Mobile Technology: The Future is Now

Mobile Technology continues to advance at a relentless pace and the hotel industry continues to adapt. Hotel guests have shown a strong preference for mobile self-service - from checking-in/out at a hotel kiosk, to ordering room service, making dinner reservations, booking spa treatments, and managing laundry/dry cleaning services. And they also enjoy the convenience of paying for these services with smart phone mobile payments. In addition, some hotels have adopted a “concierge in your pocket” concept. Through a proprietary hotel app, guests can access useful information such as local entertainment venues, tourist attractions, event calendars, and medical facilities and services. In-room entertainment continues to be a key factor, as guests insist on the capacity to plug in their own mobile devices to customize their entertainment choices. Mobile technology also allows for greater marketing opportunities. For example, many hotels have adopted the use of “push notifications” - sending promotions, discounts and special event messages to guests based on their property location, purchase history, profiles, etc. Near field communication (NFC) technology is also being utilized to support applications such as opening room doors, earning loyalty points, renting a bike, accessing a rental car, and more. Finally, some hotels have adopted more futuristic technology. Robots are in use that have the ability to move between floors to deliver room service requests for all kinds of items - food, beverages, towels, toothbrushes, chargers and snacks. And infrared scanners are being used by housekeeping staff that can detect body heat within a room, alerting staff that the room is occupied and they should come back at a later time. The January Hotel Business Review will report on what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in this exciting mobile technology space.

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Last month's feature articles...

Stacy Kula

Hoteliers seeking alternative sources of funding can put their alcohol licenses at risk if they don't perform the proper due diligence on potential investors before those investors become owners. Every state has its own complex, and very different, statutory scheme that hoteliers need to navigate to ensure that the investor is eligible to be on the alcohol license. This article identifies some of the overarching issues that most states consider when there is a partial transfer of ownership - although the treatment of those issues may be addressed very differently be each state. READ MORE

Michael B. Newman

In the hotel industry, a key amenity at many properties is the service of alcohol beverages in the restaurant or bar. This necessitates some type of license issued by a state local alcohol beverage licensing authority. Many hotels in smaller cities, rural areas, or suburbs, however, share a common predicament of not getting a license for a bar or restaurant at their premises. This article explores options available to a hotel that elects not to serve alcohol beverages in a bar or restaurant. These options include the "mini bar," a self-service dispensing system, or a complimentary service. READ MORE

Jerome G. Grzeca

President Trump made immigration reform a central issue of his presidential campaign, promising to remove all undocumented immigrants from the United States and to build a physical wall along our southern border. While these large-scale plans have yet to be fully realized, the Trump Administration has begun to construct an "invisible wall" through several smaller immigration policy changes that have already had the effect of restricting and slowing legal immigration in our country. These changes have created new challenges for hospitality companies that rely on foreign workers to meet their staffing needs. READ MORE

Robert E. Braun

The hospitality industry has always been responsible for the safety of its guests. The industry is now grappling with its obligation to maintain a safe data environment. Hotel owners, brands and operators face significant challenges as bad actors become more sophisticated and as hotel systems become more complex. Recent legal developments in Europe and in America have created a new set of issues, requiring hotel companies to reevaluate how they collect process and protect information. The hospitality industry must, therefore, reconsider its approach to data security and privacy. READ MORE

Lisa Devlin

High profile events and trends in the last year have made customers planning future events at hotels nervous. Things like the "#MeToo" movement, the Las Vegas shootings, and political and economic volatility have led meeting planners to request new terms in their event contracts. Many of these new clauses, some of which are being recommended by meeting industry groups, are poorly drafted, don't solve the problem that they seek to address, and put the hotel at risk for claims or lost business. READ MORE

Arthur Tacchino

Despite confusing rhetoric from Capitol Hill, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and its employer mandate is alive and well. Not only that, the IRS is serious about enforcing the mandate and is collecting penalties from employers for noncompliance. Many companies fall short of ACA compliance because they fail to accurately track full-time employees throughout the year. Constant turnover, variable-hour shifts, and seasonality make it increasingly difficult for hospitality businesses to track employees' hours. This article will cover the nuances of ACA reporting and how to stay on top of all the day-to-day change with shift workers. READ MORE

Robert J. O'Hara III

In the context of a hotel acquisition or new hotel construction, there are a myriad of issues that must be addressed, including a tangled web of permits and licenses that must be obtained prior to opening. Perhaps the most challenging license or permit that must be obtained is the liquor license. The difficulty, obstacles and puzzles that must be solved when obtaining a liquor license vary in complexity and intensity depending on the state in which the hotel is located, and in some cases depending further on which county and / or municipality within the state. It can be easy for outside transaction lawyers working on a hotel acquisition for the owner or management company client to overlook the difficulty and potential for delay that obtaining liquor licenses can present. READ MORE

Gerard Hickel

The contractual relationship between an owner and an operator is begins with the negotiation of the underlying management agreement. The tone and evolution of that owner/operator relationship will hinge upon the resolution of the most important issues arising during the negotiation of the management agreement, with the commercial terms establishing the foundation of the financial relationship, and the allocation of liability terms establishing the parameters of the risk relationship. Determining who is responsible for the consequences and liabilities of the hospitality business is, more often than not, the most heated and highly negotiated part of a management agreement. READ MORE

Coming up in June 2020...

Sales & Marketing: Technology Rules

It is impossible for any hotel to develop an effective sales and marketing plan that doesn't include a wide-ranging digital strategy. Online platforms have impacted virtually every aspect of their business, due to major changes in how Internet users research, plan, and book their hotel visits. As a result, a successful plan includes generating traffic through the use of a hotel website, social media, email and a myriad of other digital marketing technologies. One such strategy uses data collection and automation technology to create personalized content to individual customers. The goal of personalization marketing is to engage potential customers by communicating with them as individuals - to establish a more personal relationship - as a way of encouraging them to visit a property. Video marketing is also extremely important. Showing someone authentic video from a specific location is immersive and engaging, and video is still the preferred way for customers to interact with a hotel brand. Voice and Visual Search are increasingly in demand, as consumers are moving away from typing queries into a search engine. Instead, they can simply speak their request into their phone, and find and book a hotel without ever typing a word. Similarly, other platforms allow consumers to search visually for almost any image, and find out pricing information, shopping comparisons and how-to-buy - all from the app. The adoption of Artificial Intelligence is also becoming popular. The ability of chatbots to answer simple questions or fulfill requests 24/7 is undeniably appealing. In addition, A.I. seems best positioned to qualify leads that can be later nurtured and closed by a human sales expert - all at a fraction of the cost of a traditional support team. The June Hotel Business Review will examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating these innovative technologies into their operations.