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Internet of things - Manet Mobile Solutions

In many ways, the connected network nature of the ‘Internet of Things’ is the perfect partner for hotel operations and the hospitality industry in general.

Hotels demand constant upkeep and attention so the more hoteliers, hotel managers and staff can empower customers to rely on technology — tech that automates repetitive and menial tasks that don’t necessarily call for human decision-making — the more they can free up time and resources to attend to more important aspects of the guest experience.

Over 58% of businesses have already adopted IoT. And, within the hospitality industry, the ‘smart’ hotel is becoming increasingly a commitment to the present, rather than a vision of the future.

Just ask Orchid Hotel in Mumbai, India. An unlikely candidate for the venture into ‘smart’ hotels, Orchid Hotel has nevertheless harnessed IoT technology to simply keep tabs on and track energy consumption, allowing the hotel to save on costs in an ongoing way.

IoT and Hospitality - Manet Mobile SolutionsPhoto by RKTKN on Unsplash

The continuous and real-time monitoring empowered Orchid Hotel’s managers to then take this data and appropriately schedule out power consumption based on peak occupancy and load times. In a country where power outages are frequent, especially in the monsoon season, this accurate data reporting and automated, remote operating capability is an absolute game changer.

‘IoT is not about connecting things or services but it is about changing the way things and services deliver value. In the process, things are becoming services, and services are becoming more intelligent’ — SmartSense

Indeed, herein lies the power of IoT: ‘Things are becoming services…and services are becoming more intelligent’.

And since the hospitality industry is all about serving guests, this seems a particularly beneficial partnership.

Hotel Smart Devices - Manet Mobile SolutionsPhoto by Bence ▲ Boros on Unsplash

The transition on both the consumer side and the business side are not only positive but incredibly promising. Within the everyday consumer, IoT has already embedded itself as a daily practice.

  • The number of homeowners living in ‘smart’ (read: connected) homes using automation is slated to rise from 12.5% in 2016 to 28% in 2021, reports Kagan
  • This number matches with those who rely on personal digital assistants on their smartphones: 26% of voice assistant adopters rely on this technology to connect remotely to ‘things’ (Pew Research)
  • In the UK, smart TVs, Internet-connected cameras, connected cars and fitness trackers were among the most popular

IoT data from Statista - Manet Mobile SolutionsSource: Statista

Why does this matter?

Because there is an expectation of IoT — and it’s an expectation that is increasingly permeating our social fabric, through the digital sphere.

The Internet of Things in the Hotel Industry

IoT has the chance to take back some of the market share from rental booking sites like Airbnb and HomeAway.

While the target markets for guest stays and experiences in a hotel versus those individuals who would like to stay more casually in someone’s home vary vastly — which is to say that there is room enough in the market for both — the fact of the matter is that IoT empowers guests.

And this is a technology that is only really available for use in the context of a hotel booking, which makes hotels that much more attractive to travellers. This is especially true as everyone moves over to more connected devices.

So how does the guest experience stand to gain? Let’s take a look at specific examples already in play within the hospitality industry.

‘In-stay’ technology

In-stay technology allows guests to experience the hotel’s services right at one’s fingertips. Interfacing with a range of interconnected apps, then hooked up to physical, tangible ‘things’ in the room, these workflows allows users — guests — to be in charge of their own experience within the room.

exclusivity and personalization in hospitality - Manet MobilePhoto by Nad Hemnani on Unsplash

On the business side, the interconnectivity between a tablet and a room’s features like its curtains, lights, temperature and TV set or apps set to give guests information about their queries — this technology provides a massive up-sell and cross-sell opportunity.

Hotels can send push notifications about offers that would enhance a guest’s stay on these devices. Or else, in response to a query or command, chatbots and smart speakers can offer upgrades or complementary sells.

Voice-based guest room controls

As the leisure and luxury tourist capital of the world, it’s no wonder that hotels in Dubai are the first to begin strategic partnerships focused on offering ‘guests an experience more similar to what they’ve come to expect at home’.

The collaboration is a strategic one between Angie Hospitality, creator of interactive guest room assistant, ‘Angie’, and INTEREL, the provider of guest room management solutions. The integration between the two offers guests a seamless experience that relies on the Internet of Things infrastructure to control and interact with the room.

digital hospitality services - Manet MobilePhoto by freestocks.org on Unsplash

The best part? This one is truly made for travellers: Angie is multilingual.

‘With the advent of IoT, AI and voice technologies, the manner in which hotels communicate and interact with their guests is changing dramatically,” says Ted Helvey, the CEO of Angie Hospitality.

He adds, ‘Likewise, the way that guests manage their stay and customise the guest room environment is also evolving.’

Personalised delivery and anticipating a guest’s needs

It’s one small step for Marriott, one giant step for guest experience.

To tap into the all-powerful potential of IoT, Marriott worked with Legrand and Samsung in order to both test and provide a taste of an entirely IoT-enabled guest room.

Marriott senior vice president of global design strategies Karim Khalifa was inspired by the idea after visiting a conference featuring Legrand’s ‘Eliot’ program, an IoT network. It was all about translating the smart home experience into the hotel context.

But Khalifa was strategic. In order to pack in even more ROI (and not just novelty), he and his team began to work on introducing an initiative that would bring to life two different rooms based on three very specific traveller profiles. 

The first was a yoga-centric coach, the second a long-term travel ‘nomad’ and the third, a family of four on holiday.

Very separate groups of people, very idiosyncratic needs, very specific room experiences.

To power up the room, Khalifa relied on Samsung’s cloud-based IoT, an enterprise-level platform that works not only on Samsung products but third-party devices.

Now that is both powerful and promising.

traveling with style - manet mobile
Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash

Khalifa and Marriott’s unique approach tells us that, more and more, IoT affords hotels the opportunity to cater to multiple profiles or types of travellers.

This means that even those individuals who may usually opt to stay at an Airbnb can look forward to a more ‘casual’, ‘local’ or ‘informal’ stay experience because they can control the room according to their preferences.

What’s even better is that, with enough of an accumulation of this data, Marriott’s IoT initiative can then begin to leverage guest profiles for further beneficial offers, to craft unique, hotel-driven experiences, and to hook up these travellers with loyalty programs, booking incentives, rewards, likes, dislikes, preferences on dietary needs and more.

Challenges to these opportunities

There are a couple of challenges that IoT presents, especially in these examples.

First off, IoT-connected rooms will need to follow a baseline of operation and support. And this can get tricky when hotels are all testing and operating on their own platforms or in partnerships with various management systems and apps.

Users will eventually come to expect a baseline — such as digital keys for role-based access or automated guest check-in processes. If there are voice-activated user interfaces, for example, in just a few hotels, then guests will come to expect that as a standard.

If hotels don’t have that developed, they stand to seriously mar their customer’s experience by several points.

At Hilton, for example, an entirely ‘mobile-centric hotel room’ still relies on Hilton’s development of its own apps and platforms, which are then hooked into its reward program.

premium hospitality services - Manet Mobile SolutionsPhoto by rawpixel on Unsplash

But on the customer side, managing multiple and separate apps for different hotel brands can get tricky at best and tedious at worst. They might end up entirely avoiding the whole affair if the user experience can’t be streamlined and converged.

Spokesperson for Hilton, Julia Burge addresses this head on, saying that, ‘At this point, we don’t have a voice technology component,’ while also implying that development could be in the works if the need was justified.

We’ve already seen what the second potential challenge could be: Khalifa and Marriott pointed to it in their choice of Samsung.

While the goal of the device producer is to ‘map all 20 billion connected devices to this cloud by the year 2020…’ which means that ‘you can bring in devices that never really talked to each other before’, hotels are not quite at the point of brand agnosticism.

This means that even if hotels all align their IoT experiences, there is still the issue of whether to have in-house devices or allow guests to use their own.

The sheer variety of devices — often brands that are competing — make convergence and alignment tricky. Apple, Google, Amazon, Samsung — can these ecosystems branch out and connect with each other?

The Advantages IoT Presents For the Hospitality Industry

These are just a few of the examples of IoT already in operation within the hotel industry.

From hotels like Mariott, Hilton and Orchid Hotel, to the providers of hotel management software like INTEREL, to the actual producer and provider of devices like Samsung, almost all players are necessarily connected when it comes to setting up and harnessing the power of IoT infrastructure.

From these examples, instances and uses we can take away a couple of key advantages that IoT holds for the hospitality industry’s present and future.

Optimising processes and promoting productivity.

For hotels, implementing IoT necessarily boosts productivity.

It’s not just about freeing up time and resources when you can control and streamline certain aspects like energy consumption or empower guests to take care of their own check-in.

It’s also about pivoting staff so that they’re focused on more important things that only humans can do such as decision-making, guest interaction and troubleshooting.

Processes like ERP and CRM can be integrated in a faster and more efficient manner, allowing hotels to manage inventory, control invoices and billings and perform other key business operations with speed and granularity.

High-end hotel service - Manet Mobile SolutionsPhoto by Michael Browning on Unsplash

Tracking information about guest preferences, behaviours and habits

As we saw from Khalifa and Marriott’s own initiative, the data that IoT devices stand to collect, through a guest’s interactions with the network, allow massive amounts of information to be gleaned, collected and analysed.

It won’t be long, in fact, until there is enough data to then start to bring in predictive analytics, truly anticipating a guest’s needs, based on similar behaviour, micro ‘decisions’, past purchases and more.

This can then be integrated into business functions as diverse as marketing initiatives and sales to supply chain and inventory management, as well as quality control of perishable products, room cleanliness, rating management systems and more.

The technology is here, the hardware is primed and the software is being developed. All that is left is for hotels to seize the opportunity that IoT presents. It’s time for the hospitality industry to get connected in a whole new way — not just to their guests but, rather, to each other, as brands and companies.

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leisure traveler - Manet Mobile

The travel industry is one of the world’s most robust. In the United States alone, leisure travelers generated more than $380 billion in 2017. As the economy continues its confident, forward motion, there is every reason to expect even more growth in the years ahead with plenty of cause for optimism throughout the hotel sector.
Yet one thing is for certain, the average consumer has become a lot savvier and will demand a great deal of the hotelier for their hard-earned tourism dollar. They will want to make sure that the property is well configured and can meet their every need, and furthermore, will expect to find technology that also matches their expectations.
Before you fling open your doors to those customers, you need to focus on five crucial areas that matter most to leisure travelers if you want to get your slice of that ever-growing pie.

Customized hotel guest experience - Manet Mobile
Tailored Experience

All your leisure visitors will be looking for a unique experience. They want to create a raft of memories to take home with them and will expect to find more than simply a hotel room and standard amenities. Consequently, you need to focus on giving them what they want by capitalizing on your location and unusual attributes or USPs. If you’re struggling to leverage any of those, you will need to come up with some new ones. This may require a great deal of creativity so get to know the buyer persona of your average customer well to inform your strategy.
For example, you can cater to older travelers, who may be looking for integration rather than independence. If so, why not create dance lessons or a group activity each evening so your guests can mingle with people who have a similar interest and foster new relationships?

hotel dinner - Manet Mobile
Dining Options

You cannot expect to maximize your potential as a hotel property if you do not offer dining options to your guests. Once again, be familiar with the average needs of your guests and provide a variety of different solutions for each part of the day. You may not need to focus too much on breakfast time if you cater for the younger set, but you will definitely need to have late-night service or a snack bar that is open 24/7 for all those night owls. Remember, people are outside of their regular schedule when they are on a vacation, so don’t expect them to eat at “traditional” times. They will be disappointed if your facilities are closed when they are craving something to eat.

hotel facilities - Manet Mobile
First-Rate Facilities

Leisure travelers will want to explore the hotel’s facilities, especially if it happens to be a rainy day outside. Ensure that you have a well stocked, clean and up-to-date gym, swimming pool and other facilities, and not something that is just “adequate.” Furthermore, ensure that your steam rooms and spas are professionally staffed and offer first-rate service, especially if this is a separate cost for you and you expect to earn dedicated revenues. Foster relationships with off-site facilities as well like your nearest golf course or trail riding company so you can offer “special” rates to your guests and create a good impression.

hotel wifi - Manet Mobile

Quality WiFi

Gone are the days when you can offer connectivity as an afterthought. Everybody wants to check their email or social media, even when on vacation. You must ensure that you provide high-speed Internet connections throughout the property. Furthermore, make it easy for them to log on to Wi-Fi with a simple password. Don’t make them log back on every five minutes should they move away from their device as this is guaranteed to annoy. Don’t think about charging for the service either as it should be one of your included services.

Manet Mobile Smart Travel Assistant

Smart Device

You may have long since given up on the humble bedside telephone as a profit center and understand that most guests simply do not make use of it, apart from the odd call to reception for an ice bucket. However, you need to replace this old-fashioned device with a customized smartphone and make this available to your customers instead.
These phones are specially designed to help the average guest enjoy their stay even more and look just like the phone that they are carrying in their pocket or bag. However, this device can be more than a valuable resource for the guest, but also a profit center for the hotel in its own right.
This type of solution offers your guests the chance to make free and unlimited calls to international destinations, in addition to domestic contacts. It provides 4G connectivity and a high-quality link so they can use this device rather than their own and, potentially, avoid any roaming fees from their provider.
The device is specially configured with information relevant to your hotel and surroundings. In short, it can double as a tourist guide that will help them explore. In addition, they’ll be able to use the device to book room service, schedule some time at a spa, operate the in-room TV, turn on the air conditioning and so much more.
When you focus on providing this type of service, make sure that you choose high-quality and impressive devices so your guests are inclined to interact. They should be configured with an operating system that is easy to work with and has multi-language support. Remember, this is also a chance to enhance your corporate message so you can customize a welcome greeting or other detail which they will see every time they switch it on.

Five Chances to Shine

If you’re in charge of promoting a hotel and maximizing room occupancy, you need to ensure that you stand apart from all your peers. Focus on these five areas and you will do just that.

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Reputation management - Manet Mobile Solutions

Running a hotel can be an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling job. Each day, you’ll have the opportunity to show your guests a great time while taking care of their every need. However, not all of your customers will be as satisfied with the experience as you hope, and they may turn to social media and review websites like TripAdvisor and Yelp to air their grievances. This can damage your hotel’s reputation, making it more challenging to bring in new guests to your property.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to boost guest satisfaction, respond to negative reviews and prevent future dissatisfaction so that you can maintain a favorable reputation. Here’s how to do it.

data mining for hotel reputation management - Manet Mobile Solutions

Start by Collecting Data

It will be difficult to manage your hotel’s reputation if you don’t know where you currently stand, so your first step should be to find out. Collect comment cards from guest rooms, and have a look at your property’s page on popular review sites. It is also a good idea to keep track of the most common requests your guests have, like additional pillows, in-room safes, and other amenities. This will give you a sense of which areas of your service might be in need of improvement. Going forward, continue to track all of this data to update your records and continue to improve.

hotel staff seminar

Educate Your Staff

Many customers won’t take the time to leave a comment card or review, but you’ll still want to know how they enjoyed their stay. Your staff can be invaluable in this regard, as they are the ones who engage with your guests face-to-face each day. Train your employees to report customer comments, both positive and negative, so that you can add them to the records you started in the previous section.

Part of your team’s training should also include teaching them how to anticipate potential issues. If they are able to prevent a problem before it occurs, your guests may never be the wiser. If a problem has already occurred, your staff should have the tools and authority they need to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. A speedy resolution to a problem could turn a negative review into a positive one despite the complications.

monitoring hotel reviews -

Monitor Customer Feedback

As you continue to collect information about the customer experience in your hotel through comment cards and online review portals, keep an eye out for any trends. For example, you may have had a lot of positive reviews in the past, but your most recent views may skew towards the negative. This could be a sign that the quality of your hotel is deteriorating in terms of customer service or the property itself. Of course, the opposite could also be true, with past negative reviews making way for more positive ones as you improve your level of service.

Even if your reviews are generally positive, it is still possible to get a negative review here and there. As hard as you might try, it is virtually impossible to please every single guest. Circumstances out of your control, like power outages, guests’ moods, supplier issues and other complications could impact the guest experience. Even if a negative review is an outlier compared to your other recent reviews, you still shouldn’t ignore it. Every negative comment is an opportunity to improve, so take advantage of that chance.

reply to hotel reviews

Respond to Customer Comments

Each customer comment or review also presents you with a unique opportunity to showcase your hotel’s professionalism and responsiveness. When you get a negative review, take the time to respond to the customer, apologizing for any issues that arose. This is a great opportunity to explain to the guest how you have improved your hotel to prevent the problem from happening again. You can also invite them to come back at a discounted rate to see how much your property has improved since their last visit. This is your chance to turn a negative review into a positive one. If the review is on a public forum offer to take to conversation offline to resolve it.

Don’t focus solely on the negative reviews, though; your satisfied guests deserve some attention as well. Thank them for their patronage, and let them know how pleased you are that they enjoyed their stay. This small effort can go a long way towards strengthening your brand’s relationship with your customers, making it more likely that they will want to stay at your hotel again in the future.

Make the Most of Digital Reputation Management Tools

There are a variety of free and paid tools available to you to make managing your online reputation easier. Sites like BrandYourself, or Customer Alliance for example, scour the web in search of any mention of your brand, hotel name or other keywords you choose in order to identify any negative results that turn up in the search engine results. You’ll then have the opportunity to address these issues. If you can find this information online, so can prospective customers, so it is in your best interest to ensure everything is as positive as possible.

hotel digital footprint

Build Your Hotel’s Online Presence

Many of the strategies outlined above are reactive rather than proactive. With social media, your hotel’s blog and your brand’s website, you have the opportunity to tell your brand’s story in the way that you want it to be told. Posting regularly on your blog and social media makes it easier for potential guests to engage with your brand, solidifying your relationship with them. Don’t just post random things just to have something up there, though. Think through a strategy before you get started, and make sure that each post speaks to the brand and personality you are trying to convey and that you engage a conversation with your clients.

Reputation Management Is a Long-Term Goal

As frustrating as it might be, you can’t transform your hotel’s reputation overnight. It will take a concerted effort on the part of everyone who works at your hotel to provide the best possible service to your guests. Rest assured, though, that with consistent, focused effort, it is entirely possible to turn around negative impressions of your property, turning dissatisfied guests into loyal, long-term customers.

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free hotel wifi zone

Staying in a good hotel comes with certain expectations. Comfort, rest, and the privacy to do what you need to do. It’s your base of operations and you need to feel confident that, whether traveling for leisure or work, your stay will be productive and without risk.

happy and busy hotel guests

This is why we have implicit trust in hotels the moment we walk through the door. Paying for a service, you expect things to be taken care of. This is also true for web connectivity provided by hotels. Using hotel wifi means you are voluntarily handing over your information to a network without understanding how trustworthy it may be, and since most major hotels use a third-party network provider to cater to guests’ wifi needs, this can mean that those networks are not thoroughly checked to ensure they meet digital privacy and security standards.

So, what are the issues involved and what are the best alternatives to ensure your digital privacy while staying in hotels?

Personal Security

When you make an assumption of security on a hotel network, two things can happen.

Firstly, there is none: most hotel networks do not require a password for ‘guest convenience’ so the link is unencrypted, leaving it open to hackers.

Secondly, you jump on the network with your device and you see a hotel-related pop-up for a software install that is necessary to keep using the wifi. You click ‘Accept’ and download the patch, of course, because you’re safely behind closed doors. Right?

Wrong.

personal data security

Downloading means willingly giving access to your computer because you may have unwittingly accepted a piece of malicious software designed specifically to hitch a ride on your system. It’s like a parasite, and hackers can then see your personal information, login and password credentials when you use them.

An equally simple hacker strategy is to set up a separate network masquerading as the legitimate hotel network. Many guests assume the correct network name and click to join. It’s a terrifyingly low-tech method to gain quick access to your digital life. For example, if you open your device in your room and see a generic “Hotel Guest WiFi” network, would you click to join?

Certain legitimate equipment that hotels use may also be suspect. The ANTlabs InGate device, for example, is a widely adopted technology that allows hotels to streamline setting up their WiFi networks. However, since the manufacturer failed to understand that their product had a vulnerability easily exploited by hackers, they were unaware that their clients’ hotel networks were easily compromised in 277 hotel locations globally.

intense use of internet connectivity from travelers

The adoption of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) within the European Union (EU) since May 2018 has also meant significant changes to data protection standards throughout the EU, together with matching penalties for non-compliancy. Hotels, by their nature, are open targets for data attacks due to a large number of daily guest transactions and turnover. Under GDPR, hotels are obligated to report network security breaches within 72 hours to the authorities, and many hotels are inadequately prepared in terms of on-site network quality and staff training to deal with such threats. Education for new regulations is an additional financial investment for hotel owners, so there is still uncertainty surrounding effective adaptation to the new laws.

Given the general concern surrounding the viability of hotel guest networks, and how these may affect both smaller hotels and the larger worldwide chains, the most pragmatic consumer advice is simply not to rely on hotel WiFi.

So, what are your options?

virtual private network

VPNs

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) encrypt your digital activity and mask your location by creating a discreet ‘tunnel’ from your system to the required remote site. Your data flow through a ‘tunnel’ on a public network, the difference is that you share that tunnel with everyone else.

On a VPN, this means you cannot be targeted specifically based on wherever you log on, and also that if hackers even gain access to your system, all they will see is an encrypted and illegible data stream. You generally understand that your data is going where it needs to and that nobody can access it en route.

However, there are a huge number of VPN providers and this is where some of the problems begin. It can be challenging to understand which services to trust and whether paying for a VPN subscription will guarantee your privacy when there are free providers promoting the same service. Some may display issues such as vulnerabilities while handling cookies, the tiny bits of data sent from a website and stored on your system while you are browsing that site. These vulnerabilities may be circumvented by changing your device settings from a plain HTTP connection to HTTPS, but many users find such operational complexity unacceptable when paying for a VPN.

You are still placing your personal details in the hands of another service, so ultimately a VPN’s success is dependent upon a thorough examination of that provider’s credentials, service quality and reputation.

personal mobile data is limited

Personal Mobile Data

Another option while staying in hotels is, of course, to simply continue using your existing mobile data plan. This makes sense. By staying with your regular data provider you are decreasing the potential for new network adoption and opening entry points for attackers.

However, traveling often means jumping outside of your mobile provider’s territory, incurring widely differing roaming fee structures, depending on the reach and consistency of your plan. These can sometimes feel more like penalties, for example receiving a text advising ‘100MB data per day’ effectively means a few minutes of map navigation, extremely light browsing, and minimal communications. Feeling hampered by data limits is stressful, whereas navigating new cities or surroundings with ample connectivity means you can actually enjoy and optimize the technology you carry with you.

Besides, contacting your provider prior to traveling simply to check how your costs will be impacted is arduous, and you also need to ensure you cancel any activated international roaming service once you return home.

Alternatives

There are more creative options to explore though. Many hoteliers are beginning to understand the fundamental need for offering a seamless, secure, and resilient data connectivity experience for their guests.

manet mobile wifi hotspot with unlimited internet connectivity

One approach spearheaded by Manet has been to place free 4G connectivity and free international calls within the guests’ hands. By providing high-end Samsung smartphones in rooms, guests have a user-friendly, customizable device that operates on Android, the world’s most widely adopted system. The phone functions with all the convenience expected, without limits, works as a mobile wifi hotspot allowing hotel guests to stay connected on the web inside and outside their hotel and is fully integrated with the hotel systems for simplified access to hotel services and guest room linked device control.

Such solutions provide an effective remedy to guest concerns about using foreign WiFi networks susceptible to breach, or relying on personal expense to operate online when data should be part of a hotel’s service offering.

For the hotel, this approach also creates an opportunity for increased, simplified guest connection and service, while multiplying channels for revenue generation possibilities.

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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”

The importance of reputation management for hotels - Manet Mobile Solutions

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)

So…Why Text?

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).

texting in the hospitality industry
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.

Marriott

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.

Aloft

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!

text it get it in hospitality

Holston House

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.

MGM Mirage

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.

hard rock cafè sign - manet hospitality blog
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?

24/7 Availability

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.

room service through texting - manet hospitality platform

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.

Increasing revenue

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:
Increased revenue.
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.

increasing revenues with texting - manet mobile solutions
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.

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amazing hotel experiences

Hotels are back with a bang.

And guests are responding very positively. According to a survey conducted by TripAdvisor, 1 in 3 travelers planned to spend more on travel in 2016 than they did in the previous year.

This attitude is compounded by a major shift in both the travel industry as well as travelers themselves. Trivago’s recent purchase of AI startup Tripl shows that hotels have a greater drive towards personalization and fostering a genuine curiosity in travelers when creating one-of-a-kind experiences for guests.

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.

The Great White North at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort

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.

snowmobiling hotel experience

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”.

spirit of arabia hotel experience

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.

cliff camping hotel experience

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.

safari hotel experience

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.

wildlife hotel experience

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.

private island hotel experience

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.

nature hotel experience

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.

travel style hotel experience

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.

 

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Experience travel - Manet Mobile Solutions

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:

airbnb screenshot - Manet Mobile Solutions

“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.

aribnb screenshot - Manet Mobile Solutions

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.

aribnb screenshot - Manet Mobile Solutions

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.

Hashtag “Inspo”

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.

End-to-end service

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, “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:

  • Winery tours
  • Food tours under one cuisine like, “A Taste of Asia in San Francisco”
  • 4-day nature/camping experiences in the Grand Canyon
  • Multi-day festivals and concerts like Coachella
  • Political and cultural parades and rallies
  • Rural homestays on coffee plantations
  • Volunteer work abroad
  • Cyclists who travel across multiple countries
  • Adventure tours like Karmayatri in Northern India
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The importance of reputation management for hotels - Manet Mobile Solutions

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.

The importance of reputation management for hotels - Manet Mobile Solutions
Photo by Bill Anastas on Unsplash

Revenue management

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.

Revenue management - Manet Mobile Solutions
Photo by Carlos Muza on Unsplash

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
that hotel”

• 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.

RevPAR

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.

RevPAR - Manet Mobile Solutions
Photo by Alexander Videnov on Unsplash

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.

OTAs

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 - Manet Mobile Solutions
Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash

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.

Customer loyalty

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 - Manet Mobile Solutions
Photo by Crew on Unsplash

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.

Brand equity

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
accommodations brand:

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.

 

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