Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cognitive Computing

Travel and Cognitive Computing

Recently, Above Property attended the HTNG (Hotel Technology Next Generation) North American Conference in San Antonio, TX.  One of the keynote sessions was on the subject of cognitive computing, presented by Terry Jones from WayBlazer.  The goal of WayBlazer is to provide contextual and personalized travel advice leveraging IBM’s Watson cognitive technology.

 

Travel Search Is Going Places

The ability to apply cognitive computing to travel offers tremendous opportunities.  Having a system offer travel recommendations that are both personalized and contextually accurate will have a significant effect on both business and leisure travel.  During the presentation, current technology and travel sites were discussed and it was clear how today’s solutions fall short of optimal results.  Machine learning was also another concept discussed.  Unlike most computers, Watson gets better with time as it continues to learn with every interaction.

 

Understanding Me

The big take away is that the future of travel search will understand each individual within context, thus Me.  Being able to describe what we like and don’t like, when we want to go and with who we are going with, and how we want to get there; will change the current status quo of enter “date of travel”.  I am optimistic companies such as WayBlazer will help move the industry forward in the area of travel search.  This is similar to Above Property’s position of moving reservations systems forward with our Distributed Reservations System (DRS).






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Monday, April 27, 2015

Hospitality News For The Week Of 4/24/15

Google Makes Another Big Move Toward Dominating Hotel Search

Search giant, Google, is making moves to solidify its domination of hotel search. By adding filters for price, rating, class of hotel, etc. Google is giving consumers no reason to look anywhere else but their ads for the hotel they are seeking. For example, by clicking the “more” filter hotel shoppers can only see hotel ratings from Zagat, owned by Google. These changes make for a convenient user experience, while keeping competition at bay. Full Story Here:

 

Branded properties grow as world shifts away from independently operated hotels

There is a worldwide trend toward branded hotels and away from independents, according to study by hotel consultants HVS London. In North America this is most apparent, with 85 percent of the study sampled hotels being franchised, 13 percent operated under management contracts, and only 2 percent being owned and leased properties. Europe, in contrast, has a significantly higher percentage of independent hotels, at 30 percent owned and leased properties, and those under management contract comprising 20 percent. The remaining half are franchised across Europe. Full Story Here:

 

Report: North American Hotel Industry Strong Overall

The hotel industry across North America has a bright future outlook and is in a strong position, according to the April 2015 TravelClick North American Hospitality Review (NAHR). The report shows key industry benchmarks are up over the same period last year, reserved occupancy is up by 0.8 and revenue per available room has risen by 5.6 percent. Average daily rate is up 4.4 percent, year to year. The next 12 months are projected to be good ones according to TravelClick. Full Story Here:

 

STR: US hotel results for week ending 18 April

The week of 12-18 April saw positive results, across all key measurements, for the U.S. hotel industry. In year-over-year figure comparisons according to STR, occupancy was up 9.4 percent reaching 68.8 percent; average daily rate rose by 8.3 percent to attain $121.20; and revenue per available room increased by 18.5 percent to end the week at $83.43. Full Story Here:

 


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Last Minute Hotel Booking

A relatively recent phenomenon as a result of the recession, last minute mobile hotel booking has been driven by the plethora of websites offering these deals to travelers. These websites have garnered much attention among hoteliers, in addition to the traveling public. However, as the public’s acceptance and usage of mobile devices has begun to mature, travelers are utilizing their smartphones for much more than finding the cheapest travel deals. According to research from Phocuswright’s Traveler Technology Survey 2014, travelers are using those mobile devices increasingly for booking their hotel stay days or even weeks ahead of the intended travel.

 

  • Only 14 percent of mobile hotel bookings, made via smartphone, were made for travel one day or less in advance.
  • 24 percent of the smartphone bookings in the Phocuswright study were for travel taking place in the next two to six days.
  • The clear majority, 62 percent, of hotel bookings via smartphone were for hotel stays a week or more in advance of intended travel.

 

These numbers, all from the Phocuswright survey, point to a level of maturation in the mobile travel market not seen before. This has been brought about by the willingness of travelers to book hotel stays on their smartphones much earlier in the booking funnel. They are now increasingly choosing to make transactions on their smartphones, even when they may be in a position to utilize other platforms. In the past, mobile travel was primarily booked on the go, during the actual trip.

 

Of course, demographics play a significant role in determining the level of prevalence for last minute mobile hotel booking among travelers. Despite travelers of all ages now using their smartphones to book travel well in advance, certain age groups are much more likely.

 

  • Travelers over the age of 55, a market segment with potentially more time on their  hands for spontaneous travel and booking last minute, are the most likely to book hotels at the last minute. Last minute bookings made up nearly 25 percent of the mobile hotel bookings for this age categor
  • Among 35-54 year olds, only 8 percent accounted for last minute mobile hotel bookings. This is probably a result of this age group being more likely to be traveling with children.
  • Millennials, the most comfortable with technology, amounted to 17 percent of the total. This age group was only slightly above the average overall of all age groups.

 

The Phocuswright survey clearly illustrates for hoteliers that the last minute hotel booker is not the issue it once was. Travelers of all age groups are becoming increasingly comfortable on their mobile smartphones, and are changing their travel buying techniques as a result.

 


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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Ways to Get More Exposure for Your Startup

There are many different ways to get exposure for your startup. You want to make sure that you take advantage of every opportunity to get publicity and get noticed. Listed below are just a few techniques that we’ve used with our company.

 

  • Get a good name and logo for your company. If you’re not very artistic or have no experience with graphic design, have a graphics design company create your logo for you. Lucky for us, we have a great in-house graphics design department. You’d be surprised how a well designed logo can increase business.
  • Have t-shirts, polo shirts, dress shirts, or all three with your logo on them made for yourself and employees to wear to work and outside of work.
  • Another great way to get exposure is by having promotional giveaways made and send them to clients as well as potential clients. People love getting things for free if they are items they will use, such as, pens, chip clips, stress balls, t-shirts, just to name a few.  Our “Gifts from above” boxes have been very popular with our clients.
  • Write and publish some blogs and articles about both your business and industry. This will allow customers to find you through search engines such as Google or Bing. 
  • Make sure to keep your website up to date.  Be sure to include your business and industry keywords to allow customers to find you through search engines. 
  • Write some press releases regarding any recent business partnerships or product launch. Ask your clients if they would agree to release a joint press release announcing them as your new client.
  • Another way to get some great company exposure is by joining your local Chamber of Commerce. You meet other local business owners, can get their input for your business, and bounce ideas off each other. You can also enter for one of the Chamber’s yearly business awards.

 

These are just some of the many ways to get exposure for your startup, or if you’ve been in business for years and haven’t tried some of these ideas, give them a try. Good luck with your business!

 


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Monday, April 20, 2015

Just Like Rosie from the Jetsons

Recently, Above Property attended the HTNG (Hotel Technology Next Generation) North American Conference in San Antonio, TX.  One of the keynote sessions was on the subject of robotics, presented by Steve Cousins, CEO, Savioke.  (www.savioke.com)

Recently in the news, there is a hotel in Japan that plans on using humanoid robots at the front desk.  (http://www.engadget.com/2015/02/08/high-tech-robot-hotel-japan/)

This is not what the session was about.  It was about the practical use of robots for hotel operations.  

 

Bring Me Some Fresh Towels

The example discussed to leverage such robots was to assist hotel operations.  The robot has the ability to carry a small payload and is fully capable of traversing the entire hotel.  When the robot reaches the desired room the guest is notified via the room phone.  Things such as elevator etiquette as well as extra time for “selfie with the robot” have been programmed to make the robot a component in the operations staff.

 

What Next?

It is my opinion that these service oriented robots have a future in hotel operations.  There is clearly a novelty component and that will last for some time.  These robots have the ability to perform vital and necessary functions within the hotel.  Whether it is staff augmentation or night shift duty, there is most likely an economical case for the robotic staff member to only require a battery change for employment.  So, be on the lookout, the next time you call down to the front desk for something, there might be a robot at your door.

 

 

 


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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Traveler Technology 2015 - Part 3 - Social Media

Social media, once seen as the newest gleaming fad, is maturing while showing not a hint of waning popularity. The immense amount of activity, across a wide spectrum of social networks, indicates the “fad” shows no sign of lost significance. U.S. travelers are adopting and participating in a growing number of new networks, in addition to the well established social networks. Social network engagement has led a growing number of travelers to turn to social media for, not only sharing their travel experiences, but also researching their trips in advance. The Phocuswright, Traveler Technology 2014 Survey, in addition to mobile adoption and mobile travel trends, examined the social media use of U.S. travelers as it relates to their travel.

 

Social Media

 

Several important takeaway statistics, from the Phocuswright report, which generally reveal the extent of social media participation by U.S. travelers.

 

  • Almost nine out of every ten travelers (89 percent) were active participants on at least  one social network during 2014.

 

  • Eight in ten travelers log into their social network accounts every day, with a further 26  percent continuously logged into their social accounts.

 

  • Traveler participation on specific social networks is up across the board (with the exception of LinkedIn). Numbers for a variety of networks include Facebook (83 percent), Twitter (38 percent), Instagram (29 percent), and WhatsApp (17 percent).

 

  • Nearly four out of ten travelers (39 percent) post comments and photos to their social  networks while they are traveling.

 

As these numbers indicate, social media participation by U.S. travelers continues to expand despite speculation to the contrary. Demographic trends from the Phocuswright study further support this growth. Additionally, the growth trends are favoring social networks, which cater toward mobile devices, involving easily shared posts, which tend to be highly visual in nature, particularly among younger travelers.

 

  • Use of the newer social network platforms, Instagram in this example, is most prevalent among 18-24 year olds at 56 percent and is 44 percent in the 25-34 year old demographic.

 

  • The most popular activity for U.S. travelers on their networks while traveling is the sharing of travel related posts. 43 percent of travelers posted about their trips on at least one social network. Furthermore, 24 percent post to travel review websites about their travel experiences.

 

  • Among U.S. travelers who are active on social networks, 36 percent will search for travel deals on social media and a further 21 percent will share those deals. 27 percent will seek travel tips from their social media connections, while the same percentage are willing to follow travel brands on their social networks.

 

Social media networks continue to grow and expand, not only in membership, but importance to the daily lives of the users. As travelers increase their engagement on the various social channels they will also increasingly turn to social networks for research and sharing all aspects of their travel.  

 


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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Traveler Technology 2015 - Part 2 - Mobile Travel

The rapidly growing adoption of mobile devices and technology by U.S. travelers, as reported in Phocuswright’s Traveler Technology Survey 2014, is transforming the face of American travel as this technology is incorporated in its planning and completion. This will only increase as travelers become more proficient and comfortable in the use of these devices and in turn, become further reliant upon them. The Phocuswright study indicates that, as 2014 was winding down, the majority of travelers have at least some degree of understanding of how to plan a trip utilizing their mobile devices. Travelers who are completely adept at mobile trip planning have the capability of selecting their destination, shopping for, booking, and then sharing with others their travel arrangements. All right from the palm of their hand, which travelers are discovering as they become more comfortable with using their mobile devices.

 

Mobile Travel

Several meaningful statistics from the Phocuswright study clearly illustrate the rapid expansion in the use of mobile technology in travel planning by consumers.

  • Nearly 70 percent used their mobile device at some point of the lifecycle of their trip. This includes either picking a destination, shopping for their travel arrangements, and/or booking travel. This represents a rise from 47 percent during 2013.
  • 32 percent of travelers shopped for their travel using their smartphones. A further 25 percent took the process further to the completion of their booking.
  • The Phocuswright research indicates the comfort level for travelers using their smartphones for trip planning is on the rise. 32 percent of those travelers who chose to plan their trips using a smartphone in 2014 found the experience very easy. This showed an increase from 23 percent in 2013.

 

2014 represented a big step forward in the actual use of mobile devices by travelers to plan their trips. With almost 70 percent utilizing those devices in the process of trip planning, for the first time a majority of travelers have used a mobile device to either select a destination and shop for, or book a trip. However, travelers are still using PCs, at least at some point of the travel planning funnel, by 8 out of every 10. Of course, age demographics do play a role in the adoption level of mobile trip planning.

  • Among younger travelers, trip planning on mobile devices is by far the preferred method. This was especially true for millennials aged 25-34, who used their mobile devices to plan travel at the rate of 86 percent.
  • With the exception of travelers over 65, the majority in all age groups planned at least some of their travel using mobile devices.
  • Once again, Millennials are increasingly rejecting the desktop web, according to the Phocuswright research. Only seven out of ten even used PC’s at all during travel planning, as compared to eight out of ten for all other travelers. Nearly half of all Millennial travelers chose a destination from their smartphone, while a further 38 percent went on to complete the process and book using their phones.

 

U.S. travelers are also using their smartphones once they are on their trips and at their destinations. Almost half, 46 percent, researched travel activities such as restaurants for example, on their smartphones. At the same time they are sharing their experiences with others via social media. In the last part of this series we will examine this aspect of traveler technology in 2015.

 

 


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Friday, April 10, 2015

Hospitality News For The Week Of 4/10/15

U.S. Business Travel on the Rise Despite Dwindling Perks

Spending on business travel is up in the U.S. and forecast to rise further, according to a recent forecast from the Global Business Travel Association. The GBTA predicts a business travel spending during 2015 to amount to $310.2 billion; this represents an increase of 6.2 percent. Total number of trips is forecast to rise by 1.7 percent, reaching the total number of trips at 490.4 million. This business travel increase is coming at the expense of reduced travel perks. Companies are expecting personnel to travel much more frugally in the wake of the great recession. Full Story Here:

 

Infographic - Global Travel Health Check

This useful infographic illustrates the state of global travel in 2015. Based on results from the TripAdvisor TripBarometer global travel economy report, it presents the crucial travel numbers and how they will impact worldwide travel during 2015. The majority of travelers are planning on increasing their leisure travel spending this year. 75 percent of those surveyed plan on international travel in the current year. Full Story Here:

 

US Hotel Occupancy Drops 4.0% To 62.9% Week Ending 4/4/2015

Numbers for the U.S. hotel industry were mixed for the week ending 4/4/15, with several figures showing a decline, according data from STR, Inc. As compared to the same period last year, occupancy fell by 4 percent to 62.9 percent. Average daily rate climbed by 3.4 reaching the level of $116.01. However, revenue per available room dropped for the first time in 49 weeks by 0.7 percent to $72.93. The 49 weeks of growth in RevPar is the longest positive streak ever tracked by STR. Full Story Here:

 

US Hotels Showing Strong Profitability Growth 

According to figures just released by e-forecasting.com and trivago.com hotel price indices, April Profits per Room are rising by 11.3 percent for U.S. hotels. In 2014, half of all hotel sales in the U.S. were made by travelers using either the hotel brand’s own website or travel agent merchant websites. Seven years ago the figure was only 25 percent. Room rates at the 25 most popular destinations in the U.S. are averaging $221.38, up from $202.40 the previous month. Full Story Here:

 

 

 

 


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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Traveler Technology - 2015 - Part 1 - Mobile Adoption

Recently Phocuswright released the results of an October 2014 study called, Traveler Technology Survey 2014. The survey addresses technology currently in use by travelers and its impact on travel companies. U.S. travelers have adopted mobile technology and are increasingly incorporating their devices in planning and conducting their travel. U.S. travelers passed the tipping point of 50 percent smartphone ownership back in 2011. As 2014 wound down, this has meant that traveler’s use of smartphones has become commonplace. Furthermore, the Phocuswright research uncovered the fact that travelers are more than likely to possess a tablet in addition to their smartphone.

 

Mobile Adoption

The actual mobile adoption figures from Phocuswright indicate that nearly nine out of every ten U.S. travelers own a smartphone (87 percent), with a further 59 percent owning a tablet. Users of Apple’s iPhone out-number Android smartphone users 53 to 44 percent. In significant numbers, 47 percent of all travelers have become comfortable using multiple platforms while owning a smartphone, tablet, and laptop. Interestingly, the majority of tablet owners make their online purchases on their smartphones rather than on their tablets by a margin of 64 to 42 percent.

 

Phocuswright figures indicate desktop computer ownership is clearly on the decline over the last two years. This fact points to the primary emphasis on portability among the traveling public. During the course of 2014, several touchstones were reached and surpassed regarding mobile adoption by travelers. Almost six out of every ten travelers, 59 percent, currently own a tablet. This figure has risen steadily between 2012 and 2014. Only 31 percent in 2012 and up to 44 percent in 2013, tablet ownership has become the majority among travelers. With a further 44 percent planning to buy a tablet in the coming year. Even taking these figures into account, smartphone ownership remains ahead of all other devices, beating out laptop usage 87 to 80 percent.                       

 

Smartphone ownership among younger travelers has truly become a, nearly universal, fact of life according to Phocuswright’s research. Among 18-24 and 25-34 year olds, the ownership figures are 96 and 97 percent. Additionally, even 35-44 year olds are at 93 percent. But, more significantly for hoteliers, are the statistics for older travelers. Near the end of 2014, 76 percent of 55-64 year old travelers own a smartphone. Mobile adoption for travelers over 65 has reached majority status as well, at 58 percent. Furthermore, older travelers are adopting these mobile technologies at a rapid pace. Over 65 smartphone ownership was up from only 36 percent in 2013.                                                                                                        

Operating system adoption numbers from Phocuswright indicate a shift in platforms has taken place. In recent years Google’s Android phone had displaced Apple’s iPhone in popularity. iPhone ownership was only 35 percent in 2013, but with the release of the iPhone 6, Apple turned the tide, attaining majority status during 2014. iPhone ownership stood at 53 percent near the end of 2014. This is expected to continue as 2015 progresses, according to Phocuswright, with 42 percent of travelers planning to purchase from Apple this year. This is compared to 34 percent who plan on investing in the Android platform. Among travelers who own a tablet, Apple dominates, with an over 60 percent ownership rate. Remaining tablet ownership is split among the many other platforms available.


Mobile device usage among U.S. travelers is well on its way to ubiquity, according to Phocuswright’s extensive study. In the next part in this series, we will examine the study’s results regarding how mobile adoption is transforming the face of travel in North America. Resulting in what has been called Mobile Travel.                      

 


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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Why Use Above Property For Your Hotel Software Needs?

Smaller Dedicated Company with Lightning Speed Results

Using a smaller company, such as Above Property, for your hotel software needs has many benefits because we get the work done quickly, without the bureaucracy and complexity of a larger company. All eighteen employees have a stake in the company with our profit sharing plan. We each wear multiple hats, but we love our job! Therefore, each person in our company works diligently to bring our software to the point where we can say; we have the fastest DRS on the planet!

 

Agile Environment

We do planning twice a month and schedule tasks for each person through an Agile software tool called, Rally Software. This allows us to assign tasks and finish them quickly to get results for our hotel customers. They like the progress that we make for them and the fact that everything is all custom designed for each hotel.

 

Less Cost and Hassle for Your Hotel

By using us for your hotel software needs, you’ll have less work to do. We provide everything you need. Just log on and start running your business. We have a Platform as a Service, which provides the entire infrastructure needed. The benefits to you are, no more buying expensive hardware, no hiring teams of highly paid technical employees, no need to look for data center vendors, and no more need for never-ending upgrade concerns. Start focusing on selling hotel rooms, not running a complex technology infrastructure at your business.


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Friday, April 3, 2015

Hospitality News For The Week Of 4/3/15

Travel and Tourism in 2015 will grow faster than the global economy

The World Travel & Tourism Council has released its forecast of the impact upon the world’s economy of travel and tourism during 2015. The report indicates strong growth and job creation within this sector of the world’s economy. During 2014 the tourism industry added US $7,580 billion of GDP and provided 277 million jobs worldwide. The report predicts sector GDP growth of 3.7 percent along with sector employment rising at the rate of 2.6 percent. This will amount to a faster growth rate than the rest of the global economy. Full Story Here:

 

STR: US hotel results for week ending 28 March

Growth continues for the U.S. hotel industry, with positive figures posted again during the week of 22-28 March 2015. STR, Inc. reported that over the same period last year, hotel occupancy was up by 3.6 percent, reaching 69.5 percent. Average daily rate rose 6.3 percent to $121.95 for the week. Revenue per available room climbed 10.1 percent to end the week $84.74. Full Story Here:

 

U.S. Hotel Rates Soaring, Supply Can’t Meet Demand

Demand for U.S. hotel industry inventory is sky high and the industry barely has enough rooms to keep up. This situation is proving extremely beneficial to an industry hard hit by the recession. Average daily rate, revenue per available, and room revenue are all up drastically during the period from February 2014 to February 2015. ADR was up 4.6 percent, RevPar rose 8.5 percent, and room revenue was up 9.4 percent. These figures essentially bring the industry back to pre-recession numbers. Full Story Here:

 

[Infographic] What is a Millennial Traveler?

There is much talk in the hospitality industry of the influence of the Millennial generation on hotels. This informative infographic examines this important age demographic and its impact on travel, while offering valuable insight into understanding this important generation. Full Story Here:

 

 

 


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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Common Hospitality Acronyms

 

There are many abbreviated terms that pop up in articles, blogs and on websites associated with the hospitality industry. Many of us don’t know or know very little about these abbreviated terms. Listed below are some common acronyms with their descriptions that occur in the hospitality industry.

 

ADR (Average Daily Rate) A formula hotels use, which is derived by dividing the hotels daily revenue by the total number of rooms sold.

 

ALOS (Average Length of Stay) A formula hotels use, which is derived by dividing the number of room nights by the number of bookings.

 

BAR (Best Available Rate) The lowest available non-restricted rate offered to all guests at a given time. The rate can change as much as several times a day.

 

CRS (Central Reservation System) The application used to manage hotel’s distribution and their room bookings. Usually used to contact guests through multiple distribution channels, for example travel agencies (GDS); online travel, for example Expedia or Travelocity; the hotel website; by phone through a call center, or hotel property.

 

DRS (Distributed Reservation System) The heart of our system, the Above Property DRS, is a modern distribution platform suitable for the most complex properties, brands, and chains. The system has been architected from the ground up with the mandates to be the fastest CRS on the planet; leverage cloud technology; reduce the dependency on expensive database platforms; make user interfaces device agnostic; create user personas so that the user experience is based on the need of the user; have analytics, metrics, and feedback available in real time; provide the tools to grow the most profitable channels; architected for change.

 

ED (Electronic Distribution) Electronic channels of distribution, which include GDS, Online Travel Agencies, and Booking engines. They are accessed through the Internet, an intranet or an interfaced connection.

 

GDS (Global Distribution System) A comprehensive travel shopping and reservation platform, such as Sabre, Amadeus, Galileo and Worldspan which offers the platform to travel agents around the world. The agents us one of the systems to book travel plans, such as air, car or hotel for their customers. Sometimes, online travel agents use the GDSs to power their site content.

 

IBE (Internet Booking Engine) An application, which helps the travel industry book reservations over the Internet. It allows customers and guests to make hotel reservations or book flights generally from one screen.

 

PMS (Property Management System) A hotel onsite property system, which controls checking in or out of the hotel, guest profiles, room updates, and requests. PMSs are usually interfaced with the hotels central reservation system.

 

RMO (Revenue Management Optimization) An application of analytics that forecast consumer, past and future behavior, and manage inventory availability and pricing to maximize/optimize revenue growth.

 

SID (Subscriber Identification Code) Subscriber ID, which is used to identify a travel agency with a GDS.

 


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