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Why Guest Room Telephones Remain Crucial For Hotels

Digital technology has become integral to the 21st-century hotel experience. In particular, more and more hotels are investing in messaging platforms, voice assistants, and in-room tablets to enhance in-room guest communication.

The benefits of these technologies are undoubted, but some hotels are mistakenly thinking that they will replace the in-room phone. Why is that a mistake? First and foremost, not all travelers will engage with new digital communication technologies — especially less tech-savvy older generations.

In addition, the in-room phone is still the main way guests order room service, they also frequently use it to call the front desk, make housekeeping requests and get advice on local restaurants and attractions. So if your hotel is considering doing away with the guest room phone, here are some of the major reasons to reconsider.

Emergency Calls

Above all, it’s vital to have a reliable form of communication in case of emergencies. If a guest can’t use their mobile for an unforeseen reason, they need a quick and easy alternative. This is where the guest room phone comes in. Plus, modern in-room phones have guest-service keys that can be programmed to a selected emergency number at the hotel. This means an emergency call can be made with a simple tap of a button. Also an in-room analogue phone doesn’t require power, so it will still work as a communication tool in the case of a power outage.

Hassle-Free Communication

Digital communication platforms offer a fast and frictionless way to communicate. But not in every situation. If a guest arrives hungry and wants to order room service, placing an order using the in-room phone is arguably the fastest way to do that. While tech-savvy guests might prefer to place orders through your hotel app or in-room iPad, it’s important to provide a familiar alternative. Not all guests want to download an app or have the time to work out how to use the in-room tablet just to order room service if they are hungry now.

The In-room Phone Drives Revenue

A lot of hoteliers believe that in-room phones no longer drive revenue. But that’s not entirely true. Dig a little deeper and you find that this viewpoint only relates to revenue from external calls.

In reality, the majority of guests still use the in-room phone to order Room Service, so hoteliers need to look at the revenue that comes from Room Service as a result of the phone before they dispense with it.

Many hoteliers only look at the cost centre called Telephones on their P&L, which can give them a distorted view of how much revenue the in-room phone is actually generating.

All Generations Can Use An In-Room Phone

As touched upon above, it’s important to remember that not everyone is comfortable with mobile technology. While baby boomers are certainly more tech-savvy than common assumptions might have us believe, they’re still more likely to make a request by picking up the phone than trying to access your hotel app.

Older generations still commonly see the telephone as a key communication channel. Why make life harder for them by taking it away? While mobile-reliant younger travelers might not think twice, an in-room telephone is something that older demographics still expect to see and regard as familiar and reassuring.

A Desire for Tech-Free Travel

A growing number of travelers now take a break in search of a digital detox. They want to enjoy a tech-free experience that allows them to disconnect from their smartphones and unplug from the internet, if only for a few days.

Offering an in-room phone makes it easier for guests that genuinely want to escape their constantly connected lives. In an age when hotels are investing heavily in the latest digital communication tools, it’s worth remembering that some guests will value your efforts to help them disconnect from their tech.

 

Rock-Solid Reliability

If your hotel’s mobile phone reception isn’t great, or your guests’ forget or misplace their phone chargers, the lack of an in-room phone suddenly makes communication a hassle. If a guest has to head down to your lobby to talk to your team, that’s hardly a great experience. If they need to stumble out of bed to do this in the middle of the night, they’re likely to feel more than a little disgruntled.

Of course, these kinds of scenarios can quickly lead a frustrated guest to vent their feelings on TripAdvisor. By making sure guests always have an easy way to get in touch with your team, you can manage your brand reputation by resolving potential issues sooner.

A Quality Phone is Part of Great Design (And it Saves You Money)

The guest looks at the quality of the items in the room as a reflection of the overall quality of the experience that they’re paying for. A cheap looking phone instantly downgrades that experience.

When you consider that hotel owners and developers often spend millions of dollars on luxury room design and decor, it seems crazy to ruin an otherwise beautiful looking room by installing a cheap phone which saves a few dollars per room at best.

Too often, a phone is chosen simply based on price which can often be false economy as the cheaper phone doesn’t always last as long, making the long-term financial outlay greater. Staff also have to spend time replacing these phones, but the worst part is that inevitably the guest is inconvenienced when the phone in their room doesn’t work.

As with all amenities, it’s important to ensure that the phone you chose reflects your brand and its promise to your guest. Does the phone reflect the quality of your brand in your guest’s eyes? If it’s a cordless phone does it go back on the cradle easily and charge?

In addition, let’s not forget the charm of a true hotel phone, complete with cute icons for each available guest service. There is a certain charm about a hotel phone and we have often provided phones for film sets so that they can create an authentic hotel room. In the digital age, it’s nice to have a few reminders of the classic hotel experience.

It’s Time to Rethink the Guest Room Phone

Before you consider doing away with the guest room phone, take a step back and consider the unique benefits it still offers.

Mobile messaging platforms and hotel apps are great for remote communication, but the in-room phone still drives revenue, and it remains the most simple and reliable way for guests to communicate with your team. It also provides the best way for your hotel to build rapport and demonstrate empathy with guests by offering a channel for personal, one-to-one conversations.

Ultimately, the guest room phone and the latest digital platforms should not be seen as mutually exclusive. Hospitality is about offering everyone a choice, and having a range of communication tools available will ensure all your guests are catered for and able to connect with you and your team.

 

How Hotels Can Benefit From Self Check-In Kiosks

In the age of convenience, self-service kiosks have become commonplace in fast food restaurants, retail outlets, international airports, and increasingly at hotels.

The hospitality industry prides itself on providing personal service, so it’s understandable that some hoteliers believe installing self-service check-in kiosks might erode that experience.  In truth, a growing number of travellers value the independence, flexibility and freedom that self-service technology offers them during a hotel stay.

With that in mind, here are five ways your hotel can benefit by implementing self-service check-in kiosks at your property.

1. Say Goodbye to Queues

The most obvious benefit of a self-service kiosk is that guests can start enjoying their holiday sooner. During the traditional check-in process, they have to stand in line and fill out paperwork that often involves information already supplied during the booking.  With a self-service kiosk, they can check-in by simply looking up their name, email, booking number, or by scanning their passport.

Kiosks such as Enzosystems hospitality kiosks also let guests select their room and create their own room keys. Suffice to say, this scenario is a huge advantage for weary travellers looking for a hassle-free experience on arrival.

There are obvious benefits to providing an automated check-out process too. For instance, cruise ship guests or anyone running late for a flight can depart quickly without worrying about getting caught up in a long queue.

2. Easier to Interact with Guests

There’s a misconception that self-service takes away from face-to-face human contact. On the contrary, it actually frees up staff so they can have more personal and meaningful interactions with guests.

With an automated check-in kiosk, your hotel team have more time to focus on the moments that matter. That might include providing advice to a guest as they head out for a day trip, attending to an urgent service issue, or simply taking the time to engage with guests through friendly conversation.

All of these interactions allow your hotel to build rapport and offer helpful assistance to enhance the overall experience of staying with you.

3. More Upsell Opportunities

Automated check-in solutions also increase upsell opportunities. Using a kiosk, guests can upgrade their room, redeem special offers and purchase additional extras, all in a leisurely and effortless way.

Of course, because your front desk staff are freed up, they can step in and suggest upgrades and additional services in a more natural manner. If guests are approached when they’re more relaxed and settled in, they’ll feel less pressured and be more likely to make a purchase.

In addition, guests can find information about hotel amenities and services at their own convenience, which creates more opportunities for impulse purchases. In contrast, a hectic front desk team might simply not have the time to provide all the relevant hotel information on arrival.

4. Increased Personalisation

Self-service kiosks are able to collect a wealth of invaluable guest data, such as room preferences, past purchase decisions, and special requirements. Because the kiosk is connected to the hotel PMS, this data can be quickly accessed to help hotels provide more personalised experiences.

This stored information can also be used to devise personalised marketing emails, featuring enticing offers that appeal to the preferences and needs of different guests. Hotels can also ensure previous requests are catered for ahead of time to enhance the guest experience and exceed their expectations.

 5. Enhanced Customer Satisfaction

An increasing number of people want to interact with companies and services on their own terms. In fact, research has found that 66% of customers prefer self-service over traditional interactions with retail sales associates.

Providing the option to check-in via kiosk simply meets the expectations of consumers who are used to flexibility, endless choice and instant gratification in their digital lives. Put simply, providing guests with the degree of control they have elsewhere can only help to improve overall satisfaction levels.

Some kiosks also have the option to select multiple languages, so anyone travelling from overseas will have a much smoother experience when they check-in at your property.

 

The Role of the Self-Service Kiosk

Self-service kiosks allow hotels to enhance the guest experience in numerous ways. A frictionless check-in experience means more convenience, more control and the elimination of frustrating queues.

In addition, hotel staff have more time for face-to-face interaction where it matters most — from making a great first impression on arrival, to encouraging upgrade and additional purchases in a timely manner.

Kiosk can also reduce labour costs, not only at the front desk but also in the back office.  The automation that kiosk’s provide eliminates much of the behind the scenes processing of data, reducing the workload for the night audit and finance teams.

Of course, many guests value personal interaction and the traditional check-in process still has its place. Self-service kiosks shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for old fashioned service, but as a way to enhance the modern-day hospitality experience.

 

 

Can an AI-Powered Messaging Platform Transform the Guest Experience?

As travel becomes increasingly mobile-centric, hotels have begun utilising mobile apps to drive loyalty and guest engagement. In reality, a lot of hotel guests just aren’t engaging with them. Just think, how many hotel apps do we all have on our phones, and how many do we actually use?

According to Google, 53% of smartphone users haven’t even installed their favourite brands app, so it’s reasonable to assume that all but the most loyal guests are not using a hotel app during their stay.

A lot of hotels still utilise SMS as a way to message guests. While more convenient than downloading an app, SMS can involve additional costs, which are especially high for anyone travelling internationally.

The future of guest communication, therefore, relies on offering a platform that’s free and simple to use. This article expands on what I believe to be the key features in any such platform and when evaluating any such product, I believe these features need to be considered.

What Makes a Great Automated Guest Request System?

Artificial intelligence is the key to offering instant responses to guest requests. Done well, it can truly enhance the guest experience.

Chatbots are what the guest interacts with and the AI running in the background can receive and answer a guests question and if need be, allocate a task to hotel personnel. A question like – “What time is breakfast?” can be instantly answered by the Chatbot. Guest requests such as additional fresh towels, an adapter for their smartphone, or ordering cocktails while lounging by the pool are all seamlessly allocated to the appropriate department using the “smarts” of AI.

Ideally, such a platform can be used both on and off the property. So if a guest wants to make a reservation for dinner before arriving, they can do that from anywhere, all via their mobile device.

With that in mind, here are some of the top considerations with regards to a guest request system.

No Need for Downloads

Respecting your guests by NOT asking them to download an app that takes time and uses up valuable space on a person’s smartphone is key to having guests interact with a Guest Request System. A hassle-free experience is a major selling point when trying to encourage guests to interact with your hotel before, during, and after their stay. Especially since most apps are deleted within a week of their last use.

How Would it Work?

Find a solution that is designed to sit on, or integrate with, any platform. From iOS to android, your hotel’s website, existing hotel applications, or even the in-room television. We all know technology is only as useful as its uptake, so providing a system that is accessible in multiple environments is critical to driving guest usage. Solutions such as progressive web applications, which look and feel like an application, but are deployed via a URL, allows for a Guest Request system that can reside on a website, form part of a guests reservation confirmation email, or can even be accessed at reception, the pool or a room via a QR code. Such flexibility provides a significant advantage.

How to Make Sure it’s the Right Type of AI

There’s AI and there’s AI and people who are human will be interacting with it. Take the time to ensure that the AI is built on Natural Language Processing technology. Natural Language Processing not only understands words and sentences; it’s able to grasp the context of requests and questions. As a result, guests can communicate more easily and receive the information they’re really looking for, while interactions have the natural patter of a human-like conversation. For example, a well-programmed chatbot will recognise that “I need a toothbrush please” and “I forgot my toothbrush” both represent a guest’s request for another toothbrush.

F&B Requests from Anywhere = Incremental Revenue

Incremental revenue is key so ensure that any system will allow guests to see your room service menu and place orders both on and off-property. So if they want to request room service while lounging in bed, or order their evening meal while travelling back to your hotel, all it takes is a tap of a button on their smartphone. This anywhere/anytime convenience makes life easier for guests, and a built-in upsell mechanism also offers hotels a way to generate additional F&B revenue.

Multi-lingual function

Look for a system with multi-lingual functionality, where overseas guests can use their mobile to communicate with the hotel in their native language. This eliminates the frustrations that arise from language barriers, making for more satisfying guest experience. In addition, hotels can reduce the associated costs of having to train or recruit staff to communicate in other languages. But be careful, many chatbots solely use Google translate for this functionality. And while this may represent an improvement on no translation capabilities, a solution that can provide fully controlled responses in line with your brand language is preferable.

Promotions and Offers 

Ensure that your guests can use their mobile to browse and access all the promotions and offers that your property is running. Ideally select a system that accommodates “push notifications” with pre-programmed content, such as promoting a discount on a luxury spa treatment. I recommend looking for a system that can track and report on uptake of offers to help monitor effectiveness and tailor future marketing efforts.

Tracks Guest Sentiment

Knowing how your guests feel throughout their stay can be crucial to enhancing their experience and managing your online reputation. With the ability to measure the mood of guests at any time (and not just waiting until check out), Look for a system that lets your hotel address negative experiences before they become damaging online reviews. Equally, being able to track guest sentiment is extremely useful for encouraging positive reviews when guests have a great experience.

Integrates with TripAdvisor

A great platform will integrate with TripAdvisor. So a guest exploring your destination can type a request directly into the platform, such as “Is there a museum close by?” to receive instant answers. Restaurant reviews, sightseeing recommendations, and all other city information can be accessed in this same way, even while off-property.

Conclusion

Travellers increasingly want their hotel stay to revolve around freedom, flexibility, and convenience. Having a bespoke chat bot instantly available on their own smartphone is a big step in the right direction.

Rather than trying to persuade guests to download an app or chat via SMS, look for a platform that offers a free and frictionless way for them to communicate with the hotel before, during, and after their stay.

 

Rise of the Machines: Will Hotels Ever Rely On A Robotic Workforce?

The robotic revolution in the hospitality industry just seems to have taken a step back. This January, the famously quirky Henn-Na Hotel in Japan fired half of its 243 robot staff. The robotic workforce reportedly irritated guests and frequently broke down.

In addition, the hotel also removed ‘Churi’ — a doll-shaped artificial intelligence assistant placed in each room. Churi frequently struggled to answer basic guest questions, such as providing the opening times of the nearby theme park.

Automation is a hot topic right now, but have the labour-saving merits of a robotic workforce been overstated? In the following post, we’ll explore how hotels may, or may not, choose to balance a team of human and robot employees.

The Role of Robots in Hotels

Certain roles in hospitality are already being given to robots. Savioke’s ‘Relay’ robots deliver food and amenities to guest rooms, eliminating a time-consuming human task and (apparently) delighting guests in the process. Relay is already being used by numerous hotel brands, such as Aloft, Crowne Plaza, Hyatt Place, Sheraton and Westin.

More recently, Chinese e-commerce firm Alibaba unveiled a robot porter for hotels called ‘Space Egg’, which integrates with the company’s AI assistant ‘AliGenie’. Not only can Space Egg take voice commands from guests, it’s able to interpret touch and hand gestures too.

As for the near future? It’s more than conceivable that driverless concierge services will replace the human valet, and that robots such as Flippy (the world’s first burger-flipping droid) are deployed in hotel kitchens.

Fears of an automated workforce are being taken seriously. Last year, Las Vegas casino employees threatened to strike in response to increasing levels of automation. As the concerns of robots taking jobs gather momentum, it’s worth putting things into some context.

Are We Destined for a Robotic Hotel Workforce?

From an economic perspective, replacing humans with robots seems to make sense. A Mckinsey study revealed how over the past 30 years, the average robot price has fallen by half in real terms, while labour costs have more than doubled.

Hoteliers seem fearful of a robotic future, and the general sentiment seems to be that they can never replace genuine human interaction. A 2017 study of robots in hotels in China also found that many hoteliers are not convinced that robots can deliver meaningful cost-saving benefits (although hotel guest satisfaction levels with robots was high).

Rather than full-scale adoption, the utility of robots surely lies in their capacity to carry out behind-the-scenes labour, such as carrying guest luggage to rooms, cleaning, and low-skilled maintenance.

However, there’s reason to believe robots may also assist guest-facing employees. Right now, three US hotels are trialling a new Google Assistant Interpreter Mode that acts as a real-time translator between guests and staff. It’s easy to imagine how translation technology like this will eventually be integrated into a humanoid ‘translation bot’. This could involve a machine that roves around the hotel answering guest questions in their native language. It’s hard to deny the perks of such a service.

Balancing Robots with Humans

It’s worth remembering that no matter how advanced robotic workers become, the human touch will always be crucial to hospitality. As we’ve seen at the Henn-na hotel, robots with technical glitches can quickly wreak havoc, hindering hotel operations and frustrating guests in the process.

If technical glitches are overcome and hotels begin installing more robotic workers, will there be mass strikes by human employees? It’s also important to consider customer preferences. If greater automation is an inevitably (which it seems to be), will guests start paying a premium to stay at tech-free hotels boasting ‘human-only’ interaction?

Finally, if machines are eventually able to display a convincing range of human emotions, would knowing that these emotions were effectively being simulated rather than ‘felt’ make these interactions feel more creepy than engaging?

Questions such as these no longer belong to hypothetical debates. The explosion in automation now demands they’re given genuine consideration. In the coming years, more and more hotels will find themselves discussing the merits and pitfalls of relying on increasingly sophisticated robot workers.

In the world of hospitality where the human touch plays a very important role, it’s more likely that certain tasks will become automated, freeing up hotel staff to provide unforgettable guest experiences.

 

Six Best Practices to Improve Your Hotels Internal Communication

In the digital age, hospitality-focused communication platforms can radically improve a hotel’s internal operations. Using industry-leading tools such as Beekeeper, hotels can easily share information about best practices, announce property updates, and coordinate tasks in the most efficient way possible.

However, in order to reap the benefits from this kind of technology, it’s vital to put the building blocks in place to ensure information is shared freely and easily among hotel management and employees.

With that in mind, here are six best practices for hotels to create a winning internal communication strategy.

1. Plan for Success

When you’re addressing your internal communication strategy, you need to start with clearly defined goals. First, address the key areas within your organisation that require attention. Perhaps guest requests don’t always get passed on when staff swap shifts. Maybe rooms aren’t turned over quickly enough because of delays in notifying housekeeping.

Next, ask yourself what steps need to be taken to solve these issues. What metric will you use to measure when improvements have been made? Once you have answers to these questions, use them to produce a detailed communication strategy. This will let you monitor progress and stay focused on making sure those improvements happen.

You may need to fine-tune your communication plan as time goes by, but the central goals should remain clear and consistent.

2. Ask for Contributions

For any new communication strategy to be a success, having buy-in from your whole team is essential. That’s why it pays to ask your staff for input on how they think communication could be improved.

You could gather information during brainstorms in company-wide meetings. However, you might prefer to get feedback using a staff survey or poll. Most communication platforms offer the ability to create your own polls and surveys, which can then be sent digitally to your team to gain invaluable feedback within minutes.

Whatever approach you take, having an environment of collaboration will demonstrate that you value your employee’s opinions. According to research by Salesforce, employees who feel their voice is heard at work are nearly five times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.

The takeaway message here is that when company goals are created together, rather than dictated solely by management, teams become more invested and committed to the outcome. In addition, seeking feedback from your frontline staff will likely provide you with new perspectives and insights that might not have been considered.

3. Create a Culture of Sharing

To encourage hotel departments to communicate more freely, management also need to be open in the way they share information. That means letting employees know about things such as the company vision, latest booking figures, or any plans for any future expansions.
This transparent approach will set the standard for an open way of working and sharing information. In turn, employees may be more willing to express concerns over problems that need solving, feel confident enough to offer their own solutions, and admit to mistakes that reveal a weakness in the communication process.
The impact of this behavioural change will lead to greater efficiency, increased motivation, and almost certainly have a direct impact on the quality of the guest experience your hotel offers.

4. Regular Training

Another way to enhance team communication is through dedicated training. To get the most out of training, short but regular workshops that focus on a specific area can be especially helpful. For instance, you might want to concentrate on handling a weather crisis, dealing with tricky guest complaints, or coordinating daily tasks when you’re short staffed.

 

If your hotel has already invested in a communication platform, use it during training sessions to help everyone get better acquainted with the technology.
Not only will regular training let you fine-tune your whole business, staff will also have another forum to voice concerns, ask for help, or share ideas that they believe will improve internal processes.

While hosting face-to-face workshops won’t always be possible, you can always distribute training material electronically. Many communication platforms let you upload files, links, images, and video content — all of which can be used to provide full-scale presentations, or quick reminders that keep your team on track.

5. Use Data to Improve Decision-Making

Knowing when to communicate with your team is often just as important as how you communicate. Advanced communication platforms let you optimise when messages are sent to different staff members to ensure they get read.
For instance, by reviewing your data you might discover that your restaurant staff are quieter on Tuesday mornings. You can then schedule announcements in advance to be sent at this time. By tracking engagement with read receipts, you’ll know if your staff have more time to review messages. If they do, make that the day you send your most important announcements.

The Power of Great Communication

By investing time on your internal communication strategy, you’ll create a workforce that’s more efficient, engaged, and motivated to share ideas. As a result, this happier and more streamlined team will be able to offer an enhanced experience to your guests.

The addition of a hospitality-focused communication platform lets you improve things even further. With a centralised communication tool at your fingertips, you can reach and engage every employee in an instant, giving you the ability to easily distribute company news, gauge employee sentiment, seek feedback, and coordinate your entire operation.

 

How a Digital Communication Platform can Transform How Your Hotel Operates

Digital age technology has revolutionised the way we talk to each other. Messaging apps and social media give us the ability to chat, make plans and organize our lives in a fast and effortless way. Yet for some reason, much of the hotel industry continues to use outdated tools and methods to communicate.

Handwritten notes are often used to pass on important guest information, and the latest staff arrivals, promotions and internal events are announced via cluttered notice boards.

These inefficient systems set the scene for confusion, and rely on staff going out of their way to keep informed. Management also has no way of accurately tracking when, or if, messages have been read and understood.

A New Era in Seamless Communication

To become more effective at communicating, information sharing needs to be digitized. Hotels need to use the kind of technology that replicates our mobile, socially connected lifestyles. In the hospitality industry, digital communication tools such as Beekeeper can provide this platform.

Beekeeper allows information to be shared via a team app, employee portal, group messaging app, and workforce platform. Everything can be accessed via desktop and mobile, so all staff at the hotel are connected and in the loop at all times.

Beekeeper is used to exchanging information, share property updates, and communicate best practices within or across departments at the property.

In the following post, we’ll look at some of the specific benefits these kinds of digital platforms offer, and how they can transform the way hotels communicate with their staff.

 

Seamless Sharing of Information

The beauty of platforms such as Beekeeper is that information can be shared instantly and with everyone. For example, at the start of the day, your team can look at the most important information for the day via an app on their smartphone. This lets them look at things such as daily events, numbers in and out, and any VIPs that are arriving that require special attention.

Because this real-time information can be accessed 24/7, a new team starting the night shift can instantly be brought up to speed on the day’s activity.

A streamline digital communication tool also acts as a great time-saving device. Instant messages can be sent to an individual or groups in real time, reducing the need for unnecessary face-to-face meetings.

Engagement and Recognition

One of the less obvious benefits of communication platforms is they can be used to engage and motivate staff. Achievements, work anniversaries and personal celebrations can all be announced to the whole team. This form of public recognition helps to make employees feel connected and valued, builds esteem, and can ultimately help with retention.

New employees can also be announced to everyone via social media-style posts. These posts can include the employee’s name, photograph, profile and any hobbies or interests they have. This fun and informal introduction means that new starters are immediately made to feel welcome and part of a wider team.

Gauge Staff Sentiment in a Flash

Tools such as Beekeeper allow you to send out polls and surveys to get quick feedback from your team. Managers can quickly poll their team on a host of issues, such as getting their reaction to a recent event, or asking for ideas on a future team-building activity.

Because they’re easy to complete, staff are far more likely to reply without needing to be chased up for a response, or consulted individually. In addition, the act of regularly seeking opinions from everyone within the business shows respect for their ideas, creates stronger teams, and helps to build a culture of inclusivity.

Increased Employee Productivity

Through mobile communication, working together is so much easier and time saving. Employees can instantly share thoughts and flashes of inspiration to solve problems and generate ideas within a team. It’s a far more efficient way of working than arranging formal meetings to overcome every new issue or challenge.

Files, links, videos and images can also be shared to add information, context and creativity to on-the-go conversations and brainstorms. When collaborating is made simple, the entire hotel operation stands to benefit. Employees are encouraged to work as a team, and creative solutions to problems are more likely to happen as a direct result.

The Power of Mobile Communication

Internal mobile communication platforms are transforming how hotels and their staff interact. Bulletin boards and post-it notes are being replaced by digital technology that meets the communication demands of 21st-century hospitality.

In next month’s post, we’ll look at actionable ways you can use the latest tools to transform the way you talk, including how to keep your staff happy and engaged, increase productivity, and improve the guest experience.

 

How Hotel Guest Services Systems Can Enhance the Guest Experience

All hotels know the importance of delivering a great guest experience. Yet the explosion in digital communication makes it a huge challenge to do this on a consistent basis.

Hotels are bombarded with requests from countless channels as guests get in touch via phone, email, messaging platforms, mobile apps and social media. Staying on top of this (and trying to offer great face-to-face service at the same time), means it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

Outdated Systems and Technology

The reason it’s overwhelming is that some hotels still rely on old-fashioned manual processes to track service requests and assign tasks. A 2015 survey from Software Advice found that 25% of U.S. hoteliers still rely on pen and paper to manage their properties. A further 16% admitted they had no system in place at all.

Unsurprisingly, this paves the way for mistakes and inefficiency.

Relying on fragmented technology creates similar headaches for hoteliers. If staff are using different systems to track progress on tasks and guest requests, it’s easy to see how errors can be made.

Management are also left with a limited overview of operations, and lots of unanswered questions. Are staff being as efficient as they can be? Are guests receiving the high level of service they expect? Is the brand promise being delivered consistently? It’s incredibly hard to know these things when information exists on paper, or lives on multiple systems.

The key to success, then, is automation. It requires an industry-specific tool that acts as a central resource for all departments. Request management technology such as, “One Stop Solution” make this possible. This kind of technology can carry out a number of roles, including tracking requests from guests, automating and streamlining hotel employee workflow to increase efficiencies, reducing costs and personalising the guest experience.

Let’s take a more detailed look at five of the benefits they offer.

1. Never Miss a Request

A big benefit of a guest management system is that all staff can communicate, track and update requests in one place. Jobs can be scheduled for immediate or future action, which makes for a more streamlined and intelligent way to handle requests based on their urgency.

This can be especially helpful during a shift change — a key time when information can slip through the net. When a new staff member starts their shift, they can easily check any outstanding requests that need to be actioned. That might involve a room change, delivery additional towels or confirming a guest’s dinner reservation.

Then there are times when ensuring requests are passed on becomes especially important. For instance, a family arriving with a baby might have asked for a cot to be placed in their room. The last thing you want is for that family to arrive at 10pm with a screaming infant, only to find their request hasn’t been fulfilled.

2. The Right Person on the Job

Guest request management software also allows requests to be automatically distributed to the department or staff member most suited to the specific task at hand. That might be based on their location in the hotel (allowing them to react quickly), or their particular skill set.

An employee can then accept a request and mark it as closed once it’s been handled. This allows for total transparency, so everyone in the team is updated in real time.

The benefit of this is that the right person is assigned without delay. This means a guest isn’t left waiting unnecessarily, and receives help from the most appropriate staff member. When requests are assigned automatically, your team also no longer have to waste valuable time manually coordinating and routing tasks.

3. Resolve Issues Swiftly

A major focus for any hotel is complaint management. A negative guest experience can translate into a negative Tripadvisor post within seconds. So when it comes to resolving issues, delay is a dirty word. Furthermore, 52% of consumers say the most important attribute of an exceptional experience is a fast response time to their needs and issues.

Of course in the digital age, seamless one-to-one communication raises guest expectations further. We live in a word where email now is considered too slow, so we text or use messaging apps. So if a guest alerts the hotel front desk to an issue with their room via a messaging app, you can be sure they expect a fast response.

This is where guest request management software really comes into its own. Whether it’s alerting maintenance to a faulty in-room air-con system, or housekeeping to an understocked minibar— small issues or potentially major complaints are instantly routed for swift resolution.

4. More Focus on the Guest

In the hotel industry, attention is a finite yet invaluable resource. Guests expect to have their needs attended too quickly. But when hotel staff are dealing with multiple requests split across multiple systems, their attention is taken away. As a consequence, they simply can’t devote the same attention to the guests in front of them.

A centralised guest management system helps by removing the need for hotel staff to monitor different channels, freeing them up to spend more time on what really matters — providing a great guest experience.

 

 

5. Personalising the Guest Experience

Personalisation is very much the industry buzzword right now. The modern day hotel guest arrives expecting their unique needs and preferences to be catered for. Especially if they’ve stayed with the hotel many times before.

If a guest previously requested extra pillows or a specific beer in their mini-bar, it’s very likely they’ll expect the same again. In order to meet this expectation, hotels need to understand their guests like never before.

Whether it’s captured via digital communication (e.g. social media, email, messaging app) or through a verbal request on-property, which is logged in the guest request management software, it needs to be recorded in a central system.

Any member of staff can then access this data (and add to it over time) to help pre-empt needs and deliver exceptional service — personalising the guest experience in the most meaningful way possible.

 

The Best Service Possible

In the digital age, hotels are bombarded with a huge volume of data from an array of sources. The post-it note culture of yesteryear just doesn’t cut it anymore. In order to quickly assign tasks to staff, handle guest requests, and much more besides — a centralised guest request management tool is essential.

This automated, 21st-century solution is the key to the ultimate guest experience. It allows a hotel to run more smoothly — optimal efficiency to provide optimal service! The end result is happier guests who are much more likely to return time and time again.

 

 

The Future of Mobile Payment in Travel

Mobile technology is fast becoming central to the entire travel experience. Consumers are increasingly using their smartphones to research trips, book accommodation, check in at the airport, and access their hotel room.

 

 

 

But one of the next big roles mobile has to play in the travel process is mobile payment.  The idea of an entirely cashless society might still seem some way off, but mobile payment is gaining popularity. As it becomes more widely used, its fast and frictionless nature will bring benefits before, during and after a trip.

With that in mind, how is mobile payment being used right now, and what specific benefits can it offer to travellers and travel brands alike?

Mobile Payment in China is Booming

It’s impossible to start this topic without first discussing China — a nation where mobile payment has seen incredible growth. Much of this is being driven by WeChat — a unique social platform that also allows users to make payments to both individuals and businesses.

 

With one billion monthly active users, WeChat is China’s most popular app, and its all-in-one social platform/payment system makes it a great tool for travellers. In a recent white paper, over 90% of Chinese tourists said they would use mobile payment overseas if they had the option — giving travel companies a compelling reason to offer them the means to do so.

Mobile payment has seen more of a stuttering start elsewhere, and US consumers still seem to be wary. However, adoption is growing — especially among younger generations.

Figures from Apple Pay also indicate strong growth. In the first quarter of 2017,  Apple Pay transactions grew by 450% year-on-year. While it’s worth noting that this figure is partly down to increased iPhone sales (which include built-in mobile payment apps), these numbers certainly tell a story.

As similar payment systems such as Samsung Pay and Android Pay are preloaded into other devices, mobile payment (driven by Millennials and Gen X) looks set to become more prevalent, leading to greater integration across the industry.

With all that in mind, what specific benefits will this bring to travel brands and their  customers?

More Effective Marketing

When payment is instant and effortless, consumers are more inclined to buy. Consider how in just a couple of clicks, having an Amazon account lets you buy a book or movie that it just recommended. Zero hassle involved.

Mobile payment operates on the same premise, and its benefits to travel brands are substantial. It’s easier to tempt a customer to buy ancillary products and services when, instead of handing over a credit card or cash, they can make payment with a quick tap of their smartphone.

In practice, travellers at the airport could use their smartphone to pay for a flight upgrade, club lounge access, or duty free goods. To take advantage of this fact, international brands, retailers and airports are now partnering with Chinese mobile payment systems WeChat Pay and Alipay to tap into the lucrative Chinese tourist market.

 

There are also clear opportunities for hotels. By accepting mobile payment, a property could upsell guests on arrival with the option of a room upgrade. Or push offers during their stay on additional amenities, trips and on-property experiences.

Streamlined Travel

One of the major issues travel brands face is high online booking abandonment rates. A well-cited SaleCycle study found that 81% of shoppers abandon their booking. More recently, a travel study of Asia Pacific found 92% of consumers in the region abandon their bookings at checkout.

In part, transactions are abandoned because of overly complicated checkout processes, which involve lengthy forms and having to enter credit card details. Again, the simplicity of mobile wallet can remove this sales friction when people book a flight or accommodation.

 

 

By offering a point-of-sale device for mobile payment, hotels would also be able to offer a smoother check-in process. A quick payment with a smartphone, instead of using cards and cash, could significantly reduce queues at the front desk, allowing guests to reach their room more swiftly on arrival.

Increasing Loyalty

Engagement with loyalty programs is often lacklustre. Part of the issue is their unwieldy nature. Consumers often have loyalty programs with numerous companies, which can only be accessed by visiting each company’s own website or app. This fragmentation quickly discourages active loyalty participation.

 

The beauty with the mobile wallet is complete integration. All loyalty programs can be accessed from the same place. Brands can now integrate their existing loyalty programs into the mobile wallet, which represents a huge opportunity to engage guests with easy-to-access rewards.

There’s reason to believe travellers would be highly receptive to this. According to the 2016 Points’ The State of Mobile Wallet Loyalty and Engagement report, 94% of consumer would more frequently use a mobile wallet if they could earn and/or redeem loyalty points and miles with each transaction.

 

As an example, a hotel could quickly notify a guest about any outstanding loyalty points they have, with a prompt about the benefits and rewards available to them for making a purchase. This additional touchpoint also offers a natural way to stay in contact with guests throughout the year, keeping a hotel top of mind and strengthening relationships.

The Future of Travel Payment?

As the move towards a cashless society grows, mobile payment represents a way to speed up almost every stage of the travel journey.

Instead of using cards and cash for transactions, the likes of Alipay and WeChat Pay in China are now becoming the new way consumers make purchases. As China’s burgeoning middle class continue to travel and spend billions, overseas travel brands have an enormous opportunity to cash in by catering to their preferred payment method.

Overall, travel marketers need to consider how they can partner with wallet players as consumers become more comfortable with mobile payment. Increased familiarity among younger generations will almost certainly drive future growth, and the opportunities for smoother travel, enhanced marketing, mobile-based loyalty and enhanced engagement are significant.

 

Why Reputation Management for Hotels is Critical

In the digital age, your hotel’s online reputation is everything. Combined, social media channels, travel review websites and OTAs feature millions of customer reviews that have the power to heavily influence the decisions of your guests.

Today, great reviews on TripAdvisor and glowing recommendations on Facebook are the currency of success. Before making a booking, 95% of people say they read a review, with leisure travellers looking at an average of 6-7 reviews and business travellers consulting around 4.

As such, hotels need to do everything possible to build a strong online reputation. The following post outlines just some of the key ways this can be achieved.

The Importance of Responding to Reviews

Responding to reviews shows you’re highly engaged with your guests and care about their experience. And it can also have a direct impact on booking decisions. In late 2013, a study by TripAdvisor and PhoCusWright discovered that 62% of travellers were more likely to book if they saw that hotel management responded to feedback.

More recently, a 2015 study by Medallia found that accommodation providers that responded to over 50% of social media reviews grew occupancy rates at over double the rates of those that tended to ignore reviews.

Speed of response was also found to be a key factor: properties that replied to feedback in less than a day increased occupancy rates by 12.8% compared to properties that took two days.

Of course, most hotels simply haven’t the time to respond to all feedback. But it’s important to at least personalize the replies you do send.

For instance, thank a guest by name, acknowledge how grateful you are for their review, and address any specific comments they leave. As well as demonstrating that you’ve taken the time to show your appreciation, it’ll hint at the personal level of attention your hotel offers – a great advert to others reading your reply.

While the majority of reviews you receive will be good ones, every hotel inevitably receives criticism.

The ability to handle a negative review is especially crucial to a hotel’s reputation. It’s an opportunity to show you value feedback, and that you’re prepared to take active steps to resolve a problem.

To protect your brand reputation (and give a positive impression to potential guests), you should respond to 100% of the negative reviews you receive – ideally after no longer than 48 hours.

It’s also essential not to appear defensive. Thank the guest for their stay and express regret about their experience. Apologise for any inconvenience caused and offer a solution or describe the steps your hotel is taking as a result of their comments. Being seen as sincere, professional and willing to take action will all stand you in good stead.

Being Proactive with Reputation Management

While responding to reviews is vital, a great online reputation also involves actively encouraging them in the first place. The more reviews you have, the greater confidence you’ll build among potential new guests. In addition, a higher number of ratings will increase your search engine and review site ranking positions.

First, try to get feedback from guests while they’re still at the hotel – they’ll be more likely to do this then, than after they’ve checked out. Use a guest messaging solution that asks the guest for feedback during their stay. Getting feedback during the stay would allow you to address any issue a guest may bring up and resolve them whilst they are still in your hotel. This is an opportunity to put things right.

During the check-out process, enquire about the guest’s stay and check they were happy with the service you provided. If they’ve had a positive time with you, ask them to post an online review or have a sign on the front desk encouraging guests to share any great experiences they’ve had with you on your chains review site or TripAdvisor etc.

Post-stay emails provide another opportunity to seek reviews once a guest has checked out. To heighten the chances of a response, send the email within 2-3 days when their experience is still fresh in the mind.

Personalise emails by addressing the person by name, thank them for their business, and adopt a friendly tone over anything too formal or corporate. Also, offer a point of contact if they wish to raise any problems experienced during their stay – this can ward off any potential negative online feedback they might otherwise have left.

Finally, ask if they can share a review on TripAdvisor or social media and include relevant links to make doing this as simple as possible.

The Additional Benefits of Reviews

Beyond those mentioned, there are a number of less obvious benefits to gaining reviews that are worthy of mention:

Reviews Boost Direct Bookings

The vast majority of people visiting your website will want to see some form of social proof before they book. If your website doesn’t feature any guest reviews or testimonials, the chances are most people will head to TripAdvisor or an OTA to see what other travellers are saying about your property.

When they happens, you risk losing the booking.

A potential customer will suddenly be exposed to your competitors. Or they might end up booking your hotel with an OTA instead. To boost the chance of a direct booking, make sure you feature reviews throughout your website – from the homepage right the way through to the checkout.

Reviews Boost SEO

Google’s algorithm is designed to serve up the most helpful options for its users, and having a lot of reviews is a key ranking factor. In particular, having a large number of reviews is especially helpful to achieve a prominent position during local search results.

Adding weight to this, the latest figures show that review signals now account for 13% in terms of ranking factors (the 5th most influential factor). This goes to show just how important nurturing feedback is in terms of boosting your hotel’s online visibility.

 

Reviews Help with Marketing

It’s clear that the content of reviews can be hugely helpful to improve service levels and guest satisfaction. But the language people use to describe your hotel also has unique benefits.

For instance, using specific phrases or benefits that frequently get mentioned in reviews about your hotel can help you write more effective copy for your website and marketing. You might notice recurring phrases such as “gorgeous hotel in the country”, or “dream destination for families.”

These nuggets can provide the inspiration (or even be used verbatim) within your copy. Compared to a slick marketing message, using the language of your guests will instantly feel more natural. And it’ll help you focus your messaging on the features that people find most attractive about your property.

Building a Great Reputation: Offline

While online reputation management gets discussed a lot, managing your reputation offline also warrants significant attention. The key to this involves super-serving guests long before they arrive.

For instance, handling a reservation query over the phone in the right way can set the whole tone for the hotel stay. Providing helpful advice, asking questions, and offering personalised suggestions on room types, trips or the wider location will set the foundations for a great guest experience and instantly enhance your reputation.

The check-in process also provides an opportunity to enquire about special requirements and offer additional assistance such as advice on the local neighbourhood, hotel amenities, or activities happening during the stay.

The last impression you make is also crucial. At checkout, showing a genuine interest in a guest’s experience will leave them with a positive final memory. It’s also a vital point to try and correct any service failures that might have been made, potentially influencing their final TripAdvisor feedback.

Conclusion

The value of your hotel’s reputation can’t be overstated. In the digital age, the vast majority of your guests are checking multiple reviews before they even book with you. Making sure your hotel is promoted in the best possible light has become more important than ever.

While time-consuming, consider each and every interaction as an opportunity to enhance your reputation – from handling the initial booking to actively seeking feedback from each guest. Given that your online reputation has a direct impact on everything from direct bookings to occupancy rates, it’s unquestionably time well spent.

 

In-Room Entertainment – Catering to the 21st-century Hotel Guest

The expectations of hotel guests has changed radically in recent years. Having a comfortable place to stay is no longer enough. Today, the digitally-connected traveller wants a hotel room that lets them stay connected from the moment they arrive, while also enjoying the same technology they use at home.

Even if your guests are just using your hotel room as a base to lay their head, the time they spend relaxing will invariably involve watching TV, listening to music, or browsing the net.

This reliance on personal technology and a surge in the popularity of on-demand entertainment are both transforming what guests want and expect from a hotel room.

With that in mind, let’s explore where in-room hotel technology is going, and how it needs to evolve to meet changing expectations.

The Boom in On-demand Entertainment

A lot of guests arrive at a hotel with their own entertainment, often bringing multiple devices with them. These days, they’re more likely to watch a Netflix show on their tablet than pay to watch a movie on the hotel TV.

This trend is simply a sign of the times. A recent report by Nielsen found that nearly two-thirds of people around the globe watch some form of on-demand content.  On-demand content allows you to watch what you like, when you like over the internet.  It’s worth stating that people are still watching traditional TV and cable services, but there’s a clear shift towards on-demand content and streaming services.

This means that today’s hotel guest has more content than ever at their fingertips.

So while a large flat screen TV is still a nice perk, it isn’t the be-all and end-all of in-room entertainment. Just as crucial, hotels need to provide support to allow guests to use the devices they bring with them.

Easy Access to Personal Devices

Seamless connectivity and a frictionless online experience are key to guest satisfaction. The modern day traveller wants to stay connected at all times, and most now expect a hotel to offer free, high-speed Wi-Fi.

 

Equally, guests don’t want the hassle of complicated log-in procedures, or have their internet sessions time-out. These seemingly minor frustrations are a sure-fire way to aggravate your guests and send them straight to TripAdvisor to air their grievances.

Beyond free and fast internet access, it’s crucial that your hotel rooms have plenty of easy-to-access power outlets – especially since most people bring multiple devices with them. Even better, equip your hotel rooms with USB ports. This will also save your overseas guests the inconvenience of needing a travel adaptor.

Personal Content and Streaming Services

In the survey by Nielson, over two-thirds of respondents said that watching video-on-demand on an online or mobile device is not as good as watching on a bigger screen.

Moving forward, it seems in-room entertainment is almost certainly going to revolve around the hotel TV. As internet-enabled Smart TVs become prevalent in the home, guests will arrive expecting to stream their favourite Netflix, Stan or Amazon Prime show on the hotel room TV.

The way people listen to music has changed radically too. The boom in internet-based music platforms like Spotify mean that guests will appreciate the ability to play their music via Bluetooth thru the in-room TV speakers or clock with Bluetooth and speaker.

As discussed in a previous article, casting services are set to play a leading role in this development.  Services such as Roomcast (powered by Google’s Chromecast) now enable guests to easily and securely ‘cast’ their own content on the in-room TV.

Of course, personal devices aren’t just used for entertainment. Travellers rely on them for a host of reasons, from checking the latest weather and researching trips, to checking out the local dining scene and uploading holiday photos to Facebook.

Again, this is where streaming services can offer huge value.  Rather than being restricted to a small screen, giving guests the ability to cast content from a personal device to the in-room TV makes for a far less restricted and much more enjoyable online experience.

Yet despite these benefits, the current generation of streaming services still have some limitations. Namely, the lack of a universal system that works across all platforms.

Limitations of Streaming

At present, consumers can stream and mirror content on Android devices, such as Samsung and LG. Apple TV offers streaming and mirroring for iOS and Mac OS. But neither solution works with the other.

Chromecast bridges the gap (because it works on both Android and iOS), but you can’t play content from iTunes via Chromecast.

As a possible solution, the future might involve a next-generation solution that combines streaming with app-based technology.

How Streaming Services could Evolve

So what might a new generation of app-based solution look like? Having the apps on the TV itself wouldn’t be ideal.  Guests would have to use the hotel remote to enter their login details which is fiddly.  Also, many guests would worry about entering their personal details into the TV to access these apps because the TV will store them unless it is able to be reset or wiped once the guest checks-out.

But here’s how it could work.  Imagine a device (like an Apple TV) that lets you upload your own apps (such as Netflix, Stan or Amazon Prime, etc.) and profile to it at the push of a button via your smartphone.  The apps then displayed on the TV would be yours with your credentials, reflecting the same kind of experience you have at home.

Voice control technology would make this interaction even easier.  Products like Apple TV already have voice control built in.  So this next-generation experience would allow guests to navigate and play personal content without touching a button.  Instead, they would simply ‘ask’ the TV to play (say) the latest Stranger Things episode.

What about security concerns? The device would automatically clear itself of personal credentials, settings, content and any downloaded apps when a guest checks out.  That is the device would be restored to a standardised per-property configuration – ready and waiting for the next guest to make it their own.

Redefining the In-room Experience

As access and dependence on personal devices grows, the future of in-room entertainment will be defined by what your guests bring with them – and how well you can enhance the experience of them using these devices whilst staying with you.

Super-fast Wi-Fi, casting services, and voice-activated devices will no longer be an appreciated luxury.  They’ll become a hardwired expectation.  This isn’t far off, either.  These technologies are already here – moving into the domestic setting and becoming seamlessly integrated into everyday life.

Entertainment autonomy and an office-away-from-the-office are what your future guests are going to be looking for.  Understanding these changing expectations and investing in the right technology is going to be crucial to remain relevant and gain a competitive edge in the coming years.

 

 

What Hotels Need to Know About Wireless Charging

Hotel guests commonly bring multiple devices with them during their stay. However, many hotel environments don’t provide easy access to charging outlets. This situation can lead to a guest feeling more than inconvenienced. A recent survey found almost 90% of people “felt panic” when their phone battery dropped to 20 percent or below.

This fear of a depleted battery and nowhere to recharge has led to the growing popularity of wireless charging — a technology that allows smartphones to be charged, without needing to be plugged in.

As the name implies, wireless charging allows electronic devices to be charged without cables. When a smartphone is placed on a wireless charging pad, its battery instantly starts to power up. You can get an in-depth overview of how wireless charging works in this article by Computerworld.

So where exactly is wireless charging heading, why do hotels need to be aware of it, and will it become a standard expectation of tomorrow’s hotel guest?

Why is Wireless Charging Becoming More Popular?

Wireless charging isn’t exactly new. The basic technology has actually been around for over a hundred years. However, it’s only started to become more readily available as modern smartphones have started to support it.

There are multiple industry standards, but the most popular wireless charging technology comes from Qi (pronounced “chee”). Not only is QI supported by numerous Android devices (including Samsung, Sony, LG, HTC and Huawei), but it’s also now supported by Apple’s new iPhone 8 and iPhone X.

The fact that Apple has adopted Qi is hugely significant, and almost certainly means that QI will be the leading industry standard moving forward.

Where is Wireless Charging Heading?

Wireless charging has started appearing in thousands of public spaces around the world, including restaurants, high street coffee shops, and sports stadiums. Starbucks and McDonald’s have also introduced the technology in select stores, and companies such as Ikea have built Qi chargers into their furniture.

Wireless charging has also become more commonplace in airports and travel lounges. In 2012, Virgin partnered with Nokia to install the Fatboy Recharge Pillows in its Heathrow Airport lounges.

Hotels are already jumping on board. Wireless charging has being installed in a number of Accor hotels across Europe, Marriott Hotels have also installed wireless charging stations in lobbies in the US and many of their hotel rooms have clocks with wireless charging. Most recently mophie has installed its wireless chargers in all rooms at Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore.

As consumers start to see wireless charging appear more often in the places where they live, work, and socialise, they’ll reasonably expect it to be available in hotels too. This in turn may well drive widespread industry adoption. With that in mind, it’s worth considering some of the specific benefits this could create.

The Benefits of Wireless Charging to Hotel Guests

The obvious benefit of wireless charging is that guests will be able to use charging pads or clocks in the hotel room, saving them the hassle of bringing their own charging cables. Overseas guests will also be spared from having to bring travel adaptors with them.

However, wireless charging doesn’t have to be restricted to in-room charging pads. The technology can also be integrated into alarm clocks, chairs and desks. This opens up the option for the technology to exist in hotel lobbies, club lounges, food and beverage outlets and function areas. Seamless charging throughout a hotel will mean guests’ can recharge on the move, without being tethered to their room.

In addition to added convenience for guests, the Qi wireless standard can also directly benefit the hotel.

There are some solutions available that use Bluetooth beacon technology integrated into the wireless charger to allow for continuous, real time monitoring and data analytics for each individual charger. This helps monitor success, optimise the placement of units and provide useful diagnostic information. The Bluetooth beacon technology also allows the hotel to interact with the guest in real time, using the wireless charger via opt in intelligent push notifications.

The Future of Wireless Charging

Just as free Wi-Fi has become an expectation, wireless charging will be regarded as an essential hotel extra in the very near future.

The wireless charging market is predicted to be worth $37.2 Billion by 2022, increasing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 44.7% between 2016-2022. As most smartphones now support the technology, it seems inevitable that it’ll become ubiquitous in our daily lives.

It’s true that wireless charging adoption in the hotel industry is still limited, but that fact indicates a golden opportunity for tech-savvy hotels to adopt the technology now in order differentiate themselves from their competition and offer a bonus that more and more guests will be looking for.

 

Key Travel Technology Trends of 2018

The past year has seen a number of exciting technology trends and developments that promise to have a major impact on the hospitality industry. Here are five of the most significant technologies that hoteliers should know about.

1. Voice Assistants and (AI) Artificial Intelligence

In 2018, the role of artificial intelligence in the travel industry has continued to evolve in a number of key areas.

Voice assistants have become increasingly advanced, and their prevalence in the hotel industry continues to grow. This year, both IBM and Amazon introduced hospitality-specific voice assistants that are tailored to meet the needs of hotel guests.

A promotional video of IBM Watson for hospitality reveals some of its more impressive capabilities. Including welcoming a guest by name, arranging transport for a scheduled business meeting, and asking the guest if they want their “usual order” from the in-room menu.

In June Amazon announced Alexa for Hospitality, a special version of the company’s voice assistant that will be distributed on an invitation basis to hotels. Hotels can use Alexa for Hospitality to “measure engagement through analytics” or “customise the deployment” by choosing default music stations from iHeartRadio or connecting custom skills to their Echo devices.

We also said hello to Angie, the world’s first cloud-powered, interactive guest room assistant, created just for hotels.

AI was also leveraged as a trip-booking tool by Expedia as the OTA giant announced the launch of the Expedia Action for the Google Assistant. Using just their voice, Expedia customers can now carry out hands-free requests, such as searching and booking hotel rooms, accessing trip itineraries, receiving packing list recommendations, and checking the balance on their Expedia Rewards account.

New AI-powered trip-planning tools also showed impressive potential. Of particular note, German travel and tourism company, TUI Group, struck a deal with AI firm Utrip to create a personalised trip planning service. This sophisticated online tool can produce tailored itineraries based on a user inputting a simple number of preferences and trip details.

2. In-room Streaming Services

In the on-demand age, hotel guests increasingly want to watch their own entertainment when they travel. This is why services such as RoomCast (powered by Google’s Chromecast) have huge potential for industry-wide adoption.

Using Chromecast, guests can ‘cast’ their own movies, TV shows, music and games securely onto the guest room TV from their smartphone or tablet. There’s nothing to download. Guests simply have to join the hotel’s personal area network, open their favourite apps on their personal device, and then tap the ‘cast’ button.

Video streaming and casting provider BeyondTV is taking the frictionless nature of in-room entertainment even further, following an integration with voice-based guest engagement software Volara. When paired with Amazon’s Alexa, guests can use BeyondTV’s newest upgrade to control almost all TV functions, including turning the TV on and off, changing channels, and requesting a specific station by simply saying its name.

In addition, Apple recently announced that they will support credential sharing between an iPhone and an Apple TV remote. This means that guests will be able to make the Apple TV in the room just like their Apple TV at home.

In 2019, expect to see in-room entertainment and casting services become more widespread, as both tech giants and innovative start-ups roll out updates to existing technology.

3. Energy Management Systems

Unoccupied guest rooms can place a huge financial drain on a hotel’s finances. On average, guest rooms account for 90% of wasted electricity usage. That’s why all new-build hotels (and hotel refurbishments) now include an in-room EMS (energy management system).

Energy-saving systems such as ECOSYSTEM use in-room infrared sensors to detect if a room is unoccupied. If a guest leaves the room and no movement is detected after a given period of time, the system switches to “unoccupied” mode. Energy-saving adjustments can then be made, such as switching off the air-conditioning or setting a temperature range pre-determine by the hotel. These automated interventions can save a hotel between 25-40% on their HVAC costs.

However, cost savings are just one benefit. A 2018 study by Booking.com found that a huge 87% of travelers now want to travel sustainably. So a hotel can use energy-saving technology as a powerful selling tool to attract a growing number of environmentally conscious guests.

4. Employee Communication Tools

Self-directed technologies are transforming how hotels interact with guests. But there’s also a sea change in how hotels communicate internally. Digital communication platforms such as Beekeeper allow hotels to share information, announce property updates, gauge staff sentiment, and coordinate tasks through a real-time employee app. Staff don’t need a company email address nor a computer.

Using this kind of centralised communication platform, hotels are able to streamline their entire operation and transform departments from independent silos into a single unified team, helping to create a culture of harmony and collaboration. The technology also gives hotel staff a way to easily share their opinions, which further boosts team morale and loyalty.

 

 

 

 

5. Wireless Charging

Despite being around for over a hundred years, wireless charging technology has been relatively underused, but things are changing. In simple terms, wireless charging allows smartphones to be charged without cables, and it’s the kind of technology that more and more hotel guests will be looking for in 2019.

The industry standard Qi (pronounced “chee”) is now supported by most new smartphones, including Apple’s iPhone 8 and iPhone X. This ubiquity could well be the catalyst that drives consumer demand for wireless charging and cements QI as the industry leader. In turn, it’s likely that wireless charging will soon become a hardwired (sorry for the pun) expectation among hotel guests, in much the same way that Wi-Fi is currently.

As for the benefits of the technology? The most obvious advantage is that guests don’t need to bring power cables to charge their devices and overseas guests are also saved from having to bring travel adaptors with them.

In addition to added convenience for guests, the Qi wireless standard can directly benefit the hotel. There are some solutions available that use Bluetooth beacon technology integrated into the wireless charger to allow for continuous, real time monitoring and data analytics for each individual charger. This helps monitor success, optimise the placement of units and provide useful diagnostic information. The Bluetooth beacon technology also allows the hotel to interact with the guest in real time, using the wireless charger via opt in intelligent push notifications.

Looking Ahead to 2019

From hotel-specific voice assistants and wireless charging, to internal communication platforms, energy saving systems and in-room casting services. The technology available to hoteliers continues to evolve at lightning speed.

In 2019, disruptive new technology such as block chain, AI-powered trip-planning tools, and recognition technology (think retina scanning and fingerprints at hotels) are likely to make a real impact on the travel landscape.

For hoteliers, keeping abreast of the latest trends and leveraging some of the technologies mentioned above will be crucial to keep up with guest expectations and retain a competitive edge in the year ahead.