5 ways technology can change the way operators manage the hotel guest experience.

Digital savvy customers expect a lot from anything that they buy. They have done their research, know probably more than you do about a product and service having found the pros and cons of what is on offer – and ultimately decided to buy when everything is right for them.
The hotel industry is not famous for being on the cutting edge of technology, but recently there have been so many disruptive technologies launched that hoteliers need to force themselves to rethink how they sell to guests, and the experience that they provide.

Industry trends are largely driven by two factors. A shift in what customers are demanding and influences from outside hospitality that can have an impact on the business from an operator’s perspective.

To be a leader rather than a follower, as a hotel operator you need to be listening to your guests and tracking new ways of doing business.

Keeping an open mind on technology, does not mean that you have to immediately invest in it – but you do need to track what is happening, how are your competitors adopting it, and what could be the impact on guest satisfaction and your bottom line.

The hospitality industry is changing though, and quicker than it has done before as it realises the benefits of investing in technology that manages the business effectively, and give operators more time to engage with their guests.

At Happybooking we are always trying to keep on top of trends, and the following are our insights on trends that should be top of mind if you are a hotel operator – large or small.

1. The Cloud

The cloud has been one of the most important hospitality trends for a few years now. The cloud refers to software and services that are accessed over the internet, instead of you having them locally on your computer.
In other words, the cloud is just a metaphor for the internet. With the internet, you are able to provide better accessibility to your data and apps – logging in whenever you want and wherever you are.
Technology in the industry is more and more moving to the cloud, away from the traditional software models stored locally.

Hotels which are shifting to cloud-based solutions are able to see a big rise in productivity by automating admin tasks, and using the cloud to integrate multiple software and hardware solutions. The vast majority of hotel systems and software are cloud-based now.

Freeing up time for staff to focus on guests and provide more of a seamless guest experience across pre, during and post-stay activities.

Full cloud solutions can also provide connectivity, and ultimately can result in an internet of things (IoT) environment. IoT involves connecting everyday objects to the internet, making them smart devices – able to respond to changes in the environment around them. For example, changing room lighting and air conditioning to automatically adjust at check-in and check-out times.

2. Big Data

Big data has been around for some time already, but to date has not been adopted on a large scale in hospitality. Big data uses vast amounts of information to help spot trends, make predictions, and enable better decision-making.

Being able to take timely and well-informed business decisions is what could make the difference between a good and a bad year.
As an industry, hospitality gathers an alarming amount of data from guests - from their hotel stay, to comments on social media, to how they booked, their behaviour online, etc.

But, there has been a tendency for the industry to be perceived as laggards when it comes to recognising the value of data and knowing how to apply the intelligence gathered to make effective decisions.

Historically, decision making based on data analytics has been slow and costly. Hotel staff are already multi-tasking, so taking on the extra responsibility to store, prepare and analyse data is a challenge.
Big data enables hotels to connect with guests in more intelligent ways, using data to provide a personalised service based on their preferences, send relevant offers and communicate in a way the customer wants.

3. Cyber security

The internet for hospitality and travel has opened the door to huge opportunities but also brings with it risks to doing business online. Every day there are cyber-attacks in some form or other with many recent example of hotel operators experiencing malicious attacks.

Recently in 2018 there were data breaches at Marriott International, Radisson Hotel Group and the Huazhu Hotels Group.

The Marriott/Starwood breach stands out from most other recent hotel breaches by being a hacking of the company’s core guest reservation system, a container of high-priority customer data, such as passport information, rather than of more common payment card or loyalty membership information.

Hotel chains have admitted to a series of so-called payment information leaks where hackers exploited point-of-sale systems (POSs) that integrate with the main guest reservation systems. Hackers had placed “malware” on them to skim data related to purchases processed through them.

Cyber security is a technique used to protect your computers, networks, business applications and data from unauthorised access, theft or destruction.

A well thought-out approach to cyber security can enhance the reputation of your business that you take IT security seriously and protect your assets from attack.

Operators often make the mistake of thinking they are too small to be considered a target for cyber-attacks. The majority of cyber-attacks are automated and indiscriminate, exploiting known vulnerabilities with IT systems rather than targeting specific businesses.

Cyber-attacks are a disruption and can cause considerable financial and reputational damage undermining the trust of your customers. Plus, with the introduction in May 2018 of the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) there are potentially regulatory fines – as well as the costs of repairing the damage to your systems.

4. Distribution technology

With the advancements in technology slowly being adopted within the hospitality industry, effective revenue management methods now include a mix of old and new best practices.

There is no doubt that pricing has always been used by operators to drive both occupancy and RevPAR. But, in today’s hospitality market with so much price transparency and buyer research, there is an even greater focus on having the right rate in place, the option to book direct and a smart plan on how to keep guests satisfied and loyal.

Whether you’re an owner, operator or chain of hotels, you need an approach to pricing and distribution that ensures you leverage every point of revenue from your room rates.

So, an important question to ask yourself is how can I improve the way that I manage my hotel’s revenue without having the time or money to invest in extra resources or an expensive revenue management system?

First of all, a strategic approach to your pricing is now an integral part of a successful hotel revenue management strategy.

Secondly, having access to software that enables you to facilitate direct bookings and put the guest experience back into focus.

As a hotel operator, you don’t need to be told twice how important it is to make sure travellers are able to find your website and easily book your hotel.

Distributing your rooms to the right channels is vital for the success of your business, as is managing distribution and reservations in an effective manner.

5. Greater capability for instant check-in and check-out

The more time-efficient travellers become, the more time-efficiency they get used to, and expect.

Check-in and check-out are one of the most important places where this can be improved. One of the greatest irritations for guests is to suffer any delays at the front desk when arriving and wanting to get to their room, or departing and a check-out becoming a point of friction.

One of the reasons for this is that many hoteliers rely on manual methods for managing their property at the front desk, and end up spending more time behind a screen rather than being a host.

Embrace and leverage technology

Happybooking is first and foremost a property management system (PMS). That means they help you with the admin and automate tedious tasks freeing up time for you to focus on a positive customer experience.

On average Happybooking customers can get back up to 10 hours per week – think what you could do with that extra time!

Happybooking have always focused on creating a user-friendly booking system to help property owners improve their revenue performance. Check out how easy the Happybooking system is, open up a free trial account 

Our guest blogger is John Kennedy. John is a hospitality consultant, dedicated to helping increase profits through marketing, revenue management and efficient operations.

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