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Hotel Technology: Booking and Loyalty

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Technology can play an important role in revenue for hotels, both in terms of booking and retention. It’s no secret that today’s travelers want to be “met where they are”, not physically, but digitally. The world of telephone books and calling around for openings has long passed us by, and the old-school internet searches are being replaced by information that can be grabbed with the swipe of a finger at a moment’s notice.

Until recently, hotels have concentrated expanding revenue exclusively through bookings streams. With the advent of online booking agencies, they are now losing a garnered customer loyalty. Traveler preferences are moving quickly toward mobile and tablet for research, and trust has gone up in these devices for shopping and booking. For hotels, this means that a mobile presence isn’t so much a game-changer as it is a means to stay in the game altogether.

Utilizing proper technology channels to communicate with guests, hotels will maximize on-site revenue, upsell in-room services, and remain engaged with customers, all of which goes back to loyalty and retention as well as revenue.

The revolution of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) means hotels must also bridge constant communication, and not just in terms of staff-to-guest contact, but also a staff-to-staff capacity, because hotel staff have resorted to using personal devices for workflow management and even to communicate with guests. This results in better efficiency, increased communication between everyone involved in your guest experience, lower turnover, and again revenue and retention.

In order to provide all of these benefits, hospitality companies must have a single fully networked technology platform that manages value creation, provides a method for product consumption, allows for quality control, and is scalable across all properties within a portfolio. For more information on mobile in travel, please check out The Cornell Center for Hospitality Research report, “The Mobile Revolution is Here: Are You Ready?”.

 

New Hospitality Study: The Time for Mobile is Now

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Over the last few months Gene Hopper, responsible for strategic relationships at Monscierge, has been working with the Center for Hospitality Research to study the use of mobile for an upcoming Cornell Hospitality Report.  This has been an exciting project and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to contribute.

To gather information, Cornell surveyed people across multiple demographics about the use of mobile during every phase of travel. Questions involved mobile usage across the guest journey, as well as privacy concerns and perceived value. Expected findings include which devices travelers rely on for planning a trip, communication preferences, social media usage, and various technology touch points during travel.

Further studies will also cover app adoption and usage, hotel vs. OTA website visits, and device-specific information.  The publication of the first study is expected to be released this week and will be sent to 100,000 of Cornell’s contacts. If you would like to view this report, you can add your name to the list by emailing info@monscierge.com.

 

Beacons and Virtual Concierge

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This year has seen lots of futuristic technology come onto the scene, and the travel industry has not been immune. Due to its location-specific nature, travel may end up being the biggest area for beacon technology to shine.

Beacons are small wireless sensors that can be placed almost anywhere. For hotels, this could mean placement near the bar, the front door, or the spa. The beacons communicate with individual devices as they move along the location. This means that, as a guest moves through the hotel property, their smartphone can pick up signals from the beacons and communicate with them.

This can bring a new dimension to a virtual concierge. A guest may receive a promotional offer as they walk by the spa or restaurant, or perhaps pull up a map as they hit the hiking trails. Other applications could include virtually guided tours, contactless payments, automated check-ins, and even content personalized to the particular guest.

Later this month, our own beacon expert will be sharing his insights on beacon use in the hospitality industry and beyond. Stay tuned!

Hotels and the Sharing Economy

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The sharing economy seems to have wiggled its way into every part of the travel industry. For better or worse, it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere in spite of the cautionary tales that crop up every week or so. People like the idea of crowd-sourcing – whether for products or experiences, I think it lends an opportunity to support something you believe in, feel like a part of something bigger, and contribute in a new way. The main draws of this type of travel are local immersion, unique experiences, and collaboration – all, of course, on a budget.

If turnabout is fair play, hoteliers can surely wiggle right into a few new markets by borrowing a few of those ideas.

  1. Local Immersion – Perhaps the most obvious answer is getting with local merchants. Be sure your staff knows where the best places are to eat, shop, and have fun. A virtual concierge can put all of the best local spots in the hands of your staff AND your guests. Aside from that, get to know local artists. Display paintings and sculptures in your lobby and guest rooms, use local musicians for live or even ambient music, and replace mass-market tchotchke with handmade crafts in your gift shop.
  2. Unique Experience (on a budget) – This may be the part where everything falls apart. Overhead costs are not going anywhere, which prevents offering guests a major rate reduction. However, this is where hotels can be the best at what sets them apart. Be the best at providing what sharing sites cannot always guarantee. Set travelers at ease in terms of safety and comfort, not to mention cleanliness and basic expectations. Then provide value where you can – offering breakfast, great coffee, or snacks could make the stay just affordable enough for guests on a tight budget. Provide discounts by partnering with local merchants, and be sure you are upfront on prices and additional charges.
  3. Collaboration – Many hotels are already having guests collaborate by using their photos in marketing and engaging them with social media contests. Lots of people feel invested in an area they enjoyed on vacation, even after they have left. Guests who have enjoyed a fantastic experience at your hotel may be interested in putting “Best Of” lists together for future guests. Hosting a contest around this may give them a little more incentive.

The Effect of Technology on the Guest Experience

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Our friends at Software Advice, known as a free source for reviews of hotel management technology, released a report this week on how US customers feel about technology offerings in hotels with these key findings:

  1. A combined 60 percent of respondents are “more likely” to choose a hotel that allows guests to check in and open doors with a smartphone than a hotel that doesn’t.
  2. On average, 13 percent of smartwatch owners ages 18 to 34 are “much more likely” to book a hotel with smartwatch technology than one without.
  3. A combined 37 percent of respondents are at least “moderately likely” to choose a hotel with lobby technology, such as touchscreens and check-in kiosks, over one without.
  4. A total of 41 percent are likely, to varying degrees, to choose a hotel with facial recognition technology that can identify guests and enhance personalization.
  5. Forty percent of respondents say that the primary benefit of hospitality technology should be to reduce travel costs.

As our Head of Strategy and Alignment, Gene Hopper, says, today’s travelers have come to expect a certain level of new technology in hotels. Consumers who are growing accustomed to doing anything from shopping to ordering pizza through mobile apps are comfortable using their phone to interact with staff, order food, and even make payments. Technology has always been a rapid-change sector, and the devices on the market now, as well as those expected in the near future, are seeing adoption and use faster than ever.

But what is technology about in a hotel? It is not to give the guests something to play with for novelty’s sake. Hospitality technology should not break from the heart of the industry. It should surprise and delight guests by being easy to find and use, helpful across the entire guest journey, and enhancing (not inhibiting) face to face interactions with hotel staff.

Way-finding technology is becoming a game-changer for hotel technologies, and should see an increase when wearables become key players. For guests, this means easy access to great directions to their hotel, up-to-date construction and parking information, and local information. Inside the hotel, this technology can direct guests to the amenities they seek, point out interesting highlights, and even offer real time coupons and special offers as a guest walks past a particular area of the hotel.

So the real idea here is that technology facilitates moments of delight and stories for guests to tell their friends that have always been a goal for those in the hotel business. These are the moments that bring guests back to a hotel and bringing others with them.

To find out more, view the entire report here.

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