Hotel Technology Whitepaper
When it comes to making the right choice about deploying hotel technology which is guest-facing, it's important for hoteliers to consider the key benefits they can gain from selecting the most suitable solutions. Below, we look at 3 questions that might nudge hoteliers to think beyond the obvious.
Guest experience driven by hotel technology is one of the hotel sector’s most pertinent current topics. Guest preferences and needs have truly shifted, and hotels need to position themselves correctly, in order to avoid negative disruption from competitors. In this sense, the general technology landscape offers a range of options for hoteliers to explore, deploy and utilize. The problem with many of the technologies on offer is their limitation in range and their lack of ability to convince guests to take advantage of them.
Hotel applications are used by less than 5% of guests, while the likes of in-room tablets need guests to abandon their strong preference for mobile and engage with systems they are unfamiliar with and that are strictly limited to the physical restrictions of the hotel property. In addition to this, items such as roaming fees remain a paramount issue. In fact, the roaming market continues growth across the globe, and despite some soft signs pointing toward a future resolution, roaming is and will remain a major barrier for international travelers for years to come.
Despite these facts, most hotel technology focuses on a limited set of guest needs and fails to understand the value of travelers’ in-destination behavior. Applications need guests to download something they will only use during their arguably short stay, and additionally, they fail to address any special circumstances. For example, if only one of the hotels’ guests decides not to roam or purchase a local SIM card, the opportunity to engage this guest away from the property is simply gone.
In contrast to most hotel technology providers, Portier Technologies covers a wide range of guest needs via a single platform that benefits from some of the industry’s highest engagement rates. The Portier Platform is not limited by connectivity issues, reluctance to download or by being invisible to hotel staff members.
Today, the Portier Platform drives engagement rates of 80%, with each guest spending an average of 49 minutes on the platform while they explore the hotel and the destination. The inevitable result: Portier Technologies drives a measurable increase in guest satisfaction and some significant revenue growth for hotels.
In this report, we introduce Portier Technologies, provide a detailed overview of the hotel technology landscape and share some of the actual impact the Portier Platform has been having at partner hotels.
Founded in 2016, Portier Technologies (Portier) focuses on helping hotels deliver significant improvements to the overall guest experience. The Portier Platform consists of two key elements, namely customized smartphones placed in each hotel room and the browser-based Portier Portal from where all content and devices are managed.
There is little doubt that customer well-being and engagement boost hotels’ business growth. In fact, “the connection between well-being and customer engagement is important for hotels because engagement is a powerful predictor of business growth. Gallup's analysis shows a strong link between customers' engagement levels with a hotel and the amount of money they spend per visit. Guests spent an average of $457 per stay at the hotel they visited most frequently in the past 12 months, but fully engaged guests spent $588 per stay compared with $403 per stay for actively disengaged guests -- a difference of $185 per customer” (Gallup, 2014). In other words, an actively engaged guest is not only happier but ends up spending nearly 47% more per stay than an actively disengaged guest.
Portier is designed to be the binding mechanism between guests and hotels, and is built in a fashion that empowers hoteliers to expand their service excellence beyond the limitations of the physical property, thus, delivering improvements to the overall guest experience and making a measurable impact on hotels’ bottom line.
The Portier Platform is managed by hotel staff from a single place, a portal that is accessed via the hotel staff’s preferred browser. From this portal, hotel staff members can manage both the guest devices and what form of content is accessed via those devices.
Managing Guest Devices
The main reason behind the ability to manage guest devices is security. Hotel staff members can locate guests when they might be in trouble, make devices unusable when they get displaced or replace unusable devices to avoid service disruptions.
Staff members who were given the user rights to do so can manage content that will ultimately end up in the guests’ hands. In that sense, any piece of content that the hotel might currently have to host across multiple sources (e.g. compendium, IP TV, flyers) can be placed on the Portier Platform and deliver the convenience of mobility to guests. While guests walk around the hotel or the city, they can access the likes of the in-room dining menu, special events at the hotel, details about the spa and more.
Via the Portier Portal, hotel staff can also launch time-sensitive promotion campaigns, utilizing Portier Push Messaging. These push messages can be sent to individuals, a selected group of guests or to all guests. While this feature can be utilized to deliver an increased sense of courtesy, the main purpose of push messaging is to promote the hotel’s facilities, special offers or special events.
As an additional benefit for hotels targeting MICE guests, push messages help manage larger groups that might need to stay informed with regards to conference-related topics. In such cases, push messages can support the publishing of content focused on particular group events. For example, if the hotel is in the process of hosting representatives of a company who are at the hotel for their annual conference, Portier Push Messaging can distribute schedules, deal with individuals’ needs and more.
Before we go into more detail regarding the impact of the Portier Platform, let us take a more detailed look at the general hotel technology landscape.
Hotel Technology Landscape
Today’s hotel technology landscape is arguably fragmented, and many stakeholders enter the space with a variety of philosophies. Below, we take a critical look at some of the technologies that are currently deployed at hotels across the world.
To understand the impact of tablets at hotels, it is critical to look at the general behavior of people accessing the internet. According to Statcounter (2020), the internet is accessed via mobile, desktop, and tablets. In 2014, the future for tablets looked somewhat promising, with around 6% of usage coming from the likes of iPads, while mobile rose towards the 32% mark and desktop usage steadily declined to close the year off at around 62%.
Today’s reality is harsh but, ultimately true for tablets. The initial enthusiasm never translated into anything sustainable and global tablet usage is at its lowest point in history, with the end of 2019 showing well under 3% worth of engagement coming from tablets.
In stark contrast to tablets, mobile has grown aggressively and did what arguably few could forecast in 2014 - mobile overtook desktop to become the most engaging technology for those who access the internet, accounting for over 53% of the market. As a result, tablets are not just facing trouble but actual extinction, with the share of mobile forecast to grow even further.
In this respect, Travelport’s Glenville Morris makes his feelings about tablets in the travel and hospitality space very clear: “Add in further blows from the industry, like Google giving up on Android tablets, Phablets (remember them?!), driving phone sizes up so large that no one used the term “phablet” anymore, and you can see why we’re sitting here in 2020 lamenting the death of the once-great travel tablet app” (PhocusWire, 2020).
The conclusion here is simple: Why provide a solution to hotel guests that barely any people choose to use in their daily lives?
Hotel & Travel Apps
The obvious logic is to focus on the continued and sustainable growth of mobile over any other forms of engagement. Many hotels and hotel brands have done so by deploying hotel apps but the unwelcome reality is that people simply do not like to actually use a multitude of apps, but instead, they spend 77% of their time using their top 3 apps (Business of Apps, 2019).
It gets worse when we take a look at travel apps in particular. In fact, an astonishing 82% of travel apps get deleted within 90 days of download (PhocusWire, 2018) - that is certainly a significant number, especially given the investment made by the likes of hotel operators.
Even if we presume that downloading is not the problem and that such a barrier has been removed from the equation of getting hotel guests to use a hotel app, the usage numbers could not be more discouraging. According to Ron Harding, “in-stay usage data for brand and hotel mobile apps is hard to come by, but the numbers estimated by several industry sources are in line with those often cited by solution providers – somewhere between 0.5 percent and 5 percent” (Hospitality Upgrade, 2018). In other words, even if one is optimistic, a hotel app will be used by five out of 100 guests.
Furthermore, looking at Hotel Zephyr’s TripAdvisor reviews, Ron Harding points out that only one out of 2,252 public reviews mentions the hotel’s app, and it is not great news:
"Just one disappointment: No room service. For a hotel of that size, and for the price of the room, I would expect room service in the hotel. When I asked how to get dinner delivered I was told to look online on an app. Which I did. Wasn't so happy about it” (Hospitality Upgrade, 2018).
The conclusion: To make hotel apps a success, hoteliers need to remove barriers to entry first, and then, somehow convince travelers to stay engaged via an app they are not used to and have little incentive to utilize.
Recent Tech Conflicts
As of the writing of this whitepaper, there is active conflict in play between Marriott and one of Minor International’s subsidiaries (MINT) in Thailand. In this particular case, MINT accuses Marriott to have forced one of their portfolio properties to accept low-margin business via Marriott’s loyalty app Marriott Bonvoy (TTR Weekly, 2020). Now, this is not a directly technology-related problem, but it is a reminder that branded technology needs to work in harmony with the hotel ownership.
In other words, the moment brands like Marriott give in to pressure and want to be like the startup world’s darlings that focus on being asset-light and aggressive on growth, they might lose track of their own unique make-up that should support a distinctive hotel experience.
Having said that, the likes of Marriott can work with companies like Portier to boost usage of and satisfaction with applications they spent millions of dollars to develop in the first place. Some of the statistics shared above show as to how critical the on-boarding process is for travel and hotel apps - this is where highly engaging platforms like Portier can make a difference. With the attention of guests secured, apps like Marriott Bonvoy can receive support in the on-boarding process in particular. In addition to this, since there is real financial value-driven back to the property, owners benefit from less friction with brand objectives.
In the final section of this whitepaper, we take a detailed look at the impact Portier has been making at hotels.
The Portier Impact
Below, we take a closer look at the impact the Portier Platform has made in the past and will continue to make in the months and years ahead. We focus on individual features and highlight some case studies that provide further detail, in order to help hoteliers make informed decisions on hotel technology.
Push Messaging Impact
As briefly highlighted above, push messaging is one of the main revenue-focused features of the Portier Platform. Fully composed, controlled and managed from the Portier Portal, push messages can be event-focused, service-specific, and can even take advantage of understanding guest behavior to fully optimize outcomes.
Looking at Portier’s global average for the last twelve months, push messages achieved some outstanding conversion rates within one hour of the launch of a promotional campaign. While 83.8% of push messages were read by guests, 6.8% clicked the applicable call-to-action button. In other words, hotels were able to get 84 out of 100 guests to read their promotions, while 7 out of 100 guests ended up making a booking.
If we compare that to the conversion rates that hoteliers achieve via Facebook campaigns for example, the best that hotels can hope for is 0.9%, and that is not even limited to the first hour of the campaign (Wordstream, 2017).
In this context, hoteliers should simply quantify the possible impact Portier could make at their property. Think about those seven bookings - they could be an additional glass of wine, spa treatments, more guests booking yoga classes, airport transfers and much more.
In the case of Banyan Tree Samui, a Portier partner hotel, push messages were utilized to drive a spa promotion that ended up driving an additional $48,000 to their 88 rooms over the course of a year, translating to an incremental $45 from each room per month, from a single promotion (Travel Daily, 2019).
The Power of Content
If the content is supposed to be a powerful means to drive sales, why not focus on content marketing strategies aimed towards guests that are already at your hotel and whose attention you already have? In the last twelve months, each guest staying at one of our partner hotels spent an average of 49 minutes on Portier Phones every day. Coupled with an average activation rate of 80%, these are some of the industry’s most impactful numbers.
What is intriguing is the actual power of well-written hotel content on Portier Phones. Currently, 32% of guests who read a piece of content on the Portier Platform end up contacting hotel staff to book a service within five minutes of reading that piece of content.
In the last twelve months, hotel guests staying at one of our partner hotels engaged in over 63,000 chat conversations with hotel staff. The impact from having this feature at the fingertips of hotel guests is very real. Here is one guest’s TripAdvisor review to highlight the guest experience benefits of Portier Chat:
“The given personalized cell phone in the room is measure! We could skype and even call home to our family for free! We did even place our room service order and they replied asking what sauce we would like with the steak! And 30 mins later, food was there!”
While Portier Chat is one of many reasons as to why guests enjoy their hotel stay and have their expectations exceeded with Portier, the platform’s ability to drive direct TripAdvisor reviews is certainly one of the most prominent and influential features. In fact, a recent Ipsos MORI poll indicates that “Nearly 8 out of 10 TripAdvisor users (79%) are more likely to book a hotel with a higher bubble rating when choosing between two otherwise identical properties, and over half (52%) agree that they would never book a hotel with no reviews” (Travel Daily, 2019 II).
With Portier’s Quick Review features, a majority of hotel partners now drive around 40% of their public TripAdvisor reviews directly from the Portier Platform, leading to more reviews and a significantly increased likelihood of positive feedback from guests. In addition to this, around 15% of public TripAdvisor guest reviews mention the ability to utilize Portier Phones when staying at any partner hotels.
Roaming is STILL a Major Issue
While hotel guests benefit from free WiFi on-site at most properties, roaming when exploring the destination away from the hotel still remains a problem, and will only become more expensive as an increased number of cross-border users come into play. Take Brexit for example, the “free-to-roam” agreement with EU countries will end by 2021, and UK residents will then face a significant rise to their phone bills while traveling abroad (Indy 100, 2020).
While the above-presented hotel technology alternatives are incapable of meeting the basic need of remaining mobile while traveling, the Portier Platform currently supports an average of seven calls per room per day. With 88% of these calls being domestic, free or cheap roaming agreements would not cover the need for local calls in the first place, and the simple calling function becomes a feature of high value, as the below guest review indicates:
“In addition there was a phone available in the room for guests to take out of the hotel during the stay. You can call anywhere in the world with the phone and it also has an internet connection which can be convenient for some folks – no need to buy a SIM card at the airport. In addition you have the butler on speed dial programmed in the phone plus a chat feature with the butler so it feels like any time you need help the butler is always there to assist even when not on the hotel premises.”
It is evident that hotel guests appreciate the ability to extend the hotel’s service to beyond the physical limitations of the property and the economic and technical constraints of having to secure continued connectivity while traveling.
It is evident that guest experience reaches beyond the interactions that take place between guests and staff at the hotel property. Indeed, travelers expect to be delighted by stakeholders at multiple touchpoints. Looking at the below infographic (Deloitte, 2018), it is critical for hoteliers to make investments in technology that covers a multitude of needs and does not just focus on a few aspects.
In that sense, the Portier Platform helps to create a more personalized experience, provides the ability to exceed expectations, let’s hotel staff proactively recommend deals and activities (even when the guest is off-site), accelerates conflict resolution and more.
As Christian Hoehn (2019) puts it: “With Portier at our disposal, we’ve been able to significantly increase our engagement with guests. Travelers visiting cities like Paris spend very little time at the hotel, but engagement with them is crucial yet challenging.”
At Portier Technologies, it is our mission to help hotels cover all aspects of the traveler journey and delight guests at multiple touchpoints. Technology solutions that are “stuck” in the room or the property simply do not do enough to exceed expectations. Similarly, asking hotel guests to “go out of their way” and download something for a limited purpose can lead to an unsatisfactory experience for all involved.
In that respect, hoteliers should make an informed decision when it comes to investing in technology and focus on the long-term benefits that technology would drive.
Business of Apps (2019), https://www.businessofapps.com/data/app-statistics/
Hoehn (2019), personal interview at W Paris-Opera on March 19, 2019
PhocusWire (2020), https://www.phocuswire.com/travelport-ipad-anniversary-role-in-travel
PhocusWire (2018), https://www.phocuswire.com/clevertap-travel-apps-benchmark
Statcounter (2020), https://gs.statcounter.com/platform-market-share/desktop-mobile-tablet/worldwide
Travel Daily (2019), https://www.traveldailymedia.com/portier-8x-roi-banyan-tree-samui/
Travel Daily (2019 II), https://www.traveldailymedia.com/tripadvisor-how-reviews-impact-bookings/
TTR Weekly (2020), https://www.ttrweekly.com/site/2020/01/minor-battles-marriott-in-thai-court/