Hospitality Trends

Wind turbines producing clean energy

While we can still work to prevent some of the environmental threats, others should be reversed. Being a large part of the tourism industry, hotels can contribute to making a significant difference by applying certain changes in their policies.

Apart from offering the obviously necessary environmental benefits, sustainability in hospitality also proves to be more profitable in the long run by lowering costs and attracting consumers. While owning or managing a hotel or resort you have access to a number of practices which will make the place more eco-friendly.

Eliminating plastics

It is no news that plastics are not environmentally feasible. Single-use plastic items, produced for a whole range of purposes are used for one day or shorter. When disposed of, they take 1000 years to decompose, acting as a menace for all animals, especially marine life during that time.

However, it’s becoming clear now that it can be replaced in almost all circumstances. Biodegradable materials, paper bags, and cloth bags are an easy solution for storing laundry, food, and other purposes. You can use wax wraps instead of plastic to store food products. Instead of providing guests with plastic toothbrushes, provide them with eco-friendly bamboo ones with a sweet note that informs them of its organic origin and encourages them to take the toothbrush home after their stay.

Unnecessary Packaging

Thanks to the increased awareness, many consumers wary of public places that promote the use of plastics. They tend to avoid these places, ruining hoteliers whose success depends on attracting customers. There are a number of startups that offer refills without the hassle of plastic packaging for food products, cleaning supplies and toiletries. Many famous chains including Marriott have successfully started placing pump bottles in washrooms instead of tiny bottles of shampoos and lotions.

Utensils

One of the most common plastic items on hotel tables are straws. Millions of straws are used and discarded every day. Instead, you can swap them for metal straws, which are safer and can be recycled. Straws made from bamboo or other plant-based materials serve the same way as normal straws but unlike plastic, they decompose easily. Many hotels, bars and restaurants around the world have already opted to go with reusable steel straws instead of plastic ones. There have even been some really interesting developments that can leave your guests wowed, for example, pasta straws that have been developed recently by an Italian manufacturer.

Waste Not Want Not

75% of the environmental issues in the hospitality sector are related to the excessive consumption of resources. Thanks to the latest technologies, you can prevent this with ease:

Waste Utilization

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. The things we throw out can often be reused and recycled to serve beyond their original purpose. For instance, many vegetable cuttings can be used to create compost, which can provide important nutrition for your garden. Stained tablecloths and bed sheets can be recycled into new aprons for chefs or into new laundry bags, as proven by one hotel in Toronto. Set up a recycling system for the trash and prompt your guests to properly use it by putting up informational posters.

Go Paper Free

In an era of astounding technological advances, relying on paper for your day-to-day customer dealings seems not just old-fashioned, but wasteful as well. Almost everyone today owns and uses a smartphone. Every business needs to adapt with its audience, therefore many hotels have developed their own smartphone applications and blogs that the customers can enjoy.

Through such facilities, customers can also pay bills, check in and check out, give reviews and suggestions all at their fingertips. Smart travel assistants like Manet offer tools that help hotels meet at best their guests’ needs making their stay unique as well as sustainable by eliminating the need to print menus, catalogues, leaflets and any other paper based marketing material that hoteliers need to sell their ancillary services.

Tropical Climate? Collect Rainwater

By collecting rainwater through a simple filter, you can save yourself up to 70% of the main water system’s usage. The Renewable Energy Hub is one company that offers such facilities.

Transport

Cars emit tons of carbon into the air every day. You can encourage your customers to use rentals and public transport by offering discounts and giving out a ‘walking map’ which shows all transport points. Environmentally-friendly options such as electric cars and bicycles can be encouraged in a similar manner by setting up bike rentals and EV charging outside the hotel.

Become Energy Efficient

Lighting

Automatic lighting systems are super convenient as they save your consumers the effort while simultaneously saving you bills. No one will have to remember about turning the lights off in their rooms when they go out, and the lights on the corridors won’t have to be on all night. Other options such as LED lights which have the lowest carbon footprint and last longer are a good option as well.

Another pocket-friendly alternative is to use natural daylight wherever and whenever possible. It is known to be an instant mood-lifter – a touch your guests will surely appreciate. You should try and also install skylights wherever possible.

Renewable Energy

Investing in renewable energy options such as windmills or the more common solar panels may seem expensive. But the one-time charges more than compensate for themselves when your electricity bills go down. These clean energy sources are free for you to utilize, and unlike fuel-powered alternates they produce no harmful emissions. Some governments subsidize investments such as these in order to promote sustainability.

Train Your Staff to be Environmentally Friendly

Last but not the least, it’s very important to train your staff on the importance of taking care of the environment. Give them yearly training courses teaching them to take care of non-renewable resources; switching off lights and appliances when they’re not in use, be mindful when using water and to report and fix any leaking pipes. A well-trained staff is more important than any equipment you can buy.

Investing in these eco-friendly technologies and techniques will help you save your costs as well as the environment. As inhabitants of this planet, we should take responsibility for it and do our part in making it better – not worse.

About the author:

Giles Kirkland is a clean technology enthusiast and sustainable living advocate who blogs about his passions. You can find more of his articles at Oponeo, on Facebook and Twitter.

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Ancillary services - Manet Mobile Solutions - in room service

The competition has never been more intense for selling hotel stays and short-term leisure rentals to business and vacation travelers. Two factors that have acted together to drive down prices are online discount travel sites and the rise of Airbnb rentals.

However, instead of having a race to the bottom when it comes to pricing, accommodation providers need to find a way to add value to the hotel experience. Travelers will be willing to pay more if they perceive a vacation rental or hotel to have extra services that add to the value and enjoyment of their stay.

In the past, baby boomers have been the driving force behind profits for vacation and business travel accommodations. Today, millennials are beginning to join the ranks of work and leisure travelers, leading hotels to cater to their needs and desires as well.

For example, when new chains like Marriott’s Aloft and Radisson’s Blu advertised that they welcomed dogs, the more mainstream Holiday Inn Express wasn’t far behind in opening their doors to customers’ furry friends. 

Here are some other ways that hotels and short-term vacation rentals can continue to attract guests without sacrificing profits.

Business Travelers

Loyalty Programs

Frequent traveler programs have been around for a long time, and business travelers are the main recipients of the benefits. To really have an impact on guest loyalty, though, a hotel has to include more than just snacks and bottled water at check-in.

Some hotels provide a lounge for the exclusive use of top-tier members. Giving room upgrades whenever possible is another way to pamper these guests without affecting profits. And surveys have shown that corporate travelers are often willing to pay out of their own pockets for ancillary services that they consider valuable.

Luxury Touches

One way to attract and keep business travelers is to offer upscale accommodations that increase their comfort when they’re away from home. Luxury bed linens, a Keurig-style coffeemaker in the room, and a fully functional business center are a good start. Providing an airport shuttle, dry cleaning pickup and room service with expanded hours are other special touches that business travelers will appreciate and be willing to pay for.

Vacationers

Spa Treatments

Spa services may be one of the biggest draws for leisure travelers. Salon services such as manicures and pedicures, massages and facials elevate the value of the stay. Providing hair and skin treatments and in-room massage can be the difference that makes a lodging more desirable to a prospective guest. If a hotel doesn’t have the budget or facilities to offer spa treatments, partnering with a nearby luxury spa is an alternate way to attract guests and add revenue.

Hotel Shopping

Sundries shops used to be confined to luxury hotels, but in the past few years, on-site shopping has become a new option for vacationers at mid-priced hotels. The convenience of buying a six-pack of beer, treats and snacks, and even frozen dinners, is a value-added feature for guests. Offering these items for sale, along with headache medicine, phone chargers, batteries and toiletries, can be a profitable ancillary service for the hotel.

Vacation Rental Extras

From 2015 to 2017, extended-stay hotel stays grew at three times the national rate for other types of rentals in the hotel industry. Kitchens and living areas increased in size, with ancillary services like laundry facilities and bike rentals added to lure travelers to extended-stay hotels. 

Rental condos and homes can also provide these services for a modest fee to make a short-term rental an attractive choice for guests. This type of upgraded lodging is billed as apartment-style living with all the extras of a hotel.

Pet Accommodations

Recognizing the attachment people have to their dogs, some luxury hotels are providing pet services to entice travelers. Besides water and food bowls, treats and beds, a few upscale hotels even offer pet massages. Not only do guests get to bring their furry companions with them, but their pets can experience some pampering and it gives the hotel another revenue stream.

Ancillary services - Manet Mobile Solutions - pet friendly facilities

Counteracting the Airbnb Trend

For hotels and vacation rentals, a winning profit strategy is to differentiate these accommodations from the Airbnb model while highlighting increased opportunities for guests. Hotels can provide some of the same advantages as Airbnb along with others that are more difficult for private individuals to offer. 

The consistency and professionalism of a business that serves hundreds of thousands of travelers a year should be highlighted to persuade travelers to choose hotel accommodations over Airbnb rentals.

Networking with local businesses can also elevate the desirability of staying at a hotel. Local food, beverage and entertainment providers can turn the hotel lobby into a hub of interest and activity. This is something that vacationers will never experience in a private rental environment. 

Treating guests to live music or the chance to pay for activities like a ‘paint and sip’ wine party adds fun to the stay. It also gives the hotel an edge that translates into better profits.

The Tech Revolution

One ancillary service a hotel can use to take their image to the next level is adding a lobby touchscreen that connects to guest services, local restaurants and nightlife. Some hotels even have interactive screens that take selfies to be uploaded to guests’ social media accounts. 

Millennials are used to sending directions to their phones and connecting with local businesses at a touch. Touchscreens add to the hotel’s revenue through partnerships with local businesses at the same time they increase the hotel’s desirability to guests.

When guests check in, a hotel that offers the choice to swipe Apple Pay, Google Wallet or Venmo will have an edge over less tech-savvy establishments. Once they’re checked in, the ability of guests to connect with housekeeping or room service through a hotel app is another addition to the tech-forward image of a hotel.

The latest example of added hotel tech value is Alexa for Hospitality. This is a digital concierge that can answer guests’ queries about the hotel, play music, report on the weather, or make hands-free phone calls. The in-room Alexa console can also contact housekeeping and room service upon request. 

Ancillary services - Manet Mobile Solutions - digital concierge services

At smart hotels, guests can even ask their digital assistant to adjust the thermostat or raise and lower the blinds. Marriott is testing this perk in several of its hotel chains, including the millennial-geared Aloft hotels.

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Hotel guest experience: expectations vs reality - Manet Mobile Solutions

Today’s guests have a host of expectations when it comes to their experience at hotels.

But when was the last time you actually asked your guests what they wanted?

Knowing your guests is foundational to pulling together the right kind of experience.

Not every hotel or hotel experience needs to have all the bells and whistles, the latest tech, or the fancy fixings. Instead, what counts more is if your guests have the right guest experience – both, for your brand and your hotel’s niche.

Guest satisfaction scores across the hotel experience - Manet Mobile Solutions
Source: Deloitte

Engagement, listening, empowerment, knowledge, and surprising moments – these are the factors that lead to consistent guest satisfaction across the hotel experience.

So, the question is…what are you promising your guests?

What do guests experience from hotels today?

While hotels are trying to figure out what, precisely, their brand of guests are looking for, guests have no qualms in demanding more.

Part of this demand comes from a rapid-fire evolution of available tech in the hospitality sphere.

The other aspect is due to social media’s reach and influencer marketing – in particular, guests today take their recommendations, plan their itineraries, and choose hotels, locations, and rental providers based on social-media sponsored content.

Understand that, when it comes to travel and hospitality, hoteliers are the ones who seek to create this sense of escape, a haven where travelers can retreat, relax, and explore their surroundings.

It’s a promise inherent in the very notion of travel.

Because of this, a guest’s main expectation is one of authenticity – it’s absolutely necessary for a hotel to not only deliver on their promises but to listen to travelers, across the duration of their stay.

Hotel guest experience base requirements - Manet Mobile Solutions
Source: Hotelogix

The above infographic perfectly captures the base requirements for any hotel to match when it comes to guest experience.

Each aspect of the guest’s stay should be a moment in which to capture, delight, engage, and gain further knowledge about preferences.

Just like what guests say they want from a hotel experience.

What is the reality of hotel experience for travelers instead?

Travelers expect, first and foremost, “customer service” to be of the highest standard. What’s tricky, however, is that this standard keeps rising.

The reality of the hotel experience for many travelers is sub-par at best. This is a missed opportunity given that 97% of customers report that customer service is key to their loyalty and 83% of customers view travel as a right, not a luxury.

It’s not only that they want to be heard, engaged, acknowledged, and actually surprised or “delighted”, as the stats reveal: Customers want the promises of hotels to be met – and then surpassed.

Instead, their frequent experience is often something like this:

Hotel pictures: web vs reality
Source: Medium

Hoteliers need to consider what the first point of contact is during each interaction or “moment”. For example, during the moment of booking, customers’ expectations are very different than during the moment when they’ve arrived and have actually spent a night on the premises. 

Improving the guest experience journey - Manet Mobile Solutions
Source: Deloitte

Each of these “moments” or points of interaction call for their own set of expectations and “customer service”.

By using technology and re-thinking the customer service aspect of each of these micro-moments, hoteliers can actually move the needle towards meeting customer expectations.

Take note of these five keys to improving guest experience. When combined with the above six points of interaction, any improvements you make – via technology, operational changes, loyalty programs, room features, etc. – will give you a major ROI.

It’s now time to consider the details on how to enhance the reality of your guests’ stay so that it actually matches, if not surpasses, expectations.

Using technology to make “upgrades” feel standard


In the hospitality business, you have a unique advantage: You have the ability to plan for and anticipate customers’ expectations.

And, thanks to the digital landscape, engaging with your customers can happen through multiple channels, multiple opportunities, and in a much more personal way. On the one hand, customers expect, for example, their queries to be responded to within 24 hours of inquiry.

But, on the other hand, hoteliers now have the technology to actually fulfill this promise – and go beyond, in several respects.

Let’s take a look.

Room Service


Expectations

Your customer expects on-demand, in-room “dining service” to suit their ordering behavior – this means it occurs online, occurs through a user-friendly interface, and should be available at any time of the day or night.

Reality

Often, what customers get is a service that is limited, in many ways. From hours of operation, to food quality, ordering experience, and even food variety, customers feel as though they’re at the mercy of what the hotel has to offer.

How to bridge the gap

Room service is incredibly important to the guest experience. No, your guests don’t want to avoid it – they want to have it be seamlessly integrated into their stay. They also want to make sure that there are dietary options that suit their needs. This includes gluten-free or vegan options.

See, 43% of guests say room service quality and speed is extremely important when selecting a hotel. 27% say that if a hotel doesn’t offer it, they simply won’t book.

To bring reality in alignment with expectations, use in-room tablets that feature a native app, allowing customers to order from the hotel’s menu as well as nearby, external options as well.

Create opportunities to search for options by preferences. For example, your native app could use tags to help guests search for specific cuisines or vegan options.

Amenities


Expectations

When guests book a stay at a hotel for a particular reason – an infinity pool, thermal springs, a beautiful rooftop terrace, for example – they’re looking for that expectation to be met.

This is the reason, after all, for their booking. And, for your brand, this is a distinct competitive edge. So you need to deliver on it. Luckily, you have the technology to back it up.

Reality

The reality is that, when they book, the experience being promised rarely lives up to a guest’s expectations.

Here, you’re missing out on the opportunity to seal your customer’s loyalty and actually live up to your promise.

How to bridge the gap

You want to fulfill three goals:

Keep guest expectations intact
Drum up their anticipation
Deliver authentically on your promise of amenities.
To do this, use a combination of social media and 360-degree camera technology to give your potential guest the opportunity to actually view or tour that special offering.

If it is an infinity pool, for example, you can feature others’ videos of your pool on your social media pages, such as your Instagram page or Facebook Business Page.

You can also harness review management sites and place a widget in a welcome email sequence that allows customers to trust that the experience or amenity they’ve booked for is actually what they’ll receive.

Room Features


Expectations

Without a doubt, guests expect a digitally-enhanced and augmented room experience.

From smart TVs that hook up easily to their latest apps and tablets, to smart-control temperatures, and automated functions like blinds or cooling/heating, their expectations are commensurate with their own in-home experience.

Since guests can call on digital assistants to help them finagle these environment controls in their own home, they expect hotels to catch up and re-create a similar experience of user control and personalized preference.

Reality

Unless you’re a boutique or independent hotel that can call the shots in a rapid-fire manner, chain or franchise hotels find it difficult to make changes – even ones they know their guests are expecting.

Because of the sheer size and scale of large-chain operations, independent franchise hotel owners/managers fail to make these hotel-wide changes in time.

Or, they simply don’t have the budget.

How to bridge the gap

Again, it’s difficult to implement these tech-based changes that augment the in-room experience if you’re either operating on a tight budget or you need to have changes approved by someone over you.

Instead, consider gaining permission to revamp just one or two rooms.

You can opt to offer these as a “beta” or a “VIP” experiences that customers will receive on a “discount” (or at standard cost) – in exchange for data. They’ll give you feedback, be available for interviews or surveys about their experience, and they’ll speak more about their preferences.

This way, you’ll gain invaluable and deeper insight into your guests’ needs, building a solid case for when you want to make these changes a standard and hotel-wide stipulation.

Check-In Experience


Expectations

The check-in experience should be smooth, seamless and, for the most part, completely automated.

Guests neither want to nor expect to stand in line all day, waiting for something as simple as a check-in.

While they’re always willing to be greeted, guided, and helped to their rooms, the actual communication, the hand-off of keys, and instructions should all be automated and personalized, via an app or through consoles and functionality within hotel lobbies.

Reality

Even though it’s incredibly easy to use highly flexible, powerful, and specific software, tailored to your hotel’s check-in process, many managers and owners are doing things the tedious way.

Often, there’s a fear that automation means the elimination of the human touch. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Instead of wasting your customers’ time, having them wait in line to check-in, what could you do with five to seven extra minutes conversing with them, welcoming them, and assessing their needs?

And what might that do for your reputation?

How to bridge the gap

While some hotels are actually going as far as using robot “butlers” to guide guests to their rooms or welcome them, you don’t have to go that far (yet!)

A simple way to bridge the gap is to use software automation that takes care of the user-input required aspect of the check-in process. Allow users to make an account, hook them up with past room preference information, and give them rewards for performing certain actions.

In the meantime, your management staff is freed up to personally greet your guests, make recommendations, and troubleshoot real issues.

Conclusion


Technology can help you secure your guests’ next visit and guarantee their booking. Take time to actually think through the process of “goodbye.” You’d be surprised at how many opportunities there are to “convert” your guest.

The best time to capture their attention and create the next booking is when you’ve delighted them with their stay already. Using a loyalty rewards program or predictive analytics, you can create a personalized offer for their next visit that not only mimics this one, but it also enhances the experience further.

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Room service has always had and still has an undeniable role in hospitality. However, recent data has confirmed that despite its indisputable importance, it’s subject to operational risks, mainly related to high numbers of required personnel and low profit margins.

As Paul Sacco (CEO and president of the Massachusetts Lodging Association) said ” Room service represented just 1.2 percent of total hotel revenue, down from 1.3 percent in 2011. And it continues to drop. The hotels do it for the convenience of the guest. Is it a profit center? No. Emphatically, I can tell you no.”

However, the answer to room service profitability issues seems to be lying in technology.

New technologies are, in fact, having a big impact on tourism-related businesses and new evidence shows that successful room service goes beyond a beautiful room and qualified staff.

Guest comfort and convenience are becoming always more important and technology, more than any other factor, seems to be key in achieving them.

The end of room service (?)

Room service represents a fundamental part of hospitality services. Despite this, it’s worth only 1% of hotel earnings, according to PFK Hospitality’s 2007 data. Since then, this percentage has kept decreasing. The Midtown Hilton, one of New York’s most visited hotels, eliminated room service in 2013 for this very reason. Many mid-range hotels followed, reducing room service, either by available hours or general offers. 
But, in the other hand, room service is fundamental for hotel reputation and its impact goes beyond earnings. In fact, room service is considered an integral part of hotel amenities just like swimming pools or spas: profitable or not these services shape and identify the experience offered by each hotel.
Try to imagine, just for a second, during your stay in a hotel, at night, while it’s raining outside, you get hungry and you realize that the hotel’s restaurant is closed and room service is not available. The only choices you have in that case are either vending machines or dealing with the storm! Therefore it’s easy to understand how important room service is for hotels aiming at being competitive and building a good reputation.

Room service breakfast - Manet Mobile Solutions

The room service comeback

The press pointed fingers at The Midtown Hilton’s room service removal decision. Business Insider wrote “What’s the point of staying in a luxury hotel if you’re not going to be able to order breakfast in bed?” and John Fox from PKF Consulting commented “Here’s a message to hotels that are cutting room service: Suck it up and pay the labor costs for room service, or don’t call yourself a “luxury hotel.”

Guests did the same, commenting, “There are so many hotels to choose from. If everyone is offering room service, I don’t know why I would pay the same rate with no service.”

Moreover, a recent study by Statista performed on adults aged 18 to 65 brought out that room service seems to be the most important element of hospitality-related services, second only to WiFi connectivity.

Business traveler in hotel ordering room service - Manet Mobile Solutions

The reasons behind the importance of room service are numerous. Think for example of people traveling for business and needing a late in-room dinner. Or think of leisure travelers desiring a snack while watching their favourite tv show. It easilly becomes obvious that hotels, instead of being focused on breakfast, should start focusing on 24/7 room service solutions to match their guests’ needs. After all, people go out of their daily routines when they travel so why force them to eat only at standard meal times!

The answer is technology!

The most dynamic hotels of the world have started adopting innovative solutions to adapt to the market’s room service needs and, at the same time, use room service to delight their guests.

In New York, with the “Emoji Room Service”, offered by Aloft Hotels, guests can use emoticons to place their orders. In NH Hotels’ Mood-Rooms, guests can request a wakeup service with gradual lighting increase, uplifting music, curtains that open automatically and in-room breakfast service. Last but not least, at La Quinta Inn & Suites you might be surprised to see your room service order delivered by TigerBot, a cute delivery service robot.

However, technology by itself is not sufficient to provide a good room service experience. There are other important elements to keep in mind in order to provide the ultimate room service experience.

Know your guests…

There are many ways to improve hospitality services. But what’s the best one? The answer is simple: Listen to your guests.

Instead of just pushing standardized services to them, try to understand what their real needs are. There are business travelers needing a quick breakfast very early in the morning before the breakfast buffet becomes available. There are also leisure travelers (representing a huge percentage of overall travelers) who desire a coffee or a snack while they are relaxing in their rooms and at any time of the day (or the night). The only way to satisfy the needs of the above is smart and efficient hotel room service.

…and be with them!

A very important parameter of an efficient and profitable room service is timing! Guests want their orders delivered immediately and hotels require the right time to prepare and deliver room service orders. As long as a guest is in his/her room, has available a room service menu and the hotel is ready to deliver things are quite straightforward. But what happens if a guest wants to place an order from outside the hotel desiring to have it ready and delivered at his/her return? Calling the reception, asking for the available options and costs and placing the order by phone becomes frustrating and time consuming and would simply result in an unsatisfied guest and a hotel losing orders and revenues. Fortunately that’s not the case anymore as new smart tools appearing in the hospitality horizon are giving new answers to the needs of the most demanding travelers and hoteliers. Manet is one of these tools and it’s changing the way hotels interact with their guests as, thanks to Manet devices, hotel guests can book hotel services and place room service orders anytime and from anywhere. In fact, Manet smartphones contain extensive information about all services and menus offered to guests by their hotel and also allow fast, effective and ubiquitous text communication between guests and hotel front desk staff.

Thanks to innovators like Manet, the future of hospitality looks really exciting and full of surprises and hotel room service issues, like high costs, are slowly but steadily being transformed in amazing business opportunities for hoteliers.

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