Nearly 300 hotel industry executives and Forbes Travel Guide staffers gathered in Vancouver this month to toast the 2016 Star Award Winners, which included 154 Five-Star hotels, 410 Four-Star hotels and 159 Recommended hotels around the world.
During the two-day event held at the Four-Star Fairmont Pacific Rim, Five-Star Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver and Five-Star Rosewood Hotel Georgia, company executives also announced plans for new products and for continued ratings expansion into additional destinations.
Gerard J. Inzerillo, chief executive officer of Forbes Travel Guide, reported that the company plans to be “fully global” by 2018. Forbes Travel Guide rates properties in 100 destinations across the Americas, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region and expects to add another 20 destinations in 2017. The company is expanding its ratings to additional locations in Latin America, Europe, Asia and planning for growth into the Middle East.
“Travel has never produced more revenue,” Inzerillo told the assembled executives. But he also noted that, with changes in the industry, social media challenges and ongoing revenue demands, “It’s never been more difficult to own and operate a hotel, restaurant or spa.”
The public is “confused,” Inzerillo continued. “No one knows who to trust anymore.” Forbes Travel Guide ratings help reduce this confusion, he explained, by connecting luxury travelers to the world’s top hotels and best guest experiences.
To make ratings and other pertinent details about hotels, restaurants and spas more accessible to a broader public, the company is working on a number of consumer platform innovations, according to Laurel Mocklar, vice president, product.
Not only will the company’s website, forbestravelguide.com, get a “fresh look and more imagery,” Mocklar said, the Forbes Travel Guide team is developing a new mobile version as well, planned for release in 2017.
Jeff Arnold, chairman of Forbes Travel Guide, announced that the company is also developing iCoach, a mobile, customer-service training product for hotel staff. A self-paced, personalized learning tool, iCoach will incorporate stress assessment and voice technology developed at Sharecare, a health and wellness company that Arnold co-founded, to help hotel staff better prepare for of everyday situations.
iCoach will be preloaded with videos depicting customer interactions, and staff will respond to these situations, speaking into their phones. Then iCoach will assess their levels of confidence, stress, social connection, energy and other factors derived from Forbes Travel Guide’s customer service standards and provide near-immediate feedback on how the employee handled the situation.
Arnold demonstrated the iCoach technology to the assembled executives, responding hesitantly to one video depicting an unhappy customer, then providing a strong, confident reply to a second video-based interaction, with iCoach assessing his responses in both cases.
Jeff Wielgopolan, vice president, learning and development at Forbes Travel Guide, reported that the company has recruited a group of roughly 40 hoteliers to participate in an iCoach trial. The product is expected to launch in September.
Homing in on how each individual employee contributes to the overall guest experience, Wielgopolan said that iCoach will help enhance the culture of service among hotel staff and assist them in understanding “what great service looks like.”
Keeping guests happy
Inzerillo summed up the company’s plans for its global expansion, enhancements to its ratings program and its technological developments by saying that Forbes Travel Guide’s objective is to “help our community take care of our guests.”
“At the end of the day,” Inzerillo concluded, “what’s important is ‘Are our guests happy?’”
With expansion plans and product advancements on Forbes Travel Guide’s horizon, the company is doing all it can to ensure that answer is a resounding “yes.”