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Hotel technology

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.

Using hotel guest data from CRM to develop hotel services

Data in hospitality is only as valuable as the insights you take from it

By | Analytics, Hotel management, Hotel technology | No Comments

Every hotel recognises the power of data in improving their services and marketing, so why do so few hoteliers use it correctly?

Of all the travel innovations of the past decade, data in hospitality could prove to be the most significant. Compiling quantified information on every aspect of the guest experience, data is redefining how the industry measures success.

Despite this, industry research suggests businesses are losing $62 billion per year through poor customer service. Meanwhile, recent surveys have also discovered that more than 40% of hotels have only a basic data analysis plan in place. It’s not simply a case of hotels failing to gather valuable data. Often, they simply just don’t know how to turn those numbers into actionable insights.

So how can hotels implement an effective data strategy? The path to data nirvana varies according from brand to brand, but there are some common elements every hotel should consider.

Using hotel guest data from CRM to develop hotel services

Making sense of the channels

In hospitality, data comes from a range of sources. It’s held within primary operational systems, secondary platforms, and online distribution channels. Simultaneously, data can be classified into three distinct groups.

First party data is gathered directly from hotel guests either through the hotel website, social media or in-hotel interactions. Second-party data, meanwhile, is collected from strategic partnerships with relevant companies such as airlines or credit card companies. Third-party data, on the other hand, is purchased directly from other companies.

To help make sense of the myriad channels through which hotels gather their data, we’ve broken them down according to the different daily processes of a hotel, both internal and external.

Hotel operations

CRM/PMS

Tracking the efficacy of your hotel amenities is made easier when your multiple technologies are centralised in one platform. Just like any hospitality business, hotels have numerous points of engagement that must be tracked, measured and optimised.

For hotels, tracking guest engagement can span from initial check-in to guest use of amenities to room service.

Each of these engagement points yields invaluable data. If they’re not analysed as one, they will only show a fractured image of your hotel’s true performance. Only a well-organised, accessible PMS and CRM model can prevent these disconnected sections of data – ‘data-silos’ – forming. As Andrew Sanders, VP, Travel & Hospitality of DataArt says, “Interoperability and integration will be our industry’s biggest challenge as innovation takes hold.”

Operational efficiency

Coordinating staff in a large hotel is a major logistical challenge. With so many different elements operating to their own time-frames, ensuring optimum efficacy requires a cohesive approach informed by measurable objectives. Thankfully, internal avenues rich in data abound in hospitality.

From data on electricity and water consumption to cleaning supplies, the analytics gained from internal operations can enhance efficiency and reduce expenditure. When this information is compiled into a centralised platform, hoteliers have a complete picture with which to develop actionable insights for planning, strategy, costing and decision-making.

Using data in hospitality to inform guest offers

Room pricing

Data is an essential element of yield management, ensuring each room is optimally priced according to the fluctuations in demand typical in any hotel. When combined with unstructured and semi-structured datasets such as weather and local events, hotels can accurately forecast demand. From this, they can begin to determine a value that offers both value for money and a good margin for the hotel. This is essential in 2018, where customers are willing to trawl the OTAs in search of the best deals.

The hotel chain Red Roof Inn is a great example of the value of anticipating demand through data. During the particularly snowy winter of 2013/2014, the company found that flight cancellations had increased by a pretty substantial 3%. This meant around 90,000 passengers were left stranded every day. The chain’s marketing and analytics team worked together to identify public datasets on weather conditions and flight cancellations. Following the launch of a targeted marketing campaign, Red Roof Inn hotels located nearby to airports saw a 10% increase in guest business.

Booking/pre-arrival

Approximately 80% of IT respondents indicated their budgets have grown over the past five years. Under increasing pressure to improve the customer experience, many have invested that budget in a range of customer relationship management tools. Despite this investment, many hotels still fail to track basic customer feedback. While customer service tools like voice recognition, live chat functions and AI have become more commonplace, the data gathered from these tools often languishes in outdated CRM’s.

That’s a crying shame – for hotel and guest – because so much of this information can be used to improve the experience. For instance:

  • Contact information – Guests begin providing valuable information even before they check-in. By compiling a guest’s contact info, hotels can begin to build up a detailed picture of guest statistics and tailor personalised marketing messages to develop mutually beneficial long-term relationships.
  • Reason for visit – Identifying the reason for a customer’s visit empowers a hotel to begin tailoring their service to their specific requirements. Is the guest travelling on business? Offering access to a meeting room or a wake-up call shows a hotel is willing to go that extra mile and builds brand loyalty.
  • Social profiles – Hotels that include social buttons in their digital interactions with guests open up a world of opportunity for data-gathering. Not only do social profiles give hotels an opportunity to reach new potential customers, they provide invaluable demographics on their guests. This information can go on to influence future marketing campaigns and provide more background on particular guests.

Using data in hospitality to optimise the booking process

Website

When it comes to tracking site metrics, the sheer volume of information can be daunting. It’s not enough to simply track on-site behaviour. Digging into how a guest engaged with content gives hoteliers a better understanding of the strengths and, more importantly, weaknesses of their current website marketing.

Likewise, knowing exactly how a guest found the site – i.e. organically, via an OTA, etc. – enables hotels to understand where to target future marketing campaigns.

With over 83% of bookings now made online there’s no shortage of data. This data can go on to inform almost every aspect of a hotel’s digital marketing procedure and enrich the guest experience.

Mobile

It’s 2018, so every hotel should have optimised their website for mobile. But a mobile optimised site isn’t enough. Even just looking at the different devices visitors use to access your website can shine a light on where to direct future marketing campaigns.

Likewise, the time at which your visitors book a room can tell the hotel a lot about the kind of services they may want upon arrival. If a guest books their room the day before check-in from another country, it’s unlikely they’ll respond to follow-up emails until they arrive. The same guest, however, may be more receptive to information about nearby venues and attractions, as they’re less likely to have researched the local area.

Social media

While most hotels are waking up the value of using social media as customer relationship builder, they still regularly underestimate the power of social media in its data gathering capabilities. In fact, less than 50% of the companies surveyed use tools to analyse and implement social media data.

That’s not to say there aren’t tools out there to fill this gap. Hotels have access to a range of social media analytics platforms. These media management tools can reveal which social posts received the most interest, how many times they were viewed and how many resulted in click-throughs.

Social media provides an invaluable opportunity for hotel brands not just to learn more about their guests, but to learn more about their own services and the guest experience.

Hotels can use social media data as a means of personalising offers directly to customers. Not only does this reduce waiting times, it builds brand trust through greater transparency and informs future services.

Using social media data in hospitality

Arrival

Check-in

Mobile optimisation isn’t just for your website. With some form of automated check-in, hotels can increase guest satisfaction and gather valuable data. This data can inform any number of actions, including upgrades, dietary requirements and the preferred check-in times of specific guests.

Of course, the amount of insight gained by studying the data from check-in can vary. Collecting standard guest information like name, country origin, room and check-in time keeps things simple. However, building a more nuanced picture of guest preferences requires a greater degree of grey-shading.

Knowing what kind of device a guest uses, preferences from previous stays at your hotel and the reason for their stay enables hotels to promote relevant services through the right channels.

With real insights gained from data, a hotel can identify not just the right guests, they can target that guest with personalised information at the optimum time and drive revenues through timely deals.

During their stay

Maximising room value – Every guest engagement with staff and request for in-room services provides an opportunity to learn more about guests.

RevPAR might give hotels optimum return on room rates, but that’s only half the picture. Hotels must also study what guests spend when in their room.

Look at what guests are spending on the mini-bar, in-room entertainment or room service. Hotels willing to integrate this data in real-time can develop personalised offers the very same day. The guest enjoys access to deals that enhance their stay while the hotel enjoys a boost in room-revenues.

Hotel amenities – Likewise, promoting in-hotel services and amenities like the restaurant or spa is a fool’s errand unless hotels track their success rate. With a Genie device in every room, hotels promote in-hotel amenities and gain invaluable metrics on guest behaviour. For instance, if guests tend to click-through on a certain dish around the festive season, the hotel can begin to tailor future offers around this dish and drive restaurant revenues.

Outside the hotel – It’s a question that has perplexed hoteliers for generations. Just what do guests enjoy when they’re not in your hotel? In this hyper-connected world, the answer no longer has to remain a mystery.

Today, there are numerous channels through which to engage a guest when they’re exploring a city, providing the hotel can provide an incentive to engage. With a Genie device, guests can explore the local area with unlimited data. In return, hotels have the opportunity to study anonymised metrics to gain a better understanding of guest preferences.

It’s a major challenge to hotels, but gaining insights on guest behaviour outside the hotel isn’t impossible. By supplying guests with a Genie device, hotels can help curate the guest experience while turning the observations into personalised suggestions.

Engaging with eco-travellers through eco-hotel resources

Upon leaving

Check-out

When a guest leaves the hotel, hoteliers might be forgiven for merely keeping their details on file, adding them to a mailing list and, at most, emailing a ‘thanks-for-staying’. But checkout doesn’t signal the end of the guest journey. Data in hospitality settings comes from every step of the guest experience, and that includes after they check out.

By registering data from other elements, including flight times, hotels can offer additional services like late checkout and post checkout-storage to the right guests. This, in turn, builds brand loyalty and lays the foundation to return visits. Likewise, if the data shows a guest has used a hotel amenity during their stay, a voucher provided on check-out can go a long way to enticing them back next time around.

Guest feedback

Everyone’s a critic these days. Online OTA’s and travel review sites have shifted the power dynamic to guests. Anyone can leave a review, and these reviews can have a major impact on a hotel. 88% of travellers filter out hotels with an average star rating below three. Every hotel now dedicates some of their marketing effort to increase ratings on online review sites, but very few dedicate any time to looking at the data behind these reviews.

But how do you quantify qualitative feedback? First, you have to develop a coherent method of collecting feedback. This requires deciding which elements of the guest experience mean the most to you.

After that, you’re going to need some form of automated natural language processing (NLP) to comb the feedback and pick out recurring themes. These NLP’s don’t always provide an accurate picture. After all, language is so diverse, it can be difficult to tell when a guest has mentioned a feature or service in a negative or positive light. That’s not to say it can’t provide valuable insights into commonly mentioned elements of your hotel. AI and machine learning are constantly improving the review quantification process. Hotels that are willing to invest a little now could reap invaluable insights from the wealth of data available.

Quantifying text reviews to gain data in hospitality

More than anything, it’s vital that hoteliers ensure their data focus aligns with their strategic objectives and goals. Charting a map through the jungle of metrics becomes significantly easier when you clearly establish your objectives beforehand.

With disruptive technologies like social media, Airbnb and mobile-first technologies shaking up the industry, it’s never been more vital that hotels take advantage of every available innovation. Data can provide that competitive advantage, but only if hotels know how to turn cold hard numbers into real-world actions.

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

Check in desk threatened by automation in hospitality

Is automation in hospitality rendering the hotel check-in desk obsolete?

By | Automation, Hotel management, Hotel technology | No Comments

Technologies are transforming traditional hotel practices. What does it mean for the fabled front-desk?

After some industry figures speculated the hotel of the future could do away with front desks altogether, there was an uproar from experts and consumers alike. But in an industry where any opportunity to reduce costs must be considered, doing away with the check-in desk could be the only option for hoteliers. So what does the level of increasing automation in hospitality mean for customer service, and are we losing the personal touch so integral to the hotel experience?

The check-in desk of today

Gérard Laizé, general manager of VIA (Valorisation de l’Innovation dans l’Ameublement) put it best when he explained the current hotel predicament – “As far as lobbies go, there are currently two concerns: a general exasperation with welcoming guests like bank tellers, a desire to offer a warmer welcome and a will for speed and efficiency.”

One of the key issues arising from the traditional ‘check-in desk’ setup is that most new guests don’t really want to engage with a member of staff. This is doubly true in hospitality, where guests often arrive from a long journey with tired children in tow. This makes it more challenging for members of staff to upsell hotel amenities, offer upgrades and generally make a good first impression. Designated check-in times can also lead to bottlenecks. When numerous guests try to check-in simultaneously, staff can be overwhelmed, leading to delays that could impact a guest’s overall perception of the hotel.

Many in the industry, however, still see the front-desk as integral to the overall ‘feel’ of a hotel. They argue that without it, guests would be left adrift on arrival, unsure of who to turn to when trying to find their way to check in. As Emma Crichton-Miller emphasised in an article for the Financial Times, ‘The overt function of the desk is diminished but its symbolic function remains’.

Hotel lobby with check-in desk resisting automation in hospitality

Automation and AI in hospitality

Of all the changes in the hospitality industry over the past decade, AI and automation will have the most significant impact on the day-to-day guest experience. Although not limited to the lobby, these technologies are already improving the check-in experience by giving more freedom to the guest, enabling check-in outside peak hours and freeing up staff to focus on providing additional services.

Although the check-in desk is still the preferred option for many looking to find information, guests increasingly look to digital solutions, including AI and in-hotel chatbots, for answers to an array of typical questions. Automated hotel services take the pressure off hotel staff while increasing upselling opportunities. After all, the easier it is for guests to check-in, order room service, and book tables in the restaurant, the more likely they are to use the service throughout their stay.

Simultaneously, technologies like Genie can act as a portable, personal concierge, giving tips on the best places to eat, drink and explore, regardless of whether the guest is in the hotel or exploring the city outside.

Using a hospitality CRM to manage hotel services & up-selling

Face-to-face interactions aren’t obsolete

Of course, the hotel check-in desk isn’t just for checking in. It’s also the go-to point for information about the hotel as well as a place to find tips on external attractions, restaurants, and venues. Hotels will find the most success in adapting the desk to guest’s changing preferences, including finding a means to keep hotel staff available – not to mention visible – upon arrival.

Guests are liable to be wary of any establishment where their presence isn’t immediately acknowledged. Hoteliers need to establish clear processes for guests to follow. Not only this, hotel staff will need to remain on hand to provide assistance as soon as guests step through the door. This means integrating visible ‘key touchpoints’ (i.e. social area, hotel services, etc.) into the lobby design. Ideally, these key touchpoints will be in open, fluid spaces that enable guests to move freely without ‘penning in’ new arrivals.

Efforts by established hotel brands to streamline the check-in process are still in their infancy, but there is no shortage of ideas for how the lobby of the future could look. Holiday Inn recently introduced Open Lobby, where the multiple functions of lobby, restaurant, bar and business centre are combined in a ‘coherent space’. The design was based on numerous studies into how people used space in their own homes, combined with a survey of travel perspectives by IHG (Holiday Inn’s parent company) into the changing preferences of business travellers. The study identified a growing trend away from the traditional office format and towards a more personal, mobile-focused interaction process.

Hotels competing with AirBnB and embracing automation in hospitality

The hotel lobby lives on

Hoteliers still recognise the lobby as key to nailing that first impression. Lobbies are where new arrivals orientate themselves, and the front desk is still integral to this. Particularly in the age of the Instagram traveller, providing that shareable moment is integral to gaining organic attention. Hotels have been slow to embrace these new opportunities (after all, redesigning a lobby is time-consuming, expensive and, above all, disruptive), but more hoteliers are beginning to recognise the power of a great first impression.

The lobby serves a number of purposes beyond check-in, however. A survey of French hospitality professionals found that, while most of those surveyed say the primary functions of lobbies clearly remain welcoming clients (86%) and providing them with information (75%), 46% also mentioned meetings, 41% relaxation, 19% catering and 16% work. Hoteliers are already taking steps to integrate more ‘socially centred’ features. As interior designers, Paradigm Design Group pointed out in a recent blog post, “Hotel designers know that the lobby will keep a variety of groups and events, and they try to make the space versatile and multifunctional. We have changed the perspective that hotels are only a place to check in and out. The rise of competition and social nature of guests demand so much more.”

Free-moving staff could still be on hand to greet new arrivals in the lobby in the check-in-desk free hotel of the future. This dispenses with the rigmarole of long waiting lines and static meeting points but requires hotels accept, as they are slowly coming to, that self-service doesn’t necessarily mean lack of service.

Using a hospitality CRM to manage hotel services & up-selling

The future of the check-in desk

Even with the rapid pace of change in the industry, hotels will maintain some form of check-in desk for years to come. The main changes to hotel operations, according to a report by Amadeus, will be in the back-office systems. Automation, cloud storage and AI will streamline services while brands experiment with different FOH options.

While these innovations streamline the check-in process for hotels and guests alike, they won’t mark as significant a change to the overall hotel experience as removing a universally recognised element like the check-in desk. So what would a desk-less vision of hospitality look like?

In a future without physical check-in points, guests check-in simply by entering their room for the first time. Patrons receive their room number, download an access code (either in the form of a QR code or through uploading a fingerprint scan), gather information on hotel amenities and make special requirements known in advance through hotel-provided handsets.

Hotels could include automated (and even robotic) check-in points dotted around the lobby, much like the ‘self-check’ luggage kiosks popping up in airports around the world. Guests can check in at their own pace and the kiosks can upsell room upgrades and spa passes as simple CTA’s (Call To Action’s).

 

Hotel check in desk with trees

Fairmont Hotel Lobby: Image courtesy of Pargon, CC.-BY 2.0

Conclusion

The ultimate aim of hospitality is to provide the same level of comfort guests achieve at home. As Rohit Talwar predicted in his ‘Hotels 2020’ report, “With no front desk to include, hotel designers will be able to let their imaginations run that little bit freer. And for guests, staying in a hotel could become that bit more like staying at a friend’s house, where you’re approached on entry, given a comfortable seat and a drink, and then shown your room.”

While the desk itself may become a relic of the past, digital innovations will never completely replace face-to-face service. Technology can never totally replace human interaction. Instead, technology should complement and enhance face-to-face engagement. The leaders of future hospitality brands will have to establish a balance between these competing interests.

How has luxury hospitality adapted to the modern age?

By | Hospitality, Hotel technology, Luxury | No Comments

Luxury hospitality is at a crossroads: new technologies like AI and social media are changing the way we travel, but can the industry respond to the new generation of switched on traveller?

The past decade has seen a remarkable change in the hospitality industry. The near ubiquitous use of smartphones, the shift to all things digital, the growth of the sharing economy, have all had a profound impact on day-to-day hotel operations. It’s not the first time the industry has faced dramatic change – see the introduction of package holidays in the ‘70s – but never before have hotels faced so many new challenges, and opportunities, at once.

These new challenges have affected every level of the industry, but what about those at the top end of hospitality? Even just two decades ago, high-end hotels tended to adhere to a ‘traditional’ concept of luxury. Today, that concept has undergone a seismic shift. Gilded finishings, gaudy opulence and servile waiting staff are being replaced with sleek minimalism and carefully curated guest experiences.

Premium tech is essential

A recent report by Oracle Hospitality, which polled more than 2,700 U.S. and European travellers, found that nearly two-thirds of U.S. guests said it was “very or extremely important” for hotels to continue investing in technology to enhance the guest experience.

Whereas the luxury hotelier of the past placed a strong emphasis on face-to-face interactions, today’s hotels have a myriad of channels to communicate with guests through. This means utilising technology to provide a tailored experience and being fluent in (and connected to) whatever channel the guests most prefer to communicate through.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has also proven a hugely valuable development for the sector. With IoT integrations, guests have the power to alter the heating in their room, run a bath and even open the curtains from a single device.

Of course, there are technologies today that would be described as a ‘luxury’ feature ten years ago but now feature as standard. Keyless entry, online room selection and one-click dinner reservations have all become common features. To stay ahead of the curve, hotels not only need to keep an eye out for the latest technologies but also understand which are right for their particular brand image.

Integrating IoT technology into luxury hotel room

Consolidate your data

Gone are the days when gathering guest preferences involved an end-of-stay questionnaire. Today, hotels have a range of technologies at their disposal to understand guest requirements and, just as importantly, streamline this information into a single source.

Cloud-based CRM’s can provide a centralised platform to turn guest data into valuable insights on their unique preferences. Hotel staff can receive real-time information on anything from room service orders to a guest’s preferred dinner time. By identifying their key demographics through analytics, hotels can develop a sustainable, long-term growth plan and shape in-hotel services around guest preferences.

Genie devices gather valuable metrics on guest interactions both inside and out of the hotel, allowing hoteliers to paint a detailed picture of their guest and cater to their needs accordingly. Guest satisfaction is paramount, so those hotels that can most effectively tap into exactly what their patrons want during their stay will go on to define the new gold standard in hospitality.

Using hotel guest data from CRM to develop luxury hospitality services

Empower guests

Some things never change in the industry. Guest satisfaction remains at the forefront of every hotel process, but the means to achieve that satisfaction have evolved. One thing that stands out above all else is the need to give guests autonomy over as much of their stay as possible. Providing guests with the freedom to choose a specific room, or how to engage with staff, will increase the likelihood of a return visit and simultaneously free up hotel staff for other tasks.

While the luxury experience of yesteryear centred around supplying guests with luxury items, the trend today is to provide valuable experiences that guests can choose to consume in a number of ways. In the age of ‘individual experiences’, guests want to follow their own path. Any assistance that does come should be minimal and, if possible, provided through the platform guests feel most comfortable using.

Using translator apps abroad

Optimise promotion opportunities

With the growth of the Instagram tourist, luxury hoteliers want to integrate ever-more visually memorable experiences into their service. The power of social promotion has prompted hoteliers to seek ‘Instagrammable moments’ in every aspect of service, from distinctive dishes in the hotel restaurant to grandiose, eye-catching displays in the hotel lobby. A single photo by an influential Instagram figure could reach hundreds of thousands of followers; that’s the kind of coverage money can’t buy.

Similarly, with the growth of online booking and review sites, anyone can share their opinion of a hotel with thousands of potential guests at the click of a button. These reviews can make or break a hotel, so it’s vital every possible measure is taken to cater to their needs during their stay. This also requires staying on top of new technologies. Even one additional feature point on a review site could be enough to sway a potential guest trying to decide between two luxury hotels.

Hotel guests taking a selfie for hotel brand promotion

Personalise the experience

Guests want an experience tailored to their specific needs and, with the proliferation of data, hotels can now provide exactly that. By studying guest interactions with services, hoteliers can build up a detailed understanding of what particular guests want, and when.

Thanks to data, guests can now expect to wake up to an alarm automated to their day, dine on a breakfast specifically selected from data gathered on their previous meals and jump in a taxi waiting outside, called specifically for their day.

Guests (particularly those travelling from overseas) crave information but are more likely to seek it through an internet connection than the concierge. The Oracle Hospitality survey found that 62% of guests used non-hotel sources outside the hotel’s remit for dinner reservations and activity recommendations. The luxury hospitality brands that can harness this technology and provide a personalised, curated experience to their guests will be the obvious choice for future visits. As Jay Upchurch, Vice President of Oracle Hospitality says, “Technology can address the industry’s dual challenge of operating efficiently at scale and simultaneously providing individualized service.”

Building brand trust through your hotel

Develop your USP

The growth of Airbnb has pushed hotels, particularly those in the high-end sector, to focus their design and services on providing a unique experience that can’t be found anywhere else. With travellers now able to choose from thousands of different locations, and a variety of different styles of accommodation, it’s vital hotels develop their unique brand value and express it coherently through a strong online presence.

These ‘niche-appeal’ features can cover anything, from eco-friendly design to locally-sourced food in the hotel restaurant. Although brand loyalty has been diluted by the host of online booking sites, where price and ‘bullet point features’ are often deciding factors, studies have found that customers who feel engaged by a brand are less price-sensitive. Gallup’s 2014 Hospitality Industry study has consistently revealed customers of higher-priced hotel chains tend to be more engaged than those of lower-priced brands. In fact, luxury hotel customers are twice as likely to strongly agree that the hotel they visit most frequently cares for their well-being than economy hotel customers.

Developing a niche appeal for your luxury hospitality brand
While the industry has adapted to significant change in the past twenty years, luxury hospitality still faces an uphill battle in keeping on top of the evolving needs of guests. The advantages provided by technologies like online booking, automated in-room amenities and guest data also come with challenges and increased competition. Only by staying receptive to customer interests and being willing to adapt rapidly to new innovations can hotels hope to maintain an edge in this most competitive of industries.

Woman using electric device in hotel room

The smart guide to increasing sustainability in your hotel

By | Hospitality, Hotel technology, Sustainability | No Comments

The hospitality sector is at a critical point. The industry has experienced a steady lift in revenues in the past decade but margins have remained razor thin and, in some places, have actually decreased as innovations like the sharing economy inspire travellers to look elsewhere for accommodation.

Hotels house more technology than ever before, with the average hotel room now hosting six different electric appliances. Meanwhile, guests now take an average of five connectable devices on nights away from home, all of which will probably require charging from a mains power supply at some point in their stay. In short, we’re using more energy than ever, but hotels are expected to shoulder the costs of this increased consumption. Coupled with a growing awareness of the human impact on our natural environment and increased pressure from environmental agencies, it’s never been more vital that hotels take steps to reduce their reliance on non-renewable energy sources.

Woman using laptop to increase sustainability in your hotel

Whilst integrating new technology to your hotel can be a daunting task, introducing sustainable features can actually save money in the long run, particularly if those technologies improve operations efficiency and earn your hotel a reputation for green innovation.

The age of the eco-traveller

Travellers are increasingly turning to more eco-friendly accommodation as the true impact of our presence on the surrounding environment becomes clearer. A recent survey by E.On revealed that 50% of hotel guests value sustainability and energy efficiency in hotels, while almost one in five would be more likely to stay somewhere if it used renewable energy sources.

Energy efficiency represents a unique opportunity to appeal to the environmentally conscious traveller while simultaneously reducing hotel expenses.

Hotels can earn eco-credentials with guests by integrating more sustainable hospitality technology. Differentiating your hotel from the crowd can be a challenge but aspiring to some kind of eco-hotel status can open up new channels of guest and earn valuable accolades from industry leaders.

Engaging with eco-travellers through eco-hotel resources

Sustainability starts with design

It’s no secret; installing features to harness renewable energy will save you money in the long-run. The industry can benefit from harnessing renewables, including through utilising tax breaks and encouraging a more sustainable approach to daily operations. As hotels move to integrate more technology, the need for clean, renewable energy sources becomes essential to maintaining profit margins.

It might sound obvious, but ensuring your hotel is lit entirely by LED lighting can dramatically reduce your electricity output. Meanwhile, installing water aerators, allows guests to enjoy hot, clean water at up to 50% less cost.

Installing motion-sensitive lighting in hallways and shared spaces can reduce the overall amount of time lights spend on. In areas where natural light is available, look at dimming your electric lighting to reduce energy consumption without reducing visibility.

Integrating energy saving static features from the renovation-stage can lead to significant savings down the line. In hot countries, where a significant portion of energy expenditure is spent on air conditioning, light reflecting windows can have a valuable impact. Likewise, in cold countries where heating can account for up to 50% of a hotel’s energy costs, including extra insulation features like thick curtains and energy-efficient glazing can pay dividends in the future.

How can the hotel industry adapt to the sharing economy?

Cut costs with initiatives

Almost every aspect of a hotel’s daily operations can be tweaked to encourage a more energy-conscious service. Most hotels now operate on a ‘specified cleaning needs’ system. So if a guest wants their bedsheets and towels cleaned daily, they can make this clear with a sign on the door or by leaving their items on the floor. However, if they’re happy to keep the same bedsheets and towels on for the duration of their stay, they can also specify, saving the hotel valuable time, money and energy in unnecessary cleaning.

Integrating your hotel management system with a comprehensive CRM can also open new avenues for reducing energy consumption, particularly when combined with data on various hotel operations. With analytics on food consumption, cleaning, toiletries and more, hotels can the identify the least efficient areas of a hotel and incrementally optimise individual processes.

Many governments also offer a number of incentives to increase sustainability in your hotel that could lead to long-term savings. These incentives can cover anything from insurance premium discounts, to financial grants to tax write-offs.

With a Genie device in each room, gathering data on guest behaviour  – including room service orders and media usage – becomes significantly simpler. By integrating data gathered from Genie phones with your hotel CRM, you can track hotel processes and develop energy saving solutions around tried and tested means.

Using CRM data to increase sustainability in your hotel

Get guests & staff in on the act

Training your staff to take a proactive role in the sustainability of the hotel ensures it’s an all-around effort. Even simple office functions, like switching to recycled paper, or going digital altogether, will help cut down on waste.

Designate specific members of staff to manage resource consumption in key areas of the hotel, and provide regular training sessions. Make sure employees turn off lights as they leave a room, recycle waste and, where possible, share transport.

The same E.On survey also uncovered an interesting fact: guests use more energy in a hotel than in their home. Sure, guests are less inclined to watch their energy usage when they don’t pay the bill, but hotels should still incentivise guests to enjoy a more energy-conscious stay.

Given the option – and a gentle reminder – most guests will try to limit their energy usage in your hotel. Even a small sign by the hotel room door encouraging guests to turn off appliances as they leave can make a big difference to your bottom line.

Harness your eco-strengths

Hotels should strive to make the most of the surrounding environment and climate. Just because a technology becomes available doesn’t mean it’s the best option for your hotel. Solar panels on a hotel in Scotland won’t begin to pay for themselves as soon as they would in Spain. Similarly, rainwater storage technology will have limited use in a Dubai hotel. That doesn’t mean discounting these technologies altogether, but justifying expenditure on new energy-saving features requires prioritisation.

In Iceland, for instance, many hotels take energy from the country’s natural geothermal energy reserves. Several of these hotels also provide access to geothermal pools that act as ‘natural jacuzzis’. Not every hotel has access to geothermal energy, but you can utilise the local environment to reduce your carbon footprint.

It’s not just about adding new technologies. By managing your guest bookings intelligently, you can reduce energy-reliance and ensure a comfortable night’s stay for everyone. Save on heating by providing rooms that receive the most sun in winter. Likewise, try to book rooms in clusters and avoid placing guests in corner rooms (where more energy is needed to maintain a comfortable temperature). The differences may seem minimal, but by limiting heat loss throughout the year, you can boost your overall annual revenue.

Harnessing geothermal power to heat your eco-hotel

Go green – literally

Hotels have turned to green features like rooftop green-spaces and vertical gardens to increase the aesthetic appeal of their grounds. It’s a win-win scenario; hotels can showcase their environmental accomplishments and previously unappealing areas become Insta-worthy photo opportunities.

Because concrete doesn’t absorb rainwater, runoff goes into drains and other water sources. This runoff is often filled with contaminants that damage the surrounding ecosystem. Adding more green space on your hotel grounds has the added bonus of helping channel rainwater. Gardens, ponds and shrubs create areas of natural beauty while reducing the impact of your hotel on the environment.

In areas where the weather changes dramatically from season to season – for instance, in tropical countries, where periods of intense rainfall are followed by periods of water scarcity – features like tree box filters can help store water during the rainy season and distribute it during the drier months. 

Adding green features to increase sustainability in your hotel

Sustainability starts in the kitchen

Approximately 18% of all food purchased in the UK hospitality sector goes to waste. For hotels, this means lost profits and a sizeable amount of food gone to waste. Despite this, cutting down on excessive food wastage is a major challenge. Hotels always err on the side of caution, but changing guest numbers make predicting demand a major challenge.

Hotel kitchens operate to strict health and safety guidelines, so features like dimmed or motion-sensitive lighting are a no-go. Instead, look at partnering with local food charities who can remove excess food that can no longer be served. It won’t necessarily reduce your financial spend, but it will mean less food goes to waste.

Kitchens run to strict processes. That’s why it’s essential you look at how you source the food that comes into your kitchen.

By adding more seasonal produce to your menu, you can save money on importing overseas goods while supporting local businesses. Just as importantly; by sourcing food from local, sustainable suppliers, you reduce the carbon footprint of bringing food to customer’s plates and provide a taste of the local culinary culture. To learn more about approved sustainable local suppliers, check out resources like Sustainweb.

If your hotel has enough green space, look at setting some aside for growing your own herbs and vegetables. This enables you to manage every stage of the production process and limit the cost of importing foodstuffs from elsewhere. As an added bonus, you can use most forms of organic food wastage as compost. Not only does it nourish the soil, it also reduces the hotel’s reliance on external sources.

Using free data roaming abroad for national dishes

Of course, cutting hotel costs should be at the forefront of every hotelier’s actions. That doesn’t mean, however, that it should be the only reason for increasing sustainability in your hotel. We’re only just coming to terms with the real impact our existence is having on the planet. To ensure future generations enjoy the diverse wonders of our planet, hotels must take steps to reduce their carbon footprint.  The hospitality industry as a whole owe it to the guests, and the world, to do their part.

Using a hospitality CRM to manage hotel services & up-selling

How to integrate a hospitality CRM into your Hotel Management System

By | Hospitality, Hotel management, Hotel technology | No Comments

.Customer relationship management is a constantly evolving concept. While the core concept remains the same across industries – managing every engagement opportunity to build and increase loyalty – each business has its own unique requirements.

In hospitality, how you engage with your guests is dependent on a number of factors. In-house amenities, location and historic/cultural significance should all play a part in defining the right kind of CRM for your hotel.

Putting these elements aside, there are some processes every hotel should consider before integrating a new CRM model. Thankfully, Genie is on hand to walk you through the process. 

New York hotel exterior with new hospitality CRM

Identify

Aims – What is the overall goal of the CRM? Introducing a new CRM to your hotel requires coordination between all departments, so it’s vital to consider why you are changing your approach before launching into anything.

Obstacles – What elements of your current setup prevent you from creating streamlined data-flows? Do yourself a favour; identify data silos before you embark on any kind of CRM implementation. From there, you can take steps to make every aspect as transparent, accessible and concise as possible.

Channels – Which channels do you hope to integrate with a CRM? How well do these different channels fit together? By identifying the weak spots in your current CRM system, you can avoid data blind-spots with your new system.

Of course, with all that data you’ll need a plan detailing how it will flow into your CRM. Draw up exactly how you plan to manage the data, along with how you plan to turn that data into real change in your daily processes.

Using a hospitality CRM to boost sales hotel restaurant

It’s not enough to harness the information from your hotel operations, you must turn that data into actionable insights. Coordination between departments is simpler with Genie devices in the hands of select staff. Meanwhile, identifying blind-spots becomes easier and guest behaviour data becomes infinitely more accessible with a Genie phone in every room.

Establish

Targets – You’d be amazed how many businesses begin the arduous process of CRM integration without considering what exactly they’re trying to achieve.

So, after identifying your aims, you should be able to draw up measurable targets. Looking to increase up-selling in room service? Take a look at the amount you make per room per stay and the current process of ordering room service so you can begin to draw up realistic targets. By giving your team access to quantified goals, upselling opportunities become more attainable.

Perimeters – It’s important to understand your limits when introducing a CRM. As much as you would like to, you can’t control every aspect of your guest’s behaviour. A multi-department CRM can, however, give you peace of mind that every accountable facet of the guest experience is being documented and shared with the right staff.

Milestones – Break down your CRM implementation into easy-to-manage, measurable milestones. This way your staff have a more digestible set of goals and, in the event of an issue, you can more easily identify where something went wrong.

Staff – Choose which members of staff should cover which areas. While this may seem like an easy choice – surely the restaurant manager is best to spearhead the food service side – there’s no guarantee all the different leaders will work well together. Identify each member of staff’s strengths and weaknesses and build your team around who works best together, and can best communicate when there’s a problem.

Vintage hotel hallway updated using hotel CRM

Introducing a new CRM can be a stressful experience but, if done in conjunction with Genie, hotels can provide a centralised, stable platform through which to draw up shared goals, develop measurable milestones and designate specific roles.

Instigate

In implementing the hotel CRM across your platforms, there’s an understandable urge to delay it until it’s absolutely perfect. Everyone wants to launch with a perfect CRM, but you can tweak elements as the system as you go.

As you put the system into place, bear in mind the key components of each section and how they work together. Areas to consider include:

Platform integration – Which platforms are you going to include? A consistent email platform (i.e. Gmail or Outlook, not both) makes integration simpler, while a single, hotel-wide instant messaging system means your staff are always in the know. If your hotel has its own app, make sure you can integrate the data gained from guest usage into the CRM.

Of course, the needs of your hotel should inform the integrations you choose. Simultaneously, it’s vital to take account of the external needs of different departments. The kitchen, for instance, will regularly require stock and equipment orders. Communication with suppliers, meanwhile, is integral to the efficient running of the cleaning department.

Information sharing – The rapid sharing of information between different departments should be integral to your hospitality CRM. Streamlining communications requires cohesive integration of your platforms and a robust system. Above all, this CRM must ensure the right people can access the information these platforms provide.

Sales forecasts – Data gained from everyday hotel operations will make drawing up sales forecasts simpler and more verifiable. After all, predicting how the CRM will influence ancillary revenues is a lot easier when you have all the information to hand. Likewise, developing a coherent sales strategy for the future becomes more straightforward when you can set measurable targets for every hotel department.

Guest analytics – Data is the oil that makes your CRM engine run. That’s why it’s essential your CRM provides readable, actionable analytics. When your team can easily understand how to turn the insights provided by your analytics into actions, guest satisfaction, selling-opportunities and inter-departmental coordination will all come that little bit easier.

Storage – By this stage, you’ve probably considered every option for your CRM, but where exactly your data will be stored often comes as a last consideration. Storing it on local files can limit access for other departments or members of staff. Meanwhile, purely Cloud-based storage can present issues for hotels in areas where connection is sporadic. Regardless of which you choose, it’s important to regularly check and update your CRM.

Using hotel guest data from CRM to develop hotel services

As with all hospitality CRM’s, the key focus is in maintaining a regularly refurbished, accessible database. This database should be a central column of information, collating guest data, outgoing costs and staff processes. With a Genie device in every room, analysing guest behaviour is easy and non-invasive. With integrations for hospitality CRM’s, anonymised data on every aspect of the guest experience can be gathered, saved and analysed with ease.

Measure

Reflect – How close are you to achieving the goals you set out in the Establish phase? It’s important to measure your failures just as much as your successes. Where did your CRM struggle to turn that data into real insights? Which areas of the hotel provided the least data?

Of course, your CRM is about making the most of the mountains of data provided by everyday processes, so it’s vital you look at just what that data is saying.

Compare – Did some elements of your CRM work better in the winter season? Perhaps room service sales decreased during a major local sporting event? By breaking down your data into categories, you can see which aspects of service work, and which require some tweaking.

Persevere – Measuring the effectiveness of your hotel CRM is a never-ending process and requires constant adjustment. To really find success with your hotel CRM, you have to be ready to listen to the numbers.

Using guest analytics to develop your hotel CRM

Image courtesy of www.seniorliving.org

Genie devices provide analytics on the most effective sales methods, as well as the browsing behaviour of guests. This gives you the freedom to study every aspect of the guest experience and build your services around quantified successes.

Refine

So, you’ve implemented your CRM, you’ve basked in the data and you’ve measured every aspect of your service. Now it’s time to fine-tune those services.

It’s by no means an easy feat. There’s no secret formula to complete success, so take your time and make incremental changes. This way, you can trace and rectify any drop in sales or guest satisfaction without upending other vital processes.

Managing guest check in using your hospitality CRM

Genie gives your hotel the freedom to trial new offers and services to a small group of guests. With the data provided through guest interactions with Genie devices, you can measure changes against other control groups.

Introducing a hospitality CRM will always be a challenge. With forward-planning and a strong understanding of your goals, hotels can increase guest loyalty, drive revenues and start anew.

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.

Using a luxury hotel smartphone with apps to help you discover tourist destinations

Top 10 travel apps to help you discover a new city

By | Explore, Hotel technology, Travel | No Comments

Travel apps are the new guidebooks, but choosing which to download for your next trip can be daunting. That’s why we’ve gathered the top travel apps to gets you feeling at home in a new city in no time. Happy travels!

Visiting a new destination is thrilling, but finding your way around an unfamiliar city can be a daunting task. You want to discover a city’s hidden pleasures but, of course, you want to avoid substandard meals or hours of wandering in circles.

Lonely Planet Guides

A staple of the travelling scene for over 40 years, it was only a matter of time until the Lonely Planet got in on the app game. While not offering much off the beaten track, the insights provided by Lonely Planet Guides are pretty solid.

The app comes with a simple, clean UI to enable easy navigation as you traverse new streets, while the audio phrase-books can give you the confidence to start engaging with locals like a pro.

Lonely Planet has always been a firm favourite in the traveller’s itinerary. That’s thanks in large part to the reliable recommendations. With the essential tips in this app, you can ditch the guidebooks without losing the knowledge.

Using smartphone apps with 4G to find tourist destinations

Sidekix

OK, so there’s a thousand apps out there promising to show you the top hidden spots in any given city. Most of these apps probably have a few hidden gems too but, for a consistently reliable exploration tool, Sidekix has to our first choice.

With curated listings specially chosen by locals, the app gives you a personalised insight into new cities.

The real gem of Sidekix, however, lies in its interest-based routeing. The app doesn’t just give you directions to reach your destination, it selects routes based on what you can see and do on the way, so every step offers the opportunity for discovery.

Hotel guests tracking their route in a new city using smartphone data

Spotted by Locals

Spotted by Locals does exactly what it says on the tin – recommending the best local hangouts to check out in a new area.

The app is pretty versatile, allowing you to choose local venues based on your interests and even specify further. Looking for food? Choose from a huge range of cuisines across hundreds of cities. After some entertainment? Spotted by Locals comes with a whole host of categories to ensure you find just what you’re looking for.

With regular updates on all the latest shows, events and haunts, Spotted by Locals could well be your new favourite travel companion.

Using guest smartphone with mobile data to find tourist spots

Sit or Squat

We’ve all been there. You’re exploring a new area when nature calls, but you don’t know where to go without causing an international incident. Step forward Sit or Squat, the toilet-finding app that rates latrines based on such vital attributes as their cleanliness and accessibility.

Of course, Sit or Squat probably won’t help you discover the secret spots of a new city, it probably won’t help you find your new favourite hangout and it definitely won’t lead to any incredible photo opportunities. What it will do, however, is help you find a clean public restroom, and that can be just as important, especially if you’re regretting that seafood dish the night before.

The app allows you to add new locations and spread the word about the best restrooms in town, although why anyone would want to read toilet reviews on holiday is another matter altogether.

A toilet finding app to discover new locations while travelling with free data

EatWith

How do you tap into the vibe of a new city? Some people will tell you it’s by talking to the locals. Others will say it’s all about getting acquainted with the local cuisine. Well, EatWith takes both of those and combines them to give you a dining experience you’ll never forget.

EatWith has created a community of dedicated foodies and uber-sociable home chefs to give you the real taste of a new city. Just download the app, check out the menus in your area and book a seat.

The app comes with an added advantage – every meal is eaten around a communal table with other strangers, allowing you to meet new and interesting people from all walks of life while chowing down on delicious local cuisine. Bon appetit!

Finding food in a new city with free data roaming and travel apps

Trippy

Like a lot of great ideas, Trippy’s appeal lies in its simplicity. Download the app, ask a question to the community regarding a new place or an upcoming trip and make decisions based on the feedback.

Not only does Trippy provide a platform to learn about great events and experiences, it allows you to contribute your own responses. This gives you the opportunity to develop your reputation as a tastemaker while giving visitors to your area a real local experience.

Because the app works on a rating system, you can see which responses have the highest number of ‘Likes’, and begin to build your trip around this advice.

Discover and track new places with unlimited free data abroad

Dark Sky

Every now and then, travelling requires you to relinquish control and accept whatever comes your way. One thing definitely beyond your control when exploring a new city is the weather, but that doesn’t mean you can’t coordinate your day around what you know.

Step forward Dark Sky, the most accurate hyper-local weather report app around. With to-the-minute forecasts, you can traverse a new city and know exactly what the weather will be like at all times.

With stunning, detailed maps and real-time updates, Dark Sky could mean the difference between a day of unspoilt exploration or a miserable sodden slog.

View weather patterns in real time using free mobile data abroad

HearPlanet

Think about the first time you explored a new location – what senses come to mind? Well, HearPlanet is here to give you an aural-jolt to the senses. As the world’s largest audio guide, you can explore hundreds of thousands of locations with the aid of a personal tour guide.

For such a remarkably simple concept, HearPlanet is insanely handy. Not only can you choose from a range of great tours with filters to find exactly what you’re looking for, you can add your own, personalised tour for others to enjoy later.

For an added bonus, give HearPlanet a try in your native city. You never know what you might find out.

Find the best personal walking tours with free hotel smartphone

Citymapper

One of the hardest parts of getting to grips with a new city is the transport. What might seem like a logical network to locals can look like a baffling maze to the uninitiated.

That’s why Citymapper, the app for all things transport-based, is so useful. It’s the ultimate tool for navigating confusing routes, giving you details on every possible mode of transport in your new city while helping manoeuvre the often bewildering intricacies of foreign transport networks.

What separates Citymapper from the array of other travel apps out there is its common sense approach. The app provides regular updates to ensure all routeing info is relevant while providing the simplest, cheapest and most direct routes.

Using a city mapping app while exploring a new city with 4G data roaming

ChefsFeed

Looking for the best culinary offerings in a new city can be a challenging experience. You want an authentic experience, but not necessarily one that involves unfortunate mistranslations and dodgy dishes.

ChefsFeed takes the guesswork out of finding the best restaurants by asking top chefs for their recommendations. The easy to navigate UI lets you read reviews from the best in the business, while the chef profiles allow you to see videos and stories on every aspect of the industry.

Picture Yelp or TripAdvisor, but with all the reviews done by industry specialists. Say goodbye to sub-par pasta, rubbish roasts and mediocre meze. Say hello to delicious dishes from some of the world’s top chefs!

Find incredible food by top chefs with luxury hotel smartphones

So there you have it; just a few of the best apps to make the most of your next city trip. Of course, when you’re in a new country, it can be difficult to get mobile data without incurring significant charges. With a Genie phone, you can stay connected all day long, wherever you are, and it won’t cost a thing.