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  • 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.

  • HFTP Report: Hospitality Data Security — Strategy for Data Protection and Regulation Compliance

    This guide from Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP(R)) covers safeguards that can be implemented in hospitality businesses today, tips on how to continuously improve security and data regulation compliance.

  • HFTP GDPR Guidelines: Privacy Policies for Hotels

    This document offers points to consider in the development of a hotel’s privacy policy. In view of the multiple organisational and legal structures under which hotels operate, as well as the complexity of the third party landscape that may be part of the complete guest experience, this document serves as a guideline only.

  • HFTP GDPR Guidelines: Hospitality Guest Registration Cards

    This document offers recommendations for guest information collection on the guest registration card along with consent for use. It can be used as a guideline for loyalty cards, health data, export of data outside of the EU, privacy policies and direct marketing.

What's Hot at HITEC This Year

hospitalityPulse, Inc. ·31 May 2018
The hospitality industry is constantly on the cusp of progressive, guest-centric reform -- but we're seeing this push for technological change influencing this more than ever before. With the widespread emergence of intelligent solutions, mobile technology and more, hoteliers and guests alike have an exciting hospitality experience in store as we move into the future. Eager to stay ahead of those trends which will define the coming years (and big players) in the hospitality industry, hoteliers from around the world will find themselves at the upcoming HITEC conference from June 18th to 21st. HITEC Houston is the world's largest hospitality technology show that brings the most exciting technology and trends from around the world to one place. In anticipation of this year's showcase, we've rounded up a list of what to expect at HITEC 2018.Smart RoomsGone are the days of regular hotel rooms -- 'smart' rooms are positioned to surely take over the hospitality space in the coming years. Using computer systems that link guests' preferences to the hotel room's appliances, smart rooms can tune up a host of specific preferences the minute a guest checks in. This includes temperature, lights, favorite TV channels and streaming services, mini bar selection, room service orders and so much more. Voice Integration has also become one of the most buzzed about technology advancements recently embraced by the hospitality industry. Following the widespread popularity of voice-powered assistants, Amazon Echo and Echo Dot devices are being placed in various U.S. hotel rooms so that guests can control the TV, lower the blinds, adjust the room temperature, and make front-desk requests without using a remote.In fact, since January, properties franchised or belonging to nearly all of the major U.S. flagship brands have tested the Echo Dots. Further, 400,000 guests have been exposed to Alexa-powered rooms managed by Volara, a voice-technology company for hospitality companies, since the beginning of the year. This allows guests to get immediate answers to their inquiries, while ensuring hotel staff spends less time stuck on the phone. The emergence of voice-powered tech extends beyond hotel rooms, into the travel planning process as more hotel and travel websites are becoming optimized for voice search. This movement entails a combination of traditional SEO strategies and the study of patterns inherent in voice search. Currently, this function is limited to destination-specific inquiries (such as, "What is the best hotel in ______?") versus booking confirmations, but is still an exciting trend to watch.However, while we continue to embrace this evolving trend of hyper-personalization, it's also imperative that hoteliers remain mindful of data privacy requirements. With the recent implementation of GDPR to regulate and strengthen data protection for individuals within the European Union, hotels are only able to collect data for specific and legitimate purposes. Further, data cannot be captured without specific, documented consent. But with an appropriate balance between privacy measures and personalization established, new technologies, including smart rooms, may offer an interesting prospect for hoteliers and guests alike.Internet of Things -- Making Smart Rooms Even SmarterMarriott has recently started experimenting with the utilization of the Internet of Things (IoT) to transform their guests' experience with technology that not only predicts their needs, but personalizes the entire experience. This movement focuses largely on the utilization of voice-activated technology, as mentioned above.Together with Samsung and Legrand, Marriott has built two different prototype rooms, each programmed with different scenarios for three different types of travelers: a yoga-minded meeting planner; a frequent road warrior; and a family of four on vacation. After guests opt-in to providing their preferences and creating a profile, those profiles are memorized and respective scenes are set for them. This extends to smart mirrors, smart art frames, smart showers and faucets, as well as voice-activated control (and saved preferences) for lighting, temperature, humidity, curtain, artwork etc.. Further, sensor presence technology will know when a guest gets out of bed at night, and will automatically turn on red night-lights that guide the path to the bathroom. AI and Machine LearningAI and Machine Learning technology advancements boast the potential to truly transform the travel experience throughout the booking process and on-property. AI and machine learning will extend to the utilization of concierge robots, digital assistance, voice-activated services, travel experience enhancers, data processing and booking chatbots, and more.Not only will AI robots lessen the transactional load placed on hotel support staff, but they will also help the hotel's guest service model to become more intelligent, responsive and personalized to each guest. With the power of AI, hotels can pro-actively learn about their guests using advanced data analytics that provide an intelligent overview of customer purchases, travel choices, journey patterns and itinerary, location preferences and payment methods etc. AI-driven chatbots can also provide guests critical, personalized information and suggestions regarding booking inquiries, trip scheduling, reservations, itineraries, local attractions and restaurants, and so much more. Guests are Now in Control The modern guest not only expects a personalized experience, they want to be in control of their travel experience every step of the way. With the undeniable rise in technology advancements, guests are now provided the opportunity to plan and navigate their travel experience at every touchpoint. In response to this trend, hotels are beginning to leverage their data to gain insights that tailor the online booking process, pre-stay marketing, request management, guest communications and loyalty programs. This also entails the utilization of technology solutions to track the inner workings of the rooms department, including check-in statistics, guest fulfillment, and upgrades and downgrades. Ultimately, this empowers guests to purchase their hotel rooms the way they think of them - as a set of attributes. Guests get more of what they want (more choices and the right guest room), and you get happier guests and higher revenues. Not only does this empower guest to choose their preferred experience model, but it frees up staff to engage with guests in a more holistic, personalized manner.Going to HITEC? Please come by our booth #418 to see our latest hotel technology innovations or contact me on LinkedIn to set up a call or demo.

The Hotel Technology Ecosystem - What Does the Future Hold?

hospitalityPulse, Inc. ·24 May 2018
Often described as antiquated, hotel technology has advanced at a much slower pace when compared to other industries. However, as we observe the on-going momentum and emergence of new trends, it's become apparent that the hotel systems space is finally making strides to catch up.In fact, hospitality technology has come a long way. Following many years of trial and error, hoteliers have begun to utilize emerging tech that allows them to prioritize, and better yet, understand the modern guest in new and exciting ways. This evolution didn't happen overnight, but rather at the hands of industry experts eager to take one-dimensional technology solutions competing for attention, and bring them together to form a cohesive ecosystem. Where hoteliers previously only had one way of connecting systems (serial interfaces), they now reap the opportunity to connect to different systems via IP interfaces and APIs. With this newfound connective freedom, the hospitality industry can embrace exciting advances in the realm of voice integration, intuitive databases serving as more than just a PMS, and so much more. So, what will the future hold, you might wonder? DigitizationAccording to studies, this shift to a digital service model will generate benefits valued at up to $700 billion for customers and society, including a more sustainable environmental footprint, improvements to safety and security measures, and time and cost savings for consumers. The hospitality industry tends to embrace the 'next shiny object' rather than looking at the fundamentals, but digitization is a staple set to revolutionize and streamline the travel process, from pre-stay all the way to post-stay. The modern travel experience is far removed (and enhanced) from what it used to be. Where prospective travelers were previously expected to lean on local travel agents for the planning portion of their trips, we now have online booking channels and chatbots to assist in those preliminary steps. The hindrance still being the inability to, without human interpretation, answer some of the most basic questions that motivate a traveler in the first place.We are seeing a definitive rise in mobile bookings, self-serve technology, machine learning, IoT, AI and self-serve technologies to remove friction such mobile keys, mobile concierge, self-service kiosks, data-driven marketing, geo-fencing, voice-assistants, and more. Not only does digitization allow for increased efficiency, but it empowers each guest to choose their preferred experience while hotels gain a more informed understanding of their preferences.Tapping into the demand for increased personalization, hotels can now offer customers customized preferences based on either their historical data or similar booking persona (room preferences, room service, additional amenities, toiletries, etc.). Further, hotels and airlines are now integrating with device neutral technology to offer check-in and alert capabilities however the guest decides to access the information, be it through a computer, a smartphone, or with wearable device.Intuitive PMS Solutions, Integrations and Guest DashboardsRather than having multiple, potentially competing or cumbersome physical systems at work, hoteliers, are in need of comprehensive technology solutions that provide an overview of guest profiles, bookings and room management, revenue management, and more. They need a dashboard that is user-friendly and allows them to not only make sense of the critical data which influences crucial decisions, strategies and customer relationship management, but to also become once again active players in the guest experience while on, and off site.With cloud-based integration capabilities, hoteliers can connect their internal systems to various platforms with ease and mobilize their staff in a way that wasn't before possible. Hoteliers reap the rewards of increased security, improved training protocols for new staff and the provision of digitalized context to the many streams of guest data that was once scattered across various platforms and touch-points. There's no denying it -- now is an exciting time to in the hospitality industry, as we continue to embrace the solutions which are expected to transform the hospitality experience for hoteliers and guests alike.Attribute-Based SellingAttribute-Based Selling is the idea that instead of selling hotel rooms by classification into room categories, guests can control their purchase path, put together and pay for the room attributes or features they care for and that have value to them. If you're not quite sure what I am talking about, I really want to encourage you to read George Roukas'. It explains all the ins and outs, and all the advantages and almost magical things it promises to solve. It is not a completely new idea; in the late nineties, the early 2000's, and just recently again, major systems vendors did indeed build feature inventory engines, but we have yet to see a single one in use today. That is because Attribute Based Selling (or selling room features), was found to be entirely incompatible with managing the availability by room categories. It is indeed a challenge but a challenge that is ready to be met and conquered.
Article by Pierre Boettner

How to Win at the Hotel Technology Innovation Game Through Symbiotic Partnerships

hospitalityPulse, Inc. ·30 April 2018
When it comes to hospitality technology, finding symbiotic technology partnerships for your product can be an advantageous way for your company and products to embrace innovation continuously. Aligning your solutions strategically with like-minded companies offering cutting-edge technology, hospitality experts can better generate ideas, streamline processes, and cultivate their product offering for eager hoteliers. In a good partnership, both partners should win, emerging from the relationship better than they were before.Of course, technology partnerships represent a dynamic, fluid relationship, and primary technology providers will be faced with important questions throughout the vetting process. How do you identify those solutions which embody the values of your product, while still pushing the envelope from an innovation perspective? Will they add value to your current offering? Will they add value to the end users of your products? Will they help to enhance guest relationships for a hotel? Finally, will they improve the financial results for the parties involved?Uncertainty about such questions can make some stakeholders unsure of how to take their technology and offering to the next level -- but rest assured, innovation through partnerships can be a real game-changer. The most innovative technology available to the hospitality industry is often a culmination of various solutions. It's crucial to see this dynamic arrangement as an opportunity, rather than as competition. To evolve your product to deliver on the demands of today's hotels and their guests, you can spend time, money and resources on development - and end up late to the party. Alternatively, you can seek out strategic partnerships with advanced technology providers that can take your product to the next level quickly. After all, if you cannot create it yourself, partnerships and combined innovation may be the answer. Here are some primary points to keep in mind when considering a symbiotic technology partnership.Recognize the Value of Emerging TechNew technological offerings are evolving at a faster pace than established ones, for a few good reasons. There is no legacy functionality to maintain compatibility with, no pre-existing code architecture and, possibly most importantly, there is little to lose, so experimentation can be much more determined. Continuously trying to stay one step ahead of the rapidly evolving demands of the modern guests can distract from important contracted deliverables. Experimenting also means accepting an uncertain outcome, something few corporations can justify to their stakeholders. Hotels are for example rapidly moving away from employee-oriented interfaces, to embrace mobile-friendly, cloud-based and data-driven solutions that enable guests to connect with them when and how they want; through an employee, or unassisted if they prefer. But go back just a few years, and you find that 'all mobile' strategies often confused the guests' expectation to be 'met on their terms', with an unstoppable 'no human interaction wanted' trend. It is these truths that only emerge through failing initiatives - something an established corporation can rarely stomach. But armed with the right technology, hotels can optimize operations, deliver on guest expectations, monetize features and amenities, target their marketing efforts, open up new communication channels with guests and offer genuinely personalized experiences. All the while, an established vendor relationship is only strengthened in the process.Hoteliers that want a more competitive edge are actively seeking out technology solutions which can readily transform their relationships with each guest and drive revenue. They want platforms that offer easy integration with current systems and actionable insights derived from valuable data sources. So, the question becomes, what technology partnerships can enhance your core offering to meet the demands of hoteliers and give your brand a competitive edge? After all, if you aren't evolving your offering with emerging tech, well, you simply aren't evolving. Finding the Right PartnersKnowing that there are technology providers that try to 'do it all' and sometimes come up short, is a "best of breed" approach the best way to go when looking a redefining your hotel technology offering? The answer is definitely yes. However, the industry as a whole needs to realize and trust the fact that the well-orchestrated technology-enhancing partnerships will help hotels optimize both guest levels and by revenues. There are a few traits that make a good technology partner. First, the company must first have the attitude of solving problems and being solution-oriented. The leadership teams must have the right expertise to make something exceptional. Furthermore, the organizations cannot be hesitant to try new things and be agile.The other issue that must be addressed when choosing a partner is support. When you have strong, symbiotic relationship that is focused on mutual success, then reliable support will follow suit. However, when the partnerships are forced or loosely aligned, then the support of the different, integrated platform may be troublesome and reflect poorly on both companies.Strategic technology relationships, from the vendor perspective, need to be integrated in a way to deliver on the partner's brand promises. If the technology partners are working together cohesively to tackle issues that have been challenging in the past, then there is a higher likelihood that the providers will work closely together to combine their solutions at an optimal level. This creates value, and in turn creates revenues, or decreases costs for all parties involved. Harnessing Different Viewpoints Add WorthGoogle is one of the world's most innovative brands, but they don't go at it alone. To continue developing breakthrough products, Google methodically seeks out partners that complement their offerings and capitalize on their unique areas of expertise.Innovative products, services and business models often come from partnerships. Having multiple vendors that have integrated their solutions to benefit the hospitality industry should be a primary goal for like-minded hotel technology companies. There is a great deal of benefit related to having multiple partners focused on the same objective as they will bring diverse viewpoints and knowledge to the table. Having this level of increased knowledge from various stakeholders will enhance technology solutions and their respective implementations. Partnering provides flexibility and speed - allowing technology providers to quickly access the technology and resources they need, rather than spending time developing them internally.By collaborating with smart visionary companies of all sizes, hotel technology providers can accelerate advancements and grow market share for both their customers and for their own brand. It's a win-win for all parties."Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than in the one where they sprang up." Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Enhancing Your Hotel Operations Using Insights

hospitalityPulse, Inc. ·19 April 2018
But what makes an experience exceptional in the first place?In the age of hyper-personalization, it's worth taking a more fundamental look at how these experiences are composed, and what we in the hotel industry can do to help create them. We need to go beyond the bold new design scheme sprawling across the hotel lobby, creative new room styles, disruptive marketing schemes, or even the promoting of world-class chefs. We need to focus on the fact that personalized experiences are just that - hyper-personal. For some guests, it will be the aforementioned items, the glitz, and glamour of the hotel they stay in - while for others it may be as simple as being left alone, while having access to services when and where they want them.The focus on CRM over the last 20 years, retaining and augmenting personal information and preferences was supposed to help achieve that. However, if after over two decades, countless hours, and large sums of money, we still aren't seeing the desired outcomes, maybe it is time to re-evaluate that strategy too. For starters, repeat guests are increasingly less common, and the loyalty-free guest has become a frequently mentioned artifact. We talk about hyper-personalization, but what we are actually doing is trying to standardize to an individual guest. Repeating the same experience every time hardly makes them memorable and I would even argue that trying to predict guests' desires based on CRM data goes very much against what we are trying to achieve. Personalizing experience goes well beyond a guest profile, and much of it is right there at our fingertips. We should therefore start by focusing on what we already have, and what we can directly influence, and improve on, right now!In many cases, guests are already letting us know what is important to them. They booked a specific type of room, telling us what is critically important to them - the bed type, the view, a balcony. They may also have made additional requests for a high floor, a connecting room, or the proximity to an elevator, should one of the guests have difficulty walking. In other cases, we know little about the guest and their desires, but we do have information available to us. We know what room they booked, we know how far in advance they did so, how long they are staying with us, whether they are traveling with children, as a couple, a group, or by themselves. We know the weekdays, and the season they are at our hotel, and we may even have collected information about their stay purpose. All this information that we have on every single reservation is, more often than not, completely ignored.And when things don't go as they were intended to, we limit ourselves to reacting to guest feedback. By then, it is too late to act, and the guest is not only lost but leaves a permanent mark that will influence future bookers.In the past, hoteliers had a personal relationship with their guests. A [good] GM would go through arrival lists daily, and make sure that the high-value guests would have a perfect stay. If things didn't go to plan, the GM would ensure that some compensatory action was taken - perhaps a dinner on the house, or an upgrade to a suite from the second night. They would call and influence the guest into submission if needed. These times are long gone, we don't personally know our guests anymore, but we still try to create that same experience. The problem is, we do that using the tools of the past. Tools that in today's consumer-driven environment are just no longer up to par.Instead of seeing our business go elsewhere, we should and can use modern technology to not only create that same experience for those guests we know, but we can scale it to encompass virtually every guest arriving at our hotel. For this, it is necessary to have direct insight into every aspect of the operation, starting with our primary product, the rooms we sell.Delivering superior guest service lies in the hotelier's ability to instantly understand when something did not entirely go the way the guest had imagined it. And where something does go wrong, empower staff to act accordingly. Someone didn't get the exact attributes they wanted? Have your GM give them a call to express understanding for their disappointment, and see what can be done to make things whole. Don't believe it? I invite you to scan through TripAdvisor's best reviews and see how many of these started with a problem that was quickly addressed and corrected. Aside from the fact that a disappointment is something we should strive to avoid - when things happen, and they do, these events are also great opportunities for engagement. For this, we need to become constantly aware of what happens while the guest is at our hotel - and most importantly, what the first impression is we made on the guest.Gaining deep understanding of what happens to every guest at check-in, the level of fulfillment of the guests' desires, how long their check-in took, who checked them in and when, is critical. All this important information is hidden away in your PMS where the data is organized around guest profiles and reservations. But which profiles and reservations should you be looking at? I know hoteliers who spend several hours every day working to better understand what happened the previous day, week, or month. That is good in practice, but too late to action on.Insights, hospitalityPulse's operations BI tool, gives you that level of information in real-time! A guest, maybe even a VIP guest, was downgraded or didn't receive the expected bed type - call him or her. Schmooze them into submission and win them over. The fact that they aren't part of your loyalty program, that they weren't categorized as VIPs, or that they even booked your hotel on a discount site, will likely lead to an even greater and lasting impression. And because we are famously in a human relationship business, it makes a personal call all the more valuable.There is no need to dream of, and wait for the ultimate tool that helps us understand who our guests are, and that accurately predicts what they don't know themselves they will want. Amazon, Google, and Netflix are quite open about there being too many unknown variables that are needed to reduce the human experience into mathematical algorithms. Why we still believe that we can do better than them with much less access to information, is a mystery for another time. But we can, and must focus on what we already know, and then begin thinking in terms of the feasible today, rather than the imaginable of tomorrow. If we don't, we will find ourselves losing more business to those that relentlessly pursue the possible, and provide guests with a superior experience on their sites and their apps.With hospitalityPulse's insights BI platform, you can immediately improve your hotel's operation. You not only enhance the guest experience - but you also hone in on additional revenue potential. And once we get the experience right, we can gain more of our guests' loyalty, be it in the form of repeat business, the recommendations to their friends, or those to the world on social media!
Article by Pierre Boettner

The Technology You Don't Want to Miss at ITB This Year

hospitalityPulse, Inc. · 2 March 2018
Running from March 7th-11th, ITB Berlin is an international, annual tradition featuring the best of the best in new travel technology, guest experience enhancements, networking opportunities and more.For those of you with a vested interest in the technology portion of the trade show, we've rounded up the top 3 technology segments to check out while at ITB Berlin 2018.1. Artificial IntelligenceArtificial Intelligence (AI) has been on our industries' radar for quite some time but only recently has it become a solidified movement in various industries. With tech giants such as Google, Apple, Amazon and more investing in AI, it's not hard to imagine the way in which AI could transform the hospitality industry as it relates to an entirely responsive and customized guest experience.Recently, Personal Assistant technology (Google Mini, Amazon Echo, etc.) has effectively captured the interest of consumers everywhere and are becoming a favorite hotel offering for the modern guest.Of course, it doesn't end with Personal Assistants -- rather, that's just the beginning. Already, Hilton hotels have adopted 'CONNIE' which is able to provide tourist information to those guests who interact with it. It even adapts to the guest as they ask it more questions and CONNIE begins to learn what is important and relevant, thus delivering specific responses that enhance the experience. This technology also extends to AI-based chatbots, which various hotels now have in place to provide personalized service to their guests, anytime and anywhere.Hoteliers have now understood the advantage of AI in their business set-up and the wide range of things that it brings to their tables.Artificial Intelligence is the fourth industrial revolution which is bound to change the entire scene how business is being operated and looked at.2. Augmented RealityOften confused with Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality (AR) uses computer technology to enhance the real-world environment of the participant, in real-time. Instead of replacing reality (with a virtual environment), AR introduces digital components into reality by overlaying information over a live picture of a physical environment.This technology is of particular interest to the hospitality realm, as it allows hotels to enhance the physical environment they are offering to each guest, such as the hotel property, hotel rooms and on-property services and entertainment. Further, the modern hotel guest is continuously in search of information to empower their experience. With the help of AR, hotels can make far more information readily available to customers on a 24/7 basis, which cultivates a more in-depth, customized experience for each guest. We also have to consider the rise of millennial travelers, who are known to value experience over previous generations and favor digital-forward hotels and businesses.3. Hotel Booking InnovationWhen it comes to booking their next stay, guests not only want the online booking process to be easy, mobile-friendly and fast, but they also want to pick the attributes and features of the room they book. This means moving away from the traditional model of manual room assignment upon check-in, in order to provide guests with complete control over the rooms they book. Preferences can include specifics such as selecting a room further away from the elevator, on a high floor, near friends they are traveling with, or with a balcony or specific layout.Modern, cutting-edge online booking technology like the platform that hospitalityPulse has developed, empower hotels to offer their guest complete control throughout the booking process. With the help of these new booking platforms that focus on the room attributes, hotels can entirely personalize the guest experience to let the guests choose what they want and guests are left with the assurance that each stay will meet (and hopefully exceed) their expectations every time.ITB Berlin 2018 is officially only a couple weeks away. Be sure to come see hospitalityPulse at ITB - Hall 8.1, Booth 124a and look at our new INSIGHTS product. INSIGHTS is a free of charge hotel operations BI tool that allows you to keep your finger on the pulse of your operations.
Article by Pierre Boettner

5 Can't Miss Things to Experience at ITB Berlin 2018

hospitalityPulse, Inc. ·26 February 2018
The perfect vacation, whether a relaxing getaway, an adrenaline-packed adventure or a balance between business and pleasure, takes a great deal of work. In fact, it takes a village -- one which can be found within the hospitality industry. Our industry is rife with passionate professionals eager to apply the latest trends and technology to their service offering, as they work to continuously enrich the guest experience. With this desire to remain aligned with all that is cutting edge, comes the question of which conferences, networking events, and trade shows to attend each year.Luckily, the world's leading travel trade show ITB Berlin is running from March 7th-11th and will feature over 10,000 Exhibitors, 1,000 Qualified Top Buyers, and passionate attendees from 187 different countries. With this year being the biggest show yet, ITB Berlin is a must-attend event for every international expert in the tourism industry.To ensure you get the most out of your ITB Berlin experience this year, we've compiled a list of 5 things you can't miss while there. 1. Get the World TourWhen else can you feel like you have access to the whole World in one place? Visit the many amazing countries that are displayed throughout the conference via their tourism organizations. These countries include: Brazil, Romania, Italy, Japan and many, many more, while learning about the various unique tourist opportunities that make them a must-visit destination (for tourists and industry professionals alike).2. Visit the Technology PavilionsNew and innovative technologies are on display that directly impact the hotel and travel industry. The Travel Technology section of the conference will feature four halls where providers will demonstrate their new reservations and hotel operations platforms. Messaging, AI and chatbots will be big this year along with everyone trying to figure out the impact of blockchain on our industry. Some of these new technologies will save you money, help with operations efficiency and help drive revenues. There is also a ITB Startup Pitch, powered by Phocuswright, scheduled for Friday, March 9th (eTravel Startup Day, Hall 6.1). During this event, five companies - carefully selected by Phocuswright's experienced team of innovation analysts - have just six minutes each to demonstrate their travel innovation in front of the live audience. The companies selected for this year's pitch include: Ads Hotel, Beach-Inspector, bookingkit, MagicStay and Redeam.Ready to step up the technology offerings within your hotel? This is where you want to be.3. Exotic Displays, Giveaways, Free Stuff and MoreOver the course of 5 days, ITB Berlin offers exotic displays, dance shows, giveaways, free local food and drink samples, rides and various meet-ups for industry patrons looking to network or re-connect with colleagues. You can also download the ITB app (new this year) and make use of the free, public wifi in order to plan your time around the venue and stop by must-see booths and attractions. For those professionals who have a penchant for networking opportunities, the conference is even hosting Blogger Speed Dating and ITB Speed Networking.4. Become a Berlin TouristA popular tourist destination, Berlin has a lot to offer. While you're there, consider setting aside some time to visit popular attractions such as the Reichstag Building, the Brandenburg Gate, the memorial of the Berlin Wall, Brandenburg Gate, Museumsinsel (Museum Island) and much more.5. Experience Berlin's NightlifeYou can't come to Berlin without experiencing their party scene. Between the spati, a late-night supermarket, internationally acclaimed clubs and venues, house music culture and the events curated specifically for ITB, there is plenty to choose from. If you're a beer fan, be sure to swing by the ITB's Travel Cinema with Beer Tasting on March 7th in Hall 3.1. More interested in networking with industry professionals? Check out the HEDNA Networking Event March 7th (R13, Level 3, CityCubeBerlin).With just over two weeks to go, we look forward to connecting with you at ITB Berlin 2018 and enjoying all that the conference (and Berlin) has to offer.Be sure to come see hospitalityPulse at ITB - Hall 8.1, Booth 124a and look at our new INSIGHTS product. INSIGHTS is a free of charge hotel operations BI tool. It lets you keep your finger on the pulse of your operations. Gain immediate visibility into Check-in statistics by date, agent, hour, or shift. It provides deep visibility into what is really happening in your hotel.
Article by Pierre Boettner

There's Hidden Money in Your Operation - and it is Affecting Your Guest's Satisfaction Too!

hospitalityPulse, Inc. ·15 February 2018
The next morning, I would return, in the hopes my machine hadn't crashed in the process. It was incredibly cumbersome, but it was also superbly worth it. From what had started as an analytics project, we created what we would refer to as the 'market segment positioning and pricing tool' - a real mouthful. It computed weekday-based pace patterns and apply them to what we had on the books for the next 90 days. Along with that forecast came a basic pricing recommendation per market segment, which still had meaning then. For the week, we would use this print output as a cheat sheet for sales and reservations.We certainly did improve on our revenue KPIs. But the 'system' was burdensome, took hours to process the raw data, and then the same number of hours to compute through it. And with enough luck, it would occasionally even do all of it in a single attempt. After all that, it still required an informed interpretation and manual adjustments of the output. Rings a bell? It should - today, we call much better systems like this RMS or Revenue Management Systems - we had no concept of where we were going. But we allowed the data to inform our next steps.A year or so later, when the first RMS vendors came to see me at that hotel, I had the knee-jerk reaction that is unfortunately all too common in not just our industry - 'I don't need what you're doing, I can do this better already,' I would say. Much later, I went to work for Optims, which is now part of Amadeus. By then their RMS had evolved into simply amazing; the stuff it could do was perfect for what I could have ever imagined. Reactions in the market were by-and-large still the same:"We do the same thing in Excel...""How can you prove this is better...""I don't need this, I've been in this market for over 'however many' years!..."These days are now firmly in the past. Fast forward 20 or so years later, we have finally come to accept that our experience is best used when dealing with exceptions, not repetitive pricing tasks that require significant computations and near real-time reactivity.When we talk about operations at a hotel, and about the complexity of room assignment, I am reliving the same situation. It is just human nature - we have performed a certain task in the same way for decades. We have trained ourselves on it, and so we seek out the comfort of what we know. However, what we are achieving is truly limited. When speaking of Revenue Management Systems, we like using the analogy of 'Rocket Science'. It is truly fitting - these systems predict the future with an often-impressive degree of accuracy. Actually I should take that back because rockets are not that complicated. Room assignment on the other hand? That would be more like particle smasher complicated. Don't believe it because your front desk staff does it every day? Well, 25 years ago we were pricing based on our gut feelings. Provided we had real experience in our market - we were getting decent results too. In hindsight? Surely not the best results.There are hidden profit potentials in your operation! With increasing size and complexity of the hotel, the amounts can be staggering. I understand it is hard to believe that we have been missing out on something right under our noses. Unnerving even! And yes, just like pricing based on our gut, provided our staff has the right experience, intuition, and expert knowledge of the hotel rooms, they are indeed achieving much better results than if they didn't.Here's the advantage over Revenue Management - we don't need to predict a still uncertain future. We just work with the same data that is already in your Property Management System. We can truly measure the efficiency of your operation. We want to give you (Yes, I said GIVE) insights, an operations BI tool that truly allows you to see where you are losing money. Just by understanding room status turning patterns, you can now manage towards an improvement. By seeing how many free upgrades are applied and understanding which of these are warranted and which aren't, you can start improving things. Understanding which check-ins take particularly long allows you to uncover process issues. Just knowing how many, and which guests are not seeing their requests fulfilled, or not getting their loyalty-based upgrades, gives you a different appreciation of the difficulties involved.With insights, you get all that and more - because every operation and organization is different, and management styles differ based on personal preferences, YOU get to adapt insights to you. Create and change reports, graphs, and dashboards to fit YOUR hotel. And you can run roomPulse, our self-organizing room rack, in the background so that you can evaluate its potential benefits to your operation. Because we just don't think that you should be buying something based on the words of a salesperson you 'feel' you can trust. We think you have a right to understand what is really happening at your hotel without resorting to surveillance cameras. And IF you like the benefits that roomPulse could add to your operation, then add it, if not, don't - it's that SIMPLE!Because we think WE are the ones that need to prove our value to you every day, there are no long-term commitments to any paid subscription services. If for whatever reason you decide to discontinue a service, you just stop paying - no questions asked!So head to www.hospitalityPulse.com and start tapping your hidden profits!

How Leading Hotels Innovate By Solving Problems

hospitalityPulse, Inc. · 1 February 2018
Lodging Magazine recently published its picks for the "Five Innovative Hotels of 2017," and in almost all cases the emphasis was on the decor and architecture. Floor-to-ceiling windows made a big splash, as did local artists, and various and sundry takes on the cocktail bar experience.I love a good hotel as much as anyone, and there are several on this list I would certainly enjoy staying at; however, the term "innovative" here is a little misleading. Design-forward? Yes. Architecturally stunning? Certainly. Creative? Probably. Who can blame the magazine? Almost anything that purports to be about hotel innovation will be devoted to things that can be touched, seen, or felt by a guest. Only sometimes do they write about the functioning of a property--simply because not much has fundamentally changed over the years.To be truly innovative, hotels must go beyond design. Hotels must instead solve a problem, a real problem. More often than not, it's an issue we didn't even realize could be, or needed to be solved. As Greg Satell, the author of Mapping Innovation, points out, "the most innovative firms aren't necessarily any more creative or even better at solving problems than most. Rather, what sets them apart was how they aggressively sought out new problems to solve."An example from another industry. Everyone knew that mattress shopping was so lousy as almost to be counterproductive, and yet it had been the same for decades. Mattresses are one of the greatest comforts of our lives--humans in the West spend over 2,000 hours per year sleeping on one. But to buy one, we walk into a sterile and very public store, we lie down on five or six for a few minutes each, and after this, we commit to a major purchase, one that is expected to last for many years to come.Enter direct-to-consumer mattress companies. Tuft & Needle was among the first, then there was Casper and now even Serta Simmons has launched its own direct-to-sleeper brand. Where was the innovation? Learning how to package mattresses so that they could be delivered (and returned) with ease. What was the problem? The basic problem was a terrible buying experience. Casper CEO Philip Krim told Inc Magazine, "In an industry where everything was just terrible, the bar could not be lower to do anything cool, unique, or fun." Along with the solving of that problem, distribution costs dwindled, so the consumer got big cost-savings. Then these new mattress firms took their marketing budgets and went nuts with highly effective messaging for a younger crowd about how they had changed not just the shopping experience, but how they were changing sleep. Success!Back to hotels. Guests see past creative design. It is an important element that will give them feelings they want to feel when they walk in (relaxation, community, elegance... you name it), but that feeling is just one part of the experience. The problem is that for most hotels, lobby design or big windows have been defined long before and cannot be changed in the short term, and whatever they may be, they are just one part of the experience.The problems that can lead to true innovation are the ones we've become accustomed to as simply "part of the business." EGroup notes that among the top ten guest complaints are cleanliness, timeliness (including check-in, check-out, and ancillary wait times), view, and room amenities.Also among them: bed type and comfort. A closer look at the average hotel's bed-type fulfillment in the chart below shows the extent of the problem. At the peak hour of 3 p.m., out of nearly 350 arrivals, only about 225 bed-types can be fulfilled. Further, notice how bed-type fulfillment is higher in the morning (when guests shouldn't really be arriving) to the apparent detriment of bed-type fulfillment during the highest check-in window.
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hospitalityPulse Launches eBook to Help Hoteliers Make A Lot More Money

hospitalityPulse, Inc. ·24 January 2018
Increasing profits and exceeding guest expectations are among the top goals for any hotel executive. That is what inspired hospitalityPulse, a leading provider of next-generation technology solutions for the hotel industry, to develop an eBook that goes beyond the same old strategies to explore the paradigm of what it means to sell a hotel room.The insightful guide, titled, "Make A Lot More Money from Your Hotel Rooms" shares best practices that span two essential and overlooked areas of hotel operations: how hotels sell rooms to guests and how the front desk does its job in delivering those rooms. Every one of the topics covered has an immediate impact on a hotels ability to drive direct bookings, monetize assets, be more competitive with third parties and vacation rentals, as well as deliver on guest expectations. Cumulatively, these have far-reaching effects on reputation, pricing, and profitability.'Hotels have yet to fully realize their ability to profit on a guest room by not only taking stock of and merchandising what they have to offer - but also by delivering on exactly what was booked once the guest arrives," explains Pierre Boettner, the company's CEO. "Today's guests will no longer accept excuses or settle for not getting the room they thought they booked. Instead, they will share their dismay on social media and take their business to your competitors. By letting guests 'assemble' the perfect room for their personalized stay, hotels can increase revenue, and take guest satisfaction to a whole new level."CLICK HERE to download "Make A Lot More Money from Your Hotel Rooms" as a free PDF ebook.To learn more visit hospitalitypulse.com.
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Attribute Based Selling, Being Stuck in a Bad Relationship and the Possibility of an Affair

hospitalityPulse, Inc. · 9 January 2018
What is this even about? Patience, read on, and I'll try my best to make my point!Attribute Based Selling is the idea that instead of selling hotel rooms by classification into room categories, guests can control their purchase path, put together and pay for the room attributes or features they care for and that have value to them. If you're not quite sure what I am talking about, I really want to encourage you to read George Roukas' article on Attribute Based Selling. It explains all the ins and outs, and all the advantages and almost magical things it promises to solve. It is not a completely new idea; in the late nineties, the early 2000's, and just recently again, major systems vendors did indeed build feature inventory engines, but we have yet to see a single one in use today. That is because Attribute Based Selling (or selling room features), was found to be entirely incompatible with managing the availability by room categories. It is indeed a challenge.With OTAs, GDSs, Switches, and sales systems all working on the basis of room categories, how could any mayor chain, much less an individual hotelier possibly decide to forego all of that business on the premise of selling only direct, and only by features. It is like leaving an bad relationship at a high risk of losing it all. In a bad relationship, both parties ultimately lose.I consider myself lucky to have absolutely zero experience of being involved a bad relationship, but if I imagine I were, I would want to be able to see what else is available that will make me happy . I may want to hold on to everything positive I have within the current situation but I may want to see what else is out there. I may even look at having an affair.As George eloquently explains in his article, the secret to selling by features is to have advance knowledge of how to best place every guest I have on the books. A self-rearranging Room Rack of sorts. And this is exactly what roomPulse does. The final act (not really, but for now let's say that), the assignment of a room at the moment of check-in, really is the source of ultimate truth in the availability of room features. Predicting this with precision allows you to know exactly what you can, or cannot guarantee at the moment of sale.Because the foundation is based on the ultimate requirement of a guest having to be accommodated in an individual room, any room for that matter, there is a chance that a guest that will be given a balcony on a high floor, both of which he or she didn't pay for, but now the scenario removes these two features from being saleable. Bottom line is, it is an extremely complex problem to solve, and the scope that a human can consider is severely limited - don't believe it? Ask your Front Desk team how much time they spend on room assignment every day.And because room assignment is part of the reality of the hotel, the effect on all your existing systems is NONE! Your OTA's, GDSs, and channel managers can continue working as they do. They may receive their inventory from the PMS or the CRS, as they do today, while you join the future and enable yourself to give your direct guests exactly what they want, in a simple, and appealing process.There are no long-term commitments with hospitalityPulse - we believe it is our duty to prove our value to you every day. It is a core belief, and we want you to be able to discard us just as risk free and non-committal, should the relationship not deliver on its promise of being supportive and beneficial. So just head over to www.hospitalityPulse.com, and let's begin an affair!
Article by Pierre Boettner

Who Cares If You're Losing a Little Money Here and There?

hospitalityPulse, Inc. ·18 December 2017
Controlling costs and expenses is one of two ways hotels have of increasing profit margins, which are among the tightest of any industry. Often in the past, hoteliers cut rates in order to increase gross revenue, but this comes at the high cost of reducing profitability per booking. With rooms bringing in 68.1% of total operating revenue, according to the 2016 edition of Trends in the Hotel Industry (far more for limited service hotels), any impact to rooms revenue can have a staggering effect.CBRE's Robert Mandelbaum and Gary McDade note that "Even more impressive than the contribution of rooms revenue to total revenue, is the influence of the rooms department on hotel profitability... In short, as the rooms department goes, so goes the hotel." We've put a lot of energy into revenue management, the front end of room's division profitability, but what about the losses that happen thereafter? We don't speak to those very often. We talk about efficiencies--doing more with the same amount of resources--but we don't address the leaks. Maybe it's because we don't know where the leaks are. It's not that we don't care about losing money as much as it is that we don't know how, or where, or even that we're losing it.Here's what to consider about identifying and rectifying losses in the rooms division.TrackingIt's easy to identify a problem when housekeeping is taking as long on a stay-over as on a turnover day. You can see this problem, count the minutes, and then resolve the issue. It's trackable, and thank goodness, because this is a leak that adds up quickly when you multiply by a few hundred rooms each day.Consider your rooms, however. Are you able to track the way that guests are checked into their rooms? Are you able to see if an alternative was available yesterday at 3 p.m. when your front desk agent didn't have a Deluxe available for a confirmed guest and, instead, booked them into a Standard room? Are you able to uncover why the requested Deluxe room wasn't available? (Were other guests upgraded during the previous days causing the impasse? Was there an alternative to downgrading the guest when she was checked in?). Tracking rooms is maybe the most fundamental strategy toward identifying room's division losses because these losses are occurring every single day and they can amount to a substantial amount.StandardsLet's say that half of guests are putting shampoo bottles in their bags when they arrive, and housekeeping is bringing fresh ones every day. A leak. Some will suggest that you can save money on shampoo by installing a dispenser. However, then there's your branding to consider? Do your guests really want a shampoo dispenser in the shower? That's the thing about fixing the leaks. You must maintain--or improve, whenever possible--your standards while plugging the drain.The same goes for solving problems with guests by upgrading. The front desk should have it top-of-mind that rooms are not a free solution to a guest complaint. They should also be able to see with crystal clarity that the upgrade they are offering a guest is reserved tomorrow or the following day. Too many complimentary upgrades become losses not so much because they would have been reserved at the last minute (though this does happen), but because they are affecting reservations for days out.MonetizeWhat about those rooms with balconies? Your rooms have beautiful views, and it's a quiet neighborhood (these things are quantifiable), but you're giving balcony rooms away pell-mell to guests who may or may not care for one when there are guests who would have paid extra for it. When you don't take advantage of your assets, you are losing money. Take stock of your property and sell your features.A while back I came across an article about the top ten ways hotels are losing money. Only one of them--just 10% of the list--had to do with the rooms division, and it was about laundry. "As rooms go, so goes the hotel," so why aren't we figuring out where the problems are in rooms? Because we don't know how (at least, not until recently. Read about that here.)If you don't know what is happening in the most fundamental product delivery of your hotel, chances are you're losing money. These losses will become make-or-break in the near future despite the fact that the hotel industry is performing at record levels. Expense growth (4%) is outpacing revenue growth (2-3%), and the most considerable expense at any hotel is labor, most of which falls under rooms. Better training in the rooms division, creating awareness of the compound effects of their daily decisions, along with better tracking technology can close some of this expense gap and recoup profits due to unknown leaks in the most important revenue-generating department on property.
Article by Pierre Boettner

The Unfinished Business of Revenue Management: Investment Abandoned

hospitalityPulse, Inc. ·29 November 2017
In the introduction to a 2017 Cornell Hospitality Research Brief on the topic, the authors say, "While academics have suggested for some time that RM should be applied to non-roomrevenue sources, the industry is now moving toward extending the scope of RM practice beyond the rooms division" (Cornell). In fact, the idea is to move beyond revenue altogether toward a focus, instead, on profitability. To replace RevPAR with GOPPAR, the Gross Operating Profit Per Available Room. To look at the lifetime value of a customer, and so forth.While the trajectory makes sense, in theory, let's step back for a minute and look at where we are. First, the revenue management department still doesn't know where it lives. Frequently we talk about it as if it were in the rooms division, but a survey of 400 revenue managers found something quite the opposite. The survey, a separate 2017 report out of Cornell, found that almost half (47.6%) indicated revenue management was part of sales and marketing, 28.3% said it was a separate department, and just 8.1% said it was in the rooms department (Cornell).There is a problem with this, and it is more than just an industry-wide lack of understanding about where revenue management belongs in the big scheme of hotel operation. The problem is that when we place revenue management in sales and marketing or reservations, for that matter, it stays on the front end of the process, looking at demand forecasts, identifying problems, and setting rates. Then what?Here's an example of "then what" that happens more frequently than you'd imagine. Let's say you have a revenue manager (who is paid somewhere in the $70K range, conservatively). They have invested a great deal of time in establishing rates for a Saturday night and ensuring that the right channel mix is involved to control guest acquisition costs. We all know some amount of OTAs will be in the mix for a long while now.Scenario A: The Mumble & Groan ScenarioYou have a Standard King. It is $180/night. It gets booked on an OTA with a 25% commission. Worst case scenario, right?In this situation your net revenue is$180 x .25 = $135Grumble, grumble, but you put a head in the bed.Scenario B: The Situation That No One NoticedLet's say you have the same Standard King. It is $180/night. The guest books directly via PPC campaign at a cost of $1.50. Net revenue = $178.50. Terrific.The guest arrives to check in. The front desk has had a hiccup. There are no Standard Kings available because when housekeeping was behind, they gave the last Standard King to someone an hour earlier who had reserved a Double. (Worth noting that they, in fact, wanted a Double, but are willing to shift. So less than 100% happy guest). It's 3:00 p.m. and this couple that booked your most profitable channel is checking in ready for their King. They won't settle for a Double, and they're mad. All that's available now is a Suite. The Suite costs $250, but the front desk gives it to them for the $180 that was agreed upon after they complain about the Double. (So they didn't get what they initially wanted, but they get something better, and yet still there's a been a problem, which isn't great for customer service.) Around 4 p.m., a man calls to say he's hoping to reserve a suite for the night (he and his wife just booked childcare and have a rare night out.) But no suite is available at this point, and they move on to the next hotel.What have you lost?You've now discounted a suite unwisely, and you have a Double room floating around that would have been filled. The loss on the suite is $70, and the loss on the Double room is $180.So total loss is $250.Let's say that you booked the Double room, the King, and the Suite via OTA at the highest commission rate.180 x 25% = $45180 x 25% = $45250 x 25% = 62.50________________Total OTA Commissions: $152.50The OTA costs associated with those three rooms are less than the loss on the suite, so it seems that, perhaps, OTA costs aren't the only profit problem we have on the property, not to mention the reputation issues it can breed. And it was all due to housekeeping and a manual room assignment problem.If you think this is a rare problem or that guests don't mind, reconsider.The bigger issue, if you can imagine there's a bigger issue than receiving reviews like these, is that we have invested a substantial amount of money, time, and all-around energy on the topic of revenue management in the interest of optimizing profits. And what happens? The rate gets set, the distribution strategy put in place, sales and marketing gets on board. It's all going just fine, and then the guest arrives to check in and all of that analysis and technology investment goes out the door.And the truth is that no one realizes it, because up until the release of insights by hospitalityPulse (a free analysis tool), there's been no way to see how this happens in the granular way it requires. This has a direct and immediate impact on revenue management, and yet, revenue managers aren't able to see how their rates get executed when it comes down to getting the "right person in the right room at the right price." Until we do look closely at the execution of revenue management (i.e., how we get guests into the right rooms) revenue management is all a theory that can easily fall apart at the last step. This isn't all that surprising considering that the majority of the time revenue managers are in the sales and marketing department.The first step in making revenue management more effective on the property level is to determine what level of accuracy the front desk has with room reservations. To deep dive into what every day looks like until it's clear how frequently situations like the above are happening and what the true cost of those problems is, including quantifying the resulting guest dissatisfaction and the impact to loyalty.The current situation for hotel operators and revenue managers alike is a bit like investing heavily in reading a sometimes painful, sometimes delightful Charles Dickens novel only to discover the final ten pages are missing and to walk away, leaving the story unfinished. There are many solutions needed in order to move revenue management into a more central role and to establish GOPPAR as the new standard measurement of success--all of them are worthy efforts. However, until we address the issue of what happens when we execute on the reservations once the guests arrive, we will continue to be in the same situation.

The Incredible Shrinking Front Desk - An Opportunity To Manage Differently

hospitalityPulse, Inc. ·16 November 2017
The front desk was once the epicenter of the hotel, where guests did so much more than check in and check out. It was the place where they received answers to their questions, called in for a pillow or a hairdryer or a ride, ordered things up and got things sent down, and even made their next reservation. For requests that didn't "belong" there, like housekeeping or a reservation at the restaurant, the guest's only choice was to use the front desk as home base.The past several years have seen important efforts to decentralize the hotel experience, from equipping staff with tablets to allow them more mobility to giving guests mobile apps to communicate more directly with the service departments. As a result, the role of the front desk has become more singularly focused on processing guests in and out of the hotel. Despite this seemingly single focus, the resulting guest reviews don't seem to indicate that guests are particularly satisfied with the services they receive. Have guest expectations really changed during that same time? Sometimes I wonder if we are conflating means and needs - the means of communication certainly have changed, the needs much less so. The bed is still where you snuggle in the first night to feel the crisp crinkles of freshly pressed and starched linen you wouldn't expect in an Airbnb. The fabulous view of the ocean is still what made you want to get away from your daily routine. Stepping out on a balcony still allows you to inhale that first breath of morning breeze while taking in the scenery of the city that wakes from its nightly slumber.There is a different truth here - room service, housekeeping, and many other guest services have a very clear focus. Their resources are generally speaking not fungible, and where they are, they generally reflect a simplicity similar to that of airplane seats. For every order, there is an expectation of a particular delivery during an allotted period of time that produces the service. Compare that to the front desk. What is the desk actually delivering; what is their service to the guest; and how do we measure its success rate? Each day, front office staff are dealing with arrivals that need to be accommodated and departures that need to be processed. Where the arrivals can potentially be placed is dependent on a large number of factors:What was sold to the guest and what requests did they make?By how much were which products oversold to begin with?Which departing guests might extend their stay?Which arrivals might cancel or no-show?Which in-house reservations are staying?Which rooms will be ready when which guests arrive?How will their requirements differ from those on their reservation?We are in a naturally reactive business, so our focus has always been to accommodate whatever we can right now. But we never get to ask ourselves what the right decisions really were, and which were the wrong ones? Maybe that one guest should not have been upgraded, but instead asked to wait a few minutes while a different room was being readied. Should that guest yesterday have been upsold to that Junior Suite, because now we don't have the King bedded upgrade room for a loyal customer arriving today? Maybe we would have fewer downgrades as a result of - wait, downgrades; we don't EVER! We look at the front desk in the same way we did 20, 30, or even 40 years ago, while their tasks have changed in more fundamental ways than just the introduction of systems.I wholeheartedly agree with giving the guests as many means to communicate as seamlessly as possible, but I also believe that the front desk serves a greater purpose than that to which it is being reduced. In fact, it still is your business card, the 'friendly face' of your hotel. The front desk can be reduced to be the processor of arrivals and departures, or it can be managed to be the center of fulfillment of our core product and promise, namely the hotel room. For that, we need to start objectively measuring what the front desk does, and how it achieves what it does. Having measured millions of arrivals and departures over the last few years, I will tell you with a significant degree of certainty that you too are downgrading some of your guests - of course only if unavoidable and any front office manager worth her salt will make sure that this will not affect the 'wrong' guests. But it DOES happen, and more than likely, it does cost you something - if not in monetary terms, then in guest satisfaction and, ultimately, reputation. We need to ask ourselves what is the correlation between upgrades and upsells, and the resulting cost through even more upgrades, unfulfilled guest requests, or even downgrades? It is a much harder question to answer, but even that starts by actually measuring and understanding the scale of what is happening. We also need to be fiercely honest about our performance and face any shortcomings with determination. Only then can we start managing and improving our operations more fundamentally.We need to re-envision the way we rate performance at the front desk, not semi-blindly re-envision how it operates, at least not just yet. We are still very much focused on the same sales-oriented measurements, such as occupancy and ADR and by extension RevPAR, arrivals and departures, and the often miniscule ADR improvement through upselling. Instead, we need to measure up and downgrades and their cost, the level of feature fulfillment, and the number of fully or partially delivered loyalty-based upgrades. We need to understand when what occurred and have a full image of the hotel at that particular time.The first analysis tool of its kind, insights by hospitalityPulse makes the rooms operation measurable so that we can intervene more thoughtfully, and redesign its essential role in the operation, a role that has the potential to impact revenue and guest satisfaction in real and tangible ways.And we at hospitalityPulse NEED YOUR INSIGHTS - what do YOU want to see measured? What information would help YOU take your operations to the next level? That is part of the reason why we decided making insights entirely free of charge - so we as a vendor can start having an honest conversation with you as the operator. Unencumbered by a commercial relationship and driven by common passion!

Can The Front Desk Really Be Measured?

hospitalityPulse, Inc. · 7 November 2017
Ask industry experts how to measure the front desk, and they invariably say occupancy, ADR, by extension RevPAR, arrivals, and departures. But there's a (big) problem with this. The front desk has little to nothing to do with any of these. Occupancy and ADR are determined long before the guest ever gets to the front desk. While the quality of arrivals and departures falls to the front desk, the numbers do not. The only exception here is a small fraction of ADR that is attributable to upselling at the front desk.Front Desk management is reduced to scheduling staff and intervening in guest service issues. These things are not management. They are administration. The front desk administers check-ins and checkouts, and we aspire for them only to contribute to the bottom line via a small margin achieved through upselling.We can expect more and, therefore get more, from front desk management, but we must first measure. We have previously not had the means to see into their processes. To effectively evaluate the front desk, we need to know how many guests were needlessly upgraded. Needlessly downgraded? Is it possible that a front desk agent upgraded (in the interest of his commission) and displaced someone else, resulting in a downgrade? And what's the cost of this? Was the upsell worth it? How many guests received exactly the room they expected? We must be able to see how many and what type of rooms were available at the time of every transaction to get the big picture. We also need to know who does how many check-ins and checkouts. Which agents have the most discrepancies and the least?These things are the foundation of what the front desk staff does, their greatest contribution to hotel operations. They have an impact, but no one knows what it is. A lack of information of this degree should alarm hoteliers, especially given the depth of data we have about every other department.We do have the information now with insights. A freemium product, insights is a room operations BI tool, the first of its kind. Need to know how many suites were available when an agent upgraded a guest two days ago? And whether a guest arriving an hour later was downgraded, as a result? It's there. How many guests received exactly the room they reserved last Thursday? It's all there. Every hour, every agent, every room. As a development release, hotels can give direct feedback with ease so that we can make it work for you, giving you the tools to manage the rooms department for the first time.I prefer the version of that adage that says, "What gets measured gets improved." So often management and administration are used interchangeably. But when you start to measure you'll see where the needs for training and growth and new systems are--where improvement can happen. This is management.

The Simplest Solution to Traveler Anxiety

hospitalityPulse, Inc. ·26 October 2017
Skift has coined a new term: permanxiety. "The near constant state of anxiety that exists now around the world." I don't love the term, but I get where they are coming from. People are anxious, not just about travel, but about natural disasters and political upheaval and terror attacks. Let's be real, though, most people are anxious about paying the bills and meeting deadlines and just generally managing their lives even when there isn't an onslaught of unpredictable event in unpredictable locations around the world.Nevertheless, "Travel in an Age of Permanxiety" offers valuable and necessary suggestions for being as hospitable as possible with travelers who are generally out of sorts these days. Suggestions include training staff to have greater awareness and offer empathy, especially in handling issues related to cultural differences or accessibility issues.Here's the thing about travelers and anxiety. What creates (and has always created) anxiety for travelers is the prospect that things aren't going to go according to plan. This was the problem long ago when we used paper maps to drive cars the size of small tanks across the country just to check into a motor lodge. Travelers worried that their reservations would be screwed up, because hotels have always screwed up reservations. Of course they have. Every business screws up.BUT... most businesses get better at one problem and then move on to another. Hotels, on the other hand, are still giving travelers the wrong room. Only 5% of guests regularly report receiving the room they requested. I could understand this when we were taking reservations over the phone, making manual mistakes, back in those paper map days. Here we are in 2017 with online reservations, email reservation confirmations, and mobile check-in, and the front desk is still manually handling room assignments.Perhaps in addition to empathy training we should consider that a fundamentally solid strategy for helping travelers with their anxiety is to actually alleviate a problem that is 100% known to cause anxiety. We are able to give travelers the room they want. We're actually able to do better than that and give them more choices about their room--and still give them the room they want. We are also able to automate this process making the front-of-house more efficient, which then allows them to use their energy to better serve guests with the real unavoidable problems.Last year HomeAway launched an ad campaign meant to chip away a little at the hotel and home-sharing experiences. Among other unsavory things, the "HomeAway From It All" ads feature a "pool apocalypse" and noisy honeymooning guests in the room above. In the first quarter of 2017, Homeway saw a 48% increase in bookings compared to the same period the prior year (Wall Street Journal). Seems like they're on to something with this suggestion that a hotel guest doesn't have any control over their experience. If hotels can do anything at this point to hold onto their market share, it's to start by building confidence among travelers that hotels will actually handle the things that can be controlled--the rooms, cleanliness, food, Wi-Fi, and so forth--and handle them well.Then go further than the simple promise of a clean room with a bed and bathroom, which is where most hotels have stopped for a lack of decent technology. Needless to say, offering the same thing everyone else can offer doesn't get you very far in a fiercely competitive market. So many have responded to the pressure by focusing outside the property (i.e., fighting third-parties, even going so far as to look to regulators to rein in new competition), but hotels that recognize and capitalize on the unique services and amenities only they can offer will get much further.
Article by Pierre Boettner

What Can Today's Hotelier Really Sell?

hospitalityPulse, Inc. ·17 October 2017
After watching this trend carefully, the hotel industry is finally catching on. Some hoteliers have been slow to adopt this model for various reasons, not the least of which is the service element on which hospitality operators pride themselves. The hotel industry has successfully started selling the option for guests to purchase an upgraded room or specific feature at a nominal fee during the booking process or during check-in. The good news is that this new selling tool has been very well received and adopted. Hotel chains, large and small, have realized that this is a great way to enhance the guest stay and generate higher revenues. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the full potential.Until now, hotels, when selling ancillary items or services, have been focused on experiential service delivery as the main component. These sales may include spa services, room service, specific lessons if staying at a resort, and of course, the mini bar. Yes, the mini bar is not an experience. However, it can lead to many amazing experiences. Hotels need to look beyond the norm and consider what we think of as room features. In most cases, the price of that specific feature is usually bundled within a room rate. If we look at an average room, there may not be very many things that you can charge extra for other than floor level or room proximity to hotel outlets. It does, however, get very interesting when the room has a number of features that can be unbundled and sold separately. If the room has a specific view, this can be merchandised. If the room has a balcony and others do not, the balcony can now be an added fee. Particular types of bathtubs, the delivery of special linens, and most importantly, the actual room itself can be marketed. More and more, guests are becoming aware that they can request a specific room, and if given a choice to book their preferred room, they are willing to spend a little more to have this capability. Instead of consistently overselling standard rooms according to market demand--the current status quo, which regularly results in unhappy guests--hotels can unbundle rooms and give guests exactly what they want. Make the balcony accessible to them or the view or any number of other attributes, and make much-needed revenue.Along with the features of the room itself, hotels also can sell items that may not be part of the room inventory. These items can include food and beverage, specific amenities such as branded hair products and lotions, as well as hotel-branded items (robes, t-shirts, etc.). The sale of almost everything on-property, if delivered to the guest properly, can now enhance their stay, boost spend, and help drive loyalty to the brand. That said, hotels must be thoughtful and strategic about how they roll out changes like these. The airlines have consolidated so much that travelers only have a few choices. With hotels, there are many, many choices and maintaining branding, a substantial guest base, and enhancing, rather than reducing guest service are the aims.Hotels need to boldly move forward and start evaluating how they sell their room inventory. By selling features, guests get exactly what they want, and hotels increase profits. Just like the ancillary sales evolution for the airlines, there may be initial angst for some travelers. However, if appropriately positioned with the focus on delivering more options to the guest that he or she can choose, the door will open to endless possibilities for guest engagement, revenue, and data tracking.

Direct Booking Woes? Let Guests Buy Room Attributes!

hospitalityPulse, Inc. ·28 September 2017
It should come as no surprise that guests want to pick their rooms.According to a Hilton survey, 84% of business travelers want to choose their own room (Fortune). I'm not sure why leisure travelers don't have a say, but I'll tell you what both groups really want. It's not to pick their exact room. That requires too much energy, never mind knowledge of the hotel you plan staying at. Think if the car rental company asked you to pick your car down to the VIN number. No, thank you. But if they asked if I want Bluetooth, a sunroof, storage for more than two bags, and visual navigation... yes, please.What guests DO want is to pick the kind of room. The attributes, or room features. Most guests want the opportunity to say they want a room away from the elevator or near it or on a high floor or with a view or with a balcony. Forcing them to wait until check-in for a manual room assignment--one that may or may not be possible--doesn't satisfy this desire, nor does the non-committal "we'll do our best" disclaimer at the time of booking. It only results in disappointment the majority of the time.Giving guests the option to buy individual attributes at booking, in a way letting them assemble their personalized room, isn't just a nicety; it's a competitive edge. Know who cannot do this? OTAs. Know who can? Hotels.For hotels that want to offer room features on their booking engine, it is also critically important they remain entirely compatible with today's world of distribution. You can offer attributes selections from your whole inventory using your property booking engine while selling room categories through third parties. Here's why!The PMS is the president of inventory. It knows the exact status of every room. And it's where your current manual room assignments are occurring. In order to offer room selection by feature, continuous predictive room assignments are required. They, too, are driven by data contained in the PMS. They are automated, in real-time, covering the entire booking window, and superior to the results obtained by manual assignment. So with accurate tentative room assignments being continuously re-optimized, you have the accuracy of the specific inventory down to individual rooms, without the fragmentation of the inventory and its negative effects on occupancy.In order to offer precise and guaranteed delivery of room features, the PMS feeds the room assignment system for all dates in the booking window, which in turn feeds the online booking engine via its feature inventory engine (FIRE). To the CRS, the GDSs, and the OTAs this is entirely transparent and they can simply keep doing what they do today. No interruptions, no changes, just continued flow of reservations. Bookings come in as usual, hit the CRS, which feeds the PMS, and are then tentatively assigned a room.What is different is that when guests book using your online booking engine, they get more value by being able to choose the specific room features they care for. Further, they are guaranteed these features will be delivered upon arrival. Suddenly, your hotel has a big value-add and a competitive advantage. And to top it off, one that doesn't violate rate parity, can be widely publicized, and that ONLY YOU can deliver!

If You Don't Give Guests What They Want They'll Go Elsewhere

hospitalityPulse, Inc. · 7 September 2017
Today's discerning travelers not only want individualized experiences tailored to their priorities, but they expect their hotel rooms to provide more than just a bed to sleep in. Guests want the ability to customize their stay, with price being only a secondary consideration. They want to be able to select - and are willing to pay for - the room features and amenities that are most important to them. Hotels looking to differentiate themselves can do so by giving customers what they want - exactly what they want.Room Features Over Room Categories It's no longer a simple question of whether your customer prefers a standard double room or a suite. A recent report from Oracle Hospitality, "Creating the Coveted Hotel Guest Experience," showed that in-room features are used more by hotel guests than on-property services. In addition, 77 percent of travelers say that amenities play a fundamental role in their decision whether to book accommodation, while nearly half want the ability to select a specific room location. Today's guests think of their hotel room as a personal refuge, a "home away from home," filled with the features and creature comforts they value most.Complimentary Wi-Fi, mobile check-in, and the ability to stream personal content on a hotel room television are quickly becoming the expected norm. Beyond this, however, specific room features desired by guests can vary widely, and require greater customization. A good desk and high-end coffee maker may be important to a business traveler, a leisure traveler may want to ensure their room is on a specific floor and includes a balcony, and the couple on a romantic getaway wants a room offering heart-stopping views or a cozy fireplace where they can snuggle at night.For better online conversion, sell combinations of room features rather than offering broad room categories. The hotelier who can guarantee the room features their guests will be ready and waiting for them when they pull into the hotel parking lot is well ahead of the game when it comes to building loyalty and gaining repeat business.Include Room Features in the Booking Flow The traditional way of booking a hotel room does not satisfy this growing demand for personalization in specific room features. Hotel shoppers no longer want to wade through a bland list of room categories that may or may not include the amenities they desire. And they don't want to arrive at a hotel only to find that their wishes can't be accommodated. The key is to include room features and amenities within the booking process. A hotelier that automates room assignments with the exact features and amenities their guest's desire creates stronger customer engagement and goodwill.Does your guest want a chilled bottle of champagne waiting upon arrival? After a busy day of exploring, do you prefer to shower, and then drop into the crisp sheets of linens changed daily rather than the standard 2 or 3 days? With each opportunity to select another service amenity they want - a potential guest moves further along the booking path. Guests watch their dream vacation experience being transformed into reality, making it much more likely they will hit that "book room" button.A Natural Way to Increase RevenueBy selling room features as opposed to room categories, a hotel operator stands out from the competition. Sidestep the old-school commoditization model and stop focusing your efforts on simply trying to gain higher profits. Instead, through the use of automation and intelligent technology solutions, focus on allowing guests to customize their rooms with everything they want even before they arrive. Doing so will increase your customer satisfaction, build loyalty and grow repeat business which will naturally lead to higher revenues.In addition, hoteliers can capitalize on the room features people want most. Today's travelers care about more than price point. When presented with opportunities to choose the room features they desire, such as a great view, or optional extras like a bottle of wine or in-room massage, guests are willing to pay more for the amenities they value.The future of hotel success lies in selling features and services directly within the booking process, thus guaranteeing you give your guests exactly what they want when they want it. Through the power of personalization, hoteliers can transform dreams into reality, increase guest satisfaction and in the process, their hotel's bottom line.
Article by Pierre Boettner

The Abandoned Booking Epidemic

hospitalityPulse, Inc. ·10 August 2017
But is it really that easy? OK, you have searched, and they have given you lots of results, but you still need to go through each one to decide where to stay. Finally, you have to actually book. It is no wonder that 78% of hotel and lodging bookings and 86% of OTA bookings are abandoned (see chart 1).When compared to all other industries, travel tops the list for highest abandonment rates (see chart 2). What is even more concerning when you factor in that other industries like retail are generally speaking non-perishable in contrast with the perishable nature of travel, making the travel abandonment rates far more concerning and critical to address.Then comes the personal dilemma. Are your preferences relative to when you are traveling with your family versus traveling when you are on a business trip? A person may have three to four personas related to their travel. Think of it, a different persona may be when you are traveling with friends on a golf trip versus a girl's weekend in Vegas. The combinations on how a person would like to book their hotel room can be vast.Here in lies the problem. Booking engines are set up in a fashion whereby the booking process is very static. Room type or should we say bed type need to be picked first, and then you can continue with some options. Somehow this seems backward. With travelers spending more than $278 billion on accommodations in the U.S. last year, hotels that explore creative new ways to engage customers have the potential to significantly increase their profits.Phocuswright put out a paper on Travel Innovation and Technology Trends 2017. Within a section of this report, it is noted that the most important factors in the future of online travel is travel dreaming, planning, and shopping. As search evolves, it will more effectively be able to deliver results to the traveler that are pertinent to their upcoming trip. When so much effort is placed on deciding where to go when to go and obviously why are you going - why isn't this same effort reflected in the hotel booking experience?Believe it or not, there is a wikihow website page devoted to teaching a person how to book a hotel room. The particular page is, of course, simple in its approach, but there must be a need for this type of education. If indeed there is a need, then why doesn't the industry at large start to deliver a great hotel booking experience?The hotel booking process is flawed putting revenue and market share on the line The reason the hotel booking process is flawed is because we started from the wrong place. We are not truly giving control to the guest to book what they want. Priority should be given to selecting features that then result in a reduced choice of room types, or even better, selling features, and leave the room type organization to the hotel and to its systems. Juts leave the guest out of it. For example, if I am on a business trip, there will be certain constraints placed upon what I can book due to corporate travel guidelines. However, this doesn't mean that I don't want to have the flexibility to ask for choices such as a room on a high floor, away from the elevator with a view if possible. When I am traveling for pleasure, I may want all these same things as well as private balcony, which I am willing to pay extra for, overlooking the ocean and with a bottle of champagne waiting for me upon arrival.Hoteliers recognize the need for a holistic guest experience that transcends channels, but most attempts are falling short. Many operators have taken the "just get something done" approach to deliver a seamless booking experience. The unfortunate result of this quick fix method using traditional booking engine process is that it risks disappointing guests and even giving up revenue streams. We need to let the guests choose how they want to book a room rather than the imbedded technology force them to use a specific path in order to book a hotel room.At hospitalityPulse, we developed roomPulse and FIRE (Feature Inventory Response Engine) to finally address the missing foundation of the booking puzzle. Communication with the property based system using roomPulse enables a highly personalized booking path for each guest, allowing guests to select their desired room type, room attributes and features they are willing to pay more for, providing competitive differentiation from other hotel booking experiences currently dominating the market. FIRE uses predictive future room assignments to ensure what guests are offered to book online, also is what they can expect to receive when they arrive at the hotel.If a guest can be served better while also driving up profits, there is a strong reason for hotel companies to give guests what they want.
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hospitalityPulse Offers a "Sneak Peek" of pulseBooker During HITEC 2017

hospitalityPulse, Inc. ·22 June 2017
Attendees at this year's HITEC in Toronto, Canada will be introduced to the latest inspiring innovations from hospitalityPulsetm, a leading provider of next-generation technology solutions for the hotel industry. hospitalityPulse will be unveiling its Internet Booking Engine (IBE) which complements the use of its FIRE (Feature Inventory Response Engine) solution. This new IBE is offered to FIRE users at no charge.pulseBooker enables several unique features that enhance the overall implementation of FIRE. As with most transactional products, pulseBooker will have built-in personalization options including color, logo, and branding available free to FIRE customers. For even more customization, and as with all hospitalityPulse's systems, all of FIRE's web services are built as Open APIs, making it incredibly easy to integrate and implement. According to company CEO, Pierre Boettner, an interactive self-service SDK will be released later this year, and pulseBooker is first to reveal some features of ICE (Intelligent Commerce Engine) that is planned to for release in 2018.Some of the features and benefits of pulseBooker are:trueAvailabilitytm of rooms and featureshotels can increase guest satisfaction by letting them 'assemble' the perfect room for their personalized staymonetization of room assets/yield to the roompowerful personalization options, including contextual amenitiesin sync with roomPulse, automating and ensuring fulfillment of booked featureschanges the paradigm of what it means to book a hotel room (Buy/Sell room features)optimizes monetization of hotel assetsroomPulse also maximizes fulfillment of feature requests from other channelshospitalityPulse will also be showcasing their flagship solution, roomPulse, a revolutionary cloud solution engineered to ensure hoteliers assign rooms based on reservation requirements and room availabilities, resulting in optimal upgrades being granted to the right guests. The highpoint of the conference this year will be the launch of FIRE, which uses predictive future room assignments to ensure what guests are offered to book online, also is what they can expect to receive when they arrive at the hotel. Communication with the property based system using roomPulse enables a highly personalized booking path for each guest, allowing them to select their desired room type, room attributes and features they are willing to pay more for, providing competitive differentiation from other hotel booking experiences currently dominating the market."We couldn't be more excited about launching our next wave of transformative solutions at HITEC, one of the premier gathering places for the hospitality industry's most visionary leaders," said Boettner. "With the addition of pulseBooker and FIRE to roomPulse, hospitalityPulse is solving some of the longest-standing pain points for hoteliers, and changes the paradigm in hotel room distribution."HITEC attendees and media are invited to come by booth #208 to meet with the hospitalityPulse team and view live demos of one of the industry's most innovative platforms.To learn more visit hospitalitypulse.com.
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hospitalityPulse unveils powerful technology for selling room features at 2017 HITEC Conference

hospitalityPulse, Inc. ·14 June 2017
hospitalityPulsetm, a leading provider of next-generation technology solutions for the hotel industry, has announced plans to unveil FIREtm, the Feature Inventory Response Engine at HITEC(r), the world's largest hospitality technology show. During the conference, which takes place in Toronto from June 26-29, 2017, the hospitalityPulse team will showcase how its disruptive technology is transforming how guests shop for hotel rooms and enabling hotels to accurately sell by room features."Guest expectations are high - and our solutions help hotels to meet and exceed those expectations," explains CEO of hospitalityPulse Pierre Boettner. "Hotels are demanding better ways to differentiate themselves to drive tangible results, and our solutions like FIRE are designed to help operators continually evolve their capabilities to extract even greater value from their property assets and amenities to give guests what they want. HITEC offers the perfect platform to showcase the power of FIRE and our latest innovations to the hospitality community."FIRE enables picking the relevant room attributes and features guests want, and the booking path to be highly personalized to each individual guest. FIRE empowers hoteliers to permit only booking of rooms and room features that are truly available for the requested stay dates. By determining in real-time how to best assign all future bookings, the remaining inventory is what corresponds to the trueAvailabilitytm at the hotel. Because every feature can be priced according to value and demand, it naturally increases revenues while providing the simplest, fastest, and most intuitive booking experience.High lights of FIRE include :FIRE mirrors the shopping habits of people when they purchase items online (i.e. Amazon) and now enables hotels to sell combinations of room features, rather than choices of room categories.It eliminates the dilemma between more choices and better online conversion.Guests can shop for the experience they want--adding features to a shopping cart and getting more of exactly what they desire.The technology guarantees guests will receive the features and room they booked when they check in.Moreover, this technology eliminates the tedious daily work of manual room assignment and house balancing.Boettner elaborates, "The proper implementation of room allocation software in concert with a hotel's direct booking channel decreases operating costs and enables hoteliers to achieve a significantly higher fulfillment rate of room feature and bed type requests. That leads to higher guest satisfaction, having a significant impact on review scores, ADR, loyalty, and ancillary revenues. Our technology even recognizes guests who book direct vs. third-party channels like OTAs, and hoteliers may reward direct bookers with the best rooms, which ultimately leads to more direct bookings and less commission to third parties. Selling features is the future. Give your guests what they want."hospitalityPulse is a visionary company founded in 2013 by hospitality industry veterans and technologists with a passion for fixing the costly and troublesome issues plaguing hotels and their guests. Their flagship solution, roomPulse, is a revolutionary cloud solution engineered to ensure hoteliers assign rooms based on reservation requirements and room availabilities, resulting in more optimal upgrades being granted to the right guests.Hosted each year by Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP), HITEC is a well-known, global event with its North American show gathering over 6,000 attendees from around the world, and presenting the latest hospitality technology products and services from over 400 companies - this trade show is the most comprehensive showcase of hospitality technology. Conference attendees are invited to experience live demonstrations of hospitalityPulse's full spectrum of product innovations at the company's booth #208 in the exposition hall.To learn more visit hospitalitypulse.com.
Article by Pierre Boettner

Disrupting the Booking Process

hospitalityPulse, Inc. ·31 May 2017
The retail industry is presently innovating at a rapid pace. Traditional big box stores like Walmart are buying cutting-edge online retailers like Jet.com solely to provide a better buying experience. Physical retail spaces are reconsidering their entire purpose because the offline and online experiences are shifting. Some previously online-only retailers are creating stores, while traditional stores are creating experiences like wine bars and DJs. Why? Because many of the same products can be purchased anywhere - so they are in a daily fight 'for their lives'. For hotels, the situation is a bit different. Distribution technology remains fundamentally unchanged since the times when GDS was the only option in the distribution space. These systems, originally built to sell seats on flights, became the basis on which all distribution technology is based. To this day, we continue selling hotels rooms, as if, like on a plane, everyone arrives and leaves at the exact same time, all rooms are ready to accommodate all guests at one predetermined time, and each guest occupies exactly one unit. This overly simplified view of a hotel's business allowed rapid growth in electronic distribution, but as it grew, these very significant differences also created a need for ever more workarounds and manual processes, to get the guest into a room that she can actually occupy for the duration of her stay, and that corresponds to her desires expressed at booking.Disruption has become synonymous with technology, but disruption is much more than that. Disruption is reconsidering what we offer and how we offer it. Disruption is a response to the marketplace - and the marketplace says that consumers don't shop around anymore. Consumers today are well educated about what they want, and they know how to find what it is they want when they want it. So it becomes of utmost importance to pick them up right there, the very moment they have decided to make the purchase. Instead of choosing a retailer, they choose the best path to getting precisely what they want. They choose the path that is sure to give them what they want without risk of defect, the one that will deliver quickly, or the one that makes returns simplest.Before you dismiss these retail examples as irrelevant to hotels, remember that Airbnb and HomeAway are busy right now taking a bite out of hotel revenues - and it's not just because travelers like home stays. These travelers know the experience they want, and these platforms are serving up clear choices in a format that travelers like.So what do they get when they shop on a hotel website? They get a choice between two beds or one bed, and between several price classes. Most travelers have enough experience to know they may not even end up with what they selected when they arrive.What will it take to renovate the shopping experience for hotel guests? Recognition that we have a problem, of course. The proper response to fix the problem is to give hotel guests genuine choices during the booking process; choices that we know, we will deliver to them when they arrive at the hotel. Delivering inventory in a way that allows guests more control over their experience. This should be the industry's primary focus.And the latest innovation from hospitalityPulse FIRE does this. FIRE stands for Feature Inventory Response Engine, and it means that guests can shop and buy features that they expect during their stay. This is not (yet another) fancy way to make an easier selection into a room type they may or may not end up in. It means they can buy a view, a bathtub or a shower, a balcony, a high floor, a low floor, and so forth. In a way, it is the return to selling individual bedrooms, without the effect of fracturing inventory and leaving lots of potential empty. Guests can shop for the experience they want--adding features to a shopping cart and getting more of exactly what they desire. Moreover, this technology guarantees they will receive it when they check in.Transforming the buying experience is a natural next step for the hotel industry that has exhaustively tried to figure out how to be more appealing to guests. Start with giving them more of what they want from the very beginning. Shift the focus from social lobbies and cocktail hours to giving them choices about the product they came to buy--their accommodations and the attributes and amenities they want.Be on the lookout for our big orange booth (because it's the color of FIRE, of course) to take a tour of a truly disruptive booking platform at HITEC 2017 in Toronto.

Selling Room Features is the Future

hospitalityPulse, Inc. · 3 May 2017
When I think about how simple it is to fill up an Amazon cart with a million things, big and small, I am confounded at how we have limited ourselves to just a few options for booking a hotel room. You select a category, a pre-determined assembly of key room features, offered at a price. Distinct views, corner rooms, the high floor, and so many more features that have true value to many guests are relegated to either find their way into such a category - or they can only be given away for free. Adding extra services such as breakfast, or the occasional massage, some even try selling teddy bears, towels, and bathrobes; that is about as creative as we get when it comes to the use of shopping carts. Yet, we want to inspire them - get them excited and delighted. These are not inspiring choices. And, let's be honest. There are no guarantees their preferences will be delivered. All too frequently, travelers are disappointed when they arrive onsite to find out there are no more king-size beds available, or that their preference of being on a high floor could not be accommodated.This way of booking hotel rooms goes against everything that travelers want. They want control, and we are wrongly assuming that giving them the ability to do everything on a mobile device will fulfill that desire. It will help, no doubt. However, what will set one property apart from the next is the ability to drop features into a shopping cart; choosing a hotel room based on a whole different spectrum of options than they've ever been offered before.Like Goldman, we can look at our current situation and identify a problem. The market is competitive; supply continues to increase, and occupancy is beginning to shrink. How can we give travelers more of what they want in order to drive up occupancy and rates? Creating the desire to stay at your property is a starting point, and it begins with giving them something besides "double, non-smoking" as a choice when booking. Instead, we can directly offer them to book the room features they care about. Instead of having to choose among dozens of categories to find one that best fits their needs, and then hoping the 'Away from elevator' and King bed' requests will be honored, what if travelers are simply offered the choices that correspond to their desires? Guests could choose their view in as much or as little detail as you want. They could drop a balcony into their cart, if available. They could choose their floor: high, low, mid. The features functionality can go as far as you want. Add a bottle of wine or a choice of bathroom amenities to make it even more compelling. Each of these opportunities to make a personal selection also has the potential to move the guest to buying decisions, without ever having to leave the dream phase. Many of these features are also quantifiable, while in today's flows, they aren't capitalized on. Many guests gladly pay extra for the guaranteed bed type, floor, or view. And once committed to "the dream" of their stay, they are less likely to change their mind.Intelligent technology allows hotels to offer these opportunities. It encourages guests to book with you, because you've given them more of what they want, and it increases loyalty when guests can select the exact amenities and conveniences they care about, and that are geared to the purpose of their stay. Making this experience, and consistently delivering on it - that is what creates loyalty. This last point can't be overstated. We are in an era of declining loyalty. According to a 2016 JD Power survey, every succeeding generation is less likely to be a member of a rewards program, and it's safe to say that every succeeding generation desires more control, too (JD Power).Being more competitive in selling hotel rooms is about more than distribution channels and Google rank. Guests know how to search for the kind of place they want, and most will go to great effort to find it. According to Google, a typical traveler has over 700 digital touch points while planning a trip. This includes 52 Google searches, and eight different accommodation brands considered before booking (Think with Google). When it comes down to deciding between hotel A and hotel B, travelers care about a lot more than just price point. They care more about relevant choices and designing their own experience than they do about saving $20. The opportunity to capture travelers is right there in the empty shopping cart space that hotels have not begun to use. Yet.

Game Theory and Managing Change In Hotels

hospitalityPulse, Inc. ·11 April 2017
Perhaps it was the surreal location that inspired it, but last week as we introduced pulseLink at the Atlantis resort in Dubai, I had a moment of clarity about how hotels change processes. As we watched the staff navigate the nascent stages of using a new tool--a tool that will make them more efficient and effective at their jobs--I noticed their resistance. Some staff wanted to go around the new system, straight to the PMS. I've seen this desire to bypass a new tool or system before, and not just with room allocation. It happens with plenty of systems that engage with the PMS. As I observed this typical behavior, I thought of Nash Equilibrium.Nash equilibrium is part of an abstract game theory developed by economist John Forbes Nash. Nash, who received the Nobel Prize in 1994 for his pioneering work on game theory, reached popular fame for his lifelong struggle with schizophrenia, depicted in the critically acclaimed movie A Beautiful Mind. Nash theorized that when equilibrium is reached it means that no one person can achieve a higher payoff by deviating strategy. I like the following example of rush hour traffic.There are two main arteries that connect Point A and Point B. Outside rush hour it takes 20 minutes to get from A to B. During rush hour it takes 90 minutes. To alleviate rush hour traffic, the state builds a new highway with the capacity of both existing arteries combined. With the new road in place, the state expects that rush-hour traffic from A to B will be reduced to 45 minutes.The new highway opens, everyone gets on it, and rush-hour traffic takes 2 hours. For weeks, it seems the highway is a failure, and the public proclaims the government is inefficient and ineffective. Months later, however, it takes 45 minutes to get from point A to point B, but no one notices the shift.What happened? The optimal solution is for traffic to distribute itself across all available options. When there were just two arteries, all drivers had their preferred highway, but when there was a new highway, everyone migrated to it. Then they got frustrated, and everyone went back to their old preference, yielding the same results. Even more frustrating, they start testing a different road every day, at times clogging it beyond relief. After several months of trying different highways, the drivers settle into new habitual paths. They choose one of the three roads knowing they are all equally bad at times. When commuters pick one road, traffic settles into a pattern where all navigation options result in approximately the same travel time. No one can gain from switching strategies at this point: Nash equilibrium.What does this have to do with hotels? Agents steal each other's rooms all the time in the PMS because it shows all rooms to everyone. Multiple agents pick the same room. The only one who ultimately gets it is the first to click the check-in button on the screen.Then we come along to introduce pulseLink, a solution that should alleviate this problem immediately and improve the way rooms are allocated. However, there is a forbidden bypass, the PMS.Let's say there are four check-ins for two rooms. The inevitable outcome is that two guests must be queued. Agents 1 and 2 are first to click pulseLink. The room is reserved for 90 seconds. Agents 3 and 4 are instructed to queue the guests. Instead, however, Agents 3 and 4 use the forbidden path--going straight to the PMS. The outcome is exactly the same: two guests get rooms, two guests are queued, and everyone is frustrated with the result. Agents 1 and 2 complain that pulseLink doesn't work because it offers rooms that they can't use to check in the guest. Agents 3 and 4 claim pulseLink doesn't work because it doesn't offer a room that they can clearly see in the PMS.The possible outcomes are:1). That they all discontinue using pulseLink and revert to old processes, or2). They continue using pulseLink until they realize that the biggest benefit is when they all get on board with the tool and quit using the forbidden PMS path, regardless of what it shows.I see this problem in hotels a lot. Hotels invest money and time in a tool to improve processes. However, there are problems. Some people believe that they benefit if they don't use the tool or if they go around it, and because of this, those who adopted it think it doesn't work. And you have disgruntled people, and your processes have actually gotten worse, at least until everyone adopts. As my team worked with the staff at the Atlantis, I realized our job is to encourage adoption and build confidence among the front office staff, as much as it is to teach them how to use it.Maybe it's human nature to want to go around the new process in the (perceived) interest of personal gain. Can we go straight to a new, more efficient process without staff staying stuck in old patterns? I don't know, but maybe Nash equilibrium can offer a format for explaining that it benefits everyone when a new process is uniformly adopted. At the very least, it gives executives and managers an understanding of why the process seems to get worse before it gets better and can help navigate the resistance with more equanimity.

Making the Impossible Possible: The Magic of Hotel Room Allocation & Distribution Technology

hospitalityPulse, Inc. · 8 March 2017
The average nightly rate for a hotel room in Nashville last year was $261. In Boston, the average was $257.[1] For the average four-night stay in either destination, a guest invests over $1,000 without anything to show for it but a tiny bottle of shampoo and good memories.Know what else costs $1,000? A brand-new, stainless-steel refrigerator. And if the store delivered the wrong one, would they shrug their shoulders like a front desk agent? Of course not. They would take it back and bring the right one. The same goes for any other major purchase. In fact, I wouldn't buy a product with a $1,000 price tag without some guarantee that the company would deliver the exact item with nary a ding nor scratch.How is it then that every day, the hotel industry delivers the wrong product to many of their guests--telling guests when they arrive that the room type or features they requested are no longer available? There are two issues at play. The first is that hotels have come to consider themselves synonymous with service. Of course, a hotel is only as nice as its staff however, it's more complicated than that. Hotels require product + service in equal measure. Having focused so much on service as of late, hotels have chalked product to social lobbies and WiFi rather than focusing on delivering guests the requested room--the actual product. Think of the money and time that is spent driving guests to the brand's website, only to knowingly accept that some will be disappointed in the end.The reason for this is located in the second issue: technology. Hotels haven't had the technology to bridge the disconnect between distribution and allocation. It is this divide that has created the rift between what travelers buy and what they get when they arrive.If what they receive when they arrive is anything but the room that was reserved with the features that were reserved, those good memories are already compromised, and they have only your hotel to point to, even if they booked through a third-party.Hotels act as though there is no solution. "I'm sorry, the King on the high floor that you reserved? It is impossible tonight. We do our best to guarantee your reservation, but we aren't able to control this."But it is not impossible. And making it so requires dealing with this issue long ahead of check-in, dealing with it at the point of the reservation.It is now entirely possible to guarantee a guest the room type they purchase with the features they request--and to guarantee it no matter where the guest books. By using predictive future room assignments, hotels can ensure that whether the guest books on an OTA, a CVB, via metasearch, or any other third party, she will receive the room she booked. Using this intelligent technology, the studio suite with a view is shown during the booking process only if it is available, and it is allocated upon the reservation instead of the morning of arrival.To do so, the technology communicates with the hotel PMS, enabling the booking path to be highly personalized. This means guests can select the relevant room type as well as room attributes and features and receive the product they ordered.Hotels have succeeded in not delivering on their product promise for so long that guests have little trust that they will receive the requested room. Why else would "travel insiders" repeatedly suggest that guests call ahead to the hotel if they'll be late or if it's "really important." (To which I say, "When is it not important?") And the notion that a guest should have to call ahead after already having reserved their room is preposterous. However, because the industry has been without proper allocation resources for so long, those early adopters that are able to truly guarantee the guest's room and features will have a competitive edge until the industry catches up.It's not magic; it's technology. And it is possible.[1] Nashville Hotel Rates Ranked Highest in US. Tennessean. October 2016.
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hospitalityPulse Debuts FIRE, the Hotels Industry's First Feature Inventory Response Engine at ITB Berlin 2017

hospitalityPulse, Inc. ·28 February 2017
Attendees at this year's ITB Berlin will be introduced to the latest cutting-edge innovations from hospitalityPulsetm, a leading provider of next-generation technology solutions for the hotel industry. hospitalityPulse will be showcasing a range of products that decrease operational costs, increase guest satisfaction and help hoteliers drive incremental revenues including roomPulsetm, PulseLinktm, PulseQueuetm, PulseMobiletm and FIREtm.The event, which takes place from March 8th to 12th, is recognized as the global travel industry's leading trade show and convention attracting over 10,000 companies from 187 countries and 180,000 visitors. "ITB provides us with an excellent opportunity to share the exciting things we're developing in the hotel technology space," said Pierre Boettner, CEO of hospitalityPulse. "We are setting out to solve two of the most significant problems in the lodging industry; room assignment on-property and the inherent deficiencies related to the distribution of rooms and what guests receive upon arrival at the hotel. We are thrilled to launch FIRE and look forward to introducing all of our game-changing solutions to the global travel community."hospitalityPulse is a visionary company founded in 2013 by hospitality industry veterans and technologists with a passion for fixing the costly and troublesome issues plaguing hotels and their guests. Their flagship solution, roomPulse, is a revolutionary cloud solution engineered to ensure hoteliers assign rooms based on reservation requirements and room availabilities, resulting in more optimal upgrades being granted to the right guests. The highlight of the show will be the unveiling of the company's latest innovation FIRE (Feature Inventory Response Engine). Developed to combat distribution issues, FIRE uses predictive future room assignments to ensure what guests are offered to book online, also is what they can expect to receive when they arrive at the hotel. Communication with the property based system using roomPulse enables the booking path to be highly personalized to each guest, allowing them to select the relevant room type, room attributes and features they want, providing competitive differentiation from other hotel booking experiences currently dominating the market.ITB attendees and media are invited to come by Hall 8.1 booth 124a to meet with the hospitalityPulse team and view live demos of the innovative platform.To learn more visit hospitalitypulse.com.About hospitalityPulsehospitalityPulse was designed by hotel technology and operations veterans tackling one of the most difficult problems hotels are facing: room assignment and its direct effect on guest satisfaction. Our patent-pending optimization algorithms, combined with an intuitive user interface enable hoteliers to assign the optimal room for every guest, every time, with consistent efficiency. Using the multi-dimensional FIRE engine, hoteliers can rely on providing the booker with the trueAvailabilityTM of room and feature combinations on the dates selected. roomPulse dynamically optimizes each room assignment in real time, all the time. Visit us at www.hospitalitypulse.com.

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