Category

Industry

The month in hospitality

The Month in Hospitality: June 2018

By | Hotel technology, Industry, The month in hospitality, Travel | No Comments

Every month, we round up the top stories from the world of hospitality. Covering everything from new hotel technology to industry thought-pieces to the latest travel developments, this is the month in hospitality!

AAA Updates Its Hotel Assessment Guidelines to Include Technology Capabilities

In a sign of just how much technology has impacted the hospitality industry, AAA announced this month it will now add ‘technology capabilities’ to its list of criteria when assessing hotels.

It may come as a surprise to those outside the industry, but until now, the AAA didn’t consider technological capabilities as an essential aspect of the diamond rating process. As North America’s premier hotel rating program, the AAA diamond rating process has come to represent something akin to the Michelin star rating for restaurants, identifying those establishments which have gone above and beyond to evolve the concept of luxury hospitality.

Along with the traditional ‘signifiers of luxury’ like curb appeal, décor and layout, inspectors now consider things like free WiFi, USB ports, mobile apps, mobile key technology, kiosks and digital messaging services when evaluating hotels.

With just 0.4% of hotels reviewed achieving Five Diamond status, it’s a coveted award that still divides the industry. Under the new guidelines, hotels will need to stay up-to-date on new technologies as well as maintaining the highest standards of hospitality.

To read the full story, click here.

Building brand trust through your hotel

Apps could provide the answer to sustainable tourism troubles

Sustainable tourism has been a real hot button in 2018. 2017 saw a 7% boost in overseas tourism, leading to cities across the world, previously keen to encourage any and all tourism, calling for greater control over visitor numbers.

In cities such as Barcelona and Venice, the issue has become so pronounced, locals have taken to protests and vandalism. So it’s no surprise that companies across industries are scrambling to develop means of controlling the flow of tourists. Aquarium Software, a travel insurance technologist company, argued this month that a connected, cross-industry approach is the only viable solution. At the forefront of this approach, of course, lies mobile technology and data.

Aquarium Software Director, Mark Colonnese explained, “The whole travel industry has a role to play in addressing toxic tourism,” adding, “barriers and temporary closures are not long-term solutions.” With smartphones now a ubiquitous part of travel, they are an ideal technology to inform travellers about the best times to travel. Aquarium argues the development of an app capable of compiling information from multiple sources, including insurers, tourists, hotels, airlines and travel agents, is essential to managing the flow of tourism. Through this data, information can be deployed to deliver the unified thinking necessary to assess appropriate visitor numbers and where necessary, take steps to sensibly limit them.

The app can also go some way to promoting lesser known locations, diverting tourists to quieter haunts easily capable of managing additional visitors.

To get the full lowdown on this story, click here.

Using a mobile app to improve sustainable tourism

Adobe announces innovations for travel & hospitality brands

In the world of travel, the relationship between brand and consumer is rarely a case of cause and effect. As traveller expectations shift from the one-size-fits-all package to bespoke experiences, travel brands are fighting to stay ahead of the curve. That’s why Adobe has stepped up with a tool that promises to redefine the customer journey.

The company announced this month that travel companies would now be able to use the AI platform Adobe Sensei to harness the power of customer data. By gathering information across a wide array of customer touchpoints, travel and hospitality companies can now develop a more holistic approach to understanding customers as individuals.

Likewise, with Adobe Target, travel brands can now leverage consumer intent online to better predict what content and products travellers might want next. With this technology, brands can personalise offers and create a unified cross-device customer profile.

It’s a smart move from the software giants; with 9 of 10 of the world’s biggest hotel chains and 7 of the 10 largest airlines already using their Adobe Experience Cloud to craft customer experiences. Based on the recent stat that just 31% of travel companies are currently seen as ‘experience-driven businesses’, these industry innovations couldn’t come soon enough.

You can get the full story here.

Using data in hospitality to optimise the booking process

Amazon’s Alexa becomes a digital butler at Marriott Hotels

The hospitality industry has been awash with chatter about the potential value (and pitfalls) of using voice recognition to enhance the guest experience. One company already convinced of the technology’s merits is Marriott International. This month the global hotel chain announced a partnership with Amazon to install Alexa digital assistants in a number of select locations.

The move signals Amazon’s first foray back into the travel industry after the ‘Amazon Destinations’ fiasco in 2015.

To power the deployment, Amazon developed Alexa for Hospitality, a bespoke variant on its digital assistant software designed specifically for hotels. The devices enable guests to request hotel information, contact hotel guest services, adjust in-room devices, as well as accessing the usual selection of Alexa skills.

Following the announcement, vice president at Amazon Daniel Rausch said: “Customers tell us they love how easy it is to get information, enjoy entertainment, and control connected devices by simply asking Alexa, and we want to offer those experiences everywhere customers want them. Alexa for Hospitality makes your hotel stay a little more like being at home and gives hospitality providers new ways to create memorable stays for their guests.”

The software can even integrate with existing hotel technologies. Guest requests are routed to the appropriate hotel property management systems, reducing or eliminating the need to retrofit or upgrade existing software.

Using Alexa for hospitality to enhance in-room service

Be sure to check out the full story at Mobile Marketing Magazine here.

Luxury hotel facade on blue sky

The month in hospitality: May 2018

By | Hotel technology, Industry, The month in hospitality | No Comments

Every month, we round up the top stories from the world of hospitality. Covering everything from new hotel technology to industry thought-pieces to the latest travel developments, this is the month in hospitality!

Friction-Free Experiences Are Must-Have Amenities For Travelers

The people over at CMO took a detailed look at how travel brands can better engage new customers while continuing to grow their core business. The answer, as you may have guessed from the title, lies in embracing technology to create friction-free travel experiences.

One of the key takeaways: Hotels need to look at integrating AI into their marketing, pricing and in-house interactions to create a truly frictionless service.

Likewise, experiential marketing is pushing the boundaries of what a travel company can do. Brands such as Disney and Scandinavian Airlines are utilising data and wearable technology to develop a seamless service that puts the customer front and centre.

Mobile and geolocation technology, meanwhile, is now a central facet of the travel experience. Travel brands have clearly recognised this; mobile analytics were the number one investment point for travel companies in 2017.

The key takeaway from all of this? Brands need to be ready to adapt to new technologies in-line with the customer. Those that don’t will soon find themselves left behind.

You can get the full story here.

Using mobile data to improve the hospitality experience

Will Automation Be the End of the Hotel Check-in Desk?

Genie provided their expertise on a guest post for the good people over at HospitalityNet this month. The article discusses the growing prevalence of AI in hospitality and, specifically, what it means for traditional hotel features like the check-in desk. Long seen as integral to hotel operations, more and more hospitality brands are beginning to ask if the check-in desk is an outdated concept.

After all, the ubiquitous nature of smartphones, along with the shift toward a more socially-oriented design approach, is already changing how we travel. The introduction of automation, AI and IoT solutions to the hospitality sector could prove too much for the fabled front-desk.

So is the hotel lobby about to undergo a drastic change? Not exactly – even if every hotel shifted to a completely automated check-in process, there’d still be traditionalists looking for a bit of personal engagement and a central starting point for new arrivals.

You can read the full article here.

Managing guest check in using your hospitality CRM

Hospitality industry launches packaging waste pledge

As one of the biggest sector contributors to plastic waste, the hospitality industry has a responsibility to pursue sustainable initiatives wherever possible. Thankfully, this month proved industry figures aren’t looking to shirk this responsibility. Boutique Hotelier covered the UKHospitality’s Unpack the Future of Hospitality and noted that industry leaders had committed to a number of pledges, including:

  • Collaborating to eliminate unnecessary plastic in the hospitality sector by 2030
  • Producing industry-wide guidance to reduce packaging throughout the sector and its supply chains
  • Promoting WRAP’s UK Plastics Pact and implement its principles
  • Establishing a hospitality sector sustainability forum
  • Working with expert groups to enhance the UK’s recycling system.

The hospitality industry has always been at the forefront of innovation, so it’s heartening to see brands taking a serious approach to one of the biggest challenges of our time. As UKH chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The hospitality sector is acutely aware of the problems caused by packaging waste and have been taking innovative and effective steps to proactively and voluntarily tackle the issue.”

You can check out the full post here.

Reducing plastic packaging waste in hospitality

Why are travellers so open to alternative accommodation?

The guys over at Hotel Business posed a question this month that the industry has been grappling with for some time: Why are modern travellers so open to alternative accommodations? The question might sound like it has some easy answers, but those answers, in turn, throw up a whole new set of questions: the key question being, what can hotels do to respond?

With the news that Airbnb is pushing further into the hotel sector with the launch of Airbnb Plus, hotels are now faced with the prospect of an online OTA offering properties with all the amenities and features of a hotel.

But the article from hotel Business looks to understand why more travellers are opting for alternative accommodation. The answer may lie in the success of companies like Airbnb Plus, but there are already some secrets hoteliers can discover if they know where to look.

You can find out all about alternative accommodation right here.

Building brand trust through your hotel

Using data in hospitality to optimise the booking process

The month in hospitality: April 2018

By | Hospitality, Industry, The month in hospitality | No Comments

Every month, we round up the top stories from the world of hospitality. Covering everything from new hotel technology to industry thought-pieces to the latest travel developments, this is the month in hospitality!

Using a Hospitality CRM to augment the hotel experience

The hospitality industry has undergone a seismic shift in the past decade, and nowhere has this change been more apparent than in the technologies used to shape the guest experience. Of course, different hotels have adopted different technologies, with varying levels of success, and nowhere is the diversity in approaches more apparent than in the customer relationship model (CRM).

The modern hospitality CRM goes well beyond creating a database of guest information; it’s about measuring how the entire structure of hotel operations contributes to the guest experience. From using data to understand how guests engage with the hotel before their arrival to developing future marketing strategies to measuring the impact of collaborations with OTAs on your ROI, the modern CRM is an essential asset not just to the guest experience, it’s integral to the continued success of your hotel.

For hotels to truly succeed in 2018, they must be ready to offer service that goes above and beyond expectations. As hospitality CRMs and personalisation tools become more common features in the industry, those expectations are only going to increase.

Get the full story from Tenfold here.

Using CRM data to develop sustainable initiatives for your hotel

AI can revitalise operational hotel dynamics

In the hyper-competitive hospitality industry, any new development that can streamline processes without damaging the hotel brand should be welcomed with open arms. While still in its infancy, AI and the Internet of Things have quickly become indispensable tools for the industry. Looking at the growing demand for automated technologies, it’s clear we’re only just beginning to scratch the surface of AI’s role in hospitality.

From centralising every element of hotel operations to delivering a hyper-personalised stay for every guest, AI and machine-learning have the potential to completely redefine what a hotel is capable of. Not only this, but these technologies are fast earning a reputation as the most versatile solution to streamline in-house operations and reduce overall outgoing costs.

As hotels increasingly turn to automated processes in their search for the most affordable, flexible and effective guest engagement tool, the true value of AI in hospitality is only going to become more apparent.

Find out more from TechNative right here.

Using AI in your hotel

Technology can bring home comforts to your hotel

Technology isn’t just a means of streamlining processes behind the scenes, it’s also essential to creating an environment in which guests feel totally at ease. The traditional idea of creating a ‘home away from home’ for guests has transformed as the common features of a home become more advanced.  

Guests now bring an average of five personal devices away with them when travelling. Hotels, in turn, need to be able to cater to the additional requirements these personal devices entail.

In a world of interconnected, cloud-based networks, guests can now expect to use their own Netflix account to watch their favourite shows from the comfort of their hotel room, to enjoy the same room temperature settings as they do back home and to be able to use their own personal devices for everything from opening their hotel room door to paying for in-hotel amenities.

More and more, guests expect a personalised experience capable of catering to their unique interests. Hotels with the technical infrastructure in place to meet these interests will see their innovations repaid through more bookings, better reviews and a deeper understanding of their guests in general.

Check out the original article from Phys.org here.

A luxury hotel room, probably

Sustainable travel is only just getting started

The latest global Sustainable Travel Report from Booking.com has arrived, and it’s packed with interesting statistics with repercussions for the entire travel industry. Commissioned in anticipation of Earth Day (April 22nd), the report surveyed more than 12,000 respondents across 12 markets on everything from changing purchasing habits abroad to the eco-inspirations drawing tourists to new locations.

Among some of the highlights found in the report were:

  • 87% of travellers asked said they want to travel sustainably
  • 39% claimed that they often or always manage to travel sustainably
  • 68% of travellers intend to stay in an eco-accommodation in 2018 (up from 65% in 2017 and 62% in 2016)
  • 67% of travellers would be willing to spend at least 5% more on their travel to ensure their stay had as little an impact on the environment as possible

The report offered some valuable insights for the industry and, more generally, it proved there is a growing appetite for eco-travel. Travel agents, tour guides and hoteliers would do well to take notice and consider how they can begin to introduce sustainable elements to their services now.

Find out the full story from Booking.com here.

Lake shot with shoes of sustainable traveller

How can the hotel industry adapt to the sharing economy?

What does the sharing economy mean for the hotel industry?

By | Hospitality, Hotel technology, Industry | No Comments

As more customers opt for an Airbnb holiday, hotels are trying to adapt their model to provide a more personalised experience. But is the sharing economy really a threat to the hotel industry?

The sharing economy encourages greater transparency and, at least on the surface, seems like less of a corporate machination in comparison to hotels. For those seeking an authentic experience without the price tag, sites like Airbnb seem to offer a viable alternative. Airbnb’s annual profits (before interest and taxes and depreciation) are predicted to hit as much as $3.5 billion by 2020. While it’s essential hotels acknowledge the appeal of this new form of travel, they don’t necessarily have to shift to a similar model. 

The appeal of peer-to-peer platforms

It’s no secret that today’s traveller craves an authentic experience. On sites like Airbnb, listed properties fulfil a unique role; they’re perceived to provide an ‘authentic’ taste of local life in a new city. For hotels, this is a problem. Millennial travellers will account for half the spending on business flights by 2020; it’s imperative hotels don’t write off their value.

There’s also been a shift towards greater travel self-sufficiency as improvements in data connection encourage visitors to explore locations in their own time. People want to return with stories of discovering the local culture in their own way, not of a handheld tour around a city. The accommodation available through peer-to-peer platforms provides a level of autonomy rarely seen in hotels, who (for obvious reasons) tend to encourage a kind of passive independence in guests. For instance, hotel rooms are less likely to enable guests to cook food in the room, wash clothes or workout, as this makes it less likely the guests will use the hotel amenities.

Maid cleaning a hotel bed sticking two fingers to sharing economy

The growth of the sharing economy

Sites like Airbnb, although regularly described as disruptive – perhaps the most irritating business buzzword of the startup generation – aren’t particularly radical. Short-term holiday homes have existed in some form for over a century. Today, it’s how the property is that defines the key difference with yesteryear. The homeowner retains the rights of the landlord and the room-sharing site takes a ‘passive agent’ role. Airbnb, for example, operates on a simple, lightweight model, charging a 3% fee to the host and anywhere from 6% to 12% to the guest on the value of the booking.

Airbnb’s agility stems from its degree of separation from the actual property. The property is maintain by the property owner, so Airbnb has no need to dispatch ‘on-the-ground’ staff. This is essential to a business model spread over such a huge geographic area, but no help to established hotels.

For those in the hotel industry, the answer lies in streamlining the business model. The cost of designing, building, decorating and running a hotel is high. Meanwhile, leasing an existing building, and operating on a franchise model, provides a significantly more agile platform from which to promote a hospitality brand.

Keys hanging in the door of a boutique hotel room

What can the hotels do?

The solution to pursuing potential guests lost to the sharing accommodation economy? It’s easy to say hotels should “begin to offer a more authentic experience,” but how do they do that without losing the elements of a hotel that people enjoy, such as room service and in-hotel amenities? Just as importantly, how can hotels offer the same level of geographic and financial choice as the sharing accommodation economy?

The answer is they don’t. Airbnb can expand the supply of rooms to keep up with demand without incurring the massive costs of hotel expansion, handing them a significant advantage. Sure hotels can offer a selection of rooms, but they can’t usually offer a range of different locations within the same city. Hotels should focus on emphasising the array of services they have on offer in-house, with special promotions designed to highlight the convenience of available amenities.

Many in the hospitality industry fail to realise that, because hotels offer a radically different experience to sharing accommodation, the two can exist alongside each other. That doesn’t mean hotels can rest on their laurels, however; they still need to respond to the changing needs of guests, but they would do well to remember why the hotel is still the leading choice for holiday lodging.

Luxury hotel room with wine glasses and fully made bed

Identify your strengths

A recent report by Boston University revealed that “each 10 percent increase in supply on Airbnb causes a decrease of 0.37 percent in monthly hotel revenue.” But just because the sharing economy has blossomed in the past decade doesn’t mean the entire industry has to shift to a similar model. In fact, it gives the industry room to diversify, with some offering a high-end boutique experience and others a more natural, to-the-roots experience.

Part of adapting to new challenges is to accept shortcomings and focus on strengths. Hotels boast a wealth of strengths over their less organised, less regulated individual residences. Hotels must focus on highlighting the additional levels of service they provide over short-term lodging. Guests opting for hotels understand they can expect consistency over a ‘unique’ experience, and that’s exactly what hotels should deliver.

Don’t forget, many people still prefer hotels for the convenience and consistent standard they provide. Not everyone is looking to cook their own meals or ‘live as a local’.

Luxury hotel bar with dark wood panelling

Build brand trust

Despite their growing popularity, peer-to-peer platforms sit at a disadvantage to traditional hospitality institutions for a number of reasons. This is nowhere more obvious than in the inconsistency of the accommodation (and, on occasion, the host). Hotels have an opportunity to promote their rooms as a trusted standard. Hotels should be a home away from home. Clean sheets, hot water and a good night’s sleep should be a guarantee for every guest. Despite the fading relevance of ‘established brand reputation’ (thanks in part to the growth of OTAs), guests still expect high standards in hospitality.

For hotels, it’s imperative to build their own community culture through local marketing and reciprocal engagement. Corporate detachment is not a good look for a hotel brand in the 21st century. Businesses need to provide an open platform for guests to engage with the brand in an informal way. Social media can be a great area for this, but official hotel forums can also foster a sense of community that helps guests feel like more than just a room number. The ‘free democracy’ of the internet is only going to grow.

Woman using hotel wifi in room as a bespoke hospitality solution

What does it all mean for the hotel industry?

Peer-to-peer platforms like Airbnb certainly infringe on the profits of the hospitality industry, but that doesn’t necessarily signal a death knell for hotels. The sharing economy grew from the values of trust and communities, but established hotel brands can emulate these values too.

Airbnb’s minimal regulatory controls mean trust and transparency (at least for the hosts) are essential ingredients. They might be based on different business models, but hotels would do well to remember just how far these attributes can take them.

Boutique retro hotel sign against blue sky

What does the millennial traveller expect from the hospitality industry?

By | Hospitality, Hotel technology, Industry | No Comments

Millennial travellers take almost twice as many leisure trips as Gen Xers or baby boomers. The hospitality industry must evolve to respond to the needs of their changing demographics or risk losing them altogether.

The hospitality industry lives and dies on anticipating what customers want. But according to a recent study by the global consultancy firm HVS London, most hotels are struggling to keep pace with the changing needs of travellers.

Even with advances in technology, including the advent of analytics to study browsing behaviour, the hospitality sector has struggled to keep up with the changing needs of the modern guest. That’s a problem for the industry as a whole, with the sharing-economy ready to step in to fill the void.

So what does the modern traveller expect from their holiday experience? While everyone has a different idea of their dream holiday, there are a few recurring themes the hospitality sector would do well to remember.

Authenticity

The guest experience has always been at the forefront of hospitality but today’s travellers expect a more authentic taste of the surrounding culture. As visitors strive to become more immersed in the local society, package holidays centred solely around the hotel are becoming less relevant. This is, in part, down to the growth in social media and increasing levels of cultural assimilation. After all, nobody wants to return from holiday with only pictures of the hotel pool. Guests will always respond more strongly to a hotel that acts as an extension of the surrounding settings. Features like cuisine, language, interior design and even the means of service can play a part in cultivating an atmosphere of true locality.

Travellers today are more likely to reject a location if it seems overly corporate. Instead, tourists today opt for something that better reflects the environment in which the accommodation is based. Modern guests (both young and old) tend to shun generic toys from the hotel gift shop in favour of genuine locally-made products. Likewise, hotels that opt for a uniform approach across every branch will lose out to those that offer a more genuine, locally-informed approach.

View of sunset over cliffs from luxury boutique hotel

Personalisation

Just as guests want to feel a connection with the local culture, they also expect a personalised experience. Price and location will always be a factor, but it’s essential that hotels recognise a guests individual desires and respond to those needs in a way that best suits their guest.

Of course, there’s no way a hotel can possibly appeal to the whims of every visitor. With Genie, coupled with an intelligent Hotel Management System, hotels can engage with visitors on a one-to-one basis without assigning them their own personal concierge. A guest could input their special diet specifications before arrival. The information can then be saved to their personal profile. This, in turn, spares them the rigmarole of explaining their requirements each time they order room service. Not only does this make the life of the guest easier, it enables hotels to provide customised suggestions directly to the visitor.

Millennial traveller using hotel wifi on bed in room

Technology

How do you identify and respond to each customer’s unique requirements without sacrificing efficiency? The answer; technology.

Above all else, the modern traveller wants to feel valued. Technology and, by extension, automation, holds the key to identifying individual needs and appealing to them without stretching company resources. The modern traveller expects a degree of technological functionality from their stay (unless the hotel is marketed as a retreat from the digital world) because so much of their own life is built around technology.

Staying ahead of the technology game doesn’t mean providing bigger, brighter TVs in each room, either. It means recognising the trends in the tech industry that are filtering their way into people’s lives. With the smartphone now a ubiquitous element of daily life for most travellers, hotels can increase both revenue and brand loyalty with the aid of Genie and intelligent automation.

Hotel guests using hotel smartphone to photograph sunset

Privacy

With great power comes great responsibility. The hospitality industry would do well to remember this as the surge of new technologies bring with it untold data-tracking potential. Of course, before passing guest details on to third parties, any company must seek permission from the guest. Hoteliers might be surprised by how protective guests are over their basic information, particularly in light of recent social media data leaks. Hotels should always ensure this information is handled responsibly, regardless of how valuable data is to building customer relationships.

In the age of the modern traveller, privacy extends far beyond the hotel room. Guests expect their information to be used responsibly, to ensure only relevant advertising comes their way. By using a Genie phone, for instance, they can limit the outflow of personal information and still enjoy relevant, exclusive promotions that actually enhance the travel experience.

A Do Not Disturb sign on a luxury hotel door

Freedom

Tired of the same tours, the same attractions and treading the same path as visitors before them, the millennial traveller looks to technology as the number one source of information. With this information, travellers gain build a unique experience that better reflects their own understanding of a culture. 

That’s no reason for hotels to be lax, however. While modern guests want autonomy, this doesn’t mean being left completely to their own devices. The new generation of visitor wants to explore at their own pace and in their own way. Technology provides the opportunity for guests to shape their own adventure, but also for hotels to provide support, should they need it.

As far as striking the balance between autonomy and dependence goes, it’s largely down to the hotel, the guests and the nature of the surrounding attractions. For hotels based in rural areas, providing regular transport to attractions could be essential. For visitors to a hotel in the heart of a city, guests may prefer a lighter touch. Advice on the best modes of transport, maps highlighting popular routes or digital tours provided through a Genie phone give guests the freedom to explore at their leisure while keeping them on the right track.

Millennial travellers using luxury hotel smartphone to take a selfie

The biggest challenge facing the hospitality industry today is how to respond the ever-changing needs of clients. With so many different reasons for visiting a new city, the onus is on the industry. It’s down to the hotels, the B&Bs, the villas and the hostels to effectively respond to guests’ interests in a way that allows them to define their own experience while giving them an insight into the real vibe of the local area. It’s a tall order, but the hotels hosting the next generation of traveller will be those capable of rising to this challenge.