Filippo Frizzi

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travelers planning vacation

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.

hotel booking - manet mobile solutions

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 breakfast - manet mobile solutions

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.

hotel room quality - manet mobile solutions

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.

 

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hotel fidelity programs - Manet Mobile Solutions

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.

happy traveler - Manet Mobile Solutions

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.

hotel fidelity programs - Manet Mobile Solutions

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.

young traveler - Manet Mobile Solutions

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.

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Smart locks

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.

Smartphones for smart lock management

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.

the future of hotel smart locks

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!

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The advent of the internet has made available an infinite range of information to tourists and the web, along with new technologies, has undoubtedly revolutionized the way we travel.
Big internet portals like Tripadvisor and popular social media like Facebook and Twitter assist travelers in gathering information, guide them in their choices through reviews and opinions about travel-related content and often engage them in interactive forums.

 4 Read more

Once upon a time, on hotel reception desks, there was the bell and behind it the bellhop that jumped up at the customer’s call. After the bell came intercoms and the first phones. Since then things kept evolving rapidly and today the fate of the hospitality industry seems to be inextricably linked to the advent of smartphones.

According to analysts, 2017 has been the year of these “mobile allies” and now as technology moves the world and firms of all market sectors cannot survive without it, the hospitality industry is riding the digital revolution wave with a particular focus towards digital mobility as the use of smartphones seems to affect all businesses including hotels. Smartphone diffusion indexes, that had already been impressive in 2016, grew from 2.1 billion users to 2.31 in 2017 and will be around 2.5 billion in 2019 (just over 36 percent of the world’s population is projected to use a smartphone by 2018).

 7 Read more
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