Airbnb Is Readying Its Luxury Vacation Rentals Business

Luxury Retreats

A Luxury Retreats listing. Earlier this year, Airbnb acquired the luxury vacation rental company in an effort to expand its business into luxury homes. Luxury Retreats

Skift Take: Airbnb Lux is no doubt getting ready for its closeup, and luxury hotel brands — if they haven’t already — need to prepare themselves.

— Deanna Ting

Airbnb Inc. is planning to launch a new rental service for mega-homes, mansions and penthouses that will be inspected to ensure they pass muster.

The company will start testing the new offering in some markets at the end of year, according to people familiar with the matter. If the tests are successful, the San Francisco-based company will roll out the service broadly, the people said. Airbnb declined to comment.

Looking to appeal to well-heeled travelers, Airbnb has been segmenting its offerings much the way hotel chains do. The company has already started testing a tier called Airbnb Select, which requires hosts to maintain consistent standards for their lodgings. Just like you can walk into any hotel and expect a consistent set of towels, blankets, and quality, Airbnb Select is designed to do the same. Those homes must also be inspected.

The new tier is fancier — penthouses versus apartments, mansions versus family homes. It’s known internally as “Airbnb Lux,” but an official name has yet to be determined, said the people, who requested anonymity to discuss a private matter. Its creation follows Airbnb’s acquisition earlier this year of Luxury Retreats, a Canadian company that before its sale listed more than 4,000 villas and vacation homes. Those listings are not yet featured as a separate section on Airbnb’s website.

A luxury tier of rentals represents a lucrative revenue source for Airbnb. The company takes a percentage of the cost of each booking it brokers, so more-expensive inventory would generate higher margins and help justify the privately held company’s $31 billion valuation.

Pushing high-end rentals also enables Airbnb to target the sort of clientele willing to pay for its more expensive tourism services. In November, the company began offering truffle tastings, mushroom hunting and guided tours provided by local experts. Airbnb is looking to expand into other parts of the travel business and is working on a flight-booking tool.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Mark Gurman and Olivia Zaleski from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Travel Ban Has Arbitrary Restrictions Meant To Be as Exclusionary as Possible

The White House  / Flickr

President Donald J. Trump on the red carpet after exiting Air Force One at Brussels International Airport on May 24, 2017. The White House / Flickr

Skift Take: The form of the travel ban approved by the U.S. Supreme Court will separate family members on a whim. These seemingly arbitrary restrictions will likely be cause for another round of lawsuits by those affected.

— Andrew Sheivachman

President Donald Trump’s administration has issued guidelines through the State Department for who will be exempt from the travel ban from six majority Muslim countries, which the U.S. Supreme Court allowed Monday to partly go into effect. The guidelines are highly arbitrary in defining what counts as a family relationship that merits exemption. For example, your mother-in-law is close enough to come into the U.S., but not your grandmother, a blood relative without whom you wouldn’t exist.

That’s because the Trump administration wants to keep out as many people as it can. But it’s also the result of the Supreme Court’s decision, which created a brand new legal category of “bone fide relationship” while defining it only in connection with the plaintiffs in the case. The result will be practical difficulties as well as more litigation in the months before the justices directly address the legality of the ban.

When the justices ruled on the ban this week, they sought to craft a compromise that would preserve the temporary restrictions on the ban put in place by the lower courts while simultaneously allowing Trump to declare victory, as he in fact did.

The centerpiece of the compromise was that the travel ban would not apply to foreign nationals seeking admission to the U.S. who have a “bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

The court made up this category out of whole cloth. That’s allowed because the court has wide latitude to craft remedies when it is deciding on what will happen while litigation is pending. It’s exercising what is called “equitable discretion,” a legal phrase with roots in an old English legal distinction between strict law and flexible equity. When courts do equity rather than law, they don’t have to follow rules laid down in precedent or statute. They can weigh competing considerations and make up a rule to fit the specific case.

The upside of equity is that it’s flexible. The downside is that when courts make up new rules, those rules have to be applied by government officials who lack detailed guidance.

The justices told the Trump administration that there were two kinds of “bona fide relationships” that it must consider. The first was what the court called “close familial relationships,” which is said were “required.”

“Close Familial Relationships”

The court didn’t say much more than that about what counts as close. Its only examples were two of the original plaintiffs on the challenge to the ban: Ismail Elshikh, who sought to bring his mother-in-law to the U.S. from Syria, and the unnamed plaintiff “John Doe,” who wants to bring his wife from Iran. The court wrote: “A foreign national who wishes to enter the United States to live with or visit a family member, like Doe’s wife or Dr. Elshikh’s mother-in-law, clearly has such a relationship.”

As a result of the Elshikh example, the Trump administration had no choice but to include parents-in-law and sons- and daughters-in-law in its guidelines. It also logically had to count children and siblings, who are closer than in-laws. And it made the choice to count “half” relationships including “step relationships.”

But the administration excluded grandparents and grandchildren, uncles and aunts, nieces and nephews, as well as unmarried partners, even when they are engaged.

It’s truly arbitrary to say your grandmother is not as a close a relative as your mother-in-law. Ditto your uncle.

It’s not that Trump likes his in-laws more than his grandparents. This arbitrariness is a direct product of the court’s mention of Elshikh’s mother-in-law. If he had been trying to get his grandmother in, grandparents would now be allowed — and I bet in-laws would have been out.

The Trump administration is trying to be as exclusionary as possible without violating the letter of the Supreme Court’s opinion.

Expect litigation over the grandmother issue — starting as soon as today.

Another potential legal issue is that none of the six countries has same-sex marriage, so the rule as written effectively discriminates against gay partners.

The Supreme Court may never rule on the arbitrariness issue. Its “close familial relationships” rule is only supposed to remain in place until the court addresses the merits of the travel ban in the fall. It may prefer to let the lower courts sort it out.

In the meantime, the anti-grandmothers rule stands as a testament to the Trump administration’s grudging attitude toward immigrants — and the limits of the court’s equitable approach to compromise in this case.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Noah Feldman from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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The Los Angeles Times Looks for Revenue From Luxury Travel Packages

Skift Take: The new Los Angeles Times venture is yet another example of a journalistic organization looking to tourism to save the day. Beyond expanding revenues, the trips offer an extra benefit to star reporters — “free” travel.

— Laura Powell

Another major media company is getting into the travel business. The aim of Los Angeles Times Expeditions is to extend the publication’s journalistic brand while providing an alternative source of revenue in light of declining ad sales.

The program will be officially announced July 16, when the booking website goes live. Trips start in early 2018.

“Los Angeles Times journalists have a wealth of experience, traveling the world and telling some of the most compelling stories of our time,” said Times Editor-in-Chief and Publisher Davan Maharaj. “This travel program is another way for us to present our journalism, connect with readers and share a deeper understanding of the world around us.”

Lawrence Ingrassia, LA Times managing editor, was inspired to initiate the program thanks to a trip he took with New York Times Journeys.  According to Ingrassia, “We had been looking at ways to bring our expertise to the table by focusing on the experts we have on staff and what our readers are interested in.” In developing the program, Ingrassia says, “We sat down with our journalists and brainstormed with the goal of matching expertise and talent.”

To distinguish itself from other players in the field, there was a decision to focus in large part on the arts and creative endeavors. According to Ingrassia, this is a way to “play to our strengths and create a real experience connecting with the journalism.”

Director of Editorial Events Tanya Erlach works with journalists find new avenues, like special programs and seminars, to expand The LA Times reach. The travel project is new to her portfolio. The basis for designing the custom small-group trips, according to Erlach, is figuring out “what is the our take on this…what is unique to the LA Times?” Then, ideas start germinating, sprouting from journalists’ inside access and network of contacts.

Themed trips will be accompanied by journalists and experts who will share first-hand knowledge, insider tips and behind-the-scenes access. For example, fashion editor Marques Harper is leading a trip to Northern Italy including stops at artisan workshops, designer studios and fashion schools. Randy Lewis, who has covered music for the LA Times for more than 35 years, is leading a behind-the-scenes trip to the New Orleans Jazz Festival. An exploration of World War II-era art theft, inspired by the movie Woman in Gold, will be headed up by staff writer Deborah Vankin.

The nuts and bolts of the design and planning process are carried out by Academic Travel Abroad.  For more than 65 years, Washington, DC-based ATA has provided educational tours for museums, think tanks, alumni associations and conservation organizations. It has also worked extensively with National Geographic, Smithsonian Journeys and The New York Times.

According to ATA Executive Vice President Chase Poffenberger, “For us, one of our main challenges is protecting each brand. We want to make sure that our partners take ownership of the ideas, in order to keep portfolios as distinct as they can be.” Poffenberger and her team developed itineraries for LA Times Expedition that “speak to its readership, draw from its expertise, and celebrate its long tradition of being at the center of the cultural, political and social conversation in California.”

The breakdown–ATA plans the trips, maintains the reservation center and handles other back office management operations. ATA also has a tour manager along for every ride to take care of logistics. The LA Times is charged with marketing. After all, as Poffenberger notes, “they have a daily communication platform with the audience.”

Ah yes, the marketing angle. The LA Times has a built-in marketing outlet–itself. It’s Southern California top media platform, with 4.5 million print and digital readers. Through print and digital ads, newsletters and an extensive email list, the publication can market the tours in ways similar products can’t.

Moreover, it’s not just a California audience The LA Times is dreaming of. “We can promote across all Tribune publishing platforms,” says Erlach. Among those platforms are several major newspapers, including The Chicago Tribune and The Orlando Sentinel.

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India’s Luxury Sector Posed for Exponential Growth

The Oberoi Udaivilas

The Oberoi Udaivilas in Udaipur, India, is designed after a traditional Indian palace. It includes courtyards, fountains, reflection pools, and gardens for guests to explore. The Oberoi Udaivilas

Skift Take: India is ready for a jump in luxury travel, but it will need to catch up in terms of the accommodations and services that it can offer while also being conscious that local residents, not just multinationals, benefit from this growth.

— Samantha Shankman

The luxury sector is expanding rapidly in India with the market forecast to grow from its current $7 billion to $100 billion in just eight years, India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Normal Sitharaman noted at the Luxury Symposium 2017 in New Delhi.

There she emphasized that stakeholders in the growing luxury market, travel and otherwise, should be making sure that local businesses benefit from the growth. She encouraged the industry to discover and promote artisanal products made throughout India.

The same can be said for travel providers as luxury travel is part of this growing market.

India’s luxury travel market has projected annual growth rate of 12.8 percent between 2015 and 2025, according to analysis from Amadeus. This is the highest growth of any of the 25 economies studied. Luxury travel is growing at a much faster rate than overall travel in India, which is forecast to increase just 7.5 percent in the same time period.

As a result, travel providers are asking themselves how they can best foster and be involved in the growth of the luxury sector in and out of India.

Indian Traveler Traits

An estimated 3.6 million Indians currently take a luxury trip abroad each year, however, that could increase as much as 8.6 percent a year, according to MasterCard.

Their arrivals are quickly growing in both nearby countries such as Dubai as well as longer-haul destinations such as Sweden.

“What you see with the luxury Indian travel market is that people still make their own reservations by and large,” explains Pavalli Shah, founder of boutique travel agency Our Personal Guest which focuses on India vacations.

“They go to the usual luxury brands such as Four Seasons, Peninsula, or Mandarin Oriental.”

Shah, part of the Virtuoso Network, says she’s built her business by tapping into their cultural appreciation of a perceived deal.

“They love a deal, no matter how rich they are.”

An Expedia study showed that 56 percent of millennials in India register on online travel agencies specifically for deals and discounts. While some have their doubts that e-commerce will work in the luxury retail sector in India, it is positioned for continual success in travel.

Robert Sinclair-Barnes, strategic marketing director of Amadeus, has another insights for travel providers targeting Indian travelers.

“Appealing to luxury travellers from emerging markets and beyond requires the delivery of a luxury experience from the moment a traveller sets foot in the taxi, until they arrive back at their front door – and every stage of the journey in between,” he told the Financial Times.

Similar to all emerging markets, travel providers have to take into account the cultural and social expectations of the growing upper class when designing services and packages for this demographic.

Inbound to India

Let’s look at the other side of the growing luxury market in India: Inbound travel is also on the rise.

India is expected to welcome 9.5 million international tourist arrivals in 2017, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council’s 2017 India report. Arrivals are expected to almost double to 17.2 million over the next 10 years.

Leisure travel spend from international and domestic travelers account for the majority, or 94.6 percent, of the country’s direct tourism GDP while business travel accounts for just 5.4 percent.

Agra, India was put in the third slot of New York Times’ 52 Places to Go in 2017 and Hampi, India snagged the 11th spot on Travel + Leisure’s similar list.

Shah, however, feels that interest in India, especially from the U.S., has a lot of space to grow.

“India, compared to much smaller countries, has a very small number of Americans. Indians will get excited and say that they are seeing more demand, but you have to look at what numbers it is growing from.”

Shah suggests that a shortage of luxury accommodations and options are part of the problem. There is also a perception that India should be a cheap trip and it is not. It’s also one that can be difficult to execute on your own logistically.

A continual buzz around the theme of experiential travel is sure to have an impact.

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Hyatt Adds Miraval to Make Its Loyalty Program More Attractive

Hyatt Hotels & Resorts

World of Hyatt members now can earn and redeem benefits from their stays at Miraval’s flagship wellness resort in Tucson, Arizona. Hyatt Hotels & Resorts

Skift Take: It’s a relatively small addition for now, but as Hyatt grows the Miraval brand, no doubt its members will appreciate the access to Miraval’s wellness offerings. Now, we just have to wait and see what happens with Hyatt and Expedia.

— Deanna Ting

In March, Hyatt launched its new loyalty program, World of Hyatt, and beginning today, its members can earn and redeem benefits when they stay at the Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa in Tucson.

On eligible Miraval stays, World of Hyatt points can be redeemed for perks including a $175 resort credit per person, per day, along with unlimited meals, snacks, and more than 120 weekly wellness activities and classes.

Hyatt purchased wellness resort and spa company Miraval Group in January for $375 million in January in an effort to expand into what Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian describes as “adjacent spaces.”

With Hyatt’s investment, Miraval is currently undergoing what both companies broadly described as a “brand expansion” which entails Miraval branded wellness resorts, standalone spas under its Miraval Life in Balance brand, Miraval spas, programming in other Hyatt-branded properties, and more.

“We didn’t buy the brand to just end up with three resorts,” Hoplamazian said during Hyatt’s fourth quarter earnings call. “This is a platform and a very leverageable brand on a global basis. We believe we will be able to extend and expand the brand in destination wellness resorts [and] in standalone spas.”

Wellness is an increasingly important sector for the hospitality industry today, and Hyatt isn’t alone in its focus on this sector as more hotel brands are investing in both their wellness and fitness offerings.

Expanding more benefits for its loyalty members also plays into the company’s proposed strategy to increase direct bookings by promoting its loyalty program, something Hyatt has said it plans to do more of, especially if its contract negotiations with Expedia fall through by July 31. Should Hyatt and Expedia not reach an agreement, Hyatt has informed its hotel owners that it will engage in an “aggressive sales and marketing plan” to drive more direct bookings, as well as promote the World of Hyatt loyalty program.

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Trump Travel Ban To Start Thursday Evening Amid Uncertainties

Bloomberg

Travelers from certain Muslim-majority countries should find out beginning June 29, 2017 what additional paperwork they might need to get a visa and be permitted to enter the U.S. Bloomberg

Skift Take: The devil’s in the details and we should learn more about the fine print today regarding how the travel ban will be implemented.

— Dennis Schaal

The Trump administration will introduce new restrictions on travel to the U.S. by refugees and migrants from six countries as of 8 p.m. eastern time Thursday, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The rollout of the measures, which follows a U.S. Supreme Court decision Monday allowing parts of an executive order to proceed, is being led by the State Department. The timing is aimed at giving embassies and consulates sufficient direction on how to implement the protocol before it comes into effect, according to the person, who asked not to be identified because the move hasn’t been formally announced.

The policy is an attempt to flesh out a June 26 Supreme Court decision reviving President Donald Trump’s 90-day travel ban on people entering the U.S. from six predominantly Muslim nations: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Existing visas will be respected, but new applicants from the countries must prove a relationship with a parent, spouse, child, sibling or close in-law already in the U.S., the Associated Press reported, citing a diplomatic cable.

Travelers with business or professional ties from the countries must also show a relationship that is “formal, documented,” and not based on an intent to evade the ban, the AP said. Some exemptions, including for students and journalists, are included in the policy, the news service reported.

After months of delays to Trump’s initial travel ban and a revised version, both held up by the courts, the 13-page Supreme Court ruling allows the government to deny entry to people from the six nations who don’t have existing U.S. ties. But determining who has “bona fide” connections — the court’s phrase — has tied up officials from the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department and the Justice Department since the ruling was issued.

Carriers affected by the new measures said they’ll take the presentation of legitimate paperwork for entering the U.S. as indicating that passengers are compliant with the requirements. Dubai-based Emirates, which ranks as the world’s biggest long-haul airline and has flights from Iran and Sudan among the affected countries, said that its U.S. services are operating as usual.

“All passengers must possess the appropriate travel documents, including a valid U.S. entry visa, in order to travel,” it said. “Emirates remains guided by the US Customs and Border Protection on this matter.”

Etihad Airways PJSC, whose Abu Dhabi base is also a hub for the region, is operating as normal and will allow people with the correct documents to fly.

The ban drew public protests and criticism from advocacy groups, former officials who work on refugee issues, and nongovernmental organizations that relocate them to the U.S. They contend that the majority of refugees coming to the U.S. already have family ties and that the existing process of clearing them to live in the U.S. is extremely rigorous.

‘Not Needed’

“The pause is not needed because the vetting process is so thorough already,” said Anne Richard, a former assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration. “The political campaign rhetoric that there was no vetting process or a weak vetting process is complete nonsense.”

The Trump administration has countered that refugees may pose a security risk. Cabinet members such as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, meanwhile, have said the U.S. wants to keep refugees that have fled to places such as Jordan and Turkey within their regions so they can return home when it’s safe to do so. They are also asking other countries to take more of the burden.

“Our message is we’re leaning in and asking all of you, all of you to step up and do more,” Tillerson testified at a Senate hearing earlier this month.

Implementing the ban requires providing clear guidance for thousands of customs and consular officials, as well as airlines and other travel companies around the world seeking to avoid the confusion and chaos generated by Trump’s initial attempt to enforce his policy in January.

“There will be some amount of iterative process,” said Brian Egan, a legal adviser in President Barack Obama’s State Department. “The guidance is going to take a little while to generate, even if the policy were crystal clear. You’ve got to draft it and get it through the lawyers at State, you’ve got to make sure the White House is comfortable with it, and the Department of Justice and DHS, too.”

–With assistance from Jennifer Jacobs and Deena Kamel Yousef

 

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Nick Wadhams and Nafeesa Syeed from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Skift Backstage Podcast: What Next-Level Hotels Have in Common

Skift Take: Listen for insight on the trends, design choices, and amenities that help hotels stand out.

— Hannah Sampson

Cookie-cutter uniformity is not what most travelers are seeking from hotels these days. Instead, discerning guests want local food, curated experiences, thoughtful design, and even a touch of quirkiness.

On this episode of the Skift Podcast, we’re hearing from some of the pros who make a living connecting travelers with standout hotel experiences. James Lohan and Tamara Heber-Percy are the founders of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, a travel club that started out as a guidebook featuring under-the-radar boutique hotels. We also have an interview with Claus Sendlinger, CEO and founder of Design Hotels.

They all spoke at Skift Forum Europe in London earlier this year and sat down with us behind the scenes in the Skift Take Studio.

Our talks touched on the evolution of hotel design and consumer demands, the beyond-the-spa experiences that travelers are craving, and the needs that hotels still aren’t quite meeting.

This is one of several conversations we’re bringing you from backstage at Skift Forum Europe.

Start listening to The Skift Podcast, today. Subscribe via iTunesSoundcloud or RSS.

Listen to all the Skift podcasts here.

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Female Travelers Finding Creative Solutions in Homesharing Economy

Overnight

Homesharing platform Overnight just launched a new partnership with Facebook group Girls Love Travel, aimed at making female guests and hosts feel safer. Overnight

Skift Take: Solo female travelers often pay more to be safe on the road. Paying less for safety is certainly novel, and if Overnight can get enough female-friendly listings onto its platform, that could be promising.

— Sarah Enelow

Many hotels already cater to the solo female traveler with women-friendly rooms, usually with extra safety measures like double-locking doors and finishing touches like flowers and chocolates. Homesharing, however, is a bit behind that curve.

Many solo female travelers feel anxious about staying in an Airbnb, for example, preferring the usually reliable safety, comfort, and accountability at hotels.

Homesharing platform Overnight announced a new female-friendly partnership with Facebook group Girls Love Travel, which has more than 350,000 members. This private group is now integrated into the Overnight site to allow women to feel safer booking a homestay with a trusted female host, as well as becoming hosts themselves for trusted female guests.

Users can sign into Overnight’s platform with their Facebook profile and then click to join the Girls Love Travel group, after which users can browse listings. Overnight CEO Asher Hunt said that new members are vetted — they can’t gain access with a burner phone, for example — and the company plans to keep testing its vetting processes.

Hunt said 99 percent of hosts in the private group offer discounts to members, while many hotels actually charge a premium for those extra safety features and pink frilly perks. Women historically pay more to remain safe while traveling alone, whether for a more secure hotel room, taxis instead of walking at night, or a tour guide or translator.

What Overnight offers is more affordable and arguably more difficult to harness: trust and community support.

Hunt said Girls Love Travel founder Haley Woods is consistently “listening to her community.”

“We’re always trying to understand who it is that’s traveling,” Hunt said.

He finds this level of personalization key, and he’d like to add more groups to Overnight, which helps differentiate his company from the much broader scope of Airbnb.

Hunt said that operating in the “friend economy” increases trust, which is crucial for both his business model and for serving female travelers. “Our ultimate goal is to destigmatize transactions between friends,” Hunt said.

Wanderful, which hosts events and provides resources for female travelers, recently started a women’s homesharing network. This one is subscription-based at $15 per month or $119 per year, which could be a barrier to entry for some.

One problem that any new competitor must face is a lack of supply. Travelers are now accustomed to the wealth of listings on Airbnb, which has more than 3 million worldwide.

Some women concerned about security might prefer to use Airbnb and just ignore male hosts or take other measures to sort by quality. For example, they might only search for superhosts. Nearly 60 percent of superhosts are women, according to Airbnb’s report Women Hosts and Airbnb: Building a Global Community.

Overnight’s Girls Love Travel group has only 116 listings at the time of writing, and it’s frequently one listing per city with a great many containing no reviews.

Smaller homesharing players like Innclusive launched to serve multicultural travelers in the wake of discrimination on Airbnb’s platform, and they face a similar supply challenge.

Airbnb has yet to add an official female-friendly option to their platform. One approach might be setting security benchmarks for a unit to be certified female-friendly.

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Chefs+Tech: Resy’s CEO Talks the State and Future of In-Restaurant Technology

courtesy of Resy

A hostess uses ResyOS at Prime Meats in Brooklyn. courtesy of Resy

Skift Take: No longer just a reservations startup, Resy has emerged as a thoughtful leader in restaurant tech. Expect much more as they continue to work with top-tier partners like Union Square Cafe to develop hospitality technology that quietly powers guest experiences.

— Kristen Hawley

“Technology can coax the restaurant business into the future. It will improve their business models substantially, in terms of efficiency, loyalty, consumer word-of-mouth marketing,” says Resy’s Ben Leventhal. Resy’s product development speaks to larger restaurant-tech trends. Currently, the company works with over 1,000 restaurants in 80+ cities, with more to come, powering reservations, operations, and in a pilot program with New York’s Union Square Cafe that uses Apple Watches to enhance service. Here are five things that the company’s CEO thinks about when he thinks about hospitality tech — and what we should expect from them next.

The best hospitality technology runs in the background.

Technology streamlines processes, like customer relationship management, that previously may have taken a prohibitive amount of time. But the best technology runs quietly, enhancing the human touch of hospitality. “If you think about the way smart high-end restaurants are built and designed today, you see a trend of getting the tech out of the dining areas,” says Leventhal.

“Restaurant owners want to create an immersive experience where people can come and escape from the digital pressures,” he continues. It’s like a stage set, but technology can be a complete distraction and take patrons out of the moment. This means keeping a light profile. “Patrons book without knowing Resy as a brand is there, unless something goes wrong. As much as possible, we try to fade into the background, powering the reservations quietly.”

Restaurant tech is not a one-size-fits-all proposition.

Different restaurants call for different technology, and to understand what problems to solve and which needs to fill, companies have to work with the businesses they serve. ‘We chose to work with [Union Square Cafe] unusually closely because we want to truly understand their product needs,” says Leventhal.

Tech won’t affect every restaurant in the same way, either. “I expect fast casual to get a little more casual. So you may see more screens being added there,” he says. “But I expect fine dining to get a little more fine, and removing screens is the trend there.” By concentrating on a few specific partners, Leventhal and his team are able to hone the product as it grows and develops. “We choose to work with, so we can apply that knowledge to other industry leaders elsewhere who often have similar product needs,” he says.

The industry has lots of room for growth, but we have to get the basics right first.

“A couple of years ago, when we were starting, it was still an if,” he says. Now that Resy and others in the space have proven technology’s value to restaurateurs, they’re asking which features are most helpful. A lot of times, that means starting at the beginning. “Updating the core technology platforms at restaurants is slow. It’s slow but steady… but slow. Until you have the base, it’s hard to build the other things.”

“The industry is ready for change. But like the enterprise software revolution in other sectors, it will take a cycle for it to ramp up in restaurants,” says Leventhal.” Resy’s future lies in strategically adding the features that restaurants need most. “A huge focus for us are technology enhancements that consumers don’t see but will make the restaurants more efficient.” In the future, expect more from Resy, including data analytics, smart operations, and mobile payments.

The network effect is far more powerful than a single restaurant.

Leventhal says fine dining is Resy’s sweet spot, and in fine dining access to a network of information is a huge advantage. Resy maintains a global database, which means all its restaurant clients have access to the same guest information. In this sense, loyalty is portable and not tied to just one restaurant. When a patron gives their phone number at one Resy restaurant, the restaurant can access their profile, which contains important information like birthdays and anniversaries, or preferences and dietary restrictions. The moment of recognition and a warm welcome are core tenets of successful hospitality practice, especially at neighborhood restaurants. With new technology, the power of a network extends this ability to fine dining rooms, which most people visit only occasionally — maybe even just once. “Loyalty is incredibly important,” says Leventhal. “Repeat business comes from good hospitality, a good understanding of customer service. But tech can help grow that, too.”

When systems work together, everybody wins.

Currently, much in-restaurant technology works in silos, meaning restaurateurs have to operate and maintain disparate systems each performing its own set of functions. “All the systems have to play nice together,” says Leventhal. “Generally, the industry sees that the future is one of more collaboration and more connectivity, so I’m optimistic about what’s to come.”

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Events Industry Joins the Influencer Trend — Meetings Innovation Report

Atout France

The Atout France booth at IMEX Frankfurt 2017. Atout France

Skift Take: More convention bureaus like Atout France should adopt an influencer campaign strategy to drive a higher level of digital engagement around both industry and non-industry events.

— Greg Oates

The Future of Meetings & Events

Atout France, the country’s national tourism development agency, launched a 5-month influencer campaign in the spring, leading up to the IMEX Frankfurt meetings industry trade show last month.

The agency contracted London-based Irina Trofimovskaya, founder of The MICE Blog, to drive higher online and offline engagement around the #BizInFrance hashtag on Twitter and LinkedIn.

This is new for a destination to use influencers to engage meeting planners, at least at this scale. Atout France reported both a rise in social media interactions before IMEX, and a jump in meeting planners visiting all of the French partners during the show.

Jerome Poulalier, manager of Atout France’s meetings department in Frankfurt, said, “Our other goals included increasing awareness of French destinations beyond the most popular cities, extending the engagement lifecycle beyond the IMEX Frankfurt event, and creating more sharable, visual content.”

— Greg Oates

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Social Quote of the Week

“.@sxsw is the world’s fair of the future, @MayorAdler. #Austin #SXSW @usmayors

— Santa Fe mayor @javiermgonzales on Twitter

Destination Disruptors

France Tests Social Media Influencer Strategy to Engage Meetings Industry: Lots of destinations work with influencers to drive leisure traffic, but France’s national tourism board is among the first to contract a meetings and events specialist to engage conference planners. This should inspire other countries and cities to try the same because it positions them as digital innovators to younger audiences. Read more at Skift

Announcing the Cities Summit at SXSW 2018: The South by Southwest conference in Austin is launching a new series of sessions next year focusing on the rise of cities as, what Austin Mayor Steve Adler calls: “incubators of the future.” As such, urban destinations are evolving as innovation platforms with a deep knowledge base across different growth sectors. Conference planners can leverage that to educate and inspire attendees, rather than cities merely playing the role of venue and experience providers. Read more at SXSW

U.S. Conference of Mayors Launches New Mayors Agenda for The Future Strategy: Bipartisan collaboration was the big theme at the annual U.S. Conference of Mayors last week in Miami Beach. The event produced the new MayorsAgenda.com portal and strategy paper focusing on four priorities: Safety, infrastructure, workforce, and inclusivity. You could say the meetings industry has the same four priorities. The value here for planners and the industry at large is the section on inclusivity. Download the paper at Mayors Agenda

Next Generation Meetings UX

PCMA Educational Conference Partnered With Innovative New York Venues: Representatives from organizations including Stanford University, Microsoft, Disney, and others hosted offsite sessions during PCMA’s annual industry education show in New York. By integrating the city’s innovation economy into the event programming, PCMA provided a more diverse platform for attendees to explore a wider range of creative thought leaders and venues. Read more at Convene

The Experience Movement: How Millennials are Bridging Cultural & Political Divides Offline: According to a new Eventbrite report, 79 percent of Millennials in 2017 agree that attending live events makes them feel more connected to other people, their communities, and the world, which is significantly higher than 69 percent who reported the same in 2014. Read more at Eventbrite

Event Manager Blog Publishes New Event Sponsorship Report: Event sponsors are looking for more out-of-the-box ideas to make sponsorship dollars extend further and drive higher return on investment. According to the report, “Sponsors are over the regular ideas of ads in event programs, social media mentions and followers, etc. They now look for more client presence and impact pre, during and post events.” Read more at Event Manager Blog

What Science Can Teach Us About Capturing an Audience’s Attention: According to new research, event speakers should lead with stories and back them up with data, versus the other way around. Neuro-economist Paul Zan says, “Character-driven stories with emotional content result in a better understanding of the key points a speaker wishes to make and enable better recall of these points weeks later.” Read more at Inc

Top Trends of London Tech Week 2017: Some of the big themes coming out of London Tech Week this month include: Brexit isn’t dampening the flood of tech talent into London; new life-like robots show increasing sophistication in artificial intelligence; tech companies are getting creative to attract young tech workers; and the growing conversation around 5G is making people imagine how we’ll actually use our devices in 2020. Read more at OFF3R

In the AI Age, Being Smart Will Mean Something Completely Different: The central premise here is that people will need to develop emotional intelligence and a creative, collaborative mindset to succeed in the era of artificial intelligence. According to the author: “What is needed is a new definition of being smart, one that promotes higher levels of human thinking and emotional engagement. The new smart will be determined not by what or how you know, but by the quality of your thinking, listening, relating, collaborating, and learning.” Read more at Harvard Business Review

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The Skift Meetings Innovation Report is curated by Skift editor Greg Oates [go@skift.com]. The newsletter is emailed every Wednesday.

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Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

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