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  • Meet Minneapolis: Travel to the Twin Cities this Summer for HITEC 2019

    We all know that travel can be a real hassle. So, what about a trip makes it worth packing up your suitcase, saying goodbye to your family for the next few days, fighting the airport and staying in a.

  • New Global Directors Join the 2018-2019 HFTP Board

    The HFTP 2018-2019 Global Board of Directors was installed during the association's 2018 Annual Convention and introduces new directors Toni Bau, Carson Booth, CHTP and Mark Fancourt. These extensive director profiles give insight into the distinguished professions and personal goals of HFTP's newest association leaders.

  • A Series of Must-Read Articles on Cybersecurity Produced by the HFTP Research Centers

    Data security remains a pressing concern and top priority for the hospitality industry. The HFTP Research Centers are dedicated to producing findings that can significantly aid hospitality businesses in their efforts to protect their guests’ privacy and personal information against potential cyber threats and attacks.

  • HITEC Special: Does EU GDPR Affect U.S. Hospitality Companies?

    By Alvaro Hidalgo. The EU General Data Protection Regulation has set a path towards protecting personal data which many other countries will follow. In a global industry such as hospitality, it should be a primary objective to take the steps towards compliance.

Guest recognition: Leveraging technology to deliver enhanced personalized service - HITEC Europe Preview

Hospitality Net ·14 March 2019
"As a hotel, we're not recognizing all of our guests, although we try," says Barry Thomas, Corporate Director of Information Technology at Rosewood Hotel Group and HITEC Advisory Board member. "A lot of hotels emphasize guest name usage but it's very tricky to do, especially in city hotels. If you've got a 300-bedroom hotel and the average length of stay is two nights, given the amount of traffic passing through the lobby and F&B outlets, it's very difficult to recognize and use the names of our guests unless they're very, very regular."Thomas, who will be moderating a panel discussion on guest recognition at HITEC Europe, has been looking into the ways companies from other sectors approach this challenge. Citing Uber, the tech and transportation firm, Thomas says that when an Uber pulls up at your door, the first thing they do is confirm your identity by using your name."I can order an Uber and within two minutes it's there and they know my name. Why then is it - when I've gone through the whole booking process and provided details such as preferences, likes and dislikes - I turn up at a hotel where I may spend thousands of pounds, instead of 10-20 pounds for a journey, yet the hotel doesn't know who I am when I arrive?""We invest a lot in recognizing our guests' return on their digital journey during the booking process," he says, "but what we're trying to change is how we do that at the property."Currently hotels tend to rely on the doorman or drivers to pass on messages about guests arriving. "We're doing things traditionally, using radios and taking the guest's name." Clearly though there's room for improvement."Every stay, you receive a pre-arrival survey. If that survey keeps asking you the same questions time and time again though, why as a guest are you going to complete it? As a hotel, we should know we've previously collected your preferences and just ask you to update them, rather than you telling me each time you like jazz, strawberries and foam pillows.""It's recognizing that you're an existing guest of ours. It's that recognition journey to make you feel valued because obviously we're competing for your business as a guest. So, we want to make your journey as seamless and as easy as possible. And we don't want to be constantly asking our guests to repeat themselves as there's nothing more annoying."CCTV is already being used in hotels, but reactively, in response to an incident. What other technologies then could be used to enhance guest recognition and yet be unobtrusive?Thomas points to a couple of examples. At Disneyland, visitors wear so-called MagicBands based on radio frequency technology which can be used to make payments at outlets and gain fast track access at rides.But would hotel guests be willing to embrace this type of technology? "I don't know about using these bands in a city hotel but in a big resort hotel, yes. A lot of luxury guests wouldn't wear a band around the property, but can we utilize other devices such as a mobile phone or (RF) room key?"Airlines provide another good example of using advanced technology. When at Los Angeles airport recently, Thomas (pictured right) was impressed by automated gates which allow passengers to board the plane through facial recognition. "It was a very quick process. So, I think we need to look at what other industries are doing to see how we can do this in our hotels."Privacy though remains a major concern as many guests may not be willing to be effectively tracked while on a hotel property."What level of privacy are our guests willing to give up for enhanced service? I personally would be willing to give up some level of privacy if it means better service. But that's not every guest though.""I'm not saying we should be putting wristbands on guests but how can we do this? Can we utilize beacon technology (that is, using signals from beacons) when guests use the Wi-Fi? Can we then start to locate them in order to recognize them?""We need to be one step ahead of the guest to deliver enhance service (such as a copy of a particular newspaper over breakfast)." If it can be done seamlessly, he says, staff will be able to tailor the service they deliver based on the guest's profile.Another major advantage, of course, would be enhanced security. "If we know who's in our building, at what time, that's a big plus for us." It would allow hoteliers to know, for instance, whether someone on the property has been banned from the hotel or is on a watch list.In short, advanced technology could allow hoteliers to be more proactive. "If a guest comes curbside, walks in, and the reception knows who that person is, we can pre-prepare their room keys for them. We can already be prepared so the guests meet the butlers who escort them to their rooms and make it a seamless journey.""Would they like this enhanced service? I honestly believe that people are willing to give up a level of their information for the benefits of it. But the question is, for the people who do not want it, who truly want to be incognito, how do we turn off these technologies that we're putting in place for the majority?"Clearly a great deal of research still needs to be done and Thomas acknowledges the hotel industry faces challenges, especially following the introduction last year of the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which gives individuals more control over their personal data."I think people are a lot more aware about their own privacy and their rights to it," Thomas says. "Hotels have been recording CCTV for many years, so it's just how we're using that data."'Education is key' at HITEC EuropeFor Thomas, education is the main driver why he attends HITEC Europe. "Budgets are always tight within hospitality, so to be able to make a trip like this and get something from it, education is a massive part of why I attend HITEC Europe."As a certified hospitality technology professional (CHTP), Thomas says he needs to maintain his education credits "and this is a great way of doing that in one location and learn about what the industry is doing.""I've just moved into a new corporate role, at a time where Rosewood is going through a big expansion process. We've got more than 20 hotels in the pipeline and for us to scale at this rate, I'm going to need vendors and partners to work with. So, to be able to meet them in one place rather than have meetings over the course of three or more months, I can really condense this process and get some worthwhile face time with them."Barry Thomas, CHTP, is Corporate Director of Information Technology at Rosewood Hotels and Resorts, and is a member of the HITEC Europe Advisory Council. He will be moderating a panel discussion on 'Guest Recognition in an Uber-esque Way While in Property' at HITEC Europe which takes place in Mallorca, Spain, April 9-11.

Unlocking business potential: Building the right tech architecture in hospitality - HITEC Europe Preview

Hospitality Net · 8 March 2019
Hoteliers are missing out on business opportunities as they fail to gather guest data properly. Michael Levie, Chief Operations Officer at citizenM Hotels and member of the HITEC Europe Advisory Council, says that given the rapid pace of business today, consumers are "not going to wait for us"."Let's face it, our guests travel frequently, they're very tech savvy and they don't see their smartphone as technology. It's all about functionality. If they take an Uber it's easy. If they take an airline, they can check in, they have everything available.""If we don't get our act together and react, we'll become more and more dependent (on vendors and online travel agencies). And data basically sits at the base of all that."Tech firms and others such as airlines are using data more efficiently, he says, adding that if the hospitality industry does not begin to handle reliable data better, and keep it "clean and ready for use, then I think we'll miss out on a lot of business opportunities."To date, hoteliers have relied heavily on property management systems. "But because we've hung so many interfaces on to it for point-of-sales, door lock systems or any other technology, the PMS looked as all those connections as transactional or for its functionality."Radio-frequency identification (RFID) door cards allow guests to access their rooms during the reservation period but beyond the functionality, hoteliers are failing to access "the micro detail that travels in those interfaces" about the guest's behavior."There's a richness of information about our guests and their habits in the systems, yet there's no way for us ever to bring that data to bear."By using dashboards, instead, hoteliers could gain a great deal of micro detail in addition to functionality. "Through a service bus or that one pipe that all the data travels through, we can start generating dashboards to understand a lot more information about our guests as it becomes available.""All of a sudden we get that richness of data of guest behavior." It also allows hoteliers, Levie says, to have an overview of how savings can be made and how profits can be increased."Unfortunately, data only unlocks when we've got our architecture right. And I think the biggest issue facing our industry is the systems architecture."Hotels in large chains probably have to - or have been 'advised' to - use a specific PMS but then the "knowledge that sits there basically gets sucked into the chain and doesn't necessarily sit at the hotel level. So, at the hotel level, there's very little they're allowed to do or can do.""If you think of contemporary successful organizations, they're all data driven. Take an Amazon or a Google, take what they do with data and the anticipation (of customer behavior) they're able to generate out of the data and you see that unlocks a lot of new business potential.""We, as hoteliers, are still focused on a PMS or a specific device, but unfortunately insufficiently look at what data really represents and, in order to capture that data, what type of architecture we need within our systems to be able to do better."For tech firms coming into this space, it represents an ideal opportunity. Certainly, tech issues have become highly specialized, so much so that hoteliers can no longer count on their limited tech ability to devise systems architecture and understand data flows, says Levie. "But many hotels should realize that if they become dependent on advisors - whether consultants in the broadest sense or tech firms - there's always a sales component in their advice. And what concerns me most is that hoteliers, who are not generally tech savvy and don't know what questions to ask, aren't able to steer their own destiny."Hoteliers, he says, need to understand the whole structure rather than taking a piecemeal approach by adopting, say, accounting software to generate expense reports or using a distribution tool to do rate comparisons. "On and on through the entire food chain there are all kinds of devices being glued on to old stagnant technology that sits in the PMS, whereby the data doesn't flow but gets stuck.""If you have the right architecture, you can start to organize that data: how it comes in, how it gets collated, where it gets stored and how it gets cleansed. And if you'd like to mine that data and learn from it, or have specialists work with it, then that data starts to tell the story."Investment though is a major challenge facing the industry. "If you keep on spending little by little, without looking at the big picture, you're missing an opportunity.""We are investing in technology and every day we're being asked if we want to add technology to what we have already and we readily add it if it has value and is easy to understand. But if it doesn't fit into a broader strategy, it doesn't sit in a broader architecture that enriches our own path."Vendors may be selling hoteliers another piece of software or a system that may be functional and produce a return, he says, but "in its totality, we need to be smarter.""Will that require investment? Yes. Will that require the appropriate intelligence? Yes. Will it take time for us to get better at it? Yes. But if we don't understand why we're being overtaken and we don't understand what data is all about, then we'll never get it right.""Although it's expensive to put your own house in order - and it doesn't come free - by not doing it, you pay the bill somewhere and you become totally dependent."Up to now, the industry has, with a few notable exceptions such as citizenM, glued digital solutions on to analogue processes and systems. As an industry, Levie says, "we stay on very legacy-based systems and are trying to keep up with people who've figured it out in a much more pragmatic and deep way and have started with a clean slate.""We're already behind the eight ball and need to catch up," so hoteliers need to be smarter and more pragmatic, "otherwise we'll never get there."Using the analogy of an architect designing a building to make sure it's efficient and flows well, Levie says a poorly-designed structure would be "more expensive and less intriguing." However, when it comes to IT or systems architecture, this is not viewed as a necessity. "So I would say, start with an architect who can translate what you desire and need in systems. That will reveal also the need to understand your customer and the associated data. Then, if we get that organized, we can make better overall decisions to get to the Promised Land."In search of 'a different trade wind' at HITEC EuropeFor Levie, because of the rich variety of vendors and visitors taking part in HITEC Europe, "a different trade wind starts to blow." There are opportunities to learn from participants and meet hotels, organizations or individuals that "battle the same thing that you do.""As such, we can grow and set up a network of people who can help us."Levie, who has been attending HITEC Europe for many years, says it has been "an enriching path. Through that, I've built up the knowledge I have today and the ability to be focused and get what we need.""I started citizenM and have a good understanding of technology but it's insufficient to be a CIO of the size of a company that we are today. If we hadn't invested in the right structure and architecture, we'd be as dependent as many others are in the industry on PMS releases and on what vendors are going to dish up next."

Data protection rules, one year on: Anticipating a second wave - HITEC Europe Preview

Hospitality Net · 4 March 2019
Over the past year, many of us have been bombarded with emails from companies virtually begging us to allow them to keep our personal details on file.That was due to the introduction of new regulations in Europe which imposed -- in theory at least -- substantial penalties on any firm breaching the rules. And the penalties were harsh -- up to four percent of annual global revenues or 20 million euros, whichever figure is greater.According to Timo Kettern, director of information technology at Event Hotels and a member of the HITEC Europe Advisory Council, although the constant bombardment proved somewhat annoying to consumers - Kettern uses a more forthright term - companies were running scared as they realized they did not have the consent needed to handle our personal data.Kettern was part of a HFTP working group preparing for the introduction of the EU's General Data Protection Regulation and co-produced a couple of papers to help hoteliers come to terms with the GDPR rules, outlining the steps they would need to take in order to comply. The papers were presented at HITEC Amsterdam a year ago, and this year the conference on the Spanish island of Mallorca will review the progress made.Speaking specifically about the German market, Kettern says that since May last year, authorities have focused on educating businesses and the consumer about data protection rather than enforcement. Consequently, the impact so far has not been as severe as had been anticipated."I've not seen any fines for larger organizations," he says, adding that several smaller firms had been fined around 20-25,000 euros. Nevertheless, he is now expecting the data protection authorities in Germany to begin looking into complaints.Kettern says that in his own organization, he had previously struggled to convince the leadership team of the importance of data protection or of the need to increase training budgets. "GDPR has changed that. Data protection now has visibility at the C-level and GDPR has helped people like myself to get budgets approved and get working parties started, together with HR for training and for the practical changes we had to make in our operations. So that, for me, was the biggest impact."Had companies overreacted to the introduction of the new digital privacy rules? Although there may be certain parallels with the way in which companies had handled the Y2K 'non-event' nearly two decades ago, Kettern does not believe companies had overreacted, saying that the GDPR had raised awareness in the industry and given professionals like him "the budgets, the freedom and the support needed to deal with the issue because at the end of the day, it's kind of a risk exercise. How much are you prepared to spend to minimize the risk?"As to the action hoteliers should be taking now, Kettern advises they should make staff training a priority, in addition to making sure they update passwords and have firewalls in place. "It's one thing to have the procedures documented and your systems in place, but it's people who need to make those processes work.""It's very simple for someone at the reception desk to leave a guest registration card lying around or spin the (computer) monitor around so that someone else can see the data."'So, what we're doing, we're attacking this on several levels. First of all, data protection is part of the employment contract. It's also about the consent that we, as an employer, can hold the data." Staff also need to acknowledge formally, as part of the employment contract, that they aware of the guidelines.One complication though is posed by the franchise model in the hospitality industry. This means franchisees have to conduct training and self-audits, in conjunction with a data protection officer who should be part of the HR team.Kettern (pictured right) says one of the major challenges faced in running franchises in Europe for major hotel chains in the US and Canada is that "by default we are exporting guest data to North America." In terms of the GDPR, he says, this is critical.As a hotel operator working with US-based hotel chains such as Marriott and Hilton, "it's our obligation to make sure we get confirmation from the brands that they're dealing with the data in North America in the same way we deal with it in Europe. They're all giving us that (assurance) but we can't control that."As the tension rises again, a second wave will come"We've changed some - not all - of the processes because we always took data protection seriously.""We're in an acceptable position but I think we can still improve." For companies to know whether they are on the right path, they may, however, have to wait for the first court rulings with judges giving their interpretation of the regulations. These rulings will, Kettern says, "influence our future and how we're going to change things in the future for sure."The first wave of activity (and anxiety) has 'calmed down', Kettern says, but with the possibility of the authorities pursuing potential breaches, "the tension will increase again and there will come a second wave."'Networking, education and finding new things'On HITEC Europe, April 9-11 in Mallorca, Spain, Kettern says: "The networking aspect is very important as I'll be catching up with colleagues. So too are the educational sessions, to see what the trends are. There are lots of subjects around digitalization, robotics, artificial intelligence, as well as to overcome one of the challenges we face in hotel operations which is finding appropriate staff."Kettern says he'll be taking a look at the new technologies on offer and will be meeting suppliers on the exhibition floor, and not just the central aisles as those on the edges can be interesting."So, it's networking, education and finding new things ... It's going to be fun."

A Talk With InsureSign Founder & CEO Joe Floyd

Hospitality Net ·30 July 2018
Just when you thought e-signature software was a foregone conclusion, a company called InsureSign raised the bar again. A company that began as a secure documents signature platform for the insurance industry has now blossomed into the highest rated e-signature tool for overall satisfaction in the industry. Fascinating with every reinvention of a wheel, I contacted the company for an interview with Joe Floyd, who is founder and CEO of InsureSign.Before launching into our Q & I, it seems relevant (and interesting) to recall here my own days as a tech analyst when "going paperless" was one of the paradigms of Web 2.0. Looking back over a decade, I cannot help but think of the early innovators like DocuSign, which is still around, and a dozen others that hit the dead pool. And discussing new horizons in this field with Floyd, I'm reminded of just how far and fast technology evolves. Here's what InsureSign's CEO had to say about his company's most recent moves.Phil Butler - The digital signature software industry is a highly competitive space. Can you go over briefly InsureSign's main points of differentiation?Joe Floyd - There are a lot of e-signature software companies out there, but we've differentiated ours by simply focusing on making the signing process as easy as possible for our users and their customers. When we talk with our users who've tried other e-sign tools, we repeatedly hear that document set-up, send-off and signing are comparatively easier and faster with InsureSign. For people in the hospitality industry who want to book more events, secure more catering contracts or more simply manage vendor agreements, we make it possible for them to easily secure signatures in minutes.Phil Butler - I ran a mini-comparison of InsureSign at G2Crowd versus some competitors like Adobe and discovered that your service clobbered other platforms across the board. Can you tell readers how a relatively unknown business there in Charleston, SC managed to outdo the world-class competition in only seven years?Joe Floyd - Since day one, we've focused on being best in class for usability and customer service. Our users not only enjoy the simplest document signing process, but they also have access to numerous innovative and automated "bells and whistles" that further simplify processes. We offer all InsureSign users unlimited signatures, documents and templates each month, and the benefits of audit trails, auto reminders, auto archival and backup, company branding and more.Phil Butler - I notice that many of your current clients are in the insurance and financial sectors. Where do you see the most significant opportunity for future growth for your company?Joe Floyd - We currently have thousands of businesses of all sizes using InsureSign, from a local soccer camp to regional dentistry chains to national insurance companies. We have several hospitality clients, from hotels to event venues, and we see the hospitality industry as a key growth area. We still find that many event sales and catering managers are sending PDFs or Word docs for signatures, and are losing out on deals because they're making the closing process cumbersome and difficult for potential customers. With InsureSign, hospitality professionals can stand out from the competition, and easily and affordably adopt our e-signature software (no additional budget approval necessary).Phil Butler - Earlier this year you released a premium plan for users which included features like text-message signing and in-person signing. Can you tell us about innovations InsureSign is currently working on?Joe Floyd - Yes, through our premium plan, we offer a suite of features that aren't available anywhere else. Hospitality pros can secure digital signatures via text message and during in-person meetings, create reusable forms, secure more Yelp reviews or Facebook likes and more. As for new innovations, we just rolled out multiple language support and a recall/redo option that makes it easy to adjust documents that have already gone out.SummaryA decade ago we were amazed at being able to do a digital signature and the first smartphones. Today, we're on the threshold of AI and once unheard-of capability. For InsureSign, as has been the case for many successful technology startups, creating a great product has led to further expansion into the wider realm of business. For hospitality, or for any business dependent on contractual agreements, technology like Joe Floyd's company has innovated will always be needed. And for those who say the wheel cannot be reinvented, it's important to remember John Boyd Dunlop, the man who took inflatable tires to market. There's utility in simple ideas that work better.Visit insuresign.com to find out more.

BevSpot's Rory Crawford: Fine Tuning the Food & Beverage Business

Hospitality Net ·19 June 2018
Founded back in 2014, BevSpot is a promising Boston-based startup company that is delivering on a promise to make life easier for bars. Now, moving on to the next logical progression, the company has expanded its domain by launching BevSpot Food, an expanded service suited to restaurants, distributors, and suppliers. Complex at its core, BevSpot is simple in practice, allowing owners and staff to take control of critical elements of their business from any device. The potential for this kind of innovation is mirrored in the funding key investors have made in the new company. To date, BevSpot has garnered more than $17 million in successive rounds of funding. The merits of the startup have been lauded by TechCrunch and many others. For this report, I had the unique opportunity to connect with co-founder Rory Crawford. Here is the gist of our interview in which we discussed BevSpot.Phil Butler: Since I've some experience in the restaurant business, the first thing I thought of on learning about the BevSpot platform was the capability for "food cost" reduction. Can you briefly tell us about the innovative thought process involved in developing such a complete tool? Rory Crawford: We have always been very focused on making sure our product development process involves our customer as much as possible. When we began to develop our Food software, we visited our customers' kitchens, freezers, offices to observe their processes and better understand their challenges. We took that learning and built the product in a way that would be applicable to any food business anywhere in the world.We iterate on a weekly, and sometimes daily, basis to build product very quickly with real-time customer feedback. This collaborative and iterative process, combined with amazing customer support, enabled us to develop a truly innovative and highly valuable product in a fraction the time of traditional development cycles.Phil Butler: The BevSpot Food Program Management Software is technology to track everything from inventory to spoilage and even customer preferences. Just how "smart" is the software for predicting customer preferences? Do you think there's a "big data"analytics future for your product in the future?Rory Crawford: I often think the word "data" and "big data" can sound intimidating to a person trying to run a business. What has always excited me most about this industry is that "small data" has the potential to be amazingly beneficial. It can be the difference between a business' success and failure.BevSpot is "smartest" in the way in which it converts complicated information into extremely simple and actionable insights. For instance, it will tell a customer what their top-selling and least profitable drinks are. This is extremely simple data but is difficult for operators to access this data on a regular basis without our product. BevSpot will even make recommendations on how the user can improve those few items to drive significant profits. The magic of BevSpot is delivering this extremely simple and impactful data to the user in a manner that they can use to improve their business immediately. Over time, we will make increasingly exciting analytics applications on our industry data, but our approach will be the same--convert complicated information represented by large datasets into extremely simple, actionable, and impactful insights that can improve businesses.Phil Butler: It's obvious the Bevspot software will help restaurateurs get an angle on efficiency but do you have any case studies or figures on "how much" clients can improve their bottom line? Rory Crawford: One of the best things about our product is that it tracks this data for the customer so that everybody in the business can see the improvements. Across our entire customer base, we have seen an average of 4% improvement in program profitability and a 25-50% improvement in cash efficiency through inventory reduction. These are extremely impactful results for restaurants.Phil Butler: Can this software be utilized for operations outside the food and beverage area?Rory Crawford: Food and beverage operations are our core focus. Any processes associated with these processes, such as vendor relations or accounting processes, can benefit from BevSpot as well. But we are deeply focused on improving the core food & beverage operations of our customers.Phil Butler: What is the next step for BevSpot? Rory Crawford: More effort, innovation, and value for our customers. We always say we are 99.9% away from where we want to be as a product and company. We will continue to work closely with our customers to understand their challenges and use our tech-first approach to help them improve their businesses.Summing UpBevSpot now has hundreds of customers taking advantage of the efficiencies Crawford's company delivers. From a technology and startup standpoint, making technologies that streamline inventory efficiency satisfies the "Holy Grail" for success. That is, BevSpot solves a significant point of pain for food and beverage businesses. What's most fascinating for me is the fact Crawford's company seems to have become the thought leader inventory management for these niches of the hospitality industry. It will be interesting to see BevSpot in markets outside the U.S. Improving

SGS On Task Benchmarking the Guest Experience

Hospitality Net · 9 March 2018
Late last year SGS released a comprehensive program for the industry. Hospitality Experience (HX) is a complete platform designed to help businesses maximize their brand reputation and the all-important guest experience. I caught up recently with the company's Head of Travel & Hospitality, Peter Hvidberg, in order to discuss his firm's offering and take on this important industry offshoot. Here is that discussion condensed.Peter Hvidberg, SGSPhil Butler: Where do hotel operations most often fail with their varied systems for risk management?Peter Hvidberg: Until now it has been the norm to only focus on standard risk categories like food safety, water safety and building safety, but as we know the hospitality industry is a very dynamic sector, with many new and emerging threats that can affect hotel operations. On top of that we have seen how the use of internet and virtual payments have taken over how travel is managed and booked, creating a new data and cyber security risk. The latest statistics indicate that 75% of global travel is booked online. Globally, we also face issues relative to security, hoteliers need to be protected or have all the procedures in place to prevent any attack or event that can affect guests. We also have seen the immediate impact of the social networks, and how a simple comment or a picture taken in poor context can affect the reputation of a Brand on a global scale. Studies show that 46% of all travelers read online reviews before booking their stay.For this reason, SGS have been working directly with industry influencers to hear what the needs are and as a result have designed a unique solution called HX (Hospitality Experience Program).This certification program consists of four modules, each focused on a specific industry need:Risk Module. This also contains the following submodules: [?] Food Safety[?] Water Safety[?] Building Safety[?] Security[?] Cyber Security[?] Business ContinuitySustainability ModuleCorporate Social Responsibility ModuleQuality of Service Experience ModuleTo give you some context as to how important addressing these risks can be, SGS has been collecting data from past Hotel audits and discovered that unknown conformities are more common than hotel managers think. Of over 10,000 audits performed:75% of issues detected were related to building safety15% of issues detected were related to water safety10% of issues detected were related to food safetyWith this program, our auditors can help properties to detect and prevent probable risks before they become a trend or real danger.Phil Butler: With reviews playing a bigger and bigger role in driving bookings to hotels, how can HX help hoteliers with guest expectations?Peter Hvidberg: The impact of new technologies and social media networks is huge for this industry. These technologies can make our lives easier when we would like to make a reservation or if we would like to look for information of a destination, but our guests can use them to share a bad or a good experience in our hotel, if is good great for us, but if it's bad we can't control the impact of that review.For this reason, the implementation of program like HX help the organizations to prevent risk and have more control of that kind of situation. With HX the GM will have a better view about what is going on in their hotel and with the expertise of our teams we can help to prevent any damage to the reputation of the hotel.Also, differentiation is becoming more and more difficult for hotels especially since entry of new players to the market is becoming more apparent. Three of the HX modules highlight certain values that customers are looking for when they book for hotels: QX highlights good service experience, sustainability highlights responsible use of energy / environment and management of wastes, and CSR highlights transparency and social responsibility. Depending on geographic markets, these could be attractive differentiators that if hotels practice and are certified under, could help bring more customers in.Phil Butler: Why the three levels of certification?Peter Hvidberg: First, we need to say that the HX is based on common industry painpoints that our experts have collected from performing over 10,000 property audits.HX as a management system is based in the principle of "continuous improvement". We would like to be seen as a partner of the hotelier, partners that are going to accompany the hotelier on this journey.In an ideal world, all organizations expect to achieve the big recognition, but the reality is that in very few times we find that everything is perfect. Thinking in that evolution based, in continuous improvement, the level of certification will increase with the maturity of the management system of the organization.Phil Butler: In your literature, on HX you discuss market intelligence as a facet. Can you tell us a bit about how the service enables hoteliers?Peter Hvidberg: One of the revolutionary aspects of HX is that it is a Global Recognition that combines common International Hotel painpoints, with Highly Experienced Auditors, and Big Data.As we all know, Data is power. Our HX solution is based on a very innovative IT platform that enables us to create patterns and detect trends faster than ever, using this information we can help our clients offer more accurate data that could help them to take decisions and of course help us to design more customized solutions to our clients.Phil Butler: What is "next" from SGS for the hospitality industry?Peter Hvidberg: With the success of HX, we see an even bigger need to expand the service to other aspects of the hospitality industry, apart from Hotels. For example, cruise ships, tour operators, and so on. We are beginning to partner with industry universities as well and offering internship programs to many of the graduate students. We hope to continue to grow these relationships and expand our roots into the Travel & Hospitality world. From a content perspective, we are investing heavily in several thought leadership initiatives and plan to continually release relevant industry cases and papers. Recently we were featured in Hotel Yearbook with a piece on Sustainability and we found the response to be quite positive. In our eyes this shows us that we have only scratched the surface of what HX can do and how SGS can partner with hotels and push them to be the benchmark.So, the industry is changing rapidly because of internal and external forces that decision makers must address. In order to keep abreast, hotel operations (independent or corporate) must have a fleet footed operational toolset to coincide with traditional hospitality norms. One key to solving these new flexibility and scale issues for hotels will be the engagement of global companies like SGS, which is the world's leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. I think a great many hoteliers will find it fortuitous that a company with more than 2,000 offices is already on task.
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The Year in Review - 2017 Most Read Stories on Hospitality Net

Hospitality Net ·29 December 2017
As 2017 comes to an end, we took an opportunity to look back at what sparked our readers' interest this past year on Hospitality Net. We would like to share the top opinion articles published on our website in the last 12 months. Click on the links below for the full article.January 2017Preliminary Hotel Industry Forecast: 2017By Robert A. Rauch5 Technologies The Hotel Industry Can't Afford To Ignore In 2017By Jos SchaapAugmented Reality and the Coming Integration for HospitalityBy Phil Butler2017 Predictions: Emerging Trends in Hospitality & TechnologyBy Margaret AdyThe life and times of the modern hotel management systemBy Kiran SunnyFebruary 2017Top hotel marketing trends for 2017By Stuart DickinsonUnlocking a hotel innovation strategyBy Carlos Martin-Rios and Sabina SavatinHow Virtual Reality Will Revolutionize the Hospitality IndustryBy Paulo TrompIsn't it time we all changed how we drive our PMS?By Kevin McCarthyCloud PMS - A Safe Bet for Security, Liability and PaymentsBy Jos SchaapMarch 2017Innovating with AI: predictive analyticsBy Dan FernandezThe Shrinking Value of Hotel Loyalty ProgramsBy Vikram SinghBig Data for Big Pay-OffBy Paul van MeerendonkWhat Hoteliers Need To Know About Personalisation TechnologyBy Sarah CameHotel Technology - The Easiest (and Most Costly) Decision is Not to Make a DecisionBy Jos SchaapApril 2017What Are The 4 Segments Of The Hospitality IndustryBy Peter Novak3 Tips from HITEC on Choosing the Right Hotel TechnologyBy Fee NaaijkensThese Major Trends Are Changing the Hospitality Industry, as You Know ItBy Jos SchaapHow In-hotel Location Data Can Transform The Guest ExperienceBy Prachi GuptaSEO for Independent Hotels: What, Why and HowBy Sophie TremblayMay 2017So Many Hotel Software Systems, So Little Time: How to Choose the Best PMS for Your Needs and BudgetBy Jos SchaapHow Artificial Intelligence will change the Hospitality IndustryBy Michael ToedtHotels vs. the (OTA) WorldBy Douglas QuinbyThe hotel room of the futureBy Stuart PallisterOptimizing your online channels: 9 proven ways to make OTAs work for youBy Fig CakarJune 20175 Hotel marketing tips for better Google search resultsBy Stuart DickinsonCloud-based hotel software has failed, but a new paradigm is on the horizonBy Keith Gruen7 Must-Have Hotel Marketing TechnologiesBy Alex ShashouThe future of hotel designBy Rob SykesHotel restaurants - the next boom trend for hospitality technology?By Matthew StubbsJuly 2017Social Media Marketing in the Hotel Industry: Trends and Opportunities in 2017By Jimmy QuachSoftware as a Service? Better Focus on the Service!By Jos SchaapRevenue and cost strategies for boutiques, independentsBy Robert A. RauchWill Blockchain Technology put Airbnb, Expedia, and Priceline out of business?By Frank WolfeHospitality Technology as a Guest Service DifferentiatorBy Amanda WisellAugust 2017How Social Media Marketing Strategies can help in Enhancing Brand Identity?By Hardik OzaThe Four Pillars of Hospitality TechnologyBy Larry Mogelonsky3 Innovative loyalty programs to be inspired byBy Stuart DickinsonInnovation in luxury hospitalityBy Suzanne GodfreyThe 2017 Social Media Universe in One Infographic: Introducing The Conversation Prism 5.0By Brian SolisSeptember 20173 Hotel KPI Revenue Management Experts UseBy Patrick LandmanThe Thief Hotel, a new benchmark for luxury hotels?By Youri SawerschelThe next 12 months in Hotel TechBy Terence RonsonHow Hotel Owners Can Fight Back Against ChargebacksBy Robert HarrowTrade in Sentimentality for a Future Proof PMSBy Kevin McCarthyOctober 2017The Top 5 Hotel Revenue Management Trends in 2018By Patrick LandmanOTAs vs Hotels: The Age-Old Battle Over Online BookingBy Dan LawrenceThree Customer Service Rules That You Need to Follow CorrectlyBy Katie ScheerBusiness Travel's Influence On Employee Retention, Recruitment And ResultsBy Monica SanchezHow to Design a Boutique HotelBy Lillian ConnorsNovember 2017Are you giving your guests a room or an experience?By Lara Salomon5 ways AI is transforming hotel marketingBy Casey MunckHotel Room: Things that Matter Most to Your GuestsBy Lillian ConnorsRedefining Customer Loyalty in 2018By Yunny ByunThe 2017 State of Digital TransformationBy Brian SolisDecember 2017Hospitality Trends 2018 - What's Happening in HospitalityBy Robert A. RauchYour Holiday SEO ChecklistBy Sophie TremblayOn social sustainability: An alarming global trend and how to disrupt itBy Jan EdwardsSustainability. Really? Not yet.By Nicolas DubrocardThe key trends shaping the hospitality industry in 2018By John Seaton

From Civil Engineering to Elysium Boutique Hotel - an Interview with Alexandros Kapetanakis

Hospitality Net · 2 August 2017
Kapetanakis has extensive experience building luxury properties. As a civil engineer, and owner of Ktirio S.A., a construction company which specializes in luxury houses and edifices, he is familiar with the mechanisms that make a building functional, aesthetically outstanding, and in harmony with the environment, Kapetanakis designed his Elysium Boutique Hotel to adhere to the same principles of quality that made Ktirio a success.Ktirio has some of Crete's most exclusive private and commercial buildings in its portfolio. According to Kapetanakis, the environment of the island plays a major role in his designs:"The influences we receive from our environment affect significantly what we create. Crete is an island with extensive history and beautiful landscapes. It can offer its visitors numerous experiences, from quiet traditional villages to wild outdoors, not to mention its delightful beaches. Crete is also an island with serious commercial and business activity, and we have to offer the people buildings with modern design and comfort, tied to the environment," he explains.This was also the motivation behind building the Elysium Boutique Hotel in Analipsi, a contemporary hotel with private beach and luxury pool."We chose a quiet location strategically: in front of the sea and close to the airport of Heraklion," Alexandros Kapetanakis told me in an interview. "Our guests can relax listening to the waves of the Cretan sea, and, at the same time, they have easy access to the nearby areas of interest. Whether they are looking for fun Hersonissos or are seeking cultural sightseeing, Elysium Boutique Hotel is the best place to be. The hotel is close to the center of the island and makes a perfect place for someone to find tranquility. It is also the ideal starting point for visitors to explore most of the island's attractions without wasting time on long drives."For the time being, Elysium Boutique Hotel keeps our civil engineer engaged 24/7, and although he has plans and ideas in mind for Ktirio, he is shy to disclose them. It's because building "might be challenging and requires knowledge, good teams, and skills." In the meanwhile, he ends with one of his favorite quotes by Marcel Proust: "My destination is no longer a place, but a new way of seeing."

Here's Why You Should Not Miss the Skift Global Forum in NYC

Hospitality Net ·21 July 2017
The Skift Global Forum in NYC is one of the most anticipated events of the year for travel and hospitality professionals and time is running out for those who want to plan a business trip to attend.With a stellar roster of speakers, the conference promises to bring great value to the attendees. Personalities like Stephen Kaufer (CEO TripAdvisor), Edward H. Bastian (CEO Delta Airlines), Dara Khosrowshahi (CEO Expedia), Glenn Fogel (CEO The Priceline Group), and Richard D. Fain (CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.) among several others will take the stage to deliver what the audience expects to be the "TED Talks of travel.""Take a day or two out, come, sit back, and listen, and we will promise you the best creative brainfood for the year," wrote Skift's CEO and Founder Rafat Ali in an article introducing the Skift Global Forum 2016. You can expect this promise to hold for the fourth edition of the conference in 2017 too.The speakers are the main reason for you to plan a trip to New York City this September. The early bird tickets already sold out, and the organizers expect more than 1000 travel professionals from across all industry sectors to attend the Skift Global Forum 2017. The venue chosen for the event is the Frederick P. Rose Hall at the Jazz at Lincoln Center performing arts complex.The conference is just three months away, and a full access ticket costs $ 3495. Thanks to a partnership between Skift, HospitalityNet, Travel Daily USA, Travel+SocialGood, Priority Pass, and Wanderful you now have a chance to attend the forum for free if you enter this giveaway. If you are lucky you will win a round-trip flight to New York City, a two-night stay at The Empire Hotel, a Skift Global Forum Priority Pass Standard Membership ticket, and four airport lounge visits.Hsyndicate.org CEO and Founder Henri Roelings encourages you to enter the giveaway for a chance to meet in person: "Make sure to grab your chance to win the ultimate Skift Global Forum package... and maybe we will meet in NYC in September 26-27."ENTER TO WINThe Skift Global Forum is "designed to inspire travel professionals about the business and creative potential of the world's largest industry," according to its organizers. More than a conference, it is an event where you can meet like-minded professionals, learn about the latest industry trends and forecasts, and even form new partnerships.

Into the Future of Hospitality with EHL's Achim Schmitt

Hospitality Net ·10 July 2017
Recently, the Ecole hoteliere de Lausanne (EHL) launched a new MBA program created to help further the careers of hospitality professionals. The program is focused on providing leading academic and practical elements delivered primarily via distance learning, in order that busy professionals might take greater advantage of classroom and field experiences, while extending their associations via the school's huge alumni network.To find out more about the new Ecole hoteliere de Lausanne I contacted Dr. Achim Schmitt, the Associate Dean-Graduate studies at the school, to get his take on how this MBA program differs structurally and competitively from other programs. Here is what Professor Schmitt had to say about EHL's new initiative.Phil Butler: How important do you feel advanced degrees are for career minded professionals these days, as compared to the industry's past?Dr. Schmitt: In today's competitive market, lifelong learning is vital for professionals at all stages of their career to ensure they have up-to-date knowledge and tools to perform most optimally in the industry. Hospitality is a fast-paced and evolving industry and some of the job opportunities available nowadays did not exist a decade ago. With digital initiatives and more online programs available, more and more candidates are becoming equipped with basic / fundamental sets of knowledge. I believe that an advanced degree is vital to help set you apart and widen the scope of opportunities that will ensure you remain competitive in the market. They usually offer leadership training which can enable managerial positions in the future, and is very attractive for employers.Phil Butler: How do you think the rise of offerings of digital and distance learning have affected the competitive aspect? And how does EHL try to capture market share / success?Dr. Schmitt: EHL is very proud of its on-campus training opportunities. The programs offer strong academic and operational experiences as well as numerous industry immersion and leadership development opportunities. At EHL students always work with lecturers at the top of their profession.While on campus training is very valuable, I think the offer of digital or distance training is also very important in opening possibilities for people to expand career opportunities. They open access to education for persons who cannot afford to stop working for a period of time, who may not be able to travel to locations where top universities are positioned, or who would like to build their skill base while in current employment. EHL recognizes that it can offer high quality education in a variety of formats, and is building an offer for candidates that allows them to obtain an EHL certificate or degree through blended learning and online formats. By incorporating elements of what makes EHL unique (such as industry proximity and EHL's passion for the industry) along with offering courses from top professors, we are confident EHL can deliver strong educational experiences.Phil Butler: Can you briefly discuss how the MBA fraternity impacts a professional's hospitality future? (eg. The Alumni network)?Dr. Schmitt: Each MBA alumni will have access to the EHL alumni community, one of the most powerful and most welcoming alumni networks in the industry. It boasts 25,000 members since 1893, with alumni working in 120 different countries. At EHL, we have a highly professional Alumni team that actively manages and connects EHL professionals. What makes our alumni unique is the strong commitment to excellence, ethics, solidarity, professionalism, flexibility, empathy - these are the fundamental values of EHL. Through their passion, alumni can always offer valuable support and advice, and being part of this community will allow MBA students to feel connected to their school, and to participate in various activities within the network. Given how the industry is built on connecting with people, having this connection will undoubtedly open opportunities for MBA students.Phil Butler: We tend to focus on the "student" side of advanced degrees, but what about the hotel side of the equation? How do hospitality businesses best benefit from EHL's latest programs and what is the ROI?Dr. Schmitt: EHLs latest offers have an applied focus designed to assess strategic investments, company profitability, management of people, and assessments of current business challenges. The content of the courses is highly relevant for today's markets, as students will be exposed to the latest knowledge, trends and skill-based training that will enhance companies business and success. Our Alumni and network of industry partners have constantly given - and still provide us - feedback on the content and relevance of our curriculum. We feel that our programs allow to develop employees who are equipped with sharper business decision making and stronger leadership acumen. Such skills and competences are likely to increase organizational success. With the possibility for digital and blended learning, employees are also less likely to be away from their work for a prolonged period of time, or resign in order to manage a full time program. This allows students to test their ideas in their individual context and allows hospitality firms to avoid investing in new hires and training new staff. It may also be an opportunity for hospitality firms to retain staff by offering continuing education as a benefit.Since 1893, EHL has offered the most advanced and acclaimed hotel management offerings to help students achieve status and success in the industry. Widely accepted as the top hotel management school in the world, the institution just received authorization this Spring to start construction work for its future campus, where a mix of ecology, technology and pedagogy will create a new hub for hospitality education, research, and forward thinking. This new MBA program, under the guidance of Dr. Schmitt, fits nicely into the EHL programs that will educate tomorrow's CEOs and other top hospitality executives.
Article by Laura Kohlenberger

From Lost Dreams to Success: Interview with Jonathan Weizman, RoomChecking

Hospitality Net ·20 June 2017
"I was a millionaire on paper at the time everyone believed the web will revolutionize the world," Weizman tells me with a nostalgic smile. Then he goes on talking about the odd financial machinations of the time when investors advised failed startups to wipe investments from their portfolio just to keep the investor's portfolio positive. Back then, he worked for a company that was a pioneer in GPS technology that had a good product."But when the industry crashed all investments stopped suddenly. So, the company I worked for did not sell. I left the company. I lost my dreams," Weizman recalls. This was a valuable lesson later on. The young entrepreneur left NYC and returned to France where the overall negative environment triggered by the failure of so many startups presented a career building challenge.He then worked in investment banking, later as CTO for Dane-Elec, till the high-tech wave started over and he returned to innovating in web technologies."Being innovative is not a noun but a verb," Weizman says, describing his career path. "It is a continuous movement where you are in the dark, where you don't know if you're doing right. Many people talk about successes or failure, but few describe the journey. When you discover that the path you explore won't make it, after investing so much time, energy, money, and taking the decision to move forward with a new idea, you feel your soul crushing like the waves of a tsunami. It is hard to maintain a family life because you basically get married to your project. There is no other choice than to focus totally on the project. In this context, I lead a team of ten engineers to build My Ditto, a NAS you could access remotely with literally zero configuration. I filed 5 patents and was awarded patent rights. Then things went so fast: we were awarded CES Innovation Award in Las Vegas in 2010, then Best of Macworld in 2011. But the company I worked for did not understand marketing and sales strategy. When they finally agreed to invest in marketing, it was too late, and they failed. I don't blame them, but I felt frustrated."This anecdote is one of the many Weizman has to share from his past. He finally decided to become his own boss, and, with RoomChecking, he has a successful product since 2013. RoomChecking was founded in 2013 as a project between Jonathan Weizman , Aaron Marz, and Emile Lugassy. The company is already a Microsoft Ventures Paris promising startup and has a dedicated customer base of 150+ hotels. Earlier in 2017, they got 750,000 EUR late seed-funding from Astotel Group, Maurice Hurand Hotels, and BPI. The road was not easy, but the lessons learned from the past helped develop a product which provides hotels the tools to improve guests' experience and deliver total customer satisfaction.Microsoft Ventures helped the project a lot, Weizman says. "At Microsoft Ventures I was the only guy who pitched with a two-pages Word document! Some other participants told me they thought I was old school and laughed at me, but it looks like I made it. Microsoft Ventures gave me so much: support, training, access to top entrepreneurs, and networking." These are the things small startups need to succeed, the CEO of RoomChecking believes, although he is aware that the "B2B hospitality market suffers from being too small or too hard to penetrate.""It is difficult to be honest because, as in every human interaction, when you fail you tend to blame the other parties involved," he told me relating RoomChecking's quest for funding. "We met with over 30 investors and the overall feeling was that they did not buy our vision."Surprisingly though, the funding came from the people who needed RoomChecking the most: hotel groups looking to diversify and move into the technology space. "Investment came from existing clients who understood the value of RoomChecking because they were using it for a year or so," Weizman said, and this is the takeaway of the journey: when you look for investment to develop a valuable product, ask the people who need it the most for help.

When A Simple Need Says - "It's Time to hyre"

Hospitality Net ·27 April 2017
A week ago, I was introduced to a new hospitality startup called "hyre", a Canadian startup aiming to reinvent event staffing. Founded by current CEO Eropa Stein, the budding talent source for hospitality help is impressive for quite a few reasons. First and foremost, Stein's idea for the platform reminds me of something the French poet, and essayist Charles Peguy once said, "It is the essence of genius to make use of the simplest ideas."If Peguy was right, and I believe his logic has been proven correct many times, then "hyre" is a real stroke of brilliance. Here's more on this, and on reasons hospitality needs innovations like this.Eropa Stein is a sharp young woman who's paid her dues the last 6 years in the event staffing arena. If human resources pragmatism and efficiency needed an entrepreneurial champion, this Ottawa business woman is a prime candidate. Stein, who holds a Master's Degree in Forensic Psychology, made her way through university working in event staffing, management, and consulting. It was from this experience that the concept of a more streamlined and reliable event staffing platform was conjured. Talking with Stein late last week, I was fascinated to learn just how painful it can be for organizers to find the right people to work their events. I've known from my own experience that conferences and summits are often understaffed, but the "ins-and-outs" of the business she relayed were a bit of a surprise.For instance, I was really surprised to learn of the very high no-show rate of 20-30% that organizers expect when staffing their events. Imagine you're waiting to greet 500 conference attendees and one third of your staff fails to show. We talk about guest or customer experience all the time, so let your hospitality imagination run wild here. But Stein and her team came up with a way to reduce "no-shows" by simply instituting a staff rating and monetary penalty. Stein shared a few other event nightmares from her experience as well, but anyone in hospitality knows all the points of pain. What "hyre" does best is remove the "middle man" from the equation. Organizers such as catering or hospitality professionals don't so much need an agency in order to make the right staffing decisions, with hyre they can deal with staffing directly. So, Stein and her team are at work refining the connective tool, and are on the logical expansion going forward. I asked the Toronto native about plans going forward for the rest of 2017, and she had this to add:"Hyre is looking to make an impact on the event staffing industry in 2017, particularly focusing on New York and London as our next cities."Hyre is a straightforward platform that greatly simplifies the hiring process for event organizers, and for staff to find gigs. Event staff get to choose their hourly fees, find the gigs that best suit them, and receive ratings and feedback on their work. Event organizers get a fully customizable staffing dashboard that reveals a list of staff along with in-depth details on capabilities, etc.. Organizers get the assurance of vetted staff that have passed background checks and so forth, while staff enjoy benefits like flexibility and higher hourly wages. Hyre employs cutting edge quality control tools and is WSIB insured to protect event organizers as well.So, in a nutshell "hyre" gives organizers complete control over price and quality, while at the same time empowering staff to book shifts at their price point and according to their schedules. The bottom line for me is, hyre is becoming the technological "middle man", or a highly efficient and certifiable tool employers and employees can trust. It's not rocket science, but it is brilliant. What's more, Stein and her team have a long-range plan that is as simple, and potentially game changing.I'll leave you with another quote on simplification by the esteemed economist and thinker E. F. Schumacher:"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction."

Fastbooking infographic shows Google dominance

Hospitality Net ·24 April 2017
The metasearch analysis compared key metasearch players like TripAdvisor, Google Hotel Ads, Trivago, and HotelsCombined for various performance indicators. The study demonstrates that regarding volume, cost, ROI, and trend analysis, metasearch is growing to dominate even Google Adwords advertising as the most cost-effective advertising tool. Compared to Google AdWords and display ads, the top metasearch platforms have evolved into superior revenue driving funnels. In the study, FASTBOOKING looked at years of metasearch data within its own matrix of campaigns to single out the strategies and channels that generate the best revenue.Here is a lengthy and in-depth article about the study by Jean-Louis Boss, CEO at FASTBOOKING, that shows clearly TripAdvisor and the others becoming more refined revenue generation tools. As you can see in the accompanying infographic, this platform has maintained a constant ROI for hoteliers.However, the graphic also reveals another interesting trend: Google Hotel Ads are now outdistancing even TripAdvisor! Boss covers the microeconomics of metasearch strategies in his article, but our takeaway is Google's clear move to dominate the spectrum. The real story is market share. Have a look at this revealing infographic, and we'll sum up afterward.Launched quietly back in 2011 as Google Hotel Finder, Google Hotel Ads have metamorphosed into a click volume mechanization machine. What started as a quasi-experiment appears to have become an ROI machine as well, at least according to the data. As the infographic shows, Google Hotel Ads came of age in 2016, surpassing even TripAdvisor in click volume and profitability. The report also shows Google Hotel Ads delivering the most qualified traffic to hoteliers.And like Jean-Louis Boss says in his piece; "As Google is integrating the ads deeper into its search results, maps, and other products, it is poised to become one of the leading hotel metasearch providers in the market." For us, the most important aspect will be the industry reaction to Google's competitiveness going forward. What some industry experts warned of as far back as 2009, has now materialized. What will be interesting will be the industry push back, and especially the resultant innovation/strategy by TripAdvisor and the others. How will the key players adjust to glean their fair market share now?Good news for hotels is that there are channels that permit them to increase direct revenue entirely independent of other distribution channels. Even though Metasearch is in its infancy as a distribution channel and we know changes are coming - it is a welcome evolution for hotels that want to balance their distribution from being overly OTA-dependent.Click here to download the full infographic.

Meeting Guest Experience Standards - An Interview with Manos Borboudakis of Santo Maris Oia

Hospitality Net · 3 March 2017
Besides obvious industry standards, guest experience can never be standardized. It's always a matter of one-on-one interaction, people greeting people, or else, we'd need to redefine "hospitality" as a whole. In 2017, more than ever so, the guest experience is about standing out through particularities rather than standards. This is why Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa on Santorini is redefining its own norms, pushing boundaries in an attempt to remain relevant while different on an island where expectations fall under the "posh and demanding" umbrella.Location, location!Luckily, Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa was built in a sought-after place, where guests can observe the famous Santorini sunsets from a privileged location, close to the Sunset Serenade point, yet secluded and blissfully private. It's the location, as the resort's General Manager Manos Borboudakis tells us that sets Santo Maris apart:"The location gives us the advantage of having a direct view of the famous sunset of Oia, which is the number one reason for people to visit the island and to pick our village as their favorite destination.We are not located on the caldera cliffs, but on the north part of the village and that gives us the privilege of privacy and peace, away from the crowds. At the same time, we have a private path leading to the center of the village, and the walk there takes only 5 minutes."Future possibilitiesSantorini is one of those rare European destinations that offers year-round value and Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa is contemplating a future when the resort can take advantage of the endless possibilities offered by such perspectives. But it will take a perspective shift, as Borboudakis told hospitalitynet:"Santorini offers year-round value for the capital of Fira at the moment. Our resort and spa has the facilities and the possibility to remain open all year around, but the village of Oia has not developed this idea yet. Nevertheless, we are planning to remain open year-round in the very near future."Food, glorious foodI've always admired Greece and the Greek islands for food so good that it is worth travelling for on its own. So I could not help but ask the obvious question: how much focus do you put on the culinary aspect at Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa? The General Manager replied:"Our flagship restaurant has a privileged position in the resort. It is located right below the sunset, opening to the Aegean Sea and the endless skies. Our guests can enjoy their dinner every night in a romantic and private ambiance, watching the fantastic Oia sunsets in the distance. Then, our gastronomy aspect follows the famous Cretan and Cycladic diets, based on extra virgin Olive Oil and the bounty of the lands.Most of our menus reflect the Cretan diet, which is the diet scientifically proven to offer genuine health benefits. We are also a certified Greek breakfast venue, offering true local menus."The Spa experienceMost people traveling to Santorini envision a spa and wellness aspect to the experience, so I asked the General Manager of the resort how big a role does the spa play in supporting guest expectations?"Our spa center is a 300 m2 area following the Aegeo Spa concept. We have 4 massage rooms, one heated indoor pool, a sauna, a steam bath, and a cryotherapy area. Last but not least, we have a Spa Villa designed for couples, with a relaxing atmosphere, where guests enjoy treatments that refresh and rejuvenate. There are also numerous choices of therapies, starting from classic massages to special therapies and treatments."Weddings and honeymoonsSince Santorini is famous for weddings and honeymooners, I inquired about options for people who choose the island for the most special moments in their lives. Here, Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa is quite competitive."Due to the privacy of the hotel we are an ideal getaway for honeymooners and couples who want to "escape" the crowds and the noise. We have a very experienced Guest Service Team that takes care of all the couples and their needs before they arrive at the resort. We deliver tailor-made experience packages to couples that will decide to spend their honeymoon on the island of Santorini. The Guest Service Team staff will discuss with the guests prior arrival and have most of their choices met without delay. Of course we can also cater small wedding requests as well as a wealth of other demands."With so much promise, Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa can be a destination of choice for many. There's also enough to build expectation in the future. In the meanwhile, come summer 2017, this is the ideal resort for couples seeking a romantic spot under the famous Santorini sunsets.
Article by Mihaela Lica Butler

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) - A Talk with Alvaro Hidalgo

Hospitality Net ·13 February 2017
Continuing our interview series in anticipation of HITEC Amsterdam which takes place at the end of March (28-30) at RAI Amsterdam Convention Centre, we interviewed Alvaro HIDALGO, the Managing Partner of FIRST LOGIC Consulting and a respected Professional in the implementation of low & high contact traceability systems in Hospitality & Sports related facilities.Hidalgo shared with us ideas and updates about General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the impact the new law that will be in force in May 2018 will have on the Hospitality Industry. Adopted in April 2016, the law aims to strengthen and unify data protection for individuals within the European Union.As far as hospitality is concerned, the new GDPR changes the landscape dramatically."The new GDPR expands all rights and freedoms of data subjects and provides new processes and procedures for companies to manage personal data," Alvaro Hidalgo told us in an exclusive interview. "In addition, these methods need to be proven, and businesses will be compelled to maintain records of the same. Therefore, a clear traceability model is now part of the obligations of the regulation."Alvaro went on to explain that the new law implies the creation of new responsibilities and positions within a company, like Data Protection Officer (DPO), whose role will be to ensure that all data management within a business is carried according to GPDR. In other words, GDPR places the burden of proof with the company.As such, new EU GPDR will obsolete the current management of data currently in place in most companies, where various departments collect the needed data and carry the custody in the way they deem appropriate.While the EU GPDR includes significant legal changes (aforementioned "burden of proof," Codes of Conduct, Certifications, and Privacy impact assessments), the law focuses on the establishment of robust, consistent internal processes.The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) law requires a complete overhaul of all internal activities and processes that involve capture, use, storage or transfer of Personal Data, and as such, it affects not only IT and legal departments but all departments of any company."So companies will have to assess ongoing processes and their compliance with GPDR. New procedures will be implemented, and training material and systems for all staff involved will be put in place. As I said, a complete overhaul," concluded Alvaro (pictured right).While some may consider the implementation of the GDPR a major problem, Alvaro believes it is an opportunity for companies:"Centralized and coordinated data management is the first step to using Big Data. The hospitality industry manages a large quantity of personal data, which means that it will no doubt create the conditions to exploit new avenues, to innovate services, and to provide new sources of revenue."Planning for HITEC Amsterdam is in full swing with guidance from an advisory council representing eight European countries. The committee is chaired by Carson Booth, CHTP, and vice-chaired by Derek Wood. For the latest news, follow HFTP/HITEC on HITEC Bytes, PineappleSearch, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter (@HFTP) and Instagram (HFTP_HITEC). For more information about HITEC Amsterdam, contact the HFTP Meetings & Special Events Department at sales@hftp.org, +1 (512) 249-5333.

Valentine's Day PR tips for Hoteliers and Hospitality Pros

Hospitality Net ·17 January 2017
February may be the shortest month of the year, but its PR potential is the greatest because it celebrates Valentine's Day. Whether you love the holiday or you totally dislike it, the day has enormous sales potential. But before you start counting your revenue, here's the most valuable PR tip for this event, offered by Simon Harding of Theatre Breaks: "Valentine's Day is not a day for making money, but building relationships."Good relationships enhance your PR efforts and boost brand awareness. When guests are impressed by your hotel's offers, they are likely to share their experiences on social media, generating online word of mouth.David Mitroff, Ph.D., business consultant, marketing expert, keynote speaker, and founder of Piedmont Avenue Consulting, Inc. has several great Valentine's Day PR tips that are guaranteed to make this special day the ROI-boosting and relationship building event it deserves to be."The most important thing to remember when creating Valentine's Day offers for a hotel business in 2017 is to offer add-on's and avoid discounts. It's more attractive to suggest you are offering extra features than giving a cheaper experience," he told Hospitality Net suggesting that people are seeking to impress their loved ones rather than getting deals. Mitroff also suggested that hotels and motels could offer complimentary champagne and wine, because "guests likely already have reservations at a restaurant, but wouldn't have the time to pick up a chilled drink during their stay. This also helps justify a higher room rate for Valentine's weekend."Mitroff goes on with more valuable insight: "Consider extensions and late check-outs because there is nothing less romantic than having to rush a stay." Finally, he also advises hotels to offer guests a floral arrangement or a bouquet ready in their rooms, "because your guests might be traveling to your location and won't have time to pick up flowers themselves."Rana Kay, Director of Public Relations at the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego, advises hotels to think outside the box: "Think beyond traditional champagne and chocolate covered strawberries to get the media's attention. Your best bet is to create an offering that reflects the unique characteristics of your property. At Hard Rock Hotel San Diego, we have a distinct focus on music and entertainment, so we include amenities such as a curated love song playlist and this year, a scavenger hunt." Kay also suggests having both affordable offers and more extravagant packages, to appeal to all budgets. Social media aspects and Instagram-worthy moments are also a must, according to Kay.Indeed, Valentine's Day can be an occasion to boost awareness about your hotel and hospitality business on all social media channels. Promoting offers on Twitter and Facebook, in particular with the help of promoted posts, has the potential to reach broad audiences. If Valentine's Day specials are appealing enough, the number of shares and reshares will generate the viral engagement you need to increase ROI and even capture free mainstream media mentions. For social media promotions, using hashtags is a practice that should not be ignored. You can always check out #valentinesday on Instagram for ideas of content that become viral, or on Twitter to see what people and businesses are sharing in real time.Journalists are interested in Valentine's Day offers from hotels and restaurants too. A good way to reach them is to become a source at Help a Reporter Out and send them a pitch when you see a query that applies to your business.Besides focusing exclusively on couples, hoteliers and hospitality pros are also advised to prepare something special for singles. Anti-Valentine offers can be a big hit if done properly. Last, but not least, to cover all angles, creating a fun Valentine's Day program for children, like making Valentine's Day cards for Mom and Dad, can help attract married couples who travel with their little ones on this occasion.

The Year in Review - 2016 Most Read Stories on Hospitality Net

Hospitality Net ·30 December 2016
As 2016 comes to an end, we took an opportunity to look back at what sparked our readers' interest this past year on Hospitality Net. We would like to share the top opinion articles published on our website in the last 12 months. Click on the links below for the full article.January 2016Important Social Media Marketing Trends for the Service Industry in 2016 | By Deven BhagwandinThe new year brings the opportunity to discuss what we think some of the important social media marketing trends for the service industry will be in 2016.The importance of social media will only increase in the future, which means it's important for...Understanding the Marketing Strategies for OTA's vs Hotels Website | By Ahmed Mahmoud Expedia, Booking.com, Kayak and Hotels.com are prolific spenders on Google AdWords, regularly logging in the top fifty search engine marketers by spending an average of $67,250 per day. And that's just on Google.So how does this ad spend play out...Innovation in Hospitality Management | By Carlos Martin-Riosbusiness model, organizational, and marketing innovation--in hospitality firms' dynamic capabilities?Investigating and responding to these challenges is of paramount importance.Hospitality leaders are realizing how important it is to address the...February 2016Fast-forward to 2017: What will the global hotel industry look like? | By David ChestlerSome of the more startling shifts are in:Regional market growth - The US market will grow more than six times faster than the European market, showing 6.8% compound annual growth rate compared to just 1.1%Chains v independent disparity - European...Hotel Spa Departments - Following Industry Trends | By Robert Mandelbaum and Andrea FosterComing out of the great recession, U.S. hotel operators struggled to earn revenue from sources other than the rental of guest rooms. However, in 2014, we began to see guests spend their money in other areas of the hotel. According to the 2015 edition...What hotels need to know about content marketing in 2016 | By Abi Mandelbaumemails, blogs, social media posts and webpages -- must be smartphone and tablet friendly. When you create content, pull it up on different phones and tablets to make sure it is visually appealing, and that the most important portion of the content a...March 2016The Impact of AirBnb on Hotel and Hospitality Industry | By Ahmed Mahmoud The emergence of multi-sided technology platforms, collectively known as the "sharing economy", has enabled individuals to collaboratively make use of under-utilized inventory via fee-based sharing. Consumers have so far enthusiastically adopted the...How the hospitality sector is slowly waking up to Big Data analytics | By Mike WheatleyThe hotel sector is ripe for a Big Data-drive transformation, but there are still huge obstacles to overcome before that happens.As an industry, the hospitality sector captures huge volumes of data that has the potential to dramatically change how...Current Events Articles for the Hotel and Service Industries | By Deven BhagwandinIt seems that some current events, social media and its use in the hotel and service industry, and some trending events have been on most of my reader's minds lately.I thought I'd prepare a list of a few current event articles that have stuck out to...April 2016Facebook Zero: R.I.P Organic Reach on Facebook | By Alicia WhalenSome have called it "Facebook Zero", while others have referred to it as the Reachpocalypse. Whatever name it goes by, it has left Marketers frustrated and business owners who rely on Facebook at a loss for how to drive traffic and generate sales...What's the difference between the Hospitality Industry and the Service Industry?WOW! What IS the difference between the hospitality industry and the service industry? Do you know? Can you tell me?I can't believe I haven't done this before. I guess I've assumed that anyone who is reading my posts would already have an idea of...Here's How Automation Is Transforming the Hospitality Industry | By Mitrankur MajumdarThe Henn-na Hotel in Japan is one of the great hotels of the world - and it just got a lot more futuristic. When you walk up to the front desk, a Japanese hostess bows and says "welcome." The catch: She's a robot. What's fitting is that in Japanese...May 2016Hotel technology 2020: What will the hotel of the future look like? | By David ChestlerAfter a long flight, a weary traveller strolls off the plane. The beacon nearby detects him and signals he has arrived with his Uber waiting to take him to his hotel. His TripIt has his itinerary and details from multiple locations all sorted onto...10 Key Trends for Revenue Management in 2016 | By Maeve WallsThe past few years have given birth to a wide variety of revenue management 'best practices' and tools. What's the equation for success? Two of the major factors affecting a modern revenue manager's success are the tools they are using, and how well...9 Hotel Waterpark Resorts Coming to Colorado | By Jeff Coy- including the addition of an indoor waterpark where the conference center once stood. The hotel, located on I-25 Exit 153 at InterQuest Parkway in north Colorado Springs stood empty and partially finished since 2009, a victim of the Great Recession...June 2016 Dubai Parks and Resorts on track to open in October | By Patience Lelo KlaasDubai Parks & Resorts (DPR), the Middle East's largest integrated theme park destination, is set to open its many gates to the public in October this year.This massive amusement park in Dubai will incorporate motiongatetm Dubai, Bollywood Parkstm...Hospitality and Restaurant Industry Must Read Articles | By Deven BhagwandinI'm working on the next phase of my Owning a Restaurant series but in the meantime, I've come across another set of service and hospitality industry news articles that I think you'll be interested in reading. All of these are quick reads. As always...2016's Most Important Digital Marketing Trends for the Hospitality Sector | By Edward Jones2016 was always set to be a year of shiny-new toys to play with from a hospitality marketing perspective. From video conferencing to remote training opportunities to the most simplified centralised management systems to date, the IT takeover really...July 2016An HVS Guide to Hotel Revenue Management | By Justin Kaminski and Breanna Smithoften frequently throughout the day--and make tactical decisions on rates over the next 90 days. It is extremely important to have longer-term strategic pricing guidelines in place that are determined annually in strategy meetings with hotel leaders...Neither revPAR nor occupancy are ideal indicators of hotel profitability - it's all about the ARPAR! | By Kiran SunnyThere's no denying that room sales is the life-source of most hospitality businesses. But while establishing high occupancy is indeed important, it shouldn't be the sole focus of a modern hotel. When considering profitability, concentrating on...The Ultimate Luxury Hoteliering 101! Part 2 | By L. Aruna Dhir What is it that the luxury traveller really seeks from his hotel experience? When money is not the consideration, what do premium places of stay bring out on the silver platter to this discerning set of guests for whom luxury is a way of life? How do...August 2016Hot industry trend: Video marketing for hotels | By Sarah CameTwo years ago, in Think with Google's report The 2014 Traveler's Road to Decision, Google called video "the new frontier" for hotel marketing, yet many hoteliers have been slow to include video in their marketing mix.While still images and the...Chinese Investment Trends in U.S. Hotel Real Estate | By Li Chen and Kirsten Z. Smileyincluding hotels--has become increasingly pronounced every year since.[1]Hotel and Hotel Portfolio Investment out of ChinaThe following tables show major single-asset transactions made by Chinese investors in the last five years. The two transaction...Heads in beds: refining room inventory management | By Estefania EscobarConsidered one of its most precious assets, a hotel's inventory is what keeps the business running. As part of revenue management strategies, inventory management is a key concept for hoteliers. We have five suggestions to improve it now. Figuring out...September 20164 Lessons Airbnb's Marketing Strategy Can Teach Hoteliers | By Michael Innocentin more than any major hotel brand -- Airbnb has set its sights on business travelers. It announced in July that it had inked a partnership with a trio of travel management companies: American Express Global Business Travel, BCD Travel, and Carlson...Why should hoteliers bet on video marketing? | By Estefania EscobarAlthough video advertising for hotels has mixed opinions in the industry, social media, and new technologies are challenging those points of view. Go beyond photos and let's see how to use this powerful tool to get more bookings and enrich your hotel...12 Reasons Travel and Hospitality Brands Should Boost Their B2B Content Marketing in 2017 [INFOGRAPHIC] | By Alan Youngand planning time for 2017. I am sure you already see the paradigm shift in the travel and hospitality technology industry ---and it is truly tougher than ever to break through the noise. There's a reason why CMOs at the largest tech brands report...October 2016HVS Market Pulse: Baton Rouge, LA | By Bunmi AdeboyeBaton Rouge, aka the "Red Stick," was so named by 17th century French explorers who came upon a native boundary marker at the top of a bluff, in the form of pole painted red. Now the capital city of the state of Louisiana, Baton Rouge is also the...2017 Digital Marketing Roadmap: What You Need To Know | By Alicia WahlenIt is not about following the latest technology or social media channel, but more about knowing how your target customers are navigating the internet, where they are most likely to find your brand online, and what it takes to get them to buy. Here is...The High Cost of Low Employee Engagement | By Joshua M. EvansEngaged Employees are great! They are genuinely more likable, more committed to their work, and are often more optimistic about the companies they work for. While everyone can appreciate employees that are engaged, few companies understand the HUGE...November 2016Marketing Strategies for a Competitive Advantage in 2017 | By Robert A. RauchAccording to Geoffrey Moore in his book Living on the Fault Line: Managing for Shareholder Value in the Age of the Internet, stock price is a measure of future potential based on present competitive advantage. Competitive advantage consists of two...Strategies to a successful digital marketing campaign | By Josephine WawiraCapitalizing on online channels as elements of new media to promote brands, and sell products/services is perhaps the best approach to reach out to potential and existing online customers in this digital era. The Main aim is to make it possible for...WATG Hospitality Trends Forecast 2017 | By Muriel MuirdenWATG have been breaking ground in hotel design for over 70 years, designing some of the most innovative and award-winning destinations around the globe. With a finger firmly on the pulse, WATG Trend Forecaster Muriel Muirden has rounded up the top...December 2016Robert Rauch's Top 10 Trends in Hospitality for 2017 | By Robert RauchJust 10 years ago, Facebook morphed into a mainstream business tool, Twitter arrived, the iPhone exploded on the scene and Android phones were born. Today, the pace of change has accelerated dramatically. In his new book, Thank You for Being Late...Travel and Hospitality Predictions for 2017 | By Mihaela Lica ButlerThere's something special about the end of the year, as industry experts in every niche look ahead with hope, trying to predict what the future will change and bring new in their respective fields. Hospitality follows the trend, and I have been...Three Game-Changing Hospitality Trends for 2017 | By Tammy FarleyThere is an old adage that says, "The only constant is change." Although attributed to Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher who lived around 500 B.C., apparently that statement is as true now as it has ever been - perhaps even more so. 2016 has proven to...

Travel and Hospitality Predictions for 2017

Hospitality Net ·13 December 2016
There's something special about the end of the year, as industry experts in every niche look ahead with hope, trying to predict what the future will change and bring new in their respective fields. Hospitality follows the trend, and I have been speaking with several personalities and specialists to discover their thoughts about what to expect in travel and hospitality in 2017.Influential Explorers Look for Local ExperiencesSonia Tatar, CEO of Les Roches Global Hospitality Education embraces the "influential explorer." "Influential explorers are less concerned with opulence, pampering, and traditional luxury than the generation of ten or twenty years ago," she tells us. "Instead, they are focused on finding value, authenticity and truly local experiences." President of the Rosewood Hotels and Resorts Radha Arora, who is a Les Roches graduate, shares Tatar's opinion, adding a concrete example:"Rosewood San Miguel de Allende in Mexico has created a unique welcome amenity called The Artist in You where guests are provided with a fully equipped easel and are invited to create an original piece of art to take home with them as a memento to remember their stay. Offer experiences and activities beyond the offerings of the hotel or resort: Guests are interested in exploring the local area, going on excursions, and having unique experiences outside their room. These activities account for a high percentage of non-room spending and of overall revenue."Even Becca Wirta, Events and Public Relations Specialist at vacation rental company Vacasa, emphasized that travel businesses need to cater to individuals in 2017. "Travelers expect and demand ultra-targeted travel marketing based on geographic location, personal data, and now, hobbies, and interests," she explained, following with a concrete example: "Mushroom hunters expect to know where the next mushroom picking festivals will be held."Personalization is key for Liana Clark, Director of Sales and Marketing at dana hotel and spa too: "Providing travelers with customized experiences is a trending topic for 2017 and dana hotel and spa is ahead of the game with unique experiential packages and a knowledgeable staff to guide travelers. Whether it's an outing to Chicago's landmarks or a helicopter ride high above the skyscrapers, every guest will leave with memories that last long after they've checked out."Robert Edell, the founder of next gen mystery dining and customer experience analytics platform Servy, believes that customer experience will be central in many developments: "We'll see a greater focus on the guest experience, which can come in many forms. I think experience-based dining will grow--think Kellog's Cereal Cafe in NYC," he told us, and added "Health and sustainability will continue to grow in popularity and priority. Today's consumers are more health and environmentally conscious than ever, so expect restaurateurs to address this with local, ethical sourcing and vegan and gluten free menu options."Indeed, many hotels and restaurants have already embraced the ideas of ethical sourcing and environment friendliness in 2016, and the phenomenon is likely to become mainstream in 2017.Ethical and Environmental Become MainstreamAlexander Chiu Smit told us that the hotel he works for, The Rosebery in Newcastle, caters to pets, but also has a strong environmental focus: "Eco-friendly is definitely something that people are asking about and is helping us stand out. Our furniture is mostly upcycled, making it not only unique and of higher quality, but also friendlier to the environment. We're noticing that people are looking for these qualities and we're going to do our best to take even more eco-friendly steps - for example, there is a hotel in Northumberland that runs entirely on solar energy."Connie Chi, President of Vitality Groupe, talks about environmentally friendly hotels, but also about virtual reality as a key trend in 2017. "Many businesses in the hospitality space are taking a far-reaching look as to how to engrain Virtual Reality into their Marketing strategies for 2017 along with chat bots to help create a better customer experience. We predict that along with the rise of Virtual Reality brands in hospitality will become eco-friendly too. Consumers are more knowledgeable about the importance of health and reducing waste."From my perspective, as interesting as the concept of Virtual Reality may be, many businesses will face cost restraints so 2017 may be just the year to trigger the trend, with a more probable mainstream adoption by 2020.Pet-Friendly Is NecessityAnother topic that gained traction in 2016 is the pet-friendly hotel, and Maggie McCombs, content marketer at Creative Lodging Solutions, believes that 2017 will see an increase in such accommodation: "Do people actually prefer staycations, or do they have separation anxiety about leaving their pets? Per a report by Skift and Sojourn, an impressive number (about one out of five) of travelers are staying at home to take care of the fur babies. Hotels and travel services are trying to accommodate travelers, whether they have four legs or two."Expect more Adventure TravelersMcCombs also has a thing for underwater adventures, and believes that these will see a boost next year too: "44% of travelers say they can imagine traveling far beyond their comfort zone - from outer space to the deep sea. A couple years ago, the travel obsession was all about space. Rumors suggest that the ocean might take its place as the "final frontier." Although the deep-sea travel trend is currently more popular outside the U.S., Key Largo, Florida, houses the oldest underwater hotel." While this is an interesting thought, it would take longer for the trend to become mainstream. But it is possible that 2017 will impact the movement significantly.Krista Ritterhoff shared some similar ideas with us, based on a global survey by Westin Hotels and Resorts: "More than 1 in 4 respondents anticipate planning an adventure-focused trip in the next 12 months. This is nearly double the number of travelers who took adventure-focused trips in the last 3 years," she told us, talking about adventure travelers.Because adventure travel is a diverse field, hotels may consider adding an adventure concierge to cater to the needs of these guests.Look at the Chinese MarketShannon Valdes with TheLuxeNomad.com makes a strong argument for the Chinese market: "The future of tourism will be driven by the Chinese market, who have already been inching out Australians as the #1 travelers for Bali. As with any country that becomes more developed, there is a portion of the Chinese market that is growing more sophisticated and westernized with their approach to travel. 15 years ago, it was all about packaged tours, but now more than 70% of Chinese outbound travelers plan and travel independently." This is particularly noteworthy also if you look at the moves made by Chinese hotel chain Plateno Group, which opens new hotels in Europe to cater to Chinese tourists.According to China Tourism Research Institute, China had 120 million outbound tourists in 2015, and they spent 104.5 billion US dollars, increases of 12% and 16.7% compared with 2014. Even more spent their holidays abroad this year. Moreover, the European Travel Commission held an event early this summer to launch the 2018 EU-China Tourism Year. The focus on the Chinese market is no longer a trend, but a reality. Businesses that adapt to satisfy Chinese visitors will thrive in 2017.
Article by Mihaela Lica Butler

HITEC Amsterdam Perspectives - A Talk with Stephen Minall

Hospitality Net ·12 December 2016
A while back we spoke with Stephen Minall, member of the HITEC Amsterdam Advisory Council and owner of Moving Food Ltd., to address the issue of whether the industry needs to elevate the role of IT Managers. Minall is a man of few words and a brilliant strategist. His answer back then was simple: "it should be a challenge to all hotels."We continued our discussion with Stephen to cover other important matters, like shadow IT, less control over every aspect of technology, and mobile technology.A pressing concern in the industry is how data privacy and nationalization impede capabilities to provide efficient IT operations that enhance guest service. As a response to the question, how should hospitality technology participate in lobbying efforts with governmental jurisdictions, Minall considers that petitioning "should be done at all levels but sadly most general managers rely on positioning, rather than looking at this themselves."Lobbying may help prevent unintended consequences by opening a direct dialogue between professionals in the industry and governmental policymakers who make the decisions that affect business and the economy. Companies like Uber and Airbnb are already active lobbyists urging lawmakers to ease nationalization standards in cities all over the world. They extend their reach beyond city and state lobbying to create good will and to shift standards.On to the matter of shadow IT which we previously addressed in an interview with Timo E. Kettern, IT Director at Lapithus Hotel Management, Minall insisted on the role of hotel chains:"If chains were far-reaching, they could afford to ring-fence certain hotels or regions, and thoroughly test/trial innovation, take the plunge, take the risk, and look at the responses and results."Concerning mobile technology and easing the guest experience, Minall sees the what and timing of purchasing such technology challenging, but recommends hospitality pros to stay abreast of innovation:"It has to be a major headache on what and when to buy this new technology. Guests will now expect to book/buy/bargain and then pay as they are doing with every other form of purchase. Follow and lead or die on the vine!"Concluding the interview, Minall addresses a challenge to industry pros to consider how hospitality IT should engage with gig technologies like AirBNB, Uber, or those that allow customers to order takeout online, and so on. His expert opinion is that these cannot be swept under the carpet.Planning for HITEC Amsterdam is in full swing with guidance from an advisory council representing eight European countries. The council is chaired by Carson Booth, CHTP and vice-chaired by Derek Wood. For the latest news, follow HFTP/HITEC on HITEC Bytes, PineappleSearch, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter (@HFTP) andInstagram (HFTP_HITEC). For more information about HITEC Amsterdam, contact the HFTP Meetings & Special Events Department at sales@hftp.org, +1 (512) 249-5333.What is your take?
Article by Phil Butler

A Talk with Kira Zakharova of Villa Elena in Yalta

Hospitality Net · 2 December 2016
Search online for the term "iconic hotels" and you will find scores of fabulous properties like Belmond Hotel Splendido in Portofino in Italy, to Laucala Island in Fiji. Through some quirk of fate or careless oversight all the luxury hotel experts somehow missed the gem of Yalta, Villa Elena. What follows is a very abbreviated history of the hotel, followed by an exclusive interview with the hotel's Director, Kira Zakharova.The story of this magnificent Russian Riviera stay goes back to the middle of the 19th Century and a land purchase by the spouse of the artist Miasoyedov - Elizaveta Mikhaylovna, who bought the estate of one Prince Golitsyn, of one of Russia's most noble houses, and the founder of the famous Abrau-Dyurso wineries. The hotel's director tells us more of its fabulous history, but Villa Elena, situated along the Yalta sea-front promenade, certainly marks time in Yalta. A seven year refurbishment was completed in 2007. Last week I quizzed Ms. Zakharova about Villa Elena's offerings, and what the future holds for one of the world's most interesting hotels.Phil Butler: The history of Villa Elena is fascinating; in fact, the hotel is one of the few I have found with its own Wikipedia page. How important do you think it is to maintain history and tradition for this magnificent hotel? Do you find that guests enjoy learning about the hotel's history?Zakharova: Villa Elena occupies a unique space with its history, atmosphere and a special charm. Architect Lev Shapovalov, who designed the house of famous writer Anton Chekhov, constructed the building after the fashion of the best foreign hotels. The four-storeyed mansion in Art Nouveau style was ready in autumn 1912. Today Villa Elena is a landmark. I am pleased that this year the Hotel was included in a Crimea promo video along with the Swallow's Nest Castle, Vorontsov and Livadia Palaces and other famous places of interest. Villa Elena is a combination of special mood, exceptional luxury and perfect taste - all that makes the Southern Coast of Crimea so special. Guests learn about the Hotel's great history with interest. Gentle reconstruction has preserved the initial nobility of the mansion and, simultaneously, added the hint of modernity to the building. The Hotel is included in the town tour programme. Villa Elena's century-old history is our proud and, at the same time, a huge responsibility.Villa Elena in YaltaWe keep the best hospitality standards and obey historical traditions - perfect service in details, high cuisine, and elegant interior. However, we keep an open mind too. We improve the infrastructure and service and form the basis of new contemporary traditions to show the right way to our future generations. This includes the "Full service" concept, brand new standards of social and ecological responsibility, and social activities. Four years ago, the Hotel launched its own art gallery "Pocherk", which holds Christmas opening days, charity auctions, and exhibitions of Crimean and foreign artists. Along with regular exhibitions, the art gallery focuses on interregional projects of cultural exchange directed to the integration of Crimean art in Russia's informational and cultural space, such as plain-air painting, concerts, sculpture workshops, programmes of theatre exchange and many other activities.One of the sumptuous rooms of Villa ElenaPhil Butler: Visitors to your website will take note of the fabulous apartments available for sale at Villa Elena. How many residents, as opposed to short-term guests are there right now? Zakharova:Our guests can acquire the ownership of apartments in Villa Elena's historical mansion. Each person who ever crossed the Hotel's threshold stayed impressed by the nobility of the interiors and by the level of service, and dreamt about spending more time in this perfect world, far away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Our task is to make these dreams come true. On the whole, there are 22 apartments for sale in the Hotel, a part are already sold and a part is also offered for short-term and long-term rent.The design of each apartment is unique, but calm and functional atmosphere is common. Their finishing shows expensive materials along with moderation in design and colour palette. Italian furniture is handmade and manually aged. Art painting of the walls contributes to chamber and elite atmosphere. Kitchenettes and Old England bathrooms bring comfort and warmth. Spacious balconies present the beauty of Yalta's landscapes: the sea, the old town, the amphitheatre of the Crimean Mountains and the golden domes of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Harmony and authenticity of the apartments along with full five-star service exceed expectations of the most demanding guests. This season the duration of stay in the Hotel has gone up by 30% and we are pleased to observe that guests come back to us, book apartments for a year and even more, and show interest in purchasing the apartments. This trend is promising and underlines the highest level of our service.Villa Elena PenthousePhil Butler: Do you have a favorite guest story that you can share? Zakharova: The policy of our Hotel is strict confidentiality. Each guest is special for us. We carefully secure his/her private life and information related to staying in the Hotel. That is why I cannot answer your question in full measure. However, I can give you a hint - Jennifer Lopez stayed in our Hotel during her visit to Crimea for a private concert. I am sure she will share her impressions with you.Phil Butler: Recent news about Crimea would suggest foreign travelers visit less, can you talk about the nationality or changes in your guest flows these days?Zakharova:Certainly, our guest flow has significantly changed with the integration of Crimea into the Russian Federation. Our market has changed. Besides, international restrictive measures and Russian policy of global import substitution redirected tourists flow towards domestic destinations. Crimea is not an exception, and today 80% of our guests are Russians. Most of them are travellers from the largest cities, such as Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, and from cities with direct air communication with Crimea, such as Krasnodar and Rostov-on-Don. Guests from Northern cities, such as Tyumen, Omsk and Surgut, also visit us in search of the more moderate climate. The remaining 20% are citizens of CIS countries and foreign travellers. Interestingly, foreign travellers are coming back. In 2015, foreign travellers were few, but in 2016, our staff were able to use their knowledge of foreign languages with guests from China, Europe and the USA.Chef Bogdan Parinov's incomparable cuisineAnother trend we are seeing is an increasing number of travellers who visit Crimea for the first time. We see this as a great responsibility, accompanied by huge risks. Guests who usually spend their holidays in Europe expect the same level of service and infrastructure from Crimea and usually are unsatisfied. High-quality hotels, such as Villa Elena, help to mediate this. We take care of all guest requirements, create a world of comfort, and render a complete and full range of services. Hopefully, other Crimean hotels will adopt Villa Elena's hospitality and perfect service soon too. The geography of tourists flow continues to expand and we welcome all who have a desire to discover Crimea at its very best.Phil Butler:What is the most talked about aspect of Hotel Elena in your experience?Zakharova: Guests talk most about the essential value and prospect of the Villa Elena hotel, our perfect service. From their arrival and during all guests' entire stays, our staff - housekeepers, drivers, waiters and chefs - surround them with attention and care. Our main advantage is always staying one step ahead to predict wishes and needs. We take into account the habits and tastes of our guests, we know what kind of cereal a guest prefers for breakfast and such details as knowing the name of his/her pet. By contributing this detailed work and by choosing an individualistic approach, we give attention and understanding so missed nowadays. That is why people talk about us and we have a lot of positive feedback.Kira Zakharova, Hotel DirectorMs. Zakharova went on to explain her experiences as Villa Elena's director. The most indicative of these was a commonality she shares with almost all the legendary hotel managers I've encountered. The common thread of seeing guests in transformation because of their experiences is a motif, a rhyme that echoes at every magnificent resort. Zakharova called this transformation "magic" which is perhaps the best was to describe watching big city stress melt into total holiday bliss. For us, this is the wonder of hospitality.Villa Elena is situated in the middle of lush gardens only 100 feet from the Black Sea. The 13 lavish residences and 32 extraordinary rooms of the hotel are within a VIP secured compound with every conceivable amenity. The property has a heated outdoor pool, a private confectionary, a wine room with 400 items, a wellness center, conference hall, beauty salon, shops, tennis courts, and art gallery, and a lounge by the sea, just to name a few. Three restaurants overseen by brand Chef Bogdan Parinov, have two aquariums with oysters and other fine seafood, and offer cooking master classes and culinary tours.Readers interested in learning more about this unique Yalta property can contact Villa Elena directly via phone at: +7 495 241 66 66, or email the concierge directly via: concierge@villaelenahotel.ru
Article by Mihaela Lica Butler

Hotels Europe: Challenges and Potential 2017

Hospitality Net ·28 November 2016
Last week, in Athens, a cast of hospitality and travel tech experts gathered at the Digi.travel EMEA Conference & Expo. The conference was dedicated to online travel trends and developments, and to solutions for the most pressing challenges facing the industry. Here is a synopsis of the meet-up, and the high points from some of the world's most knowledgeable hospitality-tech experts.Digi.travel EMEA Conference & Expo Day OneFrom the onset of the conference attendees saw the event kicking off with a highly informative presentation by TripAdvisor's Anna Rufo, who is Head of Display Sales - Central & Eastern Europe. Rufo's detailed talk focused on TripAdvisor as a sales and marketing tool and keyed on markets like Russia where Greece growth is concerned. Rufo's lead off paved the way for one of the world's most successful hoteliers, Tom Magnuson of Magnuson Hotels, who discussed how industry players can profit even in trying economic and an uncertain geopolitical atmosphere.Magnuson, whose keynote set the tone for the summit, offered several innovative marketing templates. The co-founder of the Magnuson brand engaged the Greece market from within key-point destination hospitality, but more importantly fringe regions where thinking outside the box can optimize room sales. Following Magnuson's in-depth talk, a panel discussion alongside two of Greece's most successful executives, and a hospitality media celebrity helped galvanize the conference's key topics. Alongside Magnuson were Hotelbrain's Founder and President, Panos Paleologos; AEROTEL Group President, Alexandros Vassilikos; and HospitalityNet's very own Henri Roelings, who founded and publishes the world's most read B2B hospitality media.All four experts' focus was on how best to serve the customer journey and their travel experience by using not only new technologies but traditional hospitality value. Paleologos' focus in particular called to question hotel management reaching too far afield, rather than "doing what each hotel does best." Vassilikos' hotel group's keen focus being on guest satisfaction, the AIROTEL Group also focuses on the "Athens experience," or destination-specific value. On this, both Tom Magnuson and Henri Roelings, elaborated further, telling the audience to innovate through localization.Day one finished with Dimitris Kossyfas, who's the Head of Travel - Google Greece, Cyprus and Malta; Murat Ozkok, who's Skyscanner's Marketing Manager, Turkey & Greece; IBM's Haris Linardakis; Microsoft's Michalis Moschos; Edouard Le Lesle of Amadeus; and day one conference chairperson, Dr. Marianna, Sigala.Digi.travel EMEA Conference & Expo Day TwoConference Chairman for day two was Phil Butler, Senior Partner of Pamil Visions PR, who had led the previous day's panel discussion. Phil introduced me to the attendees, and I discussed social PR trends and strategies. Following my presentation was Sojourn's Eleonora Francioni, who talked about how data has transformed the advertising landscape, and who fielded endless questions from the interested audience.With data and revenue as the closing sentiment, conference experts like; HQPlus's Philipp Stelzer and Xenia Nartschick captivated the audience with stunningly details data analytics for business intelligence. Stelzer actually surprised many attendees with HQPlus' deep capability for targeting segments. Following the HQPlus presentation, Vasiliki Mavrokefalou of Digital Ecosystems hammered home the critical point of using data-driven approaches. Later in the day Iconik Hospitality's Athanasios Tzakos, TrustYou's Marie-Christin Vollmer, Zoottle's Abriel Efstathiou, and key consultant Dr. Dimitris Koutoulas informed the audience and media about unlocking existing data, the power of feedback, monetizing WiFi, and managing TripAdvisor reviews respectively.Conference FinaleBesides the keynote presentation of Tom Magnuson, the most highly anticipated topic of Digi.travel EMEA Conference & Expo was the fast emerging Chinese traveler market segment. Tomasz Janczak of Plateno Group Europe made a gripping presentation highlighted by an emerging Chinese middle-class tourist market, as well as the luxury component of this burgeoning potential. Janczak also focused on another similar potential from the BRICS, and emergent technologies like Plateno Connect. The audience was again surprised to discover the current situation where Chinese visitors to Europe capitals are concerned. According to the Plateno executive, the already massive Chinese visitor influx is not because of OTAs, as is the case for other segments, travel agents and wholesalers representing the lion's share of this market left the audience with a positive footnote to ponder.Finally, Digi.travel EMEA Conference & Expo Athens concluded on a highly tense note as a final panel with Plateno's Janczak and Tourism Generis' Georgios Drakopoulos found conflicting views on the scope and strategies for attracting Chinese travelers. Drakopoulos, who's a special adviser to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) was of the opinion that the Greek government would not co-fund pilot projects for creating the China conduit to Greece. For Janczak's part, Plateno Group has connection building tools and traveler supply in place. The rub, as it appears, is the lack of direct flights and other ease of travel elements being in place. In the end, both experts concurred on the need for private initiatives and funding to get these direct flights on the course.

100% Eco-friendly and Sustainable, Olive Green Hotel Is a Premiere in Greece

Hospitality Net ·18 November 2016
Olive Green Hotel had a silent opening at the beginning of the fall, but it's already a hit with its first guests."We only stayed one night but had we discovered it sooner, we would have stayed longer and explored Heraklion. The rooms are absolutely lovely. Modern, efficient, well appointed," writes Lee T. from Sydney, Australia, in his TripAdvisor review."Very impressed by the decor and cleanliness of the hotel. Staff very attentive, all spoke excellent English. The best thing was finding complimentary olive oil, bread, and ouzo in the room," wrote another guest from London, UK.These are just two examples of over 50 already published by guests on TripAdvisor, not counting similar accolades on Facebook, and over 200 verified reviews on Booking.com. It looks like Olive Green is up to a great start.Yes, everything inside is new and clean, but the hotel owes its success to the features that make it unique on Crete and in Greece. It is the first 100% environmentally friendly hotel in the country that offers smart, intuitive technology that allows guests to individually control heating, air conditioning, music, TV, and room service, fostering a unique hospitality experience like nowhere else on the island. The hotel offers tablets to control these features, but also to allow guests to publish updates on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social networks.Further on, its minimalist rooms are enhanced with QR-coded wallpapers featuring stunning images of Cretan landscapes. Guests can scan the codes to find out details about a particular destination within a short drive from Heraklion, points of interest, distance, and other relevant travel details.48 sunlit rooms are expecting their guests inside a known architectural landmark dating from the early 1960s. This building was transformed by Karatarakis Hotels SA Company, to align nature, tradition, and technology into a harmonious haven for leisure tourists and business travelers alike."The name of the hotel derives from the Cretan symbol of purity and wildness, the olive tree. Our hotel was designed respecting modern principles of renewable energy," said Lefteris Karatarakis, Karatarakis Hotels SA Company CEO. "For instance, we employed reuse and recycle operational systems that utilize solar panels and other innovative methods that promote sustainable development," he added.Olive Green Hotel is an urban oasis, not far from the Port of Heraklion, and in close proximity to the Heraklion Archeological Museum, which is a must-see for travelers young and old. This gives the hotel a substantial advantage and appeal with travelers who want a starting point to explore Heraklion.Where dining is concerned, Olive Green has its own restaurant and cafe, the "626" All Day Lounge & City Garden. This is a spacious, airy place, with a modern, well-stocked bar, and a modest sidewalk terrace, which invites passersby to stop and linger sipping house signature coffees, or sophisticated cocktails. The restaurant is open to hotel guests and outside diners alike, offering a generous menu from breakfast till late. Exquisite seasonal culinary creations at 626" All Day Lounge & City Garden are envisioned by Chef Zinonas Christofidis, who hails from Herbs' Garden and Brillant Restaurant at Olive Green Hotel's older sister venue, Lato Boutique Hotel.

Shadow IT - An Interview with Timo E. Kettern

Hospitality Net ·11 November 2016
Timo E. Kettern is the IT Director at Lapithus Hotel Management and a respected professional in his field. In anticipation of HITEC Amsterdam which will take place next year in March in Amsterdam, we spoke with him about shadow IT activities, technology, and devices that fall outside the traditional IT funding.The central question is whether shadow IT like unapproved software, apps, and devices need to be managed by the IT department of the organization, considering that many of these tools may raise serious security challenges, leaving the business exposed to all kinds of attacks. Because each business is different and shadow IT evolves, should the IT department create a particular branch to manage such tools? How can IT not stifle innovation but still exercise required security and fiscal governance in the organization?Kettern addressed some of the issues with his response, beginning with the increase of compliance and legal requirements and what hurdles hospitality pros need to overcome to get the job done, and ending with an emphasis on balance."It remains a matter of fact that in the last years more and more compliance and legal requirements came into effect. As all main business processes in the hospitality industry are technology enabled, what easier than to put the required compliance standards into the IT systems and processes? So far so good, you would think.But these controls and processes make it more time-consuming and cumbersome for an associate to get their job done. For example, in some jurisdictions, we are required to capture certain private details of the guest and store them in our PMS. The data fields in the PMS then become mandatory for input. What then happens during a busy check-in is that anything will be inserted in the date fields by the associate just to finish registration process as quickly as possible. You can't really blame them for trying to serve the arriving guest as quickly and efficiently as possible. So, on we have a regulatory requirement that is translated into an IT process that results in Data-Mull.As another example, hotels cannot send/receive credit card data in unencrypted emails. As IT responsible people in the hotel industry, we apply all sorts of technology to make sure non-plain text credit card number can be sent or received using the corporate email. But nothing stops the creative reservations team to set-up a webmail account with any free email provider and to use that to receive credit-card information from the guest. So who is to blame here? The institutions that create these rules? The corporate IT Team for doing their best to keep the company compliant and therefore out of trouble? Or the associates in the hotel who only want to get their job done efficiently?"Kettern (pictured) concludes his response with an emphasis on balance, which is essential for good business."In my opinion, every organization has to find the right balance between compliance and risk of conducting the business - and, of course, that will vary greatly depended on the ownership of the hotel (group)."Planning for HITEC Amsterdam is in full swing with guidance from an advisory council representing eight European countries. The council is chaired by Carson Booth, CHTP and vice-chaired by Derek Wood. For the latest news, follow HFTP/HITEC on HITEC Bytes, PineappleSearch, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter (@HFTP) andInstagram (HFTP_HITEC). For more information about HITEC Amsterdam, contact the HFTP Meetings & Special Events Department at sales@hftp.org, +1 (512) 249-5333.

Student-organized summit looks at the future of hospitality

Hospitality Net ·11 November 2016
The Future of Hospitality Summit 2016 held at the end of October at Les Roches hotel management school in Switzerland focused on the rapid pace of innovation affecting the hospitality industry, highlighting practical ways of thinking about, and confronting, the unfolding future.Completely organized by the school's students, the summit brought together a number of leaders whose companies are facing technological change - and successfully learning to thrive in the ever-evolving landscape."FHS was an action-packed combination of keynote speeches, workshops, an innovation competition, all related to the hospitality industry and superbly organized by our students," said Sarah Schwab, Director General at Les Roches. "We enjoyed thought-provoking keynotes which included a vibrant debate on how best to 'future-proof' our strategies; how people, relationships and emotion continue to differentiate in the world of the senior executive traveler; and strikingly, how the world of work will be transformed by vast numbers of employees opting for freelancing as their employment model of choice."This was the second edition of the FHS, which is foreseen as an annual event taking place on the Les Roches campus in Bluche, in the Valais Alps. It was attended by about 300 participants, including executives from companies in the industry based throughout Europe, and a large contingent of student and faculty members eager to hear what they had to say."I was especially impressed by the pitching competition sponsored by EP Magazine," Sarah noted. In this competition, six teams presented solutions addressing the thorny challenge of making cities hospitable against a backdrop of security-related anxiety. The winning team will go on to present their idea at the EP Magazine Conference in London next April. "We wish them much success!" said Sarah.Les Roches Global Hospitality EducationFounded in 1954, Les Roches is a private institution based on the Swiss model of experiential learning, offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in the fields of hospitality, tourism and event management. Les Roches prepares entrepreneurial and innovative graduates across a global network of campuses in Switzerland, Spain, the US, China and Jordan. Les Roches is accredited at the university level by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc. (NEASC) and ranked by luxury hotel hiring managers among the top three hospitality management schools in the world for an international career (TNS Global Survey, 2013). For more information, visit www.lesroches.edu

The Best Emerging Brands on Engaging Millennials

Hospitality Net ·31 October 2016
Millenials, or the generation of people born between roughly 1985 and 2000, represent the fastest growing group of consumers in the world. For hospitality businesses the group, also known as Generation Y, wields immense purchasing power and influence. As a group Millennials are a fascinating and challenging demographic when compared to other age groups. This report will examine the necessity and the ways in which several emerging brands address and capitalize on this age group.By now most businesses are aware of what is paramount for most Millennials. The group aged 18 to 30 have set their priorities to revolve around; technology (especially if it's mobile), online and offline social interaction, and life-experience dogma of adventure and social justice. Digital technologies being central for this group demands convergent strategies to satisfy the group. Research from Pew and other trusted sources tells us nearly 100% of this demographic is wired via PC and/or mobile. We talked with several important players that attach special emphasis to creating a great customer experience for Millennials, in order to find out what works. Here is what those brands had to offer.Eyewide Digital: Eyes Wide on Gen YWe spoke with the founder of a leading Greek marketing firm, Minas Liapakis of Eyewide Digital Marketing, that represents more than 100 hotels on Crete, Santorini, Cyprus and the Greek isles. This fast growing marketing concern builds hotel presence from the ground up, offering services from website development and SEO, to social media and PR services. When asked about differential marketing to groups, Liapakis had this to say:"Eyewide offers to hoteliers a holistic approach in attracting millennials and other segments to their hotels . First of all, we help hoteliers learn about millennials, who they are, why it is important to attract them and most importantly what channels to enhance or adapt in order to reach them. We offer a variety of tools to make this process easier and more effective, including such things as personalized Instagram booth, where guests can pose alongside a hotel's brand and upload the pictures in their social media accounts."Eyewide research has shown that mobile friendly and responsive websites help hoteliers connect with the nearly 92% of Millennials who surf the net via their mobile phones. Eyewide also develops creative content for these sites and for social media, in order to build strong brands and maintain engagement. As basic as these services may seem, Liapakis is spot-on in offering them. Our own research reveals a relatively small percentage of hoteliers fully implementing these basic principles. While creativity in the hotel back office is not lacking, time and cost effectiveness certainly are prohibitive. The bottom line for hotel marketing businesses is convincing hoteliers of the value. In America ad and marketing people are often referred to as "snake oil" salesmen, so cutting edge firms have to wade through these to get their value seen. This blog post from Eyewide discusses the Millennial group in more detail.Plateno Group - Millennial Powered Hotel PowerhouseA fast emerging brand in Europe, Chinese mega-group Plateno recently announced the introduction of the PAI Hotels brand for Europe. Today we've learned Alex Zheng, the Brand Architect, President and Founder of Plateno Group, has initiated a new phase of his company's forward innovation. Plateno has now announced the second iteration of an edgy and innovative hotels design show called Plateno Collection, which will open in December as the world's only "Hotels fashion show", a novel idea that was first introduced by Plateno last year. Over the last decade Plateno has gone from simply satisfying points of pain for Chinese hotel guests, with the introduction of budget hotel brand 7 Days Inn, to an industry's demand for creativity and fashion play big roles. If this year's fashion show is all it is billed to be, then Mr. Zheng's statements to the crowd at Plateno Collection 2016 on Plateno redefining hotels, bears retelling:"In the past, when we were talking about hotel experience, we would compare functions of each brand, such as facilities and services. While now, I think we should take emotional factors into account, including value proposition and tonality. When you come to a hotel, in addition to facilities and services, you would also consider whether you have good feelings towards it and whether you match each other in style and taste."The Chinese billionaire with a penchant for buying French football clubs, is now more active than ever in growing travel brands too. The orchestrator of the 7 Days Inn franchise and several other upmarket hotels, was also named the "Most Innovative People of the Chinese Hotel Industry", back in 2007. Today Plateno is considered a young company run by Millennials, in Generation Y centric style, a point well exhibited at last year's fashion event. As for the coming Plateno Collection 2017, from December 9th to 11th in Guangzhou, this rendition will feature Mr. Zheng's vision of the hotel as an experiential hub, rather than simply a destination to crash at. Plateno Collection 2017 will feature strong international style and more interesting interactions with customers, according to the company. More brands, and more influential online celebrities, and more KOLs(Key Opinion Leaders), along with added communication channels will appear for the first time.On the European expansion, we caught up with Tomasz Janczak, eCommerce Director at Plateno Europe, on how his company innovates around serving this Millennial trend, here's what he had to say:"We always saw a great potential in this demographic group, that's why we put a lot of effort to offer our services via channels, which are the most popular among Millenials, such as: WeChat, mobile APPs, and the various other on-line channels. The reaction of the market is very positive, which we can see in the age structure of our Plateno Club, where more than 60% of members are those people born between 1980 and 1998."Plateno's execs were also quick to point out the broad outreach the company extends, even despite the company's youthful heart. According to them, making hubs for experiential consumption has to appeal to every human story type. This is something another superb company, and intuitive marketing campaign alludes to.Schiller Bikes: Adventure and Sport Meet PracticalityWhen Judah Schiller first dreamed of "a blue planet" being meant for biking across, there's no doubt some thought he was "out there". However, despite what the naysayers harped on, Schiller is selling the world's most advanced water bikes to resorts and individuals the world over. What the engineering genius tapped into is a vast market of people who want a dynamic cycling experience, only across an aquatic terrain. We caught up with the CEP of Schiller Bikes at his headquarters in Mill Valley, California to ask about his company's experience marketing to all demographics. Schiller's short take on why his S1 design brings us to another point about marketing even the "edgiest" products. Schiller told us; "The Modern, sleek design language of the S1 unquestionably appeals to Millenials," while admonishing that ultra-tight market targeting can be a slippery slope.The CEO and co-Founder of both Saatchi & Saatchi S and AIKO, innovative design agencies was not keen to postulate the Millennial craze as a total paradigm shift. In order to explain what he meant, I contacted our old friends at Brandwatch, a leading social/digital analytics and monitoring service. Ruxandra Mindruta, the lead community manager of Brandwatch, parroted what Schiller alluded to. According to their research trying to minutely target this age group has become a sort of "knee jerk" desperation reaction to all the marketing hype. The reality of mobile-digital marketing channels is, the Boomer group, along with Generations X,Y and Z are wired in now. Trying to "sniper" target any sub-set, or thinking older age groups do not enjoy their adventure and guest experience is foolhardy. Brandwatch researchers make the point that most trends are not uniquely important to Millennials. In this article by former Brandwatch Marketing Director, Joe Widels (now with Wandera), the author delineates aptly:"Identifying audiences, and finding a way to connect with these consumers in a way that's relevant to your brand, is the most effective way to think about targeting."The rapid expansion of Schiller Bikes is a great example of how innovation sometimes converges with the moment of truth for capitalizing on a massive trend. Schiller's sales when first we heard of the company were limited to a few resorts and some rather exotic waterside endeavors, but through amplified word of mouth (and sheer coolness) the S1 and derivatives can now be seen from the Four Seasons in Bali, to Maui, Bora Bora, Qatar, Dubai and far beyond. This was not accomplished by marketing to tip top fitness gurus or Millennials per se, but to the spectrum of cyclist and aquatic aficionados and businesses wanting to offer clients the bikes. Schiller makes it clear his water cycles are suited to every skill and fitness level, and the message has caught on.In conclusion, we've engaged a group of forward thinking and emerging brands in order to take the pulse of how newer companies are coming to grips with the ever changing digital marketing landscape. The cross section reveals the vitality and potential of convergent groups and technology, while at the same time cementing long established marketing strategies. Trends have always been with us, and adaptability is always a differentiator. However, the old saying "there's nothing new under the sun" bears up here as well. As much as we might like to have a "silver bullet" cure all for revenue growth, there simply isn't one. These companies really only show us "today", in the current construct of how proper marketing should be carried out. This report on HN reminds us how "old school" business acumen as practiced by hotel industry pioneer, Tom Magnuson of Magnuson Worldwide. He would be the first person to adopt a new, proven strategy, and the last person to abandon what is proven to work. Millennials are no different than Baby Boomers at onset of their youthful age. Generation Y is just the expectant youthful demographic of this age, their color TV is the smart-phone, a two way boob tube.

Converging Perspectives on Elevating the Role of IT Managers in Hospitality

Hospitality Net ·20 October 2016
HITEC Amsterdam will bring together the best of hospitality financial and technology professionals next March, in an event that will show advances in the trade with access to innovative resources, industry experts, and vendors. The European version of HITEC (Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference) which takes place in North America every year, HITEC Amsterdam is a premiere on the continent and promises to be the hospitality event of the year, with some 60 booths exhibiting advanced solutions and innovative industry-specific technology. In anticipation of the conference taking place next year, Hospitality Net conducts a series of interviews with HITEC Advisory Council members discussing relevant industry issues and offering expert insight on key technology topics.Among these topics, the first to be addressed is the role of the IT manager and what steps the industry should take to educate owners and operators, as well as what steps individual system administrators should take to raise their profiles, as their roles now include SaaS SLA, cybersecurity, data privacy, guest technology support, and so on. So far the function of the IT manager remains locked-out of the operational decision-making process, but as the industry evolves, perhaps is time for this role to be elevated to a broader undertaking.Stephen Minall, Owner of Moving Food Ltd., believes that elevating the role of the IT manager should be a challenge to all hotels, and Michael Levie, CitizenM Hotels founder and COO, considers that today's system functions and requirements are of strategic nature for the survival of companies, and, in his words, "need to stand central in the commercial and operational tracks of hotel organizations." He goes on explaining that "local IT managers deal mostly with plugs, office enabling and support, but mostly don't have the capacity to deal with the strategic decisions. The problem is, however, they often are convinced they are and leading, and directing unknowledgeable hoteliers leads to major disasters."Whether IT managers will be integrated into the decision-making process remains to be seen, however, their roles are increasingly more complex as new technologies emerge. In fact, it is safe to say that their function is vital for business growth and the bottom line. This topic remains open to debate as professionals in the industry continue to define new standards, shifting paradigms. Stephen Minall goes as far as to ponder, "does marketing play a role too?"Crucial in maintaining organizational effectiveness and efficiency by defining and supporting strategic plans for improving IT operations, IT managers may not yet have a role in policymaking, but they certainly influence the process. It is no longer enough for such professionals to overview the technical aspects of their work solely, but they also need to implement information technology strategies and policies, and they need to evaluate and anticipate industry trends. Collaboration with professionals in the field is mandatory to achieve these goals and attendance to events like HITEC Amsterdam enables it. Participating in the conference will give IT managers in hospitality the tools, resources, and network to raise their profiles.Planning for HITEC Amsterdam is in full swing with guidance from an advisory council representing eight European countries. The council is chaired by Carson Booth, CHTP and vice-chaired by Derek Wood. For the latest news, follow HFTP/HITEC on HITEC Bytes, PineappleSearch, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter (@HFTP) andInstagram (HFTP_HITEC). For more information about HITEC Amsterdam, contact the HFTP Meetings & Special Events Department at sales@hftp.org, +1 (512) 249-5333.

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