Technology

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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Rent a car smart mobile assistant - Manet Mobile Solutions

What Technology Disruptions in the Rent-A-Car Industry Mean for Your Hospitality Business?

Something digital this way comes. 

It sees you when you’re sleeping. It knows when you’re awake. 

So be ahead of the curve, for goodness sake!

By 2022, the worldwide car rental industry will be worth over $124.56 billion dollars, growing at a rate of 13.55% from 2017. 

One of the fastest-growing markets for car rentals around the world so far is turning out to be Europe. It’s an industry that is intricately (and increasingly) tied to the growth of the travel and tourism industry. 

So when it comes to the car rental sector, technology is promising to leave no stone unturned as it blows its way through the hospitality industry. 

See, there’s a similar digital revolution going on in travel, tourism, and hospitality. 

Hotels are already being equipped with mobile check-in solutions. Rooms are undergoing a digital makeover with the use of automated control systems for heating, cooling, app-driven room service, and digital assistants.

The rent-a-car market is facing just such a tech turn in the tides in two waves:

  • First off, rental companies themselves are changing the value prop facing a customer by changing the way bookings are done in tandem with travel.
  • Secondly, units of cars are being technologically transformed with the digital features necessary to deliver on these brand promises within the driving and on-road experience. 

Let’s take a look at these specific technological disruptions and what their advance means for the hospitality industry at large. 

The Tech Specs

Perhaps the greatest single change that all other “tech” changes flow from is the transformation of the car rental industry ethics. We’re moving from cars as an owned unit to “cars as a service.”

As a collective culture, it’s easy to see that disruptive apps like Uber, Lyft, and AirBnb have changed the very idea of ownership. Now, it’s all about mobility and flexibility: Cars-as-a-service (CaaS).

This change in consumption is running alongside enhancements in the car rental market itself. Fleets are changing and so are the digital features of this new and diverse collection of automobiles. 

In a survey of the global electrical car rental market, economy cars are dominating the market at 90.17% of the market share, according to 2018 results.

Global Electric Car Rental Market trends - Manet Mobile Solutions
Source: Business Wire

Furthermore, luxury vendors are happily maintaining a fleet of electric vehicles such as the Tesla Model S and X. 

There’s a clear demand. 

Car rental as a service itself is becoming a more viable option even when travelers remain at home because there’s an emphasis on short-term rentals, pay-as-you-go models and subscription-based payments. 

Online rent-a-car search and booking engines 

First and foremost, search behavior is changing the way that rent-a-car brands are being found — but, also, it’s allowing the data to drive their own “findability.”

Rent-a-car search is now usually seamlessly integrated into travel and tourism bookings, or hospitality reservations. 

In other words, when users search for car rentals online, booking engines will offer highly targeted and specific offers on hotel suites, tours in the location of booking, and other travel-related discounts and promotions to not only incentivize a further purchase but to create an entire experience of travel. 

Known as “in-destination experiences,” this is what’s really at the heart of this rent-a-car transformation. 

“Companies across all industries are trying to create a better experience for their customers,” says Jayesh Patel, a senior vice president marketing at a major car rental brand company. “We are no different.”

Digital car sharing platforms 

Another major driver of tech-inspired transformation within the rent-a-car industry is the unmistakable effect of the “ride-hailing economy.”

It’s not only that the nature of the buyer is changing — from baby boomers to millennials voting with their pocketbooks to keep large, expensive, and often financially imprudent purchases off the bucket list. 

It’s also that peer-to-peer car sharing and ride-hailing has opened up the gateway to cars on demand. 

Apps offering reservations from a ready-to-go fleet offer individuals who travel around the world as a lifestyle the opportunity to experience that mobility and flexibility on a dime, and on their own time. 

“Consumers today have access to more information whenever and wherever they need it; they have a more urban lifestyle and have new attitudes and preferences about accessing automobiles and mobility in general…There is a solid consensus that cars provide an unmatched level of convenience and freedom, allowing people to be in total control of the time, destination and environment – and that is where opportunity exists. We’re not just renting cars … we are providing mobility, and mobility keeps the world moving.” — Pat FarrellChief Marketing & Communications Officer for Enterprise Holdings

In-car mobile hot spots and digital assistants

Alexa, entertain my kids while I keep my eyes on the road.

Okay, that’s not a real command but in-car mobile hot spots enhance the experience of a road trip by offering functionality that is very familiar to the user.

In a way, it fulfills the customers’ expectations and also surpasses it because Wi-Fi is usually a “land”-based feature. How do cars keep connected if they’re not on the “wired” part of Wi-Fi? 

They do so in the same way as cellphones and mobile devices, which run on a network. 

While passengers — notably children — can take advantage of mobile hot spots in a rental car to keep them occupied, drivers of this new digital ridesharing market can safely and accurately deliver customers to their preferred locations, using routes that are updated in real time. 

And it’s not just that. When individuals travel, 15% of them do so for business purposes. This means that in-car mobile hot spots offer businesspeople the chance to conduct their tasks on the go.

Anti-theft satellite systems

Car rentals also want to ensure that part of their customers’ experience is one of trust and safety. 

That’s why one of the major “services” offered in this new CaaS economy is an anti-theft satellite system. 

Here, the key is integration. Devices like SPOT Trace or Cellutrack take advantage of a device that’s in the hands of billions of users already — mobile phones — to provide added levels of safety, tracking, and security. 

It puts the control back into the hands of the driver or user. 

Designing a Driver’s “User Experience”

See, the user experience isn’t necessarily about inventing new technology. 

You’ll notice that many of these so-called “transformations” are simply changes in how things are already being done, relying on a level of assumed consumer adoption (namely, of mobile devices) to run new and innovative software on. 

So rent-a-car companies don’t have to reinvent the wheel. 

Which makes sense, given that related industries like travel and hospitality don’t have to either. In order to upgrade their users’ experience and set a new standard, they simply need to find and implement digital “mirrors” for common expectations like check-ins and room service. 

The actual software itself is running via mobile or digital assistant consoles like the Echo Dot.

But what is it that users want? Why are they even looking to book a hotel room or, in this case, rent a car?

To enhance the user experience, car rental companies must first understand their customers’ reasons for renting. According to a survey of 850,000 travelers in 2017, these were the results of why individual travelers relied on rental cars.

Why people rent cars -  Manet Mobile Solutions
Source: Business Wire

This is a win-win situation. If car rentals are being used as a service or insurance replacement, new features that enhance user experience make it more likely that they will look for similar features when they rent cars for leisure travel. 

So far, we’ve seen that updates to behavior equal updates to technology. And updates to technologies call for an update in fleets themselves. 

Says Susan Lombardo, senior vice-president of vehicle acquisition at Enterprise Holdings:

“Many drivers experience new automotive technologies for the first time in rental vehicles.” 

She cites the fact that it’s, after all, the US car rental industry that first helped popularize anti-lock braking, stop-start technology, hybrid electric vehicles and more to consumers. 

Car manufacturers are, themselves, offering a greater number of digitally-driven enhancements, including:

  • Offering easier navigation: Navigation systems now link up to your mobile devices app history, drives, and preferences
  • Enriched driver experience: Vehicle manufacturers like Mitsubishi are giving drivers the ability to connect to a centralized call center for emergency services through connected AI and voice recognition capabilities
  • Easier geo-located assistance request 
  • Continuous connectivity

Conclusion 

So what’s next for the future of rent-a-car “services” and experience-driven digital transformations of cars?

We’re seeing a greater and more rapid adoption rate of self-driving cars, especially in emerging countries, for one. 

These numbers reported from 2015 alone forecast that, at a similar rate of growth, and thanks to a growing number of individuals with disposable incomes in these countries, the self-drive car rental market will reach 1.65 billion USD by 2020. 

The major shift from car ownership to CaaS will develop alongside changes in conferencing technology (think about location-independent entrepreneurs running conferences during their commutes). 

Insurance companies, too, are sure to be swept up in this change, offering innovative, short-term policies on rentals, making car sharing even more attractive or offering discounts on connected vehicles. 

So just count on your fingers the number of services and technologies relating to commuting, road-tripping, and car rental, in general. Then watch as these utterly transform in tandem in the next five to 10 years. 


 1

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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