HOTEL PHOTO SHOOT TIPS: HOW TO GROW YOUR BOOKINGS WITH THE RIGHT PHOTOS!

Improve your Hotel’s overall brand identity with the right photos

Hotel photo shoot is one of the most important steps for building an effective sales strategy. In fact, the right photo shoot is the most dynamic part of your brand identity. A well-defined collection of photos is one of your most powerful tools to attract the interest of your potential customers, either through your official website or through the various OTA & Review websites, increasing your booking requests.

It is rather common to come across high-quality accommodation properties, with a poor photographic content — which has a negative impact on their overall sales, as the product is not presented in full. Most of the times, hoteliers fail to realize the importance of a high quality and aesthetics visual material and the ways it can boost their sales. As a result, they do not decide to make the right investment in this important practice.

Below you can find some basic tips on how to achieve an impressive photo shoot of your property, that will highlight your hotel’s features and experiences, increasing your sales:

Make an extensive research and choose a highly qualified Hotel Photographer

Christos Drazos Photography

  • Choose your Hotel Photographer based on the material you want to produce and the final result you want to achieve.
  • Trust a photographer with a rich and diverse portfolio in the hotel industry. Since Hotel photography has increased needs, it is necessary to choose a specialised photographer, who will be able to achieve the optimum results.
  • Go through the photographer’s portfolio carefully. Make sure that you can find sufficient samples not only of architectural photos but of experiential ones as well. There are several photographers who are not able to capture both types equally, so make sure the artist you choose can cope with both kinds.
  • As a hotel, you will definitely need a large number of photos. Therefore, choose a photographer who charges per day and not per photo. This pricing system is very common in the hotel photography industry and it has the best value for money.
  • When asking for an offer, send to the photographer your exact photo shoot plan. This will allow the photographer to exactly understand what you are looking for and send you a realistic offer.
  • For the correct estimation of the final cost, ask the photographer to include any additional costs that might occur during the production. The most common ones include models, stylists, assistants etc.

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We tried to find the most important reasons to choose Christos Drazos as our Hotel Photographer:

  1. He focuses not only on architecture and design but also on the guest experience within the hotel as well as the staff influence.
  2. He has developed a unique technique to highlight the connection between the natural environment, the hotels and the people.
  3. Christos is an excellent Gastronomy photographer, always managing to capture mouth-watering food photos.

 

Plan your new photo shoot’s ‘Experience Storyline’ in advance

Christos Drazos Photography

  • Even before choosing your photographer, plan and build your hotel’s ‘Experience Storyline’ that you want to showcase through your new photo shoot.
  • Before proceeding to a photo shoot, keep in mind that your hotel photos are your one and only tool for presenting your property to distant travellers, making them dream of staying at your hotel.
  • A hotel photo shoot is not only about the architectural part of your property but also about the experiences that the travellers should expect to live.
  • It is the responsibility of the hotelier to write down the possible architectural shots that the photographer will have to capture, as well as the ‘Experience Scenario’ you wish to present. Most hoteliers leave this job to the photographer, which is not correct, since an outsourcing collaborator is not into position to know the overall philosophy of your hotel.
  • Study the possible audiences you wish to target and develop a short photo story for each one. This targeted material can be used not only in your brand identity but also during special campaigns for specific audiences.
  • When making your plan for the photo shoot, try to combine the architectural and experience shots at the same time, in order to save time and money! It is much easier for the photographer to take the photos at the same time since the background and the equipment are already set up.

Use a diverse mix of models for covering more potential audiences

Christos Drazos Photography

  • It is not recommended to present just the typical images of male and female models. Dare to choose more ‘down-to-earth’ models, approaching the ‘human’ appearance of the majority of your guests.
  • Make sure to take at least a few photos of an individual man and an individual woman. Avoid giving to your hotel a strict ‘couple’ orientation.
  • Work on niche markets and create targeted material for important audiences like Families, Silver Age, Gay Couples. The image of a chubby girl enjoying the facilities of your hotel can really maximise the engagement!
  • If your hotel is pet-friendly, make sure to include shots with lovely animals! Pet owners will definitely love your hotel, however, make sure that the photos highlight the fact that the pets will not affect the other guests’ experience.
  • Do not use stock photos that are not related to your accommodation. The use of such photos can seriously damage your hotel’s image while giving misleading information to potential customers.

Cover all the aspects of your hotel like Food, Sleep and Social Experience with signature photos beyond stereotypes

Christos Drazos Photography

  • When shooting your restaurants, try to combine food with a setting. For example, a close-up photo of a dish could be everywhere. But a photo with a specific dish on the table with the view out of your restaurant’s window in the background is definitely a unique image and what the travellers will actually end up buying.
  • Architectural photos can perfectly describe the luxury and comfort provided in your rooms and suites. But an image of an unmade bed will bring the potential guest closer to the real experience.
  • Don’t forget to take pictures of the common sitting areas of your hotel. It is very important for the guests to see where they can meet and live a more social experience.
  • Take some photos of your Hotel staff. People are the most important part of the experience!

HOTEL BREAKFAST TIPS; HOW TO MAKE YOUR GUESTS’ DAY!

HOTEL BREAKFAST TIPS; HOW TO MAKE YOUR GUESTS’ DAY!

Tips & Practices to offer the best Hotel Breakfast!

Hotel breakfast is one of the most important services that a hotel offers. As it is usually included in the room price, it can easily become a reference point of satisfaction or not, for all hotel guests. Even if a rich breakfast is not in your daily routine, whenever you find yourself in a hotel — either for business or pleasure — the breakfast time is the most interesting moment of the day, giving you the energy you need and inviting you to try delicious tastes that will really make your day.

But which are the key points on which you should pay attention and that can make breakfast the competitive advantage of your hotel, boosting your ratings and reviews?

1. Make sure to use labels

Hotel Breakfast LabelsPhoto by: Le Meridien Bangkok
A very common mistake in a hotel breakfast buffet is the lack of labels. Even if the hoteliers or the F&B managers feel confident that they have built the perfect breakfast menu, they often fail to adequately inform the guests on what each plate is, creating misunderstandings about what the guest has really picked. A situation like this is bad for both the hotel (since you are wasting an important amount of ingredients) and the guests since they end up not enjoying their breakfast as they had hoped for.In order to avoid this, make sure that you use sufficient labels for all items in your buffet, explaining what each plate is and what are its ingredients.

Smart tip: In order to highlight the high quality, don’t forget to write on each label some ‘catchy’ notes, like the name of the Chef who has created the recipe or the origin of the products used, especially if they come from the local market.
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2. Guide your Guests

Breakfast TipsPhoto by: Capo Bay Hotel
Many hoteliers are really proud of the big variety they offer through their breakfast menu. But this can be a real problem for the guests, who have difficulties in deciding what to pick among all those choices or end up making some really bad taste combinations. If you are a hosting a high-end and extensive breakfast, it is vital to work hard on the overall structure of your buffet, guiding & helping the guests to choose the right things that will make them enjoy their breakfast in the best possible way. Don’t forget that a satisfied breakfast guest, is far more likely to come back later to try your other hotel restaurants!

Smart tip: Print a special “Breakfast Ideas” menu that will help the guests combine the different plates and ingredients according to their personal likes, giving them the optimum culinary experience. Make sure to cover as many guest profiles as possible, not forgetting to include some ‘light’, ‘healthy’ and ‘gluten free’ options!
3. Present the local cuisine through your ‘Traditional Breakfast’

Traditional Hotel BreakfastPhoto by: Sensimar Royal Blue Resort & Spa
When visiting a new destination, one thing is for sure: travellers will want to experience the most of it, no matter if they travel for business or leisure. Even if a standard continental breakfast is the easiest and safest way to go since it covers the majority of the guests’ desires, traditional local recipes are always well received and many times become the ‘best sellers’ of the breakfast buffet. Guests become excited when they have the opportunity to try new tastes and live even for a while like a local, diving in the culture and habits of the destination. Using local products gives also a sense of luxury, as it hints high quality, while at the same time indicates that you equally care for your guests’ experience and the support of your local community.

Smart Tip: Don’t mix the local recipes with the rest of your buffet. In order to present them in the best possible way, make a special “Local Breakfast Corner”, where you will gather all the local products and recipes offered to your guests, giving them an added value and focus.
4. Offer Low Calories Breakfast

Low-cal Hotel BreakfastPhoto by: Mama Shetler, Lyon
Spending many days at a hotel can ensure some extra pounds for your guests, especially if what you are offering at breakfast is so delicious and rich. But high-quality doesn’t necessarily mean ‘things that will make you fat’. Invest in creating a selection of dishes with low calories, allowing those guests who wish to take a break from the daily ‘eggs & bacon’ choice, to do so in the most clever and inspired way. Make sure to stick to the ‘mouthwatering’ way of presenting your low-calories dishes, ensuring that you will preserve the excitement of your guests and not make them feel that they choose ‘healthy’ over taste!

Smart Tip: Ask your Chef to create the “Fit plate of the day”, with a selection of low fat products and recipes, that will help the travellers choose the “light way” to start their day. It is always easier to restrict yourself from picking among the numerous delicacies offered at a buffet, when the hotel offers you a ready, tasteful and low fat solution.
5. Create a Breakfast Ambiance

Hotel Breakfast RoomPhoto by: Hotel Villa Carlotta
It is very common to offer breakfast at the same restaurant where your guests will later come to enjoy their lunch or dinner. Especially for this reason, it is critical to create a distinct “Breakfast Ambience” in the morning, that will help the guests start their day in the best possible way. Choose the best music for the morning, use some special plates or equipment and highlight the happy, colourful and joyful breakfast mood. Try to present everything differently, even products that are served during breakfast and dinner as well. Ask your Architect or Interior designer to come up with some clever set-ups for the breakfast time, that will help you easily create the atmosphere you wish and offer to your guests a unique experience, clearly different than their lunch or dinner at the same venue.

Special Tip: Select special staff uniforms especially for the breakfast, giving a unique character to the whole setting. People are the most important part of the hotel experience and they are the best channel to create the ambiance you need. Special uniforms with smart prints can make the day of your guests and create a happy atmosphere.

5 common mistakes that keep your Hotel Spa Sales low

More and more hotels around the world, create impressive SPA facilities within their premises, offering a wide range of relaxation & wellness therapies. Despite their high-quality services, however, many Hotel SPA are not so popular among their customers, generating low revenues and becoming a constant trouble for Hoteliers.

With a closer look, the reasons for the lack of success of many SPA centres within hotels, are rather obvious. Similarly, the travellers’ hesitation for using the SPA facilities is also quite expected, especially if we take into consideration that most of the times, the whole idea of the SPA is an expensive, complex and often depressing procedure, leading nowhere close to the feeling of rejuvenation and well-being.

Below, we are listing the 5 most common mistakes that hold back your Hotel SPA sales:

 

The SPA area lacks personality and concept

Very often, the SPA facilities are designed in minimal and cold aesthetics, in an effort to maintain the feeling of ‘balance and tranquility.’ In combination with the fact that most of the times the SPA lies in closed areas of the hotel (and many times even in the basement), a general feeling of a cold and inhospitable environment is created, which send the travellers away, instead of inviting them in to try some of the therapies. The travellers think of the SPA as a place where they will live a dream experience, which will allow them to relax and unwind; therefore, the right space is of vital importance. It is highly recommended that the SPA spaces have an intense personality which will become the setting of the traveller’s experience, always keeping in mind that the ultimate goal is the customer’s relaxation. The special corners, the exceptional details and the use of natural light (where possible), will draw the travellers’ attention and place the SPA to the top of their minds.


Smart Tip: Instead of creating the standard-type, cold-looking massage rooms with low artificial light, prefer to light your rooms with special installations with candles, creating a unique concept for which you can choose attractive names such as ‘Candle Light Massage Room’.


 

The SPA Menus are often impersonal and difficult to understand

Creating the right SPA catalogue is also a very important factor that influences the overall SPA sales. Most of the times, the catalogues use too many technical terms, becoming boring and incomprehensible, resembling of medical manuals. The average traveller is not familiar with the scientific terms of Spa and Wellness — and learning them is probably the last thing they would want to do during their holidays! Also, the too ‘serious’ approach of the SPA experience makes the whole idea impersonal and not attractive to the travellers who avoid using the SPA services. Based on the above, it is clear that the SPA catalogues should be as simple and comprehensible as possible, emphasizing firstly on the experience of the traveller and secondly on the technical characteristics of each therapy as well as the brands used. Also, the use of a more fun and friendly character will bring the SPA closer to the travellers and make it more popular. Naturally, in order for all the above to be successful, the Hotel should keep a fair pricing policy, allowing the travellers to see the SPA as an additional feature to their holidays, and not as an isolated, luxurious (and often expensive) moment.


Smart Tip: Replace the standard, strict colours with bright and pop choices, that will draw the travellers’ attention and give a more fun tone to the whole SPA experience. Do not forget to include some smart tips that will showcase the fun part of the SPA and reduce its ‘technical’ aspect.


 

There is no targeting or reference to the male audience

One of the classic stereotypes is that the SPA is “all about women.” This is indeed one of the main reasons why SPA centers within hotels tend to have reduced revenues. On average, a hotel receives the same number of men and women ever year. By eliminating the men from your targeting, you practically lose as much as the 50% of your potential SPA income. At the same time, not targeting the male audience affects the sales to the female guests as well, since the man either hesitates to accompany the lady or underestimates the SPA services. Therefore, it is essential that special SPA services for men are also specified, which should be promoted in an as powerful way as those addressed to women.  After all, who would disagree that men have also the right to wellness, relaxation, and beauty?


Smart tip: During the SPA photo shooting, make sure to use male figures as well, which should resemble the average man and not remind of flawless models, with which the audience is hard to identify themselves. Use this material in your printed flyers as well, dedicating a special section to the male therapies.


 

The stuff follows a standard, impersonal way of communication with the customers

One of the most important factors during the selling of a product or service is the people who are in charge of the whole process. Naturally, the same stands in the case of the SPA services. Usually, the stuff of a SPA follows the expected, formal way of service for beauty and wellness centers, which lowers the travellers’ interest. In combination with the ‘good manners’ of the standard behavior within a hotel, the communication and service become even more distant and impersonal. It must be well understood that as far as SPA services are concerned, the travellers let themselves in the hands of an expert, whom they trust for their relaxation and wellbeing. Clearly, an impersonal approach is not the way to go. The hotels should make sure to hire highly qualified personnel with self-confidence and communicational skills, who will convince the travellers to choose the SPA services. It is always recommended to have an expert present, who will become the personal wellness tutor of the guest, promoting and suggesting the best possible SPA services.


Smart tip: Print special flyers which present your SPA therapists, introducing to your guests the highly expertized team who will take care of their personal relaxation and wellbeing. Focus on each person’s skills, building a trustful profile that will attract the interest of your guests and win their trust.


 

The concept of wellbeing is absent from the rest of the hotel’s identity and operation

Even though most hotel SPAs offer a very high level of services, the concept of wellness and wellbeing is often missing from the overall experience within the hotel, making the SPA look like an alien company within the hotel premises. By supporting the wellness profile on all levels, the traveller will easier enter the process of requesting additional services, such as the SPA facilities of the property. Within this aspect, you could create special healthy menus or dedicated corners in the buffet, organized outdoor activities, and leisure briefings, that will increase the travellers’ desire for additional services.


Smart tip: Set up a special “healthy food” corner in your breakfast buffet and use it to promote several of your SPA services. Use a clever motto like “Boost your Day,” and offer to your guests a complete wellness solution.

Timeless Principles of Hospitality for Exceptional Guest Experiences

What are the striking differences between a great hotel that is top-notch in every way and a mediocre one? What does it take to stand out as the best from the rest? The difference between excellence and mediocrity is smaller than you think.

The key to being different and standing out from the rest is essentially about providing added-value through highly personalized guest service. That is what I will cover in a nutshell in this post and some of the basic steps that lead to that desirable outcome I refer to as excellence in service, which each and every single time leaves the guests with lingering warm memories and lasting positive impressions. Providing exceptional levels of guest service and creating wow moments is based on what I call the timeless principles of hospitality, some of which you will find in the list below. In essence, it is the little things that make a big difference in a guest’s stay, such as being genuine when interacting with them the first time, showing excitement over their plans and sharing the joy over a beautiful sunny morning and so on.

Let’s face it: there are gorgeous hotels in every town in every city. Guests have a lot more options than they have ever had at any time in history. The leading brands of hospitality keep bringing their new hotels into the luxury hotel market. The promising new hotel brands are entering into the race offering more choices, variety and concept to the guests. New mergers and acquisitions are taking place between big corporations to polish and revive their decades old service and to become the first choice of the guests again. In short, we live in a very competitive world, where change and improvement in the service are happening on unprecedented levels. Those who don’t rest on their laurels but consistently deliver more value than guests expect are the ones who are likely to survive and thrive.

Warm Greetings

A memorable stay experience begins with a warm welcome. First impressions matter a lot and set the tone of a guest’s stay the moment a guest steps into the hotel lobby and approaches the front desk. A warm greeting is one of the most important aspects of a guest’s stay, which is in fact assessed in surveys sent to guests upon check-out by the leading brands in the hospitality field. A warm and genuine welcome invites the guest to come back to the desk whenever they need assistance during the course of their stay while also positively contributing to the first impression the guests experience upon their arrival to the property.

Genuineness

In the world of luxury, where so much importance is attached to appearance, being genuine makes a hotel stand out and makes it more appealing to the guests. I am convinced that being genuine is the key ingredient in the exceptional guest service. A guest stay experience does not feel the same way without it. When we are genuine, exceptional guest service appears to flow naturally, with the hospitality professional sincerely, enthusiastically and attentively taking care of the guest.

Use Guests’ Name

What is the sweetest sound to anyone’s ear? The answer is obvious: their own name! There is no sweeter sound to any person’s ear than the sound of their own name. Those who read Dale Carnegie’s timeless phenomenal book called How to Win Friends and Influence People know what I am talking about. In order to make your guests feel special, valued and cared for, use your guests’ name whenever possible. This step is also part of being genuine when serving to guests.

Emotional Connection

In order to connect with guests at a deep emotional level and exceed their expectations, we must be dedicated to being excellent communicators and sharpening our communication skills on a consistent basis. Emotional connection is basically established through genuine and polite interactions. By observing, anticipating mood and acting accordingly, it is easy to get positive emotional reactions and prove to guests that their satisfaction and needs are your primary priority.

Empathy

People like to deal with people that they are convinced understand them with ease and anticipate their needs accurately. More often than not, the most crucial skill in dealing with other people’s emotions is empathy: the ability to put yourself in someone else’s position and to make them feel that you are able to see the situation from their point of view. This allows us to form relationships with guests, provides insights into people’s thought patterns and makes it easy to predict their responses. The ability to empathize and deal with someone else’s feelings encourages a guest to talk to the hotel staff, and has a positive impact on the overall stay experience.

Pro-activity

Being pro-active means taking full responsibility and ownership for your actions rather than just watch things unfold in a spontaneous way. Being proactive enables us to anticipate challenges and come up with new solutions ahead of time. Employees must use their own initiative to identify what needs to be done when necessary and appropriate. If they wait until they are told, or follow only prescribed actions, they will be both inefficient and ineffective. When asked about which habit is the most important habit, Dr. Stephen R. Covey who is the famous author of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People stated that Pro-activity is the most important habit as it provides the foundation for all the other habits. This is also a crucial character trait that allows people to excel rapidly in their chosen craft. The bottom line is that you can always effect the outcome positively by being pro-active, anticipating the next best step and taking action with a sense of urgency.

Go Beyond the Extra Mile

Guests consider their stay experience as excellent when they are convinced that they received more value than they expected. The best thing about extra mile is that it is never crowded. Going beyond the extra mile should be part of each employee’s philosophy. Needless to say this one sets the best apart from the rest in most cases.

Humility

Rabindranath Tagore once stated that “We come nearest to the great when we are great in humility.” Humility, which is a powerful and effective way of serving to people and leading teams, is a valuable business asset that gets forgotten often. It is also about the commitments and the promises we make. A humble person tends not to over-promise and under-deliver. A humble person is also more likely to build strong and influential relationships. It is a well-known fact that humble people tend to be the most effective leaders and are more likely to be high performers in team settings.

Integrity

Robert Bosh put it far more eloquently than I ever could in his following quote: “I would rather lose money than trust.” At the end of the day, maintaining a good reputation matters a lot more than the revenue you generate. Integrity must be a value shared by all hotel employees, because nothing works without integrity in the long-term. Lack of integrity results in relationship failures, loss of trust that is almost always impossible to mend and a decline in reputation that eventually leads to loss of business. Put simply, integrity is about honoring your word. Regardless of the situation, you have to live up to your word when you make a promise. When unexpected things come up, be committed to taking immediate action to restore your integrity.

Fond Farewell

A fond farewell that is done attentively and genuinely is as important as the warm greeting that sets the tone of a stay experience. The first thing people will remember when they think of their hotel stay is the last moment, regardless of how their hotel stay might be up to that point. That said, this one seals the deal when not neglected. Make sure you show the same level of professionalism, enthusiasm and care when your guests are leaving your hotel.

10 Hotel Trends That Will Shape Guest Experience in 2017

This is a question we here at Skift field every day, 24/7, 365 days a year, and one that we attempt to answer each and every one of those days. But as we all know, no matter what sector of travel that you fill in the blank, the trends continue to evolve day in and day out, building upon trendlines that have persisted throughout the course of the industry’s history.

When it comes to the hospitality industry, trends can be both ephemeral and everlasting. Some are just a flash in the pan; others have a staying power that last for decades. Last year’s trends were, in many ways, shaped heavily by consolidation and the drama that accompanies mega mergers and acquisitions, as well as the direct booking wars waged among hotels and their eternal frenemies, the online travel agencies.

Whatever ends up ultimately happening in 2017, we know it promises to be a year of great change. In 2017, we’ll even have a hotelier in the White House, for whatever that’s worth. And following last year’s multiple mergers and acquisitions, the lasting effects of those consolidations will finally begin to emerge, and become that much clearer.

So, what will this year’s trends in hotel guest experience bring? We won’t guarantee complete or absolute accuracy here, but given what’s happened in the past year, this is where we see the various trends culminating.

1. CO-EVERYTHING

When we said co-living could become the next big trend in hospitality, we weren’t kidding. While it’s doubtful that we’ll suddenly see a surge of pod hotels, poshtels, or co-living/co-working spaces flooding the hospitality scene in 2017, the tenets of “co-living” — that emphasis on collaboration and community — will permeate much of the hotel guest experience in 2017.

In some ways, we’re already seeing it. In September, for example, AccorHotels announced it was launching a new brand, Jo&Joe, largely inspired by co-living and hostels. And in December, Hilton Worldwide announced it too was considering launching an “urban Microtel” brand concept in the near future.

In 2017, expect to see even more emphasis an investment on communal areas, as well as on spaces and experiences that bring people together.

Because if there’s one advantage hotels have over home shares like Airbnb or HomeAway, it’s that role of being a real community fixture — a place where strangers can really gather together. Yes, an Airbnb might place you in the heart of a local neighborhood and you might be introduced to a local host but in many cases, the experience of a home stay can also be isolating. There’s no central hotel lobby where you can gather with other travelers or locals. So expect hotels to double down on this distinct advantage, and attempt in their own way, too, to make guests feel as though they really “live there.”

2. GOOD DESIGN GOES MAINSTREAM

Thoughtful design isn’t something exclusive to boutique hotels anymore — it’s the basic price of admission these days. Skift Senior Editor Greg Oates pointed out as much when he demonstrated how Marriott, Hyatt, and Hilton are shedding their outdated design legacies.

Whether your hotel is ultra-luxury or bare-bones budget, your guests are going to expect it to look good, and feel good. And if current retail and interior design successes are any indication these days, they are proof that you don’t necessarily need deep pockets to have good design.

Design has always played a crucial role in hospitality, especially in defining that hotel’s brand or persona, and today’s guests are intuitively attuned to interpret design to fit their conceptions of what a hotel is really like, and if it’s the right fit, or lifestyle, for them.

With the entry of home furnishing and fashion names like West Elm, Restoration Hardware, and Karl Lagerfeld into the hotel space, expect the bar for good design in hotels to be raised even higher in 2017.

3. EXPERIENCES BEYOND THE HOTEL

Whether or not Airbnb’s gamble on Trips succeeds or fails, the mere fact that the company has launched tours and activities should be a clear signal to hotels that they too need to be paying more attention to guests’ experiences not just inside the hotel but outside of it. They need a much more holistic approach to overall guest experience than they’re used to delivering.

We’ve already seen glimpses of this, especially in the luxury end of the spectrum, but we should expect more hotels in other categories doing the same, too. And if they aren’t, they need to start thinking about them sooner than later.

4. CONCEPTS OF LOYALTY NEED TO EVOLVE

The loyalty program remains the backbone of so many different hotel companies’ master strategies, and that certainly won’t change at all in 2017. And while so many hotel companies are placing so much emphasis and scrutiny on their loyalty programs, we hope they won’t follow in the footsteps of the airlines.

In many ways, today’s overall travel loyalty landscape is one fraught with fragmentation. And in the case of the airlines, loyalty programs are increasingly rewarding gamesmanship and large spending over anything else. Perhaps that’s the strategy that makes most financial sense, but is it really the strategy that’ll win customers’ hearts and minds?

We’re not so sure, but if hotel brands want true loyalty from their guests, it’ll be hard to achieve that if they rework their programs to be more like the American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and United Airlines of the world. They should also know better than to offer canned responses to loyalty members’ requests for more information when they decide to revamp their programs, too.

Hotel loyalty as it stands today is entering an age of awkward adolescence, the result of multiple consolidations and changing consumer behaviors and expectations. In 2017, hotels have a golden opportunity to redefine what real hotel loyalty is like and we hope they seize that chance.

5. HOSPITALITY WILL REDISCOVER ITS ROOTS

A lot of times it can be easy to forget that, at the heart of it all, the travel industry — especially the hospitality industry — is really about people. We don’t mean to, but sometimes, in the pursuit of efficiency and profit, we as an industry have forsaken our biggest and most important resource: humanity.

Two Roads Hospitality CEO Niki Leondakis reminded us of that when she spoke at the Skift Global Forum in September. She said that the real disruption and innovation in hospitality doesn’t lie in technology or constructing great spaces. It’s about the service, and the people delivering it.

“The basics of hospitality have been compromised to make room for innovation, but the best innovation comes from the inside out,” Leondakis said. “Creativity happens when our employees are empowered and they are not feeling any fear.”

And in empowering those of us who work in hospitality to be better at delivering genuine hospitality, we’d also do well to heed restaurateur Danny Meyer’s advice, too: “The only way to motivate someone is to give them a higher purpose beyond a paycheck.”

6. “LOCAL” WILL REGAIN ITS MEANING

Hotels need to stop thinking of bringing “local” into the hotel through artisanal hand soaps or “locally sourced, free-range bacon.” In the same vein of bringing more humanity back to travel and hospitality overall, hotels need to start thinking more about their local community, too.

In fact, we predict hotels will begin reclaiming the role they once had as community centers, only this time they’ll have evolved to solve challenges unique to modern times.

AccorHotels CEO Sebasiten Bazin touched on this concept with us when we spoke to him in July, fresh off Accor’s finalized $2.7 billion purchase of the Fairmont, Swissotel, and Raffles hotel brands.

“Ninety-nine percent of what we have done for 50 years has been based on the guy coming from outside of town,” Bazin said. “A traveler, from a different city, from a different country, which I think is interesting, but not too smart. Because we missed a population which is 100 times greater and better and easier: The guy living next door. The local inhabitants. They live around the hotel, or they go to an office around the hotel, and 90 percent of them never dared coming into the property, because they’re fearful that we’re going to be asking, ‘What’s your room number?’ They don’t need a room, but they may need a service.”

Bazin said there are “zillions of services we’re going to get into,” among them having hotels assist locals with simple tasks and solving everyday solutions like holding packages or keys or recommending the best services nearby.

“[The hotel will be] a place that will make your life easier,” he said. “It’s giving a purpose to the Accor people, because they’re going to be feeling very proud, proud of bringing that additional service that people need, and are afraid of asking for.”

7. LUXURY THAT’S LEANER AND SMARTER

Today’s concepts of luxury aren’t limited to 1,000-count-thread sheets or the finest Russian caviar, and given what’s happening overall in terms of global shifts in consumer behavior, it’s clear that experience is winning out over the material when it comes to the kind of luxury that consumers prefer.

This isn’t to say people don’t want opulence or extravagance anymore. For some travelers, that’s still an integral part of what defines luxury. We’re not saying luxury is transforming into something more Spartan, or more minimalistic, either.

What we’re saying is that lean luxury is doing away with the excess of what we used to think luxury used to have — those over-the-top messages, the logos, the in-your-face-kind of luxury we might have encountered 30 years ago. Instead, lean luxury is about the new luxury, about offering travelers a more authentic, genuine luxury experience unfettered by specific brand or quality standards like thread counts.

The cornerstones of what makes something luxury will still remain — they are the price of admission, still — but they’re not what travelers are paying attention to anymore. Luxury travelers already expect those services, those finishes, those exquisite products, those incredible designs, those little touches, to already be there.

What will really set a luxury brand apart today — what defines lean luxury — is everything else. It’s personalized service. It’s having a clearer sense of community and place. It’s craftsmanship. It’s having a story to tell.

The hotel or the first-class cabin don’t have to be gilded in gold to be deemed luxury. They just need to have a story behind their brands to communicate to travelers. And that story needs to fit in with the local environments and preferences of the communities they operate in.

And we’re already beginning to see glimpses of that, especially in how hotel companies like Marriott and AccorHotels are choosing to further distinguish and position their luxury brands.

8. THE SMART HOTEL EMERGES

Not all hotels will become like the Wynn Las Vegas, equipping each and every hotel room with its own Amazon Echo smart speaker device, but we can expect more on-demand technologies to find their way into hotels in 2017.

That’s simply a given, especially as hotels continue to make large investments in beacon technologies, messaging, streaming in-room entertainment, and other smart hotel concepts.

9. EXPECT EVEN MORE BRANDS TO EMERGE, BOTH NEW AND FAMILIAR

Maybe Marriott won’t be adding any more brands to its portfolio of 30 anytime soon, but when it comes to its peers, Hilton included, there’s certainly room to grow.

In 2017 we should also expect to see even more non-traditional hotel brands entering the hospitality space, as we did in 2016 with West Elm and Karl Lagerfeld, for instance. Zappos Hotels, anyone?

“I think brands are trying to leverage some of their market share with these brand extensions,” said Gray Shealy, executive director for Georgetown’s Hospitality Management master’s program and a former global design director for W Hotels. “This way, they’re able to attract more customers and get more people to try their products.”

Bjorn Hanson, clinical professor with the NYU Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism, said he thinks this trend isn’t going away anytime soon, either, driven by the growth in new hotel projects and the fact that boutique has gone mainstream.

“The amount of new projects being launched is almost double what it was in 2014,” Hanson said. “We were at less than 1 percent supply growth and now 2 percent or slightly more. That explains part of it. A second issue is … well, lifestyle hotels are kind of the norm and no longer special. We need to find a new way to make them special with a new kind of affiliation. Instead of another hotel brand, it’s another kind of a brand.”

The added “halo effect” of these established brands is also a benefit, Hanson said.

“Many of these brands have an identity that is understandably related to hotels,” he said. “Whether it’s a company involved in fashion or decorating or design, these are not alien to hotels. It’s easy for consumers to see why they think they might be appropriate as hotels, too.”

10. DATA INTERPRETATION IS THE ULTIMATE INTELLIGENCE

Now that we’ve advanced enough to know how to collect or mine data, it’s up to the industry to know what to do with that information.

That was a message delivered by Airbnb Global Head of Hospitality and Strategy and Joie de Vivre Hotels founder Chip Conley, as well as former Starwood CEO Frits van Paaschen, when they each spoke at the Skift Global Forum in September.

Conley spoke about the emergence, 25 years ago, of the revenue manager and how “it was sort of curious to us old school hotel people.” Today, he said, the revenue manager of yesteryear is the data scientist.

“Where hotels are way behind is data science,” Conley said. “Data scientists represent what revenue managers represented 25 years ago. If you have a lot of data scientists, you’re both able to find the right customer for you. This is a huge differentiator in the long term: personalization and customization.” Later, he added, “We need to get really smart around data science. It helps us personalize choices.”

“There’s an extraordinary amount of information available, but a real dearth of information that’s potentially relevant to any one individual,” van Paaschen said. “A lot can still happen in the hospitality business. It’s a breeding ground for ever more innovation.”

Big data, he said, is the “interaction of people and technology” and the key is “how do you get that data into people’s hands who deliver service at the moment they do that?”

“Personalization is the next manifestation in the evolution of brands,” he added. “If you have this emergence of brands being reliable, then having a personality through media, and now you have personal access with mobile. Brands really can deliver personalization now. The expectation of people of brands is you should know me and know what I want.”

In 2017, it’s clear that the hospitality industry needs to be prepared for even more disruptions that lie ahead. And to be prepared, it’s clear hotels need to look beyond the boundaries of their own industry to take stock of what’s happening, not only in travel, but the greater world beyond it.

Secrets of the World’s Best Hotel Beds

Customizable, heat-absorbing mattresses. S-shaped pillows. Hotels reveal the tricks they use to guarantee you a good night’s sleep. Plus: Do thread counts matter?

 

IN FEBRUARY, I went to Charleston, S.C., to explore its happening food scene and frozen-in-amber 19th-century architecture, but I couldn’t tell you much about either: I barely got out of bed. The billowy mattress, silky-smooth sheets, puffy down comforter and mountain of pillows at the Vendue, an inn in the city’s historic district, were positively narcotic. My husband had to pry me out.

The bed even made up for the hotel’s spotty service. On the first day of our two-night vacation, the housekeeper didn’t get to our room until well after lunch, when I crawled back into the bed for a not particularly deserved rest. I asked her to come back later, but she never did. By checkout the next day, our room was littered with used glasses, rumpled bath towels and wrappers from the little soaps. (An apologetic spokesperson for the Vendue called my experience “an anomaly.”) Had the bed not been so sublime, I probably wouldn’t stay at that hotel again. But back home, I lie awake in my suddenly substandard four-poster, fantasizing about returning to Charleston to nap.

We spend roughly a third of our life in bed. In hotel time, however, it’s more like half of our lives, making the bed arguably the most important element in the room. While luxury hotels flog services and amenities, from turbo Wi-Fi to butlers who will unpack for you, it’s really the bed that most travelers are focused on. According to a 2014 Gallup survey, more than half of guests who stay in the highest-priced properties said they would pay more for an improved bed. Among all respondents, a comfortable bed was most often named as the most important feature of a hotel room, more than any other amenity, including Internet access and helpful employees.

“The best hotel bed feels more like home than your home,” said musician and environmental activist will.i.am, who’s worked with W Hotels to bring newly tweaked cotton-blend sheets to its beds. The eco-friendlier linens, which incorporate recycled polyester, were developed for the chain’s U.S. properties; they’re coming soon—at $207 and up for a set—to W Hotels’ online store, which already peddles W mattresses and other bedding.

These days, there’s no such thing as a no-name hotel bed. With hospitality research indicating that travelers are willing to pay more for a good night’s sleep, properties are rekindling a years-old battle over whose beds are the most super-extra-special. The Corinthia Hotel London last year began playing up its soporific amenities, including mattresses apparently fit for a queen: Their manufacturer, Hypnos, markets itself as the bed-maker to the British royal family. There are even hotels built entirely around the bed, such as the Best Western Hotel Duxiana in Helsingborg, Sweden. The property is a collaboration with Dux, a Swedish maker of mattresses whose prices can approach $15,000. Presumably, they’re stuffed with unicorn hair.

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts has just introduced a proprietary Simmons mattress with a heat-absorbing core to keep sleepers cool and interchangeable toppers in three choices of firmness. At Manhattan’s Four Seasons hotel, where I spent a night last month, the bed’s seduction begins even before you pull back the sheets.Christopher W. Norton, president of global products and operations for the Four Seasons, and the man responsible for signing off on the new bed, wanted it to look “fat and sexy,” he told me. And it did: The king-size bed in my 33rd-floor room resembled a cumulonimbus hovering over Midtown. It was practically convex, with a foot-thick mattress garnished by 2 inches of padding—I had requested the softest, “Signature Plush” topper—and another couple of inches of duvet.

The bed even impressed the two housekeepers who arrived for turndown. “Oh!” they said. “You got the new bed!” (The beds are standard at newer Four Seasons. There are currently five at the New York hotel, so getting one isn’t a given.)

The Four Seasons’ bed upgrade was driven by a 2013 survey of U.S. and foreign travelers the company commissioned. More than 90% of respondents reported having a preference in mattress firmness, with half wanting “medium,” about a third choosing “firm” and the minority opting for “soft.” People under 35, the famously entitled millennials, were most likely to gripe about hotel beds—and they do it publicly, on social media and travel-review sites. “There’s more competition in the luxury space than ever before,” said Mr. Norton, and millennials are the fastest-growing travel demographic. The bed is part of Four Seasons’ attempt to differentiate itself by tailoring its services to each guest’s specific tastes.

Pulling Back the Covers on the New Four Seasons Bed

This entry in the slumber showdown is a multilayered extravaganza with zip-off, interchangeable mattress toppers intended to allow the company to satisfy all sleepers. Four Seasons began to phase in the bed in 2014 and expects it to be fully available at most of its properties by 2017.

The beginnings of hotel-bed hysteria can be traced to 1999. That year, in what hospitality insiders regard as a brilliant marketing move, Westin Hotels & Resorts introduced its Heavenly Bed. With 10 layers’ worth of linens, pillows and padding and a then-iconoclastic all-white design, the bed spawned a retail side-business of Heavenly products, from scented candles and dog beds to duvets and mattresses. Westin says it has sold $135 million worth of Heavenly Bed-related goods to date, including 100,000 mattresses and 175,000 pillows.

Imitations inevitably followed, and continue to this day. The groundbreaking all-white bedding hoteliers once derided as a dirt magnet struck such a chord with guests that it has become the industry standard. Housekeeping staff at midtier chain Hampton Hotels post sticky notes on the headboard to assure arriving guests that the all-white bedding on their Clean and Fresh Hampton Bed (available for purchase for between $2,450 and $2,890) has been freshly laundered.

Hotels’ aggressive marketing—and sales—of their beds is a dream come true for the bedding industry: Simmons Bedding Company, which makes mattresses for Westin, as well as for Four Seasons and many other chains, has seen its market share triple in the past decade.

But here’s a secret that hotels (at least, the ones that also sell their beds at retail) don’t want us to know: It simply isn’t possible to clone your favorite hotel bed at home. First, hotels don’t necessarily sell every last component that made its in-room in-bed experience so sublime. They might offer the mattress, but not the sheets. The mattress available at retail may not be identical to one from the hotel. That’s true of the Heavenly Bed mattress. The one used in Westin rooms has a zip-off pillow top, but on the version guests can buy it’s permanently attached. A small difference that may not affect the feel of the bed, but a difference.

Then there’s the laundry factor. Many properties, the Four Seasons New York among them, enlist a company called Ecolab to regularly monitor the detergent balance and water temperature to ensure maximum whiteness. Hotel linens take hundreds of spins a year through the washer and dryer, leaving them perfectly broken in. At high-end hotels, the linens, often 100% cotton, also get a trip through the massive rollers of an ironing machine, leaving them crisp and wrinkle-free. (Since testing hotel beds for this story, I have overcome my snobbish and long-standing insistence on high-thread-count, natural-fiber linens. It turns out I actually prefer a 200-thread-count, 60/40 cotton/polyester blend, used by Westin and many other hotels, over the higher thread count, all-cotton linens at the Four Seasons. The cotton/synthetic blend sheets felt smoother.)

PILLOW TALK // HOTEL-BED AFICIONADOS TELL ALL

From left: Isaac Mizrahi, Wylie Dufresne, Kelli O’Hara

Isaac Mizrahi (fashion designer):“There are few beds anywhere that I actually can sleep in, including my bed at home. The beds at the Peninsula Hotel, in Los Angeles, are too soft for my taste, but they somehow lull me into a false sense of security and something resembling sleep.”

Wylie Dufresne (chef and owner of Alder in New York): “One of the greatest things about staying in a hotel is the bed. Not only are they so comfortable, but you don’t have to make them in the morning or wash the sheets! I’ll never forget the bed at the Four Seasons Toronto: I just disappeared into it and did not want to get out.”

Kelli O’Hara (actress): “I love hotel beds. They’re crisp, cool, clean and fluffy. I’d like to get a ‘hotel bed’ for home, but only hotel beds have the guts to wear white all year round. Mine could never pull it off.”

I paid $895 for my night at the Four Seasons New York (before taxes); room rates only go up from there. The bed was delightful. But for that price, shouldn’t it be? “In the five-star category, the assumption is that a hotel has wonderful beds,” saidRichard Bruce Turen, of the travel agency Churchill and Turen Ltd. In fact, Mr. Turen said, any hotel at that level will customize the bed for a guest if asked—an assertion backed up byAlex S. Furrer, General Manager of the Setai Miami Beach.

At the Setai, which boasts beds with Dux mattresses and 400-thread-count Frette sheets, the staff will, upon request, wash linens in hypoallergenic detergents or supply esoteric pillows. “About six months ago, a guest requested a pillow we had never heard of,” Mr. Furrer said. A staff member tracked down the S-shaped foam neck supporter and ordered it online.

Hotels claim to maintain their mattresses diligently and to replace them according to manufacturer guidelines. But a mattress that goes bad before its time may not be replaced unless A) Multiple guests complain; or B) It’s irretrievably damaged by what hoteliers and Simmons Vice President Steve Tipton euphemistically call an “Event”—that is, a particularly soggy death. Mattresses that have suffered routine abuse, like a spilled drink, get a spot cleaning. The same holds for a bed upon which a guest has died tidily.

One innovation helps make maintenance easier: The zip-off mattress pillowtop, which can be swapped, cleaned or, if necessary, discarded. Originally developed in 2006 by Simmons and Westin, the zip-off topper is now the cornerstone of the Four Seasons’ new, customizable bed. It’s also a favorite among the staffs of casino hotels. “Those rooms are Event Central,” said Mr. Tipton.

One traveler who would have appreciated a fresher mattress isAlyson Poston, a Chicago-based sales director who recalls staying on business at a motel in a speck of a North Dakota town known for its hunting. She arrived to find a sign in her room asking guests not to use the towels to dry their guns or dogs. “When you start there, you know it’s not going to be good,” she said.

As for the bed, Ms. Poston said: “It smelled like wet Lab.”

Tips for Effective Content Marketing at Your Hotel!

Content Marketing is the process of publishing content – primarily text and imagery – related to our business. It is an extremely effective way for hotels to stand out from competitors online and to attract, engage and convert travelers. It is also a means of driving higher guest satisfaction and better reviews by helping guests plan trips and make the most of their experience. With this in mind, we have put together a list of top tips for effective content marketing at your hotel.

· Create and curate content

There are two main types of content: content created by your business, and content created by others and shared by your business – also known as curated content. When creating your own content, strive for a tone and quality that is consistent with your hotel’s branding and personality. When curating content, be sure to respect copyrights. Ask for permission and give credit by linking back to the original source.

 

·Be targeted

Sharing jokes and funny pictures may get people’s attention, but if your messaging isn’t relevant to your hotel, it probably won’t help your business. Focus on content that somehow ties back to your hotel, location and travel in general, as well as related topics like food and beverage, shopping and business travel.


· Think local

An increasing amount of travel planning, decision making and social sharing takes place during trips, while travelers are in destination and looking for places to stay, eat, shop, relax and explore. Whether you’re targeting trip planners at home or in destination, be sure to include local content in your content marketing efforts. Local content includes stories, news, information and imagery that promote your destination and help visitors make the most of their experience.

· Optimize Content

When optimizing content, whether in text or imagery, keep in mind the two primary audiences, travelers and algorithms. Create content that gets the attention of travelers, answers their questions and solves their pain points, and add links and calls to action to direct them where to find out more and how to make a booking. At the same time, optimize content for search engine algorithms by labeling it with your hotel name, location and description. For website and content, integrate SEO features like title tags, meta tags, keywords and links. For social media content, use hashtags, visuals and links.

By taking these key tips on board, you will attract visitors to your website and marketing channels, and to inform, engage and ultimately convert them into customers!

For more information, download our full guide with more tips and strategies here.