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Enabling Independent Hoteliers to Compete with Large Chains

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Manu Midha, the Regional Head for Middle East at OYO Hotels & Homes, speaks to Gadget Voize about the budget hotels economy in the region

What sort of market do you see for budget hotels in the region?
The Middle East offers a huge potential for budget hotels and the market welcomes all categories of travellers. Last year Dubai witnessed nearly 16 million visitors, with the highest number of visitors from India.The hospitality industry in the Middle East is enjoying a good footfall from several countries.

As per a study by Dubai Tourism, the Emirate’s room supply is expected to touch 132,000 by the end of 2019. The UAE and Dubai, in particular, enjoy being a popular destination for tourists from around the world. The hospitality industry in the Emirates has grown to accommodate the rising number of visitors and is currently evolving basis the needs of these travellers. We, at OYO Hotels and Homes, are proud to deliver high-quality, standardized and affordable accommodation experience to our guests.

How many hotels / properties have you tied up with in this region?
OYO established its footprint in the UAE in the first half of 2018 and has already served close to 120,000 guests from 80 plus countries in 20+ hotels located across five Emirates and 40 homes in Dubai. OYO currently manages 1300+ exclusive rooms across Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al-Khaimah, Fujairah and Ajman and 40 homes in Dubai.

What benefits does OYO offer in comparison with other budget hotel offerings?
Delivering quality-assured experiences is at the heart of what we do at OYO Hotels and Homes. We are committed to offering customers good quality, affordable and predictable living experiences while globally empowering over 18,000+ franchise partners and asset owners with the operational expertise, technology capabilities, and talents. We work with small-scale budget hoteliers to improve guest experience and occupancy. No other hotel company is using technology in this way or empowering small hotels to deliver value.

Our biggest differentiator is the full-stack fulfillment led model, where we fully acquire hotels and homes, on franchise, manchise or lease, renovate it and bring it up to OYO standards, use our technology and operational capabilities to ensure seamless management of the property – revenue, pricing, day to day guest experience, etc., and then use an omni-channel distribution strategy, across online and offline channels, leading to over 90% of our demand. We have invested in four key competencies. 

The first one is the ability to identify and onboard strategic buildings within a shorter time period (vs. others), the second is the renovation and upgrade the living spaces in record time by leveraging the design and engineering talent, three, the sustained demand generation, across offline and online channels and, lastly, immersive technology that redefines the hospitality experience at every customer and hotel owner touchpoint. OYO uses innovative technology solutions to facilitate standardization of services, amenities and in-room experience, thereby helping maintain service standards. This is further enhanced by the diverse talent that includes people with design background, tech experts, and more.

Additionally, we have OYO Captains (key contacts for guests and hoteliers in a certain geographical area) for auditing the buildings and making sure we can maintain the quality of all OYO buildings and thereby enriching the guest experience.

What benefit does OYO have over platforms such as Airbnb or Couchsurfing in the region?
OYO is not a room aggregator. OYO is not an online travel agency. OYO is not a certification company. OYO is not a marketplace. We are a full-scale hotel chain with a capability-led model. We bring capabilities that help a small and independent hotelier compete with large chains. This includes interventions across, identification of buildings, transformation, operations, technology backed day-to-day, and revenue management as well as distribution.

  1. Sophisticated leasing and franchising process: At OYO, we have developed the ability to scientifically identify and onboard strategic buildings within a shorter time period (vs. others). The approach and strategy of our Business Development team is powered by Orbis. The app was built in-house to assist the team in identifying the right lead, pitching the right deals to owners and having the building transformed to OYO standards.
  2. Best-in-class renovation capabilities: Our deep renovation capabilities have empowered us to add 64,000 exclusive keys to our chain every month at a global level. As the world’s fastest-growing chain of leased and franchised hotels, homes & spaces we have set a new benchmark in transforming and renovating assets in a record time of within 14 days –  a stark contrast to the industry standard of upto 90 days. With a 1,200 OYOpreneur-strong team of civil engineers and designers in India, China and other international markets, OYO Hotels has powered the transformation of thousands of buildings across territories while promoting sustainable infrastructure in the hospitality sector.
  3. Hotel Operations: Delivering quality-assured experiences is at the heart of what we do at OYO Hotels and Homes. We are committed to offering customers good quality, affordable and predictable living experiences while empowering over 18,000+ franchise partners and asset owners with operational expertise and technology capabilities. We focus heavily on service quality and invest in it, both in the form of technology and talent. We also have over 26 OYO Skill Institutes where we train hundreds of hospitality enthusiasts every month. We are benefiting from improving operating efficiencies while maintaining customer loyalty, with over 70% of the top line in India coming from repeat customers and over 90% from repeat and word of mouth customers.
  4. Higher yields for asset owners: All the above-mentioned facets come together and create an ecosystem of efficiency through which we are able to deliver higher yields for our asset owners. Every hotel or asset that becomes a part of OYO’s chain, witnesses an increase in average occupancy from 25% to 65% in a brief span of three months. We have a team of revenue managers who are able to derive and drive the best pricing mechanism in the industry with the help of advanced machine learning and AI tools, so as to optimize for best outcomes for customers and partner franchisees alike.

Tell about your Collection O brand. Is this available in this region?
Collection O is a newly launched hotel brand that caters to the requirements of discerning business travellers. The category offers bigger and spacious rooms with premium furnishing and linen, on-request laundry, unlimited breakfast, 24X7 in-room dining, high speed WiFi, workstations in every room and OYO-trained customer service. With 12 hotels already a part of the brand, we are aiming to touch close to 650 hotels with over 20,000 rooms by 2019-end. Currently, the brand is available in India.

Since OYO focusses on travelers who travel for business, have you tied up with any regional event organizers or MICE associations to offer special prices to business travelers?
OYO is a preferred brand of choice for both vacationers and business travellers. We have witnessed a double-digit percentage rise in trade visitors within the MICE (Meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) sector within the first two months of 2019. 

Dubai’s MICE industry is currently growing at a rapid pace and leads in several aspects when compared to other global MICE hubs such as the US, UK, Europe and the Far East. We look forward to tapping this opportunity in the future by offering business travellers OYO’s high-quality, standardized and affordable experience.

You have tie-ups with travel portals such as MakeMyTrip. Do you plan to have similar tie-ups with local players like Tajawal, Musafir, and so on?
Being a full-stack hospitality tech company, we have built capabilities to run high-quality, standardized accommodations across different formats to cater to different kinds of travellers who are always on the lookout for unique experiences. We have also built a strong distribution network by investing in self-operated channels and creating a strong foundation. 

Our mission is to create quality living spaces and offer those to guests and travelers across the world, and global strategic relationships support that work. None of these relationships are exclusive in nature as OYO will always strive to offer its accommodation spaces to every potential guest. We don’t have anything further to comment at the moment.

Do you offer co-working spaces in this region, similar to your partnerships with Innov8 in India?
In the UAE, our product offerings include the 20+ hotels located across five Emirates and 40 homes in Dubai. Our target is to reach 150 hotels by 2020.

Any other info you would like to add?
OYO Hotels & Homes, South Asia’s largest, one of China’s top five, and the world’s 6th largest chain of leased and franchised hotels, homes & living spaces. OYO’s mission is to upgrade all forms of real estate and thereby provide quality living spaces to travelers around the world. 

Since its launch back in 2013, OYO Hotels has brought about a change in the budget hotel franchising and leasing segment, by offering standardized good quality hospitality experiences at affordable prices. OYO today host guests from around the world in over 18,000 franchised and leased hotels and over 515,000 rooms, adding over 64,000 rooms every month, globally.

We started our journey in the Middle East with the launch in Dubai and have swiftly expanded our footprint to five emirates, including Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al-Khaimah, Fujairah and Ajman. We have recently announced our foray into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where we are present across 7+cities,  with over 3,000 rooms & over 50 signed buildings. 

We will employ over 300 local citizens it calls ‘OYOpreneurs’ by the end of 2019 and generate employment for over 5,000 Saudi citizens by 2020. We will also setup 2 training institutes one in Riyadh and Jeddah to train Saudi graduates in Hotel Management. We are using technology extensively to sustain and increase the quality of operations while reducing the cost. At present, we offer multiple app-based solutions to ensure hassle-free operations at our hotels while delivering quality-assured experience to our guests.

  • OYO OS: The next gen of hotel management system. Every hotel which is a part of OYO’s chain works on the OYO operating system giving them a cutting-edge advantage with sophisticated features, including express check-in, check-out. It further allows online procurement and inventory management. The OS further offers apps for housekeeping and audits while introducing solutions for multiple hotel management aspects like expense management, staff training and engagement along with performance reviews and incentives for the hotel staff. All these facets come together to deliver technology-driven efficiency for our hotels while improving serviceability.
  • The Property Manager app acts as an end to end one-stop solution tablet-based app for managing all daily functions of the building – visibility bookings, sales channels, customer requests, housekeeping, finances
  • Co-OYO (Owner’s App) – A simple and handy app for continuous engagement and complete visibility of cash flows, business performance, pricing, customer reviews and recommendations. There has been a 60% reduction in the number of owner-related queries since the introduction of the Owner App, and concurrent savings in manpower and resources to service these concerns.
  • Krypton App – A mobile audit app enabling OYO Captains to audit buildings and assure an excellent guest experience. The updated Krypton app called Krypton V2 is built to function on smart phones that cost less than $100, supports Android versions released as far back as 2014 and works in areas with low network connectivity. Aside from this feat of engineering, Krypton v2 is built using two core principles of design thinking and data orientation.
  • Orbis App – A mobile-franchising app enabling OYO’s Business Development managers to onboard new buildings in record time
  • OYO Rocket (MM App for the demand manager)– Using the Rocket App, the demand managers can make the bookings for guests, identify the right set of hotels, they also have more capabilities to carry out rate negotiations for corporate and other specific contracts
  • OYO Optimus, the dedicated transformation app, helps OYO teams understand the transformation requirements of a building while giving cost estimates, budget in addition to assigning tasks and tracking the pace at which the process is taking place. It also enables overall visibility on the process to all the respective stakeholders including the hotel owner and the OYO teams
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YouTube Announces New Ways for Creators to Make Money

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YouTube has introduced the next chapter in rewarding creativity on the platform. At its inaugural Made on YouTube event, YouTube shared that it’s expanding the platform’s monetization system, the YouTube Partner Program (YPP), to allow more creators to join the program, introducing new ways for creators to earn revenue through Shorts, and re-imagining the music industry and creator dynamic by opening up ads monetization for those who feature music in their videos.

Today’s announcement reflects the diversity of the platform’s growing creator community and allows its over 2M monetizing creators to make money on YouTube across any creative format. Today’s key announcement includes:

Expanding access to YPP: Starting in early 2023, Shorts-focused creators can apply to YPP by meeting a threshold of 1K subscribers and 10M Shorts views over 90 days. These new partners will enjoy all the benefits YPP offers, including ads monetization across Shorts and long-form YouTube videos. This is another option to the existing criteria where long-form creators can still apply to YPP when they reach 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours. Creators can choose the one option that best fits their channel while YouTube maintains the same level of brand safety for advertisers. To support creators who are early in their YouTube journey, YouTube will also introduce a new level of YPP with lower requirements that will offer earlier access to Fan Funding features like Super Thanks, Super Chat, Super Stickers, and Channel Memberships.

Introducing a first-of-its-kind revenue sharing model for Shorts: With 30B+ daily views and 1.5B+ monthly logged-in users, Shorts are exploding around the world. To reward this new creative class, beginning in early 2023, we’ll be moving away from a fixed fund and doubling down on a unique revenue-sharing model for Shorts for both current and future YPP creators. Because ads run between videos in the Shorts Feed, every month, revenue from these ads will be added together and used to reward Shorts creators and help cover costs of music licensing. From the overall amount allocated to creators, they will keep 45% of the revenue, distributed based on their share of total Shorts views. The revenue share remains the same, no matter if they use music or not.

Launching Creator Music: The complexities of music licensing has meant that most long-form videos that feature music don’t result in creators being paid. To build a bridge between the music industry and creators, YouTube is introducing Creator Music, a new destination that gives creators easy access to an ever-growing catalog of music for use in their videos, while providing artists and music rights holders with a new revenue stream for their music on YouTube. Creators can now buy affordable, high-quality music licenses that offer them full monetizing potential—they will keep the same revenue share they’d usually make on videos without any music. And for creators who don’t want to buy a license up front, they’ll be able to use songs and share revenue with the track’s artist and associated rights holders. Creator Music is currently in beta in the U.S. will expand to more countries in 2023.

Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, said, “The YouTube Partner Program was revolutionary when we launched it back in 2007, and it’s still revolutionary today. Over the last three years, YouTube has paid creators, artists, and media companies more than $50 billion dollars. That $50 billion dollars has changed the lives of creators around the world and enabled new voices and stories to be told. But we’re not done yet. When we introduced the YouTube Partner Program, we made a big bet: we succeed only when our creators succeed. And today, we’re doubling down. We’re introducing the next chapter in how we reward creativity on our platform by expanding access to our YouTube Partner program.”

Neal Mohan, YouTube’s Chief Product Officer, said, “YouTube’s first-of-its-kind, industry-leading Partner Program changed the game for long-form video. And now we’re changing the game again, this time by opening it up to Short-form creators and introducing revenue sharing to Shorts. This is the first time revenue sharing is being offered for short-form video on any platform at scale, adding to the 10 ways creators can already earn revenue on YouTube. It’ll be available to all of those in YPP — including the new, mobile-first creators, who will be joining the program for the first time.”

Pedro Pina, YouTube’s VP of Europe, Middle East & Africa, said, “This is a pivotal moment for both YouTube & the creative ecosystem. In times of uncertainty, we’re bringing even more revenue opportunities to more creators and artists across more formats than ever – all of this is helping turbocharge an already healthy video ecosystem in MENA.”

Lyor Cohen, YouTube’s Global Head of Music, said, “Creator Music is the future. We’re building the bridge between artists and creators on YouTube to elevate the soundtrack of the creator economy; it’s a win-win-win for artists, songwriters, creators and fans. With Creator Music, artists have a new way to get their music out into the world; fans can now discover music they love on their favorite creator’s channels, and both creators and artists will have new revenue opportunities.”

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Snap Unveils New Dual Camera Feature

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Snap Inc. has announced the availability of its newest and highly-anticipated feature – Dual Camera on the Snapchat platform. Starting today, the new Dual Camera mode will enable Snapchatters to create content using their front and back-facing cameras simultaneously. To be made available globally on iOS and later on Android, Dual Camera will expand the choices Snapchatters have to express themselves.

Dual Camera was announced earlier this year as a part of Director Mode, Snapchat’s new creator camera. To bring even more visibility and spontaneity to the tool, Dual Camera features prominently on Snapchat, with a new icon to activate the feature in the camera toolbar when users open the app. With one simple tap, Snapchatters can start creating Snaps and Stories, or more polished Spotlight videos, with double the perspective. Dual Camera will still be available in Director Mode alongside Green Screen, Camera Speed, and Jump Cut, slated to launch in the coming months.

Whether it is capturing exciting moments like rocking out at a music festival, everyday moments like real-time reactions to your favorite reality TV show with your best friends or trying your partner’s latest attempt at cooking, Dual Camera is a tool for everyone. It will have four layouts: vertical, horizontal, picture in picture, and cutout. Snapchatters will also be able to add their favorite Snapchat creative tools, including music, stickers and lenses. At launch, Dual Camera will support Lenses in post-capture, with capture mode capabilities to follow in the coming months.

Snapchat was founded on the idea that the camera supports real friendship through visual communication, self-expression and storytelling. Today, its camera is one of the most used cameras in the world. To support its community, Snap has a reward program for Spotlight creators in which it makes available millions of dollars to eligible Snapchatters who create the top Spotlight Snaps.

Here’s how you can use the Dual Camera feature:

·         Step 1: Open Snapchat

·         Step 2: Locate a new icon in the camera toolbar

·         Step 3: Tap on it to activate the feature and start creating Snaps and Stories.

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Huawei Encourages Developers to Build Socially Impactful Applications

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Blind Assistant, a mobile app developed by a team of Tunisian engineers, help the visually impaired and blind community to recognise objects, texts, and colours around them using the integrated voice-over features in the app. The tech giant introduced a ‘Best Social Impact’ category as part of the Huawei Global App Innovation Contest (Apps UP), in order to facilitate the development of experiences such as Blind Assistant that positively impact communities.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 2.2 billion people worldwide have near or far vision impairment. The differently-abled can have lower rates of workforce participation and productivity. The app’s goal is to make visually impaired individuals more independent by assisting them in identifying objects, faces, colours, and texts with the tap of a button. A visually impaired person can use Blind Assistant to easily orient themselves, eliminating the need for a visual embossed print.

“We were inspired to work on the ‘Blind Assistant’ project once we learned about Apps UP in 2021. We worked on integrating with the HMS Ecosystem and were able to launch the app on time for the competition,” said the developers of Blind Assistant Kassis Bassem and Wajih Sakka. “Since its inception, Blind Assistant played an important role in assisting the visually impaired community by enhancing their communication abilities daily.”

“Technology can play a significant role in positively influencing the community, and we are thrilled to see how mobile apps are benefiting consumers. Huawei’s Apps UP competition acts as a catalyst for the development of creative mobile apps, and Blind Assistant – the winner of the Best Social Impact App in 2021, is a testament to that fact. The app effectively demonstrates how mobile apps can promote inclusivity in the community and serve the underserved”, said, Lu Geng, Vice President of the Middle East and Africa, Huawei Global Partnerships & Eco-Development, Huawei Consumer Business Group.

Blind Assistant, is available to download via AppGallery, the default application marketplace for Huawei smart devices. Apps UP 2022 has a cash prize pool of $230,000 for Middle Eastern and African developers, with individual prize amounts ranging from $5,000 to $15,000. Categories include the best HMS Innovation Award, Best App, Best Game, Best Social Impact App, All-Scenario Coverage Award, Tech Women’s Award, Student Innovation Award, and the newly introduced Best Arabic App. The Tech Women’s Award is open to teams with at least one female developer who is a pivotal team member or leader.

Developers can enter multiple categories and submit more than one app to boost their winning chances. To register and learn more about the Huawei Global App Innovation Contest (Apps UP), please email appsup.mea@huawei.com or visit the official Apps UP 2022 MEA page.

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