Accommodation Game Changers – The 14 Most Influential of This Decade

1) Free in room Wi-Fi

I’m still amazed at the mid- and upper-level hotels that continue to not offer or, even worse, charge their guests for Wi-Fi. In the very least, hotels should offer free Wi-Fi in a quiet area where guests can go to conduct business, away from the bar. Hotelchatter.com does a thorough study each year and compiles a quick reference chart. We have a direct link on our blog.

2) Online travel agencies

Voyages-sncf.com, Expedia, Inc., Sabre Holdings, Opodo, and Priceline.com have become the elephants in the hotel room booking business. Each with 2008 annual revenue in the billions plus ($USD), they continue to be a saving grace for travelers and a source of frustration for royalty-paying hotels. Only a few niche personal travel agents will survive this paradigm shift of information efficiency. To compete, fare aggregators and metasearch engines like Kayak.com, Cheapflights.com, and SideStep.com continue to stockpile their information offers.

3) Informed Vagabonding

Vagabonding is traveling on the cheap. Those that piggyback for airline points but can’t find a nearby Couchsurfing.com buddy give hotels unique bargaining challenges. Numerous last-minute hotel deals have been found by using sites like Vagabondtraveller.com. Being able to provide non-touristy information to these seasoned (and occasionally smelly) travelers is a challenge front desk or concierge employees must successfully overcome.

4) The Twitter Deal

Aside from the plethora of non-informative or news-repeating tweets available, hotels have made some Twitter progress. The last minute Twitter coupon code has already made it the go-to site for smart travelers. Whether it builds customer loyalty is a matter of execution. Hotels that creatively fulfill their target guests’ needs continue to do well. Have a favorite stay? Always check their twitter feed before booking.

5) TripAdvisor

The one stop shop for hotel and bed & breakfast reviews, Tripadvisor.com now has over 25 million reviews to read and for the most part, trust. It allows travelers to find out if construction on an addition is currently waking guests up at 8 am or if the service staff is exquisitely well trained and motivated.

6) Hotel Alternatives

The 2008/2009 economic downturn was a booming opportunity for those associated with what are typically more frugal accommodation alternatives. I don’t have to look across the street at HomeAway.com’s new office here in downtown Austin to understand the benefits of structured information for deal-seeking travelers and scheduled booking for their home-owning clients. The acquisition of a large competitor secured their spot in the United States at the top of the vacation home food chain. BedandBreakfast.com operates in a similar space for bed and breakfasts while offering a gift card service for travelers to book nights with their clients.

7) Airport, Capsule, or Mini-Hotels

The nap & shower model tries to grab travelers with long layovers or heavy hangovers. Honolulu International Airport tried it but eventually failed, yet the nearby Nimitz Shower Tree Mini-Hotel is picking-up where they left off. The model is not very popular in the States, but Europe and Japan boast a healthy demand for weary travelers looking for a convenient reprieve. A popular capsule hotel near Kabukicho in Tokyo is mostly for recovering businessmen after an evening of drunken debauchery.

8) Boutique hotels in the U.S.

According to The Independent, the term “boutique hotel” was coined by entrepreneur Steve Rubell when he and Ian Schrager opened Morgans on Madison Avenue in 1984, because, for comparison, it was more like a boutique rather than a department store. The popularity of this experience blossomed with the real estate boom and bust of the past few years. Whether companies trying to differentiate their properties from the norm will continue on this path coming out of this downturn remains to be answered.

9) Green Hotels

The green hotel movement gained momentum this last decade. A percentage of travelers demand they stay in not only a LEED certified structure, but with environmentally conscious services. The hotel’s LEED plaque will state whether the hotel has silver, gold, or platinum status. Sheraton’s Element Hotels is the first hotel chain that requires all properties be LEED certified. At the far end of the spectrum, Maho Bay Camps in the Virgin Islands range from “eco-tents” to rain-collecting cottages.

10) Frequent Visitor Preferences

The last decade have seen guest services launch into a completely new dimension. The Seinfeld episode where George injures his hamstring trying to kick out his tucked-in bedsheets has some truth to it, as the maid actually left the correct bed untucked (George and Jerry were in different beds when the request was made). Some hotel chains now keep track of your favorite soap and shampoo, what radio station to have your alarm dialed to, and yes, whether or not to leave your sheets untucked. Guests have become less paranoid about allowing their hotel to keep this information and the smart managers have taken advantage.

11) The iHome

Speaking of alarm clocks, the growth mp3 popularity from Napster to today’s legal paid services forced many hotels to recognize the antiquated nature of the $10 alarm clock. Enter the iHome. There are many variations, but the iHome became the defacto standard for playing mp3s in your room. And in the future? Bittel Electronics just created an alarm clock/phone/radio/iPod/iPhone/mp3 player interface called the UNO. Nice.

12) HTNG: Hotel Technology Next Generation

Founded in 2002, the association exists to guide the behind-the-scenes technology into some form of sanity. Hotel managers have notoriously fought with multiple booking, room-scheduling, point-of-sale, rate-spreading, appointment-scheduling in the past. HTNG has guided vendors to unify their offerings to work together to meet the accommodation industry’s needs. They’re a “global trade association that fosters, through collaboration and partnership among hoteliers and technology providers, the development of next-generation solutions that will enable them to do business globally in the 21st century.”

These requests have help push toward advanced Property Management Systems (yes, PMS) that can be smarter in ways managers have been table-pounding their fists for years ago. Systems now exist that can handle point-of-sale transactions for multiple locations and still remotely turn-off HVAC systems in an unoccupied room.

13) Hotel and Travel Blogs

I’m sure some people still grab travel guide books like Fodor’s, Lonely Planet, or Frommer’s, but much like the newspaper industry, travel information has migrated online. The people that still do pick-up these books are half “I don’t want to stare at a computer” and half “I want people to see that I’m planning a trip.” Travel is massively broad topic to blog about and as a result, there exists a copious amount of sub-topic travel blogs. Most bloggers get paid by their advertisers, by the hotel or airline industry, or indirectly by both. At Uberoom, we’re no different.

A blog review MIGHT not make or break a hotel or bed & breakfast, but high-traffic blogs like Gadling.com, Deliciousbaby.com, and Jaunted.com sure do command respect.

14) Kiosks: Check-in/Check-out/Concierge

As I wrote in Improved Customer Service: Top 3 Reasons Why, the number of employees in the broader accommodation industry has declined for over a year now. However, the decline in guests has outpaced the lay-offs.

During this downturn, hotels are quickly learning the benefits of automation and affiliation. The very same kiosk technology that helps you check-out at the grocery store or print-out your boarding pass at the airport also arrived in your hotel lobby. Not only are kiosks complimenting front desk employees, but your friendly concierge now has a department trainee as well.

All this automation is great, but in order to improve the quality of their services, hotels are increasingly affiliating with companies to provide everything from airport shuttles to special packages, but that detail is best left for another article!

What will the next decade hold for the accommodation industry? Will the current trend of automation continue or will guests push back and request more personal attention? Let me know what you think.

How to Make Money As an Online College Instructor

There are over eighteen million students attending community colleges, four-year colleges, state universities and for-profit online post-secondary academic institutions today, and more and more of those college students require an online college instructor to lead their classes. Distance education technology has matured to the point that it would be hard to imagine a school that is not offering online college classes to its new and returning students.

In fact, it is almost guaranteed that the lower cost of offering online college classes will force colleges and universities to move as many of their undergraduate classes online as possible in the next few years. The migration from traditional, on-ground education to digitally-accessed education represents a major shift in how a college education will be earned, and it concurrently represents a major shift in how almost anyone with a graduate degree in a core area of academic study such as English, math, history, psychology or Information Technology can find ample opportunities to earn a very nice living by teaching in multiple part time online teaching positions. It should go without saying that the first step to landing an online teaching position is to become familiar with the needs of the over five thousand institutions of higher learning.

First and foremost, the schools are almost literally being overrun with new and returning college students who have become unemployed or know with relative certainty that they stand a very good chance of becoming unemployed. These students want to improve their chances of earning a decent living again when the recession lifts, and they plan on making that happen by attending college in order to earn a degree or by attending a community college in order to acquire technical training. In either case, it is absolutely necessary that they take a certain number of core college classes.

The person with a graduate degree in these core areas of study can certainly take advantage of the growing need for instructors who can use a computer hooked to the Internet to teach college students taking these requisite courses. This growing need for education professionals with technology and academic skill sets is creating a very definite career path for those seeking to become an online college instructor.

Online College Instructor Income Potential

Obviously, each school will have its own formula for deciding how much to pay an online adjunct instructor to teach a course and anyone who teaches online for any length of time will realize that there isn’t any arguing the point with the school’s administrators. The only real option for an online adjunct teaching math or English, and it is these two core academic subjects that will have the vast majority of new and returning students, is to decide if a school that pays fifteen hundred dollars to teach an online college class for fifteen weeks is a better deal than a school that pays two thousand two hundred dollars to teach the same course for eight weeks.

Much of the evaluation process for one or another school depends on the demands of the course. Eventually, the alert online adjunct instructor will learn to teach at multiple accredited online degree programs at once so that if one academic institution becomes too demanding it can be replaced by another school that is more profitable for the adjunct. In general, it is possible to make fifty to sixty thousand dollars a year through online adjunct faculty employment, and there are those online instructors who laser-focused time management skills and cutting edge technology abilities that can earn in the six-figure range, but they do not sleep at lot. Online teaching can be lucrative in a variety of ways not directly related to the actual teaching.

For example, online adjunct instruction does not require a personal vehicle and there are no public transportation, streetcars and buses, necessary to manage the online classes. The best way to quantify this economic aspect of online instruction is to add up how much money is spent driving a car to and from the various college campuses every day. If a college instructor teaches at several traditional institutions that are some distance from each other a pretty penny of the money earned from teaching is eaten up in sheer transportation costs. An online faculty member only needs a computer and an Internet connection to function in the classroom.

Today, a perfectly serviceable laptop can be had for less than four hundred dollars and almost any coffee shop of public library has free wireless Internet service. Now compare that cost of teaching online with the almost endless expense of owning and maintaining an automobile that is sure to break down from all the miles put on it driving from one campus to the next. Another economic benefit to being an online college adjunct is that of geographic mobility. This mobility is of paramount importance since it can transcend geography, which means the adjunct can move about the globe freely and still earn a living wage. This geographic mobility could become very important if and when the area I which the adjunct lives become too expensive or is prone to natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes. Thus, the income potential of online adjunct faculty employment should be measure in more than just the payment for teaching an online college class.

Online College Instructor Application Strategy

While it is true that teaching online college classes for a distance learning online college requires a minimum of a graduate degree, it is also true that one needs to be hired to teach online in order to start earning money from it. Therefore, an application strategy is quite important to the overall process, and the application strategy is one that will be ongoing since the number of community colleges and other post-secondary institutions offering online classes will only grow over time.

First, gather all the documentation you will need during the application process. This includes a cover letter that contains an expressed intent to teach online undergraduate classes since it is these classes that have the most students in them. Along with the cover letter, a resume, not a vita, is a necessary element of the process. A third and very important element is scanned in unofficial copies of all graduate transcripts. All three of these application elements should be kept in a handy place on the computer’s desktop since they need to be in motion, so to speak, at all times.

The academic job boards are always a good place to search for possible online college course to teach, but it is a better idea to apply directly to each of the over five thousand academic institutions that have web sites on the Internet. Just keep submitting applications to teach online as an adjunct and sooner or later a positive response will be generated by the effort to make contact. Keep in mind that the schools have a lot more students than teachers who can master the digital classroom and teach college materials in a professional manner. Sooner or later, it will become easier to see the outstanding opportunities that being an online college instructor for multiple colleges online offers those with graduate degrees in need of a decent living.

Migrating From the Work Force to the Business Life

Starting an online business is an adventurous and risky process. It is also quite difficult because of financial constraints and managing risks. For example, I currently am a full time student and work 30 hours a week at my job. Without these things my future looks quite bleak; unless my online business takes off.

But how will my online business ever take off if I am at school all the time or studying? It seems like there is no way for me to be able to do all three things effectively, or at least to the full scale effects that I’d like to. I can’t cut back on my amount of school work. I am an all A’s type of student and that takes hard work and time. I cannot work less hours at my other job because I need the money to support myself and my family. The only logical thing I can do is spend my free time on my website and start it small.

That is what I have begun to do and so far it is working as planned. Right now I am in the Spring quarter of my school year. I must make sure that I start my business slowly and carefully, precisesly following my business model; except much more scaled down.

My business plan consists of doing online marketing. In the full swing I will market close to 10 products a week, However, during the school year I must only do 2. Doing two products per week will not a greatly profitable venture as I expect each product’s review to yield me a continual 20 dollars per month. Over time that will add up, but to begin it is not nearly enough.

I will analyze my results from my Spring period and if my results show that by writing more reviews I will be able to turn more profits, I will expand my business and run it at fifty percent over the summer. I will then do 5 product reviews per week which should bring my profits to a respectable level. If this level proves to be enough to support myself and family and replace the income of my other job, I will quit that and free up even more time for my online business.

At this point I will be able to focus all of my attention to my online business. I think it will be a great way for me to find out what kind of profits I can expect to earn if I put a full day’s work into the job. Working eight to ten hours each day of the Summer I will find out just how profitable my website with product reviews can be. If I find I am turning a great profit and making tremendous revenue, then I will look at sticking with the business full time.

I will not go back to school after the Summer if my business venture is successful and focus all my efforts to getting the business done. I have to start small, but work hard. If I start small and find that I am making good money, I will expand until I am doing what I love full time.