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How Brands Are Improving Customer Experiences in the Travel and Hospitality Industry

Technology has been steadily improving customer experiences (CX) across a breadth of industries, with travel and hospitality among them. But to truly see how CX marketing is changing how we vacation, consider how we now book trips. What once started with a trip to a local agent, who you entrusted to take your needs and wants—and hard-earned cash—and translate them into the excursion of your dreams, now begins with an interactive online experience where consumers can not only consider reviews from other travelers, compare prices, and even live chat with customer service representatives, but they’ll also get tailor-made recommendations on when best to fly, package deals to consider, and inspiring and informative marketing content on locales when they’re booking their trip on their own, straight from home.

Sounds good, right? But what exactly is CX? I’m partial to this definition from HubSpot, which looks at both the context of CX and what brands must do to create it: “If customer experience (CX) refers to the sum of every interaction a customer has with a business, both pre- and post-sale, the customer experience strategy defines the actionable plans in place to deliver a positive, meaningful experience across those interactions.”

So how have technology and customer-centric marketing converged to improve CX in both travel and hospitality, and what can brands learn about improving customer experience from their example? Let’s dive in.

The Travel CX Is Not a Static CX: Prepare for Dynamic Customer Journeys

Technology is changing everything, from the way we book trips to how we experience destinations on the go. Think about it: You get a week off, so what are you going to do with it? A few years ago, you would have called a travel agent and said something like “I want to go to Ireland,” or “I really like vacationing by the sea. What’s on sale in June?”

Today, you talk to friends. You read travel guides. You browse TripAdvisor. And then you start searching—online. Maybe the bleak winter has left you tired and uninspired and you’re determined to get to Hawaii. In today’s market, you could end up at a branded resort on Waikiki, Airbnbing a spare room on a farm on Oahu’s north shore, taking a luxury cruise through the islands, staying on a houseboat, or booking a B&B package with a car rental. From the way you learn about the options available to you, to the ways people experience activities, all aspects of the travel experience have completely shifted as a result of CX marketing.

In large part, the customer journey has shifted from a chance to pick a standard trip to an opportunity to design a unique adventure. And in this journey, the touchpoints are nearly endless for consumers to discover brands, learn more about said brands, and ultimately make a purchase or enjoy products or services the brand specializes in. In a nutshell: The customer journey is no longer static.

So how can modern marketers continue improving customer experiences online while leveraging the latest technology? And what are some ways to look at this process systematically and creatively throughout the customer life cycle?

As Aberdeen notes, “Customer journeys, however, are dynamic; customer behavior evolves rapidly, and so do the related journeys. Therefore, to keep up with changing buyer behavior, companies must have real-time visibility into customer journeys. Only then will firms deliver truly omni-channel interactions.” Hospitality and travel brands have found ways to gather real-time customer data and create feedback loops that feed that information into the CX delivery system. Typically, that starts with effective technology-driven data gathering to power a dynamic customer journey.

In hospitality marketing, strong data can make the difference between attracting a stampede of customers and struggling to fill rooms. Beverly Jackson, MGM Resorts International‘s VP of social and content strategy, wanted to find out if her ads resonated with audiences on social media. She went through marketing insight company TrackMaven, which joined forces with Skyword in late 2018, to get to the bottom of it.

In an interview with TrackMaven, Jackson said: “People come to our resorts not to have a bad time, people come to our resorts to be entertained, to be wowed, to be inspired, to be delighted. The opportunity to retell their stories on social media, the opportunity to inspire them to have great fun and experiences and make lifelong memories, that’s the absolute best part of my job every day.”

In part, Jackson and her team seize that opportunity by using customer data to inform a smart, competitive CX marketing strategy. The company also works to meet the needs of different tiered properties, with ad effectiveness being one area they wanted to explore.

“What we wanted to really see was whether or not our television commercials were resonating on social with our audiences,” she explained. “What we were able to do with TrackMaven was to go in and see the ads we set out on Facebook, (and determine) what was the role of that ad in terms of bringing new customers into the mix … we were able to see in Vegas a couple of months that we have a competitor in the marketplace who, for the first time, was going big into video. TrackMaven was able to show us how our video campaigns, even at the organic level, were resonating in a way that their paid campaign was not. And that’s a very powerful piece of data for us.”

MGM’s inquiry showcases a critical reality in today’s complex environment: Things happen quickly, so quickly that without real market data, you’re at a disadvantage. By using data-gathering and analysis technology, you’ll be able to better understand how effective your campaigns are and narrow in on what steps you can take next to better reach your customers.

Technology Helps Solve Common Complaints

Vacations are meant to be a great escape, not a stressful event. Yet, too many of us have wrestled with the horrors of bad travel—delayed flights, screaming baby seatmates, hotels with bedbugs, poor customer service across the board—to not be wary when booking, or even resort to praying the vacation gods will smile down on us for this one, much-needed trip.

But times are a-changin’, as CIO notes, “For an industry that has been resistant to incorporating evolving technology into the mix, travel and tourism is ripe for disruption that will touch on every phase of the customer experience, from arranging plans to discovering new destinations with a local perspective. Service providers will also benefit, but it ultimately depends on all stakeholders embracing the valuable technology ecosystems being touted by the newer entrants to the industry and their plans to shake the foundations of the tourism industry.”

Currently, the travel and hospitality industry is improving customer experiences by using emerging technology to address common complaints. Hotel guests who don’t want to have to call the concierge for a wake-up call or to get room service, for instance, can simply ask the Alexa device in their hotel room or make a request using a hotel app on their smartphone.

Disney made waves with its MyMagic+ band, which not only made it easier for guests to access their whole itinerary and pay in the parks, but the technology created a data collection feedback loop for the brand to take advantage of as well.

The goal of the tech team who developed the MagicBands was to “root out all the friction within the Disney World experience,” according to Bernard Marr at Forbes. Some ways the bands leverage personalized data to build these seamless experiences include having restaurant hosts greet you and your family by name or having your child’s favorite Disney character meet them in line for a certain ride.

By putting technology at the heart of individual touch points, resorts and other travel businesses are getting foundational aspects of their CX right.

Liz Alton is a technology and marketing writer, and content strategist, for Fortune 500 brands and creative agencies. Her specialties include marketing, technology, B2B, big data/analytics, cloud, and mobility. She’s worked with clients including Adobe, IBM, Hewlett Packard, Twitter, ADP, and Google. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and an MBA. She is currently pursuing a master’s in journalism from Harvard University.S

As CX marketing moves to the forefront of business models, companies need better strategies for deploying technology that improves the customer experience. Gathering data, eliminating chaos in the customer journey, and taking a touch point application on implementation can turn technology into a powerful asset. For marketers, there are opportunities at all stages—prospect, buying in, experience, and post-purchase—to integrate technology and provide a personalized customer experience, which can help your brand earn stripes in the eyes of prospective travelers and truly stand out in this competitive industry.


Smart Hospitality Industry Business: Impressed Guests Are Return Guests

NATIONAL REPORT—Any hotel manager who has tried to increase year-on-year sales is familiar with the marketing investment needed to achieve even modest incremental growth. And always, those marketing dollars could also be well spent on facility repairs and upgrades or a range of other business needs.

A cost-effective option to pursue increased sales while holding down costs is a renewed focus on impressing and delighting the guests you already have. Happy guests often make a point of returning again and again and recommending your location to family and friends, which can increase demand and revenues with minimal new investment.

The best way to impress guests is to focus on what’s most important to them—cleanliness. A recent study indicated that, for a whopping 97% of hotel guests, clean rooms and common areas were the single-most important factor in assessing the quality of their stay.*

A great way to ensure your hotel is clean is to provide your cleaning staff with the machines to address any kind of mess, whether high or low, in tight or open spots, during busy or quiet times or near or far from electrical outlets. The solution? Making sure your cleaning toolkit includes cordless upright vacuums, backpack vacuums and wide-area vacuums.

Cordless upright vacuums allow cleaning staff to easily and safely focus on efficient and powerful cleaning, even in crowded environments. Staff members don’t need to constantly find outlets, and guests don’t need to avoid dangerous cords.

The new Sanitaire® QUICKBOOST™ cordless upright offers the added benefits of operating for up to 47 minutes on a single charge** and at less than 70 dBA. With Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI)-rated cleaning performance, the lightweight and agile QUICKBOOST™ easily tackles both day-to-day and emergency 24/7 cleaning.

Backpack vacuums offer unique comfort and convenience advantages. Cleaning staff don’t need to push them around, freeing them to easily clean cluttered spaces, tight spaces, stairs, drapes and high-up spots like ceiling vents, to name a few. And when a backpack vacuum is lightweight, its even distribution across an employee’s frame makes it almost incomparably easy to transport and operate. The CRI-rated and LEED-qualified Sanitaire® TRANSPORT™ QuietClean® backpack vacuumweighs less than 12 pounds and includes a comfortable harness.

For larger, open areas like ballrooms, banquet rooms, conference rooms and lobbies, debris is both widely dispersed and easy to spot across large interior spaces. Delight your guests with dirt-free floors that were cleaned in a fraction of the time it would take with a traditional vacuum.

Wide area vacuums can cut cleaning time in half, especially if they include the right features. The Sanitaire® SPAN™ Wide Track® vacuum has a two-and-a-third-ft.-wide (28-in.) cleaning path for maximum efficiency. A 60-ft. cord and seven-gallon dust bag mean minimal stopping and starting. And most importantly for your guests, the SPAN™ wide area cleaner is CRI rated, ensuring a best-possible clean.


7 work management best practices for the enterprise

The new, always on, always connected, digital and social world provides amazing opportunities for smart marketers to develop, test, and launch outreach programs, and generate results in far less time than it would have taken in years past.

As companies race to digitize work, they’re too often doing it piece by piece rather than with a holistic view. One department adopts an application here and another department adopts a different application there – all without giving proper attention to how these different pieces of work come together across the entire enterprise.

Put another way, while digitization has brought seemingly infinite possibilities, it has also brought new pressures that today’s organizations are not equipped to handle. Pressures that add up to create what we might call the digital work crisis.

New tools enable us to gather more information and work faster, but they also add to the activities we have to track. As a result, it’s no longer enough to only manage individual projects. We must also manage the fabric of work itself, especially at the enterprise level.

We’re talking about the difference between project management and work management.

What’s the distinction?

Project management is about managing a set of initiatives, each with a start and end date.

Work management includes these initiatives, but it also extends beyond them to include all work across the enterprise at every level.

Work management gives the extra insight that enables knowledge workers to execute on deliverables, managers to execute on projects, VPs to execute on objectives, and executives to execute on growth. It also enables everyone at each level to see how their work rolls up into the company goals.

This requires new processes and technologies, including a system of record for work. Here are seven best practices to implement such a system – and some stories of customers making strides.

1. Find one place to manage work

More than anything, a system of record for work must show activity across all tasks, content, and conversations so each person can see at a glance all the work that touches them. This brings transparency to priorities, work progress, resources, and outcomes to empower you to orchestrate enterprise work with the precision and certainty you run the rest of your business. In this way, the system of record for work diminishes the pressure of the digital work crisis. For instance, ATB Financial implemented such a system and saw a 30% increase in productivity – with five times the information to track – and reduced the cost to manage a job by 60%.

2. Build for people

To fully address the problems that arise from the digital work crisis, all processes and technologies should be familiar and intuitive, able to effortlessly connect every team and organization. Of course, people who regularly use the system must have the power to configure settings to their liking. With front-line users in the business engaged, you’ll have the ability to build cross-functional, connected workflows across an organization in motion. After implementing this system of record for work, Fender reduced time spent in meetings by 30–40%, and project managers eliminated two hours of daily busywork while significantly improving project visibility. That’s what can happen when the tech is built for people rather than getting in the way of people.

3. Keep using what you have

When the number of possible apps out there can be overwhelming, work management should connect all your technology across the company, allowing information and processes to flow seamlessly across teams, departments, systems, and locations. It should save valuable time through automation and multiply the value of your other platforms and systems as they connect with the platform to amplify productivity.

4. Move at a new pace

A true system of record for work brings together collaboration, content, and tasks throughout the lifecycle of work. This means the platform must be flexible enough to keep pace with constant technological change, including the tech of tomorrow. On this front, Citrix improved collaboration with 40 task owners across multiple organizations and teams that were evolving their technology needs, all while seeing a 50% reduction in time spent during compliance meetings.

5. Optimize for safety and security

Built-in security and compliance measures allow you to confidently audit your work, ensuring you maintain the enterprise-level control you need to safely operate in the digital economy. Put simply, there are certain tasks you don’t want visible to everyone in the company, especially if the tasks contain financially sensitive information. A system of record for work must be flexible enough to keep such information secure from those who shouldn’t access it.

6. See everything

The executive team must be able to see everything that’s happening across the company. This doesn’t mean that they will need to micromanage – In fact, just the opposite. It means that they will be able to see and deliver the results of the work that employees are doing so that they can pivot company strategy accordingly. Trek Bicycle achieved global collaboration and company-wide project alignment and then regained 30% of their time for innovation and improvement, after implementing work management.

7. Measure anything

The platform should contain a deep record of all work while delivering analytic-driven insights that empower you to analyze and optimize everything you do. Because you can measure anything, managers can see the results of knowledge workers, VPs can see the results of managers, and executives can see the results of VPs. Everything rolls up into the company goals so that everyone knows how the company is doing when it comes to fulfilling their vision.

With these measures firmly in place – both on the process and technology front – companies pave the way for full control over what’s to come and unifying work across the enterprise. In this way, they’ll effectively address the problems that surface from the digital work crisis, enabling a unified and streamlined approach to work management across the enterprise.

By: Heidi Melin – Source:

Why Happy Employees Matter Just as Much as Happy Customers to Your Company’s Bottom Line

Who is more important to an organization: customers or employees? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Which comes first, the chicken or the egg … the customer or the employee? However this question is debated, there is a clear answer, but perhaps not the answer you are thinking.

ARGUMENT: The Customer is King:

If a business does not have a source of revenue, it will fail. No surprise there. This is an absolute whether it is a corporation, sole proprietorship, non-profit (foundation or charity), religious organization, e-commerce, or even a government entity. A business needs to have a source of revenue to pay the bills, invoices, employees, and expansion, etc. Customers support that. Without revenue, you cannot hire or support employees. But can an organization have hundreds or thousands of employees but little to no revenue and stay in business? Hasn’t Facebook and many other start-ups done that? Yes, but at some point investors need profits or they pull their funding which translates into a need for “customer comes first” or “build it and they will come” mentality (ie: Great products = Customers = Profits) Don’t customers need to receive excellent products and services in order to open their wallets? Of course yes, but who is going to provide them this exceptional product or service? Employees of course. But what happens if the employees are miserable in their jobs? How will this affect morale, innovation and customer relationships? Does it translate into a great product and/or service? Does it make sense to say, “build it and they will come?” Perhaps for Apple and their newest iPhone, but for the rest of us, it is not that simple.

One can argue that customers are more important than employees because without revenue, no business even a non-profit (Charities have 3 months funding in reserve) will not survive. A VC funded business will eventually dry up without revenue/customers. When the customer stops taking out their wallets, employees get laid off and a business teeters on the brink of filing for bankruptcy or closing. The customer is king!ADVERTISING

ARGUMENT: Employees Come First

There are millions of websites that run on auto-pilot or have evergreen contentwhere employees are not needed to maintain the page. An example might be a site like Ebay or Amazon where you don’t need employees to run a business. But we are looking at businesses that have employees who have direct contact with customers. How important are they, really? Can’t business owners simply hire new bodies as the old ones exit through the backdoor?

Happy employees tend to exhibit their enthusiasm when interacting with customers. How employees are treated, or the atmosphere of the internal culture, will dictate how your employees feel. Attitude is tied to an employee’s performance and is transformed into the quality of their work. Ultimately what is felt and experienced by customers from employees, turns into a decision to return back to your business or visit a competitor (assuming there is nothing wrong with the product itself and your business is not the only business selling a particular product).

REAL LIFE CASE: Happy vs. Unhappy Employees

In early 1994, Continental Airlines’ culture was toxic. Employee moral was virtually dead and the company experienced ten CEOs in ten years’ time. The low morale translated into being ranked last in every measurable airline performance category, and the airline was on the verge of its third bankruptcy. Then, Gordon Bethune took over as President in October of 1994. (In 1996, Bethune became the CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors.) Bethune changed the culture of Continental by changing the culture starting at the top, the Executive Floor at the Corporate Headquarters. With a new “open door” policy, he eliminated company restricted access to the 20th floor, the Executive Floor, that could only be accessed by Senior Vice-Presidents with a key card. Security had patrolled the floor to remove any employee who was not a VP. That stopped and he removed key-card-only access and invited any employee to access to the floor. He fired 39 senior VPs who had trouble adjusting to this new “employees first” mantra. By looking inside, at the core of Continental’s culture, and starting with themselves, he transformed the airline from ranking dead last in every customer service ranking, to winning more J.D. Powers and Associates awards for Customer Service than any other airline in the world. The stock price rose from $2 a share to over $50 a share and the company was ranked as one of the top 100 companies to work for by Fortune Magazine.

Yes, there are unhappy employees at companies that generate profits but this will always be a short-term gain. If employees are not putting their hearts into their work, service can’t help but suffer, and innovation is repressed, killing any chance for the product to evolve and satisfy the customer’s growing needs. This is why every business owner should look at themselves and ask, “Are my employees feeling good about where they are?” Managers should be asking themselves the same question. Are your employees happy? Change must come from the inside if change is to take place and morale is to climb. This is true with all of us. Are you performing at your best when you are stressed, down and out or feeling blue inside? Chances are the answer is no. Controlling how an employee feels is in direct correlation to how happy a customer feels about their experience and whether they return to you or go to a competitor.

So which is the answer? Your customers are your lifeline. They pay the bills, salaries, and provide the resource needed for infrastructure, like expansion. Happy employees put their hearts into their work and can produce innovative ideas, products, and services which benefit both customer and company.

With unhappy customers and unhappy employees or with happy customers and happy employees, either way you slice it, the answer appears to derive from a cyclical process. How can we say which is more important? Each has their own unique qualities that are important, no, critical to the big picture and success or failure of the company.

When it comes down to it, we have come full circle and are back to asking what we first asked, which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Which is more important to an organization, the customers or the employees? To answer the question, lets think outside the box.

Who or what is the force to which we can turn to and say, “Without ______ (fill in the blank)” both customer and employee are either happy or unhappy? That force sets the course, tone and culture of the business as the “Captain of the ship”. This is the person setting the course for both customer and employee satisfaction and that person is your most senior executive, the President. Your senior leadership, specifically, the #1 person in charge at the top sets the tone for how happy or miserable both your customers and employees are. It is the leader who determines, even dictates the culture of the company. Without the Captain of the ship directing the culture by his or her own actions and where the team can see his/her actions in play, the question will pretty much remain a debate. It is an inside force leading both employee and customer. That inside force is the leader of the business, the CEO, the President, the owner. Employees and customers are both affected by how leadership runs the company by virtue of the product or service that the customer receives, which generates recommendations and more business, even repeat business (see Continental example above). Mr. Bethune changed the culture of Continental by setting a new course and the employees at the time were either with him or against him. You can conclude where 39 Vice-Presidents stood when he told them that in order to change to a profitable company, they needed to change the culture. I guess they ended up standing in the unemployment line.

When a company does not have to tell its customers why they are the best in their market, and it is naturally a business we gravitate to because we feel good about paying the company because the product is very good and the customer service is very good, we can conclude that employees have put their heart and soul in a great product, service and company. The employees radiate and feel it, the customers experience it and, the company benefits from all of it.


Eight Ways NOT to Respond to a Whistleblower Report (and Three Ways You Should)

What hotel or restaurant veteran hasn’t heard the phrase “time to lean, time to clean”? We ensure our properties are spotless inside and out, maintain dress codes and scripted phrases for every interaction, and I would challenge any high-fashion magazine cover model to look more polished than a GM walking through their lobby or dining room to greet a VIP guest.

However, when it comes to responding to an internal whistleblower allegation, few GMs, chefs or managers have a script or SOP. Even the most experienced leaders generally cycle through the following emotions when confronted with an allegation of fraud, bribery or other misconduct:

  • INDIGNANT. “No way this happened on my watch.”
  • DENIAL. “This is made up.”
  • DISMAY. “How could they do this to ME? We’re like a family here!”
  • CLARITY: “Well, we HAVE been seeing… (insert red flag here).”
  • ACCEPTANCE: “Let’s find out what happened and resolve this.”

Keeping these emotions in mind, here are a few tips on what NOT to do when you learn an allegation was made (anonymously or not) about someone in your organization.


  1. Assume you are to blame or will be blamed. Even the most talented and vigilant leaders and managers have been defrauded or dealt with accusations of misconduct.
  2. Dismiss or ignore the report or reporter. If you (or whomever receives the report) can respond directly in writing or in person, thank them sincerely for their report, let them know you will look into it, and ask them if they can be available for follow-up questions if needed.
  3. Assume the reporter is fabricating the report. It doesn’t matter if they just received an unfavorable performance review or were terminated. Unfortunately, some employees believe in keeping things “in their back pocket” rather than speaking out immediately. But, a less-than-gracious motivation for reporting does notmean the reporter is being untruthful.
  4. Confront the implicated person with the report. Plan how (or if) the matter will be investigated or cooperate with whomever is leading the investigation. Do your homework. If you charge over to the implicated employee with an accusation, do you expect them to confess on the spot? Avoid putting them on notice until the time is right, or you may risk losing key evidence that can be destroyed or manipulated before your investigation even gets started.
  5. Share with those who do not need to know. I know every hotel and restaurant is a family atmosphere. But sharing the details, or even the existence of an allegation, outside of a “need to know” circle can lead to possible damage to someone’s reputation, hinder an objective investigation, and lead to a leak of a confidential matter to a larger audience, among other risks.
  6. Delegate an investigation to the reporter’s immediate supervisor. Although this may be justified in some situations, generally it is best to keep it objective and independent. That supervisor may not want to admit something happened on their watch – or worse, they may be involved in the scheme.
  7. Go wobbly on disciplinary action.Everyone is remorseful when they have been caught. Be consistent. Consult with HR and Legal if you have the resources available. Consider reporting to law enforcement if warranted. Your entire team is watching your next move.
  8. Retaliate against the reporter. Just don’t. And ensure no one else does.


  • Be objective, fair and thorough in your investigation of both the “accused” and the “accuser.”
  • Continue to focus on your business. Ensure whomever investigates does so with minimal disruption to your operation and do not tolerate gossip.

Learn from the experience. How did the fraud or misconduct occur and how can you prevent it from happening again?

Who’s afraid of Google?

Google, whose mantra used to be ‘Don’t be evil’ (until it dropped it for the motto ‘Do the right thing’), is almost omnipresent in our lives these days. We use it for all sorts of online searches, whether it’s trying to access arcane information or find our way from A to B.

The European Commission though recently took the giant to task — slapping a 2.4 billion euro anti-trust fine on the internet giant at the end of June, following a seven-year competition investigation. It concluded that Google had “denied other companies the chance to compete” by placing its own comparison shopping service prominently and demoting those of its competitors.

While Google, which has ‘respectfully’ disagreed with the findings and has 90 days to change its ways, considers its next move, lawyers have been mulling over the case and its implications for Google’s other specialized search services such as maps and travel.

What then of the hospitality sector? What’s the impact of Google – good and bad – on the industry? Sit in a hospitality-related conference these days and the subject of Google is bound to raise its head. One general line of questioning has been: will Google come to dominate the industry, leaving online travel agencies and others in its wake?

Martin Soler, Marketing Advisor and Partner with, believes there will be a “massive shift in channels, where the channels will no longer be the OTAs or various structures as we know them.” He points out that Google has – up to now – not been interested in transactions as such as “they’ve always been about being the channel and getting the clicks or driving traffic.”

“They’re an ad agency and they like to be the channel, leaving the transaction to someone else, especially if they have one massive channel. It would be a bidding war between Expedia, Booking, direct channels and everyone’s just going to bid higher and they’re going to make more money.”

However, he says, they “could flip the switch and do it” so he would “definitely keep an eye on it.”

So could Google become a dominant force in hospitality?

“They’re one of the best poised currently to do so because they have integration with flight data, hotel data, integration with Uber and many others, so they could essentially have the entire trip.’

Also imagine a world in which we no longer search for information via browsers and apps as we do now but instead ask a virtual personal assistant – whether it be Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, or Google Assistant – to book holidays or business trips for us. That may not be that far off now. But when we ask for help with booking flights, hotels and so on, will we get more than just a few suggestions?

“How do you know that you can talk to your fridge, your Echo or your Google Assistant to book a hotel? You don’t. So a lot of work needs to be done to get there. But it will reduce a lot of the issues with travel booking and if done right, we could totally shift from mega destinations which are still probably getting 80 per cent of the traffic and distribute all that travel to different destinations.” (Emphasis added).

On the issue of chatbots, Soler told the recent Young Hoteliers Summit at EHL that the “current booking funnel from inspiration to booking” takes about 29 days and involves checking some 50 or so websites. “It’s a really painful process”. But if that could be reduced to a few interactions with a bot, “we could grow the pie of travel because suddenly the spontaneous and impulse buy of travel becomes a reality.”

“So I believe once the technology is there and we can do that with three interactions, or four maximum, it suddenly changes the game completely … It’s definitely coming and that’s going to be a paradigm shift.”

“You know OTAs are going to have to rethink (this) because there will only be Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant or Microsoft Cortana will be the channel. The channel will no longer be Expedia or Booking or direct. It will be the device that you’re using and it’s going to be the war against who has that channel, who has purchased the rights for the channel and has the AI (artificial intelligence) connected to it. So it’s going to change the game quite a bit – not tomorrow but maybe the day after.”

Ait Voncke, Expedia‘s Vice President of Market Management for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), says they regard Google as one of their marketing channels. “We’re optimized in that channel of course, at scale globally, so in that sense we’re a big partner and Google’s a big partner of (ours).”

As to whether Google presents a threat to OTAs like Expedia, Voncke says: “We are getting transactions in the booking space right. We have 5,000 engineers just focused on that process, on building that technology. We have market managers in the field, thousands of them across the world, working very closely in a partnership with our hoteliers to be successful in the online space – and that’s typically not Google’s business. So I think there’s a very complementary skillset at work here.”

Another speaker at the Young Hoteliers Summit (#YHSconnects), Jeremy Ward, Chief Operating Officer of iRiS Software Systems, said although Google may start creating apps for guest experiences, he wasn’t too concerned about its potential to dominate the sector, as most of its revenue comes from advertising. “They’re not there to pick up the small transaction fee. So I think anything that can drive traffic through them, they’re quite interested in, because they take the revenue from it.”

What then is Google’s view of the hospitality sector? At the International Hotel Investment Forum (#IHIF2017) in March, Terri Scriven, Google’s industry head for hospitality, emphasized how the tech giant works with hoteliers and others. She had plenty of practical advice for hoteliers about the need to hire data scientists and to integrate a hotel’s customer relationship management (CRM) system with the property management system or PMS. Asked about the ability of hotels to analyze and use data, Scriven replied: “It’s horrible, it’s kind of hitting my head against a brick wall on a day-to-day basis. But there’s progress being made which is good.”

“Your websites are rich with so much data,” she said, adding hoteliers should use an analytics tool for insights into why customers visit their sites but then leave to book with an OTA.

She suggested that hotels should not chase the OTAs, but instead should try to make sure their messaging relevant to their target audiences. “And the more relevant the messages are, the more likely they are to book direct with you.”

“Hotel websites leave much to be desired. It’s the reason why OTAs are winning out. The focus has been very much on conversion and how to better convert that user who comes to the website. And instead of providing beautiful imagery – and videos are so important as you need to inspire them to come to stay -focus on how you can better convert them and there’s a lot of data that can help that, and AI is part of it, to understanding people when they’ve come back to your site, customizing the suggested hotels for them to stay at or the overall offer on the site.”

“Let’s get the basics right first. Let’s get those sites looking much better, get mobile sites in place and then you can evaluate AI but you need to start with the site that converts first.”

Watch the panel discussion video “Meeting customers’ needs in hospitality”

Google then is currently working with both the hotels, in terms of their online presence, and also the OTAs. Asked whether the war with the OTAs was over, Scriven replied that she disagreed. “The game is not lost because you have to optimize different channels, channels, etc. but there’s still a good percentage of traffic that comes direct.”

The game may not be lost – yet – but as the game continues to change rapidly, hotels may find it difficult to keep pace. Even OTAs like Expedia with significant budgets for marketing and tech spending may be a little wary about what’s on the horizon if Google does broaden the scope of its ambitions, despite the European Commission’s attempts to rein it in.

Duty system can promote healthier attitudes towards alcohol

The ALMR has responded to HM Treasury’s consultation on alcohol structures encouraging the Government to adopt an innovative alcohol duty system that encourages products to be sold and consumed within the supervised environment of pubs, bars and restaurants.

HM Treasury has been consulting on new bands for cider, perry and still wine to encourage incentives for the production and consumption of lower strength products. The ALMR argues that this would provide greater choice for the sector’s customers and support industry initiatives to facilitate healthier lifestyles.

The organisation has also highlighted future opportunities to reform the duty system, either through a revision of the current EU Directive or post-Brexit. This could include differential duty rates, allowing lower duty to be charged on drinks sold through the on-trade.

ALMR Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: “New bands for lower-strength wines, ciders and perries could reduce costs for both producers and retailers and help stimulate demand for high quality on-trade drinks. Brexit provides the opportunity for a more creative look at the duty regime to further incentivise innovation.

“We have evidence to show that lower-strength products are predominantly consumed in the supervised environment of a pub or restaurant. If the Government is serious about promoting healthier attitudes towards alcohol, a tactic would be to promote responsible and supervised consumption within our venues.

“High quality products that come with a lower strength and reduced price tag could help precipitate a shift in drinking habits that aids businesses and supports the Government’s plans to promote healthier lifestyles.”


1,190 Independent Restaurant Owners Share Their Thoughts on Over 100 POS System brands released the 2017 POS Survey Report today. The report summarizes input gathered from 1,190 independent restaurant owners from around the world regarding over 100 different brands of POS systems, focusing on several critical aspects including cost, installation and support experience, and features. The results of this survey provide unique insight into the POS system market and emerging trends, all of which are valuable to independent restaurant owners.

The average cost for a restaurant POS system has notably decreased since 2012. In 2012, the average expenditure for a POS system was just over $18,000, as opposed to $13,344, currently.

The top seven POS solutions were Aloha POS, MICROS, Digital Dining, Clover, Adelo POS, Future POS, and POSitouch. These top seven POS systems accounted for 47.5% of the market. Beyond the top seven, all other POS brands each accounted for less than 3% of the market share.

We identified a shift toward cloud-based systems and POS solutions offered by credit card processors. Clover, Dinerware, Harbor Touch, and Square were the top credit card processor provided POS solutions, accounting for nearly 11% of total market share.

Despite the increased use of cloud-based and mobile systems, less than 10% of independent restaurant owners indicated they use pay-at-the-table devices. Moreover, only 31% of restaurants reported using EMV compliant POS systems. This is particularly noteworthy considering the fraud liability shift that took place in October 2015, mandating that merchants upgrade to EMV chip technology or accept increased liability for fraudulent transactions.

Improvements in plug-and-play components, increased Wi-Fi capability, and a tech savvy labor pool are allowing many restaurant owners to opt for self-installation and remote support. As a consequence, only 74% reported using an authorized POS vendor for programming, training, and support.


Four Seasons owner Provenance Land may sell up to 50 per cent stake to global investors

India’s hospitality industry may be one of the heavily taxed sectors in the country, but that has not deterred global investors from looking at key properties in the country.

According to a media report, Brookfield Asset Management and GIC of Singapore are vying to buy 50 per cent stake in Provenance Land that owns Four Seasons hotel and residences in Mumbai.

The deal is likely to value Provenance Land at over Rs 2,000 crore and could see Adarsh Jatia offloading between 26 per cent and 49 per cent stake, said a report in The Times of India.

Provenance Land has been constructing Four Seasons-branded ultra luxury residences at the 4.5-acre property located at Worli.

If the deal fructifies, the funds from the stake sale will be used for the company’s plans to develop branded luxury homes and offices adjoining the Four Seasons hotel, the TOI report said.

There were reports that Provenance was constructing a five-storeyed second tower with 26 luxury residences for outright sale with a price tag ranging from Rs 30 crore to Rs 100 crore, the TOI report added.

According to a recent report by KPMG, India’s hospitality sector is expected to grow at 16.1 percent CAGR to reach Rs 2,796.9 crore in 2022. The sector contributes significantly to indirect tax revenue at the state and central level which includes revenues from VAT, Service Tax, and Luxury Tax etc.

As per the GST Council’s decision all hospitality products above Rs 5,000 has been termed as luxury, drawing flak from the industry. The GST Council said along with rooms, even dining at restaurants at 5-star hotels will invite GST at the rate of 28 per cent.

Experts are of the opinion that a higher GST rate on the hospitality sector could make the country’s tourism products uncompetitive in the region. The industry also fears major events, congresses, conferences, etc. could give a miss to India in coming times.


What kind of a Leader are you – a Maker or a Breaker?


The dominant traits of the top most leader in any organization, unarguably, define the shape and personality of the organization as a whole. So whether the top dog is fair, biased, aggressive, assimilative, open-minded and inclusive or clique and coterie centered, insecure or confident, the organization tends to take on similar features and harbour the climate that screams of the same defining set of behavioural facets.

A Balanced Leader is the backbone of a Healthy Organization

In one’s career history, while growth and better opportunity are often the crucial reasons for moving out from one and into another organization, the other main reason that seldom gets talked about openly is a huge sense of disenchantment or dissatisfaction or unhappiness stemming from a sour equation with an immediate boss or the super boss or the politically charged peer group that makes it difficult for one to perform optimally. Complicated and unreasonable bosses or a set of ogre-like colleagues is in fact a bigger, often unspoken reason for people to move and seek greener pastures elsewhere. Several HR studies, globally, have proved this fact time and again.

In the early 1990s, as a young, sprightly fresher with rose-tinted glasses I joined the Public Affairs Section of a Diplomatic Mission in Delhi. This was my second job and I had often heard that it was Asians who were more clique-y, gossipy, with inherent biases and prone to apple-polishing. So, imagine my astonishment when I found some of my Western colleagues as guilty as their Asian counterparts. My first reaction was, “Hell, Here too!” And the second reaction post some thought, “We all are the same beneath the veneer.”

My first boss here was a grouchy, somewhat mean, cranky man given to favouritism and unpleasant disposition. He was tendentious towards one single person – obviously his favourite – instead of treating the entire team fairly; so much so that this person embodied the same attributes as the boss, adding extra doses of her viciousness to it. At one time when I was working along with her, she would rejoice in giving me some of the most menial tasks – “just do the filing,” “get me connected to so and so on the phone,” – and had the audacity to keep the official files hidden away and stashed under lock and key lest I lay my hands on them even when I had to file. Mind you, this was no confidential data but the ludicrous behavior continued, fanned by the boss’ strong inclination towards this person that allowed for many such unprofessional acts to flourish in the department.

Then one day this boss was transferred out and in came a breath of fresh air in the form of a youthful, dynamic lady who brought in a sea change in the department in terms of how we viewed PR work, how we regarded each other as colleagues, how our work was perceived by other departments and the parent Government we had to report back to.

What came across bright and clear were two different modes of leadership, two distinct personalities who contributed in their own way to the manner the department looked, breathed, felt and delivered.

While one was a negative influence, the other used her high standard of skills, fine leadership style, fair & equal opportunity approach to make every work day a fun and productive day and ended up turning the Public Affairs Department into a highly respected and sought after department in the High Commission.

Leadership Traits must dovetail into the Big Picture

My next stint for a period of about two decades has been with hotels. Now, hotels are completely multicultural organizations where the work force is truly international, hailing from different countries; but of course the largest base is of the countrymen from the place where the hotel is located. Yet, in hotels it becomes extremely pertinent to know how to work together with people from as far and wide as France and Germany to Sri Lanka and China. Despite the cultural differences, this ends up adding lot of fun elements to one’s day in the life of the organization as you

end up learning about these cultures and understanding what makes the ‘other’ people tick. This, however, is subject matter of another discourse.

In hotels, while the owner or the CEO of the hotel chain is the defining personality, the GM of the unit hotel where you may work is the lord of his own fiefdom. The team and staff pick out from this leader’s personality aspects and way of running his hotel as much as the top boss’ style percolates down.

On hindsight, having worked with six different GMs across three hotel chains, I have been fortunate to sometimes thrive and at times strive & struggle in as many organizational climates. And where there has been striving, it really has been a battlefront that has made one as hard as a rock, yet more understanding of the complexities and dynamics of a fire-pit organization.

As a Leader, are you a Maker or a Breaker?

It has also brought home the point that leaders can really make or break an organization. Not just what corporate literature may tell you, from personal experience, too, I can list out the following –

  1. The organization can be a happy and fun place to which you look forward to returning every morning and to which you willingly want to give extra hours at the end of the day. Such organizations create an overriding sense of job engagement and satisfaction.
  2. It can be such that each day, nay, moment is difficult to pass with an impossible boss breathing menacingly down your neck; and wicked set of colleagues rubbing their hands in malicious glee every time they pull you down like the proverbial crab.
  3. The organization can be healthy, conducive to work with unsurpassed functionality and highly ethical work practices. Responsibilities and recognition, exemplary output and rewards go hand in hand in such places.
  4. It can be sick, divisive, undermining and demoralizing. What might get you ahead is hoodwinking and proximity to the influential people like the bosses or the boss’ right hand man; even if such easily ill-gotten prizes are short-lived and open to scrutiny.
  5. The organization can be a place that allows you to blossom as a star worker with positive strokes that help germinate your skills and talent into wonderful fruits of productivity.
  6. It can also be a place where there is so much of negative energy that all that can flower there is more bad blood splattered about by parasitic employees who eat into the climate.
  7. The organization can be a place where workers breathe in fresh air, enjoy positive influences, are allowed space to make mistakes and grow, have access to information, become a two way process in clear communication and are given learning opportunities.
  8. Then there are organizations that live in the dark zone of fear, punishment, connivance and control. They operate like secret missions where unnecessary stuff is hidden and kept out of reach of the employees thereby acting as major impediment in the processes and execution of duty.
  9. There are healthy and buzzing organizations that promote good work practices, innovation and creativity and encourage workers to take ownership of their actions.
  10. And there are organizations where flattery, manipulation, bad performances, terrible attitudes and overall downward slope in almost all areas rule the roost.

It is widely seen that the top man maneuvering the reins of the Organization can really lead by example, allowing for the finest personal and professional traits and benchmarked business best practices to shape the organization into an exemplary company; that boasts happy, engaged and optimally delivering team.