Expert Insights: Hotel Execs Talk Latest Technology Projects and Predictions
According to new research from the Travel Channel, one of the busiest travel seasons is right around the corner. In fact, its latest study reveals insight into the travel plans and preferences of Americans — most importantly, how many of them are planning to take an end-of-year vacation. Here are some of the results of the Travel Channel survey:
- 67% of Americans plan to use vacation days and/or paid time off to hit the road this holiday season.
- Nearly a quarter of these travelers (24%) are planning to travel for longer than six days.
- The vast majority of travelers (72%) said they will drive to their destinations, while 44% are planning to travel by air.
- Nearly one-third (28%) plan to spend in excess of $500 on the trip.
So while hoteliers are preparing for the onslaught of reservations nearing the end of the year (not just in the U.S., but globally as well), HT tapped into the minds of hotel technology executives to reveal the latest projects they have been working on, including their predictions of what technology to watch in the New Year.
HT: What technology accomplishments are you proud of implementing in 2019?
Michael Cady, VP of Marketing, Charlestowne Hotels: We’re proud of implementing a complete two-way interface CRM platform with automated event and drip marketing across our portfolio. Our CRM is sending personalized automated emails and SMS for just about anything; birthdays, anniversaries, six and 12 month reminders (since last stay), along with niche segmentation to our high revenue guest, long length of stay guests and really everything in between based on guest habits. To that point, we’ve also rolled out automatic room upgrade notifications and amenity upsell pre-arrival, driven off of PMS real time occupancy data.
Theresa van Greunen, Senior Director of Corporate Communications, Aqua-Aston Hospitality: As one of Hawaii’s largest hospitality companies and host to over 5.5-million guests each year, Aqua-Aston Hospitality (AAH) sought to streamline management of its increasing volume of online guest inquiries. In 2019, we ran audits and identified that majority of the inquiries coming through Facebook Messenger related to reservations. After identifying the need for a more efficient online customer service presence, AAH successfully integrated Live Chat with Facebook Messenger to route relevant inquiries our customer service team, which operates 24/7. This new development resulted in quicker response times – whereas in previous years, it would take up to a few days for guests to receive responses. Following tremendously positive results from integrating Live Chat and social media, AAH is among the first global brands to integrate the new Apple Business Chat and Google Business Message features with our online platforms.
HT: What hotel tech trends are you most excited about?
Gavin Philipp, VP of Operations, Charlestowne Hotels: When a guest stays at a hotel, they expect their personal device (cell phone, tablet, etc.) to do whatever it is they need it to do automatically – hotels need to be able to deploy the technology to do that seamlessly. We’re excited to see hotels move away from adding in-room/public area tech and instead, focus on ensuring personal tech is integrated with the hotel itself.
van Greunen: I’m excited to see how integrating Apple Business Chat and Google Business Messenger will help us elevate our communication with potential, current and past guests, and reinvent an experience that has a reputation to seem automated become highly personalized. Consumers want a seamless experience that lives within one platform and with Apple Business Chat, they’ll now have the opportunity to pick up the same conversation on any connected device, whether it be their iPhone, MacBook or iPad. Following the launch of our entirely mobile-friendly website, we have been inspired by the positive feedback Aqua-Aston A-Listers (loyalty rewards program) have shared about their new experience on mobile platforms and look forward to continuing to make the trip planning and booking experience more efficient.
HT: Looking into the near future, what technologies do you see becoming more important to the hospitality industry?
Philipp: I anticipate there will be more market intelligence and a larger push around F&B technology that allows hoteliers to have more concrete data on how F&B/restaurants are performing. It’s currently very siloed and anecdotal, so the more tangible data we have, the more successful we can be.
Cady: At the core of next year’s tech trends is system connectivity and personalization. We anticipate seeing this more with the integration of market and hotel BI tools into CRM software – the BI figures all the data out, instantly connects to the CRM and then personalized messages are deployed to guests or potential guests based on real data.
van Greunen: With customization in consumer technology more prevalent than ever, hospitality brands will need to up the ante when it comes to digital customer service experiences that feel personal in the near future. Leveraging tools like AI, and offering guests more mobile options like text communication can provide a better customer experience that’s convenient and seamless. Integrating customer service experiences with social media and offering 24/7 support that feels personal also present opportunities to improve with hospitality technology, and I expect it to eventually become an industry standard. By integrating live chat features and making more personal connections via customer support platforms, rather than directing to a help desk or FAQ page on a website, brands can provide immediate assistance and a more personalized solution for a current or potential guest.