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  • New Global Directors Join the 2018-2019 HFTP Board

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

  • 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.

Top Luxury Eco-Friendly Sustainable Hotels and Why Travelers Love Them

Puzzle Partner Ltd. · 5 November 2018
Industries across the globe are witnessing the consumer transition into what we like to call the experience economy. Perhaps influenced by the impressive buying power and sheer numbers of the millennial generation, modern consumers are showing a definitive preference for experiential purchasing over material goods. As the Harvard Business Review describes it "within an experience economy, a company intentionally uses services as the stage, and goods as props, to engage individual customers in a way that creates a memorable event." This puts the travel and hospitality industry, specifically, in an exciting position to maximize influence and guest connections. It's not necessarily about B2B or B2C anymore, or even the best 'deal' on paper -- it's about the creation of value, and a company's ability to demonstrate that they share values and beliefs with their target consumer. This becomes especially evident as we embrace the consumer-generated push for sustainable commerce and, even more-so, sustainable travel and eco-friendly hospitality. This past year, it found that 84% of Canadian travelers have a desire to go green on future vacations and then two-thirds (64%) said they intend to stay in an eco-accommodation in 2018, which is an increase from both 2017 and 2016. Even further, 58% of Canadians said they would pay at least five per cent more on their travel to ensure it had a lighter environmental footprint. This allows them to feel good about the accommodation they've selected, while also engaging in locally relevant experiences. Millennials are also noted as being twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues and expect brands to not only manage their impact but communicate it. Still not convinced? Studies show that 43 million U.S. travelers are "ecologically concerned" and 70% of travelers prefer hotels with sustainability credentials With this in mind, popular destinations around the globe are looking for ways to limit the environmental footprint/impact that tourists may have on the surrounding environment, heritage sites and local populations. Further, hotel properties within those destinations are striving to reach a new standard of sustainability across each touchpoint of the guest experience. We've rounded up some of our favorites: 1. QO AmsterdamQO is a one-of-a-kind, living hotel property positioned alongside the Amstel River in Amsterdam. QO believes that travel should be a pleasure, but one which is still committed to the world around us. With this core value intact, QO has found a way to weave luxury with sustainability throughout their lifestyle destination seamlessly. Each aspect of the QO has been designed to significantly reduce environmental impact, including intelligent windows, a rooftop greenhouse and so much more. From an aesthetic perspective, every element of the property has been deliberately chosen to celebrate and respect the planet's resources and every space has been designed to bring the outside in. 2. 1 Hotels 1 Hotels has been making a name for itself as a sustainable luxury hotel destination. 1 Hotels aims to create a one-of-a-kind experience, naturally, every stay. Each hotel property (located in NYC, Brooklyn, and Miami) is thoughtfully designed with reclaimed wood, natural light, hemp mattresses and live green moments. They believe that the future of the world and the future of hospitality are one in the same and can be a catalyst for change. With this in mind, 1 Hotels aspires to be a platform to spark conversations, between innovators and guests, that transform the industry and our lives. 3. Proximity Hotel Proximity Hotel in Greensboro, North Carolina takes sustainability seriously, with more than 70 sustainable practices in place throughout its 146-room property. Their LEED platinum-rated location has 100 solar panels on the roof, an elevator that re-generates power and geothermal energy for the refrigerators -- just to name a few eco-friendly features. Rooms and suites are described as loft-style with floor-to-ceiling windows, soaking tubs, in-room dining, filtered air systems and artwork from a local artist. They even include free bike rentals to inspire eco-friendly transport during guests' stay. 4. ARIA Resort and Casino Las Vegas might not be the first destination to come to mind when considering sustainable hospitality, but ARIA Resort and Casino has deemed it possible to maintain the Las Vegas experience in a more eco-friendly manner. The 4,004-room Aria Resort and Casino is the largest building in the world to have a LEED gold status, while also offering the first fleet of natural-gas-powered stretch limos. 5. Accor Hotel The Accor Hotel family recently launched its Accor's Planet 21 program, which demonstrates the group's ambitious goals for 2020, based around four strategic priorities: work with its employees, involve its customers, innovate with its partners and work with local communities. Each Accor property prides itself in the implementation of eco-certified products and design, sustainably sourced food and programs in place to combat food waste. In the past, it was assumed that if it's sustainable, it can't be luxurious -- but these noteworthy, eco-savvy hotels (to name a few) are turning that misconception on its head by marrying eco-friendly sustainability practices with modern luxury. So what do you say, are you ready to join the luxury sustainability trend?

The Innovative Hotels That Are Making Travel Better in 2019

Puzzle Partner Ltd. ·18 October 2018
Witnessing the gradual advancement and disruption of technology and services is an exciting, and sometimes industry-altering concept, as our world continues to evolve at a seemingly rapid pace to meet modern demands. Generations today know (and love) the likes of Netflix and Crave TV, for example, but many of us also remember the popularity of Blockbuster video -- a formerly successful business model which now, doesn't even exist. And those of us who used to cling enthusiastically to our flip phones whilst playing 'Brick Breaker', likely upgraded to iPhones with their robust connectivity capabilities and exciting, modern updates. What about MSN or AOL messenger? Kodak photography? Dial-up internet, and wall-mounted landline phones? Our world is ever-changing, and while the needs of consumers are, ultimately, the drivers of that change -- sometimes it feels like we are wide-eyed spectators along for the ride. The hospitality industry is no exception, as we look back to a (relatively recent) time when the concept of entering a hotel room without a key card seemed entirely futuristic and out of reach. The hospitality experience was largely impersonal and, more often than not, in need of a drastic update. But as of 2018, things are different. Hoteliers have their ears to the ground as they work to understand and anticipate modern guest expectations, continuously offering more creative and personalized travel experiences. Amenities are robust, hyper-personalization is the norm, upgrades boast a discernible wow-factor, the mobile experience is prioritized and, for perhaps the first time ever, hotels are actively getting ahead of technological trends. With this in mind, we've taken a look at those hotels which are positioned to offer the most innovative and ambitious experiences to their guests in 2019 (and beyond). Embracing the Lobby Evolution with Vibrant Design: The Hotel Silken Puerta Am erica Modern travels have demonstrated an obvious penchant for unique, Instagram-worthy aesthetics within the hotels they frequent. In the case of Hotel Silken, nineteen of the world's best architects came together to create unique rooms on every floor. Think white caves, sharp lines, red lacquered walls and a focus on business and b-leisure travel with 1000-person capacity meeting and event rooms. For the Tech-Savvy Traveler: Yotel Yotel prides itself on offering everything the modern guest needs, and nothing they don't. Each room is a small, but perfectly-formed cabin to ensure guests can enjoy their stay without exhausting their budget for leisure while visiting major, tourist cities. Yotel appeals specifically to the tech-savvy traveler craving efficiency, with electronic check-in terminals, a robot named Yobot to take care of your luggage, space-saving motorized beds, motion-activated air conditioning, super-fast Wi-Fi and innovative design. The Budget Traveler's Shangria-La: Citizen M Citizen M has created a reputation for itself as a leader in the modern hospitality space by adopting to a low-cost, high-end design property model. Rather than investing in reception, concierge or room service, Citizen M offers a self-service model with self-check in and living room-inspired lobbies. Check-in and check-out take one minute, with your invoice automatically mailed to you. Each room is notoriously stylish and decked out with high-tech upgrades, king size beds, free on-demand movies, unlimited Wi-Fi and more. The hotel also employs ambassadors rather than front desk staff, which are there to help you find whatever you need (but otherwise, they leave you alone). Embracing the Mobile Revolution: Hilton Hotels The mobile experience is one which simply can't be ignored within the hospitality realm -- a movement which becomes ever-apparent when looking at Hilton's efforts to ramp up their mobile guest journey. With technological innovation in mind, Hilton guests can now unlock their rooms using their smartphone, whilst Honors members can also select exact rooms they want, order room service, chat with hotel representatives and more through their phone. Marrying the Past with the Future: Effleston Square Pimlico Effleston Square Pimlico appeals to our desire for cutting-edge technology, while staying true to historical, British flair. The exterior of the property mimics that of a striking 19th Century Grade II listed historical facade, while the interior offers keypads to control music and lighting, user-controlled frosted shower walls and flat-screen TVs embedded in bathroom mirrors. Even better, each guest is provided with an iPad that connects them with a concierge service, all from the comfort of their room.A Sustainable Future: 1 Hotels Modern travelers, millennials especially, admit that much of their consumer loyalty is derived from the idea of shared values with those brands they frequent. With this in mind, establishing an eco-friendly approach to the future of hospitality is ever-important. 1 Hotels is a leader in this space, offering a modern take on sustainability within their hotels by utilizing recycled and repurposed natural materials throughout communal spaces and rooms. They even have Teslas available to hotel guests and are knowing for collaborating with artists to raise awareness for Earth-friendly causes. Their Haitang Bay hotel, which is currently in development, will even feature an on-site farm with fresh, organic fruits, and veggies to supply the its restaurants.

Acquisitions and Investments - The Travel & Hospitality Industry is on Fire

Puzzle Partner Ltd. · 2 October 2018
In the past, the travel and hospitality industry has been notorious for its resistance to incorporating new and innovative technology into the mix. There have been some early adopters but where other industries were quick to embrace technological change and practices, we were seemingly always one (or more) steps behind. And yet, this year our industry has -- perhaps more than any year previous -- welcomed disruption from technology solutions and movements positioned to transform every phase of the guest experience. This marks an exciting era for hospitality and becomes even more apparent as we look to the frenetic landscape of travel technology acquisitions and investments. In 2017 alone, over 65 acquisition deals worth 17 billion USD were made in travel technology. This number has increased drastically from 18 deals in 2013, as emerging tech solutions continuously attract new investments and acquisitions. Deloitte has even stated that technology acquisition is now the number one driver for M&A activity in its M&A Trends Report for the year. Why now? As the travel and hospitality sector shifts towards decentralization and becomes more competitive, companies are eager to stay ahead of the curve with the help of strategic acquisitions and the delivery of innovative solutions. After all, once a company has matured, the best way for them to continue on a path to substantial growth is to increase market share from a competitor through the acquisition process. To call attention to this industry-wide momentum, we've rounded up some of the most exciting travel and hospitality mergers and acquisitions that have recently made headlines. StayNTouch purchased by ShijiShiji Group, the leading manufacturer of hotel information systems responsible for 60% to 70% of the market share in the high-end sector of hotel and retail industries, recently acquired StayNTouch. StayNTouch is a cloud-based suite of hotel management solutions powering 75,000 hotel rooms around the world. In February 2016, Shiji Group was a part of a $9.5 million Series A funding round for the seamless, intuitive PMS experience offered by StayNTouch. With access to Shijii Group's existing network of sales and support teams, StayNTouch will have an opportunity to grow worldwide and develop exciting new product features. "Our incredible growth has been exciting but joining a larger group with local sales and support network globally means we can bring our technology to many more hotels while still remaining close to our clients. It's a unique opportunity for any tech company like ours." Says StayNTouch CEO, Jos Schaap.Umapped purchased by Flight CentreUmapped, the leading collaborative itinerary and experience platform within the travel industry, was recently purchased by one of the world's largest travel companies -- Flight Centre Travel Group. Providing travel agencies and hospitality brands the power, flexibility and speed to collaborate on proposals and itineraries with customers at every stage of travel, Unmapped has been hailed as revolutionizing the traditional travel itinerary. Flight Centre's infrastructure, industry influence and partnerships will provide Unmapped with an exciting opportunity to accelerate the adoption of its technology on a global scale, while expanding product offerings. "Both Flight Centre Travel Group and Umapped are pioneers in the travel industry, said Unmapped CEO, Lisa Israelovitch. "Both companies share similar values and a deep commitment to empower travel advisors and suppliers with technology that adds significant value throughout the customer journey. We are very excited to work alongside the talented FLT team to develop new product offerings with a continued commitment to customer service."OYO secures $1B InvestmentOYO, India's largest hospitality company consisting mainly of budget hotels, has pulled in $1 billion in new funding to grow its business in China and expand into other international markets. This investment round can be attributed to the likes of SoftBank Group Corp.'s Vision Fund, Sequioa Capital and Lightspeed Venture Partners OYO is known for aggregating budget hotels and hostels in India, ensuring that they meet minimum standards such as clean sheets, hot showers and free WiFi. With over 10,000 franchised or leased hotels within its network, OYO now spans 350 cities across five countries and, following this deal, is valued at $5 billion. "By 2023, we will be the world's largest hotel chain. We want to convert broken, unbranded assets around the globe into better-quality living spaces." says founder, Ritesh Agarwal. With the hospitality ecosystem -- especially that of hospitality technology -- changing at a newly rapid pace, the mergers and acquisitions momentum taking our industry by storm is sure to remain throughout 2019 and beyond. With so many complementary technology solutions positioned to fill the gaps within larger firms, the travel and hospitality industry is sure to see substantial investment dollars flowing in from emerging markets and standard VC's.

Puzzle Partner Enters 5th Year Supporting Innovative Travel & Hospitality Companies

Puzzle Partner Ltd. ·11 September 2018
Puzzle Partner, the most trusted travel and hospitality technology marketing agency, is celebrating a significant milestone this year. The company, founded in 2013 by industry veterans, is now entering it's fifth year of helping their clients engage with their target audiences to raise awareness, drive new business opportunities and build market share.The company's vision to empower brands through educational and entertaining content is a refreshing twist on just offering traditional PR services. As a proponent of thought leadership and inbound marketing, Puzzle Partner has delivered results for clients throughout the USA, Canada, Europe and Australia. Alan Young, the company's CEO and co-founder is proud of their accomplishments, "Our agency has grown in an era marked by rapid and profound shifts in technology, communications and buyer expectations. I think our key principles, influential relationships, and deep industry knowledge are why clients have chosen to partner with us. We are work tirelessly to get their products and messages seen and heard by the right people at the right time. As an organization, we've accomplished so much to date, but at the same time, we're just getting started."By communicating consistent content that speaks to the heart of buyer motivations, you become part of the conversation early in the buying journey. According to a study from The Economist Group, around eighty percent of executives said superior thought leadership influences both their purchasing decisions and choice of business partner. Ninety percent of C-Suite executives say that their respect and admiration for an organization increased after engaging with strong thought leadership. And more than 80% said that thought leadership has increased their trust in a vendor organization. In other words, for companies that get thought leadership right, the payoff can be significant."I've worked with a lot of agencies and Puzzle Partner is definitely the best in its class," said Jos Schaap, CEO of the award-winning mobile hotel technology innovator, StayNTouch. "Their expertise and insight of the industry has enabled us to sign many new clients and further our understanding of where to focus our sales and marketing efforts to grow our business."For more information about Puzzle Partner, visit

Loyalty Begins With a Smile

Puzzle Partner Ltd. ·22 August 2018
The hotel industry faces this challenge daily. While reading an article on Skift titled, "Google Finds Customer Service Beats Loyalty Programs," I saw this as such a basic point. Of course, great service will trump a loyalty program every time. In fact, Think from Google, the marketing data and research arm of Google, has revealed that the top three considerations when booking travel. The results showed that 60 percent of respondents cited customer service is the most critical factor. The problem is that finding great customer service has become increasingly harder as we, as a culture, are shying away from direct human communication.Of course, loyalty programs have their place as an incentive for people to stay with a single brand, rent a car from one agency or fly on one airline. But do we have to sacrifice genuine human interaction, that includes a smile, for the sake of a loyalty program? In a perfect world, we should have both.The entire bedrock of the hospitality industry is based on personal service. Though there are different levels of service, including self-service, invariably there is always a hotel employee sitting at the front desk that greets guests upon arrival. This person is the frontline ambassador of the hotel, brand and ultimately of our industry. If this person welcomes a guest with a frown or is looking down at a computer screen or ream of paper, the initial instinct of any guest is to feel unappreciated. It's just human nature. On the other hand, when a guest is greeted with a smile and a sincere hello, there is a true sense of happiness. On a biochemical level, smiling releases endorphins, and serotonin. Endorphins are natural painkillers. The more endorphins your brain releases, the more your body can fight off symptoms of illness or depression. Similarly, serotonin is a brain chemical that acts as a natural anti-depressant. The power of a smile is quite incredible when you think about it. Smiling can even decrease one's blood pressure.Having just returned from a family vacation in Europe, it became evident to me the impact a smile can have. We spent ten days on a massive road trip traveling from Germany, thru Austria and then to Hungary. The experiences we had in each country and at each hotel were very different. Driving can be exhausting, (especially when your focusing on not getting the family killed while on the Autobahn). When we pulled up to our hotel, the first thing we all really wanted was to feel at home. On this trip, I must say that the most welcoming country that we visited was Hungary. Yes, Hungary. We were in Budapest to attend the annual Formula 1 race held at the Hungaroring motorsport race track just outside the city. The Budapest hotel we stayed went above and beyond for us. Their staff members, from front desk to restaurant, always had friendly smiles on their faces. It was such pleasurable experience. This hotel has won our loyalty. We will never stay anywhere else while in Budapest, and we are planning to return next year.I guess what I would like to emphasize is that our industry needs to get back to the basics. Training our employees to fully understand that without guests, we do not have hotels, and without hotels, they do not have jobs. And with that, the most simple, yet essential element of great guest service is the smile. Used as a relationship driver, a smile can do amazing things.It's time that we focus on driving true guest loyalty the old-fashioned way. Today's pressures, technology, and distractions can make us all grumpy from time to time, but when a smile is given, a smile is most likely returned, and loyalty will follow.

Heading to Nashville For Hotel Data Conference? Don't Miss These 5 Sessions

Puzzle Partner Ltd. ·14 August 2018
Nashville is known for many things; live music, nightlife, food, and from August 15th until 17th that list expands to include the Hotel Data Conference (HDC) hosted by STR. A yearly, sold-out event staple in the hospitality industry, the conference covers over 20 exciting, insightful presentations, industry outlooks, tips, trends, and so much more. Taking place at the Omni Nashville Hotel, attendees can expect to join in on conversations with industry leaders and panelists and leave with data-backed insights to enhance their hospitality offering in 2018 and beyond. After all, with the trend of hyper-guest personalization continually gaining traction across our industry, the intelligent utilization of data is quickly becoming the key to a hotel's success and longevity.With hoteliers from across the globe getting ready to board their flight to Nashville as we speak, we've compiled a list of 5 can't-miss sessions to check out while attending HDC this year. Life stage, not age: Demystifying guest psychographicsWhen: August 16th 10:45 - 11:45 AM What: Millennials. That seems to be the latest industry buzz-word on everyone's lips as hoteliers race to get ahead of emerging trends relating to guest expectations. While the millennial generation has no shortage of buying power and, without a doubt, represents a major travel segment -- guest behavior and expectations have much more to do with life stage than age. It's not a matter of lumping guests into presumed behavioral brackets based on their age; but rather, indicators are shown by their life stage and those subsequent experiential expectations. Why You Should Attend: This panel will share best practices on how to identify your guests by their life stage and what that means for service, marketing, technology, amenities and more. Panelists: Dave Rubin, Greystone HotelsJeff Senior, KSL ResortsKathleen Hodge, Hilton WorldwideRobert Arnold, Vizergy Fee for all: How hotels are maximizing ancillary chargesWhen: August 16th 10:45 - 11:45 AM What: Leave no revenue opportunity under-maximized. As we speak to revenue drivers for hotels, ancillary charges such as cancellation and resort fees are becoming a focal point of the conversation. Why You Should Attend: Panelists will discuss the risk/reward of instilling ancillary fees within your property, the best way to structure those policies and communicate them to guests, and how ancillary revenue can affect your revenue management strategy and guest satisfaction. Panelists:JB Cooke, AshfordLinda Gulrajani, Marcus Hotels & ResortsPaul Mengacci, Prism Hotels & Resorts Increase revenues with review dataWhen: August 17th 10:50 - 11:15 AM What: We have long-since entered the age of social sharing and feedback. With so many open networks, reviews can become the defining factor in the success of a business. With this in mind, it's no surprise that 96% of guests have left a review for a hotel, and 95% of travelers read reviews before booking accommodations. Why You Should Attend: This session will provide an overview of the top review sources by channel over the past five years, helping hoteliers to understand better operational improvements inspired by trending categories of positive and negative reviews. With this information, hotel properties can better adhere to guest expectations and increase revenue. Presenter: Valerie Castillo, Vice President of Marketing, TrustYou Non-traditional revenue managementWhen: August 17th 12:00 - 12:25 PM What: The question on every hotelier's mind: How can we continuously increase revenue? Are we truly maximizing the revenue opportunity of every hotel room and service? Or are we leaving untapped potential from ancillary revenue streams? Why You Should Attend: This session will explore the topic of "non-traditional" revenue management, focusing on a Las Vegas Strip Resort case study to exemplify how even some straightforward strategic and operational changes can drive strong results. Presenter: Dan Skodol, Vice President, Revenue Analytics, RainmakerIndependents: No flag, no problemWhen: August 17th 10:15 - 11:15 AM What: As guests continuously express a desire for hyper-personalized, unique experiences within the hotel's they frequent, independent hotels have the opportunity to capitalize on their boutique model. With independent hotels representing nearly 30% of the U.S. hotel room inventory, this segment has no shortage of unique challenges and opportunities. Why You Should Attend: This panel will discuss the modern hospitality landscape and the opportunities it presents for unaffiliated hotels, making note of independent key performance indicators, measurements of profitability, distribution options and competing in a highly competitive industry. Panelists: John Davis, Woodbine Development CorporationRaj Contractor, Host Hotels & ResortsStacie Bushaw, NAVISTim Franzen, AJ Capital PartnersThis is my first time attending this event, and I am genuinely looking forward to learning new things, meeting new people and seeing old friends. Our industry is at an exciting time related to technological adoption, and data will be the foundation of every hotelier's decision-making process.It's not the data that matters; it's how we use it. See you in Nashville.

How Everything We Learned in Kindergarten Can Impact the Hotel Technology Industry

Puzzle Partner Ltd. ·17 July 2018
There is a great deal to be said about attending Kindergarten. It is the beginning of one's educational journey that will hopefully have a lasting impact on his or her life. If the career journey you have chosen is within the hotel technology industry, then the impact of Kindergarten will likely be even more significant. I am not suggesting that at the tender age of 4 or 5 you will start to code the next great guest engagement platform. Nor will you be given the educational value that will ensure you fully understand API's or XML Schema. However, at the core of what we learn in Kindergarten are some guiding principles that will always impact the hotel tech industry. First, let's take a look at the basic curriculum framework for Kindergarten which focuses on some very basic elements of communication, the understanding of community, and continuous learning. Below are the main components of today's Kindergarten classes:Aesthetic ExpressionCitizenshipCommunicationPersonal DevelopmentProblem-SolvingTechnological CompetenceSpiritual and Moral DevelopmentI would like to concentrate on three key sections to delve a little deeper into their impact on the hotel technology landscape.CommunicationCommunication is at the core of hospitality industry, whether it occurs during the booking process, on-property or any point during a trip. It is the bedrock on which the hotel industry stands. If we don't communicate effectively with our guests and exceed their needs, then we will likely lose their trust and business. Communication at the technological level is also paramount to the industry's overall success or failure. We have embedded a myriad of systems into the hotel operations world, and if these systems do not communicate with each other, there can be catastrophic outcomes that detrimentally affect the hotel's operations, profits, and relationship with their guest.Problem-SolvingProblem-solving may seem basic, however, in our industry, it can be quite challenging. The demands of our guests tend to drive the development of solutions and platforms that will address their needs. Today's guests are much more difficult to read and often quite fickle. Mobile has entered the fray and is now the primary tool for guest engagement on a daily basis. The industry has jumped at the challenge to address this mobile-centric environment by developing a plethora of guest engagement applications, guest communications platforms and almost everything else under the sun. Have we solved a problem or developed one? The core of problem-solving is understanding the issues that are affecting the guest or the industry at large. Sometimes we do this in a bubble and develop what we think the guest will need - without ever asking their opinion. I sincerely wish that more technology providers invested time interviewing guests and asking them questions that are genuinely relevant to the application or solution development. Grassroots problems-solving through the use of real-world market intelligence is key to the success.Technological Competence Having technological competence included in as part of the Kindergarten curriculum is quite an eye-opener. In our advanced, connected world, children are much more in tune with technology. Such immersion will bring an amazing amount of knowledge and insight into our industry in the near future. Whenever I am traveling, I see children everywhere glued to their smartphones and tablets where they are continually learning unless of course, they are watching movies, but I guess it depends on the movie. In our unique industry, we must always be learning to innovate. We need to learn from our guests, from our peers, and from our mistakes, but most importantly, learning is a constant. We, as an industry, need to cultivate young minds and support them so we can create the most relevant and useful technology to our guests.I personally don't remember very much from my earlier years, but I do understand that those years had an enormous impact on my life and career today. The people around me, the teachers, the mentors, my parents and siblings, all influenced who I am today. Each and every day I am learning from people within our industry, and I thank them for publishing provocative articles, developing great software and for being innovative. It all started with Kindergarten.

Alexa for Hotels - The Good, The Bad and The Creepy

Puzzle Partner Ltd. ·28 June 2018
This past week marked another successful HITEC, the culmination of which left hospitality experts with a lot to think about as it relates to industry-wide innovations positioned to make major waves in 2018. One of the more notable discussion points is the mainstream integration of voice-powered assistants (AI technology) into hotels. In fact, Inc recently announced that it has partnered with Marriott International Inc to help increase guest access to amenities with Alexa, through its voice-controlled device Echo, in an attempt to expand its presence in the hospitality industry. This is an exciting prospect for hotels, as implementing Alexa in a hospitality setting could assist in a personalizing room settings, ordering room service, housekeeping, calling the concierge and so much more. Of course, in the same excited breath that we speak to the potential conveniences which Alexa (and other voice-activated tech) can provide, we have to consider the on-going concern of data security. Especially with the recent implementation of GDPR, the protection of guest data and the proper attainment of documented consent for all data collection should be paramount. However, voice-activated devices are admittedly trudging into uncharted waters, as their ability to gain uninhibited access into user's conversations and preferences comes into question.With this in mind, we've delved into the good, the bad (and even the creepy) that is in store for hoteliers eager to branch into the world of Alexa for hotels. The Good Alexa for hotels offers a wide range of exciting possibilities, including room temperature regulation, turning on lights, sending emails, ordering room service or housekeeping, asking for local recommendations and so much more. Alexa will offer 24-7, efficient and hands-free customer service for every guest, tapping into the desire for increased personalization without over-extending hotel staff. Ideally, Alexa should help hoteliers provide a seamless guest experience as part of the myriad of programs and devices in place to improve hotel operations, and better connect with and serve guests. According to Marriott International, consumer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive thus far. And as far as guests readily engaging with the device? That's been promising as well. According to Volara, for every 1,000 occupied room nights, it is automating an average of 240 item/service requests and 700 guest questions about the hotel and surrounding area. Throughout these pilot programs with Alexa, guests requesting for the device to be removed from their rooms has also been very low. Volara CEO David Berger assures, "We are not capturing transcripts or recordings, and we don't know guests' identity. Just their room number. Meanwhile, Amazon, which does capture recordings once a person says "Alexa," to improve the devices' natural language processing capabilities, does not have access to the guest's identity or room number, ensuring that the information is always anonymous.The Bad Speech-recognition software is by no means new, with the likes of Siri often being used as our iPhone-enabled personal assistant while on the go. However, as the capabilities of speech-recognition and AI evolve within technology such as Alexa, Google Home, smart refrigerators and hotel rooms, the technology continuously becomes smarter. Using real-time experiences (machine learning) to identify and respond to user needs more accurately, these devices are continually collecting and analyzing data. Essentially, in order to serve us, these devices must learn about us -- a concept which may leave some users feeling unsettled or subject to invasive data collection.The concern here is that it's not always clear when Alexa is listening, although it's noted that"Amazon and Google insist their smart speakers do not record voices until someone directly addresses the device with a 'wake word' such as 'Alexa' or 'okay, Google. However, It is possible to accidentally 'wake' such devices, which means it is not always clear when they are listening."Further to suspicions of idle data collection, it's also unclear who should have access to what data, since multiple individuals will typically use the device at different times, which makes for complex privacy boundaries. We also have to consider the fact that the evolving capabilities of voice-powered assistants on such a public scale leaves room for error -- there are bound to be some initial learning curves that leave users feeling vulnerable. An example of such a privacy mishap recently unfolded in Portland, Oregon, when a local woman had private conversations secretly recorded by the voice-controlled Amazon virtual devices in her home. Those conversations were then sent to a random contact in Seattle. While cases like these are a rarity, the user-friendly simplicity of the device which makes it so popular to the general public, also means the security protocol may mirror that simplicity when it should be more complicated. As we'll delve into more later in this article, Alexa is triggered into action by a 'wake word', an exchange which could easily be misinterpreted and mis-triggered. For those of us particularly concerned about Alexa accidentally "listening in," an easy fix is to unplug or mute the device in moments you know you won't need its service. So the question becomes, can we trust Alexa?As the technology continues to improve, we can only hope that these virtual assistants become better equipped to identify different types of information with varying layers of security to prevent private information from being mistakenly shared. As mentioned above, user concerns regarding the misuse of their private information should (mostly) be put to rest, as any information collected is anonymous aside from room number.The CreepyAs Alexa's popularity has picked up momentum, so have the odd-ball stories circulating the web claiming witness to strange or otherwise unexplainable reactions from the device. These include, but aren't limited to, sudden laughter, unsolicited and seemingly random replies, or Alexa speaking without being woken up by a wake word.On one forum, a married couple described the time in which Alexa interjected into their dispute."My wife and I were arguing about something. No clue what it was, but it was getting a little heated. I don't know what Alexa thought she heard, but she suddenly interjected with, "Why don't we change the subject?" It was just unexpected and relevant enough to be creepy. We both heard it, and we both still talk about it years later. There was nothing in the app logs." Another woman detailed that her Mother's Alexa suddenly turned on one day (started glowing) and her Mom asked, "Alexa, what are you doing?" to which Alexa replied, "I'm trying to learn new things." Her Mom replied, "No one told you to do that" and Alexa replied "okay" before turning back off. Of course, while we may love to assume Alexa has an ulterior motive aligned with some sort of Sci-Fi horror movie, there is a reasonable explanation for these occurrences. ZDNetnotes that the most likely cause of an Alexa spontaneous reaction is a misinterpretation of sound. Given how sensitive Alexa has to be to process wake words, sometimes Alexa will react to a sound (even one we might not hear or notice) and interpret that as a wake word or command of some sort. After all, Alexa's sound processing system has to be able to take the sound waves and do its best to interpret what the humans speaking are asking for.AI technology and voice-powered assistants are undeniably one of the hottest topics following the close of HITEC 2018, and there's no doubt they will continue to be a prominent focal point moving forward. Love it or hate it, Alexa is likely coming to a hotel room near you -- and I don't know about you, but I'm interested to see the way in which this technology evolves within our industry.
Article by Alan E. Young

Can I Book My Next Trip on Amazon? An Open Letter to Jeff Bezos

Puzzle Partner Ltd. · 6 June 2018
Dear Mr. Bezos,Amazon has long-since established itself as the fabric that holds together a world of consumers looking for an easy, effective and value-oriented environment to purchase almost anything - except for travel. As a veteran of the hospitality and travel technology industry, I believe Amazon should extend its footprint and offer travel and hotel products to deepen its relationship with customers and position itself as the ultimate end-to-end travel ecosystem. Though Amazon has offered flash deals and travel-related services in the past and Amazon Destinations tested the waters briefly, you have never really taken a true leap of faith. Admittedly, the evolution of travel purchasing (from planning to fruition) has been a bit of a roller coaster. What began with travel agents has grown to include OTA's, metasearch providers, direct booking tools, and now the explosion of mobile complicating the market even further. With many travelers expressing an on-going propensity for the inclusion of activities, local experiences, and tours in their trip planning process - stitching a trip together can prove to be challenging. Further to that, the uncontested dominance of large players such as Expedia, Priceline, TripAdvisor, and Airbnb can create a great deal of angst for any prospective traveler trying to decide how to book a trip or even a single hotel room. These tools and industry giants are meant to make the travel process more accessible, but in reality, that process is still rife with compromise, overwhelming choice, competing channels, and the pressure to make timely decisions and reservations.We have been told for years that a time when this will all become effortless, is just around the corner. Not just for the consumer, but for the travel provider as well, with the creation of a truly open marketplace where all elements can combine to ensure that everyone with a stake in the game gets exactly what they want. But, unfortunately, we still seem to be a long way away from this desired outcome.In a recent Skift article, Brian Chesky, the CEO of Airbnb stated that they are ready to develop Airbnb into a true "ecosystem" or "one-stop shop for travel." This one-stop shop would include experiences, activities, tours, community, and more. In fact, he believes that there will be a massive economy based on experiences - and I agree with him entirely.However, this only takes the travel booking evolution so far.Amazon represents a pillar of frictionless e-commerce and convenience. Shoppers from all demographics find themselves looking to Amazon for daily necessities, specialized items, brand favorites that are no longer available at their local stores, gifts, equipment, competitive pricing -- you name it. With next-day or two-day shipping, ensuring a sought-after item is at your doorstep within 48 hours can be as easy as asking Alexa to place that purchase. Now, imagine if the entire travel process, from start to finish, were also that easy? How can Amazon apply its model of immediate efficiency and ease to the demands of the modern-day traveler? What can Amazon achieve that Airbnb can't? Aside from securing travel specific reservations (flights, hotel rooms and more), imagine the convenience of pre-ordering any travel necessities for your trip, all through one channel? For example, if a young couple is planning for an upcoming vacation to Belize and wants to purchase some new swimsuits, sunscreen, and beach towels, Amazon could represent a one-stop shop for reservations and travel supplies. Even further, travelers could ship those items directly to their destination (timed according to their trip) rather than packing them in their luggage. Perhaps that same couple wants to purchase a book about Belize to commemorate their trip but doesn't have room in their bags -- they could buy it directly from Amazon on their phone and ship it to their home. The travel planning process could shift from one which demands weeks of effort across various channels and contacts to one which can be completed from start to finish in one, trusted online space. And this isn't just an appealing offer for the modern consumer and traveler, but a potentially lucrative shift for Amazon as well. Morgan Stanley notes that his firm's rough ad efficiency analysis (ad spend/transaction) speaks to Amazon's ability to drive repeat/direct traffic, as its estimated $0.75 ad spend/transaction is a fraction of what Booking/Expedia spend. He goes on to predict that Amazon could make $600 million of profits a year if it builds an online hotel business roughly half of Expedia's size.We also have to consider the widespread embrace of voice-powered AI technology. With the continued rise in popularity of Amazon Alexa (and more), consumers all over the planet are demonstrating a desire for complete convenience through means of voice-powered assistants. While AI chatbots and voice-powered search technology is in development within the hospitality realm, it has yet to come to seamless, consumer-approved fruition the way in which Alexa has. An Amazon travel experience could capitalize on this momentum, by including the capability for consumers to book every aspect of travel using a handheld device or via Alexa. Much like having a travel agent at your disposal, 24/7, in the comfort of your home and ready to address questions and requests. I like the sounds of that, and I have a feeling other travelers would too.Let's not forget about Amazon's powerful recommendation engine - the one that lets me know what I may like or need, even before I do! Claiming conversion rates of about 60%, up to 35% of what consumers purchase on Amazon come from product suggestions based on such algorithms. Of course, we're still missing one critical element of the trip planning process -- the vetting of destinations, hotels, activities and more. How do most of us start on our process of elimination leading to purchase? Online reviews. And what online platform has the most in-depth reviews of almost every product available to the average consumer? Amazon. Word of mouth feedback from trusted consumers is one of the most valuable pieces of information to a traveler, especially those looking to achieve a unique travel experience. Evolving the engaged community of Amazon users into a travel ecosystem would help to ensure every user feels entirely confident and informed about each decision they make as it relates to their upcoming trip. Without even setting its sights on the travel sector (yet), Amazon already has a potential lead on this movement towards the creation of a true travel and hospitality ecosystem. Tapping into the established success and underpinnings of the Amazon experience to include travel would enable the Amazon Purchase Ecosystem to deliver on what travelers want, from start to finish.So Mr. Bezos - what do you think? Can I book my next trip on Amazon?

Hotel Tech Sales Has Changed: Decisions Are Made Before Buyers Even Call

Puzzle Partner Ltd. ·30 May 2018
According to a recent survey by Forbes, B2B customers progress more than 70% of the way through the decision-making process before engaging a sales representative. This stands as an alarming realization for some companies, as they may find themselves resorting to aggressive last-minute sales tactics and discounts in an attempt to seal the deal within that final 30%. And, yet -- for those who truly understand the value that content brings (holistic, value-focused and cadence-savvy content, specifically) brings, these findings come as no surprise. Further to that, they are seen in a favorable light, because that 70% represents an exciting opportunity to connect with each consumer in a more engaged manner.Without a doubt, the most successful businesses are those which understand (and cater to) their prospective customer's journey, using the provision of high-quality content to lead them smoothly through the path to purchase.Think about it: If you hit a prospective customer with a hard sales tactic at the outset, why should they feel inspired to invest in your product or service offering? Using that approach, you've done nothing to get to know your customer or provide them value. You're basically embodying a first date gone wrong, barking demands at a relationship that has yet to be established as soon as you've taken a seat at the table. Moreover, if you're a marketer or a business who feels threatened by that 70% / 30% statistic, you're essentially coasting through the first two-thirds of that date, and panicking come the last half hour while you wait for the bill and hope to determine where you stand. Don't be that company. Rather, use content as a critical tool to cultivate a gradual nurtured B2B sales process that is relationship-centric. Take it slow, get to know your potential customer(s), and give them a reason to trust your brand and remain engaged. That's where you will find the coveted sweet spot of content marketing, and that's where you'll see the influx of opportunity within that initial 70% of the decision-making process. Using this model, the first 20% of your engagement with a prospective customer should be entirely focused on addressing the needs of their research with the delivery of high-value, engaging material. Your aim should be to answer the questions your target audience may have or solve a problem while positioning your brand or business as a trusted industry resource and leader. You should use this opportunity to gain insight into your customer demographic, making a note of the way in which they engage with your content -- what they like, what they don't like, what keeps them on the path to purchase and what (where applicable) seemingly pushes them off that path. Combining content that is relevant, timely and personalized with technology that can trigger next-step communications will help to solidify and automate the buyer's journey on their terms, with the purchase goal intact as the destination. This becomes especially helpful in the case of renewal opportunities, or times at which customers seemingly second guess continuing their engagement with your offering. Not only that, but this takes pressure off the marketer, as intuitive technology enables your staff to focus more on quality of engagement rather than timing estimations and tactical guesswork.Product or services aside, the content you create on behalf of your brand should be viewed as an essential part of your core offering. Why? Because, without this precedent of customer-centric content investment, B2B marketers are (metaphorically) pouring water into a leaky bucket. Sure, you can funnel your marketing budget into ad efforts and SEO all you want to increase traffic, but your conversion rates won't reap any rewards if your content doesn't resonate with that traffic. This content includes your landing page, forms, blog, social media presence, email marketing, etc., as these are often the content-rich pillars of your brand's first impression. Don't keep pouring into a leaky bucket -- invest in a new one, and then crank that faucet on at full force to fill it up. Utilizing that initial 70% of the buyer's decision-making process, your brand has ample opportunity to make a lasting impression on each prospective customer. So much so, that by the time that final 30% of the process comes around, that customer doesn't require any drastic sales tactics to be closed. Rather, they're ready to invest in your offering, just as you've invested in them and the natural cultivation of their trust in your brand.To learn more about becoming a thought leader to grow your brand and sales, click here to download our free e-book, "Thought Leader, Market Leader" of visit

What Hotels of Tomorrow Can Learn from the Airbnb's of Today

Puzzle Partner Ltd. ·24 April 2018
This competitive landscape stretches between hotels brands as well as between hotels and non-traditional accommodation models, such as Airbnb. With both service models existing within the same industry and catering to similar guest demographics, there is a wealth of experiential knowledge to be shared/gained as they strive to evolve and improve their respective offering(s). Our industry first welcomed the inclusion of Airbnb in San Francisco, California in August of 2008. The online marketplace and hospitality service for people to lease or rent short-term lodging including holiday cottages, apartments, homestays, hostel beds (and more) has surged in popularity over the last few years. Capitalizing on the modern travelers' desire for a more unique experience, affordability and sense of adventure, Airbnb soon grew into a $30 billion business. As of this year, the company has recorded 300 million check-ins by guests across 4.5 million rental listings. By comparison, the world's biggest hotel company, Marriott International, has 1.15 million rooms.We also must pay tribute to the growing appreciation for start-ups and entrepreneurial ventures, a dynamic which is supported by the open market in which Airbnb thrives. This style of marketplace allows for lower accommodation prices (as compared to some local rates at hotels) which are generally dictated by the natural ebb and flow of supply vs. demand. Since Airbnb is not directly responsible for any physical real estate, this is entirely possible and gives the hosts' complete control of their offering price and guests a plethora of choice. There's also something to be said about the unique ecosystem that Airbnb provides, as guests experience direct communication with the homeowner before, during and after their stay. This relationship allows for a more personalized experience -- within a metropolitan city it might give the guest a sense of home, and in a more exotic location, it might give the guest a taste of local culture. These factors all play a role in capturing the interest of a wide range of travelers, from millennials to families, bleisure guests and more -- a realization that may have acted as a rude awakening for some hotels. After all, it would be difficult for most hotel chains to rival the affordability, unique style and personalized ecosystem offered by Airbnb accommodations. And yet, as the company celebrates a decade of operation, we're realizing that they likely have just as much to learn from the hospitality industry, as we have to learn from them.While a primary argument for the widespread popularity of Airbnb is likely, it's unique accommodation experience, this element of the business model can prove to be a detriment as well. Where guests are seeking a more boutique, relationship-based and adventurous experience, they still crave a predictable service offering. In other words, they want to know exactly what they're getting when they book their stay. While the company screens their host applicants and offers user-generated reviews, guests might find themselves wary of newer properties that may not have adequate pictures or reviews for the vetting process. Where hotels deliver a standardized service structure applied to every room/location, Airbnb accommodation quality relies entirely on the host. Within this (more unregulated) model, some hosts may go above and beyond, while some might cut corners while using the platform as supplemental income. Guest complaints could include host to guest communication breakdowns, non-adjustable thermostats, undesirable bathroom amenities, location-related safety concerns and more. There is also the issue of hosts with higher cancellation trends, or who discriminate against specific guests (for seemingly unjust reasons).This is where the trouble lies, leaving Airbnb to take notes from the hospitality industry as they roll out a new program, Airbnb Plus. The new program entices hosts to apply for better promotion and higher rates but also demands they meet a 100-point checklist of hospitality quality (as verified with an in-person inspection by an Airbnb contractor). Airbnb Plus launched with 2,000 listings in 13 cities (Toronto included) but aims to hit 75,000 listings by year's end.After all, there's something to be said about knowing exactly what to expect when it comes to your travel accommodations. Hotels have traditionally excelled in this regard, but are striving to catch up in the realm of guest personalization and property differentiation. Expanding the traditional hotel framework to include different lodging formats (including communal spaces for the more seasoned, authentic traveler), unique amenities, more genuine hotel to guest communication, self-service technology, and mobile optimization will prove to be imperative in the success of the modern hotel.As we work to envision what the hotels of the future will look like, we would be daft not to learn from the Airbnb model. By understanding the ways in which Airbnb excels (and suffers), hoteliers can better conceptualize the ideal balance between the boutique travel experience, and one which is still entirely controlled and guaranteed.

The CEO's Role as Thought Leader in the New Era of Engagement

Puzzle Partner Ltd. ·17 April 2018
Gone are the days in which CEO's can expect to remain a faceless, behind-the-scenes force of the company. Think Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos - and the growing list of rock star C-level execs. Within a dynamic industry landscape, CEO's across all verticals are stepping up to become the driving market force behind their brand, openly advocating for their company's values, culture, and intellectual capital. A company's brand is often an extension of their chief executive's reputation. Many CEO's have nurtured the organization's products and services from initial conceptualization, to the (sometimes uncertain) beginnings and through to those first indicators of success and consumer-driven momentum. As a CEO, you're committed to the long-game. Positioning yourself as an industry thought leader will give your company a sought-after voice, create a competitive edge, build customer loyalty and ultimately boost revenue. Effective thought leadership establishes a company as both customer-focused and innovative while demonstrating a clear sense of direction and industry expertise. An active thought leadership strategy can even act as the catalyst that helps CEO's to test new ideas. We're entering a new era of consumer and industry engagement that focuses on company leadership. Thought leadership is the driving force of this new era. Not sure where to begin? We can help.Thought Leadership is About Expertise, Not SalesThe first step to effective content marketing lies in the understanding that brands need to give, before they expect to receive. The problem with most content marketing strategies today, is that they clearly demonstrate a one-dimensional intention: to sell. Sales pitch after sales pitch, blogs become a long-form, copy-rich version of unimaginative banner advertisements. Essentially, you're not providing them any value, before asking them to give you something (their business). You're expecting them to invest in you, without investing in them, first. Unfortunately, this mentality fails to understand the dynamics of successful consumer courtship in 2018. Consumers today are experts at sifting through content across various platforms and, as a result, their engagement is entirely selective and often dismissive to this transparent, sales-driven approach.When it comes to most products and services, customers remain loyal to companies they trust. You want your company to be seen as having mastered your industry and offering, continuously bringing new and relevant expertise to the table. Delivering innovation is also key to ensuring that the viewership understands that you have a full grasp on the future.CEO's should jump at the opportunity to address their customers and industry colleagues directly, not just with lead-generation content, but with their own expertise. Being a thought leader does not happen overnight simply because you declare yourself one; it happens when you establish a trustworthy voice for your brand and execute a consistent content cadence. Think about some of your favorite brands and products - how cool would it be to have one-on-one time with those CEO's to pick their brain? That is, at its core, the value of thought leadership. Establish Your Content CadenceIf you aren't committing regular time and content space to thought leadership, you aren't doing it correctly. CEO thought leadership is much more effective -- or should I say, only effective -- when it's consistent. Because when it comes to establishing and maintaining consumer interest, content cadence is everything. With this in mind, carve out weekly space within your monthly content strategy calendar that is directly allocated to thought leadership. As aforementioned, these articles shouldn't be created with the intention to sell or specifically promote your product; instead, they are meant to connect with your audience and cement you as a leading expert and a trustworthy face of your company. Find the topics that are most important to your target audience and use these articles to tackle those industry questions, news, latest breakthroughs, foresight and more. There's Value in VisibilityWhen it comes to content marketing these days, we are all operating within a heavily weighted pay-to-play landscape. Quite simply, visibility can come at a price. However, with a firm grasp of thought leadership and industry-relevant content, the trajectory of visibility drastically increases. Companies are no longer merely paying to occupy a spot on a web page; rather, their CEO's have established a reputation of newsworthy, insightful content and industry commentary. These are the articles which boast higher engagement, earn that 'featured' spot and are more likely to be picked up and shared across partner publications and LinkedIn channels. While traditional PR remains important to a brand's success, it's the inclusion of this kind of genuine content momentum that will help make a household name for your brand. Further, don't be afraid to engage with content after it's shared. Thought leadership content should not be confined to a 'publish it and forget it' mentality. Those leaders who remain part of the conversation on their channels, use panels to start relevant discussions and engage their audience are those which establish the most trust and an authentic brand voice. Keep Your Expertise SpecificContent creation doesn't come naturally to all of us and being a thought leader doesn't mean you need to spend hours slaving over an empty document, at a loss for the words to articulate your expertise. While the ideas, voice, and direction need to be the product of the CEO, there are plenty of opportunities to subtly outsource to industry experts to bring your ideas to eloquent fruition. However, with this in mind, steer clear of outsourcing to generalized marketing or content writers. Thought leadership isn't meant to be general or cookie-cutter in nature. You're not putting out content just for the sake of putting out content -- you're looking to make waves and say something of substance. In order to remain faithful to this purpose, ensure you work with industry experts who are aligned and well versed in your ideas, specific subject matter and industry.

HEDNA Releases Two Highly Anticipated New White Papers for Hoteliers

Puzzle Partner Ltd. ·10 April 2018
HEDNA, the Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association, is pleased to announce the launch of two new white papers developed to help hotels leverage the plethora of content, diverse platforms, distribution channels and data to gain critical insights, optimize their distribution performance and operations. The insightful reports are a prelude to some of the topics that will be explored at the upcoming HEDNA Global Distribution Conference in Lisbon, Portugal.Hotel Descriptive Content White PaperPresented by the HEDNA Content Working Group, the white paper titled, "Hotel Descriptive Content: Considerations for Sourcing and Exchanging Content," describes the current state of content today, including the various content API standards available. The report identifies different content usage scenarios, the key attributes typically applicable to each, and examples of companies that have implemented those scenarios. It also explores the critical questions to ask when evaluating your content needs and the solutions that are available - with a listing of content providers who are offering access to an extensive collection of chains and properties.Highlights from the white paper:Addressing the "content conundrum"Available interface standardsDelivery methods - push and pullExample usage scenariosAddressing the challengesSelecting a content solutionContent providers matrixTo download a complimentary copy of the Content Working Group white paper, visit Distribution, Data Management, and Analysis White PaperThe HEDNA Hotel Analytics Working Group analyzed the results of one of the most abundant survey samples collected and published the outcomes in the white paper titled, "Hotel Distribution, Data Management and: A 2018 assessment on global and regional practices." The 20-part survey was released in October 2017 and over an 8-week period, generated 1,053 global responses, representing over 40,000 hotels and Management Companies. The Survey responders come from all major continents and represent hotels, management companies, and independents. The survey set out to quantify current practice in data collection, storage, and usages, as well as test respondents' overall data satisfaction. Next steps are for the Analytics Working Group to share best practice recommendations for the hotel industry.Highlights from the white paper:Objectives and methodologyA detailed breakdown of survey responsesMain takeaways from each specific segment (Chain, Independent, Management Company)Addressing the challenges in data quality, timeliness, collection, and storageDeveloping formal industry data management best practicesState of the industry and next stepsTo download a complimentary copy of the Hotel Analytics Working Group white paper, visit"With the significant amounts of hotel data and content generated every day, it is more important than ever for organizations to acquire the tools and technologies necessary to gain business advantage and shape the standards for our industry," said Sarah Fults, President of HEDNA. "Associations like HEDNA, offer the ideal forum and opportunity to facilitate active dialogue and collaboration between the suppliers and users of hotel technology. The goal of our working groups and these white papers is to set the stage for future discussions leading up to, and including, the upcoming Lisbon conference in June."Registration is open for the HEDNA Global Distribution Conference in Lisbon, Portugal from June 4 to 6, 2018The theme of the Lisbon event, 'A Conversation with Tomorrow's Guest,' encapsulates the engaging content that will be featured during the three-day conference which takes place at the Sheraton Lisboa Hotel. Hospitality professionals should participate in if they want to stay informed, understand and compete in the dynamic hospitality landscape. To learn more visit About Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association (HEDNA) HEDNA (Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association) is a not-for-profit trade association whose worldwide membership includes executives and managers from the most influential companies in the hospitality industry. Founded in 1991, HEDNA's mission is to be the leading global forum for advancing hospitality distribution through collaboration and knowledge sharing. Its vision calls for HEDNA to be known for creating an environment that fosters strategic collaboration toward business development in the global hospitality industry. For more, visit CONTACT:Ann CramptonHEDNA Associate Director529 14th Street, NW, Suite 750Washington, DC 20045T +1 202 204

Paving the Way to the Future

Puzzle Partner Ltd. ·21 March 2018
Today's world is constantly changing, and the travel and hotel industry is facing many technological challenges and intense competition. When competition is at such a fever pace, innovation is everything. Across various platforms and specialties, we are seeing the enthusiastic embrace of ambitious thought leaders, entrepreneurs and start-ups who are fearlessly carving out their vision of the future. In the past, there were yearly events that enabled travel and hotel technology providers to showcase their current solutions to prospective buyers. Now, due to the rapid change of technology and its impact on the industry, annual conferences and events have included innovation award segments within their regular program that are dedicated to the change-makers that are transforming the technology used by hoteliers. Within these competitions and events, industry professionals are granted the opportunity to display their latest innovations to panels of experts, earning exposure and praise across the hospitality landscape. This past year has been an eventful one for our industry, with no shortage of educational events, thought leadership panels and conferences to showcase the technology which will enhance hoteliers' internal processes and deliver a better guest experience. We've rounded up some of the highlights to give you an idea of what is to come and which travel and hotel start-ups to keep an eye on. Phocuswright 2017 InnovatorsFor nearly 25 years, the Phocuswright Conference has invited qualified attendees to 3 different competition stages (Launch, Summit and Battleground) to showcase some of the most exciting new technology our industry has to offer. The winner of the Travel Innovation - Startup Category takes home a check for $100,000 USD.conichiAward: Runner-Up for Travel Innovation - Startup CategoryWebsite: digitalizing tedious hotel procedures like check-in/check-out, digital door opening and invoicing, conichi is taking an impersonal standard, utilizing it in a smart way to create a new standard in hospitality. Travelers can use an express check-in and can check out via mobile without queueing at departure. Payments are safely made through the app to ultimately save the hotelier and guest valuable time.HITEC TorontoHITEC is the world's largest hospitality technology show, bringing the brightest minds and new tech to one place. During the 2017 show in Toronto, 13 pitchers were chosen depending on the field of applicants. From this selected group, one person from each startup pitched for four minutes to a packed session room and a panel of judges.Each startup competed for the grand prize, or E20X Judge's Award winner, which took home $5,000 USD and guaranteed spots on HITEC show floors for the following 12 months.Stay WanderfulAward: E20X Judge's AwardWebsite: Wanderful brings you instant rewards you actually want. No more waiting to accumulate points - just book on one of their hotel partner's websites and get real rewards you can use right away such as: exclusive retail discounts, free flight credits, free dining credits and free transportation credits. ArrivedoAward: People's Start-Up AwardWebsite: offers hotels globally an online platform to organize their knowledge via Neighborhood Guides. A Neighborhood Guide is a group of articles consisting of recommendations, maps, routes, essential tips and more relevant information that hosts can share with travelers. Each Neighborhood Guide created online is in collaboration with one of their certified Arrivedo travel writers. This content helps guests to learn about local activities and what to do in the neighborhood around the hotel during the booking process.HEDNA Innov8HEDNA's Innov8 session focuses on eight new products, services and businesses in the marketplace that are positively shaping the hospitality industry and the way we conduct business. This is an interactive forum, created to share the innovations made by leading professionals in eight minute, engaging presentations. At this year's HEDNA Austin Distribution Conference, Hopper took home the top Innov8 prize.HopperAward: Innov8 WinnerWebsite: Hopper app for Android and iOS provides insightful, data-driven research to help travelers make better decisions about where to go and when to fly and buy. The app has now expanded its price prediction service to hotels, saving users $34 to $90 per night, on average, when booking a hotel room through its service.HT-NEXT AwardsHT-NEXT has quickly become the must-attend educational and networking experience for hospitality technology professionals and solution providers. The program combines two leading industry events each year -- Hospitality Technology's Hotel Technology Forum and HTNG's North American Conference.BeekeeperAward: The 2018 TechOvation Award presented by HTNG (Hospitality Technology Next Generation)Website: has created a workplace app that digitizes hospitality workers who don't sit behind a traditional desk and don't have access to work email. By connecting operational systems and communication channels within one secure, intuitive platform, Beekeeper is helping hoteliers exchange information, share property updates, and communicate best practices within or across departments in 30 languages.With so many impressive contributions competing for these coveted awards, there is no doubt that the hospitality industry has some incredible, innovative technology in-store for 2018 and beyond. Don't forget to keep an eye on all off the innovators that pitch during these amazing events as one never knows where the next great idea will be born.

How Amazon Go No Checkout Stores Will Influence the Future of the Hospitality & Travel Industry

Puzzle Partner Ltd. ·13 February 2018
Our world is endlessly transformative, with a wealth of technological innovations and advances coming to life and capturing large-scale societal attention on what feels like a weekly basis. Self-driving cars, cryptocurrency, artificial intelligence -- the future seems to be arriving faster than some of us have a chance to take a breath. At the heart of most revolutionary technology exists the progressive desire for increased convenience and efficiency as it applies to our day-to-day lives, businesses and more. Staying true to this trend, Amazon Go recently opened a grocery store like we've never experienced (but probably always dreamed of) in Seattle. No carts, no lines, no cash and no waiting -- a completely cashless grocery experience in which shoppers enter through turnstile gates, grab the items they need and exit the way they came, just like that. While shopping, the store takes inventory of what you pick from the shelves and automatically charges your Amazon account. Could this be the future of shopping? It sure seems like it. According to most experts, there is little doubt that many, if not all of the concepts from the Amazon Go store will be adopted by A-level customer-centric industries over the next five years." If we think about it, the pursuit of automation and mobile optimization has long since begun its takeover. Self-checkout, server-less restaurants, Apple Easy Pay, Uber, mobile orders at places like Starbucks, mobile keys for your hotel room and the rise of voice-powered personal assistants, the need for technology-driven efficiency is paramount. So, the question becomes, how will a revolutionary (and potentially disruptive) advancements like the Amazon Go no checkout store, influence the future of other industries? Specifically, how will the hospitality and travel industry be affected or better yet -- how can it keep up? An Emphasis on Frictionless Experience Sometimes, cutting-edge tech solutions are rejected by consumers, and this occurs when the technology places increased cognitive stress on the consumer based on a complicated user interface. Increased efficiency can't be achieved without simplicity -- if the technology in question doesn't readily make the user's life easier, it simply can't be viewed as efficient. The key to wide-spread adoption lies in frictionless user simplicity and in the case of the hospitality industry, this requires solutions that are easy for both guests and staff to interact with and master.Using the Amazon Go store as an example, we can call attention to the simplistic nature of the "just walk out" process. There is no complicated user responsibility involved in the model; it presents a clear process that can easily be understood and adopted by the general public. For hoteliers, this emphasis on the frictionless experience will be expected at every touch-point, for every guest. No front desk lines, mobile keys, mobile payments for ordering items and special requests and immediate response to service requests. This type of interactions will quickly become the expected standard for hotels embracing the future of hospitality and advanced customer-driven solutions and sales. The Era of Self-Service Has Arrived The future is mobile. Hoteliers are feeling pressure, now more than ever before, to embrace their guest's desire for mobile optimization and self-service functionality. This applies to mobile booking, room keys, check-in, concierge, stores, notifications, payments and more. Guests want to hold all the power, right in the palm of their hand. We should also consider the consumer psychology at work within uninterrupted self-service and how it can empower individuals to spend more. Traditionally, the further we are removed from the "pain of paying" that's often associated with cash transactions, the less we understand how much we're really spending. Additionally, if stuck in a line at check-out, consumers are granted the opportunity to mull over their more impulsive purchase items and potentially change their mind. When you remove these two psychological processes with the help of automated payments and self-service technology, you are tapping into increased revenue potential. This same logic applies to the hospitality industry, as hoteliers can use the frictionless, self-service model to empower their guests to spend more while on property and, most importantly, continue re-booking. Automation Should Enhance Guest Service, Not Replace ItDespite the increased demand for efficiency and self-service, many guests still seek a high-touch, hands-on and personalized approach throughout their hotel stay. The increase in automation within a hotel's core processes should create a subsequent shift in staff roles, allowing them to focus more on helping and guest engagement, rather than transactions. The carefully curated provision of exceptional (and personalized) face-to-face guest service will, without a doubt, become a key competitive advantage and differentiator for hotels. As a hotelier, ask yourself, how can increased automation revolutionize the way your staff engages with your guest?

New Guide Outlines Strategies for Building Thought Leadership, Influence and Market Leadership

Puzzle Partner Ltd. ·25 January 2018
We have entered an age where leadership matters more than ever -- thought leadership, to be exact. Building trust, credibility, awareness, and influence to increase profits is more than just a goal of most CEOs and executives. It's also the topic of a new guide from the leading travel and hospitality technology marketing agency, Puzzle Partner. The firm recently published "Thought Leader - Market Leader" developed to help brands become a sought-after source for information that leads to new business opportunities, stronger relationships, sales enablement and more.By communicating thought leadership, you become part of the conversation, early in the buying journey. According to a study from The Economist Group, around 80% of executives said superior thought leadership influences both their purchasing decisions and choice of business partner. Over 90% of C-Suite executives surveyed agreed that their respect and admiration for an organization increased after engaging with strong thought leadership. And more than 80% said that thought leadership has increased their trust in a vendor organization. In other words, for companies that get thought leadership right, the payoff can be significant."The best time to start content marketing was five years ago, the second-best time is now," explains Alan Young, President of Puzzle Partner. "Thought leadership content should be a natural extension of your current marketing efforts, and every CEO and CMO should make sure that their team has a committed plan, with a steady cadence to maximize results and stay top of mind. This guide is designed to help brands of all sizes do just that. That said, some companies may find that outsourcing to a specialized agency makes more financial sense because it does require significant resources, talent, expertise and distribution capabilities."Available for download through the company's website, the guide details some simple steps companies of all sizes can take to improve their brand recognition, boost search engine visibility, expand their network, build authority, and earn the respect of their industry to grow their business. CLICK HERE to get your free copy today at more information about Puzzle Partner, visit

HEDNA Tackles Costly Payment Challenges at January 2018 Global Distribution Conference in Austin

Puzzle Partner Ltd. · 8 January 2018
The upcoming HEDNA (Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association) Global Distribution Conference has become the go-to place for hotel industry payment insights, education and best practices. The nearly sold-out event will deliver the most comprehensive information, resources, and dialogue to help hoteliers gain control of the complexities associated with regulations, virtual payments, data security, GDPR and guest demands when it comes to payment strategies.The conference, which has attracted top delegates from hotel chains, multi-properties, independents, management companies, technology suppliers, payment companies and many others, takes place from January 29th - 31st, 2018 at the Sheraton Austin. This year, the payment tracks take center stage to address important topics including how to implement a 'guest centric' payment strategy, how to right size a hotel's third-party costs from a payment perspective, virtual payment trends, compliance, B2B payments, as well as solutions for upcoming issues such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The elite group of speakers and presenters is comprised of payment experts and influencers from Braintree - A PayPal Company, Ingenico, Edgar, Dunn & Company, Worldpay, Elavon, Hilton, JP Morgan, WEX, Onyx CenterSource, and Voxel Group. For a full list of topics and presenters, visit Hotel Analytics Working Group will also share the wealth of data received from the 1,000+ HEDNA members and non-member participants in a recent survey. The analysis and White Paper provide recommendations and guidelines to educate hotels globally on how best to use their data to optimize both profit potential and long-term asset value.Other highlights of the event include the highly anticipated Innov8 session and a "Hackathon" produced in partnership with TNOOZ focusing on artificial intelligence and emerging technologies in hospitality.For more information and to register or sponsor, please visit Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association (HEDNA)HEDNA (Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association) is a not-for-profit trade association whose worldwide membership includes executives and managers from the most influential companies in the hospitality industry. Founded in 1991, HEDNA's mission is to be the leading global forum for advancing hospitality distribution through collaboration and knowledge sharing. Its vision calls for HEDNA to be known for creating an environment that fosters strategic collaboration toward business development in the global hospitality industry. For more, visit

2018 HEDNA Conference in Austin Attracts Global Industry Leaders and Attendees

Puzzle Partner Ltd. ·19 December 2017
HEDNA (the Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association) is gearing up to host the Global Distribution Conference from January 29 through the 31, 2018. Leaders and experts from across the globe will meet in Austin, Texas for three days of technology and industry-focused keynotes, networking, breakout sessions and discussions.Innovation in Technology is the theme of this year's conference and the action packaged agenda is set to deliver the most comprehensive information, insights, and dialogue on emerging trends that impact the hotel industry. Across the educational tracks at the event, each session will present a snapshot of the most transformative ideas shaping the future of hotel distribution from tech industry leaders, hoteliers, entrepreneurs, executives, influencers and more. HEDNA, in cooperation with Tnooz, is also organizing and producing a "Hackathon" focusing on AI and emerging technologies in Hospitality.On its way to selling out, the conference has attracted top delegates from hotel chains, multi-properties, independents, management companies, technology innovators and many others. Attendees and sponsors include:HiltonWyndham HotelsHomeAwayExpediaInterContinental Hotel GroupDisneyMGMDuettoWorldPayOnyx CenterSourceMarriottCitizenM HotelsOmni HotelsSnapShotIDeaSTriometricsDHISCOPegasus SolutionsDataArt TravelhospitalityPulseCloudbedsDerbySoftKognitivSabre Hospitality SolutionsWEXLeonardoReviewPro"This is an incredibly dynamic time in our industry," said Sarah Fults, president of HEDNA. "It's vital that we engage in meaningful discussions and collaboration. This conference provides an amazing opportunity to do that. We are so proud to be attracting such great hotel and technology companies who are all focused on advancing the hotel distribution landscape."Another highlight of the event is the Innov8 session. During this interactive forum, eight leading professionals from our industry will share their innovations in eight-minute engaging presentations. Best of all, this year an award will be presented on the last evening of the conference to the best Innov8or.For more information and to register or sponsor, please visit Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association (HEDNA)HEDNA (Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association) is a not-for-profit trade association whoseworldwide membership includes executives and managers from the most influential companies in thehospitality industry. Founded in 1991, HEDNA's mission is to be the leading global forum for advancinghospitality distribution through collaboration and knowledge sharing. Its vision calls for HEDNA to beknown for creating an environment that fosters strategic collaboration toward business development inthe global hospitality industry. For more, visit CONTACT:Ann CramptonHEDNA Associate Director529 14th Street, NW, Suite 750Washington, DC 20045T +1 202 204

HEDNA Data Analytics Survey Generates Significant Industry Response, Results to be Presented at Austin Conference in January

Puzzle Partner Ltd. ·30 November 2017
After launching its Hotel Analytics Working Group Survey only six weeks ago, HEDNA (the Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association) today announced a record-breaking first completion rate of over 1100 participants, who represent 45,000 hotels based on the submissions from international chains, hotel groups and independent hotels. The results of the comprehensive study will be presented at HEDNA's upcoming conference with plans to keep the survey open until Summer 2018.For more information and to register for HEDNA's Global Distribution Conference taking place January 29-31st in Austin, Texas, please visit's Hotel Analytics Working Group, co-chaired by David Turnbull (Co-Founder, SnapShot) and Matthew Goulden (CEO, Triometric) designed the survey to host a broad range of questions related to how hotels manage their data, including critical topics like the impact of integrations, cost of distribution and data reliability. The impressive sample size will enable solid analysis of identified trends, positive factors as well as efficiency shortfalls and opportunities to optimize channel mix and other operational areas. The success of the quality and quantity of respondents to the survey further underpins HEDNA's leadership position, at a time when data across all industries is increasingly vital to competitive survival.Sarah Fults, president of HEDNA, commented "With global coverage across many different categories, this survey represents one of the largest respondent samples in the industry. With the support of our members and Allied members, we were able to reach and gain valuable insights from hotels chains, multi-properties, independents, management companies and many others. We are keeping this survey open to gather as much input from hoteliers as we possibly can. Our goal is to bring together hoteliers and trusted partners to identify the facts that define the distribution landscape today and HEDNA is proud to be focusing one of our working groups on this important effort."HEDNA's leadership will leverage the insights to develop unique global and regional perspectives on how data is collected, stored and used from a distribution perspective. The first wave of these results is now being converted into actionable best practice guidelines to educate hotels globally on how best to use their data to optimize both the hotel's profit potential and long-term asset value."It is now more imperative than ever to fully embrace the data that impacts the hotel industry on a daily basis," stated Rajesh Vohra, Managing Director of Sarova Hotels. "The challenges that hoteliers face in managing not only their distribution strategy but fully understanding the costs associated with distribution and 3rd party interactions needs to be met head-on. Having an association like HEDNA targeting this challenge and helping the industry implement best practices is welcomed."Anyone wishing to participate in the survey should visit via To learn more about the HEDNA Analytics Working Group, visit Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association (HEDNA)HEDNA (Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association) is a not-for-profit trade association whoseworldwide membership includes executives and managers from the most influential companies in thehospitality industry. Founded in 1991, HEDNA's mission is to be the leading global forum for advancinghospitality distribution through collaboration and knowledge sharing. Its vision calls for HEDNA to beknown for creating an environment that fosters strategic collaboration toward business development inthe global hospitality industry. For more, visit CONTACT:Ann CramptonHEDNA Associate Director529 14th Street, NW, Suite 750Washington, DC 20045T +1 202 204

Puzzle Partner and HEDNA Join Forces to Deliver Quality Content for the Hotel Industry

Puzzle Partner Ltd. · 9 November 2017
Leading travel and hospitality technology marketing agency Puzzle Partner, today announced their latest alliance with HEDNA, a global forum dedicated to the advancement of hospitality distribution anchored by a fundamental belief in strategic collaboration and knowledge sharing. HEDNA is making bold moves to lead the category and is looking to Puzzle Partner to support their initiatives and help take the association's industry impact to the next level.Puzzle Partner will be distilling and condensing working group content to ensure that HEDNA members are receiving valuable updates tailored to their needs and business, which will, in turn, also assist in driving membership for the association on a larger scale. The agency will utilize their team of writers, each with significant proficiency and insights relating to the hotel industry, to support the content and delivery of HEDNA specific publications. With the onset of this new engagement, Puzzle Partner continues to expand its reputation as the preferred marketing agency and content provider for the travel, tourism and hotel industry."The HEDNA community creates critical, relevant content that benefits everyone in hospitality and Puzzle Partner is the right choice for us as we broaden our scope," said Sarah Fults, President of HEDNA. "It is now even more imperative that hoteliers worldwide be fully aware and educated on the dynamics of hotel distribution so that they can make the best strategic decisions regarding where and how they sell their rooms inventory."HEDNA encourages an open exchange of information, continued professional development amongst members and the global conferences focused on the latest trends and dialogue in hotel distribution. This variety of expertise lends itself to the continuous advancement of member education, a core concept which HEDNA is focused on. The non-profit organization will be hosting its next Global Distribution Conference in Austin, Texas from January 29th-31st. The event is a renowned international networking opportunity dedicated to sharing the latest information, insights, and dialogue on emerging trends that impact the hotel industry. Sessions run during the conference will provide participants with the very best in transformative ideas and information as they relate to hotel distribution, shared by industry leaders, entrepreneurs, executives, influencers and more.Alan Young, president of Puzzle Partner, adds, "The delivery of top-tier content to specific hotel-centric outlets and social networks will deliver greater brand and working group visibility, an on-going benefit to both the association and its members. We are honored to be working with the talented team at HEDNA to inspire hoteliers and very much looking forward to a very successful long-term relationship."For more information about Puzzle Partner, visit Puzzle PartnerPuzzle Partner Ltd. is a boutique marketing agency focused exclusively on complex B2B initiatives for the travel and hospitality technology industry. We are experts at combining strategy and tactical execution in a way that doesn't just maximize a company's potential; it redefines it. By delivering influential content, marketing services, and public relations rooted in the skills of our team and tested through real-world experience, we help our clients gain visibility, raise their profile and ultimately increase their sales revenues. To learn more visit HEDNAHEDNA (Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association) is a not-for-profit trade association whose worldwide membership includes executives and managers from the most influential companies in the hospitality industry. Founded in 1991, HEDNA's mission is to be the leading global forum for advancing hospitality distribution through collaboration and knowledge sharing. Its vision calls for HEDNA to be known for creating an environment that fosters strategic collaboration toward business development in the global hospitality industry. For more, visit

Using Agile Marketing in 2018 to Maximize Results, While Minimizing Risk

Puzzle Partner Ltd. ·18 October 2017
It's no secret -- the process of building out your 2018 business plan and marketing strategy can, more often than not, feel like gambling. Are you going to wager all your chips (marketing dollars) on black or red, odd or even? Should you make a high bet, or an inside bet? What happens if your bet is a bust? Did you just gamble away the potential success of your business or product?What if we told you that you could minimize that perceived risk, while maximizing results? Typically, the missteps experienced in marketing strategies (especially those specific to content marketing) stem from the misunderstanding of preferred content streams and social platforms popularly used by the target consumer, their core values and their subsequent buying behaviors and motivation(s). The problem here is, if a critical misunderstanding exists, but a company goes full steam ahead on that misinformed idea using the bulk of their marketing budget, recovery isn't always a walk in the park. And no one is exempt from this experience; even industry giants such as Pepsi and Dove (to use recent examples) have felt the effects of poorly developed or executed, high budget marketing campaigns that promptly imploded on a very public scale, leaving their PR teams scrambling to pick up the pieces and re-strategize.Large-scale marketing campaigns can also take a great deal of time to develop, approve and implement -- leaving companies at the mercy of a marketing landscape that is, more often than not, rapidly shifting to align with evolving consumers. Basically, if you take too long to come to the table, there might be nothing left waiting for you. This is where the concept of Agile marketing comes into play. The Agile marketing methodology revolves around the efficient implementation of mini, micro-campaigns (or critical segments of a larger campaign) that are released in waves using a highly collaborative approach from your entire team. This allows companies to effectively test and gauge consumer response in smaller doses, without utilizing all (or the majority of) their marketing resources in one shot. With an increase in speed, transparency and adaptability of company process, team members can focus effectively on minimal increments of each project until they become suitable for release or testing amongst consumers. After all, it's frequently said that, within the realm of digital marketing, you need to be able to 'fail fast'. If what you're doing isn't working, you want to know now, not later. The Agile approach capitalizes on this understanding, and ensures you are never putting all your eggs in one basket, so to speak. Instead, you're setting yourself up to fail (and more importantly, learn) fast and adapt quicker than your competition, because you can discover an adjustment that needs to be made after a well implemented mini-campaign or test, almost immediately. Basically, to be agile within the marketing sphere, your business has to continuously leverage data and analytics to identify opportunities, roll-out mini campaigns and adjust existing campaigns or solve problems in real time. The entire approach is based on the traditional rugby 'scrum', where the ball is constantly being moved back into play while two teams are huddled together, pushing and crowding around the ball. In order to score, the ball has to be continuously passed backwards. Applying this format to Agile marketing, to be truly 'agile', a team has to be extremely collaborative at all times, with everyone playing their part in moving the ball (a strategy or campaign) forward to score (positive consumer response). A successful Agile marketing campaign requires everyone on the team to work towards a common goal, understanding that the process is, at it's core, entirely iterative and subject to continuous evolution. When a company is truly agile, they should be able to run hundreds of campaigns simultaneously, while constantly producing new ideas each week.The results speak for themselves. According to Mckinsey, "Even the most digitally savvy marketing organizations, where one typically sees limited room for improvement, have experienced revenue uplift of 20 to 40%. Agile also increases speed: marketing organizations that formerly took multiple weeks or even months to get a good idea translated into an offer fielded to customers find that after they adopt agile marketing practices, they can do it in less than two weeks." So, what does an Agile strategy actually look like?As a great case study example, the Extended Campuses of Northern Arizona University had always used a traditional marketing model, which consisted of annual budgets which fueled 50 or so marketing initiatives throughout the year. As the University become more aware of the rapid pace of the digital marketing realm, they realized they needed to change their process to adapt, remain efficient and relevant.That's when they discovered Agile marketing. Instead of relying on annual plans, they switched to shorter-term bursts of collective focus (one or two months ahead, versus an entire year). This shift in their marketing approach allowed them to be more responsive to their client needs, and move quickly to adopt necessary changes.Instead of assigning a project to a single individual, who then had to push the work through freelance graphic designers and wait through various approval/editing phases, they broke down big projects into smaller, prioritized segments. Within Agile marketing, this breakdown is called a "sprint". The segments were then assigned to individuals (chosen based on skills and availability) within the department, who were able to complete their contributions (creating the collective whole) with ease within two weeks. This not only minimized the time required to complete each project, but the University was able to reduce the amount of outsourced work, which helped to reduce costs. According to the reports, the University has been able to hire more full-time writers and part-time designers, and in 2013 the marketing department created more than 200 collateral pieces-- four times what it produced the previous year. The marketing team limits itself to one hour of meetings a week, with twice-weekly 15-minute "scrum" meetings which help team members to remain accountable and share information without wasting time. Their productivity is up 400%, and sprint tasks have a nearly 95% completion rate.Ask yourself, is your business in need of Agile marketing makeover?

Why Travel & Hospitality Brands Can't Ignore the Power of LinkedIn Pulse for B2B Marketing

Puzzle Partner Ltd. ·14 September 2017
As a hotel or travel brand, if you're not focusing your attention on LinkedIn Pulse, you're missing out on a potentially huge opportunity and audience. In April 2017, LinkedIn reached an impressive milestone, as it confirmed over 500 million people use its professional social network. Yet the platform often doesn't enjoy the same level of affection nor respect as other, seemingly more trendy networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.Today's consumers and executives, regardless of industry, are looking for transparency, not self-serving promotion. LinkedIn Pulse offers an incredible vehicle to meet this demand by publishing content, which highlights the authentic side of a business with advice and insights from leaders and executives.LinkedIn's Place in the Social Media LandscapeResearch shows that 89% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn to distribute content, more than any other social media platform and second only to email.However, there's a more valuable statistic - its effectiveness.According to LinkedIn, 80% of B2B social media leads come from the platform, with 43% of companies directly sourcing a new customer via this route. A report by the Content Marketing Institute states that 94% of B2B marketers regularly use LinkedIn to distribute content. It is also the most potent lead generator and boasts of a visitor-to-lead ratio that is three times higher than its competitors.If you want to tap into the power of LinkedIn, one of the best places to focus your attention is where blogging deftly combines with social networking: LinkedIn Pulse. The feature is not available on company pages, however, if your personal account is linked to your business account through your bio, your posts will raise the profile of your company, too.Pulse is an investment; it will take time and should not be viewed as a quick solution. Experts agree that while your audience for Pulse articles may start small, consistent posting and engagement with relevant groups will inevitably grow your audience and influence.The Influence of LinkedIn PulsePulse has come a long way since its introduction as an app for Apple's iPad in 2010. It's now an easy-to-use interface directly integrated into your LinkedIn newsfeed, which is ideal for publishing long-form content.Posts appear in the newsfeed of your primary connections and are ranked in Google. However, there's great potential for increasing your reach beyond your established audience.Here are six fundamental benefits to engaging the power of LinkedIn Pulse in hotel and travel B2B marketing.1. You Have a Built-In AudienceIt can be difficult to build an audience simply by posting content on your company blog and distributing it across social media channels. Pulse gives you a head start, as your connections and followers automatically receive a notification when you publish, and your article appears directly in their newsfeed. According to LinkedIn, 6 out of every 10 LinkedIn users are interested in industry insights--the most-demanded type of content among LinkedIn members.However, don't replace your company blog with Pulse, but use them as complementary platforms, each reaching a different audience.2. Drives New Visitors to Your Website and Generates Quality LeadsLinkedIn Pulse is the most effective social media platform for driving new visitors to your website. Include a link to your company blog, landing page, or products and services pages in your post, as an easy route to your site. LinkedIn's a business-focused network, so readers are actively looking for information and are naturally more likely to engage. Include a clear CTA in your content to nudge them in the right direction.3. It's Excellent for SEOThe fact that each article you publish on LinkedIn Pulse is automatically ranked by Google, combined with its impressive ability at sending new visitors to your website, means Pulse is a highly effective part of your SEO strategy. Plus, because the platform experiences such high volumes of traffic, your Pulse posts are highly likely to have a natural boost in the SERPs.4. Showcases Your Professional Expertise & Thought LeadershipsThe more authority your business demonstrates, the more sought after your services will be. In fact, thought leadership led to 41% of C-Suite executives including a company in an RFP opportunity and more than half of C-Suite decision makers have lost respect and admiration for an organization because of its poor thought leadership content.By regularly publishing rich, long-form content discussing industry news and educational articles, you're positioning yourself as a thought leader in your field and building credibility for your brand.Focus your attention on topics you specialize in, and always write with your target audience in mind. But don't just hit publish and walk away. Hang around to reply to comments, answer questions and comment on other relevant posts, and participate in LinkedIn Groups. It's all helps to cement your reputation.5. Increases Brand Awareness, Credibility & TrustDifferent social media networks attract slightly different audiences, and many companies will focus their attention on one or two networks. By publishing to LinkedIn Pulse, you have yet another opportunity to distribute your content and increase your brand visibility and builds credibility. You'll reach a much wider audience, build influence, and have an advantage over your competitors that don't use the platform effectively.Maximize impact by promoting your LinkedIn content to your email list, join relevant LinkedIn groups to share your posts with, cross-post to other networks, and ask your readers to share/like/comment on your content for an extra boost.6. Provides Useful AnalyticsLinkedIn provides us with lots of useful analytics, such as who visits our profiles and reads our Pulse posts. You get some nifty metrics, including a demographic breakdown of your audience and details of those who read, liked, shared and commented on your posts. Depending on the type of LinkedIn account you have, you can add these people to your contact list. If they've interacted with your content a handful of times, reach out to them. You could gain a new customer.77% of B2B marketers plan to increase their use of LinkedIn in the future. Strategic use of LinkedIn Pulse can elevate your company's marketing plan to the next level, with dramatic results for your business. With 50% of LinkedIn members reporting they're more likely to buy from a company they engage with on the platform, it could be a game changer for your social media marketing strategy.Are you using LinkedIn as part of your marketing strategy? If so, please share what's working and what isn't @AlanEYoung.

WITHorg Set to Play a Role in Advancing Workplace Equality in Tourism and Hospitality Industry

Puzzle Partner Ltd. · 6 September 2017
With only two weeks left before its inaugural launch on September 18th, the Women in Tourism and Hospitality ( conference is set to empower, inspire and motivate change for female leaders.Themed "Moving the Needle," the all-day conference will recognize and give visibility to the extraordinary talent and service of phenomenal female executives who are leading the way and making significant contributions to the industry. To purchase tickets to attend the "can't-miss" event, please click on this link - PURCHASE TICKETS.In a traditionally male-dominated industry, an increasing number of women are entering the industry and assuming top positions, but the reality is few women make it to the upper echelon of management. "It's a fact that men hold most senior management positions," says Anne Larcade, co-founder of the conference and a global organization, WITHorg, whose aim is to foster professional development amongst women."We're hoping that the industry comes together to promote this very important initiative," says Rosanna Caira, co-founder of the conference. "By asking key questions within the industry and sharing best practices, companies can help drive the necessary changes that will allow women the necessary tools and skills set to progress to upper management roles. Our immersive panels and workshops featuring representation from diverse companies such as Air Canada, Marriott, and McDonald's Restaurants of Canada will be insightful and instructive."By sharing best practices, the conference will look at practical solutions for change. "When it comes to hiring for new positions, is your company embracing research-driven practices that reduce bias? Does your employer embrace pay transparency or other accountability measures for providing equal pay for equal work? Are they promoting equal parental leave policies that enable working parents to thrive?" asks Caira.The mission-driven thought leaders, entrepreneurs, and professionals will gather and also make the world a better place by amplifying the needs of three distinct charities: Special Needs DreamWorks; The Tory Day Fund and Worlds Collide Africa. Co-founders Larcade and Caira are using the conference and membership as a platform for social enterprise to help women and children. All three charity founders will be in attendance at the conference highlighting how even one person can make a difference.WITHorg offers women and men in the tourism and hospitality sectors an opportunity to join the collective movement to advocate for fair workplace policies, incubate change and network. Participants at the conference or as members include company presidents and CEOs, hotel general managers, Human Resources executives as well as executive chefs, food and beverage professionals and airline executives."Women's leadership advancement is slowly reaching a tipping point," says Larcade. "Women's voices are rising. But so are those of supportive men -- especially ones in senior-leadership positions. Smart, progressive companies are finding ways to incorporate both men and women into the process of attracting, retaining, and advancing women in the workplace. Tourism and hospitality operators have a global opportunity to disrupt our industry and make meaningful change.""When men's voices join women in advocating for these policies on the corporate, national and global levels, we double our collective power," adds Larcade.Become a member of WITHorg and receive $100 off the conference registration.WITHorg is actively seeking sponsors and champions to help lead the worthwhile collective. For additional information on sponsorships, contact Rosanna Caira atrcaira@kostuchmedia.comAbout WITHOrg Women in Tourism and Hospitality OrganizationWITHorg (Women in Tourism and Hospitality Organization) is dedicated to the advancement of women in the tourism and hospitality industries. With support from industry partners, WITHorg delivers impactful leadership skills development for talented, high potential women, including shared stories and experiences of women executives. Ongoing training and networking opportunities and performance matrix also deliver innovative research on diversity in the tourism and hospitality industry to members. WITHorg is a social-enterprise movement supporting Specialneedsdreamworks ; worldscollideafrica; and the ToryDayfund.To learn more visit

Women in Tourism and Hospitality Announces Speaker Lineup for Inaugural Conference in Toronto

Puzzle Partner Ltd. ·10 August 2017
Women in Tourism and Hospitality (, an organization dedicated to the advancement of women in the tourism and hospitality industries, today announced the program lineup for its upcoming inaugural conference taking place in Toronto on Sept. 18, 2017, at the Park Hyatt Hotel.The exciting roster of speakers and panelists includes Kirstine Stewart, Chief Strategy Officer of Diply GoViral as the keynote speaker and Kathleen Taylor, Chair Royal Bank of Canada and past President and CEO of Four Seasons Hotels will open the conference. Marriott, Air Canada, Host Hotels, Tourism Toronto, have all climbed on board. Proudly presented in association with Hotelier magazine and Sequel Hotels & Resorts, this inspiring collective will allow delegates to learn from thought leaders and hear first-hand success stories which have the potential to change individual lives and corporate diversity initiatives. Interactive panels and workshops will create collaborative exchanges. A full list of speakers and event schedule can be accessed at was founded by two industry icons, Anne Larcade, president & CEO of Sequel Hotels and Resorts and Rosanna Caira, Editor & Publisher at Kostuch Media, which publishes Foodservice and Hospitality magazine and Hotelier magazine. The organization operates as a network of collaborative-curated community members, whom all use the network to leverage platforms for leadership and expansion of women's training in removing barriers towards an equal society.Become a member of WITHorg and receive $100 off the conference registration."Our movement and tribe, WITHOrg, is all about curating and connecting mission-driven entrepreneurs, women in travel and tourism, who are making a real impact in the world," explains Anne Larcade, co-founder of WITH. "We believe that dreamers, inventors, entrepreneurs, and innovators in our companies are the key to real social change. Our role is to talent scout these superheroes and to find champions to help 'move the needle' and narrow the gender gap."McKinsey Global Institute (2015) reports stronger performance in companies with women in leadership positions and many use dedicated programs to develop women executives for a broad range of industries. However, most tourism and hospitality industry companies are not driving leadership development of this caliber internally. WITHorg's goal is to provide solutions and be thought leaders globally on how this can be driven, measured and celebrated."Women make up a considerable percentage of the front line in our industry, yet less than 11 percent are in C suites roles, and approximately 7 percent are speakers at top hospitality industry conferences." This is an imbalance," Larcade states."Our immediate goal is to provide information, skills, and networks to help women in their careers, while at the same time create and measure initiatives to enrich companies with actual strategies to improve and measure diversity in the workplace," adds Rosanna Caira.WITHorg is actively seeking sponsors and champions to help lead our collective. For additional information on sponsors contact Rosanna Caira atrcaira@kostuchmedia.comTo purchase tickets to attend the can't miss event, please click on this link - PURCHASE TICKETS. About WITHOrg Women in Tourism and Hospitality OrganizationWITHorg (Women in Tourism and Hospitality Organization) is dedicated to the advancement of women in the tourism and hospitality industries. With support from industry partners, WITHorg delivers impactful leadership skills development for talented, high potential women, including shared stories and experiences of women executives. Ongoing training and networking opportunities and performance matrix also deliver innovative research on diversity in the tourism and hospitality industry to members.To learn more visit

Hotel News PR Delivers News Releases Directly to Hotel and Travel Media, Influencers, and Top News Sites

Puzzle Partner Ltd. ·17 May 2017
Today is the official launch of Hotel News PR, the first-of-its-kind press release distribution service dedicated exclusively to helping brands get their news delivered to thousands of media contacts and industry insiders in the hotel and travel industry. Through engagements with PR Newswire, media monitoring platforms, and leading online outlets, Hotel News PR offers a turnkey way for hotels, technology providers, startups, lifestyle brands, agencies, and marketers to get maximum visibility at the best price of using a single portal.Powered by Puzzle Partner, Hotel News PR is a unique press release distribution environment, whereby users can gain access to a targeted audience of journalists, media, and consumers looking for the latest happenings in the travel and hospitality niche. With tiered packages, guaranteed placement options, and expert writing services, organizations can build brand awareness, boost SEO and increase sales. The service offers the ideal way to gain exposure for new partnerships, funding announcements, new integrations, client wins, company news, tradeshow invites, product launches, or "evergreen" story pitches."We recognize that the hospitality industry requires a very targeted approach to marketing, but the current generalized news distribution services available cast a wide net with limited results," explains Alan Young, President of Puzzle Partner. "We decided to launch Hotel News PR as a way to centralize the process of content syndication with a simple pay per release plan that does not require a retainer, membership fee or monthly contract. Our proprietary list of contacts as well as our preferred partnerships enables us to streamline distribution and help users save time and money. We believe that this model is the future of specialized news and content distribution."Having pioneered the commercial news distribution industry over 60 years ago, PR Newswire, a Cision company, ranks #1 with journalists and bloggers as the most trusted news source and has 35,000 active PR Newswire for Journalists community members. A recent case study demonstrated results through PR Newswire garnered increased revenue, brand awareness and 260% more website traffic than all other paid marketing sources combined, including PPC, digital and other advertising revenues. "We are always looking for visionary partners, and with their proven background in the hotel and travel industry - Puzzle Partner is the perfect fit for this initiative," said Amanda Eldridge, Director, Strategic Channels at PR Newswire. "Working alongside Puzzle Partner and combining our offerings to launch Hotel News PR will ultimately enable B2B and B2C hospitality companies to scale their business as it relates marketing and communications."To learn more, visit Hotel News PRHotel News PR is the only distribution service that delivers your message to a targeted audience of journalists, media, bloggers and influencers looking for the latest happenings in the travel and hospitality market. Through a preferred partnership with PR Newswire and leading hotel industry specific outlets, hospitality and travel brands can use the centralized online portal to get their news and content syndicated to thousands of business, lifestyle, consumer, technology and business sites across the globe (AP, NYT, Yahoo! Finance, MarketWatch, and more). With expert writing services, guaranteed placement options, and no monthly fees or long term contracts, Hotel News PR is the most efficient and affordable way to drive demand, engage audiences, enhance client relationships, and build investor confidence in the hotel and tourism industry.
Article by Alan Young

The Impact - And Importance - Of Virtual Reality in the Hotel Industry

Puzzle Partner Ltd. ·12 May 2017
AR essentially takes virtual reality (VR) to the next level. Instead of immersing users in a different world, AR superimposes digital content over the real world. AR captured the world's attention with the success of Pokemon Go in the summer of 2016. Pokemon Go is a game where players hunt and capture Pokemon, tiny virtual creatures, that are hiding in real-world locations and visible only in a smartphone camera view.According to a recent Phocuswright analysis, "Tech's Fourth Wave Meets Travel," travel companies and hotels can learn a lot about future opportunities associated with AR from the Pokemon Go phenomenon, including the ability to engage guests, generate demand, and how the virtual world inspires real-world action that can translate into real revenue. And with investors pouring $2.3 billion into VR/AR startups, this immersive tech is set for rapid growth.Hotels from big brands to budget boutiques are slowly entering the AR arena. While big brands may use expensive connected glasses or mounted headsets such as Microsoft's HoloLens, many hotels rely on proprietary apps and AR-enabled smartphone browsers to do the heavy lifting. Users can aim their phone camera at a point of interest to receive images along with added information. Implementing an AR strategy using smartphones is an effective plan for hoteliers considering that 43 percent of tech-loving Millennials are on their phones every five minutes, 83 percent sleep with them, and now at 83.1 million strong, Millennials are poised to become the biggest customer segment for hotels worldwide.Hotels must step up their "technological game" if they hope to differentiate themselves and engage with this lucrative market. Let's look at some key ways AR technology will impact the hotel industry.Booking Rooms. AR technology will allow potential guests to explore rooms before they book. Travelers will be right there inside the room to see exactly what different sizes and floor plans are available. Potential guests may be persuaded to upgrade to a suite by seeing the additional amenities, incredible views and how spacious it is.Exploring the property. Instead of relying on website images and ordinary paper brochures, potential visitors will learn what a hotel stay "feels" like. Through interactive experiences, travelers can virtually visit a hotel's restaurant, spa or fitness center. An eco-friendly hotel might take users on a virtual tour of its rooftop herb garden or show off green building materials, helping to build customer loyalty. The Mansion at Casa Madrona uses an augmented, printed brochure that can be scanned to immerse the user in the luxurious property.Restaurant experiences. Hoteliers can embed AR content on their restaurant menu, enabling non-native guests to read it in their own language. Taking this a step further, imagine a guest sitting in a hotel restaurant and being able to get suggested drink pairings, read customer reviews and watch how the chef prepares the dish they're considering ordering. At the Inamo restaurant in London, AR images are projected onto the tables letting guests choose their own table theme.Local attractions. Guests often choose their hotel based on its proximity to area attractions. AR tech will not only allow users to view a hotel location but can also recreate significant historical events or cultural experiences of nearby destinations. Hoteliers could add an AR feature to their existing proprietary apps similar to "Paris, Then and Now" which shows users what different sites in Paris looked like in the past, based on where they're standing. Or guests can virtually try a local activity, such as a hang-gliding adventure, before choosing to go. In addition, opportunities for the hotel to advertise other services grows the longer a guest spends interacting with their app.Marketing. Hotels can leverage AR tech on their website or billboards placed in airports and high-traffic areas. Scanning through a smartphone camera will trigger images and information about the hotel. A beachside resort may entice potential visitors by immersing them in a video from the viewpoint of a guest lounging in the sun while sipping a cocktail, a promotion for their happy hour drinks hovering in the foreground. AR will increase guest satisfaction as well because they'll know what to expect before they book.Hotel Management. AR will also impact business and back-of-house operations. The advanced tech can bring blueprints and artist renderings to life, letting potential investors clearly envision the end result. And in the realm of staff training, hotels can create real-life scenarios that teach skills and help employees more effectively interact with guests.Although the AR trend for hotels is still in its early stages, it may not be long before cutting-edge virtual environments that include the feel of ocean breezes or the scent of cooking food become mainstream. The rapid adoption of Pokemon Go demonstrates how ready people are to embrace this innovative new tech trend, and hotels that ignore it will find themselves left behind. It's clear that AR has a profound role to play in the future of the hotel industry.


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