Tech Update: “Hotel Apps – Nightmare or Blessing?”

Most hotel chains and many individual hotels have their own hotel apps – a small program for smart phones, which is supposed to facilitate the check-in process, provide additional information, replace the room key card, and eventually support and facilitate the next booking at the hotel.

But are apps really the ultimate solution? These small programs can easily turn into an expensive exercise and they have to be programmed for the various operating systems. Most importantly, an app should be embedded in a centralized guest-oriented IT structure.

The hotel business is often compared with the airlines business. This is, however, misleading, as frequent travelers – the target group hoteliers like to attract – mainly use the same airline. Surveys show, however, that this is not the case when it comes to choosing a hotel. On average, a frequent traveler has four loyalty cards from different hotel companies and eventually has to get used to several apps. Is this a client-oriented approach or just an IT trend, which managers cannot resist to follow?

At the beginning of the Internet age IBM’s slogan was “Jump in!”. But not the ones who just jumped in and followed the latest trends have become or are successful, but those who took some time to verify, analyze and then deliberately chose the right – client-focused – strategy.

On the one hand, an app has to suit the respective overall concept; on the other hand, it has to be accepted by the guests. This is the main difference between the OTAs that focus on the guest, and many hoteliers, who just love their product. The guest should always be in the focus. This rule is taught to every trainee or student in the first year of apprenticeship or studies.

The figures show that consumers increasingly consider apps as annoying. The result is that downloads are stagnating considering the increasing share of smart phones in the total market. Travel apps only come in seventh in the download ranking. There is not even a separate category for hotel apps.

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Hospitality Industry Legal Update: “Critical Control Points in Liquor Liability”

In this article, dram shop and liquor liability expert, Jeff Jannarone discusses critical control points in bar operations, including recourse options for handling intoxicated patrons.

Every bar or restaurant that serves alcoholic beverages is at risk of having intoxicated patrons. However, the mere presence of an intoxicated patron within an establishment does not necessarily indicate a breakdown in an establishment’s training or operations, nor does it necessarily indicate a violation of the standard of care within the industry.

The presence of intoxicated people in any environment increases the likelihood of crimes and/or injuries. While bars and restaurants are responsible for limiting alcohol consumption, it is challenging to prevent every patron from becoming intoxicated; consequently, the way that an establishment responds to the presence of an intoxicated person is often the crux of a liquor liability dispute.

Questions that are commonly at issue in liquor liability disputes include:

  • How effective was staff at identifying the intoxicated patron?
  • Was the intoxicated patron continued to be served alcohol?
  • What measures did the establishment take in safeguarding their customers and the public?

These issues represent critical control points that test how effectively staff was prepared to handle potentially dangerous situations.

Many states have a requirement that businesses that are permitted to serve alcohol not serve anyone who is visibly intoxicated; permittees also are responsible for providing proper measures to ensure the safety of any intoxicated person on their licensed premises (or when they leave?). These requirements are reflected in the standards of care for the industry and reinforced by the various professional training programs that promote the responsible service of alcohol (e.g., TIPS, TAM, RAMP, etc.). The modern standard of care goes well beyond simply removing drunken people from an establishment or passively posting the phone number for a taxi service. A well prepared bar or restaurant has a variety of best practice recourse options when they identify an intoxicated person.

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Hospitality Industry Risk Update: “7 Workers’ Comp Issues To Watch”

Today’s Workers’ Comp market is generally favorable, but several emerging medical and demographic challenges have the potential to upset the current balance. By better understanding the possible impact of these new variables on the market, buyers and brokers will be able to continue to protect employees—and their bottom lines.

MEDICAL CHALLENGES

1. The Affordable Care Act may well increase Workers’ Comp costs by increasing demand for medical services from a fixed number of providers. If more Americans can buy medical services, the cost of those services will rise. Beyond higher prices, greater demand will also lead to longer treatment and recovery times as claimants wait to get appointments, potentially impacting indemnity costs.

2. The growing use of—and cost for—physical therapy causes challenges. Fee schedules for physical therapy have increased over the past two years in nine states that have the greatest use of PT in Workers’ Comp claims. California increased its fee schedule for all physical therapy billing codes by 5% to 6% in March, while New Jersey upped its schedule by 3.6% last fall. Managing the utilization and cost of physical therapy is becoming a key issue, so much so that clients, prospects and brokers are asking TPAs more questions about their strategies in this area.

3. The variability of WC costs and treatments among states threatens the  market. There is no reason why the cost for treating the same type of work-related injury should differ significantly from state to state—but it does. The median medical benefit per Workers’ Comp claim by state is $26,124, according to NCCI data. California and Delaware have medical benefits per claim over 50% greater than the median, while Massachusetts and Rhode Island are well below half the median.

There is good news, however. Medical treatment guidelines and drug formularies continue to be developed in states across the country. As experts with a shared interest in cost-effectively delivering quality medical outcomes for injured workers, all of us must understand this issue, and translate that understanding into action by becoming involved in efforts to improve workers’ compensation systems and develop treatment guidelines and formularies.

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Filed under Claims, Hotel Employees, Hotel Industry, Management And Ownership, Risk Management

Hospitality Industry Management Update: “Investors Bet on Boutique and Lifestyle Hotels”

bouqitue

The numbers paint a rosy picture for developers and owners who want to dip their toes in the boutique, lifestyle, and soft brand segments. Collectively, these arenas are an $11.5 billion industry and growing, according to a report by The Highland Group.

Demand has increased for boutique, lifestyle, and soft brand hotels over the past six years, clearly since the recession, says Kim Bardoul, a consultant with the Atlanta-based hotel consultancy group and co-author of the 2015 report. For example, with lifestyle properties 300 rooms and under, demand grew at an annual average pace of nearly 20 percent from 2009 through 2014—far above the rate of overall U.S. hotel demand growth of 4.2 percent, the report shows.

“The independent boutique has remained steady in growth, but the soft brand and lifestyle segments have clearly grown stronger in the past two years,” Bardoul says. “I really expect that to grow, because of the awareness the brands have brought to the industry.”

During the same six-year period, supply for lifestyle hotels and soft brands, which are newer products to the market compared to the more established boutique segment, grew at a compound annual average rate of 11.5 and 17.8 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, compound boutique hotel supply grew 3.1 percent—over three times the rate for the U.S. hotel industry overall. Compound demand change for the boutique segment was 6.7 percent, compared to a 4.2 percent increase for all U.S. hotels.

To compile the report, The Highland Group pored through STR hotel census data and qualified hotels into these three segments (see chart). Bardoul says they classified boutique hotels as unique in style, small, and either independent or affiliated with small systems (think Delano by Morgans Hotel Group or Thompson by Commune Hotels & Resorts). Of those boutique properties, 21 percent have less than 60 rooms and 17 percent have 160 to 300, and they range in design and building type. Boutiques have a strong representation in California, New York, and Miami, but appear in at least 46 states, she adds.

“Boutique is a popular but loosely used term, and most people associate it with small,” she says. “Most definitions you pull up use the word ‘small,’ but they also use the words ‘unique,’ ‘highly specialized,’ ‘niche,’ and ‘elite.’ We used that criteria similarly to distinguish between your typical independent hotel, which is very limited in service or amenities without a specific design, from all the others.”

In response to changing traveler tastes and adapting interests of their development communities, the chains have responded by introducing lifestyle and soft brands. The report describes lifestyle brands as prescribed franchise products that are adapted to current trends (e.g., AC and Moxy by Marriott, Canopy by Hilton, Hyatt Centric). Soft brands like Ascend by Choice, Autograph by Marriott, Curio by Hilton, and Tribute by Starwood give hotel owners and operators the opportunity to affiliate with a major chain distribution system while retaining the unique name and properties of an otherwise independent hotel.

“Developers and owners are seeing increased interest in what I’m calling the ‘now’ traveler, and there’s an opportunity to capitalize on that with little risk, especially if you go through a brand,” Bardoul says.

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Hospitality Industry Security Update: “Developing a Cyberbreach Strategy”

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Throughout the business world, breaches have become a constant reminder of the critical need to assess and take action on cyberrisk. But they can also make addressing the issue seem like an ever more daunting task, leading many to either put off substantive measures or blindly buy the latest insurance or software to “take care” of the problem and move on.

“The biggest mistake companies make in the breach recovery process is just not being aware of the risk in the first place,” said John Mullen, managing partner at Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP and chair of the firm’s data privacy and network security practice. “You would be amazed—I do up to 100 presentations a year, and at 80% of them, people still look at me like it’s the first time they have heard about it, and I have been doing this for over a decade. The people in the know are in the know, but there is an amazing amount of people who have no clue.”

There are countless ways a cyberbreach can unfold, and countless ways response can go wrong, but laying the strongest possible foundation ahead of time ultimately makes the difference between successful response and absolute disaster for a company that gets hacked or otherwise compromised. According to Mullen, a breach coach who reports that his firm sees a new breach case every business day of the year, “If you don’t do all of the prep stuff, you’ll never get response right.”

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

Hospitality Industry Tech Update: “Two Digital Disruptors Hurting Hotels”

Airbnb’s price positioning play—accommodations often are less expensive than similar hotel rooms—is not sustainable, he said.20150730_distributioin_RSSDisrupter Once the platform is forced onto a level playing field and starts collecting taxes, it will costs hosts more to do business.

In an industry with so many variables, one thing is certain: Hoteliers are woefully inadequate when it comes to technological innovation. And that makes the impact felt by the so-called disruptors all the more disruptive.

Thus concluded a panel of owners and operators titled “Disruption 2020: The digital marketplace” at the Revenue Strategy Summit.

“We’re still stuck in the Stone Age,” said Shai Zelering, managing director of operations and asset management for Thayer Lodging, Brookfield Hotel Properties. Instead of investing in new technologies, hoteliers are more obsessed with new guestrooms amenities that ultimately don’t matter, he said.

“It’s about priorities,” he added.

To that end, panelists identified the two major disruptors that require the industry’s immediate attention.

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Hospitality Industry Management Update: “How to Combat Last-Minute Cancellations”

“If it’s one call from a regular guest who has to cancel at the last minute because of extenuating circumstances, that’s not a problem,” Rauch said. “Our goal is to protect and grow our revenue.Cancellations-feature But at the same time, we have no desire to have guests hate us. The last thing we want is for someone to badmouth us on social media because of how we handled their cancellation.”

With last-minute cancellations having the potential to wreak havoc in the revenue management arena, hoteliers from Los Angeles to London are opting for a range of solutions that include tightening the rules on refundable bookings and turning to more sophisticated algorithms to forecast.

Last-minute cancellations have been on the rise in recent years amid an emergence of online tools and platforms that make it easier for consumers to shop and compare hotels, explained Bjorn Hanson, a hospital industry expert and professor with the New York University Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism.

“It’s an increasing problem that needs to be addressed,” he said.

“People are always looking for a better deal, and most cancellations happen when they see another hotel lowering their rate,” said Jamie Pena, VP of global distribution and revenue strategy for Omni Hotels & Resorts.

She and many of her fellow industry colleagues are taking action.

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Hospitality Industry Technology Update: “DIY Not the Answer with Hotel Technology”

For the first time, technology has become a real point of differentiation for hotel companies. As owners and asset managers become more involved and focus onDIY Hotel Tech technology and distribution, the pressure will grow for brand companies. It’s great the entire industry recognizes the problem, but the question becomes, how does it get solved? Or worse, what happens if it doesn’t?

After attending the summer season of hotel industry events, I was surprised to see a new found recognition from hotel brand companies that technology has become an urgent priority. It is refreshing to hear executives admitting that they have fallen behind the curve and are desperate for new solutions.

It wasn’t that long ago that technology and distribution were barely mentioned at these events, but now they are often the focus of general sessions at even the biggest investment conferences like NYU. And now we even have newer events like the Revenue Strategy Summit and the Hotel Data Conference where distribution is a main topic on the agenda.

It’s remarkable to see such a transformation, but that’s where my excitement stops. In the next breath, many of the same hotel brand leaders talk about a renewed commitment to building better technology. They want to compete with Expedia, Priceline, and Google by creating their own in-house platforms.

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Hospitality Industry Technology Update: “The Present and Future of In-Room Tech”

“Hotels should focus on making room technology easy to understand, accessible and relevant. Do not focus the efforts only on creating ‘fun’technology such as mood lighting and such.Roundtable-Feature It’s important to pay attention to the devices used by guests and add tech features, which can assist in an improved hotel experience.”

From cathode-ray tubes to flat-screen televisions to smart screens. From dial-up Web access to Wi-Fi.

In-room technology in hotels has evolved over the years, and it will only continue to do so. But what are the changes hoteliers can expect next? And in an industry often accused of being behind the curve when it comes to technology, what do hoteliers need to keep top of mind to add to the guestroom experience?

Five leaders responded to these questions in this Hotel News Now virtual roundtable. This is what they had to say.

From where it stands today, where do you see in-room technology headed in the next few years?

Mehul Patel, chairman and CEO of NewcrestImage
“Technology, notably Bluetooth, will increasingly make rooms more ‘open’—both literally and virtually. For example, mobile technology will allow guests to unlock and enter their rooms. And after they are in their room, guests will open their room to the virtual world with customized entertainment content and room management. Because today’s travelers have their own mobile devices, it enables us as hoteliers to provide them with technology that makes their stay with us smarter and simpler—‘smarter’ thanks to Bluetooth and ‘simpler’ by facilitating their use of personalized content in movies, television and music.”
 
Joachim Högefjord, managing director, and Gül Heper, commercial manager at HTL Hotels
“We believe it’s most important to stay relevant to the guests and their needs. In-room technology is not about filling a hotel room with all possible gadgets; it is about enhancing the guest experience and especially simplifying the stay at the hotel.“We need to continue looking at existing behaviors and identify the right needs, what devices are the guests bringing with them and review how to incorporate this in the room in order to provide a better guest experience. One given area, where we already supply device independent solutions is in terms of in-room entertainment. Why equip the hotels with expensive hotel TV systems with on-demand movies when most guests today can and will be using their own devices to stream and mirror everything from movies to HBO and Netflix for free with their existing subscriptions?“Mobile access to the room is of course also an area that will continue to develop and be more and more standardized. Today there are few hotels and chains that are fully offering this to all guests independent of distribution channel. From the start we decided that this should be one of our standard features, and already in spring of 2014 we launched our own app with mobile key.“Of course there is a lot of talk about in-room control systems for lighting, heating, shades, entertainment controls, etc. They might grow in the future, but at the same time it is generally a learning curve to handle them, and with guests staying in general 1.5 days in a room, it might add more complexity to your stay than added value.”
 
Bashar Wali, president of Provenance Hotels
“In-room technology will focus on connectivity for the traveler’s personal phone, tablets and computer. Guest-provided media will stream to TVs, USB outlets will be within an arm’s length away from the bed and desk in every guestroom. Personal technology has surpassed in-room hotel technology to the point of no return. With annual upgrade cycles for consumer technology devices, hotels can no longer spend enough to catch up. Hoteliers, stop implementing technology of the day and just let travelers have power outlets, free, fast Wi-Fi and access to their own media.”
 
Anna Blount, market research manager of MMGY Global
“When asked which device they are most likely to watch television or cable movies on during a hotel stay, 86% of travelers chose the in-room television, while 13% chose their personal laptop, 6% their tablet and 4% their smartphone.“Similarly, 84% of travelers said they were most likely to watch pay-per-view movies on the in-room television during a hotel room stay, while 9% chose their personal laptop, 9% their tablet and 3% their smartphone. Although in-room television is still dominate, we expect usage of personal laptops and tablets to consume in-room entertainment to increase considerably over the next five years.”
 
Euan McGlashan, co-founder and managing partner of Valor Hospitality Partners
“Technology will soon control the entire guestroom, and that’s a good thing. A guest will be connected to every element of the in-room experience—for example, entry locks, television, music, lighting, temperature, roomservice and in-room deliveries or services—through simple switches, remote controls and hand-held devices, which are either theirs or provided by the hotel.”

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Hospitality Industry Risk Update: “5 Ways to Pummel Pests at Your Hotel”

“(Hoteliers) really should have an independent inspection of their vendors,” Rivard said. “The prime food producers throughout the country already do that. They’re checking them out,20150911_pest control whether they’re buying some ingredient or working with a pallet manufacturer.”

A hidden danger of record high demand is more guests walking through the door means a higher chance anything from bed bugs to cockroaches to rats and ants are following right behind.

One of the few things more disconcerting than the pests themselves is the effect they can have on your bottom line.

A recent survey conducted by researchers at the University of Kentucky showed a single online review mentioning a bed bug sighting caused many to immediately write off a hotel. The first reaction of 56% of potential guests will be to no longer consider staying at that property, 7% will shorten their stay and 12% will seek to avoid that hotel’s brand in the future.

The same survey, results of which have not yet been published, showed 60% of guests who spot a bed bug would immediately leave the hotel, which is almost three times as many as those who would leave after finding someone else’s blood somewhere in a guest room.

“It’s a maddeningly difficult problem to deal with,” said Michael Potter, an entomologist at the University of Kentucky and one of the authors of the study. “Everybody is dealing with bed bugs … but hospitality is especially vulnerable because people rely so much on social media when making decisions.”

The potential damage to your hotel’s reputation is only worsened when considering the fact that less than a third of those surveyed could identify successfully a bed bug, with many confusing other pests like lice, ants, termites and ticks for bed bugs.

The harsh reality is there are no 100% infallible methods to keep pests from darkening your doorways, but there are some things to make sure they’re less welcome after arrival.

Here are five ways experts seek to prevent pests.

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Filed under Bed Bugs, Claims, Guest Issues, Health, Hotel Employees, Hotel Industry, Insurance, Maintenance, Management And Ownership, Risk Management, Training