Hospitality Technology Trends to Implement in 2017

Here we are — 2017 — the whole year ahead of us! Ready to make it a good one? Perhaps you have already made some New Year’s resolutions, some of which might revolve around increasing the success of your business. For hoteliers and other lodging operators, technology is making operations more efficient and successful with every passing year. Here are the hospitality technology trends we feel are most important to put into action in the year ahead.

System Integration (and Data Consolidation)

Integrating core systems further automates processes and is key to maximizing efficiency and consolidating data.

At the heart of operations, your property management system (PMS) can be connected to other core systems such as CRM, online distribution channels, revenue management software, point-of-sale systems, payment processing software, and phone and entertainment systems, to greatly speed up tasks such as managing distribution, guest check-in and check-out, managing reservation folios, building rich guest profiles and sending targeted guest communications.

When core systems share relevant data automatically, the need to manually duplicate data across systems is eliminated, significantly cutting administrative workload and improving data accuracy and timeliness.

What’s more, integrating your PMS with other hotel systems helps bring the right data together at the right time, making information more accessible and actionable.

For example, integrating the PMS with guest engagement tools such as CRM software, guest marketing platforms, loyalty programs and mobile apps empowers lodging operators with enhanced guest insight to personalize the guest experience. When these systems talk to each other, rich guest profiles are automatically created, using data collated across systems that goes beyond simple stay history to include guest requests, preferences, travel motivations, receptiveness to promotions, feedback, etc. Armed with this kind of intelligence, lodging operators have to power to personalize service and target communications much more seamlessly and effectively.

Among other advantages, system integration is a significant motivation behind the shift from on-premise to cloud software in the hospitality industry. Built on common Web standards and open APIs, cloud software is designed with cross-application communication in mind, making integrating your core hotel systems easier and cheaper than it’s ever been.

Mobile PMS

The ability to access data on-the-go via a mobile device is another driving force behind the move to cloud hospitality software.

A mobile PMS can have a significant impact on the guest experience; with guest and reservation data at their fingertips via a tablet or smartphone, hotel staff are freed from the physical constraints of the front desk to provide more prompt and personalized service to guests wherever they may be — in the lobby, the hallway, by the pool or in the dining room.

Increasingly in demand, paperless check-in with electronic signature capture allows guests to sign registration cards or check-in receipts on a tablet or smartphone screen. Paperless check-in means arriving guests don’t have to queue at the front desk; they can instead be greeted in a more welcoming way in the lobby or lounge. And the savings in paper not only helps a hotel’s bottom line, but the planet too.

Another much-appreciated feature of a mobile PMS is mobile access to housekeeping reports. This simple feature greatly improves productivity by allowing housekeeping staff to update room housekeeping status directly to the housekeeping report via their mobile device in real time as they work.

Direct Bookings

While OTAs dominate the online hotel booking scene, hoteliers are becoming more focused on the quest to increase direct bookings. There are a variety of tools available to help lodging operators improve direct conversions and, as the year unfolds, we imagine more and more properties will be engaging them.

First, there are the aforementioned guest engagement and CRM tools such as Guestfolio, Constant Contact, Revinate and Twilio. Such platforms help properties collect and make sense of comprehensive guest data to deliver highly targeted guest communications that help turn customers into loyal direct bookers.

Revenue management software (RMS) is becoming more critical as pricing rooms becomes even more complicated. Finding the right price hinges on numerous factors; in addition to seasonal fluctuations, market demand and room type features, rates are increasingly based on more fluid variables such as channel, weather, events, competitors and even guest data and loyalty. Dynamic and personalized pricing is becoming a powerful strategy in winning direct business and more and more lodging operators will recognize the enormous value in automating this process to ensure they remain competitive in an increasingly competitive market.

Properties that are slow to adopt a mobile-friendly direct booking engine will find it hard to keep ignoring this must-have feature in the year ahead. The way we shop has forever changed as consumers look to the Internet to research and buy whatever and whenever they want. We make decisions based on a series of spontaneous yet intent-rich micro-moments, enabled by mobile devices. Therefore, providing a consistent and seamless user experience across devices (desktop and mobile) is a must for all businesses wanting to attract, convert and retain customers.

Going back to our first point, integrating certain key systems goes a long way in boosting direct bookings; your PMS, RMS and CRM make a powerful team.

Mobile Messaging

Last year we heard about the success big brands were having with mobile messaging to communicate with customers, and this year we think more and more independent properties will follow suit.

From simple SMS text messaging to social media apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, mobile messaging is fast becoming the preferred quick communication method of our time. Hotels are finding that mobile messaging, when managed correctly, enhances customer service and boosts customer satisfaction and loyalty.

With a focus on service rather than marketing, mobile messaging can be used to confirm reservations, welcome guests to the property and let them know their room is ready, support concierge services, promote relevant ancillary services, receive special requests and to thank guests after check-out.

A variety of messaging platforms are available to hotels, from the aforementioned SMS text messaging and social media apps (WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger etc.) to dedicated hotel mobile applications such as Twilio, Alice and Checkmate.

In-Room Technology

While we don’t think independent properties need to go as far as trialing voice-controlled guestrooms (as Starwood’s Aloft brand is doing) just yet, it is important to ensure your guestrooms are equipped with current technology your guests expect.

Cable TV just doesn’t cut it anymore; today’s guests are looking to stream their favourite shows to (high-definition flat-screen) TVs from streaming services such as Netflix via smart TV technology or casting devices. But in order to pull this off successfully, properties must equip guestrooms with reliable high-speed Internet access. These days most hotels already offer in-room Wi-Fi, so the focus now is on making it as fast as the guest’s connection at home.

Keeping your property’s technology current is key to remaining competitive. If your property’s systems are hindering rather than helping guest service, productivity or revenue, make this the year to upgrade.

Beachcomber Motel

Located in Ocean City, Maryland, the Beachcomber Motel is a seasonal property that offers 28 efficiency units with either one king bed or one king bed and one double bed along with a kitchenette and private balcony. You won’t have to cross any roads to get to the beautiful beach which is just a short walk away. This hotel has just started using our cloud-based WebRezPro Property Management System to help with their operations. Visit their website to see how they’re using WebRezPro’s booking engine to take reservations directly from their website!

Hotel Kilbourne

Hotel Kilbourne is ideally situated on the waterfront in Sandusky, Ohio, right in the heart of the city’s entertainment scene. A variety of luxury accommodations are available including city view king rooms, lake view king rooms and a penthouse suite. Amenities include free WiFi, luxury bedding and a public house with a rooftop patio and stunning views! Hotel Kilbourne started using our cloud-based WebRezPro Property Management System this past spring and has recently added WebRezPro’s integrated Web reservation software to their website so that they can take online bookings!

Victoria Apartments

Victoria Apartments is located in Zambia and is just a 10 minute drive from Victoria Falls! This property offers 13 two-bedroom apartments that are equipped with kitchens, free WiFi and private verandas. Victoria Apartments has just started using our cloud-based WebRezPro Property Management System to help with their operations. Visit their website to see how they’re using WebRezPro’s integrated online reservations software to take online bookings!

Echo Bluff State Park

Echo Bluff State Park is located in Eminence, Missouri, and is a year-round outdoor destination for adventurers and nature lovers. Accommodations are provided in 16 guest rooms and suites, 13 cabins and a campground! A restaurant and a mercantile shop are also located on the premises. Echo Bluff State Park started using our cloud-based WebRezPro Property Management System this past spring to help with managing their guest rooms, suites and cabins. You can see WebRezPro’s integrated Web reservation software in action on their website, enabling them to take online bookings!

Snow Valley Lodging

Snow Valley Lodging is located in Fernie, British Columbia, and offers clean, comfortable guest rooms and suites including some with full kitchens and some that are pet friendly! The motel is also home to a 10-site RV Park and guests have access to a hot tub. Snow Valley Lodging started using our cloud-based WebRezPro Property Management System a few months ago and has recently put WebRezPro’s integrated Web reservation software on their website so that they can accept online bookings!

Getting to Know WebRezPro: Key Reports

While the thought of reporting may make many of us cringe, we all know that tracking hotel reservations, rooms and revenue is necessary for smooth and successful operation. Identifying and monitoring relevant data and key performance indicators (KPIs) equips lodging operators with the insight required to optimize property performance and revenue.

Many properties spend too much time manually gathering data and creating spreadsheets, but there’s a better way. Automated property management systems like WebRezPro track data in real time, providing access to a variety of operational and performance reports at the click of a button. That sure makes generating reports a lot easier (effortless, in fact), but leaves us with the question: what reports should be generated?

Because every property is different, WebRezPro property management system provides advanced reporting functionality to accommodate a wide range of reporting requirements. To serve as a starting point, we’ve outlined key daily and monthly reports that are used by WebRezPro customers to streamline operations and maximise revenue.

Front Desk

Front desk agents largely rely on reports that help with daily guest and room management.

Check-In and Check-Out Reports >> The Check-ins report shows a list of all arrivals for the day while the Check-outs report shows a list of all departures for the day, along with the reservation number, room assignment and status, dates of stay, guest contact information, rate type, and amount owing for every reservation. (The reports can also be set to include additional information as required.)

The check-in and check-out reports simplify guest and room management by allowing staff to easily identify room assignments and status, any reservations with unassigned rooms, no-shows and scheduled check-outs that did not depart.

Guest Ledger >> The Guest Ledger shows the account balances for all in-house guests (check-ins, check-outs and stay-throughs), allowing front desk staff to easily track payments owed by current guests.

The report lists all guests that are checking in, checking out or staying through on the current day (or other selected date), along with pertinent reservation information that includes amount paid and owing, remaining credit, and credit card authorization amount for each reservation. This report also shows a list of all advance payments from non in-house guests, as well as a list of all outstanding invoices.

New Bookings Report >> The New Bookings report shows all new, unconfirmed bookings, making it easy for front desk staff to identify reservations that are awaiting confirmation. For properties that don’t automatically confirm direct online bookings, this is especially useful. Online reservations that are automatically confirmed will not appear on the New Bookings report.

WebRezPro’s New Bookings report also displays any active reservation alarms and reminders for the day.

Housekeeping Report >> The Housekeeping Report tracks all housekeeping responsibilities and makes it easy to manage housekeeping schedules and sections. It also keeps front desk staff informed about which rooms are clean and ready for guests.

The report shows arrival and departure status, stay-throughs, room housekeeping status (dirty or clean), guest requests and housekeeping notes for each room. The report can be organised and divided by housekeeper (housekeeping sections), and can be set to show all rooms or active rooms only (occupied rooms that require cleaning), only rooms with arrivals or stay-throughs, vacant rooms only, and more.

Management

Reports that provide reservation, revenue, rate and occupancy data indicate the overall health of a property and are important for evaluating hotel operations and strategy.

Hotel Stats >> The Hotel Stats report provides an overview of how your business is doing, displaying statistics for the current (or other selected) date, month to date, and year to date. Occupancy rates, ADR (average daily rate), number of rentable rooms, RevPAR, total room revenue, etc. are tracked over the year and presented alongside the previous year’s numbers for comparison.

Monthly Report >> WebRezPro’s monthly booking report provides insights on reservation trends. The report collates revenue for all stays in a given month, organized by room type, by day, by market and source codes, by corporate account, and more. A pace report is also included, showing the rate at which room nights were sold over the course of the month, and for properties that use WebRezPro’s online booking engine on their website, the Monthly Report will also show booking engine statistics.

WebRezPro also includes a separate Custom Reservation Report that allows properties to sort and filter reservation data by advanced search parameters, allowing for more personalized reports for analysis purposes. Custom report templates can be saved so that parameters don’t have to be set each time.

Sales Report (Products & Services) >> The product and services sales report is useful for properties that charge for additional services and items, such as snacks and beverages, spa services, activities and parking fees. The sales report provides a breakdown and totals of all or specific product/service sales for a given time period, allowing management to analyse incidentals revenue separate from room revenue.

Accounting

It’s important to track numbers for balancing daily transactions and staying on top of commissions and taxes.

Reconciliation Report >> The Daily Reconciliation Report is run at the end of the day to reconcile cash and credit accounts as part of the night audit. The report displays all transactions and check-outs for the day. When performing the night audit, the cash and credit account information on the reconciliation report is checked against the information in the credit card processor system, and all check-outs should be confirmed as paid in full or attached to a direct bill account.

Payments Owing >> The Payments Owing report is useful for keeping track of any unpaid or out-of-balance reservations. This report conveniently lists all reservations with an outstanding balance, whether it be a deposit or final payment due, or a customer credit.

Travel Agency Billing Reports >> Properties that pay commissions to travel agencies run a travel agency billing report (usually on a monthly basis) that automatically calculates how much is owed to each agency. In WebRezPro, this report is generated using the Custom Reservation Report.

Tax Reports >> WebRezPro automatically tracks tax collected and features a flexible tax reporting function that makes it easy to keep track of tax breakdowns and what is owed to the city, state and/or country.

Trial Balance >> For properties that use an external accounting system, the Trial Balance report is used to produce totals for asset, liability, income and expense accounts for any time period, and can be exported to an excel spreadsheet.

 

WebRezPro automatically tracks and synchronizes data across operations in real time, greatly simplifying and speeding up the reporting process as well as improving accuracy, especially when compared to manual or separate data tracking methods. Reports can be exported to Microsoft Excel and printed or emailed directly from the system.

A property management system that generates the reports you need — quickly and easily — is key to optimizing performance and revenue at your property.

Streamlining and Humanizing the Check-in Process

Guest check-in is an important touchpoint between a hotel and guest. Usually the first time a guest comes face to face with a property, check-in is the moment where the guest’s initial impressions are formed — and, as we all know, first impressions count.

As a guest you’ve probably experienced a cold, indifferent check-in process at some point — you know, that one that made you feel like nothing more than a reservation confirmation number. Nothing diminishes expectations of service than being treated like just a number. While some guests might want to skip the chitchat and get to their room pronto, a warm welcome never fails to start a hotel-guest relationship on the right foot.

A recent Quartz article about how Hyatt Hotels is redesigning their check-in process with the guest experience in mind highlights the importance of empathy in the design of front desk processes. Viewing the check-in process from the guest perspective is key to balancing administrative processes with treating guests like people rather than bookings.

With mobile technology increasingly in demand by hotels and their guests, many hotel brands consider it important to offer guests a choice between mobile/self-check in and checking in at the front desk. However your property manages check-in, what matters most to your customers is an efficient and pleasant process that makes them feel like welcome guests.

The Right Technology

An efficient, guest-centered check-in process starts with user-friendly front-desk technology.

Without an intuitive front-desk system in place, staff must navigate complicated administrative processes, which, despite best efforts, typically result in an impersonal check-in experience characterized by extended moments of silence (except for the sound of keystrokes) and no eye contact while the guest just stands there waiting (for too long).

On the other hand, hotel management software with a simple check-in process and an intuitive user interface enables front desk staff to focus on the guest. Supported by technology that doesn’t distract from the customer, check-in staff can offer each and every guest a warm, personal welcome in an efficient manner.

The right software makes it quick and easy to locate guest reservations in the system and reduces manual data entry requirements through automation and integration with other core hotel technology, like online booking channels, payment processors and keycard systems. Even group check-ins are a breeze backed by software that supports multiple guest check-ins at once.

A system that identifies returning guests is also fundamental to an efficient and personal check-in process. From a simple “welcome back” to proactive recognition of special preferences or requirements previously noted on a guest’s profile, check-in staff can make repeat guests feel valued.

But check-in can be streamlined and humanized even further with a mobile-friendly system that frees staff from the physical constraints of the front desk. For example, WebRezPro property management system’s paperless check-in feature allows guests to sign check-in receipts or registration cards digitally on a tablet or smartphone screen. Paperless check-in allows staff to register guests away from the front desk when appropriate — perhaps seated in the guest lounge or after showing the guest to their room — for a more convenient, guest-centered check-in experience.

The Right People

Of course, even the best hotel management technology is wasted without the right people operating it.

The person behind the front desk plays the role of host — and in hospitality, that role means everything. The human face of a hotel, front-desk staff simply must be personable; the way they interact with guests can make or break a property’s reputation.

At the frontline, front-desk staff are usually the first point of contact for guests arriving at the property, greeting all manner of moods; tired, hungry, frustrated and excited travelers. It’s important for front-desk staff to be empathetic, and to read and respond to people appropriately. This goes for anticipating guests’ needs too; for example, when a family with small children checks in, they should be offered any relevant services or information that could make their stay more comfortable, like a bottle warmer or information about your outdoor playground.

The ability to read people’s moods and needs also helps staff to engage guests in conversation as appropriate — a useful skill for gaining rapport with customers and finding out how their stay can be personalized and made even more enjoyable. Outgoing, happy hosts are naturally skilled at doing just that.

In addition to being “people” people, great front-desk staff are resourceful, allowing them to deal with the multitude of different (and sometimes unusual) situations and requests that crop up during their day. They are calm under pressure during busy times and stressful moments, with the ability to think on their feet.

Finding the right people to greet your guests is vital to the health of your property. With the right front-desk technology in place, employers can focus on personality rather than computer skills when recruiting front-desk staff.

The Right Touch

Making a good first impression relies on an efficient and personable check-in process, but adding a special touch can go even further to surprise and delight guests upon arrival.

From proactively making local recommendations to offering extra services, going above and beyond to make the check-in experience just that bit more special for guests doesn’t have to cost a lot of (or any!) money or effort.

Recommending the best spot nearby from which to view tonight’s local fireworks display, or offering a refreshing drink on the house upon arrival, or handing out kids’ activity packs to families with children in tow are examples of simple ways guests can be made to feel extra welcome.

Upscale properties could consider hosting live music or an artist-in-residence to liven up the lobby and surprise and delight guests. Even complimentary refreshments (like fruit, cookies, and hot and cold beverages) displayed prominently in the lobby can be an unexpected treat for weary travellers arriving at the front desk.

 

The way a guest is greeted and treated upon arrival forms the foundation of the hotel-guest relationship. Because first impressions count for a lot, it’s so important to get the check-in process right.

 

Hotel Le Versailles

The Hotel Le Versailles in Saint Sauveur, Quebec, is a full-service hotel that is just steps away from skiing, restaurants, shops and entertainment. The hotel boasts 52 modern guest rooms, as well as meeting and event space, a restaurant and bar, an indoor swimming pool, a hot tub, a fitness centre and free WiFi. This hotel has just started using our cloud-based WebRezPro Property Management System to help with their day-to-day operations! Visit their website to see how they’re using WebRezPro’s integrated Web reservation software to take online bookings!

Hotel Website Design Trends for 2016

For lodging operators who are thinking about sprucing up their property’s website in the year ahead, here are some important current and emerging website trends that are particularly relevant to hospitality and tourism businesses.

Each trend highlighted below helps to tell a hotel’s story — which, due to travelers’ desire for unique experiences and personalization, is now more important than ever.

Clean, Simple User-Oriented Design

The user experience (UX) is a core focus of Web design. According to Google research, websites that are visually complex are less effective; users prefer websites that are easy to use and understand, and this means uncluttered visual design, simple and intuitive site navigation, easy-to-read copy, clear calls to action, and a smooth online booking process.

Flat and semi-flat design, large images, clear typography and lots of clean space are popular elements of simple yet striking websites. The Calgary Attractions website is a great example of a simply beautiful design, created with the user in mind.

Hero Images

As mentioned above, big images work well with simple, clean designs and are excellent at telling stories too. Whether it’s a full-screen background image or an image slider spanning the width of the page, a hero image is basically a large banner image placed front and center on a webpage and is the first thing a visitor sees when they land on your site.

The beautiful centrepiece photos on the Galapagos Reservations website have stolen our hearts!

Galapagos Reservations

Hero images should relate directly to the content of your website and should ideally be professional photos of your business rather than stock photography. It’s important to use sharp, high-quality images when photos are displayed so prominently, but don’t forget to optimize image files for fast page-load times and mobile devices.

Video Headers and Backgrounds

The practice of using video (without sound) for page headers and backgrounds has been gaining popularity over the last couple of years as browser technology has advanced and Internet speeds increased. Video is dynamic and engaging and perhaps the very best way to convey an experience — so it makes a lot of sense for lodging and tour operators to adopt this trend on their websites.

When adding a video background or header to a website, it’s important to use a widely-supported video filetype for compatibility with various browsers. And test video backgrounds on mobile devices; if the user experience is degraded, it’s better to automatically substitute the video for a still image on mobile.

A Personal Touch

Have you noticed that modern websites are all starting to look similar? This is in part due to popular patterns and themes emerging from responsive design and content management systems like WordPress. It’s not necessarily a bad thing — in fact, the Google research mentioned above found that people prefer sites with familiar design principles.

However, we do also appreciate uniqueness and creativity. Adding a personal touch to your website — like clever customizations to a WordPress theme, custom-drawn illustrations, or simply professional photos rather than stock photography — adds authenticity and personality to your site and makes you stand out from the crowd.

Wyatt’s Hotel takes a simple yet effective approach to showcasing its character through beautiful full-screen photos of the property. And we love their pretty peacock illustration (scroll down on their homepage).

Wyatt's Hotel

Captivating Animation

Movement is another effective way to engage and captivate viewers (and we’re not talking about garish flash animations or GIFS like the dancing banana).

We’re talking about animation that enhances storytelling and is more interactive.

Scrolling websites lend well to animated scrolling effects. Subtle scroll animations, such as elements and objects that slide or fade into place as the user scrolls down the page, as well as parallax scrolling (where background elements move slower than those in the foreground, creating an illusion of depth and movement) result in a smooth and memorable user experience.

The Inn of the Rockies website is a nice example of subtle scrolling animation, with headings and content blocks that slide in smoothly as the user scrolls down the page, as well as eye-catching hover effects.

Cinemagraphs (photos with moving elements) are becoming trendy too. Created in GIF format (yes, the GIF is actually back, but better than ever), cinemagraphs use less bandwidth than videos and are quite spellbinding. We love how the Island Plantation website uses cinemagraphs to magically transport you to their resort.

Cool Typography

The visual presentation of words is getting more attention with strong fonts, bold statements and the integration of text and images.

Google Fonts makes cool typefaces accessible to all. When choosing fonts and getting creative with text, make sure that typography reflects the style and personality of your business, is easy to read, contrasts adequately with the background, and is consistent throughout your website (don’t use too many different fonts).

The Calgary Attractions website places words on hero images, the bold font matching the style of the website and prairie city perfectly. Using words in this way makes it instantly clear to visitors what the website is all about, and it looks great too.

Calgary Attractions

So there you have it — our rundown of popular Web design techniques as we head into 2016. As with all trends, don’t just follow along because it’s cool; try out the ones you like and that work for your brand and your customers.

You may have noticed that responsive design is not included on the above list. That’s because by now responsive or mobile-friendly website design is more a rule than a trend. If a website isn’t mobile-optimized, it’s simply missing out on a big chunk of business.

Need help getting your website ready for the year ahead? Please don’t hesitate to get in touch.