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Netlink and Hotels

Including the Guest Experience in the Hotel Technology Stack

With a wide-range of innovations available for the hospitality arena, there is a growing need for hotel CIOs to leverage the full technology stack.

As highlighted by this recent HospitalityNet article, the hotel technology stack keeps getting larger with everything from booking software to revenue management systems to digital marketing tools and much more.

Of course, one of the most critical components of the stack are solutions that aim to please the guest before, during and after their stays. These types of offerings provide in-depth recommendations for activities both on and off of the properties.

Providing unique experiences are a core part of a guest’s stay and can ultimately enhance overall loyalty. This comes from leveraging solutions that allow you to develop and understand your guest’s profile and preferences based upon their interest in attractions and happenings near your property.

From booking to checkout and beyond, guests will be fully satisfied throughout the entire lifecycle, which is the premise behind keeping the guest experience completely frictionless.

In addition, while many of the marketing solutions being highlighted in the HospitalityNet article are very valuable, many of these offerings are starting to become commoditized – much like Wifi and free breakfasts.

This is why hoteliers should consider augmenting their technology stacks with offering that expand beyond the usual solutions.

Creating a truly unique guest experience is no small challenge, but it can be overcome with the right innovations and strategic approach.


Do Guests Want to Choose Their Hotel Rooms Via Google Maps?

While being able to choose your seats online is a common practice for booking flights, the hotel industry is now also moving in this direction by allowing guests to choose their own rooms online via Google Maps.

However, unlike airlines, hoteliers are offering highly detailed information about the rooms and surroundings through the Google Maps API. For example, Hilton Worldwide just announced that its offering will help guests to visualize where available hotel rooms are located in relation to city streets, public transportation, parks, bodies of water and other markers.

Of course, this could potentially be a game-changing way that guests interact with major brands. At first, though, it may only appeal to tech-forward guests who appreciate this level of interaction. For the average guest, it could create an additional layer of work when booking.

In addition, this could be an ideal solution for resorts, where guests like to visualize their vacation destinations in advance. On the other hand, business travelers may be completely indifferent to this type of booking offering – especially since not much time is actually spent in their rooms.

Hotels also run the risk of the “what you see is not always what you get” phenomenon. As many have experienced, the photos of a Caribbean resort often look much different in pictures than they do in real life.

As with many new innovations, this new booking capability will work well with techies, and people booking their vacations. In due time, this will most likely become a common booking practice for everyone. And, for now … Hilton is leading the way by being the first one out of the gate.


The Real Reason Why Airport Hotels Are Prospering

According to a recent Hotel News Now article, airport hotels are seeing an increase in demand and now command a significant rate premium.

The article highlights how a new study from STR shows that U.S. airport hotels posted a 9.1 percent increase in revenue per available room through the first seven months of 2015, after posting a similar growth rate of 9.3 percent during the same period in 2014. This increase in demand is allowing airport hotel operators to increase their average daily rates by 7 percent.

On the surface, this seems like a good thing for these hoteliers. But what’s really going on behind this increase in room demand? It’s actually quite simple: flight delays and other issues brought on by the airlines.

According to this recent Fortune article, airports like Chicago’s O’Hare International and Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International experience the most delayed or cancelled flights in the U.S.   Especially in winter – in 2014, more than 75,000 domestic flights were cancelled during winter.

While airport hotel operators are reaping the benefits of these flight delays, it should be noted that they are often dealing with a weary, stressed-out traveler – many who are traveling for business.

Pleasing these guests is no small challenge. By implementing the right innovations for reducing the stress that comes with travel, it is possible to reduce guest friction.

For example, if you have built a persona on a certain kind of business traveler who is about to come through your doors – due to a cancelled flight – it is possible to anticipate his or her needs in advance. Of course, their needs could be as simple as having effective Wi-fi or knowing their room service preferences.

Anticipating the needs of these stressed out travelers will go a long way in turning a negative experience into something that creates lasting brand loyalty – even if cancelled flights keep sending guests your way.


A Matter of Trust: Online Hotel Rating Systems

In today’s very transparent Internet world, online guest rating systems can be both a major challenge and a business opportunity for hoteliers.

In addition, the validity of guest rating systems are not always cut and dry. For example, people tend to give a restaurant in their own neighborhood a more negative review, as opposed a restaurant they encounter during their travels. This reinforces that human biases come into play when it comes to online ratings, and that brands should continually aim for trusted relationships with their guests.

It probably comes as no surprise, but new studies show that many guests are more influenced to book, or not book, based on online reviews – not price. This means that potential guests are using online review sites such as TripAdvisor to make certain that the hotel reviews match their expectations.

This also reinforces the value of creating trust with guests. Though how can hoteliers create this brand trust?

By providing a “frictionless guest experience,” hoteliers can improve reviews and loyalty, as well as empower guests to interact with hotel brands in customized ways.

From booking to checkout and beyond, guests must be fully satisfied throughout the entire lifecycle – especially when doing online booking.  This often starts with tools that anticipate guests’ needs before they even arrive. Essentially, this means meeting guests’ needs before they even know what they want.

By fully anticipating guest needs, it is possible to instill this trust, which will go a very long way in ensuring lasting brand loyalty.