How Independent Hotels Can Maximize Revenue in the Pandemic Era

Faced with limited demand due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, hoteliers must think outside the box to capture bookings and maximize revenue. Pricing practices that made sense before the virus hit—like seasonal pricing and non-refundable rates—may not be so relevant now in our pandemic era.

In this tentative climate, revenue management strategies should aim to boost consumer confidence, focus on value, and increase revenue per guest. Here are some ways hoteliers are maximizing total revenue now.

Value-added packages

While international travel is still largely on hold, most properties are focusing on domestic demand. Value-added packages are a great way to attract local guests and domestic travelers looking to break from the routine and stresses of pandemic life and to enjoy experiences they don’t get at home.

Create packages that offer your property’s target market the conveniences, luxuries and special moments they crave, whether it’s a romantic dinner package, a wellness retreat, or a family-fun deal that includes kayak rentals. Despite the higher price, packages offer guests more value. While the actual room price is normally discounted, ancillary revenue increases.

Marketed well, value-added packages can help your property stand out from your competitors and increase your share of the domestic market.

Extended-stay pricing

Extended-stay pricing is another effective way to increase revenue per guest while offering guests great value at the same time. Discounting additional nights entices guests to extend their stay, especially for staycationers with freer schedules afforded by traveling with their own car and the recent shift to working remotely.

Even when discounts are offered, longer stays result in higher profitability than short stays considering lower overheads (cleaning and other operational costs) and higher ancillary revenue.

Exclusive discounts

While it may be tempting to slash rates across the board to stimulate demand, past crises have shown our industry that this is not the answer. Deeply cutting prices may bring in a few extra bookings in the short term, but can harm a hotel’s image and hold the property back on an even longer road to recovery after the economy stabilizes.

As mentioned above, implementing value-added packages and extended-stay pricing are much healthier ways to capture bookings—and so is offering exclusive discounts to select groups of customers.

Offered only to limited audiences, exclusive discounts allow you to present irresistible offers to valuable clients such as repeat guests/loyalty program members, recent cancellations and Facebook fans without breaking rate parity agreements. Discount codes can be sent to select groups of customers via email or text message, or advertised on your social media channels.

Flexible change and cancellation policies

We’ve all learned the situation can change very quickly during a pandemic. In these uncertain times, cautious travelers will be hesitant to book stays that cannot be cancelled or rebooked without penalty in the case of further outbreaks or traveler illness.

For the foreseeable future, flexible change and cancellation policies will help give travel consumers the confidence they need to book. Consider removing non-refundable rates for the time being, and eliminate or at least reduce penalties for cancelling and changing reservations due to COVID-19.

Use your property management system to track bookings that are cancelled due to the pandemic to help you manage pricing and cancellation policies going forward.

Direct bookings

Mass cancellations caused by COVID-19 overwhelmed OTAs, resulting in a negative customer service experience for many OTA customers. During these continuing uncertain times, many travel consumers are now choosing to book with hotels directly for a more personalized and responsive customer service experience.  

Now’s the time to focus on your property’s direct booking strategy to take advantage of this shift and maintain a strong direct sales channel going forward. Incentivize customers to book direct with value-added packages, exclusive discounts and direct-booking perks available only through your direct booking channels.

It’s also important to provide a secure, user-friendly online booking process on your website. Integrated with the property management system (PMS), the online booking engine always displays live rates and availability and manages incoming reservations automatically, as well as booking modifications and cancellations coming through your website.

With a lower cost of acquisition compared to bookings acquired through third-party channels that charge commission, direct bookings can make a big difference to your bottom line. (Make sure your website booking engine is commission free!)

Ancillary products & services and new revenue streams

While extras such as parking, breakfast and welcome amenities can be included in value-added packages and used as direct-booking perks, they can and should also be offered to other guests for a fee.

Ancillary products and services will be key to boosting revenue in the wake of COVID-19. Promote your dining and spa services, welcome amenities (like champagne and food baskets), bicycle rentals, fitness classes and other activities, and allow customers to purchase add-ons when booking through your website booking engine.  

Get creative and try new revenue streams that make sense for your property and guests. Consider partnering with local businesses to offer guests local experiences such as surfing lessons or wine tasting tours. Think about the type of experiences and services your customers are looking for now. The recent focus on physical distancing and cleanliness makes options like food delivery services, sanitizer and mask packs, and sanitized airport transfers more relevant than ever.

Supportive technology

To stay ahead of the game, hoteliers should be equipped with a property management system (PMS) that supports ancillary revenue streams and dynamic pricing strategies with flexible rate management tools—such as instant rate and availability overrides, package pricing, channel management integration, and yield management functionality that automatically adjusts prices in response to occupancy-based rules.

And while historical data has lost a lot of relevance in these unprecedented times, automated RMS (revenue management system) integration can assist with analyzing data going forward (including daily rate, availability and occupancy data, competitor rates and local market data) to help determine optimal pricing on an ongoing basis.

Don’t just wait for things to get better; keep a close eye on your booking data and the local market as the situation unfolds to help identify opportunities to boost consumer confidence, offer guests value and increase revenue per guest now. As travel slowly restarts, hoteliers must be agile and creative to increase their share of existing demand, maximize revenue and get a step ahead of the competition as we emerge from this crisis.

Staycation Destination: Marketing Your Property to Local Travelers

The world will likely see a reduction in international travel for the foreseeable future. Uncertainty around border restrictions and a wariness to book expensive flights in such an uncertain time means many people are going to be staying on their own soil for a while. But that doesn’t mean they’ve lost their yen for a getaway. They’re just going to have to get away a little closer to home. That’s why it’s the perfect time for you to be marketing your property to local travelers. Here’s how:

Identify your niche

Just like their international counterparts, domestic travelers come in a variety of types—families looking for space and amenities, couples hoping for a romantic getaway, weekend warriors seeking out a quick adventure, and escapists in search of a tranquil reprieve from regular life. You’ll need to identify which type(s) of domestic traveler your property appeals to so you can develop your marketing plan accordingly.

Focus on experiences

Local travelers aren’t as interested in seeing the sights as those coming from abroad. They already live nearby, so accommodation isn’t a necessity for them to explore the area. Rather, staycationers are driven to book overnight stays for the experience. A getaway filled with conveniences, luxuries, and special moments that aren’t available at home is just the thing to justify a hotel stay for the local traveler.

Consider offering special packages to create a one-of-a-kind experience for your guests. Maybe build a “Couples Wellness Retreat” with morning yoga, a couple’s massage, and cooking classes, or combine a bottle of champagne and a round of pedicures to make the perfect “Girlfriend’s Getaway.” You could offer a “Family Fun Package” with kayak rentals, and a complimentary breakfast. Whatever you choose, a well-curated package will provide your guests with the exciting, hassle-free experience they’re looking for. You can even offer special promotions to locals like waived pet fees or free valet parking.

Another option for enticing the experience-driven traveler is by hosting special events. Your options will depend on your property and location, and physical distancing restrictions, but experiences like a “Movie-in-the-park” night, or an intimate “Chef’s Table” event can be a fun way to stand out from your competitors.

Collaborate with local businesses

Now more than ever people are invested in supporting the local businesses in their communities. In the wake of COVID-19 shutdowns, there is a renewed sense of responsibility to patron small businesses and get money back into the local economy. Try collaborating with other brands and businesses in your community to create the perfect, cross-promotional opportunities for local consumers to do just that.

Promote local travel

In addition to marketing your property and packages specifically, it might be beneficial to promote the idea of local travel in general. There are so many positive things about vacationing close to home that are worth a dedicated social media post. Reducing one’s carbon footprint, renewing an appreciation for one’s own backyard, or supporting the local economy (as previously mentioned), are all powerful motivators to turn a vacation into a staycation. And if you’re the one that convinced them to do it, it’s likely you’ll be the property they’ll ultimately choose.

Tourism is sure to look a little different in the post-COVID-19 world, but it has always been an industry of constant evolution. The trick, as always, is to adapt. Taking some time to focus on local travelers—at least for a while—is a good way to keep getting heads in beds. Besides, a loyal guest that’s only a quick drive away is a valuable commodity. They have the ability to visit often, spontaneously, and will likely recommend your property to friends and family.

Email Marketing Tips for Independent Hoteliers in the 2020s

Businesses are reaching out to customers today in more ways than ever before—by social media, chatbot, mobile messaging, SMS, phone call, email, online advertising, TV and radio ads, and print… Phew! But of any marketing channel, email still delivers the best return on investment (in both time and money) and remains the key strategic channel for 91 percent of marketers (DMA, 2019). For hoteliers, modern tools to automate and personalize guest email communications make email one of the most efficient and effective ways to acquire and retain new customers.

While email marketing has been around since the 1990s when the internet revolution changed our lives, email marketing strategies have changed a lot since then. Here are our tips for doing hotel email marketing right in this new decade.

Grow Your Email List

Since the introduction of anti-spam and data protection laws like CASL and GDPR that were designed to protect consumers, marketers have had to adhere to stricter rules regarding sending emails, like compiling permission-based email lists. Such laws have helped to ensure B2C communications are reaching more engaged and receptive audiences, which is a win for both consumers and businesses.

It’s important to keep growing your email list in an organic way. Allow customers and potential customers to opt in through your website (for example, newsletter sign-ups and through your online booking engine), and encourage them to do so via other channels too, like social media, mobile messaging, booking confirmations, on-property signage and even in person upon check-in. Make the value of joining your mailing list obvious, whether for exclusive perks and discounts or for local travel tips and advice.

Also very important is to make sure all email marketing communications include an opt-out (unsubscribe) option in the footer of every email.

Use Data to Deliver Relevant Content

When it comes to routine emails that are directly tied to guest reservations and focused on building a loyal relationship, like booking confirmations, pre-arrival emails and feedback requests, targeted communications can be automated by your property management system (PMS), whereby relevant content is triggered by booking data (such as room and rate types, and check-in and check-out dates).

When it comes to sending promotional emails (like specials and package promotions, birthday or anniversary offers, exclusive discounts, or property news and events), the key to delivering relevant content is segmenting your mailing list and tailoring content to fit those segments. This depends greatly on customer profile data stored in your PMS or CRM, including demographics, interests, previous stay and spend history, etc. Segment your list in a way that makes sense for your property, for example, by highest-value customers, industry demographics (business guests, leisure guests, families, etc.), purchasing history, geographic location, etc.

Keep To the Point and On Brand

In our era of digital media, attention spans have become shorter. Inundated with choice, online consumers have become adept at skimming and scrolling at top speed. If we don’t get the information we need instantly, we move on to the next site—or delete the email. We don’t have time for long-winded paragraphs of text.

Just like current hotel website design trends highlight simple, clean layouts, concise text and captivating images that do most of the talking, marketing emails should follow suit. Grab and keep your customers’ attention with well-written and to-the-point textual content, and a simple, visually pleasing design that reinforces your brand.

Include Strong CTAs

Make it clear what your customer’s next steps should be by including a strong call to action (CTA), whether you want to encourage customers to contact your front desk, or direct them to a dedicated landing page for more information.

For example, a booking confirmation email might also promote upgrades and add-ons with an “Enhance My Stay” button that takes the customer to the “Amenities” page on your property’s website, and/or directs them to contact your front desk via the provided email address or phone number. An email promoting your latest special package could include a “Book Now” button that takes recipients directly to your online booking engine, with the package pre-selected. An email requesting guest feedback about their stay should include an in-email survey or a CTA (such as a “Review My Stay” button) that takes them directly to the feedback form on your preferred review platform.

Ideally, customers should be able to achieve the desired result with a single click, so send them exactly where they expect to go upon click-through. And always include an email address and phone number for your front desk, along with an invitation to contact you with any questions or special requests.

Use Subject Lines That Make Value Clear

Over the years, email subject lines have become increasingly important for cutting through the chatter and they have a direct impact on open rates. It pays to put some thought into them.

Just like email content, the subject line should also be brief and to the point. It should clearly communicate the benefit or value to the customer. For example, the subject line for an email promoting a new package could read something like, “Wine, dine and recline in Kelowna.” The subject line for a special offer could go something like, “Enjoy an extra night in Brisbane on us.” A request for feedback, something like, “Help us make your next stay even better.” Pique curiosity about renovations with a subject like, “A sneak peek at our new pool… opening soon.” Avoid the hard sell and instead tell customers how what’s inside can benefit them. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself, “Would I open this email?”

Make It Mobile Friendly

Various reports conclude that more than half of all emails are now opened on mobile rather than desktop. And if an email doesn’t display well on mobile, it’s immediately deleted in more than 70 percent of cases—no matter how good the content is.

From booking confirmations to special promotions, all your emails should be mobile friendly. The easiest way to do this is by making sure your PMS or CRM solution offers responsive email templates. Then, think mobile-first when designing the layout of your email by keeping image sizes in check, keeping paragraphs short, using buttons instead of linked text, including image ALT text, and linking to your property’s social media accounts. Once your template is set up, send yourself a test email and check it on both mobile and desktop before sending it to customers.

Automate, Automate, Automate!

With modern PMS and CRM solutions, managing guest email communications is almost effortless. As mentioned above, templates can and should be set up for booking confirmations, upgrade offers, pre-arrival, check-in/welcome, in-stay, check-out and post-stay emails that are triggered by reservation data such as stay dates, and room and rate types. Pulling data directly from reservation information, including the guest name, automated emails save hoteliers significant time while personalizing communications.

Test & Track Engagement

Finally, make sure your email marketing is working by tracking engagement, and testing and tweaking to improve results. Customer engagement and ROI can be measured by tracking open and click rates and, of course, revenue generated by email campaigns. Test what works best by trying different subject lines, CTAs, message length, delivery times, and track those results too. Modern email marketing platforms provide real-time tracking and reporting that makes analyzing campaign success easy.

Staying in touch with customers is critical to winning bookings and guest loyalty, and email is still one of the best ways to do it. Automating guest email communications, modern hospitality technology ensures hoteliers deliver personalized communications to each and every guest at the right time. Ask us about WebRezPro PMS’ automated email templates and direct integrations with hospitality CRM platforms that make guest email communications a breeze.

3 More Sleeps! How to Upgrade the Pre-Arrival Experience

Customer service is the name of the game in the hotel industry, but it starts well before the guest checks in. The days leading up to check-in are an exciting time for your guests. Anticipation builds as travelers start dreaming about and researching destinations, choose a place to stay, then count down the days until they get there.

A recent study from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration found that savoring an upcoming experience heightens the enjoyment of the actual experience when it happens and when it’s remembered.

In the quest to deliver a high level of customer service to guests on site, the pre-arrival experience is often overlooked, but it’s an important part of the guest journey. The pre-arrival stage offers lodging operators a prime opportunity for increasing guest engagement, personalizing the guest experience, boosting ancillary revenue and improving guest satisfaction.

Upgrading the pre-arrival experience isn’t hard to do and is well worth the effort!

Start with Your Website

Inspire prospective guests in the dreaming stage of their journey with an engaging website design that reflects your property in its best light. Promote not only your property’s features, amenities, location and what makes it special, but also your local destination from an insider’s perspective. Portraying your property as an experience, rather than just a place to stay, will appeal to your customers’ sense of discovery and fuel their excitement.

Simple design, big, beautiful images, intuitive navigation, mobile friendliness and easy online bookings are some key elements of a hotel website that converts lookers into bookers.

Social Media

Social media networks like Facebook and Instagram are ideal platforms for inspiring travel plans and building excitement. Approximately 30% of U.S. travelers turn to social media to find travel inspiration. Once a trip is booked, consumers turn to social media to feed their excitement, with 52% liking pages related to their vacation and 59% posting a status update about their upcoming trip.

Sharing positive user-generated content and posts about special experiences at your property and local destination will help build anticipation and encourage pre-arrival engagement, whether in the form of a like, a follow, a comment, or contacting your property directly to find out more.

Pre-arrival Communications

Once the booking is made, direct communications by email (mobile-friendly) and mobile messaging are the best way to build guest excitement, promote upgrades and upsells, and gather valuable guest data for personalizing the guest experience. Pre-arrival emails have an average open rate of 57% according to Revinate. There’s an audience you don’t want to miss!

Many properties send a booking confirmation email and then stop there. But the time between booking and check-in is ripe with opportunities for boosting engagement and revenue. We recommend reaching out to future guests three or four times before they arrive.

>> Booking Confirmation – Your booking confirmation email should thank the guest for their booking and contain details of the guest’s reservation as well as helpful information about your property and amenities too. Your property management system (PMS) should recognize repeat guests and trigger booking confirmation that acknowledges their loyalty.

Invite guests to let you know in advance of any special requirements, and offer ways to enhance their stay through upgrades and add-on services.

>> Pre-arrival / Upgrade Offers – About one week before arrival, reach out again to take advantage of the guest’s growing anticipation. Remind them of the details of their stay, invite them to ask questions and make requests, and offer ways to upgrade their experience—through room upgrades, add-ons, restaurant bookings, early check-in, etc. as appropriate.

Help build excitement by letting future guests know about relevant events happening around town while they are visiting, what the weather is like, what to bring, and that you are looking forward to seeing them!

If you are comfortable with it, consider sending another similar (yet briefer) message approximately three days prior to check-in to give guests another opportunity to ask any questions they may have or let you know of any special requests.

A pre-arrival questionnaire provides an easy way for guests to convey their needs and preferences, and can cover questions like, “Are you traveling with kids?” “Do you have any special dietary requirements?” “Are you interested in activity bookings?” “Do you need a ride from the airport?” etc. that will help you personalize their stay.

>> Check-in Day – On check-in day, reach out again to let your guest know you are looking forward to their arrival and to offer any helpful check-in information, like self-check-in options, where to park and when their room is ready.

Some guest engagement platforms like Guestfolio and Zenya enable hotels to send pre-arrival messages that link guests to pre-arrival surveys and/or a personal mobile concierge, allowing guests to personalize their upcoming stay. But even without such technology, your pre-arrival communications should always invite future guests to let you know how you can make their stay perfect.

Any guest information garnered from pre-arrival communications should be added to the guest’s profile and used to personalize their experience going forward.

PMS + CRM & Mobile Messaging Integration

Through customizable templates, personalized pre-arrival communications can be automated through your PMS, CRM or mobile messaging platform, greatly reducing the burden on staff (we’ve yet to meet a lodging operator with the time to personally write to each and every guest!).

But the real magic happens when you integrate your PMS with a CRM or mobile messaging solution. Direct integration allows your PMS to send live reservation data to your CRM or messaging platform, eliminating the need for staff to input that information manually, and resulting in fully automated, highly targeted communications that boost your brand and guest engagement.

Upgrading the pre-arrival experience is something you can achieve today, so don’t hesitate to get your guests excited about their stay and reap the benefits of higher guest engagement, richer guest data, more incremental revenue and more satisfied guests!

Hotel Providence

The only AAA Four Diamond luxury boutique hotel in Providence, Rhode IslandHotel Providence offers 80 artfully designed guest rooms and 16 suites! This hotel boasts a wide range of amenities including free WiFi, onsite dining and meeting and banquet space. Hotel Providence has chosen to use our WebRezPro Property Management System to help run their business! See how they’re using WebRezPro to accept online bookings, and while you’re checking that out, perhaps you’ll want to plan your next getaway to Providence!

Hotel Amenities: What Today’s Guests Look For When Booking Accommodation

To win the business and loyalty of guests, hoteliers have always needed to offer more than a simple place to sleep. Whether it was valet parking, room service, or an on-site spa, hotels relied on extra amenities to appeal to customers. And that hasn’t changed. In fact, now that people can find and compare accommodation so easily on the internet, guests are more discerning than ever. You need to provide quality features and services if you want to stand out from the competition and give customers a reason to return.

Just like guest expectations for communication and decor have changed over the years, their expectations for amenities have evolved as well. Here are a few things guests are looking for today:

Free WiFi

When it comes to booking accommodation, the most sought-after amenity is free, high-speed internet. Today’s travelers are incredibly reliant on their phones (and other mobile devices) to research activities, plan itineraries, and keep in touch with friends and family. If you don’t offer complimentary WiFi, guests will likely keep looking for a property that does.

Complimentary breakfast

Whether it’s a traveler on business or a family on vacation, people like the comfort of knowing the first meal of the day is taken care of. So consider offering complimentary breakfast for your guests. It won’t go unappreciated; After WiFi, free breakfast is ranked the second most important amenity by travelers.

Luxury in-room essentials

It’s the little details that make a guest’s stay feel luxurious.  When it comes to in-room amenities, that means ensuring things like linens and toiletries are of the highest quality. Swap out polyester sheets for high-thread-count cotton, and equip rooms with soft, over-sized bath towels. When stocking the bathroom, choose high-end hair products and artisanal soaps. Your guests will leave feeling pampered and excited to return.

Mini-fridge

Mini-bars are on their way out. They’re expensive to monitor and maintain, and often go unused by guests. Many hotels are opting to equip rooms with an empty mini-fridge instead. Hotelier’s don’t have to worry about stocking or tracking the use, and guests can bring in snacks and beverages they’ve purchased elsewhere. It’s a solution that makes everyone a winner.

Flexible food options

Like mini-fridges, room-service is being reconsidered by many hoteliers. In its stead, some properties are opting to provide grab-and-go food options in their lobby, giving guests the flexibility and convenience they desire. They can pick up a burrito on their way out the door, or take a salad back to their room to enjoy in comfort. And as an added bonus, this cafeteria-style approach minimizes costs for you.

Streaming services

In-room entertainment is still a big priority for travelers. Guests want access to TV facilities (especially millennials), but pay-per-view movies aren’t going to cut it anymore. Most guests have a subscription to one streaming platform or another, and they want to continue watching their favorite television shows while traveling. Consider installing smart TVs that allow guests to connect their devices and access their own content.

Shared spaces

A recent trend that we’ve blogged about before is the millennial-led demand for shared-living spaces. Travelers today are prioritizing experiences and looking to socialize. Creating versatile spaces where guests can work, read a book, and mingle, will help foster the environment this new generation of travelers is seeking.

Amenities matter. They’re what elevate the customer experience from good to excellent. Make sure you’re doing everything you can to win your customers’ bookings and earn their loyalty.

5 Hospitality Trends to Look Out For in 2019

A new year is beginning, and it’s the perfect time to take stock of what’s working, what isn’t, and start making a plan for finding success and wowing customers in 2019. Need a change but lack inspiration? Here are a few hospitality trends that will dominate in the new year:

More Mobile

The transition to an all-mobile world continues. It seems like every year there are new steps hoteliers must take to stay mobile friendly. In the beginning, that just meant ensuring websites were optimized for mobile devices. Oh, how far we’ve come. Moving into 2019 and beyond, mobile will be an important part of all aspects of the guest experience. Many hotels will allow guests to make and manage bookings through hotel apps, check-in and out on their mobile devices, and access rooms with a mobile key. Rooms will be equipped with smart technology that allows lighting, temperature, and entertainment to be controlled via personal devices and room service orders and other requests will be made over text messaging. Mobile technology has found its way into every aspect of our lives, and that includes travel. So, consider ways to make your business more mobile friendly. This is a trend that isn’t going away.

Health and Well-Being

Moving into the new year, wellness tourism (travel with the intent to maintain or improve health) will be even bigger than it was in 2018. In fact, the industry is forecasted to reach $919 billion in revenue by 2022. With numbers like that, there’s good reason to incorporate health and wellness into your hospitality business. And there are a variety of options for accomplishing this: from installing fitness centers, health spas or saunas, to hosting retreats and serving healthy food options. If you don’t have the necessary facilities on-site, consider partnering with a local business. You could provide a health and wellness package that includes passes to a nearby studio.

Social, Social, Social

This will likely come as no surprise, but social media will continue to play a significant role in 2019. This year we will see a shift towards more ephemeral content, with live-streaming and social media stories gaining momentum across many popular platforms. And behind the scenes, social listening will become a more prevalent marketing practice—allowing businesses to monitor online chatter about their brand for more effective lead generation and reputation management.

Cool Tech

The futuristic tech that we’ve blogged about in the past will begin to gain traction in the hospitality industry this year. It’s predicted that chatbots will be involved in more than 85% of customer service interactions by the year 2020—which isn’t surprising. AI can provide 24/7 service while significantly reducing cost. And there is little customer resistance as consumers adjust to the use of chatbots and other digital assistants in all aspects of their lives.

Though still in its infancy, the use of robots in hospitality will also continue to climb this year. What began as an exciting novelty, has become an essential piece of the customer service puzzle in a few larger hotels across North America and Asia. Like chatbots, they have the potential to maximize service while reducing staffing costs.

Other tech trends to look out for this year include the use of biometrics and virtual reality.

Adults-only

While many hotels invest in amenities that cater to the whole family, there is a growing subset of properties doing just the opposite. Adults-only properties (all guests must be 16 years or older to stay) are seeing an upswing in popularity recently that will likely continue into the new year. As more and more adults seek out the tranquility of a kid-free holiday, middle and budget properties are participating in what used to be the exclusive territory of luxury resorts in the Caribbean.

The hospitality industry is always evolving. It’s important to stay abreast of changes in design, operations, and technology, so you don’t get left behind. Keep these current and emerging trends in mind when looking to make changes this year.

BYOD: A Hospitality Trend Worth the Buzz

People are very dependent on their phones and tablets—especially when they travel. In fact, a recent study found that mobile devices are considered the “single most indispensable item” by travelers. That puts them ahead of essentials like a driver’s license and toothbrush. With people that attached to their smartphones, it’s no surprise that the BYOD trend is gaining steam in the hospitality industry.

What is BYOD?

BYOD—or ‘bring your own device”— refers to the practice of having employees (or, in this case, customers) access applications with their personal devices (instead of using company-owned ones). It’s a trend that makes sense. Virtually everyone is already carrying a powerful phone or tablet around with them. And it’s a device they have experience on and feel comfortable with. So why not let them use it and save on hardware costs?

How can BYOD be used in hospitality?

BYOD policies have been adopted in many industries to great effect. And hospitality is no exception. There are many ways a BYOD-friendly environment can benefit lodging operators (and their guests).

In-room applications >> Many lodging operators have equipped their hotels with in-room tablets. These devices act as control centers, with applications for lighting and climate control, ordering room-service, and making requests and reservations. They’re a great addition to any room, but all those tablets add up. If you adopt a BYOD system, your guests get the convenience of centralized control without the cost (not to mention the ongoing maintenance) of expensive hardware for you.

Streaming >> Whether it’s Netflix, YouTube, Spotify or any of the many other options out there, most people use at least one streaming service. And these types of platforms are only going to get more popular. Creating a BYOD environment means guests can access the content they know and love while staying at your property. And it’s a great opportunity to upsell. 60% of respondents in a survey said they would pay between $3.99 and $6.99 for the ability to stream personal content.

Keyless entry >> Another hospitality trend enabled by BYOD policies? Mobile keys. A simple app allows guests to unlock their door with their smartphones. Not only is this more convenient for them, but it also saves you—and the environment—the cost of printing all those plastic keys (Did you know a 200-room property goes through roughly 12 000 per year?).

Mobile check-in >> Becoming more mobile-friendly is all about making your guests’ stay more convenient. And providing the opportunity for mobile check-in does just that. It’s a chance for customers to skip the queue and they welcome it with open arms.

Things to consider

We’ve talked a lot about the benefits of a BYOD hotel, but there are a few things you should consider when jumping on the bandwagon.

Infrastructure >> Setting up a BYOD-friendly property does involve some initial investment. If you want to offer personal streaming in your rooms, you’ll need TV’s with streaming capability (think smart TVs, Chromecast, or Apple TVs). Keyless entry requires compatible door locks. And climate control applications have to be paired with smart lights and appliances.

Bandwidth >> Another concern with a BYOD environment is bandwidth. Relying on guests’ personal devices means free WiFi is a must, and that could put a strain on your internet service. That being said, WiFi is so important to guest satisfaction these days, that you’ll probably need to invest in as much bandwidth as you can get regardless.

 

The ubiquity of smartphones and other mobile devices has changed the hospitality industry in many ways, especially when it comes to consumer expectations. Personalization is the name of the game and creating a BYOD environment is a great step in that direction.

 

7 Tips for a Work-Friendly Property

As more and more of the workforce has begun telecommuting (at least part-time), a new demographic has emerged in the travel industry. No longer tethered to the office, these remote workers have the ability to do their jobs from anywhere in the world. It’s a freedom many are taking advantage of—taking extended trips to exciting destinations without any time-constraints. But their newfound freedom doesn’t mean ditching their responsibilities altogether. They still need to do their jobs, and that requires finding accommodation that can serve as a comfortable and productive workspace.

Here are some tips for ensuring your property is ready for the remote workforce so you can capitalize on this growing market:

Design

Make it bright and beautiful >> Remote workers are going to be spending a lot of time at the accommodation they book, so they’ll want an inviting atmosphere. Ensure there’s lots of natural light, and unique design touches—which will enhance both productivity and creativity respectively. And try to infuse some local flavor into the decor. It’ll connect guests with their destination even when they’re stuck working indoors.

Feature multiple work-friendly spaces >> While you’ll likely have one space designed specifically for working, try and highlight some secondary areas that a guest might want to work from. Whether it’s a cozy armchair with a side-table, a chaise lounge on the patio or a comfortable bar chair at a breakfast counter, remote workers want to know they have options for moving around throughout the day.

Workspace

Provide the fundamentals >> Whatever spaces you design to serve as workstations require a couple of key pieces. In addition to a chair and tabletop, you’ll need to ensure there is a nearby electrical outlet, flexible lighting options, and a strong WiFi signal. And if possible, it’s preferable for the primary work area to be its own distinct space—as opposed to doubling as the kitchen table, for example—so guests can leave their work materials set up for the entirety of their stay.

Use ergonomic furniture >> For guests that are going to be working hours at a time it’s important to have furniture that is functional and comfortable.  Chairs should be sturdy, with good back support and tables should have a smooth surface with enough space for a laptop, coffee, and a book or two.

Get rid of clutter >> While a few unique design pieces can be useful for inspiring creativity, too many things lying around can be distracting. Make sure to avoid clutter so your guests can be at their most productive while on the job.

Special touches

Include local insights >> If you provide a local guide for your guests, consider including info specifically for your remote-working clientele. This could include recommendations for cafes to work at during the day as well as the nearest post offices and printing shops. They’ll appreciate the gesture.

Provide the supplies >> If you really want to impress your telecommuting guests, you can also include a few office essentials. A basket of pens and pencils, notepads, and post-its is a nice touch that won’t go unnoticed by your customers. And it won’t break the bank either.

Telecommuting is on the rise, and many people are seizing the opportunity to travel more and work on-the-go. There’s a whole new segment of travelers looking for vacation accommodation that can double as a home office. Make sure you’re doing everything you can to catch the eye of these potential guests. They’re a growing cohort with the flexibility to book extended stays and return regularly. So don’t miss out!

Beyond the Bedroom: Hotel Design Trends for 2018

Today’s savvy nomad has realized that the hotel experience is an integral aspect of travel. Hotels are no longer merely the place of a morning departure and evening return, the place to shower and sleep, the place just to hang one’s hat; many guests expect their hotel to be an experience and an extension of its locale. Services and amenities continue to be important, and a beautiful space is essential, but travelers are increasingly choosing and returning to hotels based on ambiance. In other words, how your space feels is as important as what your hotel offers. Many recommend that a hotel create a home away from home, and that’s certainly important in the sense of comfort. A hotel should aim to be as comfortable as a home, but shouldn’t it offer more ease? In a sense, a hotel’s space should aspire to feel like the ideal home.

Rethink Ambiance

Travelers have eclectic tastes and strong expectations; still, it’s possible to enthuse them with unexpected features. The details of these features will depend on the brand you want to portray and story you want to tell – and make no mistake; ambiance tells a story. Decor continues to trend towards minimalism; however, simplicity can be executed in many ways. Some are choosing to mix neutral colors with soft blues, greens, and yellows. Others showcase one bold color – like a deep blue, red, or purple – set against softer creams and whites. Still others include urban art (like graffiti) as a striking visual statement. Mix and match tones, textures, and styles to produce unpredictable and engaging results.

One of the unique aspects your hotel has at its disposal is… itself. What is the history of the hotel? The building? If newly built, what is the inspiration behind its design? What is the history of the community? Every hotel has a story. Tell it through the traditional mediums of photographs, art, and displays, but also in the furniture you choose and the overall mood you set. Including pieces from local artists and artisans is a great way to tell your and your community’s story, and can also give your guests a unique glimpse at local ways of seeing the broader world.

This year many hoteliers will also rethink the function of their spaces.

Lobbies >> Front desks are increasingly being replaced with sit-down concierge desks where guests sip on coffee or wine while the check-in is conducted by staff with iPads. The lobby is your guest’s first interaction with a hotel’s physical space. It should be inviting, not pragmatic. Many hotels already have cafes, restaurants, or bars connected to their lobbies. Others are thinking beyond those mainstays, incorporating specialized bookstores, galleries, and libraries into their lobbies, opening a space for community members and guests to interact.

Rooms >> How often do guests use all the drawers in hotel rooms? Or hang a full closet of clothes? If your hotel caters to short stay visitors (and most do), the trend in room design is moving towards simplification with furniture designed especially for hotel rooms, including wall racks for hanging clothes, bed frames that enable a guest to slide their luggage underneath, and nightstands that double for desks. This trend is particularly appealing to hoteliers in urban markets where square footage is limited. Simplified furniture lends a spacious feel without needing as much space. Also, by designing variations in layout and differences in decor (through wall treatments, rugs, and lighting), hotels are increasingly providing a more distinct, fresh, and memorable experience, one that guests will be inspired to relive.

Incorporate Nature

Including natural elements in hotel design is not new in 2018, but it has recently gained a new name, and with that comes a whole philosophy for rebuilding a relationship between humans and their environment. Biophilic Design will be on many designers minds this year. Biophilic Design seeks to remedy the discord between our lifestyle (especially urban) and our innate desire to connect with nature. Designers with this mindset aim to integrate buildings into their surroundings, incorporate natural elements like large plants, wood and stone, and maximize natural light. In a hotel’s communal spaces, designers are incorporating vertical gardens and multi-level terraces. At resorts, room sizes are decreasing to make room for larger balconies and verandas. In urban and rural hotels alike, expansive windows enable the local foliage and panoramic views to become part of a room’s ambiance.

The Human Spaces report into the Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace suggests that having a view of nature can trigger a dopamine response, and that contact with nature “has a restorative effect,” reducing stress and contributing to overall well-being.  Designing spaces that incorporate elements from nature encourages an emotional connection with our environment, which will not only provide a sense of experience in your guests but also contribute to the productivity of your staff.

Embrace Technology

We crave more interaction with nature and people, but we’re also not willing to relinquish our electronic devices. Hotels should design bedrooms, boardrooms, and communal spaces that allow guests to stay connected.

Designers are creating clever ways to hide charging stations and preserve the décor of a room. Seamless doors in desks or nightstands open or lift to reveal USB ports and electrical outlets, enabling the modern guest to quickly plug in for work or play. Other designers are creating innovative ways to incorporate ports and outlets into the design of their headboards and other pieces. Hotels are also providing ports to enable guests to connect to their own media (Netflix, Apple TV, Google Play and YouTube) to watch their own content on the bigger screen. This is especially attractive for families who desire immediate access to cartoons and other programming for their young children, but many of us live in a world where we’re used to having our media at the tips of our thumbs. Offering access to our own media is one more way to offer the comforts of home, and offering access through innovative designs has the potential to elevate those home comforts.

Hotels are continuing to adopt smart technology like solar panels and personalized tablets to control room temperature and room service, but hotels are also ushering us into the future by embracing dynamic design features like wallpaper that changes color or pattern based on light and temperature. The hotels that deliver the most memorable experiences in 2018 will fuse innovation, design, and storytelling with comfort, leaving guests to return home to tell not only of their adventuring in your community, but of the experience they enjoyed throughout your hotel.