How In-Room Tech Is Changing Everything About Hotel Guest Experience

A hotel was once measured in stars, but today is better judged by Wi-Fi strength and the ease with which room service can be ordered through an app.

Guests expect a seamless tech experience from the moment they walk through a hotel’s doors, mirroring the on-demand reality that exists today for everything from ordering a cab to dinner.

SkiftPodcast_Final.Logo1400x1400.5.1.15Smartphones are at the center of this evolution with hotels and third-party services quickly developing apps and tools that transform personal devices into portals for the hotel experience.

But with the rapid change of consumer technology, it can be very difficult for any tech initiative to stay relevant for long, leaving hotels in a constant struggle to keep up with consumer demands.

To talk about the future of in-room technology and the evolving guest experience, podcast host Samantha Shankman and Skift co-founder and head of content Jason Clampet speak with Chris Holdren, senior vice president of Starwood Preferred Guest and Digital, and Justin Effron, CEO of hospitality engagement platform ALICE.

Holdren has worked with Starwood for 14 years overseeing many tech initiatives from the group’s first virtual hotel to keyless entry. Effron co-founded Alice almost three years ago and has since grown its client base to 35 hotel groups.

Our conversation largely revolves around guest experience including challenges in tech adoption, how a seamless user experience impacts loyalty, and how hotels keep pace with changes in consumer tech.

One particular insight stood out to us, which is when Effron likens the onboarding process of new hotel technology to Uber. Guests might think picking up the phone to order room service is easier until they experience the service through just a few taps.

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The Rise of Lifestyle Hotels And The Culture Driving Them

Lifestyle hotels were once a niche segment of the larger hotel industry, but have since grown to become the most talked about and coveted of hotels. Much of the appeal of these well-designed properties is the expectation of a branded guest experience.

Front line staff become brand ambassadors who are as responsible for assisting guests and perpetuating the lifestyle brand through their words and actions. Staying on brand is an obsession for most companies, but becomes especially difficult when spread across multiple properties and hundreds of employees. What this external success ultimately comes down to is a strong internal culture.

In this week’s podcast, we explore the relationship between company culture and guest experience at lifestyle hotels, as well as the drastic changes and competition facing these brand.

Guests for this episode: Elon Kenchington, the COO of the Gansevoort Hotel Group, and Josh Fluhr, the COO of Morgans Hotel Group.

The Skift Podcast is underwritten by FutureCities initiative from MasterCard. Find out more at futurecities.skift.com.

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How Bikes Are Changing the Way We Experience Cities

The humble bike is experiencing a cultural renaissance.

Bike share programs are popping up in cities all over the world from New York to Medellín, city streets are transforming with the addition of painted bike lanes, and boutique bike brands are discovering a new and growing customer base.

In this week’s podcast, we discuss the evolution of bike transportation in the U.S. and beyond.

Guests for this episode: Dani Simmons, who has worked in sustainable transportation in New York City for 11 years and currently serves as the director of communications and government affairs at Motivate (operators of Citibike), the nation’s largest bike share operator; and Dean DiSimone, who went from architect to media executive to owner of Tokyobike New York, which sells well-designed, lightweight bikes based on the concept of Tokyo Slow.

The Skift Podcast is underwritten by FutureCities initiative from MasterCard. Find out more at futurecities.skift.com.

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The Renegade Tours Disrupting City Visits for Tourists & Locals

World-renowned museums will always have a spot at the top of tourists’ bucket lists, however, a growing obsession with local and unique experiences makes a traditional local museum tour seem more like a homework assignment than cherished travel activity.

A small but growing group of entrepreneurs are responding to travelers’ changing expectations by building high-touch, low-tech experiences that share a different story at these local attractions that the general public wouldn’t otherwise know how to find.

In this week’s podcast, we discuss the rise of these “untour” alternative tour companies and what’s driving their growth.

Guests for this episode: Nick Gray, founder of MuseumHack, which runs fast-paced tours through New York’s most famous museums, and David Behringer, founder of The Two Percent, which runs a live audio tour of New York art exhibitions.

The Skift Podcast is underwritten by FutureCities initiative from MasterCard. Find out more at futurecities.skift.com.

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Travel PR Is the Invisible Engine Fueling Your Travel Inspiration

Public relations is the invisible engine that helps control many of the messages that travelers consume about destinations, hotels, airlines and cruises.

This invisible engine sends the best photographers and writers on incredible journeys in search of content, it strategically places sunshine-filled ads on frozen bus stops, and plots campaigns to match the waves of seasonal wanderlust — all in hopes of inspiring everyone from office dwellers to mothers to book a trip today.

In this week’s podcast, we discuss the evolution of the travel PR industry.

Guests for this episode: Laura Davidson, founder and CEO of Laura Davidson Public Relations and Jennifer Maguire, President of Jennifer Maguire Communications & PR.

The Skift Podcast is underwritten by FutureCities initiative from MasterCard. Find out more at futurecities.skift.com.

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How Culinary Obsessions Are Changing the Way We Travel

Food has transitioned from necessity to obsession in recent years. We fill our social media streams with plate photos, suss out restaurant reviews, lust after a specific cuisine, and then travel thousands of miles or just across town to taste the most authentic version of it.

Guests for this episodeDan Amatuzzi, the general manager at Eataly, the high-end Italian food market/mall chain with the famous flagship store in the Flatiron district of NYC, and Lionel Ohayon, the founder of innovation agency Icrave.

The Skift Podcast is underwritten by FutureCities initiative from MasterCard. Find out more at futurecities.skift.com.

Start listening to The Skift Podcast, today. Subscribe via iTunes, Google Play, or RSS.

The Appeal of Mass Tourism in the Age of Authentic Travel

More than 1.1 billion tourists travelled abroad in 2014 and at times it feels like they’ve all convened in cliched tourist epicenters such as Times Square in New York, Las Ramblas in Barcelona or Trafalgar Square in London. Accessible at any time and with more than enough sights to see for free, these areas are magnets for tourists from every corner of the earth.

Guests for this episodeFred Dixon, the CEO of New York’s tourism marketing organization NYC & Company and Pegi Vail, an anthropologist at New York University and filmmaker who has explored the relationship between tourism and sustainability through her documentary Gringo Trails.

The Skift Podcast is underwritten by FutureCities initiative from MasterCard. Find out more at futurecities.skift.com.

Start listening to The Skift Podcast, today. Subscribe via iTunes, Google Play, or RSS.

Welcome to the New Weekly Skift Podcast!

Over the past three years, Skift has become the most trusted source for travel intelligence in the world. We break major stories, cover the trends and give you analysis around all aspects of marketing, strategy and tech changes happening in the sector.