Mobile Technology: Meeting Tech Expectations

What once seemed futuristic is now the norm, owing to the escalating developments in mobile technology, and hotels must continue to innovate in order to meet guest expectations. In a recent study from Mower, 65 percent of guests said they would gladly pay more for a hotel that provides the mobile technology they deem essential. The same study shows that 44 percent of travelers are more likely to book a smart hotel, and nearly 7 in 10 want to use smart devices provided by the hotel. And how do guests wish to use all this technology? A majority expressed a desire for mobile check-in and check-out, and mobile payment options. They also want to be able to stream content from their phone to the TV; to make service requests of the hotel staff; to control in-room lighting, temperature and sound; to order food and beverages; and to request a wake-up call - all from their mobile device. Guests also expressed preferences for robust wi-fi and convenient device charging ports throughout the hotel. They also appreciate the use of hotel branded apps which allow a guest to book a room, access loyalty programs, receive discounts and rewards, and even use the app to choose the room, floor and view they prefer. Some hotel apps also allow a customer to track their charges throughout their stay, rather than waiting to receive a bill at the end. Finally, mobile tech lounges are popping up more frequently in some hotels. These lounges offer guests the opportunity to perform tasks like airline check-ins or access to local info guides, but they also provide a place where guests can comfortably get some work done outside their room. The January Hotel Business Review will report on what some hotels are doing to meet their customers' expectations in the mobile technology space.


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Last month's feature articles...

Megan Walker

The California legislature recently passed SB 970, which requires hotel and motel employers in the state to provide 20 minutes of human trafficking awareness training to all employees by Jan. 1, 2020. While the penalties for non-compliance are minor (an order mandating compliance), no establishment wants to become a hotbed for trafficking activities. In this article, Attorney Megan E. Walker reviews the issue of trafficking in hotels, the new training requirements under SB 970 and indicators of trafficking that may be helpful for hotel staff to identify victims. READ MORE

James O'Brien

These days, there is a lot of negativity surrounding U.S. immigration, and it couldn't come at a worse time. The hospitality industry is straining for qualified human resources in what is otherwise a golden age of expansion and record profits. From stricter new approval standards, visa caps, and government processing delays, to caravans and divisive border wall politics, it's difficult in this environment to find reasons to be optimistic about acquiring talent from abroad and being able to secure lawful employment-authorized status for them. But the U.S. immigration system, which many observers perceive to be "broken," nevertheless still offers opportunities for astute hospitality executives to help keep up with the talent demand curve. READ MORE

Bruce Liebman

Hotels are increasingly being hit with lawsuits claiming discrimination against disabled individuals in violation of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The lawsuits are being filed by what are called ADA testers-individuals who visit businesses intentionally looking for non-compliance with the requirements of the ADA. Common complaints involve architectural barriers in the parking lot (e.g., inadequate or no handicap parking spaces) and lack of handicap accessible restrooms). This article evaluates access claims under the ADA in the hospitality industry, how to defend these claims and the significance and impact of a recent decision on future hotel-related ADA discrimination cases. READ MORE

Ashley Halberda

In light of the "Me Too" and "Times Up" movement, recently passed County Hotel Worker Protection Act of 2018 will be requiring hotels to develop, maintain, and comply with new sexual harassment policies. With this new industry-wide pledge, hotel leaders agreed to enforce stronger safety and security measures for hotel employees. One of the ways they plan to carry this mission is through the use of safety devices known as "panic buttons." These new laws and regulations come at a pretty steep price to hotel employers, we want you to know what you can do to ensure you're protected. READ MORE

Dana Kravetz

Hotel and resorts are jumping on the gig economy bandwagon, satisfying their short-term employment needs by (literally) tapping into the ever-growing pool of freelance hospitality workers available via app or online. But as more and more hoteliers avail themselves to the flexibility and considerable costs savings that are part and parcel to the on-demand staffing model, they are wading into potentially perilous waters, with legal and reputational issues lurking just below the surface. Here, a light is shined on would-be problems inherent in the gig economy that management should be mindful of. READ MORE

John R. Hunt

In recent years, employers in the hospitality industry have faced an onslaught of claims and litigation under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the federal law that establishes minimum wage and overtime requirements. Among the kinds of cases that employers have confronted are those alleging violations of the Department of Labor's "80/20" rule for tipped employees. This "rule" provided that an employer could not take a "tip credit" where a tipped employee spent over 20 percent of his or her time on activities that did not directly generate tips. The following discusses the rule and the significant changes made by the DOL. READ MORE

Todd Soloway

Corporate mergers and acquisitions activity (M&A) has skyrocketed in recent years. By some estimates, global deals are projected to surpass $4 trillion by the end of 2018, which would be the highest amount ever recorded in a single year. The hospitality industry has seen a similar surge in mega-deals over the last several years. While economic factors have contributed to this rise, hospitality has also been shaped by industry-specific influences that are driving companies to acquire and consolidate with others. This article will examine common legal issues that arise during M&A transactions involving hospitality companies and will offer guidance on how both sides of a deal should address the risks and liabilities. READ MORE

John Mavros

Hotels go to great lengths to present a carefully crafted image to their guests and, hotel employees play an integral role in making a mere marketing strategy become a revenue generating reality. One way to ensure that employees effectively communicate the hotel's desired image can be accomplished by a written dress code and personal appearance policy. This policy can be as detailed as management desires. Regardless, to avoid liability, hotels need to be aware of both state and federal laws that govern gender, gender identity, gender expression and religious expression, in the workplace and how those laws interact with their dress code policy. READ MORE

Robert E. Braun

The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 is a threshold event that will change how all businesses collect, retain and treat personal information. No industry is more challenged by the law than the hospitality industry, where the "heads in beds" part of the equation is driven by guest data. The Act will impact how hotels do business, ranging from their reservation procedures to new challenges on their ability to implement guest loyalty programs, one of the key means of creating brand loyalty. Hotel companies, whether they be owners, managers or brands, must act now to comply with the Act. READ MORE

Dwayne McKenzie

The California Legislature had a busy year in 2019, once again enacting a number of new laws that significantly affect California employers and their businesses, most of which will take effect on January 1, 2020. With the new year fast approaching, hotel executives and human resource professionals should take the time to educate themselves about these new laws, review their employee handbooks and evaluate current practices to ensure they are in compliance. Cox, Castle & Nicholson attorneys Dwayne McKenzie and Cathy Moses provide a brief summary of the most notable laws as well as best practices for hospitality companies. READ MORE

Arthur Tacchino

Businesses in the hotel industry, and the executives that lead them, face countless challenges each day: navigating the ebbs and flows of the market, employee retention, managing inventory, and remaining compliant with all IRS regulations and reporting. And, these challenges are compounded by the very nature of the hotel business. Shift work, seasonality and employees working across multiple locations increase the complexity of meeting requirements, especially those mandated by the Affordable Care Act. This article will discuss what leaders in the hotel industry can do to successfully navigate the nuances of Affordable Care Act compliance and avoid any costly fines. READ MORE

John R. Hunt

A persistent criticism of American business is that a significant gap exists between the wages paid to men and women for performing similar work. According to a report from the U.S. Department of Labor, a variety of occupations in the hospitality industry suffer from this problem. Although federal legislation guaranteeing equal pay regardless of gender has existed for years, commentators claim that these measures are inadequate. A proposed law is pending in Congress that would substantially rewrite the current federal requirements governing equal pay. A number of states have pushed ahead in this area and enacted their own laws. A hotel manager today faces the challenge of staying abreast of rapidly changing equal pay obligations at the federal, state and local levels. READ MORE

Robert Lannan

Some of the worst news a hotel owner can receive is that guestrooms or other facilities within the hotel are noticeably contaminated by excessive mold growth. This article, written by an industrial hygienist and an attorney, explores the physical dangers and legal liability caused by excessive mold growth in hotels, means of preventing this problem, and steps hotel owners and operators should take to minimize damage and liability upon discovery of excessive mold growth. READ MORE

Gregory A. Hearing

The U.S. unemployment rate is at a near record low yet the hospitality industry is facing a massive labor shortage. There are many incentives which hospitality industry employers can offer their employees to maintain their current workforce but taking a lax approach to employee discipline should not be one of them. Engaging in disparate disciplinary treatment likely will result in the filing of employment lawsuits or labor grievances which otherwise may have been avoidable. Lodging industry professionals should ensure that their management team consistently administers disciplinary policies and procedures in an evenhanded manner and provide training which identifies and explains the consequences of disparate discipline. READ MORE

Banks Brown

The push and pull of music licensing in the hotel industry has always been somewhat emotional. Because it is a devilish task to determine the value of music to the industry, it is easy for the hotels to conclude they pay too much and easy for the licensing companies to conclude that they, and the artists they represent, are entitled to more. Over the years, the hotel industry and the music industry have gradually gotten accustomed to each other and some of the companies in the industries involved have truly understood how they can help each other. This article is an attempt to explain what is going on. READ MORE

Mark Melodia

The hospitality sector relies heavily on service providers and supply chains. Cybersecurity risk management and data privacy considerations are increasingly a critical factor in those relationships, both to deter poor vendor practices as well as to mitigate exposure in the event of a cyber incident. This article explains how cybersecurity is a risk management function that can be applied to all aspects of a vendor relationship, along with overarching practices for such relationships. The article focuses on cybersecurity considerations in vendor contracts and offers a practical "cybersecurity checklist" that can be used to vet contracts and ensure that cybersecurity and related considerations are being tended to. READ MORE

Christine Samsel

Navigating through Paid Time Off (PTO) benefits for multi-jurisdictional employers can be challenging. Christine Samsel of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck provides a summary of several key issues to consider, from combining different types of PTO into a single category to different states' handling of PTO as a vested wage entitlement or a contract matter between employers and employees, and the impact that has on PTO policies. She also dissects the interplay of PTO and paid sick leave laws, and outlines some of the pitfalls of a recent trend - unlimited PTO policies. READ MORE

Stacy Kula

The obscure maze of alcohol licensing becomes even more confusing as the hotelier encounters different state laws. Because states are vested with the authority to create their own alcohol laws, there is often no uniformity in laws from state to state. As hoteliers build their portfolio in new territories, it can be difficult to remember what law applies. This article does not teach the laws of any state, rather it identifies the legal issues that hoteliers face when making application for an alcohol license in the various states. It is these questions that create the foundation of understanding of the specific state alcohol regimes for the hotelier. READ MORE

John Farley

One of the world's largest hotel chains experienced a massive cyberattack in which a hacker exploited their lack of adequate IT security controls, exposing the private data and travel details of nearly 500 million people. Security threats can come from a number of touch points, such as hotel Wi-Fi, credit card reservations/sales, loyalty programs, guest services and interconnections with vendors. Adding to such vulnerabilities is a labor shortage. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates the hotel industry will experience a 600,000-worker shortfall. Couple this with the dearth of qualified cyber security professionals, and you see an industry at a peak point of stress. READ MORE

Michael B. Newman

With the constant flow of hotel acquisitions and investments, global conglomerates, private equity funds, and venture capitalists regularly find themselves navigating alcohol beverage laws and regulations enacted from a bygone era and drafted in response to societal abuses and evils at that time. Alcohol beverage tied-house laws serve to prevent manufacturers and distributors from holding interests in or exercising control over retailers and prevent cross-ownership or investment in different tiers in the alcohol beverage industry. While some may question their relevancy today, "tied-house laws" separating the three tiers of the industry remain a legal hurdle to acquisitions of, or investments in, hotel businesses to be reckoned with. READ MORE

Coming up in August 2020...

Food & Beverage: New Technological Innovations

In the past few years, hotel food and beverage departments have experienced significant growth. Managers are realizing just how much revenue potential this sector holds, both in terms of additional revenue and as a means to enhance the guest experience. As a result, substantial investments are being made in F&B operations as a way to satisfy hotel guests but also to keep pace with the competition. Though it has been a trend for many years, the Farm-to-Table movement shows no signs of abating. Hotel chains are abandoning corporate restaurants and are instead partnering with local chefs to create locally-influenced dining options. Local, farm-sourced ingredients paired with specialty beverages or local wine also satisfies the increasing demand from Millennial travelers who are eager to travel sustainably and contribute to a positive impact. A farm-to-table F&B program also helps to support the local economy, which builds community goodwill. Also popular are "Self-Serv" and "Grab & Go" options. These concepts stem from an awareness that a guest's time is limited and if a hotel can supply them with fast, fresh, food and beverage choices, then so much the better for them. Plus, by placing these specialty kiosks in areas that might be traditionally under-utilized (the lobby, for instance), they can become popular destination locations. Of course, there are new technological innovations as well. In-room, on-screen menus allow guests to order from any restaurant on the property, and some hotels are partnering with delivery companies that make it possible for guests to order food from any restaurant in the area. Also, many hotels are implementing in-room, voice-activated devices, so ordering food via an AI-powered assistant will soon become mainstream as well. The August issue of the Hotel Business Review will report on these developments and document what some leading hotels are doing to expand this area of their business.