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

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

  • New Global Directors Join the 2018-2019 HFTP Board

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What You Need to Know About GDPR and Data Privacy: Lisa Loftis of SAS Talks to Marketing Smarts [Podcast]

MarketingProfs·Requires Registration ·28 February 2019
On May 25, 2018, the General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) took effect. Some companies ignored it and now need to know how to proceed. Others worked quickly to come into compliance with GDPR's stringent rules about data collection and privacy; those companies are now finding ways to benefit from their status as GDPR-compliant. Whichever group you're in, you might be wondering how GDPR has changed our industry.

The Top 7 Hospitality Trends Every Hotelier Should Watch in 2019

The Rainmaker Group ·30 January 2019
Last year proved to be a strong one for the U.S. hotel industry, with occupancy, average daily rate (ADR), and revenue per available room (RevPAR) all trending positively. For 2019, STR and Tourism Economics1 optimistically project another year of growth. Changes in supply, however, will impact local market occupancy levels and hoteliers' pricing power, with many hotels experiencing more intense competition among key guest segments. To maintain profit margins, and stay ahead of the curve, consider your business in light of these top seven hospitality trends.Appealing to Next-Gen Travelers In 2019, we'll see increasing focus on Millennial (Generation Y) travel trends, as Millennials overtake Boomers2 in population this year. Historically, the travel industry has treated business and leisure travelers as two distinct entities. But Millennials - who are expected to account for nearly half of all business travel spending by 20203 - are more likely to extend a business trip into a leisure vacation (bleisure). And adventure-seeking Millennials have championed the burgeoning "experience economy," valuing unique, cultural experiences over material possessions.4Generation Z (those born between 1995 and 2000 depending on which source you use) are coming up hot on the Millennial's heels when it comes to desire for changes in travel. While both generations share many similarities, one key difference between Gen Zers and Millennials is their desire for security. Having grown up during the Great Recession, Generation Z tends to be more pragmatic and fiscally responsible when it comes to travel.Hotels can attract more Generation Y and Z customers in 2019 by offering off-the-beaten-path activities and opportunities to interact with locals, all the while incorporating incentives and discounts that appeal to their budgets. When it comes to F&B,5 both generations favor communal dining tables and organic, locally sourced dishes over fancy fare. And they're connected 24/7, with technology influencing how they shop and pay for travel. So, conveniences like mobile check-in and chatbots that provide instant answers to questions are increasingly important. Personalization 2.0In a move that mirrors the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), last summer the California legislature passed the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)8 which goes into effect at the start of 2020. The new law will affect the state's privacy landscape in terms of personal data collection. And is likely to create an impact that will spread across the entire country.Despite this however, the demand for greater personalization, or hyper-personalization, is increasing. With the vast majority of travelers willing to share personal information and preferences in return for greater convenience and personal touches. And many are willing to pay a premium10 for those personalized services. A survey by IBM Global Business Services9 revealed that more than 70 percent of hotel guests report positive experiences with personalization.To achieve hyper-personalization, hotels must devote resources to harnessing the power of data, collecting and analyzing information at every customer touchpoint from your proprietary website to social media. Cloud-based solutions unify that information across technology platforms, giving you actionable insights into ways you can tailor individual guest experiences that will drive repeat business and increase revenues. As an example, perhaps a repeat business traveler routinely declines your parking option. Advanced systems can detect this behavior pattern and replace it with a more relevant offer, such as round-trip shuttle service or a drink voucher in the hotel lounge.Reinvented Loyalty ProgramsLoyalty programs are popular with Millennial6 and non-Millennial travelers alike, with about half of all U.S. leisure travelers7 now belonging to one. Today's travelers are demanding more flexibility in their loyalty program experience. Not everyone wants a discount or complimentary night's stay as a reward. A change we'll see in 2019 is a move away from the points-only reward system.You can increase guest satisfaction and on-property spend by making points liquid and spendable anywhere within your brand experience. This may include guests using points for a spa treatment, restaurant meal, or in the gift shop. Reimagined programs are also offering experiential rewards, such as tickets to live events, wine tastings, or exclusive activities. A deep understanding of your customers will help you determine which rewards speak most effectively to them, allowing you to forge deeper connections and adding greater value to their stays.Integration over IsolationIn the past, revenue strategy, sales, and marketing have functioned in isolation. Each with their own goals, technology solutions, and customer databases. Their efforts were rarely aligned, with each using different data sets to develop marketing strategies and make key pricing decisions. The result was missed revenue opportunities, less effective direct marketing, and lower profitability.Throughout 2019, we'll see a convergence of revenue strategy, sales, and marketing into one cohesive revenue-generation team, working in coordination to acquire, engage, and retain guests. Integrated technology solutions, particularly those utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze Big Data, will help increase hotel profitability by enabling cross-functional alignment and generating a single customer profile. One that takes into account detailed information like past preferences, reason for travel, length of stay, and booking behavior.Total Revenue OptimizationAnother trend that's emerging, is total revenue optimization that takes the full lifetime value of guests into account. Hotels are applying revenue optimization strategies to all hotel profit centers, going beyond a pure rooms focus to include F&B outlets, ancillary revenue sources, and conferencing spaces. In addition, hotels are becoming more strategic with group bookings. New tools have emerged that allow sales to quickly and accurately evaluate group business. Systems instantly generate optimized pricing, allowing hotels to close more deals while maximizing groups and meetings total revenue.Social Media Matters In the evolving world of digital marketing, hoteliers cannot afford to ignore the tweets, Instagram pictures, and Facebook posts that now define the social media domain. Millennials in particular are extremely active on social media, with 91 percent trusting online reviews11 as much as they would a personal recommendation.Reputation management and having an active social media presence are crucial for your business success in 2019, with 49 percent of leisure guests, and 43 percent of business guests,12 regularly sharing views about their most recent travel experiences on social media. Hotels can engage with guests on social media, obtaining a gold mine of guest preference information and post-trip feedback. In addition, effective and free advertising in the form of user-generated content (UGC) will continue to grow. Hotels are even creating "Instagram-worthy" scenes on property to encourage photographs.Sharing Economy Impact Disruption caused by the rise of the "sharing economy," has reshaped the behavior of travelers. Guests appreciate platforms like Airbnb for their personalized approach, authenticity, and uniqueness. And with 68 percent of travelers13 seeing no noticeable difference between hotel chains, hoteliers have their work cut out for them.Brands seeking to compete effectively with alternative accommodation sites are updating room decor with distinctive, local touches. And transforming lobbies into relaxing coffee shop-style settings that speak to the desires of today's travelers for combination co-working/socializing spaces. Furthermore, on the revenue strategy side, hotel managers are capturing more market share by accessing granular data and leveraging analytics in order to understand market penetration, pricing, and the dynamics around elasticity associated with these platforms.This year is poised to be an action-packed one for the hotel industry, filled with new challenges and changes. By understanding and embracing these trends that are steadily transforming the industry - and putting the right tools and systems in place - you'll improve guest experiences, enhance your reputation, and optimize your revenue in 2019 and beyond.

Current Hotel CRMs May Be Doing More Harm Than Good

Concilio Labs, Inc. ·24 January 2019
Hotels worldwide are looking for technological advances to thrive in this competitive environment. As a result, many are turning to CRM systems to gain an advantage. Hotels are pouring millions of dollars into driving loyalty through guest engagement, but without reliable data and technology, many initiatives fail to deliver. While CRM can, at its core, represent so many things, CRM technology is the system hotels have in place to manage interactions with current and potential guests. The prioritization of building relationships is nothing new to the hospitality landscape. Hotel CRM technologies have taken many forms over the years as they evolved to meet modern demands of businesses and consumers alike.In industries where the customer is king (which is every industry), CRM acts as the integral connective tissue between brands and their consumers. Within the hospitality industry specifically, it seems we have been talking about and investing in creating a 360-degree view of the guest for decades. However, the unpleasant truth is that most of the legacy systems achieve the opposite impact. They create independent silos of data that hinder growth, rather than creating a cohesive and whole picture of the guest profile in an actionable way. Although CRM technology has the potential to positively transform your offering, it also has the capacity to harm your operational model if the tool fails to meet rising industry standards. Are current hotel CRMs doing more harm than good? The short answer is quite possibly, yes.While customer relationship management seems to be a simple concept, it's a complex process, particularly given the ever-evolving number of channels and systems that contribute to guest experience and data today. Relying on basic demographic data or guest history is no longer enough to connect to the modern traveler. With credit to social media, hoteliers have a new array of sources to obtain guest data from, and forge unique guest relationships. Social media platforms also act as preferred channels of expression, meaning they offer valuable insight into personal preferences and more (who each guest is, why they stay at a hotel, booking behaviors, social influence, reviews, etc.). This means a truly effective CRM technology must offer the capacity to access data from disparate and growing sources and make the insights available in a user-friendly way. When hoteliers learn about their guests, they should anticipate their guests' needs and fulfill them. Otherwise, hoteliers fall victim to incomplete/improper segmentation and lose the ability to properly understand guests that offer the most value to their hotel or provide relevant and personalized marketing and context. Effectively, by using most antiquated CRMs, hoteliers miss out on vital aspects of the guest experience and conversation.It is also important for CRM systems to consistently and automatically update information, to ensure hoteliers aren't relying on outdated data to inform their marketing efforts and reach guests. With accurate information at their disposal, hoteliers can then begin the process of attaching meaning to that information -- developing insight-driven strategies to effectively reach guests at the right time, through the right channel and with the right messaging. With the recent implementation of GDPR, privacy concerns are top of mind for hoteliers eager to stay within the industry's new, prescribed limitations. CRM databases cannot provide valuable data if that data is collected without explicit permissions - it's important for CRM technology to employ effective communication prompts for privacy requirements.In today's customer-centric world, one of the most essential aspects of your CRM should be its ability to integrate seamlessly with other systems, both existing and those yet to be developed. A hotel's operational model is much like an ecosystem and requires various moving parts (and technologies) to work together in alignment. If a hotelier is using their CRM platform as a standalone system, they're not only creating more work for themselves, but they aren't tapping into the potential of CRM. Data is useless without context, and the integration of other integral systems with a CRM platform provides that context and a complete picture of each guest. It's critical your CRM system can connect with your existing technology, whilst also offering a user-friendly process to ensure there is no barrier to adoption for new staff.The bottom line - CRM is a powerful piece of software for any hotel. You can use it to correctly segment your guests in order to market your property, upsell products and services, and engage with new and existing guests. Just make sure you choose to move past traditional CRM systems to a product that allows your property to holistically view the true portrait of a guest - across all channels - and to engage with them in the right place, at the right moment, to drive both connection and conversion.

Do US Consumers Want GDPR-Like Data Protection Rights?

Hotel Online·24 January 2019
Most consumers in the United States would welcome personal data protection rights similar to those established last year by the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), according to recent research from SAS.

9 Email Marketing Trends to Watch in 2019

MDG Advertising ·21 January 2019
Email is amazing.While it doesn't tend to get the same buzz as channels such as social media, email quietly delivers extraordinarily impressive results for marketers year after year.Just how impressive?Email has a median ROI of 122%, more than four times higher than any other digital marketing format.Email is nearly 40 times more effective than social channels in helping brands acquire new customers.Marketers rank email as the channel that has the best combination of effectiveness and ease.Email marketing has been steadily effective for so long that an important fact about it is often overlooked: it's still evolving.From the platforms that power campaigns to the ways consumers consume messages, email is undergoing profound changes.What are some of these shifts? Which innovations and changes in behavior could have a big impact on the field in the next 12 months? Here are nine key email marketing trends we believe every brand should keep a close eye on in 2019:1. The Ever-Growing Importance of DesignEmail began as a purely text-based channel and that has often continued to be the primary focus. Traditionally, marketers have paid some attention to things like headers and images, but the bulk effort has gone towards developing good copy.Finally, that's starting to change. Brands have begun to realize that effective campaigns are as much about the visuals as the words, and they are starting to focus on design elements such as icons, illustrations, and button colors. Expect to see even more of this in the year ahead as marketers witness increased engagement from their design efforts.2. Mobile-First Becomes a MustWhat's behind the increased focus on design? In part, the same thing that's driving many of the current changes in email marketing: the shift from desktop/laptop computers to mobile devices.Some 55% of emails are already opened on mobile devices, up from just 29% in 2012, and that share is expected to steadily grow in the coming years. In other words, email is now mobile-first and every decision that marketers make in the next 12 months (the length of messages, how they are displayed, etc.) should take that into account.3. More Video Content in EmailsIn addition to the rise of mobile, there's another broad digital trend that is impacting email marketing: the rise of video.Video is expected to make up 80% of all Internet traffic by the end of 2019; 54% of consumers want to see more video content from marketers, and audiences say they are more likely to retain marketing messages delivered via video. Combine all that with the fact that email platforms are making it easier to deliver visual pieces in campaigns, and this could be the year that more video makes it into messages.4. True Email PersonalizationFor a while email personalization was mainly superficial; marketers would "individualize" messages by simply including something like the recipients name.Thanks to more powerful marketing platforms and richer data that has started to give way to true personalization. Brands are increasingly targeting highly specific content and offers to individuals based on past and predicted behavior.This approach already yields impressive results -- 82% of marketers reportincreased open rates with rich email personalization -- and is set to become even more effective in the year ahead as tools become more sophisticated.5. The Impact of Artificial IntelligenceWhy are email marketing platforms expected to become more sophisticated in 2019? Largely because of artificial intelligence.AI is no longer something out of science fiction: the technology is now being implemented across a wide-range of areas. Concerning email specifically, artificial intelligence can already help marketers develop effective content (topics, subject lines, etc), optimize send times/frequency, and predict audience actions.That's just the tip of the iceberg. AI is evolving rapidly and there should be many more real-world applications coming for email marketers in the year ahead.6. The Increased Use of Triggered EmailsTriggered emails -- messages delivered only when an individual has taken a certain action such as subscribing, abandoning a shopping cart, etc,. -- have a 71% higher average open rate and 102% higher average click-through rate compared with general newsletters.Those numbers are driven by the fact that marketers tend to have greater insight into intent when it comes to triggered emails (what the individual did/wants/etc.) and can deliver more relevant messaging. That effectiveness, and the fact that audiences tend to be less annoyed by triggered emails, is a strong argument for their increased use in 2019.7. More Interactivity in Email CampaignsHere's a simple fact that marketers often forget: emails can be interactive.All too often, campaigns are thought of as being static rather than dynamic. Today, though, marketing platforms make it possible to add a host of interactive elements to emails, such as image carousels, hamburger menus, clickable hotspots, and navigational anchor tags.There are also other more simple tactics marketers can utilize to enable audiences to engage with messages, such as including a 'reply to us' option for recipients. At minimum, brands should consider experimenting with this sort of basic interactivity to boost engagement in 2019.8. Respecting Privacy and Data Rights Will Remain CriticalThe biggest email story of the past year was the GDPR. The regulations adopted by the EU put in place strict controls on how marketers can collect/use data and gave consumers much more control over their personal information. Suddenly, many of the approaches brands had taken for years, such as buying email lists, became questionable.While the GDPR concerned European citizens, it was by no means an isolated event. Consumers across the world are deeply concerned about how brands are using their data and the issue is certain to remain at the forefront for years to come. Case in point: the California Consumer Privacy Act goes into effect in 2020 and will impact US email marketers in similar ways to the GDPR.9. The Need for a Unique VoiceEvery day individuals and businesses send more than 293 billion emails, and that number is expected to increase to more than 333 billion by 2022.In other words, consumers' inboxes are flooded with messages.How do you break through that noise to get your campaigns opened and read? In part, through some of the approaches already discussed: utilizing personalization to deliver highly relevant content, sending messages based on triggered actions, and optimizing subject lines with AI.There's also another way to stand out: by having a unique voice. That may sound like a little thing, but it's hugely important. Developing a distinct tone gives marketers a big advantage when it comes to email; it makes messages different and instantly recognizable to audiences.Of course, the need for a unique voice is nothing new -- it's been important since the advent of marketing. That highlights yet another thing that makes email amazing: it's the perfect blend of old-school and new-school. Ultimately, it is the best of both worlds. It is a channel that remains very familiar to brands while also integrating the latest digital advances.

Major Trends to Watch for at HSMAI NY Conference

Go Moment ·17 January 2019
As I think about what to get excited about at HSMAI's Digital Marketing Strategy Conference 2019 taking place later this month in New York, the fast-evolving guest experience comes to mind. And, of course, hotel guest experience in 2019 will be enabled by more and better technologies. Here's what I see trending:The Impact of Voice-Enabled Intelligent AssistantsSmartphones already come with voice-activated assistance built-in. Amazon recently revealed it had sold over 100 million Alexa-enabled devices. Google announced that 1 Billion devices support its Assistant product. This news validates that people are not only getting used to giving voice commands to their phones but that they want to control everything with their voice. "By 2022, Juniper Research predicts that Americans will be using nearly 900 million voice-assistant-enabled devices across smartphones, tablets, PCs, speakers, TVs and cars, a 95% increase over today," writes NPR's CMO Meg Goldthwaite in Ad Age.Think about the implications of this. Consumer adoption of AI has finally reached a tipping point. People's behaviors and expectations of technology-enablement are changing once again, especially when the technology - voice-activation -- is so easy to use that it doesn't feel "techie" at all. Google's data shows that 70% of Google Assistant requests are expressed in natural language and that one in three people globally will use digital assistants to search for and book travel. In fact, just this week, Google announced that it had added hotel booking and flight check-in for U.S. users of Google Assistant. According to Phocuswright, as many as 35% of those age 18 - 34 and 28% of 35 - 54-year-olds are already using smartphone digital assistants to book their hotels.What guests are already doing with their smartphones and in-home devices, they also want to do in their hotel rooms. As early as 2016, Aloft hotels started integrating Siri voice-activation into their rooms. By May 2018, Microsoft's voice assistant Cortana had a working integration with Alexa-enabled devices, and in June 2018, Amazon launched Alexa for Hospitality with Marriott onboard -- guests can use their in-room Alexa to personalize their experiences and request hotel services. Hyatt and Google also just teamed up to bring Assistant to more hotel rooms. And at this month's massive CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, voice tech was everywhere: from trash disposals and other household appliances to cars, televisions, and shower systems to name a few. Voice is where it's at: when a trend proliferates at CES, we all better pay attention.Innovative Technologies Will Continue to Disrupt HospitalityWhen I think of hospitality disruption, my Top Three are artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML), the Internet of Things, and voice. I just covered voice, so let's discuss the other two. I recently wrote a piece, "A Guest-Centric Future Powered by AI," in which I described how AI works and how it can be used to automate and simplify many of the rote volume tasks that hotels have to contend with every day. These days, guests value their experience above all else. AI can also be used to improve guest experiences by anticipating and delivering useful content, extracting useful guest feedback, and drastically expediting service.Because the programs informed by AI are capable of improving over time, they can continue to improve the speed, quality, and relevancy of guest communications. This learning power makes AI an incredible tool for accelerating predictive analysis and decision-making. Think of all the various decisions hotel management contends with on a routine basis. Decisions about pricing and revenue optimization, inventory management, marketing, staffing, guest services and more. Then imagine having the hard, predictive work already done. Management can make decisions faster, or, in some cases, have decisions fully automated and already put into action. AI even learns from and avoids the repeating of bad decisions, something that's sometimes hard to teach to its human counterparts.When it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT) and its application in hospitality, I've already referenced the emerging appearance of intelligent assistants in hotels. Connected devices guests already use at home and in their own lives -- smart thermostats and room lighting, smartwatches and fitness monitors, mobile-activated keyless entry, wireless headsets, smart TVs, even medical and safety alert devices - are also beginning to be offered at hotels. Hotels are also concepting useful IoT that guests might want but which they do not find at home -- things that will further surprise and delight them: A wall-length smart mirror in front of which they can do their morning core-toning regime and on which their vital signs appear. A projected keyboard that turns the in-room smart TV into a fully-functioning work station without the guest having to lug a laptop on vacation. A smart wine dispenser that pours a perfect glass of wine that's ready by the time the guest merely opens the door. This is the kind of enhanced hotel stay future we can expect with IoT.Advancing personalization while managing consumer trust and GDPR Personalization has been an elusive holy grail for the travel industry. What guest wouldn't want an experience that wasn't completely and perfectly customized for them, right? The problem is that this kind of perfect personalization is still nearly impossible to pull off. There are too many disparate data sources, too many duplicative guest records, and guests are not yet ready to willingly part with all of their data in order to get the kind of personalization that we all imagine they want. Layer on top of this the new European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and very public data breaches like the one Marriott revealed late last year and delivering this kind of optimized personalization becomes even more of a challenge. The industry has to contend with both technical and consumer trust issues. Look for this to be a hot topic for both marketing and hotel operations.As we look at the year ahead, it's clear to see that the mounting pressure to provide extraordinary guest experiences will continue to force hospitality marketing and operations closer and closer together. As hoteliers continue to adopt and adapt to new technologies, they'll be challenged to do so at an ever-faster pace. It makes for an interesting landscape, with a select few players having actually elevated the guest experience for tens of millions of guests. The interesting question to ponder at HSMAI may be, who will deliver a fully-connected and seamless guest experience to one billion guests first?

How to Win the Battle Between Privacy and Personalization

Hotel Online·13 December 2018
It’s hard to believe that 2018 is drawing to a close. It’s safe to say that few topics this year have been more relevant than the themes of both privacy and personalization. Hoteliers are swimming in opportunities to learn more about their current (and prospective) guests than ever before. But with that opportunity to swim also arrives the opportunity to sink. Many hoteliers find themselves stuck between the need to personalize their offering with user data and the need to tread carefully within new GDPR rules and regulations. If they don’t tap into guest data to curate a more personalized, unique experience, they may not appeal to guests — but if they don’t secure data the right way, they’re putting guest privacy (and their reputation) at risk.

How to Win the Battle Between Privacy and Personalization

Concilio Labs, Inc. ·13 December 2018
But the battle isn't as simple as sink or swim. Modern consumers decidedly connect with brands who understand (and cater to them) on a personal level, while privacy concerns are at the forefront of that same conversation. McAfee surveyed 6,400 people globally to learn more about how they handle and protect personal information. The survey revealed that one third of those surveyed did not think they could control how companies collect personal information. In a 2016 global study, unwanted marketing was cited as consumers' top concern about businesses using their personal data (59 percent), followed by their data being sold to third-parties (58 percent) and organizations having unsecure systems (55 percent). But in that same breath, the personalization guests crave today extends far beyond a hotel just knowing their name upon arrival or their ability to receive targeted and personalized marketing communications. Today, savvy consumers expect their preferences to be saved within systems and devices, their voice commands to be recognized by digital assistants, and their hotels to offer specialized upgrades, room preferences and personalized communications. The modern consumer is fueled by instant gratification and hyper-connectivity; these are all concepts that thrive on the availability of relevant user data to curate a unique experience.How can hotels (safely) tap into guest data in a way that benefits their guest and their travel experience, without neglecting privacy measures? Ultimately, how can hoteliers can win the battle between privacy and personalization? There is not a single, easy answer. As most (if not all) of you know, GDPR was brought into effect to strengthen and unify data protection for all individuals within the European Union (EU). Following the longstanding realization that privacy standards are often not sufficient to truly safeguard the personal data, GDPR was enforced to give power back to consumers. This legislation applies to all data about persons in the EU (both guests and employees) and demands that hotels keep clear records and documentation of what personal data they access, where it came from, how it is shared and the consumer-provided consent to obtain that data. Given that hotels operate with the use of online travel agencies (OTAs), PMS, CMS systems, mobile apps, social media and more, understanding how to navigate within the means set by GDPR is ever-important. However, the GDPR framework was not put in place to limit hotelier's ability to access guest data and utilize that information to curate an improved, personalized guest experience. Rather, it was created with the intent to ensure hoteliers are transparent with their guests as they collect, and best utilize, personal information. So, what's the trick here? Find a happy medium. Guest data isn't out of reach; it's simply protected. Rather than taking, storing, and sharing without permission, hotels are now required to earn the trust of their guests. Provide your guests with clear communications when looking to collect or store information, attach clarified incentive to the provision of that information, and give them good options. Keep track of who consented, when they consented, what they were told at the time, how they consented and if consent has been withdrawn for any reason.The work required to get in compliance is not insignificant, but these updates will also encourage more engagement from your prospective guests. After all, a recent Salesforce study found that 63% of millennial consumers are willing to share personal data for personalized offers or discounts, 61% of millennial consumers for personalized experiences and 58% for personalized recommendations. Consumers are willing to share with brands, as long as they're given adequate reason to and can trust that their personal information will be used to curate an enhanced experience. Establishing guest trust, rapport and winning customer service experiences may require a little more work on behalf of hoteliers, but the reward is worth the return. Instead of sinking against the data, you'll swim into blue waters of a personalized, engaged guest experience.

9 Resolutions Every Marketer Should Make for 2019

MDG Advertising ·12 December 2018
As we head into the new year it's time to make some resolutions.On top of personal commitments -- does eating healthier, getting physically fit, and saving more money sound familiar? -- what should marketers seek to improve professionally? Which approaches should you embrace to make your marketing efforts more efficient and effective?Here are nine resolutions we believe every marketer should consider making in 2019 to have a more productive and prosperous year:1. I will use social media to engage, not just to postOver the past few years, many brands have fallen into the habit of using social networks primarily as distribution platforms for content and advertising. While this is certainly an important role, it is not the only one. In the year ahead, brands should remember that social media is a powerful tool for interacting with audiences, not just for delivering offerings.Why is using social to engage so important? Because utilizing it as a service channel can lead to a big payoff: 71% of consumers who have had a good social media service experience with a brand say they are likely to recommend it to others.2. I will embrace voice-controlled assistantsDigital is undergoing a profound shift that marketers should pay close attention to in 2019. Thanks to the integration of platforms such as Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant with smartphones and other devices, consumers are increasingly utilizing voice rather than typing to ask questions and issue commands.Some 58% of consumers say they have already used voice search to find a local business and it is predicted that half of all searches may be conducted via voice by 2020. This is important to brands because voice and typing spark different types of queries and are processed in different ways by digital platforms. That means it's necessary to employ targeted tactics to optimize your offerings for voice.3. I will respect consumers' privacy and protect their dataIn 2018, the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) gave consumers much more control over their digital privacy and imposed strict requirements on how businesses can collect and use data.This should not be dismissed as a one-off event or as the act of overzealous European regulators: GDPR is just the tip of the iceberg and it highlights the growing concerns consumers across the globe have about how brands use and protect personal information. Given that, ensure that you are diligent in the year ahead about respecting consumers' privacy and protecting their data.4. I will focus on quality, not quantity when it comes to contentHere's a sobering statistic: it's estimated that 5% of a brand's content generates 90% of engagement, on average.One takeaway from this is that quantity is not the solution to your problems: simply producing more and more pieces is not likely to attract more interest, boost interactions, or generate more revenue.Ultimately, focusing on quality is vital. If you concentrate on developing a few superb pieces rather than on many mediocre ones, your content investment will reap a much higher return.5. I will be transparent and honest with my audiencesWhat do people want from marketers on social media? Transparency.Some 81% of consumers say brands have a responsibility on social networks to be transparent and 86% say a lack of transparency makes them more likely to take their business to a competitor.As for what demonstrates transparency, it's relatively simple: consumers say they want brands to admit mistakes, provide honest answers to questions, be clear on pricing, and avoid withholding information.6. I will start with my mobile deviceIt's no secret to brands that mobile is ascendant. More than two-thirds of Americans now use a mobile device to access the Internet and more than half of US online traffic originates from smartphones and tablets.Despite this, when reviewing digital campaigns many marketers still default to using a computer. This desktop-first approach in a mobile-first age creates a disconnect between consumers and brands.So, what can be done? Try learning from what a very old-school organization, The New York Times, did to emphasize the importance of mobile. For a period of time, the publication blocked the desktop version of its site in its offices, thereby forcing its staff to make their phones or tablets primary rather than secondary.7. I will pay attention to the metrics that matterWhile measurement is always a good thing, many marketers continue to pay too much attention to vanity metrics and too little attention to actionable metrics.What's the difference? As HubSpot puts it: "Vanity metrics include data such as social media followers, page views, subscribers, and other flashy analytics that are satisfying on paper, but don't move the needle for your business goals. They offer positive reporting, but no context for future marketing decisions -- something actionable metrics can do."Often actionable metrics are more difficult than vanity metrics to collect and analyze, but the effort is worth it. Fundamentally, your marketing efforts will only become more effective if you truly know what is and isn't working and if you know which specific things need to be done in order to improve.8. I will maintain my brand voiceOften marketers will spend time developing their brand voice but then lose it when executing campaigns.This is understandable. With constant demands on time, and so many channels to engage on, it's a difficult challenge to concentrate on carrying your identity across everything you do.Our advice: do it anyway. Your brand is your defining attribute and must be part of everything you create. We've seen over and over again that whether it's through design cues or vocabulary, maintaining consistency in all facets of a brand can exponentially increase its recognizability.9. I will embrace the changeFinally, here's some food for thought: less than two decades ago Facebook and YouTube didn't exist, the iPhone hadn't been released, and print was the second-largest advertising channel.In other words, while things may seem relatively stable in the moment it's important to remember that we live in an age of rapid advancements. While emerging platforms and approaches may seem like just buzzwords today, they could soon be critical to marketers. For example, it's estimated that the augmented reality and virtual reality markets will surpass $94 billion by 2023.Of course, there's no way to predict exactly what will become big and what will fizzle. What we do know is that things won't stay the same. For marketers, then, the most important resolution may simply be to adopt a mindset. In the year ahead, don't become entrenched; instead, start to get excited for what's new and embrace the change.

Guest Privacy - It's Your Business

JMBM · 8 December 2018
That obligation has become increasingly complex due both to the vulnerability of hotel companies to breach, and the enactment of laws and regulations, worldwide, that impose additional burdens on hotels - the EU's General Data Protection Regulation, California's Consumer Privacy Act, as well as industry developments have further heightened the concerns with guest privacy and securityThis focus must be seen in the context of two key issues: first, that hotels collect large amounts of data from their guests, both directly and through third parties; and second, that the hospitality industry has a checkered track record in protecting personal information. Both these demand that the hospitality industry take a renewed focus on data securityData CollectionHotels and hotel companies collect tremendous amounts of information, directly and through others, including vendors, credit card companies, websites, use of wifi and other systems. The fact that hotels are increasing reliant on technology - and responsive to guest demands for increased connectivity - increases both the amount of information and the risk involved in collecting and processing information.The increasing incorporation of technology into hotel operations can lead to more breaches. Hotels are seemingly in a race to become more innovative - consider the trend to allow guests to bypass the need to go to the front desk by using their mobile devices to select a room, check-in, receive texts when their room is ready, and even unlock the door to their room. Guests are encouraged to use mobile devices to customize their stay by requesting items, ordering room service, planning activities, or purchasing upgrades. Not only does this trend increase the likelihood of a breach by adding new access points to the system; these programs collect even more data, making a hotel breach more valuable.Hotels are also pressured to expand Wi-Fi networks, share data with OTAs, and proliferate other interconnected systems, making the hospitality industry more vulnerable to a data breach. Each of these factors increases the number of parties that have access - authorized or otherwise - to hotel data, and increase the number of threats to the industry.Breach VulnerabilityTrustwave's 2018 Global Security Report reported that nearly 12% of the incidences investigated by Trustwave originated at hotels - the third largest share of data breaches, preceded only by retail and the food and beverage industries, which share many of the same vulnerabilities. The hospitality industry possesses a number of factors that make them attractive to hackers: large volumes of valuable information, multiple vectors for accessing information, large workforces and dependence on vendors, to name a few. There are, however, a number of trends that make hotels more vulnerable. However, there are other reasons that contribute the frequency of cyberattacks on hotels.One of the key issues facing the industry is the prevalence of outside vendors who provide key hotel functions. Almost every breach involving hotels that have been reported over the past several years generated not with core hotel functions - check-in and check-out, reservations, etc. -- but from companies engaged by hotels to provide services to the hotel. Virtually every major hotel chain has suffered a data breach through point of sale merchants - each of Hyatt, Marriott (and before its acquisition by Marriott, Starwood), InterContinental, Hard Rock, Four Seasons, Trump and Loews has reported at least one breach in the past two years, and many have reported multiple breaches.Third parties are a common source of breaches for many industries, but the hotel industry is particularly reliant on third parties for many functions. In addition to credit card processing, hotels look to third parties for reservation services, payroll, human resources, asset management, maintenance and improvements - many hotels have determined that third parties are better qualified to provide specialized services, and thus have access to hotel systems. Many hotel companies have not fully recognized the need to monitor vendors and require them to implement adequate secure standards.It is not surprising that hotel brands are particularly vulnerable. Brands often select vendors for multiple properties and often for an entire flag. Individual hotels may have little, if any say, in the vendor, the terms of engagement, and the impact of a breach. Moreover, even when a weakness is discovered, the cost of remediation may be untenable - a security breach involving key-operated door locks required the replacement of almost every door lock in the United States! At the same time, under the typical hotel management or franchise agreement, the hotel owner is required to bear the cost of a breach, whether in terms of direct costs (including notifying potential victims and the increased cost of cyber liability insurance) and the indirect cost of diminished trust in the hotel.The widespread dependence on third party vendors is a greater problem because hotel systems are widely interconnected. To follow up on the point of sale example, these vendors must tap into basic hotel systems in order to allow for room charges and financial reporting. Hotel operators want and need single point access to hotel operations, meaning that information from separate systems must be accessible and shared by a variety of systems. Even where direct access is limited, varying systems may share a single hotel network, and often a wireless network; the network itself has the potential of breach, which can impact all systems. Ultimately, hotels face the dilemma that the system as a whole is only as strong as its weakest link, and a single vulnerability may expose the entire system.A variety of other factors exacerbate the vulnerability of hotels:Multiple Systems. Hotels use a variety of different systems for operations, ranging from off-the-shelf, commercial programs to specialty programs. Each of these programs presents the potential for breach and, as noted above, a single weakness can create a weak system. Moreover, the transfer of information from one system to another is, in itself, a source of weakness.Legacy Systems. Along with the existence of multiple systems, many hotel systems are legacy systems that were never designed with security as a key element. Legacy systems are a particular weakness.Unclear Lines of Responsibility. As the hospitality industry has developed, there is rarely a unity of ownership and management; instead, most hotel properties are owned by one party, which has entered into a franchise agreement to operate under a particular brand, and managed by yet another company. While each of these entities shares responsibility for data security, it is often unclear who is ultimately responsible - it is the manager, who operates the hotel, the franchisor, who selects or approves systems, or the owner, who has financial responsibility for the venture? The lack of precise responsibility can lead to a vacuum in leadership.The Human Factor. Hotels rely on large numbers of employees, many of whom have access to hotel information systems. Most data breaches can be traced to individuals, whether acting maliciously, negligently or with complete innocence, and training hotel personnel is time-consuming and expensive. Added to this, many hotels have high turnover rates and uneven training in privacy and security, further complicating creating a culture that promotes security.What Should Hotel Companies Do?While creating a secure environment is a daunting task, hotel owners and operators can and should begin the process, and the most important thing owners can do is to take responsibility for the security of the properties they own. Rather than leaving the issue to franchisors and managers, all involved should take actions that will start the process of creating a data secure environment.Take Control. Cybersecurity cannot be relegated to a single party; owners, operators and brands all need to take an active role in reducing cyber risks. Even where one party might contractually assume responsibility for security, all parties must conduct their operations so as to promote security. If a franchisor establishes effective security guidelines, it does no good if the manager ignores those guidelines. Taking control means conducting a detailed risk analysis of your enterprise, and determine what risks must be avoided, what risks can be assumed, and what risks must be shifted to other, including insurers. With that analysis in hand, a company can make realistic business decisions that reduce cyber risk.Prepare for the Inevitable. It is often, and accurately, said that a data breach is a matter of "when," not "if." With that in mind, all parties should be prepared to react to a breach by having a well-constructed and tested incident response plan in place - reacting in the midst of an emergency is ineffective and counterproductive. Similarly, in light of the prevalence of ransomware, wiperware and other threats, firms need to have robust and effective backup programs that allow them to recover and protect their guests, employees and properties. Finally, preparing for the inevitable means identifying means of mitigating damages, which must include obtaining effective cyber insurance that addresses and covers the actual damages hotels face.Respond to Breaches. Much of the criticism of hotel companies has been not just to the perceived insecurity of their systems, but to delays in responding to breaches. The Hyatt and Hilton incidents noted above, as well as the FTC's action against Wyndham, are all based on failure to take the existence of breaches seriously. Hotels, like all companies, need to have in place and have tested effective incident response teams and plans, including identifying all internal and external sources (attorneys, security consultants and public relations, among others) who will respond to a breach.Create a Culture of Security. Probably the hardest task, but arguably the most important, is to create a top-to-bottom culture of cybersecurity. Every individual in the organization, and every affiliate and third-party vendor, must take the task of cybersecurity seriously, and take on the responsibility of creating a cyber secure environment.A New Legal LandscapeWhile the hospitality industry continues to grapple with data breaches and the vulnerability of existing systems, recent legal developments in Europe and in the United States will have require hotel companies to re-evaluate how they collect information, how they process it, and how to comply with varying and conflicting requirements.GDPRThe European Union adopted the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which became effective on May 25, 2018. The GDPR is a watershed event that will impact every business that collects personal information, wherever located, and it is likely that no industry will be more impacted that the hospitality industry. Other companies can choose not to do business with EU citizens; some companies have determined that it is impossible to comply and have actually closed. That is not an option for hotels. Hotel companies need to understand the goals and requirements of the GDPR. The nature of hotels and the various data holding sources such as OTA bookings and PMS systems escalate the regulation for travel and hospitality industries.The consequences for non-compliance can be extreme: The maximum fine that can be imposed for serious infringements of GDPR is the greater of EUR20 million or four percent of an undertaking's worldwide turnover for the preceding financial year. There is only limited experience in enforcement actions under GDPR, and those experiences have been inconsistent. No one knows yet how European regulators will apply GDPR it to firms based outside the EU, but there are already public interest groups that are targeting multinational companies, and it seems likely that there will be some fallout.GDPR is based on general principles, which allow leeway - and confusion - for companies. The rules of the road are likely to become clearer as the regulation is implemented, but for now, each company must make hard decisions. GDPR requires that an organization both comply with its principles and document compliance. It is more than just adopting a new privacy policy; it requires concrete actions, and recording those actions.And GDPR is not the end of the story. The EU is actively pursuing the adoption of an "ePrivacy Regulation." The e-Privacy Regulation will, in many respects, go beyond GDPR and create additional challenges for companies that have contacts in the European Union.CaCPAThe California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CaCPA) addresses many of the concerns and requirements of GDPR. Companies that take prompt action to comply with the California Act and the GDPR will likely gain a substantial advantage over competitors who wait. While CaCPA has already been amended, and while there are a variety of attacks CaCPA that create uncertainty, businesses need to consider immediate steps to avoid the significant penalties for non-compliance. Businesses must be in full compliance on the effective date of January 1, 2020. It will not be adequate to start compliance efforts on that date.Addressing both the GDPR and CaCPA requires new policies and procedures. Hotel companies need to take initial steps to ensure compliance by creating a standardized approach for handling consumer requests for personal information; develop procedures for responding to consumer requests and data collection and processing tracking procedures to understand what data is collected, where it resides, how it is maintained, and who is responsible for it. Importantly, hotels will need to analyze the legal basis for collecting and processing personal information - businesses will need to explain their legal rationale for exemptions to the consumer's right to have their information deleted.Finally, each hotel company must review its public-facing website disclosures, including adding a description of consumers' rights under the Act, listing the categories of data collected and a conspicuous link titled "Do Not Sell My Personal Information."The hospitality industry is facing both continuing challenges protecting the personal data of guests, as well as grappling with a new legal landscape. Companies need to recognize that while the trials are great, success will create trust in the industry's most important commodity - its guests. A comprehensive approach can give companies the chance not only to confront these issues, but create brand value in doing so.Reprinted from the Hotel Business Review with permission from http://www.hotelexecutive.com/

I feel sorry for Marriott...

Pertlink Limited · 4 December 2018
THAT'S AWFUL - but in all honesty, it was an accident waiting to happen.All of the major robberies, and with this I include hacks who embark on unapproved removal of an asset - successful or failed, have focused on BIG targets - whether it be the US elections, Beyonce's jewels, banks, Brinks trucks, the Royal Mail train in 1963, UBER, Hyatt, Target, Home Depot, Cathay Pacific, Dunkin Donuts, USPS, DELL, EMC, Yahoo, or an Apple Store. These are all high-profile targets which have been like honeypots to these felons. Marriott, which now includes Starwood, has grown so huge, it inadvertently put itself firmly and squarely in their sights and became a sitting target. It was really just a matter of time before the inevitable happened - and they would be hit.Sadly, but not surprisingly, we live in a world which is also unfortunately populated by people with malicious intent who either do this for kicks or are commercially driven based on the potential value of the data which can be sold or exchanged for crypto on the dark web. One may even be tempted to classify this event as an act of cyberterrorism or espionage. And let's not forget the lawyers - the wolves at the door [aka Ambulance chasers], just waiting to lay stake to a class action claim. It's a sad reality - and so I feel sorry for Marriott.As a Consultant to the industry, [and in full transparency, I have done work for Marriott so I have had a close perspective on how they operate], I know for a fact that this hotel group and so many other companies go to great lengths and expense to exercise duty of care and use their best endeavors to protect the data given to them for safekeeping so they can provide the best services to their clients. They constantly implement and update hardware defenses, employ tokenization and various encryption protocols for PCI DSS compliance as well as perform extensive vetting of software and hardware vendors, hosting/cloud providers and employees who handle the data. And while we are on the subject of vetting perspective vendors, look at the recent hoo-hah surrounding Huawei and the position some governments took in regards using them for their 5G data networks.Some of the data collected by hotels are for Government compliance, and some for marketing purposes - but the overarching reason is to provide great personalized service. The heavy burden of keeping that data safe is only compounded by government legislation imposed in certain countries and jurisdictions, which add yet another layer to the firewall - one of those being the recent GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation] introduced in Europe on 25th May 2018. I'm very sure more jurisdictions will follow to include the Cybersecurity laws of China, and who knows what Brexit may bring if they install physical borders for the movement of people, then it's almost foreseeable, data flow controls will follow.But the inevitable reality is that there will be individuals, corporations, some possibly state-sponsored, lurking in the dark with evil intent. Do you really stand a chance against them and their specialized tools? As fast as the security device companies find a new way to secure or encrypt data - someone cracks it with some kind of wizardry or an even bigger hammer. We've seen many instances where companies such as Apple have released a new version of a software, only to have it cracked the next day - and so the process of closing that breach has to happen with panic-stricken Elves working overtime. Don't kid yourselves, this is a full-time problem internally and externally - akin to shoring dikes when flooding occurs. Once you sandbag part of the wall, another crack appears and so on.For the last forty years, hotels have, albeit gradually, embraced technology to help process, control and digest the enormous amounts of personal and transactional data that passes through its walls with one major element being Central Reservations [CRES] often with GDS connections. Some of these systems have been around for a very long time and could probably do with an upgrade - maybe utilizing Blockchain. When people make bookings - we use that data to allocate accommodation, provide various services, and associated logistics. The technology came with a promise to make things better - it was to enhance manpower, provide faster and more accurate access to data, and let's not forget, deliver personal service - every Hoteliers dream, by matching the guest's expectation. However, when you collect something valuable like terabytes, petabytes or even zettabytes of personal data about people - that's such an attractive honeypot.I am hopeful that the data forensics team will comb throughany crumbs or fingerprints that may have been left behind -and do whatever it takes to seek out and bring the infiltrators to justice.One has to ask oneself - Is there a solution? Well, I for one, don't have an answer for this - I suspect though it will get worse before it gets better, and that's a sad fact also. The more data we expose, be it to places like Hotels or on Social Media, the more likely it will be targeted and used for dastardly purposes and so I repeat myself when I say, "I feel sorry for Marriott" and I can feel other hoteliers thinking - "there but for the grace of God, go I".But as is often the case, we need a disaster to happen before things get fixed and so hopefully, this will be a loud enough wake-up call for technology suppliers, governments and industry bodies to find a solution. And to these entities - I throw down my gauntlet 4th December 2018

Data Security in Hospitality: Risks and Best Practices

EHL · 3 December 2018
Information security is a pivotal aspect of many industries, not least the hospitality industry due to the nature of the data collected by companies operating within hospitality. Hotels, motels, resorts, and rented apartment complexes all gather and electronically store a range of sensitive personal guest data, such as names, phone numbers, addresses, and credit card details.From the perspective of cybercriminals, hospitality appears to offer an ideal target vector for conducting crimes such as identity theft and credit card fraud due to the existence of multiple databases and devices containing both Payment Card Information (PCI) and Personally Identifiable Information (PII).This article focuses on five of the biggest data security concerns in the hospitality industry and highlights some best practices for protecting hospitality data.Data Security Concerns in HospitalityComplex Ownership StructuresRestaurants, hotels, and other companies in the hospitality sector often have complex ownership structures in which theres a franchisor, an individual owner or group of owners, and a management company that acts as the operator. Each of these groups may use different computer systems to store information, and the information can also frequently move across those systems.A case in point was the Wyndham Worldwide breaches of 2008 and 2010. Hackers gained access to the systems of an individual operating company through easily guessed passwords, and the attack easily proliferated through the entire corporate network, with the result that 619,000 customers had their information compromised.Reliance on Paying By CardThe nature of the hospitality industry is such that it is extremely reliant on cards as a form of payment. Restaurants and hotels alike often require credit card details for reservations, and final payment is also frequently made by the same card.Cybercriminals use this reliance on cards to infect point-of-sale (POS) systems with malware that steals credit and debit card information by scraping the data. In fact, it was reported in 2017 that out of 21 of the most high-profile hotel company data breaches that have occurred since 2010, 20 of them were a result of malware affecting POS systems.Because this malware can often proliferate or move between POS systems run by the same operator, multiple individual and groups of hotels can be afflicted by these types of attacks, and they can go unnoticed for months.High Staff TurnoverA vital part of protecting data is training staff to securely gather and store personal information. Well-trained staff also know how to recognize social engineering attempts and they understand an organizations compliance requirements. The risk is that the hospitality industry involves lots of seasonal work in which people might move on after only a few months, or they might be transferred. In the U.K., for example, the job turnover rate in hospitality is as high as 90 percent.The high level of turnover and high degree of staff movement between different locations makes it a real challenge to maintain teams of well-trained staff. All it takes is one person who isnt familiar with the importance of data security for a cybercriminal to exploit a hospitality companys systems and gain access to sensitive data. ComplianceData security risks in the hospitality industry extend far beyond the reputation hit that a hotel can take if guests data is compromised. Industry and political regulators are becoming stricter in governing how organizations process and store personal data.The GDPR regulation was introduced by the EU in May 2018 as a landmark legislation that aims to return control over personal information to individuals while simultaneously enforcing stricter rules for organizations in protecting such information during any period in which they possess it.While GDPR protects individual data within the EU and EEA, its ramifications have rippled through industries globally, and organizations are realizing the need to put greater compliance measures in place.PCI DSS is another important global regulation that protects credit card data, and fines for non-compliance begin at $500,000 per incident. The risk here is not just to data security but to the future survivability of hospitality companies, many of which would not be able to absorb the substantial losses resulting from non-compliance fines. Insider ThreatsThis type of data risk is more subtle and it involves employees selling data to third parties without the knowledge of the organization that employs them. Such insider threats typically occur to data on customer preferences and behavior, which hospitality companies can collect at multiple touchpoints, from interactions with their website, to form data on booking systems, to review data.This data could be potentially lucrative when it ends up in the hands of those who know how to use it to gain a competitive advantage.Best Practices for Data Security in HospitalityBest practices for companies in the hospitality sector to protect data include:Always encrypt payment card information.Operate a continuous training program in cybersecurity to maintain a well-trained workforce.Always adhere to relevant regulations, such as PCI DSS.Use cybersecurity measures such as firewalls, network monitoring, anti-malware, and traffic filtering to protect against common threats.Conduct tests against your organizations cybersecurity defenses in which you mirror the behavior of an actual hacker.Know where your data is and enforce the principle of least privileges to limit access to sensitive information.Wrap UpWith a full understanding of the main data security risks and some best practices for mitigating those risks, organizations in the hospitality sector are better placed to implement a comprehensive information security strategy that entails the necessary procedures, processes, and people to improve cybersecurity.

Hotel CRM Reality Check

Vikram Singh ·29 November 2018
On January 20, 2017, I booked a hotel in Seville, Spain. That is also the day that Melia Hotels & Resorts got my email address. The rest, as they say, is history.For those of you who are not familiar with EU-based hotel companies: Melia Hotels International is a Spanish hotel chain also known by its former name of Sol Melia. They have 374 hotels in 40 countries on four continents. They are not a big household name in the US, but they got some attention back in 2010 when they sold their "Tryp" brand to Wyndham Hotels. I made several groovy jokes back then about Wyndham "Trypping," which thankfully nobody remembers. Moving on.So why am I taking you all the way back to 2017? Since my initial interaction with Melia Hotels, I have received 2-3 emails from them every month. After deleting some of the earlier ones, I was almost ready to "Unsubscribe." Then I had an epiphany: how about I stay on the list and see how this multi-billion dollar hotel company handles its Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and in particular its email marketing campaigns.What started almost two years ago is now ready to be shared.Buzzwords, They Keep on BuzzingThere have been over a dozen articles (plus a couple of white papers) telling us how software is transforming the hotel CRM landscape. There is more talk about how "personalization" is changing everything. However, my two-year collection of emails from a well-established hotel brand sheds a very different light on how things are in the real world.There are over a dozen CRM vendors who will sell you their software....I don't think this is a software issue. The biggest CRM challenge for hotels is hiring the right people. Lack of talent is a much bigger threat to the hotel industry than our world-renowned outdated technology.Let's Take a Trip Down Memory LaneA couple of things to keep in mind as we take this journey together:Melia Hotels is just an example I am using for this post. I am not singling them out as an outlier. Before you high five your marketing team, please know that there are 5-8 other hotel brands (big box and independently owned) who have sent me a similar pattern of emails.I have not included every email ever sent to me. Some were deleted while I logged a quarter million miles of flying last year.This year I published the Ultimate Guide To Hotel Email Marketing. If you think you may need help, read my guide to start sending better emails.I stayed at the Gran Melia Colon Hotel in Seville in April 2017. After the usual follow-up emails about my stay and 2-3 emails about leaving them a review with TripAdvisor (which I never do), a barrage of discount emails started hitting my inbox. In June 2017, I started to document some of them.Let's roll.June 2017The first email I saved offered 45% off their hotel in London, Wow, quite a deal, right? Pay attention to the "45% off," as it will make a comeback...again and again...like Jason Voorhees.July 2017In July, the discount dropped...but not for long.August 2017August opened strong with deals to Milan...40% off!Dropped by 5% mid August. Dang, should have dropped everything and gone to Milan from Hawaii 4 days ago! It's not that far, is it?Three days later, the offer is limited to only one hotel! I still have not been south of Seville. Maybe I should quit what I'm doing and head to the Southern shores? But what about the North/Atlantic part of Spain? I want to go there too. Will I get 35% off ever again? What about the 45% deal? Is it ever happening for me again?September 2017Dear diary, the 40% deal is back!! Wait a minute...it's for booking next summer!? What if I don't get time off? Unless I am working in Europe, there is no guarantee of a summer break. In the US, there is no guarantee of ANY break. 40% off is too good to pass up, but I don't know where I will be in the summer of 2018.Are you kidding me? 22%!? Guys, I do not get out of bed for less than 40%. You have done 40% for me before. Why are you giving me only 22% off now? Are you guys mad at me for not booking last time?October 2017Sweet relief! The 40% deal is back! But wait...I need to go urban this autumn? I can't go urban this autumn! I only go "urban" in the winters!November 2017OMG! I cannot believe this! 50% off! How is this happening? How are they going to make any money? But wait...the email mentioned "This is only the beginning." What does that even mean? More 50% off emails, or will I be getting even bigger discounts!? This is getting out of hand, but I really cannot travel right now so...I shall pass on this miracle. Alas, it might never happen again in my lifetime.It's another miracle! But this miracle actually ends on Sunday! Black Friday is not just about brawls at the local Walmart anymore. It is now about deep discounts. Sounds like I will never pay retail again for my hotel room...thank you! I feel like I am living in the golden age of hotel discounting. How neat is that!OMG! Three miracles in one month! This is all that's playing in my mind right now: "We are not worthy!" I guess Cyber Monday is no longer about buying bulk paper towels. You can now get 50% off for booking a room you otherwise would have gotten at full rate. There is a lesson in here somewhere.December 201722% off is for the birds! 40-50% off and then we can talk. "Season of love and laughter." Please. If you really cared, you would offer a better deal. From 50% to all the way down to 22%...now I am sad.Are you kidding me? 20% off. Let me put on some sad music to go with this deal.Oh, look who's back! 45% is nice...but what's with the lady trying to drown the kid? Love the "say goodbye to winter" tagline. If only it was so simple. Besides, I like winter in Hawaii!30%? No thanks. "Am I well travelled?" Does logging over a million miles in the air count?January 2018LOL! "Head to London in February" = Someone who has never been to London in February. Hard pass.Oh look, the underwater lady and kid are back! 45% off to book for summer. Again, no idea where I will be, but thanks for asking.February 2018"Jet off to somewhere soon." Guys, 40% off is great. But remember, we don't do time off in US. Hope the lady has sunscreen on.45% off is good. But..."Goodbye Monday Blues"? I love Mondays! What's wrong with Monday?The underwater lady is back! I really hope that kid is all right.So glad I did not book 4 days ago @45% off! 50% discounts are back! "Book now or regret it later." Wait, are you threatening me?"There is no better place." Apparently that place is also secret enough to not be above the fold in the email design. Life is full of surprises, I guess.March 2018Nothing inspires confidence in a new hotel like a 30% off deal on Day One.In the era of "fake news," your tagline % better match the actual offer.Four days in...where? I would love to hop there in 2.5 hours. When I checked into the hotel, they copied my ID, passport, credit card. Sir, I am not 2.5 hours from anything!April 2018Oh look! It's the return of 45% off Summer.Three days later: 20%? No, thank you. Hey, what's the mysterious black stuff on the beach outlining Best Offers? (Cue in X-Files theme.)Beach lady makes a comeback! This time on 100% green grass. Did she like her beach vacation? We will never know."Short Haul" in body copy of email sent to the other end of the world. LOL."Reservar Ahora." English email, Spanish call to action. Can't lose?"Mid Season Sale"...but that lady is floating in the water. Will she catch a cold? Also, 30-35%...I'm more of a 45% and above kind of guy.May 2018Back to 45%, now we're talking.Four days later, down to 40%.Beach won this round.Back to 45% 6 days later.20%...how about not.It's GDPR season! Also, is she opening or closing the curtain on my privacy?40%...hey, it's better than the 20% off from last week.GDPR curtain lady returns! Also, check out my points balance!20%... nope.June 2018Cool kid with shades giving 45% off.Oh no, I lost 5% discount in 2 days! This one says it will hold for 10 days only! What if I am stuck in 20% discount land after that?Last chance? Are you sure? I will never get a discount again? Oh no!Oh c'mon! I thought 40% was valid for 10 days ONLY! Here you are seven days later giving me 45% off! I thought we were friends.Going urban? Sure, like Urban Outfitters? Oh hello, 45% off. Nice to see you again."Unforgettable memories...with 40% off" is a hilarious snippet. But wait...there's more. "Tell Me More With 40% Off" is a hilarious call to action! How do they do it?Nothing will warm the heart of a hotel ownership group like having their management brand kick off a new opening with 35% off.Cool kid with shades giving 45% off is back!July must be about comebacks. Urban lady feels like a friend now.July offers...but for October. Let me stop everything and figure out this email. Also, only 25% off?10% deal? Do you even know who I am? I have not gone below 20% with you! Also, 50% off in the copy of the email. What game are we playing here?I am still mad about the 10% email. But ok, glad to see we are back to 45%.45% off...keep em' coming, baby!Searching for paradise? Dude, I live in Hawaii. Have you even checked my profile/analytics? Oh, never mind.Wishing on a star that the next email will be 45% off.Yes! My wish came true. 45% off email is back.I get sun here in Hawaii. In Spain, I soak up some of the world's best food. Didn't I do so many food-focused things in Seville? Do you remember anything about me?Escape from what? I am not trapped anywhere. Do you think I am? Why?35%. Meh.35%. Meh.Did someone mix up their Instagram motivational quote with their call to action? Also, they spelled unforgettable wrong. Also, 35%. Meh.45%, yeah! Wait, who is she looking at?"Exclusive Offers Just For You." LOL!Last one. Check out my amazing point balance.CRM Is Not An Acronym for Email MarketingSomewhere along the way, hotel CRM has evolved into just sending emails to guests. The typical five-step email cycle breaks down as follows:Booking confirmation emailReminder emailCheck-out emailRequest to review the property on TripAdvisor (2-3 emails)Discount emails for the remainder of your lifeBreak the cycle. You have too much information about your guest for you not to care about segmenting. Break down your lists by geography, interests, age, and then stay in touch for more than just discounts. Hotels all over the world have scanned or photocopied my passport and driver's license. That level of personal information is only available to the TSA (Department of Homeland Security) and border control agencies worldwide. And yes, a small hotel in Kyoto. Think about it.Three Step Plan for Improving Your Hotel's CRMStep 1: Designate CRM ownership. Select a person to lead your CRM efforts and strategy. Your customer database is something you need to own and maintain over time. Your database should not be passed around like a basketball, available to any department that wants to take a "shot" at making the basket.It is not about software, it is about who is keeping an eye on things. Any customer contacts should get a final stamp of approval from a central person who is keeping an eye on CRM database quality and ongoing business analytics.Step 2: Check yourself before you wreck yourself. Two parties have traditionally misused the hotel email database.Sales and marketing. Avoid sending a promo about something that not everyone would be interested in (eg, local restaurant/bar promos that get blasted out to everyone in your database, including guests who never used it and live over 3000 miles away).Revenue management. You guys are great, but please stop using your email database like an ATM machine. Every time the revenue numbers slack off a bit, you can't just pull the lever on an "exciting 45% off" email and wait for the reservations to trickle in. Oh, this also answers another question I get a lot. "Why are our campaigns not performing like they did last year?"Step 3: Segment or go home. Your hotel customer database is not going to stay fit and fine forever. It is not Hisako Manda. In addition to performing ongoing maintenance, you also need segmentation. One big list should make way for smaller segmented lists. Examples include:Geographic locationClicks (0, 1, or more?)Frequency of use (checked in more than once?)RepliesConclusionSomewhere along the way, hotel CRM became synonymous with email marketing. This is really unfortunate because, unlike other industries, hotels sit on a mountain of personal data. Generic outreach chips away at any hope of building a relationship with your guests. There is a ton of speculation in the marketplace about who truly "owns" your guest. The truth is that nobody owns your guest, but you sure can make an effort to reach out and be their friend. Remember, nobody makes friends and builds relationships just by offering discounts. You have to share value to see your revenue numbers grow.

5 Things Marketers Should Give Thanks For

MDG Advertising ·15 November 2018
'Tis the season to reflect and express gratitude.So, what should marketers be thankful for this year? Which evolutions, tactics, and trends impacted the field positively in 2018?There are countless options to choose from, but these five in particular stand out for both the scale of their influence this year and for their potential to continue to affect marketing for years to come.1. The GDPR Data RegulationAt first glance, Europe's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) seems like something marketers should lament, rather than be thankful for. This sweeping legislation, which went into effect in May, gave consumers much more control over their own data and required businesses to disclose their data collection practices as well as ask for explicit consent to utilize information. Although the regulation was enacted by the EU, it impacted firms of all sizes across the globe.Why was this good for marketers? Because for years data had been collected, used, and stored sloppily: too many firms had embraced the power of data without accepting the necessary responsibility. This was leading to ever-increasing distrust and anger from consumers.Essentially, GDPR forced businesses to take much needed steps that had been avoided for far too long. While this brought some short-term pain, it made the long-term future of data-based marketing much more secure.2. Voice Search and Natural Language ProcessingWhile search engine marketing and search engine optimization have been powerful tools for businesses, there has also been a largely unacknowledged flaw: the way search platforms are used and they way operate has not matched real-life behavior. Specifically, the keyword-based approach to search hasn't been a good fit with how people naturally use language.Two trends are changing this. First, thanks to the popularity of tools such as Siri and Google Assistant on smartphones and devices enabled with Alexa-like helpers, consumers are increasingly using voice to search instead of typing. Second, search engines like Google are utilizing approaches such as natural language processing (NLP) to better understand how humans communicate. Essentially, people are searching more conversationally and search systems are simultaneously getting better at deciphering conversational language.For marketers, this combination means that trying to anticipate stilted consumer queries is becoming increasingly less important. The major benefit of this is that efforts can be focused on targeting what people truly want -- not the keywords they happen to use in a search engine.3. Account-Based MarketingWhile new technologies usually get most of the buzz, sometimes changes in approaches can be just as transformational to marketing.One prime example is account-based marketing (ABM). This framework, which transitioned from a buzzword to a mainstream strategy this year, is used to market to firms or even individuals with specific messaging, rather than lumping them into segments. While this may not sound revolutionary, its impact is: some 97% of marketers say ABM has a higher ROI than any other marketing initiative.Why is ABM such a big deal? Because it's an example of an approach maturing at the same time as the tools needed to execute it properly. Thanks to sophisticated marketing platforms, marketers and salespeople can now to highly tailor messaging, advertising, and content at scale. This means each target is delivered the most effective materials, resulting in higher engagement and revenue.4. InstagramWhat if there was a social network that was based on the visual content types audiences love (images, videos, ephemeral posts), that was adored by valuable audiences, that wasn't tainted by scandal, and that had highly-effective advertising capabilities?There is: Instagram.The platform now has more than 1 billion active monthly users, is catching up to Snapchat in popularity with young consumers, and has avoided the controversies surrounding parent company Facebook while still utilizing its incredibly powerful advertising engine.Basically, this was the year that Instagram became the Goldilocks network: just big enough, just popular enough, just trendy enough, and just sophisticated enough. In a time when audiences are increasingly wary of big social platforms, it has become a much-needed haven for marketers.5. MillennialsFinally, this year marketers should be thankful for a demographic that has been much maligned: Millennials.For years, businesses have been struggling to understand this group, which is expected to overtake Boomers as the largest age cohort in the United States in 2019. Unfortunately, much of the coverage has been alarming: supposedly these younger consumers want firms to be hip and political by diving into cutting-edge technologies and controversial causes.The data, however, paints a different picture. As with all other groups, Millennials' top concerns with products/services are cost and quality. Beyond that, this group doesn't necessarily want companies to take stands: just 15% say they pay attention to brands' political and ethical positions. Rather, what they care about are authenticy (97% value), trustworthiness (77%), loyalty (74%), and responsibility (73%).Fundamentally, Millennials are simply pushing brands to ditch artifice and focus on providing authentic messaging, high-quality service, and good value. That's a positive shift that both consumers and marketers should be thankful for.

What's Haunting Hotel Marketers This Halloween?

Tambourine ·31 October 2018
Continuing our annual Halloween tradition, we've asked hotel marketers nationwide, across all chain scales and property sizes, what they're most spooked about right now. In past years, the list has included:* Unrealistic goals set by ownership* Product deterioration* The cost of guest acquisition* Shaky job securityMany of those were on the minds of the folks we spoke to this year, however, here are five particularly frightening problems keeping hotel marketers up at night right now:1. Brand Proliferation/DifferentiationMany hotel marketers (and owners) view the industry's numerous and ever-growing assortment of brands as an increasingly frightening issue, especially considering that many of those brands are owned by a handful of massive conglomerates. For some marketers, as more brands enter each competitive marketplace, it becomes proportionally more difficult to convey the identity of their own brand to consumers and build lasting brand loyalty... Further commoditizing hotels in the eyes of consumers.There are hundreds of hotel brands currently operating, according to STR's latest global chain scale list. And as was reported in Skift, at least 30 of those brands are owned by Marriott, AccorHotels owns 25 (not including luxury rental purveyor Onefinestay), 20 are owned by Wyndham and Hilton and InterContinental Hotels Group each have 14. The list keeps growing too, as companies add more brands, without removing older brands that may no longer have the same appeal, partly due to the long-term nature of many brand agreements.One solution, according to experts, is to view each property as a brand unto itself, and focus on communicating the unique qualities, location and selling points of that hotel. This way, the hotel stands out on its own merit when searched by travelers, who may be more loyal to a third-party aggregator like TripAdvisor, as well as their own specific wants and needs, than anyone traditional hotel brand.2. Recruiting Digital TalentStaff turnover among job-hopping millennials can limit your hotel marketing successThe hotel industry stands to benefit from high-quality digital marketing even more than many other businesses, yet hoteliers frequently struggle to hire and retain skilled digital marketing professionals. It's partly due to the overwhelming competition for digital talent by multiple industries, the difficulty of marketing competitively against the OTAs and specific issues and perceptions within the hospitality business itself.When trying to attract candidates who might also be considering options ranging from joining Silicon Valley giants to creating hip new startups, hotel marketers often need to combat the (unfair) assumption that hotel marketing is a stagnant, slow-to-change profession. There are also issues with compensation--the hotel industry sometimes lags behind--as well as a lack of candidates who possess both the required digital skills and the experience demanded by owners and their hotel management firms.In addition to these hiring difficulties, you also need to be sure your digital team deeply understands the hotel experience and booking process. Look for hires who have substantial personal travel experience, understand the travel purchasing funnel and have the knowledge and skills to turn that funnel into tangible digital action.3. Integration WoesEven though it's a problem long bemoaned by hoteliers, the continued lack of integration between the numerous and growing list of software applications and vendors used by hotels remains a major nightmare for hotel marketers. Far too many hotels are still operating with a disparate hodge-podge of systems (PMS, CRS, POS, CRM, website, etc.) that each performs their given role, but may not communicate properly with one another.More seamless integration would enhance both the effectiveness of these systems and their reporting abilities, while eliminating some of the job frustration caused by the disparity. Reducing the amount of vendors utilized at each hotel will also boost accountability for each vendor, while saving the time that would typically be spent coordinating and communicating among all the various vendors.This is why it's best to partner with vendors who can potentially satisfy multiple needs under the same relationship and do it well. By paring down your vendor list, you'll be surprised at just how many fewer nightmares you'll experience.4. Vetting Social Media 'Influencers'The rise of hotel social media "influencers"--users who claim sway over a vast legion of social media followers, particularly on Instagram--has resulted in a sustained flood of requests for comp stays at hotels by numerous self-dubbed influencers, some of whom are flat-out scammers. As a result, the process of vetting these requests and determining their potential has become a growing problem for many hotels.Some marketers are now utilizing a standardized process where influencers complete a form when submitting their request. Management can then look deeper into validation metrics, like user engagement on that influencer's posts, which can help determine whether the influencer has real followers, or has purchased them. Once vetted, hoteliers can decide whether the influencer's audience is aligned with the hotel's customer base, and if the influencer's posts can bring pertinent value to the hotel.Hotels and resorts are being bombarded by social media influencers seeking free travel... creating another challenge for already beleaguered hotel marketing decision-makersIf your hotel does partner with social influencers, be sure to communicate in advance what the expectation will be for a return on your accommodations (i.e. the specific amount of posts or content that the influencer will deliver). You also want to be sure the posts will spotlight the features that are the most important selling points for the property.5. Big Data/data securityHotel marketers are increasingly called upon to harness data in the quest to enhance one-to-one consumer marketing, anticipating each potential guest's wants and needs, including the specific times of the year for those needs, amid a customer relationship that will hopefully last a lifetime."Big data" is also great for identifying peak and off-peak times, lucrative customer segments and a host of other analytical applications. However the realities of cultivating and maintaining that data--including keeping it safe--have become more perilous and onerous over time.Over the last decade, the hotel industry has tallied a lengthy list of data breaches, many of which were quite substantial, impacting even the largest hotel companies. Hotel IT staff do all they can to lock down systems and try to prevent future breaches, but the reality is hackers will continue their efforts, making the concept of "security" a constantly moving target.Further complicating the situation is the European Union's 2018 General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which took effect on May 25, mandating that companies receive customer consent before storing, processing or using personal data from all EU citizens, while also providing a means for those citizens to remove their data from databases. For hotels, GDPR compliance is a great excuse to change all data-related processes, regardless of guest nationality; in the future, hotel marketers will be increasingly juggling big data and these heightened privacy and security fears.

Come to the Dark Side, We Have Cookies

mycloud HOSPITALITY· 4 September 2018
Have you noticed recently that when you click on most websites a notice appears stating that the host uses cookies? Many are aware that on May 25, 2018, the GDPR ('Global Data Protection Regulation') took effect; The law applies to any person or organization that is physically located in the European Union and has a website, as well as any website that targets consumers in the EU.

9 Reasons Why Your Business Can't Ignore SMS Marketing

The SMS Works Ltd ·13 August 2018
Mobile marketing is no longer the impressionable young upstart it was 15 years ago.It's matured and the use of sms by the hospitality sector has grown and continues to grow at a steady rate.Consumers are no longer surprised to receive offers from venues that they've opted into, in fact they have come to expect them.According to research by SAP, 70% of people feel that SMS is a good way for an organisation to get their attention.If your business hasn't yet taken the plunge, there's a whole opportunity to generate eyebrow raising response rates that will impress even the most cynical of marketers.Here are the top 9 reasons, to roll up your sleeves and dive into the world of mobile marketing.1. Killer Open RatesNo direct response marketing channel can compete with the astonishing read rate of SMS. 90% of all SMS are still read within the first 3 mins (mobileSQUARED).Despite the explosive growth of messaging apps and in app notifications, SMS still has the power to make us stop what we're doing and check the SMS inbox.It makes some sense, when was the last time you ignored a text?2. SMS has the highest response of any communication channelIf only email response rates could match those of SMS.According to Cellit, SMS can boast response rates that are 6-8 times higher than email.Compared to any other way of getting your message across, SMS open and response rates are one of the marvels of the marketing world.3. SMS is here to stayEvery week I read a new article telling us how SMS is on the verge of meltdown and will soon be swept aside as messaging apps take control.In fact, when messaging apps first appeared around 10 years ago, many industry pundits reckoned the writing was on the wall for SMS.While it's undeniably true that messaging has rapidly overtaken SMS for person to person use, the use of SMS in business is still growing steadily and is predicted to do so for another few years.According to Zion research, the A2P messaging market (application to person) will grow by 4% a year until 2020 when it will reach a global total of $70 billion.4. SMS is still the only universal messaging platformZero learning curve.Nothing to download, no web connection or data issues.Every mobile phone ever built can send and receive texts.We understand it, we don't need to learn it and we still get a buzz from receiving them.5. There's a low spam rateJust a few years ago, I used to receive dozens of junk texts a week?It was infuriating to put it mildly.Spam SMS seems to have almost completely dried up, in large part due to the implementation of stringent new rules around the sending of marketing texts.In the EU, since GDPR became law in May 2018, regulators have increasing powers to punish the rule breakers.They can and do hand out large fines to organisations who break the rules. The new rules mean that our SMS inboxes remain largely spam free.6. SMS marketing is trackableEvery mobile marketing text sent receives a delivery report, letting you know whether the message has been delivered or not.Dead numbers can be removed from your list, so that no further effort is made to text them.Links in your texts can be shortened and click through / engagement tracked, so you can measure exactly how your campaigns are performing.7. Uncompromised by advertisingMessaging apps offer far more flexibility than SMS which is so basic and clunky in comparison. You can't for example, create groups or send pictures easily.The issue with messaging apps is that the platform must generate revenue through in app advertising.The business model depends on advertisers seeing a return on their ad spend, users need to click away from the messaging to view the ads.So, ads are a necessary distraction that encourage users to move away from the messaging app and visit an advertiser's website.By contrast, SMS operates in a cocoon. You're either viewing or sending texts with no tempting exit doors.8. Your competitors are using SMS"If you're not using mobile marketing to attract new customers to your business, don't worry -- your competitors are already using it and are getting those customers instead." Jamie Turner, 60SecondMarketer.comWhatever sector you operate in, it's likely that other companies will be using SMS as way of communicating with their customers.While it's not a smart idea to get too obsessed with what competitors are up to, you don't want to let them dominate one of the most responsive communication channels.9. You can get up and running fastOne of the joys of SMS is that you don't need to involve every department in your company to get a campaign off the ground.There's no artwork to get bogged down in or media buying agency to consult. You can simply extract the mobile data, compose your text and your message can be landing on customers' mobiles within the hour.ConclusionThe hospitality sector is perfectly placed to take advantage of the humble text and many businesses have been doing so for over 20 years.But if you haven't yet got involved, it's not too late to start. When it's done well, the benefits can be genuinely transformative.What's your experience of SMS marketing in your business? Have you used it to drive customers to your venue or have you steered well clear?Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
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10 Steps Marketers Can Take to Prepare for 'California's GDPR

MarketingProfs·Requires Registration ·26 July 2018
If you're tired of hearing about GDPR, just wait until you start dealing with CCPA. The California Consumer Privacy Act is coming... and, marketers beware, it will change everything. If you collect consumer data in California, you need to prepare for a slew of new data management obligations. And, considering that one in eight Americans resides in the Golden State, it's highly likely the CCPA applies directly to your organization.
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Relationship Marketing and GDPR: Avoiding the Traps of Personalization Data and Targeting Tech

MarketingProfs·Requires Registration ·23 July 2018
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect in the European Union on May 25. The regulation is meant to protect consumer privacy and consumer data, as well as the processes that use that data to make decisions about consumers.
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Is GDPR Legislation Coming to U.S. Hotels?

Hotel Online·10 July 2018
Privacy legislation is dominating the news cycle these days-and it's unlikely to slow down. Now, as U.S. companies are adjusting to the requirements of the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation, the State of California has introduced new laws that will apply to California companies or companies doing business in California.
Article by Michael Toedt

GDPR complaints are on the rise. Are you prepared?

Toedt, Dr. Selk & Coll. GmbH · 9 July 2018
As an indicator of what is to come, let's look at what's been happening outside of the hospitality industry. Regulators in the UK, France, Austria, and across Europe are reporting a sharp increase in data protection complaints and breach notifications since the GDPR came into effect. The majority of these complaints were filed against tech giants like Google and Facebook.Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, the head of French data protection regulator, CNIL, told Politico: "The general public is interested about all the transparency obligations, consent and all the new rights."What does this mean for the hospitality industry? Should hotels be concerned? Only time will tell, however, with maximum fines up to EUR20m or 4% of a company's global turnover - whichever is higher, hotels must be prepared if complaints come their way.So how can hotels prepare? First, they must have a proper way to manage all guest data. Since most hotels use multiple different systems that all store guest data in different formats, this can quickly become a burden. One way to simplify the storage of data is to centrally manage all guest data in one system. In this scenario, if a guest requests that his or her data is retrieved, edited, or removed, the hotel can simply fulfill the request at the click of a button.Centralized data management has further benefits for hotels. It allows them to truly understand their guests and use their data in meaningful ways. Imagine the possibilities when data from a hotel's PMS, POS, WLAN, newsletter system, Outlook, booking engine, channel manager, questionnaires, website etc. are all in one place. The possibilities to personalize marketing, upsell communications and guest services are limitless. Centralized data management transforms data into revenue.Learn more about how to leverage your hotel's data in the post-GDPR landscape in an all new webinar hosted by Michael Toedt, Managing Partner and CEO at dailypointTM. The webinar will cover:What the new GDPR regulations areWhat the implications are for hotelsBest practices for hotels to handle the requirementsHow to simplify compliance with all your data in one, centrally managed sourceFurther operational benefits of central data managementThe webinar will take place on July 13th at 10am CEST in German and at 11:30am CEST in English. Register now, as space is limited.

Personal data protection and the hospitality industry in France

In Extenso Avocats, a subsidiary of the DELOITTE Group · 3 July 2018
France has just adopted the modifications to the Data Protection Act ndeg78-17, integrating the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) measures. As a reminder, the GDPR - ndeg2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council, voted the 27 April 2016 - is a regulation in EU law on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data. The act came into effect in all EU member states on the 25 May 2018.The CNIL has already indicated that it will take into account the "efforts undertaken" by companies in their compliance process, and that no sanctions will be applied until the end of 2018 regarding provisions directly resulting from the regulation. This does not, however, exclude the pronouncement of sanctions in case of breach of the provisions already in force under the Data Protection Act (far from being complied with everywhere).It is clearly not too late to look at how the regulation can be applied in your own company.There are a number of ways of implementing GDPR in hotels and restaurants, and the regulation can be viewed as yet another administrative constraint or as an inevitability and an opportunity. Indeed, it should be remembered that its very name embraces personal data protection issues, yet it also covers the free movement of such data. Given this, the regulation not only seeks to protect the personal data of businesses and their clients, prospects or employees, it also allows for the free movement of these data. This free movement merely has to be controlled and regulated to avoid misuse, errors or accidents in data processing - the like of which has been seen several times over the past few years (Google, Facebook, Darty, Hertz, Direct Energie and so many others)[i].Top of the list of the sectors concerned is the hospitality industry...The regulation provides for thresholds to take into account the situation and business activity of SMEs or intermediate-size companies. Not all hotel and restaurant businesses are necessarily affected, but if they automatically store and conserve customer data - on preferences, for example (in order to send promotional offers or improve satisfaction during a later visit) - then they are directly concerned. Likewise, if customers can make a reservation through the company website, then the regulation also applies, since the question of the use and compliance of booking platforms (e.g. La Fourchette, Booking.com) evidently arises, as does that of holding records for inspection by the police or maintaining Cardex files.In the same way, the processing, use and safeguarding of payment methods must be carefully examined. In addition, if hotels and restaurants use video surveillance, they must also examine how such systems could impact on the privacy of their customers and employees.What measures can hotel operators - and to a lesser extent, restaurant operators - take to serenely anticipate these regulatory obligations after the 25 May 2018?Beyond implementing a unified legal framework at the European level, the objectives of the GDPR include:A strengthening of the individual rights of natural persons, already instigated by a number of decisions such as the Google Spain judgment sanctifying the right to erasure, or Darty's recent fine further to a security breach in the confidentiality of customer loyalty card data[ii]Compliance based on transparency and accountability;Shared and specified responsibilities (the outsourced service provider becomes accountable, just as the contracting party);The strict supervision of data transmission outside the European Union;Regulated, incremental and stricter financial penalties.Hotel and restaurant operators should take particular note, since they will move from a reporting regime with an a posteriori penalty to a new regime based on anticipation and accountability. The consequences are multitude, as we will see later. Although this change means fewer reporting obligations, it also reflects the strengthening, or even the creation, of a number of obligations for all hospitality operators (and companies, in general) that process their customers' personal data.These obligations mainly focus on anticipation, information, transparency and security and documentation. HOTEL AND RESTAURANT OPERATORS MUST ANTICIPATE: In case of complaints, security breaches or CNIL controls, business must generally be able to justify their having applied the universal "privacy by design" principle, meaning that they have integrated respect for the privacy of natural persons into data processing right from the start. This principle requires considering the lawfulness of the data processing, conducting preliminary impact studies when necessary, and potentially obtaining the consent of individuals whose data have been collected and informing them of their rights.HOTEL AND RESTAURANT OPERATORS MUST INFORM: Henceforth, an obligation of transparency is imposed on hospitality operators who manage, store, host, process or sell personal data. Take, for example, hotel and restaurant customers who are natural persons, and whose data are collected - these individuals must be notified as to the purpose of the data processing and informed of their rights in terms of data access, rectification, erasure and portability.HOTEL AND RESTAURANT OPERATORS MUST PROTECT:Everything must be done to protect the data held by a company, in accordance with the "security by default" principle. Going beyond the required and optimal protection, businesses must allow data to be traced, and any security breach has to be declared to the CNIL within a very short time frame (72 hours, as stipulated by the regulation). Penalties for breach of these obligations will be reinforced (up to either 4% of annual global turnover or 20 million euro), although there is an emphasis on making the sanction proportional.AND LASTLY, HOTEL AND RESTAURANT OPERATORS MUST DOCUMENT: In certain cases, maintaining a Record of Data Processing Activities is obligatory.Hotel and restaurant operators are directly concerned by GDPR if:They employ 250 employees or more.And/ or they processes personal data en masse or automatically.And/ or this processing concerns sensitive data and/ or could infringe individual rights and freedoms. Each of these criteria must be assessed separately, and in certain cases, hospitality operators are required to maintain a Record of Data Processing Activities. Indeed, the sector is especially impacted by GDPR, given its various business activities: organisation and information systems, HR management, sales and marketing (prospection, promotion, customer record management, etc.), supplier management and, of course, hospitality IT management.The hospitality sector is specifically targeted, whether or not data are conserved in the company's computer server and/ or stored and/ or hosted and/or reprocessed by a subcontracting party. Hotel and restaurant customer records can no longer contain any old data and must respect certain conditions. These personal data, already considered by some as the new "black gold", can be coveted by malevolent competitors or by hackers for resale or ransom (WannaCry ransomware, for instance). At a time when cyberattacks are on the rise, the sector must ensure the protection of its customers' personal data, as well as those of its employees (who are also covered by the new directive). There is no doubt that a hotel or restaurant's e-reputation also depends on whether or not it complies with the regulations.In concrete terms, an audit is necessary to evaluate a business's practices and to pinpoint the risks. Further to the audit, an action plan must be instigated to potentially maintain a Record of Data Processing Activities that groups and describes the business's personal data processing practices, or if the maintenance of such a record is not mandatory, to implement minimal GDPR compliance procedures. This requires the assistance of a multidisciplinary technical and legal advisory structure - one that is well-established and specialised in the hospitality sector - so that the process can be correctly handled at the best possible cost.It is, of course, never too late to comply.[i] CJUE, gde ch., 13 May 2014, aff. C-131/12, Google Spain SL and Google Inc./ Agencia Espanola de Proteccion de Datos and Gonzales,CNIL Resolution ndegSAN - 2017-006 of the 27 April 2017 imposing a fine on FACEBOOK INC. and FACEBOOK IRELANDCNIL Resolution ndegSAN-2018-001 of the 8 January 2018 imposing a fine on ETABLISSEMENTS DARTY ET FILSCNIL Resolution ndegSAN-2017-010 of the 18 July 2017- HERTZCNIL Decision MED ndeg 2018- 007 of the 5 March 2018 serving notice on DIRECT ENERGIE and CNIL Resolution ndeg 2018-082 of the 22 March 2018 and decision issued to make public the formal notice to DIRECT ENERGIE[ii] CJUE, gde ch., 13 May 2014, aff. C-131/12, aforementioned Google SpainCNIL Resolution ndegSAN-2018-001 of the 8 January 2018, aforementioned DARTY ET FILS

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, Amazon.com 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 Michael Toedt

GDPR - a blessing in disguise for the hotel industry!

Toedt, Dr. Selk & Coll. GmbH ·27 June 2018
For me, however, the GDPR is not a monster at all, as it is so often described. I see it as an opportunity for the hotel industry to make up for lost ground. It has, by law, forced every company to deal with its own digitization and IT strategy.This is because, among other things, all people (including hotel guests, if we look at the hospitality industry specifically) in the EU have comprehensive rights to their personal data, including the right to request their data, correct it, delete it, and transfer it to another provider. All this must have been guaranteed by the 25th of May.It is a sometimes overlooked secret that hardly any hotels are actually able to abide by these regulations! This is because hotels work with a proliferation of systems that can no longer be controlled. How should a guest's right to his or her data possibly be managed when the data is scattered across the PMS, POS, WLAN, newsletter system, Outlook, booking engine, channel manager, questionnaire system, website etc.? This is simply impossible! Hotel companies are therefore wading treacherous waters.The fact that hotels work with so many systems is not only a nightmare for hotels that want to focus on the new GDPR regulations. It also leaves the hotel industry behind when it comes to digitalization. With data scattered in so many sources, hotels can't properly understand or use it in any meaningful way.But some companies did it right. Enter the winners from last decade: the Online Travel Agents (OTAs). They did something fundamentally different from the beginning. They understood the value of data and pursued a central storage of their customer data, aptly called central data management (CDM). Simply put, all data about the customer comes together in one central location, a kind of parent database that combines everything.This central database is the standard for hotels that want to move into the digital era. Only those who know their customers down to the smallest detail and use this knowledge for a comprehensive individualization of guest interaction can benefit from data. Even if it is unpleasant, hotels today generally have no idea who their guests are. This is unacceptable. All decision-makers should be aware of this.So how can hotels move forward? They need a central system in which everything comes together. In the past, this system was the property management system (PMS). But PMSs are inflexible, with expensive interfaces, and poor data cleansing functionalities. Today's dominant PMSs are not designed to handle the increasing amounts of data and data sources, and the upcoming cloud-based generation of systems is too lean and focus only the key functionalities like check-in and check-out.The hotel industry therefore needs a new central system, a mothership that takes over the former role of the PMS. An #abovePMS system is required to finally be able to work at eye level with the OTA's again.If you look at the GDPR from this perspective, it is ultimately a measure initiated by politicians to force companies to make themselves fit for the future. All those who do not do so run the risk of violating applicable law and drifting further down the competitive spiral in the coming years.In this sense, perhaps some hoteliers will thank the politicians in a few years for making them fit for the future through the GDPR. It has forcibly given those that comply with a competitive advantage.PS - Looking to see how your hotel can manage its data in compliance with GDPR regulations? Register for our webinar on July 13!

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