preferences are largely dictated by context, and that people often report aspirational preferences that don't actually reflect their daily activity.Takeaway for hotels:Your guests' past preferences might not be a reliable way to predict their future preferences. For example, the purchases a guest made during a previous stay might have been influenced by their mood, their finances at the time, or the company they were traveling with. Have their preferences changed since? The only way to know is to ask.Leading up to a stay, send a short survey or questionnaire to ask your guests if there's anything you can do to further personalize their experience. Even if their preferences are exactly the same, the gesture alone will demonstrate your desire to make their stay as enjoyable as possible.The other lesson from Netflix is the huge value of a personalized service. If you personalize your hotel marketing and website to each user, you'll build loyalty among your guests by promoting the specific amenities, services, and experiences that they really care about.2. Netflix optimizes images to drive engagementIn early 2014, Netflix carried out research that showed the artwork for each title had the biggest influencer on a member's decision to watch content. In fact, artwork received over 82% of focus as people browsed the platform.This led to the company conducting extensive A/B testing to compare how different artwork affected audience engagement. The results were impressive, sometimes leading to 20-30% more views for a title. Previously, Netflix simply used the images supplied by their studio partners.Netflix has since started personalizing images to each of its members to further optimize user engagement.Takeaway for hotels:Pay close attention to the images you use to showcase your property. It's easy to rely on the same images out of habit, or a belief that they best represent your hotel. The lesson from Netflix is to avoid complacency, and that image choice can have a dramatic impact on consumer decision-making.Make a practice of optimizing your images by running A/B testing throughout the year. While you might not be able to run tests on all of your images, focus on the most prominent ones on your website, marketing, and third-party listings.Check out our in-depth guide to learn how to choose the best images for your hotel website.3. Netflix earns loyalty through a culture of convenienceIn the digital age, convenience drives loyalty. And Netflix is the perfect example of how to build supreme convenience into the heart of the user experience.From the main screen, members can go from browsing to watching a show in two steps. Any shows that a person has previously been watching are conveniently positioned at the top of their customized home screen.Netflix's 'Continue Watching' list also means that members can seamlessly carry on watching a show, rather than having to rewind and find the place they left off.Takeaway for hotels:Netflix gives modern consumers what they want: ultimate convenience. Hotel guests are equally keen for a hassle-free experience. They want the choice to self-serve and communicate on the move. So you need to make everything about interacting with you feel effortless and easy.Does your hotel provide a mobile check-in/check-out service, or a mobile payment option? Do you have a messaging platform that lets guests chat with your hotel and order services? As consumers seek convenience and frictionless interaction, having the right technology in place is vital.citizenM is an excellent example of a hotel chain tailored to on-demand culture. The brand website promises guests a 1-minute check in/check out, and 24/7 food and drinks. Guests can use their room keys to pay for food and drink at the onsite canteenM, and the receipt at checkout goes straight to a guest's email inbox.The takeaway message? Cultivating a culture of convenience should be a priority, so start today.4. Netflix knows how to keep viewers hookedNetflix CEO Reed Hastings has called sleep the company's biggest competitor. To that end, Netflix uses various tactics to keep members watching late into the night.The company pioneered the whole-season release model when it launched every episode of House of Cards (its first original show) all at the same time. This model has since led to the "binge-watching" phenomenon. Audiences get hooked on a show, which increases the odds that they'll finish the series.In addition, the auto-play function is set to 'default,' so a new episode automatically begins after the previous episode has ended. Last year, video previews (a form of specially designed video synopsis) were added to the browsing experience to help make a quick decision about watching a new title.Combined, these elements reduce friction and keep people on the platform for longer.Takeaway for hotels:The abandonment rate in the hotel industry is notoriously high. So there's real value in trying to replicate the Netflix approach to audience engagement.Plenty of seemingly modern hotel websites consistently lose bookings because of subtle flaws in their user experience, so be sure to acquaint yourself with some of the main conversion killers. It's also important to integrate social proof into your hotel website to reassure guests during the buying process. In addition, automatic price-matching widgets will ensure customers don't have to leave your website to compare rates elsewhere.5. Netflix constantly evolves (even when it's ahead)Back in 1997, Netflix was a fledgling company that shipped DVDs. At the time, Blockbuster was the market leader in the video rental industry. Fast-forward two decades, Blockbuster is long gone and Netflix is the second biggest media company in the world.How did that happen? In large part, because Netflix realized that online streaming was the future and adapted its business model. Blockbuster hesitated and paid the price.Netflix continues to innovate and improve its service. Among countless changes, the company has created more original content, overhauled its recommendation algorithm, and keeps improving its interface. It would be easy to stop still. But that isn't in the company's DNA.Takeaway for hotels:It'd be easy to forget that the Netflix success story is largely about mindset: a willingness to adapt and a relentless desire to experiment. For hotels, this lesson translates easily: be aware of your competition, stay on top of industry trends, and adapt swiftly and decisively.Just like Netflix, it's vital to realize that the needs of your guests are constantly changing. The 'on-demand' Gen Z generation is coming of age and set to outnumber Millennials within a year. As your guest of tomorrow, you need to be ready now to cater to the new expectations of younger travelers.Having the right technology in place is also crucial. OTAs continue to win direct bookings because they constantly optimize their online experiences. Hotels must do the same by investing in the right booking engine and reservations system, embracing mobile optimization, and understanding how to leverage artificial intelligence across the travel ecosystem.Applying the Netflix mindsetThe success of Netflix might appear to be a direct result of its vast financial resources. But it's worth reflecting on a quote by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings from a VentureBeat interview in 2016:"It's not Netflix that's making the changes. It's the Internet. We're figuring out every year how to use the Internet to make a great consumer experience. Every year is an experiment."The takeaway message here is that in the on-demand age, the world moves fast. To satisfy and wow on-demand travelers, your hotel needs to adapt to the marketplace, make use of the latest technology, offer supreme convenience, and be tailored to meet the personalized needs and desires of each guest.

The Importance of Understanding the Profit and Loss Statements.

Hotel F&B 14 December 2018
As CEO of a hotel management company that has generated over €190 million in the last year, I can tell you how important it is to control every detail of your business’s finances, both on the revenue and cost side.
Article by Raj Singh

A Guest-Centric Future Powered by AI: Taking Guest Relationships to the Next Level

Go Moment 13 December 2018
Leisure travelers love to wait in lines, on-hold on phone calls, and spend a bunch of time on their device of choice researching and booking reservations, excursions, airport transfers, right? No, of course not! And yet, think about many of today's initial arrival and subsequent hotel guest experiences: Guests who have to wait in line to check in. Who arrive in their room and perhaps find some amenities missing or extras desired. Who have to navigate an imperceptibly-small, under-detailed rendition of the property's map to determine how to get where they want to go. And who, before they even begin to enjoy their vacation time, feel the urgency to book their dinner reservations just so that they have the peace of mind of during their stay.We, as an industry, can do better with an innovative solution: let artificial intelligence sweat the small stuff that hoteliers used to have to staff-up to manage. Use that AI in the powerful combination with your existing skilled human workforce to take your guest relations to the next level. Here's an overview how.Don't let the term "AI" scare youThe AI applied in hospitality today doesn't refer to some futuristic cyborg or even playful-looking robots bringing towels to a guest's door. AI is merely a computer program that can learn for itself over time, instead of requiring the programmer to write code for every possible outcome. It's a learn-and-response feedback loop that allows the program to improve and refine its responses over time. Think about a recommendation engine on Netflix or Amazon - as you rate your movie preferences or buy certain items, these sites make more and (and hopefully) better customized recommendations to you. Think about voice assistants like Apple's Siri or Google's Home. They are constantly learning and growing, both in terms of the devices' collective intelligence and then in its customized output for the individual user. The more collected inputs these AI algorithms gather, the better and faster they can deliver refined outputs. When AI is deployed to serve human customers, the goal is to provide a better, faster, more customized and consistent experience. A satisfied customer means a loyal consumer, which increases product or service consumption and generates revenue now and in the future.Now put this in the context of guest services. Many common guest requests get repeated over and over: check-in/check-out/stay extensions, room changes, wake-up alarms, housekeeping and room maintenance services, restaurant reservations or in-room dining orders, even special occasion recognition. Imagine being able to automate the back-and-forth flow of communications of these requests and to integrate them with both your human interactions and back-end technologies, and deploying the fastest, best solution in potentially seconds rather than minutes, depending upon what the situation requires. Think that time savings alone would make for happier guests? Absolutely!AI improves the guest experienceSome of this automation has been happening for a while. Guests already can, for example, check out using a dedicated in-room television guest services channel or mobile app. Some hotels have loyalty programs that track guest preferences and strive to ensure these preferences are pre-accommodated for the guest's stay. But these hard-coded, static solutions aren't intelligent; they aren't dynamically learning and improving. Most importantly, almost no guests actually use any of these solutions! One senior leader from a 500+ room hotel reported that only about 14 guests per month checked out using a TV or an app.Today's AI - like smartconcierges -- can actually up the ante for guest services because they are proactive, dynamic, and can learn to predict and detect differences in circumstances, to react differently, and to deliver different outcomes as the situation calls for. AI can communicate with hundreds of guests at the same time, in real-time, on the guest's terms. AI can be programmed to upsell and up-service, and it can do so, even while handling voluminous and concurrent guest requests without skipping a beat. Plus, AI provides measurable, useful analytic data that its human counterparts could never give.When it comes to AI, though, the travel and hospitality industry hasn't kept pace with the rest of the big industry sectors. According to 2017 research by the McKinsey Global Institute, 40% of all businesses are just waiting on the sidelines, contemplating AI, and of all the industries, Travel and Tourism ranks in the bottom three for low AI adoption. In 2011, analyst firm Gartner predicted that, "By 2020, 85% of customer interactions will be managed without a human." Think about all of the highly intuitive interactions that now get initiated and/or completed by mobile apps, voice commands, recommendation engines, logins that pre-populate profile data, IP addresses and GPS data points that help identify a guest's location, and you can begin to see that Gartner may not be that far off in its predictions. This world of ambient computing or ambient intelligence, as it's now being described, will continue to transform the hospitality industry and the world as we know it.People have come to expect guest experiences that, at the bare minimum, mimic those that they have in their everyday lives. But when it comes to travel, today's guests expect even more. They expect unparalleled and connected experiences, and hotels must deliver. Future-proofing guest service requires that hotels must provide consistent, personalized, real-time, and omnichannel experiences. Today's AI solutions can help them achieve that.

A Small Business Guide to Facebook Chatbots [Infographic]

MarketingProfs·Requires Registration 13 December 2018
There are over 300,000 active bots on Facebook's Messenger platform, Facebook reported earlier this year. And with 8 billion messages being exchanged between customers and businesses every month, chatbots are now an essential part of any customer service and marketing strategy.

How to Win the Battle Between Privacy and Personalization

Hotel Online 13 December 2018
It’s hard to believe that 2018 is drawing to a close. It’s safe to say that few topics this year have been more relevant than the themes of both privacy and personalization. Hoteliers are swimming in opportunities to learn more about their current (and prospective) guests than ever before. But with that opportunity to swim also arrives the opportunity to sink. Many hoteliers find themselves stuck between the need to personalize their offering with user data and the need to tread carefully within new GDPR rules and regulations. If they don’t tap into guest data to curate a more personalized, unique experience, they may not appeal to guests — but if they don’t secure data the right way, they’re putting guest privacy (and their reputation) at risk.
Article by Isabelle Jan

How to choose the best bidding system for your hotel?

PrivateDeal SA 13 December 2018
Most hotels are using different sales channels as well as their own booking engine. The common point between all these tools is that the hotelier sets the price in the hopes of reaching the right guests with the right price at the right moment. A bidding system allows you to do all three by reversing the pricing model. The basic mechanism is as follows: the hotel displays a public price while guests can make offers based on their budget and expectations (which can subsequently be accepted or not by the hotel).Bidding is all about offering the right price at the right moment to the right guest.Let's take a look at a few systems currently available on the market. You will see that each of them is answering different needs.Target 1: Boost your occupancy rate and early bookingsThe original bidding model is the auction model, where a hotel sets a minimum price, which is the starting price for the auction. During the auction period (a few hours/ a few days), different auctioneers bid against each other and the best offer wins at the auction term.An example of this solution is bidtotrip.com or loisirsencheres.com. This type of system is especially suitable for leisure hotels, nearby touristic destinations for advance bookings. On the counterparty, you must be ready to be very flexible in terms of pricing, and your guests must be patient and wait till the end of the auction. This waiting time is a real paint point at this day and age where immediacy is almost a given.Target 2: Boost your Last-Minute sales On the North American Market, Priceline (NYOP) rules the market, composed at +70% of branded chains, with their reverse-bidding model. In this model, you are not bidding against others but you are bidding among a range of hotels corresponding (more or less) to your specifications in a given geographical area. This model does not apply in Europe, where the market is composed of +70% independent hotels which makes it difficult to get a critical mass of hotels to affiliate.Priceline's policy allows bidders on NYOP to specify their exact arrival and departure dates before bidding, along with its price match guarantee, but they do not get access to the hotel's name and a detailed list of amenities until the transaction is complete. Unlike Priceline, by clicking on the various offers of Hotwire, guests will get access to a list of amenities. In Asia, some similar systems exist, like travelspice.com in India and a few others.Apart from the high commissions charged, which refrains a lot of hotels to apply to these services, guest's expectations have changed over years and the volume of bookings are decreasing year after year. Guests expect to choose their hotel and no longer accept to go anywhere for a lower budget, without guarantee on the final product they are buying.Target 3: Lower your OTA commissionsYou can choose new OTA generations applying semi-bidding semi-discount models.On bidroom.com, travelers pay an annual fee to book directly at discounted prices and be able to replace their booking done on Booking.com, Expedia...by a booking at a lower price in direct. Hotels are not charged with any commission.Registering your hotel on this platform means you are ready to give up part of your margin (min 5%) to Bidroom guests, and if a guest would like to replace an existing Booking.com or Expedia booking by a better one, he can send the booking to Bidroom and the Company negotiates a better price with you, with no commission, under 48h. This is the bidding side of the system.Given the commissions OTAs are charging, it can be an option to sell a few rooms along the year, provided that the OTA invests a lot in marketing, which is a real challenge.Boost your direct sales and cover Target 1+2+3:The above-mentioned models are all OTA (Online Travel Agency) solutions. But as you may know already, one of the latest trend in the hospitality market is to go back to direct booking.Therefore, if you would like to boost your direct bookings, a solution is to choose a direct bidding engine where guests bid their own price directly, without intermediary and without commissions, on your website. If the solution allows in addition to sell in Night & Day-use, it is even better, as the same room can be sold twice in 24h! This is the type of solution provided by privatedeal.com.But the system provides more functionalities than a simple bidding engine. For one, PrivateDeal collects data of both accepted and rejected offers, which can be really helpful for hotels, in particular to adapt their floor price. Moreover, the solution includes an automated negotiation tool (it offers a different price when the client's is below the target) which is very valuable in driving more conversions.This solution gives hotels the opportunity to sell at the right guest a room at the right price and the right moment, without involving long studies about how to set a hypothetic ideal price. It calculates in real time the price guests are ready to pay to stay at your hotel which, in the end, is one of the most valuable information you can have to refine your yield management.
Article by David Millili

Hotel Loyalty in the Post-Transaction Era

runtriz 13 December 2018
Here's what we also know about loyalty. An MIT Sloan Review showed that loyalty programs are growing at 9% per year, but the number of customers to actively participate is only about 50%. The Loyalty Report of 2017 showed that the average consumer is participating in 14 loyalty programs, but only has the ability to engage in 7. And a 2017 JD Power report noted that while a loyalty program has the power to boost brand loyalty via transactions among a certain percentage of members, only half of loyalty members know how to earn and redeem their points. It has become clear that complicated tiered programs based on long-term investments by the guest fail to recognize the needs of today's travelers.Let's be clear that the points-based rewards programs these studies rely upon, those that are so popular in the hotel industry, are not loyalty programs exactly; they are marketing programs meant to drive bookings. For most brands, only a small segment of your overall proportion of guests will make a longer-term commitment to your brand on a strictly transactional basis. We don't live in a purely transactional culture anymore, where companies can expect repeat business based solely on dollars. We live in a digital society where the rules of loyalty have changed. Where the pace is fast, the expectations higher, and guest loyalty a thing achieved by a nuanced dance of digital and in-person service.Part of the problem with loyalty programs in a digital world is the slow speed at which they move, especially in hospitality. So much must be spent, which requires not just more considerable sums of money but also time in order to gain/use rewards in a transactional model. However, the new digital guests move quickly. They must be able to get more from a brand than points to feel loyal. And a transactional program doesn't generate anything in terms of emotional loyalty, values loyalty, what I call convenience loyalty. Each of the latter requires a full understanding of your particular guest base and corresponding, genuine commitment to guest engagement.Let's look at these three ways of generating loyalty in a post-transaction world.1). Emotional loyalty Transactional loyalty programs hope to attain emotional loyalty as a by-product of the program. More stays = more potential for the emotional connection. Greater guest recognition in these programs, which mostly amounts to saying the guest's name at check-in and offering the hope for an upgrade, which may or may not materialize, are the only "emotional" underpinnings of the programs. Truth be told, creating emotional loyalty is a roll of the dice. Very rarely do brands that seek to establish an emotional connection actually achieve one. For hotels, the emotional connection relies as much on the reason the guest is visiting as it does on anything the property can control. For my part, emotional loyalty has been created more often than not on a special trip at an exceptional hotel or B&B, one that I can't generally recreate even when I try. It's a certain je ne sais quoi. A few brands pull off emotional loyalty by carving out a group to which they appeal. Apple, for instance, seems to beat the odds time and again by appealing to writers, artists, and creators. For a hotel, emotional loyalty requires an extraordinary level of guest engagement, whether by means of an owner who creates a personal relationship with the guest or a social media presence that pulls at their heartstrings over and over until they can't bear to stay away.Ultimately, emotional loyalty for a hotel brand will be harder to come by--generated among only a small percentage of guests--but it can be the strongest form of attachment. These are a top-tier of long-term guests. They should be nurtured through intensive guest engagement, but they won't be the bulk.2). Values Loyalty Values loyalty is powerful. The shoe brand Tom's has created value-based devotion through philanthropy. Buy one shoe, and a pair is donated. Their products weren't always worth writing home about, but they began based on values then added quality to their products. Many hotel brands give large sums to non-profit organizations; however, I have yet to see one execute on value loyalty the way product-driven companies do. That said, a Phocuswright study entitled "Good Travels: The Philanthropic Profile of the American Traveler" notes that 72% of travelers say giving is important while traveling and millennials were the most generous. The giving piece doesn't supplant price, but it does enhance the trip. To execute on value-based loyalty, hotels must brand themselves across channels as philanthropic and be prepared to appeal to digital natives with access to apps and messaging, and the possibility to, for instance, donate at the touch of a button. The experience is still paramount; values are a bonus that can earn long-term credibility when they are more than a marketing tactic.3). Convenience Loyalty Convenience loyalty depends wholly on guest engagement across all digital pathways, and it is where I believe most properties have the greatest opportunity to create long-term, sustainable loyalty that goes beyond transactional programs.Amazon Prime's membership program, though transactional, is as much a convenience program as anything else, as it engages consumers in a digital world that allows them to shop on any device in any location through an app, if they choose, and offers access to virtually any product in two days. They've added on streaming services and grocery delivery -- all for $120 per year. What they are actually doing is reducing time in the car, reducing time buying gifts, and reducing time standing in line and dealing with crowds. Along with the time savings, Amazon offers personalized recommendations and wish lists. It's simple to understand, and the perceived value is felt over and over by the consumer. That's why Amazon takes a giant hit on shipping fees, but they make it up with Prime members annually spending double what non-Prime members spend.Hotels don't need a pre-paid program to generate convenience loyalty. Instead, they need to perceive value at every step of the way and be fully aware of how easy you have made every process on their behalf. Mobile check-in and checkout is a no-brainer. Pre-arrival texts secure their comfort in knowing that everything is handled and waiting for them. Personalized concierge recommendations delivered via text or customized in-stay promotions, such as spa or golf offers, let them know you value their time and preferences. The ability to order food without picking up the landline will soon be an expectation rather than a bonus. Single any one of these things out on its own, and it may not be a loyalty generator. With a holistic program that aims to engage guests on any device, anywhere, anytime that they want--and that lets them know this is your intention, they perceive the value over and over just like Amazon. This approach creates a sustainable and operationally far more efficient model for loyalty.There's no one right answer to loyalty. Obviously, some programs are structured in such a way that they can rely on a transactional model, but these are the rare exceptions anymore. Given the speed at which travelers move in the digital sphere, we do know that appealing to a diverse set of needs, both digital and in person, has value in and of itself. But at the core of most any loyalty program that will succeed over time is guest engagement that goes far beyond you know my name and seeks to get at you know my needs.
Article by Terri Miller

How to Win the Battle Between Privacy and Personalization

Concilio Labs, Inc. 13 December 2018
But the battle isn't as simple as sink or swim. Modern consumers decidedly connect with brands who understand (and cater to them) on a personal level, while privacy concerns are at the forefront of that same conversation. McAfee surveyed 6,400 people globally to learn more about how they handle and protect personal information. The survey revealed that one third of those surveyed did not think they could control how companies collect personal information. In a 2016 global study, unwanted marketing was cited as consumers' top concern about businesses using their personal data (59 percent), followed by their data being sold to third-parties (58 percent) and organizations having unsecure systems (55 percent). But in that same breath, the personalization guests crave today extends far beyond a hotel just knowing their name upon arrival or their ability to receive targeted and personalized marketing communications. Today, savvy consumers expect their preferences to be saved within systems and devices, their voice commands to be recognized by digital assistants, and their hotels to offer specialized upgrades, room preferences and personalized communications. The modern consumer is fueled by instant gratification and hyper-connectivity; these are all concepts that thrive on the availability of relevant user data to curate a unique experience.How can hotels (safely) tap into guest data in a way that benefits their guest and their travel experience, without neglecting privacy measures? Ultimately, how can hoteliers can win the battle between privacy and personalization? There is not a single, easy answer. As most (if not all) of you know, GDPR was brought into effect to strengthen and unify data protection for all individuals within the European Union (EU). Following the longstanding realization that privacy standards are often not sufficient to truly safeguard the personal data, GDPR was enforced to give power back to consumers. This legislation applies to all data about persons in the EU (both guests and employees) and demands that hotels keep clear records and documentation of what personal data they access, where it came from, how it is shared and the consumer-provided consent to obtain that data. Given that hotels operate with the use of online travel agencies (OTAs), PMS, CMS systems, mobile apps, social media and more, understanding how to navigate within the means set by GDPR is ever-important. However, the GDPR framework was not put in place to limit hotelier's ability to access guest data and utilize that information to curate an improved, personalized guest experience. Rather, it was created with the intent to ensure hoteliers are transparent with their guests as they collect, and best utilize, personal information. So, what's the trick here? Find a happy medium. Guest data isn't out of reach; it's simply protected. Rather than taking, storing, and sharing without permission, hotels are now required to earn the trust of their guests. Provide your guests with clear communications when looking to collect or store information, attach clarified incentive to the provision of that information, and give them good options. Keep track of who consented, when they consented, what they were told at the time, how they consented and if consent has been withdrawn for any reason.The work required to get in compliance is not insignificant, but these updates will also encourage more engagement from your prospective guests. After all, a recent Salesforce study found that 63% of millennial consumers are willing to share personal data for personalized offers or discounts, 61% of millennial consumers for personalized experiences and 58% for personalized recommendations. Consumers are willing to share with brands, as long as they're given adequate reason to and can trust that their personal information will be used to curate an enhanced experience. Establishing guest trust, rapport and winning customer service experiences may require a little more work on behalf of hoteliers, but the reward is worth the return. Instead of sinking against the data, you'll swim into blue waters of a personalized, engaged guest experience.

MVP the way of the future for hospitality businesses

Hotel F&B 12 December 2018
Recently I participated in an industry panel event alongside fellow technology and travel industry experts, discussing the most prominent opportunities for hospitality businesses.

New Dodge Report: Global Green Building Activity Continues to Rise

green lodging news | By Glenn Hasek 12 December 2018
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has announced the results of the Dodge Data & Analytics World Green Building Trends 2018 SmartMarket Report, to which USGBC is a contributing partner. Overall, global green building activity continues to rise, with significant increases expected in 19 countries over the next three years. Importantly, nearly half of survey respondents expect that most of their projects in the next three years will be green buildings.

Digitally Engage Your Mobile Workforce for Better Business Returns

Beekeeper Blog 12 December 2018
Imagine you could increase your business revenue by better engaging your employees. What would that mean for your company? For starters, it would give you a competitive advantage, and boost your value proposition. Achieving that goal is easier than you think. Engage your workforce with a mobile solution such as a team app and you’ll start to see the monetary benefits as well as the employee engagement rewards.

192 | A Life Improving Customer Experience with Alex Shashou

mycloud HOSPITALITY 12 December 2018
Alex Shashou is the Co-Founder and President of ALICE, a top-ranking staff Task Management & Collaboration platform with a global customer base of 2,000+ hotels.

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