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Need for Microservice App Development in Hospitality Arena

In the enterprise IT arena, microservice architecture development, also known as microservices, has grown in popularity. This IT approach allows for the structuring of an application as a collection of loosely coupled services, which supports overall business capabilities.

Microservices enable the continuous delivery of large and complex applications, while also helping an organization to evolve its technology stack. In other words, this is a very small component of software that focuses on doing one thing really well – rather than writing one massive, and cumbersome application.

In the hotel technology arena, this concept is certainly something that all hotel brands should strongly consider.

With the ever-growing amount of applications and new innovations – from online concierge services to booking engines to property management systems – this approach allows any enterprise to better build a comprehensive solution.

Microservices also allow hospitality providers to leverage the right APIs for an “as a service” solution, which is much more cost-effective, and easier than building out and managing their own complex systems.

From a guest services perspective, there are new mobile applications that offer personalized recommendations for local attractions, events and restaurants. These types of apps are also evolving to the point where all hotel IT staff needs is the API, which quickly provides a guest-facing solution for true competitive differentiation.

By breaking down single “monolithic” APIs into many smaller API services, we are seeing a major IT shift happen right before our eyes. Instead of hospitality providers developing a single API, single technology stack, and single database which require overhauling for updates, security, or scalability, IT development teams can now decouple services for faster and more effective deployments.

This new future of IT development will ultimately open up a whole new world of solutions that support revenue generation for hotel brands.


Where is Experience Going in Hospitality?

If you do a simple Google News search about the hotel guest experience, you will come across a wide-range of articles about how this is the new frontier in hospitality. From new innovations to catering to the more affluent traveler, the concept of making a hotel stay a unique experience has fully taken hold.

Of course, offering a “truly unique guest experience,” is much easier to read about than to actually create for travelers. But in due time, we may see that providing these experiences will become a commodity – with many hotel brands providing similar offerings, which will in turn, make them not unique.

However, independent hotels seem to be on the forefront of this trend, and for now, this is translating into business growth. According to new research, performance of independent hotels in the United States has been on a steady growth trajectory over the past year. In addition, demand also outpaces supply, creating a favorable operating environment.

Independent hotels cater to the more forward-thinking traveler, who want to make new personal connections in the lobbies, leverage mobile innovations, and have experiences that will reinforce and shape their individual identities.

This is one arena where Airbnb cannot compete. While many travelers are embracing the idea of staying in another person’s apartment or home – and “live like a local” – one cannot truly have a unique guest experience in an Airbnb. There is no hotel staff to provide insights into local attractions, and there are no built-in guest innovations to help serve as digital concierges, or opportunities for personal networking in lobbies.

As with any industry, there are trends that take hold with many jumping on board as the train takes off. The idea of providing a unique guest experience is upon us and worth considering. Although we’ll keep an eye on how long it will last, and which hotel brands emerge as the winners in this frontier.


The Connected Generation and Messaging with Hotel Guests

In the travel arena, effectively communicating with guests is one of the biggest challenges. From having stretched internal resources to guests threatening a brand’s reputation on social media, the hospitality arena is fraught with many communications pitfalls.

In addition, a new study found that 87 percent of U.S. travelers have never messaged with a hotel brand. In today’s text-messaging world, this seems like a confounding statistic. However, this comes down to the reality that not all travelers are part of the connected generation, and would view a message from a hotel as being intrusive.

This is especially true if the messages are completely unsolicited offers that have no connection to the guest’s interests. Of course brands can look into developing the right strategies that leverage guest data to provide more customized offerings. For example, you can offer a fitness enthusiast information about your exercise facility, or nearby yoga classes.

However, as highlighted in the recent study, the playing field for messaging with guests is still very nascent. As such, hotel brands should consider developing guest communications strategies that are iterative and grow over time. The connected generation will continue to increase, as more and more people view a text from a company or brand as not being intrusive.

It won’t be too long until receiving a text message from a hotel will be as normal as the messages that we all receive from Airbnb when we book a stay. Of course, with Airbnb, the guest is being connected directly with the property owner in advance of the visit – a vital tool for discussing and accessing the property and other “house rules.”

This all comes down to offering the guest real/actionable information that can help enhance their trip – not just providing an offer. People no longer want to “be sold to,” but sales can increase when the messages are customized and provide a path for smooth traveling.


The Road to Guest Satisfaction and Loyalty Lies in Data … But There is a Catch

In every industry, there is a push to best leverage customer data in ways that help best influence buying behavior. In the hospitality arena, many larger brands are now collecting data at every point in the guest stay cycle – with the desire to enhance bookings based on travelers’ past purchasing habits.

The reality is that it is very easy to collect data from every touch point in the stay cycle. However, hoteliers should consider creating goals before starting off on developing a large data repository of guest behaviors.

The reason? Collecting and storing data costs practically nothing, and requires a minimal lift for hotel brands. The catch is making sense of the data, which starts with creating the right foundation.

Here are some tips for creating the backbone that best leverages guest data:

  • Make sure everyone involved in gathering or providing the data knows how it will ultimately be used.
  • Align the data gathering effort to tangible business goals.
  • Generate a list of questions that you want the data to answer. The better the questions – from both qualitative and quantitative perspectives – the better outcomes.
  • Keep the overall effort very simple, and avoid complexities that will run up costs.
  • Continually iterate efforts to achieve better results faster.
  • Design your collection methods to be painless for the guest, and only use a form when absolutely necessary.
  • Always be willing to give the guest something and think about what’s in it them. Avoid gifts that have social consequences such as free drinks at the bar.

The most opportune way to gain guest long-term loyalty is to build a data foundation that can be used in the future. Once this ground work is in place, the next phase is developing strategies for generating meaningful and actionable results, which we will be covering in future blog posts.

The New Emerging Traveler Category: Generation Z

For many years, there has been plenty of hospitality industry media coverage about how to best cater to the Millennial traveler through innovation and more. We have learned that this demographic seeks out unique experiences, prefers a communal atmosphere in hotel lobbies, and wants to use technology to be best connected to brands.

But now, just as we have begun to fully understand the Millennial traveler, another emerging generation is beginning to capture the attention of larger hospitality providers. Generation Z, also known as Post-Millennials, the iGeneration, Plurals or the Homeland Generation, has come on the scene. But the good news is they are very similar to Millennials.

This demographic has completely grown up on technology, and many believe seek more security, since they grew up during the Great Recession.

According to a recent Hotel News Now article, these guests are looking for an authentic experience that “feels like it is high quality without feeling pretentious.” In addition, a 2015 study about Generation Z showed that 77 percent of them feel that it’s important for brands to reach out to them with offers, promotions, and messaging.

These insights show that hotels will need to continue building authenticity into the DNA of their brands. This will include everything from creative content marketing to appeal to this generation, as well as developing programs that are truly “experienced-based.”

In fact, Marriott’s Innovation Lab in Charlotte, North Carolina, was developed with Generation Z in mind.  Designed as a testing ground for new products and services, this program found that while baby boomers expected consistency at any Marriott hotel around the world, the next generations are more interested in unique, culturally specific experiences.

By taking a page from Marriott, hoteliers have the opportunity to gain long-term guest loyalty from this demographic. It will involve many of the same strategies for appealing to Millennials – just with more of a focus on innovation and experiences.


Hotel Brands Aim to Redefine the “Local” Experience

For many years, major hotel brands focused on catering only to the traveling guest. However, now there is a subtle shift, where hospitality providers are widening their approaches to cater to locals who live near their properties.

In addition to aiming to get locals to dine at their properties, they are offering a wide-range of services, such as holding packages and coordinating dry cleaning services – all with the intention of creating a closer bond with neighboring residents and businesses.

At the company’s recent analyst conference, AccorHotels CEO Sebastien Bazin announced the launch of a new pilot program called “Accor Local,” which is looking to change how the brand operates on a localized level.

“Ninety-nine percent of what we have done for 50 years has been based on the guy coming from outside of town,” said Brazin in this recent Skift article. “A traveler, from a different city, from a different country, which I think is interesting, but not too smart. Because we missed a population which is 100 times greater and better and easier: The guy living next door. The local inhabitants. They live around the hotel, or they go to an office around the hotel, and 90 percent of them never dared coming into the property, because they’re fearful that we’re going to be asking, ‘What’s your room number?’ They don’t need a room, but they may need a service.”

According to the same Skift article, AccorHotels’ loyalty program, Le Club AccorHotels will most likely serve as the foundation for the Accor Local program.

For other brands that want to follow this trend, there are new guest recommendation applications that put a hotel’s local curated knowledge right at guests’ – and locals’ – fingertips. This means offering completely customized recommendations for local restaurants, attractions, concerts and other events.

In addition, these types of mobile apps allow hoteliers to compile relevant guest (or locals) data about on- and off-property preferences.

Going local seems to be an emerging trend for some of the most cutting-edge brands. Fortunately, there are ways for hoteliers to offer highly customized experiences and services that expand beyond catering to the traveling guest into an entirely new untapped market.


Disruptor Airbnb Becoming More Like Hotels?

There’s no shortage of press coverage about how Airbnb has becoming a formidable disruptor in the hospitality arena. From incredible business growth based on increased consumer demand to hotels acquiring short-term-rental startups to remain competitive, Airbnb has fundamentally changed travel.

Though, could Airbnb become like the sector that it disrupted? In December 2016, the company announced that it is going to help travelers also book their flights – this way it can become the hub for “all things travel” for guests.

What many may not realize is that hotels have been offering these types of full-service travel packages for many years – where hotel rooms and flights are all bundled and booked through a special hotel micro-site (often with a “vacation” theme).

With this move, we could ultimately see hotels and Airbnb meeting in the middle when it comes to competing against each other. Of course, the key for both the “disruptor” and the “disrupted” is to never lose sight of the traveler – with the idea of helping them throughout the entire trip.

This could also include the implementation of solutions that help travelers find customized amenities that meet their specific needs. Although hotels are now taking advantage of solutions that offer tailored recommendations for area restaurants, culture events, and much more.

The key is being able to continually please the traveler in ways that are highly personalized, and ultimately create long-term loyalty. While competing to ultimately become “the same,” both hospitality providers and Airbnb should always keep this concept top of mind.

In the end, the guest wins. However, it just remains to be seen which travel channel will win – hotels or Airbnb.



Finding Hotel Differentiation as Supply Surpasses Demand in 2017

According to a recent HotelNewsNow study, many major hotel brands will contend with a potential performance dip as supply surpasses demand in 2017.

In an era where price pressures occur, hoteliers need to consider new ways to differentiate themselves through innovation. This goes beyond the use of robotic butlers, and other more PR-savvy technologies, to implementing solutions that truly enhance the guest experience.

In fact, according to a recent study by Zebra Technologies, guests actually want innovations that will make them “want to come back.” What are these technologies? These guests are most interested in smartphone check-ins and digitally enabled loyalty programs. This study also found that guests are willing to divulge some personal information in exchange for tailored promotional offers.

One innovation that can provide enhanced differentiation are the new guest recommendation applications, which put a hotel’s local curated knowledge right at guests’ fingertips. On a localized level, hotel brands can completely customize recommendations for nearby restaurants, attractions, concerts and other events.

Since increasingly guests are willing to share personal information, these types of mobile apps allow hoteliers to compile relevant guest data about on- and off-property preferences. Ultimately, this data will evolve to where it is possible to predict the travelers wants and needs before they arrive – providing even more control.

While ups and downs occur in the hotel arena, it is always vital to continually seek new ways for pleasing the guest. While oversupply may be an issue in 2017, there will likely not be a slowdown on the amount of travel. Of course, there will be more competition, but the marketplace is still very viable.

This points to the need to implement the right innovations that enhance the guest experience and build long-term loyalty. Many people are still traveling in 2017 … major brands just need to find ways to keep them coming back for more.


An Alternative to Limited Websites for Individual Hotel Properties

There’s been a wide-range of articles highlighting the desire to design hotels that attract locals, as well as capture the attention of multiple generations. However, to do this, there is an enormous need to develop stronger websites for individual properties.

The challenge is that individual properties often have to conform to the web standards of the parent company brands. Unfortunately, this limits the ability to provide specialized information and offers to attract locals, new travelers and those from varying age groups.

However, there are new guest personalization mobile apps and web pages that can actually serve as the property’s own website – without breaking any branding policies. These solutions are originally aimed at providing personalized information about on- and off-property events and attractions.

But, they can be much more …

First of all, they are very easy to implement and use, and do not require massive IT budgets or build outs. They are essentially plug-and-play, and provide the right information to allow guests – and even locals – to have the insights they need to become loyal to an individual property.

In addition, these types of solutions allow the guests to completely disconnect by attending an event or an attraction that takes them away from the day-to-day use of technology, whether on- or off-property.

While many properties deal with the challenge of adhering to brand standards with their individual websites, there is a light at the end of this tunnel. With the right guest personalization app and web page, it is possible to achieve the mission of making your property a destination for everyone.


Enhancing Loyalty By Plugging Guests Into The Local Scene

Facebook IQ recently issued a study that surveyed loyalty in 14,700 U.S. adults regarding loyalty in five verticals, including the hospitality arena. While the results were somewhat surprising, it also pointed out some common insights, which are often overlooked by hotel brands.

In terms of the surprising outcomes, Millennials stated that they are more likely than Baby Boomers to be loyal to one brand – though they are challenged when it comes to wanting to communicate with hotels with speed and innovation.

However, the most interesting result from the survey was that travelers across all demographics are looking for unique and authentic experiences during their vacations. As highlighted by Travel Tipper, hotels should meet this need by positioning themselves as invaluable resources to help guests plug into the local scene.

Thankfully, there are new guest recommendation applications that put a hotel’s local curated knowledge right at guests’ fingertips. This means offering completely customized recommendations for local restaurants, attractions, concerts and other events. These solutions also help to minimize the friction that often comes with traveling.

In addition, these types of mobile apps allow hoteliers to compile relevant guest data about on- and off-property preferences. Ultimately, this data will evolve to where it is possible to predict the travelers wants and needs before they arrive – providing even more control.

Loyalty often comes down to sharing the right actionable information. Whether it is a local recommendation or simply remembering a guest’s room preferences, there is much that can be done to help establish loyalty in ways that translate into enhanced revenue. The best first step is to be the sound informational resource that plugs any guest into the local scene.