They are fresh, artsy and have smart and youthful attitudes. We’re talking about boutique hotels, the new stars of the hospitality industry, offering incomparable personalized services, characterized by fancy design and prestigious furnishings, located mostly in the heart of trendy cities.
Boutique hotels’ recent success is confirmed not only by numbers (the highest ADR – average daily rate – during the year and the greatest gains in RevPAR according to CBRE projects) and by industry insiders (in the last few years, more than 20 brands have been added to the ever-changing mix of hotels in the boutique space) but also by a growing number of travelers who want their hotels to be an integral part of a unique travel experience.
The reasons behind this success are many so we decided to learn more about them by putting under the magnifying glass 3 important boutique hotel trends.
The “Eco-Bio-Healthy” revolution
More and more travelers are interested in making choices that protect the planet and promote reconnecting with nature. Precisely for this reason, one of the top boutique hotels trends of 2018 is accommodating travelers in eco-friendly facilities. For example, in Bangkok, the New Akyra Sukhumvit has become the first single-use-plastic-free hotel.
Furthermore, vegan options, local food and 0km gastronomic products are now omnipresent in boutique hotel menus.
Therefore it seems that most boutique hotels are now riding the well-being and environmental sustainability wave highlighting the connection between nature, body and mind.
David Bowd, an industry vet and principal at West Elm Hotels, in a recent interview for Condé Nast Traveler highlighted the growing importance of the “bio” element in hotel menus saying this: “I think the ability when you travel to stay healthy, to have something on a room service menu that is a great salad or a great wrap—it’s not just another club sandwich and fries, which I still see everywhere. I get it: People want that, but I think there’s [room for] the healthy option as well”.
Localhood and authenticity
In an increasingly globalized and standardized world affecting inevitably with its dynamics the hospitality industry, authenticity is the new change of gear.
What travelers want today is a local perspective of destinations. They want to integrate themselves with territories and communities they visit and they know that to achieve this integration they need local guides who can help them live authentic and unforgettable experiences. What travelers desire most is, in one word, “localhood” a term we wrote about in one of our previous blog posts. A famous lifestyle and local experience influencer, Nyssa P. Chopra, founder and curator at The Cultureur, recently wrote: “Whether you’re looking for the best restaurant, the best luxury hotel, best vantage point for photos, unique experiential itinerary ideas or hidden gems of a local culture, I’ve done my research so you do not have to”. Her statement says a lot about modern travelers’ desires. Among all travelers, the ones choosing boutique hotels and b&bs seem to be the ones who appreciate most experiencing destinations just like locals do and discovering local hidden gems.
This is why boutique hotels are shifting their offer towards unique and local experiences regarding winemaking, traditional gourmet cuisine, signature dining options and in-room service, mimicking, in some cases, b&b’s.
Technology is key
In the search for your next boutique hotel vacation you might encounter “digital detox” hotels offering libraries, absence of web connectivity and meditative spaces to their guests. However “cyber-vices” are difficult to eradicate in travelers so boutique hotels seem to be definitely focusing more on technology than on libraries and reading rooms and seem very aware that being in step with the times does not mean going against localhood and the essence of hospitality. On the contrary, digital tools and services like web connectivity, smart rooms and AI travel assistants are proving to be very effective drivers of localhood, tradition and authenticity in the tourism industry.
Just think how important Google Maps are for travelers as they not only allow them to find the best route to every local point of interest but they also provide a wide range of other useful information like public transport services, POI reviews and pictures, traffic status and much more.
What we wrote above is evidence of the transformation boutique hotels around the world are going through overtime as attention to furnishing and design, the traditional distinctive elements of boutique hotels, is slowly but steadily being superseded by a strong focus on technology, respect of the environment, wellness and authentic local experiences. What more could travelers desire from their vacations? Well, there’s much more going on in hospitality than what you read here today but we’ll write about it in our upcoming articles so stay tuned on our blog!
For the moment, just keep in mind that boutique hotel experiences are getting more interesting every day and are truly worth discovering in your upcoming leisure trips.
You’ve heard it before: “Content is King”.
Maybe. Maybe not. For your guest, however, only one thing is king, queen, and the whole darn kingdom: their experience.
According to a study by Think with Google, consumer intent is far more important (and indicative of purchasing probability) than mere demographics.
In other words, it’s not who a person is. It’s all about what a person does and how that person behaves.
Why? Because customers make their buying decisions based on a series of interactions called “micro-moments”. These are seemingly small but incredibly significant details about the way a brand reaches out, interacts, educates, offers, and enhances the customer’s experience.
“Intent beats identity. Immediacy trumps loyalty. When someone has a want or need, they turn to their smartphone for help. When a need arises, people turn to search and YouTube to look for answers, discover new things, and make decisions…Understanding and…meeting [your customer’s] needs in the moment are the keys to winning more hearts, minds, and dollars.” — Think with Google, “Why consumer intent is more powerful than demographics”
So What Do Guests Need?
Excellent question. Let’s take a look at guest/consumer behavior for the travel, hotel, and booking experience.
• Says TripAdvisor, 83% of travelers rely on ratings when choosing a hotel
• 68% of guests want to speed up the check-in process by using their smartphones
• While email’s open rates are down to 20%, text messaging read rates are 98% (aka, marketers haven’t over-saturated the use of text yet so the time is ripe to harness the power of text as a mode of communication)
• 80% of customers prefer to self-serve in order to get the information that they need (TechRadar, 2018)
• Since guests are already reliant on and wedded to their smartphones, hotels like the Hilton are now offering customers a chance to use their smartphones/mobile phones as a hotel room key (Financial Times)
• According to Google, one in three travelers across the world are using digital assistants already to research and book travel, searching for everything from flights to hotels, suggesting that mobile is the platform on which consumer behavior is occurring (Google/Phocuswright, 2017)
Text messaging — using text as a platform and method — is an innovative, low-cost way to do more than just communicate with a customer. Instead, hotel marketers can actually use the communication method to enhance the customer experience.
Why? Because customers are already asking for and relying on text. And text messaging has its own inherent strengths that make it a natural contender in the bid for your guest’s attention.
When you take a look at the behavior consumers/guests are already exhibiting, text messaging is a clear solution:
• Hotels that have adopted automated text messaging for guest communication strategies have seen a 25% increase in their guest engagement (ALICE).
• Texting offers immediate contact because smartphone users send and receive up to 5x more texts than phone calls.
• Text messaging automation offers template responses to “frequently asked questions”, except that the responses are much more instantaneous: Answers to questions like “What’s the WiFi password?” and “What time does breakfast start?” meet your guest at the point of their need, via an instant text.
• SMS or “mobile” marketing brings together three key elements — customer service, customer loyalty and mobile integration.
• Since texting is already a part of normal consumer behavior, the barriers to adoption are low (even when compared to an app, which is dependent on the consumer actually bothering to go and download the app).
How are Hotels Making Use of Text?
Creatively, in fact.
There are leaders in the space as well as independent hotels that are equally as innovative in their use of text messaging to enhance and win over the guest experience.
To enhance the guest experience and reduce the amount of time guests were waiting (an annoyance that guests reported significantly reduced the enjoyment of their overall stay), Marriott implemented a text-based service to respond to customer requests. This included calls for room service and house-keeping.
Knowing their consumer/guest demographic well, Aloft decided to “speak” in the language of their mostly-millennial guests.
That would be the language of the emoji. To introduce text messaging into their communication strategy, Aloft implement an offer call, “Text it, Get it” (or TiGi, for short), where guests can text a specific set of 6 emojis (which correspond to packages offered by the hotel) and receive that service.
Here, there’s a double novelty going on: Not only is Aloft using a popular, informal and instant method of communication, they’ve also done their due diligence in creatively “packaging” six distinct “services” that their ideal guest has asked for (often, presumably) before.
Cure for a hangover anyone? TiGi!
Located in Nashville Tennessee, Holston House relies on text messaging to streamline their entire communication strategy, from start to finish.
Upon arrival, guests are welcomed via text and encouraged to check-in using a self-serve platform. During their stay, text allows a continuous flow of dialogue between the guest, their needs, and the hotel staff. At departure, Holston House uses text messaging automation to encourage feedback, send surveys, and resolve issues before the guest has left the premises.
With a generous budget, MGM Mirage uses SMS or mobile marketing, via text, to coach the customer’s future purchase, besides providing up-to-date customer service.
To bring together loyalty, customer service, and mobile behavior, MGM offers guests real-time promotions which are then texted to their guests’ phones. This might include discounts on entertainment events or information on the hotel’s own amenities that a guest would be wondering about.
They used insight garnered from their marketing platform to tailor messages to guests, based on purchasing and booking history. This drove up revenue and continued to evolve the tracking of what guests truly desired.
Hard Rock Hotel & Restaurant
The Hard Rock Hotel and Restaurant has always been ahead of the curve. They’ve started to use SMS or text messaging to promote events and products — but only to customers most poised to buy that particular product or service.
Right time, right place.
They also use “shortcodes” — such as texts with a prompt to message a particular code to a particular number — to promote their loyalty programs, a win-win for guests looking for exclusive offers, and the hotel, looking to build a solid guest list to market to in the future.
Here’s My Number…So Text Me Maybe
Both the big wigs and emerging hotspots are using text messaging automation and SMS marketing to bring together a customer’s loyalty, their intent or behavior on a mobile platform, and the integration of personalized marketing offers to make sure their current experience has been everything the guest had hoped for.
So how does a hotel benefit from all this?
While your front desk is sleeping, your guests might not be. Use text messaging to cut down on the number of employees required at the front desk or lessen the load/traffic on a busy front desk during the wee hours of the morning.
Text messaging allows guests to access the “point of contact” that a front desk represents, without the hotel actually having to serve and fulfill individual requests that may be “minor” but are no less time consuming and certainly contribute to a guest’s experience.
Earning better reviews
Text messaging can capture guests at the most pivotal moments — those “micro-moments” we were talking about — to translate their satisfaction into a better review.
See, it’s not only about capturing a review in a streamlined way (via a text survey) — it’s about actually using text messaging to capture guests right after a moment where you, the hotel, have managed to get their request done just right. Making use of this moment — and, indeed, gaining insight into when that moment occurred — is where SMS or mobile marketing comes into play.
Saving on time for both hotels and guests
Five front desk staff, a team of house-keeping staff, one booked-up weekend and 50 guests.
You do the math.
Text messaging as a method of communication can cut down on major time spent on routine, face-to-face interactions.
To make sure that all operations are running smoothly and respond to each guest’s expectation in a responsive, aligned and updated manner, hotels can use text messaging, not only as a means to ask and answer but also as a means to offer.
This saves immensely on time, not by “cutting down” or reducing human interaction, but, rather, using human interaction to where it is most needed.
Checking in, an action that can be automated, is not one of them. Bringing a guest their request, or responding to a booking snafu, however, is.
Engaging and nurturing customers who are on your list
Once a guest has booked with you or they’ve checked in, you’ve got their information — including email and phone number — to communicate with again.
Since we saw that email is not as effective as text for getting opened (hello, Gmail Spam Folder), the instant nature of texting allows guests to access the hotel’s amenities while the hotel can access a guest’s needs, tapping into their wants and delivering the products or services that respond to these.
But let’s think about the future: Once a guest has opted-in to a loyalty platform or your app’s newsletter, they are not just prospects but actual qualified leads simply waiting to find the right offer again.
It’s up to you to craft that offer, personalize it, and then deliver it at the right moment.
But before you can get there, it’ll take a series of interactions with your guests on your list to nurture that sale.
These series of interactions over text — from product and service offers, upsells, incentives, loyalty discounts, Q&A, guest requests, automated feedback and reviews, and information on amenities — all lead to one thing:
If a guest has a positive experience, from the moment of their pre-arrival to the moment of their departure, not only are they more likely to refer other travelers and guests like them, they’re also more likely to return.
So, what’s really going on here? Why is text messaging so effective?
Well, there’s a caveat here. Text messaging is only effective when used as one part of a communication strategy. Certainly, the immediacy and ease of text messaging makes it a viable method for hotels and a delightful, simple experience for customers.
But there needs to be some intent and structure behind it. A simple, “Welcome to our hotel” is unlikely to be the weight that tips the revenue scales in your favor.
Instead, it’s the opportunity to personalize and use omnichannel marketing that makes text messaging as powerful and potent a tool as hotels can have today.
Think about it: If you get a text welcoming you, inviting you to check in and then, once you’re checked-in, offering you the exact product or service that would enhance your stay (such as an invitation to grab some Vitamin Water or a suggestion for a nearby restaurant or cafe), how much more likely are you to, firstly, capitalize on these suggestions and, secondly, perceive your stay in a more positive light?
It’s a question worth asking. And hotels will be answering via text.
“Finders Keepers, losers weepers”, this old English adage, also a readjustment of an ancient Roman law (the res nullius) concerning the legislation of lost items, should be well kept in mind by the hotel industry operators.
In fact, hosting customers for the first time is, in perspective, a huge opportunity, like finding a diamond box at the edge of the road.
This affirmation is true as much as that offering customers a unique stay experience is equivalent to stimulating them to repeat their pleasant experiences and so to securing their loyalty.
Experiences delivered to customers depend much on the surprise or wow factor that every player of the hotel industry is able to create. To use a love metaphor, without “love at first sight”, conquering the hearts of new customers, and thus seeing them return, is really tough!
So how can hoteliers achieve customer delight and see their guests come back overtime? Below you can read some useful tips on the topic. While reading, always keep in mind that success in hospitality depends on how well a hotelier knows his/her guests and is able to anticipate their requests.
So here are our tips:
Underpromise and overdeliver: take control of your guests’ expectations
It might seem strange to you but there are still lots of hoteliers who keep promising services and experiences they are not able to deliver to their guests hoping that this way they will increase their guests and revenues. This is a huge problem for hoteliers as well as for their guests. For the latter because they arrive full of expectations and then receive a disappointing experience. And for the former because in the best-case scenario they’ll see their guests leave and never come back while in the most realistic scenario they’ll also get bad guest reviews on popular online travel portals. Bad reviews should be avoided at all costs given their enormous impact on travelers’ choices. So keep your guests expectations aligned to what you really can offer them by being transparent, truthful and building trust with them during every preliminary information exchange.
Perform proper targeting: know your guests, be proactive
“Anticipate, be proactive” is what’s written in a passage of the famous book “The Art of War” in which the Chinese philosopher Sun Tsu underlines the importance of studying the enemy in advance to be ready in case of battle. His recipe for success works for the hotel industry too where targeting properly customers by studying their habits and their preferences is very important for understanding their expectations. In every business, different customer groups have different expectations. This is true in the hospitality industry too as its wide variety of target segments like business travelers, leisure travelers, millennial travelers, group travelers, chinese travelers, female travelers, adventure travelers, wellness travelers, just to mention some, represent a wide variety of traveler groups with different accommodation and services needs and expectations. If for example, your target customers are families with children you must offer them kid-friendly facilities and services. If you’re aiming at senior travelers you must prioritize comfort and assistance services. If your customers are business travelers you must keep in mind and offer them convenience. The more you interact with your customers the more you discover about them and the more you understand what your main target clientele expects from you. If you’re wondering how to built interaction with your customers just think how many digital and technological tools are available today: from social networks to advanced crm platforms, from instant messaging tools to advanced digital marketing and advertising platforms.
Embrace technology: smart-up your hotel
While it is true that new technologies represent valuable allies for hoteliers in building engagemet and collecting information about travelers, it is also true that technology and digital tools rank high in travelers’ accommodation service preferences, choices and requests. Modern travelers rely on technology during their everyday life so they also expect ubiquitous digital service continuity during their travel and hotel accommodation experiences. A research report published by Oracle focused on the relationship hotel guest expectations and technology. More than 64% of the interviewees said that it is “extremely or very important” for hotels to continue investing in technology and 71% of them said they expect easy and fast check-in at their arrival. Just think how much keyless smart locks, digital keys and mobile apps can improve check-in experiences creating a positive first impression in hotel guests, influencing their loyalty and future accommodation choices. Two other very important traveler experience factors, host-guest communication and service customization, rely mainly on technological tools today. Just think of chatbots, instant messaging, IoT and smart rooms to get an idea of the diffusion of technology in the hospitality industry. So if you want to attract travelers to your hotel invest in technology!
Focus on service customization: become the genius of the lamp
Thanks to modern digital marketing and crm tools hoteliers can perform extremely accurate profiling of their guests and collect incredible amounts of market data transforming themselves in geniuses of the lamp able to fulfill all their guests’ most profound wishes and desires making their stays unique and extremely pleasant and skyrocketing hotel reputation and customer loyalty. Providing tailor-made services and expriences to hotel guests has never been easy like it is today so sit in front of your personal computer and start mining data about your market’s needs and trends immediately!
In conclusion, knowing your guests, meeting or exceeding their expectations and providing them with hi-tech services and tailor-made experiences is the best way to make sure they’re going to be loyal to your brand and share good comments about you with their peers. “Season” these basic rules with attention to details like, facility cleaniness, staff helpfulness and reception friendliness and your hospitality business’ success is guaranteed!
Meanwhile, CEO of Placepass, Emily Bernard says that “[E]xperiences are the future of travel,” and that “immersive in-destination activities” are on the rise.
So, where can you count on undertaking an experience you won’t soon forget? We’ve scoured the globe for five of the best (and most unique) experiences offered by hotels.
1) Experience the Great White North at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort
There’s a reason for every season, goes the old saying. And, we’re pretty sure that the likes of winter and Arctic chill were invented specifically so guests could undertake the truly other-worldly experience that the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Finland offers.
From late-August to April of each year, nature puts on a lights show like no other. If viewing the Northern Lights is an experience on your bucket list, be prepared to not only check it off your list but to do so in style.
The Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort’s glass igloos offer an incredible, unobstructed view of the Arctic sky. Be prepared for a view filled not only with stars that seem to outnumber the sheer grains of sand on Earth but the luminous, mysterious dance of the Aurora Borealis.
Each igloo is masterfully designed with private curtains, climate control, private bathrooms and hot showers. If you’re looking for a communal feel, head to the common areas for a soak in the sauna.
And what about the day? Experience classic Arctic activities like snowmobiling, ice fishing, sled dog training, and the quintessential reindeer sleigh ride.
2) Live Like a Desert King at Qasr al Sarab Desert Resort
One of the few things that interrupts Rub’ al Khali, the “largest uninterrupted sand desert in the world” is the majestic vision of the Qasr al Sarab Desert Resort.
A multi-faceted experience, the “Empty Quarter” is packed-full of what the Qasr al Sarab Desert Resort calls, “The Spirit of Arabia”.
Guests at Qasr al Sarab can expect to enjoy a full day, beginning with a tour of the desert at sunrise, a unique and nearly mystical experience. Then, guests can experience scores of activities including dune dashing, camel rides, horseback riding, archery, falconry and even cooking classes.
After the day is done, guests can head to the traditional and exclusive Hammam spa, touted to have healing desert elixirs, with authentic hammam rituals, before taking a dip in the common area free-form pool, completely shrouded by the stars.
3) Cliff Camping at Estes Park
Not for the faint of heart but not to be shied away from either: The chance to sleep at the face of a mountain may not immediately appeal to everyone but it’s an experience you should absolutely undertake…if you dare!
Colorado’s breathtaking Estes Park is where camping and outdoor enthusiasts head up a mountain and then rappel down its rockface to set up shop on a nylon cot just big enough to accommodate two sleeping bags.
While cliff campaign experiences are usually set up by serious climbers like Harry Kent of Kent Mountain Adventure Center, travelers don’t have to be major climbers to undertake this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
In fact, Kent’s operation focuses on providing these experiences in safe, controlled settings, aimed specifically at newbie and inexperienced climbers. If there’s one thing that will put the spirit of the mountain in you, it’s the feeling of being utterly alone on the side of a cliff for the night.
These dreamy views are something every traveler will appreciate more because they had to work for them.
4) Get Up Close and Personal with Big Game at The Ark
After Queen Elizabeth’s accession to the throne was marked by her prior experience at Tree Tops in Kenya, Big Game viewing experiences became more popular than ever.
Today, it’s not only royalty that can engage in a coveted spotting of the wild’s “king of the jungle”.
Located in Aberdare National Park is a sanctuary that overlooks a floodlit waterhole and salt lick, which makes for a communal experience for creatures like hippos, giraffes, zebra and even elephants, as well as the curious humans who can view them from up high.
Creatively named “The Ark”, this makeshift-hotel-and-sanctuary is actually an experience in itself. There are four viewing decks with balconies and lounges for observing animals, as well as a hidden, ground-level bunker perfect for wildlife photography enthusiasts looking to capture animals through the lens.
Once you’ve acclimated yourself to your fellow neighbors, take a safari drive into the bush, a guided nature walk, go bird watching or visit the Moorlands, where the magnificent waterfalls of River Magura, River Karuru and River Chania await. For something more low-key, finish your trip with some trout fishing.
5) Relax and Breathe Deep…Underwater at Song Saa Private Island
With experiences like this, it’s truly difficult to pick favorites, but we saved the “best” for last.
Remote and riveting, Song Saa “Private Island” makes you think of some secret, clandestine spot of luxury.
The reality is not far off. Song Saa, which is an affectionate Khmer term for “sweethearts”, is a set of twin islands surrounded by dazzling turquoise waters off the Gulf of Thailand. It’s also the spot where Australians Rory and Melita Hunter set up their dream of a private island luxury resort that provides local conservation efforts as well as unique experiences for travelers.
While “private island” seems to imply exclusivity and luxury, Song Saa’s experience is more about the harmonious. The islands of Koh Ouen and Koh Bong are connected by a footbridge, and positioned just off the shoreline is its world-class restaurant and lounge.
The ethic at Song Saa is simple: Nature and natural beauty are one in the same. Instead of a dedicated spa center, there are various “regenerative sites” through which guests rotate for a truly bespoke experience. All around, the presence of the ocean, the rainforest and the tropical wildlife give guests the chance to rejuvenate.
Song Saa features a team of locally and internationally-trained therapists who range from Khmer practitioners to yoga masters and ayurvedic therapists. Guests can also enjoy an engaging set of activities like paddle boarding, local gardening workshops, rainforest hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, and cooking classes, to name a few.
A particularly notable and memorable Song-Saa-exclusive experience, however, is the underwater meditation. Guests begin by scuba diving at dusk. As the moon is rising, the island’s only light source makes for an eerie and spiritual mood. A relaxation and meditation expert leads the experience underwater, using special breathing equipment and waterproof personal players.
Hotels are not the only ones changing things up. Tour operators and travel companies are popping up offering packages that are tailored to travelers’ “Travel Styles”.
Are you a “Discoverer”? Or, perhaps, an “Independent Insider”? There’s a trip for that.
The experiential and the immersive itinerary is not a trend but a new reality. Hotels are getting on board and riding the wave by offering the chance for guests to make memories. And travelers are only too happy to do so.
Finding the perfect travel accommodation is always a big dilemma. There are several factors to consider and above all it’s difficult to choose between b&bs and hotels. What are the pros and cons of each and how to choose what suits best your travel style? Below, there’s a list of tips that can be useful in your future choices.
Choose a Hotel to avoid unpleasant check-in experiences
Step forward those who have never had problems with b&b check-ins… In my experience as a traveler, I have tried both hotels and b&bs. In (very common) case of unexpected delays, in hotels I never encountered problems in getting my room key even at late night hours. On the contrary in b&bs it happened to me that I had to wait long times for the property owner to turn up with the keys. If you are afraid of spending a night in the cold and you prefer avoiding interaction with your host (often in foreign languages) very probably hotels are the best choice for you.
Surprises vs standards
I remember that I once rented a B&B in the Balearic islands with my girlfriend. The apartment was very nice and overlooked the sea, the host was not there and had entrusted the keys to a friend who showed up on time at check-in. While showing us the apartment, she told us that we could should not enter the room in the middle of the house. As soon as she left the house, amid the protests of my girlfriend, I rushed into the forbidden room and inside, above a child’s bed, there was a thread with a very smelly plant (some people like smoking it) hung up to dry. I breathed a sigh of relief for not having found anything spooky although finding drugs in a child’s room seemed odd enough. Something like this would have never happened in a hotel so if you don’t like smelly plants, or any kind of unpleasant surprise, then maybe choosing a hotel for your vacation is what’s best for you.
Local vs aseptic experience
The smell of homebaked cookies in the morning, freshly squeezed orange juice and homemade jams from the host’s mother are goodies that, if you are lucky, could be offered to you in a b&b allowing you to immerge yourself in authentic local culinary experiences making your stay certainly less aseptic than the ones usually offered by hotel chains. Very often, hotel breakfasts, unless you have opted for 5-star luxury, are not the best as instead of an old big mama smiling while she cooks, in their kitchens there are underpaid employees who, after waking up at 5 in the morning and having rambled the whole kitchen, will prepare for you two cobbled scrambled eggs and a grilled sausage floating in refracted fat while cursing the service chief. In any case, if you enjoy more private and standardized travel experiences then you should opt for a hotel while if you are looking for an authentic local experience then a b&b is what’s best for you.
Saving vs quality assured
Some sector studies show that b&bs, if compared to hotels, are cheaper for the same services offered and provide more living space at the same expense. However, convenience and extra space are not always synonymous of a better holiday because, if it is true that B&Bs are cheaper, it is also true that they are often decentralized or located far from main tourist attractions. So if most b&bs offer fully equipped kitchens allowing you to save on the food bill, this saving could be canceled by transport costs if they’re located far from the center. Moreover in b&bs, wi-fi connectivity is not always available and anti-theft security is generally higher in hotels if compared to vacation rentals and b&bs.
Efficiency and speed vs inexperience and slowness
Very often, booking a b&b can be very complicated, slow and laborious. Host inexperience could lead to awful booking experiences (not all b&bs are connected to big booking management portals) and it could happen that, for family problems, ineptitude or any other reason, a host decides to cancel your stay, ruining your holiday plans. Problems like the ones mentioned above are normally absent in hotels as they rarely leave their guests without a room even if sometimes they don’t deliver all their promises to their guests. The last note that could make you opt for hotels is that they often offer interesting loyalty programs. Frequent travelers can take advantage of point accumulation granting them free stays or discounts on many products and services. This aspect is almost completely absent in b&bs.
So, generally speaking, hotels are usually more expensive but also more efficient, more central, provide more quality and have interesting loyalty programs while b&bs are usually less expensive, generally more spacious, often deliver a more authentic travel experience but are also often decentralized and could hide inconvenience and unpleasant surprises.
As you can see there are pros and cons in every choice and the best advice I can share with you to help you make a good choice for your next vacation’s accommodation can be summed up in these few simple steps:
think which services are necessary and which ones are optional for your vacation needs
decide if you prefer a local or a standardized vacation experience
read other traveler’s reviews for each accommodation facility you are considering
book your stay on well known web booking portals
if you have any doubts about what you’re going to find in your hotel/b&b, once you arrive there, contact the facility manager/owner and ask lots of questions before your arrival
If you follow my advice I’m sure that your vacation experience will be as good as possible and you’ll avoid any issues.
Do more than just “visit”. Instead, immerse yourself into a new culture.
Does this sound familiar?
It’s a promise that many experiential travel companies, blogs, groups and guides promise. Because there’s a real demand for experiential travel — and it’s not just limited to third-party tour operators.
In fact, today’s hotels, B&Bs and even hostels compete on the experience they purport to offer guests far more than price. People don’t count themselves as “tourists” anymore but identify as “travelers”, “explorers” and, in some cases, “wanderers” and “digital nomads”.
In other words, there’s a shift from mere accommodation in the hospitality and travel niche towards experience as a major hallmark of a “successful” or “fulfilling” or even “memorable” trip.
And this shift has triggered a new competitive landscape for travel companies, hotels, B&Bs, hostels and even specialty cultural accommodations and lodging. So, is this just a new-fangled label or is there something deeper behind the hunger for experiential travel?
Why Offering an “Experience” Matters More than Price
If you’re reading this now and you were alive in the 90s (or even the early 2000s), you’ll remember that your travel decisions (or your family’s travel decisions) were based on the purse-strings.
Travel budgeting was a real thing — and it’s not that this concern has been thrown out the window. In fact, if the rise in sites that show consumers how to “hack” travel points on credit cards to budget travel around the world are any indication, pricing on accommodations still matters.
It’s just not the only thing that matters. Nor is it the most significant. In fact, even “budget” travelers are looking for something greater when they travel: the promise of an experience. There are very specific factors that have led to competition occurring on an entirely new playing field. Let’s take a look.
Enter the “Millennials”
There’s a new demographic in town and it’s beginning to enter into its peak earning years. That would be the generational group known as the “millennials”. And, in case you’ve missed the memo, they’re in the market with some serious buying power.
While it’s certainly true that “boomers are flocking to adventure tours” and that boomers’ tastes have taken a turn towards “non-traditional…bucket-list destinations…” with a focus on “exploring, learning about the history of a city, learning about the art”, millennials are parlaying their considerable influence into a taste for the exclusive, alongside the experiential.
While boomers are content to backpack and make the most of the wealth they’ve built or the time they have left, millennials are, increasingly becoming the generation of affluence.
Given that almost a quarter of U.S. adults making a household income of more then $500,000 are millennials, it might come as no surprise that, according to the United Nations, “200,000 million millennial tourists generate more than $180 billion in annual tourism revenue, an increase of nearly 30% since 2007” (Forbes).
So what are millennials looking for? That would be a preference for “traveling with their tribes” and so requiring larger or luxury accommodations, customization of itineraries, getting immersed in local culture and having access to a local contact or concierge to help plan activities because, “the travel is as much about the experience as it is the residence or accommodations.”
The rise of OTAs
In its infancy, OTAs or “online travel agents” — which were sites like Travelocity, Hotwire, Trivago and Priceline — allowed consumers to book tickets for several flights, comparing hotels, flights and rentals based on a variety of factors like price, location, connection duration, airline carrier or rental company.
Today, these predecessors have created a precedent and a shift in consumer behavior: Hardly anyone books a flight, accommodations or even a tour without first doing their “travel research”.
In fact, according to Phocuswright, “Viator and Expedia Local Expert” are the two most commonly used online travel agents” and “55% of leisure travelers…put a lot of thought into planning these trips”. (Google/Phocuswright, 2016)
OTAs suddenly made “price” levers a standard and accessible feature. As the novelty wore off and the travel market began operating as a staple in this manner, the competition shifted focus to something beyond just “price” — experience.
It was now no longer enough for hotels or even B&Bs to offer rooms based on price. To go above and beyond and retain a competitive edge, they now began to offer experiences. And, as will be seen, this “experiential” dimension is one that OTAs themselves started to offer as a major initiative (and opportunity).
A tale of social media and influencer marketing
Speaking of travel research, here are a few revelatory statistics that underscore consumer behavior at large:
70% of travelers with smartphones have done travel research on their smartphone. (Google, 2016)
1 in 2 traveler journeys start on mobile (Booking.com, 2016)
50% of millennial travelers have discovered a new travel company while researching on mobile. (Google, 2016)
30% of mobile searches are related to a location. (Google, 2016)
The shift in consumer behavior to a “mobile-first” approach has a lot to thank the social media movement for. Digital proliferation, in other words, hasn’t occurred in silos. At this point, mobile-first behavior for search and purchase also means that individuals are spending more time than ever on social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook.
These are also the platforms where major travel brands like Contiki as well as more boutique accommodations, luxury tours and more “niche” travel brands are serving up inspirational travel content for consumer consumption.
It’s not uncommon for users to see a location, accommodation or experience on Instagram, search through mobile and book online, expecting to book all parts of their trip at once and choosing a spot based on the experience it promises.
Experiencing Expedia & AirBnB
Experience tied into travel is what big name travel spaces online like Expedia and even AirBnB are now offering. Much of this has to do with the ways we search, our digital behaviour and the way marketing has changed in the last 10 years.
But it also has to do with a real demand that consumers have for a more all-encompassing, memorable and “authentic” experience.
Let’s take a look.
On the AirBnB website, the messaging makes the company’s priorities (and offerings) plenty clear:
“Book unique homes and experiences all over the world,” says AirBnB’s eye-catching main headline.
Next, we see that there’s a pre-populated and “suggested” search query already in the search bar: “Try ‘Hiking in San Francisco’,” it says. This, in other words, is a popular experience around which accommodations can be booked.
The suggested search also gives a more directed suggestion — “Homes for families in Shanghai” — but, again, the very specific qualifier here is “homes”, which suggests an experience of travel rather than simply a size of accommodation. It seems to tell the user they can expect “all the qualities of home” while traveling.
In 2016, AirBnB announced the addition of a new travel product to its traditional offerings, which might help to explain its shift in branding: “Trips”, which later evolved to “Experiences” in 2017 was, according to a Morgan Stanley survey, a response to levels of adoption tapering off for the app.
However, AirBnB’s $5 million investment into “Experiences” is, according to founder Brian Chesky, “a key initiative” focused on “evolving his company from a marketplace for renting other people’s homes into a multi-dimensional travel company” (Fast Company).
Experiences, essentially, is all about having AirBnB hosts providing activities that are local, alongside opening up their homes. These can be multi-day excursions like concerts or tours booked based on interests like food, fashion and music.
Expedia does something very similar. While it’s not an app for booking home rentals, it has spent a pretty marketing penny branding itself as a one-stop (online) shop for booking hotel accommodations, tours, car rentals, and local activities.
Just take a look at this “London Eye Experience Tickets” built right into the booking section for the site, alongside reviews on the experience “related attractions” suggestions.
Behind the obvious opportunity for these companies to take advantage of the shift in travel trends, there is something else going on here. A change in consumer behaviour, right now, is being more influenced than ever before by how we interact with the web at large, as consumers.
Besides social media hooking into every aspect of our lives, there are marketing-driven strategies that travel companies are using. Now, experiential travel is an invitation for consumers to “self-select” the kind of experience they want, based on their preferences or their “travel type”, as Contiki’s recent website revamp shows.
And then, there’s the question of search. 50% of search queries are four words or longer. (Ko Marketing, 2016)
Because keywords have become so competitive, there is a greater need for specificity. This means that there’s a rise in something known as “long tail keywords”, which are essentially phrases that are either questions or include four or more words.
Remember the AirBnB search suggestion? That’s a long tail keyword and it’s how people are searching more and more.
Why (and How) Is “Experience” More Alluring for Travel?
Reflecting on travel is always a very personal thing and, more and more, travelers express a desire to have an experience change them when they return.
In other words, they’re not looking to just skim the surface. They’re looking to get involved locally, meet people, blend in, partake and make memories. There is even a level of cultural preservation, awareness and sustainable travel inherent in this ethic of traveling.
First off, social media platforms and the rise of influencer marketing give would-be travelers a sense of being there without actually going. But this is precisely what creates a sense of inspiration and desire to adventure similarly and experience for oneself.
“#travelinspo” is just one of those popular and “trending” hashtags on social media that users can search to find experiences that suit their desires for travel.
Expedia and AirBnB’s “Experiences” prove that there is a real focus by travel companies, apps and even OTAs to provide a real “end-to-end” service. Blame it on Amazon and the rise of e-commerce, online shopping, that promises consumers an “end-to-end shopping experience”.
Travel is headed the same way.
The psychology behind experiential travel
There is something very simple operating in favor of experiential travel: Emotion.
Expectations for travel have shifted, along with the way they search, buy, research and make decisions. All these changes have come together to craft an atmosphere where emotional buying is easier than ever.
While a traveler can be more aware and informed than ever before, this awareness is simply a means of persuasion that occurs through various channels. Travel companies now have the opportunity to give consumers a more memorable trip than ever before by integrating all points of their travel into an experience.
In some ways, this is what travel is supposed to be all about: instilling a sense of, “I want to go there too…” in every would-be traveler.
So, what are some popular types of experiences? While they certainly are as diverse and wide as a consumer’s interests and a location’s offerings, common experience holidays can include:
Food tours under one cuisine like, “A Taste of Asia in San Francisco”
4-day nature/camping experiences in the Grand Canyon
In February 1983 Holiday Inn launched the first hotel Loyalty programs, and two months later Marriott followed the precursor launching its own hotel reward program. The foundations of one of the biggest hospitality trends were laid and, at the same time, Internet started taking its first steps (the word internet had been coined in 1982, almost a year earlier). Since these mythical times – the prehistory of loyalty programs – many things have changed and today the hotel industry players are now competing strongly for Baby Boomer and Millenial customers’ loyalty while trying to conquer and secure the future market segments.
Starwood and Marriott, the best rewards programs for frequent travelers
According to the best hotel loyalty programs ranking published in March 2018 by The Points Guy, a popular website dedicated to airline and hotel loyalty points, Starwood Preferred Guest is the best rewards program. The criteria used by The Points Guy are based on point utility. Starwood gives guests “Starpoints” (Regular members earn 2 Starpoints per dollar spent), a currency that can be used not only for getting a free stay but can also be transferred to a wide range of airline partners with considerable bonuses for elite members. It’s also relatively easy to earn the points through elite bonuses and spend them on the program’s co-branded credit card. SPG towers above competitors in The Points Guy ranking, but is only fifth in the J.D. Power ratings where Marriott is the winning horse instead (in The Points Guy ranking Marriott is sixth). The key evaluation factors of this ranking are generally geared towards mainstream and casual travelers and measured on a 1,000-point scale, that puts in order of importance four factors: ease of earning and redeeming rewards (35%); program benefits (27%); account management (22%); and member communication (16%). Anyway after comparing the two lists, Starwood apparently still has the best rewards program thanks to an incredibly versatile system of point redemption. Other hotel chains (like Marriot) grant more points per dollar but Starwood has a really vast array of earnings options(airlines, Uber, eating at Starwood restaurants, using Starwood credit cards, making a Green Choice etc.). For example, starting from a minimum stay, Starwood customers are awardedwith free internet, room or suite upgrades, free drinks, late checkout, free breakfastand more. Starwood also has one of the biggest networks o partnerships, especially with airline companies, and it’s possible to convert SPG points in upgraded seats, faster check-in, priority boarding, and free checked bag.
3 other top loyalty programs
According to the above mentioned classification comparison systems, (Points Guy and J.D. Power), on the Olympus of loyalty programs, next to Starwood and Marriott there is the World of Hyatt rewards program. Despite their small portfolio of properties they have a high percentage of Luxury Properties (about 6% of their total properties), and they can boast tremendous Elite Status benefits like suite upgrades,guaranteed late checkout and co-branded credit cards offering many opportunities to their guests. The wooden medal goes to Hilton with their incredible portfolio of hotels and rooms spread in over 100 countries all over the world. Hilton guests have a lot of perks such as complimentary wi-fi, member-only rates, and free sharing of points with the program’s new family pooling feature. The Hilton’s co-branded credit cards offer a wide variety of benefits and thanks to their programs, they have one of the biggest catchment areas in the hospitality industry. The fifth loyalty program in the comparative ranking here described,, is the Intercontinental Hotel Group Rewards. Their affiliated customers have guaranteed lucrative promotions and bonuses globally thanks to a large number of hotels scattered around the world with a unique geographic spread.
Focus on Next Generation Guests
The hotel industry, in a constant effort aiming to attract new customers, is creating new strategies focused on next generation guests. An interesting study published by Taylor Short – Market Research Associate at Software Advice – shows why Millennials are so attractive for big brands. They are not just customers of the future but they represent the next lucrative customer base because they have more money available for travel than their predecessors and in the future, entering their peak earning years, this generation will provide the majority of spending for travel and leisure. According to this research next-geneneration customers are spending more than ever on travel, with 26% saying that they spent more on vacations than in the previous year. Furthermore,there is no doubt that these individuals are more technologically inclined and connected to the internet than the previous generations, so the opportunities of reaching them are many more than thaosefor other age groups. The research also show that the “new guests” are very attentive to their expenses and they tend to spend their earned points on rewards such as free or discounted hotel stays (51% of respondents) because redeeming points in this way helps them save money on purchases they would likely make anyway on future trips. Another interesting fact is that millenials (58% of respondents) find hotel loyalty program apps valuable. Their segment accounts for the largest percentage of mobile app users and offer big opportunities to hotels as the latter can use these technologies as a preferential channel to communicate with the former and send them notifications for upgrades and services. It would be a mistake to underestimate the fact that the new generation of travelers considers travel a priority and they want to feel like they’re part of their favorite hospitality brands’ worlds. With apps, social media and new technologies, hotel companies can establish fast, continuous and direct communication with Millenials who seem to enjoy this technological contant with brands of their interest. Summing up what is written above, loyalty programs in the hospitality industry have evolved as a reflection of major societal trends focused on digital interaction and constant contact with new generation travelers. The world wide web andmobile apps are vital tools for the success of any hotel loyalty program as they provide hoteliers with the ability to stimulate and surprise their prospects and customers easilly and effectively.
Managing the reputation of hotels in the digital age is its own animal. With multiple channels of engagement and bookings come multiple opportunities for strategic management — and, equally, the risk of having one important piece of the puzzle go awry.
With the industry turning to online sales and lead management systems for everything from bookings to traffic and marketing, it can be easy to forget that hotels operate in the hospitality industry.
But just because the primary sphere of operations and reputation management has shifted doesn’t mean that hotels can forget this one crucial rule. In fact, with the turn to digital operations, hotel reputation management stands to benefit from things like newly emerging review sites, social media platforms and search engines.
These simultaneous spheres of reputation management matter when it comes to the overall success of accommodation facilities.
For hoteliers, B&B owners, vacation rental owners and the like, revenue management is intricately connected with review sites. Why? Like restaurants offering a unique experience through a combination of customer service, cuisine, and ambience, these accommodation facilities also promisean experience.
In simplest terms, hotels and other accommodation facilities must rely on bookings — which is, essentially, a volume of sales. They can certainly increase or decrease a price, based on availability and demand, for a room.
But their overall revenue relies heavily on whether their property’s reputation is one that inspires trust and confidence from a traveller.
Review portals are where reputations are being built, burnished or tarnished. And this, of course, also has a longer-term effect of web rankings and search engine visibility.
Reviews matter. According to a study by TripAdvisor, more than half of global respondents say they won’t make a booking until after they’ve read more than a few reviews, figuring out what previous travellers thought of the entire experience.
In response to reviews, reputation management should focus on actually engaging with problematic feedback. The study also found that:
• 87% of users say that if management were to follow up with an empathetic response, it “improves
my impression of the hotel”
• 70% of users agreed that a defensive response, on the other hand, “makes me less likely to book
• Overall, however, any response is better than none: 62% of users say that seeing responses to
reviews helps as it “makes me more likely to book it”
Clearly, the key to success for managers of accommodations, when considering revenue, is to focus
instead on being proactive with their end customer — the traveller. Instead of a liability, it’s useful for
managers to look at the explosion of review portals as an opportunity to build relationships with
customers in a more direct way.
If reviews are intimately tied into revenue management and a hotel’s reputation, how can we quantify it in order to improve on it?
Luckily, there’s a KPI for that and it’s called “RevPAR”. As industry-insiders will know, RevPAR “is a measurement of both a hotel’s average daily rate and its ability to actually fill those rooms.”
Since RevPAR gives accommodations managers a sense of current performance while also making a recommendation on how much to charge for a room, this KPI is not only a measurement, it is a metric that can be used to optimise revenue.
While a low occupancy rate, for example, would tell accommodations managers to reduce the rates for a period of time, a higher RevPAR number might indicate room for increase. But it doesn’t rely on occupancy alone — it also relies on the overall revenue created per room. So, a larger hotel who’s margins are much larger might have a lower RevPAR but a higher overall revenue.
A consistently low RevPAR number, especially for a smaller property, could prove to be problematic. But it’s the first sign of something needing to be addressed. RevPAR is the visible metric of revenue management which, as we’ve seen, is directly linked to “review” and “response” management.
Part of hotel reputation management is managing, populating and updating OTAs. Online travel agencies, as they’re better known, are spots like Booking.com, Expedia, Hotels.com, Travelocity, and Priceline, amongst others.
Besides being able to book and find deals using these portals, travellers can also visit the reviews section or make use of a reviewing tool on any of these sites. How can accommodations managers decide which to respond to?
Even though many OTA sites say that they provide “verified” reviews, cutting down on the number of fraudulent reviews, the level of scoring is still quite arbitrary. This means that the experience of staying in a property could be quite subjective.
Because of this, hoteliers and property managers are encouraged to respond to views that are specific in their feedback, giving detailed information as to an incident or issues directly relating to the hotel (not necessarily other aspects of the trip).
OTAs, like RevPAR, can also be a useful metric — albeit, a qualitative one, rather than a quantitative one. If a RevPAR number returns low, for example, accommodations managers can use feedback posted on OTAs to check the pulse of their reputation, so to speak. In this way, they can use OTAs not only to funnel new bookings; hotels, B&Bs or vocational rental owners can list an extra room on major OTAs. Since the ranking online will be based on the overall authority of the OTA, not the hotel, a new listing can help override an outlier negative review.
Responsiveness is one way to capture a customer’s loyalty. But nothing beats a face-to-face, human- to-human connection.
When it comes to reputation management, it’s a good idea for accommodation managers of any format to go the extra mile and give it the personal touch. Take the time to walk around the facilities, interact with guests, and engage in conversation — online and offline.
Customer loyalty, however, is built on multiple channels — both in the physical, experiential world and in the digital plane. As such, every manager’s in-person efforts must be supported with analytics software that is able to market effectively as well as offer incentivised bookings and customised offers that take the most granular details under consideration.
For example, a robust platform would be able to automate booking, capture the details of a guest’s experience within a room, noting down any discount initially offered, how quickly they booked, what they might have ordered, any preferences they requested and then create a compelling offer a few months down the road. It would also have to include a follow-up sequence — all from the vantage point of not just hooking the customer but having them return.
This all leads to one final and overarching goal: Brand equity and recognition.
Building a reputation online is one thing but managing and maintaining it is an everyday task that requires consistent actions.
A study by Hotel Advantage finds that there are three components to building a reputable hotel or
1 Listening and responding to guest reviews
2 Building your community and content
3 Upgrading your visual presence
Above this, ROI on social media, the study finds, only begins at 6 hours a week — and that’s six hours of meaningful and live interacting, content creation and commenting, besides strategic efforts like sponsorships and ads.
The study also finds that:
• Unfavourable reviews are the primary driver in lost bookings
• Companies that achieve the best customer service ratings are able to, through a combination of marketing and outreach, minimise the amount of time between learning about a customer’s needs and taking action on it.
At the core of every hotel’s reputation, then, is guest satisfaction. And even something as large as brand equity and recognisability can come down to employees, who are the frontline of a customer’s experience.
In other words, a brand does not only comprise a customer’s experience but its strength is also a
testament to an employee’s satisfaction and commitment toward the brand.
Every time you think about or plan your next trip, do you ever wonder what the future of travel and hospitality looks like? Digitization has brought massive changes to the travel industry delivering highly personalized experiences to travelers. So if you really want to get an idea of what’s next in the hospitality industry, you better watch out for these 5 major trends for the upcoming year.
1. Blockchain technology
Blockchain technology is about to take hold and radically change the global economy including the hospitality industry. Originally devised for the Bitcoin digital currency, the blockchain is starting to be used in new applications every day aiming at eliminating middlemen and intermediaries from provider-to-consumer transactions, allowing people to execute contracts (bookings for example) without the need for a “trusted” third parties (online travel agencies for example). Within the hotel industry horizon, numerous brand new companies are already showing up, offering platforms on which customers and rental providers can directly contact each other for free, without paying any commission. Winding Tree, Lockchain, Trippki, Fujinto, Emphy, Abab and Pally are some examples of companies using the blockchain to disrupt industries in the belief that travelers shouldn’t have to pay high rates to OTAs to get a good room, and hotels shouldn’t have to raise their rates to account for the cut the agencies take. Their claim is to ”make travel cheaper for the end user while making it more profitable for suppliers”, moreover “allowing small companies to compete with big players”, quoting Winding Tree.
2. Chatbots and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
At present, the most widely recognized AI application in the hospitality business is chat-bots. Due to their ability to provide answers in many languages, 24/7 and by means of familiar online services like direct messaging apps, they have become extra-useful tools for hoteliers, freeing up precious time for the staff and providing fast and tailored responses to customers. Accor Hotels designed it’s bot to be able to collect stories and experiences related to places and therefore to guide guests throughout them by means of geolocation. The Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas equipped its bot, named “Rose”, with an unprecedented flirty and funny personality she uses to recommend amenities and make reservations for clients in a totally new way.
The Frankfurt-based, International Federation of Robotics, predicts a 20 to 25 % increase in sales of professional service robots (defense robots, cleaning robots, medical robots and logistics systems robots) per year through 2020, from around 79,000 last year. Robby Pepper, developed by Japan’s Softbank Robotics, is the first robot concierge deployed in an Italian hotel on Lake Garda; he can speak Italian, English and German, answering guests’ questions regarding topics like the spa, restaurants and opening hours. This summer’s tourist season will provide Robby with the crash course in unanticipated questions, not to mention accents, that will help him improve his knowledge, vocabulary, and his ability to answer. In 2016, 7200 public relations robots, providing mobile info and assistance like Softbank’s Pepper, were sold — a full 135 percent increase over the previous year. German hotel chain, Motel One, uses a lederhosen-clad concierge named Sepp to greet guests arriving in its newest location in Munich. Sepp can answer a wide range of guests’ questions, from personal to general. Meanwhile, Singapore offers two cutting-edge examples of this fast-growing technology. The first can be found at the M Social hotel, “employing” Aura, a front-of-the-house robot, used to deliver small room amenities like water, towels, and toiletries to its guests. Elsewhere in the city, the Jen Hotel uses a pair of colorful butler robots named Jeno and Jena for guest-oriented services like the delivery of in-room meals. LG gave us a glimpse at the next generation of hospitality robots with CLOi during this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. CLOi represents the next development in hospitality robotics, with even more engaging robots that can clean up, serve food and drinks with a built-in sliding tray, handle baggage and payments during check-in and check-out, and provide directions.
4. Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the network of interconnected internet-abled devices and physical things. IoT means that cars, kitchen appliances, hotel rooms can all be connected and exchange data. Today’s hotel rooms are packed with devices that give customers access to now indispensable services. Hilton has even built a room to beta test technologies including voice-control and the management of room settings like temperature, and lighting. By combining interconnected devices, sensors and machine learning, with virtual assistants, hotels can leverage the existing IoT to further enhance the customer experience.
With the amount of guest data being already available, hotels can generate predictions about customer preferences, and thanks to recent advances in artificial intelligence, hotels have begun to equip their rooms with smart devices that use voice recognition. Wynn Las Vegas equipped as many as 5000 hotel rooms with Amazon’s Echo speaker, allowing its guests to control many features in the room with Amazon’s voice-controlled virtual assistant, Alexa.
5. Mobile devices
Mobile phones have unveiled a whole new world to travelers: mobile innovation is key to the future of the hospitality business, and guests can’t fail to enjoy a holiday without a mobile phone. This is the reason why more and more hotels are providing mobile phones in their rooms. A single small device can enclose an entire and amazing world of services: payment gateways, sales and catering systems, wi-fi connectivity, mobile check-in/check-out programs, smart door lock management etc. Smartphones have already become essential not only to booking and paying a room but also to ordering room benefits as well as discovering activities and restaurants in a new city. For instance The Buddha Bar Hotel in Paris has enhanced its mobility services making its staff contactable anywhere on-site and therefore endowing it with extensive awareness of the guests’ demands. Moreover an app enables its employees to instantly report any room availability through a code on their mobile devices. The Winery Hotel, in Sweden, has opted for a fully mobile guest approach and completely refused the idea of in-room fixed telephones. By implementing a mobile eConcierge app the Winery Hotel now provides hotel services and enterprise-grade telephony entirely through their smart devices. This allows the hotel to be active 24/7.
The above mentioned trends are just a short list of all the trends that are shaping and revolutionizing the hospitality industry whose future seems full of exciting possibilities! Stay tuned to our blog to discover how technology is changing the way people travel.
At the dawn of history, keys and locks were made of wood and until the ‘70s the only big change in key and lock manufacturing involved the introduction of new materials and the substitution of wood with iron, then with bronze and subsequently with stronger metals like titanium.
From the Egyptians to the Tor Sørnes turning point
The Egyptians were the first to invent keys and locks. This advanced civilization developed the first security systems for houses and coffers and they also were the first to give a symbolic andsacred meaning to keys. The ankh is an ancient Egyptian symbol also known as crux ansata (the Latin word for “cross with a handle”) symbolizing “the key of life” a mystic sign connected to sex (intended as sexual act but also as m/f gender identification), tothe sun (god Ra bring ankh in his hand) and to other esoteric concepts. The gesture of inserting a key in a patch certainly conveys a highly erotic meaning therefore it is no coincidence that it has often been used in movies to increase their sexual load. Keys have always been powerful signifiers either they give access to an alcove, to a drawer full of secrets, to an apartment or to a hotel room.
Focusing on hotel rooms,, until 1975 they were equipped with conventional iron keys and locks.
The same year, Norwegian inventor Tor Sørnes created the holecard-based recodable keycard lock. With this new system each hotel guest could have his/her own unique key formed by a pattern of 32 holes on a plastic card. This invention is still used worldwide in hotel security under the brand VingCard. The 32 holes on the key generate 4.2 billion key combinations, the same number as the population of the earth at that time.
The first hotel to install the keycard lock in 1978 was the Peachtree Plaza Hotel in Atlanta (USA). Since then, this invention spread like wildfire all over the world until it became obsolete because of the introduction of new technologies.
Smart door locks: a big new trend
Today, smart door lock use seems to be one of the biggest trends in the hospitality industry as Brian Shedd, VP of sales and marketing at OpenKey, said. His words were “I believe all new hotels at this point will be installing BLE – buetooth low energy – locks for the next five or 10 years based on trends in the hospitality industry”.
Nicolas Aznar, president of Assa Abloy Hospitality Americas Group thinks the same way: “It’s about utilizing the most advanced technologies available to accomplish the aforementioned objectives, the next technology for door locks will be solutions that streamline the check-in process to benefit both hoteliers and guests, and as door lock technology continues to advance they will incorporate more user-friendly and robust technologies”. This revolution will simplify the life of both hotel guests and managers, and comes from multiple channels as it is not only through mobile apps that the hotel industry is trying to outdo conventional keys.
Companies like the italian “Sofia” are trasforming smartphones in keys that can be used by their respective owners only. This unlocking solution offers many new possibilities as access can be restricted to specific time slots and days, within a given timeframe, can be extended to multiple individuals and it can also be used to study which rooms are the mostly accessed ones. This high tech key innovation allows managing access of multiple users or user groups and multiple keys with a single clickat a low price and with ease.
“Vikey”, another italian hi-tech company focused on the B&B market, offers new interesting opportunities to hosts and allow homeowners or house managers to handle guest check-ins remotely at any time of the day.
Apple is instead working on implementing hotel check-in and room door management functionalities in its latest smartwatch with the intent to make it complementary to the iphone and launch it commercially. This is whatKevin Lynch, Apple’s VP of Technology, explained in a recent interview: “When I arrive at my hotel room, I get a notification and also when I get near hotels like SPG’s W Hotel, you can see it’s got all the information I need to check-in, my confirmation number, my room number. These are really rich notifications; they have images, they have great typography and rich layout and it not only looks great and reflects the brand and the company, but it also makes it easier for you to understand very quickly and you can act on these. In this case I can use this to unlock my door right from the notification from my watch. So I press ‘unlock your door’, I can bypass the front desk entirely, go to my room and then my watch is my room key. I just wave it in front of the door and I go into my room.”
Big hotel brands like Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt and Starwood are also working on the adoption of keyless access systems so the whole market seems to be going towards the smart-lock directions even if problems like device loss, battery capacity limits and lock hacking have to be dealt with to make new lock technologies easilly usable and reasonably safe.
Innovation has its downsides: what will the future of locks look like?
We certainly see more keyless innovation in the future of the hospitality industry. However, the recent cases of an Austrian luxury hotel that was hacked by an angry guest, who paralized the hotel’s entire electronic system and demanded a substantial bitcoin ransom, or of the hacker group named “DarkHotel” that attempted malware attacks towards luxury hotel guests, stimulate some important reflections on the actual safety of smart locks. Nevertheless, it seems that the power of innovation is taking the smart lock industry towards a very clear goal consisting in freeing hotel guests from all key-related hassle and making their check-in and door opening experiences as fast, carefree and natural as possible. After all, today more than ever and thanks to technology, Pablo Picasso’s saying “Everything we can imagine in real” is true and the future of locks seems full of surprises!