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With the news cycle laser-focused on the looming threat of a COVID-19 second wave happening in nearly every territory, it is up to each and every hotel to ensure we are all fully compliant with virus safety guidelines in order to restore group booking confidence. And the only way to ensure compliance with these safety guidelines is through contactless and compliance technologies to give guests a strong guarantee of proper sanitization as well as peace of mind.

A great deal has been written over the years about the viability of moving a hotel’s property-management system (PMS) to the cloud to take advantage of the latest technologies, but hoteliers need to realize that it’s not the only viable option. All platforms have advantages, including self-hosted, private cloud and on-premise solutions that leverage the latest mobile, contact free and web-based technologies. Independent operators can still enhance the digital guest experience, support personalized and mobile check-in, deploy contact free technologies, and secure hotel/guest data even if their PMS does not reside in the cloud. It should not be a question of “Cloud or On Premise?” but rather “Does the PMS solve your business objectives in both technology and service?”

Much has been written in the mainstream hospitality press about the challenges COVID-19 has presented to the industry. Hotels are in more pain than at any time in our memories. Because of the extensive media coverage, I won’t dwell on this topic further in what is primarily a technology column. But it’s the background for this week’s column, and so merits acknowledgement.

Are You All In?
Posted: 07/27/2020

Imagine everyone in your organization engaged, aligned, and performing to their potential. Imagine everyone playing “All In.”

Great organizations have synergy. Their culture allows them to play to a rhythm at a different tempo than the average organization. How do you get that at your organization?

Many front-line hospitality workers rely on tips for a significant part of their paychecks. If not for tips, many hotel associates who serve as waitstaff, bartenders, housekeepers, bell staff, concierges and pool attendants would soon be looking for other jobs. This is a regional issue: in most of Asia and Europe, staff get higher base pay, and tips are either not expected at all, or are truly discretionary. But in the U.S., Canada, Britain and other countries, tips are an important reality, and one that’s not likely to change anytime soon.

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OTT Entertainment Gets Personal

by Mike Bitz

Entertainment makes us laugh and cry, gives us fodder for the water cooler, and brings us together, and yet it’s also a highly individual experience. Despite 21 years of marriage and a multitude of common interests, my wife will never share my obsession with Game of Thrones. In fact, everyone in our household has their own favorites – the boys like Dual Survival and YouTube videos of puzzle solvers (respectively – don’t get it wrong!), and my wife looks forward to a few quiet hours watching The Bachelor each week (which frankly I will never understand).
You likely experience the same in your own household, just as the same could be expected of other families and groups. For example, millennials, a rapidly growing demographic of much interest to the hospitality industry, often get lumped together as one. In reality, they are individuals who are making personal choices in all aspects of their lives, including entertainment. With online reviews and the preponderance of social media, their voices are loud and should be heard. But in hospitality, other voices matter too:

  • Visitors from locations around the world who want news from home, in their native language
  • Sports fans wanting to watch their team when they can’t cheer them on in person
  • The investor, preparing for the annual board presentation
  • Parents of boisterous young children looking for a few moments of silence to unpack
  • The business traveler who wants to enjoy that missed season finale before accidentally seeing the plot twist on Facebook
  • The grandparents who want to relive highlights from their day at the beach with the grandkids

Hotel guests are you, me and everyone, and we each have our own favorites. Some choices intersect while some contrast. With no two guests wanting exactly the same thing, how do we provide meaningful, personalized stays?

It Sounds Complex
When personalization is mentioned, it’s hard not to immediately think of massive databases, complicated CRM solutions, large integration projects, big development efforts and even bigger price tags. Plus, the questions begin:

  • How does this tie into our loyalty system?
  • What’s the user experience?
  • Are guests willing to not only opt in, but also provide enough information so that recommendations are meaningful?
  • How can a personalized experience be created while controlling capital and operational expenses?

The Solution is Quite Simple
Guests curate their own content daily (or even more frequently) based on advertising, friends’ recommendations, social media and other influences. With over-the-top (OTT) entertainment options increasing so rapidly, this personal content curation becomes that much more specific.

Rather than building a complicated, costly new system that pushes (hopefully) relevant information at a time when your guests are (hopefully) awake, use the personal content mining that’s already happening and give guests the control. Leverage what they already know – Chromecast, a ubiquitous consumer technology built by Google, enables guests to enjoy their OTT content on the biggest screen in the room. Content is controlled using personal devices like tablets and smartphones, which have become the “remote controls of our lives,” enabling everything from booking reservations and checking email to paying for merchandise and accessing video streaming subscriptions. Now add casting to that list: guests simply open an app and cast their favorite content to the TV, seamlessly, without entering any personal information.

With over 30 million devices sold, Chromecast is familiar technology at home, and with appropriate security and installation, can be added to virtually any existing in-room setup to deliver personalized casting experiences – for each and every one of your guests, no matter the age, no matter the hometown.

The End Game: Self-service Personalization
Change is happening. Chromecasts can already be found in thousands of hotel rooms across the United States and Canada, and guests are making it personal:

  • Over 210 apps cast in just 9 months
  • Unsurprisingly, Netflix, Hulu, HBO GO and YouTube are very popular
  • Sports fans (NFL, MLB), parents (Disney Movies Anywhere, YouTube Kids), international travelers (BBC, Hulu Japan, On Demand Korea), and gamers (Monopoly, Angry Birds) account for over 25 percent of usage
  • The music service Tidal was cast in hotel rooms the day after it debuted in app stores
  • Guests are spreading the word in social media posts, on comment cards, on TripAdvisor, to general managers, anytime they connect with the world.

A personalized entertainment experience is quickly shifting from ‘nice surprise’ to ‘required amenity’ and is becoming the new path to higher guest satisfaction, continued occupancy and revenue growth. Chromecast enables millennials and others, individually, to choose their own entertainment now, without requiring hotels to build costly, time-consuming solutions.

Best of all, when I travel for business, I can binge watch Game of Thrones without someone rolling her eyes – it's even better than at home!

About The Author
Mike Bitz
Vice President of Business and Technology Development

Mike Bitz, vice president of business and technology development at SONIFI, is focused on fostering partner relationships. He joined SONIFI in 2000 and most recently led the engineering team. Mike holds a computer science degree from Dakota State University and is based in SONIFI’s operations headquarters in Sioux Falls, S.D.

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