Tuesday 30 January 2018

Can voice technology change the travel industry?

It’s the biggest topic in tech, with the giants piling in to voice-focused artificial intelligences, meaning travel brands need to sit up and take notice finds a new free report.

EyeforTravel’s new Can Voice Change the Way We Travel? report advises travel brands to get ready for the expansion of voice technologies, as although these are at an early adopter stage, they are already important parts of the digital ecosystem and developing at a breakneck pace.   

Blockbuster sales of smart speakers over the holiday periods in both 2016 and 2017, alongside a steadily growing number of connected devices per home across major markets in the last half decade, have demonstrated an appetite for voice products. Even more critically than the smart speaker market, personal assistants are being incorporated into ever more platforms, meaning a market of billions of devices already exists.

Estimates of voice’s market share in terms of search are harder to come by than device sales but this too is growing rapidly, nowhere more so than China. Already, the leading players, Baidu and iFlytek, claim that users are making hundreds of millions of daily requests through voice, allowing them to gather vast amounts of data. This base has allowed both companies to put together voice products that can recognise speech at accuracy rates of up to 98%.

This growing accuracy demonstrates the rapid progress in the field and how the technology is on the cusp of being able to transcribe human speech perfectly. However, for travel where the real issue lies according to the report, is not in the technology to comprehend the human voice, but the ability to personalize the experience. Comprehension is one thing but context and cogent answers are quite another, which will require another leap in performance.

“When you do a normal screen based search, a whole screen of information comes up – but on a voice based search there isn’t time for Siri, Echo or Home to read out the whole page,” Sam Turner, sales director of Hotelbeds Group told EyeforTravel. “A much more personalised response is required to give you the most relevant information only, and nothing more, otherwise it simply doesn’t work.”

Paul English, CEO of Lola Tech, believes that “ultimately talking to your phone and saying I want a hotel tomorrow night and I am going to be in Chicago Thursday and then having it know enough about the context and enough about the personalization requirements that it does everything for you” is the future.

Getting to a more personalised service will require a concerted effort on the part of travel brands in terms of data gathering, interpretation and presentation. Therefore, consumers conducting a full cycle of travel research solely through voice remain some way off.

In the meantime, travel brands are finding a variety of uses for voice products to ease the travellers’ journeys. Heathrow airport is experimenting with smart speakers in flight screens and key locations in the airport to help travellers with common questions. For hotels, Marriott, IHG, Best Western and Kimpton are among the pioneers in the sector. Principally these brands are looking at using speakers in guests’ rooms to provide services and ease guest requests. Bill Keen, IHG’s VP of mobile solutions & digital guest experience, reported that they had implemented Alexa into and enthused about its further potential: “Voice is sexy again. I do believe that’s the next interface for us.” For luxury hotel brand Edwardian, they have gone a step further and developed out their self-developed chatbot so now it has been enabled to speak to guests and the leadership team is looking at their own in-room speaker tech.

For more on the topic of voice and its impact on the travel industry, click here to download the complete report for free.

Thursday 25 January 2018

Hilton, Marriott, Expedia, Facebook, Choice Hotels, Accor Hotels, Cathay Pacific, and more to share digital strategies at EyeforTravel Summit

Over 30% of the conference agenda will be industry case studies, at the upcoming EyeforTravel San Francisco 2018 Summit – the West Coast’s largest digital travel summit, where over 300+ senior travel executives will come together for two days, on April 9 & 10th. 
The overarching theme for 2018 sees a huge focus on emerging technologies in travel – with one of the key aims being to ascertain the practical tech strategy from the hype and to truly dissect the opportunities of these technologies for digital marketing campaigns.
This year sees the most number of case studies to be presented with brands such as Hilton, Marriott, Expedia, Facebook, Choice Hotels, Accor Hotels, Cathay Pacific, and more giving insights into their strategies and the secrets to getting relevant insights on customers to create successful engagement.
To shed light on how emerging technologies are shaping travel, Renu Kannu the North America Lead for EyeforTravel said “We really are at such an exciting point in travel – the industry has seen some huge shifts over the years, but the potential of travel technologies such as voice, AI, machine learning and blockchain is immense. This could be a game changer for travel brands in 2018 and beyond, and the time to act is now”. 
- Brand Building in the Digital Age (Amy Martin Ziegenfuss, VP – Marketing, Hilton)
-  AI Breaking New Ground & Fuelling Customer Engagement and Experience (Jay Fluegel, Head of Product – Customer Care, Expedia)
- The Power of Mobile to Drive Interaction (Brooks Martin, Senior Director – Mobile & Digital Guest Experience, Marriott)
- Supercharging your Engagement Strategy (Will Farnan, Client Partner – Travel Suppliers, Facebook)
- Incorporating Virtual Content and Mobile Video (Robecta Ma, VP – Marketing, Cathay Pacific Airways)
-  A Holistic Approach to Emerging Technologies and your Digital Strategy (Bill Ramsey, Senior Director – Mobile & Emerging Channels, Choice Hotels)
And this is just the start. Other companies confirmed to speak include: Priceline, IHG, OneFineStay, Hotel Tonight, Winding Tree, Jet Blue Ventures, Japan Airlines, Booking.com, Air Canada and much more!
Contact the team directly at – renu@eyefortravel.com
EyeforTravel is a community where the world's top online travel brands – from hotels to airlines, online travel agents, cruise, car hire firms and more – come to meet to drive forward growth and innovation in the industry. We aim to provide you with industry focused news, events, reports, updates and information. EyeforTravel Limited is a registered company. The Company Registration number is 06286442. It is also registered in England & Wales. Registered office is 7-9 Fashion Street, London E1 6PX, United Kingdom.
Renu Kannu
EyeForTravel | Project and Research Director
+ 44 20 7375 7197 |renu@eyefortravel.com

Tuesday 23 January 2018

The technologies transforming the guest’s experience

Apps, chatbots, RFID, in-room devices, and the internet of things – a host of technologies are opening up and improving the guest’s experience finds The Future ofthe In-Stay Experience report, which is free to download now.

Hotels often feel held hostage by TripAdvisor reviews, but property apps, digital concierges and more are helping hotels reach the guest and react far better to their needs says EyeforTravel’s new report.

Hotels can now monitor and track guests around their properties using installed apps that can access the guest’s location or Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tied to keycards. They can then log every guest request through AI-driven concierges operating through chatbots or smart speakers that mean the guest doesn’t need to ring down to front desk. The growing Internet of Things (IoT), which can be controlled from a single device in the guest’s room or their app, can allow the hotel to know what temperature the guest likes their room to be set at, what entertainment they watch, and when items need to be replaced.

Armed with this technology, hotels can personalise down to an individual level for guests they know and use aggregate data to predict what they should recommend to new guests. Services are even springing up that amalgamate data from many different hotels to learn from similar properties to identify patterns in guest behaviour and make recommendations for add-ons to the guest’s stay.

This will give the hotel of the future a key edge in increasing customer satisfaction and also driving increased revenues from ancillaries or pushing entirely new revenue streams.

The new ability to react in a smarter and faster way to a guest will also help to push up those all-important review scores, as the best time to receive guest feedback is while the guest is still on property. Hotel platforms and apps make it easier for guests to instantly message any issues to the property. Being able to fix an issue before it escalates into a complaint is vital in today’s world of online review sites and digital endorsements.

Following up with a bottle of champagne delivered to the room or a free dinner, can make a guest less likely to vent on TripAdvisor, or even better, turn the complaint into a compliment with a post about the fantastic service provided by the hotel. This has a demonstrable effect on the bottom line, with increased review scored tied to better performing hotels with higher revenues according to more than one study.

However, with this power hotels will also need to learn where the fine balance lies between helping their guests and becoming overbearing. “Learning what a customer orders, be it craft beer or double-shot espresso, is a benefit. Offering specials that walk that line are okay, but to cross it needs to get consent from the client,” says Jeffrey Parker, Vice President of Hospitality Systems, Red Lion Hotels Corporation. “If Joe Smith tells us he wants Jack Daniels and a double-cheese burger in his room with every stay, we need to act on that. If he always orders a cheese burger, we should suggest that,”

The hotels that master guest communications and services through this growing proliferation of smart technologies in a way that is appropriate for their clientele will be the ones that come to thrive in the increasingly competitive accommodation market.

To download The Future of In-Stay Technology report for free, click here.

Monday 22 January 2018


We already know there is a plethora of technologies and tools out there for travel brands to more effectively engage with customers – including the proliferation of mobile across the online travel industry.

EyeforTravel is hosting an exclusive webinar (Tuesday Feb 6th - 5pm GMT) titled ‘The role of digital technologies to enhance the customer experience’ bringing together the following experts: 

·         Bill Ramsey, Senior Director – Mobile & Emerging Channels, Choice Hotels
·         Alison Anesta, Area Director of Performance Improvement, Dorchester Collection
The webinar will explore:
  • The various digital tools available in the travel industry to enhance the customer experience, better engage, and drive loyalty
  • The intersection and blending between technology and the physical – and balancing both as part of your strategy
  • Driving interconnected mobile engagement throughout the travel journey
    Don’t worry if you can’t listen in on the day, as we will send over a free recording to        all registrants.

    We hope to have have you involved as part of the conversation in two weeks! 

    Renu Kannu

Thursday 18 January 2018

EyeforTravel have an attendee list for the data travel elite that they think you need to see!

EyeforTravel have just released their attendee list for the Smart Travel Data Summit 2018 (Miami Feb 27-28). Don’t miss your chance to join this one of its kind data networking and business focused event for the travel industry.

In a recent Forbes study titled, Data Driven and Digitally Savvy: The Rise of the New Marketing Organization, there were some key findings: The travel industry is a clear leader in achieving competitive advantage through data-driven marketing. Sixty-seven percent of travel executives say they have done so in customer engagement/loyalty, 56% in new customers and 59% in customer satisfaction.

With more travelers turning to the internet and mobile to get ideas, inspiration, and options for their trips. There’s more data on each customer from their searches, saved preferences and previous travels. This event covers data analytics, revenue management, marketing analytics and artificial intelligence and personlizartion. Data is where it’s all at – see how you can leverage data to get up close and personal with your customer.

EyeforTravel are excited about this shift towards smart data and have positioned their EyeForTravel Smart Travel Data Summit Miami (Feb 27-28) to focus on just that, and are even offering a sneak peak of their attendee list early.

The event will have 120+ travel data decision makers to help brands identify the data, technology, partners and strategies that you need to grow revenues in the mobile-first world!

To shed light on who will be at the event, Tim Gunstone the Managing Director for EyeforTravel said "We’re excited to be welcoming back executives from Southwest Airlines, Wyndham, AirBnb, Booking.com, Hilton Hotels, the Travel Corporation, Allegiant, Priceline, Winding Tree and a lot more”

He went onto to say, “We don’t usually release our delegate list this early but we want to shout about this event, we have over 80 people in, and thought we should share it, to give others the chance to book in early and manage their meetings too!”

Need a bit more convincing?
  • Look who you could meet and learn from: Airbnb, Amazon, Air Canada, Hilton, Delta Airlines, Mozio, HQ Revenue, Southwest Airlines, Priceline, McKinsey, Amperity, Lufthansa and more
  • Test your data strategy with insights from across the travel market to discuss everything from personalization, artificial intelligence, revenue analytics, blockchain, GDPR, data talent acquisition, data integration, marketing analytics to enhance the customer experience and so much more!
  • Get your data and commercial teams talking to see your analytics insights take off. Reach those new levels of personalization and discuss the best attribution models on market today!

Learn more about who is attending the Smart Travel Data 2018 in event in sunny Miami here: http://events.eyefortravel.com/smart-travel-data-summit-north-america/

If you are a hotel – cruise or airline – contact the team for discounts

Contact the team directly at – shreya@eyefortravel.com

The hotel that talks back is the future

Hotels are only just beginning to deploy chatbots and smart speakers but these early experiments herald the beginning of a major shift in guest communications finds The Future of the In-Stay Experience report, which is free to download now.

The hotel of the future might become an interlinked artificial intelligence that can speak back to the guest through speakers and chatbots to suggest activities to the guest, answer their queries and solve their complaints says the report. Using AI-powered voice and chat capabilities to do these tasks provides more convenient channels for guest interactions that can not only improve satisfaction with their stay but also drive revenues.

Both chatbots and voice systems working through smart speakers can be integrated into a whole system, recording all requests and integrated into a Property Management System (PMS). Largely these early investigations into interactive AI are as smart concierges for hotels, with both big and independent chains deploying the tech.

“We created a conversation concierge so that people can get all of their informational experience through channels they are more used to operating. It delivers specific responses very quickly. It positions the hotel as a trusted advisor,” says Charles Cadbury, Co-Founder of Dazzle Technology, a start-up that implements and operates smart speakers for the hospitality industry.

“Hotels are able to listen to what the guests want and get real time data of who is asking for what and when. Then they can make real time adjustments to their product or services to cater to those requests.”

The other benefit of offering these services out to guests through voice or chat interfaces is that hotels staff are alleviated of a lot of mundane tasks and can really focus on delivering a high quality of service to guests.  

Jeffrey Parker, Vice President of Hospitality Systems, Red Lion Hotels Corporation, says that, according to experts, between 50-75% of guest questions can be responded to by a Bot. “This can relieve questions to the desk staff and other departments. The appropriate way to do it is to also link to your service app infrastructure and have a warm hand-off to a real person.”

“Conversation allows you to ask very specific answers in a type of communication you are most comfortable with,” says Cadbury. “And because it’s not a live conversation, you’re not tying up staff on the phone.”

However, Parker has a warning: “Don’t ever let your app pretend to be a real person. Be transparent with your guests.” (For more on chatbots click here for our free report).

The human element is also still highly relevant in creating the background that can make these interactive AIs possible. Humans are necessary to create a culture of recording and measuring guest interactions and building up the background data. IHG used their customer service call centres to help build up their Alexa offering, for example.

“The best way to build a picture of the guest is to leverage the hotel’s greatest assets, their people, to capture every seemingly relevant detail humans need to build personal relationships,” says Armand Rabinowitz, Senior Director of Strategy and Workgroups at Hospitality Technology Next Generation (HTNG).

Similar to putting a data strategy in place, hotels need to think about the individual guest when implementing voice and chat functions. Hotels can’t just charge in and introduce voice to every room and client, privacy issues are at play too. “We need to take clues from the guest and offer services based on what profile we think they are, but not to the extent we ruin that relationship,” says Parker. Hotels need to offer guests the choice and respect their decision if they ask for connected devices to be removed. Chains such as Marriott and IHG are working closely with Amazon to develop solutions that provide the guests with a seamless experience while also protecting their privacy. Data collection and privacy issues will only be highlighted as the EU’s GDPR regulation comes into force warns the report.

We have also covered voice technology and its implications for travel in a dedicated new report on the topic, which is free to download now here, as well as chatbots, which can be downloaded here

Tuesday 16 January 2018

Could hotels’ secret weapon be in-stay technology?

As hotels fight for guests’ loyalty, could the technology they use during the guests’ stay be the superweapon to turn the tide in their favour?

Hotels are fighting hard for customers and currently a lot of that effort goes into getting their marketing in front of guests’ eyeballs and winning the booking. However, the one period hotels have the guest completely to themselves is during the stay itself. Here, technology, both at the customers fingertips and behind the scenes, is now capable of making a real difference and winning over the customer’s loyalty says EyeforTravel’s new free report, The Future of In-Stay Technology.

Principally this technology is about putting the hotels services’ at the guest’s fingertips. These range from apps that can allow the guest to immediately receive answers to their questions any time of the day or night and book any on-site or arrange of external experiences. Tablets that can control an entire room’s features, such as lights, temperature, curtains, the TV and more. Smartphones that come with the room so that the guest can be connected to services whenever they need. These technologies are putting the hotel’s capabilities back in front of the guest whilst making their stay a more convenient and comfortable experience.

Furthermore, these technologies not only help hotels serve guests better and improve their ratings, they present enormous upsell opportunities that can help restore those all-important margins. If a hotel has managed to get a device with its app into the hands of a consumer, then they can use this to send them push notifications about key services. Chatbots and smart speakers can take user requests and once a hotel has gathered enough data, use this to make recommendations based on similar requests and customer profiles. Smarter in-room devices can put the hotel back into position as the local expert again and allow them to monetise local experiences, tours and activities.

Critically these technologies are also all gathering data around every guest interaction and many are capable of categorising and using this data in an automated manner. “Whilst I often hear complaints in the hospitality industry that the big online players have a data advantage that they can’t compete with – and to some extent that is true – this is finally a chance for hotels to turn the tables,” says Alex Hadwick, Head of Research for EyeforTravel. “Detailed guest preferences are a valuable thing and not only are you elevating the customer experience, your reinforcing that your hotel is delivering the service, not the intermediary. Smart tech in the hotel is a better way of gathering, storing and utilising key information that an OTA doesn’t have.”

Data gathered can not only be used as mentioned above for providing guests with services but also behind the scenes to improve staff performance. Connected technologies provide alerts on guest requests, enabling service to be immediate. They also provide transparency between the guest and property, and with back of house operations. Departments know what is being worked on, when and when it is complete and from a single source, heling to eliminate confusion. From a property-wide perspective, Internet of Things (IoT) devices can help with scheduling the regular maintenance of and other engineering works through notification of flaws, or simply let the hotel know when the guest is outside of their room through door entry monitoring, making service seamless and more efficient.

According to Pablo Rodríguez, Marketing Manager at Stay, smarter communications between guest and hotel, such as through a chatbot, “Eliminates mundane tasks, allowing the staff members to focus on valuable actions that cannot be automated.”

“These days everyone is so familiar with messaging as a means to communicate. Hotels are finding it easier to deal with five customers directly in their rooms via chat channels, instead of having five customers standing behind a reception counter,” explains Hammad Hussain, Managing Director of UK and Ireland, Tink Labs.

All of these innovations are adding up to a smarter, more responsive hotel that can take the fight back to the online environment and re-establish the relationship between guest and their stay.

Thursday 11 January 2018

Does loyalty matter any more in travel?

Loyalty is a hot topic in travel but are travel brands trying to win a losing battle as consumers shift from brand to brand and is their anything they can do to promote loyalty?

It’s expensive business to find a customer and win their booking in travel as multi-channel marketing and technology costs rise. Therefore, travel brands are taking loyalty extremely seriously as a key way of improving profitability, but are they succeeding and at what cost?

EyeforTravel is trying to find out with a new survey and we need your help to get to the bottom of the state of loyalty in travel in 2018.

So, if you are consumer-facing travel brand, click here to answer the survey, which is just 8 short questions, so it will take less than two minutes to answer.

As a way of saying thanks, we will send you the results before anyone else, so you can benchmark your performance. We will also send you free copies of the reports on completion, and you can get access to all of the video presentations and slides from our recent Vegas and Amsterdam Summits just by leaving your email at the end of the survey.

We are also investigating mobile marketing and messaging, which you can help us with by clicking here to answer our mobile survey.

Monday 8 January 2018

What mobile strategies are succeeding?

As travellers’ eyeballs are increasingly captured by smartphones, what should travel brands do to get in front of them and where should they be putting their dollars?

Apps, mobile advertising, messaging, location tracking, mobile sites, QR codes – the proliferation of mobile technology can seem bewildering. So, in order to find out what strategies are succeeding and how brands should be reaching travellers we are conducting a major mobile survey.

Click here to answer the survey, which is just 12 questions long, so it will take less than two minutes to answer.

Topics we want to answer include app adoption, mobile messaging services, lead times, mobile marketing method, investment areas, and more.

As a way of saying thanks for answering, we will send you the results before anyone else, so you can benchmark your performance. We will also send you free copies of the reports on completion, and you can get access to all of the video presentations and slides from our recent Vegas and Amsterdam Summits just by leaving your email at the end of the survey.

We are also investigating the topic of loyalty, which you can help us with by clicking here for our state of loyalty in travel survey.