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Highlights from the article ‘Google for Hotels: Q+A with David Zammitt, Google Travel Industry Manager‘.

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Not just a search engine anymore, Google has dramatically extended its presence and influence in the online travel space in recent years. New features include Hotel Finder, Google+, a revamped Maps application and Local pages, greater prominence of reviews and ratings, and redesigned YouTube brand channels.

Hotel Finder has a number of innovative and exciting features to help users select the hotels they are interested in more quickly. As I said, our goal is to get our users from intent to action as quickly and as smoothly as we possibly can. Hotel Finder does this through the use of detailed search, maps and live hotel rates and availability. We feel that this provides valuable leads to both suppliers and OTAs.

If an advertiser is looking to include their properties on Hotel Price Ads and receive the clicks on their own sites, they may wish to consider one of our Integration Partners, including several leading CRSs (Customer Reservation Systems). This ensures that even small individual properties or chains can have their price and availability showing on Hotel Price Ads.

Read the complete article here.

Highlights from the article ‘Show These Mobile Usage Statistics To Any Travel Executive Resisting Change‘.

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Travelers are switching from desktop Web browsers to smartphones and tablets in droves, but some travel companies have been slow to adapt to the change in traveler behavior.

Check out these half-dozen noteworthy statistics about mobile adoption.

Read the complete article here.

Highlights from the article ‘Tablet Usage Growing In The Hotel Industry‘.

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Hotels are beginning to move into a more eco-friendly direction to save energy and money. Hotels encourage you to reuse towels, bed sheets, and bath robes  a few times before they dispense new ones. Major hotels are looking to differentiate themselves from the competition by providing VIP members with iPads, giving you the bible on a Kindle or booking your entire stay on your tablet.

The San Diego Bayfront and the Boston Marriott Long Wharf are doing very interesting things with the Apple iPad. The hotels are providing the concierges with tablets to provide inquiring guests images of the restaurants, clubs, and tourist attractions that they’re recommending. “Today, all of our concierges have most of their restaurant choices and tourist attractions on the iPad. In an old-fashioned hotel, they’d flip through a three-ring binder,” says Marc Hoffman of Sunstone Hotel Investors, which owns 26 upscale chain hotels.

Many hotels are beginning to provide guests with tablets in their room, which goes far beyond just playing a round of Angry Birds. The New York Plaza hotel has outfitted all of the suites with iPad tablets that allow you to order room service, make restaurant reservations, give wake up calls, check your airline schedules, and even print your boarding pass.

Many hotels are starting to give guests free access to newspapers on any tablet they might have via Press Reader. Instead of buying issues or subscribing to the service, they will give you free access to over 1,200 international editions, which is a boon to international globetrotters that could care less about the local paper left outside their door.

Tablets in hotels are starting to catch on in a big way. A new study found that 53 hotels across the USA found that 82% of guests who had access to the in-suite tablets used them an average of 11 times per stay.

Read the complete article here.

 

OTAs

While hotels are actively collaborating with online travel agencies (OTAs) for business, they are often forced to pay large commissions and adhere to conditions set by OTAs. With customers increasingly engaging the services of OTAs to plan their travel arrangements, you may find yourself in a catch 22 situation. The solution as well as challenge is convincing customers to favor your website for bookings over OTAs. The good news is, there are some ways around it. Here are a few techniques you can use to limit your use of OTAs or completely eliminate them from the picture.

1. Special benefits 

Special offers and targeted benefits can encourage users to book directly on your website. You can provide value-added corporate bookings, discounted holiday offers and other incentives. Always make sure you explain to customers that your special rates and offers are applicable only when they book directly. In this case, you have a competitive advantage as OTAs face limitations when advertising their offers.

2. Seasonal use of OTAs

You can partner with OTAs on short-term contracts. For instance, you could completely stop OTA bookings during peak seasons when the demand is high, and rely on them during the slower months. During in-demand seasons, you can bank on customers to find you through your website or leverage any other hospitality solution to locate you. To improve your visibility online, you can invest in search engine optimization and social media marketing techniques.

3. Mobile apps for hotels

In a day and age when consumers are accessing information on-the-go, it makes sense to have a unique mobile app for your hotel. You can use this app to encourage your customers to make reservations, get information about special offers and stay abreast of your news. Over a period of time, your app would become self sufficient while you drive quality traffic to your website. A leading e-concierge and e-menu provider for the hospitality industry such as Blynk can provide you effective marketing solutions to attract direct bookings.

OTAs may no doubt be a popular choice but that doesn’t mean you cannot play your hand. Smart planning and execution can help you get your customers back in a real and meaningful way.

 

Highlights from article in ArabianBusiness.com.

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The ‘invisible traveller’ is emerging as the newest profile in the hospitality industry, describing those who want to be self-sufficient during their trip, according to new research by InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), one of the largest hotel groups in the world with brands including InterContinental, Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza, and consultancy group, The Futures Company.

“Think of this scenario,” the IHG-Futures Company report says. “A booking has been made online. Once the guest arrives, they let themselves in… they use room service – not the restaurant – or consult the menu and place their order at a table fitted with an intelligent touch screen.

“The next night, they order a gourmet BBQ basket – and cook their own food. They’ve carried out their own extensive research about the local area and amenities, so don’t need to ask the concierge staff for their advice.

“In the room, thanks to content downloaded on a personal media device… in-room entertainment options will evolve. We are likely to see ‘Bring Your Own Devices’ come to the hospitality industry in 2013 – much as they’ve come to the workplace. This will enable guests to personalise their experience.

“Playing music from your own MP3 collection or watching films recommended by your friends takes away the anonymity of the traditional hotel room. Indeed, recent innovations such as Apple’s social TV make it possible to imagine that in the coming years, guests will watch TV in their hotel room ‘together’ with friends back home.”

A small number of hotels around the world have started trialling the independent check-in system. Depending on its success, it is likely to be gradually rolled out globally by next year.

Read the complete article here.

 

 

Highlights from an article from Hotel Management.

Radisson

Radisson recently announced a national pilot program, launched across four U.S. properties, designed to innovate guest touch points and ultimately enhance the hotel guest experience.

Among those touch points is improved technological advances and initiatives that Radisson is currently exploring and have begun implementing to simplify and personalize the guest experience from the point of reservation through check-out.

As the hotel industry continues to provide novel advances in digitally driven customer interaction, Radisson is seeking to provide a vast array of tech enhancements designed to optimize time, accessibility, convenience and mobility.

Beginning in March 2013 through spring and summer 2013, Radisson guests visiting select pilot hotels in La Crosse, Wis., Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Seattle will embark on heightened, technology-driven advances that further deliver on the brand’s “Yes I Can!” service philosophy. Upon completion of the pilot program in August, Radisson will evaluate the performance of the enhancement elements and determine potential brand-wide implementation in September 2013.

The enhancements that are in the program include:

  • Check-In Choice Kiosks
  • iConcierge Mobile App
  • Internet Connectivity

Read the full article here.

 

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Reproduced below is an article from Hotelier Middle East.

Digital-savvy consumers glued to their smart phones will transform the way the travel industry does business.

That was the verdict of a panel of technology experts speaking at the Technology Session at the two-day World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) 13th Global Summit 2013, which concluded 10 April at Jumierah Eithad Towers, Abu Dhabi.

Session moderator, Caroll Rheem, principal analyst at market research company PhoCusWright coined the term ‘splinternet’ to describe new accessibility to multiple devices and the way in which consumers now hop from computer to tablet to mobile phone and back again. “With every click, tap, purchase and abandon, consumers are telling us exactly what they want but we are only just now beginning to listen,” she stated.

Mobile phones are likely to be the focus for new technology as figures from travel-search website Qunar revealed a spike in mobile usage, claimed to be six times that of the internet in the world’s most populous nations with over 200 million mobile users in China alone.

Half of all traffic to travel websites will originate from mobiles by the end of 2014, generating US$26 billion in bookings according to Charles Armstrong, Founder and CEO of TourWrist who underlined the need for interactive and personalised technology such as its 360-degree panoramic experiences replacing outdated virtual tours, which he claimed, could increase online bookings by 67%.

Facebook’s global head of travel, Lee McCabe, revealed that viewing vacation images through social media sites was the catalyst for future travel plans for 25% of its users with 11% booking their next trip to the place eyed in the image. Smart phone usage is now 25% for Facebook and Instagram, 10% more than calling or texting and nearly 10% of sales in the US this year is predicted to be via mobile technology.

Some highlights from an article from EyeForTravel.

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On Mobile is the future

While Marriott is actively considering the bigger picture, it is also focusing in on how to improve customer service using digital technologies. Unsurprisingly mobile – which is growing rapidly – is playing a significant role.

On Promoting Your App On Key Cards

“From a marketing standpoint one thing that is very successful for us in our properties is the leveraging the key card holder for mobile downloads,” explains Abrahamson.  Either there are QR codes or text shown on the card so the customer can go directly to the app.

On Opportunites For Upselling

Abrahamson understands only too well that the hotel experience begins on the day you book your room, but it continues on the journey to the hotel, during your stay and when you are heading home. “There is a lot that happens in this period and like the airlines we looking at ways to, for example, expedite the check in process,” he says. Of course there are also opportunities for upselling of a spa treatment, room upgrade and so on.

On E-Menu Apps

Aside from the airline business, Marriott is looking for cues from the food industry.  It is looking at restaurant apps that allows you to pre-order, and then skip the queue when you pick up your food. The idea of pre-ordering room service is something that frequent business travellers could benefit from.

Blynk’s Thoughts

It is clear that hoteliers realize the power of mobile apps to connect to guests and drive revenues. Hoteliers have the option of developing these apps in-house at a high upfront expense and then significant recurring expenses to upgrade the app with new features and platforms. Or they can go with an out-of-the-box solution like ours. Get all the above features and more with your app, powered by Blynk.

Reproduced below is an excellent article from LMA Blog.

2013

 

This year was remarkable in many ways; demographics, economics, politics, education, manufacturing, all are changing. Looking to 2013, I believe that it will be the year of technology.

2013 doesn’t look to be a year where anything truly revolutionary will be introduced, and even Apple appears quiet after a flurry of launches that include the iPhone5, iPadmini, iPad4 (ok iPad3 with a new display) as well as upgrades to their MacBooks. Apply the term ‘Technology Satiety’. We have only so much time per day, and thus, only so much that we can devote to any one particular device, website or social network. 2013 looks to be more a period where hoteliers can get up to speed with what’s out there, and indeed, this is a necessary action to maintain market share. Let’s go piece by piece and get into some specifics, in no specific order.

1. Website.
It’s a no-brainer that you need one. But meeting the base requirements is far removed from what a website aspires to be: an extension of the onsite experience. With the top browsers (Chrome, Firefox, IE and Safari) relatively static in their percentages year-over-year, 2013 offers a good breath of time for you to complete your revamp. Think lots of high-res photography, intuitive navigations and functional content management systems so that minor updates don’t always need to be pegged in by a programmer. And importantly, see item 3 below regarding mobile.

2. Booking Engines. 
Building on the notion of a sleek website, the resident booking engine must be airtight. After all, with the dominance of internet-borne travel, these modules are destined to be the major locomotive for core revenue. In 2012, one of the trends I piously followed was the mounting opposition to the OTAs and third-party booking sites. Despite whatever fruits of war this bears, I can say with absolute certainty that if your website’s booking engine isn’t flawless, you’ll only be throwing fuel on external providers’ flames.

3. Mobile.
Another no-brainer. In fact, it’s now borderline cliché to even mention the expansion of mobile devices. 2013 will unquestionably bring more coverts into the smartphone fold, and with this will come a sharp rise in the number of transactions completed entirely through these portable machines, from initial research to credit card confirmation. Much like your booking engine, your website must be adaptable to these screen sizes, both cellular and tablet. Ensure that it maintains a legible, sleek format and that it loads fast to thwart any cognitive drift.

4. Apps.
When you sit down to tackle your mobile strategy, one question that will likely be raised is: Do we build our own native app? Apps are definitely cooler than a mobile-ready website, but keep in mind that the coding expenditures can be steeper and, importantly, with hundreds of thousands of new apps published each year vying for consumers’ attention, do you really think yours will stand out? Think apps for your guests: downloading your app for use during their stay then deleting it afterwards. With this in mind, one large growth area will be concierge apps. Look to getting one custom built for your property.

5. Android Versus Apple.
No discussion of smartphones would be complete without a few words on this worldwide battle for digital supremacy. What’s pertinent to hoteliers to note is that other cellular manufacturers have rapidly aligned against the Apple iOS under Google’s open source Android firmware, amounting to more apps and better apps. Given the remarkable push that brands like Samsung have made into this space, it’d be wise to engineer all your mobile efforts for both Android and Apple iOS.

6. Tablets.
The beginning of 2012 was rife with talks about how to use these devices to heighten the hotel experience. And for good reason; tablet sales saw big gains and these numbers will almost certainly persist. Apple currently dominates this market with the iPad, but expect more Android-compatible entrants to step in with very competitive prices. Much like the thought process behind custom apps, the vision of in-room tablets has been vehemently debunked in favor of flexible solutions that accommodate guests’ personal hardware. Hence, tablets should be part of the discussion for any concierge app design, but also consider them for convenient and interactive lobby kiosks.

7. Social Media.
Much like the incessant affirmations of mobile’s validity, social media is here to stay. As more users sign on and monitoring software improves, the excuses for not treating this as an extension of your brand are rapidly dwindling. 2012 was the year of the visual revolution, namely Instagram and Pinterest. Applying the concept of technology satiety, 2013 will be less about exploring new entrants and more inclined towards refining your strategy for the firmly established leviathans – Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, YouTube, and LinkedIn. The approach you take should be one of informing future guests, facilitating requests from present visitors and sustaining relationships to build loyalty.

8. Free WiFi.
The first seven points are all about digital trends, and a consumer’s use of such devices is wholly dependent on internet connectivity. We live in an electronic world that runs on bandwidth. People treat the internet like they do water, electricity, heating and a comfy bed – vital. There are strong reasons for charging for this service, but none of them will earn you an iota of respect from consumers. Offering wireless internet access for free will increase for 2013 and I pity the hotel that still thinks its consumers don’t care about paying extra for this.

9. OTA Dominance. 
The recent plan by Expedia to offload responsibility for credit card processing on the property, rather than through their facilities, underscores their power. So, without altering their commission structure, the owness for paying credit card fees and dealing with possible guest default issues is shifted. And I am not even covering the issues for franchised flags who will potentially see franchise fees levied on the commissionable portion. Room Key aside, there has to be a lot more done to reign in the  rising tide of third party distribution costs.

10. A Fundamental Return to Quality Guest Services.
Do whatever you deem necessary with your electronic enhancements or brand reforms, but none of that matters if your onsite experience doesn’t meet expectations. As witnessed by the ensembles of scathing reviews posted on TripAdvisor and its ilk, bad guest services can seriously derail revenues. Moreover, hoteliers increasingly understand the imperative of adding a human touch to the guest’s experience – warm front desk staff, attentive wait staff in restaurants and, if need be, personal apologies from managers. Incorporating more positive guest-staff interactions is a surefire way to reaffirm visitors that you value their patronage and to build long-term brand loyalty.

(Article published by Larry Mogelonsky in HOTELSmag on December 19, 2012)

Tour

Blynk is proud to be one of the first few companies to partner with TourWrist, the leading platform for 360* Virtual Tours. Read their announcement here, which they made at ITB Berlin.

Hotels and Restaurants are best suited to get direct benefits from virtual tours as you can demonstrate your facility much better. Virtual tours enable your guests to have a realistic experience of your rooms and property. Virtual tours will engage your customers and have proven to directly increase revenues via an increase in bookings and reservations. Statistics show that virtual tours can increase bookings by over 40% than compared to showing only images to your guests.

Using TourWrists’ innovative technology, you can now show 360* Virtual Tours in your mobile apps, powered by Blynk.

We strongly feel that every hotel and restaurant should incorporate virtual tours in their websites and apps by following the below simple steps:

  1. Shoot virtual tours of your property if you don’t already have. Virtual tours cost approximately a minimum of only $1,000 to shoot. One virtual tour shot costs ~ $100 – 150. So you can plan a day shoot with a min of 8-10 shots.
  2. Upload to TourWrist.com. Many virtual tour photographers provide their own custom software to display this on your website. However, we suggest to make it clear that you would like your virtual tours to be uploaded on TourWrist.com.
  3. Show the world. TourWrist is like a YouTube for virtual tours. So your tours will be visible to the millions of people who visit their site and apps. You can also easily embed the virtual tours directly on your website. The virtual tour will also be visible on your apps, powered by Blynk.

The virtual tours on our apps are an experience for your guests. When they open the virtual tour on an Apple or Android device, they can simply move the device to view the virtual tour. Something which is not possible on your website. To see how that works, check out this video.

At Blynk, we are working hard so that guests can do things on your mobile app, which they cannot do on your website. Our partnership with TourWrist adds one more reason why it is a must to have a mobile app.


© 2013 Blynk Systems Pvt Ltd. All Rights Reserved.