How to Find the Balance Between Technology and Human Interaction

Technology has fundamentally transformed how we communicate, whether it be with family, in the workplace, or at hotels. Tech has made almost everything faster and more efficient. Every industry has been transformed, and hospitality is no exception to this trend. Today, guests at hotels expect service that balances cutting-edge technology with a human touch – a balance that is difficult to achieve. Not putting enough effort into incorporating modern tech may make a hotel appear behind the times. Leaning too far the other direction, however, risks alienating guests who prefer more personal elements.

In recent years, the hospitality industry has scrambled to keep up with their clients’ demand for technology.

Create a More Personalized Experience

One way technology helps businesses is by gathering data about their customers. This resource of information about their habits, likes, and movements is a gold mine when it comes to tailoring guest experiences.

In larger hotels, we are required to help thousands of guests feel at home every day. Creating a personalized experience for each individual while running a successful hotel often seems like an impossible task. The answer, however, lies in how we utilize data. Some hotels have started using location data and smartphones to offer maps to customers, complete with suggestions based on their historic preferences.

Think About How Technology Can Help Your Human Team Members

I find it best to think about technology as an aid, and not the end all be all for hospitality services. Technology is a tool to help us better share our heart and vision with customers. Remember that technology is not a replacement for relationships. Instead, it helps us build strong relationships with our customers by helping us better meet their needs.

Danny Meyer, the founder of New York City’s Union Square Hospitality Group, has incorporated Apple watches into his restaurants. These watches are synched to the restaurants’ digital reservation systems. Restaurant employees use the watches to share and receive information, from food allergies to past dining preferences.

Give Guests Options

Implementing technology into hotels often seems like a battle we can’t win. Guests simultaneously demand the ease and convenience of technology such as self-service kiosks, mobile check-in, and keyless entry while also wanting personal, human interactions.

The answer lies in providing guests with options. Some guests would rather interact with technology than staff, while others expect nothing less than every interaction happening face-to-face. Technology empowers guests to choose what suits them. It has the potential to eliminate traditional hospitality frustrations like long lines and unexpected delays. Resolving these issues frees up staff to spend more time interacting with customers who prefer human touchpoints.

Technology is a powerful tool that enables us to serve our guests through personalization and improved options. We can also empower our staff via technology to better care for guests who desire face-to-face interactions. The balance between incorporating technology while maintaining human interactions is undoubtedly possible. We can use technology as an aid to improve the guest experience and better meet associate needs.


Hotels to offer free stays to guests in exchange for their skills

More than 600 B&Bs, hotels and self-catering businesses across the world have signed up to take part in the second international Barter Week. The initiative runs for a week in November (18-24) and invites accommodation owners to offer free stays to guests in exchange for sharing skills or goods.

Hosts register their “wishes”, which range from carpentry and decorating skills to social media knowhow or website expertise and invite potential guests to make an offer.

Properties range from an eco-retreat in Bulgaria that is looking for someone with woodworking skills to help build a reiki room in its garden to a Sri Lankan hotel-spa hoping to find an expert in search engine optimisation and a Torquay guesthouse in need of a painter and decorator.

It’s not just skills that are required. A B&B in Turin is after children’s books in good condition; a hostel in Moscow wants board games, and a Ger house in Mongolia is hoping for a used computer.

Among more obscure requests are “vintage globes”, wanted by a B&B in Livorno, and musicians or acrobats to join a community setting up a vegetarian campsite south of Tarragona in Spain.

Launched in 2018, the initiative is the sister project to Italian Barter Week which started 11 years ago when the website discovered one of its members, in Sardinia, was bartering with guests.

“When we found out there was this bizarre way of doing business, we asked all our properties to experiment for one week a year in low season,” said marketing manager Clara Corallo. The Italian edition of Barter Week, Settimana del Baratto, which operates over the same period, has nearly 900 properties listed on its site.

Corallo says the next stage is to launch a permanent bartering site for accommodation owners to use at any time of year, not just the fixed week. This is expected to launch in 2020.

Barter Week is not the only initiative offering free stays in exchange for skills. Workaway lists 30,000 hosts worldwide offering accommodation and food in exchange for a few hours’ work a day, and individual hostels and lodges around the world often offer free stays on an ad-hoc basis in return for skills.


Smart Building Technology Is Gaining Ground in Hospitality

The president of hotel technology integrator Mode:Green, Bill Lally, has a unique vantage point over the smart building landscape. Serving the luxury hotel market in New York City and elsewhere, Lally cut his teeth in the music and audio recording business and later audiovisual services. 

“I honestly haven’t figured out if everybody else is smart enough to stay out of the hospitality market or is crazy not to do it,” Lally said. 

The market is challenging, especially at the top end, where guests who pay tens of thousands of dollars per night for a hotel room expect perfection. 

But the luxury market segment also provides a chance to deploy smart building technologies that become mainstream over time. 

There are three main drivers of the hospitality sector’s embrace of smart building technology, according to Lally. “One is guest experience, two is back-end efficiency and three is what energy code is mandated,” he said. 

Starting with the final item last, many states, municipalities and major cities in the United States have mandates designed to help minimize wasted energy in unoccupied hotel rooms. Such rules, the increasing costs of heating and cooling buildings, are convincing more hotel execs to take action. On one end of the spectrum, occupancy detection systems help shut off lights automatically and adjust temperatures when guests are away. “Within major markets — New York, Chicago and Florida, for instance — [this trend] is growing.” 

Such technologies were once found in primarily luxury properties, but, in many areas, are required by code for any major renovation or new build. 

The second megatrend helping propel the use of smart building technology in the hospitality sector is shifting consumer expectations. Thanks to the widespread use of streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Video, many hotels gave up on the premise they can provide movies guests couldn’t see at home. The new emerging model is for guests to bring their own devices to the hotel and use the hotel room’s infrastructure to make it an extension of their home. 

A parallel trend is growing interest in voice control in hotels. Roughly one-quarter of the U.S. public now owns at least one smart speaker. And a growing number of high-end hotels took notice. “We’re seeing voice control take off more and more, especially in the U.S. markets where the systems are primarily English-speaking,” Lally said. 

Also related to IoT is the gradual shift of high-end hotels to focus on guest experience as it extends across the property. “How do you take that experience outside the guest room so that the technology is enabling you to access room services across a resort-wide spectrum or even outside the resort?” Lally asked. 

The final theme driving interest in smart building technology in the hospitality sector relates to operational efficiency. One example is the hotel doorbell technology that supports electronic do not disturb functionality. In essence, they replace the plastic “Do Not Disturb” signs of yore. “There’s a fair amount in Vegas. We’re seeing loads of them in New York now,” Lally said.  

From a connected hotel perspective, the functionality gives housekeeping staff the potential to remotely see which rooms they can service, allowing them to come up with a data-driven game plan of which rooms to clean in what order. That can limit the amount of time staff spend traveling up and down elevators while allowing them to steer housekeeping goods where they are most needed. “Especially in the larger hotels where labor rates are extremely high and overhead is high, this is tremendously helpful,” Lally said.

One idea floating around is that the smart hotel and smart home industries will, to a certain extent, converge. For example, a guest with an Amazon Echo smart speaker, who prefers to set their thermostat at 72 degrees Fahrenheit and listens to 1950s-era jazz with dimmed lights, can walk into a hotel room and have that experience delivered. 

When asked about that general concept, Lally said that, while it is possible to deliver such experiences now, “it’s not being done in very great lengths right now.” 

For one thing, to provide such an experience requires a significant investment from the hotel and the ability to amass customer preferences in the hotel’s computer reservation system, rewards program database or customer relationship management software. 

“Getting [guest preference] information to translate into a room control system is complicated as far as being able to read those different categories or preferences and being able to translate that into the room itself,” Lally said. For one thing, there are security and compliance matters. Such systems would have to carefully gather customer preference data without storing voiceprints or a credit card number a guest might provide while on the phone with a bank. 

Still, the gap between hotels and the home will likely narrow in years to come. “I’d say things are definitely headed there. It’s what we’re all working toward,” Lally said. 

High-end hotel properties will likely be the first to move in this direction. “It’s a lot of work, and it’s not the cheapest work to do from the hotel or developer standpoint. So a lot of it will be adapted in the luxury market first,” Lally said. “But it will trickle down once the [systems have been] built to support those types of things. It’s somewhat of a dream right now, but I’d say it’s not that far off. And it’s certainly something that everybody in the industry is striving for.”


Curious where social media is going? The travel industry leads the way

In the world of marketing, nothing emphasizes a faster change in popularity or trend than social media.

  • Just when a social media manager believes they’ve figured out Facebook’s algorithm, it changes.
  • Think implementing a strategy with Snapchat is the solution to hitting target audiences? Here comes Tik Tok.
  • That brand new influencer with millions of engaged followers you just signed? They just entered the news cycle with questionable posts right after pushing your brand.

In social marketing, early adopters are rewarded. Those who pass over trends or are late to the game, will miss fantastic opportunities, and, of course, risk ridicule or mockery by more social-savvy users.

It’s easy to see which trends are relevant right now and build a strategy around current viral posts and innovative tactics, but how do you predict what’s coming next?

Customer behavior is in a constant state of evolution. How can an agency, in-house team or other social specialists, build content to stick with followers and increase awareness for prospective clients and future fans?

Where can you look for inspiration? Key indicators are available, ready to guide your organization to accomplish its comprehensive social media strategy.

In fact, one industry has been at the forefront of social innovation: Travel and tourism has been leading content sharing well before the conception of today’s popular platforms; a consistent trend for years.

Inherently social

Travel has always been social. Not simply traveling with friends and family, but sharing our travel experiences with others. Before the rise of today’s social media giants, travelers were eager to provide social media-type feedback to family, friends and strangers around the globe.

What used to be organized photo albums and slideshows for friends and neighbors, have been replaced by blogs and Instagram posts. 

Whether planners were in need of information and reviews regarding potential vacation destinations and activities, or vacationers were looking to boast about their experiences, passing information has evolved from speaking to someone face-to-face, and reading detailed brochures, to leaving reviews on sites such as TripAdvisor – a prime example of social media before social media.

Of course today, social media posts on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and all other platforms are the most exciting and efficient ways of spreading information to your friends and family.

The third-party endorsements of destinations and activities from the consumers’ point of view are truly impacting future plans of other travelers, who monitor social sites for recommendations. These connections with the like-minded have become vital to destinations as posts become more visual.

So, why were consumers sharing, rating and reviewing trips before the social media takeover?

To be frank, vacations are expensive – a high-stakes purchasing decision.

As marketers, we learned early that a trusted evaluation of an experience is important to those ready to spend the time and money on a high-priced activity. Unlike the ease of ordering, trying and returning products such as clothing, vacations are one of the most expensive purchases consumers make, and you’ll be hard-pressed to receive a refund for an unimpressive travel experience.

Traveling is a highly personal product – costs, safety and overall level of fun are not taken lightly.

Sharing everything

No matter where you are, or where you’ve gone, there have always been opportunities to socially share or receive information about your trip.

When social media, as we currently know it, launched in the early 2000s, it was a game-changer for the travel industry, placing a more intricate spin on sharing and researching details about potential vacation itineraries.

It can be challenging to identify the cause and effect of social media trends as they continue to ebb and flow, almost daily. Are consumers behaving differently due to platform features and algorithms, or are the consumers forcing these changes from the platforms?

From our experience in the travel industry’s social media landscape, there are four trends that a marketer must identify – all of which have a tremendous impact on the travel industry, and are fundamentally relevant to non-travel businesses looking to succeed on social media.

The rise of niche communities

With 3.5 billion people on social media, how many of these users are relevant to your brand?

Users are taking advantage of social media to stay connected to family, friends and only those brands they love.

Travel and tourism has been at the forefront of developing niche communities, with groups, or “artificial walls” put up by brands to segment and target their audiences. Brands develop opportunistic groups to pull prime targets in to discuss travel plans, recommendations and more. 

Groups such as “It’s Orlando Time,” filled with dedicated travelers in the U.K., maintain hundreds of thousands of followers, with nearly 1,000 posts every day about traveling to Orlando, Florida.

There are so many opportunities to share and learn on social media, but groups like these are followed due to their direct impact on its community. Brands monitor the deep and passionate thoughts and insights in real time, and add any relevant content to increase participation.

There are countless groups of all sizes, for road warriors, who share detailed insights on how to exploit loopholes in frequent flyer programs, and those who simply vent their frustrations when hotels and other providers do not meet expectations.

These dedicated groups have set the example for productive social sharing, especially as brands figure out a way to interact with their customers in these new environments, even without control over messaging.  

Social sales

Social media is driving purchasing decisions. The phenomenon of repeating what you see on social media began as users became inspired by travelers they aspire to be. (Looking at you, Instagram Repeat account)

Whether they be travel-, fitness-, food, or even laundry detergentrelated sales, these posts inspire consumers to mimic social media by purchasing and eventually posting. 

Platforms like Instagram are no longer simply providing inspiration, but they’re also making it increasingly easy to shop right from the app.

Like many other businesses, the travel industry struggles to completely attribute what part of their sales are driven by social media, especially as travel is less of an impulse buy.

The most forward-thinking travel marketers have come up with very sophisticated attribution models, which allow them to track consumers as they see the content and subsequently make a purchase. 

Social customer service

Customer service has boomed on social media. Yes, it’s an opportunity to engage with consumers who’ve had negative and positive experiences, but it also means responses are expected in real time.

Social media has empowered consumers, who are not afraid to use that power – just ask any person responsible for community management of an airline’s social channels. 

Any cancelled or delayed flight, changed seat assignment, service animal, unruly passenger or disruption can lead to an onslaught of angry tweets or messages.

For years, travel industry leaders have been reaching out and solving problems for customers through social media platforms (or travel review sites), whether it’s a mismanaged hotel room or flight cancellation. For the travel industry, immediate responses have been vital to ensure today’s guests don’t miss flights and are comfortable during their travels.

This type of customer service is spilling over into other industries, and they should take their cue from the tourism giants who have perfected solving customer service issues, quickly, effectively and personally.

Brand connectors

Social media influencers discovered travel before other verticals, and are now everywhere – even causing some hospitality organizations to ban “influencers” from their properties. So what comes next?

The influencer trend is moving towards those passionate, more targeted audiences (see niche communities above), who might not have the large number of followers, but are more authentic and relatable.

Consumers are no longer influenced by one person who visits a city for half a day. They want the real/authentic view of a local with all the connections. 

“Following” a true insider helps build that authentic audience base, that continues to realize the difference between an ad and a shared experience. In other words, don’t build an influencer program, build a partnership.

No industry has achieved such strong social media success like travel – the concepts of sharing and enjoying photos, recommendations and reviews has gracefully aged and continues to improve.

It’s more important than ever that all brands and industries take note of the important work destination marketing organizations, hotel owners, airlines and conventions bureaus have accomplished to keep up with the changing dynamics of social strategies.

Social media has dissolved the barrier between businesses and consumers – planning/purchasing is at the fingertips of consumers, and feedback is only a click away.

Questions and requests can be resolved with a tweet or Facebook message. Yes, this is the perfect marketplace to provide information to your audience, but understanding the needs and wants of your targets through social media data are key to increasing awareness and the bottom line.


Measuring product lifecycle and witnessing innovation in social media

Pinpointing the position of social media in its product lifecycle in hospitality was the topic of conversation last week at the Dorchester Collection’s Coworth Park, as a group of marketers and business owners from across the hospitality industry gathered in Ascot.

The discussions centred around where different restaurateurs, product and service suppliers, hoteliers, caterers, industry associations and lobbyists see social media now within their wider marketing activity. Linked to where they see the hospitality industry’s position in terms of social media’s product lifecycle.

The crux of the discussions focused on returns on investment achieved. One delegate shared how restaurants had been filled through Instagram and the strategy and tactics deployed to achieve that goal. Others reflected on the return on investment versus time savings for communications in large teams of people.

Delegates looked at the different channels used, old and new, ranging from the established Facebook to the emerging TikTok, with strategic and tactical lessons shared.

Tone of voice, images, sources of images and image testing, video and calls to action were all reviewed as were use of emoji’s, grammar and punctuation. All had a clear impact on the different objectives and campaign measurements applied. Attention to small details had a big effect.

The objective of any such event is to ensure delegates leave with ‘take-aways’ that can be applied post event.

The observations ranged from seasoned attendees who have shared their experiences previously, enabling a familiar framework to measure by, to newcomers who shed light with a new, different and helpful approach.

One of the delegates taking part that has done previously on many occasions was Simon Esner FIH FIoD, Director, WSH LIMITED. WSH own and operate some of the best known brands in hospitality including BaxterStorey. Commenting on the morning Esner said: “The whole event was extremely well organised and the team at Coworth really made everyone feel welcome and relaxed immediately.

“The attendees were a terrific group of business professionals who all had significant involvement with the discussions, which resulted in me having several ‘take-aways’ that I know I will be able to utilise personally and professionally.

“Key words, subjects and points for me that will enhance our approach to social media utilisation are ‘Authenticity’, ‘Engagement’, ‘use of algorithms and their specific platforms’ and using Instagram as your ‘Inspiration Platform’.

“Lastly, I’m grateful for the information about image libraries. Having looked at the information I know we will be able to learn more and make better use of our approach.”

One of the newer delegates was Paul Anderson FIH, M.C.G.C Managing Director, Meiko UK Limited who told us: “I was kindly invited to attend H&C Social last week at Coworth Park, in a small yet collective discussion on social media and the part it plays in modern business.

“It’s true I am always pushing the boundaries within MEIKO on social media, and yet I always say I am never an expert. It was so useful to gain ideas and thoughts from great peers of our industry during this meeting that I came away thinking we’ve not even really started.

“The use of media is so fast, so readily available and requires constant attention to ensure it is correct, valid and fit for purpose…. more or less a full time role to support and underpin the image of a company.

“I really found this meeting extremely useful and I can’t wait until the next one.”

The mix of delegates was diverse to ensure as many views and perspectives as possible were considered and learned from.

Pat Thomas is a Founder of and Director at Beyond GM, an independent initiative set up to raise the level of the debate on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the UK and elsewhere, at both the local and national level. Its activities aim to broaden the discussion about GMOs beyond the abstract, and often impenetrable, scientific and academic arena and out into the public arena. The task of broadening discussions on GMO’s is in part achieved through social media, so Pat’s input to our discussion was enlightening.

Thomas was enthusiastic saying: “Social media has become such an important platform for sharing not just sterile pieces of information but connected stories that matter about the values that drive us. The social media roundtables are a lively and invaluable forum where individuals can share ideas, challenges and tips for success. Keep them coming.”

The discussions looked at many channels and LinkedIn was covered by Neil Fillbrook FCII, UK Managing Director of international banking firm Bank Brokers. Fillbrook reflected on the morning telling us: “The round-table discussion this morning with social-media thought leaders from the hospitality industry at the wonderful Coworth Park was fascinating. It was intriguing to learn from both a strategic and tactical standpoint.

“Our execution of Social media within our wider marketing mix will improve as a consequence of taking part. Several things quickly became clear to me and the takeaway’s are many. What on earth is TikTok?!”

TikTok in many ways underlines the incredibly fast changing and emerging technologies across social media. TikTok was launched in 2017 by Chinese business ByteDance, valued at $78 billion in November 2018 and is considered one of the most valuable unicorns in the world. One delegate is already au fait with TikTok and shared his experience and views, Rehan Uddin, Managing Director of the Asian Restaurant Owners Network.

Uddin there representing the 1,500 plus members of the Asian Restaurant Owners Network pooled knowledge and experience from members. His contribution was eloquent and enlightening, his feedback was to the point stating: “At the heart of the Asian Restaurant Owners Network we value and cherish our heritage, but our focus is on creating 21st century dining. Social media is key to everything we do and drives our businesses.

“To get a morning of enlightened discussion and knowledge sharing is not only tremendous use of my time, it allows me to disseminate the learning with our members.

“The conversation was steeped in first-hand experience and it was authentic, I leave today’s roundtable with practical guidance I can apply to my own restaurant business and that of fellow members, thank you.”

The variety of perspective from around the table provided a wide range of references with many common touchpoints, enabling references to be debated, linked and clarified. One common denominator was that all participants agreed on was that the product lifecycle of social media is in its growth stage. So, although the use of channels by delegates was as diverse as the table seating mix, the overall approach and view to the opportunity was very similar.

Commenting on the range of perspectives, Antonia Robinson, Manager, Public Relations & Social Media – EMEA at Preferred Hotels & Resorts focused on all our end customers, the consumers, saying: “It was interesting to focus the roundtable discussion on the social media product lifecycle.

“It was great to connect with professionals from so many sectors of the hospitality industry and learn more about how everyone uses social media differently within their companies to align with their brand messaging and goals.

“I greatly enjoyed hearing everyone’s varied perspectives on how the social media landscape is rapidly shifting and how consumers are crying out for more personalisation and authenticity, which in turn is shaking up how companies are handling their approach across the platforms.”

Independent hotels were represented as well as global hotel groups, Preferred Hotels & Resorts and Dorchester Collection. The independent hotel sector was represented by Robert Richardson FIH, GENERAL MANAGER of The Grand in Folkestone.

Richardson raised a number of points including trolling and how to deal with it positively, especially relevant to the many TripAdvisor advocates amongst the group. Richardson was to the point with his discussions and his feedback saying: Today was excellent in terms of the industry diversity of the group, with each delegate having their own specific social media focus, challenges and successes, which made for an insightful debate and allowed me to leave knowing more than when I arrived. Mission accomplished.”

The morning saw a group of marketers and business owners who are all innovators through what they are doing in social media gather and talk. Innovation is key driver in our fabulous hospitality industry and as such was it a coincidence that most of the attendees businesses are also market leaders in their respective sectors, we think not.

A few words from the business that sponsored the event and have done every year for the past six years, Armourcoat. “Armourcoat were delighted to participate in the recent social media roundtable from H&C News and act as sponsor for the event.

“Benchmarking good practice in marketing, which social media channels offer the best return, and how to effectively measure success are critical when reviewing budgets and considering MROI.

“The value of creating an open forum for debate is of enormous benefit.” Daniel Nevitt, Group Marketing Director, Armourcoat.


Emotional intelligence: Is EQ the X-Factor that makes successful leaders in the workplace?

Consider a person who strongly believes in “fighting for peace,” who under normal conditions behaves moderately, even kindly. They may possibly come to brawl with someone who threatens or challenges their ideology of peace. The reason for their strong reaction is perhaps that they cannot separate themselves from emotions and is heavily invested in their belief in peace.

The emotional dimensions they may not be able to observe are perhaps of the biases with their notion or ideology, limiting beliefs and strong feelings. These emotions drive their feelings, resulting in their behavior and the way one communicates with themselves and others. This unyielding attitude forms a big barrier in one’s personal and professional development and growth.  

Such beliefs are also the mental impressions that are left by situations, thoughts, actions, and intents which an individual has experienced or learned in the past. These are the sort of psychological imprints that are below the level of normal consciousness and are the root of our impulsive behavior. 

When you think of a ‘great leader’, who comes to your mind? 

More often than not, it is someone who is trustworthy and honest, listens to the team, makes informed decisions, connects and collaborates, make others feel comfortable. Someone who rarely loses their cool whatever the problems be. 

These are all qualities of someone with a high quotient of emotional intelligence.   

That’s why emotional intelligence is such an important skill, as you need to tune into your own emotions to tune your performance. The saying goes, “emotions drive people and people drive performance”.

Emotional intelligence is also known as EI or EQ is one of the most popular and most researched psychological hypotheses of the 21st century. But it isn’t a new subject at all. Old Indian scriptures written 4,000 years ago such as the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Bhagwat Gita have widely covered this psychological aspect of humans. 

Thanks to scholars such as Peter Solovey and John Mayer, Dr Daniel Goleman, Dr Richard Davidson, Dr Richard Boyatzis among many others, who have made Emotional Intelligence easily understood by almost everyone today. 

“When I wrote about Emotional Intelligence across various forums and discussions there is universality about the message that we can be self-aware, that we can manage our inner lives better when we come from a poised, calm, centered place and relate to other people with empathy, with compassion. The first part — the fundamental part — of emotional intelligence is self-awareness, and I think mindfulness is applied self- awareness,” said Dr Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, on its importance. Dr Goleman, who has spent two years in India studying mindfulness, resided in McLeodganj during his India stay. 

“During my stay at McLeodganj where Dalai Lama lives, I was studying mindfulness as a practice and also theoretically because I realised there were ancient psychologies in India that understood the importance of mindfulness as the ability for us to shape our mind and not just to be passive victims of how our circumstances shape us. When I tried to bring it back to the west it’s taken a while to take off and I think there’s hard evidence base that has helped it spread so effectively,” Goleman said.   

Emotional Quotient (EQ) vs Intelligence Quotient (IQ)

Most of us are familiar with Intelligence Quotient (IQ), which is primarily associated with our logical reasoning, ability to memorise information and retrieve items from our memory. On the other hand, Emotional intelligence (EI) deepens our empathy, our ability to sense the feelings of others.

In the past, it was thought that people with a higher IQ would outperform people with a lower IQ. More recently, thousands of research papers have shown that people with higher EQ outperform in life and it contributes as a dominant factor for success.  

In my professional career of the past 30 years, I have come across many situations where leaders/managers with high IQ, technological skills and experience fail to perform when promoted to a senior leadership positions or manage bigger teams. On the other hand leaders/managers with poise, smoothly managing most complex social situations without losing their control and make people comfortable in their presence tends to lead better.  

So, what is more important – EQ or IQ? A good balance of both brings the best results for organisational performance, but it is now proven that more often it is the soft skills of knowing how to treat people that are remembered by others, rather than a particular level of intelligence. 

Emotional Intelligence has grown popular in organisations — why? 

Organisations realised that having employees and leaders with higher emotional intelligence is essential for success. Eventually, who is more likely to succeed – a leader who screams and yells at their team when situations are hot and he’s under stress, or a leader who stays in control, and calmly assesses the situation?

In fact, recruiters today rely on the value of EQ as one of the key indicators for a person’s performance, teamwork, resilience, and longevity for the position. That’s one of the biggest reasons for wide acceptance of Emotional Intelligence as a major factor facilitating to superior educational and professional performance.

Why do organizations want leaders with high EQ?

We are emotional creatures who often make decisions and respond to stimuli based on our emotions. As a result, our ability to grow in EQ has an enormous impact on managing our relationships, decision making, and identifying opportunities. Emotionally Intelligent leadership works through emotions where they use this skill to positively drive emotions in teams and organisations. These positive emotions resonate in organisational culture bringing out the best performance and holistic wellbeing for everyone.

Teamwork, critical thinking, emotional balance, authenticity with compassion and empathy are few of those traits which play an important role in the success of a good leader in today’s time. Compassion, empathy combined with other social skills are equally important aspects to look for in a leader. He who lacks an aptitude to understand himself and at the same time is unable to recognize team emotions can never produce positive results.

Organisations now look for employing a workforce with high Emotional Intelligence thus enabling them to achieve excellence rather than staying mediocre. Emotional intelligence offers a range of significant benefits for organisations:

Increased sales
Greater employee retention
A happy and productive workforce 
Enhanced customer service
Effective interpersonal relationships
Higher morale and easy working environment 
Better communication
Unique business branding

What makes up Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence is a skill that allows us to access emotional data in two ways:

  1. Inside World (Intrapersonal): Recognise, understand and manage our own emotions
  2. Outside World (Intrapersonal) : Recognise, understand and influence the emotions of others

Pillars of emotional intelligence 

Four specific character traits that define our level of Emotional Intelligence are Self Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness and Relationship Management :

Self-awareness/emotional self-awareness

Self-awareness is the first step in the journey towards emotional intelligence. It’s about paying attention to our own self, observing our thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, habits, reactions and  behaviour.  


Here we learn to recognise and regulate feelings, manage the way in which we communicate those feelings and emotions to others. The ability to keep disruptive emotions and impulses in check and maintain our effectiveness under stressful or hostile conditions is an essential part of self-management. It’s also an ability to recognise, generate and use emotions in cognitive tasks such as problem solving and creativity.  

Social awareness

Social awareness is an ability to read and understand emotions and feelings of others. It manifests three main human abilities: empathy, organisational awareness and service orientation.These abilities give people an awareness and sensitivity toward others’ emotions, needs and concerns. This skill comes with an additional ability where one can read nonverbal cues and facial expressions helping build a genuine understanding and true compassion for others that promotes to trustworthy relationships. 

It is even more important in profession wherever high human interactions are needed such as judges, lawyers, police,doctors, armed forces, etc.

Recently, I was training 55 young and senior police officers at one of the largest Police training Academy in the country. They showed great improvement in their leadership skills and emotional awareness after four days of back to back Emotional Intelligence training.

I have personally experienced that leaders with this sensitivity perform far superior than others and they play a critical role in organisational team performance with greater understanding and genuine compassion for others. 

Relationship management

Our failure or success depends when we collaborate and cooperate with others, hence relationship management plays an extremely important role in achieving personal and professional success.Relationship Management is one of the most critical social skills and draws a more intricate picture. Effectiveness of our relationships fulcrums on our ability to understand and fine-tune ourselves towards the emotions of other people. Our inability to control our emotional outbursts or lack of empathy towards others, reduces our chances for an effective relationships. As an effective leader, you will need to cultivate emotional ability to impact or convince people, foster long term support, be able to manage conflicts, find solutions and inspire teams. One needs to cultivate the following skills in order to build an effective relationship management. 

The good news is that Emotional Intelligence is like a muscle and with training it can be built and enhanced gradually. Emotional Intelligence and mindfulness improve your ability to lead and manage our own self and others more effectively to live a healthy, progressive and joyful life. 


Luxury Hotels Introduce Curated Experiences and Old World Salons

Not so long ago, city hotels were largely considered forgettable places that offered a place to sleep and no more. It didn’t matter which hotel—it could be super luxurious or even beautifully designed—most travelers didn’t want to spend more time in them than necessary. 

But that wasn’t always the case. Hotels used to be the setting for cultural experiences and rousing debates. In the 19th century, U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant popularized the term “lobbyist” when, as he would indulge with a cigar and brandy in the lobby of InterContinental The Willard Washington, D.C., people (some total strangers) would engage him with various grievances. And the Algonquin Hotel in New York City was the daily lunchtime forum for a group of writers led by Dorothy Parker ; it was also where The New Yorker magazine was founded. 

Today, hotels are glamorous hangouts once again, and the legacy that they historically enjoyed as the stomping grounds of lively discourse and idea exchange is being resuscitated. 

These days, hotels that fall within the luxury and lifestyle categories can’t survive without offering much more than a bed to sleep in. The terms “experiential travel” and “bleisure” are among the industry’s most important talking points, and as such, accommodation brands have been tasked with creating properties that are destinations themselves. 

Transporting spas, see-and-be-seen chef-driven restaurants, and exclusive experiences are now part of the DNAs of the world’s most sought-after crash pads. Part of this includes developing culturally relevant programming. And what better way to do that than by bringing the old-world salon experience back into fashion? 

In 2011, Andaz launched a salon series that ticks a lot of these buzzy boxes: Influential figures would lead interactive events that centered on a cultural topic relevant to the property’s location. 

“We know our guests travel to satiate their curiosity about the world and local culture,” says Heather Geisler, Hyatt’s vice president of Global Brands. “Andaz Salon is a powerful way to get close to our guests—to give them what we know they are looking for when they travel.” 

Whether it was a Q&A with the photographers whose works were hung all over Andaz 5th Avenue or a talk and demonstration with Tetsuya Nagata, known for his eye-catching washi paper artwork, at Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills, the salon events allow the brand to naturally embed its hotels in the places they’re in. That way, guests can continue to connect to these cities even when they’re no longer out exploring.

An even bigger name invested on its own salon concept in 2016 when Marriott Hotels partnered with TED. Through the collaboration, TED Talks started appearing in Marriott properties all over the world. While the onsite activations are much smaller than the conferences TED is known for, the content isn’t any less compelling. 

In fact, the topics that the Marriott speakers tackle are often just as hard-hitting. For the hospitality chain, the TED Fellows Salon is meant to stimulate the modern traveler. 

“The Marriott Hotels guest is naturally inquisitive and looking for inspiration when they travel,” says Mara Hannula, the vice president of global brand marketing at Marriott International. “The TED partnership helps us deliver that thought-provoking content, helping our ‘inventive class’ guests escape from their everyday routines and gain refreshing new perspectives.” 

In 2018, for instance, the Bengaluru Marriott Hotel Whitefield hosted “Women in Innovation” featuring TED fellows like Zubaida Bai, who spoke about the critical importance of maternal health. Marriott also brought the project to South Africa in March 2019, when the Cape Town Marriott Hotel Crystal Towers hosted conservation biologist Steve Boyes to discuss the environmental needs of the Okavango Delta. 

But it’s not just established names that are jumping on the movement. Relative newcomer Arlo Hotels, which in 2016 launched in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood and just opened its third location in Miami, started its pARLOur talks in August 2018 to specifically address a growing traveler need: local connection. 

“The biggest trend we’re seeing is people want to spend less time in their rooms and more time connecting with the destination and its locals,” says Dayna Castano, corporate director of marketing for Arlo Hotels. But that doesn’t always mean sending them out to try a new restaurant or to take a guided tour. “Hotels have to be smarter in their programming, and realize that they need to encourage curiosity and exploration just as much inside the hotel as outside in the city,” Castano adds. “Our guests need more than the standard happy hour or paint and sip classes. ” 

Arlo has spearheaded many of these events across its three locations (most of them are themed around holistic, green living), but according to Castano, pARLOur talks have so resonated with the public at-large that prospective speakers have been pursuing the hotel for the opportunity to organize their own iterations. 

Elena Baxter, co-founder of Conscious magazine, a globally distributed publication that tells the stories behind some of the planet’s most empowering and game-changing people and initiatives, and Jessica Kelly, who founded THR3EFOLD, a platform that connects brands with ethical factories around the world, originally pitched the “Shifting the Fashion Industry for People & Planet” discussion that was staged at Arlo SoHo during New York Fashion Week.


Awareness of water risks is rising in food and beverage, but more progress is needed

Unilever does the best at recognizing and managing risk factors associated with water out of large food, beverage and ingredients companies, according to a new report from nonprofit sustainability group Ceres. Right behind Unilever — which scored 87 points out of 100 — was Nestlé with 85 points. General Mills, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo round out the top five. Sanderson Farms, with zero points, scored the lowest. Monster Beverage, Pilgrim’s Pride and Chiquita Brands all had fewer than 10 points.

Ceres ranked 40 major food companies on how well they manage water risk and compared how performance has changed in its latest “Feeding Ourselves Thirsty” report. Awareness is growing — 77% of 35 publicly traded food and beverage companies now consider water a risk factor in financial filings, an increase from 59% that did so when Ceres did its last report in 2017.

Although the food industry is becoming more aware of water risks, the 2019 analysis shows CPG, beverage, agricultural products and meat companies are still not effectively managing this risk in their operations or global supply chains. Food companies need to move faster and more boldly — investing in smart and water-conscious agriculture — to meet the challenges posed by the global water crisis, protect their bottom lines and return value to investors, the organization said.

​​Climate ​change’s effects are putting unprecedented strain on global water supply and quality, which Ceres said threatens profitability of the $5 trillion global food sector. The outlook and implications for food companies are grim, the organization added.

The Ceres report noted the food sector has improved management of water risk in the past few years. This is imperative considering that about 70% of global water use fuels the larger food and beverage industry, and it’s one of the first major industries to be exposed to problems caused by a strained supply, report co-author and Ceres Vice President of Innovation and Evaluation Brooke Barton said on a media call. 

The average company score rose 22% since 2017 and 52% since 2015. Reasons for this include corporate board members becoming more aware of water issues, more companies setting water use efficiency goals, and food companies more often analyzing the water-related risks — physical, regulatory and reputational — in today’s world.

The report singled out Unilever for adding 14 points to its latest score and regaining the No. 1 spot by strengthening its board oversight of water risks, tying executive compensation to meeting water performance targets and bolstering efforts to protect watersheds critical to its agricultural supply chain. Ceres said Mars improved its score by 27 points because it set new water reduction targets based on challenges within different watersheds.

Some companies have made more progress than others. Kentucky-based spirits maker Brown-Forman fell 10 points in the rankings, even though its numerical score stayed the same. Reasons behind the drop include lack of sustainability oversight on the board level, consideration of water in company strategy and operations, and a watershed protection plan. Hershey’s score improved by two points, but the confectioner’s ranking went down nine slots for failure to analyze watershed conditions, support suppliers to improve water and wastewater management and translate water risk into financial terms, Ceres said.

While the packaged food, beverage, agricultural products and meat sectors improved average scores from the two previous Ceres reports, the meat industry continues to be the lowest-performing of the four because “meat processors continue to do relatively little to ensure resilient supply chains,” the report said. Every meat company analyzed except Smithfield Foods was in the bottom half of all the companies assessed, Ceres noted.

Specific actions some food companies are taking to enhance sustainable sourcing were called out in the report. Kellogg has set out to responsibly source 10 priority ingredients by 2020. It defines that goal for each ingredient and reports on progress. So far, Kellogg has responsibly sourced at least 80% of most of its priority commodities, Ceres said.

PepsiCo is doing something similar with its commodity purchases, and the company is aiming to enhance water use efficiency by 15% by 2025. These goals cover most of its key commodities, the report said.


Why AI-Powered Hotel Revenue Management Is Taking The Hospitality Industry By Storm

Automation has become the driving force in the evolution of revenue management. Leveraging advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning, the best of today’s solutions make pricing decisions and rate updates automatically. This allows revenue managers to focus their time on tactics and strategy rather than spending it crunching data and punching numbers into spreadsheets. The speed and complexity of the pricing decisions, and financial outcomes they generally produce, are unmatched by the most seasoned revenue manager using the most advanced solutions on the market only a few years ago. Such has been the blindingly rapid pace of technology innovation.

The ability to integrate new sources of data has also played a key role in driving smarter pricing decisions. Advanced revenue management solutions leverage not only the repository of historic data that resides in a hotel’s property management system, but also, in many cases, a vast array of market intelligence and other data, from competitor rates data to booking trends data. This makes it possible to more accurately forecast demand, and, as a result, increase hotel revenue and profitability in unprecedented ways.

That being the case, it’s no surprise that next-generation, AI-powered revenue management has taken the industry by storm. Some of the leading AI-powered solutions, often replacing legacy solutions that use a hands-on, rules-based approach for generating pricing decisions, now automatically generate in excess of a 100 million decisions across tens of thousands of properties each day. The results are impressive, with major hotel brands seeing their revenue numbers increase by millions of dollars a year. Smaller properties, too, are seeing substantial gains, in some cases driving incremental sales lift by more than 15 percent.

Interestingly, AI-powered solutions sometimes produce pricing decisions that revenue managers may view as overly aggressive, irrational, or just plain wrong. Therein lies the power of big data and machine learning compared to the data processing and analytical capabilities of mere mortals. Even the most experienced revenue managers report that they have sold rates recommended by AI-enabled solutions that they would not have published in the past.

AI-powered revenue management is all about smart pricing. It’s about using demand forecasts, competitor rates, and price sensitivities — while taking into account any number of other inputs, including demand drivers like seasonality, special event dates, and day-of-week differences —to maximize room occupancy at the best possible price. Smart pricing also means considering other factors, such as the type of room, the length of stay, and the extent to which a discounted price promotion could potentially dilute revenue and profits in the long run. The combinatorial complexities involved in smart pricing are nothing to sneeze at.

Smart pricing is channel agnostic. Rather than thinking in terms of “OTA booking versus direct booking,” for example, smart pricing considers the relative value of all distribution channels, weighing how much each channel drives guest room demand and will help achieve the overriding objective, which is to maximize the profitability of hotel inventory. Smart pricing calculates demand from all sources, including OTAs. In an ideal world, algorithms then automatically apply the right tactics and strategy to funnel business through the most profitable channels.

The goal of maximizing profitability holds true not only for guest rooms but also for other property assets and revenue sources. Banquet and event function space, in particular, now increasingly factors into the equation. According to “The 2019 Global Meetings Forecast,” published by American Express, demand for function space was expected to grow by 3.2% this year. For some hotels, function space revenue now accounts for almost half of their total revenue. It only stands to reason, then, that hotels would be eager to apply revenue management strategies to their group sales and catering activities.

Total revenue management, as this bigger-picture approach to revenue optimization is often called, takes into account a guest’s potential spend on recreational facilities, restaurants, spas, and various other ancillary revenue streams when making pricing decisions. For hotels with casino operations, even the “theoretical loss” (the amount of money a specific category of player can be expected to lose during their stay) should ideally factor into guest room and group sales pricing decisions.

Empowering a hotel with the ability to make smart pricing decisions in an automated fashion makes the business case for investing in an AI-powered revenue management solution compelling. It is compelling in terms of driving increased profitability. It is also compelling in terms of averting potential revenue loss that can result when a hotel fails to maximize occupancy or, worse, experiences a loss in occupancy. Consider: A mere $2 reduction in the ADR for a 500-room hotel with a 75 percent occupancy rate would cost it more than a quarter million dollars in lost profit in a single year.

Other benefits abound. The business intelligence gleaned from the reporting capabilities, for example, can help improve sales effectiveness, generate competitive intelligence, and provide valuable insights into occupancy trends, guest demographics, market positioning, and channel profitability. A marketing department can use the forecasts as a guide for determining when to increase promotional spend to spur demand. An operations team can know when to increase (or decrease) staffing based on projected occupancy. In short, the benefits tend to go well beyond the department known as “revenue management,” ultimately transcending all parts of the organization.


Consumers, food waste, sustainability and AI lessons for hospitality

As we are all in the business of satisfying consumers and consumer demand controls business, we read this report with interest. It looks at what consumers want from the likes of Tesco, Aldi, Sainsburys, Waitrose, Lidl, Asda, Morrisons and many more supermarkets and retailers that sell food in huge volumes.

For hospitality businesses that service the same consumers the message is vital, consumers want to give their custom to businesses that are transparent with their sustainability credentials.

Many hospitality businesses like Bartlett Mitchell, CH&CO, BaxterStorey and others are already transparent with their sustainability credentials, and we report on these regularly. Their market leading positions are linked in our opinion to leading the market in sustainability.

The report shows that when it comes to reducing food and packaging waste consumers think most progress is being made by Rewe and Edeka in Germany, Leclerc and Carrefour in France and Tesco and Morrisons in the UK. Which hospitality businesses would make the cut in a similar report?

Consumers are still worried that British supermarkets’ are not doing enough to go green, particularly around food and packaging waste, a report from Rubikloud, a global leader in retail artificial intelligence (AI), has revealed.

Original research of more than 3,000 European consumers in the 2019 European Grocery Data Report: What European grocery shoppers really want and how supermarkets can deliver it with AI showcases the extent of consumers high expectations.  88% of respondents said it’s important that retailers and food manufacturers reduce the amount of food and packaging waste, which ends up in landfill and oceans, in the next three years.

The report shows food waste is no longer just a cost issue for supermarkets, but also a reputational one.  68% of UK shoppers indicated there was no place for supermarkets who refuse to address sustainability.  71% of consumers think large supermarket groups should be legally required to produce annual reports on their food and packaging waste, with 40% saying there should be fines for those who fail to cut their waste levels.

At a time when UK consumer spending growth has reached record lows1, the 2019 European Grocery Data Report reveals the potential impact of the ‘green dollar’ for supermarkets who don’t – or won’t – address these concerns.

More than half of all shoppers aged 16 – 34 say they feel guilty about shopping at supermarkets, indicating the amount of packaging waste produced by supermarket shopping is the key driver for this guilt.

More than half of respondents indicated they would spend more with a food retailer who has made a commitment to reducing food and packaging waste.  56% of UK shoppers said they are less likely to throw out food on the ‘use by’ date than they were three years ago as sustainability issues and education campaigns increasingly impact consumer behaviour.

The report revealed a high level of consumer understanding of the issues driving food waste in supermarkets.  Shoppers identified technology as crucial to finding a solution, with more than half (56%) saying the most technologically advanced supermarkets will succeed in reducing waste. Two-fifths indicate supermarkets need to improve their stock forecasting capabilities and more than 50% said supermarkets should offer fewer price promotions (such as buy one, get one free) to reduce food and packaging waste.

“The environmental impact of food loss and packaging waste is a critical global issue,” said Kerry Liu, co-founder and CEO of Rubikloud.

Mr Liu continued: “Retailers have long been challenged with the inefficiencies in their supply chains and promotional strategies, which lead to the product overstock and shrink that is a key consumer concern.  AI and machine learning has the power to help supermarkets be better environmental stewards and reduce waste by providing them with actionable insights and improved forecasting.”