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The underappreciated city of Minneapolis served as host for the 2019 edition of HITEC (produced by HFTP) which wrapped up its most recent four-day run on June 20, 2019. In the days and weeks leading up to the event, meeting solicitations and party invites filled my inbox at a growth rate any VC or entrepreneur would envy. As a first-timer to this international hospitality technology behemoth, it became apparent that HITEC actually begins a few weeks prior to when that first request or invitation lands in your over-stuffed inbox.

Time is limited. Once it’s gone, you can’t gain it back. Similarly, once a room goes unsold for a night, it will go unsold forever. There’s no way to recover that loss, because there’s no way to go back in time.
 
Many hotels fight this limitation by trying to sell as many rooms as possible. If all the rooms are completely booked, time no longer becomes a factor. But most don’t have the luxury of being at-capacity every single night. That’s why last-minute booking apps are growing in popularity in the industry, where hotels can make the most of each day. These apps specifically target guests who don’t plan far in advance, seeking accommodations from one week to one minute later.
 
There are several different ways your hotel can benefit from using last-minute booking apps in your business strategy.

IoT is Coming, Jon Snow…
Posted: 05/21/2019

Hospitality is prime for the coming advent of the various devices that make up the Internet of Things. Estimates show the industry now represents 17.5 million rooms worldwide and savvy guests are demanding more personalization and an overall improved guest experience along their connected travel journey and belief is that IoT can bring this to reality. 

The forces driving local search rankings are constantly changing. But recent studies suggest that in 2019, four key factors make up the local search algorithm. 
 
The most significant factor is Google My Business (GMB). If you’re not on it, get on it now.

The robotic revolution in the hospitality industry might seem to have taken a step back. This January, the famously quirky Henn-Na Hotel in Japan fired half of its 243 robot staff. The robotic workforce reportedly irritated guests and frequently broke down.



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Is the Age of the Hotel App Over?

10/28/2016

A few short years ago, mobile apps were being heralded as the next big communication tool in the hotel industry. But in a presentation at this year's HITEC, it was argued that the hotel app might be coming to an end.

It seems a dramatic assessment considering all the potential mobile apps promised, and yet it turns out that hotel apps just aren’t delivering meaningful value.


The Trouble with Apps
In reality, most apps that are downloaded end up being abandoned or not used at all. And despite the fact iOS and Android have over 3.1 million apps available for download, a recent study showed that customers spend 80 percent of their time using just three of them – Facebook, Google and the text messaging app.

Apps are also expensive to build and maintain, putting them out of reach for a great deal of independent hotels.

And then there is the issue of awareness. When a guest checks into a hotel, they may have no idea that the property they’re staying at even has an app – and it’s unlikely most people would go out of their way to check.

But as apps are being written off, a new opportunity is arising. In the hotel industry, it seems the future of guest communication lies in messaging. Around the world, messaging has become the dominant way people communicate with friends and family. Whether it’s chatting over SMS, or keeping in touch through Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, messaging has become ingrained in everyday life.

For hotels, it makes sense to engage with guests via a platform they use frequently, rather than trying to persuade them to download an app they may never have heard of. The one-to-one nature of messaging also provides a platform to build more personal relationships.

And of course, messaging also opens up the ability to offer far more responsive and effective customer service. If a guest needs a light fixed in their room, wants fresh towels or wishes to book a table at the hotel restaurant, they can easily make that request using their own phone – anywhere, anytime.


Growing Popularity
In 2015, Starwood Hotels started using WhatsApp to communicate with guests. Then later that same year, Hyatt became one of the first brands to use Facebook Messenger as a customer service platform.

More recently, a significant number of brands have started communicating with customers via text, and companies such as Glowing.io are helping hotels streamline their operation by interacting with guests across various messaging platforms.

Slowly but very surely, hotels are starting to embrace messaging and chat apps with greater confidence and as they do, it seems this form of engagement will start to become more commonplace across the industry.


The Challenges of Messaging
While the benefits are numerous, introducing messaging into the guest experience also comes with a few challenges.

Just like making customers aware of a mobile app, hotels similarly need to let customers know they can use messaging to engage with the hotel. This can be achieved relatively easily: a welcome message at check in or a room-ready notification could initiate that first conversation and prompt further interaction.

As the HITEC presentation pointed out, hotel staff will also need to deal with an increased expectation from customers that requests will be responded to quickly. This will naturally involve putting in place effective systems for managing this extra flow of interaction.  This is where companies such as Glowing.io come in. While there are certain educational and operational challenges to be considered, it’s clear that messaging represents an altogether more efficient, consistent and cost-effective way to communicate with guests. In addition, language translation also benefits international guests allowing them to communicate back and forth with the hotel in their preferred language.


Huge Potential
As mobile apps are being written off, messaging looks set to shape the future of how hotels communicate with customers. In fact it’s predicted that within just 2-3 years, talking to hotels using SMS and chat apps will no longer be seen as the exception but the norm.

The potential for hotels is huge.

With global ubiquity and ease of use, messaging provides a ready-made platform to offer enhanced levels of customer service. It also provides the opportunity to forge a stronger relationship with guests – professional in tone, but more personable in nature.

If hotels can harness its true potential, there’s every reason to believe messaging could truly revolutionize the guest experience in the years to come.
 
 
About The Author
Brendon Granger
Director
Technology4Hotels


With a great passion for all things hotels, but in particular technology and a desire to help others, his role as director at Technology4Hotels allows him to do both.

Brendon has worked with hundreds of hotels to help them with their in-room technology. In the last few years he has helped them to increase guest satisfaction, strengthen guest loyalty and encourage repeat bookings as well as win awards such as the best business hotel, best city hotel, best upscale hotel and best luxury hotel in Australasia.

Always going the extra mile, Brendon began his hospitality career over 25 years ago working in five-star hotels whilst completing his bachelor of business in hotel management. He has held various management positions within five-star hotels, worked as a consultant in both hotel feasibility and technology and has an extensive background in hotel technology.

 
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