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The month in hospitality

The month in hospitality: July 2018

By | Hospitality, 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!

New Build hotels are boosting the UK hotel sector

July brought news that 15,200 new hotel rooms opened last year, a 2.4% growth in hotel supply. The annual UK Hotel Development Opportunities 2018 report from Knight Frank also found budget hotels continue to dominate the market, representing 69% of all new build hotel stock and 65% of all hotel extensions.

Overall, the proportion of new build hotels increased by 37% in 2017, accounting for 66% of all new rooms in the UK hotel sector. This is great news for the industry. Although the most dramatic growth was seen in London, development is also on the rise across the UK. Overall, regions outside of London will contribute approximately 13,000 new rooms by the end of 2018, representing 62% of the total UK new bedroom stock.

The UK Hotel Development Index also named the UK’s most attractive cities, with Inverness, Brighton, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Liverpool taking the top spots. Whether the growth witnessed in 2018 will continue into next year remains to be seen, but it’s a positive sign in an industry still coming to terms with the potential impact of Brexit.

Get the full story from The Caterer here.

London street shot of a new hotel

The world’s first predictive algorithm for hotels is here

Yes, that’s right. This month the industry awoke to find that tech-hospitality specialists The Hotels Network has created the first predictive algorithm for hotels. Named Oraculo, the software marries together revenue management and personalisation to increase conversions on hotel websites, the first ever hotel product to do so. The algorithm was built using machine learning techniques by the company’s data scientists, analysing behavioural patterns based on the data of millions of travellers globally.

The software works by predicting guest behaviour and segmenting users in real-time to identify the ideal offer for each individual visitor. As a result, hotel websites are automatically customised for each unique user. While previous attempts at user-driven personalisation relied on studying previous customers’ on-site behaviour, Oraculo enables hoteliers to personalise the experience for first-time visitors too.

As the Founder and CEO of The Hotels Network, Juanjo Rodriguez, explains:

“Just as every booker is different, every non-booker is too. Oraculo is able to differentiate between low-intent and high-intent users, so the optimal message and rate can be shown to each visitor, just at the point where they are deciding on their reservation.

This results in a hugely positive impact on revenue, with a potential conversion uplift of up to 65% in the low-intent segment who otherwise may not have spent at all.”

Best of all, hotels currently using The Hotels Network existing suite of tools can try Oraculo for free on a 30-day trial basis to experience the benefits for themselves.

Check out the full story here.

Google Hotel Ads joins Google Ads

Great news for any hotel marketers struggling to manage both their Hotel Ads and other Google Ads (such as search and display campaigns): the two are now part of the same platform. The search engine behemoth announced this month that Hotel Ads are set to become a part of the Google Ads platform later this year. The company also announced it was also launching a new Hotel Center to simplify the management of hotel price feeds.

Aiming to optimise the campaign management process, the new platform has been touted as having a range of benefits:

  • Hotel groups to organize hotels by important attributes like brand and class
  • Robust bidding controls enable marketers to optimise for bidding dimensions unique to hotels
  • Smart bidding powered by machine learning to maximise bookings at your ROI goal
  • Rich reporting and familiar responsive interface available with the newly redesigned Google Ads

The new Hotel Ads platform will launch as an open beta available to advertisers later this year. Hotels looking to stay up to date on the Google Ads integration and Hotel Center launch, beta test Hotel ads in Google Ads or learn more about Hotel ads can do so by filling out this interest form.

Click here for the full story.

Using data in hospitality to optimise the booking process

Buoyant global economy means higher hotel and air prices in 2019

The rising cost of oil and a growing global economy are just two factors behind an anticipated increase in hotel and air prices next year. According to the fifth annual Global Travel Forecast, published this month by GBTA and CWT, travellers could see room prices increasing by up to 3.7%, while overall flight costs could go up by 2.6%.

Kurt Ekert, President and CEO of Carlson Wagonlit Travel, explained: “Prices are expected to spike in many global markets even as inflation remains subdued. The future of corporate travel can be summed up as accelerated personalization – with mobile technology, AI, machine learning and predictive analytics all playing their part.”

For the hotel industry, the overall increase is balanced by discrepancies in different regions. The Asia Pacific region could see hotel prices rise by up to 5.1%, while prices in New Zealand are set to rise a whopping 11.8%. In Australia, 2019 and 2020 are expected to see the largest number of new rooms, with an increase of 3.4% of total supply each year. Like air prices, hotel rates across Western Europe are expected to rise (by 5.6%), although Eastern Europe could see a decline of 1.9%. Hotels prices in Latin America, meanwhile, are expected to fall 1.3%, with declines in Argentina (down 3.5%), Venezuela (down 3.4%), Brazil (down 1.9%) and Colombia (down 0.7%). The report predicts hotel prices in North America will increase by 2.1% with 5% increases in Canada and 2.7% in the US.

Get the full story here or download the full report here.

How to develop an agile hospitality business model

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.

Bags of exotic spices in local market

Culinary culture: 5 reasons to get to know a new country through it’s food

By | Culture, Explore, Travel | No Comments

What’s the fastest way to get the pulse of a country? Some argue that to truly understand a culture, one must live and work with the native population. For those with a limited time-frame, you would do a lot worse in looking to the kitchen for those local insights. In fact, no matter how long you spend in a country, you should take the time to really get to know the local cuisine. Here are just five reasons to discover a country through your taste buds.

Ingredients are key

It’s no secret that understanding a country’s favourite ingredients gives you a better understanding of the native environment. Whether it’s the rice and noodle dishes of the East or the olive-infused dishes of the Mediterranean, the ingredients used in local dishes can tell you a lot about the cultural, geographic and historic influences embedded in a country’s DNA.

For instance, countries that sit along the ancient silk road stretching from the Far East to Northern Africa to Western Europe have, over the years, incorporated a range of spices into their own national dishes. By understanding where these ingredients originated you can begin to build a picture of the imports that have shaped the cultural landscape.
The next time you’re in a new country, take a stroll through the local markets and see what ingredients are on offer. Even when you think you know a country, wandering between the array of colourful herbs and spices is sure to offer up some unexpected finds.

Collection of exotic spices in bowls
The range of ingredients on offer can reveal a lot about the history and geography of a country

Eating styles can be enlightening

Turns out how a dish is eaten can tell you a lot about the local people. For instance, it is common in parts of East Asia to eat most meals with chopsticks. There are competing stories behind the origin of chopsticks. One argument is that the Chinese philosopher Confucius, a vegetarian, argued that knives were inappropriate at the dinner table. Another school of thought claims that, as populations grew, food became scarcer. As a result, food portions became smaller. Instead, people cut food into smaller morsels and employed chopsticks to ‘pick’ from the pot.

So when you’re next travelling, do some digging into the eating practices of the country. Take time to watch how others eat (without making it weird) and try to master the technique for yourself. It can help you learn more about the country but, just as importantly, it could also help you avoid any embarrassing social faux pas.

Noodle dish with chopsticks resting on bowl
Understand why people eat the way they do to understand the culture

Cooking methods are a revelation

Similarly to the eating techniques of different countries, traditional preservation and cooking techniques can reveal a lot about the way people live. In many countries, the cooking methods employed can vary hugely from region to region, making the national dish a valuable starting point to understanding the unique distinctions between different provinces, cities, towns and even villages.

For instance, in northern India, food is often cooked in a tandoor – a circular clay wood-fired oven – as it enables several different dishes to be cooked simultaneously. This has been an essential feature in north Indian villages for hundreds of years, as the women of the village would gather in the evening and cook their dough to make the roti for the other villagers.
On your next international excursion, take some time to inquire about the techniques used by the chef. You could go away with more than just a new recipe.

Chinese chefs cooking local dishes in kitchen
Cooking methods can be dictated by a range of factors, many cultural

Comparisons say more than you think

Going out of your way to sample the same meal in a range of restaurants can help shape your knowledge of how the rest of the nation enjoys their dish. Of course, you won’t want to eat one dish everywhere you go. Nevertheless, sampling a national dish in different locations can add some shading to your knowledge of the various influences in a country’s history.

For instance, in China, the same dish can be replicated multiple times with hugely different tastes, depending on the location. Whether it’s the spicy noodles of the subtropical Sichuan province or the saltier, richer flavours of the cold northeast, dishes can retain the ingredients while varying to suit local tastes.
Exploring the myriad varieties of a single dish allows you to appreciate the diverse hues that make up a country and understand the ethnographic and cultural differences behind regional identities.

Traditional Cuban dish of ropa vieja with rice and beans
The cooking and presentation methods of a dish can reveal hidden influences

Understanding through experience

It’s only by putting yourself in the shoes of the locals that you begin to truly grasp their circumstances. Food is universal but the ways in which we preserve, prepare and enjoy it varies hugely.

All of this requires not just sampling dishes, but talking to locals about other aspects of their culture. Seeing the dish prepared before your eyes can be even more enlightening.

With a Genie phone, guests can find incredible local cuisine at every turn. With an array of apps to guide visitors to the most authentic experiences, there’s never been a better time to explore the world through your taste buds.

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.