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People today expect to be connected always and everywhere; sometimes it’s hard to believe that there was a world before smartphones and Wi-Fi. In the time since Wi-Fi became ubiquitous in hotels, apartments, and public spaces, it has fueled the evolution of connectivity in a lot of ways. Just like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the most basic needs start at the bottom, and you can’t get to the next level without a strong foundation. 

By now, everyone is aware that hotel giant Marriott International announced on Friday a massive data breach that goes back more than four years and may have affected up to 500 million customers worldwide. 

After two years of preparation, the FlyZoo Hotel — a futuristic property that uses interactive technologies to do everything from greet guests to deliver room service — is ready for business. 

Mobile technology is fast becoming central to the entire travel experience. Consumers are increasingly using their smartphones to research trips, book accommodation, check in at the airport, and access their hotel room. But one of the next big roles mobile has to play in the travel process is mobile payment. The idea of an entirely cashless society might still seem some way off, but mobile payment is gaining popularity. As it becomes more widely used, its fast and frictionless nature will bring benefits before, during and after a trip. 

Digital marketing, also known as internet marketing, plays a significant role to boost hotel website traffic and online bookings. Recently, many big announcements were made in the digital industry, for example when Facebook introduced a new video format for marketers, or when Google announced a board core algorithm. If you are a new hotelier and want to stay ahead in the industry, then you should know what’s going on in the hotel digital marketing industry. 

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#HITECnola Part 1: Special HITEC 2016 Report brought to you by DANNI Enterprises

Hospitality Upgrade reached out to the team at DANNI Enterprises to provide a summary of experiences from HITEC 2016.  Each team member scouted HITEC through the lens of his or her specific area of expertise.

Natalie Doyle Oldfield, Areas of expertise: customer experience, branding and marketing strategy

#HITECnola Part 1:
From the keynote sessions, to the exhibition hall and the educational sessions, the buzz was data, the millennial generation and customer experience.

Data, Data, Data

From data visualization to operationalizing and humanizing it, data was discussed all week long.  It started with data artist and keynote speaker Jer Thorpe. 

Jer Thorpe’s goal is to bring new meaning to data while striving to attain the “ooh” and “aah” effect. With a number of examples, he demonstrated that there are more ways to show data than with bar or pie charts. From mobility maps to listening to data to interacting with data using your body, he opened us up new ways of seeing and experiencing data.

Thorpe’s message was grounded and powerful.  He left us with three key messages:

  1. The definition of data is about three words “measurement of something.
  2. The way you show data can bring a new meaning to data. 
  3. We must “treat human data with humanity.”

In the exhibit hall several companies displayed data and ‘new dashboards’ filled with bar charts, pie charts and scatter grams while some discussed monetizing data.  We could all learn a lesson or two from Thorpe and incorporate a rose diagram or a spider graph into our dashboards.  Data, big data, business intelligence, dashboards, getting a return on investment from business intelligence and “infusing data into your marketing program and business decisions” were mentioned throughout the New Orleans Convention Center.  In a business intelligence session, a member of the audience asked, “How much data is enough data?” The response was, “The more data the better.”  No one mentioned the statistical nature of data. 

Millennial Guests

The demographics of millennial travelers was a major topic this year and the focus of a few panel sessions.  Some interesting statistics and comments stand out:
  • 75 percent of 18 to 34 year olds in the U.S. took at least one trip in 2014 and the average amount spent was $3,000 per trip.  (John Fountain of Cox Hospitality Networks)
  • “85 percent of millennials are willing to be tracked.” (Katie Briscoe of MMGY Global)
  • “42 percent of millennials sleep with a phone in the bed.” (Scot Campbell of Caesars Entertainment)
  • 5 out of 5 millennial panelists said they did not watch live TV anywhere. (Opposites Attract: Bridging Generational Divides panel) 
  • “The biggest innovation in in-room technology is casting. The ability to watch Netflix on your hotel TV screen cast from your iPad is being driven by millennials. Guests want bigger screens.” (According to Tailoring your Guest Experience to Newer Generation panelists when John Fountain, Cox Hospitality Networks asked ‘what is the biggest in-room innovation in the last few years?’)
  • “Millennials are tech dependent, not tech savvy.” (Peter Klebanoff of The Consultancy at Pointer’s Ridge)

Customer Experience

The opportunity and challenge for hoteliers is that the number of customer touchpoints is limitless and accessible 24 by 7.  Therefore, every customer experience is unique. These statistics and comments from the conference stand out:

  • “91 percent of travelers share their experiences online, 73 percent post each day and 75 percent of travelers share after their trip.” (Katie Briscoe of MMGY Global)
  • “Guests check-in from the parking lot, therefore everything has to be ready – they don’t step up to the front desk anymore or ask what my room number is?” (Ash Patel, Tower Investment Group)
  • 5 out of 5 millennials (100 percent) stated that email and YouTube are the best way for a hotel to communicate with them. (Opposites Attract: Bridging Generational Divides panel)
  • “It is about how I experience the hotel.  If the environment is warm and everyone is friendly I will post [on social media].” (University of Florida student when asked what does a hotel have to do to get guests to post.)
  • “93 percent of individuals say personal contact is irreplaceable; 80 percent want authentic interactions.” (MMGY Global and Amex Travel Journey Makers, June 2013)
  • “We are no longer offering a hotel room for a night.  We are offering an experience.” (Jiggar Patel of Alliance Hospitality LLC)
  • “A guest is a guest is a guest.” (Scot Campbell of Caesars Entertainment when asked how do you differentiate people when offering Wi-Fi in the rooms versus people just walking through the lobby of your hotel.)
In a nutshell, the take-home message from the conference is that all of the technology and the data must be used to enhance the positive experience for the guests.
This special report is part of a 6-part HITEC 2016 summary focusing on specific technology areas from this year’s event. #hitecnola Part 2, by Terry Price, can be found on the TechTalk Blog by clicking here. The remaining 4 parts will be released in the July 8, 2016 Siegel Sez on Hotel Online and will include summaries about network security, infrastructure, payment security, cloud and telecom.

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About The Author
Natalie Doyle Oldfield
Success Through Trust Inc.

Natalie Doyle Oldfield is the president of Success Through Trust Inc. She is also a team member of DANNI Enterprises. Her areas of expertise include customer experience, building customer trust and loyalty.

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