A Blog by INTELITY

At Your Service

Presenting the latest innovation and trends in hospitality technology and the products that are revolutionizing the service industry.

Blog

INTELITY Forecasts Hotel Technology Trends for 2017

INTELITY CEO and President, David Adelson, comments on hotel technology in 2017 and what trends the industry can expect to see on the rise.

A new day for the hospitality industry has dawned.

Hoteliers have finally recognized the significance of hotel technology and its correlation to the industry’s future success. I would say that 2016 was the year of awareness and planting the seeds for growth, with hoteliers testing the digital waters with widespread experiments involving mobile hotel apps, social media, and digital loyalty program engagement.

The future of hotel technology in 2017 will have to mark a progression in maturity for the industry. Conversations about the buzz phrase “high touch, high tech” have flourished for some time, and the next step is actual implementation in a more refined manner than we’ve seen in the past.

The move could mean a world of difference for the industry, separating properties and brands into the categories of innovative and fresh versus stagnate and out of touch.

Bigger Hotel Tech Budget

Hotel technology took a front-and-center position on the industry stage this year, with more investments than ever being made into creating a sound digital framework that extends from back-of-house infrastructure to guest-facing systems.

In fact, the average hotel technology budget in 2016 increased by 3.4 percent from only 3 years ago and now sits at about six percent. But as ROI reports come in showing the positive results of hotel technology upgrades on guest satisfaction and overall experience, justification of expanded tech budgets will become more fluid. This expansion will become more necessary to match rising guest expectations, competitive demands, and the required upgrades to support and maintain such a network of hospitality technology.

Adoption of Hotel Tech Across Lodging Segments

The primary early adopters of hotel technology fell within the luxury hospitality segment, but innovation has broadened accessibility and lowered price points, making cutting-edge hotel technology more of a reality for other segments as well. In 2016, it was actually midscale hotels that led in IT expenditure (7.3 percent), trailed by upscale hotels (6.1 percent) and luxury hotels (5.6 percent).

Overall more than half of all hoteliers reported increasing spending on hospitality technology trends and needs in 2016. Moving forward, it can be expected that all segments of the lodging industry will need to catch up to hotel guest expectations. Travelers have expressed a willingness to spend more on travel, but winning and retaining their business will be a matter of standing out and making them feel like they’re getting a quality experience. Surveys show that weak (or expensive) hotel WiFi and other digital limitations or shortcomings can hurt hospitality brand perception.

Even guests who prioritize price and budget when traveling will be looking into available packages of digital amenities with the expectation that limited- or select-service hotels will accommodate their basic needs with the same technologies so readily available in the average home. Most technologies, such as an app, are not considered to be a luxury frill anymore. They’ve become so common in the interactions between business and customer that they’re expected at this point, even from the hospitality industry.

The Rise of Hotel Guest Room Technology

A major area of focus in 2016 was mobile technology and the front desk, with hotel apps, in particular, getting a spotlight. A number of hospitality brands and independent hotels centered their guest technology strategies around the rollout of a guest engagement app. More than half of hoteliers reported having a mobile app available for guest use in 2016, and another 21 percent said they planned to develop one in the near future.

The next step for hoteliers will be to focus on improvements to the guest room experience, an area that is in dire need of innovation. Most hotel rooms still largely look the same as they did 10 years ago, but this doesn’t match up with guest expectations or desires. In the next year, hoteliers are going to need a reexamination of the hotel and its appeal to modern travelers (namely tech native Millennial travelers), and the guest room is key to this overhaul.

Hotelier surveys reveal the following sample of interests for 2017 and beyond when it comes to guest room technology:

  • 14 percent of hoteliers reportedly plan to install or upgrade in-room tablets
  • 39 percent plan to implement hotel room mobile key
  • 31 percent have an interest in room controls (or hotel room automation) systems
  • 28 percent would like to upgrade or install smart TVs in hotel rooms

Better Back-of-House Streamlining

One of the most unrealized capabilities of hotel technology, even guest-facing systems, are potential to increase back-end efficiencies in multiple departments, from housekeeping to food and beverage to marketing. Enabling staff with the technology to improve their performance, lighten their load, and provide more insight, in general, could help reduce turnover and increase hotel staff satisfaction. This could be critical to increasing guest satisfaction since staff members are the ones who have to interact with guests in a positive manner.

The industry has only touched the surface of how cutting-edge technology can be incorporated into hotel operations. The next year will be an opportunity for hoteliers to ramp up not only the surface of hospitality technology, those interfaces that directly touch guests but also the underlying framework that drives staff and procedures as well.

5 Benefits of Mobile Device Management for Hotels

With the BYOD trend in hotels on the rise, hoteliers are facing challenges in meeting the expectations of both guests and staff who are carrying an increasing number of mobile devices. The benefits of mobile are plentiful, but ensuring efficient use throughout an organization can be difficult.

Availability of mobile device management (MDM) to the hospitality industry has brought about improvements in this arena by allowing hotels to take control of the hotel enterprise mobile technology trend.

Mobile device management (MDM) is defined as a solution that allows for “the administration of mobile devices, such as smartphones, tablet computers, laptops, and desktop computers.” It isn’t just a hotel technology trend buzzword. As more hotels see an increase in travelers carrying mobile devices and as hotel rooms become fitted for advanced technology, such as hotel in-room tablets, enterprise mobility tools are going to continue to increase in value to simplify these hotel technology upgrades.

Remote Management of Devices

With more connected devices on your property than staff, MDM solutions assist in monitoring and managing these in a more efficient way. For instance, many hotels are now installing in-room tablets in guest rooms as a way to improve guest service and engagement. Hotel MDM is the best way to easily get these up and running, as well as perform ongoing maintenance. Using MDM in hotels, devices on the network can be remote wiped or have diagnostics run for troubleshooting.

Regulation of Applications

Hotel apps are more popular than ever and providing complimentary access to these on hotel tablets has become extremely popular in the hospitality industry. Using a hotel MDM solution, hotel management can select which apps they want to load or disable on devices across the network to create a superior digital staff and guest experience.

Data Protection and Backup

Data management using a hotel MDM solution can reduce the risk of costly incidents relating to exposure and breach. Hoteliers can use mobile device management to protect data and prevent leaks or wipe data completely from unauthorized user devices.

Expanded Security Features

Security of hotel digital networks and guest data is a top priority for many hoteliers, and there’s been discussion over how to enhance hotel security when it comes to network use, especially from mobile devices. Hotel MDM use can allow for expansion of security measures, such as requiring authentication of all devices and active monitoring of registered devices. It can also allow for tracking the physical location of devices on the network to reduce hardware theft or loss.

Establishing Network Use Policies

Every hotel should have a policy in place regarding the use of any networks, and this policy should apply to staff and guests alike. A mobile device management solution can assist in enforcing and solidifying this policy by consolidating regulation in the hands of those overseeing the network. Useful features include defining WiFi settings, setting compliance guidelines, and optimizing the function of the network overall.

Read the first part of our series on Mobile Device Management for Hotels and Hospitality for more on the specific uses of this hotel technology trend.

7 Travel Safety Precautions to Follow While Traveling Abroad

Here are some travel safety tips you should be mindful of when you’re on the road away from home.

The thought of exploring a foreign nation is exciting. When traveling abroad, you get to experience new cultures, tempting food, new languages, and much more of the elements that make up our beautiful planet. Although traveling internationally is safe in most of the parts, it is still advisable to keep in mind these travel safety tips for peace of mind. Let’s check them out:

Travel insurance is a must

If you’ve planned an overseas vacation then you must get travel insurance. It protects your precious belongings, cover the medical expenses and help you out in case if you get stuck in a problem. In short, insurance is mandatory for people going to a foreign country.

Scan all the important documents

Just imagine a situation wherein you’ve lost all your important papers, your passport, your flight ticket etc. Horrible enough! That’s why you should have backup copies of your all important papers, including digital versions of them, just in case you happen to misplace them during your joyous trip.

Don’t carry everything important in a single bag

It might be tempting to keep traveler’s checks, credit cards, cash, passport etc in a small bag or wallet. But don’t make this common travel mistake. Keep your checks, IDs, cards, and cash in a hotel room safe or locked compartment. Separate identifying items and cash into different places. This safety tip could increase your peace of mind even while you’re away from your hotel room and exploring the area.

Before and after you stay

Do some homework before booking a hotel or any lodging options haphazardly. Choosing to stay in self-catering studio rooms is a good option as it offers greater flexibility and can easily fit in within your budget. Once you get the right accommodation, lock all valuables in a safe or locker and do not share your room number with anyone. Another thing to keep in mind is the peepholes. Yes, anyone can easily get a quick look of your room through small holes. To avoid this, just put a bandage or small piece of cloth over the peephole of your hotel room door.

Connect with the embassy

Before stepping inside the plane to take off for a new location, acquaint yourself with the designated country’s embassy. The embassy will send you alert messages if any sort of threat takes place in the designated area. In a natural calamity or in the aftermath of a terrorist attack, you’ll want the embassy to know you are still in the area so they can equip you with required help.

Get local

Monitor Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms. Although they don’t provide you genuine details, they’ll alert you to activities in places you need to stay away from. And avoid places with bustling crowds, political gatherings, riots, and protests.

Warily research ground transportation

Research ridesharing and taxi providers that are trustworthy and available without any hassle in the area. Do they accept cash or credit cards only? Is there any emergency number you can call if you get stuck in an emergency? If you’re thinking of using public transportation, check for a good mobile app that can provide you accurate updates about the transportation system in the chosen country or area.

This post was submitted by Lana Marshall, who has worked at Space Apart Hotel for over seven years and has extensive knowledge of both the serviced apartments and the rental studio property market.

 

Why Mobile Device Management for Hotels is a Major Hospitality Technology Trend

With the hotel technology trend of BYOD among hotel guests and staff on the rise, the hospitality industry is finding that mobile device management (MDM) for hotels is a necessary investment.

More than half of your guests will carry 3 or more devices with them when they come for a stay, and you can bet that all your employees are also equipped with a variety of devices, from smartphones to laptops.

We’ve entered an age of mobile hospitality, and all hoteliers must now be nimble enough to meet guests where they’re at: on devices that are capable of keeping them connected and informed anywhere in the world.

These mobile devices enable guests to manage the full, end-to-end travel experience, from the research phase to booking to the actual hotel stay. Features such as mobile key, mobile hotel check-in, digital maps, virtual concierge, and social media access have all made smartphones and in-room tablets invaluable to guests, while enterprise features such as digital guest request management and data views from integrated hotel systems have created demand for new hospitality technology among hotel staff as well.

All these devices have created new demands for connected “smart hotels” that provide sufficient hotel networks, WiFi and security for all on premises.

It’s one of the leading hotel technology trends and promises to assist hoteliers in staying on top of hotel guest and staff BYOD.

Some of the MDM features for hotels that could improve the mobile hotel guest and staff experience include:

  • Device and platform detection
  • Policy compliance monitoring
  • Mobile app management and permission setting
  • Security implementation
  • Remote software updates
  • Remote wiping of device data
  • VPN configuration
  • Remote device locking

In the second part of our series on Mobile Device Management for Hotels and Hospitality, we’ll go into specific benefits that can be realized through the use of an MDM solution.

For more information on how hotel technology trends like MDM can give you a competitive edge when it comes to improving the guest experience, schedule a demo with our industry experts.

 

Hilton Looks to Replicate Success of Conrad Concierge Mobile App

Hilton is looking to bring digital guest services to its entire portfolio in the same vein as the Conrad Concierge app did for its Conrad properties.

Hilton Worldwide is looking to increase its focus on mobile technology as a way to more competitively connect with the hotel brand’s guests. Hotel mobile technology has become the premier method for hospitality to reach guests in a way that is direct and immediate. It’s also unobtrusive, given that downloading a hotel app or opting in for communication is required before a connection can take place.

In 2012, Hilton launched Conrad Concierge with number one hotel app developer Intelity as an experiment. It was the first service-enabled hotel brand app made available, and it surpassed 180,000 users in less than two years.

A number of factors, including the success of Conrad Concierge app and the surge of hotel guest demand for mobile technology, have now led Hilton to begin a roll out of a new mobile strategy to engage guests through a hotel app similar to Conrad Concierge. The roll out will include a number of Hilton’s brands, such as Waldorf Astoria and DoubleTree.

The hotel app aims to increase sign ups for the Hilton HHonors loyalty program and provide innovative mobile concierge services to guests. Mobile is also viewed as a way to be competitive against indirect room bookings using channels such as online travel agencies like Priceline. Access to a suite of mobile features will serve as an incentive to get guests to download the app.

Using the hotel brand app on a smartphone, hotel guests will be able to pick a specific guest room, use mobile check-in, open the door to their hotel room with a mobile key, and access digital hotel services.

In an interview with The Drum, Geraldine Calpin, Hilton Worldwide global head of marketing and digital, said, “We are using digital to create a better stay experience, and we will continue to innovate in that digital hospitality experience because for us it’s about a better experience.”

“In some cases, people don’t want to talk to people, so enabling digital and technology to provide guests with more choices and control over their stay is what we want to do. The big thing is how can we make that easier and with less friction for our guests.”

(Video: John Vanderslice, VP of Hilton Worldwide Lifestyle & Luxury Brands, talks to Bloomberg TV from Intelity on Vimeo.)

Hotel Tablet Technology Drives Revenue and Efficiency

Hotel staff is able to leverage hotel in-room tablet technology to improve service and increase hotel revenue.

Adoption of touchscreen tablets in restaurants has increased over the past few years as reports are released supporting their usefulness in improving business and making customers happy. Numerous chains have been so impressed by pilot runs with restaurant tablets that they’ve expanded the food and beverage technology into hundreds of locations.

But these benefits are not just for kiosks and tablets in restaurants. Hotels have been able to translate the same principles to leverage in-room tablets for hotels and kiosks for a wide array of competitive advantages. Here are a few of the proven results possible from the installation of hotel guest room tablets.

Increased Hotel Revenue

The general numbers don’t lie. The ease of use provided to customers by hotel tablets when it comes to completing tasks like reviewing menu items and placing orders, whether in the guest room or dining at the hotel restaurant, promotes better sales. Studies show the user experience of tablets causes higher sales conversions, more so than on desktop computers, laptops or even smartphones. Businesses using tablets for ordering have reported higher average check amounts and a 15-percent increase in tips.

Improved Hotel Marketing & Upsell Opportunities

Hotel tablets allow for the presentation of full menus with visuals that can be accessed in only one or two taps of a finger. Guests are able to scroll through numerous items with automatic electronic prompts to add on. A guest ordering an in-room dining meal might be encouraged to add a bottle of wine or fitting side to order before submission. One chain was able to increase the sale of appetizers and desserts by 20 percent thanks to the use of tablets for ordering meals.

Enhanced Hotel In-Room Entertainment

The state of hotel room entertainment has shifted in recent years due to hotel technology trends, such as mobile device use by guests for streaming content and announcements of hotel brand partnerships with modern media companies like Netflix.

Hotel in-room tablets can add to the hotel in-room entertainment experience by providing guests with another means of control and personalization of the guest experience. Tablets can be used to stream movies in the hotel room, play games, read digital newspapers and magazines, or browse the Internet. Reports are that at least 1 in 10 tables opts to order premium content such as unlimited games on touchscreen tablets when available, which shows further potential for expanded revenue intake for the hotel.

More Efficient Staff Operations

Tablets are being implemented in the hospitality industry at large, and one of the major draws is the improved operational efficiency. Hospitality tablets are able to “[expedite] the whole process [of food ordering]” as well as “[cut] down on labor costs.”

For instance, hotel tablets running on the INTELITY hospitality technology platform are able to electronically send all tickets to appropriate departments, which can then be managed and tracked to fulfillment through a single back-end portal. Hotel managers are able to review service performance and make changes as necessary to improve speed and efficiency.

Investment in Improving Guest Experience Reduces Costs

The cost of providing guests with better customer experience in hotels is far outweighed by the returns possible from such action.

Improving guest experience is vital for the success of a hotel, but there are still questions surrounding the potential returns on investing in hospitality customer experience, especially as guests’ preferences have evolved after the past decade to include hotel technology and innovation.

Hotels that have a better guest experience than competitors realize higher revenue and customer retention, according to studies.

Guests who have positive previous experiences spend 140 percent more than those who have negative ones.

Also, customers who give high ratings for previous experiences have a 74 percent chance of still being a subscribed customer a year later, which is nearly 30 percent more than a customer with a poor previous experience.

And despite fears about the costs associated with guest experience technology, improvements are shown to reduce overall hotel costs. Telecommunications company Sprint reported a reduction in customer care costs of 33% due to initiatives that improved customer experience.

A 5-year study of various companies showed that those providing exceptional customer experience performed 128% better than those not focusing on improving customer experience and enjoyed smaller loss on returns.

What next? Contact our team to develop a guest experience strategy that will help you increase guest satisfaction, generate revenue and improve operations.

For more information on how hotel technology can give you a competitive edge when it comes to improving the guest experience, schedule a free consultation with industry experts.

Travelers Prefer Mobile Hotel Technology to Toothbrushes

Are hospitality technology trends innovating hotel rooms quickly enough to maintain guest satisfaction at peak levels?

Mobile hotel technology is a hot topic when it comes to hospitality technology trends and the future of the industry. Report after report has established that hotel guests love mobile devices for engagement and guest service, such as through a virtual hotel concierge.

Travelers now carry more mobile devices than ever (three to four on average for business travelers). And 60 percent of general global travelers say they wouldn’t vacation at all without a mobile device, while nearly 4 in 10 say they’re more dependent on mobile devices when on vacation than at home.

Mobile devices are more important to your hotel guests than anything else in their suitcase, according to new surveys. Items that ranked below or equal to mobile devices in importance:

  • Car
  • Deodorant
  • Laptop/PC
  • TV
  • Microwave
  • Coffee
  • Social Networking

What about the Millennials in your hotel? Mobile phones not only ranked above these items for the majority of them but also toothbrushes and the Internet. Mobile technology is so vital to your hotel guests that nearly half in any age demographic would reportedly give up alcohol to recover a smartphone that was taken away.

With information like this, why is it that some hotels offer toothbrushes and toothpaste but still haven’t invested in fully incorporating mobile technology into the hotel guest experience?

It’s been about a decade since the first iPhone was released. The time for hotels to embrace mobile technology is now.

New mobile hotel technology, such as hotel in-room tablets and hotel apps, are more readily available than ever. And the potential ROI of mobile technology in hotels far outweighs the initial investment required.

Hotel guests are already showing a strong positive response to new mobile hotel technology, including both hotel apps and hotel in-room tablets.

The Crawford Hotel in Denver, Colorado, placed hotel tablets in all of its 112 guest rooms and also made a hotel app available for download to guests’ personal devices. Guests are able to use this hotel technology to send requests with the hotel staff, look up information, stream music, and read digital newspapers and magazines in the hotel rooms.

A year after opening, the hotel reported a positive impact on both guest engagement and communication with hotel staff. More than 3,000 total guest requests were sent via personal mobile devices, mainly smartphones, to the front desk and 41 percent of the hotel’s bookings were mobile.

The hotel aims to stay on the leading edge of hospitality technology trends by adopting mobile key sometime soon to expedite the guest check-in process and improve guest satisfaction even further.

It’s a fact. Guests love mobile hotel technology. So instead of offering your guests toothbrushes, consider offering them what they’ve shown they really want: mobile engagement.

The Science Behind Hotel Tablets and Increased Revenue

New research is showing why placing tablets in hotel rooms can generate increases in revenue for the hospitality industry.

Hotel tablets don’t just add a “wow” factor to a hotel lobby, restaurant or guest room. For some time now, our company has heard incredible successes among our clients, from average guest usage rates upwards of 90 percent to improved scores toward AAA Five Diamond status.

Significant ROI associated with hotel tablets has also been reported, especially regarding increased in-room dining and room service revenue.

The Inn at Penn, a Hilton hotel in Philadelphia, saw increased revenue only months after installing hotel tablets with INTELITY Guest in guest rooms. Greg Stafford, the hotel’s general manager during the installation, said hotel tablets contributed to a 12-percent increase in average room service checks and a 10-percent increase in room service usage.

And now it seems science is reinforcing what our customers report.

Psychologists have suggested that people place a higher value on things they own compared to things they don’t. Even before purchase, people develop feelings of ownership toward an item if they touch it and tend to buy these items more frequently.

A series of new studies have taken it a step further by looking into the “interface psychology” of shopping on devices, or how mobile technology impacts consumer behavior.

Apparently, even indirect physical touch creates a sense of ownership that encourages purchase, which applies to consumers using touchscreen tablets to place orders. The effect of placing the items in their hands through a tablet makes them feel more possessive toward it and more inclined to complete a sale.

“I think our impulse levels might be a little harder to control when we’re tablet shopping than when we’re computer shopping. We’re just touching it. It’s right there. We already feel like we own it,” said Stevan Adam Brasel, one of the Boston College researchers who conducted these studies.

A report related to their research also showed that visual details tend to matter more than text during tablet shopping. It states, “Changes in interfaces can be as important as changes in content.”

Overall, this research has important takeaways for hoteliers looking to create a digital experience for guests using innovative technology like hotel tablets. Allowing guests to use hotel tablets when they place orders creates a more personal buying experience and leads to more conversions and higher revenue.

Are Hotels and Millennials Connecting?

Hospitality is searching to find out, what do Millennials value in hotels?

The relationship between Millennials and hotels has become a large part of the conversation when it comes to the future of the hospitality industry. This is largely due to the growing spending power of Millennials in regard to the hospitality and travel industry.

“The number of Millennial travelers is significant and growing fast. It appears by 2017 Millennials will outspend baby boomers on hotels,” said Jason Dorsey, chief strategy officer of The Center for Generational Kinetics.

Many Millennials haven’t yet developed long-lasting loyalty to any particular hotel brand, making guest engagement critical between the hospitality industry and Millennial demographic. In fact, hospitality has one of the lowest reported levels of engagement with Millennials. Only 20 percent of Millennials report feeling fully engaged by the industry.

So what do Millennials want?

Hotels targeting Millennials have realized how different modern expectations are of hospitality. Impacting this has been the emergence of tech-savvy brands such as Uber and Airbnb. Such modern brands are capable of delivering a strong, multi-platform digital experience that engages target groups where they are most active – on mobile devices and on social networks such as Snapchat and Instagram.

Digital experience is proving to have a primary impact on Millennial engagement and satisfaction, according to recent reports, and numerous industries are capitalizing on this, from retail to banking.

Mobile is currently at the center of it all. Millennials are using mobile technology to interact with brands for more convenient communication and service, a trend that doesn’t end when it comes to hospitality. Embracing mobile technology is key for hotels to win Millennial loyalty.

“It will require a redefinition of service – one that offers Millennials tremendous choice, speed and personalization based on their individual preferences. Providing such tailored service not only means accommodating consumers’ use of smartphones but for operators to leverage their own mobile devices to better serve them,” said Ray Carlin, Vice President of Solution and Strategy Management at Oracle Hospitality.

The evolution of hospitality to accommodate Millennials in hotels is evident in a number of recent developments, from the move to introduce keyless room entry to the installation of in-room tablets at hotels for self-service functionality.

New hotel brands, such as Marriott’s Moxy, Best Western’s GLō, Starwood’s Element, Hilton’s Canopy, and Hyatt’s Centric, are being created to appeal to young Millennial travelers, or at least those with the modern Millennial mindset when it comes to travel. It’s an attempt to create the kind of guest experience that will lure Millennials and build loyalty with this segment of travelers.

The common thread among these Millennial hotel brands seems to be a focus on coming across as trendy, hip, and adventurous, with in-room amenities, pared down to those that are a necessity or enhance convenience. For example, most of the best hotels for Millennials are being outfitted with limited closet and desk space, clean design, and hotel technology features such as extra electrical outlets, strong WiFi connectivity, mobile device charging ports, self-service tablets.

Price often comes up in the conversation about Millennials and hotels, with the demographic being identified as prioritizing low cost over much else.

As Millennials continue to mature and enjoy increased financial power, the hospitality industry will certainly see more changes to attract and satisfy this group in the future.

 

Hospitality Technology Forecast: Hotel Cloud Technology on the Horizon

New hospitality industry needs have reinvigorated interest in hotel cloud technology.

Hotel cloud technology has been a topic of interest for some time, but it’s becoming a leading hospitality technology trend thanks to the acknowledgment of its numerous benefits and a push to accommodate the growing needs of tech-hungry guests.

What is the cloud? Cloud computing is defined by IBM as “the delivery of on-demand computing resources over the Internet on a pay-for-use basis.” The cloud is web-based, which frees hotels from having to rely on direct connections to onsite server hardware.

This flexibility is the basis for the popularity of the cloud computing model. Cisco projects that within the next two years, 86 percent of workloads will be processed by cloud data centers rather than traditional ones. More than half of those will be Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) workloads.

Benefits of cloud technology in hotels include:

  • Scalability: Cloud technology offers powerful technology that can match the needs of any hospitality business, whether it’s a global brand or independent hotel.
  • Reduced costs: Thanks to a pay-by-use model, you’re able to keep costs at a minimum and avoid heavy investment in internal IT support.
  • Enhanced self-service: Cloud computing allows you to manage most of your own needs with minimal IT support.
  • Broadened accessibility: You can get into the cloud from anywhere using remote login, making it much more convenient than traditional servers.
  • Faster onboarding: The process of getting started is expedited when you use hotel cloud technology rather than onsite servers.
  • Improved maintenance: Updates and releases are able to be installed much more quickly on an ongoing basis. There’s also the ability to develop a more robust disaster recovery plan to back up systems.

Tips For A Better Hotel App From: Google Travel

Borrow from Google to create the best hotel app possible.

Google has slowly but steadily been making headway when it comes to the travel industry, with a collection of mobile apps designed to make travel easier. Google Travel is a product capable of serving as a digital travel agent or trip planner and more. It exemplifies the concept of mobile-first as well, due to the heavy use of mobile by travelers.

Here are some takeaways from Google for developing a better hotel app.

Search Filters

Ease of use is key to gaining and keeping users for a hotel app, or really any app at that. Being able to navigate an app without confusion is a major draw, and this should be kept in mind during the hotel app development process.

Google is a master of online search, being the go-to Internet search engine of choice for so long now, and their travel features reflect this. Various search filters can be applied by travelers looking to plan a trip or perform mobile hotel bookings, such as location, price and hotel type. These make it extremely easy for users of Google’s apps to find exactly what they want quickly and efficiently.

Exclusive Deals

What better reason could there be for guests to use a hotel app than saving money? It adds incentive to taking the time to download and retain an app if there are exclusives offered through it that can’t be found on a company’s website or through a third party.

To note, Google even sends notifications to travelers about when great prices are available for their desired flights and hotels. The additional convenience shows true thoughtfulness for improving the user experience, and hospitality should be all about exceptional guest experience, no matter the channel or method through which it’s delivered. Convenience and financial discounts will no doubt increase the appeal and result in a better hotel app.

Complete Travel Experience Management

Google Travel features don’t focus solely on mobile hotel booking. Travelers can also access flight information, maps and directions, suggestions for building a vacation itinerary, and more.

A hotel app can be more useful if it presents multi-dimensional features that focus on the full travel experience, even before or after a guest’s stay. Incorporating useful information, such as flight information, maps, social media access, and hotel concierge recommendations for exploring the local area, will delight hotel app users and give them a reason to open a hotel app time and time again.

Constant Innovation

If there’s one inspiring takeaway from Google Travel (or Google in general) it’s the value of constant innovation. In order to develop the best hotel app, it’s necessary to experiment and take risks, not just follow the crowd. Thinking outside the box and jumping on leading trends can be difficult to justify, but being a hotel technology leader can pay off in the long run with modern guests who appreciate the conveniences afforded by digital amenities.

 

Virtual Voice Assistants in Hotels: Yes or No?

Will artificial intelligence find a place in hotels as an in-room virtual concierge?

A recent article, “Talking Technology: is this what hotel guests really want?” brings to light a potential future hospitality technology trend that is still in its infancy. Voice assistant technology, such as Apple’s Siri and Google Now, has emerged as a next-step development for mobile technology.

The article states:

“In the not too distant future, you will be able to lie on your bed in a hotel room and control room features and services entirely with voice commands. The technology behind this is already available. Many homes already have an Amazon Echo, an Internet-connected voice interface that connects you with Amazon’s Alexa voice service, providing on-demand music, TV, audio books, travel information and many other services through simple voice commands.”

Automation and artificial intelligence in hotels have received a fair amount of attention, especially with the emergence of robot hotels. Having a virtual hotel room assistant takes this current hotel technology trend to the next level, one that could be even more immediately impactful than robots in hotels.

Many hotels have in-room iPads or tablets installed that are capable of providing hotel room automation features, or room controls. From the comfort of their bed, guests can use a hotel room tablet to control the lights, temperature, drapes and more.

Voice technology takes this further. Devices with virtual voice assistants, such as the paired Amazon Echo and Alexa voice command platform, would allow guests to bypass picking up the touchscreen tablets for automated hotel room controls. They could simply say what they wanted aloud.

Available commands could also be expanded. For instance, Amazon’s Alexa can already be asked to give information about news and weather, play music, provide traffic reports. Imagine the possibilities of this talking technology in a hotel room of the future.

It would be like having a virtual concierge in the hotel room at all times available to serve the guest.

The virtual hotel concierge (think Siri or Alexa) would likely be able to improve the guest experience and become central to smart hotel rooms of the future, similar to how the Amazon Echo is being called by some the “Center of the Smart Home.” It could be a key piece of the hotel Internet of Things, providing easy control over numerous devices.

Hotels could personify the virtual hotel concierge for branding purposes instead of using the familiar names of Siri or Alexa. Different hotel brands could have different names for their in-room virtual concierge to create a more personalized experience for their guests.

Commands will be spoken directly to this virtual concierge, placing orders, making requests, or asking for information. There would be no delay in response, similar to the convenience of using in-room touchscreen tablets in hotel rooms now but with voice activations.

Consumer reviews of AI assistants have been very positive so far, but the day when we’ll see this type of talking technology fully embedded into hotel rooms is likely still far off.

Hotel in-room tablets and touchscreen control panels are the most advanced options widely embraced by hospitality as a means of providing guests with the conveniences of hotel room automation. The widespread popularity of touchscreen tablets like the iPad and the falling prices of the hardware have contributed to this hotel technology trend, as well as the improvements to the guest experience in-room tablets carry. They even contribute to the hotel AAA Diamond ratings.

Eccleston Square Hotel, known as one of the world’s most high-tech hotels, boasts a variety of cutting-edge hotel room technology, including in-room tablets with the INTELITY hospitality technology platform. But James Byrne, manager at luxury London hotel Eccleston Square Hotel, is quoted in the EyeforTravel article as being skeptical of how guests would respond to virtual voice assistants in hotels.

“I’m not sure this would work for all guests. Some might even find it frustrating,” Byrne said.

INTELITY CTO Chris Grey echoes the sentiment but believes this might appear on future hospitality technology trend lists. “It’s not hard to imagine a hotel guest speaking their requests aloud with phrases like, ‘Housekeeping, please bring me extra towels,’ or ‘Room Service, I’d like the Caesar salad at 7 o’clock please.’ The only significant unknown is whether guests will have concerns that microphones are present in their room.”

 

Augmented and Virtual Reality in Hotels Could Make Travelers Pokémon Go Wild

Why Pokémon Go could mean the future of augmented and virtual reality in hotels is a promising one.

You’re a rarity if you haven’t yet fallen prey to the addictiveness of the new Pokémon Go app or heard about its effects on the world around you.

The concept behind Pokémon, a media franchise that was created in 1995, is fairly simple. There are creatures in the world called Pokémon that people, called “Trainers,” try to catch. The Pokémon Go app is a game that allows app users to become Trainers and find Pokémon in locations all around them using augmented reality (AR). Their smartphones provide information to the app about the user’s geography, including location and time, which impacts gameplay.

The augmented reality app was released on Android and iPhone in limited countries by The Pokémon Company, (partially owned by Nintendo) and developer Niantic on July 6, and within 5 days it had been downloaded more than 7.5 million times. That’s more than popular dating app Tinder and nearly more than social media platform Twitter. More average time is spent on Pokémon Go than is spent on several other leading mobile apps, including WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook.

Not only did people download it, but early figures are also showing the app has strong user retention (a modern marvel when one in four users abandon an app after only one use). More than 60 percent of people who have downloaded the app in the U.S. use it on a daily basis.

It’s become more than a game for many people. It’s an obsession.


And more than that, it shows just how popular the new technology trend of augmented reality, or if you take it a step further, virtual reality, could become in the near future.

Augmented reality is the mixing of a fabricated, digital world and reality. Unlike virtual reality, which immerses the user completely in a 3-D digital world through the use of hardware such as a headset, augmented reality adds such elements into the real world. For example, with Pokémon Go, users “see” Pokémon around them through their smartphone screen.

Both augmented and virtual reality technology are seen as up-and-coming game changers, and leading technology companies are investing in both, including Facebook, Google, Apple, and Samsung.

Virtual reality in hotels is not a completely new concept either. So far, the application of virtual reality in hospitality has primarily been for the purpose of showcasing guest rooms and other areas of properties to travelers before they arrive.

For instance, the Best Western Virtual Reality Experience provides 360-degree VR views through hardware such as Oculus Rift or Samsung Gear VR. The hotel brand virtual reality feature was created by utilizing 1.7 million property photos and Google Street View.

In an article, Best Western CMO Dorothy Dowling said, “To go that next step before they go, and actually map out a lot of those things in their mind before they arrive, I think is going to be transformative for the business.”

Other hospitality brands with virtual reality projects available include Starwood, Marriott, Shangri-La Hotels, Carlson Rezidor and Holiday Inn Express.

“Virtual reality is on the cusp of becoming more mainstream,” said Steven Taylor, chief marketing officer of Shangri-La International Hotel Management Ltd.

“Shangri-La is investing significantly in technology and the future of travel content, which is why we are embracing virtual reality on this scale…VR is a revolutionary new sales tool. The technology has evolved so that it is now affordable, light and portable.”

As part of its Travel Brilliantly campaign, Marriott went a step further than virtual reality hotel tours to offer travelers the opportunity to view VR postcards of stories and experiences around the world on Samsung virtual reality hardware.

But the uses of augmented and virtual reality in hotels has great potential for expansion.

Imagine having relaxation sessions added to the list of services available at the spa, where guests could choose to be virtually immersed in a new environment, such as a beach or a hot spring, during a treatment. Or virtual reality fitness classes that guests could watch and participate in from the comfort of their hotel room.

Virtual reality in hotel rooms could mean expanded hotel in-room entertainment options, with guests able to actually feel like they’re part of movies, shows or games rather than just watching on a 2-D hotel TV.

Hotels could also allow guests to use augmented or virtual reality in guest rooms to browse items they’d like to purchase, whether in-room dining items or gift shop souvenirs, before placing orders. The items could appear virtually to the guests using various hardware or even smartphones (similar to how Pokémon “appear” on smartphones using augmented reality) to give them a 3-D, realistic shopping experience in their hotel room without having to go to a different location.

The rise of Pokémon Go could just be the fad of the moment, but it could also foreshadow a future of augmented or virtual reality as mainstream technologies. If AR and VR technology continue to rise in popularity, especially as developers find other creative applications beyond games, they could become commonplace elements within society, in the same way, that smartphones and mobile technology have.

And once that happens, hotels will have to embrace this innovation, as with any other technology that travelers come to expect as part of their daily lives. Augmented and virtual reality technology in hotel rooms as a standard could be just around the corner.

Image courtesy of Twitter account @HyattRegencySA.

HITEC 2016 Highlights: Hospitality Technology Trends to Watch

There was a record attendance at HITEC 2016, and anyone who was present will tell you it was a flurry of sights and sounds. From awesome robots, like Savioke’s Relay the Robot, to a range of upcoming start-ups in the HITEC Entrepreneur 20X showcase, there were a large number of exhibitors at this hospitality technology conference covering a range of products and services, from hotel WiFi to hotel keyless room entry solutions to hotel staff uniforms. With so much going on, it was hard to pick out the dominant hospitality technology trends this year, but here are a few that stood out.

Guest Engagement Technology

This could be considered a very broad category, but guest engagement is the main focus for hospitality right now due to increased competition and dwindling guest loyalty. Hotel technology has become a key competitive differentiator, and there were a number of HITEC exhibitors showcasing ways hotels could improve appeal with guest-facing technology.

Mobile was the strong underlying theme of the majority of guest engagement technology being showcased, which makes sense given that 9 out of 10 modern travelers around the globe reportedly don’t take a leisure or business trip without at least one mobile device with them. Mobile has become invaluable for business to reach customers, regardless of industry.

Using mobile for direct and text messaging guests was a recurring topic of discussion, with hoteliers taking interest in expanded methods of reaching guests through mobile technology. David Temple, CEO & co-founder of Hello Scout (a HITEC Entrepreneur 20X participant), gave a presentation during this year’s HITEC 2016 Tech Talks focused on the benefits of text messaging hotel guests. According to David, messaging apps now have higher usage than social media apps. One of the benefits of hotel guest messaging is the extreme personal connection this enables hotel staff to have with guests, he added.

In-room technology was also a big focus, as touchscreen tablet technology has evolved to the point where there are now models available specifically for hospitality industry needs. Reduced hardware costs and high rates of guest engagement for these guestroom devices makes them an area of hospitality technology investment that could continue to grow in popularity in the near future.

Interest among hoteliers was also in how these guest-facing technologies could provide insight into guest behavior and preferences through a collection of Big Data in hotels.

Hotel WiFi & Connectivity

Strong WiFi has been one of the most important aspects of hotel technology for years, and that hasn’t changed. But as travelers increasingly pack a wider variety of devices, such as smartphones and tablets, it’s put more demand on hotels when it comes to supporting guest connectivity needs.

Daran Hermans, the senior product manager with Zebra Technologies, said, “It all has to do with the mobile devices that guests bring into the hotels. They’ve changed completely. Not only the devices have changed, but they’ve also changed the way the network and the hotel operators have to respond to that.”

Daran identifies the introduction of the iPad as one example of a new technology that impacted connectivity in hotels by altering WiFi demands. Hotel networks weren’t designed to accommodate the use of tablets and mobile technology. Networks had to become more powerful as guests began carrying more mobile devices.

“The trend line is going toward putting one access point in every single hotel room and getting very personal with wireless,” he said.

Mobile technology and the BYOD trend among hotel guests have created other changes in hotel network needs.

Daran said, “Repeatedly hoteliers are saying I’ve got really bad cellular coverage inside my hotel.’ And we all understand that. Newer LTE phones actually don’t work as well, don’t have as good coverage as the older 3G technology did. So one of the trends that have happened to solve that problem is all the major U.S. based cellular carriers are all supporting voice over wireless LAN.”

“So between [these major carriers], your phone calls are now running over WiFi, they’re not even running over the cellular network anymore. That means now you have great cellular voice coverage inside your hotel. Now that’s a great trend. It’s great for me as a WiFi vendor because it really means that now we get to design products that work really well with those voice over wireless LAN type phones that guests are going to be bringing into hotels.”

Hospitality Cloud Technology

Hospitality has got its head in the clouds, and there are a growing number of hotels currently in the process of or interested in migration to the cloud. There are numerous benefits to the industry that come with the shift, including diminished internal hotel IT support needed to maintain onsite systems.

Tom Cook, the marketing manager of Evolve Guest Controls, said he thinks cloud technology in hotels will be a primary focus moving forward. “Trending in hospitality you’re going to see a lot of reduced onsite infrastructure and a major shift into the cloud.”

“It’s slowly making its way into hospitality. Renovation cycles, new construction, and if there’s a way to reduce onsite infrastructure and offer managed services and cloud services, I believe that’s going to be [a trend] in the next five years, in tandem with the Internet of Things and Big Data.”

Hotel Internet of Things

It’s a phrase you can expect to hear repeatedly this year, and it’s possibly the biggest hospitality technology term being discussed at the moment. It was certainly one of the hottest topics at HITEC 2016, with a number of speakers leading sessions on it.

Dr. Ajay “AJ” Aluri, the assistant professor at West Virginia University, presented a Tech Talk about the hospitality Internet of Things, during which he said surveys show that people are interested in value-added experiences in hospitality as a result of the hotel Internet of Things. In time, this trend will create demand for fast, convenient accessibility of automated functions.

He also said IoT will increase the importance of hotel integration between multiple systems in order to have seamless interaction between various devices and systems. If data can’t be fluidly communicated through these hotel system integrations, it could cause disruptions to the guest experience that would potentially decrease guest satisfaction.

In a corresponding special report for HFTP, Ajay wrote this bit of advice for hoteliers wondering about how to prepare for the coming of IoT: “The first step to the future of IoT among businesses is to embrace the Internet and Wi-Fi as the source of valuable consumer data for creating new customer experiences, no longer just for customer personal use.”

A shift is necessary for the hospitality industry. Hoteliers must embrace all the existing hotel technology trends that are widely available, and also become more open-minded and swift when it comes to adoption of emerging hospitality technologies that hold potential to allow businesses to thrive in a modern, connected age of travel.

Contact us today to learn more about our complete hospitality technology platform.

Hotel Technology Tips: Generating Revenue with a Hotel App

The benefits of hotel mobile apps are a hot debate throughout the industry. A sampling of those benefits includes Improved guest satisfaction, more efficient staff interactions, and better communication with guests, all of which increase a hotel’s competitive advantage. Yet, while leveraging mobile to result in increasing guest satisfaction and operational efficiency is a top priority when implementing mobile technology in hotels, increasing revenue through the use of mobile apps can also be a major part of justifying the investment. When used correctly, hotel apps can maximize revenue in order to provide significant ROI.

Mobile Booking

This is the most straightforward method to generate revenue from mobile apps. Allowing for mobile hotel room reservations is a primary source where hotels can create profit. With hotel bookings on smartphones rising (including 65 percent of same-day bookings), mobile reservations are a lucrative and sensible feature to enable when seeking to generate revenue through a hospitality app.

And booking room reservations don’t have to be the end of it. Hoteliers can also generate revenue by allowing for in-app booking for other hotel amenities, such as hotel spa services, golf or sports activities, restaurant reservations, in-room dining, and more.

Mobile Ads and Marketing

The benefit of guests utilizing a hotel app is that it gives hoteliers the opportunity to market directly to guests through a channel that is always on and always in the palm of a guest’s hand.

Push notifications give hoteliers an increased reach to market their services to their guests and the ability to provide consistent reminders and prompts to app users. Implementing advertisements into a hotel app is also an effective and clever way to generate revenue when done in a way that isn’t disruptive to the user experience. Hoteliers can boost revenue through pay-per-click or banner ads embedded in mobile apps.

Enabling guests to act on these prompts and mobile ads through in-app purchasing features can be very lucrative, as 76 percent of profits from apps stem from these types of purchases.

Third-Party Partnerships

Hotels can take advantage of partnering with local companies to maximize available space through a mobile app. Allowing these partners to seamlessly advertise on the hotel app interface for a fee can generate revenue for you and provide guests with information about relevant services, such as local boutiques. It’s important to select partners that enhance the existing brand image or provide significant benefit to a hotel’s most common demographic of guests, though.

As the landscape of the hospitality industry is shifting to focus more on mobile technology in response to guests who are demanding more sophisticated digital engagement during travel, developing apps that are functional on multiple levels and provide an ROI that offsets investment is growing more important as well.

For more information about how to generate revenue with a hotel app and determine the ROI of hospitality mobile technology, explore our mobile solutions or schedule a demo with a member of our team.

 

Marketing a Hotel App: Hilton Waikoloa Village

It might seem obvious, but there’s no point to developing a hotel’s mobile app, or any hotel technology if no one uses it. It can be a challenge to get people to download an app, though, with so many competing for their time and attention.

We recently had a talk with Leanne Pletcher, Director of Marketing Communications at Hilton Waikoloa Village in Hawaii, about successfully marketing a hotel app. The property’s app is currently one of the top 5 most downloaded out of all INTELITY-created hotel apps. In the following interview, Leanne explained how the hotel has found success in getting guests to download and engage through the app.

Did you have a strategy laid out in advance of launching the hotel’s mobile app at your property, or did you develop one as you went along?

Several years ago we determined that we needed an app for the resort. Part of this determination was based on what our competition was already doing. We had unique goals since our resort property is truly a destination in itself with an incredible range of services and activities.

For our guests, we have found that maps and directions are very important because our property is on 62 acres and is approximately one mile from one end to the other. With the app, we wanted to increase guest convenience by including restaurant menus, and contacts for our various services including Kohala Spa and the Luau. We recently added links to OpenTable for dining reservations at our two signature restaurants, KPC and Imari. The support of Hilton Hotels and Resorts helped, as well.

Which social media channels are the hotel active on and how have these been useful in increasing guest usage of the hotel’s mobile app?

We’re very active on a wide variety of social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube and Google+. We had the honor of being selected as the top property for social media engagement in 2013 out of all the Hilton Hotels and Resorts properties in the Americas. We do post about our INTELTY app from time-to-time to give our followers more options for resort information. Our social media posts tend to focus more on our location, events, activities and captivating imagery. We find that our posts get a lot of engagement that way.

What has the guest response to the app been? Have you faced any apprehension from guests who are resistant to digital amenities, and how have you addressed that?

It’s been very positive from the guests who do communicate with us, and we do find most of our guests are pretty tech-savvy. We haven’t really encountered any resistance.

I think in general the app is great to have as another option for our guests to learn about what is available on property. When a guest is checking in, our challenge is presenting our wide range of services and activities without taking too much time. It helps to expedite the check-in process if we can direct the “tech-savvy” guest to the hotel app, as well as our website for information.

Our concierge team finds the app to be a useful tool to share with guests, as well. The app gives us another tool to educate our guests, in addition to our website, the social media postings, and printed activities calendars that are placed in all the guest rooms. We actually do see a number of guests on property checking their smartphones for information, too.

Has your Marketing team been involved in the design and image of the hotel app? How does the content you select impact guest usage?

Our Marketing team did take the lead on developing and managing the hotel’s mobile app. We focused on using high-quality images because that generates more interest in going from screen to screen, as well as increases the chances that the guest will want to experience what they see. We have found this leads to increased revenue, too. For example, the guest may see the KPC restaurant sunset shot on the app and decide they really need to make a reservation through the OpenTable link.

We also link our app content to the website content so that everything can be updated at once. Because the resort is continually updating events, menus, and activities this feature has been extremely helpful in ensuring consistent information among all of our technical communications.

How would you say the app has changed your hotel’s relationship with guests or the ability to market to them?

The app has been extremely instrumental as another resort information resource for our guests. It has introduced our resort team and our guests to the possibilities of technology. We realize that there is still potential for more growth within the app, too.

It’s not an interactive app at this time. It’s purely informational. Eventually, we’d like to have it interactive to help with the guest experience. The way we look at it is it’s another point of digital content, and it supplements our website and our social media presence for our guests. We’re able to keep consistency with all of our digital marketing platforms.

Overall, what have you learned since the hotel app’s launch and what would you recommend to other hotels looking to market a new mobile app?

Probably the most important aspect is to keep it up-to-date and consistent. Guests will notice if the website has a different message or content than the app, which will raise questions.

Also, keeping the various channels linked to each other and making sure everything is working together ensures that our guests get reliable and helpful information. We’ve learned, too, that our guests really do use this as a tool and find it very resourceful. And we certainly enjoy working with INTELITY.