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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.

 

 

The Future of Hotel Energy Efficiency: Save Money with Automated Management

Energy efficiency should be a key concern for all hotels. Spiralling electricity prices have started to cost the industry more and more over the years. As hotels continue to find profit margins squeezed, looking for ways to reduce unnecessary wastage is paramount.

On average, guestrooms account for 90% of wasted electricity usage. Of this, the biggest drain by far comes from the Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning (HVAC) system, which typically uses between 70% – 90% of the energy consumption.

If this system isn’t managed effectively, it can play a huge part in soaring energy bills.

How Do Guest Rooms “Waste” Energy?

Electricity is most commonly wasted when the HVAC is left on when a guest isn’t in the room.

“What about the keycard?”  I hear you ask.  Typically most guests know how to cheat the key card system and either ask for or get offered two keycards when they check in to a hotel. When they decide to leave their room, they often leave one of the cards connected so the HVAC system remains in use while they’re out — needlessly using electricity and costing the hotel money. Even the newer RFID cards don’t help with this problem.

If your guests are heading out for a day of sightseeing, that’s a whole day’s worth of wasted energy. Consider how many guests are doing this and the annual costs can quickly add up to thousands of dollars.

Much of this wastage and expenditure is needless, but also preventable.

 

Energy Efficiency: an Intelligent Solution

To save energy hotels could remind guests to remove their keycard every time they leave their room, but this isn’t exactly an ideal option. Many people might simply forget and, in any case, the burden of energy efficiency really rests with the hotel, not the guest.

The answer to saving energy requires a technological solution. One that’s built on intelligent automation and doesn’t rely on the guest having to do anything.

That’s where automated solutions like the ECOSYSTEM can help. It can be programmed to “turn off” or “set back” the HVAC system when the room is unoccupied.  As a result, hotels can expect to save anywhere between 25% and 40% on their HVAC costs. Automated solutions also increase the HVAC lifespan by reducing its overall usage.

Crucially, none of this impacts the comfort of guests because the system only kicks in when they aren’t in their room.  In fact, the system enhances the guest experience, because when they open the door the lights and the HVAC turn on automatically. Much more elegant than having to put a key card in the slot to enable power!

How Does an Automated Solution Work?

Guests remain in full control of the HVAC system when they’re in their room. However, as soon as they leave, a micro door sensor tells the system that someone may have left.

At this point, an infrared motion detector sweeps the room for the next 20 mins (duration set by property) to check it has definitely been vacated. If no movement is detected, the system switches to “unoccupied” mode. It then either turns off the HVAC system or adjusts it to a temperature pre-set by the hotel.

These systems also come with a range of other intelligent modes. These include a Housekeeping Mode that can be set to automatically turn off the HVAC operation if the main guest room door is left open while Housekeeping are cleaning the room.

When the room is unoccupied, the system can also turn on the HVAC for 15 minutes every two hours so the air is circulated. This keeps the room feeling fresh and well-ventilated for the guest, and it also prolongs the life of the room furniture by preventing the build-up of mildew.

In addition, a dedicated ‘Balcony Door Control’ can be added. This allows for the aircon to be automatically turned off when the balcony door is opened or left open for 2 minutes or more.

Cut Costs with In-room Energy Management

The guest room may be your property’s most unmanaged energy resource and can lead to a serious drain on your profits.

As costs rise, an automated solution such as ECOSYSTEM can offset a big chunk of this energy waste. It effectively puts you in control by automatically turning off or setting back the HVAC system when the guest isn’t in their room.

Over the months and years, an automated solution can save you thousands of dollars — as well as preserving the life of your HVAC. In addition, it can add to your brand perception. By promoting your energy efficient credentials, you’ll be appealing to the growing numbers of socially conscious guests.

Footnote:

With regards to keycards, it’s still early days but as more and more hotels move to mobile keys, where the guest smartphone acts as a virtual key, a guest won’t have a physical key card to insert in the keycard slot.

 

Why Hotels Should Embrace Digital Key Technology

Self-service is becoming increasingly valued by a generation of travellers seeking greater convenience and flexibility. At many global airports, self-service check-in and automated passport control kiosks are commonplace. Technology is now helping to reduce queues and speed up transit, removing the need for a once long-winded administrative process.

Yet for some reason, the technology hasn’t been widely rolled out in the hotel industry, despite the fact that demand is there. Research by Hotels.com revealed that 44% of US travellers would be happy using a mobile for hotel self-check-in.

 

The desire for self-service was found to be even greater in a study of business travellers in North America and Europe. The study found that travellers in the US (78%), Italy (77%), Canada (74%), Spain (73%), the Nordic countries (60%) and Germany (56%) preferred self-service technology to manage their travel.

As the demand for self-service grows, it’s worth looking at the considerable benefits that digital keys offer both guests and hotels.

Benefits to Guests

Using just their smartphone, guests can use a digital key to skip the check-in procedure and gain instant access to their room. Offering this hassle-free alternative is something that can have a direct impact on levels of customer satisfaction.

Since Hilton launched their own Digital Key, Hilton guests using the technology are more likely to rate their “efficiency of arrival” nearly 10 percentage points higher than those using traditional check-in.

A mobile key also allows guests to access other areas of a hotel, such as the car park, elevator, or fitness centre. Additionally, a whole host of service requests can be made from anywhere in the hotel.

 

For instance, a digital key can be used to ask for housekeeping, issue a ‘do not disturb request’, or reserve a parking space at the hotel before arrival.

Activities and amenities no longer need to be booked through the front desk, either. A smartphone with a digital key can be used to book everything from a massage or spa treatment to a session on the hotel tennis court.

With this kind of technology at their fingertips, the whole guest experience is elevated to another level of freedom and convenience.

Benefits to Hotels

The demands on a front desk are considerable during busy check-in periods. But with more guests checking in themselves, this burden is relieved.

It’s fair to say the check-in process represents an important opportunity for building guest rapport. For that reason, diminishing its role might seem counterproductive. But in reality, the administrative process of form filling and fact checking doesn’t really lend itself to moments of genuine interaction.  If we are honest, front desk staff generally spend most of the check-in procedure looking at their computer screen rather than the guests.

However, freed up from the formalities of the check-in procedure, a front desk can spend more quality time on the moments that really matter.

This might involve offering helpful recommendations to guests as they head out for the day. It could mean having the chance to handle customer queries over the phone with greater care and attention, creating more opportunities to influence booking decisions and provide an all-round better service.

Self-service also provides greater upsell opportunities. A hectic front desk might not have the time to tempt a guest with room upgrades or promote in-house amenities and services. In contrast, digital keys can be used as powerful marketing tools to increase sales.

Hotel services and special offers can be promoted via an app, with customised offers targeting specific customer segments. In turn, hotels can track uptake rates to see which deals and amenities guests are really interested in, further helping to refine the amenities and offers they deliver to match personal preferences and buying habits.

From an operational perspective, life becomes easier too. For instance, a hotel can check when a room has been vacated and carry out cleaning to ensure a quicker turnaround time. The hotel restaurant can also be notified about the number of current and future guests to help better plan in advance.

Ultimately, digital keys provide hotels with the ability to improve efficiency, push relevant deals, market more effectively, and provide an all-round better experience to guests.

In conclusion

Self check-in services are now becoming highly valued by a generation that craves flexibility and freedom when they travel. While increasingly expected, this certainly doesn’t mean that hotels should do away with the traditional check-in process. Plenty of travellers still value a formal greeting on arrival.

However, by not offering a self check-in option, it restricts those who do want to bypass the front desk in order to reach their room more quickly. It also limits the wealth of other benefits they can receive beyond a streamlined arrival.

The ultimate goal for any hotel is to leave every guest feeling completely satisfied with the service they’ve received. By complementing the front desk with self-service technology, hotels can strike a balance and ensure the preferences of all are met.

 

 

The Rise of On-demand Streaming Services And How Hotels Can Profit

It’s no secret that scheduled TV programming is in sharp decline. Viewers no longer want to wait a week to catch their favourite TV show. They want to watch it at a time and place that suits them.

The rise of streaming services such as Netflix and Stan highlight just how fast this shift is happening. Despite only launching in March 2015, over 1 in 3 Australians now has a Netflix subscription, which includes a huge surge in subscriptions during the first quarter of last year.

This change in viewing consumption is reflected in the typical hotel guest who frequently arrives with their own entertainment on personal devices. Rather than relying on whatever in-room content happens to be available, they want the flexibility to watch their own movies and TV shows.

To cater to this trend, a growing number of hotels are offering streaming services to enable guests to watch their own content on the in-room TV. But not all streaming services are made equal. While still in its infancy, the current technology being used by some hotels already looks like it could soon be replaced.

The changing face of hotel streaming services

Back in 2015, Marriott lead the way by becoming the first hotel to introduce Netflix into their hotel rooms, allowing guests to access their own Netflix accounts on the in-room TV. Guests were also able to access other services including Stan and Pandora.

This move represented an important shift away from offering increasingly less popular pay-per-view content. Yet despite the demand for more personalised in-room entertainment options, this particular form of streaming comes with some drawbacks.

For instance, guests must either have a pre-existing Netflix account or set up a new trial. They also need to enter their personal Netflix account details using the TV remote and on-screen keyboard. Not only is this a cumbersome process, it involves sharing personal data in a public environment — something that many guests are likely to feel quite uncomfortable with.

However, a new form of streaming technology known as “casting” eliminates these issues, and arguably represents the way in which all hotel streaming services will go.

 

 

Casting technology: the future of hotel streaming

In contrast to traditional streaming, casting provides a simplified and secure alternative. Users can stream content by accessing the cast-enabled apps already on their own devices.

Not only does this eliminate the clunky user interface of inputting details into the hotel TV, it resolves potential concerns over data protection.

In terms of an industry standard, services such as RoomCast (powered by Google’s Chromecast) represent a likely contender. To date Chromecast supports over 1,000 apps, 200,000 TV shows and movies, and 30 million songs — so the breadth of content guests can stream is already pretty vast.

In addition, RoomCast enables users to carry on using their phone for other tasks without interrupting the content happening on the big screen.

Hotels embracing casting

Last year, Aloft was the first hotel to trial RoomCast at its 188-room New Orleans Downtown property. As an industry innovator, this move by Aloft represented an awareness that the nature of in-room entertainment could soon be entering a new era.

Just recently, Hyatt became the latest hotel brand to offer in-room casting. Hyatt has begun working with Sonifi Solutions to utilise its Staycast technology – another Google Chromecast-powered platform for the hospitality industry. The service is currently available in 14 Hyatt properties and integrates with the World of Hyatt mobile app.

Wingate by Wyndham has also begun running a pilot with Sonifi. This followed a test that showed on average, Wingate by Wyndham’s guests cast 12 times from their devices to the in-room TV over an average two-night stay.

According to Sonifi CEO Ahmad Ouri, one of the other major benefits of this form of streaming is data collection: hotels can look at streaming habits across the board to help them better identify how guests are using the technology.

From the guest perspective, the beauty of casting compared to earlier streaming services is about simplicity and security. They aren’t required to input a code or hand over personal details through the hotel TV. Instead, everything can be done through their own mobile devices using the apps they already have.

The future of in-room entertainment

We live in an era defined by instant access. Services such as Netflix, Amazon and Uber have habituated consumers into expecting immediacy and flexibility. In terms of in-room hotel entertainment, this is redefining the behaviour and preferences of the modern day hotel guest.

 

As streaming gains popularity in the home, guests will increasingly want and expect to access their accounts from the comfort of their hotel room. Moving forward, casting will become integral to this process, representing the ultimate way for guests to enjoy their favorite content through a simplified, secure and seamless form of connectivity.

 

Are You Taking Full Advantage of Your Guest Room Speed Dials?

Taking full advantage of your guest room speed dials can not only increase guest satisfaction but also contribute to hotel revenue. Travelers these days are looking for an “experience”, not just a place to stay. Many guests still prefer the simplicity of one-touch speed dials quickly connecting them to hotel and emergency services if needed. This could be the difference in them using the hotel Spa versus the other 10 spas right down the street. Even hotels that do not provide premium services have been able to generate recurring revenue by leasing speed dial keys to local companies.

Room Service – Two words that Make your Phone Generate Revenue

By providing your guests convenient one-button access to food and drink, hotels gain thousands of dollars in premium-priced sales.

 

 

Those with iPads and laptop computers can even bypass the phone and order online. But searching the Web does take more time than pushing a single button. Frankly, the convenience and simplicity of picking up the hotel guest phone, pushing just one clearly-marked button, and getting food and drink ordered from a handy menu that is already available in the hotel room is just perfect.

Think of it this way: If customers have to use their mobile phones to call for room service – with the hassle of having to find and then punch in a complete phone number– what’s to stop them from calling out for delivery? After all, it’s no more work to punch in one full phone number than it is to type in another.

 

But what does Room Service actually contribute to a hotel’s bottom line?

Quite simply, a single push of a button equates to about $30 high margin incremental revenue.

Hotel Phones = Happy Guests

If hotel guests need a wake-up call, advice on getting clothes cleaned, or fresh towels, they pick up the hotel guestroom phone, push a single button and get what they want. This is a guest convenience that is simple, fast, and — most of all – expected.  In an age where consumers are already cranky about service cutbacks in airlines and other travel-related products, taking away this expected convenience would be commercial suicide.

Lawsuit, Anybody?

Imagine that your hotel has a fire or other calamity. Now imagine that the hotel guestroom phones have been removed. Can you imagine what a field day some enterprising class action lawyer can have at your Hotel’s expense

You got it: By removing hotel guestroom phones, a hotel is exposing itself to millions’ of dollars in potential liability suits.  Even if disaster doesn’t strike? Have fun convincing your insurance company that removing guestroom phones doesn’t open your hotel up to such lawsuits. Unfortunately, your insurance company knows better. Chances are the increase in insurance premiums will eat up any perceived savings realised by removing guestroom phones – and then some.

The Bad News AND The Good News

The bad news; removing hotel guestroom phones is an effective way to slash revenue, alienate customers, and open yourself up to lawsuits and increased insurance premiums, The Good News; Preserving and growing your Room Service, and delighting your customers with hotel guest room phones helps ensure that these revenue centres remain alive and contributing to your hotel’s bottom line.

 

 

 

The Changing Face of Hotel Design

Hotel design has long had a strong influence on a hotel’s aesthetic appeal, but as the needs of the traveller have evolved over the years, so too has the design that draws in guests. As technology rapidly improves and develops, it starts to have more and more influence on the needs of hotel guests, thus impacting hotel design. In many ways it is the evolution of technology that is most influencing the evolution of hotel design.

Hotel lobbies vs communal spaces

The design of a hotel lobby is vital in giving a strong and positive first impression. And since the impression that hotels want to give has evolved over the years, it stands to reason that the design of the hotel lobby needs to evolve alongside it. The importance of marble, grand stair cases and designer chandeliers is decreasing as millennial travellers (Millennials – also known as Generation Y – are the generation born between 1980 and 1995) increasingly become the most influential market. Since millennial travellers value experiences over products and services, hotel lobbies are being designed to act more as a communal space in keeping with the local culture, rather than a place to make a grand Hollywood-style entrance.

Millennial travellers, as born collaborators, place a strong importance on being highly interactive. It falls upon hotel designers to provide these millennial travellers with interactive and social environments, communal areas in which they can get the full experience, whether this is social networking (in real life and online) or working away from the office.

Nautilus Lobby by Sixty Hotel Group

Nautilus Lobby by Sixty Hotel Group

 

“Millennials aren’t so interested in staying in their room, but congregating in compelling spaces with great design, music and a unique point of view,” says Jason Pomeranc, CEO of SIXTY Hotels, a lifestyle brand that recently opened a property in Miami.

Laslett Hotel, Notting Hill Library and curated walls

Laslett Hotel, Notting Hill Library and curated walls

 

 

In the UK, Laslett hotel, a new entry onto the London boutique hotel scene, capitalises perfectly on the rich culture of its Notting Hill setting. So much so that it has become something of a neighbourhood hangout, rather than the traditional style hotel lobby. There is a curated British library, local art on the walls, and shops and restaurants selling and serving celebrated local products.

Poshtel Lounge

Poshtel Lounge

 

And it’s not just high-end boutique hotels adjusting their design motifs. The low-budget hotels and hostel chains are also changing their image in-line with millennial expectations. The European hostel brand Generation Hostels have created a series of ‘poshtels’ which incorporate lavish communal areas with bars, cinema rooms and even areas to take a yoga class.

 

“We’re trying to capture people who are curious and people who want to experience design and want to experience something local,” said Josh White, Chief Strategic Officer for the chain.

The most recent example of this change in design is the launch of the new edgy midscale brand by Hilton called Tru.

“We are incredibly excited to be launching Tru by Hilton, which will serve the largest segment of the hotel market, but a segment where no brand is meeting guests’ current needs,” says Christopher J. Nassetta, President and CEO, Hilton Worldwide.

“Tru will provide guests with a high-quality, contemporary, consistent and fresh experience at a great value for customers, while at the same time delivering strong returns to our owners,” he says.

The brand will appeal to a broad range of travellers who span generations but think alike; they are united by a millennial mindset – a youthful energy, a zest for life and a desire for human connection.  Tru by Hilton is “more than just a place to sleep, it’s a true travel experience designed to deliver a strong value proposition for owners and guests”.

Tru by Hilton’s features include:

tru by Hilton

tru by Hilton

-The Hive, a first floor experience that’s more than a lobby – 2,770 square-feet of open space with unique ways for guests to engage with others or spend time alone – in one of four distinct zones for lounging, working, eating or playing;

-The Play Zone, filled with table games, a large-screen TV (offering guests more than 150 channels), and tiered, stadium-inspired seating;

-A centrally located Command Centre – a re-envisioned front desk – featuring a social media wall with real-time content to foster engagement among guests, and a 24/7 market offering fun snacks and refreshments, single-serve wine and beer, healthy light meal options and sundries for purchase;

-A complimentary ‘Build Your Own’ breakfast bar

-A technology-forward mentality featuring segment-leading complimentary WiFi bandwidth allowing guests to download and stream content on their devices, plentiful power sources, and mobile check-in, room selection and Digital Key available through the Hilton HHonors mobile app;

Vital amenities aka technology

iPhone and toothbrush jpgMillennials have grown up with technology, often viewing their smartphone as an extension of themselves that they would not dare part with. As digital natives, they are the most avid users of technology, and use it to communicate almost exclusively, either via emails, texts or on social media. Nine out of 10 millennial adults across the world get dressed, brush their teeth and check their smartphones as part of their morning routine, according to the Connected World Technology Report.

Since technology is so much a part of their lives, it has quickly become a prerequisite rather than a luxury. As such, hotel design has begun adapting to meet their needs. Where once large bed throws were the mark of a luxurious hotel room, it’s now far more imperative to have a good sized TV (46” plus) that allows guests to view their own content i.e. Netflix, easily and seamlessly as they do at home.

Access to WiFi is mandatory. If a millennial were unable to check their smartphones, two out of five reported in the Connected World Technology Report that they “would feel anxious, like a part of me was missing.” WiFi that is unreliable or expensive (i.e. not free) is an easy way for hotels to score a black mark against their names in online reviews and on social media (and trust me, they’ll find a way to get online and tell the world about it). Excellent quality Internet and making it easy for guest to connect, charge and use all their various devices is crucial to total customer satisfaction. Additional outlets and USB charging points are beginning to appear in most hotel room designs, becoming as important as in-room coffee – if not more so, with your average guest travelling with at least three devices that require charging.

Hilton’s new Tru brand will offer smart and efficiently designed guest rooms full of the things that matter most – all-white comfortable platform beds, 55-inch TVs, eight-foot wide windows, access to power everywhere, and surprisingly spacious bathrooms.

The growing popularity of keyless room entry has shown how willing guests are to incorporate their mobile technology in the way they interact with hotels. This is allowing hotels to adopt new mobile technology – such as hotel apps/loyalty programs – to connect better with and serve their guests.  No one likes waiting in-line. Banks have been giving us technology based alternatives for years; it’s only natural that hotels do the same.

Energy Efficiency    greenleader hotel logo cropped

Reducing energy use is also becoming an important part of hotel room design.  Electricity usage is one of the highest operating expenses a hotel incurs and on average, 90% of wasted electricity usage comes from the guestroom, which can be a hotel’s most unmanaged resource. Guestroom’s Air Conditioning/Heating (HVAC) system can represent 70% – 90% of that wasted electricity. Fully automated solutions are now available which can detect whether or not a guestroom is occupied and either turn off the HVAC or set the temperature to one pre-determined by hotel management.  Thereby allowing control over electricity usage while still maintaining maximum guestroom comfort levels.

Authenticity is the key

Erin Green, vice president of development Americas of Rosewood Hotels & Resorts has said that “Authenticity is the new definition of luxury.” In other words the perceived value of a hotel visit is now greater when authentic and unique experiences are involved. Creating a hotel experience that reflects the surrounding culture and community is a trend that is quickly spreading around the world, one that is highly encouraged by millennial travellers.

Inn & Spa Loretto Santa Fe a Destination Hotels Property

Inn & Spa Loretto Santa Fe a Destination Hotels Property

“Authenticity is more important than room size, finishes, and brick and mortar. It’s about feeling like you’re in place,” said Russell Urban, executive VP, business development and acquisitions, of Destination Hotels.

Those hotels that incorporate a local influence – whether it be art, history or architecture – into their hotel design are now more likely to be perceived as providing the real travel experience that millennial guests respond so well to.

The growing influence of millennial mindset

Hospitality properties of all shapes and sizes are beginning to redesign their properties to introduce new technologies and grow their brand appeal to this generation, and it’s easy to see why. There are currently 83.5 million millennials – more than one quarter of the population – in the US alone. And this number is only going to grow as Generation X ages, travels less and has less income to spend on hospitality.

As the future of the travel market grows and develops new needs, it’s only going to become more important for hotel design to adapt to meet them.

Definitions / Notes:

Millennials – also known as Generation Y – are the generation of travellers born between 1980 and 1995. Millennials were the first generation to be born into the digital world; they’ve grown up in an age where technology is an everyday part of life and regular travel is very accessible. This has created a wave of so-called savvy travellers, who look for unique value in their travel destinations at an affordable price.

Millennial Mindset – There are plenty of Generation X’ers (born between 1960 and 1980) who have a millennial mindset – That is they love technology, have a youthful energy, a zest for life and a desire for human connection.  In case you haven’t guessed I am one of them.

 

How Hotels Can Enhance the Guest Experience With Beacon Technology

Understanding and anticipating individual guest needs lies at the heart of offering a superior hotel experience. To offer evermore tailored and personalised levels of service, it’s now possible to access an unprecedented amount of customer data via sources such as mobile check-ins, online bookings, loyalty programs and past spending habits.

Alongside this array of information, a growing number of hotels are investing in beacon technology to gain insights into personal preferences and market more effectively to guests as they move around the property.

So how does beacon technology work, and what specific ways can it be deployed for maximum benefit?

How Does Beacon Technology Work?

Used in combination with a hotel app, strategically placed beacons allow a guest’s movements to be tracked during their stay. As they come within range of a specific beacon, they receive a push notification that commonly includes useful information or an exclusive deal relevant to their location.

Back in 2014, Marriott International installed beacons at a select number of properties as part of its LocalPerks push-messaging program — which has since been rolled out to 500 hotels. When guests download the relevant Marriott App, they need to activate the Location Services and Bluetooth on their smartphone.

Once opted-in, Marriott can then push basic details about hotel amenities along with special location-based offers.

This all obviously requires that individuals are happy to give up a certain level of privacy and personal information, which means hotels must clearly explain how being tracked during their stay can enhance their whole experience.

With that in mind, here are just some of the ways beacons can be deployed to deliver a host of diverse benefits.

1. Streamlined Check-in

Rather than queuing at the front desk, beacons allow guests quick and easy access to their rooms. As they walk into the hotel lobby, a beacon can send a push notification that automatically brings up the reservation, enabling them to digitally check in without delay. Not only does this speed up things for customers, it reduces the time staff need to spend dealing with lengthy queues. Going further, a welcome message on arrival could offer a discount off a room upgrade or a meal at the hotel restaurant for that evening.

2. Understanding Guest Behavior

By tracking where guests spend their time around the property, beacon technology is able to deliver a wealth of insightful data. For instance, a person might split the majority of their time between the spa, pool and fitness centre. This would imply that they value health, well-being and relaxation. Using this kind of broad data, future marketing could be personalised to include the type of deals that would be most likely to appeal. In this case, a 20% discount off a luxury spa treatment or a free VIP fitness session could act as a tempting booking incentive.

 3. Enhanced In-room Services

When a beacon detects a guest has entered their room, it can also act as a trigger to automatically turn on in-room features such as the lights and air conditioning. If it then detected a guest is in their room later in the evening, a message might be sent to their smartphone to remind them about the in-room dining options. Using the hotel app, a person could then browse the menu, pick a favourite dish and place their order — all without having to move from the comfort of their bed.

4. Tailored Offers and Promotions

By knowing a guest’s location, relevant and timely offers can be sent that take advantage of likely buying intent and heightened states of receptiveness. Needless to say, this is a far more effective approach than sending generic offers in the hope of piquing a person’s interest. For instance, a 2-for -1 meal deal could be sent to a guest’s phone as they approach the menu board at the hotel restaurant. Specific preferences (accessed via loyalty membership data or previous hotel app interactions) can then be used to help personalise these deals by recommending dishes or drinks that someone is most likely to be tempted by.

5. Promote Special Events and Tours

An increasing number of travellers head on holiday intent on exploring the destination and local neighbourhood. So when guests arrive at your property, you could send them a push notification with a helpful notice such as, “Ask about our local sightseeing trips and exclusive guided tours.” By positioning beacons around public notice boards in your lobby or social spaces, this same approach can be used to promote any special events your hotel might be hosting with exclusive discounts for early sign-ups.

6. Helping Guests To Navigate

From a practical perspective, beacons can be incredibly useful to help with navigation around a hotel — especially for larger properties. Instead of having to ask staff for directions, mobile users can simply use their installed hotel app to navigate to their room and other geo-fenced areas such as the spa, restaurant, pool or fitness centre. In addition, beacons can be utilised to create interactive tours, highlighting noteworthy attractions or points of interest to guests as they stroll around the resort.

Making the Most of Beacon Technology

If you’re considering installing beacon technology at your property, look at the areas guests are most likely to require information on/or make a purchasing decision. When you understand when and where they’re most receptive, you can provide valuable assistance and push relevant marketing messages that influence decision-making.

Ultimately, beacon technology has the potential to enhance the entire hotel experience. By gaining unique customer insights, you can personalise your service to meet guest preferences and needs in real-time. In turn, this can help maximise upsell opportunities and increase the average spend of each guest during their stay with you.

 

How to Use SMS Texting to Interact With Hotel Guests

When you want to reach your hotel guests in an instant, texting is the answer. With text messages read over 98% of the time, this is the most effective way to reach both future and current guests for a variety of reasons. Whether you want to let a guest know that their reservation for your restaurant is ready, or you simply want to send a welcome message, text messaging is a useful form of communication that will improve the relationship between you and your guests.

Share Event Information Through Text Messaging

When you utilize technology, you have the ability to share all kinds of information with your guests in an instant. If you have an event to promote for the evening, or you want your guests to know about a family activity happening by the pool, a quick text message will let guests know what is going on. In addition, if you learn about an event out in the community that you think your guests will love, you can send them a text message to share the information.

Provide Guests With Deals While Staying at Your Hotel

If you have a last-minute deal to offer guests, a text message can let them know about the deal. If your restaurant is having a slow night, a quick message offering a free appetizers to all registered guests can bring guests into your restaurant. Send out exclusive deals only for registered guests, as this will make your guests feel special. When you provide your guests with offers that will make their stay at your property more enjoyable, you are providing excellent customer service.

Send Out Arrival or Departure Messages to Guests

When your guest checks in to your property, you can send a quick message welcoming your guest to the hotel. You can send a message that includes events for the night, or other benefits of being a guest at your hotel. Your message can also simply say, “Welcome to our resort. For any questions or concerns call the front desk at 111 using the phone in your room!”

You can also send out a text message reminding a guest that their check-out is approaching.. Remind customers how to check-out, or send out a simple thank you message to the customer. You can also send out a message that includes a link to a survey, asking your hotel guest to fill out the survey to rate their satisfaction with your hotel.

Use Text Messaging for Confirmations

When a guest books a night at your hotel, a quick text message can let them know that you are confirming their reservation. You can also use text messaging to remind guests it’s time for their dinner reservation, or that the golf tee time they have reserved is getting close. When you can send confirmation reminders to your guests, this will be a useful way to communication scheduling issues with your guests. This is a great way to provide high-quality customer service to your guests.

When you implement text messaging to communicate with your guests, you are opening up a new avenue of communication. Guests want to know that you are paying attention, and will feel as if you care when you send out exclusive deals. With text messaging in place, your guests will feel welcomed, and they will be more likely to return.

 

Author Biography:
Ken Rhie

Ken Rhie is the CEO of Trumpia, which earned a reputation as the most complete SMS solution including user-friendly user interface and API for mobile engagement, Smart Targeting, advanced automation, enterprise, and cross-channel features for both mass texting and landline texting use cases. Mr. Rhie holds an MBA degree from Harvard Business School. He has over 30 years of experience in the software, internet, and mobile communications industries.

 

Will Machines Replace Humans in the Hospitality Industry?

The impact of artificially intelligent machines on the future job market has been gaining significant attention in recent years. According to a recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute, an estimated 50% of all current work activities might be automated by 2055.

Of course, machines taking human jobs is nothing new. For decades, companies within the manufacturing industries have cut costs and boosted productivity by using machines to carry out physically demanding and repetitive tasks.

But jobs that might once have been considered inherently human are also under threat. Advances in machine learning and natural language processing have led to a new breed of AI-powered robots that can handle jobs with greater cognitive complexity.

Suddenly, machines are showing the potential to handle a vast number of jobs more effectively than humans, including jobs within the hospitality industry.

Today, customer-facing robots are being deployed by numerous hotels around the world in an increasingly varied range of roles. In particular, there are certain positions where shared functionality between people and robots seem especially likely.

Room Service

Room service certainly seems to be a prime candidate for some level of automation. The job relies heavily on efficiency, planning and attention to detail – qualities that machines excel at.

Room service robots such as Relay are already being trialled in a select number of U.S. hotels to carry out deliveries to guest rooms. After receiving an order, hotel staff load items into Relay, which then navigates around the property using Wi-Fi, on-board cameras and sensors. Guests can then retrieve items from within the robots storage compartment when it reaches their door.

According to its creators, over 80% of hotel staff say Relay makes them more effective and satisfied with their jobs. Far from complete automation, room service robots may instead free up staff to focus on more complicated tasks and jobs.

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In addition, five-star hotels are less likely to embrace this kind of technology. In such an exclusive environment, having a member of staff personally deliver and serve an in-room dining order is all part of the experience.

Alongside housekeeping, those working in maintenance could also be one of the first to find themselves being assisted by robots. AI and Automated Fault Detection will also play a significant part in helping hotel maintenance teams with plant and equipment maintenance.

Arguably, robots could even be deployed as hotel porters. From a practical perspective, a person would still need to open car doors and remove bags from the vehicle. But a robot could then take over – swiftly transporting luggage to the guest room. Cargo vehicles such as the Gita offer a tantalizing glimpse into this possibility.

Robots may also be utilized in roles that rely upon greater social skills and advanced cognitive capabilities. In fact, there are plenty of roles that could see partial automation in jobs that traditionally rely on a fundamentally human touch.

The Front Desk

Arguably, the most important guest-facing role in a hotel is the front desk. This is the first moment a hotel gets to formally greet and welcome their guests. So the idea of automating this vital part of the experience might seem questionable.

However, do all travellers want or appreciate such formalities? Many prefer making use of mobile check-in services – happy to forfeit human interaction for a speedier journey to their room.

With a robot-staffed front desk, a hotel could still provide a formal greeting for those that want one, while also offering a swifter check-in process.

The idea certainly isn’t unprecedented. The Henn-na hotel in Japan is staffed almost entirely by robots, including a humanoid female and a dinosaur that welcome guests on arrival and carry out check-in/check-out services.

There are clear advantages to this approach. Machines are highly adept at handling repetitive, process-driven tasks. A sufficiently advanced front desk team could offer a much more efficient service than a human when dealing with room details and booking information.

But the job clearly requires other qualities beyond administrative efficiency.
The value of being greeted on arrival with a genuine welcome can’t be artificially replicated. After a long and tiring journey, a smiling face can be more effective at lifting a guest’s mood than a speedy check in.

In the end, the front desk might be a place where humans and machines work together, catering to the needs of all guests.

In particular, AI could prove especially useful in this role by offering language recognition and translation services. A new wave of AI translators is already showing promise in this field. With continued progression in natural language capabilities, a multilingual robot catering to overseas guests would be hugely beneficial.

The Concierge

The role of the concierge could also be one that is eventually automated. At the Hilton McLean, Virginia, USA, an AI-powered robot named Connie acts as a robotic concierge. Guests can get recommendations on places to visit, tips on the local dining scene, and directions to help navigate around the property.
Connie learns through each interaction, perfecting her ability to make evermore useful suggestions. But is this a one-off gimmick, or a viable industry-wide alternative to a human doing the same job?

If the technology advances sufficiently, automating the role of the concierge certainly has merit. Imagine an advanced version of Connie that can access all guest data and already knows their favourite kind of restaurants, tourist attractions and spending habits.

On arrival, it could instantly provide each guest with a personalized itinerary, or a series of tailored recommendations based on past data. This hyper-personalized level of service is one that a human simply wouldn’t have the time or resources to replicate.

Although again, it might not be appreciated by all. Would those staying at a luxury hotel settle for a machine attending to their needs? Even if every whim and request was meticulously catered for, the experience would still be lacking the genuine care and attention only a human can offer.
While AI continues to make huge strides in terms of cognitive capabilities, it also remains impersonal. The ability to empathise and display true emotion will always be valued qualities – and for now at least, they remain beyond the realms of what’s possible within robotics.

In Conclusion

Certain roles including housekeeping and maintenance seem destined for some form of automation. In these areas, robots and AI could be used to help increase operational efficiency, decrease staff costs and improve the guest experience.

Other jobs such as the front desk and concierge may involve a merging of roles. Tasks may be shared and distributed between humans and machines depending on the particular skill set they offer.

Ultimately, the human touch can never been replaced by a machine. For that reason, the hospitality sector will almost certainly be one of partial automation.

Yet it’s clear that as the technology continues to advance, the hotel of the future is one where artificial intelligence and humanoid robots will almost certainly play an increasingly crucial role.