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Hotels Adapting Technology to Generational Preferences

The Cornell Center for Hospitality Research “For Tech’s Sake! Building Customer Loyalty via Generational Preferences” roundtable session focused on key learnings hotels can leverage by understanding the technology “preference gap” among multiple generations.

After providing statistics regarding decision making influences and demographic preferences,  Josh Weiss, vice president of Guest Technology Innovation at Hilton Hotels, said “We must be deliberate and thoughtful in how we design, deliver and support technology that stays relevant and intuitive fo all of our guests across generations.”

Mark McCarthy is a Senior Lecturer Cornell School for Hospitality Administration. Photo Credit: Cornell University.

Mark McCarthy is a Senior Lecturer Cornell School for Hospitality Administration. Photo Credit: Cornell University.

For example, Cornell’s Senior Lecturer of Information Systems Mark McCarthy asked the audience “how many people expect to use a phone to unlock a hotel room?” He then provided findings from his own research that showed that 55% of people polled don’t expect this capability. The difference in what technology guests want can be seen in their demand for internet access. Guests expect easy reliable wi-fi access in hotel rooms, but fewer expect such access on planes.

In other words: technology for technology’s sake isn’t a sound strategy for hotels. “Such investments degrade the customer experience rather than enhance it,” the panelists said.

More than two dozen industry leaders, along with researchers and students met for the second annual Technology Entrepreneurship Roundtable hosted by the Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. The April 2016 event covered a range of discussions including cloud computing’s impact on consumers’ ability to influence brands, social media’s connectivity between businesses and their customers, the role of generational preferences, customizing technology, and the challenges of adapting to the constantly changing environment.

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Consumers Act as WatchDogs for the Hotel Industry

The Cornell Center for Hospitality Research “High Tech, High Touch: Highlights from the 2016 Entrepreneurship Roundtable” cultivated key observations about technology and the hotel industry in its 2016 roundtable session.

“The modern era is all about authenticity.  You must deliver what you promise, ” said MIT’s Jeffrey Lipton.

 

Photo Credit: Larry Hall, President and CEO, Trillium Services Group at the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research, April 2016. Photo via Cornell University

Photo Credit: Larry Hall, President and CEO of Trillium Services Group, at the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research, April 2016. Photo via Cornell University.

“The cloud gives consumers a loud, amplified voice. Companies are held to a higher than ever level of morality and accountability as a result,” Larry Hall President and CEO of Trillium Services Group said.

 

Even negative, disastrous situations — like the Chipotle E. coli outbreak — provides opportunities if hotels are ready to engage with their customers. “While it may appear that there is no upside in this situation for the company, it served as an opportunity for Chipotle to connect with its customer base, and address the problem, building trust.” the authors of the report shared.

While some might argue that the market has a way of always bearing out what consumers will buy or what they will pay for, panelists seemed to say that consumers may be gaining the upper hand.

Take, for example, a recent Marriott situation, when the hotel curtailed hotpot access, thus requiring customers to subscribe to the hotel’s internet service. A PR firestorm forced the chain to reverse its policy and issue an apology.

The “Voice of the Crowd on the Cloud,” panelists stated that individual consumers unify, becoming “the crowd” in social media. The crowd then serves as social and environmental responsibility watchdogs who keep businesses accountable for their actions and decisions.

The panel also discussed the relevance and importance all hotels face regarding negative online reviews. “Dealing with negative reviews is a pressing issue, and one we dealt with at a previous company of ours. After each guest stayed, we would send out a typical survey with ratings from 1 to 5.  If they rated us a 4 or a 5, we would send them to TripAdvisor and if they rated us a 1-3, we would redirect to our own webpage to address the complaint. This was a new way we dealt with reviews and the paradox they can cause,” said Josh Ogle of The Original Agency.

More than two dozen industry leaders, along with researchers and students met for the second annual Technology Entrepreneurship Roundtable hosted by the Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. The April 2016 event covered a range of discussions including cloud computing’s impact on consumers’ ability to influence brands, social media’s connectivity between businesses and their customers, the role of generational preferences, customizing technology, and the challenges of adapting to the constantly changing environment.

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From Around the Web: Wyndham Garden Prototype Emphasizes Ease & Efficiencies

 

Rendering credit: Wyndham Hotel Group

Rendering credit: Wyndham Hotel Group

The Wyndham Garden® brand is revealing its first global hotel prototype, designed to make travel easier and more carefree while delivering greater returns for hotel owners through operating efficiencies.

The new offering exceeds its usual upper-midscale hotel segment through an upscale experience with modern architecture with functional design elements.

With roughly half of all Wyndhams located near airports, the firm knows it has a unique opportunity to serve its guests. Kate Ashton, brand senior vice president of Wyndham Garden said, “Travelers deserve respites along with amenities that provide added convenience and comfort. With this philosophy steering the brand in all that we do, we’ve developed a serene environment with purposeful design choices, a lens on the details and meaningful offerings to make our guests’ travels as easy and stress-free as possible.”

Nine new concept hotels are currently under construction in markets like Winter Haven and Orlando, Florida; Edinburg, Texas; and South Bend, Indiana, with the first opening in Bridgeport, West Virginia in mid-2017.

 

Rendering credit: Wyndham Hotel Group

Rendering credit: Wyndham Hotel Group

As reported in GreenLodgingNews.com, the group’s new prototype is a LEED-certifiable design, featuring low-flow water fixtures, five electric car charging stations and greenery in all guest areas. The hotel will have filtered water stations on each floor, thus reducing wasteful bottled water.  The new design features ample natural light and guest-controlled temperature gauges — both of which cuts back on energy use.  The new concept will also locally source menu items lend to a more sustainable food process.

For more about the Wyndham expansion, read more here.

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From Around the Web: Cornell’s CHR Benchmarks 8000 Hotels in Sustainability Study

Photo by: Sasha Samardzija via FastCoExist.com/Shutterstock

Photo by: Sasha Samardzija via FastCoExist.com/Shutterstock

Cornell has gathered information from more than 8000 hotels worldwide so they can benchmark how their hotels are managing their  environmental impacts.  As reported on greenlodgingnews.com, “The results are presented in the CHSB2016 Index report, where users can obtain the range of benchmarks for energy consumption, water consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions for hotels within specific segments and geographic locations.”

Cornell is providing the report free of charge.

As sustainability is a vital issue in our industry, and the Cornell study is of vital importance to hotel firms looking to improve their performance and be able to compare their performance to other firms.  As Denise Naguib, Vice President, Sustainability and Supplier Diversity, Global Operations, Marriott International shared, “The travel and tourism sector has an incredible opportunity to drive sustainability around the world. The CHSB benchmark provides hotels the information that they need to know where they stand among their peers, and to apply that information to drive improvements and promote their own efforts to customers.”

For more info, read on.

 

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From Around the Web: Hotel Groups Collaborate to Launch First Standardized Water Measurement Tool

 

Photo credit: Jon Westenberg via Medium

Photo credit: Jon Westenberg via Medium

The International Tourism Partnership have announced a jointly agreed upon method for measuring water use in the hotel industry.

The 18-month project has resulted in “a free methodology and calculation tool which will enable hotel companies and individual properties to measure and report on water consumption in a consistent way.”

Consistent is the key word: up until now, while companies did measure water consumption, each firm had its own methods that may have included (or excluded) certain sources or uses of water.  Also key was that the initiative would be “free and easy to implement.”

The initiative was started in response to “one of the most pressing global issues hotels need to address is their consumption of water, and the understanding that “what gets measured gets managed.”

The 18 global hotel groups, some of the biggest brands in the lodging industry,  include: Accor, Carlson Rezidor, Diamond Resorts, Fairmont Raffles Hotels International, Hilton Worldwide, the Hongkong & Shanghai Hotels, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, InterContinental Hotels Group, Las Vegas Sands Corp., Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Marriott International, MGM Hotels & Resorts, NH Hotel Group, Soneva, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Taj Hotels, Resorts & Palaces, Whitbread, and Wyndham Worldwide Resorts.

The hoteliers worked with KPMG as technical consultants and included with input from the international expert community, including the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), Water Footprint Network, CDP and CEO Water Mandate.

For more, read on.

 

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Hotel Trend: The Ever Shrinking Hotel Room Size

 

Hotel rooms are undergoing a “resizing:” literally. And in doing so, are rethinking the configuration and expectations that go with the hotel room as well.

Tommie is a creative micro-hotel offering rooms 160-200 square feet but creative communal activities for guests. Photo credit: New York Times.com

Tommie is a creative micro-hotel offering rooms 160-200 square feet but creative communal activities for guests. Photo credit: New York Times.com

 

Down from the 1990s when a hotel room was over 350 square feet, today’s average hotel room is about 330 square feet.  But some hotel brands are shrinking that size even more.

As O’Rouke Hospitality reports, “Marriot’s Moxy Hotels are now building rooms about 183 square feet in size and the new brand Yotel’s rooms are only 170 square feet on average.”  Best Western’s Vib and Glo properties are in the 200 and 250 square feet range.

There are plenty of reasons for the shift:  as Bjorn Hanson of New York University’s Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism has said in the past, smaller rooms are cheaper to both build, furnish and maintain.  And given Millennial prevailing attitudes, some brands feel they are giving their target audience “everything they want and nothing they don’t need” complementing the small rooms with grand, open common areas where guests can mingle, work and play.

 

Moxy room rendering by Marriott Hotel Development Corp via CNBC.com

Moxy room rendering by Marriott Hotel Development Corp via CNBC.com

 

Brands employing the smaller room approach say that what the room lacks in sheer physical size, they make up for in all the things the guest really wants.  Think: sound-reducing walls, free Wi-Fi, floor-to-ceiling art pieces and top of the line showers.

Hotels are able to using space more efficiently through the best use of technology (such as using wall mounted flat screen TVs versus bulky tube TVs in entertainment cabinets), as well as adapting their floor plans to reflect the flexible, mobile life and work styles people have today.

By throwing out existing assumptions of hotel room design, they can change expectations and take advantage of guest pleasing opportunities, such as expansive windows to let in natural light, thus making a room feel bigger than it really is, and extending that philosophy by using glazed glass block to separate the bath area – instead of a typical “wall.”

As Tony Capuano, Marriott’s chief development officer, said in a Washington Post interview, “The old conventional hotel model was a customer checked in, went straight to their room and never came out.”  Marriott proposes changing that paradigm where the hotel still offers well designed rooms, but more vivacious, engaging public spaces that people will want to be part of. …Or as Marriott describes it, “a buzzing living space where things are always happening. Just like home….. but with a bartender! ;)”

This migration isn’t really new — it’s just now being seen in the hotel space.  The notion of people wandering down the street to get away from the house or work at Starbucks — the “third place” — an in between space that’s both homey and allows for work, casual meetings or creative conversation.

But it’s exciting to see this trend being incorporated into the hospitality industry. And it will be fascinating to see ongoing guest feedback about the evolution of these new room designs.

 

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From Around the Web: Understanding Bad Reviews to Improve Your Hotel’s ROI

No one likes getting bad news.  Bad reviews can be challenging to read for even the most stoic of hotel professionals.  But they can also be the key to learning how to improve your hotel and — perhaps more importantly — figuring out where to invest your capital for improvements.

Thankfully, TrustYou has done a little of the legwork for us.  While their research doesn’t eliminate the need to read your own guest reviews, they have found some overall industry trends to keep in mind while reading them.

TrustYou analyzed more than 20 million reviews worldwide.  Reviews were categorized by topics within the review (ie: service, room size, etc) and then compared these categories, the number of times they were mentioned, and the difference in scores between negative and positive reviews.

The study showed that the following are the most important features of the hotel/guest stay:

  • Actual location,
  • Service, and
  • Quality of the room

In particular, Service seemed to be a key factor for some negative reviews — and vital to be address so that potential negative experiences can be saved and converted into positive guest experiences.

In terms of negative reviews:

  • Issues about bathrooms, such as their cleanliness and size, were imperative and given that negative reviews were 2.24 times more likely than positive ones to include some form of bathroom comment, suggests that this is one factor that really needs to be looked at in hotels.
hotel guest reviews research

Hotel baths are most likely to show up in negative hotel online reviews. But they are preventable! Photo by tnooz.com

  • Were twice as likely to mention issues with beds.

This points to key areas where hotels can be proactive, reduce the likelihood of negative reviews and manage the overall guest experience more.

First, a focus on housekeeping: ensuring that bath areas are sparkling clean and linens are in good repair.

When they aren’t, timely replacement becomes important.

 

For example, scouring and scrubbing can only go so far in bath maintenance. Even with the most careful attention, baths, showers and fixtures will lose their luster with thousands of guests visiting your hotel each year.  In this instance, a simple refinishing project may be all you need to restore the bath’s original shine.

Click here to read more about the study.

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Marriott Innovating the Hotel Experience

Given shifting demographics and changing technology expectations, hotels have been trying to find new ways reinvent the hotel experience.

Generational graphic

Generational breakdowns by year and size. Graphic from Pew Research.

While millennials, those born between 1980 – mid 90s, are perhaps the most visible or talked about reason for hotels exploring rebranding, they’re certainly not the only reason.

Generation Z, those born from approximately 1995 – 2010 (ages 6-21 in 2016), is an equally large, influential population.  They are often described as “true digital natives, more pragmatic, more cautious, more money-conscious, and more globally minded” than previous generations.  (If you’re curious, Alpha Generation comes next and consists of all those children born after 2010.)

Then let’s add the changing face of technology as well as consumer expectations: wide spread wireless high speed access, on-demand everything, and unique one-to-one experiences.

Oh – and let’s do it all on a budget.

“For [Generation Z], traveling becomes a marker of adulthood,” saysMelanie Shreffler, senior editorial director at Cassandra Report. “Seventy-seven percent of 14 to 18 year-olds say that traveling without supervision is a marker of adulthood—and 42 percent of those teens feel like they are adults. That’s a significant number.” And in addition, Generation Z still has significant influence over purchasing decisions made by their Gen X parents and/or Baby Boomer grand parents.

The Cassandra Report’s Generation Z study shows 84 percent of kids aged 7-17  influence their family’s overall spending. “When it comes to family vacations and travel, 32 percent of parents say their kids hold a lot of influence on vacations and spending, and 54 percent of parents say kids have some influence,” Shreffler said.

But just because the following concepts were initially intended for the Millennial or Emerging Generation Z market, don’t think that other generations won’t appreciate them. “Baby boomers and even the Silent generation give us very high scores for the new approach,” Mike Dearing, managing director of Marriott Hotels, shared with Fast Company .

Which brings us to the innovation and re-thinking hotels like Marriott are exploring.  Examples include:

Moxie Hotel Public Living Room

Check out the Moxy’s public “Living Room” space where guests can mix, mingle and congregate. Photo credit Marriott via Washington Post.

 

Cozy and Cool micro-hotels. Designed to appeal to millennials, Marriott’s “Moxy” hotels are sensible, sleek spaces  “defined by attitude rather than affordability.” Rooms will typically be smaller than the average hotel room (approximately 200 square feet), with glitzy common areas, … or as shared in the Washington Post, “open bars, all-night cafes and a buzzing living space where things are always happening.”

 

 

 

 

Marriott’s Innovation Lab Hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina. Throughout the property, guests will find “beta buttons” and “beta boards” where customers can give an immediate “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” to every part of the customer experience.  “The Charlotte hotel is really our innovation lab. This is where we’re testing our best thinking and new concepts. We’re staying in constant dialogue with our guests to figure out what works and what they connect with best,” Dearing said.

For example, through the Innovation Lab, Marriott found that guests preferred the homey feeling of rooms with hard wood floors rather than carpeting. That new finding has been incorporated in the last 20 Marriott renovation projects.

A Localized, Brand Experience.

Marriott found that while Boomers expected consistency of experience (ie: The Marriott burger you get in Denver is the same burger you get in Philadelphia), Millennials were looking for unique, culturally difference experiences based on where they were at. So Marriott has been cracking the code on how to evoke the “Marriott Brand Experience” with a localized twist: a Marriott guest stay that’s still unique to Omaha or Seattle or Miami.

One way Marriott is doing this is through amenities: the services and resources available in the hotel.  For example, a local chef may partner with the Marriott to include a new cafe or restaurant that reflects the local area’s unique cuisine or flair.  The Innovation Lab also found that Millennials sought out opportunities to meet people: like taking a gym class or mingling in the coffee bar area with cozy, comfy chairs and seating areas designed to invite conversation.

Finding new ways to maintain brand value, and yet appeal to the changing tastes of the traveling market will be vital. How is your brand finding ways to adapt?

 

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From Around the Web: The Impact of Guest Reviews on Hotel Business

hotel guest reviews

Photo by littlehotelier.com

According to a TripBarometer report by TripAdvisor, 90% travelers choose an accommodation based on ratings on a review site and 88% travelers are guided by online reviews and posts on TripAdvisor. Reviews with a rating on 4 – 5 generate more than double the conversion compared to a review with 1.0 – 2.9 rating on Expedia. Hotels that have a higher guest score typically will have better placement on the travel sites.  A better placement on the travel site means more bookings and more bookings mean a higher room rate, and eventually higher revenue for the hotel.  Identify what emotions your guests’ value at the key touch points in their journey with you and also those they want to avoid. No matter how difficult it is if you are not taking care of your guests’ emotion then you are doing a terrible mistake.

To learn more about the Tripbarometer report by TripAdvisor, click here.

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From Around the Web: How Online Reviews Affect Your Hotel Revenue

Importance of Five star hotel reviews

Photo by theepochtimes.com

We all know how important great hotel reviews can be for your business.

According to hospitality and resource tools.com, a one star increase on your average rating online can increase your hotel’s income by 9%. 360E-commerce found that revenue rose by 56% for hotels that consistently generated good online reviews.”

In fact, Forrester found that over 50% of travelers would not book a hotel that didn’t have online reviews.

That’s why it’s so important to put your best foot forward. Guests are twice as likely to take to the review sites and complain if they have found bathrooms, service and location to be lacking, or less than what they imagined your hotel would be, based on your website and/or other guests’ reviews.

 

Read More About Reviews, Revenue and the Role of Baths:

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