Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Guest Personalization For Hotels - Part 1

The twenty-first century hotel guest approaches their hotel stay with high expectations. The convenience offered by technology in our everyday lives has built up the anticipation that this will carry over when we travel. Travelers now expect and demand a hotel experience customized to their needs and tastes.
Mobile technology offers hoteliers an exciting means to meet the expectations of their guests with an exceptional level of personalized service, previously not possible. Smart technology additionally provides the hospitality industry yet another opportunity to deliver, particularly in-room, customized guest experience. Both personalization opportunities require a commitment on the part of hotels to invest in their customers through the provision of these technologies.

Mobile Appssd
Today’s traveler wants greater control of their hotel guest experience from start to finish and hotel provided mobile apps empower them to do so. With a hotel app downloaded to their smartphone or tablet, customers can chose from among common variables such as, room size and bed type, to customizing the room temperature, as well as selecting food and drinks for the mini-bar. This can occur all in advance of their stay and prior to their arrival from a mobile device armed with an app from the hotel. Also, these preferences may be kept in place and be waiting for the guest upon their next arrival, either at the same location or another in the case of a chain.
Hotel guests with a hotel app can skip the lines at the front desk with mobile check-in. Various hotel extra services and amenities, such as spa treatments, may be ordered by the hotel guest directly from their mobile device. Another feature frequently made available via mobile hotel apps is concierge services. Through such an app, the hotel guest is enabled to access updated information regarding upcoming on or off property events, local area attractions, concerts, and sports, etc.
Of course, such personalized service and convenience comes at a price to the customer, in the form of personal information disclosure. Customers have been balancing the benefits against the risks. Hotel guests don’t mind as long as something is to be gained for their benefit. Customers have been balancing the benefits against the risks and are much more willing to provide various preferences, and even gender data. However, they are inclined to be much more cautious regarding any personal finance and credit card information.

In the next part in this series we will see how hoteliers can transform the hotel guest experience in a highly personalized way through smart technology.          

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Hotel Website User Experience

The advent of online travel agencies such as Expedia and have been highly beneficial to the hospitality industry, but that benefit has come at a growing cost to hoteliers. The fees charged by the OTAs have risen as the booking choices available to the traveling public have shrunk. This makes it imperative all the more, for particularly
independent and small chain hotels, but large as well, to enhance their hotel websites to garner as much direct bookings as attainable. This will result in reduced fees and greater revenue earned, while additionally, increasing customer loyalty and building up the brand’s image. Here are a number of common features found on highly successful hotel booking websites.

Visitors to a hotel’s website should be greeted by a homepage that is the epitome of simplicity. Uncluttered and only featuring what is necessary to draw the potential guest into the booking process. The reservation box, the page’s call to action, needs to be prominently displayed where the potential guest's attention will be naturally drawn, so they can be converted into a booking customer. Other items on the home page should include a large image and possibly a brief introduction that highlights the hotel in an attractive way. A phone number should also be provided to funnel those potential guests that would prefer to speak with someone to book their travel.

Every hotel has unique features to be displayed in the focus viewing area. Whatever makes the hotel stand out from the crowd of its hospitality competitors and encourages direct bookings should be displayed where it will catch the potential guest’s eye. High quality images can make a profoundly persuasive statement and influence the purchasing decision.
The “make a reservation” box, once clicked, should take the user to a page that compliments
the hotel’s facilities, accommodations, and amenities. The traveling public wants to see what they will get for their money and get some sense of what it will look like once they arrive. Also, it is critical for the website to provide extra encouragement for the potential guest to book now and not wait. Text in the booking pages should include remaining inventory and the number of rooms booked, to create a sense of urgency to the potential guest.                                                                                   

It’s absolutely essential to instill a sense of trust and credibility in the eyes of the user, before they will book on the hotel’s website. Travelers have come to trust the large online travel agencies and the hotels they represent. If the same trust can be established, the goal is to shift the booking to the direct hotel website. In addition, the payment process must be as secure as possible with all the necessary security measures in place. Never ask for more information than is absolutely essential to complete the reservation.
Encumbering the potential guest with long online forms does not lead to a pleasant online experience and will most likely result in booking abandonment. Requiring many unnecessary personal details of the user may be good for marketing purposes, but is ultimately interferes with the goal of booking the traveler.
Hospitality is a highly competitive industry, especially in light of the plethora of online booking channels available to the traveling public. The user experience at your booking site needs to be pleasant.

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Monday, October 26, 2015

Hospitality News For The Week Of 10/23/15

US Hotel Occupancy Up 3.3% To 67.9% During September 2015
The month of September 2015 was a positive one for the U.S. hotel industry, according to figures released by STR, Inc. As compared to the same period last year occupancy rose by 3.3 percent for the month, reaching 67.9 percent industrywide. The average daily rate climbed by 4.6 percent to $122.02. And revenue per available room was up by 8.0 percent, attaining $82.82 for the month of September 2015. Full Story Here:

US business travel spending growth slows in 2015
The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) released its outlook report for the end of 2015 and into 2016. The growth rate in U.S business travel spending is projected to slow going forward through 2016. A number of factors have combined to create this scenario, including global economic uncertainty and inflation predicted to remain flat. Full Story Here:

STR: US results for week ending 17 October
The U.S. hotel industry posted positive numbers for the week of 11-17 October 2015, as reported by STR, Inc. Occupancy industrywide was up 1.8 percent to 71.8 percent. Average daily rate climbed 3.6 percent, reaching $123.77. And revenue per available room increased 5.5 percent, ending the week at $88.91. Full Story Here:

Stock declines temper industry cycle peak
Despite the hotel industry posting consistently positive numbers in the most important performance measurements, stocks of U.S. hotel companies have declined during the year. Equity analysts believe other factors are in play and the industry’s performance in general is not to blame. Experts point to the volatility and decline in the stock throughout 2015 as negatively influential on the hotel industry, regardless of actual figures. Full Story Here:

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Mobile Payments For Hotels

The rise in use of mobile devices among travelers naturally has led to the popularity of mobile bookings and the creation of websites which enable users to book via mobile. A further progression of this trend and natural evolution in technology is mobile payments. Travelers are now using their mobile devices to not only search for and book, but pay as well for their hotel accommodations. Hotel guests use their mobile devices largely for convenience sake while traveling. The customer expectation now is for hotels to meet their needs through convenient connection with them on their chosen devices.
Concerns over security have kept consumers from adopting mobile payments in the past, but this is now rapidly changing. Mobile payment adoption is really taking off with the trend being led by the restaurant industry. This is largely since the appearance of Apple Pay in late 2014. Another issue has been the many competing payment platforms, with a winner yet to emerge into the standard. The form of mobile payments which has proved most popular is the “mobile wallet.” Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Google Wallet/Android Pay are clearly the leaders in this technology, but there are other popular platforms as well, and it is conceivable that consumers may want to continue to have choices. Hotels would be wise to adopt several platforms in order to be responsive to the needs of their guests.
There are a number of advantages to be gained by hotels that offer mobile payments to their guests. Not least of which is the satisfaction of hotel customers as a result of the improved guest experience. Hotel guests can avoid having to wait at a front desk counter for payment, either at arrival, departure, or for any additional hotel services they may purchase. Furthermore, mobile payment streamlines the process for mobile check-in and room key access, another growing customer expectation of hotels. Highly beneficial for hoteliers are the implications for building customer loyalty as well. Hotel loyalty programs can be fully integrated with the mobile wallet systems of their customers and rewards can be directly sent to the guest’s mobile device.
The hospitality industry should incorporate the necessary technology to enable the processing of mobile payments for hotel guests. Research has shown how the number of travelers carrying mobile devices that are loaded with mobile wallet apps are steadily on the rise. The excellent customer service of this new technology can result in higher guest loyalty, which should be motivation for hotelier to implement mobile payments.  

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Monday, October 19, 2015

Hospitality News For The Week Of 10/16/15

Industry keeps wary eye on Google’s moves in hotel booking
Because of Google’s tremendous clout in the search engine realm, the hospitality industry is keeping careful tabs on the search giant’s moves in the online hotel booking space. Google has launched its hotel booking feature called, Book on Google, and plans on stepping up the booking capabilities while also increasing the amount of online content available through it’s booking tool. Thus far most hotel searches bring up results linking to online travel agencies, rather than Google direct booking. Full Story Here:

STR: US results for week ending 10 October
The three key performance yardsticks for the U.S. hotel industry were all higher the week 4-10 October 2015, when compared to the same time frame last year. Occupancy rose by 0.5 percent to reach 71.7 percent. Average daily rate climbed 4.5 percent to $125.23. And revenue per available room was up by 5.0 percent to attain $89.85 by week’s end. Full Story Here:

New Study Reveals American’s Attitudes Towards Vacations
Globus released the results of a new study that gauged the mindset of Americans regarding their vacations. The study found that Americans consider travel more important than many other life experiences. 97 percent of respondents stated they feel they deserve a vacation, while 91 percent stated their desire to vacation more often. 85 percent claim travel makes them happier and 70 percent think vacations mold them into better people. In the age group 55 and older, 47 percent lament not traveling enough. Full Story Here:

[Infographic] Uncovering the Millennial Mindset: Choice Hotels Reveals New Travel Study
A new study, revealed through an infographic, has been released by Choice Hotels International detailing the travel attitudes of the Millennial Generation. The study reveals the top ten travel trends of the 18-34 year old age group. A few examples include: 33 percent of Millennials would postpone the purchase of a home in order to take a dream vacation. 59 percent state that online ratings and reviews influence their travel decisions. 69 percent would prefer freebies, including snacks, breakfast etc., over loyalty points and rewards. Full Story Here:

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Friday, October 9, 2015

Hospitality News For The Week Of 10/9/15

Hotel etiquette study ranks what rankles fellow guests
A recently study, released by Expedia, named the most annoying behaviors encountered by hotel guests involving their fellow guests. The Expedia 2015 Hotel Etiquette Study ranked inattentive parents to be the most troublesome at 67 percent. Hallway hell raisers were a close second at 64 percent, and complainers who give the staff trouble and berate them over trivial matters rounded out the top three at 54 percent. Full Story Here:

Nearly Half Of U.S. International Business Travelers Use Extended Stay Accommodations
Among American business travelers abroad, almost half have stayed in extended stay accommodations in the last 12 months. This is according to a study conducted by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA). The research found that members of the Millennial Generation are the most frequent users of extended stay hotels outside the U.S. Additionally, the study also states the majority (60 percent) of business travelers book their stays themselves. Full Story Here:

It’s all optimism at The Lodging Conference 
This week The Lodging Conference has been held in Phoenix, AZ. The positive numbers posted by the U.S. hotel industry this year has many of the industry’s leaders holding an optimistic outlook for the future. The expectation, in general, is that the hospitality industry’s prosperity is expected to last over the next two years or more. The reason given for this continued growth is the willingness to travel among the nation’s consumers. Full Story Here:

US Hotel Occupancy Up 3.4% To 68.8% Week Ending October 3rd - 2015
During the week of 27 September and 3 October 2015 the hotel industry in the U.S. posted positive numbers. When compared to the same period last year, occupancy climbed 3.4 percent to reach 68.8 percent. Average daily rate (ADR) rose 8.0 percent to $124.96, and revenue per available room (RevPAR) was up by 11.6 percent, reaching $86.01. Full Story Here:

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Hotel Digital Booking Funnel - Part 2

With competition coming from many sources now, online travel agencies and metasearch engines for example, it is extremely critical for hotel websites to be updated with a number of potential improvements. In order for hotels to keep their website direct booking platform ahead of other competing channels, these upgrades should be implemented as part of an overall digital marketing strategy. Here are a few more steps hoteliers can take in this regard.

User Experience
How the users, who are potential hotel customers, experience the hotel through its website is probably one the most important factors in determining the site’s success in driving direct bookings. Also the influence of traditional SEO techniques in determining search rankings is waning, while search engines are increasingly rewarding the human side of web design. The hotel website needs to be clearly laid out and easily navigated, while engaging to the user. Social media buttons, in addition to clear call to actions should be readily available from all website pages. Website performance is critical as well, users will not be converted into customers from pages, which load too slowly.

In order for the hotel website to be engaging for the users, they must find the content within it to be relevant to their lives and the purpose they are on the site to begin with. Hotel content should enhance the user’s experience in such way that they are naturally drawn into the booking process, while their purpose is empowered with useful topics such as accommodation, amenities and on-property facilities as well as local area information. Content should always provide value to the website users. Additionally ensure all content, particularly images and video, looks professional across all user platforms including mobile, laptop, and desktop.

The user experience is further enhanced through the personalization of content. Through the analysis of the user’s demographics, past search, web viewing and purchase history, content can be tailored to the interests of the user. For example, if at some point a potential hotel customer researched information about a particular travel destination, they would then see offers from the hotel for that exact location. This results in a highly personalized and relevant website experience for each individual user.
Despite the overwhelming advantages online travel agencies may seem to have over a local hotel website, the hotel can counteract them to a degree by implementing a smart digital marketing strategy. Any hotel has its own advantage as well, of being local and therefore having the ability to better respond to the changing needs of their customers and the local area.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Hotel Digital Booking Funnel - Part 1

With the competition for hotel bookings of travelers around the world gaining intensity, hoteliers are battling with online travel agencies for every booking. Over the course of the last few years, OTAs have garnered an ever-increasing share of the hotel guest revenue dollar. However, there are a number of areas for potential improvement on hotel websites, the hotelier’s most valuable asset in the digital booking funnel. These improvements, if implemented as part of an overall digital hotel marketing strategy, could stem the tide of OTA booking encroachment. In this series we will examine some of the steps hoteliers can implement.

The use of mobile devices by travelers isn’t just some trendy thing that will go away over time, smartphones and tablets are the reality of the present and future. A clear majority of hotel bookings now come as a result of an online purchase and over 25 percent of online bookings are made via mobile as well. It is therefore imperative for hotel websites to be responsive in design to compete in today’s travel market. This means the hotel website must respond and conform to whatever device the user is attempting to access it from online. Since Google is now using mobile friendliness as a factor in determining search ranking, engaging the mobile travel market is now required of all hotels going forward.

Social Media
The online world lives in its connection through social media. A robust social network presence is the most powerful tool of brand awareness available to any hotel’s digital marketing efforts. However, the absolute ubiquity of social websites has created the problem of social media marketing campaigns becoming drowned out among the plethora of other competing messages for the user’s attention. As a result, the days of social media providing a free marketing outlet are gone forever. True visibility is only possible with paid advertising campaigns on a variety of social platforms. Additionally, social media offers a great opportunity for hotels to foster and build connections with their customers through relevant content.

Being part of the travel industry, it is vital for hotels to take control of their local presence online. The staggering number of mobile users makes the enhancement of a hotel’s website to leverage local search crucially important. According to Google, fully 80 percent of all local searches will end with the user making a purchase. Potential customers must see a hotel’s website at or near the top of local search listings in order to fully take advantage of a mobile optimized website.
In part two of this series we will examine further steps to be taken by hoteliers to better compete for direct online hotel bookings.

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Friday, October 2, 2015

Hospitality News For The Week Of 10/2/15

North American Hotels Experiencing Heavy Business
The North American Hospitality Review (NAHR) was released in September 2015 by TravelClick, and the review states hotels are experiencing high numbers of advance bookings in the third quarter of this year. This indicates hotel industry performance should continue to be higher, compared to the same period last year, for the remainder of the year and into 2016. Industry wide numbers have all been significantly higher in 2015 and this should continue, despite the recent state of flux in worldwide markets. Full Story Here:

US Hotel Occupancy Up 2.3% To 70.3% Week Ending September 26TH - 2015
During the week of 20-26 September 2015, the U.S. hotel industry posted positive numbers yet again in figures when compared to the same period last year. Industry wide occupancy climbed 2.3 percent to reach 70.3 percent. Average daily rate rose 4.9 percent to $122.56 for the week. And revenue per available room was up by 7.2 percent, ending the week at $86.17. Full Story Here:

Hotel & Lodging Forecast 2016 has made their predictions for the hospitality industry in 2016. This comes in advance of next week’s The Lodging Conference. Usually Hotelguru waits until after the conference to make their predictions, however this year’s strong numbers made the projections easily made without conferring with other hospitality experts. It is now expected that the next twelve months will be the best ever recorded by the hospitality industry. Full Story Here:

Coffee is key to business meetings
Hilton Worldwide released the results of a global study of business meeting preferences by business professionals. Over two-thirds still prefer face-to-face meetings and most think the meetings are more productive when coffee and/or tea is served. This is particularly true in the U.K. and China where 61 and 58 percent respectively think this to be true. In the U.S., 71 percent of city dwellers said coffee was important to successful meetings. Full Story Here:

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