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Hotel Business spoke with Paul Frampton-Calero, CEO at travel tech startup handy

Chantell Keston 20 December 2018
Hotel Business spoke with Paul Frampton-Calero, CEO at travel tech startup handy

About Paul Frampton-Calero

Paul Frampton Calero is the CEO of travel tech startup Tink Labs. He was previously the UK & Ireland CEO of Havas Media Group where he oversaw a £100m business with 900 staff including 10 operating companies with a focus on media, digital marketing, creative development, experiential, consulting and data/analytics. He led the acquisition of 3 businesses ranging from insight & trends to data and technology consulting to entertainment. Paul was also one of the early pioneers of digital marketing. He is an active supporter of the start-up community and is an NED and mentor to some of the leading lights of the entrepreneurial space as well as Chair of Big Youth Group, an organisation designed to improve the odds for young people. Paul is an influencer on both Twitter and Linkedin with other 23,000 followers. He was listed in the Evening Standard Progress 1000 Brand Builders 2016, voted the 5th most influential person in UK Digital in The Drum’s Digerati league and gifted the Lifetime Achievement award by Twitter.

Hotel Business | Thought Leadership

Written by Paul Frampton-Calero, CEO, EMEA at  TINK LABS


What do you believe the customer experience is for the future?

With the advances in technology and innovation already becoming the norm in domestic environments, so grows the opportunity for the travel space to match up.

Guests are increasingly looking for their daily conveniences to be authentically incorporated into their travel experiences. For example, voice assistants are becoming commonplace in the home and hospitality providers are catching on this wave as an in-room solution. handy already allows in-room controls, an all-in-one remote powered by infrared technology,  to control TV, lighting, curtains, thermostats and is exploring other emerging technologies including voice and virtual reality.

Smart technology and digital platforms allow for a level of personalisation that is genuinely able to deliver on exceptional guest experience. Hotels can gain access to consumer data that allows them to create a personalised experience for each guest, delivering a bespoke service which is something that millennials are increasingly looking for and will spend more on. 59% of millennials state that they would pay extra for a holiday package that was tailored to their personal preferences (source: Mintel). The Rembrandt Hotel recently tailored push messages to guests via the handy device in their room to deliver exclusive guest offers to their lounge bar, spa and afternoon tea service.

Hospitality brands that can leverage their access to this data effectively will almost certainly be at the forefront of delivering the best customer experience of the future. A personalised experience has previously been a signifier of a luxury experience but with the advances in technology this is being democratised.

Do you think hotels are moving with the trends and in-line with the customer needs?

Things are changing, but slowly. The hospitality industry has been relatively conventional in many ways but due to the intense competition, the need for differentiation is larger than ever. Because of this, the hospitality industry at large is always on the lookout for ways in which to increase their KPIs, be it to increase the average rate of occupancy, customer loyalty or to increase their bottom line. Boosting RevPAR (revenue per available room) is more often than not, the focus of most hotels attention. Where there has been less attention, until more recently, is in the area of understanding the guest’s entire journey and improving the customer experience across each of the many touch points There are still too many horror stories when it comes to travel ranging from airline delays through to to bookings not being recognised in the hotel to delayed check-ins and then poor service. It doesn’t need to be like this if the guest is better understood and the service provider (airline or hotel) is better equipped to serve their needs.

This is where technology and handy come in – delivering guests with a consistent, more personalised experience across their journey, seamless access to the front desk and hotel concierge, the ability to order in-room service, additional hotel services or connectivity – means hotels can quickly evolve to offer improved customer service that matches the needs and desires of consumers. These consumers are looking for ease and tech integration in everything they do – at home and whilst travelling.

There are two types of hoteliers; the traditionalist, and the early adopter.  All-in-all, the hotel industry has historically been slow to adopt technology. Looking at the traditionalists first, just like in retail, those brands that don’t stay ahead of or catch onto technological advances get left behind or need to pay a higher price to stay ahead.

Yet, there are also the early adopters. These are generally either new builds or independent/high end luxury hotels that are able to see the potential in technology and are more willing to take risks. But with established hotel chains such as Hilton and AccorHotels already investing in technology, precedent is being set. Large groups are setting an example and showcasing there is room for exploration with a worthy opportunity for growth. With loyalty slim, hotels are competing to stand out more and more for. Offering IoT technology is one of the major ways to improve this, and which is capable of attracting new guests, while retaining existing guests.

Another huge trend for travellers is the desire to experience their destination through the eyes of a local. 57% of US holiday makers want to feel like a local when they travel (source: Mintel) with travellers looking for local tips and hidden gems to ensure they are getting the best and most authentic experience. So hotels that offer guest the tools, tips and access to live like a local are becoming more prevalent. This can be realised through the provision of technology devices such as handy (where consumers have access to free local and international calls and data, as well as curated local city guides and a Neighbourhood marketplace offering exclusive access to experiences and merchant offers) or through in-room services that allow consumers to order in from many of the local restaurants. This particular service is offered in Ian Schragers’s hotel Public in New York and gives consumers that home from home experience. In Australia, hotel chain Meriton in Sydney and Brisbane has teamed up with Deliveroo to offer in-room delivery from nearby restaurants within 30 minutes. Guests place their order with the Guest Services team, who then pay on the guest’s behalf and bill them when they check out.

handy is already integrating many similar partners to enable its hotel network to have ready-made plug-and-play access to service providers that guests value. More and more brands like Small Luxury Hotels are following handy’s lead by putting together bespoke neighbourhood guides to help hotel guests immerse themselves in the local environment and culture with insider tips. Our handy smartphone similarly integrates city guides into the UI and we have seen this as a hugely popular features utilised by hotel guests – 2019 will see the team at handy taking this to the next level, watch this space!

It’s also fascinating to see hotels integrating services that map to millennial passion points such as wellness, mindfulness and spirituality. Hotels across the globe including The James Hotels offer services that target physical and emotional well-being e.g. The Four Bodies Wellness programme that features one-to-one sessions including Astrology Birth Chart Readings, Transformational Coaching, Tarot Reading, Hypnosis, Reiki Healing and Sound Healing.


Could hotels be doing anything more to add to the customer experience? Are they doing anything wrong?

Of course, as an industry we can always evolve and at Tink Labs we’re constantly innovating. The hotel partners we work with all over the globe are looking to improve the customer experience at different touch points – especially through the use of technology. Integrating handy in to their guest offering means they are giving consumers a device that can really enhance their experience whilst staying in the hotel. Being able to stay connected to loved-ones and also have the ease of use of a handset with no data or call restrictions, whilst exploring a local city or destination is the first-step in ensuring an exceptional guest experience. At handy, we’re always evolving our product to offer our hotel partners and their guests an exceptional experience, including integrating developments in technologies such IoT, AI and voice activation into our product.

We are committed to try and meet the needs of the hotel team, as well as the end consumer with seamless integration of hotel services, local insight and connectivity.

What is handy doing to make the customer experience a memorable one?

We’re working on a new consumer offering that will aim to position handy as the ultimate travel companion – pre, during and post-trip for consumers. Our Neighbourhood marketplace has the necessary breadth and depth to offer something for everyone, easily accessible via digital – whether that be a ride hailing service, food delivery, access to gaming, theatre tickets, restaurant bookings and much, much more.

In addition to help guests stay connected, we also have special in market features and discounts – so with 25% of UK holiday-makers looking for a destination where they can shop. (source Mintel: Global Consumer Trends Report WTM 2018) handy has a raft of partners that enable us to provide discounts and insider deals on local shops, retailers and attractions – meeting this need and giving travellers the inside track on the best shops and deals.

What key experiences has handy found customers are looking for when on holiday/staying in a hotel?

We have found that consumers staying in hotels that offer handy as an in-room benefit are primarily really enjoying the connectivity that we offer them. Hotel guests are looking to stay connected with friends and family at home but also want to be connected – as if they were a local – to the city they are in so they can make the most of their short stay. This connectivity also extends to guests being able to stay connected to the hotel and local amenities anywhere and at any time during their visit.

handy also is helping consumers maximise their time abroad by taking away the need for hours spent on Google and Trip Advisor. handy does the hard work to curate content, which gives inspiration and directional advice to a traveller so they have all the access of a local. Travellers are increasingly making spontaneous decisions and impromptu plans and that’s why the rise of in-destination travel guides are ever more important – so travellers can plan on the go and create spontaneous holiday agendas. handy helps hotel guests plan on the go without missing out or pre-planning for weeks or months in advance, as experiences and tickets can be booked in minutes via our native commerce platform. “Over 70% of U.S. travellers agree that they “always” use their smartphones when travelling, to research activities or attractions, to locate shopping areas and restaurants, or to look up directions” (source: Think with Google: Travel Trends).This convenience has brought about a rise in personalisation, where savvy travellers opt for curated trips on a more experiential level, heavily relying on the technology breaking away from mainstream travel experiences, to create a more personalised experience – enabling them to live more like a local when abroad.

Another feature that proves popular is the In-Room Dining integration that allows guest to order room service seamlessly from the handset when in or out of the hotel, in much the same way they have come accustomed to ordering shopping, food and services at home. This service of course, also benefits our hotel partners with incremental revenue and personalised data capture around a guest’s preferences for repeat visitation.

What are the most important trend(s) that you have identified in hospitality today?

Two key trends that we believe are really important in the hospitality and travel industry and map to the preferences and needs of the millennial audience are both linked. These are predictive personalisation and artificial intelligence which in turn enable chat-bots and voice assistants to enhance guest experience.

Predictive Analysis for Personalisation

Firstly, in line with a more personalised experience for guests, technological advancements in predictive analysis will bring large improvements to 2019 marketing strategies for hospitality and travel industry businesses. Hotel and travel brands are likely to adopt predictive analysis into their suite of marketing tools, allowing intelligent algorithms to observe guests’ behaviours to calculate, or predict preferences.

Future recommendations on in-destination activities and locales can be suggested upon a guest’s next travel booking, delivering a better and more tailored experience. Starwood Hotels is a prime example of a hotel group harnessing the power of predictive analysis. The more a guest stays at any one of the group’s hotels, the more their app learns about them. Using this, they can predict guests’ preferences.

According to studies by Google and Phocuswire, 57% of travellers are of the opinion that “brands should tailor their information based on personal preferences or past behaviours.”

The Proliferation of Artificial Intelligence leading to Chatbot and Voice Assistant explosion

With more processes becoming automated, 2019 will see the continued growth of AI utilisation in the travel and hospitality industry. Customer expectations are increasing every day, and as millennials are becoming the largest consumer base in the world, new technologies are being adopted to meet their preferences.

Many industry businesses have launched chatbots on Facebook Messenger as a means of providing customer service to their audience, Expedia is one such company. Users simply log on and tell the chatbot about their travel plans, and the AI will provide the five most popular hotel options for the desired location based on information provided by the user.

Alongside chatbots, voice assistants will also come to the fore, providing a similarly quick, tailored, and conversational experience to travellers. Devices and AI technologies such as Amazon’s Alexa, is already providing mobile or in-home voice solutions that, consumers will soon be accustomed to for services such as bookings and making purchases.