Thursday, September 20, 2018

Dynamic Hotel Revenue With A Cloud-Based PMS - Part 1

At the core of every successfully managed and profitable hotel is a property management system capable of maintaining the efficiency of every aspect of the property’s operations. The data driven age in which any hotel now finds itself operating, requires an entirely new and upgraded system, one that is hosted in the cloud. The traditional legacy systems which have run hotels for decades can no longer keep up with the volume of data and the necessary speed required to gain a competitive edge in today’s hospitality industry.

The future of hospitality data management is undoubtedly in the cloud. A cloud-based, software-as-a-service (SaaS) hotel property management system can truly become a dynamic revenue generating engine for the hotels and chains that adopt the technology. The efficient management of data through a cloud-based PMS will empower hoteliers to not only improve hotel operations, but achieve an enhanced level of guest experience with greater security and at a lower cost as well. All of this accomplished while delivering maximized revenue for every room sold by the hotel. Remaining with antiquated legacy software, which is generations behind, is no longer a viable option for hoteliers going forward.

Hotel Operations

The real-time information provided hoteliers by a PMS system hosted in the cloud could immensely improve the efficiency of day-to-day hotel operations. Hotel staffs are empowered with this data that provides guests with greater and more personalized customer service. They can therefore better anticipate the needs and desires of their guests with access to the customer data provided by the PMS. Hotel access to such powerful data can transform hotel operations behind the scenes in ways the guests cannot see and can make the hotel property eminently more profitable.

Some hotels are now leveraging aggregate data to improve utility efficiency at their properties. For example, numerous sources can be mined in combination to reduce energy consumption at their hotels. Local climate and weather data, past energy consumption histories, and fluctuations in electric rates can be compiled and analyzed.  In this way, energy profiles of each building can be created and future projections may be effectively formulated. Because of the nature of the hospitality industry, hotels also tend to be energy wasters. Energy consumption is largely out of the control of hoteliers when guests are physically in their rooms, however smart technology managed through the cloud PMS can return systems to their most efficient levels in their absence.

The efficiency of hotel services can be vastly improved as well. This can be achieved through a data-driven analysis of which hotel services guests are actually utilizing and which ones might be under-utilized. In this way, precious hotel resources may be accurately employed and not squandered on ill-used services.  Additionally, hotel marketing is being revolutionized through targeted campaigns armed with valuable guest data. In order to accomplish this, hotels need complete knowledge and understanding of their guests, so their needs, wants and desires can be effectively predicted. A cloud-based PMS can help hotel marketers identify which customers offer hotels the highest long-term value. Marketing messages must then be created and reach the right customers in a timely fashion.

In part two we will look at how the hotel guest experience is being transformed utilizing the capabilities of a cloud-based property management system.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Voice Search For Hoteliers - Part 2

As digital technology continually progresses forward through the 21st century, so do the preferences of users of each new tech development. An ongoing trend has been the inclination in digital usage toward communicating through images. Another is the voice activation technology phenomenon. People are increasingly asking any necessary Internet questions with their speaking voice to find the answers. Voice search is still an emerging technological trend, however it clearly is the future of search. Hotels need to be prepared in advance of its widespread use by optimizing their websites to ensure that content can be found by digital voice assistants and voice search.

Conversational Tone

To begin this process it is critical to take into account how the voice searches are being generated. A human is speaking with their natural voice into a device, most likely in the form of a question. The person is using spoken phrases rather than in the keyword oriented manner they would use if typing into a search bar. For example many of the voice searches begin with either ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘where’, ‘why’ or ‘how’. Going forward, as voice search gains momentum and becomes pervasive, it will be necessary for hotel website content to be written in a highly conversational tone.

Frequently Asked Questions

An effective voice search optimization strategy is to also create a frequently asked questions page. Adding a richly informational FAQ section to the hotel website will be mutually beneficial to both travelers and the hotel’s SEO efforts. By addressing the most commonly asked questions of the hotel in a colloquial manner, hoteliers will build trust and establish engagement with the traveling public. Concurrently, a FAQ section will also offer voice searches easily digestible content to improve voice search optimization.

Local Area

Every hotel is naturally a part of its surrounding local area, especially as a travel destination. Many travel search queries should be highly location-oriented, for example, ‘restaurants near here’ or ‘hotels near here’. Therefore, it is also valuable for any hotel to optimize their website for such localized searches. The website needs to embrace the hotel’s place in its locale by including content regarding nearby tourist attractions and landmarks, or local events being held in the area. All guests should be strongly encouraged to leave a review of their stay as soon as possible upon checkout as well. It is also extremely crucial for successful local search optimization to ensure all hotel information is accurate and always current across all online channels.

Mobile Devices

Another factor to consider is the type of device that will most likely be used for a hotel voice query. Mobile devices are used in the majority of hotel searches. It is imperative for any hotel website and other digital channels to be optimized for mobile. As mobile devices have become ubiquitous, so too have digital assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Samsung’s Bixby. The adoption rate by users of digital voice assistants, mobile features already found on their phones, will only increase over time as they become more comfortable with the technology.

The technology of voice activated searches is rapidly progressing; it is the future and will have a profound impact on the hospitality industry in the years to come.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Hospitality News For The Week Of 9/14/18

Hoteliers, Residents Brace for Hurricane Florence

Hoteliers and residents in the states expected to bear the brunt of Hurricane Florence have been making preparations for the worst all this week. Although ultimately striking the North Carolina coast Friday morning as a Category 1 hurricane, Florence has slowed its forward progress and is expected to dump locally record-setting rainfall across the region. Widespread, potentially catastrophic flooding and power outages are also expected as a result of Hurricane Florence in the immediately affected states of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. Full Story Here:

U.S. Department of Commerce Reports Record Spending by International Visitors in 2017

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce the U.S. had nearly 77 million international visitors in 2017. The department’s International Trade Administration National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) also reported those visitors spent a record-setting $251.4 billion during 2017, representing a two percent increase over 2016. The NTTO also stated that during 2017 travel and tourism exports supported over 1.2 million American jobs in the United States. The American tourism industry also generated a $77.4 billion trade surplus last year as well. Full Story Here:

Labor, taxes headline hoteliers’ agenda on Capital Hill

Members of Congress are hosting a group of hoteliers from the American Hotel & Lodging Association and the Asian American Hotel Owners Association this week to discuss issues important to the hotel industry. Issues to be discussed include permanently extending tax deductions for small businesses and lower individual rates, government support for career development and apprenticeship programs. Full Story Here:

US Hotel Occupancy Down 3.5 Percent To 61.7 Percent - Week Ending September 8th - 2018

The U.S. hotel industry reported largely negative performance data compared to the same period last year for the week of 2-8 September 2018, according to STR. In year-over-year comparison, industry-wide occupancy was -3.5 percent lower at 61.7 percent for the week. Average daily rate was +1.0 percent higher at $121.95 by the end of the week. Revenue per available room was down by -2.4 percent to finish the week at $75.25. Full Story Here:

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Voice Search For Hoteliers - Part 1

The technology of voice search has been exploding in popularity and becoming nearly ubiquitous in the homes of consumers everywhere. The devices used by the public to interface with the Internet through voice recognition technology can be found in their homes, Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa for example, or in their mobile devices such as Apple’s Siri or Samsung’s Bixby. Naturally, as these users become more comfortable in the use of this technology, the expectation will grow among traveling consumers to complete their travel arrangements while utilizing voice search.

One aspect of voice search on home assistant devices that has held back use of the technology for making hotel reservations, due the visual nature of travel, has been the lack of a visual screen. However, this could change rapidly in the near term as the technology leaders, Google and Amazon, are beginning to include screens with their devices. Formerly, Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa had been voice interfaces only, limiting their travel application.

This limitation however, has no impact on what is more correctly called dictated search, meaning those performed via mobile devices. Voice searches executed on mobile devices using either Apple Siri, Google Voice Search or Microsoft Cortana bring up web results to the device’s screen, no different than if the search was typed by the user into their search bar. How users will be utilizing home assistant devices for travel search in the near future still remains to be determined as the technology unfolds. However, dictated voice searches made on mobile devices are currently having an impact on hotel bookings, whether hoteliers are prepared to leverage these searches or not.

Going forward, it will increasingly become imperative for hotels to optimize their websites for voice search, as it is the future of travel searches. Numerous research studies support this assertion, including the search giant Google. They have stated that fully 20 percent of all mobile searches are with voice search. Voice search will only become more prevalent each year that passes. Hotels need to prepare now for this reality, or be left behind by the online travel agencies and powerful meta searches including TripAdvisor, Trivago and Kayak.  Meta search companies are already preparing to provide voice search optimization.

In part two of this series we will examine a few steps hotels can take in order to optimize their websites for voice search.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Hospitality News For The Week Of 9/7/18

Google’s travel incursion gradual, but a threat to OTAs

Recent moves by Google continue the search giant’s slow encroachment into the travel industry. Google has now begun offering hotel discounts, at this point exclusively through its Google One cloud storage platform, while simultaneously launching their “hotel-plus-flight product”. The hotel discounts are currently only being offered to paid users of Google’s cloud storage product. Despite the limited nature of the rollout, the travel discounts pose a threat of direct competition with online travel agencies and metasearch platforms. Full Story Here:

At First White House Meeting, Industry Execs Talk Travel

President Trump met at the White House this past week with a number of travel industry executives, including the U.S. Travel Association and many hotels. At the meeting, the industry leaders discussed with the president the importance to the U.S. economy and the crucial role-played in job creation by the travel industry in America. The executives particularly stressed how important to trade deficit reduction, international inbound travel is for the economy. The discussion centered on achieving travel growth without compromising security. Full Story Here:

Newly Released 2018 Guest Experience Assessment Provides Valuable Insights To Hoteliers On Guest Engagement

A new study was just published by Travel Tripper, StayNTouch, and TrustYou that surveyed over 300 hoteliers in the U.S., Canada and around the globe offering insight into the guest experience at their hotels. Questions were asked in the survey regarding check-in technology, upsell opportunities, and guest communication among others. Some important takeaways include the fact that 41 percent of respondents do not offer their guests a choice of check-in method, 70 percent either never or only sometimes convert on up-sales and upgrades at check-in, and 68 percent recognize the need for their improved use of mobile technology. Full Story Here:

STR: US hotel results for week ending 1 September

According to data published by STR, the U.S. hotel industry reported positive performance results in year-over-year comparison for the week of 26 August through 1 September 2018. Industry-wide occupancy up by +1.6 percent to reach 67.0 percent by the end of the week. Average daily rate rose by +3.0 percent to $125.16 for the week. Revenue per available room increased by +4.6 percent to $83.88 for the week. Full StoryHere:

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Blockchain Technology For Hotels

In the last few years there has been much hype and resultant industry buzz around the concept of blockchain technology for the hospitality industry. Blockchain technology in theory offers much promise for hotels in a number of ways. The technology offers solutions to some looming issues for the hotel industry, most notably security and third-party fees that are eating up revenue. However, it remains to be seen if blockchain will live up to its full potential for hoteliers. The application and implementation of the technology within the hotel industry is in its infancy as it is a still-emerging, yet clearly disruptive force.

What Is Blockchain Technology?

While most hoteliers have probably heard of blockchain, many are lacking a clear understanding of the concept. Put into the simplest of terms, blockchain is a list of records, a public ledger, where transactions are recorded digitally. These records are called blocks and once the blocks are recorded, they become a permanent and verifiable digital recording of an anonymous transaction between two parties. Since the blocks are shared in a distributed network, the data is decentralized and stored across multiple places in a cloud-based network.

Blockchain technology provides the highest of security standards since the entire database is encrypted. The block cannot be modified or altered in any way once the transaction is recorded with a time stamp in the ledger. The block is then traceable as well, providing completely verifiable transparency and cross checking in the process.

Hotel Applications For Blockchain Technology

Blockchain technology blocks are not necessarily restricted to financial transactions, which presents to hoteliers several relevant hotel applications for the technology. Probably the most important and highly disruptive application of blockchain in the hospitality industry is the possibilities the technology offers for eliminating or at least greatly reducing the role of online travel agencies in hotel inventory distribution. Independent hotels in particular would greatly benefit from adopting blockchain because of the higher commissions paid on their bookings made through OTAs.

Since blockchain can track any type of transaction involving an exchange of value, the technology is a perfect fit for recording hotel loyalty programs and disseminating their member benefits. Because of the highly publicized and damaging data breaches suffered recently by a number of hotels worldwide, another application of blockchain is the processing and storage of secure payments for hotels. Blockchain offers hotels and chains a means for entirely secure and transparent bank transactions or even a step further into the blockchain realm, cryptocurrencies.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Blockchain Technology For Hotels

The highly disruptive public ledger technology, blockchain, has created a large degree of hospitality industry buzz, but yet is little understood by hoteliers. There are a number of exciting possibilities and solutions offered to hotels by this innovative technology. However, there are nearly as many potential pitfalls and roadblocks to its adoption by the hospitality industry as well. Certainly, it will take time for hotels to adopt blockchain, if at all. The benefits to the industry as a whole, and each individual hotel or chain, must be weighed against the risky disruption involved with implementing such a transformative technology.

Advantages Of Blockchain Technology For Hotels

Blockchain technology offers hotels viable solutions to several serious issues faced by hoteliers. The technological advances made in recent years by online thieves have caught many hotels and chains off guard and unprepared. Blockchain’s impeccable security protocols could provide the hospitality industry the answers needed for a truly effective fraud protection of all hotel transactions. All the data stored in blocks is decentralized into multiple locations.  This makes the data highly impervious to cyber-attack and always available.

Blockchain also promises to level the playing field of hotel online distribution, at which hotels have been clearly at a disadvantage with the online travel agencies. In the theory of blockchain advocates at least, a distributed ledger with completely open access to inventory data would bring to an end the duopoly currently enjoyed by the two largest online travel agencies. The theory also states that opening up data access in the hospitality industry will increase competition, ultimately benefiting the travel consumer.

Disadvantages Of Blockchain Technology For Hotels

The biggest issue with the theory around blockchain technology being applied to the hospitality industry is the inherent resistance to change within the hotel business itself. Hospitality is a very intimate industry based on the building of trust through personal connections. Many long-standing and well established relationships have been built over time that are resistant to rapid transformation from outside forces. In reality, much of the data is held by only a handful of entities as well. This fact alone represents an immense barrier to entry for the implementation of blockchain technology.

Another issue facing blockchain for hospitality hopefuls is an aspect of the technology itself. Since a blockchain is a distributed ledger, peer-to-peer network keepers must manage it. These keepers, called “miners”, must verify each transaction. This is accomplished using powerful and costly, specialized hardware and software. The verification process for the transactions in the blockchain network takes time as well, possibly up to an hour or more. This is time the hotel booking process cannot afford with the expectation by customers of an instant confirmation of their reservation when they book. Also, once a reservation is made conceivably in a blockchain ledger, it will be impossible to modify without further alterations to all the blocks that follow. This will create an untenable situation for hoteliers.

While offering much future promise for hotel applications, blockchain technology could be very far from actually being implemented in a hospitality environment in the near term.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Hospitality News For The Week Of 8/31/18

Occupancy dip doesn’t slow US hotels’ growth in July

Despite the U.S. hotel occupancy rate declining slightly (-0.2 percent) in July for the first time in a year, demand has continued to grow at a record-setting pace. The robust health of the U.S. economy at large led to a record of 120 million room nights being sold in July. This amounted to the highest single demand month since the beginning of records being kept in 1989. Room supply increased by 2.1 percent, leading to the decline in occupancy for the month of July. FullStory Here:

Air Travel Is Up This Labor Day Holiday

According to data from Airlines for America, about 16.5 million people are expected to fly worldwide on U.S. airlines over the weeklong Labor Day travel period which ends Tuesday, Sept. 4. This represents an increase of 3.5 percent over the Labor Day holiday last year. Higher gas prices may be responsible for the surge in air travel. Gas prices are expected to be at their highest point since the 2014 Labor Day holiday, despite little hurricane activity this year so far. Full Story Here:

U.S. Traveler Sentiment and Intentions Are Down but Spend per Trip Is up from 2017

Travel sentiment and intentions are beginning to decrease, following two record years for the travel industry. According to the latest Traveler Sentiment Index from Travelhorizons, interest in travel among U.S. adults is down in the index by 6 points from last year. In a survey of 2,303 U.S. adults conducted by MMGY Global, six out of ten (59 percent) U.S. adults plan on traveling for leisure in the next six months, down from last year’s 65 percent. 23 percent of respondents plan on spending more this year, compared with only 15 percent planning to spend less in the current year. Full Story Here:

US Hotel Occupancy Flat At 69.5 Percent - Week Ending August 25th - 2018

The U.S. hotel industry reported positive performance results for the week of 19-25 August 2018, according to figures posted by STR. Compared to the same period last year, industry-wide occupancy remained flat at 69.5 percent. The average daily rate was +1.8 percent higher at $127.55 for the week. Revenue per available room was up by +1.8 percent, reaching $88.69 by the end of the week. Full Story Here:

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Augmented Reality For Hotels - Part 2

The highly visual nature of the hospitality industry makes augmented reality a perfect fit for hoteliers. This emerging technology will further the efforts of those hotels seeking to creatively enhance the presentation of their properties to the traveling consumer. The implementation of augmented reality technology can assist hoteliers in a number of ways regarding hotel marketing, sales and customer service.

Hotel Marketing

Augmented reality is a powerful tool for altering how the guest visually experiences the hotel accommodations, property features and amenities, or even the surrounding destination itself. This is usually accomplished by means of a hotel provided app on the user’s mobile device. The technology can also facilitate potential customers experiencing everything the hotel and destination have to offer them in advance of their travel.

Consumers are demanding accurate information before making their travel arrangements and augmented reality technology will provide it to them. The technology is capable of creating interactively enhanced hotel rooms to aid hoteliers in selling their properties, while concurrently arming travelers with the detailed and advanced knowledge they are seeking. A hotel app loaded with augmented reality technology and offered to travelers, will become a tremendous driver of bookings and the resulting revenue.

Hotel Sales

The augmented reality technology-powered hotel app can drive much more than bookings. Guests are enabled through direct engagement to see and imagine how a variety of available hotel services may be experienced in reality. Another facet of the technology is the beacon. Beacons can reinforce the ancillary revenue earned by hotels by way of pushing offers directly to guests, in real-time, while they are on property. Beacons are empowered through bluetooth technology, and can pop-up relevant offers as the guest moves through the hotel, as appropriate, such as in the lobby or their guest room.

Hotel Customer Service

Augmented reality technology provides hotels with real possibilities for enhanced customer service. Bluetooth powered beacons are now capable of streamlining the processing of all manner of routine guest requests. Room-service food and extra towels, for example, can be processed quickly and efficiently utilizing this technology.

Other new guest room technologies can be enabled through beacons as well. Bluetooth connections with the guest’s smartphone can enable virtual keys for unlocking rooms and allow guests to customize as well as control their room temperature. The technology can also be purely informational in nature. Guests, when provided with the proper marker can instantly see tourism information about the surrounding destination beyond the hotel property. Some hotels are even providing interactive wall maps that guests can simply point their phones at to see current information relevant to their travels around the area.

As we move forward through the 21st Century, once unimaginable technologies will gradually become commonplace in the hospitality industry. Augmented reality and other amazing technologies will continue to have a transformative impact on hotels.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Augmented Reality For Hotels - Part 1

Most travelers today are well informed regarding nearly every aspect of their trips before they even leave home. The Internet and all the informational resources it provides travel planners have ensured it to be reality. To that end, an emerging technology offers hoteliers valuable opportunities to enhance the presentation of their hotel properties to their potential guests. Closely related to virtual reality technology, yet importantly distinct from it, augmented reality is a tool available to hotels that can complement visual marketing imagery through any number of creative means.

Commonly confused with virtual reality, augmented reality uses computer technology to enhance rather than replace the real world environment. Conversely, virtual reality creates an entirely new environment for the user. Augmented reality can be deployed using digital components introduced in real-time and viewable via mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets. The user sees a live image of a particular environment, which has digitally produced overlays atop the environment seen on their screen. The technology alters the environment as viewed on the device and can also interactively transform it for the user as well.

Augmented reality technology should be attractive to hoteliers for hotel marketing and customer service purposes because it utilizes technology to enhance the real-life hotel environment. This can greatly improve the customer experience before, during and after the guest’s stay. Hotels can develop their own booking app customized to each of their unique properties. This will enable hoteliers to showcase each of their hotel’s features, rooms and amenities in addition to enhanced imagery of the surrounding area destination.

Due to the lower threshold to entry for hotels, investing in augmented reality technology makes more sense for the hospitality industry at this time. Currently virtual reality technology requires dedicated hardware to replace the real world experience for the user. Since augmented reality can be implemented through a hotel app for example, it is a much better tool for hoteliers to build connection with their customers. Today’s traveling consumer seeks empowerment through knowledge in making all their travel arrangements. Augmented reality technology can help give them the affirmation they need in order to make an informed booking decision.

The millennial generation is now the dominating consumer force and they have grown up with technology in every facet of their lives. Going forward, technologies such as augmented reality will only become the expected standard for the hospitality industry.

In part two of this series we will see some of the innovative ways hotels can implement augmented reality technology into their marketing and customer service efforts.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Hospitality News For The Week Of 8/24/18

U.S. hotels report decline in occupancy in July

For the first time in twelve months the U.S. hotel industry experienced a decline in occupancy for the month of July 2018, in year-over-year comparison. According to data published by STR, industry-wide occupancy decreased by -0.2 percent to 73.6 percent for July. Average daily rate increased by 2 percent to $133.44 for the month. STR attributes the decline in occupancy to supply growth, at 2.1 percent, outpacing growth in demand, which was 1.9 percent. Full Story Here:

Survey Reveals Americans’ Travel Bucket Lists

The overwhelming majority of Americans, 77 percent, have a travel bucket list yet only 3 percent have visited all the destinations on their list. This is according to the Travel Bucket List Survey, conducted by Love Home Swap. The survey respondents cited many reasons, but cost prevented most from making their trips the most at 85 percent. Five international destinations are emerging as the hot spots for American bucket list travel. In order: Japan (55 percent), Finland (34 percent), Thailand (34 percent), Portugal (28 percent) and Argentina (26 percent). Full Story Here:

Five Global Trends in Family Vacations for 2018

The online travel agency Agoda just published the results of a survey conducted of family vacation travelers. The Family Travel Trends 2018 found that 65 percent of U.S. travelers have taken a trip with their core family during the last year. Furthermore, 11 percent have traveled with extended family and 23 percent with grandparents and/or grandchildren. A few important takeaways for hoteliers include hotels being the most popular form of accommodation for families and trend toward shorter duration, but more frequent family vacations. Full StoryHere:

US Hotel Occupancy Up 0.3 Percent To 72.5 Percent - Week Ending August 18th - 2018

According to data from STR, the U.S. hotel industry recorded positive performance figures for the week of 12-18 August 2018. Compared with the same week last year, industry-wide occupancy was +0.3 percent higher at 72.5 percent for the week. Average daily rate rose by +2.2 percent to finish the week at $129.77. Revenue per available room went up by +2.5 percent to end out the week at $94.08. FullStory Here: