Monthly Archives: December 2015

Guest Experience Trends: What To Watch In ’16


There have been countless reports and studies on guests trends for the coming year. And there’s no shortage of trend-related articles on Hotel News Now.

But what exactly can travelers expect in 2016 when it comes to the guests experience? HNN sought to answer that question with this virtual roundtable. We asked hotel industry folks with an array of backgrounds the following question:

What’s a trend not on everyone’s radar that will affect the guests experience in 2016?


On luxury

Mark Harmon, managing partner, Auberge Resorts Collection: “Luxury resort guests today, more than ever before, are seeking custom-designed experiences and highly-personalized service. They’re enjoying sophisticated cuisine in settings that are relaxed and social and they’re embracing service that’s unscripted. Guests are looking to the operator to be the destination advisor and to create a one-of-a-kind experience that surprise and delight. In every aspect of the resort experience, this new approach is taking off, and it will continue to evolve in 2016 and beyond.”


On hotel design

Harry Wheeler, principal, Group One Partners: “Art is becoming increasingly more important to our hotel designs to enhance the overall guest experience and fulfill their desire for authenticity. Art, sculpture and the reuse of historical artifacts and their integration into the architecture of the building play a huge role in providing travelers with a personal and customized experience and connection with hotel brands. By creating viewing areas and architectural elements to frame this art, we are immersing guests in their cultural surroundings by giving them a hotel with a personality that celebrates its place in the world.”


On technology

Matthew Schuyler, EVP and chief human resources officer, Hilton Worldwide Holdings: “Rapid advances in technology continue to shape and change how we interact with brands, products and people, changing the way we live and learn. Consumers now expect a customized experience. The challenge for companies is how we leverage technology to provide consistency at scale when needed while, at the same time, providing unique the experience being demanded by our customers. … Our guests, they want to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to their experiences with our company.”


On F&B

Thomas Conran, principal, Greenwood Hospitality: “The mantra for the coming year will continue to push operators to think outside the box and create a unique multi-faceted experience. The focus to infuse healthy and hyper-local ingredients into food-and-beverage items will be on the rise. More focus on the sustainability and locally sourced animal proteins will occur and whether it be root vegetables, compressed melons or fresh garnishes they will all find their way into bar and nosh offerings, main plate attractions and cocktails as well. Further development in the use of aromatic spices and sauce blends will be found in cocktails, ‘mocktails’ and even snacks. Additionally, ceviche, sashimi and crudo and distinct ethnic flavors will continue to grow in popularity, providing diners an opportunity to explore greater portions of a menu in a single experience through the use of ‘small and share’ plates. Comfort food and stews will continue to gain popularity, even including variations of fried chicken. Be on the lookout for dishes utilizing new and important cuts of meat.

“On the beverage side, mock cocktails and variations of eccentric coffee offerings will become more prevalent alongside the creation of house-made sodas. Gin could become the new bourbon, yet the latter will continue to be a strong performer in the year ahead. The use of infusions and the fresh garnishes will be mainstays for the mixology discipline. Craft beers will remain healthy in 2016 and will be joined at the tap with wine offerings. Additionally, there will be a renewed focus on wine listings to include more white wine selections.

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Filed under Guest Issues, Hotel Industry, Management And Ownership, Social Media

16 Hotel Marketing Trends for 2016


2016 is right around the corner, and this past year has seen a slew of changes to the digital marketing landscape. The growth isn’t over, though – mobile is exploding and technology is expanding. That means that digital marketing, still a relatively young and swiftly-growing field, is rapidly growing and changing along with it.

Here’s an what we’re predicting:

  1. Mobile Dominates: Mobile has contributed over 94% of year-on-year growth in e-commerce traffic. On average, 21% of hotel bookings take place on Mobile devices. Make sure you’re ready for the future. (Learn More)
  2. Content is the New SEO: With an average of 30-40% of a hotel’s revenue deriving from Organic traffic, having a content strategy that goes beyond typical ‘hotel information’ is extremely valuable. Whether it’s a blog about local events or an innovative social presence now is the time to get creative.
  3. Relationship Marketing: It’s vital to market to real people, and market to therightpeople. Insights from persona marketing, machine learning, programmatic marketing and Google’s customer match will all help you talk to your guests in 2016. (Learn More)
  4. The Rise of Ad Blocking: With Ad Blocking on the rise, other methods of driving traffic to your site need to step up. Ad blocking grew globally by 41% in the past 12 months, and is expected to cost the industry $41B globally in 2016. (Learn More)
  5. Video Everywhere: Video is taking over, with auto-play clips appearing on Facebook, Instagram and elsewhere. It’s no longer restricted to your website and YouTube – in 2016, there will be more channels than ever to promote your hotel’s videos on.
  6. Buy Buttons Taking Over: Social E-Commerce is on the rise! Buy buttons on Facebook, Pinterest & other social channels will become standard as the line thins between social media and e-commerce sites. (Learn More)
  7. In-the-Moment Marketing: Being “in the moment” matters for hotels. Showing up at the right place and the right time and having a strong presence on all channels where your personas hang out is crucial, so nail down guest personas and strengthen your strategy.
  8. New Payment Methods: New ways of completing a payment, particularly on mobile are growing. Companies like Stripe are starting to change the market. 2016 will see fingerprint payment grow, more mobile payments and simplified checkout flows. (Learn More)

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Filed under Hotel Industry, Management And Ownership, Risk Management, Technology, Training

Impacting the Bottom Line in 2016


2016 promises to be the most profitable year our industry has ever seen due to strong rate growth, minimal supply impact, low interest rates and oil prices, and a somewhat minimal impact from disruptors like Airbnb, living wage bills, and health care costs. As we do every year, following are the trends that will help you maximize your business opportunities in the year ahead.

Analytics rule:

Everything is trackable now. Not only can we see how much attention a certain ad campaign is getting, but we can see the geographic location of the users interacting with it, their age, and a general idea on their income. Use this information to target your marketing efforts to your specific buyer persona and watch your ROI skyrocket. Also, arm yourself when looking into digital advertising campaigns. Do you know how much one visit to your website is worth in dollars? Knowledge is power and you have it all available at your fingertips.

Consolidation is only just beginning:

The Marriott acquisition of Starwood and the Expedia acquisition of Orbitz are harbingers of a consolidation coming in the hotel industry. While it is too soon to determine what other brands or companies will decide to come together, it is clear that we are entering the age of consolidation as the economy enters the mature stage. The impact on guests and hoteliers will only be determined as this wave of consolidations plays out, but for the immediate future, bigger is better.

2016 Digital marketing is dominated by mobile and video:

The average user consumes more than 65 minutes of live video a day and this number is growing fast. Periscope alone averages 2 million daily active users with over 10 million total accounts created as of August 2015—barely 5 months after it launched. Millennials look at live streaming video the same way past generations viewed television.

Invest in capex immediately:

While the money is available and cheap, take advantage now of major expenditures including renovations that may not only be required by the brand, but will also revitalize your hotel now and through the next downturn. Remember, new supply is coming and a tired hotel loses twice—in 2016 when rates can be pushed to pay for the capital expense and in the future when demand drops and those who have renovated win! Moreover, the sharing economy could have a material impact on lodging demand by 2017.

Millennial mindset trends toward group settings:

Millennials and those who have the “millennial mindset” are looking for John Naisbitt’s high-tech, high-touch experience. They like a personalized, gourmet experience for a reasonable price and this has produced all new lobby designs in the hotel sector. Lobby bars and hotel restaurants are wide open with combination work, play and eat/drink spaces designed with this youthful customer in mind. So give them what they want—personalized experiences that create value. This group is quick to criticize via social media, so “wow” customer service is your best protection here.

Optimal channel mix:

Online travel agencies (OTAs) are having a tremendous impact on distribution. They are responsible for incremental demand and the OTA’s extensive marketing campaigns and sophisticated platforms reach travelers who might not find your hotel any other way. Owners still view OTAs as an expensive channel, but it’s a channel we most definitely need going into the next downturn. Find ways to use OTAs without relying on them as your primary resource—and get more eyeballs to your own web site.

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Filed under Hotel Industry, Management And Ownership, Social Media

3 Tips Hoteliers Can Learn From Expedia


Bigger and faster.

That’s how Expedia executives characterized the overall travel industry in 2016 from their vantage point during the company’s annual partner conference.

The company disclosed highlights from the data it collects on travel booking and activities and shared updates on its business following a year when Expedia grew larger than ever, following its acquisition of Orbitz earlier this year and announcement of intention to acquire HomeAway.

Here are three top-level tips Expedia speakers shared during the conference that can benefit hoteliers:

1. Don’t have a mobile strategy yet? Get one. 

Expedia President and CEO Dara Khosrowshahi reminded attendees how important a hotel’s mobile presence is, not only because that’s where bookings are increasingly moving, but also because guests who spend countless hours connected to their mobile devices are more likely to connect more frequently with their travel providers.

But it’s more than just having a mobile presence, he said. More important is having cross-platform compatibility.

“You have to be able to optimize across devices and build an experience across devices,” he said. “We’ve found that 48% of our customers who make a purchase on Expedia have accessed two or more different devices before that purchase.”

Cyril Ranque, Expedia’s president of lodging partner services, shared data that while mobile use is increasing among travelers searching for hotels, mobile users search fewer properties before booking than desktop users do.

“This means that the consideration set is smaller on mobile, so you need a clear, strong mobile strategy to make sure your hotel is in the consideration set of the customer,” he said.

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Filed under Conferences, Employee Practices, Hotel Employees, Hotel Industry, Management And Ownership, Social Media, Technology

Are you ready for overtime changes?

By now I’m sure most of us have completed our 2016 budgets, but how many of you have started strategic discussions about the effect the proposed overtime regulations in the United States could have on your hotels?

If not, now is the time to start.

On 30 June 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor released its proposed changes to the overtime regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act. If adopted, these changes will affect roughly 4.6 million current salary-exempt employees. While this will affect all segments of the American workforce, given the pay scales of our industry, hoteliers will be significantly affected by these changes, making more employees eligible for overtime compensation.

Under the current regulations, to be eligible for the overtime exemption employees must meet the duties and responsibilities tests under one of the administrative, executive, professional and/or computer professional exemptions. In addition, they must be paid a minimum weekly salary of at least $455 per week (or $23,660 per year).

The new federal overtime plan would increase the minimum weekly salary of $455 per week to $970 per week or $50,440 per year, a 113% increase. This change also would include automatic periodic increases to the salary threshold.

This means that regardless of the duties and responsibilities test, if a salaried employee makes less than $970 a week, he or she would no longer be considered exempt for overtime compensation. Hours would need to be tracked and overtime paid for every hour worked in excess of 40 per week.

As a leader in the hospitality industry, this should have your full attention.

The comment period for the proposed changes ended 4 September 2015, and we should expect to receive the final ruling sometime early to mid-2016. Once released, the changes will be effective within 60 to 120 days. And while we don’t know whether the DOL will adopt the current proposal or bring a new idea to the table, we should expect some changes to the salary threshold, as its last increase was in 2004.

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Filed under Employee Benefits, Finances, Hotel Employees, Hotel Industry, Labor Issues, Management And Ownership

Credit Card Switch: Is Your Hotel Compliant?

Credit Card

Following the nationwide EMV liability shift on Oct. 1, in-person credit card transactions in the United States are safer and more secure than ever before. Instead of swiping a credit card, vendors will be required to scan a high-tech chip that creates a unique code for each transaction. This means consumer information will be more difficult to duplicate, leading to increased data safety. Additionally, the widespread use of EMV (Europay, MasterCard, and Visa) microchip technology protects vendors—including hoteliers—from liability in cases of fraud. And, now that the country has finally caught up with global security standards, the long-term maintenance and success of the program is of the utmost importance.

According to Karen Cox, vice president of payment and retail solutions at Toronto-based payment processor, Moneris, U.S. vendors are in a very advantageous position as this solution spreads throughout the country. “Because the United States adopted EMV technology after other major markets, there have already been solutions developed for common issues, making the process easier,” she explains.

Most properties have already installed the POS hardware that include chip readers, but as the new EMV systems are fully integrated, hoteliers may need to add new processes during transactions. “You have to prove that the card is at the hotel for the transaction, so even if guests book with a credit card online, they may need to present the card during check-in and either sign or enter their PIN,” Cox says.

However, once the system is adopted and processes have evolved to facilitate the technology, keeping EMV technology up to date should not be an issue for most hoteliers. “The chip technology is very solid,” Cox describes. “There will likely be software updates, but if the properties keep up with the regular maintenance and renewal processes, they shouldn’t have any issues.”

While some hotels may not be using EMV technology yet, Cox recommends that these entities implement the systems as soon as possible. She adds that hoteliers who don’t know where to start should partner with a provider that can provide end-to-end solutions for the EMV shift.

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Filed under Guest Issues, Hotel Industry, Management And Ownership, Risk Management, Technology

7 Tips to Reduce Holiday Party Liability for Employers


With the Thanksgiving weekend behind us, attention turns to celebrating with family, friends — and coworkers at the company holiday party.

A majority of organizations are still planning to hold holiday or end-of-year parties; however, a growing number of employers are cutting back, according to a recent survey from the Society for Human Resource Management. The survey found that almost two-thirds (65%) of human resource professionals said their organizations would host a party for all employees. But 30% of respondents said that no party was planned at their organization, an increase of 13 percentage points from 2012.

How and where will those companies celebrate? A majority — 67% — of respondents said their party would be off site, and 22% said they would close early that day. More than half (59%) said alcohol would be served at the party. Of those planning to serve alcohol, 47% indicated they would regulate alcohol consumption at the event, with 71% using drink tickets or having a drinks maximum.

Employers are concerned about possible repercussions from employees drinking too much, for example:

   • Drunk driving and possible motor vehicle accidents.

   • Workers compensation for falls and other injuries.

   • Discrimination claims, including sexual harassment and religious


   • Injury to third parties.

   • Premises liability.

   • Underage drinking.

In addition to employer-based liability, many organizations are concerned about their “social host” liability as well. In some states, social host liability is limited to people hosting parties at which minors are served alcohol. In other states, employers may be liable for underage drinking at work functions, and there are still other states in which the law is less clear. The safest action is to develop a policy and guidelines, with advice from your legal counsel and input from the human resources department, then distribute that policy to all employees.

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Filed under Hotel Employees, Hotel Industry, Insurance, Liability, Management And Ownership, Risk Management