Article | July 24, 2023
The travel industry is reviving. Tourist spots across the globe are packed with excited explorers. Though it feels like everything is going back to normal, the way people travel has changed. The hospitality tech revolution is making mundane tasks easier and the customer experience richer.
Most travelers prefer self-service over waiting to be served. Online planning and bookings have picked up pace, so have contact-less check-in and 24/7 digital concierge. Hotels must swiftly meet these evolving demands or risk losing in the race. They must incorporate technology into their day-to-day operations to eliminate human error, increase their service efficiency, and, above all, offer an outstanding customer experience.
One of the technology trends reshaping the travel and hospitality industry is digital concierge—hotel chatbots that bring the concierge desk into the palm of a guest’s hand. Convenient, right?
A Sneak Peak into Hotel Chatbots
Hotel chatbots are software applications that communicate with your hotel’s website page visitors and resolve their queries. They are either programmed to behave a certain way or can be AI-powered. Programmed chatbots are configured to answer a limited set of questions. However, they can collect visitor information so your customer executives can get in touch with prospects to resolve their queries or provide them with booking assistance.
On the other hand, AI-powered chatbots use NLP (Natural Language Processing) and ML (Machine Learning) to analye human behaviour and accordingly answer questions.
Digital Concierge Brings in Conversions
Personalized communication forms the crux of customer experience. A desired, non-intrusive interaction between a guest and a chat bot can create strong engagement and help the guest to make a booking at your hotel. In such cases, the bot will forward the booking inquiries directly into the IBE (Internet Booking Engine) and strengthen your direct sales. 30-50% of the chatbot-prospect interactions result in IBE forwarding of booking inquiries. This statistic shows how accepting the guests are of the chatbot’s services. (Source: DialogShift, Olga Heuser)
Chatbots can also be integrated into social media platforms and instant messenger platforms so that guests can directly make bookings from a platform of their choice.
How are Hotel Chatbots Redefining CX?
Apart from bringing in revenue through direct sales, hotel chatbots also create a solid customer experience for the guests, so they don’t go home unsatisfied and give you a good review online.
Here are the ways in which they enhance the customer experience:
24/7 Availability- Chatbots promptly respond to guest queries round the clock
Multi-Lingual Support- Languages are not a barrier for them
Efficiency- They lighten your hotel staff’s load of answering guest queries
Customer Retention- They collect guest information, which helps in retention and follow-up
Brand Awareness- They are brand representatives and increase brand awareness through responsiveness
Additionally, AI- powered chatbots can also:
Highlight the hotel’s special features upon check-in
Recommend places and activities to do around the hotel with pictures and links
Request feedback from guests about services
Assist with table reservations or pool-side orders
The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas Used Rose to Impress Guests
The introduction of Rose, a smart chatbot that converses with guests on The Cosmopolitan’s website, changed the game for the hotel. The bot’s playful personality wooed hotel guests. Those who made a booking directly from the website ended up spending 37% more than those who did not engage with her.
Let’s Wrap It Up
A hotel chatbot refines the concierge experience for guests through rapid response times and enhances your hotel’s AI marketing efforts. It can be an invaluable asset for hotel business owners looking to stay ahead in the race.
Article | June 19, 2023
Discover insights to overcome hospitality management challenges of the dynamic travel industry. Elevate customer experiences, optimize operations, and thrive in the hospitality and travel industry.
1. Importance of Hospitality in Tourism Industry
2. Key Management Challenges in the Hospitality Industry
2.1. Personalizing Guest Experience
2.2. Seasonality of Hospitality
2.3. Rapid Shift in Market Trends
2.4. Retaining, Hiring & Managing Staff
2.5. Protecting Online Reputation
3. Significance of Implementing the Right Solutions
1. Importance of Hospitality in Tourism Industry
Today, the culture of hospitality holds paramount importance, focusing on outshining businesses by delivering exceptional service quality. To achieve this, hospitality industries must prioritize providing superior and satisfying products to their customers. Hiring managers should seek individuals with an excellent service-oriented mindset, while the training process should center around cultivating a strong service culture within the organization. Graduates of tourism and hospitality management programs are increasingly occupying key positions within the industry. These professionals view themselves as dedicated individuals entering the realm of hospitality management. Their roles demand specialized knowledge and skills, ongoing professional development, and a commitment to benefiting the community and society.
Hospitality and travel industry revolves around extending friendly treatment to guests and tourists, making it an indispensable sector within tourism. Understanding consumer behavior becomes crucial in making informed marketing decisions for tourism products and activities. To fully leverage the potential of the tourism industry, it becomes imperative to comprehend what challenges may and how to overcome them to make better decisions.
2. Overcome Key Management Challenges in the Hospitality Industry
2.1. Personalizing Guest Experience
Personalizing the guest experience has become an increasingly crucial challenge in the hospitality and travel industry, particularly as traditional B&Bs face competition from emerging players like Airbnb. To stay competitive and retain guests, it is essential to go beyond providing basic services and amenities. Today's travelers seek unique, tailored experiences that resonate with their preferences and needs.
By personalizing the guest experience, hospitality establishments can create a lasting impression and build strong customer loyalty. This involves understanding guest preferences and anticipating their needs before they articulate them. It can include personalized greetings, offering amenities or services that align with their interests, and providing recommendations tailored to their tastes. Effective communication is vital before, during, and after the guest's visit. Leveraging guest data and preferences allows targeted marketing campaigns, personalized offers, and follow-up communication that nurtures the relationship and keeps guests engaged.
2.2. Seasonality of Hospitality
One significant challenge is personalizing the guest experience, especially when considering the seasonality of the hospitality and travel industry. During peak seasons, although businesses may thrive, there is often added stress on staff to cater to a high volume of guests. Effective stress management measures and caring for the team's well-being are essential to delivering exceptional experiences consistently. In contrast, during off-peak seasons, it is an opportune time to utilize the team's talents for activities such as enhancing social media platforms, updating the website, reviewing security measures, conducting staff training, and staying abreast of industry innovations. This proactive approach helps maintain competitiveness and prepares for the next peak season.
2.3. Rapid Shift in Market Trends
In hospitality and travel management, a critical challenge is the rapid shift in market trends driven by technological advancements. The advertising and marketing landscape has undergone significant transformations, rendering previously successful strategies ineffective. To navigate these transformations successfully, it is crucial to maintain updated websites, actively engage on social media platforms, promptly respond to online reviews, and develop compelling advertising campaigns. Hospitality industry managers can collaborate closely with either an internal marketing team or a marketing agency to ensure that their brand voice and mission are accurately conveyed and represented across all social platforms. Consistency, accuracy, and responsiveness are paramount in achieving marketing success in the dynamic world of hospitality.
2.4. Retaining, Hiring & Managing Staff
While retention, hiring and effective staff management is a challenge that extends beyond the hospitality and tourism industry, it holds particular significance in roles that involve direct interaction with the public, as they play a crucial role in delivering exceptional guest experiences. Hospitality and tourism establishments rely on staff members of the highest caliber at all levels, be it front desk, housekeeping, maintenance, tour guides, wait staff, or kitchen personnel. In addition to possessing the necessary skills, staff members must embody essential qualities such as integrity, compassion, and empathy to provide guests with the finest service. Regular training programs are crucial to align new hires with the vision and mission of the hospitality business. Furthermore, fostering a strong team culture is essential for retaining staff members who consistently go above and beyond for guests.
2.5. Protecting Online Reputation
In the contemporary hotel and tourism industry, where customers openly share reviews, opinions, and complaints on online platforms such as OTA websites, Google, Facebook, TripAdvisor, and social media, safeguarding and managing online reputation has become a critical challenge.
With 96% of Tripadvisor users considering reviews critical in their travel planning and hotel booking decisions and 83% referencing reviews before booking, effective reputation management is paramount. Thoughtful and timely responses to customer reviews are crucial, as 85% of TripAdvisor users agree that it positively influences their perception of the hotel.
Maintaining a high review score on OTA sites is essential to prevent potential guests from filtering out hotels with lower scores. Additionally, leveraging positive reviews and customer feedback on social media platforms can be done by showcasing average scores and using customer quotes on the hotel's website. Importantly, customers understand that mistakes can happen, but how a hotel responds to them matters. Swiftly addressing issues, providing courteous and considerate online communication, and rectifying problems extensively safeguard the hotel's reputation.
3. Significance of Implementing the Right Solutions
Implementing the right solutions holds immense significance in hospitality management. It is essential to address various challenges effectively, such as personalizing the guest experience, managing seasonality, adapting to rapid market trends, retaining and hiring staff, and protecting online reputation.
By implementing tailored solutions, hospitality professionals can strengthen their hospitality management businesses. Understand the significance of the solutions to be implied to overcome management challenges.
Enhanced Guest Experience: The hospitality and travel industry thrive on delivering exceptional guest experiences. By addressing management challenges effectively, such as streamlining operations, optimizing customer service, and personalizing guest interactions, the right hospitality solutions can significantly enhance the overall guest experience. This, in turn, leads to increased customer satisfaction, loyalty, and positive word-of-mouth, all of which are crucial for the success of any hospitality business.
Improved Operational Efficiency: Hospitality management challenges often revolve around optimizing operational processes, managing resources, and ensuring a smooth workflow. Implementing the right solutions, such as advanced technology systems, automation, and efficient management tools, can significantly enhance operational efficiency. This results in cost savings, reduced errors, improved productivity, and better utilization of resources, leading to overall business growth and profitability.
Effective Staff Management: The hospitality industry heavily relies on its workforce to deliver quality services. Staff scheduling, training, communication, and performance management challenges can be effectively addressed through the right solutions. Employee management systems, training programs, and communication tools improve staff organization, engagement, and productivity. When employees feel supported and empowered, they are more likely to provide exceptional service, leading to a higher guest satisfaction.
Data-Driven Decision-Making: The hospitality industry generates vast amounts of data related to guest preferences, booking patterns, revenue streams, and operational metrics. However, deriving actionable insights from this data can be challenging without the right solutions. Implementing data analytics tools, performance tracking systems, and guest feedback platforms enable managers to make informed decisions based on real-time data.
To achieve long-term success in the travel and hospitality industry, it is necessary to overcome hospitality management obstacles that businesses face. Through strategies such as personalizing the guest experience, effectively managing seasonality, adapting to market trends, retaining and hiring the appropriate staff, and protecting online reputation, hospitality businesses can differentiate themselves and develop customer loyalty. Through the strategic implementation of customized solutions, managers can navigate these challenges, enhance their guests' experiences, and drive long-term growth in the dynamic travel industry.
Article | July 18, 2023
Cryptocurrencies have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years. They have progressed from a speculative asset class to one gaining widespread mainstream acceptance. And it's not just retail investors who are interested; cryptocurrencies are finding applications in various industries, including tourism. Yes, the travel industry, like many others, has warmed up to these virtual digital assets. It has even spawned a new type of operation, namely crypto tourism.
Introduction to Crypto Tourism
Crypto tourism is categorized into two broad groups: the first has tours and travel packages purchased with cryptocurrency. Emirates Airlines, the biggest airline in the UAE, has said it will soon accept bitcoin as a form of payment. Air Baltic, a Latvian airline, has also been accepting bitcoin for a long time.
The second type of crypto tourism is trips and travel packages where crypto conferences, classes, or lectures are a big part of the schedule. You might not understand why someone would take a vacation to go to a lecture or learn about blockchain. Well, most people don't go on vacations like these. Instead, they focus on entrepreneurs and crypto fans who want to network, meet people with similar interests, and discuss business ideas. In addition to the usual sightseeing and relaxing, these crypto trips include talks by well-known speakers and industry veterans.
Limitation and Scope
Crypto tourism is a small market with few options, and only a small number of travel partners accept crypto payments. Also, the people who put on some crypto trips often use these events to sell ICOs and do other marketing.
However, crypto tours are great for people who want to learn about cryptocurrencies, meet others interested in the same things, and relax. They are also great if you want digital money to pay for your trip. Then, you don't have to worry about currency exchange rates or losing cash.
A Different Reality
Crypto tourism might be niche, but it is a new reality in the travel industry. It allows safe transactions and innovative tours, which many businesses are keen about.
Article | August 10, 2021
It would be an understatement to say that the recent pandemic is ushering in a seismic shift for the travel trade, which suffered a collective gut punch as COVID-19 unrelentingly raged across the globe. New health and safety protocols, crisis management plans and other operational touchpoints are being overhauled to help those in—and dependent upon—the travel industry better pivot and adapt to the unforeseen. For travelers, priorities and sensibilities have also evolved on multiple fronts. For one, various reports extrapolate how privacy has become the new luxury.
In fact, a “Covid Travel Outlook 2021” travel sentiment survey by Indagare found that travelers “feel more comfortable renting a home or private villa for added privacy” and that “more than half of those surveyed said that they are 54 percent more likely to rent a home than they were prior to coronavirus, preferring to ‘Stay at homes not hotels,’ for added security and peace of mind.” Other reports tout the key advantages of private luxury villa accommodations, with privacy and exclusive use entrenched among them.
Amid the surge in category popularity, travelers must also consider ways to aptly vet luxe private villa options amid a burgeoning field. According to an Indagare.com story outlining the benefits of “going private,” proximity is one overarching booking factor noting that “for some travelers, a house close to town or affiliated with a nearby resort or hotel provides the perfect combination of exclusivity and access (to restaurants, coffee shops, fitness classes, etc.). Others prefer staying someplace further removed, opting for a home with fewer amenities or a lavish villa with every convenience under the sun.”
The article also points out another critical aspect that, all too often, is taken for granted: availability. The story cites the reality that “accommodations can fill up months or even a year in advance,” which some more spontaneous wanderers might not expect. Relative to post-pandemic issues, the story further cautions that “this year, with exclusivity at an unprecedented premium and fewer destinations open to international arrivals, early planning is crucial. One reason: Many travelers are opting for longer stays, now that remote work and Zoom classes are ubiquitous, meaning there’s less turnover. For these extended trips—workcations or staycations—having strong WiFi, reliable phone service and separate areas for being productive are key factors when choosing the right rental.”
With this and other public discourse helping spur private villa reservations, I sought to connect with one purveyor in the space that is making due strides: Destinations in Paradise. This boutique agency offers a suite of architectural five-star private villas in four locales: The Big Island and Kauai, Hawaii as well as Los Cabos, Mexico and Mendocino, California. Having personally experienced this company’s brand of haute hospitality on the Big Island, I sought to connect with the founders—David Cohen and Howard Appel—for some clarity on how they’ve apparently adapted so well in the post-pandemic era. Here’s what they had to say.
MK: So, first, let’s talk about the properties, themselves, and also your company at large. What sets Destinations in Paradise apart from other luxury home and private villa purveyors in the various regions where you operate?
Cohen: It's essentially our caliber of white glove service, which is highly personalized and with the very best amenities that can be provided. The company was started because we wanted to have some fun, as Howard and I had been retired a while. We wanted to give people, especially those desiring privacy and security, the kind of high-caliber experience that we would expect. When someone arrives at one of our homes, they're greeted and welcomed with enthusiasm and everything to elevate the experience is there. This includes the best linens, a house full of flowers and arrival gifts. In Mendocino, we leave fresh-baked goods and wine. In Mexico, our guests are greeted with cold towels and margaritas. Plus, any special requests are accommodated. Even when guests depart, we give them a thank you gift for having booked a stay with us. Overall, it’s a very personalized experience. It’s akin to having a member of the family come and stay. You get up early in the morning, make them breakfast and generally make them feel at home … that this is their home for the duration of the visit. The difference is that it's a five-star experience at every touch point.
Appel: We, ourselves, like to travel in luxury and, as we started acquiring the properties, we realized that this is a great opportunity to offer to other people the same kind of treatment we enjoy. It's the way we all would love to be treated. And we think we offer it differently and more special than others. The business sort of just fell into place as bookings escalated and we started to acquire additional properties.
MK: In the luxury travel space, much is said about the importance of personal touches to elevate the experience. So, can you provide an example of things you all do in this regard to go over-and-above for high-end luxury travelers?
Cohen: Here's one interesting example about the Mexican property, for example: It's two acres of the most gorgeous landscaping that you've ever seen. Even though it's in the middle of a desert, we are desalinating seawater using solar power, so the yards and the landscaping and the flowers are all very lush, but still desert-type plants. The interesting thing is that Howard and I have worked together for close to 40 years and, until we actually got into this business, I had no idea that he had this artistic flair. The landscaping at all of the houses is beyond spectacular. My own personal favorite is the Mendocino home, which has the equivalent of an English country garden. You can just go and sit in there and read a book, sitting in the fresh air with beautiful butterflies and bees buzzing around. The Hawaiian property is the same; it’s just gorgeous, perfect Hawaii.
Appel: It's important to note that these homes are indoor-outdoor homes. We want to make sure we carry the luxury on both sides. If you actually do a search of our home in Cabo on Google Earth, you can easily spot it because it's the only significant patch of green anywhere along the east scape. This kind of lush, natural beauty is just one of the many ways that we cater to our guests relative to the luxurious aspects both inside and outside of the homes.
MK: You touched on some of it already, but what are some other special amenities and activities that you offer in, and around, the homes that are available to guests?
Appel: One key aspect is that each home comes with a concierge service. Our guests can partake in any activity in the local surroundings. We try to offer the opportunities within the local community and try to personalize that. In Mexico, it might be premiere deep-sea fishing, surfing and paddle boarding. In Mendocino, we're about 30-minutes from Anderson Valley, so we can arrange for private wine tours. Especially during the recent pandemic, to help our guests have fun but also avoid big crowds was important to us. Of course, the homes in Hawaii and Mexico have beautiful pools, swim-up bars and each property has its own set of unique amenities on-site a like solar-lighted tennis court. In fact, when we travel to Mexico—in the seven or eight times we've been there—I think we've left the property twice. There's no reason to go elsewhere because everything is there with you. Whatever you want to do, whatever the guests would like, we can make it happen.
MK: Speaking of the pandemic, obviously the past year and a half has been tough for the travel industry, so how have the recent health concerns impacted your business with respect to private villa versus hotel, resort or other kinds of accommodations? And, also, the guest experience while actually visiting a property?
Appel: We took COVID very seriously from the beginning and, yes, 2020 was a hard year for us. We lost almost all of our business, but we used that down time as an opportunity to continue to enhance the homes. Even now, when guests come to one of our properties, they're greeted in a manner that best assures their health and safety. We have our house managers maintain their distance and use masks, of course. But, during the guests’ stay, we also make sure we work around their calendars to not intrude on their stay there. We take it very seriously. And, in fact, when a guest leaves, we have a minimum 48 hours between guests so we can properly clean and sanitize the home for the next guest.
MK: Many people often associate private villa experiences more with leisure travel versus business. But I know Destinations in Paradise properties are also utilized in business—especially when there are privacy, exclusivity and health-related preferences. Plus, of course, the properties are also perfectly suited for corporate events, retreats and even utilized as incentives and rewards for employees and business partners. So, tell us about these kinds of corporate benefits.
Cohen: Even though the houses are focused on providing a safe, comfortable environment for families and extended small events, we do also host small, medium and large-scale corporate events at the houses. Whether it's a two-person law firm figuring out how they're going to run their businesses remotely, to a large distillery that wants to try and get their name out for a new product for, say, tequila in Mexico, our homes are an apt venue. Of course, we host weddings and social media is prompting bookings from people like rappers who want a place to chill out and rethink what their next shows or postings are going to be. And we've hosted philanthropic events like releasing baby turtles in the beaches of Mexico to address species endangerment. For that, a university in Mexico held a business meeting at our property, and as a gift we paid and supported their release of 600 hatchlings. Howard has also had some dealings with movie studios that are interested in hosting either corporate get togethers and business strategy meetings. And, in at least two instances that I can recall, they’ve considered using the homes as part of a movie production. I should also mention that each of the homes have the ability to cater for large and small groups. If we bring chefs in, that event never ever needs to leave the property. The house in Mexico, for instance, has two kitchens that are fully capable of catering to as many people as the property can accommodate, which is substantial, but each of the homes have the ability to cater internally and not rely on outside services.
Appel: All the homes offer businesses a unique opportunity to host meetings and events, from the very large as in Mexico, to even Mendocino for smaller gatherings. They’re all unique and offer the privacy, security and comfort that private villa venues offer—all, of course, with our discerning five-star touch.