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Everything hoteliers need to know about APIs in plain english

by
Hotel Tech Report

The acronym API stands for application programming interface although for most hoteliers it might as well be gibberish. Don’t stress though, because the concept is actually quite system. In the early days of software, systems were server based which meant that they rarely (if ever) spoke with each other.  Think about that first Mac in your house before the internet - it was very much a lonely island. As processing power advanced and internet speeds increased exponentially software became easier to develop and more accessible.  As the world shifted from a myriad of lonely server based systems to an ecosystem of hyper connected platforms there grew a need to enable seamless communications amongst those systems - enter the API. Ok, let’s use a hotel analogy to better understand the concept.  Imagine you’re sitting at a table in your hotel’s restaurant. The kitchen is the part of the “system” that will prepare your order. What’s missing is the critical link to communicate your order to the kitchen and deliver your food back to your table. That’s where the waiter (or API) comes in. The waiter is the messenger – or API – that takes your request and tells the kitchen – the system – what to do. Then the waiter delivers the response back to you; in this case, it’s your food. APIs are effectively messengers of data between applications.  Every time you book a flight on Expedia you are using an API that delivers pricing and availability from the respective airline’s database onto Expedia’s website.  That same dynamic now happens between hotel software and hardware systems. Hotel Tech Report recently published a story about Volara’s Alexa for hotels voice activated tech and its ability to turn off room lights via Honeywell Inncom control systems and control guest entertainment solutions on platforms like Sonifi - that all happens via API. Given the widespread use of APIs in almost every industry one would think that hotels can easily connect software systems like business intelligence software, revenue management systems and staff task management software to any property management system - but in reality that’s far from the truth. Major property management system companies like Oracle Micros and Agilysys have literally hundreds of integration requests each month from software companies.  Each of those integrations must be vetted for security and reliability which takes time and resources.  Those same PMS companies have hundreds of feature requests from enterprise clients that are prioritized ahead of those integrations partners.  Adding to the headache, when an integration breaks down (which they inevitably do) the PMS companies are generally held responsible for client support.  Further, when one of those PMS companies updates a feature that impacts their APIs - they need each and every integration partner to make necessary adjustments to the connection. This integrations dilemma is a messy problem and London based Impala has come up with a simple and elegant solution - a universal hotel PMS API. Impala has built a universal API that both property management system providers and their software partners can build onto which saves the PMS companies time and money while allowing their partners to scale more quickly.   Hoteliers benefit by being able to connect their systems and from the ability to try more technology products that optimize their businesses - often products that wouldn’t have already been connected to their property management system and therefore would have been unusable.  Last year Impala raised $1.75M to serve more vendors and continue executing on its vision for a more innovative hospitality industry. We sat down with Impala co-founder Ben Stephenson to chat about the future of the hotel industry with a specific focus on how connected systems can turn the industry from a laggard into a technology pioneer. What was your background prior to starting Impala? Prior to starting Impala I was a Software Engineer working on a number of really interesting projects. One of the later projects that I worked on was managing a team responsible for delivering integration with GDS web-services. Impala initially came about as I met people when working in travel technology and started to understand how out-dated and ill-fitting the technology stack in travel was from almost every angle. I met my Co-Founder Charlie Cowley through a very old friend and since we have very complementary skill sets (myself in engineering, Charlie in sales) and Charlie being one of the few people that can put up with me for more than a few hours, we decided to start Impala. Who was your first customer? This is actually a really fantastic story. In the very, very early days before we really dug into building a secure integration platform, we were building a Property Management System. I was glued to a laptop for days on end building the thing (literally a never-ending job) and Charlie's job was to go out and drum up some pilots. We were based in London and the first guy that Charlie even managed to get on the phone is a chap called John who runs a 10 bedroom guest-house in West Wales. He somehow convinces him to take a look at the software - but it has to be in person. For anyone unfamiliar with the UK, West Wales might be one of the most painful places to get to from London. All you can really do is drive and if you catch the traffic on a bad day it can take about seven hours. Neither of us have a car because we're Londoners and so Charlie hops in some Zipcar and sets off to Wales. He gets there and gives me a call to say that he has no reception on his phone and he'll call me in an hour when he's done. Anyway, fast forward four hours and absolute radio silence. I try to call Charlie. Nothing. I try a few more times. Zip. At this point I'm pretty sure that Charlie has been lured across country to be murdered in a 10 bedroom dungeon and I'm trying to figure out how to call the Welsh police. Finally, I get a call from Charlie to say that he'd been grilled for the entire afternoon about a product he - to be honest - didn't really at the time completely understand but he'd somehow got them signed up. That’s incredible and I didn’t even realize Impala started as a PMS.  You guys have come a long way since then - tell us about the business today. With every interface, you're currently paying your PMS an extraordinary amount for insecure, slow access for data *that you own*. Impala is an extremely secure, rapid data layer that sits on top of your PMS and lets you work with great software and hardware ten times faster and cheaper. Who is one mentor that has really helped you scale the business? There are so many people that have helped us get to where we are so I'm going to have to pick out two. Adriaan Coppens, the ex-CEO of OTA Insight has been exceptionally helpful. He's always one or two steps ahead of where my thinking is and it really pushes me to be better. I'm almost certain every time we've disagreed, he's ended up being correct eventually. Jens Lapinski, the CEO of Angel Invest Ventures as well has been massively influential. He's completely no-nonsense and happily contrarian. I once wrote Jens a wonderfully lengthy strategy email about where we should go that spanned about four pages of A4 and I just got a single line reply that dismantled my entire argument. What's the biggest mistake that you see hoteliers making on a day-to-day basis? Hoteliers think that getting access to your own data has to take months. One of the golden rules we have when we consider whether to work with PMS or whether to implement our secure reader is "Can this PMS switch on an interface in less than 24 hours". If the answer is no then we use the reader rather than web-services. Our goal is to get Impala switched on in a hotel inside 24 hours. What's the most surprising thing you've learned about scaling technology into hotels? How unique every hotel is. We work with hotels in California, Kazakhstan and the Caribbean and every single one has different needs, processes and requirements. Luckily these days Impala is a very flexible product but I do feel for anyone coming into this industry thinking every hotel is entirely homogeneous because it's a tough learning curve. Are there 1 or 2 companies that have been a particularly good partners for Impala? We work with so many companies that I can't possibly shout out all of the great partners that we have. I love companies that move quickly however, people like Triptease and Customer Alliance that have really big visions and executive teams that are willing to really push the boat out to achieve them. If you could partner with any vendor in hotel tech, who would it be and why? I'm really excited at the moment about a lot of the work we're doing with hardware vendors. The demands are very different, a lot smaller data footprint but very low latency requirements in how fast they need data. Other than that, we'll be launching the Impala Distribution API later on in the year which will allow us to work with some very innovative companies in the distribution space. Where do you see Impala in 5-years? If you look at most hotels, because of integrations and interface problems and the fact they have a very specific domain that mass market tools don't cater for, they're comparatively very light users of technology. I hope that with tools like Impala we can change that and that in five years, hotels are going to see healthier margins because of it. In five years Impala will be the default way that hoteliers manage and share their data with partners, whether that be distributors, software or hardware vendors or governments. Hoteliers will have super fine-grained control and auditing of exactly who has access to what data and how frequently. What's one piece of advice that you have for any entrepreneurs looking to get into the hotel tech space? Hire well. Technology is hard, hospitality is hard. We wouldn't be anywhere near where we are right now if Charlie and I didn't have a genuinely incredible team of hospitality professionals and technologists. It's so easy to hire badly and hotel tech is quite an unsexy space so you have to be very careful and do it very well. What is the best book you've read lately and why? The Fortune Cookie Principle by Bernadette Jiwa. Brand is so important to any business and it should inform absolutely everything you do. Jiwa demonstrates this through some great case studies. What is your favorite podcast Business - 20 Minute VC. Comedy - The Worst Idea of All Time. What is one thing that most people don't know about you? I'm a huge fan of cricket. Every few months I start to try and organise a charity cricket match for the hospitality industry. I just have to nail down Erik Muñoz on his availability this summer since he's the Australian Captain.

The definitive guide to ITB Berlin 2019: 5 key trends that every hotelier must know

by
Hotel Tech Report

Last week Hotel Tech Report attended ITB to discover the most cutting edge innovations in travel and hotels.  Each year thousands congregate at Messe Berlin to connect with peers, partners and clients from around the globe. Below are 5 key trends that every hotelier needs to know about this year.  In this article we outline each trend, tell you how it impacts your hotel and give an overview of the companies that launched or showcased on trend products at ITB.  For those of you who couldn't make it to Berlin we also cut a reel from the show so you can get the next best thing to being there.   Check out Hotel Tech Report's official ITB Berlin 2019 Recap video above   5 key trends & takeaways from ITB 2019 1. Automation is going mainstream 2. Software tools are breaking down operational silos 3. Hotel software is moving towards self service 4. App marketplaces are soaring 5. Meeting venues are getting wired up   Our take on automation in hotel software Automation allows for time consuming, tedious and repetitive processes to be handled completely by software. When a task or process reaches the limits of the software’s capability, the appropriate team member is looped in to take over which is a beautiful thing. Let’s face it, if you’ve ever worked in a hotel you know that there are dozens of repetitive tasks that seem like a computer should be able to handle and in many cases perform even better, and now they can.   Automation frees up staff to focus on the things that those computers can’t handle like high level strategic thinking, trying new products and serving guests. Many hotels are still afraid that technology and the personal touch are conflicting ideas; however, innovative hotel groups are realizing that technology and automation actually enable them to focus on the personal aspects of experience in a way they couldn’t when they were bogged down with repetitive tasks.   What's new in automation? IDeaS launches Investigator to let revenue managers uncover the rationale behind automated pricing decisions by asking Alexa. IDeaS announced Investigator, an intuitive way to answer your management's question: How did you achieve that price and those results?  IDeaS G3 is the most popular RMS on the market and now clients can ask the system via Amazon Alexa to rationalize the decisions that it automates to provide transparency into the decision making process that is out of a revenue managers hands and handled by the systems powerful A.I. engines. Hotelchamp launches Autopilot to help hoteliers leverage web data and user behavior to deliver personalized web experiences to boost conversion.  Hotelchamp announced Autopilot technology, which wants to transform how hotels approach their online guest bookings and experience. Autopilot uses AI to deliver an adaptive experience that is tailored to every single website visitor, and is completely GDPR compliant. Using an A.I. engine to identify customer segments and audiences, Hotelchamp Autopilot can automatically serve the best information for each guest.  Autopilot has been trained using pre-populated content, insights from the Hotelchamp data science team, and millions of A/B test impressions. Using this knowledge and live insights from the hotel’s website, Autopilot recognises and personalizes the website experience in real-time to convince visitors to book direct. All Hotelchamp tools can now be controlled by Autopilot, meaning the system will only deploy the right tools at the right time to the right audience. This process happens in real-time and is entirely personalised to each individual website visitor and moment in the booking phase. Crave Scheduler enables hotels to send targeted automated messages generating $5,000/mo in late checkouts.  With the amount of times mobile comes up in conversation and the media, you might think BYOD (bring your own device) is the only way to go but the reality is there are lots of occasions where hotels just simply don’t have the ability to get a guest’s contact info or get them to download an app.  Crave Interactive has a unique, and near unavoidable, position in the guest’s periphery with its in room tablets that see upwards of 90% guest engagement. At ITB, Crave announced a new feature called Crave Scheduler that puts a unique spin on automation allowing hotels to set rules to send target messages to guests.  One of the prime use cases that Crave customers have been taking full advantage of is timed late checkout offers which have seen upwards of $5,000 month in revenue at Crave hotel partners who received early access to the feature. UpsellGuru announced "Auto Pilot" which automates the entire up-selling process.  Upsell Guru now sends targeted emails, calculates the dynamic minimum and maximum upgrade bidding prices, sets up the system to decide which offers to accept and when, updates the PMS - all fully automated not requiring human interaction. The new feature allows hotels to up-sell their rooms & ancillary services  without moving a finger. This saves hotels plenty of time and allows them to use the system without having to log-in on a daily basis. They’re initial trial was successful with a British chain of 30 hotels where they achieve GBP 65,000 per month in up-selling revenue without any manual human work. Quicktext showcased its website chatbot to help guests find answers faster while unlocking $140,000 in requests per 100 rooms.  With Quicktext, guests can book at your hotel through a conversation (on various channels like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Website Live Chat and SMS), something that has been mainstream throughout Asia (specifically China) via WeChat but has been slower to catch up in the West.  The most practical use of chatbots is on a hotel website where prospective guests often get lost looking for basic information.  A chatbot can answer critical questions instantly like “how far is your hotel from the convention center?”, “what is the best way to get from the airport to the hotel on public transportation?” and “can we add a cot to our room?”.  This helps shorten the time needed to research the hotel and in turn increases conversion into your booking engine flow.  Humanise.AI had Gem on display boasting automation of 80% of inquiries.  Humanise.AI announced automated web-chat for hotels ensures that guests get an immediate response most of the time, but can still summon a member of hotel staff when needed. When hotels use human-only web-chat systems, they often struggle to respond to enquiries quickly enough, meaning guests leave the web site before they get a reply. With Humanise’s Gem product, they claim to automate ~80% of enquiries, radically improving the guest service and improving conversion-ratios for direct bookings. SABA put its multilingual guest request and F&B ordering chatbot on display.  SABA Hospitality Technology announced a bespoke and fully automated hospitality chatbot (SABAGuest Request).  This multilingual chatbot and digital F&B ordering platform provides guests with a seamless communication experience, without the need for downloads. It provides operators the opportunity to eliminate language barriers, provide instant answers to all guest requests and enquiries, and engage with guests on their preferred communication platform: messaging. This allows for the redeployment of staff away from call centers and other low-value repetitive tasks, to engage in meaningful guest interactions that help build long-term guest loyalty.     Our take on breaking down silos in hotel organizations It’s no secret that hotels have historically suffered from siloed organizational departments because historically without better communication tools and access to data, teams were essentially on an island in their own physical locations.  Technology companies are starting to realize that their products and tools can help hoteliers to become more effective by aligning departments around common goals, systems and data. At ITB we saw a lot of this happening as evidenced by a shift where CRM companies are starting to focus heavily on the operational applications of their guest data where historically that data has just been used for marketing purposes.   Who's breaking down operational silos? TravelClick weaves Demand360 data into its Campaign Advisor toolkit to leverage market intelligence data to optimize marketing campaigns fostering collaborative efforts between revenue and marketing.  TravelClick announced the addition of Demand360 to the Campaign Advisor toolkit. Building on last year’s email send time optimizer, Campaign Advisor now allows hoteliers to take the guesswork out of marketing by providing them with recommendations on when to run marketing campaigns based on predictive occupancy in the market.  Demand360 is the hospitality industry’s competitive market intelligence product providing forward-looking reservation metrics and competitive share by segment and channel. Hoteliers using TravelClick’s GMS and Demand360 products will have access to current and projected occupancy data versus competitive sets to best identify the most valuable time periods to run campaigns, allowing them to avoid offering discounts and packages during peak market occupancy and place campaigns when they need it most. A huge pain point for hoteliers is knowing when to send promotions and emails to customers, as hoteliers do not have a clear picture of how their future occupancy compares with their comp set. It’s hard to determine the most valuable time to run a campaign. The Campaign Advisor and Demand360 integration, which is proprietary to TravelClick, takes guesswork out of the equation and enables hoteliers to leverage market data to feel confident that they are choosing the best time to run campaigns and capture demand. Serenata CRM announced Decision Maker, a solution that combines business intelligence with campaign management. Serenata Intraware's Decision Maker allows different users groups like owners, management, operations and marketing to view the same data but from different perspectives to get an optimal view of the hotel operation, identify potential problems and take corrective actions.  The Decision Maker KPI dashboard gives a high-level insight into revenue, OTA share, loyalty contribution and other key metrics and trends. Other dashboards give subject matter experts from operations and marketing the ability to drill-down and identify the root cause for a problem and based on this insight create marketing campaigns using micro-segmentation to mitigate the problem without changing tools or breaking the workflow. Cendyn announced eNgage which brings marketing’s CRM data and customer profiles to front line operations teams bringing the gap between marketing and operations.  Cendyn's next generation product empowers front-line and call center staff to instantly access guest profiles including historical guest feedback, membership information, brand-wide stays, social profile information and more. Used in conjunction with Cendyn’s eInsight hotel CRM, eNgage sits on top of a hotel’s property management system or call center application and intelligently guides staff to create authentic, meaningful encounters and upsell offerings based on guest history, preferences and loyalty status. This lightweight application can be accessed on any device and features configurable messaging prompts and data displays. Like all Cendyn products, eNgage integrates seamlessly with other hotel systems, utilizing an open architecture that ensures the accuracy and completion of guest information for all team members at every touchpoint in the guest journey. Cendyn’s eNgage solution allows hoteliers to provide the right approach to personalization for guests throughout their stay. eNgage brings to life all the data that hotels are collecting on guests and it displays it in real-time through an application window that always sits on top of the hotel PMS. For staff on the front-line, access to data instantly is critical for them to manage their workload and allows them to navigate every situation elegantly with customer service and upselling, so guests feel known and valued, not overly monitored. Fornova expands its business intelligence offering to create a cross department interface for data insights.  Fornova announced that they recently acquired HotelsBI, a hotel Business Intelligence platform. With this acquisition, Fornova now caters to all roles and departments in the property and chain.  With this acquisition, Fornova now has three product offerings; Distribution Intelligence, HotelsBI & eCommerce Optimisation. HotelsBI simplifies the process of analysing internal and external data sources thanks to simple, intuitive dashboards - enabling faster, data-driven decisions to optimize hotel performance. Revinate’s CRM is now being used by front desk staff and showcased the scalability of its platform on newly AWS servers.  This shift allows Revinate to scale more efficiently and ultimately open guest data to new departments.  Revinate showcased the capabilities that get unlocked when front desk staff and managers can access CRM data. MeetingPackage.com brings revenue management and pricing optimization to your sales team.  The Company announced a partnership with IDeaS revenue solutions to bring real time dynamic pricing to meeting venues.  When paired with MeetingPackage’s online booking engine for event spaces, this is a truly groundbreaking development providing hoteliers with real time insights to optimize pricing and a seamless, intuitive, flexible and real time booking experience.      Our take on self service software in the hotel industry This is one of the trends that we’re most excited about at Hotel Tech Report.  Freemium and free trials are ubiquitous in the software world but it’s not until recently that it’s broken into the hotel market.  The challenge historically with hotel software has been that you need to ingest data from core systems like the PMS to make any software work; therefore, it’s hard to offer a free trial or self service.  As the hotel software market moves this direction we’ll continue to see exponential upticks in innovation and sophistication. Another key reason that hotels don’t like trying technology is because even if they like the solutions that they try - they’re so busy that they don’t want to add one more thing onto their teams’ respective plates.  Long complex implementations have stifled innovation for years and lead to a massive trust gap between buyers and sellers. At ITB, Oaky cracked the code on this problem by launching it’s simple onboarding wizard which helps hotels go live in just a few simple steps.   Who's helping you take things into your own hands? Oaky’s new self service onboarding lets hoteliers start upselling in under 5-minutes.  Oaky announced an onboarding wizard which allows hoteliers to go live themselves, by completing a few steps. This reduce onboarding time and effort, and allow hotels to buy Oaky from marketplaces and go live without human touch. Inside the wizard they’re putting together many millions of upsell moments, and predicting the optimal upselling set-up based on the type of hotel and its guests. From combining variables around the upsell, with data around the guest and the property - they suggest the optimal setup for the hotel (what deals to sell, which content, and so on) which also predict how much conversion and ancillary revenue guests that have not yet booked will spend using this setup. In today's revenue management, the room rate is often based on the room and not taking predictable revenue from segments into account. This upsell variable can impact the distribution decision and help hotels better price their rooms.  When the revenue management system knows the upsell spend of a guest from various booking channels, they can deduct the distribution costs and end up seeing how to price their rooms for a more profitable booking. Some segments spend 20% on top of the ADR, which makes sense for the hotel to 1) have an upsell setup that allows for that, and 2) an RM strategy that takes it into account to acquire more of those (more profitable) guests. Atomize’s self service functionality lets hoteliers try out automated revenue management on their own time.  Atomize showcased its advanced revenue management platform that has flexibility that allows hotels to control as much or as little as they’d like when it comes to revenue strategy.  Atomize’s mobile first platform has been designed from the ground up with the idea that hoteliers should be able to go live and try it out without ever speaking with an Atomize rep. The company’s founder, Leif Jaggerbrand told us that he’s had clients come in that his team has never met from countries he’s never heard of.  This dynamic is widespread in the broader SaaS industry and companies like Atomize are bringing this dynamic to hotels. Cloudbeds’ PIE bakes new revenue management capabilities native into the PMS.  Cloudbeds announced PIE - Pricing Intelligence Engine. PIE is built directly into Cloudbeds hospitality management suite. It is seamlessly integrated with the entire Cloudbeds suite, including PMS, booking engine and channel manager. This helps hoteliers and hosts who want one easy-to-system to manage everything.  Many of Cloudbeds’ clients have never used revenue management software before so this provides a lightweight way for them to get started making better pricing decisions.     Our take on hotel software app marketplaces Marketplaces are nothing new to the software industry.  The reality is that it’s impossible for one technology company to be the best at everything.  Historically the hotel tech industry has taken a different approach where incumbents have tried to bolt all functionality into the PMS and maintain a closed architecture but that is rapidly changing as hoteliers are increasingly unwilling to work with closed vendors and sub-par tools. In response to the shift most forward thinking providers are taking towards open architectures, several innovative cloud PMS companies have taken note from tech darlings like Salesforce, Intuit and Apple by creating marketplaces.  These marketplaces facilitate seamless integrations and eventually the ability to easily try new products with the click of a button making it easier than ever to find the best tools to grow your hotel business. Cloudbeds, Mews, Hotelogix, protel and Apaleo were the latest entrants into the marketplace space each launching their own native marketplace baked into their PMS empowering hoteliers to easily tap into a plethora of best-of-breed tools to grow their businesses right from their PMS.  eRevMax was the first non-PMS marketplace on the market and Snapshot was next but SiteMinder and more recently BookingSuite are clear favorites in the race to marketplace dominance.  Hapi is also taking a unique and differentiated approach by building a marketplace that is solution agnostic.  Hoteliers should note that none of these marketplaces have gained significant traction from a demand perspective so the field is wide open.  While the idea has been around for some years we are still in the early innings.  Two-sided marketplaces require supply and demand to develop but those rarely happen simultaneously. Each of the players below has focused on signing supply/tech partners lately so it will be interesting to see which is able to deliver the best user experience and actually change the way hotels interact with their software.   Who's who in the rise of marketplaces Cloudbeds Marketplace.  On top of announcing its native revenue management tool, PIE, Cloudbeds announced the official rollout of its marketplace offering enabling its 20,000+ hotel clients to access a variety of best-of-breed 3rd party tools to mix and match to find the perfect fit.   Mews Marketplace.  In a blaze of glory Mews Systems continued its streak of creative conference displays to showcase its marketplace with this year’s theme of Pimp Your PMS (a parody of MTV’s Pimp My Ride) and its booth was cleverly referred to as ‘The Pitstop’.  In true Mews style, each team member was adorned head-to-toe in race car pitstop jumpsuits with patches for various apps that are integrated into their marketplace. Touche team Mews, touche... Hotelogix Marketplace.  Hotelogix Marketplace launched at ITB and is a one-stop shop for all the hospitality technology needs of a hotelier. It helps hoteliers find and evaluate best-in-class Hotel Technology products on a single platform. Hapi.  Hapi is taking a unique and differentiated approach by building a marketplace that is solution agnostic.  Why is this important? By being solution agnostic, Hapi's marketplace is freed from the confines of being locked into a single PMS.  In fact, Hapi offers technology partners (ie marketplace apps) a way to normalize fragmented and messy data into a streamlined and unified structure opening up the potential to integrate to multiple PMSs (as well as various other hotel systems).  Their marketplace offering enables partners to gain exposure to hotels on the platform and enables hotels to tap into other available systems that are connected to Hapi.  Although Hapi is a smaller marketplace with only about 30 partners currently, its connectivity to multiple solutions from companies like Oracle, Infor and Salesforce signals a great deal of potential. apaleo. apaleo announced its One connection, where data from all pre-connected tools within apaleo's store is available directly within apaleo’s property management system. No switching between browsers or systems. It happens all too often that hoteliers start off their work day organized, and then somehow within a matter of hours (or sometimes even minutes!), end up with dozens of browser tabs open and many systems running. Especially for front desk staff, it takes tons of clicks and searching around to find the info they need, when they need it. It isn't pleasant. With apaleo One, all the info that hoteliers need is visible within apaleo's PMS, saving staff time and creating a more seamless journey for guests. protel Services Marketplace (SMP).  While not quite its first appearance, protel proudly featured its services marketplace at ITB showing off its shiney new native ratings and reviews (syndicated from yours truly) to help hoteliers research, vet and discover the best tools to grow their businesses without leaving the protel app store.  Pretty awesome! From the protel team, “The SMP empowers protel customers to choose from a variety of certified and evaluated 3rd party technology vendors covering all the essential hospitality technology services, such as RMS, CRM, PMS and POS. In other words, it's THE App Store to start integration with protel. It's also the point of entry to integrations for any 3rd party vendor to showcase and offer their powerful services to our 14,000 customers around the globe.”   The protel SMP marketplace features reviews from Hotel Tech Report to deliver transparency for its users   BookingSuite App Store (by Booking.com).  BookingSuite unveiled its app store for the first time where hoteliers can use single sign on (SSO) to activate new apps.  Many hoteliers are naturally wary of relying more on Booking.com or giving them more data, but overall it is a clear strategic move by Booking to provide more value to hoteliers to mend their often shakey relationship. BookingSuite’s approach is similar to the way LinkedIn, Google, Amazon and Facebook allow users to login to 3rd party apps with their APIs. The difference between BookingSuite and these other tech giants is that they want to take commissions (into perpetuity) from technology vendors. The commission vendors pay in the BookingSuite App Store is 25% for year 1, then 15% into perpetuity.  If you are a vendor with an average monthly revenue of $800 per hotel and a 7 year average customer lifetime that means you'll be paying Booking $2,400 in year 1 and $10,080 over the duration of the contract to acquire that single customer. In our opinion, this fee will eventually be passed to the end user (hoteliers) over time and is just another form of integration fee. Google and LinkedIn give away this service free to foster innovation and strengthen their respective platforms. So while BookingSuite’s tech is innovative we’re concerned about their commercialization model and understand why hotels and vendors might want to remain cautious. eRevMax.  eRevMax rolled out updates to its LiveOS platform that allows its hotel clients to centralize the usage of various software applications into one interface using single sign-on.  While the LiveOS platform was one of the first to offer a marketplace offering, they seem to have fallen behind the competition with a limited range of apps available but seems to be pushing forward continuing to try to continue to explore the potential of LiveOS as a central operating platform, that can plug in various systems to help hotels make critical and time saving decisions across multiple systems without having to piece the data together manually.     Our take on wiring up meeting spaces for easy booking During November’s Phocuswright event Hotel Tech Report tried to book the rooftop of several hotels for a client event.  In order to book the spaces we had to go to the hotel websites and fill out a form, then wait for responses from sales reps.  Some websites didn’t even have a form so we had to manually email reps based on contact info from their website (that we had to dig around for).  Out of the 5 desired locations which were some of the hottest hotels in downtown Los Angeles - not a single one responded within 24 hours and 1 didn’t respond to our inquiry at all.  Then to make matters worse, by the time they responded the first question was ‘how much budget do you have to spend’. Needless to say, this was a pretty horrible customer experience so we decided to take our business elsewhere and avoided hotels all together for our event. Imagine if you had to write to a hotel to inquire about availability.  Now imagine that when you wrote, the hotel wrote back asking “what’s your budget?”  The idea is absurd. Hotel websites and OTAs have wired up the industry to make sure this would never happen again.  It starts the relationship off with a bad taste for the customer and completely undermines the intended nature of a collaborative ally that a sales manager should be for any client but especially given that they are a prospect who intends to spend thousands of dollars to throw an event.  Meetings and events contribute $325B of direct spending in the U.S. alone (source AmexGBT) - so it’s about time this highly profitable inventory  got wired up.   Who's laying the groundwork to wire up meeting venues? MeetingPackage.com brings channel management and a seamless booking experience to your meeting space inventory.  Meeting Package’s Joonas Ahola Joonas also announced his firm’s launch of a meeting space channel manager which allows  inventory and rates to syndicate not just on a hotel’s website but across a myriad of 3rd party channels that have popped up to help them find new demand to generate additional revenue .  Meeting spaces today can be booked on platforms like AirBnB as well as on niche marketplaces like Breather, Bizly and VenueBook. Venuesuite launches demand side marketplace to help venues and planners work better together online.  Announced its direct booking platform (or marketplace) that helps venues & planners work better together online. The platform significantly simplifies the RFP process and sourcing of venues. The time required to book a venue for a meeting/event is reduced from days to minutes.  Both planners and venues. It enables planners to find venues fast, book instantly and configure meetings & events 24/7. For venues it generates more revenue via qualitative leads & higher conversion rates as prices are shown upfront to bookers. Within 10 months 1,000+ spaces available in The Netherlands via dedicated venue partners who've joined the new way of online (platform) working.       Other notable product launches and showcases Business Intelligence Pegasus announced its Business Intelligence Platform. It's difficult, if almost impossible to transform raw data into actionable insights - it pains most hotel companies, particularly independents.  Pegasus BI combines guest data from multiple sources and deliver it with automated intelligence and an easy-to-understand dashboard. Hoteliers can gain immediate insights that allow their properties to increase bookings, revenue, occupancy and profitability. Revenue Management RevControl announced rate recommendations calculated by room type separately. This announcement is specifically meant for hostels where the rate difference between private rooms and individual beds in a dormitory is huge and unrelated. It is now possible to use a separate set of business rules for each room/bed type and link each room/bed type to its exact match at hotels in de comp set to get individually calculated rate recommendations for each room/bed type.   RateBoard announced revenue management modules for leisure hotels. RateBoard offers a special module for leisure hotels, taking historical  holiday seasons from different countries, matching this data with the booking window of the different nations and optimizing the forecast due to this important factors. HotelPartner Yield Management announced the implementation of success-based billing models.  The implementation of success-based billing models aligns incentives between HotelPartner and clients since they don't charge new partners without having achieved added value in regards to room revenue.  This is an interesting and innovative approach - we're curious to see how it works as demonstrating uplift is a really difficult thing to prove given market fluctuations and the massive # of variables that can't be controlled. Marketing Travel Tripper announced Real Time Ads & Metasearch Direct. These tools help hotel marketers minimize costs and maximize RoAS on their digital marketing campaigns. Real Time Ads is the first digital marketing tool that allows hotels to advertise—in real time—their rates, availability, popularity and more right on their Google search ads, delivering double the conversion rates. With Metasearch Direct, Travel Tripper has helped hotels generate 38x their spend on metasearch with our direct connect to Google Hotel Ads. Their unique commission model means that independent hotels with smaller budgets can play on the metasearch channel without any risks—and for less cost than an OTA commission. Travel Tripper announced ADA Monitoring Platform. Many hotels in the U.S. are in constant risk of ADA compliance lawsuits simply because their websites are not accessibility friendly. Not only does the TT Web team offer full-service ADA audits on websites, but they also have built out an automated ADA monitoring platform that performs website checks in real time to ensure compliance. Hotel marketers are immediately notified whenever an element of their site falls out of the accessibility guidelines (for example, lack of alt tags, color contrast etc.) Serenata CRM & IgnitionOne launched a next generation CRM partnership that combines both historic guest information combined with real-time intent data. By tracking and scoring website visitors interests and propensity to convert hoteliers can tailor messaging, content and offers, both on the website and in the booking engine accordingly to this data. The scoring technology also supports new guest acquisition by identifying unknown website user that show high interest in a hotel property or a specific offering from the hotel. Based on the interest and score, the visitor can be prompted with personalized newsletter invite. This approach has proven to massively increase the number of newsletter signups, something necessary for many hotels after recent introductions of privacy regulations like GDPR that eliminated a large part of the hotels marketable profiles due to lack of marketing consents.  The newly created newsletter subscription profiles are enriched with the interests and intent information from the IgnitionOne scoring engine monitoring the hotel website and can be used for marketing purpose complementing the historical data points already stored in Serenata CRM. With Serenata CRM and the real-time intent triggered personalization powered by IgntionOne you can deliver a true personalized experience for your guests and website visitors to drive incremental revenue. Integrator announcements HAPI announced it’s recent Salesforce integration following a 2-way oxy connect with Oracle’s PMS dailypoint™ - software made by Toedt, Dr. Selk & Coll. GmbH announced a data cleansing solution which allows hotels to automatically clean, correct, and de-duplicate their guest profiles and push that data back to the hotel’s PMS. The fully automated, AI-based process includes hundreds of steps, reviewing all key data points within the guest profile. It removes duplicate profiles, corrects mistakes made from human errors, corrects addresses for more than 240 countries and ultimately creates one single, accurate guest profile for each guest. This data is stored in the central data management solution by dailypoint™ as well as pushed to the hotel’s PMS so that data is accurate across all key sources. Operations Customer Alliance announced Customer Experience Hub extending their surveying capabilities from solely focused on post-stay reputation and review gathering into the full guest journey.  The Customer Experience Hub allows hoteliers to customize automated messaging based on events through the guest journey to collect feedback and pipe it in real time to the department or team member who can act on it to recover fast, improve the guest experience and in-turn--improve review sentiment and gss scores. Betterspace GmbH announced Smart Check-out feature with digital invoice and the Self-Ordering function, both for the digital guest directory iQ Tab.The Smart Check-Out enables guests to comfortably check out of the hotel and allows them to view and split their invoice digitally and receive it by e-mail. Thanks to this feature, long waiting lines at the reception desk are a thing of the past. Self-Ordering for the digital guest directory gives guests the opportunity to order food and drinks with the digital guest directory - without leaving the hotel room. Orders are sent directly to the hotel restaurant Both features simplify operational workflows, optimize processes and thus relieve staff and relax guests. This reduces administrative/bureaucratic efforts, saves time and money and the time saved can be devoted to what is important: hotel guests. Travel Appeal announced Mobile Coach, a mobile app designed for on-the-go managers. By combining artificial intelligence with human experience, the Coach is able to detect even the most granular details from customer feedback. It’s the perfect solution for obtaining actionable insights about everything that really matters to a business. Review and operations  management, made simple. The Coach app not only improves and simplifies business strategies, but helps users manage and respond directly to customer feedback - reviews, posts and photos published by customers are
 delivered directly to your mobile. Uncover what your clients really think to offer the best experience and maximize satisfaction. Live updates and a seamless user experience allow managers to track competitors and monitor brand reputation while also collaborating and assigning tasks to staff members. hotelkit GmbH announced a HOUSEKEEPING module.  Their existing platform is used by over 40.000 hotel employees in more than 800 hotels worldwide. This new solution now focuses on all housekeeping needs and guarantees high-quality housekeeping standards through fully digitalized processes. Through an easy and modern paper-free task allocation, housekeeping processes are way more efficient. The workload can be distributed efficiently according to an employee's time and skill credits, thus, productivity is enhanced. Through digital checklists, quality standards are significantly high and the entire cleaning process can be monitored easily through real-time tracking. Smooth and efficient housekeeping routines are a crucial aspect in hotels, as cleanliness is particularly important when it comes to the guest decision making process. However, typical housekeeping processes within hotels are still highly inefficient. In order to be able to substantially increase guest satisfaction, hotelkit HOUSEKEEPING was developed together with several luxury hotels - among them the Sacher Hotel Vienna and Salzburg, and the Radisson Blu Hotel Hamburg Airport. As all processes are digitized, fast reactions, increased quality standards, and high guest satisfaction can be guaranteed! Knowcross announced PANIC BUTTON.  Hospitality workers are subjected to an inordinate amount of sexual harassment and abuse, which is why as a technology provider we considered the introduction of  Panic or Safety Buttons as our way of giving back to the industry. Panic buttons give hospitality workers the ability to summon assistance when needed. PANIC BUTTON helps hotels to provide a safer working environment by instant reporting of harassment complaints by hospitality workers by using technology such as GPS and Bluetooth. Guest Applications & Devices Criton announced multiple property group functionality which was piloted with London-based Cheval Residences became the first brand to adopt the new product. Created specifically for the hospitality sector, the new product gives accommodations providers with multiple properties a platform to include information on each one within a single parent app.  With locations across the capital city, luxury serviced apartment specialist Cheval Residences are the first group to adopt the new technology with eight of their luxury properties contained within their new app. Group functionality is a game-changer for multi-property organizations like Cheval; enabling them to showcase the unique personality of each property while reinforcing their brand, increasing direct bookings and driving loyalty from new and repeat guests. GuestTraction announced online check-in to reduce queuing at Front Desk by moving check-in to pre-arrival. More than a third of guests polled (38%) indicated that a source of frustration was the front desk taking too long to complete requests.

Integrations and cyber security will make hotels Hapi in 2019

by
Hotel Tech Report

Hapi founder Luis Segredo and his partner Nikolai Balba are no strangers to the hotel technology world. After decades of entrepreneurial success in the hotel tech space - Segredo and Balba couldn't help but notice that 15% of IT budgets were being spent deploying, securing and supporting product integrations.  In 2017 the two launched their firm Hapi to solve this massive problem.  Hapi is a data streaming, integration and enrichment platform designed to solve the hotel industry’s rapidly expanding data management challenges. Venture capitalists often point to three key variables that determine the probability of success for any given firm: market size, market timing and the the team.  Hapi has all three in spades.  Hapi was founded by two of the most successful entrepeneurs in the space and is operating at the convergence of the world's largest markets (travel, hospitality, technology).  Segredo previously founded MTech (creator of HotSOS operations software) and sold the business to hotel tech powerhouse Newmarket which eventually got rolled into Amadeus - so if anyone knows how to solve this complex problem - it’s Luis. The only thing that was missing when Balba and Segredo founded the business in 2017 was market timing. Today we're just days away from 2019. Cyber security and data integration problems are front and center for hotels across the globe.  Consequently, an industry that's notoriously slow to adopt technology and anticipate disruptive innovation is finally wising up.  Hapi recently closed a deal with Red Lion Hotels Corporation to leverage it's technology for data enrichment and security - a first for a major brand. Major hotel companies have been hit by a perfect storm: increased competition is coming from homesharing, supplier power has been obliterated by the OTAs and compliance expenses are through the roof with new regulations such as GDPR.  Adding fuel to the fire, industry behemoth Marriott was hit by the largest corporate hack in history last week. This may all sound like a doomsday scenario - but hoteliers are not alone in the fight.  Segredo has helped hotels fend off competition and adapt to changing market dynamics for the last three decades and has one thing to say:   "Don't worry be Hapi"      We sat down with Segredo to talk about his career, vision for the company and how hotel companies can modernize their infrastructure to optimize for performance and security. HAPI founder Luis Segredo (also founder of Mtech)      Talk us through your entrepeneurial journey that resulted in HAPI I started as an entrepreneur in my early twenties back in 1993. I grew the company, MTech, organically and internally funded it with a group of family and friends. We grew the company to about 2,500 customers in over 40 countries with our products, HotSOS and REX. In 2011, we finally sold MTech to Newmarket International. I stayed with Newmarket and was exposed to an organization ten times our size. Two years later Newmarket was purchased by Amadeus. My tenure with Amadeus lasted three years before the entrepreneurial bug started to bite me again. Research showed that 15% of hospitality IT budgets were being spent on deploying and supporting product integrations. The traditional point-to-point or even ESB approaches are time-consuming, expensive and constrain innovation. My partner, Nikolai Balba, and I saw this problem and believed that taking technology that has already been proven in other industries to our vertical’s challenge would free up resources and unlock innovation. We knew it could be a viable business, but we really started this out of passion - we just wanted to help solve the industry’s problem.   How does HAPI help hotels integrate technology solutions in a secure environment? Let’s say that a hotel company wants to deploy a new, innovative BI tool and they need to connect their new provider with the multiple system providers that need to be integrated with the solution. The communications and development process take months and the ultimate implementation blows the budget in integration licenses. An alternative is for the hotel company to flow its data through the normalized streams created by Hapi. In this scenario, the new provider connects to Hapi and consumes data from thousands of hotels in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost, and each subsequent project is even more efficient. All the while, the hotel company remains in control of its data and has records of where it is going, enhancing relevance, as well as data privacy and compliance.   Who is one mentor that has really helped you scale the business? Laurent Idrac is a personal friend who was also the group CIO for Accor Hotels. He was the first person we approached with the Hapi story while he was at Accor.  He challenged us and gave feedback which has been instrumental in guiding our commercial approach.  He has continued to offer support and is working more closely with us since he left Accor.   What's one commonly held belief that most hoteliers believe to be true that actually is false? Hoteliers have few misconceptions about the interactions between vendors in our space. They have grown to expect the challenges and extra costs providers have to build best-of-breed integrated solutions. Hoteliers expect this cost to be passed on to them. This has been the reality. What we are creating is a new paradigm where the cost and time of developing the integrations is reduced by allowing developers to consume a singular connection type, rather than building integrations to each of the hundreds of PMS vendors. With Hapi, solutions can come to market faster and at a lower cost.   What's the most surprising thing you've learned about scaling technology into hotels since founding the business? My teams delivered SaaS solutions to the largest hotels in the world and to the largest groups, so I have witnessed most of the challenges of scaling technology into hotels. What is pleasantly surprising is to see the appetite that hotel companies have to undergo a digital transformation at the enterprise level. There is an acute understanding that their competitive landscape is changing and that past technology patterns could kill them.     Are there 1 or 2 companies in the community that have been a particularly good partners for you? Well, by our very nature, our aim is clearly to partner with all vendors in the industry. We want to free the industry from the mundane, yet expensive, effort of integration and allow them to focus on the value they create for hotels. We have two partners who have been excellent partners, and together they make for strange bed fellows. The first is Oracle. Oracle has gone through a great deal of change in the last few years, and it has strained relationships with many hotel and tech partners in the process. This has not been the case with us. While we could be viewed as having competing interests, Oracle has been an excellent partner, supportive of our mission to help hotels accelerate innovation. The support that we have received at all levels of the organization clearly shows that they want to move the industry forward. The other partner is Salesforce. A CRM powerhouse that is working hard to grow its footprint in hospitality, they have been instrumental in opening doors for us. They realize that we bring that last mile connectivity that unleashes the potential of the Salesforce offering. Here too, they have made somewhat competitive acquisitions, but they realize that productized integration knowledge is critical to successful implementations. Ours is a monumental challenge that we do not pretend to be able to tackle alone. We are essentially in the plumbing business. We don’t build applications. We only move the data. As such, we welcome everyone to build a connector to Hapi. Together, we can change our little part of the world for the better.   Where do you see HAPI in 5-years? In 5 years, we see a marketplace of solutions that can be deployed with ease for customers who have embraced our platform. We will amass hundreds of technology partners, while we are also using Hapi to help hotel companies solve their internal data challenges.  This category will evolve significantly in the next five years. It is currently in a nascent stage, addressing the issues created in today’s still highly fragmented model. Hundreds of providers are offering premise-based or hosted technologies that are not truly multitenant or cloud. This will continue to change. As it does, the challenge will not be accessing APIs as much as it will be controlling the movement of data in stricter regulatory environments and managing the far larger data sets. The technologies that we are using were created and refined at the tech companies that are further ahead than most hospitality companies, so Hapi will be ready for the challenge.  

SiteMinder CEO: "The SaaS economy has made best-of-breed solutions accessible to every type of hotel"

by
Hotel Tech Report

In May of 2018 I wrote a piece for Lodging Magazine called "Hotel Technology's Paradigm Shift: The Age of Interconnectivity" where I discussed the #1 barrier to innovation in the hotel industry - the lack of integration between different components in the hotel tech stack.  In the last couple of years a slew of ambitious companies have set out to solve this connectivity problem. One of the most interesting contenders in this fight decided to throw its hat in the ring in June 2018 when SiteMinder launched its Exchange marketplace.   To be clear this ring is massive and there's definitely room for several winners.  SiteMinder's approach is unique in that they started with a massive install base of clients (30,000+) who use the firm's technology products such as their Channel Manager, TheBookingButton and Prophet rate shopping software.   Snapshot has taken a similar approach to SiteMinder while Protel, Mews Systems and Apaleo have set out to solve the problem by building property management systems with integrated app marketplaces for their clients to add different components onto their tech stack with ease.  Impala created an open API that allows hotel tech products to connect directly and seamlessly with PMS providers - very much like Zapier provides the underlying infranstructure required to maintain a seamless connection between 2 different product as they evolve.  HAPI has similarly focused on connecting directly into the PMS and recently signed it's solution with Red Lion Hotels.   The race to connect the entire guest journey is on.  Incumbents like Sabre have talked about doing this for years but have yet to deliver a real end-to-end experience in a simple and elegant solution desired by hotels and are very much shackled by legacy technology that was bolted on through acquisitions rather than built in house.  Nothing against Sabre here, it's just much harder to turn a ship of that size and paradigm shifting innovation rarely comes from incumbents resting on cash cow businesses.   SiteMinder's chances of winning this race increased dramatically when they hired current outgoing Xero COO Sankar Narayan who previously led the now $5B+ Accounting Software firm through rapid growth.  Perhaps the most interesting thing about Sankar's move is that Xero was seeing similar changes in the accounting software market that we are seeing in hotel tech.    Based on these market trends, Xero chose to double down on small business by providing increasing value to its existing customer base (increase share of wallet) rather than attract larger (and largely new) enterprise clients.  This maniacal focus on their core customer has paid off in spades and we imagine Narayan will steer SiteMinder in this direction as well.   Xero has built a very impressive and robust partner marketplace much like the one SiteMinder is set on developing for hospitality.  This past year Xero rebranded itself changing the firm's tagline from "Beautiful accounting software" to "Beautiful business".  This change reflects a shift in the firm's view of evolving market forces.  Essentially the firm is moving from being just software to becoming a platform for small businesses - and Sankar was at the center of it all.  Needless to say, selling into small businesses like hotels is extremely difficult and requires a unique skillset.  Xero's value is derived in its ability to sell into and service those types of businesses. Backed by venture capital powerhouse TCV and now under the joint leadership of Narayan and founder Mike Ford, SiteMinder is positioned to transform the hotel tech industry like never before.  We sat down with Sankar and discuss his views on the market, why he traded his Ducati for video games and the road ahead for SiteMinder.     Tell us about your career in technology. How did you first get into technology and what was the path like into your current role? My career began in technology. It was what I studied at university and I also gained my Masters in Electrical Engineering, specializing in computer engineering, in the US, before I landed a role creating software and designing computer hardware in Silicon Valley; that was my first full-time job. From there, I did some consulting work and then life took me to the other side of the world, to Australia, where I got into more of the business side of things at one of the country’s largest mobile telecommunications companies and Internet service providers. I’ve since had the opportunity to experience other sectors, including media and travel, and got back to technology in 2011 to head up IT and finance at Virgin Australia Airlines. In 2015, I accepted the role of CFO and COO at cloud accounting software company Xero, and I’m thrilled to officially assume the CEO position at SiteMinder in the New Year. The SiteMinder elevator pitch SiteMinder is the leading provider of technology that connects hotels to future guests, so hoteliers can go back to doing what they love. In today’s age where people have the freedom to access travel however they like, SiteMinder is the name synonymous with the belief that technology can empower any hotel to win in a consumer-led world and unleash their potential. SiteMinder is the global hotel industry’s leading guest acquisition platform, ranked among technology pioneers for its smart and simple solutions that put hotels everywhere their guests are, at every stage of their journey. Combined with a unique ability to cater to hotels of all sizes, it’s this central role that has earned SiteMinder the trust of more than 30,000 hotels, across 160 countries, to generate in excess of 80 million reservations worth over US$26 billion in revenue for hotels each year.     Read why hoteliers ranked SiteMinder's Channel Manager #1 on Hotel Tech Report   When did you first become interested in hotel technology? I first arrived at the intersection of technology and travel during my time at Virgin Australia. As for hotel technology, specifically, I’ve followed SiteMinder for a number of years, due to my involvement with Bailador Technology Investments, and think it’s an incredibly exciting space to be in.How would you characterize the learning curve moving from tech into hotel tech? There are definitely a lot of unique characteristics to hotel tech, but also many commonalities with other verticals that have experienced the cloud and SaaS disruption in the last two decades. Hoteliers are passionate about hospitality; it’s what they know and love, and what they go back to when given the opportunity to step away from all the other demands that now come with being a hotelier. As the world increasingly moves to online, hoteliers know it’s a movement they can no longer ignore, but it’s an incredibly complex space to navigate through and so they’re still finding how to seamlessly introduce technology into their day-to-day to a point where they’re comfortable knowing it’s not an avoidable detractor, but a necessary enabler of getting closer to their guests. They say hotels have traditionally been slow to adopt tech, but when you consider that such a large proportion of hotels are small to medium-sized businesses, that’s hardly shocking to me. Naturally, one can probably expect that the larger chains and brands would be at the forefront of tech adoption, but even then, as we know, that’s not entirely the case and, again, I don’t think that’s a challenge that’s unique to hotels. The cost of tech to any large enterprise is always going to be significant and that cost goes far beyond the initial dollar value. When you’re talking about a complete overhaul of an enterprise-wide system, you’re talking about the cost of setup, training and everything else that comes with change management.What makes 'hotel tech' different than just 'tech'? I think the vastness of the opportunity is inherently what makes hotel tech a little different to other verticals. We’re talking about a massive space occupied by accommodation providers of every type and budget – with different needs as well as varied levels of education and appetites for technology use – hoping to win in a diverse, complex and ever-changing landscape of consumers. For me, that’s what makes hotel tech so exciting. The opportunity for innovation is limitless. You can dream up solutions very quickly; the only restriction is your imagination.Do you think it's harder for hotel tech companies to raise capital relative to general tech companies? I don’t think so. Every business needs to articulate its customer proposition, technology and business model, and we’re seeing great support for some of the newer, exciting entrants into the market, especially within the hotel guest application space. There is a large, unaddressed need with accommodation providers that businesses like SiteMinder are solving, and I think that need has surfaced in recent years. There could certainly be more capital flowing into hotel tech, but I think that ultimately comes down to our ability as an industry to demonstrate what untapped potential exists – and our role in enabling the traveler experience.What's the single biggest opportunity that hotels are missing today? Acing 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. How will the hotel technology landscape be different in five years? 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.Do you think that branded hotels have better or worse technology than independents? I don’t think the adoption of hotel tech is quite this black and white. For sure, we’re seeing a number of the large hotel brands take the lead in the areas of room technology, A.I., robots and the like, but we’re also seeing innovation happening at the smaller end of the spectrum where independent boutiques are leveraging technology to create a more personalized and memorable stay for their guests. Independent hotels constitute a significant portion of SiteMinder’s global customer base and I think that’s testament to how level the playing field actually is. The cloud and SaaS economy has made best-of-breed solutions accessible to every type of hotel, irrespective of their size, budget or structure, and arguably it’s been the smaller independents that have benefited most.If you were to start a business in hotel tech tomorrow, what would it be Probably something in the hotel guest application space, as that really blurs the lines between B2B and B2C tech and has a real potential to change how we all, as tech innovators and consumers, experience and engage with tech. What's one piece of advice you have for engineers and entrepreneurs who are interested in starting a hotel technology company? The hotel tech industry is fast, exciting and has no limits, but the competition is fast-growing and those that can harness a hotel’s deepest pain points to produce something of value stand the best chance of being relevant not only today, but three, five and even ten years from now. Get in it and carve out your space. What's one podcast, newsletter or book that you recommend hoteliers read if they'd like to eventually move into tech? The SiteMinder Blog (here)What is your favorite hotel in the world? Peppers on the Point at Lake Rotorua, New Zealand What is one thing that most people don't know about you? I’ve swapped my Ducati motorbike for more online video games and have achieved Great Summoner Status in Fire Emblem Heroes!

Hotel Entrance: How to Make It Truly Welcoming

by
Lillian Connors

The entrance to your hotel is a mission statement – it is a visual layout of your goals as a service. Since it is the first thing any unsuspecting arrival will see, you need to make sure it looks the occasion and represents exactly what the hotel stands for. The entrance needs to be inviting, it needs to communicate comfort and it has to stir positive emotions. Most of all, it must grab the attention of a potential customer. Here’s how you can make the hotel entrance truly welcoming. Mission, vision, goal In order to turn a hotel entrance into an inviting “presentation” of the hotel’s best attributes, you first need to define its mission, vision and goals. The mission of a welcoming hotel entrance is to lure the guests in. Vision is to have it represent all the qualities of the hotel, and the goal is to have a hotel brimming with eager and satisfied customers that got exactly what they expected. You just have to make sure that, whatever you do with the entrance stylistically, it doesn’t alienate anyone – the best case scenario is to have the widest spectrum of people checking in. The colour scheme Colour is the first thing that should be on your mind when you are designing a hotel entrance. It is a key element of decoration for both indoor and outdoor setups. Try to use colours that will invoke yearning in the passers-by, depending on where the hotel is situated. If the hotel is near a beach in a tropical or overall hot environment, gentle curves and colder pastel colours will make the potential visitor believe this is a place where they can rest and cool off. On the other hand, if your hotel is situated somewhere far north, in a place most tourists visit during the winter months, you’ll want to utilize warm colours, sometime bold contrasts of white and red, to entice people to come in. The colour scheme doesn’t have to be particularly revolutionary as long as it is appropriate and sends the right message – it is other elements that surround the entrance that need to offer interesting variations meant to intrigue. Below the entrance The floor below the entrance needs to visually pull the attention towards the door itself. Therefore, it would be advisable to use premium concrete sealers to protect your concrete from the elements. The hotel’s concrete stretch should start off wide and get narrow as it approaches the entrance (or potentially the stairs in front of it). Carpets might be an interesting element you should think about, though you should choose the material that can be easily cleaned. Many hotels add a red carpet in front of their doors to achieve the glamorous appeal. Above the entrance If you truly want to make your entrance appear welcoming and to communicate comfort, you should certainly provide some form of shelter above the entrance. As the downpour clears the streets, this canopy can disarm even the most resistant visitor. Try to create a shelter that provides a big cover, so the customers can get their act together, rearrange luggage or wait for transportation. The power of light Proper lighting is crucial for the exterior of the hotel, let alone the entrance itself. Lights are inviting by nature – they catch the attention of the eyes and divert them towards what they’re pointing at, without faltering. Just make sure the light fixtures you have installed all cast a softer shade of light, possibly a warmer colour, unless the style of the hotel and the entrance need something different. A dash of greenery Adding a dash of greenery can truly turn your hotel entrance into something enchanting. It will turn a cold and formal façade into a warm and welcoming exterior. It also brings a feeling of personal touch to the proceedings, not to mention the fact it can effectively cover the unappealing architectural details. You can also use the plant life to decorate your lobby, as a natural continuation of what visitors have seen at the entrance. Creating a welcoming hotel entrance is not so dissimilar to setting a stage for a theatre performance. It needs to provide an apt visual synthesis for everything a proper hotel stands for – total comfort, good service and positive atmosphere. Whether it communicates “luxury” depends mostly on what sort of hotel you have on your hands. No matter what kind of hotel it is, the entrance is a mise-en-scène that needs to hook any reluctant newcomer to rent a room.

ASSA ABLOY Hospitality Named 2018 HotelTechAwards Top Rated Keyless Entry Provider

by
Hotel Tech Report

  February 12, 2018 - Hotel Tech Report has named ASSA ABLOY Hospitality 2018’s Top Rated Keyless Entry provider for its Mobile Access digital key solution based on data and reviews from existing customers. Over 100 of the world’s elite hotel technology products competed for a chance to win this prestigious title. The HotelTechAwards platform by Hotel Tech Report leverages real customer data to determine best of breed products that help hoteliers grow their bottom lines. “The returning, loyal and modern hotel guest will be more loyal with an easy check-in and checkout solution, and ASSA ABLOY Hospitality is best in class,” a Netherlands-based general manager told Hotel Tech Report. ASSA ABLOY Hospitality Mobile Access is an innovative digital key solution that allows hotel staff and guests to enter specific areas of a property with a quick swipe of their mobile device. Sending a digitally encrypted key to a guest’s smartphone, guests can bypass front desk check-in and enter their room immediately upon arrival. “When I was at SPG, keyless entry was largely a PR play that helped market to the tech-savvy traveler. Yet as the service evolved, and along with hotel groups consolidating and mobile devices continuing to get more powerful, this technology is quickly becoming mainstream, even an expectation, for frequent travelers who value convenience and efficiency,” says Hotel Tech Report’s Jordan Hollander. A Lebanon-based IT manager told Hotel Tech Report that ASSA ABLOY Hospitality has been a game changer for his property: “This is my first experience with keyless entry systems and after having worked with the system daily for over six months now it is great. Most importantly it is also very secure (we are part of safe hotels organization and it took full grade in terms of security). It is very reliable and provides a modern way for guests to access their hotel room.” To read the full review and more, head to ASSA ABLOY Hospitality's profile on Hotel Tech Report

Soundproof Hotel products

by
Lucas Keizer

Well-insulated and quiet hotel rooms are increasingly important for the well-being of hotel guests and thus for the successful operation of any hotel. Before 2015, no objective standards for the sound insulation of hotel rooms existed, but in that year the Quietroom Foundation introduced the Quiet Room® label, the first and only independent global label for quiet hotel rooms. The introduction was a great success and by the end of 2017 more than 160 hotels had their rooms certified for the QR-label, which is widely publicised and has achieved great popularity among travellers.Quietroom packages for hotel developers In order to facilitate architects,builders,hotel managers and developers engaged in the (re-)development of hotels, the Quietroom Foundation has created a series of packages aimed at helping you to incorporate the QR-standards, have some or all of the hotel rooms certified for the QR-label and achieve a high level of sound-insulation. The packages are specifically designed for various stages of hotel development, i.e. from the building stage to the redesign of existing hotel rooms.Quietroom QuickscanThe Quickscan is aimed at finished hotels that want to achieve the QR-certification without any redevelopment. Based on the available building plans and blueprints, we carry out a series of calculations to determine whether the selected hotel rooms meet the standards of the QR-label category III. If they do, the hotels will receive the QR-label and can use this in their marketing and publicity, as well as profit from the free publicity generated by the Quietroom Foundation through its website and other channels.Quietroom Design Advice & CertificateThis package is intended for the planning & design stage of hotels that are going to be built or redeveloped. It consists of a series of calculation measurements and studies of the design and building plans. In case of a positive assessment, you will receive a certificate which guarantees that the finished hotel will meet the standards of the QR-label and can obtain this once the hotel is finished. In case the design and building plans do not meet the requirements of the QR-label, we will provide advice regarding the corrective measures necessary to obtain the certificate.Building Phase ConsultancyFor hotel (re)construction projects that have already started, we offer a consultancy service. This entails close monitoring with regard to the use of specific building materials and sound insulation measures, in order to ensure that these meet the requirements of the QR-label. It prevents construction errors which could otherwise be expensive to correct and gives the developer the guarantee that the finished hotel can obtain the QR-label.QR Performance MeasurementsThe Quietroom Foundation has several certified partners around Europe who can carry out performance measurements (sound-insulation measurements). Hotels that wish to have their rooms certified for the QR-label, can engage the services of one of these. They will carry out the measurements according to the specifications laid down in the QR-handbook en deliver the results in the form of a detailed report. The hotels will receive the QR-label and can use this in their marketing and publicity, as well as profit from the free publicity generated by the Quietroom Foundation through its website and other channels.QR-training and development program The Quietroom Foundation has developed several training programs, aimed at hotels, builders, developers and architects. The aim of the training programs is to enhance the knowledge of sound-insulation best practices, as well as of the factors that are involved in optimal sleep comfort in hotels.Construction and sound (insulation) training This training focuses on enhancing awareness and prevention of possible building errors with regard to sound-insulation, as well as providing insight into the latest sound-insulation materials and products. It also explains how to use and implement the QR-specifications during the building phase. Sleep Comfort Training One of the key factors for hotel guests to have a positive experience is to get a good night's sleep. This training, which has been developed in close cooperation with the Somnio Institute, is based on the latest scientific insights. It focuses on the many factors that need to be addressed in order for hotel guests to have optimal sleep comfort: a quiet room, a good bed, a pillow menu, good lighting and ventilation, healthy food, as well as several others.If you would like to find out more about any of our packages or training programs, feel free to contact us by phone 0840030094 or email info@quiethotelroom.org.Foundation QuietroomKeizersgracht 241 1016 AE Amsterdam, Netherlands Tel: +31 (0)840030094QUIET Hotelroom® IS MORE THAN JUST A LOGO IT’S AN EXPERIENCE !

Security Shortcomings Exposed By Las Vegas Massacre Prompt Sweeping Security Overhaul Discussions Among Hotels In The United States

by
Diana Dowell

On Sunday, October 1, 2017, a gunman shot into a crowd of 22,000 people from his 32nd-story room in the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. After 11 minutes, 59 people were killed and more than 500 were injured. Whether hotels can or will respond to this tragedy with security measures capable of preventing future mass shootings remains to be seen. In the wake of this tragedy, however, hotel security practices undoubtedly will come under severe scrutiny. As many of our hospitality clients have contacted us over the past three days to discuss their security obligations, we thought this short article might prove helpful by identifying certain legal principles applicable to hotel security and by outlining several security measures hotels will likely evaluate and implement in the near future.An Innkeeper's Liability for Guest Safety Innkeepers are obligated to exercise "reasonable care" for the safety of their guests. This duty of reasonable care requires vigilance in the protection of guests from foreseeable risks ” a duty that requires not only warning guests, but also adequately policing the hotel premises. More specifically, innkeepers and hoteliers are liable for injuries to guests caused by the accidental, negligent, or intentional harmful acts of other guests, patrons, or strangers, if, by the exercise of reasonable diligence, the innkeeper could have discovered that such acts were being done or were about to be done and could have protected against harm either by controlling the conduct or giving an adequate warning to allow guests to avoid harm. That being said, innkeepers are not required to anticipate and guard against the unusual, unlikely or abnormal, or against something that reasonable care, skill, or foresight could not have discovered or prevented.In the context of a guest suffering a violent assault by another guest, a hotel may be held responsible if the hotel knew or should have known that the offending guest may become violent and it could have evicted that attacking guest. Guests of an inn, hotel, restaurant, or similar establishment are entitled to rely on that establishment operator to exercise reasonable care for their safety. In addition, the operator may provide its own security employees or use the services of a private security vendor. Further, innkeepers owe a duty to protect strangers from the acts of guests while at the establishment. Nevertheless, innkeepers are liable to such strangers for the act of a guest only when the hotel knew or, by the exercise of ordinary care, could have known the guest was likely to commit some act resulting in injury to the stranger.Whether a hotel is liable to its guests or strangers for a violent act by one of its guests primarily hinges upon the foreseeability of the act. Unfortunately for Mandalay Bay, hindsight is 20/20 and many questions will be asked about whether it should have noticed a guest making multiple trips to equip his 32nd floor room with an arsenal of guns and ammunition.Possible Next Steps in Hotel Security It is no easy feat to balance the safety of guests with their desire for privacy. Also, the many intrusions and encumbrances of thorough security measures may at times seem antithetical to notions of luxury and hospitality. Most hotels have safety, security, and emergency response procedures in place that are reviewed frequently, tested, rehearsed and updated accordingly. Still, hotel security and guest safety measures remain imperfect. In fact, advances in hotel security have largely developed in response to breaches in security, changes in technology and other unfortunate acts. Admittedly, security in the hospitality industry is more reactive than proactive. However, given the devastation caused during the Las Vegas massacre, hotels must become vigilant in pursuing preventative measures.While many hotels already use closed-circuit surveillance systems, one such preventative measure may include installing state-of-the-art window locks and sensors to alert security personnel and law enforcement when a hotel window has been opened or broken. Additionally, many hotels may need to revisit their firearm policies to decide whether they will prohibit firearms on premises, or place restrictions on firearm possession, such as allowing guests to bring permitted, unloaded firearms for storage purposes only, and requiring that firearms remain locked in a firearms safe or container.With regard to the implementation of security checkpoints, some hotels may consider installing entryway deterrents, such as dog sniffs, metal detectors, X-ray machines and the like. However, despite having proven to be an effective method of deterring individuals from checking in at airlines with firearms, establishing a visible security presence at hotel entryways collides with the immense premium hotel guests place on their privacy. And, while replacing seemingly loose hotel security protocols with more robust security measures that target guest luggage may be an obvious solution for some, the fact remains that such deterrents often make guests feel less safe ” a concern that many in the hospitality sector can ill-afford to ignore.In short, any overhaul in hotel security practices would likely have to be at an industry level. Absent an industry-wide change in security practices, it is unlikely that hotels will undertake the expense of implementing state-of-the-art security measures. This is especially true if hotels fear a potential loss of business to competitors with less intrusive security measures. What is likely, however, is that the impact of the Las Vegas massacre will force those in the hospitality industry to take a closer look at their security measures and adapt accordingly.What does this mean for you? Before October 1, 2017, it may not have been reasonably foreseeable that a guest was going to check in to a hotel, arm himself, and use his room as a turret. Now, it very well may be. As a result, we suggest your hotel add this scenario to its list of considerations as it refines or develops a security program. At bare minimum, your hotel should ask itself (1) what measures are in place to prevent this type of tragedy; (2) if it occurred, what guidance is in place to ensure an appropriate and immediate response; and, (3) on a more mundane level, does the hotel's insurance policy provide or exclude coverage for such events?Hotel security will never be perfect, but hotels have a longstanding legal duty to protect their guests and other visitors. Let's all take a moment and reflect upon what else we may be able to do to ensure that safety remains a cornerstone of hospitality.

Guest experience: The details that make the difference

by
Hotel Tech Report

Needless to say, the hospitality sector keeps getting more and more competitive these days. On booking.com, for instance, 1,172,086 hotels worldwide are listed. Airbnb registered around 500,000 stays per night back in 2015, so probably a lot more at this moment.Clearly, in order to survive and thrive on such a constantly growing market, one must stand out. But how do we achieve that? By constantly and costly investing in innovative equipment, trendy design updates and expensive promotional services?Not necessarily. In hospitality, probably more than in other field, "little details make a big difference". Why, you ask?It's easy.Happy customers will spread the word about your business. They will recommend your location to their friends when they are looking for a going-out/housing idea and will even become your volunteer social media marketers by posting perfectly chosen pictures on their social profiles. Since hashtags are trendy, they will also use them, allowing the free advertising they just created for you to become visible to those outside their friend list.Hey, if you're lucky, that post could even become viral and you could get the type of promotion and ad agency would ask thousands of dollars for!So, what are the details that could make a difference? Guessing what customers want or need may seem like the most difficult task in the universe if we think about it that way.At the end of the day, however, our customers are people just like us and should in no way be regarded any differently.The best way to understand patrons and "guess" their needs is by having a look at what's trending at the moment and, why not, what we would like in their place. At the end of the day, we're all customers. If we are bothered by a restaurant's decision to charge for napkins, for sure there will be people that will also not be pleased with this apparently "minor" detail.I always, for instance, appreciate things that are on the house when going out. It shows me that the location wants to make customers feel extra welcome. Such things do not need to cost a fortune and take your business to sure bankruptcy¦ they are small efforts that show you care.When I visited Greece, for example, a small family-owned tavern served each guest a bowl of locally grown and prepared olives, together with home-made toast and butter. After a whole day of sunbathing and strolling around, I can't tell you how good it felt to receive such a treatment, especially since there was some waiting time involved for the food order.When I went to Barcelona, someone had left tourist maps on the bed, with a small list of must-see landmark recommendations. The map had a message attached to it “ "use me as you please and then take me home as a souvenir".In Vienna, the small boutique hotel where I stayed, prepared a probably very affordable goodie bag for customers containing 5 refrigerator magnets with some lovely old Austrian buildings, among which, surprise, was also the hotel. The name of the hotel was featured on the magnet and its web address was mentioned discreetly on the back. The message on the goodie bag: "we took care of the souvenirs, enjoy your vacation!" Such a great way to advertise your business!In Istanbul, I will never forget about the free dessert I got at a place I just happened to walk into. I returned to that restaurant 2 more times and recommended it to my friends as well.In Lisbon, at an otherwise plainly looking small restaurant, the owner entertained guests with jokes. That is why his small diner became quite well known and recommended online, everyone loved the guy and the atmosphere he created.What detail could turn your business into the talk of the town?If you want to become famous online and get the buzz going about your business, give your customers what they couldn't live without.So what could that be? Free food, free sweets, a free night at your hotel?You'd be surprised but free WiFi is probably as important as food when traveling abroad. Even Maslow's hierarchy of basic needs has been updated to include WiFi as an everyday necessity. I know that you probably already are offering this free service to your customers, so how could you possibly stand out?The answer is simple.In the Trump and Snooper's Charter era, more and more people are worried about their Internet privacy.But what if you were offering online privacy with something extra? The Safe WiFi project enables brick-and-mortar business owners to make money, while protecting customers online.As a business owner, all you need to do is set up an ad on your free WiFi landing page, advising visitors to protect themselves online with VPN. Furthermore, you can place printed materials inside your location to promote this online privacy protection app, since you will earn up to EUR 1 for each VPN download and up to EUR 50 for each purchase of Premium subscriptions.What is a VPN and how does it ensure Internet privacy? Simply. It replaces a person's IP (aka their online identity) with a different one, generated by the company's servers. This new address will be shared with other people, making it impossible for others to spy or hack the personal data we use online (such as credit card credentials or Internet history).It's time to show your customers that you care. They will feel welcome in your location and will recommend it to others as well. By joining the Safe WiFi affiliate program, you will profit in more than one way.