Cycas Hospitality Lands Double Whammy at Serviced Apartment Awards 2016

Cycas Hospitality Lands Double Whammy at Serviced Apartment Awards 2016

Cycas Hospitality was a double award winner at the first Serviced Apartment Awards.

The team took home the award for ‘Best Independent Operator’ while Giovanni Valentini, GM for Staybridge Suites London-Vauxhall, managed by Cycas Hospitality, scooped the accolade for ‘Rising Star’.

Roughly 350 guests from around the world gathered at the Grange Hotel Tower Bridge for the gala dinner presentation. Judging the awards was an independent panel of consultants, designers, journalists and service providers, while the ‘Rising Star’ and ‘Industry Inspiration’ winners were chosen by Serviced Apartment News readers via an online poll, drawing more than 8,700 voters.

“The exceptional standard of the nominees demonstrates the advances of this exciting sector and to pick up not just one, but two awards is a fantastic feat”, says John Wagner, Director of Cycas Hospitality. “We are absolutely thrilled with winning ‘Best Independent Operator’.

This award belongs to everyone at Cycas Hospitality, recognising the hard work and achievements of each and every one of our team. I am also equally delighted that Giovanni has been acknowledged for his exceptional work in launching Staybridge Suites London – Vauxhall, his dedication as GM has been nothing short of outstanding.”

The Serviced Apartment Awards are the first and only dedicated awards created for and by the serviced apartment, aparthotel, extended stay and short term rental industry.

Cycas Hospitality is a hotel management company specialising in extended-stay hotels. It combines hands-on skills in hotel management with real estate investment expertise.

The company currently manages Staybridge Suites London – Vauxhall, Holiday Inn London – Stratford City, Staybridge Suites London – Stratford City, Heathrow Hotel – Bath Road and Staybridge Suites Liverpool, the first Staybridge Suites hotel in the UK.

10 Amazing Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About TripAdvisor [INFOGRAPHIC]

TripAdvisor is now the world’s largest online travel community. Across its 23 branded travel websites, it gets more than 350 million unique monthly visitors. TripAdvisor as a company operates in 47 countries across the world and in 28 different languages. Yet, it started out above a tiny pizza store names Kostas in Needham, Massachusetts, in the USA, way back in 2000. 16 years in business for such a fast paced industry is no mean feat and TripAdvisor’s success has been firmly planted in its user-generated-content model.

How successful is its user-generated-content model? One only has to look at the amazing statistics to find out. 2,600 new topics are posted across its forums every day by its many users. In fact, in the English-speaking forums, if you ask a question the odds of that question receiving a reply within 24 hours is four questions out of five. However, its user-generated-content model does not stop at text. Its users have uploaded more than 46 million pictures to the site as well. Have a look at this infographic created by the people over at SunSearch Holidays for more.

TripAdvisor Facts [INFOGRAPHIC]

Doug Denman, Joins Board of Directors of Serendipity Labs Coworking

Mr. Doug Denman, President of Worth Hotels an IHG and Marriott franchisee, has joined the Board of Directors of Serendipity Labs Coworking. Serendipity Labs was founded by established hospitality industry leader, John Arenas, creator of Worktopia.

Serendipity Labs is a different kind of coworking space that incorporates the upscale hospitality industry best practices to meet current and future workforce expectations.

Remote and mobile professionals from established companies, independent workers and start-ups can take advantage of flexible coworking and dedicated private office memberships, team rooms for up to 20 people, and the unique venue options of each facility.

Corporate memberships with centralized billing and reporting is also available. With locations in nine states, Serendipity Labs is one of the fastest growing coworking growing networks in the country.

“As an investor, joint venture partner and area franchise developer for Serendipity Labs locations in Texas, I am pleased to join the board to also help guide the franchise growth of this exciting hospitality business,” says Denman.

Defining Loyalty: How to Win Over Loyal Guests, When You’re Not One of The Big Guys

The last twelve months have been full of change for all sectors of the hotel industry. Acquisitions and mergers are a growing topic of conversation in the industry as many expect them to pave the way for hotel marketing in the coming years. One major impact being considered is the changes to be made in regards to customer loyalty programs. With a new direction and promise for personalization, independent hotels and small brands must customize their rewards programs to compete with the big players.

Loyalty programs made their debut in 1981 when American Airlines paved the way with a frequent flyer program known as AAdvantage . The goal was simple- to reward frequent American Airline travelers and create a database of its best customers. AAdvantage expanded its reach through partnering with Hertz and Hyatt, allowing customers to further accumulate points through rental car mileage and hotel stays. Later that year, Delta and United released their own versions of this program featuring new rewards such as a 500,000 mile enrollment bonus and no mileage expiration. Although frequent flyers were the main focus of the campaign, most hotel companies were reaping the benefits from airline packages. In 1983, Holiday Inn was the first to launch its own guest reward program, sparking competition across the big brand hotel scene.

Today there are over 70 FFP worldwide serving 100 million members. For the last 30 years, hospitality professionals have marketed to their customers based on the fact that Mileage is a basic consumer expectation, alongside convenient schedules, competitive pricing, safety and customer service”(frequentflyer.com). The basis of most loyalty programs is rewarding repeat customers with point-based discounts, with no real customer information taken into account. As a result, loyalty is a very loose concept in the minds of most travelers. Even high frequency travelers only spend 58% of their spend on their preferred brand, and 65% report staying with 2 or more brands in the past 6 months” (deloitte.com). With a new generation of travelers craving novelty, this cookie-cutter approach to loyalty programs will no longer be an enticing deal.

In addition, recent mergers have made the loyalty environment even more challenging for small chains and independent hotels. Now giving loyal customers access to an even bigger pool of options, it has made joining a loyalty programs even more enticing.

There are a few alternatives that hotels can do to keep up with the competition. Many small hotel brands have started joining together to create more appealing loyalty programs for a younger mix of travelers. An alternate to these points based programs is based on customer data and personalization. Small chains and independent hotels can begin to analyze who their customers are, their preferences, and how they like to be communicated with. One way to entice more loyalty program sign ups, is by offering an upgrade or amenities add on from the very first visit. By engaging customers from their very first stay, guests are likely to associate the brand with the great value they received when booking their next stay.

These types of programs can be maximized by personalizing which loyalty programs features appear to which guest. For example, site visitors can be targeted with personalized campaigns based on information like their location, their referring source, or even the keyword they searched. Engaging a visitor who is interested in the local nightlife with a complimentary beverage or bar visit will (almost always) be more meaningful than the family tour package.

Hoteliers believe thattravelers are burnt out on points and that what they really want from a loyalty program is access to special perks and experiences they wouldn’t be able to get on their own” (nytimes.com).  Big name hotels are catching onto this trend. Hiltons latest campaign reflects the new direction of loyalty programs, with their tagline “Turn points into experiences worth sharing.” The strategy for small hotel companies now is to give travelers the personalized rewards and offers they are looking for right away.

Top Five Ways to Market Your Hotel to Millennials

Millennials live online. In The Social Network (2010), Sean Parker says, “We lived on farmsthen we lived in cities, and now we‘re going to live on the internet.” Well, some of us already do.

How are millennials living online, and what are they doing there? Google’s Consumer Barometer gives insight into exactly that. This information can, in turn, be applied to your hotel’s sales and marketing strategy.

We’re going to give you 5 key insights into the millennial market, and ways to turn those insights into revenue for your hotel in 2016.

Here’s what you’ll be learning:

  1. The importance of a strong online presence – after all, many of your potential guests practically live there.
  2. Tips on how to leverage search engines, which millennials rely heavily on for product research.
  3. Mobile: it’s even more popular among millennials than it is in other demographics, and innovations have made bookings on mobile easier than ever.
  4. Using video as a way to entertain, inform and connect with your potential guests. YouTube is a star social channel for millennials.
  5. How social media has infiltrated our daily routine, making it easier than ever to connect to friends – and to your favorite hotels! We’re giving you a few ways to boost your own social pages.

Sound good? Ready to find out how millennials tick? Let’s get started.

1. The Internet is Key to Growth

90% of millennials – the 16-34 year old bracket – go online every day. They visit their social media channels, watch videos, shop, and research.

Just as millennials are living online, businesses are moving there too. Hotels will always be brick-and-mortar establishments (at least until virtual reality gets much further along!), but they still need a strong, active online presence. The internet is key to growth.

Here are the basic ingredients of a strong online presence:

  • A strong website. This should be modern in its design and features, and reflective of your hotel’s personality. Are you a vintage hotel? Professional? Themed? Make sure you use strong imagery throughout your site to make it your own – no stock photos, and no low-quality snapshots! Images are some of the most important pieces of a hotel website.
  • Social media. We’ll go more into depth on this one later, but for now, think of social channels as an opportunity to a) provide instant customer service, b) connect to your target audience on their home turf, and c) show off all your great reviews and get customer feedback in a public space.
  • Being on the right channels. For most independent hoteliers, OTAs are a must – but that doesn’t mean you should be on all of them! Test out different channels, do your research, and find out which channels suit your hotel and give you the highest return on your investment. Have a solid, documented strategy for dealing with OTAs. This can give you an edge in a relationship where you might not otherwise feel you have control. Lastly, once you have your OTAs and a strategy behind your presence, optimise your profiles! Again, strong images, powerful descriptions, and a thorough listing of your hotel’s amenities will help you here.

If you’re already on top of these things, way to go! If you’re wondering whether your website is where it should be, here are 5 key ingredients for high converting hotel websites. For advice on OTAs, here’s a compilation of great pieces on building an OTA strategy.

2. Search Engines Are Your Friend

“Just Google it” has become a common refrain in members of the younger generations, and in more than a few of the older, too! 55% of millennials go to search engines when they do product research – including hotel rooms.

The fact that hoteliers can take advantage of our reliance on search engines is clear: SEO is a field unto itself. While there is much debate about which ranking factors the world’s leading search engine algorithms rely upon, there are also whole hosts of expert opinions to help you on your quest.

Beyond the technical details, though, here are two tried-and-tested SEO strategies you can use for your hotel:

  • Focus on link quality, not quantity. If people are linking to your site, you want them to be trusted authority sites, like official Irish tourism sites or well-known travel bloggers. One great link in an authoritative, high-traffic site is going to get your hotel website more visitors than a dozen links on mediocre sites.
  • Look at your social channels. Google and other search engines tend to take notice of your social media presence, and that affects the ranking of your main site. Best practices here usually involve finding your strongest 2 or 3 channels (Twitter? Facebook? Instagram?) and developing a strong, active presence there. That means posting interesting, engaging things, and talking to your guests when they talk to you.

A word of caution: SEO isn’t the end-all and be-all of getting your potential guests’ attention. It’s a first step. Think of SEO as a building block to help you build your site and focus your message. After your SEO is solid, focus on more interactive ways of marketing, like running campaigns, creating content and doing outreach to your target audience.

To implement these SEO tips and find out more ways to rise in the ranks, talk to your hotel’s resident marketing gurus! If you find yourself getting stuck, feel free to reach out to Net Affinity’s marketing experts. SEO is one of our specialties, and we’re happy to have a chat.

3. Mobile Can’t be Ignored

Mobile is on the rise in every demographic, but none more so than in the millennial niche. 3 out of 4 millennials use their mobile devices at least as often as they do a computer, with 1 out of 3 going online more often via their smartphones.

Their mobile usage isn’t just about social media and Google Maps, either: 43% use their smartphones to research potential purchases. Is your mobile site up to snuff?

The up-to-date users, which millennials assuredly are, expect a responsive mobile site. It’s not just a nice bonus anymore. If someone lands on your mobile site and finds themselves having to pinch-zoom just to read your navigation bar, they’re not likely to do much research on your hotel, much less try to complete a booking.

Along with frequent use of multiple devices, we have a shorter attention span. That means you need to grab it, and make it easy for millennials to get interested in what you’ve got.

Here’s a more in-depth look at the importance of mobile across all demographics, and different options your hotel has for making a beautiful mobile site.

4. Video is Addictive

To give you an idea of how important video is to the average millennial, 40% of them use YouTube at least once a day, and 20% consider YouTube videos more relevant and interesting than TV.

It’s clear to see that video has a serious foothold in the modern imagination. The ease with which short ones can be watched, engaged with and shared is practically a recipe for viral reach – if you can get it right. Millennials are, unsurprisingly, the most likely group to watch videos. However, those 55 and older are second most likely. Video’s appeal is as broad as it is sure.

That’s why you need a video marketing strategy for your hotel.

Video marketing is key when it comes to mobile. In research conducted by Ipsos for Google, it was found that ‘micro-moments’ of truth are the new cornerstone of selling. In turn, they found that many of these moments happen specifically when people are watching video on their mobile devices.

2016 is going to be a major year for video on mobile: Facebook has 8 million video views every day, a figure which has doubled in the last 6 months, and 55% of mobile data traffic comes through mobile. Google will be incorporating video ads in search results, and advertisers are making videos 15 seconds or less to run on social media apps. Those ‘micro-moments’ are exploding.

In a recent Tnooz article, statistics from Google UK sales director Dr. Bernd Fauser were cited, and they’re very compelling:

  • 65% of consumers use video when thinking about taking a trip
  • 63% use video when deciding on an accommodation
  • 67% use video when deciding on activities

So, how do you make videos for your hotel? They don’t need to be massive projects with corresponding budgets. If you’re doing a silent video, even the camera on an iPhone will work – as an added advantage, it strips away a layer of formality and makes your video come across as more authentic.

Another easy way to create video might be to run a video contest for your guests.  Run a contest where guests are encouraged to create videos of themselves at your hotel. Since that can be quite a project, make sure to offer a suitable incentive.

For ideas, here’s a link to some of the best video travel bloggers on the internet – go get inspired!

5. Social Media Lets You Share

Millennials love to share news about themselves online, and they do it more trustingly and more often than any other generation. They engage with others, too: half of all millennials comment on or ‘like’ a friend’s post at least once a day.

Social media is a way to create a dialogue with your potential guests. Contests are popular among millennials, and vivid imagery that accompanies your posts will help you grab attention.

Another key factor on social media is speed: you can respond to problems immediately, and many will expect you to. It’s all public, so if you aren’t responding to your guests’ comments, it’s going to be noticed, and it could be a serious downside for your some potential guests..

However, the most important rule is to be genuine on social media. Remember, you’re not talking to a demographic. You’re talking to a person, and if they’re talking to you, they’re probably at least a little interested in staying at your hotel.

So, beyond those basic rules, are there ways to excel on each platform? Of course!

Platforms

  • Instagram is a rising star, especially for hotels to show off their great visuals (think: rooms, views, food). The 1888 boutique hotel in Sydney has even branded itself as The Instagram Hotel. They have an ‘Insta-walk’ of the city, offer free stays to Instagram users with more than 10,000 followers, and offer a ‘Selfie Space’ in their lobby.
  • Twitter has more than 230 million monthly active users, and about 60 million of their tweets mentioned ‘hotel’ over the course of 2015. For hotels, Twitter can get you exposure, but even more importantly, it can offer a sort of concierge service to your guests. Use it to highlight local events and activities, share your best features, and use it as customer service. People often tweet complaints or questions to businesses – make sure you stay on top of those! Here’s 9 best practices for hotels on Twitter that you can put into play straight away.
  • Facebook is a strong option: you can showcase visuals, provide contact details, create a call to action button, and activate reviews. It’s the all-in-one of social media, and the level of activity the platform enjoys proves it. Here’s our 13 top ways to upgrade your Facebook presence.

Those are the only channels we’ll cover here, although hotels are dipping their toes in places like YouTube and Snapchat as well. To find the right mediums for your hotel, test out different platforms and find out where your voice stands out.

Check out these guides and search out your own. To get ahead of the game, give your hotel a crash course in social selling!

Con clusion

There you have it: 5 of the most important trends and patterns to millennials, and ways to turn those trends into an advantage for your hotel. If millennials are living on the internet – and many are – it’s time to use the internet to attract their interest and get your hotel more revenue.

What tips have you found most useful when engaging with millennials and encouraging them to book a stay? Let us know in the comments below.

Cafe Owner Creates Masterful Response to a Rude TripAdvisor Review

TripAdvisor has established itself as a major hub for hospitality business customers to check out the quality and service of an establishment.

Unfortunately, with the anonimity of the internet, disgruntled people often let out their life’s frustrations in the wrong place.

A Hannah C, from North Yorkshire, UK went to the Bennett’s Cafe and Bistro in High Peterage, but was upset over having been charged £2 for a glass of hot water with a slice of lemon.

After leaving the cafe, the lady went on to TripAdvisor and voiced her rage by branding the Cafe ‘over-priced and very rude’.

She writes: “When I asked why I was being charged so much for some water the waiter rudely said “well, do you know how much a lemon costs?” Yes, its definitely not £2.

“He then went on to wrongly inform me that a ‘pot of tea for one’ (which is what I was charged for) is the same price as a lemon. To show just how ridiculous this is, my friend ordered a slice of chocolate cake which was £1.90.

TripAdvisor Review Bennett's Cafe and Bistro

Here’s how the business owner mastered a response:

I’m sorry that you feel that you were ripped off and Ill try to explain why you weren’t. You entered the cafe and the waiter showed you to your seat, gave you a menu, waited for a time and then took your order.

He entered it into the till, collected a cup, saucer and spoon and took them into the kitchen. There, he selected a knife, chopping board, got a lemon from the fridge, cut off a slice and put it in the cup. Then, he returned to the dining room, drew off the necessary hot water and carried the cup to your table.

When you were leaving, he printed off your bill, took it to you, processed your credit card payment and cashed off the till.

After you left, he cleared away your cup, saucer and spoon, took them into the kitchen, washed and dried them, along with the chopping board and knife and put away the lemon.

Then, returning to the dining room he restacked the cup, saucer and spoon, wiped down your table and replaced the menu, awaiting the next customer. That’s at least 2-3 minutes work for the waiter.

The cost of overheads for the business, i.e rent, business rates, electricity costs, bank charges, etc works out at £27.50 per hour of trading. I pay my colleagues a decent living wage and after taking into account holiday pay, national insurance and non-productive time prior to opening and after closing, the waiter who served you costs me £12.50 per hour.

Therefore, together the cost is £40 per hour or 67p per minute, meaning that the cost of providing you with 2-3 minutes of service was £1.34 £2.00. Then the government add on VAT at 20% which takes the cost of that cup of fruit infusion to between £1.60 and £2.40 irrespective of whether you had a teabag costing one and a half pence or a slice of lemon costing five pence.

I have to pay my suppliers otherwise the facilities wont be available to other people who use them in the future. I accept that it makes the price of a cuppa in a city centre cafe look expensive compared to the one you make at home but unfortunately that’s the cruel reality of life.

It’s actually the facilities that cost the money, far more so than the ingredients.

Perhaps, the rudeness that you perceived in me was triggered by the disrespect that I perceived in you by your presumption that you could use our facilities and be waited on for free.

Bennett's Cafe and Bistro Response

So how would you have reacted and how do you feel about reviews on TripAdvisor?

Many spectators were totally impressed with the response. Here’s the support the Cafe got on their Facebook Page:

Thank you so much for all your support regarding the "hot water" we got into with our Tripadvisor review response, it…

Posted by Bennett's Cafe & Bistro on Thursday, January 14, 2016

What Does 2016 Hold for the Hotel Industry?

The major trends forecast for the hotel industry this year range from hotels looking for more software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions to streamline their IT and operations departments, to Baby Boomers stepping down as the dominant global consumer giving way to Millennials becoming the dominant global traveler.

Customized mobile applications such as e-check-in and e-menu options are on the rise, as are, hotel marketing trends such as dynamic rate marketing and social media driving consumer purchasing power.

Revenue growth across the industry has risen rapidly with the global industry having been worth $457 billion dollars in 2011, but now forecast to reach $550 billion dollars by the end of 2016, which is no ordinary feat and shows the global demand for hotel occupancy as more and more people are travelling internationally.

For an illustration of the top trends for the year ahead, why not have a look at this infographic produced by The Dunloe Hotel:

Infographic Hotel Industry Trends in 2016

INOGRAPHIC: How Online Reviews Have Completely Changed the Hotel Industry

Whether we like it or not, online reviews have completely changed the hotel industry and according to a recent study by Nerval Corp, the majority of travelers say they trust online hotel reviews.

The study also revealed how 95% of travelers trust online reviews and 85% of them read up to 10 reviews. 78% claim reviews help them feel more confident in their decisions.

One of the most interesting revelations is about the importance of responding to reviews as 70% believe that an aggressive/defensive management response to a bad review makes them less likely to book that hotel.

The infographic below, shows a complete breakdown of the study findings.

How Hotel Reviews Have Changed the Hotel Industry

Are you a hotelier or traveler; What is your take on online reviews?

Keeping Up with The Joneses: The Digital Marketing Strategy Hotels Need in 2016

Innovations to the hospitality industry over 2015 are making a substantial impact on the outlook for hotel marketing in 2016.  One of the largest and most obvious shifts in the industry stems from the creation and success of the sharing economy. Forbes estimates the revenue flowing through the share economy directly into people’s wallets will surpass $3.5 billion this year, with growth exceeding 25% (Forbes.com). Independent companies, such as Airbnb, are making it easier for travelers to find and rent out rooms online at a lower cost.  At 2.1 million registered users, Airbnb is leading the way and sparking competition with brand name hotel companies (fastcompany.com).

Aside from this phenomenon, online bookings now accounts for more than 40% of total travel sales. This has undoubtedly paved the way for online travel agencies to take off, making it more difficult for brand hotels to generate on-site bookings. Expedia and Priceline are at the forefront of bookings with revenues now reaching $35 billion. With the majority of the global population being online users, OTAs will look to untouched international markets like Italy, Spain, Germany and Mexico (MarketRealist.com).

As a result of the success of the global economy, business travel is on the rise. In 2014, The Global Business Travel Association recorded $72 billion in spending, showing a 7.1 percent increase from 2013 and it is steadily increasing (inc.com). With the start of the new year, domestic business trips are projected to reach 480.5 million. This is great news for Hotels catering to business professionals; specifically Marriott who is currently the most expensed hotel by north american business travelers (statista.com).  Marriott is additionally experiencing growth from its merge with Starwood and other companies are following in its footsteps. Just recently, AccorHotels bought out Fairmont, Raffles and Swissôtel for 2.9 billion, creating an empire for the prestigious hotel brand (skift.com).

Over the last twelve months, the industry has seen some exciting changes in the market. These changes have been heavily influenced by the shift in customer behavior in the market. Customers are now researching and booking much differently than they were five years ago. They are expecting hotel sites to be easy to use, responsive and to interpret and predict their needs. The rise in millennial and business travelers plays a large role in the digital shift hoteliers will begin to see, so keeping their expectations at the forefront is critical.

There are three common themes that have continued to be a large focus in the hotel marketing community over the past year. We believe that these will become critical aspects to digital marketing over the next year.

1. TARGETED CONTENT

Sometimes third party booking sites and search engines are given a bad reputation, but at the end of the day they’re bringing guests directly to hotels, saving time, energy, and personnel costs. Hotel marketers should maximize this value by using a more customized website design and targeted content to accommodate visitor preferences from their very first visit. Studies have shown that travelers visit up to 38 different sites before booking their stay (Skift). This means that the short amount of time a visitor hits a site will make or break their decision to book, and that marketers need to ensure content, campaigns, and messaging are focused and personalized for each visitors needs.

2. BUILDING BETTER CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIPS THROUGH EMAIL

All marketers are aware of the importance in building strong, lasting relationships with their customers, but what about building relationships with visitors who have yet to book? Some of the strongest brand awareness campaigns are built by engaging visitors who are still in the search process. Properties have the opportunity to begin to get to know their potential guests by placing a simple email capture banner or form on the site that will entice visitors to sign up before leaving. Email marketing has proven to be extremely effective in returning potential guests to the site to complete their booking. In addition, a positive email experience can persuade guests to return to a property, even if they booked with the competition in the past.

Social media should also be utilized to engage customers by providing relevant and useful information to potential guests. But, since most social media applications are public, it limits the personal relationship that can be built through email. With the consolidation of the industry, email marketing will begin to play a crucial role in the hotel marketing environment as small brands and independent properties fight back for direct bookings.

3. A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE CUSTOMER BOOKING EXPERIENCE.

If there’s one thing we learned in 2015, it’s that the industry is rapidly changing. The millennial travelers are quickly shifting the market and hotel marketers must constantly be ahead of the curve to stay relevant with this large segment of consumers. While there is an excess of data regarding customers post booking, there is little reporting done on the process customers take when deciding where to book.

Properties can already begin to answer a few questions, simply by using their site data. 1) How are people searching for hotels? 2) How are people completing the booking process? Third party or direct? 3) Importance of certain types of information to search (pictures, reviews, amenities).

When hotels begin to understand the what role specific information plays in the booking process , they can build out a more responsive and personalized site that will keep the new era of traveler fully engaged.

Top 5 Social Trends from 2015 and Outlook for 2016

The rise of the digital age is quickly transforming the way hotels can communicate with their customers. Over the past year, social media users have gone up by 176 million and now make up about 30% of the global population. Facebook alone adds ½ million users every day (socialmediatoday) . With these astonishing numbers there is no doubt that social media can be a powerful tool for getting noticed in the digital marketing world. As the year comes to a close, a look into the most influential social media trends gives us great insight into what will be popular in 2016.

“IN THE MOMENT” UPDATES AND LIVE BROADCASTS

The need for immediacy in social media has paved the way for all of the most popular social networks of today. Applications likes Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are allowing users to instantly share thoughts and photos wherever they may be. Periscope additionally allows users to instantly video chat with others in the network from anywhere in the world. Facebook has also recently conformed to this trend by implementing live broadcasts & suggested videos that automatically play within your news feed. Social media posts are no longer confined to a plain text status, people want to know and see what is happening right now.

IN-APP FUNCTIONALITY

When many social applications were first introduced, there was very little room for multitasking. The digital world is changing and advancing to keep up with the needs of more connected millennials. New features and ways to search and share information means users are staying in applications for longer periods of time. Instagram introduced the ‘explore’ feature letting users venture out past their follower’s photos while Facebook now has instant articles giving users the ability to publish information. Pinterest is in on this as well, utilizing ‘buy’ buttons to give customers purchasing power right from their page. With all of this extra information floating around, Facebook is addressing the issue of exposure by providing more privacy features to its users.

INTEREST GUIDED SEARCH

This new features is especially taking off due to to the need for more personalization capability. The fact is, people don’t want to spend time feeding through information to find something that interests them. Many applications are now giving people the ability to find things based on their keywords and recent searches. For instance, Facebook allows you to find relevant articles and videos based on a keyword search.  Pinterest similarly uses visual search, where the customer can click on an image and is provided with similar items they can buy. The use of hashtags has made it easier for twitter, Facebook, and Instagram users to quickly navigate to what is trending.

SOCIAL MEDIA ADVERTISING

Over the past year, social media ads spending increased 33.5% to nearly $24 billion (emarketer). The high volume of site traffic is reason enough for companies currently building a following through social media. Facebook sees an average of eight billion views a day from 500 million people and that number is only increasing (socialmediatoday). Expanding company information to the various forms of social media is a sure way to increase online presence, especially through the use of sponsored ads. Social media is also a way for companies to invest more in customer service. In a global survey about the future of hotels, 96 % agreed that ‘hotels will need to develop strong social media ‘listening skills’ to understand how customer needs and perceptions of brands and service quality are truly evolving’ (fastfuture).

SOCIAL NETWORKS IN THE WORKPLACE

Although there are some concerns with this trend, the use of social media by companies is creating new opportunities in employment. The Society for Human Resource Management found that 77 of companies surveyed reported using social networking sites to recruit candidates, noting that the use of LinkedIn and Facebook provide a valuable tool for identifying good candidates (eeoc). Aside from hiring, employers are finding new ways to use social media for employee engagement, such as knowledge-sharing and policy information boards. Slack, a messaging app for teams, gained 1.25 million active business users in just 2 years, proving this trend is catching on (fastcompany).

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR HOTELS?

With growing competition from OTA’s and lodging services like Airbnb, hotels must be up to date with such trends when constructing their online presence. Over the past year, the emerging millennial market has influenced change not only in the digital world but also in hotel trends. As the standards for hospitality transform, hotels will definitely have to shift their marketing efforts to remain competitive in the new year. Here are the top 5 things to keep in mind for 2016:

FOOD & BEVERAGE CHANGES

A survey by Travel Market Report reveals that some of the latest shifts in the hotel industry stream from changing preferences in dining. To name a few, travelers are preferring bars over restaurants, ‘grab n go’ options over room service, and food sampling over large menus. The common dining experience is no longer appealing to this generation of travelers that are always on the move and more intrigued by taste than portion size. Many hotels are also renovating their common spaces to accommodate to traveler needs. Removing boundaries between lobby and restaurants has become a popular trend, as 36% of visitors prefer working in the lobby rather than their rooms (travelmarketreport).

2. FRESH BRANDING

As the age group with the most desire to travel, it is no wonder that millennials are at the top of the list for travel spending in 2015. A younger, tech-savvy market means a change in preferences and desired hotel amenities. Peter Yesawich, vice chairman of MMGY, explains how millennials are less concerned with brand names; rather they are on the ‘search for novelty’ (travelmarketreport). Big brand name hotel companies will need to engage new visitors by offering an experience that exceeds the idea of a standard hotel stay.

SOCIAL MEDIA ADVERTISING

Social networks have become a sure way to reach more visitors, expand brand awareness, and build valuable connections in the digital world. Utilizing the various social media applications will get you noticed on many different levels; however, simply having a presence on social media is no longer enough. Companies need to be aware of social search optimization techniques, such as hash tags, and invest in sponsored content to make it easier for users to find your brand through simple keywords. Social media accounts posting more frequently are also likely to be featured in top search results on google.

VIDEO MARKETING

The use of video is bringing online marketing to the next level. In fact, 70% of companies now say video is the most effective tool in their online marketing (fastcompany). Online users are naturally more drawn to image-based content, as posts with videos attract three times as many inbound links as plain text posts (slideshare). Video marketing must be strategic however, people are most attracted to visuals that they can relate to. Creating a marketing video that tells a story about your brand and relates to your traveler’s needs is key to customer likeability.

MOBILE OPTIMIZATION

Mobile applications are the epitome of convenience for today’s travelers. The freedom to plan, purchase, or book right from your smartphone is now a necessity for consumers in the y generation. With last minute travel planning at an all time high, mobile bookings are making it easier for business and leisure travelers to quickly find a hotel room. However, ease of use is taken into consideration by travelers; mobile users must be able to navigate efficiently or it becomes very frustrating when on the go. 95% of people believe that by 2020, ‘hotels will increasingly look to new technologies to drastically increase efficiency, reduce costs, personalize the customer experience and improve service’ (fastfuture).