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Juyo CEO on the secret for hoteliers who want a career in tech

by
Hotel Tech Report

For some hoteliers working on property is their dream job.  Working at a hotel combines fast paced analytical challenges with meaningful interpersonal relationships.  While many hoteliers aspire to stay on property for the duration of their successful careers - others dream about ways to leverage their hospitality experience to launch a successful career in high growth fields like technology.  A career in hotel technology can provide immense financial gains and create new professional opportunities while enabling hoteliers to stay connected with the industry that they love. Here at Hotel Tech Report we’ve interviewed dozens of former hoteliers that have leveraged hospitality experience into executive roles at top technology firms such as Del Ross (CRO, Hotel Effectiveness), Alexandra Zubko (CCO, Triptease) and Matthijs Welle (CEO, Mews Systems).  Each of these leaders has shared unique advice guiding hoteliers who want to pursue a career in technology and if you’re interested in making the move you should soak up all of their wisdom.   Hotel tech companies love hiring forward thinking hoteliers because they have deep industry knowledge and relationships.  Most of these hires don’t start with formal job applications but arise out of a tech company working with a hotelier as a client and seeing their work ethic and potential first hand.    Related content: 10 Best Places to Work in Hotel Tech 2019   If you are one of the many hoteliers interested in pursuing a hotel tech career, our interview today will be your bible and guiding light.  Vassilis Syropoulos is the CEO of Juyo Analytics, a Brussels based commercial analytics platform for hotels.  During his long and successful career as a hotelier he noticed that departments were siloed and rarely communicated with each other.  In fact, these disparate teams weren’t even looking at the same datasets so they were comparing apples to oranges in quarterly business meetings.   Syropoulos was VP of Demand Management for Pandox AB (a large European hotel ownership and management company) and was feeling first hand the immense cost of this problem when he decided to build the analytics platform that is now an independent company - Juyo Analytics. Pandox was such a big believer in Syropoulos and his idea that they even became his first customer. Vassilis spent years in hotels learning from technology companies, trying products and being a true technology maven before diving into the space himself.  His story is an inspiration for hoteliers looking to start a career in technology or even start a business of their own in the space. “Since the beginning I was very curious. Every time a vendor called me I saw it as an opportunity to learn something new, to build my network, understand the market from a different perspective and potentially find something that would make more money for the company I was working for. I was thirsty to learn and then it became a habit.” ~Vassilis Syropoulos Syropoulos previously worked with independent properties and major brands having spent time at senior positions within IHG and Starwood properties all the while trying new technologies, learning from his vendors and keeping his eye on the long term opportunity to become a technology leader himself.  Today he’s also an investor in event intelligence firm Get Into More and has a busy schedule to say the least - so we were lucky to catch him in between running two high growth technology businesses.   Tell us about your background in hotels. I was born and raised in Greece, My parents owned a beautiful café at the seaside so I was in hospitality since I was 10 years old. Travelling and Hotels is what I really wanted to do. I studied in Switzerland and then started at the Front Desk during night and day and then moved to Revenue Management. That was with IHG and their very beginnings of Revenue Management in Europe. I had no clue what the job would be but it sounded sexy so I almost begged the GM to put me in that position. I thought it was the future and I was right. The first few months I didn't know what I was doing. The first week I started at the new job, my hotel was audited and the score was worst in class in EMEA. I was even publicly shamed at the annual conference by the VP at that time. That first week made me want to be the best so I worked hard, read books, went to conferences, and learned myself pretty much everything there is to learn. I ended up being sponsored by IHG to go to Cornell and finally made it on the top 10 list of top revenue talent within the global organization. Hard work pays off. 15 years ago there was not much I actually loved when working on property. I felt that chains were standardizing everything with standard operating procedures and rigid hierarchies. Also when I started in Revenue Management I was disappointed to see the “real work” involved. We’re talking 15 years ago now. I was picturing myself as revenue manager like some sort of rocket scientist but instead I was copying pasting stuff in Excel. Systems did not talk to each other, everything was manual. For the geeks out there I had a master Excel file whereby I was translating hurdle rates in minimum length of stay restrictions that I had to manually put one by one into the CRS. Wholesalers and static rates were all over the place and reservation input in the PMS was often late as teams were trying to catch up. No real time stuff… I really don’t get sometimes what everyone is complaining about today. The world is such a better place. I did not know what the optimal way should be but for sure as hell I knew it was not what I was doing at the time. On the other hand, I did love the contact with the guest. At least when I was on the front line. That was something I was very good at as I was working since being 10 years old. And no there is no such thing as child labor in Greece! You just put your stone on the family business. I loved it and so much money from tips I could use partly to pay my school. My parents paid most of it but they could barely afford such an expensive school. All this helps keeping your head screwed on when running a business and watching your cash flow. I learned so much from such a young age and I am deeply grateful for those learnings. It helps develop emotional intelligence - something I could use later when needing to pull teams together towards a common Revenue Strategy.   When did you first become interested in leveraging technology to become a better hotelier? From day one in my job. But 15 years ago there was really not much by way of technology so a lot has changed in that time. I was a total Excel junkie as I mentioned. You know it’s an amazing tool. You can do everything. It just does not scale and is not made for complex data sets. But at that time it was brilliant. And there was nothing else so Excel it was.   As a hotelier what was your biggest frustration with technology vendors? I cannot recall being frustrated with tech vendors, you see I had a different approach. Since the beginning I was very curious. Every time a vendor called me I saw it as an opportunity to learn something new, to build my network, understand the market from a different perspective and potentially find something that would make more money for the company I was working for. I was thirsty to learn and then it became a habit. I kept inviting vendors and getting the teams to assess, learn and perhaps implement something. My hotels where I was working were always the first ones to adopt a piece of tech. I was on all the pilots. One of the companies I signed up had not even Incorporated yet. I said I love your product; incorporate your company and we will sign up with you straight away. We are still friends today with that vendor. It’s like its not us and them or us vs them. Were all in this together with aligned interests.   What is the most widely held misconception that hoteliers have about technology?   There are many misconceptions still out there despite all the progress and things are constantly changing but the one misconception that I consistently see in the market is the idea that it’s a massive project to install something (hotel software). Today it’s pretty easy, takes minimum effort and the ROI can be great. It’s sort of getting to a place where hoteliers can JUST DO IT.   Tell us about your journey from hotelier into technologist? There was a point in my career where many things came together in the world and my environment. First of all there as much more data than before for Revenue Managers to use, Secondly the lines between revenue management, distribution, marketing were blurring with the digital landscape. Thirdly cloud technology although existing since a long time it was more and more present in Hotels and access to tech development was easier and easier. And last I was involved with Pandox which is one of the leading Hotel ownership groups in Europe. Value creation is the main driver for such a sophisticated owner. How do you drive value? More profit obviously. All this together I felt we needed a new sort of Analytics for Hotels. I looked at the market to find a vendor or piece of tech that I could plug in but could not find anything suitable. So I said to myself (probably the most naïve thing) “This should not be hard, write few interfaces, connect some data points and let the magic happen. Obviously, I realized quickly I was wrong.   What was the most challenging part of moving from hotels into technology? So, I don’t even know where to start. First of all I knew my job but knew nothing about technology. Knowing all the features on your iPhone does not make you proficient in tech. Once more in my career I had to learn everything again. There’s a great quote from Richard Branson that says: “If someone gives you an opportunity and you don’t know how to do it say ‘yes’ and learn how to do it after” - that has always resonated with me. I had a customer, there was a need but I had no clue so I needed to learn. I went to conferences, read blogs, books, trained myself, spoke with people in tech, you name it. I was fortunate enough to find a great tech partner and that has been critical. The truth is that even with all the reading at the beginning when you actually have to do it you really have no clue. I made mistakes every day, small, big you name it. Woke up in the morning solving only issues and doing the same all over again every day. But the people around me like partners, developers, team​ believed in it and we persevered. We bootstrapped the Juyo Analytics business - so I couldn’t afford to make existential mistakes. I would wake up and go to sleep with cashflow excels. I still do today. It makes you quite pragmatic in your decisions and damn focused. We have been approached by VC’s but we don’t think it’s the right fit for us. I feel it will distract us. It’s like I need to spend 9 months hunting VC’s, I prefer to hunt customers. I am a simple person it’s not necessarily a world I understand or want to be part of. It will take longer but we are making something great.   Give us the elevator pitch for Juyo. Organizational silos are breaking down across hotel organizations: from revenue to distribution, marketing, sales, digital acquisition, and finance.  Juyo is a Hotel Commercial Analytics Platform that helps hotels connect the dots across these disciplines and empower managers to make better decisions. We turn data into profit.  Digitalization brings more opportunities to improve business performance; however, as datasets become more complex - managers are increasingly being forced to connect the dots across many disciplines and systems.   The Juyo platform enables hotels to easily customize dashboards combining all of their data sources   Imagine that you're going to open the hotel of your dreams tomorrow.  What kind of hotel would it be? I think it would be something that would be at the Intersection of Hotel and alternative accommodation. Probably upscale not luxury. Uncomplicated, Unpretentious, certainly independent, I would attach great importance on the customer journey. The right mix of digital and hospitality. A digital customer journey should 1) remove friction and 2) empower people to get back to the essence of hospitality. Back to hospitality, in Greek it’s called Filoxenia.   What technology would you leverage at your hotel? A robust PMS with an open marketplace whereby I can connect different apps and tools. I like what Richard and Matthijs are doing with Mews Systems. I would spend time to design the customer journey customer made for our needs through a mix of in house development and partners with open API’s. I would have difficulty selecting a revenue management system. It would need to take personalization and attribute selling into account. Not many do that today. It's the start but the right way to go. I would attach great importance on the pre check-in and check-in process. Digital no keycards, no apps, seamless. Disconnect the transaction from the experience. But overall keep it simple and fully automated.   What's one piece of advice you have for hoteliers who have dreams of working in technology one day? It’s not a dream just go for it.  Make sure you learn a lot about entrepreneurship because it’s a very different field than hospitality.  Read The Lean Startup by Eric Ries and listen to podcasts like How I Built This with Guy Raz. It’s not 100% focused on tech but it gives deep insights into the life of startups. I love it.   What is your favorite hotel in the world? I don’t think I have anyone in particular. Depends on the mood and time of year. I love The One in Miami Beach, I love what One Hotels stands for in regard to sustainability, I love the interior design and wish my house looked like the interior. I love how they communicate. For the winter my all time favorite is Cervo Zermatt. They really get it and have brought something new to Swiss hospitality by getting rid of the stuffy part while delivering true luxury. For business I love the Nobis in Stockholm (one of our customers). They have managed to make a true difference hospitality wise. The Hotel Brussels, (also one of our customers which I personally did the rebranding from Hilton to Independent - Top Project and Hotel).  But being in this business there are so many hotels that I love - too many to name. Some recommendations: Worthwhile to check Chromata in Santorini, Sophia’s Suites in Santorini, Boheme Mykonos, Habitas Tulum, Hideout Bali, Hotel des Grand Boulevards in Paris, The Curtain in London, 25 Hours Bikini in Berlin, Relais Sant Elena in Tuscany and La Bandita in Tuscany. I’d love to stay at The View Lugano but haven’t stayed yet. Pictured: Habitas Tulum   What is the most exciting technology you've seen in the hotel market lately? I love what Lennart de Haan is doing with 4Suites. 4suites wants to be the leader in digital access. The piece of tech is very clever and elegant. Basically, when you want to enable door locks to open with your phone you need to install an app. What they do is different they install a chip in the hotel lock and an “Antenna” gateway that is connected to the Internet. Now when the customer receives the link to open the door on his or her phone (by email or SMS) and clicks on it. Their phone then communicates via the web to the gateway that sends a radio signal to the chip in the lock and opens the door. All that in few milliseconds. It’s brilliant. It’s completely seamless and a great way to support a digital customer journey. I wish them all the success.

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How is The Guestbook different from programs like iPrefer and Stash?

by
Hotel Tech Report

Before signing up with an independent loyalty program it’s important for hotels to reflect on why branded loyalty programs like Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton HHonors add value.  These types of loyalty programs incentivize guests to book with a brand by offering experiential and monetary incentives. Experiential incentives include things like room upgrades, WiFi and late checkout which sway frequent travelers into booking via a loyalty program because they actually get better treatment than the average guest. Monetary incentives enable loyalty program members to experience higher property tiers which also can drive loyalty.  For example, a frequent Marriott Courtyard business traveller can build up points and use them towards a stay at W Hotels where they ordinarily wouldn’t have stayed. By staying at a higher tier property within the network that guest now has a haloed perception of the Marriott brand as a whole. Circa 2010, independent hotels took note of the massive growth in branded loyalty programs and banded together via programs like iPrefer (by Preferred Hotels & Resorts) and Stash Hotel Rewards. An April 2018 study by Oracle Hospitality (study here) highlights the dynamic that helped such programs grow.  Namely, there is a discrepancy between hotel perceptions of loyalty programs and the reality of such programs.  According to the study, hotel managers believe that 61% of guests sign-up for loyalty programs while in reality only 24% actually do.  Similarly, hotels perceive that 54% of guests will find offers relevant while in reality only 22% of guests believe that offers made by loyalty programs are relevant.   Revinate summarizes data from Oracle's loyalty study   Just because hotels overestimate the value of loyalty programs doesn’t mean that they don’t add value. Ultimately even small volumes of incremental bookings can still deliver a high ROI so independent hotels should still consider joining an independent loyalty program but should do so with realistic expectations. Independent loyalty programs that try to mimic branded programs rarely work.  Smart hoteliers know that points are mostly irrelevant when it comes to the world of independents since booking with another property in the network has no impact on loyalty for your own property.  The landing page for Destination Hotels & Resorts’ Destination Delivers program is a testament to the death of points for independent hotels: "This unique loyalty club is filled with perks. Not points." ~ Destination Hotels & Resorts A 2019 Revinate study shows that groups with more than 50 hotels can sometimes benefit from pursuing points based programs while smaller groups (under 50 properties) rarely benefit from such programs. When loyalty members receive points towards a program like Marriott Bonvoy their loyalty is building towards Marriott corporate rather than towards an individual property or sub-brand.  The problem with what we call ‘independent loyalty 1.0’ (e.g. iPrefer and Stash Rewards) is the misconception that loyalty is actually being built towards a specific property. Where programs such as iPrefer and Stash Rewards are still operating dated points based system models, Guestbook Rewards is a new kind of loyalty program that is more in touch with how today’s traveller behaves and books.  It's worth noting that Preferred Hotels & Resorts has sales infrastructure and relationships with travel advisors that bring material business for it's portfolio.  The firm also provides cost purchasing benefits so while the iPrefer value prop is in our opinion relatively weak there are other facets of the program which are definitely attractive for independent hotels. Guestbook Rewards understands that driving true guest loyalty to independent properties by giving points to spend at other properties is a near impossible feat. As a result, the Company has positioned itself as a way to increase conversion on hotel websites via offers and cashback.   Guests choose between three options: 5% cash back, a 5% charitable donation or 15% trip cash that can be used within The Guestbook’s network of ~700 hotels.  By offering cashback through a 3rd party, hotel clients are able to circumvent rate parity clauses with OTAs and create their own version of a private offer program like many of the brands have today and leverage exclusive loyalty network pricing to bring in more direct bookings. Independent hotels should explore the Guestbook because they want to incentivize direct bookings without breaking parity, not because they expect material bookings from The Guestbook’s loyalty program member base.  While expectations should be modest the Company now offers a "Guestbook Guarantee” of fully offsetting its fees with new inbound business.  To their credit, The Guestbook recognized this and developed a Chrome Plugin called Gopher which helps internet browsers find the best hotel deals by scanning hotel websites in real time. According to the Google Chrome store, the Gopher plugin has ~3,600 users so it’s unlikely to drive material volume for clients today but has the potential to solve the problem and is a clear demonstration that The Guestbook has a better pulse on technology and internet behavior trends than most of its competitors.  The Guestbook claims that it also has a similar number of users in the Safari App store but Apple doesn't publicize figures. Gopher has taken queue from a company called Honey which allows shoppers to check prices while shopping ecommerce websites. While the Gopher strategy doesn’t seem to have paid off yet for The Guestbook, the Honey plugin has grown to 10M+ users which is a testament to the larger opportunity around online shopper price checking if the team can figure out the right growth strategy over the medium to long term. Independent hotels that are looking to increase direct bookings can benefit from joining a program like The Guestbook but benefits can vary property by property so it’s important for hoteliers to read authentic peer reviews and request unmoderated referrals to properly evaluate the program. Read Guestbook reviews Request Guestbook references Independent hotels should think of The Guestbook’s program as a substitute to a direct booking platform like Stay Wanderful which also offer rewards for booking direct but can be used in tandem with platforms like Triptease. Where The Guestbook has a narrow focus on facilitating offers, platforms like Triptease have a more comprehensive and data driven website conversion optimization approach.  Stay Wanderful sits somewhere in the middle. We sat down with The Guestbook’s Dev Dugal to get his take on where independent loyalty has been and where it’s going.   Dev brings an interesting perspective to the discussion having previously owned his own hospitality business and also having worked in several mid sized hotel organizations before making the leap into hotel software and technology.  Dev advanced quickly in his career by leveraging a unique combination of interpersonal skills and technical adaptability. As a hotelier, Dev was always a technology maven who constantly sought to implement new technologies and marketing strategies for his hotels.  His story provides a roadmap for competitive hotel marketers seeking to beat out the compset and also for hoteliers with aspirations to leverage their hospitality skills to build a successful career in technology. Dev is widely regarded in the hotel community as a networking guru and marketing expert so we were lucky to catch up with him in between his jet setting.   The Guestbook's Dev Dugal Tell us about your career in hotels. I started my career in hospitality as a barback in some of the busiest bars in LA. Eventually working my way to bartender, manager and eventually opening up my own bar in DTLA in 2006 called The Redwood. The bar business was very exciting but once my wife and I started a family, I sought a different pace of life and not the 3am late nights. So I transitioned to the hotel space in 2008 joining a family owned Hospitality company called Globiwest Hospitality as their VP of Marketing & IT. I was immediately tasked with helping to launch the first independent boutique hotel in Brooklyn called Hotel Le Bleu. Next, joining broughtonHOTELS as VP of Sales & Marketing, I led the marketing vision for 16 hotels on the California coast and Chicago. During both roles, I challenged myself to cross train in Revenue Management, Operations and Finance. More importantly I enjoyed working the Front Desk and Housekeeping to stay grounded to the heart of the hotel. I took a hiatus in 2014 for a few years to start a non-profit focused on building schools in the slums of India and re-entered by joining an amazing team at The Guestbook in 2017. I consider myself a connector of ideas and people. Hospitality gives me that platform to shine, travel the world and impact businesses. I also gravitate to boutique hotels rather than brands as they allow for much more creativity with an elevated curated experience for the guest. Some of my most challenging times in hotels were working with Owners to clearly grasp digital marketing concepts. Similar to how people self prescribe diagnosis after reading WebMD, hotel owners often dictated marketing direction with buzzwords like PPC or SEO however, never fully understanding them. This was a consistent battle but I thrived in those challenges and breakthroughs, eventually letting the analytics speak for themselves. What was one technology that you couldn't live without in your former role in hospitality? Google Analytics has always been a solid tool to use as a source of analytics. It provides for so much data in one place to see real time the success of integrated strategies. One of the most important tools in the last few years was the CRM tool. It provided a landscape to work within the entire life cycle of the guest experience and the digital touch points were a vital part to success. When did you first become interested in leveraging technology to become a better hotelier? I think it started when I had an early stint in Real Estate as an agent. In the early 2000's I saw veteran agents knocking on doors and buying ads in newspapers. I realized leveraging technology was the more efficient way than knocking on doors. So I slowly built up a database of emails to over 15k and sent out a monthly newsletter for lead generation. With that same logic I noticed that trend in the hotel space in 2008. After the financial crisis, hotels were scrambling for business and heavily relying on the OTAs. With the help of eCommerce and integrated solutions, I knew this was the future for hotels too. I became an avid reader of industry leaders and leveraged the best of breed in marketing practices shortly after. As a hotelier what was your biggest frustration with technology vendors? One of my biggest frustrations with technology vendors is the sneaky "Auto Renewal". I got burned by a vendor early in my hotel career and they wouldn't let me out of the contract. Talking to friends in the business I discovered this was a shared pain point.  After that first incident, I made a decision to never let it happen again and continue to share my technique with hoteliers today. Right after executing an Agreement with any vendor, I immediately send them an email stating my notice to not renew. Literally the day after the ink is dry. The notice indicates that we do not intend to renew and will discuss the option as the renewal period closes in. Most importantly, I have them confirm it in writing over email. This leaves a nice audit trail for anyone on my team and with the vendor should there be a change in management. What is the biggest misconception that hoteliers have about technology? Some folks tend to overanalyze technology. I love that we have the ability to A/B test products and solutions. However, some hoteliers never get out of the starting gate. One of my mentors really honed in and taught me about the age-old saying, "Perfection is the enemy of good." He was the first leader that forced me to break previous habits of "getting it right" and simply start. He said to get it "good" and clean up the mess along the way. With this in hand, we were able to test out many new technologies and marketing strategies. Tell us about your journey from hotelier into technologist? Funny thing is that I started my career as a computer nerd. I graduated with a Computer Information Systems major in college and spent my early career coding in a cubicle with .NET development and SQL. I started bartending at night to have a break from the tech world. So in a way, technology has always been a part of me before becoming a hotelier. Now I'm able to leverage and have a real passion for connecting those dots to business strategy. What was the most challenging part of moving from hotels into technology? For me personally, losing a little of the human touch and pulse of the hotel. With the technology, it's very easy to only have digital relationships. Being a hotelier provided opportunity to be at the Front Desk, walk the property and connect with guests from all around the globe. I miss those elements. The Guestbook has become the clear independent loyalty leader and disrupted incumbents in a very short period of time - what’s driving that growth? The Guestbook is the first and only Cash Back Loyalty platform for independent and boutique hotels. We work with over 700+ hotels in 65+ countries to increase direct booking conversion on a hotel's website by 20%+. Guests have the availability to earn and redeem either of 3 options; 5% cash back on their stay, donate that 5% to any charity of their choice, or 15% Trip Cash towards a future Guestbook stay at any of our properties around the world. No set-up fee. No commitment. Cancel anytime.   Imagine that you're going to open the hotel of your dreams tomorrow.  What kind of hotel would it be? Independent boutique, Select-Serve maybe with a lobby bar. I'm a big proponent for Downtown LA and feel there is also opportunity in markets like Oakland. 75-100 rooms paying homage to local street artists. I'm also a big fan of the bed+beverage concept. Bar on the ground floor and maybe 40 keys above into an integrated space. Can't reveal any names just yet as I already have some domains secured. ;-) What technology would you leverage at your hotel? Cloud based PMS, robust CRS with significant channel management integration, backed by an easy to use CRM. An AI smart concierge, eventually reducing the dependency on the front desk and of course a rewards platform, The Guestbook! What's one piece of advice you have for hoteliers who have dreams of working in technology one day? Read (books, not social media) + source mentors. Mentors have been integral to the trajectory of my career. Balanced with what you learn from books with the real life experience of mentors. Book knowledge + street knowledge. What's one podcast, newsletter or book that you recommend hoteliers read if they'd like to eventually move into tech? Glenn Haussman has a series of great podcasts (No Vacancy).  I love reading about direct booking strategies so Triptease blog, OTA Insight newsletters and webinars are underrated. A free interactive webinar with live Q&A is one of my favorite places to learn. What is your favorite hotel in the world and why? Currently, I'm digging the CitizenM brand. The simply went against the grain and put the guest experience first. For example, they went with King sized beds when everyone stuck with Queens. Their founder said something to the likes of, "If a car is Tesla, then a hotel is CitizenM". I dig that and their hotels are awesome. What is the most exciting technology you've seen in the hotel tech space lately? The team at Go Moment have been working on some neat AI tech with their smart concierge. The tech gets smarter and smarter with more data points and interaction from a guest perspective is seamless. What is one thing that most people don't know about you? Recently, I moved our family of four from the comforts of Los Angeles to Spain! We are giving our children an opportunity to be global citizens and honing my skills in being a true digital nomad.  Experiences over things.

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Here's how to boost NOI: A review of the Hotel Effectiveness Labor Management System

by
Hotel Tech Report

Labor Management Systems provide tools to reduce labor costs by more effectively allocating resources and scheduling shifts.  Labor is the largest expense on any hotel P&L (~44.2% of all costs) so managing how that labor is deployed is critical to operational efficiency.  Managers use the software to get a high level view into optimization of employee shifts, to minimize overtime risk and more. Workers use the software to request time off, schedule shifts and view their schedules in real time. Hotel Effectiveness offers a solution to rising labor costs in the hotel industry. The product is an intelligent, easy to use labor management system that has proven to reduce total labor costs by 5% or more. The system utilizes staffing rules developed for each hotel combined with key operating drivers to produce dynamic work schedules for each manager. Full visibility into forecasted staffing needs, active trends, and individual employee productivity and hours enable real-time decision making to achieve 100% perfect labor costs.  The firm touts major clients such as Heritage Hotels & Resorts, Interstate Hotels & Resorts, Pacific Host Hotels, Chartwell Hospitality and Spire Hospitality   Decrease operating costs with Hotel Effectiveness Hotel Effectiveness claims to reduce total labor costs by 5% or more.  The primary way they deliver on this promise is by creating a set of rules for each hotel client and notifying managers when those rules are at risk of being breached.  For example, managers receive alerts when overtime risk is approached to avoid costly overtime and compliance violation penalties. Hotel Effectiveness conducted a case study with two select service hotels in the same suburban market.  In the test hotel, the team set different room cleaning metrics for MPR (minutes per cleaned room) for guests staying over and those checking out.  In the control hotel, they maintained a flat target. The test hotel achieved a 7.4% decrease in housekeeping costs based on Hotel Effectiveness’ recommendations with no change in brand quality scores. Hotel Effectiveness can decrease operating costs for clients by setting labor goals such as hours worked per employee and delivering real time insights to managers with recommendations of which staff to reduce hours with and which they should be ramping up to meet goals.  This avoids overtime and maintains compliance with local labor laws. Hotel Effectiveness also ran a case study for a portfolio of 20 small limited service hotels that implemented its labor management system.  In just 2-3 months after implementation of the software, the portfolio was able to eliminate 10,000 labor hours with cost savings in excess of $100,000.     In an increasingly squeezed labor market - clients seek optimization "We have been in the business for 25 years and know how to operate high performing hotels. Hotel Effectiveness has helped us to control our labor costs. They are hotel professionals who get the hotel business." ~Naren Shah COO, Imperial Investments Group, Inc. "Hotel Effectiveness has made a significant difference in our hotel’s ability to control labor, save money, and streamline work. We have never worked with a more accommodating and customer-oriented company. Our General Managers love the products and timely information." ~ Jim O’Brien Executive Vice President, Wilson Hotel Management, LLC   As with any product, there are weaknesses but Hotel Effectiveness is committed to improving them User interface for labor standards can use some modernization and updating for ease of use The learning curve requires training your entire team on the software which can make implementation challenging for disorganized properties or groups The data needs to be updated in real time with regard to labor rates We’d like to see an owner’s view The budgeter needs more data points to maximize benefits Benchmarking tool needs to be a bit more granular by enabling same brand comparisons The software needs budget comparisons in relation to the plan.  Integrating budget forecasts would be a huge upgrade to provide more context. We’ve heard some complaints around room cleaning data accuracy when not integrated (2-way) with property management systems   Key Features Labor standards: Cut your labor budget into precise and actionable labor standards that can be tracked against Dynamic scheduling: Develop a set of automated rules to adjust labor based on a combination forecasted occupancy and labor standards Automated labor monitoring: Get notifications for key risk areas such as employees ‘riding the clock’ and housekeeping productivity issues Corporate visibility: identify at risk or underperforming hotels in your portfolio by creating enforceable and trackable labor goals. Robust reporting: Real time insight into how your hotel is performing Benchmarking: compare your hotels against similar properties to see how you stack up and make necessary adjustments     Key Integrations Time & Attendance Systems: ADP, M3 RightTime, Attendance on Demand, Kronos, Netchex, Paycom, Swipeclock, Ultipro, Workday, WorkRecords Business Intelligence Software: ProfitSword, Broadvine, Aptech Property Management Systems: Oracle Micros, Hilton OnQ, Marriott Fosse Payroll Software: A1HR, Execupay, Paycom, ADP, Fortune Business Solutions, Paycor, APS Payroll, Heartland, Payentry, Asure Software, Insperity, Paylocity, Avintus, iSolved HCM (Infinisource), PayMaster, Certigy, Microsoft Dynamics GP, Payroll Rx, CYMA Payroll, MPAY, PrismHR, Engage PEO, Oasis, Progressive, Evolution Payroll Services, Oracle Peoplesoft, Sage 300, ExcelPay, Paycheck, Shaner Solutions, TriNet, Workday, Valiant   Hotel Effectiveness Pricing Pricing is based on number of employees and starts at $99/month for companies with fewer than 1-15 employees. Pricing is on a per month per employee basis 35+ employees: $4.90 100+ employees: $3.80 200+ employees: $2.70 301+ employees: $2.30 Additional cost associated with: Automated data integration Time & Attendance service Custom reporting & professional services   Conclusions Most hotels are coming off of pen and paper or excel when it comes to labor management protocol.  Hotel Effectiveness builds on Time & Attendance platforms such as Tsheets and ADP with tailored solutions to help hotels run their businesses more efficiently.  Our main complaint with Hotel Effectiveness is around its user interface that is a bit dated; however, they seem to be updating consistently making the software easier to use for clients.  When working with Hotel Effectiveness, realize that implementation does take work and focus - but once implemented the software will save more than the time you invested setting it up for your team. Hoteliers should strongly consider working with a specialized provider such as Hotel Effectiveness because combining PMS data with reporting solutions and time/attendance software allows hotels to unlock insights that can’t be acted upon in real time when any of those components are removed.  We are most encouraged about Hotel Effectiveness’ ability to help hoteliers create rigorous and trackable labor standards. While the software is valuable in itself, Hotel Effectiveness provides industry specific benchmarking solutions and contextual data that is critical for success in the hotel industry.  These insights can’t be gained through generalist providers or with Time & Attendance software alone. The platform is best suited for management companies looking to gain more visibility into their portfolio operations and is least likely to impact small hotels with minimal labor forces.

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An expert review: What you need to know about Sabre's SynXis CRS

by
Hotel Tech Report

Sabre Hospitality Solutions recently announced its completion of the Wyndham migration, closing out the years-long process after on-boarding La Quinta’s 900 properties. Wyndham’s 19 brands now operate with SynXis central reservations, joining the 40,000 properties across 160 countries that use the SynXis platform worldwide. So why choose SynXis for your central reservations solution? Let this Expert Review guide you as you evaluate Sabre’s SynXis CRS and how it aligns with your property’s objectives -- and how the central reservations piece fits into the rest of the SynXis Platform.   What SynXis CRS does: The platform proposition for direct bookings In today's hospitality technology marketplace, platforms are everywhere. Vendors want to be able to provide a comprehensive portfolio of complementary products that still leaves flexibility for a la carte usage. One of the main selling points of SynXis is that it can be molded to your property or brand’s needs, and can scale to accommodate emerging priorities. For example, you can start with one piece of the platform, such as central reservations, and then layer others over time. Or, you can drop the entire platform into your operations and transform your workflow. Sabre buckets its SynXis platform into four discrete objectives: driving direct bookings, optimizing distribution mix, managing the business, and increasing guest loyalty. This article focuses on the first part of this platform: driving direct bookings with SynXis CR central reservations and its associated Booking Engine, Digital Experience, and Voice Assistant. The central reservations tool manages reservations and rates; the booking engine drives direct bookings on desktop and mobile; the Digital Experience designs digital experiences for hotels; and Voice Assistant allows hotels to provide integrated voice support via Sabre call centers. SynXis Central Reservations (CR) is a rate, inventory, and reservations management solution that enables a finely-tuned distribution strategy individualized at the property level. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt to use a solution from a major player in the distribution space -- there’s a level of familiarity that hotels can expect from a solution provided by one of the major GDS. As laid out in the graphic below, the SynXis CR solution functions as the connectivity engine that powers a property’s revenue.     Who SynXis is for: The ideal customers and uses SynXis is built for scale. This structure means that the platform is best suited for mid-to-large scale brands and properties with more complex operations. Smaller independents will be better served with cloud-based central reservation systems built (and priced) for their needs.   Since SynXis is available in 8 languages, another ideal customer and use case is for a brand with international properties. Sabre has regional HQs in Montevideo, London, and Singapore, as well as field offices in most major cities, which means that your hotel is likely to have at least a regional support team. That’s a helpful thing to know for properties that prefer a global support team to a smaller vendor footprint. Having said that, at the time of writing, Sabre’s customer support rating on Hotel Tech Report is 3.8 out of 5 which is lower than comparables such as TravelClick iHotelier CRS (4.3) and Travel Tripper Reztrip CRS (4.7). For Quality Reservations, a brand with 280 hotel properties, SynXis’ global scope was a key differentiator when evaluating technology partners, says Quality Reservations’ Managing Director Carolin Brauer: “We needed a strategic partner that had the ability and knowledge to leverage travelers’ shopping and booking preferences while offering greater international reach and found such a provider with Sabre Hospitality Solutions. All without losing the regional variations in customers’ preferences when maximizing online bookings for each of our hoteliers.” After deploying the SynXis central reservation system, as well as the booking engine, Quality Reservations saw 20% increases in bookings and room nights, and a 32% jump in revenue. For brands of a certain size, there’s clearly a benefit to SynXis global scope. Let’s look at some of the most essential features, followed by a candid look at SynXis’ online reviews.   Five essential Sabre SynXis features Integrated revenue management controls SynXis CRS has very rudimentary revenue management capabilities built in, so you don’t need another vendor to optimize rates but you are advised to use one as firms like IDeaS, Duetto and Atomize specialize in rate optimization and profit maximization. SynXis offers real–time rate and inventory information across all channels, from a single system of record that these distributes rates effortlessly across over 400 online channels through direct GDS/IDS/switch connectivity. Given the fast pace of online channels in international markets, these types of integrated rate controls help hoteliers be more responsive to changing market conditions -- without the latency of a third-party integration or manual processing. And, with advanced revenue management strategies, such as Length of Stay Pricing, Dynamic Packages, Loyalty Program, Seasons, and Predictive Inventory, you can take control of revenue right from the CRS.     Optimized for tablets Many hotels are doing away with complete desktop systems at the front desk, preferring the slimmer footprint of tablet computers. The SynXis CRS system is optimized for tablets, allowing all of the same functionality. The UX is equally functional, enabling staff to touch and tap through the system.   OTA channel activation wizard Managing OTA connectivity can be a hassle. Activating new channels can take weeks, and then there’s time to test the connection to be sure everything works as it should. SynXis offers an OTA channel activation and management wizard from within the CRS. While this feature requires a Channel Connect agreement with Sabre, it’s a handy addition to the CRS that greatly reduces time and pain associated with independently managing your distribution channels. Channels can be added, removed, and edited from a single screen, so you can individualize distribution with less stress and headache. The Channel Connect feature connects to nearly 600 OTA channels, allowing you to manage pricing at the channel level.     Refreshed design and updated UX Sabre has made great strides over the past couple of years on the UX front. The dated legacy design is nearly fully sunsetted in favor of a modern, card-based user interface that’s easy to navigate and much easier on the eyes. No longer does the software look like a nightmare from the days of 90s legacy software -- an important point for hotels looking to avoid alienating younger staff with outdated technology. Great design improves the staff experience, so staff can get the information they need and complete the tasks required to maintain a consistently great guest experience.  Despite these improvements, users on Hotel Tech Report rate Sabre Synxis CRS usability and design slightly lower than comparable products at 4.2 out of 5 versus a 4.3 for Travel Tripper Reztrip CRS and 4.6 rating for TravelClick iHotelier CRS (view side-by-side ratings comparison).   Dynamic packages Incremental revenues can be the silver bullet that helps you hit your revenue targets. The SynXis CRS has a simple setup for packages, which allows your team to build unique packages that can then be sold right in your website’s booking flow. Packages can be attached to a specific rate plan or room type so that you can build a menu of appealing add-ons for guests.   Once the packages are created and pushed live, guests will be offered new options as they check out. This is where the value of the platform comes into play -- you’ll need SynXis Booking Engine to fully take advantage of these dynamic reservation add-ons. You can see how that would look below. If you’d prefer not to have guests book these add-ons during check out, you’ll see additional options in the Booking Engine.       SynXis CRS pricing Like any platform, pricing depends on which solutions are used across how many properties. Here are a few key points on pricing when it comes to SynXis: Monthly subscription: You’ll pay a per-property monthly subscription fee based on your customized package. Depending on which integrations you have (such as a per property fee for 2-way PMS integration), and functionality (such as channel management, rate insights, etc), this pricing adds up. It’s one of the reasons why smaller hotels are better served by an “all-in-one” solution that meets their needs without increasing price. GDS fees: Of course, you’ll pay a fee to whichever GDS partner sources a booking. This won’t change as a Sabre customer; although larger properties and brands have much more leverage to negotiate an overall package that includes lower GDS commissions in return for using more of Sabre’s technology. Here’s a pricing example: If your average booking is 1.5 nights at $100 per, then your "direct commission" to Sabre is 5/150 or 3.3%. That’s just to facilitate your own bookings without including the subscription fee, PMS integration, etc. Now add the channel connect fee of $2.50/reservation and any OTA commissions and it is looking even more bleak. If you go with a provider, such as SiteMinder or Cloudbeds, you’ll pay a flat fee. SiteMinder is $75/month, meaning that you’re better off there if your hotel has more than 30 OTA bookings per month. IDS fee: There’s also a per reservation charge for connecting to the Internet Distribution Fee, which can range upwards of $9.25. And, for reservations that go through third-parties, there can be an associated Channel Connect fee as well. Booking engine: Not all providers charge a fee for bookings through a hotel’s direct channel. These per-reservation fees add up quickly: 250 keys at 85% occupancy and 1.5 length of stay, can cost $710 per month just to facilitate the direct channel! This doesn’t even include the subscription, cost to build and maintain your website or any paid advertising used to bring in that direct business. As you can see, pricing is a major impediment for hotels of a certain size. SynXis really thrives in larger environments where it can provide the cost savings and productivity boost that justify its higher cost.   Areas for improvement For quick reference, here are a few areas for improvement, as perceived by both our expert opinion and candid SynXis user reviews shared on Hotel Tech Report. There’s also some interesting nuggets unearthed from the always-rich TalesFromTheFrontDesk on Reddit. Manual involvement: For certain hotels that don’t have Channel Manager or that are using the standard SynXis CR without add-ons, there may be some overbooking issues related to channel management, per this review: “I guess our night guy didn't know to call SynXis and have them take us offline on the 3rd party websites, and it just kept piling up. He would cancel, the rooms would look open again, and it was a loop. From stories of guests so far this morning, he had a lobby full of disgruntled guests without a place to go all night.” Another HTR reviewer mentioned manual involvement when discussing adding new features: “[I’d like] access to more items to do on your own as opposed to waiting for customer service to do it for you.”   Reliability: Uptime and system availability are frequently reported issues. While anecdotal, the reports are worth mentioning. A Hotel Tech Report review from March 18, 2018, said that there are “lots of outages, delays and poor customer support. The system seems to be degrading instead of improving.” Security: Two years ago, Sabre did report a breach of its systems, telling Forbes that “less than 15 percent of the average daily bookings on the Sabre Hospitality Solutions reservation system [...] were viewed.” It appears that the issues have since been addressed, but we’d be remiss in not mentioning it. Be sure to grill you sales rep on security!   Conclusions: Should you consider SynXis? Overall, Sabre’s SynXis is a powerful platform with ambitions to stretch across departments. For larger properties, corporate hotels, and multi-brand groups, the scope and scale of this ambition aligns with their needs. Having said that, products such as Reztrip and iHotelier have gained a ton of ground on Sabre and are versatile alternatives for both small independents and large hotel groups alike.  There’s also an ongoing investment to improve Sabre Hospitality Solutions’ University training portal, which includes videos, progress trackers and printable guides for sharing tips with colleagues. These efforts will help reduce on-boarding time and keep everyone up-to-speed on the technology. For smaller and to some extent mid sized properties, proceed with caution and really push the sales team to put down in writing how they intend to value your business with customer support guarantees and trainings. You’ll be a small fish in a big pond, and that’s not always the best place to be with a mission-critical system like a CRS. All that being said, you absolutely must have a CRS! It’s an essential piece of managing a hospitality business in a digital world. So, for those who can afford it (and are able to navigate the corporate environment of a massive vendor), there’s a strong ROI proposition from Sabre. The cost isn’t cheap but if you have both the budget and the internal buy-in, then it’s worth it. Remember that the front desk can be a busy place -- there’s always another guest to serve, another issue to handle.  The key is to select software that staff want to use each day, that’s easy to use, easy to train on and has top notch customer support. The CRS should function without fail, effectively and accurately distributing inventory to the right channels at the right prices, and then slingshotting reservations into the PMS seamlessly. When staff spends hours each day staring at a screen, be sure that the tool removes barriers and eliminates frustrations -- and doesn’t become a source of frustration itself. The question that remains is how Sabre will help you effectively on-board the new solution, and keep your team engaged and willing to give it enough patience and attention. A successful rollout of any new tech requires a partnership between client and vendor -- so be sure that you’re confident in that partnership before signing that contract!

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9 CEO predictions about the future of the hotel business

by
Hotel Tech Report

IDeaS CEO Ravi Mehrotra: Revenue management will be the glue that connects siloed departments “I’m no Nostradamus, but there are quite a few areas ripe for disruption. In my opinion, there are two main areas we will see a major category shift in the next five years. First, I believe automation in day-to-day revenue management will become standard, resulting in a higher-order shift of the revenue manager and leaders’ roles. This is especially true when we deal with inevitable market upturns, and most importantly, downturns. The sheer number and complexity of the daily decisions a revenue leader must make will exceed their capacity, driving them to rely on intelligent automation to ensure they remain competitive in a fast-paced market. Second, revenue management concepts will continue to spread across more segments in the guest’s total trip compilation, from the time they start searching online to the time they are reflecting on their memories and preparing to plan the next trip. All of this layers together to show that revenue management will be a major hub, if not the major driver, between marketing, distribution and sales systems. I think we will see players in complementary areas start to link themselves together to drive a more direct connection to revenue, while delivering the right price to the right person at the right time.”   Cendyn CEO Charles Deyo: CRM will be seen as an operational tool and not just as a marketing platform. “We will see more intelligent use of data with AI and bots to further leverage the guest experience. Because of more integrations between technology systems and a higher flow of data between platforms, bots and AI will increase in learned automation and intelligence that can deliver more of the right messages, at the right time through the right channel. We’re in the process of breaking new ground with CRM technology as the core with bots and AI serving based off centralized intelligence. In five years, it will all evolve around the model of a central global profile for guests that references a sophisticated rolodex of data to help serve the customer’s desire for personalization at every touchpoint. Bots will make recommendations, personalize communications and adjust service algorithms in real-time based on data points. CRM will no longer be seen as a marketing function, but rather an operational tool that intelligently orchestrates how everyone interacts with a guest.”   SiteMinder CEO Sankar Narayan: Data will make it possible for hotels to understand their guests like never before. “The emergence of new players in the market has been great for competition and I think it’s forced innovation that ultimately hotels have been the beneficiaries of. However, I think the breadth of choice now available to hotels, coupled with the level of complexity that now exists to keep up with today’s traveler, has indirectly created further disparity that means, as a hotel, it is more overwhelming than ever to know which technological solutions are best and if they will work together to make the day-to-day easier, not harder. I think the disparity and complexity will continue to grow over the next five years, but it will be met with tech innovators that rise to that challenge and provide a way for hotels to benefit from a single, holistic, reliable solution that unlocks a world of potential guests and personalizes every relationship. That will be the pinnacle of data democratization and I think it’s coming.  There is a huge opportunity to ace the guest journey end-to-end. I think the in-stay experience has traditionally been the sole focus for hotels, as it’s what they’ve always had immediate visibility and control over, but of course we know that the journey began long before the guest arrived and continues long thereafter – if it ends at all. The explosion of data and technology has made it possible for hotels to understand their guests in a way they’ve never been able to before, and it’s an opportunity I think most hotels are missing.”   Travel Tripper President Gautam Lulla: Winning hotels will be powered by technology platforms not products. “Traditionally, the companies in the hotel tech space have focused on being very good at one “category” of product. Sure, a PMS company could offer a booking engine, but ultimately it was more known for being a PMS company. The new startups in the space have amplified this trend. But now that companies are starting to mature and consolidate (ourselves included), the lines are going to start blurring and it’s going to be difficult to pigeonhole a company into a product type or category. The industry is moving quickly in the direction of a “platformization” model, where the breadth and interconnectedness of solutions will trump—or at least bring together—smaller niche solutions.”   Revinate COO Dan Hang: Antiquated systems will go extinct and secure cloud based systems with open architectures will be the status quo “There’s a big opportunity for hotel tech to become more guest-centric by bringing together all of the industry’s raw and disparate data and turning it into actionable insights. Unfortunately today, a lot of the tech in this space is antiquated, unnecessarily complex, inflexible, and not really optimized around the guest. For example, the property management system, even by name, is designed to manage an inventory of rooms in a building as opposed to optimizing guest experience or driving revenue.  Future systems need to close the gap I just mentioned. They need to harvest all the guest data, make sense of it all, and provide the hotelier with actionable insights or automated campaigns that drive revenue. With this year’s launch of the GDPR and all the news surrounding data breaches, I think we’ll also see increased efforts in security and data privacy protection over time.”   INTELITY CEO Robert Stevenson: Front and back of house tech will become unified. “Digital technologies for the guest and the back office will be very integrated and standard at hotels. There may be different usages from property to property, but automated processes, streamlined connections, and seamless messaging between guests and staff will be standard across the board. It will feel like a near frictionless experience for guests who opt-in to being entirely digital. Guests, vendors and hoteliers alike will look back and wonder how we ever dealt with the mishmash of technologies and implementations we do today.”   Oaky CEO Erik Tengen: Guests will truly experience hotels before they even book. “I think in 5-years upselling will be embedded in native platforms in our phones, offered on all communication channels, automated, hyper-personalised, integrated with the total revenue management strategy and gamified for the full (in destination) guest experience. I imagine guests booking and playing VR games pre-stay to experience the hotel, and adding activities to the stay after testing them out from their couch at home.I think in 5-years upselling will be embedded in native platforms in our phones, offered on all communication channels, automated, hyper-personalised, integrated with the total revenue management strategy and gamified for the full (in destination) guest experience. I imagine guests booking and playing VR games pre-stay to experience the hotel, and adding activities to the stay after testing them out from their couch at home.”   Atomize Chairman Leif Jaggerbrand: Revenue management systems will specialize in tactical revenue management or strategic but not both. “I think we will see a clear split between strategic & tactical revenue management systems. Building a strategic revenue management system, and building a tactical revenue management system, are two VERY different skill sets. I deem it pretty close to impossible for any company to be #1 in both of those categories, the people that have the right skillset to build a tactical revenue management system won't be attracted to building a strategic revenue management system. As both strategic and tactical revenue management is utterly important hotels will have both type of systems.”   Hotelogix CEO Aditya Sanghi Small and mid-sized hotel businesses will flourish like never before with access to technology that was previously reserved only for large enterprises. “We are highly passionate about small to mid-sized hotel businesses. For a very long time, this segment didn’t have access to great technology as service providers across the globe concentrated on the five starred community, like Opera and Travelclick. Things are changing now. Tech providers are focusing on this segment as adoption of technology lagged in this sector. The popularity of this segment has also been purely driven by market dynamics, where travelers are now choosing to stay in independents and smaller properties. So, it’s time to focus on enhancing the guest experience for such properties. The community should look at creating more services/products that are geared towards the guest. Treating them like 5-star guests by leveraging AI driven technology can be used to serve and monetize better.”