All posts by Freowini Golla

Personalization can deliver over 6% more revenue for your hotel.

How Combining Data & Psychology Can Increase Hotel Revenue

Humans are, in some ways, predictable – something that can come in very handy for businesses who can take advantage of a visitors’ cognitive bias and make better decisions about the products and services they offer.

According to a recent article featured on tnooz.com, Graham Cooke, CEO for Qubit, touched on how brands need to use both data and psychology (human predictability) to get to know their customers in order to succeed in such a competitive industry. And if that statement isn’t motivating enough, there are two other majors reasons as to why travel marketers should include and combine both the use of heuristics and data in their business strategy. One, research proves that consumers are expecting, if not demanding, highly personalized experiences. And two, the good news, for those businesses that can deliver, is that customers are typically willing to spend more when they receive such custom-tailored service.

And there are many studies and the stats to back this up. According to Revinate, 86% of consumers report personalization plays a role in their purchase decisions, with 48% say they buy more when marketers leverage their buying behavior. Over 80% say they would be open to switching loyalties if they found a service that better catered for their needs. For the hoteliers that do strike the right note when it comes to personalization, they can expect to see a 6% increase in revenues.

Data can really give an immense advantage to your hotel business, and by adding a layer of heuristic on top of this will significantly increase your revenue opportunities. Once you know a guests expectations and preferences you will be in a better position to make their stay a ‘special’ one. When presented with a customized and personalized hotel experience that touches them directly, guests are less likely to be sensitive to price and are willing to spend more than they initially intended.

A genuine understanding of how customers think and feel will be key to making sure you serve up the right experiences that get that guest to book directly with you, again and again, increasing the lifetime value of that guest. Astute hoteliers that utilize modern technology and marketing effectively can capitalize on those basic human psychological triggers not only helping to show their hotel to best advantage but also boost the hotel’s bottom line in the process.

Read the full article.

Are hotels losing the human touch when integrating technology into service?

Does Technology Dehumanize The Travel Experience?

If any industry lives or dies on its customer service, it has to be the hospitality industry. For almost all hotels, the process of interacting with guests has remained fundamentally unchanged for decades; hospitality involves making others feel comfortable and it is thought that these long-standing traditional values can only be successfully delivered and received as a face-to-face, or rather a human-to-human, interaction with guests. It is a very basic need for the industry.

However, as technology and communication methods continue to evolve the landscape of hotel guest relations has changed; direct, face-to-face communication has taken a backseat and the way the way hotels are expected to serve and interact with guests is changing. However, this has also lead to the debate of “technology vs. human” with many bemoaning the increasing trend towards integrating technological solutions into customer service processes, as signifying the loss of the human touch. But a new report, What the Tech? Astonishing Ways Technology Is Changing Travel Experiences, has found that technology far from dehumanizes the guest experience, but actually makes travel richer and more personal.

And it kind of makes sense! The preponderance of smartphone, laptops, and tablets means that we are all used to managing our world through an interactive screen. Not only do consumers now readily switch between platforms and devices, but they have the freedom to choose how they interact with companies, brands and each other, tailoring experiences to suit their needs. As a result, today’s tech-savvy, mobile-first travelers want the ability to help themselves and are looking for more personalized service that keeps up with their on-the-go, up-to-the-minute lifestyles – all via their smart device.

Many hospitality brands are turning to tech solutions to augment their guest service experience introducing a variety of guest-facing innovations, everything from robot concierges, to smartphone room keys, to mobile check-in tools. Some on the extreme end of the scale like The Henn-a hotel in Japan, staffed almost entirely by robots, including a humanoid female and a dinosaur that welcome guests on arrival and carry out check-in/check-out services. But for many hoteliers, they are beginning to make some smart effective investments in newer mobile and cloud-based technologies to drive operational efficiencies and anticipate the needs of discerning guests to boost the customer experience. Hoteliers do need to be mindful though of where to draw the line so that technology extends the value of what is being offered. Technology should be used to create a new service standard, humming quietly in the background, turning staff into “superhumans” in terms of recalling customer preferences or just generally adding an element of surprise and delight based on data that can be elegantly stitched together for the first time.

At the end of the day technology isn’t slowing down and its capabilities are infinite – it would be foolish to argue otherwise, but real human contact, also remains indispensable. Hospitality will always be centered around customer experiences and connecting with people. In the face of new technology, evolving customer preferences, and new competitive threats, hospitality will require a human touch. The future of hotel hospitality depends on a merger, between data technology and the human touch; it’s striking the right balance that will help hotels remain competitive.

Read the full ‘What the Tech?’ report.

Guest Experience: 3 Ways Hotels Can Get It Wrong

Did you know that for 25% of travelers it takes just one bad experience to swear off a hotel brand and find an alternative? Guests have high expectations – and they continue to rise. When hotels get the guest experience right, their guests should hardly notice, but boy, when hotels get it wrong, guests can become hyper-aware of gaps in their experience and share it with family, friends and all over review sites.

So, how do you work to prevent this from happening? There’s probably no one way – mistakes do happen, as do unreasonable customers. A recent article featured on Hotel Technology News highlighted three such way hotels can get the guest experience wrong – and how to make it right! Here’s our take.

Not personalizing the guest experience.

Personalisation is one of the key buzzwords that features in the hospitality industry. Hotel guests want to be recognized, throughout their stay, as individuals with unique tastes. However, according to a Deloitte guest experience survey, only 65% of guests feel that a hotel truly knows them.

While it used to be hard to personalize the guest experience, the abundance of information that guests share both directly and indirectly with hotels has made it easier than ever to learn what a guest’s preferences are. Not only that but advancements in hotel technology means hoteliers have the tools needed to deliver personalized hotel stays.

Astute hoteliers who utilize this data to anticipate guest needs, to personalize their experience will not only have more happy customers but more money in the bank. Revinate found that personalization can deliver five to eight times the return on investment; stay frequency can increase by 13%; Qubit found that brands that create personalized experiences by integrating data and advanced technologies are currently achieving revenue increases of between 6% and 10% and on top of that, acquisition costs can be reduced by as much as 50%!

They don’t streamline operations

These days, guests like to get where they’re going fast. They are time poor, increasingly connected and evermore digital; they want things streamlined. A study by Oracle Hospitality has revealed that guests want innovative technology that enables them to quickly and easily get the service or information they desire; they want features that are integral to their hotel experience, such as enabling virtual check in/check out (68% of guests even want to avoid the front desk entirely, using their smartphones instead of check-in), keyless room access, and booking of activities and ticket purchasing – among other things.

Hoteliers who leverage the right technology to streamline their operations can easily meet their customer requests and ensure that service is delivered quickly and efficiently. Newer cloud-based systems can make a hotelier’s life much easier; they are agile and business enhancing –  not only do guests receive a faster service (and are happier as a result) but they allow hoteliers to focus on some of those non-tangible and human elements that make the guest experience better and more personal.

Technology can address the industry’s dual challenge of operating efficiently at scale and simultaneously providing individualized service.” Jay Upchurch, Vice President, Oracle Hospitality.

They don’t provide on-demand communication and service

As a result of the proliferation of mobile devices, nowadays, customers have the freedom to choose how they prefer to interact with your hotel. From research and booking to checking in and ordering services while on the property, mobile devices are becoming the preferred method of engagement for most travelers. Alas though, for the majority of hotels, the process of interacting and communicating with guests has remained unaltered for decades.

But, when communicating with brands, 54% of US social media users say they prefer messaging platforms to email, phone, and online chat. Messaging platforms are fast becoming the new way for businesses to interact with customers – Much of this comes down to ubiquity. Millions of people use chat apps on a daily basis to communicate in real time with their friends, family, and colleagues. Questions can be answered in a matter of seconds, with news communicated at the click of a button. By extension, this familiarity makes them a preferred way to communicate with their favorite brands and businesses. Including hotels.

The real-time, immediate and personal nature of messaging is part of what makes it such a compelling engagement channel for hotels.  It is well suited to guest engagement. It’s conversational, much like the traditional interaction between guests and staff. And it has clear advantages for hotels looking to engage with their guests. The hotel has a clear record of each interaction with each client; it can help improve guest satisfaction and loyalty, by giving hotels the opportunity to take advantage of every request, suggestion, concern or compliment from guests that may have otherwise gone unnoticed and it can help hotels improve revenue by actively communicating with guest throughout their journey.

Each hotel is unique and different and there is no one cookie cutter solution for providing the perfect guest experience. But an artful combination of human and artificial intelligence can help create authentic, personalized experience that will exceed expectations and keep guests coming back for more.

 

Today's travelers are always checking review sites to get a broader perspective of your hotel.

How Online Reviews Impact Hotel Revenue

Before the age of the internet, social media, online travel agents (OTAs), and online review sites, a bad review from a guest was just that, a bad review. But online travel review websites have become an important information source for travelers who increasingly rely on them to make decisions before hitting the ‘Book Now’ button.

Importance of Online Reviews

How many of us have reached for our smartphone or tablet after choosing a location to look up online reviews for hotels in the area? Travellers check review sites to get a broader perspective of your hotel; and they not only read them in ever increasing numbers (research suggests the average person reads about seven reviews before making a decision) but they trust them; a study by Search Engine Land found that 88% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Not only that but 81% of travelers find online reviews important for a hotel and 49% will not make a reservation for a hotel that has zero reviews.

So, what hotel guests say (or don’t say!) about your property in the form of text, photos or videos influences the minds of the potential guests.

Impact of Online Reviews

Review sites such as TripAdvisor have a direct impact on revenue for hotel owners. Every month, 456 million people – about one in every 16 people on earth – visit some tentacle of TripAdvisor.com to plan or assess a trip and at present, more than 200 new posts are uploaded to TripAdvisor every minute. Research firm Oxford Economics found that TripAdvisor’s reviews and scores influenced around $546 billion of travel spending during 2017 – now that’s quite a bit of influence.

On a more granular level, some experts claim that one bad review can result in up to 30 lost reservations. A paper on the influence of online ratings and reviews found that users trust bad ratings more than good ratings. Bad ratings are trustworthy regardless of the number of reviews and good ratings are trustworthy only when they come along with a high number of reviews! On the flip side, positive reviews can transform an establishment’s fortunes. Consumers tend to shortlist hotels with better ratings and researchers studying Yelp, one of TripAdvisor’s main competitors, found that even a one-star increase meant a 5-9% increase in revenue.

In short, opinions of previous guests influence the minds of the reader and bad reviews are definitely bad for business. A hotel’s online reputation holds value for travelers and your rating will dictate the kind of revenue that can subsequently flow in for your hotel.

Online distribution OTAs still have the majority of market share for online reservations.

Direct Booking Wars, Google, Airbnb: Is the OTA’s Position Unshakable?

When it comes to online distribution OTAs have the majority of market share for online reservations. OTAs control approximately two-thirds of all online bookings with no signs of its growth slowing down; it’s predicted that the two biggest players, the Priceline group (which includes Booking.com) and Expedia will account for 94% of all online bookings by 2020.

However, while the existing players are continuously expanding through strategic alliances, consolidations, and investments, they face growing challenges. Both Airbnb and Google made notable announcements in the early part of this year – the former opening its platform to hotel distribution and the latter rolling out updates to expand and simplify travel search. In addition to that, there has been renewed competition from hotels who have launched major campaigns encouraging consumers to book direct.

With an evolving online distribution landscape and crowded search ad auctions, is the OTA’s position in the marketplace unshakable? Let’s take a look.

Direct Bookings Campaigns – What’s the impact? As we are all more than well aware, hoteliers pay commissions as high as 30% on guests that book via travel sites, so they continue to urge people to book directly in the hope of clawing back some consumers.

More than a year ago several major hotel brand companies, such as Marriott International, Hilton etc. launched significant book direct campaigns to prod consumers to join its loyalty programs in exchange for discounted room rates when they book directly through the brands’ websites. However, according to Ed Watkins of HNN, there is little evidence that these expensive marketing campaigns have meaningfully moved the needle in the direction brand companies had hoped. In fact, while a few chains have seen substantial increases in direct bookings, most have strained to accomplish more than one-percentage-point movements in the direction of direct bookings.

Airbnb a disruptor to a disruptor? Founded in 2008, Airbnb rapidly grew and gained recognition as an online marketplace to rent short term rooms, apartments and homes – but with its recent SiteMinder partnership, Airbnb clearly intends to become a dominant player in the global hotel distribution economy.

While it seems like a natural move for the company, over the past few years competition between both the hotel industry and Airbnb has been intense. According to researchers, Airbnb’s growth through 2014 reduced hotel variable profits by up to 3.7 percent in the 10 US cities with the largest Airbnb presence – and its thought that the impact on hotels could be even greater today given Airbnb’s continuous strong growth since then. But hoteliers haven’t taken it lying down with their lobbying efforts in local and federal circles for stricter regulations governing Airbnb.

But to clear the air and start anew Airbnb is bringing an attractive offering to the table. It revealed it will be charging hotels a commission in the range of 3% to 5% per booking, a number dwarfed by OTA fees that can charge up to 30%. However, their usual guest ‘service fee’ will also be applied which is typically between 5 and 15% – so while the rates look good, hotels really won’t have any say over the final price.

Airbnb has left marks on the hotel mark industry, so it will be interesting to see how quickly they will be willing to forget.

Google-Hotel Travelopoly? More than 90% of all internet searches take place through their Google, with some 60% of travelers beginning their trip-planning on the said search engine. When it comes to travel, Google is directly involved in a couple of ways: through keyword search ads and with its own travel service, which advertises deals from hotels as well as from OTAs.

With Google Ads, anyone who’s into online marketing will know that this is where Google sells keywords through an auction process, where advertisers bid on certain terms. Much to the dismay of hoteliers (and the delight of Google), OTA’s plow huge amounts of their revenue into this type of online ad spending – because they can. It is thought that Expedia Inc and its rival online travel giant The Priceline Group exceeded a combined spend of $10.5+ billion on marketing over the course of 2017. With ad spend like this it means they have dominated over suppliers because of their larger inventory and larger scale campaigns which drive critical mass. Even in branded search (searches that include a hotel name), OTAs also have had a very prominent position – well, until now that is.

The market has become saturated and additional dollars have become less effective. So much so, OTA’s are beginning to question whether their allocated online ad spend is misguided. CEO Mark Okerstrom has spoken of, “multiple layers of competition where, if you take ourselves [Expedia] versus Booking.com, … they’ve got Kayak and we’ve got Trivago. We’re bidding in Kayak versus them. They’re bidding in Trivago versus them. And then Trivago is bidding in Google versus both of us. And TripAdvisor — we’re all in TripAdvisor, they’re bidding [against all of us as well]. It’s everyone bidding against everyone.”

Not only that but in an attempt to combat the OTA dominance and regain some control over their online inventory, hotels have inserted terms in their global agreements with large OTAs that prohibit the agencies from bidding on keyword ads that include their brands or trademarks. As these agreements aren’t necessarily binding on small OTAs, after receiving complaints from hotels, Google began to pressure small OTAs to submit to hotel demands. A spokesperson for Google says the company doesn’t restrict keyword ad bids, but according to the Wall Street Journal, Google applies rules in a way that restricts trademarks in their hotel ad titles and URLs.

One of the remaining alternatives for OTAs to draw Google traffic is its meta-search. Google’s meta-search allows users to search for hotels across various OTA and hotel websites but they also charge a 10% to 15% commission on net revenues from reservations booked through its meta-search. So Google is playing OTA’s at their own game by gobbling up most of the profits that OTAs earn from hotel commissions without incurring substantial overhead costs.

What does all this mean? Are the OTA’s under strain? While direct booking campaigns are admirable, they are certainly not going to shift OTA’s off their perch. Airbnb may have some impact but it’s Google who adds an interesting mix to the equation. It has an unrivaled advantage when it comes to traffic and it has a certain amount to power on setting the rules and directing users online.

Ultimately though, for now, online travel agencies will remain; they will not be removed from their position easily. They continue to diversity; they have grown through strategic alliances, consolidations, and investments, expanded their product set, and even now are evaluating and tailoring their substantial marketing spend for maximum booking potential.

We could be all wrong… what do you think?

…I think they’ve had a great long run, and I think their business may be changing and may become — I don’t want to say obsolete, because they’re brilliant in what they do and they have spent a ton of money. They’re not going to give it up so fast, but you’d be surprised how quickly things change, and there may be an opportunity for other companies to make money and for our costs to go down.” Dream Hotel Group CEO Jay Stein  

 

The online distribution landscape is ever evolving and new entrants continue to complicate marketplace dynamics.

The Evolution Of Online Travel Distribution & Its Impact On Hotels

It’s easy to forget that we didn’t always complete bookings via the internet. Before the advent of online check-in and price comparison sites, airline tickets and hotel reservations usually involved booking via tour operators or travel agents. If you wanted to make a hotel booking independently, you would have to research the one you wanted through a guidebook, more than likely make an expensive international call, and follow up with a letter!

When it came to pricing, rates were largely fixed “rack rates” which depended on seasonality and, there was no such thing as last-minute agents either – walk-in customers were in with a good sporting chance of getting a last-minute bargain but if not, they just paid the going rate like everyone else.

Fast forward to today and the distribution landscape has been reshaped and is ever evolving. With the rise of internet-based room reservations, technological advancements and new emerging players there is now a “complex web of choices through which suppliers and buyers of hospitality services must carefully navigate to ensure favorable financial results.” Cornell University.

So how did we get here?

Airlines. Back in the 1950s and 60s, airlines developed their own technology to list and record inventory and help sell their flights. It all kicked off when TCA (Trans Canada Airlines) in conjunction with the University of Toronto and Ferranti Systems developed the world’s first computerized reservation system, known as the Reservec – Reservations Electronically Controlled. American Airlines, who already had a Magnetronic Reservisor in place – a system that allowed them to store seat availability on a centralized platform, was aware of the early Reservec success and decided to invest in the development of their own computerized reservation system. In 1962, through a partnership with IBM, they began operating the Semi-Automated Business Research Environment, or Sabre for short. The system was essentially a digital database of flights that could be reserved by phone. With the success of both Reservec and Sabre systems, other airlines were quick to develop their own computerized reservation platforms and in a very short period the Deltamatic, DATAS, Apollo, and PARS were all up and running in the 1960s. Unsurprisingly, hotels began to see the opportunities that electronic distribution provided. Taking inspiration from the airlines, hotels started to develop their own systems, which eventually become the Property Management System (PMS) – a system we are all too familiar with today!

On a parallel track, with the growth of the airline industry, airline routes and booking processes were becoming more and more complicated, making the travel agent a more popular choice for consumers to book their airline tickets. Eventually, to sell tickets more efficiently and “automate” the booking process, airlines agreed to give travel agents direct access to their reservation systems, allowing them to see real-time availability and pricing information, and to make instant bookings. Of course, it was only a matter of time before the hotels also followed suit.

Then when the 1980’s came along there was with a monumental shift in technology; computers systems rapidly evolved and businesses saw the benefits those systems provide. But it really was the 1990s when bigger changes started to happen; TravelWeb was born, hotel brand.com sites launched and directly connects from website to PMS and GDS were established. With new developments in technology, many leading travel brands began creating websites, some with online reservation capabilities. It was also the decade that the online travel agencies (OTA’s) started to appear.  At first, it started as a trickle, there to help consumers find and book competitively priced room nights for various destinations on one platform providing various services – hotels, flights, car rentals, travel packages etc. But, in 1996, it was Microsoft, “…the most high-profile technology company on the planet at the time, realized there was probably something in this early momentum and unveiled its attempt at an online travel agency, known as Expedia. The rest is history.” Kevin May Co-Founder & Editor, Tnooz.com.

Expedia set the pace for countless imitators in the following years – and in more recent times they are now mostly owned by two main players: Expedia and its competitor, the Priceline Group. Expedia now comprises of Travelocity, Orbitz, Hotels.com, Hotwire, Trivago, CheapTickets, ebookers, TripAdvisor.com, and subsidiaries among others, and Priceline’s stable of online travel agencies now include Booking.com, Kayak and Agoda.com.

Where did it all go wrong?

When times were tough back in the early 2000s, hotels relied on the OTAs as a cheap and easy way to sell inventory online but naively and mistakenly, they also locked themselves into strict contracts – which as a result, as a distribution partner has had a profound effect on the hotel industry. “While I would include other intermediaries like Google and TripAdvisor, it’s true the emergence of the OTAs has been one of the most significant things to happen in the hotel industry in the past 20 years,” said Mark Lomanno, partner and senior advisor with Kalibri Labs. “It has completely changed our business model.

With their ever-expanding networks and their powerful web presence they have power and leverage to command high commission rates (it is estimated that the U.S. hotel industry is currently paying between $4 and 8 billion annually in transaction fees and commissions resulting from bookings made via OTAs!), assign strict rate parity clauses and leave little room for hotels to negotiate. In short, OTAs are effectively “creating a perverse situation where the business of providing a good or service is significantly less profitable than the business intermediating its sale,” Skift 2016. Forecasts show that by 2020 the two named main players, the Priceline Group and Expedia, will control 94% of all online hotel bookings. “What’s emerged in recent years in the world of accommodation is anything but – a powerful duopoly of two online travel agents,” says Mike Bevens, Managing Director of Sawday’s.

The OTA sector has been one major disruptor to online distribution but other intermediaries have also come along and have further complicated the hotel industry distribution landscape such as Google, Facebook, TripAdvisor, metasearch sites and Airbnb.

What does the future hold?

The online distribution landscape is ever evolving space and new entrants will continue to complicate the dynamics of the marketplace and as a result, hoteliers are presented with a strategic challenge of controlling their distribution, while also working with intermediaries that can help sell rooms.

In today’s highly competitive market, where hoteliers need to compete for the online guest, utilising technology efficiently to gather and analyse data and intelligence and, collaborate more closely with their hotel teams to manage distribution more actively to ensure the direct price is always the best available can have a very positive impact on the hotel’s bottom line.

 

The right mix of technological amenities enhances guest satisfaction and hotel staff performance.

Technology-Based Hotel Amenities: What Do Guests Care About Most?

Hotel amenities have evolved immensely over the past 40 years. Guests now expect so much more and hotels are facing a constant need to add or update amenities to accommodate guests’ ever-changing expectations.

Technology is now part of everyday life and when traveling we don’t just bring one device away with us but a plethora of smartphones, laptops, and tablets. The average technophile guest carries 1.71 smartphones and 1.49 laptops in the traveling party and the millennial age group carry even more, an average of 2.48 smartphones and 2.22 laptops per travel party – they also carry more tablets, too. Technology for consumers means an easy life and our appetite for this lifestyle is insatiable, so not surprisingly, guests want to interact with the hotel via their devices throughout their stay.

However, with the multitude of available technologies on the market today, from robotics, apps, smart mirrors, docking stations, chatbots, self-service, TV software and everything in-between – which can all change rapidly over time, hoteliers have been confused about what technological amenities they should offer to meet guest expectations and drive guest satisfaction. (And even the literature review shows that not all the technological amenities implemented in hotels have been appreciated by guests!).

If you are looking to up your amenity offerings this year, here are some key areas to focus on.

WiFi: This is one technological amenity that should be right at the top of the list – this is one that is now expected and assumed. Why? Well, it’s 2018, and we’re all connected. We’ve and obsession with connecting to the internet so, it’s not really surprising that free Wi-Fi is considered an absolute must, if anything, it has become a deciding factor when choosing a hotel.

According to a study by Research + Data Insights complimentary WiFi came in second only to cost when considering booking a hotel stay. The survey also revealed that seven out of 10 travellers’ rate reliable WiFi as a higher priority than a hotel’s location, parking, or even complimentary breakfast. It’s also important to remember that your WiFi service is only as good as the Internet service that supports it – as slow internet speed is consistently ranked as the number one complaint among hotel guests. The same Research + Data Insights survey found that 80% of travellers said WiFi with guaranteed speeds makes a hotel brand more appealing, and another study commissioned by NETGEAR revealed as many as 73% of guests under the age of 35 would never return to a hotel with poor Wi-Fi. Conversely, guests who are happy with the Wi-Fi will spend 50% more money at the hotel than average.

So, long gone are the days of “free Wi-Fi” meaning single-bar coverage only on that one special cushion of the couch in the lobby. WiFi has become a basic expectation and it must be fast, free and reliable.

Self-Service: Earlier this year, we saw the debut of Amazon Go’s first automated retail store in Seattle which allows customers to enter, shop and check-out their purchases without any interaction or physical cash/card exchange. Instead, when you arrive at the store, you scan your phone, and the store’s automated systems track what you grab with 100 cameras before automatically charging you the correct amount upon departure.

Large-scale examples such as the Amazon Go store, Uber Eats and purchase kiosks, demonstrate the way in which customers are increasingly embracing this kind of technology and widespread shift to the self-service model, and the hotel industry is no exception. A growing number of guests now expect to find a kiosk at the hotel lobby and/or be able to control various aspects of their stay like check-in, keyless entry, housekeeping services, messaging, payments, etc. from start to finish via their mobile devices. According to a recent study by Zebra Global Hospitality, 70% of guests want to use their smartphone to speed up check-in and services and another study revealed that 63% of guests prefer hotels with a tech-enabled lobby. Not only that but when solving a problem or for housekeeping service, 43% of guests noted they would prefer to communicate with the hotel via mobile.

As consumers, across all age ranges, become more and more attached to their mobile devices, self-service options provide an additional choice to guests who prefer to communicate and interact via technology.

Streaming: When it comes to in-room technology, smart mirrors and climate controls have been featured as the next big thing and while they do seem cool, when it comes down to essentials,  guests really just want to easily access and consume their content, the way they do at home, if not better. What are we talking about? The humble in-room TV. Gone are the days of on-demand, pay per view services and in its stead is the want to stream movies and TV shows using personal accounts via the hotel TVs – it’s just so much nicer and more comfortable to watch your latest Netflix obsession on your room’s big television, instead of propping up your computer or iPad in bed!

An In-Room Entertainment Preference Study by ADB found that most guests, across all age groups, have accounts with Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime, and Hulu and guests, particularly Millennials, really do want to view their own content on hotel room televisions. While some cutting-edge hotels offer smart TVs, through which you can log in to your streaming services, these aren’t exactly widespread. So not surprisingly, the study also found that currently, 57.4% of guests are attempting to connect their own devices to the in-room TV (via a cable or streaming device) and 62.1% of Millennials, 52.2% of Gen X and 17.2% of Boomers are already using their own devices to stream media while at the hotel! – Where there is a will, there is a way!

Power: Ever stayed in a hotel room where it turns into a frustrating game trying to find an outlet or to find out that there just aren’t enough! It might not seem obvious, but when you’re thinking about hotel tech, it’s not just about the software or applications that enhance guest experiences. It’s also about the power sources that make technology and modern life possible.

Research suggests a single traveler may carry upwards of three devices when they travel and at present, about 34% of business travelers want access to more USB ports and power outlets in their guest room. The new Canopy by Hilton brand, which debuted in Reykjavik, Iceland last year, was designed to have about 20 outlets and USB ports in each guestroom. “Our guests are busy and do not want to spend time searching for outlets or leaving devices in inconvenient locations- they want their devices charges and in easy to reach locations and we have ensured our rooms and public spaces make this happen,” Gary Steffen, Global Head of Canopy by Hilton.

So just remember, when thinking of technological amenities, be sure to consider strategically placed electric outlets and ports, and plenty of them!

As the traveling public continues to become more technologically savvy, hotels must evolve, change and adjust to new demands to meet guests’ growing technological expectations.

And the right mix and offering of guest oriented technological amenities will not just enhance guest satisfaction but also the performance and functionality of hotel staff and has the potential to increase revenue opportunities.

Research shows that social media is significantly impacting travel plans.

How Travelers Use Online & Social Media Channels To Make Decisions

The world is on the move. The global travel economy of $5 trillion (and growing) is one of the world’s largest industries and according to a report by World Tourism Organization people are traveling more than ever.  Globally, on average, every day, more than 8 million people fly and it is estimated that by 2030 a global population of 8.5 billion people will take approximately 2 billion international trips.

While travel has progressed by leaps and bounds the way we travel has certainly changed a lot in the past 20 – 30 years. Does anyone even remember a time when planning a holiday use to involve dragging yourself down to the local travel agency, picking up a heap of brochures and spending hours trawling through them? This was then more than likely followed by perusing travel guidebooks at your local library or bookstore, perhaps even investing in one; you then might try to find out if anyone you knew had been there, asking friends where they stayed during their holiday and finally, actually phone the hotel to book a room – more often than not without even knowing what the place looked like. It was all brochures, guidebooks and word-of-mouth – making phone calls and speaking to actual people, all of which took hours to arrange, and while worth it in the end, planning the annual holiday trip was a bit of a challenge.

Mobile is Fueling the Way People Plan Travel

Cut to today and traveling is easier and more accessible than ever before, thanks to the development of technology and online services. Smartphones, AI, electronic payments, social media and so on have, for better and worse, affected travel in incalculable ways. And thanks to increasing mobile adoption, planning is getting more convenient. According to a 2018 Facebook study, 85% of travelers used a smartphone when planning their recent trip. Travelers are increasingly turning to their phones – and away from desktops and tablets – to book trips and experiences. If there’s a long weekend coming up, you can simply open an app on your smartphone, decide where you want to go, book your flights and hotels in under ten minutes and before you know it, you’re all set for your quick weekend getaway.

With an internet enable mobile device and the click of finger (and a swipe or swish or two) you can easily scout around online for the best deal, bang in your credit card and off you go. You can also check in online and print out your boarding pass – ultimately we have become our own travel agent! Mobile devices now serve as travelers’ new compass, guiding them from inspiration to booking.

Travelers Draw Inspiration From Social Media

And travelers are not only using mobile to help book their trip but also are turning to online resources to get inspiration to help them decide where to go and what to do once they get there.  Back in the day you might have placed your faith in ‘authority’ books such as Fodor, Lonely Planet, or Rough Guides, but today, it could be a popular travel blog, a travel show on TV, social media, or even your friend’s Facebook photos that spark off your wanderlust and inspires you where to go.

Today’s travelers use their social media channels to pull from peer experiences to get inspiration for their future travel destinations, activities and accommodations. Research shows that social media can significantly impact travel plans – in fact, roughly 89% of millennials plan travel based on social shares by their peers, according to Entrepreneur. Similarly, that 2018 Facebook study we mentioned earlier also revealed that not only do travelers spend five times more time on Facebook than other travel-related sites during the average trip-planning, but 52% said that friends’ photos have inspired their own travel plans and 40% said their last trip was inspired by hearing travel stories from other people. Not only that but 55% of people like social media pages related to trips they are planning and 42% like to follow travel providers online. The same study also revealed that 60% of millennials found ideas for their recent trips on Instagram, with another 2018 industry report by Pinterest revealing that three in four travel pinners found pins from brands useful and nearly all will act on what they see, often booking an unplanned trip.

People Power: Online Reviews Have Enormous Influence

However, one of the most profound effects that social media has had on the travel industry to date is the “democratization” of online reviews. Before we heralded the arrival of the internet, there was no such thing as TripAdvisor and booking trips and accommodations were done on blind faith. But fast forward to today and we can instantly read reviews on where to stay and what to do. It takes only a few seconds to type in the name of a hotel or restaurant into Google and you can access hundreds of traveler reviews on sites such as TripAdvisor, or read an in-depth article on a popular travel blog. Real guest feedback serves to preview the in-person experience that the destination has to offer from a viewpoint other than that of the brand. According to a study by both TripAdvisor & Trust You, 96% consider reviews important when researching a hotel, 79% will read between six and 12 reviews before making a purchase decision, and 85% agree that a thoughtful response to a review from a brand will improve their impression as customers believe they care more about them.

Similarly, with advent of social media, online reviews and communities, it’s becoming less and less difficult to avoid tourist traps and overhyped attractions, with recommendations of better, more authentic experiences just a tap of a finger away. Travelers can also get great recommendations on what to see and where to eat. If you want to know where to get vegan yum cha in outer Mongolia, rest assured someone will have a blog about it! It is much easier to find restaurants and cafes that suit you, where you will really eat among locals, not tourists.

Online reviews and recommendations are significant and highly influential – a study, conducted by Oxford Economics, was able to quantify just how influential a site like TripAdvisor can be.

They estimated, that globally, the popular travel site influenced more than 433 million trips last year, and 65 million in just the United States alone last year! In monetary terms, 10.3% of Global Travel Spend (or $546 billion) was influenced by TripAdvisor 2017, up from 7% ($268 Billion) just a decade prior. For any businesses or brands reading out there… reviews matter!

Technology has undoubtedly changed the face of travel and made traveling so much easier. The content available on the various social media platforms is tremendously accessible and influential and as a result is impacting travel before, during, and after a trip. What was once a traditional, linear marketing funnel (discovery, research, shopping, and purchase), now forms a circle – social is a touch point at every part of the redesigned travel planning routine.