Category Archives: Hotels

Survey: Luxury Travel Trends in 2014

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Social media has become a dynamic way to attract guests in recent years with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and many other platforms exploding onto the scene.  Popular among Generation Y travelers, these forums are used as an online guest feedback tool, a place to share pictures while on a trip or even find recommendations for things to do on vacation.

However, when looking at Luxury Travel Trends in 2014, social media does not quite stack up to a review site or the traditional word of mouth endorsement from friends, family or an acquaintance.

Luxury Link, a leading luxury travel website, conducted a survey of 1,600 discerning and high-income (household income over $100,000) travelers to garner some insight about how these individuals will travel in 2014.  Here are some of those numbers, statistics and trends:

-Among global respondents, 29.7% stated they are most interested in visiting Europe, while 27.3% are Caribbean-bound.  Of those individuals traveling to Europe, 60.5% listed major cities like London, Paris and Rome as a primary area of interest.  Caribbean travelers will head to Turks and Caicos, the British Virgin Islands and Saint Lucia.

-Two countries, Croatia and Portugal, where tabbed as up-and-coming travel destinations in 2014.

-Staying active is important to high-end travelers with 46.3% of respondents planning to incorporate adventures such as hiking, sailing or SCUBA diving into their trips.

-Foodie-focused travelers make up 40.7% of the survey, and try to center their trips on fine dining and/or cooking classes.

-Travelers were asked to rank the relative importance of five travel resources in the vacation-planning process.  The results are as follows:

1) Review Sites (TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc.)

2) Booking Sites (Luxury Link, Kayak, Orbitz, etc.)

3) Word of mouth/personal recommendations

4) Media Content (TV shows, online videos, blogs, newspapers)

5) Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest)

 

-Must have hotel amenities in 2014 include:

1) Free WiFi (75.7% of respondents)

2) Early Check-In/Late Check Out (53.6%)

3) Free Breakfast (47.1%)

If you consider your property to be a luxury destination, you do not want to disregard social media as an advertising tool completely.  However, it is also important to dedicate your advertising dollars to mediums that will attract high-end guests.   A presence in a variety of mediums will keep your property visible, and hopefully keep travelers coming through your doors.

 

Data Security Breaches: What Hoteliers Need to Know

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When retail giants Target and Neiman Marcus experienced security breaches with customer credit cards during the 2013 holiday season, it highlighted a growing crisis that must concern owners and operators of hotels as well.  Bob Braun, a senior member of Hospitality Net’s Global Hospitality Group looks at the issue of data privacy, and offers some ways to ensure hacking does not happen to you.

The Target and Neiman Marcus Problem:

Approximately 50 million Americans – more than 15% of the nation’s population – woke up one morning in December to find their credit card information had been compromised while Christmas shopping.  We are not talking about local small businesses that may not be completely tech-savvy, and have the wool pulled over their eyes.  In total, more than 70 million victims were compromised thanks to a security breach at major retail outlets.

Hoteliers Beware:

Hotels are obvious targets for identity and financial theft for many reasons.  Hotels transact a majority of business through credit cards, and those cards remain on file and are accessed multiple times during a guest’s stay.  As items like room service, a spa charge or a restaurant bill are charged to your card, the opportunity for an identity thief to access the information using sophisticated computer hacks, and other malicious software, normally without the hotel’s knowledge, increases substantially.

The recent technology boom across the travel industry has forced many properties to offer wireless internet access.  Typically, this service is unsecured, and an unsecured wireless network is “just as dangerous as leaving files of your most important personal documents on a curb for all to see.” (PC World)  At the same time, hotels have little say in the matter, as guests are constantly demanding wireless internet service.

Finally, hotels typically have a large number of employees, and many of these individuals have access to the credit card and other personal information of guests.  No matter how well trained and supervised, more personnel correlates to greater risk.  Factor in that low-level employees typically have access to this key information, and a historically high turnover among hotel employees and the problem becomes exacerbated.

What Should You Do?

There are some general considerations that all firms should be aware of that are essential to securing information.  These include:

1) Inventory and Identify Information – Hotel operators should inventory potentially sensitive information and document on which computers, servers and laptops it is stored.

2) Restrict Access and Collection of Data – Operators and owners should keep sensitive information on the fewest number of computers or servers.  The fewer copies of data you have, the easier it is to protect.

3) Use Technology – Hotels should utilize encryption and other means for storing, and secure connections for receiving or transmitting, credit card information and other sensitive data.

4) Design and Implement Effective Policies and Procedures – Firms should design, institute and follow and effective privacy policy, including policies for using social media, and should be careful not the overstate effectiveness of these measures.  It is always important to remember that no system is completely safe.

5) Passwords and Access – For internal communications and information, protect sensitive data with strong passwords, and change these passwords on a regular basis.

6) Deal with Vendors – The growing trend in computer systems and services is having expert vendors, outside the company, handle these matters.   Make sure to check their security practices, review agreements with these vendors to ensure they are implementing the best practices and that they are responsible for the security of the information they handle.

7) Review you Insurance – Cybersecurity insurance has gone through tremendous changes in just the past few years.   Make sure to review your policies and ensure that they are effective in providing meaningful coverage for your business.

Most importantly, hotel companies need to make a commitment to securing sensitive information.  The investment in protecting your hotel today prevents you from being front-page news – for all the wrong reasons – later.

A Day in the Life of a Data Traveler

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Improving the travel experience is a goal across the entire hospitality industry.  Technology now plays a critical role in the travel experience and smartphones have now become one of the most essential travel accessories today.  In 2013 alone, mobile data traffic soared, reaching 12 times the size of the entire global Internet in 2000.

Kelsey Cox of Marketing Tech Blog examines how smartphones have changed the travel experience, and influence how you make decisions.  Here are some of the key statistics she highlights in a helpful Infographic created by Mophie:

  • 82.6% of leisure travelers use their smartphones all the time on vacation.  This is a similar number to the percentage of leisure travelers (88%) who identify their smartphones as the top must-have device when on vacation.  Smartphones rank ahead of digital cameras, GPS and tablets.
  • On average, the top daily cell phone activities include:  talking on the phone (23 min./day), texting (20), e-mailing (18), browsing websites (16 ) and social networking (11).
  • Leisure and business travelers both have the need to feel connected while they are traveling, producing a skyrocketing of data usage while abroad.
  • Many travelers, unfamiliar with an area, will use their phones to find the perfect restaurant, an internet café or the closest beach, hotel or tourist attraction.

Find out more about a typical day in the life of a data traveler and take a closer look at the Infographic here.

Hotels Expand Mobile Check-In Options

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As you have seen in many of our recent posts, a number of key trends and tips in the hospitality and travel industry focus on the expansion of multi-channel travelers.  Everyone is traveling with a smartphone or tablet, and hoteliers need to recognize how important a tool these devices can be throughout the travel process.

The recent boom of mobile websites and applications allows travelers to book rooms with the click of a button.  Now, because of a growing demand from tech savvy travelers, properties need to incorporate mobile check-in options to help guests avoid the front desk lines.

A recent Business Travel News article took a deeper look at what some brands and individual hotels are doing to make checking in an easier and faster process for travelers worldwide.

While check-in kiosks and other methods of avoiding the front desk line in recent years have become the commonplace at hotels, there has been a slow integration of mobile technology into this sometimes tedious process.  There has been a greater adoption of mobile technology across some major hotel brands.

At the same time, some third-party technology suppliers are providing tools for hotels and distributors to offer mobile check-in.

Major Brands Getting Involved

Marriott Hotels will offer mobile check-in at all 500 of its hotels globally during the first half of 2014.  Guests who are members can check in via the Marriott Mobile App from 4 p.m. on the day before arrival.  When these guests arrive, their key card is waiting for them at a designated mobile check-in desk.

Hyatt Hotels and Resorts has a similar process at select hotels, with kiosks available for incoming guests to retrieve keys.

Another big name, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, has taken a slightly different approach with nine properties currently piloting the Smart Check-In program.  Guests receive a Starwood Preferred Guest Card and, on the day of their arrival, receive a text message telling them their room number.  From this point, they can head straight to their room and use the SPG card as their key.

To learn more about third party technology suppliers that are providing mobile check-in options, and to read the full Business Travel News article, click here.

Five Ways Hotels can use Facebook’s Insights Platform

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Analytics software has moved to the social media platform as Facebook has released Facebook Insights, a new platform for all business listings.  With Insights, you have access to more data that shows just how likeable your brand is.  Here are five tips to keep in mind that will help you to better connect with your audience:

1. Follow Your Page’s Weekly Trends

The Overview section of the platform provides you with a quick look at Likes, Reach and Engagement over the past week.  You will also find a log of your five most recent posts.  Viewing this information on a weekly basis allow your to see trends and capitalize on the elements that are creating engagement in your campaign.  You will also have the opportunity to troubleshoot negative performance trends before they become an ongoing problem.

2. Figure out Your Optimal Posting Time

Marketers have put a substantial amount of research into discovering what the best times are to post on Facebook.  The Insights platform takes this a step further by tailoring this information specifically to your audience.  This is a great tool for helping you to organize your posting schedule during the days of the weeks, and hours of the day, when your audience is most reachable.

3. Customize Your Content for Your Audience

It is not enough to know only who is reading your posts, and when they are reading it.  The Post Types tab of Facebook Insights will show you what type of content your audience is responding to, as well as a post-by-post breakdown of recent posts.  It is still important to diversify your content, but focusing on post types that generate the most reach and engagement will certainly help your cause.

4. Make Sure You Are Not Alienating Your Audience

As with all forms of social media, your Facebook Page can never be all things to all people, but you do want to make sure your content is generating more positive reactions than negative ones.  The Reach Tab on Facebook Insight helps you determine when you are reaching people and how they are reacting.  Here, you will be able to see Hide, Report as Spam and Unlikes in a graph right below Likes, Comments and Shares.  These will all be a direct reaction to your posts, so if the negative reactions surpass the positive, you should look up that day’s content and avoid similar items in the future.

5. Get to Know Your Fans

You will be able to find a demographic breakdown for a wide variety of categories including those people checking into your property, those who are seeing or engaging with your content, or just your overall fan base.  This information will be helpful in tailoring your content to your audience, or planning future fan acquisition campaigns.

If, for example, you are seeing a demographic that is particularly engaged with your content or a demographic that is lacking on Facebook but is typically a strong market for your property, you can plan future campaigns to reach those users.

Survey: Majority of Americans Planning to Travel

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A recent survey by the U.S. Travel Insurance Association (USTia) found that a majority of Americans plan to travel in 2014, taking more than two trips.  The survey found that 61% of the participants said they will travel in the coming calendar year with an average of 2.4 vacation trips planned.  Of that group, 30% said they will take three or more trips.  Here are a few other numbers and notes you might find interesting regarding the survey:

  • The survey found that respondents’ likelihood of traveling rose along with income levels.  Almost three-quarters (73%) of respondents earning $50,000 or more will take at least one vacation trip, while only 46% who earn less than $50,000 said they plan to travel.
  • Respondents’ travel likelihood also rose along with education levels.  Of the respondents with college degrees, 70% said they will travel in 2014, compared to 56% for those without degrees.
  • 70% of married respondents said that they plan to take a trip in the next year, while only 52% of unmarried individuals responded the same way.
  • Domestic itineraries will likely dominate the travel landscape in 2014 as 85% of respondents said they will vacation within the U.S. and Canada.

Understanding the Third Space and Your Property

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The third space describes the place where people meet outside of the home (first space) and office (second space).  Engineering parts of your hotel as flourishing third spaces will play to your advantage for higher occupancy levels and hotel cache.

Whether you have heard the term “third space” before or not, it is something that should be given some thought going forward.  Recent shifts in consumer behavior dictate that you fully understand this concept and its potential to enhance your property’s atmosphere.

The term third space was originally coined by the sociologist Ray Oldenburg in his book “The Great Good Place” to describe a public or neutral center for community building, civic engagement, intellectual discourse, peer encouragement and group validation.

Some examples of third spaces in your community may include cafes, markets, bazaars, pubs, bars, clubs shopping malls, barber shops, recreation halls and even post offices as long as they are designed correctly.  Third spaces, in essence, are places where people can unleash their inner social animals by exchanging opinions, stories and theories to the benefit of everyone present.

Starbucks provides an excellent example of a third space.  Over the past two decades, the franchise has experienced exponential growth thanks to superb products, but also because of the atmosphere the store exudes.

The vibe surrounding this java haven is not one of “grab and get out as quickly as possible.”  Instead, Starbucks uses warmly colored furnishings and humble décor to encourage customers to sit and enjoy their beverages and snacks.

Why Care?

You may be asking yourself, why should I care about promoting a part of my property as a third space?  Third spaces are almost as important as the home and the offices because they are the places that individuals frequent to enrich their lifestyles.

Working in the hospitality industry has to mean more than just looking at the numbers.  Property owners and hoteliers should aim to nurture guests and offer them a common area to develop their own identities.  This quality is not captured in accounting ledgers, but will certainly have an emotional impact on your guests.  You will see this impact with increased loyalty and positive word of mouth.

Because more people are working from home – thus combining the first and second places – there is a developing desire to offset the monotony of a single space.  Visiting a local hotspot, for example, can service the need for the external, novel stimulation.  People want to be where the action is.

Why Now?

In addition to this tech-dependent trend (as digital communications have accelerated the merger of first and second spaces), neutral third spaces such as cafes, bars and restaurants  are now much more likely to double as hosts for casual business meetings and interviews.

You have probably already seen some sort of shift in consumer behavior that corresponds to the rise in buying power of the Gen X and millennial generations.  More surplus cash equals increased spending and more time allotted for public gathering, and both of these outcomes make these two demographics key proponents of the third space, especially as they continue to mature.

These groups are also most associated with Internet fluency, electronic communications and social media usage.  All of these digital interactions are forms of social discourse and provide numerous platforms to speak out in this ever-increasing social world.

Smartphones and other mobile devices play a significant role in our collective culture.  Any individual who is accessing the Internet for social discourse in a neutral setting is, in today’s standards, a third-space participant.  They could be on their device anywhere, but they choose to be in, and contribute to, a social ambiance.  With greater smartphone proliferation comes a greater need for third spaces.

Third-Space Criteria

It is your job to ensure that different parts of your property are optimized for a third space.  It is not necessary to meet all of these standards, but the more you can check off, the better your chances will be or creating a hotspot in your hotel.

  • Accessibility – Consumers must be able to find your neutral space, and that means making your restaurant, bar or lounge convenient for everyone.  A spot in the lobby, within sight of the front desk and elevators provides maximum visibility, and appropriate signage helps consumers identify your space.  Extended hours and a reduction of barriers (cover charges, membership requirements, dress codes, etc.) help promote belonging and equality of conversation.
  • Ambiance – It is important to strive for an informal, unassuming manner in your overall décor.  Excessively dim lighting and loud music do not allow guests to gather for work or casual purposes.  Try to aim for a playlist that inspires a lighthearted spirit.  Additionally, you can consult an interior designer to learn some more clever ways to induce a steady flow of conversation.
  • Stylish yet Ergonomic Seating – Try to give your patrons comfortable, upright chairs positioned around tables large enough to spread out a few papers or laptops.  An abundance of these set-ups allows a large group to congregate.  It is also important to allow for a reasonable amount of people watching.
  • Quality Food and Beverage – Good dialogue and a great experience can be enhanced by quality food, coffee, craft beers and mixology.  The third-space lubricants of yesteryear were pints of ale.  Today, you must weigh the positives and negatives or libations in your third space.  Alcohol and food are not mandatory, but it can certainly help set the tone for a great atmosphere.  Fascinating cuisine and cocktail choices can also make great conversation starters.
  • Tech Support – People are not hanging out “alone” in the 21st century.  Everyone has a device they are traveling with whether it is a smartphone, tablet or laptop.  Power outlets should not be sparse or hidden, even if that means running a few extra wires around the place.  If you are really looking to create a bustling area, make Wi-Fi free!
  • Savvy Staff – The final main characteristic of a modern third space is the presence of regular patrons.  Just like the hit TV show “Cheers” pointed out, sometime you just want to go “where everybody knows your name.”  The wait staff at your third space provides the connective glue to nurture stead guests and convert first-timers into long-standing “regulars”.  You cannot just hire anyone for this role.  Staff members need to be socially smart, remember who regulars are, be thoroughly knowledgeable on all menu items and receptive to inducting newcomers by opening conversation.

How Much Should You Be Spending on SEO?

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Nearly every business today must make a decision about how much to spend on search engine optimization (SEO).  This is no longer an “if” question for businesses as a robust online marketing strategy is imperative for survival in a web-driven world.

“How much will we spend on SEO?” is the question that every business professional must ask themselves in 2014.  One of Search Engine Watch’s 10 most popular stories of the 2013, written by Jayson DeMars, took deeper look at SEO spending.  Here are a few helpful tips from DeMars, and hopefully all the information you will need to help make a decision about hiring an SEO agency and forging a crucial partnership with an online marketing firm.

SEO Payment Models

To get a better understanding of the dollars and cents you will be spending on services, it is important to understand the payment models used by agencies.  Typically these agencies offer four main forms of services and payment:

  • Monthly Retainer:  Clients in this model will pay a set fee each month in exchange for an agreed-upon array of services.  This is the most common payment model because it provides the greatest return on investment (ROI).  These arrangements commonly include regular analytics reports, on-site content improvements, keyword research and optimization.  (Average Range of Rates: $750-5,000 per month) 
  • Contract Services at Fixed Prices:  Typically before a client is ready to engage in a monthly retainer, they will select contract services they wish to have completed.   SEO agencies will commonly list their services on their site, along with a price.  An example of one of these services could be an SEO website audit, which will help determine your current strengths and weaknesses as well as keywords with the highest ROI potential.  (Variable Prices dependent on services)
  • Project-Based Pricing:  Project fees are similar to contract services, but they are customized specifically for the client.  Pricing will vary according to the project.  A local business may want an agency to help with local online marketing by establishing social media accounts.  Together the business owner and the SEO agency will decide on the scope and cost of the project.  (Variable prices typically between $1,000 and $30,000)
  • Hourly Consulting:  This familiar consulting model is an hourly fee in exchange for services or information.  (Average Range of Rates: $100-300/hr.)

Things You Should Be Suspicious of

With the amount of money you will be spending on SEO, it is important to heed a few warnings to ensure that you are getting the best service available.  Be suspicious of the following promises:

  • Guarantees – SEO firms generally cannot provide guarantees due to the constantly changing nature of the industry.
  • Instant Results – It is true that using some SEO tactics will garner “instant results” by gaming the system, but these can hurt you in the long run.  Instant results often involve SEO practices that are against the webmaster guidelines put out by search engines.  Major search engines like Google seek out these techniques and penalize them, resulting in a loss in rankings that could take months to make up.
  • #1 Spot on Google – It always sounds great when a company makes a promise like this, and hopefully you will be able to get it.  However, this is not something a firm can promise to hand over to you.
  • Costs Lower than $750/Month – When it comes to SEO, it is always great to find a bargain, but you really are not shopping for the lowest price.  What you should be looking for in your SEO agency is the best level of service.  Be wary of rock bottom prices or “unbelievable deals.”
  • Shady Link Building Services – Link building is an incredibly important part of SEO.  It is impossible to have a highly-ranked site without inbound links.  As with most things, there is a dark side of link building.  Link trust is gaining importance to appear high in the rankings.  Make sure your agency’s link building services are ethical, white label services.  You may even want to ask them where they may be able to gain links for a business in the hospitality industry.

Things to Keep in Mind

  • SEO Takes Time.  A Monthly Retainer is Best. You must think of SEO as a long-term investment.  Aggressive campaigns and major pushes have their place, but the best and most enduring SEO results come from a long-term relationship.  The best agencies do not just wave a magic wand and get instant results.  Instead, they perform extensive operations that will produce results months down the road.
  • SEO Changes, and Your Rankings Will Change, Too.  There are plenty of competitors out there for your company to battle, and rankings will rise and fall with the changing of algorithms along with the entrance of new competitors.  It takes constant monitoring to keep your website ranking high on results pages and performing at top-notch levels.  Stay away from the one-and-done SEO tricks that simply do not work!
  • Not All SEO Services are Created Equal.  You have to keep in mind that SEO is not about shopping around for the lowest prices.  You should be focusing on finding the finest agency you can.  An SEO agency that defines its scope of services and takes the time to educate you is what every company should be looking for.
  • SEO is Important.  Do it.  The point of having a website is to increase and/or improve your business.  Unless people are finding your website, it is not even worth having one.  Do the smart thing and pay what it takes to keep your site findable by the people who are looking!
  • Hiring an SEO Agency is Best.  Do not fall into the mindset that you will be able to manage your SEO on your own.  A tiny percentage of business owners or professionals have the skill and savvy to do their own SEO.  On top of this, comprehensive SEO takes much more time than most business owners can afford.  Save yourself the stress because more than likely you will never get the same level of ROI that you would with a competent SEO agency.

For many modern businesses, SEO is the highest ROI marketing effort.  Direct mailing, broadcast advertising, online ads and other forms of advertisement do not provide the value SEO can.  It is no longer a question of whether businesses will spend, but how much to spend. As long as a quality SEO agency is the choice, the decision has the potential to lead to incredible amounts of revenue.