Hospitality

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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Improve your hotel's performance - Manet Mobile Solutions

Getting more bookings and increasing RevPAR (Revenue Per Available Room) is the real big deal for hotel owners. However, mproving your hotel’s average occupancy is not a simple matter as several factors affect numbers and results.

A common misbelief is that one can sell more hotel rooms by just lowering their price . This is a big blunder that must be avoided at all costs. A full hotel doesn’t necessarily mean more profits. By comparing the RevPAR, the ADR ( Average Daily Room Rate) and the Occupancy Rate is it possible to have an idea of what is really convenient for a hotel or a B&B owner or manager. For example, compromising for a 100% occupancy with a low ADR could bring down the revenues if compared to a lower occupancy with higher rates. So how can a hotel owner or manager improve effectively his/her hotel’s occupancy and revenue?
The answer to this question is neither simple nor easy to give but in this article we’ll try to share with you some useful suggestions on the topic. So, here are some ideas that will help you improve your hotel’s performance:

Data mining in Hospitality - Manet Mobile Solutions
Photo by Franki Chamaki on Unsplash

Study your data

Your guest history is precious. That’s why you should use a reliable property management system (PMS) allowing you to collect data about your guests’ habits and preferences.
This data is a precious resource allowing you to discover many key facts about your business like for example your average occupancy time by time throughout the year, the average length of stay of your guests, the type of travelers staying in your hotel etc. Thanks to this data you can understand when it’s best to advertise your hotel, when special offers might be useful, what services you should offer to your guests and how your hotel’s occupancy is affected by special events like conventions and business meetings.

Competition in Hospitality - Manet Moble Solutions
Photo by George Becker on Pexels

Know your competitors

Why should a traveler choose your hotel and not a hotel just a block away? This is a question you can answer only if you know very well what your competitive lanscape is and how you are positioned in it. This competitive landscape knowledge is crucial for you business’ success because it allows you to understand how you can build a competitive advantage inside your market.
The term “competitive advantage” probably makes you think of downward pricing but in reality successful competitive advantages are built more on diversification and uniqueness of your business than on offering the lowest price on the market. In fact, lowering excessively your prices may harm your business so the most important thing to aim at for your business’ success is giving your guests a clear and strong reason to choose you instead of the competition. This way you not only get more clients but you also get clients who care more about buying the stay experience you can offer them than about its price.

Social media in hospitality - Manet Mobile Solutions
Photo by Pixelkult on Pixabay

Perform reputation management and storytelling

Nowadays more than 50% of travelers use reviews to choose their hotel. This is why you must focus on getting positive reviews from your hotel’s guests.
To do so you must make sure that your staff is friendly and professional, that your hotel is clean and neat and that you underpromise and overdeliver with your guests. Moreover you must find ingenious ways to remind your guests of reviewing your hotel if they are happy of your services or of letting you know privately what they didn’t like about the stay experience you offered them.
In case you get some negative reviews don’t worry. It’s something that no business can avoid but make sure you reply in a way that highlights your professionalism and show the world how much you care about constantly improving your business.
However, reviews are not more important than storytelling on social media about your business.
Building all the necessary social media profiles, keeping them active, interacting with your followers, replying promptly to private messages and publishing often nice videos and pictures are all important actions you can take to attract people’s attention to your hotel.

SEO - Manet Mobile Solutions
Photo by Muneebfarman on Pixabay

Use OTA’s and search engines

Every day millions of users around the world use the internet to find and book their next hotel stay.
These users use mainly two channels to search for the hotel that best satisfies their accommodation needs: Online Travel Agencies (OTA’s), like booking.com and expedia.com, and search engines, like Google and Bing. Each one of these channels have pros and cons.
OTA’s on the one hand are very effective in marketing your hotel and bringing you new customers but on the other they will charge you lots of fees for this.
Search engines (SE’s) on the one hand help you give visibility to your business’ digital footprint for free but on the other require a lot of time and efforts spent on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) if your goal is ranking high on search engine result pages (SERP’s).
The best thing to do if you want to maximize web bookings for your hotel is use OTA’s and at the same time work steadily and consistently on your hotel’s digital footprint’s SEO.
Once you start ranking high and therefore attracting direct bookings on your hotel’s website you can gradually decrease the number of rooms sold on OTA’s.

Hospitality partner network - Manet Mobile Solutions
Photo by Rawpixel on Pixabay

Build a solid and useful business partner network

Promoting your hotel’s brand and experience is not an easy thing to do if you do it just by yourself.
The hospitality market’s competition is stiff so it’s a good idea to team up with other players offering services that are complementary to the ones offered by your business, build a solid and complete stay experience and cross-promote all the services of your alliance with them.
Just to mention some, good partners include airport transfer providers, sightseeing tour organizers, sports experiences providers etc. You will be surprised by the benefits you can get in terms of increased occupancy from a solid and efficient partner network.

Summing up what we wrote in this article, if you want to improve your hotel’s occupancy and RevPAR you should learn as much as you can about your clients and your competitors, build a unique competitive advantage, make sure you build a good web reputation, build an active and attractive social media universe around your business, develop a strong presence on OTA’s and SE’s and, last but not least, develop a strong partner network.

The results you’re dreaming for your business can become a reality if you work smart and hard so start setting goals and taking action now!

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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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boutique hotel trends 2018

They are fresh, artsy and have smart and youthful attitudes. We’re talking about boutique hotels, the new stars of the hospitality industry, offering incomparable personalized services, characterized by fancy design and prestigious furnishings, located mostly in the heart of trendy cities.

boutique hotel

Boutique hotels’ recent success is confirmed not only by numbers (the highest ADR – average daily rate – during the year and the greatest gains in RevPAR according to CBRE projects) and by industry insiders (in the last few years, more than 20 brands have been added to the ever-changing mix of hotels in the boutique space) but also by a growing number of travelers who want their hotels to be an integral part of a unique travel experience.

The reasons behind this success are many so we decided to learn more about them by putting under the magnifying glass 3 important boutique hotel trends.

The “Eco-Bio-Healthy” revolution

More and more travelers are interested in making choices that protect the planet and promote reconnecting with nature. Precisely for this reason, one of the top boutique hotels trends of 2018 is accommodating travelers in eco-friendly facilities. For example, in Bangkok, the New Akyra Sukhumvit has become the first single-use-plastic-free hotel.

Furthermore, vegan options, local food and 0km gastronomic products are now omnipresent in boutique hotel menus.

vegan hotel

Therefore it seems that most boutique hotels are now riding the well-being and environmental sustainability wave highlighting the connection between nature, body and mind.

David Bowd, an industry vet and principal at West Elm Hotels, in a recent interview for Condé Nast Traveler highlighted the growing importance of the “bio” element in hotel menus saying this: “I think the ability when you travel to stay healthy, to have something on a room service menu that is a great salad or a great wrap—it’s not just another club sandwich and fries, which I still see everywhere. I get it: People want that, but I think there’s [room for] the healthy option as well”.

Localhood and authenticity

In an increasingly globalized and standardized world affecting inevitably with its dynamics the hospitality industry, authenticity is the new change of gear.

greek authenticity

What travelers want today is a local perspective of destinations. They want to integrate themselves with territories and communities they visit and they know that to achieve this integration they need local guides who can help them live authentic and unforgettable experiences. What travelers desire most is, in one word, “localhood” a term we wrote about in one of our previous blog posts. A famous lifestyle and local experience influencer, Nyssa P. Chopra, founder and curator at The Cultureur, recently wrote: “Whether you’re looking for the best restaurant, the best luxury hotel, best vantage point for photos, unique experiential itinerary ideas or hidden gems of a local culture, I’ve done my research so you do not have to”. Her statement says a lot about modern travelers’ desires. Among all travelers, the ones choosing boutique hotels and b&bs seem to be the ones who appreciate most experiencing destinations just like locals do and discovering local hidden gems.

winemaking

This is why boutique hotels are shifting their offer towards unique and local experiences regarding winemaking, traditional gourmet cuisine, signature dining options and in-room service, mimicking, in some cases, b&b’s.

Technology is key

In the search for your next boutique hotel vacation you might encounter “digital detox” hotels offering libraries, absence of web connectivity and meditative spaces to their guests. However “cyber-vices” are difficult to eradicate in travelers so boutique hotels seem to be definitely focusing more on technology than on libraries and reading rooms and seem very aware that being in step with the times does not mean going against localhood and the essence of hospitality. On the contrary, digital tools and services like web connectivity, smart rooms and AI travel assistants are proving to be very effective drivers of localhood, tradition and authenticity in the tourism industry.

google maps

Just think how important Google Maps are for travelers as they not only allow them to find the best route to every local point of interest but they also provide a wide range of other useful information like public transport services, POI reviews and pictures, traffic status and much more.

travel internet

What we wrote above is evidence of the transformation boutique hotels around the world are going through overtime as attention to furnishing and design, the traditional distinctive elements of boutique hotels, is slowly but steadily being superseded by a strong focus on technology, respect of the environment, wellness and authentic local experiences. What more could travelers desire from their vacations? Well, there’s much more going on in hospitality than what you read here today but we’ll write about it in our upcoming articles so stay tuned on our blog!

For the moment, just keep in mind that boutique hotel experiences are getting more interesting every day and are truly worth discovering in your upcoming leisure trips.

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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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Customer expectations - Manet Mobile Solutions

“Finders Keepers, losers weepers”, this old English adage, also a readjustment of an ancient Roman law (the res nullius) concerning the legislation of lost items, should be well kept in mind by the hotel industry operators.

In fact, hosting customers for the first time is, in perspective, a huge opportunity, like finding a diamond box at the edge of the road.

This affirmation is true as much as that offering customers a unique stay experience is equivalent to stimulating them to repeat their pleasant experiences and so to securing their loyalty.

Experiences delivered to customers depend much on the surprise or wow factor that every player of the hotel industry is able to create. To use a love metaphor, without “love at first sight”, conquering the hearts of new customers, and thus seeing them return, is really tough!

So how can hoteliers achieve customer delight and see their guests come back overtime? Below you can read some useful tips on the topic. While reading, always keep in mind that success in hospitality depends on how well a hotelier knows his/her guests and is able to anticipate their requests.

So here are our tips:

Underpromise and overdeliver: take control of your guests’ expectations

It might seem strange to you but there are still lots of hoteliers who keep promising services and experiences they are not able to deliver to their guests hoping that this way they will increase their guests and revenues. This is a huge problem for hoteliers as well as for their guests. For the latter because they arrive full of expectations and then receive a disappointing experience. And for the former because in the best-case scenario they’ll see their guests leave and never come back while in the most realistic scenario they’ll also get bad guest reviews on popular online travel portals. Bad reviews should be avoided at all costs given their enormous impact on travelers’ choices. So keep your guests expectations aligned to what you really can offer them by being transparent, truthful and building trust with them during every preliminary information exchange.

Targeting - Manet Mobile Solutions

Perform proper targeting: know your guests, be proactive

“Anticipate, be proactive” is what’s written in a passage of the famous book “The Art of War” in which the Chinese philosopher Sun Tsu underlines the importance of studying the enemy in advance to be ready in case of battle. His recipe for success works for the hotel industry too where targeting properly customers by studying their habits and their preferences is very important for understanding their expectations. In every business, different customer groups have different expectations. This is true in the hospitality industry too as its wide variety of target segments like business travelers, leisure travelers, millennial travelers, group travelers, chinese travelers, female travelers, adventure travelers, wellness travelers, just to mention some, represent a wide variety of traveler groups with different accommodation and services needs and expectations. If for example, your target customers are families with children you must offer them kid-friendly facilities and services. If you’re aiming at senior travelers you must prioritize comfort and assistance services. If your customers are business travelers you must keep in mind and offer them convenience. The more you interact with your customers the more you discover about them and the more you understand what your main target clientele expects from you. If you’re wondering how to built interaction with your customers just think how many digital and technological tools are available today: from social networks to advanced crm platforms, from instant messaging tools to advanced digital marketing and advertising platforms.

Hospitality technology - Manet Mobile Solutions

Embrace technology: smart-up your hotel

While it is true that new technologies represent valuable allies for hoteliers in building engagemet and collecting information about travelers, it is also true that technology and digital tools rank high in travelers’ accommodation service preferences, choices and requests. Modern travelers rely on technology during their everyday life so they also expect ubiquitous digital service continuity during their travel and hotel accommodation experiences. A research report published by Oracle focused on the relationship hotel guest expectations and technology. More than 64% of the interviewees said that it is “extremely or very important” for hotels to continue investing in technology and 71% of them said they expect easy and fast check-in at their arrival. Just think how much keyless smart locks, digital keys and mobile apps can improve check-in experiences creating a positive first impression in hotel guests, influencing their loyalty and future accommodation choices. Two other very important traveler experience factors, host-guest communication and service customization, rely mainly on technological tools today. Just think of chatbots, instant messaging, IoT and smart rooms to get an idea of the diffusion of technology in the hospitality industry. So if you want to attract travelers to your hotel invest in technology!

Service customization - Manet Mobile Solutions

Focus on service customization: become the genius of the lamp

Thanks to modern digital marketing and crm tools hoteliers can perform extremely accurate profiling of their guests and collect incredible amounts of market data transforming themselves in geniuses of the lamp able to fulfill all their guests’ most profound wishes and desires making their stays unique and extremely pleasant and skyrocketing hotel reputation and customer loyalty. Providing tailor-made services and expriences to hotel guests has never been easy like it is today so sit in front of your personal computer and start mining data about your market’s needs and trends immediately!

In conclusion, knowing your guests, meeting or exceeding their expectations and providing them with hi-tech services and tailor-made experiences is the best way to make sure they’re going to be loyal to your brand and share good comments about you with their peers. “Season” these basic rules with attention to details like, facility cleaniness, staff helpfulness and reception friendliness and your hospitality business’ success is guaranteed!

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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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hotel fidelity programs - Manet Mobile Solutions

In February 1983 Holiday Inn launched the first hotel Loyalty programs, and two months later Marriott followed the precursor launching its own hotel reward program. The foundations of one of the biggest hospitality trends were laid and, at the same time, Internet started taking its first steps (the word internet had been coined in 1982, almost a year earlier). Since these mythical times – the prehistory of loyalty programs – many things have changed and today the hotel industry players are now competing strongly for Baby Boomer and Millenial customers’ loyalty while trying to conquer and secure the future market segments.

happy traveler - Manet Mobile Solutions

Starwood and Marriott, the best rewards programs for frequent travelers

According to the best hotel loyalty programs ranking published in March 2018 by The Points Guy, a popular website dedicated to airline and hotel loyalty points, Starwood Preferred Guest is the best rewards program. The criteria used by The Points Guy are based on point utility. Starwood gives guests “Starpoints” (Regular members earn 2 Starpoints per dollar spent), a currency that can be used not only for getting a free stay but can also be transferred to a wide range of airline partners with considerable bonuses for elite members. It’s also relatively easy to earn the points through elite bonuses and spend them on the program’s co-branded credit card. SPG towers above competitors in The Points Guy ranking, but is only fifth in the J.D. Power ratings where Marriott is the winning horse instead (in The Points Guy ranking Marriott is sixth). The key evaluation factors of this ranking are generally geared towards mainstream and casual travelers and measured on a 1,000-point scale, that puts in order of importance four factors: ease of earning and redeeming rewards (35%); program benefits (27%); account management (22%); and member communication (16%). Anyway after comparing the two lists, Starwood apparently still has the best rewards program thanks to an incredibly versatile system of point redemption. Other hotel chains (like Marriot) grant more points per dollar but Starwood has a really vast array of earnings options(airlines, Uber, eating at Starwood restaurants, using Starwood credit cards, making a Green Choice etc.). For example, starting from a minimum stay, Starwood customers are awardedwith free internet, room or suite upgrades, free drinks, late checkout, free breakfastand more. Starwood also has one of the biggest networks o partnerships, especially with airline companies, and it’s possible to convert SPG points in upgraded seats, faster check-in, priority boarding, and free checked bag.

hotel fidelity programs - Manet Mobile Solutions

3 other top loyalty programs

According to the above mentioned classification comparison systems, (Points Guy and J.D. Power), on the Olympus of loyalty programs, next to Starwood and Marriott there is the World of Hyatt rewards program. Despite their small portfolio of properties they have a high percentage of Luxury Properties (about 6% of their total properties), and they can boast tremendous Elite Status benefits like suite upgrades,guaranteed late checkout and co-branded credit cards offering many opportunities to their guests. The wooden medal goes to Hilton with their incredible portfolio of hotels and rooms spread in over 100 countries all over the world. Hilton guests have a lot of perks such as complimentary wi-fi, member-only rates, and free sharing of points with the program’s new family pooling feature. The Hilton’s co-branded credit cards offer a wide variety of benefits and thanks to their programs, they have one of the biggest catchment areas in the hospitality industry. The fifth loyalty program in the comparative ranking here described,, is the Intercontinental Hotel Group Rewards. Their affiliated customers have guaranteed lucrative promotions and bonuses globally thanks to a large number of hotels scattered around the world with a unique geographic spread.

young traveler - Manet Mobile Solutions

Focus on Next Generation Guests

The hotel industry, in a constant effort aiming to attract new customers, is creating new strategies focused on next generation guests. An interesting study published by Taylor Short – Market Research Associate at Software Advice – shows why Millennials are so attractive for big brands. They are not just customers of the future but they represent the next lucrative customer base because they have more money available for travel than their predecessors and in the future, entering their peak earning years, this generation will provide the majority of spending for travel and leisure. According to this research next-geneneration customers are spending more than ever on travel, with 26% saying that they spent more on vacations than in the previous year. Furthermore,there is no doubt that these individuals are more technologically inclined and connected to the internet than the previous generations, so the opportunities of reaching them are many more than thaosefor other age groups. The research also show that the “new guests” are very attentive to their expenses and they tend to spend their earned points on rewards such as free or discounted hotel stays (51% of respondents) because redeeming points in this way helps them save money on purchases they would likely make anyway on future trips. Another interesting fact is that millenials (58% of respondents) find hotel loyalty program apps valuable. Their segment accounts for the largest percentage of mobile app users and offer big opportunities to hotels as the latter can use these technologies as a preferential channel to communicate with the former and send them notifications for upgrades and services. It would be a mistake to underestimate the fact that the new generation of travelers considers travel a priority and they want to feel like they’re part of their favorite hospitality brands’ worlds. With apps, social media and new technologies, hotel companies can establish fast, continuous and direct communication with Millenials who seem to enjoy this technological contant with brands of their interest. Summing up what is written above, loyalty programs in the hospitality industry have evolved as a reflection of major societal trends focused on digital interaction and constant contact with new generation travelers. The world wide web andmobile apps are vital tools for the success of any hotel loyalty program as they provide hoteliers with the ability to stimulate and surprise their prospects and customers easilly and effectively.

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the future of hospitality - Manet Mobile Blog

Every time you think about or plan your next trip, do you ever wonder what the future of travel and hospitality looks like? Digitization has brought massive changes to the travel industry delivering highly personalized experiences to travelers. So if you really want to get an idea of what’s next in the hospitality industry, you better watch out for these 5 major trends for the upcoming year.

1. Blockchain technology

Blockchain - Manet Mobile SolutionsBlockchain technology is about to take hold and radically change the global economy including the hospitality industry. Originally devised for the Bitcoin digital currency, the blockchain is starting to be used in new applications every day aiming at eliminating middlemen and intermediaries from provider-to-consumer transactions, allowing people to execute contracts (bookings for example) without the need for a “trusted” third parties (online travel agencies for example). Within the hotel industry horizon, numerous brand new companies are already showing up, offering platforms on which customers and rental providers can directly contact each other for free, without paying any commission. Winding Tree, Lockchain, Trippki, Fujinto, Emphy, Abab and Pally are some examples of companies using the blockchain to disrupt industries in the belief that travelers shouldn’t have to pay high rates to OTAs to get a good room, and hotels shouldn’t have to raise their rates to account for the cut the agencies take. Their claim is to ”make travel cheaper for the end user while making it more profitable for suppliers”, moreover “allowing small companies to compete with big players”, quoting Winding Tree.

2. Chatbots and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Chatbots - Manet Mobile SolutionsAt present, the most widely recognized AI application in the hospitality business is chat-bots. Due to their ability to provide answers in many languages, 24/7 and by means of familiar online services like direct messaging apps, they have become extra-useful tools for hoteliers, freeing up precious time for the staff and providing fast and tailored responses to customers. Accor Hotels designed it’s bot to be able to collect stories and experiences related to places and therefore to guide guests throughout them by means of geolocation. The Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas equipped its bot, named “Rose”, with an unprecedented flirty and funny personality she uses to recommend amenities and make reservations for clients in a totally new way.

3. Robots

Robots - Manet Mobile SolutionsThe Frankfurt-based, International Federation of Robotics, predicts a 20 to 25 % increase in sales of professional service robots (defense robots, cleaning robots, medical robots and logistics systems robots) per year through 2020, from around 79,000 last year. Robby Pepper, developed by Japan’s Softbank Robotics, is the first robot concierge deployed in an Italian hotel on Lake Garda; he can speak Italian, English and German, answering guests’ questions regarding topics like the spa, restaurants and opening hours. This summer’s tourist season will provide Robby with the crash course in unanticipated questions, not to mention accents, that will help him improve his knowledge, vocabulary, and his ability to answer. In 2016, 7200 public relations robots, providing mobile info and assistance like Softbank’s Pepper, were sold — a full 135 percent increase over the previous year. German hotel chain, Motel One, uses a lederhosen-clad concierge named Sepp to greet guests arriving in its newest location in Munich. Sepp can answer a wide range of guests’ questions, from personal to general. Meanwhile, Singapore offers two cutting-edge examples of this fast-growing technology. The first can be found at the M Social hotel, “employing” Aura, a front-of-the-house robot, used to deliver small room amenities like water, towels, and toiletries to its guests. Elsewhere in the city, the Jen Hotel uses a pair of colorful butler robots named Jeno and Jena for guest-oriented services like the delivery of in-room meals. LG gave us a glimpse at the next generation of hospitality robots with CLOi during this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. CLOi represents the next development in hospitality robotics, with even more engaging robots that can clean up, serve food and drinks with a built-in sliding tray, handle baggage and payments during check-in and check-out, and provide directions.

4. Internet of Things (IoT)

Internet of things - Manet Mobile SolutionsThe Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the network of interconnected internet-abled devices and physical things. IoT means that cars, kitchen appliances, hotel rooms can all be connected and exchange data. Today’s hotel rooms are packed with devices that give customers access to now indispensable services. Hilton has even built a room to beta test technologies including voice-control and the management of room settings like temperature, and lighting. By combining interconnected devices, sensors and machine learning, with virtual assistants, hotels can leverage the existing IoT to further enhance the customer experience.
With the amount of guest data being already available, hotels can generate predictions about customer preferences, and thanks to recent advances in artificial intelligence, hotels have begun to equip their rooms with smart devices that use voice recognition. Wynn Las Vegas equipped as many as 5000 hotel rooms with Amazon’s Echo speaker, allowing its guests to control many features in the room with Amazon’s voice-controlled virtual assistant, Alexa.

5. Mobile devices

Mobile devices - Manet Mobile SolutionsMobile phones have unveiled a whole new world to travelers: mobile innovation is key to the future of the hospitality business, and guests can’t fail to enjoy a holiday without a mobile phone. This is the reason why more and more hotels are providing mobile phones in their rooms. A single small device can enclose an entire and amazing world of services: payment gateways, sales and catering systems, wi-fi connectivity, mobile check-in/check-out programs, smart door lock management etc. Smartphones have already become essential not only to booking and paying a room but also to ordering room benefits as well as discovering activities and restaurants in a new city. For instance The Buddha Bar Hotel in Paris has enhanced its mobility services making its staff contactable anywhere on-site and therefore endowing it with extensive awareness of the guests’ demands. Moreover an app enables its employees to instantly report any room availability through a code on their mobile devices. The Winery Hotel, in Sweden, has opted for a fully mobile guest approach and completely refused the idea of in-room fixed telephones. By implementing a mobile eConcierge app the Winery Hotel now provides hotel services and enterprise-grade telephony entirely through their smart devices. This allows the hotel to be active 24/7.

The above mentioned trends are just a short list of all the trends that are shaping and revolutionizing the hospitality industry whose future seems full of exciting possibilities! Stay tuned to our blog to discover how technology is changing the way people travel.

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