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QR Code Menus: A Step-By-Step Guide for Hotels & Restaurants

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 day ago

Searching for ways to engage with guests in the post-pandemic world? Looking to streamline your restaurant operations? Or just curious to dig into the data and learn more about your customers’ ordering behavior? QR code menus offer solutions for all of these needs, and they’re rapidly growing in popularity in all types of hospitality businesses, from hotels and restaurants to concert venues and sports arenas. Perhaps you’ve even used a contactless menu as a customer! QR code menus bring a lot of benefits that physical menus don't provide, so you might be wondering how you can implement them in your own business. The restaurant industry (and hospitality in general) has undergone a massive digital transformation in the wake of the pandemic but these are not short lived trends - they are long term shifts in how we do business. This article offers everything you need to know about QR code menus; we’ll explain the upsides and downsides, and walk you through the implementation process. By the end of this article, you’ll be ready to launch your own QR code menu strategy.   What is a QR Code Menu? Let’s start by defining what exactly is a QR code menu. A QR code menu is a digital menu which you can access by scanning a QR code with your smartphone. When you scan the QR code, your smartphone will open a webpage where your menu is hosted. Many restaurants place QR codes directly on tabletops, on small paper cards, or on plastic placards. A hotel could display a QR code on the front desk or somewhere in every guestroom. Each QR code directs to a unique webpage, so, for example, you could configure one QR code to direct to your lunch menu and another to direct to your dinner menu. Unlike traditional paper menus, digital QR code menus can offer functionality besides simply showing menu items, such as the ability to pay or submit feedback. And these digital menus can deliver a slew of benefits for restaurant owners, managers, staff, and guests that make them a nice upgrade from paper menus.   Key Benefits of QR Code Menus Why would a restaurateur forgo paper menus for QR code menus? Let’s explore the most compelling benefits that these tech-enabled menus can provide. Easy to modify: One reason that restaurateurs love working with digital menus is that any menu changes can be completed with just a few clicks and published immediately. Run out of a menu item? You can simply hide it from the digital menu. Need to fix a typo? No need to reprint the menus. Want to adjust pricing based on day of week and meal period? That’s all possible with digital menus.  Beautiful and strategic menu design: In addition to seamless changes, QR code menus are designed to be as easy to read as possible, and you can take advantage of promotional tools that let you highlight specials or recommended pairings. Safe and contactless: In light of the pandemic, customer preferences have shifted overwhelmingly toward contactless options, and restaurant menus are no exception. Customers don’t want to touch the same paper menu that other guests have just handled. QR codes let your customers access the menu while only touching their own smartphone. Cost- and time-savings: When your staff don’t need to print and organize paper menus, they will have more time to interact with customers or take care of other side work. In addition, QR code menus enable quicker turnover of tables since  More eco-friendly: Are your guests conscious of their impact on the environment? Unlike paper menus which must be thrown away after use or anytime the menu changes, digital menus have no environmental consequences.  Faster service: In a quick-service restaurant setting where customers order at a counter, or at a busy bar, QR code menus can enable customers to browse the menu at their own pace without needing to interact with a server first. Eliminating the need to ask for a menu can accelerate the speed of service. Collection of customer data: Some digital menu platforms come with a suite of analytical features. You might be curious to see how much time customers spend on each menu page, or perhaps you want to test a few variations of photos, formatting, or menu descriptions. Digital menus can offer insight into customer behavior in ways paper menus cannot.   Considerations for QR Code Menu Decisions It’s important to note that QR code menus are not the perfect solution for every business. Before deciding to switch away from paper menus, you’ll want to think carefully about some possible downsides. First, in some restaurants, paper menus are part of the experience. A Michelin-starred establishment might want to continue using high-quality paper menus while crafting a romantic ambiance with no smartphones in sight. In this case, QR code menus would actually detract from the experience. In addition, if your restaurant guests aren’t very tech-savvy, or if your restaurant doesn’t have a strong cell signal, then QR code menus might cause more problems than they solve. In addition, be mindful that introducing any new feature, like digital menus, will require training and at least a few days to get accustomed to the system, so you probably don’t want to launch your QR code menu during peak periods.   How to Implement QR Code Menus If the benefits of QR codes sound appealing to you and you’re excited about using them in your venue, you’re probably wondering where to start. Let’s outline the process to implement QR code menus, starting from the beginning. Decide what functionality you need. QR code menu platforms range from simple to complex. Is your restaurant a no-frills counter-serve joint that only has a few menu options? Maybe a simple QR code menu would be best. Or maybe your restaurant has several different menus for different day parts, and you’re interested in as much analytical muscle as possible. Then you might want to opt for a cutting-edge digital menu system with all the bells and whistles that offers integrations with your other on-site software. Do you need a POS integration, PMS integration or just mobile wallet and credit card processing checkout.  Different mobile ordering systems serve different use cases.  Regardless of the dining experience at your establishment you should be thinking about digital menus as a strategy and not just an online menu PDF. Understand your budget. How much do you want to spend? The most basic QR code tools are free, or you can pay a monthly subscription or small percentage of sales for more robust functionality.  With free QR code menus typically  you get what you pay for (or don't).  PDF food menus typically mean that you can't save cost on labor, can't monetize through highly profitable digital upsells.  In most use cases more premium partners have very strong ROIs - just look at what industry sweethearts like Sweetgreen, Dominos and Starbucks have been able to do by investing in digital. Choose a system. Once you’ve decided what you’re looking for, it’s time to choose a software vendor. If you’re going the low-cost "cheap and dirty" route, you might opt for Eater.Menu or HappyTable. For more sophisticated mobile ordering technology with integrations and checkout/payments via contactless QR code menus, you’ll want to look into Bbot, Crave, and RoomOrders. Each system has a slightly different user experience, so we recommend taking advantage of some free demos to try a system before you buy it. Create your menus. Now for the fun part! You can now start building your digital menus. You’ll want to add menu item descriptions, pricing, and upload photos if the system allows. You might want to create separate menus for different meal periods, drinks, desserts, and more. Some systems let you highlight special offers or seasonal menu items, so you can leverage some marketing tactics. Other systems might simply prompt you to upload a PDF menu. Train your staff. Before putting your QR codes into the wild, you’ll want to train your staff so they are familiar with the system and can help guests use it. For example, if a guest is less tech-savvy, your staff should be able to help them access the menu. In addition, you can train managers on the process for making updates to the menu. Display your QR codes. Customers can only scan your QR codes if they can find them, so you’ll want to show the codes in convenient, obvious spots, like on tabletops or inserts within plastic displays. Modify your menu as needed. After launch, anytime you need to make menu changes, you just need to update the digital version. Eager to bring QR code menus to your hotel, restaurant, or venue? There’s no better time to give customers a safe, contactless, and user-friendly way to access your menu.

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The 5 Steps to Ensure Success When Investing in Hotel Tech

by
Pilar Caballero
4 days ago

Investing in new technology can be a daunting and even a tiresome process. Too often, when new features or devices are added to a property, issues arise because their new tech and existing tech don’t communicate properly. If any aspect of a new system or third party application doesn’t integrate seamlessly with your tech stack, the back-end can become fragmented creating a myriad of frustrating technical issues for staff and guests. To make choosing the right solution for your property a bit easier, below is a checklist of key points to consider. 1. Check your Wifi Before you adopt additional third party applications, make sure you have the network architecture and bandwidth to support them. Too often properties bite off more than they can chew by trying to implement tech their network setup simply can’t handle. It may not be the app solution that is ineffective, but rather a weak WiFi network that prevents the full use of a new tech application. So before you try to get your new tech up and running, find out if you have suitable bandwidth to handle system traffic and suitable WiFi to handle guests' needs. You may need to invest in the next generation of network technology, or simply fix a specific problem. If you ensure you have the proper IT infrastructure in place beforehand, the implementation process will go far more smoothly. 2. Check In With Your Team It’s not uncommon for an IT team to get left out of the conversation when it comes to signing new tech deals. To avoid future integration pain points, double check with your IT team to make sure the new tech you’re investing in will be able to work well with your established systems. Including the IT team in tech discussions before purchasing a solution may help prevent future integration roadblocks.   3. Check Up On You Potential Vendor Find a vendor who’s tech plays well with others. Just like no piece of tech is an island, no vendor should be either. When scoping out a new vendor, here are a few questions to ask: Do they integrate with all of the critical systems your property uses on a regular basis? Are their integrations certified or otherwise validated with other vendors? Each new feature or device you consider adopting should build off your current tech stack.  You can reduce future headaches choosing a vendor who prioritizes being a team player. For a more comprehensive list of questions to ask potential vendors, check out this connected vendor one-sheet. 4. Check To See if Data Can Be Shared Across Systems Don’t let the guest information you collect be stagnant—invest in integrations that will provide deep customer insights. Being able to integrate customer data from various vendors enables hotels to gain clearer insights into each guest and be able to provide a personalized hotel experience during and after their hotel stay. More often than not, customer data is siloed in a hotel’s various technologies and disparate systems preventing a full view of each customer and a lost opportunity to promote services tailored to a particular customer.   5. Check in With You Guests And finally, don’t forget to tell your guests what they have access to. Too often hotels assume their customers already know that they have a hotel guest app when in reality guests have no clue. Not only do you need to market your hotel app to your guests but you also need to highlight the app’s features and how to use them. You can promote your hotel app before your guest even reaches the hotel via confirmation emails. You can also link to your app through a welcome email, that can direct your guest straight to the check-in page, home page, or even to an in-app tutorial video.   Once you make sure your vendor integrates well with others, and your connected systems are in place, you can get the most out of your hotel’s tech, enhance the guest experience and streamline your back-of-the- house operations.  

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30+ Stats that Show Hotel Self Check-in Kiosks are the Way of the Future

by
Hotel Tech Report
6 days ago

Searching for a way to handle more check-ins with fewer staff members? Or seeking to take on-property experience to the next level with shorter wait times and technology that will dazzle your guests? The future of hospitality is a lot closer than you might think: self check-in kiosks are becoming more popular, and when we look at statistics from airline, retail, and restaurant industries, it’s easy to see why. Across a variety of settings from quick-service restaurants to supermarkets to sports stadiums, self-service and tech-driven solutions can drive results like reduced wait times, higher order values, and overall satisfaction. In this article, we’ll show how self-service and contactless technology can elevate not only the consumer experience, but also the experience as a hotel guest. Self-service options in hotels can include not only check-in kiosks, but also a range of contactless options like digital room keys and tap-to-pay technology. By the end of this article, you’ll be excited about the benefits your hotel can realize by adopting self check-in kiosks or similar tech features. After introducing automated passport control kiosks at customs control points, both JFK and Newark Airports saw a 22% decrease in wait times from 2013 to 2014. During the same timeframe, other airports that did not install kiosks saw no decrease in wait times. This trend can be translated into the hotel industry, meaning that self-service options can make any type of check-in process more efficient, and shorter wait times generally boost guest satisfaction. A 2019 study found that, in quick service restaurants, 30% of customers preferred to order from a kiosk rather than a cashier if lines were equal length. In restaurants, customers have quickly adapted to tech-enabled, self-service options, which shows that hotel guests would likely be quick to adopt self-service options too. 49.4% of retail customers use self-service checkouts because they find the experience to be faster, while 34.7% use them because they have shorter lines, according to a survey by PYMTS. Like shoppers, hotel guests may prefer to arrive or depart your hotel at their own pace. When the Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles installed kiosks to handle concessions orders, average order value increased by 20%. If your hotel is seeking to increase average check at your F&B outlets or boost conversion on add-ons like late check-out, kiosks could be a great solution to help you achieve those goals. Nearly 50% of supermarket customers say they use self check-out options on at least 75% of their shopping trips, while a further 30% say they opt for self check-out on about half of shopping trips. Like in restaurants, consumers show a preference for kiosks, but it’s important to note that there will always be exceptions. In hotels, we can expect some guests to still prefer interacting with a front desk agent, even if a majority go for self-service options. Two-thirds of consumers who use self checkout options choose self checkout because they believe it to be faster than a standard cashier check-out lane. When guests are in a hurry, they might get frustrated if the only option to check in or out is to wait in a long line of other guests. These guests may prefer a faster self-service option. According to a 2019 study, younger consumers show a stronger preference for self-service checkout options than their baby boomer counterparts; 59% of 18- to 34-year-olds reported using self checkouts regularly, while 39% of 55- to 65-year-old reported using them regularly. If your hotel is trying to engage a younger demographic, self-service solutions for checking in and out can be a great way to deliver the experience this group desires. COVID-19 accelerated a widespread shift away from cash payments and toward contactless payments via ApplePay and GooglePay. A survey conducted by Rapyd found that 60% of consumers plan on using contactless methods instead of cash, which, for hoteliers, means guests can check themselves and pay for their stays on a kiosk, rather than relying on front desk staff to handle cash. Contactless payment isn’t just growing in popularity in the US; a recent Mastercard study showed that 79% of consumers worldwide, and 91% in the Asia-Pacific region, opt for tap-to-go payment methods instead of physical cards or cash. Hotels that welcome many international travelers, especially those traveling from Asia, can meet the preferences and expectations of these travelers by offering contactless payment options. In the same Mastercard study, a majority of respondents cited cleanliness as the main reason for their preference toward contactless payments. In your hotel, guests can feel more comfortable checking in and out if they can use contactless methods instead of handing their credit cards to a front desk agent to swipe. Citing COVID-19 as the impetus for a shift in payment preferences, a 2020 McKinsey study found that 78% of Amercians use some type of digital payment, such as digital wallets (ApplePay, etc.), in-app purchases, or scanning a QR code to pay. This statistic is important for hoteliers because it shows that consumers are comfortable using digital payments like what a self-service kiosk would require. 65% of consumers feel that contactless methods align with their priorities for health and safety. Hotel guests are already conscious of cleanliness initiatives at your property, so offering a contactless way to check in and out can make guests feel even more comfortable during their stays. 34% of consumers say that contactless options will continue to be important after the pandemic is over, showing that contactless solutions like kiosks are here to stay. As a hotelier, if you’re on the fence about investing in kiosks now, know that they will stay relevant even after the pandemic is no longer a concern. Contactless payment methods are quickly becoming widespread in hotels; in a 2020 study, 43% of hoteliers had already implemented contactless payment options on-site.  In restaurants, the common rule of thumb is that one self-service ordering kiosk can handle the same volume as 1.5 cashiers could. Translating this statistic to a hotel context, if you were to add two check-in kiosks to your front desk, you could either eliminate the need to hire three front desk agents, or you could redistribute the responsibilities of those three front desk agents to other tasks or departments. According to a roundup of self-service success stories in Harvard Business Review, Taco Bell’s average order value increased by 20% after the chain implemented in-app ordering. Taco Bell said the reason for the increase was because customers were more likely to order add-ons. In hotels, this same trend could appear; hotel guests may be more likely to purchase upgrades or add-ons like late checkout via a self-service platform than at the front desk. But it’s not only restaurants that saw growth in order value; after Cinemark launched self-service kiosks in their theatres, concession sales per person grew consistently for 32 quarters (as of 2015). This statistic makes it obvious that the benefits of self-service ordering aren’t confined to restaurant technology, so hoteliers like you can be confident you’ll also find guests to spend more money on property if self-service options are available. A study conducted by Oracle Hospitality found that sports fans were happy to spend an additional $20 on food and drinks if they could spend half as long in line. In hotels, we can expect that guests would be more likely to order a drink at the lobby bar or splurge on an upgrade if they didn’t have to wait so long in the line at the front desk; self-service kiosks can shorten those lengthy wait times. At McDonald’s and other quick-service restaurants, order accuracy is higher for orders placed on a kiosk compared to orders placed with a cashier. In your hotel, requests submitted via a digital platform like a kiosk or app can be handled more accurately than those submitted over the phone or by guests walking up to a busy front desk, where staff could easily forget to write it down or follow through. Consumers don’t just want to pay for purchases in a self-service way, but also get answers. A recent study by SOTI showed that 70% of consumers expect a self-service method to resolve questions and complaints. This is a powerful statistic for hoteliers, since it shows guests don’t always need to head to a front desk agent to find resolution; with a kiosk or other self-service option, guests could resolve their own complaints. Furthermore, guests with simpler questions could handle them self-service, while front desk agents would have more time to tackle trickier situations. Servion Global Services predicts that artificial intelligence will power 95% of customer service interactions by 2025. For hoteliers, this means that guests will become accustomed to interacting with kiosks, chatbots, or similar tech-powered services in all other aspects of their lives, and they’ll expect the same standard in hotels. Artificial intelligence is already quickly becoming a regular part of our daily lives; in 2018 just 21% of people interacted with AI daily, while in 2020 a whopping 54% of people reported daily interactions with AI. These numbers show not only consumers’ growing comfort with AI and self-service technology, but also just how fast technology is adopted by the public. Hoteliers can be confident that people will continue to expect more tech-powered options in the near future. According to McKinsey, businesses could free up 69% of their time by automating data processing tasks. Front desk agents, for example, spend hours swiping credit cards, inputting contact information, and compiling reports. A self-service kiosk could automate many of these tasks, enabling front desk agents to focus on more meaningful guest interactions. After the widespread rollout of ATMs, the number of bank teller positions decreased, but the job was not eliminated completely. Between 2020 and 2030 the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 17% fewer tellers will be needed. This shows that technology doesn’t make human interactions totally irrelevant, so even if your hotel adopts kiosks, there will still be opportunity for front desk agents to build relationships with guests, although you may benefit from lower labor costs. Bank customers who use a self-service kiosk can do their banking activities with a 13.5x shorter wait time than those who work with a teller. The average wait time for a teller is 9 minutes, while kiosk wait times are around 40 seconds. In hotels, guests could also enjoy significantly shorter wait times if they use a self-service kiosk to check in or out. McDonald’s predicted that rolling out kiosks in their restaurants would boost sales by 5 to 6% in the first year. Hoteliers should note that in addition to a likely increase in guest satisfaction, kiosks can deliver revenue growth because consumers tend to spend more money on transactions handled on a kiosk. McDonald’s found that their customers tend to spend more time perusing menu options at a kiosk versus when standing in front of the cashier, and with this extra “dwell time,” customers are more likely to order additional menu items or add-ons, increasing average check size. Hoteliers could realize the same benefits; guests might want a little extra time to read about upgrade options before deciding to buy the upgrade. People are more likely to make “hedonistic” and experiential purchases on a touchscreen, a 2017 study found. A combination of the tactile nature of touchscreen use and consumers’ thinking styles makes us associate touchscreens with fun. When hotel guests are on vacation, they’re already in the experiential mindset, so offering touchscreen options (like kiosks or tablets) for upgrades or room service orders can increase purchase volume. The global market for self-service kiosks in all industries grew by 11.8% between 2019 and 2020, showing that even though the pandemic depressed outlooks for many industries, businesses are continuing to adopt self-service kiosks. For hoteliers, now is a great time to jump on the self-service kiosk trend and realize the revenue-boosting and cost-saving benefits. Hoteliers are already planning for the future of self-service functionality. In a 2020 survey, 27% of hoteliers had already implemented or were in process of implementing self check-in options, and a further 42% were planning to add self check-in in the future. Ready to bring your check-in operations to the next level? By implementing self-service kiosks or similar tech-enabled solutions, you can boost guest satisfaction, decrease wait times, and increase incremental revenue at your hotel.

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16 Key Features to Look for in a Hotel Housekeeping Software

by
Luka Berger
1 week ago

When choosing a new hotel tech solution, Housekeeping software is definitely a more complex and delicate one. It impacts a department that represents the most significant operating costs center and at the same time has an impact on the most critical service quality of a hotel - cleanliness. Furthermore, staff members that use housekeeping software might not be as tech-savvy as others, which means the chosen solution must be highly user-friendly. The key here is to find housekeeping software that, in the first place, caters to housekeepers to make their job easier while also delivering all needed KPIs for the hotel and its management. With that in mind, let’s look at 16 key features that your chosen housekeeping software has to offer. 1. Automated daily housekeeping schedules: Creating daily housekeeping schedules is the first task every housekeeping manager has to do in the morning. It is also one of the most time-consuming tasks that can take up to 1h and 30 mins per day. To make a daily room cleaning schedule, housekeeping managers must juggle different room types, occupancies, guests, and their extra wishes. Then they have to distribute all that complexity in a way that makes sure that housekeepers have their work cut out equally between themselves. It is a task that can be simply automated and executed in only a second by good housekeeping software, saving up to 100% of the time. 2. Future scheduling of housekeeping staff and their schedules: The housekeeping department is one of the most significant contributors to the costs side of the P&L so having your housekeeping schedules optimized and planned out for the future is vital. Good housekeeping software will have this covered and will enable you to automatically schedule housekeepers and daily schedules as far in the future as you have booked reservations. 3. Real-time updates about reservations and guests: Real-time updates about changes to reservations and guests are essential pieces of information that housekeepers need. If guests move between rooms, shorten or prolong their stay, check-in or out of a room, all of this needs to be promptly communicated to housekeepers. This way they are not losing time by moving around the hotel figuring out which room they can clean next. More importantly, they are disturbing guests with the famous SOP that goes: Knock, knock, housekeeping. 4. Training pictures, checklists, and video SOPs: If you want to maintain high standards and quality of your housekeeping team’s work, you have to equip them with knowledge. Pictures, digital housekeeping SOP’s and checklists are three of the most important and effective training tools you can provide your housekeepers with. Again, good housekeeping software will provide all of these tools, making it easy for your housekeepers to double-check if they have completed all necessary tasks to the highest standard. 5. Lost & Found management: Guests forget things all the time. That means that hotel staff, especially housekeepers, have to manage lost and found items all the time. Recording, storing, managing, and updating information about lost and found objects can be very time-consuming, or it can be effortless through a housekeeping software tool. 6. The ability to easily report maintenance issues: Your housekeepers are the absolute crucial source of information for promptly catching and fixing maintenance issues in hotel rooms. The difference between making it easy or hard for housekeepers to report these issues can mean the difference between a happy and unhappy guest. But also the difference between high and low (preventive) maintenance costs. Quick and easy maintenance issue reporting is one of the absolute vital features your housekeeping and maintenance staff need to get within housekeeping software. 7. Team communication for daily updates and extra tasks: Like in any other organization, a hotel team (including the housekeeping department) needs to communicate to stay updated about ongoing daily events and do their work efficiently. On top of that, housekeepers need to deliver many ad hoc guest service requests, like extra towels, pillows, birthday gifts, etc. A real-time task management and team communication feature covers this area perfectly, and it needs to be a part of the chosen housekeeping software. 8. A pre-arrival housekeeping room inspection: This is the most important quality assurance measure for room cleanliness and consequent guest satisfaction. A detailed room inspection can easily have over one hundred steps to check to ensure the room is spotless. Digital checklists make all the difference here. When something needs fixing, the housekeeping software will send an automatic task to the responsible person without the need to make extra notes or phone calls. The best part is that every inspection you do is automatically transformed into detailed, actionable analytics to improve staff training, processes, and the overall quality of work. 9. Automated linen counting: In case your linen management approach relies on counting the number of linens and towels that have gone to the washing room, you have to look for an automated linen counting feature. It is one of the easiest and most effective ways to make this process more accurate and efficient and save your housekeeping team a lot of time (up to 2 hours per day) 10. Minibar reporting: Another feature that drives efficiency and saves costs is enabling your housekeepers to post minibar consumption directly to the guests’ accounts. It fastens the information flow about minibar consumption, makes it easy and more efficient to restock the minibar, and, most importantly - lowers the value of the lost postings. It is also one of the fastest and easiest ways to gain analytics about your guests’ behavior and preferences related to your minibar menu. 11. Integrated language translations for staff communication: The bigger the hotel, the bigger the number of different nationalities in the housekeeping team. The challenge that comes along with this is that housekeeping managers do not have a way to communicate with their housekeepers, who often don’t speak the local language. So having an integrated language translation feature that translates any task or message into the housekeeper's native language is an absolute must for any modern housekeeping software solution. 12. PMS integrationIntegrating housekeeping software and a Property Management System (PMS) is probably one of the most value-adding integrations in the hotel software industry. The PMS provides housekeeping software with regular updates regarding reservations and guests, enabling housekeeping teams to maximize their performance. The other way around,  housekeeping software is the source of updates on all things daily operations, feeding these back to the PMS system and the front office team. It’s an integration that enables the whole hotel team to stay up to date and operate more efficiently. 13. Smart room integration: If you have an intelligent system in place that lets you know when a guest is in the room, if a window is open, or even more information, then make sure your chosen housekeeping software can integrate with it. Data like these can mean that your housekeeping team will further optimize their daily work process and ensure guests are never disturbed. 14. Housekeeper oriented user interface (UI): Housekeepers are often not the most tech-savvy people because their job position does not include a lot of technology. That’s why it’s so important that the housekeeping software they use is as simple as possible. It should make their work easier and save them time. Too often, housekeepers have to do extra steps just to update a room status. But if the chosen solution is not catering to housekeepers, they won’t know how to use it, or worse, they will not want to use it. That means your hotel won’t get all the benefits from the software and there will be a lose-lose situation. Keep your housekeepers in mind and make sure your housekeeping software has the most easy-to-use interface that makes their lives easier. 15. Room status updates: When all the work is done - mark the room as clean. Or as inspected. Or any other status if you might have a multi-step cleaning process. Of course, it is a default feature of any housekeeping software. 16. (Actionable) Housekeeping analytics: Housekeeping analytics is not just about knowing how long it takes to clean a room. They need to provide detailed information from all possible angles to understand your housekeeping department’s actual performance. For example, how long it takes to clean a room doesn’t tell you a lot if you also don’t know how many guests were staying in that room, where they were from if they had small children with them, or used extra amenities. Also, who was the housekeeper cleaning the room, what were their most frequent cleaning mistakes? And then you need to receive all of this information in the form of proactive and precise reports, enabling you to understand which of your staff need more training, what amenities are requested more frequently, who is not doing his job, and essentially - how well your operations are performing.    

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ALICE Front of House: An Integrated Guest Services and Communication Platform

by
Hotel Tech Report
3 weeks ago

As a hotelier, you know that the process to deliver excellent service is very different today than it was just a few years ago. In the pre-COVID era, perhaps your hotel was buzzing with business travelers, and you had plenty of staff available to assist with any guest request. Contactless service wasn’t the norm yet, so your staff had to be hands-on with everything from check-in to check-out. You might have even had a full team of front desk agents, concierges, and PBX operators with clearly defined roles. Fast forward to today, and your hotel probably looks and feels very different. Business travel hasn’t fully rebounded yet, and it might never reach pre-2020 levels. Your hotel is likely relying on a larger share of leisure guests, who can be more demanding than the corporate road warriors. Your team is probably smaller too; many hotels were forced to downsize and streamline roles when the pandemic hit. Now that hoteliers are hiring again, many can’t fill their open roles due to workforce shortages. And the way you deliver service has changed. Guests today are less comfortable with face-to-face interaction, so your hotel might be trying to pivot toward contactless, tech-forward solutions for communication and operations. How can your hotel adapt to and thrive amid these new challenges and expectations? We spoke with ​​Dmitry Koltunov, ALICE’s co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, and got a sneak peek into ALICE’s new Front of House, an integrated solution for front-of-house staff like front desk agents and concierges. In hotels where staff wear many hats and juggle more tasks than ever, ALICE’s new solution can help front office teams deliver five-star service, communicate efficiently, and even drive profitability. How does it work? Let’s explore ALICE Front of House.   ALICE Front of House at a Glance All-in-one communication and task management platform that combines functionality for front desk agents, PBX operators, and concierges in one central place Messaging tool for social media, SMS, and in-app communication, eliminating the need to monitor multiple inboxes Ticketing system for internal requests to ensure follow-through Concierge-style database of local recommendations and branded itinerary-building tools Logs to understand and track each step in the guest journey Opportunities to drive ancillary revenue, upgrades, and upsells to increase profitability  Technology to enable staff to deliver high-touch, personalized service in a more efficient manner   All-in-One Solution for Front Office Staff If your staff handles communication with guests in one (or more) systems, guest requests in another, and concierge activities in yet another system, then you might appreciate the structure of ALICE Front of House. The software combines these three functions into one platform that can manage all front office activities. ALICE Front of House offers functionality for front desk agents, PBX, and concierges, but even if your hotel doesn’t have those distinct roles, you’ll still find value in it. The system is designed for hotels with limited staff who need to perform a variety of duties throughout their shifts, such as actioning a guest’s request for more towels, booking a restaurant reservation, and responding to a text from a future guest.. ALICE recognizes that the front desk experience is evolving, and guests expect to get high-quality service from anywhere in the hotel. And, they expect it to be delivered virtually - not only from a staff member behind the physical front desk. ALICE Front of House is built to free guest services from the confines of the front desk; with this system, front desk staff can fulfill requests submitted from guests’ smartphones, respond to social media and SMS messages, and help a guest purchase tour tickets while chatting with them on the pool deck.   Comprehensive Inbox for all Messaging Channels ALICE Front of House allow your staff to communicate with guests across all channels in one consolidated inbox. The inbox can handle SMS, social media, and messages sent from within the guest-facing ALICE dashboard. Users can see full conversation history allowing conversations to continue seamlessly across shifts and communication channels. Teams don’t need to worry about forgetting to respond to a message.   Ticketing System Turn Conversations into Tasks In studying usage of ALICE’s existing guest messaging tool, the team noticed that messages from guests often required follow-up by another department. As Dmitry explains, “guests were no longer simply asking for information about the hotel. A messaging conversation would usually lead to a request being made, and effectively delivering on that request would make or break the guest experience.” ALICE Front of House leverages ALICE Service Delivery as a ticketing module for efficient task management and accountability. For example, if a guest sends a message to request extra coffee pods in their room, the front desk agent who receives that message can create a task for the housekeeping team to deliver the coffee pods to the guest’s room. The housekeeping team receives the request and acts on it, and the housekeeper who completed the request marks it as complete in the system. The front desk team can also receive a notification that the task has been completed so they can inform the guest. Without such a system in place, the front desk agent might need to call or radio the housekeeping team about the request, opening an opportunity for human error or miscommunications. ALICE Front of House ensures follow-through and stores task data for reporting purposes, too.   Allow Any Staff Member to Deliver Concierge Services Although many hotels have scaled down concierge service in the wake of the pandemic, guests still crave tailored service and assistance planning their trips. Dmitry notes that “concierge services in hotels are still in demand, but asynchronous messaging is becoming the new luxury. People still want to feel like they are being cared for, but they do not want that to affect their personal time or space.” Guests want to be in control of how and when they interact with staff. They don’t want to have to pick up the phone or wait in line at the front desk. To satisfy these new guest preferences, ALICE Front of House enables any staff member to provide concierge services and lets staff help multiple guests at one time through asynchronous communication. ALICE’s Guest Services module houses a database of local recommendations and integrations with OpenTable and Local. This module can also produce branded itineraries, which staff can easily send via the messaging module through the guest’s preferred communication channel. By giving staff members the tools to curate a personalized itinerary and communicate with guests how and when they prefer, you can foster deeper relationships with guests and increase overall satisfaction at your property.   Logs Provide Insight into Each Step of the Guest Experience As you can see from the Guest Messaging, Guest Services, and Service Delivery modules of ALICE Front of House, the guest journey involves many different touchpoints and interactions with several staff members. How can you see a bird’s-eye view of the guest’s stay? The logs created in ALICE Front of House can give you an accurate picture of the guest experience from beginning to end. Not only is this data important for analytical purposes, like to study how many requests your team completes on a weekly basis, but you can also pinpoint where and why a guest might have had a subpar experience, so that you can improve for future stays. For instance, if a guest left a negative review after check-out because they were upset that nobody replaced the broken TV in their room, you could review the messages exchanged between the guest and your team and learn that no rooms with the same bed types were available to move the guest to, so your front desk manager offered the guest a $50 F&B credit as compensation for the inconvenience. Without an integrated system to track these types of messages and requests, it would be much harder to find opportunities for improvement and trends in the guest experience.   Revenue-Boosting Tools for Upgrades and Upsells Responding to guest messages might seem like simple administrative work, but ALICE Front of House shows that you can actually leverage guest messaging as a tool to capture incremental revenue. As demonstrated in their case study with Clarion Hotel The Hub in Oslo, Norway, ALICE proved that strategic use of messages can lead to an uplift not only in revenue, but also in loyalty and review scores. In the midst of the pandemic, The Hub started sending personalized text messages after guests arrived to ask if they needed anything to make their stay more enjoyable. The Hub’s team created special add-on packages, like a Date Night package with a bottle of wine and a Lazy Mornings package with breakfast delivery, which guests could purchase. Over the course of the summer months of 2020, after implementing this strategy, The Hub had generated $1.3 million in ancillary revenue through these packages, which were only advertised via SMS.   Deliver High-Touch and Personalized Service A common misconception about implementing technology in hotels is that technology will totally replace warm, personalized service. Actually, the opposite is true! When hotels use technology like ALICE Front of House, staff can deliver better service because they can manage guest relationships and interactions more efficiently. Dmitry explains that “there is a massive opportunity for hotels in getting this right. Rather than automating the relationship, there is an opportunity to deepen it.” By leveraging tools like guest messaging and request assignments, your staff can ensure nothing slips through the cracks and that every guest enjoys seamless service from pre-arrival to post-stay. As you work through staff shortages, budget constraints, and changing guest expectations, technology can also help your staff do more with less. Curious to see how ALICE Front of House can enhance your guest experience? Give it a try today.   This content was created collaboratively by ALICE and Hotel Tech Report

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Google's Free Hotel Booking Links: Here's What You Need to Know

by
Hotel Tech Report
3 weeks ago

Wondering how to get more direct bookings without a massive advertising budget? Google recently announced that hoteliers can get free links in their hotel metasearch results. Perhaps this is the first time you’ve heard about this free listing program, or maybe you’re looking for more information on the benefits and risks.  In this article, we’ll explain exactly what Google’s free hotel booking links mean, how you can set them up, and what potential advantages and disadvantages the program brings. Millions of guests begin their travel research by seeking out the best rate via Google search and free booking link integration partners are going to be featured front and center in this new feature to drive more business through their direct channel without needing to pay for Google ads.  By the end of this article, you’ll know how to proceed, whether or not you’ve used Google Hotel Ads in the past.   What are Google’s Free Hotel Booking Links? Let’s take a step back and explain Google Hotel Ads, the official name for Google’s metasearch product. When you search for a specific hotel on Google, you’ll see results that show rates and availability, similar to what you would see on another price comparison site like Kayak or Trivago. These results pull in rates and availability for the given hotel from online travel agencies like Booking.com and Expedia, plus the hotel’s own website might appear. These results are Google Hotel Ads, with the exception of free hotel booking links, which we’ll explain in a moment.     In the metasearch module, which is where you can see the rates and availability from the various sites, you can plug in dates and the number of guests to get accurate pricing and availability.     So how do the OTAs appear in these results? How is the order of sites determined? The simple answer is that the OTAs pay to play in Google’s metasearch results. Expedia and Booking.com spend billions of dollars each year bidding on placement in these results by bidding on the best position and paying a cost per click, which is usually between $1 and $3. For many small, independent hoteliers, metasearch was an expensive marketing avenue, and some hotels opted to skip it because they couldn’t compete with the OTAs’ deep pockets. However, that all changed when Google announced their free booking links program in March 2021, which gave hoteliers a chance to participate in metasearch without the ad spend requirement. Now, hoteliers can include a link to their direct booking engine in the Google metasearch results with no cost per click. The free links usually show below the paid OTA links, so shoppers might need to click “View more rates” to see them, but sometimes they do appear in the top four links.     How Can You Take Advantage of Google’s Free Hotel Booking Links? Google is quickly becoming a powerful player in the online travel marketplace. For hotels who participate in metasearch, it’s not uncommon for Google to make up 90% of their metasearch production, surpassing the production of other sites like Tripadvisor and Trivago. There’s no denying that Google is a huge source of traffic, so you’re probably wondering how you can set up free hotel booking links for your hotel. The good news is that configuring your free hotel booking links is pretty straightforward when you use one of Google’s preferred connectivity vendors. First, you need to ensure that you have claimed and verified your hotel’s Google My Business listing. The Google My Business listing is the same as your Google Maps listing. You can easily claim the listing online on business.google.com. If you need to verify the listing, you will likely need to complete a verification process over the phone or by verifying receipt of a postcard that Google sends to your property’s address.     Once you’ve claimed and verified your GMB listing, then you can work with your connectivity vendor (your channel manager or property management system) to link your hotel’s rates and availability with Google. Google has partnered with dozens of systems, like Sabre, Siteminder, and protel, and the complete list is available here. Your specific software will have their own connection process, but it’s usually quick and easy. After you’ve completed the connection, you will be able to see your rates and availability in Google’s metasearch results - no ad campaign needed. Do you already use Google Hotel Ads? Then you can also take advantage of the free booking links. Google allows hotels to run both paid ads and free booking links, so you can double your exposure in the results. You’ll only pay for clicks on your ad link, while clicks on the free booking link are totally free.   Benefits of Using Free Hotel Booking Links on Google Hotels that leverage Google’s free booking links can realize several key benefits: more visibility to potential guests, more direct bookings, and potentially lower marketing costs. It’s no secret that a lot of travelers end up on Google at some point in their travel booking process. You can think of Google as another shelf where you can showcase your product, just as Booking.com, Expedia, and Tripadvisor serve the same purpose. By maintaining a presence on Google, you can ensure your hotel is visible to all those potential guests who search for your local area or your hotel. Another compelling benefit of using Google’s free booking links is that you can better compete with the big OTAs. Google’s search results puts your hotel’s direct site on a relatively equal playing field as the Booking.coms and Expedias of the world. Although you probably won’t convert all your OTA guests to direct guests overnight, it’s likely that some guests will choose to book direct if your rates are equal (or better) that OTA rates and your direct site is just a click away. Finally, if you already spend on Google Hotel Ads, or if you use other cost-per-click tools like Expedia’s TravelAds or Tripadvisor’s Sponsored Placement, then you might be able to scale down those paid programs if you see strong performance from Google’s free booking links. Finding the right balance between ad platforms can help you decrease your marketing spend while generating more direct bookings.   Considerations of Google’s Free Hotel Booking Links Although there are plenty of reasons to use Google’s free hotel booking links, it’s not a perfect program. Some potential downsides include the requirement to use one of Google’s preferred connectivity vendors, the lack of control over your placement and ad strategy, and implications of out-of-parity rates. While it makes sense why Google would limit their hotel connections to channel managers that they’ve vetted, so they can scale the program more efficiently, this requirement leaves hoteliers out of options if you don’t use one of their preferred vendors or if you don’t use any channel manager at all. On the flip side, if you’ve been considering switching to a new channel manager, assessing their Google connection options might help your decision. Although we recognize the huge value of the free booking links, it’s worth noting that hoteliers have no control over the visibility that these links receive. Unlike Google’s paid Hotel Ads, which allow you to adjust bids for specific travel dates, you’ll have no control or insight into your links’ performance. If you want to push visibility during need periods, you don’t have any levers to pull to make your free booking links appear in results more often or higher in the ranking. Finally, another potential downside of using Google’s free booking links is the can make out-of-parity rates more obvious. We all know that some OTAs are notorious for undercutting your direct rates, and nothing is more frustrating that seeing your OTA rates and direct rates side-by-side when your own website is more expensive. Sometimes it can be nearly impossible to get in touch with the OTA or wholesaler that is undercutting, and during any periods when your direct site is not in parity, you could actually lose share of direct bookings. But all things considered, Google’s free hotel booking links are a great option for hoteliers who want to increase visibility on Google and increase direct booking volume. Since the setup process is relatively easy, and the program doesn’t cost anything, the benefits can outweigh the potential downsides of this new marketing channel.

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Exploring Long-Stay Travel in a Post-Pandemic Remote Work World

by
Sandra Holland
2 weeks ago

For hotels, 2020 felt like a seemingly endless year.   Aside from plummeting room stays and a major hit on hoteliers’ bottom lines, the COVID-19 pandemic reshaped the entirety of hospitality and the experience customers have come to expect.  In the new year, resuming operations then becomes an opportunity to pivot strategy and identify upcoming trends. In particular, the increase of long-stay travellers is a trend that has shaped many facets of the hospitality sphere today. With the ability to work remotely and a desire for new and engaging environments - honing in on long-stay guests shows a promising return. In this article, we share the best practices hoteliers can use to propel hotel offerings in order to meet changing customer expectations and encourage new bookings with long-stay travellers.   Keep Comfort Top Of Mind For many long-stay guests, your hotel will become their home away from home. The level of comfort and safety they feel will translate into their level of satisfaction. As you strategize your hotel reopening, keep comfort and “home-stay” top of mind. Consider open-concept spaces with cozy decor, adequate lighting, personal touches in guest rooms, and more. Not only will a cozy atmosphere create a warm invite for long-stay guests, but consistent comfort and a friendly ambiance encourages retention.   Attentive & Available Staff Employees hold a prominent role in the overall satisfaction of your guests - after all, they interact with your hotel patrons daily.  As you resume operations with an increased capacity, make sure you have enough staff to effectively care for the number of guest inquiries. Your employees should be enthusiastic about coming to work, readily available on multiple channels of communication and equipped with the knowledge to answer guest questions. In most instances, long-stay guests will be travelling from abroad. Therefore it’s important that employees make the adjustment to their new surroundings seamless. Be proactive and have your employees offer information such as; the nearest bus station, proximity to grocery stores, parking facilities, and more. In addition, be ready for questions on an array of channels. WhatsApp for example is the largest messaging app in the world and holds preference with the majority of international travellers. Having employees available on WhatsApp can make connecting simple whether on or off the property.   Offer A Functional Experience It’s evident that the needs of a short stay guest are vastly different than a long-stay one. While a short-stay guest might prefer a swimming pool or excursion recommendations, long-stay guests will look for more practical features in their accommodation. Functional traits like a kitchenette in-room, having a desk where they can work, parking spaces, pet-friendly accommodations, and sufficient outlets should all be considered. In addition to generic qualities, you should also consider the average guest and things they would look for. For instance, if students make up most of your long-stay travellers, offer accessible WiFi. If your long-stay guests are made up of workers, offer complimentary coffee in the morning or accessible outlets throughout the property. It’s important to keep in mind that while having the latest and greatest is nice, long-stay travellers prefer simple qualities that make the experience functional for living their everyday lives.   Customer-Driven & Long Term Advocacy  When it comes down to it, running a successful hotel requires a customer-focused mindset.  Getting to know the customer and understanding the preferences that can make or break the experience.  Especially at the height of COVID-19, being more conscious of policies and making amendments to specific hotel regulations is key. For instance, in a recent study, it was reported that “those travelling for work, including remote work, expressed strong preferences for what they want, [including] flexible cancellation options, that offer the ability to extend their stay and that offer flexible 24/7 check-in”. While we highlight flexible policies as a primary consideration, your individual property will also have more specific guest preferences. To discover what you should offer or modify, make it a point to converse with guests regularly, ask for feedback and send surveys to understand particular needs. When you understand the guest, you can then focus on the traits that enhance the experience, such as; Day passes to a nearby coworking space for professionals, discounted bus passes for students, free childcare for families and discounts on excursions.   Provide Co-Working Accommodations Since the majority of long-stay travellers are the result of flexible work environments, a critical consideration should be the implementation of co-working spaces or communal lounges. This can be as simple as modifying current spaces in your hotel to include desks, or as complex as renovating an entire space. In addition to this, gestures such as offering comfortable desks with outlets, swivel television monitors, rentable office spaces, complimentary pens and paper stacks, printing services and more can make all the difference in guest satisfaction.   Customer Conscious Amenities  Even before the pandemic, amenities had always played a crucial role in hotel selection and guest satisfaction. Both for short-stay and long-stay guests, it’s important to get an overall understanding of what customers look for and what can sway their booking. One obvious but very critical amenity offering includes a strong WiFi connection. According to eHotelier, “WiFi is one of the main factors in selecting a property”. Most long-term travellers are working from their room or frequently connecting with family and friends, so it’s important that your WiFi can sustain video calls. Health and wellness is also a growing trend in the present and post-COVID era. Consider elevating your gym and ensuring it’s maintained. Encourage usage with free passes, a coupon for a smoothie at a local shop or classes that keep customers engaged. Lastly, complimentary breakfast and parking have always been top amenities for swaying a guest booking. However, you can still go the extra mile. Ask your guests what breakfast meals they prefer and switch between preferences. Offer visitor parking for friends and colleagues or share popular restaurants and cafes nearby. When you add a personal touch, you improve satisfaction and increase the likelihood of repeat visits.   Final Thoughts COVID-19 has undoubtedly shaped the world of hospitality as we know it. Changing customer preferences, provoking more effective operations and encouraging more modern and health-friendly technology. And as more and more people vie for a change in environment, the desire for more long-stay accommodations is here to stay. Catering to this cohort then becomes integral to encourage new bookings and boosting bottom lines. As you move through the motions of the post-pandemic world, remember to account for the customer experience. Revaluation and modifications to hotel strategies are part of the process and will help you evolve for a more sustainable future.  

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Automating Hotel Operations from the Lens of Hotel Owner and Tech Startup Founder Amelia Gain

by
Hotel Tech Report
3 weeks ago

Savvy hoteliers today view the PMS as “mission control” of their operations; with the right technology in place, a hotel can run more efficiently while enabling staff to craft the ideal guest experience. Preno is part of a new wave of hotel management systems designed to enhance and support hotel operations with intuitive interfaces and handy automated features that reduce the need for manual work - a far cry from the limited, enigmatic systems of the 1990s and early 2000s. In this article, we’ll introduce you to Preno’s co-founder and CEO, Amelia Gain, and explain how a modern PMS like Preno can transform your hotel’s operations and meet the expectations of today’s guests. Want to hear it straight from the expert? Scroll down to read the full transcript of our interview with Amelia. Amelia started Preno alongside co-founder and CTO Max Podolian in 2015, although it wasn’t Amelia’s first venture in the technology and hospitality worlds. Amelia studied IT in college, giving her a solid foundation for a career in technology. Amelia later embarked on a new adventure, purchasing a small, independent hotel where she felt the challenges of using the legacy technology that they had inherited from previous ownership. In our interview, Amelia explains how she “went on a long search and trialled every PMS available at the time,” but she couldn’t find one that was user-friendly, transparent with pricing and contracts, and integrated with other on-site systems. Knowing there could (and should) be a better alternative, Amelia partnered with her college classmate, Max, to build Preno, drawing on both her background in IT and her personal experience as a hotelier. Preno officially launched in 2015 with the goal to provide an autopilot platform for hoteliers that eliminates time-consuming administrative tasks. The company prides itself on being built by hoteliers, for hoteliers which allows their software to be most relevant and useful for owners, operators, and managers of small, independent hotels.   Shifting expectations and possibilities for hotel technology When Amelia started working at her own hotel, she recalls “I didn’t understand why hoteliers should have to deal with confusing software systems when modern cloud technology could make it so much more effortless.” This was Amelia’s motivation for starting Preno: technology was preventing hoteliers like herself from delivering exceptional guest service. In the early days of property management systems, they essentially functioned as reservations databases which were only slightly more efficient than organizing paper reservations in file cabinets, and despite the incredible advancement in technology, the humble PMS hadn’t changed much in a couple of decades. Today, reservation management is just one feature of many you’ll find in a modern PMS. A 21st-century PMS will not only allow you to manage reservations and guest profiles, but it can also accept online reservations through a booking engine you can add to your website and connect your rates and inventory to third-party channels with global reach. A modern PMS will power back-office tasks like payment processing and invoicing, and thanks to integrations with complementary systems, many PMS’ will also eliminate duplicative work by piping data between various on-site software. For example, Preno’s integration with Xero, an accounting system, enables hoteliers to automatically generate invoices based on data from reservations in the PMS. Without this integration, employees would have to manually type up the invoices, risking manual errors and wasted time. In addition, a modern PMS should be easy to use. While out of date legacy systems might require extensive training, lengthy contract negotiations, and frequent updates, a cloud-based system like Preno is both easy to access from anywhere and designed to be as user-friendly as possible. This seamless user experience means less time spent on training and more time spent building relationships with guests.   Travelers want a tech-forward experience with a personal connection It’s not just hoteliers and employees who realize the benefits of a modern property management system; today’s travelers expect technology that smoothes pain points in the traditional guest experience. In addition, in light of the pandemic, as guests increasingly prefer a contactless experience, technology can be a powerful tool to craft your desired guest experience. At the same time, as some of Preno’s customer success stories illustrate, adopting modern technology at your hotel doesn’t mean you’ll lose a personal connection with your guests; in fact it does the opposite - Preno’s technology frees up time so that you can spend more time with guests.   -- Want to learn more about modern hotel technology and Amelia’s vision for Preno? -- Read our interview with Preno’s co-founder and CEO Amelia Gain below Tell us about your career background in hotels. I was studying IT before going into owning and running a hotel with my sister. My sister was initially the one with a background in hospitality, and working for hotels when we first went into the venture. However, together with that mix of skills, we made a great team. Working in a hotel, I was surprised how much I liked creating amazing guest experiences, meeting with guests, working with our team each day and spending time improving our internal systems. What I disliked was the hours of repetitive admin tasks, the double handling of data, and dealing with the existing tools we inherited when taking over the property. That’s when I started to think about developing better tools that would help me and my team. When did you first become interested in leveraging technology to become a better hotelier? I think given my background in studying IT, it was from the first month of being at the property. Once I understood the current systems and challenges, I started to look for and develop solutions. I didn’t understand why hoteliers should have to deal with confusing software systems when modern cloud technology could make it so much more effortless. I started with tech and went into hotels, then came back to tech! I studied IT (with my now co-founder Max), but I had always wanted to go into business with my sister. Her background was in hospitality, so when we had an opportunity to buy a unique hotel, we jumped at it. It was a beautiful hotel, however, we worked really hard. We put in a lot of creativity when creating the guest experiences we offered, and we surround ourselves with an amazing team who are equally as passionate. The one thing that was not helping us were the tools and software we had at hand to manage our property. So the idea for Preno came about. I sought software expertise from my University friend Max to go into developing this with me. From there, Preno has flourished into what it is today - a powerful hotel management software that provides an autopilot platform for hoteliers. What was one technology that you couldn't live without when running your hotel business? Xero accounting software - it’s easy to use and a comprehensive accounting tool. I had no background in accounting and the hotel was my first business. With Xero, I could still jump in and do all the day-to-day accounts, without any prior experience with accounting. Xero’s intuitive software design inspired me to create something similar for hoteliers. As a hotelier what was your biggest frustration with technology? Where do I start - when my sister and I took over the hotel, we inherited a legacy system that was very frustrating. I then went on a long search and trialled every PMS available at the time. What I found is that they were disconnected from our accounting tool and other key tools we used, overly complex, required far too much manual administration, and were generally just hard to use. The ease of use was important as with the complicated systems, this meant extra time training new team members. Important to me was the support as my business was not 9am to 5pm 5 days per week. The hotel industry is a 24/7 operation. Other tools were also not transparent on pricing and had a whole lot of hidden costs - they would try and lock you into very long contracts and the whole experience lacked any care for my business.  What would you say is the most widely held misconception that hoteliers have about technology? I think one of the most widely held misconceptions that hoteliers have about technology, is the need to be using “flashy” tech (physical kiosks, hotel TV systems etc). I personally believe that some types of hotel technology are not well-thought-out about how they fit with the guest experience. Often some of those tools, and where they’re used, add no value to the guest stay and can make workflows complex for the team. What was the most challenging part of moving from hotels into technology? I feel like with any business there are challenges. Running a hotel has parts that are challenging, just as there are challenges to running a software company. With a tech company, you’re constantly pushing to get out new products that add even more value to customers, break into new markets and see further growth. The challenges you can face are so varied and are at a fast pace. This energy is actually what I enjoy and it motivates me. I’m fortunate that I have an incredible team, so we’re always sharing ideas and I never face these challenges alone. For those in our community who may not be familiar, tell us about Preno. Preno is a hotel management software that works like magic. It’s the autopilot for short term accommodation properties saving them up to 10+ hours per week on average. There are over 7000 hoteliers currently using Preno in over 25 countries and we’re very passionate as a team in seeing our hoteliers succeed. We love being able to support hoteliers with an effortless, stress-free system - especially during uneasy times like during the current pandemic. You work with a lot of hoteliers, which properties or operators are innovating ahead of the pack? I think the common theme among all three properties that come to mind is that they all have a strong mission that they’re passionate about, they’re giving back to their local communities, and the experience they offer is unique to their property and part of the world. Change Overnight Hotel (Australia) has a unique business model that I believe we will see a lot more of. A converted warehouse, it’s bright and has a lot of personalities. But it’s their mission and purpose which sets it apart. When a guest stays at Change Overnight, each night of their stay comes with the opportunity to give back to one of the hotel’s carefully chosen charities. It has become so popular, initial funding targets to give back to the local and global charities were smashed!  Maruia River Retreat (New Zealand) is run by very caring operators who felt the impact of Covid-19 strongly. This pivoted into what they care about most - mental well-being. Not only is Maruia River Retreat a beautiful property, located in a stunning natural landscape, the experiences they have on hand are unique to them. They host yoga workshops, writing retreats and more. The owners are passionate about the experiences they have on offer and this shines through.Aura Accommodation (New Zealand) is run by two friends who love their town, went into owning and running a motel. They refurbished the motel at a low cost, resulting in a property that is fun, tidy and comfortable. The team at Aura make sure the property is closely connected with their local community, through activities and events that bring a lot of energy. They shifted procedures and suppliers to be environmentally friendly and supported local charities that were important to their team. Imagine that you're going to open the hotel of your dreams tomorrow.  What kind of hotel would it be? I would love to get back into running hotels someday! The focus these days is on giving unique guest experiences at any price point. So I would want an accommodation business in any of the market segments, as long as the experience is meaningful, fun, unique and sustainable. My passion has always been for independent hotels, as there is a lot of freedom, you get to develop your own brand that you believe in. In terms of size, I’ve not thought too much about it, as I would love a property with 10 rooms, but would be just as passionate if it had 200 rooms, so long as I had a great team to work with. A name; how about “Preno Stays”!  What technology would you leverage at your hotel?  Tell us what the perfect tech stack would be and why? I would choose Preno All-in-one (because it’s the best) as my main tool, Lightspeed for my Point of Sale, Xero for accounting and Stripe for payment gateway. I’m a fan of Goki, so I would add that in the mix too. What's one piece of advice you have for hoteliers who have dreams of working in tech? If you’re looking to be a founder of a new startup developing a product, test and validate your idea with a lot of people (ideally the target market) as early as possible. You do not need to build a product to test your idea. Have a clear idea of your ideal customer profile. Make sure you connect and talk to other founders or people in tech, share your ideas and challenges. There are a lot of meetups you can find online and this is the best way to explore ideas with a friendly and passionate group.  What is the most exciting technology you've seen in the hotel tech space that is not built by Preno? Why? Our team is really excited about our new integration with Goki. For years I’ve been looking for the right keylock technology that fits our market. Not only do the Goki locks look great and are easy for guests to use, but they’re affordable and can be self-installed. The big bonus is that you do not have to replace all the door locks in your hotel. With Goki connected with Preno, it can automate check-in’s and provide guests with access to their unit/room using just their phone or a code.  Fast forward 5-years, how will the hotel tech stack be different from today? My vision for tech in hotels is that the technology is invisible, but is a powerful engine that automates activity for the operator. The guest arrives and the stay is seamless and effortless. In fact, their stay is so good that they never even think about the technology driving it, it seems organic. I do not see the point of removing all human components, it’s what sets hotels apart from Airbnb, but the human interactions are all value-adding - making it an even better stay, with no repetitive admin tasks.    This content was created collaboratively by Preno and Hotel Tech Report.

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14 Vacation Rental Industry Statistics that You Won't Believe

by
Hotel Tech Report
4 weeks ago

We probably don’t need to tell you that vacation rentals play a major part in the travel ecosystem these days. Airbnb and its peers showed homeowners that their real estate could be monetized by selling rooms to short term renters like hotels and it created a whole new market for travel as vacation homes soon became available to the masses on a short term basis. What started as a niche product for family reunions or vacations with groups of friends has turned mainstream, with booking sites like Airbnb, Vrbo, and Booking.com offering millions of vacation rental properties around the world. But just how big in the vacation rental industry? Where’s the industry heading in the future? And how did it fare during COVID? Get ready for 15 mind-blowing statistics about the vacation rental industry that will show you just how massive this segment of the travel industry really is. The US vacation rental industry’s total revenue is estimated to reach $13.3 billion in 2021. With a roughly 10% year-over-year vacation rental market growth rate, the industry will be close to $20 billion in 2025. The global vacation rental industry will grow even faster in the coming years.  By comparison, the hotel industry is projected to hit $110 billion in revenue in 2021 based on expert forecasts. How many people have stayed in a vacation rental? In 2021, user penetration is 13.1%, so around one in eight people have been vacation rental guests. By 2025, nearly one in five people will have stayed in a vacation rental. Why do travelers choose a vacation rental? According to a 2016 study, the top reason why people book a vacation rental is to have access to a kitchen, with 64% of respondents. 49% of respondents also said they would choose a vacation rental for more privacy. Travelers likely also opt for a vacation rental because they want more space. The average hotel room is around 325 square feet, while the average vacation rental spans more than 1,300. Who doesn’t want to spread out and relax while on vacation? Vrbo is one of the oldest OTAs for booking accommodations online. Founded in 1995, Vrbo (then known as Vacation Rentals By Owner) predates Expedia (1996), Booking.com (1996), and Priceline (1997), though it’s a bit younger than Hotels.com, which was launched in 1991 as Hotel Reservations Network.  Just how big is Airbnb? As of September 2020, the site had 5.6 million active listings in over 100,000 cities across the globe including the US, Europe and all markets combined. These listings include around 24,000 tiny homes, 3,500 castles, 2,600 treehouses, and 140 igloos - so there’s no “typical” Airbnb property. Airbnb also works with over 4 million hosts! Airbnb went public in 2020, with a valuation of more than $100 billion, making it the biggest IPO of the year. What made the company’s IPO even more impressive is that the company’s revenue was down 30% in 2020, due to the pandemic. Airbnb generated $3.4 billion in revenue in 2020, down from $4.7 billion in 2019. Vacation rentals fared better than hotels during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the end of March 2020, global occupancy in hotels had dropped to 17.5% from 77% (a 77% decrease) during the same period in 2019. Studio and one-bedroom vacation rentals saw occupancy of 36.4% compared to 66.3% in 2019 (a 45% decrease), and vacation rentals with two or more bedrooms ran occupancy of 32.6%, which was down 60.6% in 2019 (a 46% decrease). If you think about Airbnb like one big hotel, you’d need a lot of front desk agents. On average, around 200 guests check into an Airbnb every minute! Speaking of hotels, hotel companies are trying to get into the vacation rental game. In 2019, Marriott debuted Homes & Villas by Marriott International, which went live with 2,000 properties. Today, the program includes over 25,000 homes worldwide. Although 2020 was a tough year for travel overall, vacation rental ADR actually increased over the course of the year. Vacation rental ADR hit an all-time peak of $202.50 in June 2020. There’s nothing like a trip to the woods! According to Vrbo, demand for cabin rentals is up 25% year-over-year, and demand for chalets is up 20%. And 61% of families responding to Vrbo’s survey said they were more likely to pick an “outdoorsy destination” than a city for their next trip. Properties in rural destinations are enjoying some serious surges in popularity. Some of Airbnb’s fastest-growing markets include Hudson Valley, NY (revenue is up 85% year-over-year); Big Bear, CA (up 73%); and Lake Tahoe, CA (up 67%). In contrast, demand for short-term rentals in New York City is down 55%. Vacation rental guests are staying a lot longer on their post-pandemic trips. Prior to March 2020, most vacation rental bookings were for one week or less (80%). After the pandemic, stays under 7 days were the minority - only 30% of all reservations - according to AirDNA.   What’s next for the vacation rental industry? At this rate, it seems like anything’s possible. Want to learn more about vacation rentals and property management? Check out our vacation rental resource center.

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Decision Intelligence: Turning Hotel Analytics into Action

by
Sameer Umar
1 month ago

BI (business intelligence) is an organization’s ability to track data flow and in the process identify opportunities, minimize risk, and optimize the way it does business. Most businesses - not just hotels - have yet to reach that optimal level of BI maturity. Many have automated data collection, report generation, and, in some cases, data visualization. But that doesn’t mean that they’re mobilizing data into action. Quite often people use their BI platforms for nothing more than scheduling reports to be emailed to them in their inbox but reports alone do not constitute business intelligence. Thus, they’re still stuck in static spreadsheet mode when it comes to decision support. More advanced users leverage BI tools to increase their pace of discovery within the BI portal but then end up spending hours trying to re-share and explain their findings to others who are not operating in the same environment. Often they end up having long discussions with colleagues to figure out “Why don’t your numbers match my numbers?” (Day of week vs date, corporate profiles vs negotiated rate codes, time of data capture, filter by different dimensions - possibilities abound!).  Looking at automated scheduled reports is certainly a step in the right direction and even better when hotel teams are exploring data to make informed decisions. However, the shortcomings of how BI is being leveraged today are quite visible.    Enter Decision Intelligence (DI) Cassie Kozyrkov, Chief Decision Scientist at Google, describes DI as a way to augment data science with social science, decision theory, and managerial science. Thus, making it more effective at helping people actually use BI data to make better decisions. A great analogy she uses to describe the difference between data science and DI is comparing them to those who make microwave ovens and the cooks who use them. Note that by ‘data science’ she is referring to the analytics that are delivered via BI platforms. Simply put, DI is an enabler of BI’s end goal - identify opportunities, minimize risk, and optimize the way you do business. But How? Firstly, it’s important to note that BI and DI are not just technologies but rather evolving organizational capabilities. In order to succeed you need data-driven culture, people, and tools. The first two you cannot buy off-the-shelf from any technology provider. They have to be embraced as strategic organizational objectives. Once that commitment is made and you actively start working towards it, here are 4 ways to get you much further with your data than basic self-service BI reports:   1. Centralize & Correlate Hoteliers today are working with a deluge of valuable data from their transaction systems (PMS, POS etc.) as well as market intelligence from a variety of 3rd party sources (STR, Kalibri Labs, Knowland etc.). However, very few can actually correlate their channel mix (and many other business dimensions) to something like their STR Market Penetration Index (MPI). That’s because most of the time these data sit in their own silos and no one is able to see how one is impacting the other. Hence, the obvious first step towards unlocking such insights is to centralize all this information on a BI platform that will then allow users to collect, layer, and correlate different types of data to get a holistic view of the business. In the below example, as users go across the time slicer they can see how their segment, channel, and room mixes were changing and impacting their STR indexes.   Source: HotelIQ STR Dashboard   2. Visualize & Interact  One of the worst habits people develop using spreadsheets is conditioning themselves to look at specific cells on a wall of numbers. They look at the same set of reports and glance over the same cells regularly to monitor the health of their business. Hence, when they are presented with a BI tool, their first instinct is to automate their reports. They still want the wall of numbers laid out the same way they’ve conditioned themselves to read and think. However, a huge side-effect of such conditioning is that they miss all the threats and opportunities hiding in plain sight. For example, how likely are you to spot a white tiger hiding in a dazzle of zebras?       Similarly, a miscoded rate code can bury itself in a sea of reservations. By the time you notice a dip in the overall ADR, significant damage may have already been done. However, if instead of glancing over a wall of numbers, what if your rate codes were displayed on a scatter plot? It’d highlight to you which ones are performing worse than expected and who’s performing better. Then imagine clicking on a plot and getting the information you need about it literally at your fingertips!      Source: HotelIQ Agency Trends   3. Analytics-powered Collaboration We’re all familiar with digital workspaces. If we weren’t before, the pandemic has forced us to start collaborating digitally. From Sharepoint to Slack to project management portals - all facilitate collaboration between teams. However, when it comes to sharing data and insights, most of us are still dependent on extracts and spreadsheets. Hence, teams spend an unreasonable amount of time trying to come up with a single version of the truth that everyone can agree on before they can take any decisive action. That’s where you need an analytics-powered digital collaboration platform - a portal or intranet where your strategic teams login to work everyday, access a single version of the truth (through automated data integration), share, comment, plan, and track performance. There are also many other advantages to digital collaboration.   4. AI-powered Decision Support Once you have centralized all your data and your team is able to easily explore, share, and collaborate, the obvious next step is to determine what course of action to take. That’s where AI can elevate your decision making capabilities significantly by processing historical and current data trends to highlight risks and opportunities that lie ahead. However, quite often we get fixated on the accuracy of AI predictions. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that no one has a crystal ball that can accurately predict the future. Instead, we need to focus on the reliability and reasonableness of AI’s input in our decision making process. It may not be able to predict a pandemic but can certainly highlight unusual activity that requires your attention much faster than a normal human can. Let’s put it this way, if you have a junior analyst who is very thorough and meticulous in her work, would the CEO leave all the decision making to her? AI is like that analyst and should be treated the same way - pay attention to what AI tells you and then make informed decisions.   Source: HotelIQ Risk to Achievement Dashboard   Ultimately, technology and decision science will continue to evolve. There will be even more sophisticated ways to enable consumption of information by businesses and means to let them action it. However, unlike tactical technologies like a phone or a refrigerator, there is no leap-frogging when it comes to analytical capabilities of an organization. The longer you delay building that culture and bringing in those solutions, the harder it will be to stay competitive in the information age.