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Hotelier news, tips and advice from industry experts.

Welcome Anywhere Property Managment System > Blog > 2017 > April

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Research from the UK Card Association confirms that contactless payments totalled a whopping £25 billion in 2016 - up from £7.75 billion in 2015.

This new breed of payment technology - which enables consumers to pay for transactions worth up to £30 with a tap of their payment card or NFC-equipped device (such as a smartphone) - is fast becoming the default way people make every day purchases.

Do you accept contactless payments at your hotel? If not, you need to get on board - quickly.

If you need convincing, we’ve got five quick-fire benefits of accepting contactless payments as a hotelier:

1. Contactless payments are secure

On 8th May, we’re holding a free webinar that will unravel the facts and myths of processing payment cards in the hotel industry. It’s a thorny topic, and one which has created countless issues for the independents.

Thankfully, contactless greatly reduces the risk of card data theft and is therefore something of a relief among a sea of PCI-related anxiety.

There’s no magnetic strip involved, no contact (obviously), and each transaction is ‘single use’, therefore if a hacker attempts to read them and re-use the details, they’re useless.

If you want to learn more about payment card processing for hotels, we highly recommend tagging along to our webinar (it’s free!):

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2. There’s a growing number of form factors

The old forms of payment (magnetic stripe and even Chip and Pin) rely on a card for the transaction to take place. With contactless, the applications for the technology are almost limitless.

Beyond traditional payments cards, the latest breed of smartphones and smartwatches typically feature Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, which enables them to transform into payment devices.

Key fobs, vehicles and virtually anything that can contain contactless technology will open up a whole new world of payments for both businesses and consumers.

3. It’s ultra-convenient for all

Given the aforementioned statistics from last year, there’s a strong chance you will have used contactless to pay for something. If you have, you’ll know how ridiculously convenient it is, too.

Just retrieve your card, tap the Chip and Pin machine, and you’re done. There’s no fumbling for change on behalf of you or the retailer and the entire transaction is completed within mere seconds.

Contactless payments are convenient for everyone. They’ll raise guest satisfaction, improve the working lives of reception staff and keep check-out queues to a minimum.

4. There’s plenty of opportunities for further innovation

We’ve already established that the application of contactless technology can take place in a whole host of devices and environments, and that makes it ripe for innovation.

Magnetic stripes and Chip and Pin cards could only be taken so far, but the sky is the limit with contactless. Get on board now, and you could benefit from some serious hospitality-led developments featuring this form of technology in the not-too-distant future.

Combining payments with door entry and in-room entertainment systems will be just the start.

5. Contactless is about far more than convenient payments

It’s important to remember that one of the main benefits of contactless for hoteliers is how convenient it is for guests. And, beyond payment processing, it can do far more for the people who enter your property.

When combined with a smartphone app, contactless can offer detailed payment history (no more confusion over who paid the last bar bill!), user-configured pin protection (more security!) and even remote deactivation.

Wrapping up

Have we convinced you to invest in contactless technology for your hotel? Thought so. The good news? It’s very straightforward and won’t break the bank. Speak to your card acquirer or bank today to find out more.

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News reports have confirmed that hospitality giant, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), recently suffered a serious data breach, with hackers stealing the payment card data from over one-thousand of its properties.

The group originally thought just twelve hotels had been affected, until an investigation proved otherwise.

Of the 5,000 properties IHG operates worldwide, around 1,175 are thought to have been targeted with malware designed to steal information from the magnetic stripe on guest payment cards.

What happened exactly?

IHG have undertaken their own investigation, which completed in March. They discovered that malware had been running on hotel front desk systems between September 29 and December 29, 2016.

The malware showed no sign of activity beyond December 29th last year, but the group wasn’t able to remove it until after the investigation this March.

In a statement on their website, the hotel chain confirmed that the breach was widespread: "Many IHG-branded locations are independently owned and operated franchises and certain of these franchisee operated locations in the Americas were made aware by payment card networks of patterns of unauthorized charges occurring on payment cards after they were legitimately used at their locations”.

What kind of data was stolen?

Because the malicious software was designed to steal data directly from the magnetic stripe of guest payment cards, it’s likely information such as the cardholder name, sixteen-digit number, expiration date and internal verifications codes will have been accessible by hackers.

How many people have been affected?

As with most data breaches, the exact number of people directly affected by the attack is unclear.

In fact, IHG haven’t released any indicative numbers, but they have created a lookup tool which can be used to find out the exact hotels that were infected and the duration the malware was active.

Currently, there are three countries listed - the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, but the tool allows you to choose individual states within each.

What is IHG doing?

IHG has notified law enforcement of the data breach and the speed with which they’ve implemented the aforementioned lookup tool demonstrates an admirable desire to be completely transparent about the breach.

IHG is also working closely with payment card networks and cyber security firms in order to confirm that the malware has been completely removed. It’s understood that measures are underway to ensure individual IHG properties are better protected against such attacks.

What can independent hoteliers learn from this data breach?

As is often the case with headline-grabbing news, the eye is in the detail, and if you dig deeper, you discover that IHG franchise hotels running the group’s Secure Payment Solution (SPS) were not affected by the data breach.

SPS is a point-to-point encrypted payment acceptance solution which enables the safe transportation of guest payment card details. Clearly, it did it’s job in this case, by preventing the malware from accessing the precious personal data it was after.

The lesson, therefore, is a relatively simple one: if you run a hotel, it’s vital that you understand the implications of running insecure payment systems. There’s no escaping the fact that we live in a world rife with cyber crime, and businesses must do all they can to protect their customer’s data.

By implementing a PCI DSS compliant payment solution, you’ll ensure your hotel is as prepared as it can be for any form of data breach designed to steal payment card information.

Despite this, many hotels continue to circumnavigate rules that are deemed too confusing. This is often the case for hoteliers who have been in receipt of an eighteen-page PCI questionnaire full of acronyms, payment card jargon and queries that demand a degree in network administration.

We’d like to help, which is why we’re holding a free webinar on 8th May that will uncover the truths and debunk the myths surrounding the requirements for handling payments within the hotel industry. Join us, and you’ll gain the chance to quiz industry experts on all things PCI DSS-related:

[/fusion_text][button link="http://welcome-anywhere.co.uk/pci-webinar/" color="default" size="" type="" shape="" target="_self" title="" gradient_colors="|" gradient_hover_colors="|" accent_color="" accent_hover_color="" bevel_color="" border_width="1px" shadow="" icon="" icon_position="left" icon_divider="no" modal="" animation_type="0" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="1" alignment="" class="" id=""]REGISTER FOR WEBINAR[/button]

 

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The hospitality industry continues to benefit from some wonderful innovation. Hotel booking systems are now affordable, intuitive powerhouses and in-room services have moved far beyond the provision of a flat screen TV and WiFi internet connection.

It’s an incredibly exciting time to be involved in this industry, and it shows no signs of slowing down. But, what’s next? Where else will these wondrous technological advances take us?

We think there are three hotel tech trends on the horizon that will change the experience for both guests and staff forever (and for the better).

1. Cashless, card-less, wallet-less payments

If truth be told, the payment revolution is already taking place, with people swapping cash and cards for tap-and-pay chips installed within their smartphones and smartwatches. But, equally, this is still a relatively nascent technology and one that hasn’t achieved world domination.

Yet.

If you’re a hotelier operating in the UK, chances are you’ll be familiar with guests using contactless payment cards to settle bills below £30. Some may even be using the aforementioned tech to do so, and it’s hard to discredit the convenience offered by this evolution of payment.

In the not-too-distant future, everyone will likely do away with cash and cards. Near Field Communication (NFC) technology is now present in virtually every new smartphone, and as services such as Android Pay and Apple Pay become household names, they’ll be relied upon by vast swathes of the population. It’s infectious, too; once you’ve seen the ease with which a friend can pay for their drink at the bar with a simple tap of their phone, you’ll want ‘in’, too.

The hotel booking system will play a vital role in the payment revolution, with the systems of tomorrow integrating payment functionality directly into the software itself. That potentially means the end of fiddly Chip and Pin machines and costly acquirer contracts.

If your hotel booking system is PCI complaint (if it isn’t, you need to look for one that is), it will also offer the ability to keep a safe record of guest payment card details. And the change afforded by this functionality will be more of a strategic one, forcing hotels that have perviously relied on what are effectively gentlemen’s agreements for securing bookings to switch to far more secure, reliable methods that offer full protection for the business.

2. The end of the traditional hotel check-in?

This is a tricky subject, because on the surface it involves digitising and - as far as many independent hoteliers are concerned - de-humanising the guest check-in experience.

It demands exploration, though, because we’re living in an increasingly automated society. As discussed during our recent webinar with BookingSuite, the digital, convenient experiences offered by other elements of travel, such as flights and Uber rides, needs to continue once the guest reaches the hotel.

Similarly, the rise of digital personal assistants like Siri and Amazon Alexa is offering consumers functionality within their homes and while travelling that was once the stuff of sci-fi movies. If you can walk into your living room and ask a small circular device to turn your lights on (which it does - instantly), why shouldn’t you expect an autonomous check-in experience when you enter a hotel?

Independent hotels will always set themselves apart from the chain, flatpack hotel competition with the service they offer, and while the traditional hotel check-in desk’s days probably are numbered, the importance of attentive, human service to compliment the technology will increase. Hospitality was, is and always will be a people business, after all.

3. Rise of the IoT

At it’s base level, the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) simply refers to devices that possess internet connectivity. Smart fridges, TVs and doorbells are already entering the home and providing owners with the ability to keep tabs on their property, no matter where they happen to be.

Such technology is also making its way into hotels, with large chains introducing Amazon Alexa personal assistants and making changes to their building management systems that provide guests with ultimate control over every aspect of their room.

The challenge at the moment is one of cost; introducing IoT devices at scale still represents a significant investment for independent hotels, but as tech firms continue to innovate, prices will start to fall, enabling every accommodation owner to dip their toes into the IoT revolution.

Wrapping up

Excited? We are. With change comes opportunity, and the technology we’re starting to see filter into the top-end of the hospitality industry won’t take long to make it’s way into the independents. That means better guest experiences can be created and a more profitable business maintained.

What are you looking forward to the most? Tell us below!

On 8th May 2017, we’re holding a webinar which will dive deep into PCI DSS compliance and explore the facts (and myths) of processing guest payment cards. Places are limited, so why not book a front row seat today, by clicking below:

[/fusion_text][button link="http://welcome-anywhere.co.uk/pci-webinar/" color="default" size="" type="" shape="" target="_self" title="" gradient_colors="|" gradient_hover_colors="|" accent_color="" accent_hover_color="" bevel_color="" border_width="1px" shadow="" icon="" icon_position="left" icon_divider="no" modal="" animation_type="0" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="1" alignment="" class="" id=""]REGISTER FOR WEBINAR[/button]

 

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No matter how much effort you put into running a hotel, one thing is for sure - there’s very little you can do to account for no-shows and cancellations.

Recovering from a no-show, in particular, is incredibly difficult, because filling empty room space at the very last minute demands an inordinate amount of time on the reception team’s behalf. Channel managers also need to be immediately updated and an inevitable hit taken on profitability due to a reliance on reduced rates that attract the attention of late bookers.

Dealing with the aftermath of a cancellation or no-show isn’t particularly desirable, either. It may involve an uncomfortable conversation with the guest to ascertain the reasons for their non-arrival and the need to charge them for any breach of contract.

In this post, we’ve put together a bite-sized hotelier’s guide for cancellations and no-shows. And we should note that while every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the following information, we strongly recommend speaking to a legal advisor before taking action against guests who fall foul of your booking contract.

Key facts about no-show and cancellations

  • Every hotel should have a cancellation procedure that covers the following:
    • No-shows
    • Cancellation
    • Curtailment (when a guest cuts their stay short)
  • If a guest checks out or cancels a booking early, they are in breach of the booking contract
  • It works both ways; if the hotel cancels a booking that it has already accepted, it will be in breach of the booking contract
  • The ability to process ‘customer not present’ transactions and do so in a PCI-compliant manner is vital

Guest cancellations and the importance of the policy

To avoid problems with curtailment and cancellation, hotels should always have a robust cancellation policy which is made clear to guests during the booking process.

Given that the majority of the bookings you receive will be via an online source, that means ensuring that your cancellation policy is highly visible both on your online booking system and with any online travel agencies (OTAs) you work with. It should also be an ‘opt-in’ check box to which guests are forced to agree before confirming their booking.

If a booking is received in writing (it still happens!), via email or over the phone, the cancellation policy should be made equally clear.

The terms themselves should be fair to both the hotel and guest. For example, demanding that full payment be taken up-front and retained in the event of a cancellation would be considered unfair by most people. It’s therefore important to weigh up the business cost of a cancellation and only charge for the damage - which is unlikely to be the full amount if you can successfully re-sell the space.

Lastly, a standard, common cancellation policy across all booking channels is advisable because of the ease with which it can be maintained and for complete transparency.

Taking deposits

Most accommodation providers take some form of booking deposit or, at the very least, a copy of the payment card details in order to secure the reservation. Hotels that have amassed a significant number of return guests over the years may find this policy tricky to swallow, as it involves asking for money or a guarantee upfront from people who are considered loyal customers.

If this sounds familiar, it’s important to persevere, because taking a deposit or securing payment card details will enable you to be recompensed in the event of a no-show. Just remember that any payment card data you hold needs to be stored according to PCI DSS rules.

When it comes to charging a guest that hasn’t turned up, you’ll need to carry out a ‘customer not present’ transaction in accordance with the rules outlined in your cancellation policy. And, contrary to popular belief, that doesn’t mean you need the CVV2 security number!

If a guest blocks the payment or refuses to pay over the phone, you may need to take the matter to a small claims court. We strongly recommend speaking to a legal advisor under such circumstances.

Offering cancellation insurance to the guest

Another option available to hoteliers is to include an option for cancellation insurance during the booking process - something that is becoming more common among OTAs, too.

Cancellation insurance is a premium that covers the payments guests are obliged to make in the event of a cancelled booking. The best policies will cover claims that relate to illness, redundancy, fire or jury service.

Final thought: what if the hotel cancels the booking?

Although relatively rare, there may be occasions where you ned to cancel a guest’s booking. If you find yourself in this position, you’ll be in danger of breaking the booking contract yourself, therefore you’ll need to find alternative accommodation for the guest.

In such instances, honesty is most certainly the best policy, and a call to the guest to explain the reasons for the cancellation and a desire to find them an alternative night’s stay in accommodation of the same or higher quality, should appease most people.

On 8th May 2017, we’re holding a webinar which will dive deep into PCI DSS compliance and explore the facts (and myths) of processing guest payment cards. Places are limited, so why not book a front row seat today, by clicking below:

[/fusion_text][button link="http://welcome-anywhere.co.uk/pci-webinar/" color="default" size="" type="" shape="" target="_self" title="" gradient_colors="|" gradient_hover_colors="|" accent_color="" accent_hover_color="" bevel_color="" border_width="1px" shadow="" icon="" icon_position="left" icon_divider="no" modal="" animation_type="0" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="1" alignment="" class="" id=""]REGISTER FOR WEBINAR[/button]

 

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Our latest guest post comes courtesy of Booking Suite's Idan Velleman, who digs deep into the many benefits technology can offer the modern hotelier when it comes to setting and managing competitive room rates.

For any property owner, managing prices is a time-consuming business. You need a lot of data to help you do it, but at the end of the day, the final decision on pricing is up to you. There’s an art and a science to setting rates, and chances are, you rely on a little of each.

To start, there are so many factors to consider. You have to take into account your competitors’ rates, your historic and near-term occupancy, your reservation history, local events, and your unique business strategy. Where does all that data come from? For many properties, it arrives on paper or via a downloaded Excel spreadsheet. You take all of the contributing factors mentioned above, stack them up against each other, and plan your rates. There’s the science.

For most properties, however, managing rates isn’t all science. After considering the data, you also weigh-in with your personal experience and history. After all, you know your property better than anyone. The data informs decisions, but it doesn’t make decisions for you.

And that’s how it should be. You need to retain control. Given this, the idea of using technology to aid your revenue management strategy might be unsettling. It might also seem like the safer bet to continue to manually implement your revenue strategy all by yourself.

However, we at Booking.com are firm believers in the potential of technology to help properties better run their businesses. In this article, we’ll take a look at how technology can help you improve and run your revenue management strategy. Most importantly, we’ll also examine how technology gives you more control and flexibility when it comes to setting the right prices for your property.

The case for technology

Revenue management systems save you time. If you don’t have software to help, setting rates can take up a good portion of your day. You might be a small business owner doing it on your own, or lucky enough to have a member of staff dedicated to rate management; however you do it, the effort is worth it, because setting the correct price is vital to your business.

Just imagine, though, if you had the ability to automate the tedious elements of the data collection process that are part and parcel of setting rates. Revenue management systems do just that, by collecting and analysing diverse data sets relevant to your property’s rates. The majority of properties do not have the time or knowledge to consider vast amounts of data as a whole, but a revenue management system can use such information to recommend optimal rates, which the hotelier can then push out through their channel manager with ease.

How it works

But how exactly do revenue management systems work? Which factors does this technology take into account when making rate recommendations? Most revenue management systems (including the BookingSuite RateManager) operate using advanced algorithms to analyse factors such as your unique PMS data, occupancy rates, market demand, competitors’ rates, events, and more, to give you relevant rate recommendations.

Revenue management technology streamlines work which usually takes hours into a matter of minutes. Ultimately, these rates are optimised for your unique property and market, and may help improve your bottom line.

Stay in control

Above all, revenue management software still gives you control when you need it most.

Let’s consider an everyday example not related to revenue management. Nowadays, many people rely on their smartphone’s map for directions while walking around a city or driving to a new destination. Complicated software works behind the scenes of your phone’s map to give you suggestions about which route to take. But other factors may come up on your journey. Let’s say the GPS tells you to go a certain way, but you happen to know that making a left turn at that intersection is difficult at rush hour. You therefore adjust your route, so that you can turn left when you have a traffic light to help.

Sometimes, it makes sense to follow your GPS' instructions at every single turn. Other times, however, you need to adjust your decisions based on your own knowledge and expertise. In such moments, we're able to pause the directions, change them, stop and review the map. We can take time to consider the best route.

Using technology to optimise your rates is similar to the example above. You still have the final say over your prices, because you know your property, your guests, your competitors, and your strategy best. That art will never leave your side, but it's a science that you can automate, and that will make your job easier and your hotel more profitable.

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