Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Hotels And Leisure Travelers - Part 1

With the summer vacation season here it is prudent to examine the leisure traveler in the context of hotels. The motivations of leisure travelers in regards to hotel selection and return loyalty are distinctly different from business travelers. What expectations are most important to them, what sets them apart from business travelers, and the ways hoteliers can earn and keep their loyalty are all topics we will explore in this blog series.

 

The Expectations Of Leisure Travelers For Hotels

 

1 - Reviews 

All travelers are highly motivated by reviews, but leisure travelers to a much greater extent. In the 2014 Google Traveler Study, fully 82 percent take reviews into account in making their hotel purchase decisions. In considering a hotel booking, leisure travelers will completely disregard hotels with a considerable amount of negative reviews. This fact highlights the critical nature of any hotel’s response to negative reviews and the swift resolution of any issues mentioned in them.

 

2 - Price

Leisure travelers plan their trips because they actually want to travel, and not because they have to or receive an allowance from their employer. Therefore, price, is an important consideration for them. The perception that they are getting a good deal is paramount or at least that they are receiving value for their vacation dollars spent. These travelers will conduct considerable amounts of research, before committing to a hotel booking, in seeking that value as well.

 

3. Amenities

Leisure travelers are staying at a hotel for pleasure and therefore are looking to be pampered, as well as have an enjoyable experience. Hotel amenities and extra features such as pools, spas, fitness centers, and restaurants on-site are eminently significant to the traveler who is on vacation. Since they are seeking escape from their normal lives, anything that instills a feeling of specialness for them in their hotel experience will add further value to their stay.

 

4. Packages

Once again, since it is all about the experience for the leisure traveler, anything that will enhance their vacation can be decisive in making a hotel booking choice. Hotel packaging perks such as local area tours, transportation, spa treatments, shows and sporting events are attractive booking incentives for the leisure traveler.


In part two of this series we will examine various approaches hoteliers can take to earn and keep the loyalty of the leisure traveler, especially in the light of their fickle nature. 


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Monday, July 27, 2015

Wearable Technology For Hotels

 

It is very clear how technology is becoming more pervasive in our everyday lives. The advent of wearable technology has brought digital devices down to an even more personal level. Although nearly everyone has a smartphone, by being worn on the body, wearables actually take technology to a new level of personal interaction. And since travel is an extremely personal experience, hospitality and wearable technology are a natural pairing.

Recently, naysayers have been reporting the falling sales of the Apple Watch, however this not any indication of the growth potential for wearable technology going forward. Early adopters have bought-in initially, and in time the public at large will buy-in as well. Whether it’s with the Apple Watch, Google Glass, Pebble, or some other device, wearables are undeniably the future. As time progresses and millennial travelers who are most excited about these technologies come into their prime traveling age, hotel implementation of wearable technology will become the expected norm, rather than a nice feature.

Being that wearable technology is a given in the hospitality industry’s future, there are a number of ways in which these developments can best be leveraged by hotels. Likewise, closely integrated with these devices is mobile pay technology, which gives users the ability to pay with merely the swipe of a phone, tablet, or smart watch for example.

A number of hotels are utilizing wearable technology to empower their guests to put away their wallets and keys while staying at the property. Wearable devices can be used to perform common hotel functions such as unlock guest room doors and pay for food & beverages or hotel services, or even check-in and out. Guests can also be enabled to see details of their reservation, view loyalty points status, or get directions.

Wearable technology can also go beyond guest usage and be guest facing, empowering hotel staff as well. Both front desk personnel and concierges can provide enhanced levels of customer service through the use of Google Glass. Facial recognition technology inherit in these devices allows staff to individualize the attention given hotel customers. For example, concierges can deliver truly personalized travel experiences tailored to the tastes of their guests.

Additionally, wellness programs can also be complemented with wearables. Bracelets, which monitor guest sleeping patterns, can be distributed to customers to assist them in optimizing their sleep time. These same bracelets can also be used for functions that can be filled by the Apple Watch as well.

In time wearable technology will become as ubiquitous as the smartphone. Its adoption by the hospitality industry can only improve the travel experiences of all hotel guests, while streamlining many hotel operations. 


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Friday, July 24, 2015

Hospitality News For The Week Of 7/24/15

RevPAR sizzling this summer for North American hoteliers

The summer travel season is proving to be a profitable one for hotels across major North American markets, according to July 2015 figures from TravelClick’s North American Hospitality Review. Average daily rate for the third quarter is up by 4.2 percent over the same period last year. The combination of higher rates and strong leisure booking pace is driving solid growth in revenue per available room for hoteliers. Full Story Here:

 

North America’s Largest Hospitality Show Unveils New Brand, Mission: HX The Hotel Experience

The largest hospitality trade show in North America, the International, Motel Restaurant Show (IHMRS), is rebranding itself in time for its upcoming 100th anniversary. Re-branding itself as HX: The Hotel Experience - Rooms to Restaurants (HX), the show will be strategically re-focusing in a direction in an effort to re-vitalize its mission. HX 2015 will be held at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City, November 8-10, 2015. Full Story Here:

 

Infographic: Stay-enhancing tech at hotels

A study of hotel guests, recently released by YouGov, highlights importance of stay-enhancing technology to guests at North American hotels. 89 percent of the survey respondents state that they desire shorter lines and faster service at the hotels they frequent. A further nearly 40 percent say they are more likely to book at a hotel offering mobile check-in, over any hotel which doesn’t. 45 percent would be more likely to post a favorable review on TripAdvisor of a hotel in which they had a good stay-enhancing technology experience. Full Story Here:

 

Mobile Trends For Hoteliers - Today’s Nice-To-Have Tech Options Will Soon Be Tomorrow’s Need-To-Have Necessities

A PwC report indicates the need for hoteliers to meet the expectations of their more connected guests, or be left behind. Reporting 75 percent usage by hotel guests of smartphones at the end of 2014, PwC also reported that two-thirds of asset managers believe mobile check-in will become the normally accepted standard by 2017. Giving customers such hotel experience enhancing capabilities right from their smartphones now will put hotels ahead of future necessities. Full Story Here:

 


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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

HITEC 2015 Recap

HITEC 2015 recently took place in Austin, TX from June 16-18, 2015.  Overall, the show was well attended and the City of Austin is definitely favored by the attendees.  I have a few observations from the show, but one thing is clear, electronic door locks are now passé.

 

Door Locks

It appears that many hoteliers have invested in the electronic door lock craze, but implementations are slow and overall ROI is marginal.  To retrofit existing properties is both time consuming and expensive.  I do believe electronic/NFC capable door locks will be commonplace in the future, but there still is a long way to go in my opinion.  

 

A Fresh Coat of Paint

The other key observation was longtime technology providers for hospitality are not innovating fast enough, but rather just putting a fresh coat of paint on their existing products.  Above Property has built their multi-cloud, always-on Distributed Reservations platform and Inline Revenue Management module in the last 24 months; that is the exception.  I had more than one conversation at the show on the subject of an industry needing better solutions and a unified/multi-functional platform for hoteliers to take advantage of.

 

Some New Faces

We have written prior about robotics and hospitality, specifically Savioke, www.savioke.com.  As Savioke held the space across from Above Property at the show, it was great to see attendees see the possibilities of robotics in the hotel environment.  Savioke produces an R2-D2ish robot that can traverse a hotel and deliver a light payload of drinks or towels and then return to the front desk.  There is definitely applicability of this type of robot in the hotel environment.  While adoption will take it’s own course, I do expect a future of service based robots in hotels.

 

In 365 Days….

HITEC 2016 is scheduled for New Orleans, LA.  Over the next 365 days, I would expect to see continued consolidation of vendors in all facets of hotel services.  The consolidation will hopefully provide synergistic functionality for all hoteliers, but that will take time.  I can only hope that next year is not another fresh coat of paint on existing products.  I know Above Property will continue to innovate and push the industry forward in the areas of revenue management and distributed reservations. 


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Monday, July 20, 2015

Have Financial Business Success for Much Less

No matter how well yourbusiness is doing financially, it’s always a good idea to try and save money where you can. Here’s a list of things that we have implemented in our company, Above Property, to help with waste and to cut some costs.

 

  • Buy recycled printer cartridges online. The recycled ones can be a lot less expensive, and better for the environment.
  • Consider electronic invoicing, which can reduce print and postage costs.
  • Buy used office furniture and/or office equipment when you can. Although, sometimes you pay for what get. So look these items over very carefully before purchasing.
  • Save by not sending out packages or mail overnight. Just send them out 2 day or longer when possible.
  • Join Amazon Prime.  You pay a yearly fee and your business can save money in the long run because of savings on shipping costs. Make sure you shop around though because sometimes their prices can be higher. But many items are less expensive.
  • Get a Costco membership for your business. They have many business items that can be bought in bulk, such as, paper towels, printer paper, coffee, pens, just to name a few.
  • Have an alarm system installed. If your business gets robbed, it will cost a lot of money to replace the stolen items.
  • Buy a scanner, so your office can scan important documents instead of wasting so much paper and space by printing them.  Be sure to backup/have multiple copies of your electronic documents
  • Another printing/paper saver is by using a cloud document sharing application, such as, Google Docs or Google Sheets.
  • Shop around for insurance. Get at least three quotes. Different insurance companies can have varying rates for the same type of insurance.
  • Get business social network accounts, which are free. For example, Twitter, Facebook and Blogger for your advertising through postings to help build your business following.
  • Save money by bundling your phone and High-Speed Internet services. Also, to cut down on long distance and international calls, Skype is a great service, which offers free chat and calling. Both parties just have to download the service.

 

Hope these small cost savings changes can help your business be a financial success for less.


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Friday, July 17, 2015

Hospitality News For The Week Of 7/17/15

 

AH&LA Applauds FTC Action To Alert Consumers On Rogue Online Booking Sites

The recently taken action by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to warn consumers about scams involving online hotel sites was applauded by the American Hotel & Lodging Association this week. The FTC has published a series of blogs informing consumers of deceit being perpetuated by rogue sites posing as legitimate hotel direct booking websites. These online scams involve upwards of 2.5 million hotel bookings annually. Full Story Here:

 

STR: US results for week ending 11 July

In figures released indicating year-to-year performance measurements, the US hotel industry posted positive numbers for the week of 5-11 July 2015. Industry wide occupancy rose by 0.4 percent to reach 72.1 percent. Average daily rate increased by 4.8 percent to $119.08 for the week. And revenue per available room was up 5.2 percent, attaining $85.81 by week’s end. Full Story Here:

 

Japan Robot Hotel Ready to Welcome Its First Human Guests

The world’s first hotel run mostly by robots is opening this week. The Henn na Hotel in southern Japan is the first to be staffed almost entirely by robots in the place of human personnel. Japan is at the forefront of robotic technology and the hotel sees robots as a cost saving measure in a very pricey market. Accommodations at the Henn na Hotel start at the bargain price, for Japan, of $80 a night. Full Story Here:

 

July Profits Per Room Rise 8.4% For US Hoteliers

Trivago hotel price indices (tHPI) indicate hotel room rates on average at the 25 most popular destinations in the U.S. are $217.60. In June the figure was higher at $220.45, but the July number represents a rise of 8.4 percent over July 2014. 60 percent of all hotel reservations are now booked on brand websites or travel agent merchant websites, as compared to only 25 percent eight years ago. Full Story Here:

 

 

 


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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Pros And Cons Of Hotels Or Rentals - Part 2

The alternative to hotels provided by vacation rental homes and apartments has been a popular trend, in recent years especially. However, this vacation option is not for everyone and in fact may not be the best choice for most vacationers seeking solace from the stresses of their everyday lives. Hotels, particularly higher end luxury properties in competition with luxury rentals, offer travelers an opportunity for special treatment and pampering not found in the vacation rental experience. But even mid-priced hotels can provide a carefree trip for vacationers.

 

Advantages Of Hotels

 

Hotels provide better value than the rental property, for the vacationing traveler, for a number of reasons. The hotel staff and the variety of services they provide to their guests alone make the hotel an exceptional value when costs are compared with rentals. While rental services, such as AirBnB, offer their customers not much more than different surroundings, hotels provide a relaxing respite from the rigors and stresses of everyday life. Staying at a luxury hotel provides a safe and reliable home base when visiting a destination.

The level of service provided at top notch, and even second tier hotel properties, is incomparable to a vacation rental. For example, the hotel room service can be easily reached at a moment's notice to cater to the needs of their guests with food and drinks. The concierge waits at their beck and call to inform a guest about the best area restaurants and other local information. That high level of service standard instills in guests the comfort and security that familiarity and met expectations can bring. Being that many hotels are but one location in a chain can also contribute to that sense of security.

The expectation level hotels regularly meet for their guests extends beyond merely service. Travelers anticipate a great night of sleep wherever they stay, at a hotel or vacation rental. Admittedly, budget priced hotels can fail in this regard, but it can be much more frequently an issue with vacation rental homes. Due to the lack of set standards, the comfort level of bedding and other furniture can wildly vary in vacation rental properties. This also applies to temperature and lighting control as well. Nothing can be worse than trying to sleep in unpleasant temperatures with too much light streaming through the windows.

Many features of hotels, which guests often take for granted, are simply not part of the vacation rental experience. Hotels offer perks for loyal customers including upgrades or free stays, for example. This is unheard of with rental properties and the websites that showcase them. If you are staying in a hotel and there is a problem or issue, the guest can simply change rooms or suites, which is not possible with rentals. If a reservation needs to be canceled or changed it is usually not a problem, often without penalty fees. Vacation rentals usually have extremely rigid cancellation policies. Even with property owners that are more flexible, the fees paid to sites like AirBnB are non-refundable. In addition, most vacation rental properties require a security deposit and sometimes hold guests accountable for normal wear and tear damage. These are much stricter policies than hotels are imposed on their guests.

All things considered, the hotel provides the sort of carefree and relaxing atmosphere conducive to recharging your batteries while on vacation. 


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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Hospitality News For The Week Of 7/10/15

International tourist arrivals up 4% in the first four months of 2015

According to the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization), international tourism is up by 4 percent over the same period last year. The organization, in its World Tourism Barometer report, states that tourist arrivals rose in the first four months of the year. The agency is predicting continued growth over the summer, with the expectation of nearly 500 million tourists traveling abroad in July and August. Between January and April, 332 million travelers spent an overnight stay away from home. Full Story Here:

 

Google quietly adds instant booking for hotels, copying TripAdvisor

Without an official announcement, Google has added instant booking to its hotel search results pages. Google-facilitated bookings have begun appearing from a select handful of hotel listings from U.S. search results. No U.S. hotel chains are participating with Google on their new offering. So far only independent hotels are being booked directly through Google. Full Story Here:

 

STR: US hotel results for week ending 27 June

The week of 21-27 June 2015 found the U.S. hotel industry reporting positive results over all. Over the same period last year, occupancy had increased by 1.1 percent to reach 76.9 percent. Average daily rate rose by 4.6 percent to $122.15. And revenue per available room climbed 5.7 percent, attaining $93.96 by weeks end. Full Story Here:

 

U.S. Business Travel Spending To Rise Nearly 5 Percent In 2015

A new study by the GBTA Foundation and Visa predicts an increase in U.S. business travel spending of 4.9 percent during 2015. $302.7 billion dollars will be spent on business travel in America during the current year, according to the research. Lingering concerns over the U.S. economy will prevent even higher growth levels from being attained. The study sees a better outlook for 2016, predicting a gain of 5.4 percent to the level of $318.9 billion in U.S. business travel spending. Full Story Here:

 


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Monday, July 13, 2015

What Do Hotel Guests Really Want

________________________________________________________________________

 

Over the course of time, what the typical hotel guest wants has changed drastically. Forever lost are the days when most travelers just wanted a place to stay with a warm bed and a roof over their heads. In today’s world, travelers want to make their stay at a hotel part of the whole travel experience. As a traveler’s wants and needs have become more sophisticated and nuanced, hotels have had to adapt their ways to what the “new” traveler wants.

Basic amenities such as, wireless Internet, flat screen televisions, indoor or outdoor pools, and safety and security, are just scratching the surface as to what amenities the new travelers want in their hotel experience. Many would prefer the hotel to be more like a destination resort. They now look for amenities that used to be only reserved for the more “high end” hotels, such as luxurious beds, pillow and mattress choices, high quality toiletries, mobile check in and check out, several room size options, a housekeeping department that pays attention to every detail, and a hotel staff that is welcoming and attentive to all of a guest’s needs and wants.

As hotel room rates rise, today’s traveler wants more amenities included in the price of the room such as, free breakfast, free parking, free fast Wi-Fi, and access to free higher quality coffee and tea.

Today’s hotel guests also want to feel like they are at a home away from home. Many hotel customers would like to have comfortable couches and chairs in the lobby, plenty of spots to socialize with each other, the ability to keep up with their exercise routine; with a gym or fitness center, and access to quality washers and dryers. Business guests appreciate having large meeting spaces to conduct business meetings.

Travelers have become more tech-savvy, so when planning trips they want hotels to have well designed websites with clear high quality photos and information about that individual hotel as well as easy to book reservations through the website. They also want hotels to interact with them through social media such as, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. In addition, have the ability to book rooms through those very platforms.

With guest's needs and desires changing, and travel becoming much more accessible and easier to more and more people, it will be interesting to see where all of this takes the hotel industry over the next several years.  


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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Pros And Cons Of Hotels Or Rentals - Part 1

The rapid growth of the so-called “sharing economy” has impacted many industries, including hospitality. Companies like AirBnB and HomeAway, among others have become trendy alternatives for travelers to the more conventional hotel stay. But are these vacation rentals providing value and a truly viable substitute for the relaxing hotel or resort stay? In this series of blogs we will put the rental accommodation up against its vacation counterpart, the venerable hotel, and examine the pros and cons of each.

 

The Advantages Of Vacation Rentals  

The driving force behind the short-term accommodation rental trend is the cost savings consumers can, either in reality or perceived, garner from choosing this travel option as opposed to staying at a hotel. By booking a short-term rental through a website like AirBnB, a guest can stay in more spacious lodgings. This can be a particular advantage for families and large groups. Additionally, many short-term rental properties offer kitchen facilities, providing cost-effective alternatives to dining in restaurants. 

The personalized service and attention which may be received when a traveler is staying at a vacation rental property can clearly set it apart from the hotel experience. Oftentimes, hosts really will go above and beyond to make the experiences of their guests memorable and unique. Many are extremely proud of their property and its location. The best of hosts can also be invaluable to their guests, providing a connection to the local area and its culture. Relationships are sometimes formed, between guests and the property’s hosts, which bring the vacationers back again and again.

A vacation rental home can offer the traveler a relaxing homelike experience in contrast with hotels; which may be crowded, cramped, and noisy. For certain types of people, the predictable and safe experience of an excellent hotel is a disadvantage in its sterility. A vacation rental affords vacationers the opportunity to step outside their everyday reality and adopt a new lifestyle; living on an oceanfront, mountaintop, or an exotic city for example. Enjoying a complete change of scenery, while giving up none of the comfort, convenience, and amenities of home life is the key advantage of the vacation rental home.

In part two of this series we will review the advantages of hotel accommodations and why hotels provide more value for many travelers over rental properties. 


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Monday, July 6, 2015

7 UX Concepts That Will Boost Your Business

In an age where technological advancement and user experience go hand in hand, it is important to know how and why your customers react to your website, products/services, and most of all, brand image. To see a dramatic increase in both efficiency and customer attraction, apply these 7 concepts to your business:

 

UX for Management:

  • Agile Development- a way of developing software that uses iterative planning, the creation of user “stories,” and the delegation of tasks.
  • Analytics- the process of extracting meaning from a broad range of data. This data might include demographics, page views, social media popularity (i.e. likes, shares), reviews, etc.
  • CMS- Content Management System- a system that allows the creation, editing, and management of content from a central location.

 

UX Design:

  • Balsamiq Mockups- a mockup/prototype creation tool, which is accessible to both Mac and Windows users.
  • Responsive Design- a design that is capable of adjusting between screen sizes (i.e. mobile, tablet, and desktop), while maintaining functionality and aesthetics.  
  • Storyboard- a way of showing a user’s experience with a product/service with a series of portrayed visual events.
  • Usability- how easily a person can learn how to use a product or service, such as an application, website, tool, or any kind of object that they interact with.

 

These concepts break down into 2 categories: managerial and design. The managerial concepts revolve around the day-to-day operations of the business itself. Such as, iterative product development, and the testing of products in pre-production.

The UX Design concepts are based on the actual product features and details.

Such as, technical layout, mockups, likeability, and functionality of the website, products or services.  


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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Recent M&A - Priceline buys PriceMatch

On May 8th, Tnooz reported that The Priceline Group will be acquiring PriceMatch, a revenue management optimization company.  

 

Shifting Landscape

This is another example of the shifting landscape that was written about earlier this year.  

A Disturbance in the Force: When the Demand Side Becomes the Supplier

 

Who Controls Room Inventory?

When a hotelier leverages the tools provided by traditional Distribution entities, the hotel must be keenly aware their pricing and channel distribution strategy is now exposed.  In the case of Priceline, they now possess marketing (Buuteeq) as well as reservation system (Hotel Ninjas) capabilities in their service offering.  In this particular case, the lines are now blurred regarding the traditional lines of Supply and Demand side functionality/services.

 

What Next?

At Above Property, we expect to see more of the same in the coming months.  From the Traveler to the hotel room, the path is filled with rate parity, adware fees, commission fees, revenue shares and rebates across multiple vendors.  While these services are being consolidated, it should also be recognized that underlying Supply side technology is legacy based.  For example, inventory still resides in a legacy database that has very rigid configurations.  Revenue Management systems must work within the rigid confines of the legacy systems.  Above Property has solved this issue by modernizing the data model, leveraging NoSQL data stores and revenue optimizing every transaction.  While consolidation is a natural evolution, the legacy Supply-side systems must be modernized for the industry to realize today’s technology advancements. 


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