How location tech can help hotels keep control of their brand

Conrad Hilton’s famous mantra of business success: "Location, location, location,” may still hold true, but there’s no doubt it was easier to achieve in an era when every new Hilton was a landmark.

In today’s densely developed gateway cities, finding locations is more of a challenge. Still, that hasn’t stopped Premier Inn from increasing its London supply. The UK’s largest hotel brand has more than 80 hotels in the capital, with several new hotels opening in the last 12 months.

How easy is it for guests to find their hotel? One might assume that the Premier Inn Paddington (Paddington Basin) is an easy walk from Paddington Station. It’s not. You’ll get lost and need to hail a taxi. It’s a large 393-room new-build, but because the area is so built up you cannot see it from a distance and the entrance in a short pedestrian street belies its size. When you reach your room and understand where you are, you’ll realise that it is, in fact, a very easy walk from Edgware Road tube station.

No surprise, then, that Premier Inn has teamed up with location technology provider what3words to guide guests, taxis and delivery vans to its entrances.

What3words has divided the world into a grid of 3m x 3m squares and given every 3 sq. m in the world a unique three-word address.  The service has proven useful for Airbnb hosts and guests too, as well as identifying locations without conventional addresses.

Geo location solutions

There are other global geo location solutions that use digits and letters (Google Maps Plus Codes; Mapcode; and Open Location Code), however, what3words’ approach is arguably easier to share and remember.

Some addresses are more memorable than others: Mega.treble.guests identifies the front door of the Imperial Hotel in Llandudno, while aliens.friend.exit guides visitors to the hotel’s car park.

Inflamed.flesh.massaged identifies a piece of farmland near Stoke-on-Trent; credit.card.denied is an address in Ontario; and imaginary.future.partner is a remote spot in Russia.

The what3words app and online map work offline too and are free to use. Businesses can quickly find their three-word address and add it to their contact details. The API is charged according to usage: more than 1,000 what3words addresses converted to GPS coordinates per month and a $45 monthly fee applies.

Patrick Angwin, director of boutique hospitality advisory firm Clanalytix, said: “I see what3words addresses in some quite unexpected places but often I won’t see them in the places where they would be useful, such as hotels. Big hotels will have an official postal address but there may be multiple entrances and what3words makes it easy to find that exact door. Technologies like this have not gained anywhere near enough traction yet.”

After staying in a hotel or visiting a restaurant, you may receive a pop-up request, not just to write a review, but to check basic information about the venue.

These location-powered requests are a reminder that the quality and accuracy of information presented online is largely dependent on millions of individual human entries. Given the chance, Google, TripAdvisor and others like to carry out quick checks with someone on the ground. But are these automated triggers asking the right people the right questions?

Angwin commented: “The questions themselves can be slightly odd: ‘Are these the right openings times? Do they offer a children’s menu?’ Often, I don’t know the answers and you wonder what the point is. It’s useful to ask a million customers: ‘Did you enjoy your meal?’ but not to ask: ‘Is this the right address?’ Surely that’s a question for the owners of the business.”

As a first step, hotel owners need to make sure their information is correct, consistent and up-to-date on all of their own websites and marketing channels: “Like many other things, it’s a question of setting up a standard operating procedure to make sure things are properly looked after and maintained,” said Angwin.

Keeping things consistent

But even then, there is the risk that information gets distorted as it is disseminated in different languages across the world. Is the address of your hotel on Google the same as the address on, or eDreams? 

With more than 400 OTAs, in addition to metasearch engines, bed banks, wholesalers and conventional travel agents, it’s easy to see how hotel information might display inconsistently.

To stop things getting lost in translation, some hotel companies pay for mapping services. Arcotel Hotels, a group with 11 city centre properties in Austria and Germany, recently partnered with Giata, a global provider of hotel content distribution solutions.  By integrating with Giata’s cloud-based centralised system, Arcotel can update any changes concerning their content, images and services all from a single source without having to contact each sales channel individually.

Jovan Savic, Arcotel’s head of ecommerce and online marketing, said: "We were looking for an all-in-one solution to handle the organisation and regular updating of images and descriptions from one place. Giata automates the distribution of our content to all OTAs and wholesalers, saving us valuable time and increasing bookings over time.”

Grecotel Hotels & Resorts, a Greek chain of 40 properties, is another company showcasing its real-time hotel information across hundreds of sales channels via the Giata platform. Martha Filenta, Grecotel’s senior marketing & sales executive, said: “In an ever-growing sea of information, it is more important than ever to have a platform that allows us to keep our hotel descriptions and pictures under control. With Giata we can manage our hotel content more efficiently and this has led to a noticeable improvement in the quality of our online presence.”

In addition to disseminating static content, Giata can now create and distribute 3D tours of hotel rooms, virtual tours, and floor plans.

Angwin said: “There’s a lot that hotels can do and need to do to make sure they are properly represented where they need to be represented.”

Closed shop

All the above, of course, applies to active businesses. Angwin commented: “My partner and I went to Paris and she’s a vegetarian. So, we’d done our research beforehand and found a few vegetarian restaurants and we had at least two incidences of pitching up at these places and they’d closed down. They were showing up on Google Maps and the review sites: ‘the best vegetarian restaurant in the 8th Arrondissement’ and they weren’t there. I guess, if your business is closing, it’s not top of your priorities to tidy up all the loose ends on the mapping services. But for us, it really was quite a pain.”

When a restaurant or a hotel closes, who is responsible for removing online listings and information? The owner. But even the most scrupulous owners may find that getting online information removed is not straightforward.

To owners reporting a permanent closure, Tripadvisor says: “Our editors will verify this change by referring to your official website, social media presence and online travel agencies. If your property is still available on one of these online sources, your request may not be accepted.”

For customers, perhaps the only fool proof method of verifying if a business is still trading is an old-fashioned one: to call directly.