In a world full of technological breakthroughs and advancements that we often take for granted, there are still certain moments when you realise just how far we’ve come.

For example, a few nights ago, I spotted a particularly bright star in the sky. Curious, I reached for my smartphone, tapped a couple of times on the screen and pointed it upwards. Normal behaviour in 2017, clearly; I thought nothing of it.

The star, as I found out, was in fact Venus. I knew this, because my smartphone had given me an augmented view of the night sky, turning it into a virtual map of the stars and planets. I could move the device around and instantly see a textbook view of the universe.

I momentarily realised what I was doing - and it took my breath away. As it should.

Similarly, if you’re a Facebook user, you may have spotted the recent addition of an innocuous-looking ‘Live’ button that resides at the top-left of the smartphone app. Press it, and you can instantly start streaming live video to your friends and followers. Just a few short years ago, such a feat would have required a satellite truck outside your house and a remortgage to fund the broadcast.

Not any more. We can do incredibly powerful things with devices that reside in our pockets and which were once nothing more than portable telephones.

Traditional hospitality in the digital age

In hospitality, tech continues to advance at an equally impressive rate. Guests chart a seismically different booking journey that relies on crowd-sourced reviews, real-time social media updates and mobilised reservations. Perhaps even more impressive is that fact that independent hoteliers can capture their attention by using management tools that were once the domain of large chains.

But where does this leave the housekeeping team? Can one of the most traditional elements of hospitality management benefit from these significant advances in technology?

Absolutely. In fact, above all departments within a hotel, I think housekeeping staff are best placed to latch onto the mobile revolution. It’ll just require a slight change in mindset.

Out with old interfaces, in with smart, connected apps

There have long been interfaces between PMS and telephone systems that enable housekeepers to dial codes on handsets to confirm rooms as being clean. That’s all well and good, but in a world where you can point your smartphone at the night’s sky and find out which stars reside above your head, we need something a little more… advanced.

The future of housekeeping management lies in the ability for tech companies and the hotels themselves to embrace mobile. And what better tool do such staff have to hand when going about their daily business than their smartphone?

The ability to confirm rooms as clean from a PMS-connected app and communicate with members of their team while having an ever-present list of duties on which to call - all from a device that resides in the palm of their hands - will transform this vital element of hospitality.

The future is closer than you may think…

How far are we away from such tools being available? Not far at all, thankfully, but the trick lies in something I alluded to a little earlier; this kind of tech needs to be made accessible to all, not just those with massive budgets.

Just as Facebook has made live video streaming available to everyone for free, hospitality software companies need to build solutions for housekeepers that don’t require days of training and which are affordable for even the smallest of operators.

Everyone should have the chance to benefit from technology that makes a real difference in the hotel industry. I’ve noted just a few examples of what could be done for housekeepers in this post, but the night sky really is the limit.

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PR for hotels

Public relations (PR) in the hotel sector is all about raising your profile and enhancing your reputation by achieving free (or ’earned’) media coverage.

The great advantage of learning how to ‘do’ PR is that you start to tell your story in an effective way that can prove highly attractive to guests and help establish a distinctive brand for your business.

PR doesn’t have to be scary. It’s a straightforward process of thinking creatively and understanding what journalists do and don’t want. Here are our top tips on how to get your PR programme up and running:

1. Find the media who matter to you

Which newspapers or radio stations cover your local area? What magazines do your customers read? Do you have something to say that would suit industry press? Begin by drawing up a list of all the publications, websites, or broadcasters that you’d ideally like to feature in. Research their news and feature sections, and learn who’s who on their editorial teams – it’s important to understand who covers what; in a paper it might be the editor or news team. On radio or TV it could be an individual journalist or producer. For specialist news websites, click on the ‘contact us’ section to discover who you should pitch stories or ideas to.

2. News is new, and different

Remember – no media outlet will produce a story about ‘who you are and why your hotel is brilliant.’ If you want to go down this route consider paid-for advertising. You need to offer a story or angle that will suit their readers, listeners or viewers, and it has to be factually accurate. Never, ever lie to the press! Firstly, they’ll quickly discover you’re making things up, and secondly they’ll never trust or work with you again.

On the whole news is ‘new, quirky or unusual; links into a national theme; has the potential to affect a big group of people; includes strong visual opportunities, and offers charismatic interviewees.’

If you imagine you’re ‘pitching’ a story idea to the media – keep it short and sweet. Offer a descriptive headline and an opening paragraph that tells the whole story. Think about how you flick through a newspaper or magazine and a headline captures your attention, making you want to stop and find out more. Here are a few recent new stories that caught our eye:

You might also want to consider the ‘features’ sections of particular media. Beyond the news pages do the media you are looking at review hotels or restaurants? Can you offer a competition stay or meal for their readers? If a journalist is interested in finding out more invite them to your hotel for a coffee and a chat if they have time.

Always be polite, friendly and to the point. Never be disappointed if they don’t pick up your story – it’s all part of the learning process.

3. Social media and websites

If you haven’t done so already invest some time online setting up Facebook, Twitter and Google+ pages for your hotel. There are plenty of how-to guides available on the web to explain how to do this, along with best-practise advice on how to make the most of these valuable and far-reaching resources.

Keep your online comments updated regularly – one post a day or even week can be enough. Use attractive photography that shows off your hotel, facilities, services and location. Be prepared to quickly answer questions from prospective guests, and thank social commentators for their positive comments.

Create a news section for your website and also post all of your news stories here – remember, these are the sort of things that increasingly web-savvy guests expect to be able to look up and review before committing to book with you.

4. Some PR ideas to start with

Think about your hotel’s history, geography, staff, guests, services and community links:

  • Is there anything that makes your offer different from other hotels in the area?
  • Are you active in charity events?
  • Is there a human interest story about one of the team?
  • Have you reached a milestone in your history?
  • Is there a new industry trend you can predict or comment on?
  • Are you employing new technology to make your guests’ lives easier?
  • Have you had any unusual requests from guests that you now cater to?
  • Are you experiencing a boom in business? Why do you think this is?
  • Is there a local event or nearby tourist attraction that boosts your bookings?

For newspapers and television in particular think about the best visual opportunities you have to offer. For radio who is the best person to speak on your behalf? They need to be positive, well-informed and unflappable.

The above represents just a few ideas that your hotel could offer a unique and newsworthy perspective on.

Summary

To achieve PR success in the hotel business, it is important to develop a long-term programme of activity and get proactive! This approach will help keep your business front-of-mind with both journalists and their audiences.

Have fun, be bold and experiment!

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Gmail logoGmail has received some significant attention from Google developers this year. Most notably, the world's largest webmail client saw the introduction of a new tabbed inbox, which intelligently groups emails into specific folders in an attempt to separate personal messages from social media notifications and promotional emails.

Despite something of an uproar in the email marketing community, the feature appears to have worked rather well and has actually encouraged Gmail users to check their promotional tab in the hope that tempting offers nestle within it.

More recently, Google has added some nifty new features to Gmail and there's one in particular which we think could prove to be very useful for hoteliers.

'Quick Action' buttons are starting to appear to the right of email subject lines in Gmail users' inboxes. They work by scanning the content of the email and providing an action for anything deemed to be interactive. For example, it might be something as simple as adding a specific date to a calendar, or saving a file to Dropbox... or booking a restaurant table.

OpenTable has joined the growing list of developers making use of Quick Action buttons by giving diners the ability to quickly book tables directly from their inbox and without having to open the email from the restaurant. All the restaurant has to do is send an enticing subject line and the Quick Action lets the user do the rest with the minimal fuss. It could prove a very quick conversion technique.

Imagine doing the same for hotel bookings! It's something that has certainly caught our eye and we will be looking at ways in which we can implement the use of Quick Action buttons for the benefit of Welcome Anywhere users and hotel guests.

Got an idea how Quick Actions could be used in email? Get in touch!

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Twitter for hotelsEarlier this month, Twitter floated itself on the New York Stock Exchange. Within hours, shares rose to $45.10 a piece, making the fledgling social media company worth an astounding $31bn.

For a service which opened with the rather innocuous tweet 'just setting up my twttr' in 2006, the 140 character-driven social media site is now a driving force both socially and in business. If you run a hotel, it can be an incredibly powerful tool.

Today, we've got three best practices for the social media savvy hotelier who wants to get the most from Twitter.

 

Don't ignore the bio

Twitter have made it so easy to set up an account and start posting, that you may forget to perform one of the most important tasks - configuring your bio page. While your Twitter presence will almost solely be digested by people browsing their timelines, whenever someone decides whether or not to follow you, it is likely they will have a look at your bio. In fact, in most Twitter clients, they have to. If it's blank and uninspiring (or, worse, there's a little egg to indicate you haven't updated your profile picture), they may well not bother. Add an attractive image of your hotel, your location, website and a small tagline or description of what you're all about. Don't forget to add a header photo, too - you can be a little more creative with here, as Twitter affords you more space.

Forget the numbers

Social media is all-too-often about numbers. Much like a LinkedIn profile's connections tally isn't indicative of business acumen, neither is your number of followers on Twitter. There are all sorts of 'back door' methods with which you can gain a large number of followers, but avoid them at all costs. You can't buy love and you certainly can't by a social media following.

Building a genuine list of followers isn't easy and it takes time. You need to cultivate a community in order for it to be effective. Use a service such as Wefollow in order to find hospitality leaders and industry partners - follow them and interact with them where possible. Retweet the tweets you like and engage in discussions by using hashtags to offer your thoughts on a particualr topic. If you've got positive relations with a neighbouring hotel, follow them, too.

Listen first

Twitter is just as much a listening channel as it is a broadcasting channel. Nowhere is this more important than the hotel industry. People tweet in real time and offer immediate thoughts on their current activities. That activity might be a stay in your hotel and they'll probably mention you by name when they say what's on their mind. They may do this by using your @ Twitter username, in which case you'll be alerted in most Twitter clients, but if they don't, keeping an eye on mentions of your hotel on Twitter is relatively straightforward - you can simply use the powerful search tool or invest in social media reputation software or professional services.

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