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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.  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. While expectations should be modest the Company now offers a "Guestbook Guarantee” of fully offsetting its fees with new inbound business. 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.”  

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Which Hotelogix Marketplace partners work best for your hotel?

by
Hotel Tech Report

Hotelogix is the latest in a line of hospitality technology vendors that have recently launched a marketplace. The thinking behind these initiatives is that existing customers should have a clear place to find integrations that work well together. By providing a source of vetted partners, hospitality technology vendors hope to improve implementations and encourage better long-term outcomes. The new marketplace features third-party solutions that integrate fully with the Hotelogix hotel management system. To navigate the latest marketplace, we’ve identified a few useful integrations for hotels of different sizes.   Top Marketplace Apps for Smaller Hotels Smaller properties prioritize reasonably-priced solutions that help staff provide better service more consistently, as well as provide functionality that makes independents more competitive with chains. These properties usually have less complicated operations without on-site F&B or spas. For properties that do have those on-site amenities, many available solutions have unneeded functionality -- which can make those solutions cost-prohibitive. Training and on-boarding also take center stage, as the smaller staff can’t afford to take too much time learning a new thing. Benefits must be observed quickly and without a long ramp-up period. Here are a few solutions that integrate with Hotelogix to help smaller properties compete more effectively. #1 Tripadvisor Review Express Tripadvisor Review Express allows hotels to automate the review process -- saving time for hotels with limited staff. Rather than spending time manually asking guests for reviews, this automation means less time spent requesting reviews and increases the frequency, recency, and velocity of reviews by encouraging every guest to leave a review. When used regularly, TripAdvisor claims that “the average Popularity Ranking for highly engaged hotels was 63% higher than their non-engaged counterparts.” As this guide to Review Express emphasizes, regular reviews keep engagement high and automated templates reduce manual work. Benefits of the integration: Review Express collects all TripAdvisor Reviews of the hotel added by recent visitors and Hotelogix makes sure that these are directly displayed on the Hotelogix front desk so staff can respond rapidly.     #2 Bookingsuite RateIntelligence Bookingsuite RateIntelligence is the Booking.com family’s rate manager, ideally suited for smaller properties that may not need a full-featured rate/revenue management solution. It's a cloud-based rate shopping tool that gives smaller properties an edge with access to the kind of rate intelligence used by larger brands. Smarter pricing decisions can be made based on market demand data and competitor intelligence, the Rate Manager. Benefits of the integration: Single login to access, instant access within Hotelogix to top five competitors’ rates on RateIntelligence, compare prices with competitors’ and update rates in your PMS, and single click to update rates on all your channels.     #3 Intuit Quickbooks Intuit Quickbooks has evolved into a comprehensive accounting solution, which is well-positioned in price and functionality for smaller properties. Quickbooks reduces headaches around manual management of invoices, and payables. It’s simple and efficient, with a handy “at a glance” dashboard to track performance. There’s a companion expense app so you can take pictures of receipts, and pull them into Quickbooks. Also, integrates cleanly with TurboTax if you decide to tackle your taxes solo. Benefits of the integration: Individual tracking and handling of credits and commissions given to TAs & corporate clients, as well as advanced payments & payments against settlements can be managed through separate account head.   #4 Mailchimp Email Marketing MailChimp’s email marketing software is simple to use and easy to access across devices. With its template and visual editor, the company has eliminated design barriers to creating classy email campaigns, as well as pre-arrival and post-stay communications. For small properties without a marketing function, the do-it-all GM can design templates, run campaigns and use analytics to get better with time. It’s generally recommended that hotel marketers work with email marketing and CRM platforms such as Revinate and Guestfolio but very small properties may not have enough guest data or return visitors to warrant specialized products.  Make sure to benchmark a generalist solution like Mailchimp with specialized solutions before adopting because bad email marketing can actually cost your hotel money through unsubscribes and sendability issues. Benefits of the integration: MailChimp lists update automatically with new bookings, cancellations, check-ins, and check-outs. Data imported into the relevant list includes room type, number of rooms, rate/package type, reservation booking deposit, tax amount, country, date of birth and gender of the guest. This information can then be used to segment lists and write copy for each specific segment.   #5 STAAH Channel Manager The STAAH Channel Manager handles online distribution so you can manage them easily from one place. When a customer books a room from one website, availability is automatically updated across all other channels including your property’s booking engine. STAAH also has an integrated suite of software, including a reputation manager, booking engine, website, and gift voucher manager, which can be a convenient one-stop-shop for marketing a small property. Benefits of the integration: Single log-in to make instant updates and manage multiple OTAs, as well as analytics to determine rates, stop-sell limits and evaluate the success of sales channels. Direct connection to PMS minimizes manual errors that lead to overbooking and double-booking.   Top Marketplace Apps for Mid-Sized Hotels Medium-sized properties may sometimes feel stuck in the middle: too large for solutions geared towards independents and yet too small for enterprise-level systems built to manage major operations. Many medium-size properties have F&B operations, sizable staff, and established revenue management procedures -- all of which require solutions with adequate functionality. Except without the enterprise-grade price tag!  Medium sized properties generally have larger teams, a marketing department and dedicated resources for functions like revenue management. Here are a few solutions that help medium-sized properties increase productivity and grow their business through better revenue management.         #6 SiteMinder Channel Manager SiteMinder’s channel manager provides the benefits of channel management to hotels with more complex online distribution needs. With granular controls over inventory allocations to individual channels, SiteMinder supports a sophisticated revenue management strategy. For medium-sized hotels that welcome guests from all over, the hotel’s base currency automatically gets converted to the currency of a particular transaction -- helpful for providing a consistent experience for guests. Benefits of the integration: The direct integration into Hotelogix eliminates any chance of overbooking or double booking, and also prevents errors arising from manual consolidation of booking data.   #7 Beonprice Revenue Management The Beonprice revenue manager maximizes profitability by optimizing rates for every room sold through an intuitive and easy-to-use interface. The tool starts with a hotel’s historical booking data and then recommends pricing based on using local and national events, e-reputation, transportation price, weather forecasts and exchange rates. By automating rate setting using artificial intelligence and all the available data, medium-sized hotels can devote more time to optimizing other areas of the business. Benefits of the integration: Rates are published in real-time, using the latest data from the property management system. With this real-time, scalable, automated and flexible execution of rate publishing, hotels can more fully manage revenues and unlock the value of existing data within a PMS.   #8 Repup Review Management Repup reputation management helps hoteliers make sense of online reviews by aggregating all reviews into a single dashboard. Using a combination of natural language processing, data mining, and business logic, the tool evaluates performance so hotels can win more business, increase revenues and build customer loyalty. For mid-sized hotels with lots of moving parts, management won’t have a direct line of sight into everything; Repup can surface issues and identify problems before they magnify. Benefits of the integration: Hoteliers can access complete review data within Hotelogix front desk. The centralized dashboard showcases 60 days of reviews and social media mentions from over 15 online channels, such as Expedia, Booking.com, and Facebook. There’s also an option to configure Guest Feedback Form which can be shared with guests right from the dashboard.     #9 Xero Accounting Xero’s accounting software has become a popular choice for hotels with more complex accounting needs, such as multi-currency accounting, payroll, inventory management, and customized recurring online invoices for regular suppliers. For managers on-the-go, there’s a mobile app that mirrors many of the core management features of the web version. The platform is flexible: a robust set of integrations that medium-sized hotels plenty of control to customize workflows and sync Xero with POS, hotel CRM and other tools. Benefits of the integration: Room revenue, as well as corresponding taxes, commissions, and other charges are first recorded in Hotelogix and then automatically synced with Xero -- no more manual imports from the PMS to accounting software! Also, only fully settled folios get synced with Xero, which avoids a lot of headache around cancellations and unsettled folios.   Top Marketplace Apps for Hotel Groups & Large Hotels Larger properties and hotel groups employ more people and serve more guests across more complex operations. They need enterprise-level systems that can adequately manage all of these moving parts. The sheer number of options leads to a complex evaluation process. Any new tech tool must integrate seamlessly and work well with everything else in a hotel’s tech stack. There are many interdependencies that make a challenging road for implementation. Not to mention the fact that a larger operation has more stakeholders, such as security and IT, that must approve any new vendor. Depending on the group, and the tech being implemented, on-boarding new tools can take months -- or more than a year for more mission-critical systems that require careful testing. So ease of integration is paramount for larger properties and hotel groups. Here are a few solutions that help larger properties and hotel groups manage complexity at scale and leverage all available data to build a healthy business over the long-term.     #10 OneLoyalty OneLoyalty is a Loyalty Management Software that allows hotels without access to a larger loyalty offering to provide best-in-class loyalty programs to their guests. The independent hotel loyalty program also extends to employees and vendors, as OneLoyalty offers tools to engage across stakeholders to foster more loyalty. With OneLoyalty, hotels can offer rewards, coupons or other perks to their guests. A companion mobile app can ping guests with unique offers and alert guests to upcoming promotions. Benefits of the integration: With direct integration, hotels can more easily use the sales tool to attract more customers and increase the share of wallet. Customer profiles benefit from the direct integration, which makes for simpler segregation of customers to personalize offers and thus deepen re;relationships with past guests.     #11 Snapshot Business Intelligence Snapshot business intelligence tool positions itself as “hospitality’s data platform.” The comprehensive data analysis platform is the backbone of a hotel group’s data practice. Since Snapshot thrives with larger pools of data, the solution is ideally suited for larger properties and multi-property groups. The Snapshot sweet spot is facilitating access across disparate systems and data sources. Hotels benefit from enterprise-grade custom visualizations that surface insights derived from this comprehensive view into a hotel’s business. Benefits of the integration: Hotelogix sends all past and future bookings and transactions to SnapShot for accurate hotel data analytics. Your dashboard is updated after every night audit, as Hotelogix sends an incremental report to SnapShot automatically. In addition, Hotelogix helps track reviews and social follower trends from SnapShot thanks to connectivity to social media and TripAdvisor.   #12 Comtrol In-Room Devices Comtrol in-room devices have been providing networking and data communications for over 30 years. The stability of the company makes it a preferable partner for many larger operations that prize longevity -- after all, it’s important to know that a mission-critical vendor for communications, IT, and networking will be in business when you need them most. Comtrol gear ensures that the PMS maintains consistent contact and data transmission to accurately manage guest accounts. Benefits of the integration: With a direct connection into the PMS, Comtrol can ensure adequate functionality across in-room devices. For such an important part of the guest experience, such as room locks and keycards, this functionality must work without fail. In addition, there are potential benefits for enhanced customizations, such as personalizing the in-room entertainment with guest greetings and other guest-specific information.     #13 Vertical Booking CRS The Vertical Booking CRS integrates with over 200 channels, which gives larger hotels more granular control over inventory distribution and allocation. The company also provides on-going training, which is especially beneficial to large operations that will naturally experience higher turnover.  The CRS can be set-up to suit hotel groups and chains by defining which functions are managed centrally and which are managed independently for each property. In addition, chains can view performance at the chain level and property level, with staff assigned roles that offer access to the system according to individual roles. The graphic below maps the workflow for chains and groups. Benefits of the integration: A tight integration between the property management system and the central reservation system reduces errors and keeps the team focused on maximizing guest satisfaction. All reservations, whether made through the hotel's website or other channels, are instantly updated in the PMS. An added benefit for larger chains is that Vertical Booking’s CRS can integrate with multiple PMS, so if a new property has Hotelogix, it can be quickly integrated into the workflow.