One of the fastest-growing trends in hospitality is the rise of integrations supporting hotel operations, yet many hoteliers are unaware of how technology partnerships can advance their goals. While much of the focus has been on the guest experience, hoteliers are now beginning to shift to staff facing technologies due to a rise in operating expenses and stagnant RevPAR. To understand more about this issue, Amadeus hosted a panel of partners and experts at the 2019 Amadeus Hospitality Customer Conference to explore how integrations impact OPEX costs, staff productivity, building maintenance, and guest engagement. Moderated by Jordan Hollander from Hotel Tech Report, representatives from Zingle, Hilton Hotels, Assa Abloy, and Swire Hotels shared their views on integrations, implementation, and where technology is moving for staff and guests. Check out the videos and podcast below to find out how you can take advantage of integrating your tech stack to create better experiences for both staff and guests.
Hotel Guest Experience Software Articles
The collapse of global package tour operator and airline Thomas Cook was notable for its global impact. The company left hundreds of thousands of passengers stranded abroad and jeopardized the vacation plans of millions more. We’re not going to report on the tragic collapse of Thomas Cook since the news has been widely shared by nearly every major media outlet over the last couple of days. This article is intended to help hoteliers like you that have been blindsided by this event and specifically those in European holiday markets who have been disproportionately affected. Wherever there is a crisis, there’s also learning and opportunity. This is a wake up call for hoteliers to strengthen their operations by diversifying their channel mix, as the insolvency highlights vulnerabilities of depending too much on a single demand channel. Below we outline 5 lessons to help hoteliers convert this short term crisis into long term opportunity but first we’ll give a quick background on what went down. A quick overview of the Thomas Cook fiasco for those who aren’t familiar The venerable brand, which was founded in 1851 and originated the concept of packaged tours, served 19 million people a year across 16 countries. That’s a lot of empty beds at hotels in these countries, leaving many hoteliers desperate for a lifeline. Hoteliers report that Thomas Cook hasn’t made its payments since July. And, as the Thomas Cook share price tumbled to just £0.0345 on its last day of trading before collapsing, it's unclear when -- or if -- hotels will receive these long-overdue payments. In many of these communities, the bankruptcy is a devastating blow to the local hospitality industry. In popular summer destinations such as Greece, Spain and Turkey, Thomas Cook accounts for 25% of their business. The pain is far-reaching: Thomas Cook accounted for 3.6M trips to the Canary Islands last year. In Turkey, the local hotel association says many hotels are still owed £100,000 – £200,000 apiece. Spanish Trade Union expects more than 10% of it’s 130,000 local hospitality workers to be affected by the collapse. Greece’s PanHellenic Federation of Hoteliers projects losses up to €300m, of which the island of Crete accounts for €80-100m. In Tunisia, 45 hotels dealt exclusively with Thomas Cook, which reportedly owes €60 million for stays in July and August. #1: Use technology to diversify your channel mix First and foremost, hotels must avoid reliance on a single channel. The Thomas Cook example makes this abundantly clear: fewer dominant channels dramatically increase risk. Expanding your sources of demand protects you not only from the extreme cases bankruptcy but also evens out the natural ebbs and flows. With a diversified channel mix, unexpected dips in demand will sting less. A metasearch manager, such as D-EDGE MetaGenius or Triptease Attract, maximizes your hotel’s presence on meta-search platforms. The technology optimizes your spend so that you can capture bookings without spending too much. Marketing spend can also easily be ramped up and down to account for any unexpected need periods. Channel managers, like the one from SiteMinder, dramatically expand the number of channels your hotel is distributed to. The right channel manager puts your hotel in front of consumers you may never have access to, such as inbound tourists from China. This expands your reach and lessens your reliance on only a few channels. #2: Capture maximum revenue from your existing guests Well done! You’ve won the booking and the guest has checked in. Now what? Rather than pursue the next booking, it's time to make the most out of your existing guests. Open the lines of communication, craft compelling offers for upsells and on-property amenities and make it a priority to increase incremental revenue. With a solid ancillary strategy, you’ll be more empowered and less at the whims of others. Ancillary upsell software, like that offered by Oaky and Revinate, helps you earn more revenue from things like up-selling room upgrades and other ancillaries. Since up-selling gives you the ability to earn more from the same guest, you'll be more profitable -- and less vulnerable to revenue dips from fewer bookings. A guest messaging platform, such as Whistle, Zingle, and Bookboost, gives you all kinds of new ways to communicate with guests. You could implement a chat widget on your website, use text messages to talk with on-property guests, or leverage automated communications to ensure the best guest experience. Each of these touchpoints is an opportunity to sell more to current guests. And, as you deliver better service, improved guest satisfaction will boost your reputation online. In-room tablets, like those from SuitePad, INTELITY, and Crave Interactive, are another way to connect with guests. As in-room concierges, tablets allow guests to find relevant information easily and quickly, which boosts satisfaction and leads to incremental revenue from selling in-destination activities and on-property amenities like spa and room service. More money from existing guests makes a healthier, more resilient business. #3: Fortify your direct channel to shore up leakage Leakage costs your hotel money. Each time someone books through an OTA or other third-party (rather than your direct channel) that’s leakage. There’s a related cost to each of those bookings, a cost that could be eliminated by capturing the booking directly. Reducing leakage means doing whatever you can to build your direct channel. With the right tech, your hotel can compete directly with OTAs by providing a similar booking experience. Proper digital marketing and web design ensures that your hotel presents a modern face to potential guests. Vendors (such as Screen Pilot and Travel Tripper) leverage years of hospitality experience to get you more direct bookings online. With an intuitive interface and appealing design, your website can become a great calling card. The agency can then help optimize your digital marketing efforts to get you more bookings at lower cost. A hotel booking engine works 24/7 so guests can book rooms right on your website to keep you competitive with other online platforms. Mews, Net Affinity and TravelTripper integrate a booking engine into your property management system to make inventory instantly bookable online. Long gone are the days when guests would call to book; to avoid leakage, you must provide instant booking on your website. With a direct booking platform, like those built by Triptease and Hotelchamp, you’ll have the tools to convert more lookers to bookers on your website. These tools transform your website into a conversion engine. Then, as you invest more in digital marketing to bring people to your website, you’ll see greater return on your investment because the site is primed to convert. #4: Reduce friction for your sales team Properties of all sizes can benefit tremendously from improved productivity on the sales side. By reducing friction for your sales team, you’ll improve outcomes, compress the sales cycle and close more group business. Closing more deals has the added advantage of boosting morale for your sales team, which builds momentumAre As your hotel endeavors to build a bigger group business, best-in-class technology amplifies this momentum and evens out the normal fluctuations in transient demand. With an online meeting booking platform, such as MeetingPackage, planners can self-serve. Many planners prefer self-service, especially for smaller events. An online booking platform streamlines inbound requests and reduces turnaround time. That way your sales team can focus on more complex offerings and close major deals that can make or break an entire year’s revenue target. A sales CRM for hotels is the heart of your sales operations. With powerful functionality from vendors like Social Tables, Amadeus Delphi or Event Temple, your sales team stays organized so they can prioritize prospects and pursue leads without delay. A few other upsides: Managing outreach in a single place encourages a collaborative mindset, fosters transparency and builds trust. #5: Bring back your old guests Past guests are your greatest assets. They’ve stayed with you before and know your hotel. You also know them somewhat, as you have already begun building a relationship. That means you don't have to introduce your property or compete for attention in a sea of unfamiliar hotels. Loyalty gives you more control over your business; it reduces reliance on third parties and diversifies your revenue streams. Loyal guests are also great advocates, enhancing your online reputation and promoting your hotel by word-of-mouth. Guest CRM and email marketing tools, like those from Cendyn and Revinate, are a hotel marketer’s best friend. Leveraging your database of past guests into new bookings requires thoughtful segmentation and effective messaging -- both of which are made easier with dedicated CRM and email marketing software. By crafting targeted campaigns based on rich guest profiles, you'll generate revenue from existing assets, all without any cost or commissions. And guests will appreciate the personalized approach. A loyalty program for independents can drive repeat visits and encourage more customer loyalty -- even without the global reach and recognition of the major brand. For instance, The GuestBook rewards guests with either 5% cash back, a 5% donation to their preferred charity, or 10% “Trip Cash” for future reservations. These incentives give independents another way to foster loyalty and build a healthy book of repeat business that’s not dependent on third parties. *** Thomas Cook shutting down is a devastating blow to communities, businesses and consumers around the globe. It puts pressure on local economies in many countries. But it also provides a valuable lesson to hoteliers about relying too heavily on a single demand partner; diversification really does help mitigate risk. Hoteliers have some powerful tools at their disposal to build a resilient business that can endure even the most unexpected disruptions.
On October 16th and 17th hoteliers from around the world will flock to the world’s entertainment capital in Los Angeles for INDIE Congress 2019, hosted by the Independent Lodging Congress, which has quickly become hospitality's most glamorous and diverse industry event. Indie Congress is the cure to boring hotel conferences that have become status quo. The conference features disruptive speakers such as Ace Hotels’ Brad Wilson and JDV founder Chip Conley. It’s funny that we call hotel chains “brands” because while they have strong parent company brand affinity (e.g. Marriott, Hilton, etc.) the individual portfolio ‘brands’ rarely resonate in the hearts and minds of consumers. There are exceptions in the luxury segment such as St. Regis and Ritz Carlton but what imagery do you associate when you hear Homewood Suites? How about Comfort Inn? Bleeding edge hotel brands are being created in the independent sector with pioneers like Bunkhouse Hotels (Standard Hotels), Sydell Group and Mama Shelter. Those interested in learning about building real brands would be wise to check out Indie Congress next month since all of the top dogs will be there. Old school chain operators view hotels like factories that process widgets and those widgets just happen to be guests. This “factory mentality” worked 20 years ago when all that guests expected was a consistent experience and that dynamic created an explosion of chain hotels. During that same time period competition has ratcheted up and so have guest expectations. Today’s guests desire authenticity and don’t want to be treated like factory widgets. It’s no wonder they increasingly want to stay in AirBnBs. So why did INDIE Congress select LA for the show? Los Angeles hotel properties are constantly vying to host celebrities, awards show after parties and more. In order to secure that valuable business they have been forced to learn from Hollywood or perish. Specifically, LA hotels have cracked the code of what it means to create truly unique experiences and build blockbuster brands. “Some of the strongest hospitality innovation in the world is coming out of Los Angeles where hotels have followed the lead of Hollywood Studios who know how to deliver truly differentiated guest experiences. Hollywood is increasingly forced to create blockbusters like Avengers Endgame that bring moviegoers out of their Netflix streaming slumbers and into theaters. Hotel brands like Hoxton and Ace are doing the same thing and are wooing guests away from substitutes like AirBnB,” says Hotel Tech Report CEO Jordan Hollander. Even if your hotel isn’t in Los Angeles you should be taking notes from Hollywood and the entertainment industry - because it’s not so different from ours. ILC visits 5 hotels over the course of 3 days (pictured: Hotel Figueroa) Hollywood’s big lesson on how to handle disruption As in home streaming technology continues to improve, Hollywood has increasingly needed to address similar challenges to the hotel industry. Hollywood and hospitality are both hyper competitive and rapidly changing industries being disrupted by digital distribution and disintermediation. The explosion of streaming services has pushed content creators to deliver mind-blowing experiences where the rise of alternative accommodations has forced hotel brands to step up just the same or risk fading into obscurity. At Indie Congress, hoteliers will go behind the scenes with Jeph Loeb, Marvel’s head of television. Marvel is Hollywood’s golden child and Disney’s crown jewel. Marvel’s television division is spending record levels to create cinema like experiences at home with a slew of hit shows like Daredevil, The Punisher and Agent Carter. Los Angeles has no tolerance for boring hotels and has consequently become a hub for blockbuster experiences. Petite Hermitage features a Soho House style members only club (only more exclusive) with weekend tarot card readings and jazzy burlesque shows. The Magic Castle features an invite only black tie magic show and the Hollywood Roosevelt famously hosted Beecher’s Madhouse (now shuttered), a debaucherous nightclub and variety show frequented by the likes of Miley Cyrus and The Kardashians. Admittedly not all hotels are in markets that can support these kinds of experiences but every hotel team can channel their “inner Hollywood” to bring differentiated, entertaining and memorable experiences to their guests. Cookie cutter brands don’t cut it anymore The irony of it all is that the great brands of tomorrow are being created by independent hotels today. The next generation of hospitality brand pioneers will share their creativity at Indie Congress with hopes to inspire a generation of hoteliers that say no to ‘boring’ as a brand. Many of the world’s bleeding edge hotel groups have flagship properties in Los Angeles such as: Nobu, Mama Shelter, Hoxton, Ace, Standard. The list goes on and on. Many of these “Marvels of Hospitality” will also be in attendance at the show. Hospitality legend Chip Conley imparts wisdom upon INDIE Congress attendees Indie Congress has strategically chosen to visit many of these spaces during the event and each venue has been hand selected to stop boredom in its tracks. The conference starts with a ‘saloon crawl’ to edgy venues like the Ace and Hoxton. The crawl was designed to encourage attendees to mingle and share ideas instead of getting stuck in one conversation that happens too often at conferences. The conference itself will be held in 3 separate and equally stunning spaces. The geography and the flow of the show were designed to help attendees bring Hollywood like experiences to hoteliers from around the world. The hospitality industry too often falls victim to cookie cutter. Even if you’ve got a 3-star property in Milwaukee you can bottle the ethos of Hollywood and use it to make adjustments that will help you beat out the compset and have fun while doing it. The hotel industry has developed a pretty twisted sense of the word brand. Chains are extremely effective at scaling consistency but culture isn’t something that scales easily. The real hospitality pioneers like Ace’s Brad Wilson, Palihouse’s Avi Brosh and Viceroy’s Bill Walshe will be in LA next month so be sure to get your ticket before it’s too late.
As consumers living in the digital age, we’ve come to expect a certain amount of digitalization not only in isolated service areas but also between these service areas. Just think about the processes involved in booking a flight nowadays; once you’ve chosen your preferred flight and preferences on the flight company’s app, the automatic online payment— made possible because you’ve previously saved your payment details on the app—is quick and seamless. You’re then notified of your booking via a digital invoice to your email account. You may not realize it, but in this process you’re experiencing the cross-digitalization of three different service areas – air travel, banking, and personal communication. If just one of these services hadn’t been digitized, the whole process wouldn’t work anywhere near as smoothly as it (usually) does. Digitalization has reached a point where customers expect a seamless digital experience between a whole host of service areas, but one area that is notoriously lagging is the hotel industry. But why is the hotel industry in need of technological innovation in the first place? What are the barriers to technological innovation that hoteliers face? And how can hotel tech companies work with hoteliers to help overcome these barriers? These are the questions that need to be answered if we’re going to overcome resistance to innovation in the hotel industry. The need to innovate the hotel industry There are several reasons why the hotel industry needs to innovate, and hotel tech companies are often quick to suggest that modern hotel guests expect their hotel experience to be brought in-line with the digital expectations of other service areas. This is likely true, according to a survey conducted by ITB Berlin and Travelzoo, one in every two respondents said they want smart hotel rooms that automatically adapt to personal preferences by 2030. But, how will innovation actually benefit hotel businesses? And what does this mean for hotels that don’t? One of the biggest disruptions to the hotel market has been the introduction of a credible rival. Airbnb really changed the playing field for the hotel industry, offering guests the opportunity to experience living more like a local than hotels ever could. Sudheer Thaker, the co-founder of HelloShift, states that “Airbnb is a classic case of disruptive innovation: an innovation that creates a new market and in a few years, moves to an existing market to disrupt”. This new technology company has introduced a rival business model that, especially since its expanding its appeal to more high-end customers, draws from the same pool of potential customers as the hotel industry. What’s worse, Airbnb cuts back on many of the overheads that hotel businesses need to contend with, allowing independent hosts to undercut the price of staying at a hotel. The disruption caused by the introduction of Airbnb and similar businesses was a sign that the hotel industry needed to up its game, but until now relatively little has been done. Hotel tech enables the hotel industry to go beyond the bounds of Airbnb and similar business models, creating new USPs that redefine what it means to stay at a hotel. The digital experience—ordering room service through in-room tablets such as SuitePads, centralized in-room controls, the use of big data to provide personalized services, and potentially much more—is something that will make prospective guests choose the hotel experience over the Airbnb experience. It’s this redefinition that will drive the future of the hotel industry, offering guests an experience they can’t get anywhere else, and one that they’re willing to pay for. The adoption of new technologies will also spark healthy competition within the hotel industry again, further driving innovation. Those who embrace this new culture of technological change will likely benefit, while those that don’t are likely to be left behind. A good case study of how a lack of innovation led to the split in a business area is the smartphone market. If you’re older than thirty, you might remember the cell phone company Blackberry. Up until around 2010, Blackberry had a reasonable share of the cell phone market in the US, with then-President Obama refusing to use any other device. But nowadays, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Blackberry in most cell phone stores. Why? Because Blackberry didn’t innovate and was too slow to react to market changes when faced with innovative competitors. When Apple brought out the iPhone, it was a sign that Blackberry’s mini keyboard was soon to be obsolete, but the company didn’t take the hint and continued to use this design. Full touchscreen phones soon became the industry standard, and Blackberry’s market share fell off a cliff edge. Blackberry also refused to adapt its operating system to bring it in-line with Google’s Android OS, essentially sealing their fate as a cell phone from times gone by. The story of Blackberry’s demise is one that should be heeded by hotels who question the benefits of technological change. They should ask themselves, would they rather be an iPhone, or a Blackberry? The hotel industry resists change every step of the way The last decade or so has seen the development of a whole host of innovations for the hotel industry. Digital guest directories, in-room tablets, mobile self-check-in and -out, chatbots, and even robot receptionists have all been developed for specific use in the industry, so the innovation is there! Why then are so many hoteliers and hotel businesses tentative about adopting it? The three main reasons are suspicion of new and untried technologies, high costs, and a lack of infrastructure. Let’s start with suspicion of new and untried technologies. The hotel industry is currently at a crossroads with regard to entering the digital age. The eminent professor of communications, Everett Rogers created the Diffusions of Innovations Theory, which states that adoption of technology within a market takes place in five stages – innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. The adoption of many hotel technologies, including in-room digital guest communication devices like SuitePads, is currently at a point between the innovator and early adopter phases, meaning that a large proportion of the market is still waiting to see how these devices perform before they adopt it for themselves. Together, innovators and early adopters only make up about 16% of the market share and tend to be the more innovatively-minded of these businesses. Their strategy for early adoption is usually based on a high risk to reward ratio, but if the technology they adopt succeeds, they’re the ones that are likely to become future industry trendsetters. Those that are waiting to see how the introduction of new technologies in the hotel industry plays out tend to have suspicions about the benefits that it can bring, but this is to be expected. Taking a cautious approach to new developments in the market is good business practice as it mitigates the risk of exposing the business to potential risk. Another major barrier to the adoption of new technology in the hotel industry is the cost of innovating. The hotel industry is extremely susceptible to fluctuations in the market due to seasonal downturns, high staff turnover rates, as well as intense competition for prices. In addition, once all the overheads are accounted for—rental fees, staffing costs, maintenance costs, possible franchising and management fees, and investor payouts—there’s often very little left. This leaves very little for hotels to spend on new technology, especially for smaller hotels that don’t have the financial clout of Marriott or Shangri-la. This means that the threshold at which hotels adopt new technologies is usually higher than in other industries because hoteliers need to be sure that the technology they’re installing isn’t going to ruin them financially. Based on this rationale, the industry is more prone to taking a “wait and see” approach. The last reason that many hotels are slow to adopt new technologies relates to infrastructural limitations. Maximizing the benefits of some of these new features such as integrated room controls or seamless PMS integration could require digital or even physical infrastructure changes. For new-build hotels, the physical structural requirements such as the network cabling required for high-speed broadband or centrally automated room controls aren’t such a huge investment. But, for older hotels, especially those that are listed buildings, installation can be expensive or even impossible. In addition to the costs of installation, the disruption that this kind of work causes could affect the hotel’s ability to maintain a steady income. Similarly, effective PMS integration with new digital solutions is something that all hotels desire, so hotels are unlikely to adopt technologies that can’t be integrated with their existing systems. Strategies to overcome resistance The emotional reactions to the introduction of new technologies, usually in the form of suspicion and caution, are common when new technologies are introduced into new markets. To help overcome these, it’s important for the drivers of innovation to understand that running a business—especially in the hotel industry—is a highly emotional line of work. Hoteliers have other people’s livelihoods in their hands, the responsibility of ensuring they retain the authenticity of the customer experience, and may even have a personal connection to the hotel itself. These are all factors that hotel tech companies need to take into account when proposing their products and services to prospective customers. By operating with a policy of openness, clarity, and good expectation management with regards to what their product or service can bring to the market, hoteliers will be in the best position to make the right choice for their hotel’s specific business model. The financial aspects that hotels face regarding the introduction of new technologies also need to be taken into account. The hotel industry doesn’t have the same allocation for innovative solutions that some other businesses areas have due to the considerable overheads. Hotel tech companies need to adapt to this, providing evidence of the tangible benefits that their solutions can bring such as return on investment, added value, and elevated customer experience. As hotels become more technologically advanced, the need to install new infrastructure may also increase. Convincing hoteliers that a solution will be beneficial is even more difficult if it then requires them to shell out huge amounts for new infrastructure. Hotel tech needs to be introduced at a steady rate, with companies proving that they can get the basics right before requesting larger financial investments and increased trust from hoteliers. Trust and collaboration is key Overcoming change isn’t about forcing hoteliers and business owners into adopting technology by fear-mongering about what will happen if they don’t. It’s about building trust in the long term by endorsing business practices that are clear and honest, and providing solutions that help hotel businesses grow and develop. By building trust, the hotel technology sector will garner confidence from hoteliers, helping the industry move past the “innovators” and “early adopters” stages, enabling the hotel industry to redefine itself from newly emerging disruptive competition markets and further driving innovation through close cooperation. Partner content brought to you by SuitePad
It’s no secret that text messaging is an increasingly popular way to communicate. You text your kids, you text your friends, and you may even get a text from your dentist when it’s time for a cleaning. But how can text messaging be an asset to the modern hotelier? Communication platforms like Zingle provide a breadth of guest messaging solutions that not only solve communication challenges, but also enhance the guest experience and lead to higher guest satisfaction scores. In this article, we’ll explore how hoteliers can implement guest messaging strategies in response to 7 recent statistics about texting. Text messaging is the fastest way to reach someone When today’s consumers want information, they want it ASAP. 78% of US consumers say receiving a text message is the fastest way to reach them for important service updates and purchases, so when information needs to be communicated quickly, text messaging is the perfect way to do so. For instance, if crucial details about an event must be communicated to a guest, email may not be the best way to do so, since they might not even open the email until after the event happens. A text messaging strategy will ensure guests receive the right information at the right time. People actually read their text messages Have you ever had a guest ask a question about a policy or amenity when the answer was definitely already sent to them via email? Perhaps it’s time to switch to text messages for those important details, since the open rate for text messages is a whopping 82% in the US. Instead of letting upsell offers or marketing messages sit in your guests’ spam folders, send text messages with the most critical information for maximum impact - and more incremental revenue. In addition, Zingle’s integrations with property management systems like Opera allow hoteliers to personalize messages with details about the guest’s stay. Text more, talk less; millennials prefer to text Wondering how to best communicate with millennial guests? Phone calls are so last decade; over 83% of millennial consumers said they text more than they talk on their smartphones. What does that mean for hoteliers? Millennial guests are less likely to call the front desk when something goes wrong or they have a question. With Zingle, hoteliers can easily connect with the next generation of travelers by opening a channel of communication where these guests are most comfortable. Most people keep their smartphone at arm’s reach When 89% of people always have their smartphone easily accessible, mobile communication is undoubtedly going to be the most intuitive method of contact. When sending a text message is the most convenient way to contact the hotel, front desk teams might receive an influx of questions and comments. But incorporating texting into your hotel’s operations doesn’t have to be a hassle. Instead of using front desk agents’ valuable time, let a guest messaging platform automate the routine communication tasks, like replying to frequently asked questions or routing guest inquiries to the correct department. Compared to email, consumers read more texts than emails - and faster Communication with guests isn’t limited to the time they’re on-site; the pre-stay experience begins before the guest even books their reservation, and the post-stay experience continues after the guest departs. When 82% of text messages are read within 5 minutes, but consumers only open 1 in 4 emails they receive, hoteliers want to ensure that guests actually read their confirmation messages, marketing blasts, and reminders to write a guest review. Zingle’s customizable platform can optimize any hotel’s messaging cycle, from pre-stay to post-stay. Text messages from brands get positive reception Adding texting capabilities is a fantastic way to add value to your brand, since 91% of users who opted in to receive texts from a brand see those messages as “somewhat” or “very useful”. Keep a pulse on the real-time guest experience with a guest messaging platform that can automatically send text messages asking for mid-stay feedback. These text message conversations can provide personalized service and valuable insight about what’s going well and what needs resolution. If the guest reports an issue, Zingle can route the case to the correct department, for example, housekeeping, so service recovery can happen immediately. Young consumers see companies who text favorably How can a text messaging strategy impact your hotel’s guest review scores? 77% of consumers aged 18–34 are likely to perceive positively a company that offers text capability, which means simply offering texting as a method of communication can enhance a guest’s experience. Furthermore, Zingle’s mid-stay feedback requests and quick responses make personalized, attentive service easy to deliver. After guests depart, Zingle can also send a gentle reminder to write a guest review, which helps to ensure those positive service experiences leave an impact on the hotel’s guest review scores. Bring your hotel into the digital age with a comprehensive guest messaging strategy that utilizes guests’ preferred communication method: texting. Guest messaging platforms like Zingle can provide property management system integrations, inter-department communication, and even automated responses to frequently asked questions, so your operational efficiency will increase along with guest satisfaction. In addition to text messages, Zingle allows guests to use their preferred method of communication, whether it be email, WeChat, or Facebook Messenger. Upgrade your hotel’s guest messaging platform and reap the benefits of happier guests and more efficient staff.
The “mobilization of everything” is here: consumers do everything on their mobile devices. In emerging markets like Southeast Asia and Africa many consumers are even forgoing laptops and desktop computers altogether, using smartphones for everything from mobile banking to online shopping while on-the-go. The travel industry is already seeing the early ramifications of a mobile-first (or mobile only in many cases) approach to life. According to Google, 46% of leisure travelers and 61% of business travelers use a smartphone to check into their flight. Smartphone sales reports indicate that we’ve nearly reached market saturation – and that every traveler in the world will have a smartphone in play to manage flights, book tours, and make hotel bookings, among other things. On-site mobile capabilities are increasingly important to deliver the smooth, seamless guest experience that travelers have come to expect. Mobile pay and keyless entry are two such upgrades that many hotels can make to facilitate frictionless guest experiences while on property. If you’re working with a limited budget, which tool should you invest in first? The short answer: keyless entry is an easy win for most hotels. Studies have shown that keyless entry immediately impacts guest satisfaction scores and also is one of the few offers that will encourage guests to download your hotel’s app (if you have one). It’s a great long-term investment with instant impact on the guest experience. Mobile pay is here to some extent – but won’t reach peak demand for a few more years. The case for keyless entry in hospitality Keyless entry allows guests to check-in and access their room immediately upon arrival, using a Mobile Key on their device to lock the door. The entire experience is streamlined, efficient, and more convenient: it removes the process of visiting the front desk upon arrival. It eliminates the hassle of lost keys or keys that demagnetize and must be replaced during their stay. The data doesn’t lie: keyless entry is becoming increasingly important to travelers. According to trend researchers, Keyless entry leads to an average increase of 7% in guest satisfaction scores Guest satisfaction scores drop by 50% when there’s a 5-minute wait at check-in 46% of travelers say a mobile key solution is an important on-property feature for them 49% of travelers say “their hotel selection is influenced by high-tech features in the hotel room, i.e., mobile key.” Platforms like Intelity with mobile check-in capabilities have benefits for the property as well as for guests. There are immediate cost-savings from not having to replace RFID cards constantly – approximately $1,000 per month in savings. Mobile key solutions are typically app-based, providing a new channel for added revenue-generating opportunities. Because mobile keys are used so often, guests are incentivized to download and frequently use the key app – Intelity’s mobile app allows hotels to send through personalized offers, such as room upgrades, room service promos, restaurant and spa-bookings, and more. It’s a win-win for your guests and your property. Mobile pay is coming to hotels, just later Mobile pay seems like a natural solution for a trend that demands personalization and efficiency. But, in comparison to keyless entry, guests have a much lower appetite for mobile pay – making it a less worthy investment for most properties. There are simply too many barriers to adoption or both guests and hotel properties. First and foremost, there are an overwhelming number of mobile payment options on the market. Apple, Google, and Samsung each have their own mobile payment tools, not to mention the dozens of smaller vendors that work with various restrictions depending on your location. “There are a lot of players out there, so nobody has really come out with that one killer app to really rally everybody behind it,” said Felipe Carreras, director of e-commerce Best Western Hotels & Resorts. “And I think there are lingering security concerns. It seems like there’s a weekly report of (companies) being breached, so people are more and more reluctant to put (payment) information out there.” Hotels are simply not equipped to accept every form of mobile payment presented by travelers. Different banking regulations around the world make it challenging for large hotel brands to implement a tool that can accept payments at every global property. There simply isn’t enough demand by consumers to make these capital-intensive changes at this stage. However, research by McKinsey indicates that eventually, guests will have the same mobile pay expectations that they do keyless entry. “Mobile commerce” is forecasted to reach 70% by 2022, meaning that expectations to use mobile payment will certainly infiltrate the hospitality industry. Another reason mobile pay isn’t as high of a priority is because guests often like to charge hotel services to their room while on property. This means that only one transaction happens during their stay which is convenient already so the pains of mobile pay for high volumes of smaller transactions in daily life don’t really exist in the same way for hotel guests. Mobile key is here to stay, mobile payments are coming While mobile payments are coming, security concerns and an over-saturated market indicate that guests aren’t chomping at the bit to use mobile pay just yet. Implementing keyless entry is a quick win for your hotel property. Hilton and Marriott are already reaping the benefits of using keyless entry within their branded app experience. Hilton guests downloaded 7.6 million mobile keys through the app in 2018. Hilton reports that guests rarely use the app outside their stay and that the mobile check-in/mobile key functionality is the primary driver for downloading the app (alongside using the hotel’s loyalty program). There’s no real business case for creating a proprietary, branded app when there are tools like Intelity on the market. The demand for a mobile key solution is there, but the desire for a dedicated mobile app is not. Strike the perfect balance with a better investment that can be easily and affordably updated as technology evolves.
Success for any startup is a blend of luck and skill, peppered with grit and resilience. It takes a methodical approach to pull together a team with exceptional skills to execute on an idea that solves a real problem for a well-understood customer. Even in a world of remote work, it also helps to be surrounded by knowledgeable advisors with industry expertise and a supportive community that can be tapped face-to-face. This is especially true in hotel technology, a tight-knit community that thrives on relationships. Of course, success is not solely dependent on location. However, clustering near other related businesses can rapidly increase your chances of success. A strong local network fosters better industry relationships that can shorten lead times on the sales side and accelerate development cycles on the product side. That’s because the right locality puts you closer to your customers, which helps with getting actionable feedback quickly, and closer to potential investors, which accelerates momentum in rapid growth phases. Proximity can also bring you the types of talent that underpin some of the 10 Best Places to Work in Hotel Tech. Cities with clusters of industry- and trend-specific companies give you better chances of finding the right talent for your business -- especially since former employees often go on to start their own startups that solve problems in the same industry, such as with Arise Travel. We’ve done a little legwork to help you discover some of the most vibrant and active places in the world to headquarter your hotel tech startup. With an active community familiar with hotel technology, depth of local talent pool, and a global mindset, these are our top five cities for travel technology. London: Focus on Business Intelligence and Hardware London is an ideal place to take advantage of Europe’s diversity, as well as its relative closeness to the financial centers of New York. And, in spite of the looming Brexit, London remains itself a financial powerhouse. That means a dense concentration of global capital, coupled with a workforce details from countries all over Europe and beyond. With London's six airports, alongside train connections to most of Europe, London's location is ideal for startups looking to situate Themselves at the gates of Europe -- while still remaining as close as possible to the Americas. London also has the Traveltech Lab, a hub for travel technology startups that focuses on fostering a community of “innovation, collaboration, and creativity” that connects “technology startups with big corporates within the travel industry.” The dedicated space and organic community can be a boon to startups as they look to establish themselves, build a product, and grow their business. Hotel tech companies based in London: SiteMinder’s guest acquisition platform combines powerful optimization and analytics tools to capture more direct bookings for hotels. The company has greatly expanded its Exchange, which features dozens of integrations that make its guest acquisition tools even more useful for its 35,000 hotel and property manager clients. While the firm will always call Sydney its home base - they've got a big presence from the London office. Mews is the backbone of hotel operations. Founded by a former rising star at Hilton, its property management system is the top-rated solution on HTR, and its kiosk, mobile check-in, and hotel app solutions are all highly rated by customers. OTA Insight is a “new breed of hotel tech company” that empowers hoteliers to fight against rate disparity, benchmark their own rates against competition, and leverage market intelligence to optimize revenue. The company’s newest feature gives hoteliers the ability to rate shop across different points-of-sale in order to monitor for regional differences in rate parity. Crave’s interactive tablets enhance the guest experience by putting property information, ancillaries, and in-room technology and messaging at guests’ fingertips. Thanks to industry-wide integrations, the tablets fold seamlessly into existing operations. Clock Software’s property management system combines crucial features, such as reservations, housekeeping, and channel management, as well as a robust API, into an all-in-one tool lauded by hoteliers. Case in point: Hoteliers votes Clock Software as a top PMS in the 2019 HotelTechAwards. Triptease is designed to return control of distribution to hotels. From acquisition to conversion, its direct booking platform merges metasearch advertising, parity monitoring, website widgets, and revenue management into a cohesive. Just last year, the Company earned an accolade as a top place to work in hotel tech. Pace reinvents revenue management with its “booking curve” approach to forecasting demand. The “intelligent revenue management” system alerts hoteliers to any unusual patterns to booking curves for each night, room-category and segment. Fornova is a great example of London companies focusing on business intelligence: the company helps hotels monitor and benchmark distribution, as well as analyze market and property-level intelligence with HotelsBI and optimize pricing via its eCommerce Optimizer. Iris Tablets offers hardware for guest rooms via its tablet technology. Its software also sets it apart: the cloud-hosted Guest Experience Platform (GXP) increases revenue, reduces costs and successfully improves the end-to-end Guest Experience for over 3000 hotels and restaurants worldwide. eRevMax is known for its pioneering channel manager and rate shopper RateTiger. Its latest product LiveOS turns “chaos to clarity” by smashing silos and pulling data from disparate systems into one dashboard to support real-time decisions. Impala tackles a critical problem for hotels (and vendors serving hotels): how to integrate systems that don’t integrate themselves. Software providers can run a simple JSON script to integrate their products with those of other vendors in hospitality thus unlocking a new market. San Francisco: Focus on Big Tech Silicon Valley has long been home to Big Tech. And even though the area has long since become less affordable than other cities the region’s reputation continues to attract ambitious entrepreneurs and world-class workers. The competitiveness is a double-edged sword: It can be costly to hire the best talent here, and investors quite literally have the cream of the crop. It can be a struggle for startups to both find the best people and raise the necessary capital to thrive. For these reasons, Silicon Valley has become home to larger hotel tech companies that serve the hospitality industry worldwide. These companies can compete effectively for talent, and take full advantage of the regions saturation of startups. San Francisco is also an interesting place for workers who eventually want to do their own startup: rich networks of talent and capital are useful at the seed stage as well. Hotel tech companies based in SF: Revinate’s CRM and email marketing software helps hotels develop long-lasting relationships with guests through targeted marketing, personalized campaigns, and deeper guest insights. Highlighting the value of being near other companies in the vertical Revinate recently announced a partnership with SF-based Duetto to allow hotels to use Duetto to price upsells dynamically in Revinate. Duetto is a full-stack revenue management technology. The company‘s Revenue Strategy Platform optimizes revenue and profitability across channels. This singular focus on total profitability underpins Duetto’s philosophy of Total Revenue Management. Sojern helps hotels marketers segment audiences and identify the best channels to advertise on. The company, which recently celebrated its 12 year anniversary, moved into new offices last year to accommodate its continued growth. Frontdesk Anywhere is a complete hotel management software suite that facilitates the guest journey from the initial online booking process through arrival, onsite operations and checkout. Autoclerk serves hotels with property management and central reservation systems as well as a booking engine. It’s an end-to-end solution for booking guests, managing reservations, and operations. In a surprise move, BestWestern is the new owner of Autoclerk and promises to continue investing in the platform. MS Shift solves several operational issues for hotels: concierge management, luggage tracking, front desk management, asset tracking, and maintenance/engineering management, among others. Salesforce is the granddaddy of enterprise technology. It's fully-customizable CRM and sales software is widely used in the hospitality industry. HelloShift is an easy-to-use messaging platform that enhances communications among staff as well as between staff and guests. With its combined approach Helloshift can become a hotel’s communications backbone. The company was recognized as the top staff collaboration platform in the 2018 HotelTechAwards. Medallia is a Customer Experience Management company that solves the problem of uneven feedback: it’s not easy to gather customer feedback across online and offline and transform them into something relevant and useful. Suiteness has an unexpected take on hotel bookings: it offers only suites. The value proposition extends to groups as it also empowers travelers to book connecting suites so that groups can stay together. Suiteness integrates with DHSCO and SynXis to expand access to the unique inventory. Amsterdam: Focus on the Booking.com Alumni and Partner Networks Amsterdam is another great European city from which to base your hotel tech startup. Data from Startup Europe found that Amsterdam’s share of Europe’s venture financing was EUR 1.67 billion. Amsterdam also has an added advantage: It's the home of globally-recognized behemoth Booking Holdings. The company, best known for Booking.com, employs thousands and will soon move into a high-profile new headquarters building. The steady growth of the company means that there is a sizable local population with the knowledge of travel and hospitality. The population is also highly fluent in English, which makes Amsterdam a city with solid international bon afides. Hotel tech companies based in Amsterdam: HotelChamp is a website experience and marketing optimization tool for hotels. When deployed on a hotel’s website, the toolset boosts direct bookings by adding a layer of personalization and segmentation. The latest tool, called Autopilot, leverages millions of data points to optimize a website in real-time. Oaky unlocks pre-stay up selling so that hotels can offer room upgrades and other products prior to arrival. The solution improves profitability-per-booking before a guest even arrives on property. Oaky was awarded the top upselling and merchandising solution at the 2019 HotelTechAwards. 4Suites solves the keyless entry problem for hotels. It's smart access technology simplifies hotel operations, reduces costs and upgrades the guest experience. iReckonU sits at the core of your hotel’s tech stack to pull in data from other tools to reveal new insights and to enrich guest profiles. This “guest experience framework” improves the efficacy of marketing while also putting operations closer to guests. Hoteliers.com combines all distribution channels into a single view which reduces complexity and increases control for independent hoteliers looking for an affordable-yet-powerful channel manager. Olery solves reputation management for hotels. The system captures reviews from over 100 channels, and pulls them into a single interface for hotels to handle quickly and efficiently. It also has an analytics and marketing component to give hoteliers tools to improve and promote its reputation. Olery’s latest report dives into reputation in the Middle East. New York City: Focus on Marketing NYC is a fantastic place to run a hospitality technology startup. The city has one of the highest concentrations of hotels in the world, which puts your startup close to many potential customers. The city is also one of the global hubs for media, which may have something to do with the over-indexing on start-ups with a hospitality marketing focus. New York is also home to Voyager HQ, a hub for a global community of travel and hospitality tech startups. The co-working space is home to many startups in the industry and often hosts meetups and networking events that provide a solid base for its startup community. As European companies hit scale they tend to make New York their first foray into the U.S. market as evidenced by Triptease and Mews Systems both sending their founders overseas. The flight between NYC and London is pretty manageable and so is the time zone - what better launchpad for world domination? Hotel tech companies based in NYC: Travel Tripper provides distribution and marketing support to everyone from small independents to major brands. Hotels looking for an all-in-one marketing partner should look no further since the firm has it all: Booking Engine, CRS, Digital Marketing Services and Hotel website development. With freshly infused Accel-KKR capital Travel Tripper merged with Pegasus and now provides additional business intelligence and GDS services. InnRoad is a popular property management system for small properties and boutiques. HeBS recently rebranded as Next Guest with the integration of Serenata Intraware’s CRM technology. While Serenata remains run out of its Germany headquarters NY provides the mothership and HeBS’ bread and butter is still digital marketing. TravelClick was recently acquired by publicly traded travel tech behemoth Amadeus and while Amadeus is run out of Spain, we imagine that it’s New Hampshire based hospitality division is going to get a little FOMO when they see their sister company’s New York City digs. Volara provides voice recognition software to hotels solving for the challenges of systems integrations and cyber security - giving hotels the ability to install turnkey Amazon and Android devices in their rooms. ALICE was one of the first company’s in the market to “make hotel tech fun again” lead by marketing guru Alexander Shashou and technical savant Dmitry Koltunov - the firm is an unstoppable force in the hotel operations space. LaaSie.ai (formerly Stay Wanderful) is a lesser known direct booking platform providing a network of merchant partnerships that can be leveraged to increase hotel website conversion and ultimately drive more direct bookings. LaaSie recently rebranded and similar to Travel Tripper above was originally funded by NYC based Highgate Ventures. SEVENROOMS is a restaurant software company that provides CRM and guest management services to dozens of hotel restaurants around the world. Bizly is a meeting booking platform that helps corporate meeting planners find the best venues for small breakout meetings (i.e. hotels). Los Angeles/San Diego: Focus on Messaging Long known as the entertainment capital of the world, LA has emerged as a tech hub in its own right. Part of this is due to its status as a (slightly) more affordable option for SF startups. Another part is due to the convergence of technology and entertainment; as more startups emerged to build technologies underpinning next-gen entertainment, it naturally created a local base of tech talent. Another reason for the rising popularity of southern California as a technology hub? Clearly it's the weather! But the preponderance of sunny days, many weather-weary San Franciscans and New Yorkers have made the move. By the influx, the city intense relative affordability compared to cities of the same size and scope. Coupled with the great quality of life, southern California has become quite the contender on the global tech stage. Socal is an hour flight to both a hotel hub and tech hub, Las Vegas and Silicon Valley respectively. Hotel tech companies based in Los Angeles/San Diego: INTELITY’s guest engagement platform bridges across departments to connect staff with guests across text, voice, and digital channels. The company also offers an hotel operations platform for staff management, That includes recorder and task management, as well as analytics. INTELITY recently merged with KEYPR to expand its reach and reliability worldwide. Cloudbeds provides a booking engine, channel manager, property management system, and revenue optimization tools for independent hotels, boutiques, B&Bs, and hostels. The comprehensive hotel management solution was named a finalist for the People’s Choice Award at the 2019 HotelTechAwards. Whistle’s guest messaging technology simplifies communications so that staff can respond to messages in real-time from a single dashboard, regardless of whether the message is an email, website chat, or text message. For the second year in a row, Whistle earned the top spot as the #1 messaging platform on HotelTechReport. ResortPass has raised more than $12M to help hoteliers grow revenue by selling premium access to luxury amenities like the pool and spa during off-peak hours. The Company is based in Santa Monica and works with top tier hotels like the Viceroy Santa Monica and W Hollywood. TrustYou While they are headquartered in Munich, Germany, TrustYou set up shop in San Diego, CA back in 2014 in order to better serve the growing US hotel industry. Their 10 local employees support functions across all facets of the company including Business Development, Account Management, Client Success, Finance, and Marketing. Zingle is a messaging platform that connects guest and staff across channels and devices so that communications is always streamlined and never siloed. The company recently announced AI-driven Intelligent routing that analyzes a guest’s intent to intelligently (and automatically) route guest requests to the right department or person. GuestBook Rewards is a loyalty program for independent hotels. Guests have a choice of cashback, credits for a future trip, or a charitable donation -- an incentive model that sets GuestBook apart from its competitors. The program has become the largest network of independents, with over 600 member hotels in 55 countries. GuestCentric gives hotels control over their revenues by solving the guest acquisition problem: with a CRS, a digital agency The company was a HotelTechAward finalist in 2018. JDA Software’s revenue management solution solves the revenue management problem for hotels. Thanks to an advanced forecasting engine that includes consumer intent and price sensitivity, the software increases revenue and boosts margins. Clicktripz is a monetization platform for publishers. Using proprietary ad-serving technology, Clicktripz’s targeting and granular bidding means that publishers can efficiently monetize audiences by connecting them to suppliers and advertisers. Kallpod is a service tracking solution that encourages guests to call for service right from their table. Kallpod Pro extends this functionality with customizable buttons, a two-way interface for staff to talk to each other, and a data platform to assist with more intelligent staffing.
Call them what you'd like: hotel tablets, compendiums or directories. These digital tablet based directories are a simple, straightforward upgrade that can improve guest satisfaction scores virtually overnight. But, hoteliers are apprehensive about spending money to go digital with their guest room directory experience. All hospitality trends point toward adding new technology and digital tools to the hotel industry; overcoming these myths about guest room digital directories is a step in the right direction. Here’s the truth about how using guest room digital directories can dramatically improve guest satisfaction scores. Myth busted: Guest tablets are not just fancy digital compendiums, they're your ticket to profitability during need periods and they actually don't cost that much anymore. Myth 1: They’re expensive and difficult to upgrade Previously, tablets were an expensive upfront purchase that many hotel brands couldn’t afford. Tablets historically were counted against capital expenditures; today, they can be categorized under operating expenditures and rented for a lower price. Crave is one company that offers their e-Menu product for rent, rather than purchase. The rental plan is set up to be less expensive and a flexible way to see how well a digital directory works for your property. Crave’s rental agreement waives their normal set-up fee and no cancellation fee. Depending on the size of your hotel, you can add tablets for as low as 33 cents per room per day for 3 months. And, when the tablets get outdated, simply swap them out for the latest model. Myth 2: Digital directories are hard to set up and maintain Many hoteliers are wary about adding another piece of software to their team’s workload. There’s a fear that a digital directory might cause more headaches, rather than delightful moments. For properties with an outdated PMS system, adding an integration that might crash the entire hotel infrastructure is cause for concern. But, today there are plenty of digital directories that are easy to install. In-room tablets from Crave come ready to be plugged in and connected to the WiFi. Some companies also offer their support team services via the cloud, with 24/7 remote support for the rare occasions there is an issue with the system. With Crave, staff training is even included as part of the rental plan – meaning your staff will be well equipped to interact with guests and troubleshoot on the spot. Myth 3: They’re just fancy paper directories Here’s where in-room tablets really stand out. Paper directories get outdated quickly; when your on-site restaurant changes seasonal specials, or your marketing promos change, those paper directories quickly become obsolete. In-room digital directories empower your property to dynamically price food and beverages, run real-time marketing initiatives, and send personalized recommendations to your guests. Improve your revenue per available room by sending timely alerts, or capitalize on events or holidays with targeted promos. For example, if there’s a sporting event going on, send an alert to all tablets for $5 off drinks pre-game. When the spa is empty, send through a coupon for 30% off spa services for the day. Digital directories offer many more revenue-generating capabilities than paper directories. You’re constantly running promotions to new guests during need periods and without a digital directory there is no way to really scale promotions with the thousands of guests you already have to drive higher tRevPAR (total revenue per available room). Myth 4: They need to replace all other hotel software Digital directories aren’t a silver bullet solution for all of your property’s software. Great tablet vendors integrate well with your existing systems. From room control integrations to service optimization, a digital directory brings something new to the proverbial table. The tablet should not only host your digital directory but also give your guests one-touch control. Things like lighting, temperature, drapery, privacy, and staff service requests can all be managed by the same in-room tablet. The tablet should also be equipped to communicate with your housekeeping software, allowing guests to make housekeeping and engineering requests as well as order food and beverage and access in-room entertainment. Look for a digital directory that also provides guest messaging: Crave, for example. Integrates with messaging service Kipsu to provide 1:1 real-time communication with reception and other staff. Myth 5: Guests prefer to use an app This last myth is the most damaging impression of all: that guests would prefer to manage their stay through a hotel app. Guests are simply not motivated to download a hotel app in order to have a better stay. Surveys report that 51% of U.S. smartphone users say they download zero apps each month (on average). When they do download an app, it’s usually in the entertainment category: social media, music, TV or gaming. Hotel apps are specifically not entertaining; nevertheless, hoteliers still believe their properties need a dedicated mobile app. In reality, the things that improve the guest experience have nothing to do with the app. Guests look for things like the ability to make requests, order room service, check-in via mobile, and connect with in-room entertainment. Tablets that host digital directories are equipped to handle each of those needs – and then some. Plus, digital directories are more affordable than building, rolling out, and maintaining a proprietary app. It’s a no-brainer to add a digital directory to your hotel – what are you waiting for?
There are more than 2.1M apps in the Google Play app store. Guess how many mobile apps the typical U.S. smartphone user downloads each month? The answer will shock many of you: zero. 51% of U.S. smartphone users say they download zero apps each month (on average). That’s not to say that mobile apps are dying, it just means that users rarely download an app unless it provides utility (and value). Why aren't they downloading? Well, finding and downloading mobile apps is a pain in the butt. The majority of app usage (i.e. time on device) goes to social media, music, video and gaming. Hotel apps do none of these things yet somehow the lion's share of hoteliers still believe their properties need a dedicated mobile app. Your guests don’t want to download your hotel's app and they certainly don’t want to book another room on said app while they’re staying on property. Rather than just getting an app because you think you should, dive into the real use cases and you'll realize that tech like in room tablets and guest messaging are way better at serving some of those same guest needs without the barrier of a download. “If you think about it, when was the last time you downloaded an app because your local supermarket suggested it? It’s just too much of a hassle. Hotel apps are no different-the barriers in the way of usage are too high. Over the years, this belief has become less common, but we still hear it.” ~Tilmann Volk, Founder of SuitePad Hilton and Marriott’s apps enjoy relatively high engagement rates but those are because of loyalty programs (i.e. high volumes of repeat bookings). It’s important to highlight that these are NOT hotel apps, they are brand apps. With brand apps guests don’t need to download a new app for each stay. Further, even with those programs guests rarely use their apps in stay outside of the core use case highlighted by Hilton’s 2018 Annual Report. That use case is mobile key (and check-in): Hilton guests downloaded 7.6 million mobile keys through the app in 2018. The only real incentive that moves the needle is mobile check-in/mobile key but even those are better suited in a download-free environment when possible. App developers usually pitch hotels and hotel groups with stats like the ones below from MCD Travel: 80% of guests want to use their mobile device to browse hotel amenities 78% of guests want to use their mobile device to view local area maps 55% of guests want to use their mobile device to schedule a hotel taxi pickup 43% of guests want to use their mobile device to sync with the in room television It’s true that your guests bring their phones everywhere and are constantly using them for in destination functions but these statistics are making one key (and majorly flawed) assumption - that guests already have your hotel app on their phones. If your guests want to search local maps or schedule a taxi, they’ve already got Google Maps and Uber/Gett/etc, so there’s no need for your hotel to have an app that just routes them to those places. The core guest needs that aren’t already being met by apps they already have are things like: the ability to make requests (e.g. late checkout), order room service, connect with the concierge and control in-room entertainment (like Sonifi or Enseo), mobile key and mobile check-in. So what options do hoteliers have to meet these needs and drive increased engagement on property? The two solutions that really hit the nail on the head are: guest messaging platforms and in room tablets. Which of these solutions your hotel employs is really a matter of preference. Each has unique advantages and drawbacks. Guest messaging is great because the medium requires no hardware and allows guests to communicate with staff wherever they are. The drawback is that messaging requires guest consent/active opt-in in today’s hyper sensitive privacy environment so there will inevitably be guests who stay with you that do not access the service. All of those stats above support leveraging a guest messaging platform where guests can meet all those needs with an app they already have on their phones. In room tablets are a great alternative for hotels to reach 100% of guests with in room tech. The physical form factor of a tablet digitizes in room folios which saves paper and time. Tablets are a great way for hotels to market services and amenities like bookable spa appointments, F&B offers and local tours to drive incremental revenue. Some tablet software vendors are getting extremely creative with data initiatives like time based offers to fill need periods in F&B outlets and real time dynamic pricing for room service. SuitePad is one of Europe's leading guest room tablet providers working with brands like Ruby Hotels, Jumeirah and Falkensteiner. We sat down with SuitePad founder Tilmann Volk to discuss the future of guest engagement, why hotel guests don’t want to download apps and more. SuitePad founder Tilmann Volk What was your background prior to starting the company? We started SuitePad coming almost directly out of university. Aside from a few months of professional experience in a different startup right before SuitePad, I learned everything here. My co-founder Moritz, and I were both at a crossroads of sorts in our lives. We had stayed friends after leaving university and had both recently moved to the buzzing city of Berlin, each working on other things. I think we both felt the urge for a change and started brainstorming concepts and tinkering on ideas after work. At the time, in 2012, the tablet-PC market for consumers was just taking off. We saw the opportunity to take a consumer technology and bring it into a B2B context. That it was going to be hotels we were serving, wasn’t immediately clear to us. We just saw the technology without understanding how to best employ it. When we spoke to hotels, it clicked. Digital guest engagement was still a very young field and we were keen on shaping it. Who was SuitePad's first customer? One of the very very first hoteliers we talked to was Erich Falkensteiner from Falkensteiner Hotels and Residences. He’s been a leading voice in the hotel industry, so when he said that he’d buy our product, we knew we were onto something. At the time, our product was only a clickable powerpoint presentation on an iPad. I think we, as newbies to the industry, only were successful with this start because we listened closely to what hotels wanted and shaped our product accordingly. I spent a night at the Circus Hotel in Berlin and got a chance to use SuitePad a couple months back. For our readers who haven't yet had a chance to use the product can you tell them a little about the platform? The world around us travellers has become digital- I can book my stay, reserve a restaurant table, and leave a review digitally. Now think of the hotel room of today: the guest directory, phone, remote control, spa brochure, room service menu are remnants of analogue days that clutter the hotel room and don’t provide much upselling potential. We combine all of these things on a single device, making them easier to use and providing up-selling and cost-reduction possibilities while we’re at it. In short: we’re here to help hotels engage their guests in a digital world. What's one common belief amongst hoteliers that is actually false? If I had a cent for every time someone told us that it is a good idea to have guests download a hotel app onto their phones for digital guest engagement, I’d have millions. If you think about it, when was the last time you downloaded an app because your local supermarket suggested it? It’s just too much of a hassle. Hotel apps are no different-the barriers in the way of usage are too high. Over the years, this belief has become less common, but we still hear it. What's the most surprising thing you've learned about scaling technology into hotels since founding the business? Scaling in the hotel tech field seems to take longer than in other industries, as hotels often seem cautious to adopt new technologies. So tech trends might be slow to come, but I believe they are pretty sustainable when they do- which is good, because we’re in it for the long haul. Hotel tech is a small community and vendors are constantly developing partnerships with companies who have built complementary products. Are there 1 or 2 companies that have been a particularly good partners for you? How have these partnerships been unique? Where do you see guest tech going in the next 5-years and beyond? We want to continue to shape the ways hotels engage with their guests. In 5 years’ time, we’ll have replaced pretty much everything in the hotel room save for the bed and the TV. We’ll be doing this in hundreds of thousands of hotel rooms around the globe. The entire hotel tech space is seeing the arrival of platforms, marketplaces, and other facilitators of interfaces. I think that interfaces between different hotel tech players will be more important than ever, and that hotels have every reason to be excited about this development. Do you have any new products or feature launches of late? We just recently went live with SuitePad TV, enabling guests to control the TV from their tablet. We’re excited about the feature, because it’s about more than just replacing the remote control. SuitePad TV offers a better user experience because it lets guests filter for preferences and languages when choosing a channel. It also significantly drives up guest-interaction on the SuitePad, which is great news for hotels looking to promote their offers & services! We’re currently also testing a new product that lets guests seamlessly stream their content from their phones to hotel TVs. I’m really looking forward to how it pans out! What's one piece of advice that you have for any entrepreneurs looking to get into the hotel tech space? Do it! Partnering with hotels means partnering with people who are full-blooded hosts and care deeply about their customers, and it’s contagious! Plus, the coffee is great! What is the best book you've read lately and why? Thinking Fast and Slow by Kahnemann and Tversky is worth reading and re-reading! What is your favorite podcast? NPR car talk re-runs are my guilty pleasure on long drives. What is one thing that most people don't know about you? I have a terrible sense of direction.
Everyone texts -- and not just with friends and family: 9 out of 10 consumers prefer to text businesses they frequent. And, increasingly, many turn to messaging apps for regular communications: 55% of U.S. consumers use a mobile messaging app at least once a month. The proliferation of inbound communications channels creates complexity for hotels; it’s just not simple to manage, track, and triage requests across so many different channels. This complexity is why more hospitality brands are implementing guest engagement technology. The tech pulls guest communications into a single platform, enabling guests to communicate seamlessly with hotels via text messaging, apps, and social media. These platforms generally rely on automation and A.I.-powered chatbots to augment human customer service agents, a trend that Salesforce sees as growing by 241% in the next 18 months. The combination allows for a more nuanced approach to customer service, pushing predictable requests to chatbots and complex interactions to humans. This combination increases the relevance, accuracy, speed, and convenience of your guest communications. A recent SalesForce report predicts a 241% increase in usage of A.I. chatbots across travel and hospitality. One of the leading guest messaging platforms serving hospitality brands is Zingle, which enables hotels to provide more consistent, accurate communications through whichever channels guests prefer. The platform also streamlines comms for staff, uniting all conversations in one place so nothing is overlooked. The benefits of stronger guest engagement is threefold: improved operational efficiency, better guest satisfaction, and higher RevPAR. Staff is more efficient, wastes less time, and respond to requests quicker, so guests are more satisfied and leave better reviews (and thus higher RevPAR). Here are three key ways that Zingle’s guest engagement platform increases the relevance, accuracy, speed, and convenience of your guest communications. #1: A more personalized experience Personalization is certainly buzzed about -- but it’s no longer just a buzzword, it’s a best practice. For hotels, this plays out in very specific ways, such as these two recent experiences from Hotel Tech Report staff with hotel guest messaging platforms. The Thompson Cape in Cabo used a guest messaging platform to ask about allergies during our stay last September. We disclosed a severe allergy to pumpkin seeds which enabled the hotel to ensure all outlets (e.g. the pool bar, room service, etc.) were able to help us avoid incident. More recently, at the Kimpton EPIC Hotel in Miami during Amadeus’ customer conference, a front desk agent named Dante texted the guest to let them know of his availability for any issues; sure enough, the key didn’t work and Dante sent a new one up after a single text avoiding what could have been an extremely poor arrival experience. These experiences underscore just how much personalized texting can help to improve the guest experience and mitigate risk of issues while on property. Unfortunately, there’s still a disconnect between what consumers expect and what hospitality brands deliver. In a 2018 Epsilon survey, 87% of respondents said they are more likely to do business with travel websites/apps offering personalized experiences. And yet only 64% say travel brands currently deliver personalized experiences either very or somewhat well. The gap between consumer expectations and actual performance is a massive opportunity across a hotel’s operation. For marketers, personalization can boost conversions for things like end-of-stay surveys and review requests. For GMs, personalization means more efficient allocation of resources. Notable feature: Put your hotel at the leading edge of personalization with Zingle’s modules, called “zings.” Each zing is customizable to respond to specific triggers, similar to setting up marketing automation workflows or email drip campaigns. These flows allow hotels to customize how messages are routed, and what happens on specific triggers. For instance, hotels can personalize a checkout survey or escalate a lost-and-found request to the right person. #2: More streamlined communications There’s nothing worse than a hotel that silos guest communications by channel, as it leads to a poor experience -- a guest may have messages unanswered or have to explain a situation over and over to whomever is tasked with answering a particular channel. And that’s not just frustrating for guests: Hotel staff also struggle with siloed guest communications, as knowledge isn’t always shared across shifts. Without a single source of truth, there’s a bad feeling of always playing catch up. Part of providing a consistent experience means that guests are able to communicate how they like with the hotel. Guests want to be able to chat, text, or call, and know that the requests are all being monitored. They don’t care how they make a request; they just want requests answered -- and fulfilled -- promptly. A guest messaging platform helps hotels meet that expectation. With a single platform for communications, staff aren’t constantly toggling between tools and can respond to guests across all channels (including popular messaging apps like WhatsApp). The fact that Zingle’s A.I.-driven system also answers common questions and escalates service issues to humans means that it’s like having a new staff member working 24/7. Hotels that use Zingle emphasize how easy it is for both guest and staff, saying that it is a “wonderful amenity that streamlines communication.” “We like the ease of contacting guests. This is great for special in-house offers at the outlets, we have seen extra revenue at the spa when we send out specials. It's also great to alert groups when the function has been moved inside due to weather. We had a pipe break a few weeks back and used Zingle to alert the guests that the water would be shut off from 1-3.” ~ Assistant GM from Clearwater, United States The fact that this GM identifies both guests and associates as strong advocates underscores how powerful a unified communications platform can be. Staff is less stressed, confused, and overwhelmed managing new and existing requests, and guests get the support they need quickly on channels they already use. This consistency help hotels deliver the best experience possible -- and to quickly resolve emerging problems before they escalate. Notable feature: Zingle’s platform resolves common guest requests with intelligent routing. There are also “quick keys” for common messages, which saves agents time when responding directly to guests. The intelligent routing and shortcuts reduce the amount of time staff spends on repetitive responses while also quickly getting guests the information they seek. #3: A more empowered staff A guest engagement platform makes staff more productive. Guests receive responses personalized to their requests, some of which are boilerplate responses to common questions (“Where’s the gym”) and others are written by customer service agents. With Zingle handling routine requests, staff can devote more brainpower to complex tasks. The Salesforce report we mentioned earlier also found that: Chatbots make customer service agents 64% more efficient and frees them up to spend more time solving complex problems. Guests also get frustrated when hotels make it difficult to find answers to common questions. With customer service agents spending less time on repetitive responses, it benefits both teams and customers alike. Staff have more bandwidth to resolve those thornier guest issues which results in a better guest experience. For example, let’s say a front desk agent is busy answering a phone call about the pool’s opening hours. Zingle’s A.I. could have answered that question on its own, freeing up the front desk agent for higher-impact tasks, such as taking a new reservation or handling a high-touch guest request. As La Cantera Resort & Spa’s Director of Revenue confirms in a recent review, Zingle’s automation makes guests happier and frees up staff so that more can get done: Read more Zingle reviews Notable feature: Sentiment-based alerts. Zingle actively monitors inbound communications, acting as a 24/7 sentry for your property’s guest experience. Overlooking a negative message can poison the guest experience -- and damage your brand. Zingle’s sentiment-based alerts allow you to prioritize resources so that the most pressing situations are addressed first. This automatically identifies opportunities for service recovery -- and ensures that a bad situation doesn’t get worse. Bringing it all together With its cross-platform messaging, Zingle will keep your staff organized and on-point, uniting guest communications in one place -- regardless of channel. The platform does all the work, reliably and consistently. Guests don’t even need to know how their requests are processed. The platform simply routes it all according to a property’s rules, without any intervention. For pricing, Zingle offers a free trial so hotels can try before they buy. After the trial, there’s a one-time implementation fee and a monthly subscription charged on a per room basis. To get set up, you’ll need to thoughtfully map out your guest touchpoints, connect your communications channels to the platform, and then train staff. Zingle’s team has 10 years of experience, so implementation actually becomes a great opportunity to improve operations. One final piece of data to guide your decision in choosing a guest messaging software: consumers prefer a blend of chatbots and human agents. It’s not as simple as replacing one for the other. By implementing a A.I.-driven model that relies on the strengths of both bots and humans, hotels stand to benefit immensely from an improved guest experience that results in better reviews.