Friday, January 30, 2015

Startup Life: Why We Give Our Customers Our FedEx Information

A common, frustrating problem that many companies face is waiting for checks from a customer to show up through the regular mail. So here at Above Property, we decided one way to solve this problem is to send customers our direct FedEx account information. This way we don’t have to worry about waiting for them to send a check through the standard mail, which can take several days or up to a week or more to receive. No more checks getting lost in the mail either. Since we are a startup company, getting those checks in quickly is important. We have to pay the cost of having the check sent via our FedEx account, but the check shows up the day after they issue it, which helps our cash flow and makes us happy.

With half of U.S. companies still writing checks to pay their invoices, (according to a survey by the Association for Financial Professionals in September 2013), giving our customers our FedEx information makes a lot of sense. Here at Above Property we still mostly pay by check as well, partially because we are a small business and have less invoices to pay. But in addition, if need be, we can go back and quickly see if an invoice was paid.

As more businesses, including our own, start moving toward paying invoices via e-payments, our company will no longer need to provide our FedEx account information. With e-payments, the funds are transferred almost immediately to our account, which will make us even happier.


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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Health And Wellness Trend In Hospitality - Sustainability

The ongoing trend toward hotels focusing on the health and wellness of their guests goes beyond meeting their personal needs, but doing so while operating in a sustainable way. For a growing number of hotels, this is reflected in a general philosophy of care, concern, and action going forward, about the Earth and it’s environment. More specifically, in regards to conserving precious natural resources while leaving behind a minimal footprint and becoming responsible corporate citizens of the planet.

As our society increasingly embraces green initiatives, the traveling public is correspondingly expecting the hotels they stay with to adopt them. Hotel guests are also showing their inclination to cooperate and do their part in making their contribution to sustainability. Because of this, it is in the best interest for hotels to get onboard with implementing environmentally friendly changes, both in policies and facilities. But there are clear-cut cost saving benefits to be found for hoteliers in their adoption as well.

Nearly every aspect of hotel operations, and the physical property itself, can be made more efficient and sustainable. Making the hotel operate with greater efficiency will no doubt increase profits in the long view, but there can also be short term impacts gained in the hotel’s bottom line. A partial list of changes any hotel can implement to operate more in tune with the environment, and in a sustainable way could include:

 

Energy Efficiency

Any hotel sustainability solutions involve either the hotel property or the guest, and sometimes both, to bring the initiative to fruition. Hotels can make the investment in new lighting and bulbs which are more energy efficient. Posting signage asking guests to turn off unnecessary lights, television, air conditioning, and when leaving a room; can make a difference in energy savings as well. This can make hotel guests feel that they are participating in hotel’s sustainability measures.

 

Water Consumption

There is much that any hotel can do to reduce the amount water that they waste. Hotels in the course of daily operations, along with their guests, consume large quantities of water. The property can change out shower heads and toilets to low flow designs. Additionally, the hotel can install faucet aerators in sinks to reduce water consumption by their guests as well.

Hotel laundry is an area of operations where much change can be implemented in the name of conservation. Hotels should instruct housekeeping staff to only change sheets and towels when necessary. Guests should be encouraged to only require laundry change on an as-needed basis. Linen reuse initiatives can produce compelling results for hotel water conservation programs.

 

Waste Elimination

Hotels and their guests generate immense volumes of trash. Reductions in the amounts produced can begin with the hotel property and how it conducts business. All unnecessary and redundant paperwork should be eliminated, streamlining guest procedures in the process. Staff should be required, and guests should be encouraged to follow all trash recycling guidelines. Furthermore, waste water can be made safer by utilizing only bio degradable cleaning products.

An eco-friendly hotel will see revenues rise through cost saving green initiatives. To the traveling public, sustainably operated hotels enjoy excellent guest relations, leading to return bookings from satisfied customers.  


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Monday, January 26, 2015

The Health And Wellness Trend In Hospitality - Spa

Spas have been a popular amenity and great revenue generator for some hotels for many years. The recently developing trend among travelers seeking health and wellness solutions in every aspect of their lives, including hotel stays, has brought hotel spas into greater emphasis. Fueled by the stress of their lives, many hotel customers are looking for much more from the hotels they stay with. These travelers are increasingly planning their trips around staying at hotels that offer spas, well equipped gyms, and healthy food choices as members of a new travel type, the wellness traveler.

 

Spa

Hotel spas have been traditionally viewed as luxury amenity services and during the last economic downturn experienced significantly slower growth rates as compared to other hotel services departments such as, food and beverage for example. According to the Trends in the Hotel Spa Industry report from PKF Consulting USA, early on in the nation’s economic turnaround, hotel spas showed a negative growth rate of -10.5% in 2010, as compared to the food and beverage departments at 5.6% positive growth during the same time period.

But beginning in 2011, as the recovery really began to gain steam, and in clear reflection of the hospitality industry’s health and wellness trend, hotel spas have grown in revenue generation faster than other hotel departments. In 2013, last year for available figures, hotel spa revenue growth surpassed the growth rates of other hotel departments. For example, during the 2013 timeframe hotel spa revenue grew at a rate of 4.6%, compared to 4.3% for the food and beverage departments of hotels. These figures clearly illustrate the growth of spa services pointing toward the overall health and wellness trend within the hospitality industry.

Interestingly enough, the hotel property type to experience the greatest level of growth in spa generated revenue, in the same time period, appears to be the hotel properties situated in urban areas. Thanks to the patronage of local area residents, hotels located in cities have gained increased revenues by offering spa memberships and selling associated services to their neighbors. The PKF Consulting USA report states that hotel spas in urban areas derive 55 percent of the subsequent revenue from among local residents. This is as opposed to resort hotel spas generating 45 percent local spa business.

The increased level of interest by the traveling public in health and wellness, and more specifically spas, has made it more profitable for those hotels that have invested in facilities and staff. The trend should only see continued growth, providing another opportunity for increased revenue and higher profits for hoteliers.    

 


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Friday, January 23, 2015

Hospitality News For The Week Of 1/23/15

STR: US hotel performance for year-end 2014 

Hotels in the U.S. experienced strong growth in 2014, according to a report released by STR, Inc. Across three vital measurements, the numbers indicated significant growth in the industry. Over the previous year, U.S. hotels’ occupancy rose 3.6 percent to 64.4 percent; average daily rate saw an increase of 4.6 percent in attaining the figure of $115.32; and revenue per available room gained 8.3 percent to reach $74.28. Of the top 25 hotel markets in the U.S., all experienced increases in these crucial statistics across the board. Full Story Here:

 

The top 10 revenue-generating booking sites of 2014

In an infographic released by SiteMinder, Booking.com retained its title as the number one revenue-generating booking site for the third consecutive year. TheBooking Button, at number three, remained in the top five for third time as well. SiteMinder ranked each site based on gross booking revenue during the previous calendar year ending December 31, 2014. Full Story Here:

 

IHG Trends Report challenges brands to build ‘trust capital’ 

In their 2015 Trends Report, IHG stresses the importance of building trust between brands and consumers. In what the company calls ‘trust capital’, brands must build up the confidence of their customers in the company’s levels of credibility, integrity, leadership, and responsibility within the entire organization. IHG was speaking in regards to all business industries in general, in addition to the hotel industry specifically. Full Story Here:

 

Infographic - How Mobile And Data Is Changing The Travel Industry - 5 New Emerging Trends

Eyefortravel has released an infographic illustrating the five emerging trends resulting from the hospitality industry’s growing utilization of data and mobile. Among the trends reported, mobile has led to a 30 to 60 percent drop in direct brand bookings. Also, of significance is the shifting emphasis by travel suppliers from the first time booker to building customer loyalty resulting in repeat bookings. Full Story Here:

 


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Monday, January 19, 2015

The Health And Wellness Trend In Hospitality - Fitness

One of the main themes running through the hospitality industry is the increased focus on the health and wellness of hotel guests. And this trend is clearly customer driven, stemming from the population at large seeking to live healthier lives through a number of means, including carefully considering everything they put into their bodies. Another way the public is improving their health and quality of life is through exercising more regularly, and with increased intensity. Travelers are looking to keep up with their daily fitness routines wherever they may be and expect hotels to provide the facilities they require.

 

Fitness

The fitness aspect of the hotel health and wellness movement entails so much more than merely the provision of exercise facilities. Gyms in many hotel properties are growing in both size and scope, while staying open 24 hours everyday. Equipment available to guests in some hotel properties rivals the best of commercial gyms. It does not matter what type of workout routine the guest follows, the equipment can be found in the increasingly better equipped hotel gyms. 

 

Some hotels, however are taking the fitness needs of their guests to whole new levels of fulfillment. Loaner equipment such as, bicycles, pedometers, and other workout related gear are being offered free of charge. Classes are being conducted by professionals in their respective fields at numerous hotels. These fitness experts are being utilized by hoteliers to coach their customers in the finer points of exercise, nutrition, and healthier living. These classes have even begun to include popular choices like yoga, Pilates, and the growing sport of spinning or indoor cycling.

All the great fitness programs going on at local hotels, in a myriad of locations, is even creating a new revenue stream for hoteliers. Locals are flocking in droves to nearby hotels offering these programs and paying upwards of $40 or more to take part in the fitness classes. Of course, hotel guests attend free of charge, but the numbers of non-guest attendees is significant enough to offset the cost of the fitness class offerings.

These hotel fitness programs provide hoteliers with a win-win opportunity to not only increase the customer satisfaction levels, driving increased revenue as a result. Hoteliers also gain a real connection with their surrounding communities through non-guest participation.  


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Friday, January 16, 2015

The Health & Wellness Trend In Hospitality - Food

One of the ongoing trends in the hospitality industry, one likely to have a major transformative influence over the course of the years to come, is the burgeoning emphasis by hoteliers on the health and wellness of their hotel guests. Many consumers today, generally speaking, are making changes to their diets, exercising more, and attempting to live healthy, sustainable lives in greater harmony with the environment. As a result, they have shifting needs and a whole new set of expectations from the hotels they choose to stay with. The goal for hoteliers is to try and meet those evolving lifestyle needs and expectations while their guests are on the hotel property.

 

Food

Food, travel, and hotel stays have naturally always been inseparable. Many hotels that offer in-house restaurants, both independent hotels and chains, are taking a cue from their customer’s expectations and changing menus to include healthier food choices. The demand for freshly prepared organic food, combined with the necessity for some individuals to have very particular diets such as, gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan, has further driven many hotels to make restaurant menu changes. Some are even going so far as to completely eliminate unhealthy food from the premises. However, many hoteliers will find that their most popular food items may remain quick and easy choices, like the ubiquitous burger.

Its not just hotel restaurant menu choices that are evolving, guests are expecting the accommodation of their dietary needs to include hotel vending machines as well. In particular, the business traveler, possibly arriving late and hungry, would rather not compromise their eating habits, if at all possible. Packaged salads, healthy nuts, yogurts, and organic juices, for example, can be dispensed from a vending machine just as easily as sodas, chips, and candy.

In addition to demanding healthier food choices, travelers are increasingly looking at and seeking travel to destinations for the cuisine. This phenomenon has grown largely due to the popularity of television shows featuring celebrity chefs and food shows that celebrate local dishes around the world or across America. So-called “foodies” are now the mainstream and many will plan their vacations accordingly. Smart hotels, in the lead on this trend, are capitalizing by offering food as a celebration of their locale. Hotel restaurant choices can reflect the region and offer locally grown food and favorite local recipes. Some take cuisine travel even further by presenting cooking classes conducted by famous or locally renowned chefs.

Travelers are now thinking much more about the food they put in their bodies. Hoteliers can best leverage the eating habits of their guests by offering their customers what they are now both expecting and demanding. 


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Monday, January 12, 2015

More Hospitality Industry Trends For 2015

During the upcoming year there will be certain hospitality industry trends which will prove to be powerful forces of change for hoteliers. The major projections for the industry from Phocuswright were recently recounted here. However there are a number of trends to watch in 2015 which were not discussed in the Phocuswright report. These hotel related developments, while not as significant as those forecast in the report, are nonetheless important industry influencers.

 

Mobile

Mobile technology affords hoteliers the opportunity to bring customer service and hotel operations to a new level of excellence. Hotel guests increasingly rely on their smartphones for all travel information. Because of the capabilities of these mobile devices, the expectation from hospitality customers is for hoteliers to fully leverage the technology to provide them with the functionality to accomplish all of their interaction with hotels. This means at every stage of the guest’s hotel stay; shopping for the room, making the reservation, checking-in via mobile, mobile room keys, and checking out.

Even further, hotel guests are looking for the ability to manage their trip during their stay. They would like to be able to make reservations at the hotel restaurant and spa for example. Additionally, keeping track of rewards program info, confirmation before arrival, and maps and information about the local area are important to travelers now and in the future. Over the course of the coming year, it is expected that these hotel services will become more widespread in their availability to customers. Eventually, better mobile accessibility for hotel guests will become the norm.

 

Sustainability

Hotel guests obviously reflect society at large, which is gradually going green and becoming environmentally conscious. An already established trend will continue to grow sustainably as time moves forward. An example of this trend in action is the willingness of hotel guests to forgo having hotel bed sheets and towels replaced every day. Hotels in the year to come will increase investment in energy saving measures by installing more efficient climate control systems, showers, toilets, and lighting. These investments will pay dividends in the form of long term cost savings while raising the hotel brand stature in the eyes of an increasingly green customer base.

 

Health and Wellness

Another area of change in hotel customer attitudes mirrors a higher level of health consciousness. Hotel guests are seeking healthier food options in hotel restaurants and room service. The expectation in regards to health and hotel amenities is for hotel properties, where possible, to feature gym, fitness, and spa facilities. Some hotels are taking this a step further by offering classes in keeping fit and yoga instruction. These trends will only increase as 2015 unfolds.

2015 should be a tremendous year for the hotel industry. Hoteliers who take sight of and leverage current and future industry trends will be better positioned for growth through higher revenues in the New Year to come.    

 


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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Hospitality Marketing Trends For 2015

PhoCusWright recently released its year-end travel report “The Phocuswright Yearbook 2014, The Year Ahead in Digital Travel.” The summary included a number of important hospitality marketing developments and future trends as well. Marketing trends for hoteliers in 2015 look, to a large extent, to be a continuation of developments from the previous year.  

 

Social Media and Video

Hospitality spending, as a part of the whole travel industry, on ads is steadily rising. Also, those dollars are increasingly being spent on online campaigns, particularly on social media and utilizing videos. According to the Phocuswright study, 2013 was the first year that saw online ad spending surpass offline spending, with the difference predicted to become even more pronounced by 2015. Most travel advertising dollars, 2 in 5, are being spent on search ads.

However, Phocuswright sees a clear trend toward those dollars being spent on the social media and video platforms. Additionally, mobile ads and programmatic display ads on networks such as YouTube are on the increase as well. During 2015, Phocuswright projects social and video will reach the level of 18 percent of all digital travel advertising.

 

The Millennial Traveler

In sheer numbers the largest market segment of travelers is the millennial generation, those born between 1977 and 2000. The 80 million strong generation of American consumers make up a full 25 percent of the total U.S. population. They are the future of travel and already the older end (25 to 34 year olds) of the millennial generation comprises the largest percentage of travelers by age group. The Phocuswright study states millennials are also twice as likely to take long trips of over 14 nights or more. However, they also are extremely budget conscious as a group, spending less than older travelers.

The millennial generation has grown up in a world of instant gratification leading to the expectation of planning and booking their travel and lodging arrangements in the last minute. The study found that 23 percent of millennial travelers booked their last trip less than a week before. For older travelers the figure is only 12 percent for last minute booking. Brand loyalty and associated loyalty programs are less motivating factors for millennials, who prefer to make their travel decisions after checking with multiple websites to ensure they are getting the best deal possible.

Before millennials reach the pinnacle of their earning and spending potential, hotels should attempt to establish a relationship with millennials and build brand loyalty with the generation, who will be their core customers in the very near future. The best way for hotels to begin engagement with the millennial traveler is to meet them where they spend much of their time, on their mobile smartphones. Figures from Phocuswright indicate that 36 percent of millennials select a travel destination on smartphones. 37 percent shop for the best deals via smartphone. And finally, 23 percent will actually book on their mobile smartphone. This is as compared with 6,11, and 5 percent respectively for older travelers.

 

The Rental Traveler

Another growing trend is the traveler who rents accommodations, as opposed to booking a hotel stay. This is particularly, again, a trend among millennials who have embraced the so called “sharing economy”. While vacation rentals have been around for sometime, websites such as Airbnb, among others, have facilitated this trend. In the U.S. this amounted to a $24 billion dollar market in 2012. While the percentage of travelers who rent is growing steadily, rising from 8 percent in 2010 to 14 percent in 2013.

This is a trend worthy of awareness for hoteliers, however during the same time frame hotel and lodging revenue has steadily grown from $107 billion to $123 billion in 2013. The rental traveler is costing hotels some business, but should not be cause for concern in the hospitality industry. 


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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Hospitality Technology Trends For 2015

With 2014 rapidly winding down, comes a time of rumination accompanied with considerable forethought regarding the New Year to come for the hospitality industry. In that context, PhoCusWright recently released their annual report of reflection on past industry developments and projections for hotels in the future called “The PhoCusWright Yearbook 2014, The Year Ahead in Digital Travel.” The report shows how trends of growth and change for hoteliers in the past year will be continued through the next.

 

Online Travel

Travelers are increasingly booking their hotel stays online, according to the report. Figures for 2013 show online booking amounted to $429 billion worldwide. Online travel, as a percentage of gross hotel bookings, is projected to increase across the board around the world in all markets. While clearly on the rise, online hotel bookings still only amount to roughly one third of the total bookings in the U.S. and Europe. This will be an area of future growth and development for hoteliers during the coming year. Online travel agencies will continue their growth in numbers and percentage of gross hotel bookings, which is expected to reach 40% of the online travel market in 2015, according to PhoCusWright.

 

Mobile

The use of mobile devices by travelers will continue its explosive growth as well. Of course mobile is not really a trend, but instead a driving force of change in the hospitality industry. Worldwide smartphone ownership among travelers is steadily rising with 75 percent of U.S. travelers having the devices, with European ownership slightly higher. This has led in turn to those travelers increasingly booking their travel via mobile devices. In the U.S. for example, nearly $40 billion in gross bookings was completed using mobile devices, this represents an increase from less than $10 billion in 2012.

 

Many of the hotel bookings are taking place last minute, meaning within 24 hours of the guest checking in at the property. On hotel websites, this accounts for nearly 25 percent, even higher for online travel agency sites. Tech savvy travelers are using their mobile devices for much more than booking as well. The most common use is to share details of their trip with friends and family. This is great for hoteliers who will reap the benefits of free endorsements from satisfied guests sharing images and video taken on the hotel property.


“The PhoCusWright Yearbook 2014, The Year Ahead in Digital Travel,” contains a number of further insights into the current state and future projections regarding the hospitality industry. We will examine hospitality marketing trends for 2015 in a future post.


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