For the first time, technology has become a real point of differentiation for hotel companies. As owners and asset managers become more involved and focusÂ on technology and distribution, the pressure will grow for brand companies.Â Itâ€™s great the entire industry recognizes the problem, but the question becomes, how does it get solved? Or worse, what happens if it doesnâ€™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 wasnâ€™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.
Itâ€™s remarkable to see such a transformation, but thatâ€™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 Law Conference
Presented by Anderson Kill and Petra Risk Solutions: Tuesday, June 2, 2015 at The Cornell Club in New York
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“At the moment, the complications might be magnified for multi-brand, multi-property operators piloting more than one keyless system from more than one brand/vendor, but sources said that this somewhat disjointed approach may actually be preferable to a universal solution; at least until keyless tech is a little further along in its development cycle.”
As hotel companies across the industry begin to embrace keyless entry technology, they will also need to work out the challenges that go hand in hand with such integration.
Major conglomerates such as Hilton Worldwide Holdings and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide are continuing to conduct pilot testing across multiple properties and brands. Starwood is backing up the technology with a $15-million investment. After launching its SPG Keyless solution at select properties (Aloft Beijing; Aloft Cancun; Aloft Cupertino; Aloft Harlem; W Doha; W Hollywood; W Hong Kong; W New York-Downtown; W Singapore; and Element Times Square), the company is now installing SPG Keyless in 30,000 doors at all of its 150 global W, Aloft and Element hotels.
In the meantime, Hilton is pilot testing its own mobile-enabled room key technology at 10 U.S. properties. By yearâ€™s end, the company expects to offer the digital amenity at all U.S. properties of four brands: Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts and Canopy by Hilton. Looking ahead to 2016, Hilton will then deploy the technology at scale across 11 brands globally. Similar to the SPG Keyless solution, Hiltonâ€™s keyless entry platform is driven by the companyâ€™s branded mobile app. Hilton hopes the keyless system will drive usage of the app, which hoteliers can then use to drive incremental revenue through mobile devices. Itâ€™s a potentially major revenue source to sway hoteliers who might still be on the fence.
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“If you canâ€™t find anything fun that is truly local, then expand the circle of your list to include the county, the state or even the region in which your hotel is located.Â Then figure out how to inexpensively incorporate at least three of those items into your property.”
If you spend any time paying attention to trends in our industry, the buzz words youâ€™ll likely come across include â€œunique,â€ â€œauthentic,â€ â€œartisanal,â€ â€œsense of place,â€ â€œlocal,â€ â€œcraft,â€ â€œexperiential,â€ â€œdiscovery,â€ the latest iterations of â€œboutiqueâ€ and â€œlifestyle,â€ and the single most overly and incorrectly used word in the English language, â€œcurated.â€
Todayâ€™s trend words all have one definitional element in common: They all are somewhat synonymous with â€œdifferentâ€ in one way or another. Guests are looking for different experiences in the different cities they visit, particularly road warriors. â€œDifferentâ€ in that context doesnâ€™t necessarily mean â€œbetter,â€ just not â€œthe same.â€
If this is not your year for a major renovation, and you wonâ€™t be turning your lobby into an experiential gathering place or your restaurant into an eclectic journey of discovery, there are still things you can do to be different and successful.
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The Accorhotel Apple Watch app will work in connection with a smartphone to manage reservations, access hotel information and property maps, and notify guests when a room is ready for online check-in. IHGâ€™s Apple Watch app is a port of its popular smartphone language translator. It will convert the words a user speaks into the watch into 13 different languages and even offer phonetic pronunciation help as well as a range of common phrases.
At an event in San Francisco earlier this week, Apple released more details on its new watch and showed off a few apps. Along with displaying the weather, making calls (as long as your phone is nearby), and tracking your fitness, the watch will also support Apple Pay, a mobile payment system that processes credit card transactions without the need to swipe an actual card. Ahead of the event, Marriott announced it would be the first hotel company to use Apple Pay, and would roll it out this summer at select Ritz-Carlton, Courtyard, Residence Inn, and Edition properties in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, San Francisco, Miami, and Chicago.
Apple Pay uses the near field communication (NFC) chip in an iPhone 6 or Apple Watch to communicate with specially equipped card readers, providing more security than old-school magnetic card swipers. While this could be a huge money maker for Apple, with analysts predicting that mobile payment systems will process $700 billion in transactions by 2017, it also offers hotels a new tool to measure guestsâ€™ habits and preferences.
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