Ready or not, hotel budget season is upon us. As you know, this time of year gets hectic fast, so it can be useful to take a deep breath and remind yourself what’s important about the budgeting process: now is the time to choose the tools your team needs to hit its 2019 goals and show ROI.
On this topic, the suppliers we’ve spoken to have been clear: every year, technology takes up a bigger portion of hotel sales, marketing, and operations budgets. Why? Because it’s the fastest way to growth and ROI.
Since much has changed in hotel technology in the past year, it’s worth catching up on the latest and greatest in the field. Hotels that want to have a big 2019 should include at least one of the following five must-have meeting technologies in their budget:
1. AI Chatbots
2018 was the year chatbots took off in just about every industry. It seems like you can’t visit any kind of consumer website without a notification in the lower right hand corner. This trend is especially strong in hospitality, where brands have learned they can employ a remote, 24/7 concierge for a fraction of the cost of a traditional support team.
Work this innovation into your 2019 budget, and give guests options to check in and out, set reservations, and - yes - even ask about fun things to do around town.
And while it has certainly has the power to replace labor - a HubSpot survey suggest a full 57% of consumers enjoy communicating with chatbots because of their ability to respond immediately - chatbots are often best used as a supplement what your sales teams are already doing. Used correctly, they will do the work of qualifying prospects on your behalf, and then routing the best ones directly to a sales manager, who can then take it from there.
2. End-to-end group business management
The most current data we have suggests that group business has been showing signs of growth in recent years after a downturn following the Great Recession. This is good news for everyone in hospitality - and especially in the limited service segment, where demand is outpacing supply.
Smart brands are capitalizing early and often with comprehensive solutions that enable them to take a lead from RFP to event day seamlessly. Here’s a good example: as early as Q1 2018, Hyatt Hotels had 53% of its targeted group business on the books.
They were able to do this with tools that make it (1) easy for planners to submit RFPs, (2) quick for sales teams to respond with professional, custom proposals and (3) painless for services teams to manage and execute any kind of event.
You can learn more about how your group strategy can be streamlined and enhanced with an end-to-end group business management tool with a free ebook my team at Social Tables developed entitled “The Ultimate Group Sales Playbook.” You’ll also get a full picture of all the latest trends and tactics chains like Hyatt are using to lock down more group business.
3. NFC and RFID technologies
Speed and ease were the name of the game in hospitality in 2018. And it’s clear why: mobile technology has made every aspect of our lives easier to manage (consider calendars, communication with friends, buying retail goods and food, you name it), so naturally consumers are beginning to demand that hotels let them do more with their phones.
In fact, a recent survey has demonstrated that over 60% of guests say that it is “very or extremely important” for hotels to continue to invest in technology that improves the guest experience.
Luckily, an entire cottage industry of vendors has popped up to provide solutions that make hotel customer experiences all the more seamless and even fun via phone.
Take near field communication (or NFC) technology, which conducts the transfer of data between two devices close to each other. Innovative brands are beginning to let guests check-in remotely and use a branded mobile app as their room key. This not only dramatically improves the customer’s experience with your property, but it frees up your front desk to do far more with their working hours.
4. Workforce management software
Speaking of working hours, many hotels are taking major steps to enhance their workforce management processes. In most cases, this means moving from a spreadsheet to a cloud-based software that can give DOSMs and DOCs control of and actionable insights into the activity of their employees - from the front desk to the services team to the sales managers.
The benefit to the bottom line is obvious. A cloud-based solution that can be accessed from any device will give your management teams the flexibility they need to identify challenges on the fly, and develop solutions that make sense for your workforce - from payroll to rostering and compliance. Problems are averted sooner, employee quality rises, turnover drops, and much, much less information is lost in translation. For example, some of these solutions claim to reduce the time spent managing payroll up to 30%.
5. Cloud-based hotel management system
What a workforce management tool can do for employee efficiency, a cloud-based HMS can do for all the other resources your hotel manages day to day. The right technology will help your management team control and keep an eye schedules, room bookings, F&B consumption, payments, billing, inventory and more.
On top of that, a cloud-based technology is always up-to-date, never at risk for failure, and can be accessed for any device type. This will give your team the flexibility to make smart decisions about hotel resources and operations fast, no matter where they are.
For some hotels, a shift to a cloud-based HMS is a light years-sized leap in productivity - especially for those currently using spreadsheets to keep track of everything.
As an executive at Social Tables, I understand why hoteliers are often hesitant to request budget for hotel tech: in many cases the lift to implement the tools is high and the ROI potential seems vague and difficult to define. I’d argue that this is less and less true every passing year.
With more hotel tech coming to the cloud, implementation is in some cases seamless (no need to install, much less chance for failure). And hotel tech companies are working overtime to prove ROI to their customers. The white paper or ebook that will help you make your case to management is out there somewhere - all you have to do is find it.
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