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January 30, 2018

9 Posts Featuring Chatbots, AI and all the Hospitality Digital Marketing Trends of 2018: Hospitality Marketing Link Digest

January 30, 2018 | By | No Comments

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Chatbots, AI and all the hospitality digital marketing trends: Man using tablet in hotel lobby

Howdy, Big Thinkers! Hope you’re having an amazing week so far. Let’s make it even better with a look at 9 posts featuring chatbots, AI and all the hospitality digital marketing trends of 2018 for you. Enjoy:

  1. Tnooz has a wonderful piece that shares 11 thoughts on the future of technology in travel and hospitality from CES 2018. Given how much consumer tech shapes what our guests expect, you can’t afford to miss this one.
  2. The fine folks at Fuel Travel (hi, guys!) had an amazing podcast episode that outlined the hotel industry's New Year wish list for 2018. Be sure to give it a listen.
  3. Clare Hutchison of Triptease has a great article that looks at what's in store for hotels in 2018 that you’ll want to check out.
  4. Continuing the theme of 2018 hospitality digital marketing trends, Hotel News Now put together a fantastic Q&A with our own Tim Peter all about what hoteliers must know about digital marketing in 2018. Great stuff that’s well worth your time.
  5. And on a highly-related note, Hotel Management listed its view of the top 6 hotel tech trends for 2018. Their views on AI, voice, and blockchain seem very much in line with our’s here at Tim Peter & Associates, so give them a look when you get a moment.
  6. Speaking of AI, you’ll absolutely want to review Tim Peter’s thoughts on why AI will change hospitality marketing forever.
  7. Curious what AI, voice, and chatbots look like in action? Hotel Marketing highlighted a TTG Asia post that saysBooking.com’s service and support chatbot will become more sophisticated. No doubt. The question is how are you preparing to compete?
  8. Along those lines, Skift suggests (rightly, I might add) that brands must rethink engagement with the new digitally connected traveler . Or, put more simply by Tim in a guest editorial for Hotel Executive, it's not “mobile first” – it's “guest first.”
  9. Finally, let’s round out our list of 9 posts featuring chatbots, AI and all the hospitality digital marketing trends with a complementary set of 10 tremendous insights into the trends driving hotel digital marketing in 2018 and these 8 amazing posts that explore how AI will affect the travel industry from the the Hospitality Marketing Link Digest series.

If you’re looking for even more hospitality marketing goodness, you might also want to take a moment to review the slides from Tim’s recent seminar, “Digital Marketing Directions: The Key Trends Driving Your Hotel Marketing Next Year” here:

Finally, you will definitely want to check out some of our past coverage of the mobile, local, social web and how to make it work for your hotel, including:

Tim Peter

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January 9, 2018

Why AI Will Change Hospitality Marketing Forever

January 9, 2018 | By | 2 Comments

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Why AI Will Change Hospitality Marketing Forever: Representative image of AI

Bill Gates once wrote, “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.” And when it comes to new technologies, many folks ignore both sides of Gates’ statement, only to end up looking silly later. Having said that, let me be clear: artificial intelligence — AI — is going to radically reshape hospitality marketing and our industry at large. Forever. And the companies that use AI effectively are closer to two years away from success than ten.

But to understand why AI will change hospitality marketing forever, we need a bit of context in more detail.

For many of us, our first exposure to AI in the real-world came when IBM’s Watson won “Jeopardy.” That was all the way back in 2011 and the Watson-powered travel startup WayBlazer followed in 2014. That puts us at least three to six years along Bill Gates’ 2 to 10-year curve. And, as with most technology, things speed up the longer they’ve been around. AI isn’t the future. It’s happening all around you right now.

For example, an insurance-industry startup called Lemonade just used AI to set a record for customer service, resolving and paying a claim mere seconds after their customer submitted that claim for consideration. According to Airnguru, Singapore Airlines is already applying AI to its marketing and customer service campaigns to improve profitability and performance. And like Singapore Air, Priceline and Expedia have both announced they’re testing AI-driven solutions to improve their customer service offerings too.

None of this is science fiction. I’m not talking about the “Star Trek” computer or the ship’s android, Data, answering every possible question and solving every possible problem. Those types of AI are called “artificial general intelligence” (AGI), and are probably quite a long ways away, if they’re even possible at all. I’m talking about AI used to solve very specific problems, called “narrow” or “weak” AI. Narrow AI is real. It exists today. In addition to Lemonade and Singapore Airlines, Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa represent real-world examples of narrow AI in practice.

More importantly, narrow AI represents to businesses today what the Internet represented in the late 1990’s: A green field of opportunity to reinvent how business works and how you’ll interact with customers in the coming years. As I see it, there are at least four categories where AI will impact your property in the next few years that you must watch:

  1. Search. Google has begun to use AI to determine the highest-quality pages within its search results and will increasingly depend on AI when choosing “the best page” to answer customer questions, especially on voice-driven searches where the search giant can only offer one or two responses.
  2. Analytics and measurement. Data is what makes artificial intelligence, um, intelligent. Machines can’t learn without a healthy diet of data to help them understand how to answer the questions their users pose. But AI’s natural affinity for data also makes it a powerful tool to interpret that information. As I once heard Ed St.Onge from Flip.to remark, “AI makes big data little.” Sophisticated technology players are using AI to comb through massive amounts of data and gain understanding about customers and their journeys that once simply would have been impossible to discover.
  3. Guest experience/personalization. Of course, that measurement then enables better, more personalized experiences to customers. That’s what WayBlazer is working to do, using AI to simplify complicated itineraries for guests. Priceline and Expedia have each announced they’re looking to use AI to improve customer experience. And since better customer experience usually drives greater revenues, that’s something we all should care about.
  4. Pricing. Finally, pricing information represents a very particular form of data that must account for seasonality, competitive pressures, macroeconomic effects, and guest preferences, among others. Today, ill-fitting algorithms may leave money on the table or sacrifice lifetime customer value in favor of a short-term perceived “win.” Over time, AI will enable smarter algorithms that account for all the variables – as well as those we don’t even recognize as factors today – and will present improved pricing alternatives to increase property revenues in both the short and longer-term.

Of course, most hoteliers aren’t going to run right out and start building their very own version of HAL. Instead, here’s what you can do to put AI to work for your property in the near-term:

  • Ensure you’re continuing to develop quality content for your property. One of the most common places you’ll encounter AI over the next few years is within search results on Google and others. As mentioned previously, Google is slowly introducing AI into its algorithm to determine the best answers in search. Over time, its AI won’t have to rely on links and keywords to determine the right answer to searchers’ questions; it will simply know. And, in this case, “the right answer” means a page with high-quality, highly-relevant content that answers guest questions effectively. Imagine asking Siri or Alexa where you should stay tonight, knowing it can only provide a single answer. Does your content help present you in the best possible light? Or does it leave your customers wanting more? If people can’t agree on the best possible answer, no machine ever will. Help make that machine’s job easier by providing all the information necessary to answer guest questions. Even better, this will help with how you perform in search today while also setting you up for the future.
  • Ask your vendors about their plans for using AI. Airbnb, Expedia, Priceline and others are already looking at how to use AI to improve customer experience and drive more business. Your vendors need to help you compete with those experiences and deliver on guest needs. While your vendors don’t need to have fully-baked solutions today, they must prepare for the future. If AI isn’t on their radar at all they’re creating problems for their business down the road – and for yours.
  • Stay on the lookout for potential threats from new entrants. Most hotel companies failed to recognize how new players would leverage the Internet fifteen years ago to attract, convert, and retain guests, an oversight whose effects we continue to feel today. AI represents a similar situation. While it’s far too soon to predict who will emerge as the dominant players – in the Internet era, Travelocity and Yahoo predated Expedia and Google for instance – it’s not too soon to keep an eye for who’s shaping the dialogue and direction AI will take. Pay attention to how AI continues to evolve to protect your property’s position in the longer-term.

Again, it’s easy to overestimate how much change we’ll see in the next two years here. But it’s far more dangerous for your business to underestimate changes over the next ten. AI isn’t science-fiction or fantasy. It’s reality. Companies have started to use AI to connect with customers and create memorable experiences. And, ultimately, isn’t that what we’re supposed to do as hoteliers? The machines won’t win. But the people who use those machines most effectively will. And that’s a prediction that’s always been true.

If you’re looking for even more hospitality marketing goodness, you might also want to take a moment to review the slides from Tim’s recent seminar, “Digital Marketing Directions: The Key Trends Driving Your Hotel Marketing Next Year” here:

Finally, you will definitely want to check out some of our past coverage of the mobile, local, social web and how to make it work for your hotel, including:

Note: A version of this post originally appeared on Hotel News Now, where Tim Peter writes a regular column for the magazine’s Digital Tech Impact Report.

Tim Peter

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January 7, 2018

8 Amazing Posts That Explore How AI Will Affect the Travel Industry: Hospitality Marketing Link Digest

January 7, 2018 | By | No Comments

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How AI will affect the travel industry: Woman in self-driving car

Hey, Big Thinkers! So, with all the buzz around artificial intelligence in sales and marketing, you’re probably wondering AI will affect the travel industry this year — and beyond. To help you get your arms around the topic, we’ve put together this great list of 8 amazing posts that explore how AI will affect the travel industry for you. Enjoy:

  1. The Washington Post makes its Hospitality Marketing Link Digest debut with a list of travel industry trends in 2018 that you’ll want to know about.
  2. One of the biggest trends we’ll see this year is AI. And the fine folks at Koddi takes a good look at how AI is changing the travel industry. Don’t miss it.
  3. Datafloq also looks explores artificial intelligence in travel and has a great look at how AI will affect the travel industry that’s worth your time.
  4. Worried about how these changes will affect your team — or your job? A recent Skift post argues that the modern concierge is too skilled to be made redundant by technology. Maybe. But as our own Tim Peter talked about on our Thinks Out Loud podcast recently, AI won’t steal your job: smart people who put AI to work will. Make sure to give the whole episode a listen.
  5. Case in point, Tnooz reports that Air Canada is working to improve customer relationships via artificial intelligence. Expect a lot more of this to come.
  6. And if you’re worried that it’s too early — or too late — to get on-board, first, just remember that AI makes big data little and that we could all use more help there. Second, whether it’s AI, or whatever the next big thing may be, you really don’t want to wait to use emerging tech to market your hotel.
  7. Similarly, putting AI to work for your property is both critical for your long-term success and isn’t as hard as you might thing. As Tim points out in a recent Hotel News Now column, with preparation and foresight, the machines won’t win.
  8. Finally, it isn’t just AI that’s affecting the travel industry. That’s why you owe it to yourself to check out these 7 must-see posts highlighting how to market your hotel in the future. You’ll be glad you did.

If you’re looking for even more hospitality marketing goodness, you might also want to take a moment to review the slides from Tim’s recent seminar, “Digital Marketing Directions: The Key Trends Driving Your Hotel Marketing Next Year” here:

Finally, you will definitely want to check out some of our past coverage of the mobile, local, social web and how to make it work for your hotel, including:

Tim Peter

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December 20, 2017

10 Tremendous Insights Into the Trends Driving Hotel Digital Marketing in 2018: Hospitality Marketing Link Digest

December 20, 2017 | By | No Comments

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Trends Driving Hotel Digital Marketing: Guest shopping on tablet for hotel direct booking

We’re coming up on the end of a big year, Big Thinkers, filled with fascinating news and insights affecting distribution, digital marketing, and the overall hospitality landscape. To help you make sense of it all, here are 10 tremendous insights into the trends driving hotel digital marketing in 2018. Enjoy:

  1. One of the top posts of the past year explored why Airbnb keeps winning at hospitality. In many ways it builds on a top post from last year that asked, what business is Airbnb in? Hotels? Or hospitality? Both posts are definitely worth your time as we continue to deal with Airbnb’s place in the hospitality ecosystem.
  2. It seems a bit weird to include a round-up post in… a round-up post, but these 9 popular hotel marketing and distribution posts for you from earlier this year were simply too, well, popular and important insights into the trends shaping next year to leave out.
  3. Artificial intelligence undoubtedly represents one of the key trends to watch as we head into the New Year. Which is why you need to check out this look at how to make AI work for successful hotel marketing and AI for marketing: AI makes big data little. Both are well worth your time.
  4. Of course, AI isn’t the only big trend coming in 2018. That’s why you owe it to yourself to review these 7 must-see posts highlighting how to market your hotel in the future.
  5. While it isn’t a new trend, these 8 posts highlighting the growth of mobile in travel marketing certainly call attention to one of the most important trends you’ll face in the New Year.
  6. And yet another “holdover” trend examines the single most effective way to improve your brand’s marketing. Simply must-see.
  7. With slowing growth due to market saturation, the OTA’s certainly aren’t sitting on the sidelines through all these changes. That’s why this report from Tnooz that Expedia has set its sights on legacy tech with ambitious ‘travel platform’ for hotels is so noteworthy. So is this post that examines Airbnb and Expedia, execs answering 10 pressing questions. Ultimately, it’s a key reminder of this Warning: OTA’s want to own your guests every step of the way.
  8. In the escalating war of words we’re seeing with OTA’s vs. brands, the fact that OTA’s say hotel companies are just as bad for consumers as… OTA’s(?!?) was definitely one of the weirder things we saw all year.
  9. While we’re on the topic, you might also want to check out these 8 insights into OTA’s, personalization, and your overall digital strategy. Seriously good stuff there.
  10. And, finally, with the rate of change, it’s understandable that when it comes to hospitality digital marketing and distribution, you might ask, “Is it time to give up?” We’d say, “No.” Now go check out the whole post to see why.

Well, there you have it, Big Thinkers. Another year in the books. 2017 has been an amazing year for us here at Tim Peter & Associates, and a great one overall for our clients. We’re incredibly grateful for all the good fortune that has come our way. Hope the same has been true for you too. And keep checking back all next year (or subscribe to receive updates here). There’s a lot more to come as we head into 2018.

If you’re looking for even more hospitality marketing goodness, you might also want to take a moment to review the slides from Tim’s recent seminar, “Digital Marketing Directions 2016: The Key Trends Driving Your Hotel Marketing Next Year” here:

Finally, you will definitely want to check out some of our past coverage of the mobile, local, social web and how to make it work for your hotel, including:

Tim Peter

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September 26, 2017

Why Airbnb Keeps Winning at Hospitality

September 26, 2017 | By | No Comments

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Why Airbnb Keeps Winning at Hospitality

Where does Airbnb get off? Seriously. Late last year, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky used Twitter to engage in a lengthy dialogue with customers about where Airbnb might be heading as a company. Why should you care? Well, because that conversation started with a simple question from Chesky: "If @Airbnb could launch anything in 2017, what would it be?"

Wait a minute… Airbnb asks for feedback, listens to guests, and shapes its service around what its guests actually want? How dare they. After all, as hospitality operators and marketers, didn't that used to be our job?

This all came back to light recently when Hilton Hotels’ CMO Geraldine Caplin called Airbnb a “lodging company,” as compared with Hilton’s larger focus on hospitality. I’ve already made clear my position that Airbnb definitely meets the definition of a hospitality company, but I don’t want to dismiss Caplin’s statement out of hand. Hilton ought to be able to beat Airbnb in terms of delivering great hospitality. Any hotel company should. In fact, I’ve argued repeatedly that it’s critical for hotels to succeed in that effort.

I’m about to do it again.

Now, given this blog’s focus, it's fair to ask what any of this has to do with digital. Sure, it's Airbnb and yes, Chesky used Twitter to enable the conversation, but that's not why the exchange should be important to you. After all, it's no secret that digital has permanently changed the way your guests interact with brands and businesses.

What is important are the results of that change — and how you must respond.

What Chesky and his team recognize is that customer experience is the new marketing. Everything depends on the quality of the interactions your guests experience at every step of their journey. Why? Simple. Your guests carry a printing press in their pocket. Oh, and a full-HD video camera and a production studio and a broadcast network too. And they use these tools to share every element of their experience with their friends and family and fans and followers across social networks.

A 100-room hotel running at 60% occupancy with 1.4 guests per room hosts roughly 31,000 guests per year. And with an average of 200 connections on Facebook alone, those guests have the potential to reach an audience of over 6.1 million people. Even if these numbers wildly overstate your guests' social media activity and only 10% of those guests actually bother to say something about their stay — never mind what it says about their experience at your hotel if only 10% of your customers feel it's worth talking about — that's still over half a million opportunities for potential guests to hear about you each year. Imagine the stories they might hear.

This is equally true for "traditional" ratings and reviews seen on TripAdvisor and OTA's. I won't spend much time on this topic; you live with this reality every day. But it's worth noting that a recent TrustYou study found, "…guests are 3.9 times more likely to book the hotel with the highest average review score when price is equal" and, even better, that "76% of travelers said they were willing to pay more for a hotel with higher review scores." My real-world experience with properties all around the globe suggests this is true in practice as well as in theory.

Increasingly, marketing is less about telling your brand's story and is instead about ensuring your guests have a great story to tell on your behalf. A study from Flip.to and Fuel Travel found word of mouth was the 2nd most influential factor in your guest's decision-making process. What do you suppose your guests say about you?

None of this happens without digital. Before the internet, your guests maybe could tell a few friends about their travels — or bore them to tears with slides from their trip. But now they're constantly connected with an engaged audience who want to listen. Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat and Twitter work hard to ensure only the folks who want to see the messages your guests share actually do. And, yes, you have to make certain the rest of your digital platform reinforces those messages once your guests' friends and family are ready to hear more. That's crucial. But it all starts with how they're finding out about you in the first place.

Customer experience is the new marketing. Airbnb gets it, which is why their CEO spent his Christmas holiday talking — and, more importantly, listening — to customers. The question now is: How do you plan to spend your next holiday? Or, for that matter, every other day this year?

If you’re looking for even more hospitality marketing goodness, you might also want to take a moment to review the slides from Tim’s recent seminar, “Digital Marketing Directions: The Key Trends Driving Your Hotel Marketing Next Year” here:

Finally, you will definitely want to check out some of our past coverage of the mobile, local, social web and how to make it work for your hotel, including:

Note: A version of this post originally appeared on Hotel News Now, where Tim Peter writes a quarterly column for the magazine’s Digital Tech Impact Report.