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Industry News - March 22nd 2014



Hotels Make Shift to Offering Free Wi-Fi in Lobbies

A recent USA Today article details the current trend of hotel management offering free lobby Wi-Fi to guests and non-guests. Even hotels that will continue to charge for in-room Internet, have decided to take the plunge to roll out free access in common areas.
According to a senior Marriott executive who spoke to USA Today’s reporter, Barbara De Lollis, more than 300 Marriott Hotels & Resorts locations will flip the switch in the coming weeks on free lobby Wi-Fi to please guests and non-guests alike. Wi-Fi currently is free in the lobbies of about 185 of Marriott's nearly 500 hotels, such as the San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina and it will become standard across all hotels by March 31, says Marriott's Michael Dail.
The article notes that some owners of upscale hotels predicted this would be the future. Sunstone Hotel Investors, for instance, began making Wi-Fi free in the lobbies of its Marriott-brand hotels starting about three years ago as they were updated, says Marc Hoffman, the company's executive vice president. The company owns Marriott hotels in Boston, Philadelphia, Portland, Ore., and Park City, Utah.
The article also reveals that for some hotel companies, free Wi-Fi in common areas is old news. Wi-Fi, for instance, has been free in the lobbies of the 300-location Doubletree by Hilton chain since 2005. And last year, the 550-location Hilton chain made it free, says spokeswoman Dasha Ross. Starwood's Sheraton chain also offers free Wi-Fi in its lobbies.
To read the article in its entirety, click here.  

Sarasota Seafood Restaurant Goes Mobile with New Ordering App

Duval’s New World Café, rated the “#1 Seafood Restaurant” in Sarasota, Florida by OpenTable diners, recently became the very first install to incorporate Future POS Mobile Ordering for fast and easy order entry via an app.
Duval’s uOrder App, installed by Future POS, Inc., offers restaurant patrons the convenience of placing orders directly from their smartphone. Unlike other mobile ordering apps on the marketplace, the uOrder™ App allows customers to control their dining experience from start to finish. Upon opening the app, the customer can choose to “Order To Go” or to “Eat At Duval’s/Table.” When the latter option is selected, the user is presented with a QR code that is then scanned by the host or hostess. From that point on, the entire dining process lies in the hands of the customer, eliminating all unnecessary order and payment delays.
In addition to enhanced efficiency, the app also offers quick access to previously ordered items, configurable order types and a customizable information page for advertising. Customers can simply visit their smartphone’s app store, search for the uOrder™ App and complete the free download.
To develop the app, the Future POS team worked with Corona SDK, a robust and reliable mobile development framework with cross-platform capabilities. The app is skin-able to the restaurant’s unique logo and color scheme, allowing restaurateurs to create a personalized product that is unique to their business. When someone orders via the app, the order is sent directly to the store’s kitchen and receipt printers, allowing direct and seamless integration into the restaurant’s operations.

Novotel Hotels Enhance Guest Communication with Social Platform in Lobbies

Novotel Hotels, part of the Accor group, is implementing LobbyFriend, Quadriga’s new social network platform, to enhance guest communication and deliver a new guest experience in hotel public areas. LobbyFriend™ is being installed in five properties in Europe: Novotel London Tower Bridge, Novotel Amsterdam City, Novotel Rotterdam Schiedam, Novotel Rotterdam Brainpark and Novotel Den Haag.
LobbyFriend™ is the first ever social network platform dedicated to the real-time needs of guests in their immediate location and vicinity. It provides a private, temporary social network for hotels, enabling them to communicate with guests during their stay and connect hotel guests and hotel staff together. Guests benefit from connecting online with other guests, to access a relevant and mobile stream of information about what’s happening within their hotel or city location, to discover where to go and what to do, as well as benefit from exclusive deals and special offers.
Hotel staff will be able to stay directly connected to their guests throughout their stay, via their personal mobile devices as well as via screens in the lobby, communicating a live social stream to engage and attract guests. LobbyFriend™ is easy and economical to implement and simple to use, for guests as well as hotel staff. Guests will be invited to download the free LobbyFriend™ app to their personal device, which is available as a one-time downloadable app for both iOS and Android devices, with support for Blackberry devices available soon. The login process for guests is simple, with the additional benefit of being able to utilize existing Facebook or Twitter login details.
LobbyFriend™ will provide the Novotel hotels with a highly effective form of social digital signage in the lobby area to stream all hotel and relevant city news and events. Staff will be able to post news and information and respond to guest comments, quickly and in real-time, creating a single, consolidated social stream, integrating existing hotel Facebook, Twitter and RSS social feeds. Additionally, the hotels will be able to monetize the solution by advertising their own hotel services as well as those of third party vendors.
LobbyFriend™ will provide Novotel with the perfect solution for reaching out to their guests and enabling them to interact with each other, in a fun and engaging manner that is familiar to them. With minimal set-up and investment, LobbyFriend™ presents an easy way for hotels to optimize guest communication, whilst at the same time ensuring guests have the best experience possible during their hotel stay.

Domain Hotels Group Launches Social Media Platform

The Domain Hotels, part of the Almatrook Group announced that it is to launch The Conversation; the first proprietary social media platform developed for a hospitality product. The groundbreaking concept is the first of its kind in the region and aims to be a hub of information and activities, combining social media with The Domain guest and member’s experience.
The Domain Bahrain is a social members club and luxury boutique hotel, and the inaugural property for the new hospitality group that is already pushing the boundaries in terms of concept and technology. Set to launch in Spring 2014, The Conversation is the brainchild of a group of seasoned international hoteliers, financed by Bahraini investment and developed by Bahraini company, Random Solutions. It is the most socially advanced application to be developed for any hospitality product worldwide.
The Conversation serves as a real-time sharing platform that connects both Domain members and guests allowing them to communicate online, in order to engage in person, thus meeting the goal of The Domain team to move social media to the next step. The dedicated social media platform’s features allows for users to share photos and information, provide peer-to-peer recommendations, and communicate with those with similar interests or reach out to those in the same industries.
The team at The Domain is backing up their commitment with the hiring of a full time Social Director. This is a management level team member whose job is to ensure that guests and members are socially engaged, networking, meeting and enjoying their time. The Social Director will create special interest groups and conversations for members to join, and also use The Conversation to understand the needs of The Domain guests and members in order to organize valuable group activities in the hotel including networking events, meetings, workshops, etc.
The Social Director will have an enormous amount of resources at her disposal, including the development of both fixed and spontaneous activities, interesting games, mind-benders, books, business information – things that delight, provide insider intelligence, stave off boredom, stress and create a good sense of community and fun.



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