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

by
Hotel Tech Report

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

9 CEO predictions about the future of the hotel business

by
Hotel Tech Report

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

Why you should be making improvements to your hotel website every minute

by
Hotel Tech Report

When designing a hotel lobby for ideal first impressions, each decision signals a brand position: high-end, luxury, rustic, down-to-earth, approachable, practical, inviting, welcoming, distant, elegant. Get just one of these wrong, and brand dissonance may lead guests astray. A poor or disjointed first impression can lead to long-lasting perceptions that damage your brand. The same goes for your hotel’s website. It’s your digital lobby. It’s where you welcome guests, offer guideposts about what to do and indicate that they’re in the right place. A bad first impression can discolor the entire guest experience, says JRK Property Holding’s Matt Lippman:   “We've found lobbies and common areas to have a strong halo and horns effect on the guest experience. If a guest's first impression is good then they think of later impressions as good too which can help them overlook less attractive qualities about a property. The reverse happens if that first impression is bad. A bad lobby or website experience can actually overshadow the positive aspects of the guest experience that follows." Unlike a physical lobby, the added advantage of the digital lobby is that it can be updated often. You can -- and should -- be making improvements frequently. The continuous optimization means that your hotel can refine messaging depending on who’s visiting your website, from which channel. One option to manage the refinement process is Hotelchamp, a website experience and marketing optimization tool for hotels. The value is in the “test and learn” approach, which enables hotels of all sizes to test, analyze, and optimize their websites, landing pages, and offers to convert more direct business. With this optimization superpower, here are four ways to optimize your hotel’s digital experience.     Autopilot helps hotels of any size optimize in real time by leveraging its proprietary dataset Your website is the entry point to your offering, so it must make a good first impression. If a luxury hotel presents itself poorly online, it’s a turn-off. On the flip-side, if your midscale hotel presents elegantly, it can have a halo effect on guest perceptions. To effectively manage your first impressions online, Hotelchamp encompasses more than just looks. It optimizes how each guest interacts with your website. For larger groups and brands Hotelchamp's constant website optimization via A/B testing makes websites better, all in response to how actual humans interact rather than a set of assumptions. There's one problem: independent hotels and smaller groups rarely have enough data to run statistically significant A/B tests. Enter Autopilot by Hotelchamp.  Autopilot leverages millions of data points and the massive dataset that Hotelchamp has collected over years in the business to provide real time optimization for hotels without significant enough volumes to run A/B tests.   Hotels that invest in a digital marketing agency that handles search, social and metasearch advertising to drive direct bookings will be especially well-suited to optimize with Autopilot. The ability to test different offers and creative on your digital marketing extends to your website, as you can match the targeting and copy from your digital ads to a specific landing page on your website. Or, for traffic arriving from an OTA, you can hammer home the benefits of booking direct. Each experience can be fine-tuned for specific segments. “Autopilot knows how the direct channel is behaving in the broader context of the ecosystem, for example metasearch.  Combine that and put it next to the patterns we’ve found in the data sets that we’ve gained over the years, we are quite good in predicting not only who you are, what you’re intentions are, but - more important - that Autopilot is serving you dynamically with the right message. Based on that and based on your behaviors after that, it learns more about you, and every time we find the next action.” ~Kristian Valk, CEO of Hotelchamp Even hotels without as much marketing spend can benefit. In fact, those with no marketing spend will find value in Hotelchamp’s Autopilot automation launched at ITB Berlin. The system runs many experiments across the entire ecosystem, then contextually applies those insights to each property's website and seamlessly optimizes what potential guests see according to what it’s learned. In the example above, you can see how two messages would be tested, and then the highest-converting one selected as the “winner” to move forward. The test-and-learn process continues in perpetuity, automatically optimizing messaging and website experience based on rules developed by analyzing the entire dataset rather than just one individual website.   Personalize the experience with behaviorally targeted offers Kalibri Labs’ 2018 Direct Booking Report found sustained growth in direct bookings since its last report in 2016: When compared to the contribution to occupancy from the OTA channel, the Brand.com channel maintained its growth running approximately 50% greater than the OTA bookings. To sustain this growth, hotels turn to targeted offers that encourage more direct bookings. Website optimization is a constant -- and low-cost -- renovation to your digital lobby. When using optimization strategies, such as the ones offered by Hotelchamp, hotels can simply highlight the advantage of booking direct or then can target offers to specific demographics. With each new visitor, your website experience can be personalized with persuasive messaging that converts. It converts because the messaging is precisely aligned with a guest’s intentions, as inferred by guest attributes, such as repeat visitors, geo-location, and which website a visitor arrives from. Known as “proposition testing,” it’s a technique that aligns a user’s behavior with a specific offer. For instance, a proposition for a newsletter signup or a direct booking discount for a user that’s clicking away. Another example is offering a voucher, such as for a complimentary drink upon check-in. Targeted offers also extend to smart notifications. These are similar to the urgency-generating messaging popular on OTAs. Hotels can build that urgency and share specific data around how often a hotel has been viewed, for example. Another common use of Smart Notifications is to highlight a specific feature, such as a gym, for specific type of traveler, like a business traveler. Set a Smart Notification to fire whenever a user arrives from a corporate booking tool URL -- and boom, you have a segmented communication that can improve conversion with a carefully crafted message.   Build trust by highlighting reviews, location, on-property amenities -- and live customer chat In an analysis of conversion rates across hotel star ratings, Hotelchamp found that 5-star hotels convert at less than half the rate of 3- or 4-star hotels.     On its face, this is surprising. One would expect conversion rates to be in a narrower band between categories. It comes down to how guests search for information, says Hotelchamp: “Many 5-star properties across the world also contain luxurious spa facilities or illustrious restaurants and cafés that draw visitors who are not necessarily guests of the hotel. Hotelchamp conversion specialists often see that portions of the website traffic only visit these specific pages on the website, such as spa facilities or afternoon tea.” To build trust with guests, point them to the right information at the right time (and in the right language!). When you have an idea of who they are and what they need, you can then personalize the website experience -- automatically and without having to deploy extensive code. Hotelchamp has three specific callouts that highlight a property’s review score, a property’s location, and a floating tab that calls out specific property amenities. As you can see in the screenshots below, guests can engage directly with each of these optimizations.   Successful targeting requires a detailed understanding of guest behavior. For 5-star hotels, the floating tab may feature rich content highlighting the on-site spa or restaurant. Then this tab might be served to any visitor from the hotel’s own IP address. This puts pertinent information right at the fingertips of on-property guests, reducing barriers and ideally generating more revenue for the business. Another way to build trust via your digital lobby is to make it easy for potential guests to connect with staff. It’s like walking up to the front desk -- it should be simple with a reasonable wait time. Hotelchamp integrates this right into its solution, so hoteliers can engage via live chat without implementing another vendor. All of these tools exist to build trust and give individual guests the information they need quickly and without fuss.     Bringing it all together with comprehensive analytics The Hotelchamp dashboard keeps you up-to-date on the latest active tests, as well as the results from former tests. As you (and Hotelchamp’s team of conversion specialists supporting each account) learn more about how guests interact with each proposition, the data then informs new tests. It’s a virtuous circle that fuels a continuously improving your digital lobby.     A fully-implemented optimization tool for hotels can lead to a conversion mindset with enormous potential. Not only will it empower staff to come up with better-targeted offers, but it will also make guests happier. As guests encounter stronger offers, they convert more often and the hotel enjoys a revenue boost. For one Hotelchamp hotel, the Hotel Casa in Amsterdam, the optimization technology resulted in a 38% increase in direct bookings. Another hotel, Frankfurt’s New Century hotel, saw a 24% increase in conversion rates on its website, leading to an additional €4,685 in revenue per month. One caveat: What you sell, how you sell it, and who you sell it to differs dramatically across hotels. Rely on your data, set aside your assumptions, and use “test and learn” to determine which propositions, targeting, and offer types work best for your hotel. You may be surprised at which combinations work best!  

10 pieces of advice for innovative hotels according to top tech executives

by
Hotel Tech Report

1. Don't overestimate the difficulty of delivering a personalized experience “Hoteliers believe delivering personalized experiences is hard. I have always looked at technology as an enabler for innovation. With the right enablers, hoteliers can take advantage of technology to make personalization easy, which is one of the cornerstones of our eInsight CRM product.  I think either hotels don’t know where to start with their data, or they haven’t democratized access to the right people who can leverage it to drive home personalization. Hotels that standardize 2-way communication among systems and make data integrations a priority are the ones able to break through and outperform in personalization. Information is more relevant, robust and customized when all the systems are speaking to the touchpoints guests have in the journey.” ~Charles Deyo from Cendyn eInsight CRM “Many hoteliers believe that personalisation is not important enough to spend time on. But in reality, the cost of standardised digital communication, and generic upsell offers and promotions is enormous. Hotels are literally losing money with every guest that is walking through the front door.” ~Erik Tengen from Oaky Upsell Software   2. Place importance on vendor quality rather than size “Unfortunately, in this industry, the size of a hotel tech vendor sometimes is overplayed or overemphasized, while the quality of product and engineering teams is underemphasized. People often assume that large companies have better products simply because they can afford better engineers relative to smaller companies. This is far from the truth—I've seen very large companies struggle with their platforms and engineering initiatives. And I’ve seen smaller companies blow away the industry with their solutions. The important thing for hotels to remember is not to judge tech vendors by the size of the company, but by the quality and capabilities of their product and their dedication to customer service. It seems obvious, but happens more often than you think.” ~Gautam Lulla from Travel Tripper RezTrip CRS   3. Understand that artificial intelligence will not take your job “Hoteliers believe that revenue managers will lose their jobs when artificial intelligence gets good enough. I believe that artificial intelligence is going to make revenue management an even more valuable skill because it will take more insight and analytical rigor to stand out from the competition set in a data-driven world. Hoteliers are used to looking at PMS as a cost centre of the hotel. With the maturity of Cloud PMS, the paradigm has changed. A PMS should not be considered as cost, but as a system that will help them grow revenues and business. Also, for most hoteliers, deciding on PMS is an operational decision whereas I feel it should be more of a strategic decision.” ~Aditya Sanghi from Hotelogix PMS   4. Stop running your operations with pen and paper “Perhaps the most common belief I used to hear was that the Concierge didn’t need an application because they could use Excel or their logbooks. We obviously felt differently especially after spending time behind the desk and seeing the amount of work done manually and the importance of providing a tool to enable the team to be more efficient. We believe the role of the Concierge should be in the center of the hotel operation since their work touches so many departments and has such a significant impact on the overall guest experience. A good Concierge team does the job so well that they make it look easy. What is often not recognized or seen is the volume of work being done behind the scenes to deliver such a great guest experience. Investing in a tool allows the team to be more efficient and spend more time and attention on the guests. I believe the reason guests come back now is mostly because of the way the Concierge and other team members make the guests feel when they leave, more so than just having a beautiful hotel. Without a tool such as ALICE, it is very difficult to be efficient and create that great guest experience.” ~Adam Isrow from ALICE Hotel Operations Platform   5. Leverage technology to decrease staff churn “I think the single biggest misconception is that hoteliers think the solution to their traveler personalization problems is to invest in traveler facing technology and create an omni-channel experience.  The biggest problem hoteliers face is actually their staff turnover. What is the point of having traveler facing technology, without experienced staff that have the right technology to empower them to deliver on the brand experience?  Your staff must always come first if you want to truly personalize and fulfill your brand promise. This means hoteliers need to balance their traveler facing and staff facing investments more effectively.” ~Kevin Brown from Amadeus Hospitality   6. Place less emphasis on meeting budget in volatile markets “Hoteliers are not comfortable making changes to prices without knowing the effect it has on their ability to reach budget. In a volatile market, too much emphasis is placed on meeting budget and making safe pricing decisions that ultimately limit a hotel’s revenue achievement. Placing an emphasis instead on demand-based pricing will help secure the highest possible revenue from the marketplace. "Some hoteliers believe it is prudent to wait until business is strong and making more profit before they invest in “nice to have” tools such as revenue management software. That is like saying an athlete should wait until they can run faster before they buy good running shoes. It is the revenue management system that will enable them to maximize their yield and create the bigger profits." ~Ravi Mehotra from IDeaS Revenue Solutions   7. Embrace technology, software is cheap and extremely easy to use today “Most hoteliers are skeptical about technology - for good reason.  Tech companies have a long history of over promising and under-delivering.  As a result, new technologies are not often eagerly adopted by experienced hotel people.  They would rather "wait and see" before embracing yet another "shiny object" tech solution.  The last thing we need is another complicated software program that takes up all of our time and delivers little value.  Tech providers need to focus on the benefits of their solution and design products to require minimal effort for maximum value.  Don't assume that because hotels are multi-million dollar businesses that we like to sit around on our laptops all day - we have become successful by taking care of travelers - and each other - with the service and care that we'd provide to our own families.” ~Del Ross from Hotel Effectiveness Labor Management System “The most common misconception about technology is that it's too expensive. Hoteliers have this misconception because they don’t fully understand the value that the technology brings. They see it as a cost rather than as a profit center. Hoteliers often buy technology the same way they would buy a TV or a pillow. And because of that, tech vendors have been forced to limit their innovation.” ~Marco Benvenuti from Duetto Revenue Management   8. Don't ever manually price hotel rooms “They believe they can do good or decent manual pricing... but in reality there is no way a human can do even a decent job at pricing a hotel. The math behind that statement is really simple, there are two main reasons why a human has absolutely zero chance versus an automated AI system: 1) The sheer scale of the problem. If you're a hotel with 5 room types, 4 variations on each room type (breakfast/cancellation), bookable 365 days in advance, and want to update each price once per hour then you have 0.49 seconds per price to do your analysis and set the price. Even if you simplify the problem drastically, let's say you have a fixed additional cost for breakfast & cancellation, that you just want to update the prices once every four hours, and that you only allow your guests to book in the last 30 days, then you still only have 96 seconds per price to do the calculations and set the price. The sheer scale of the problem makes it impossible for any human to keep up and do a good job. 2) The complexity of the problem. It's important to acknowledge that no price is an isolated island, if you change the price of one room type for a particular arrival date then it will have an effect on all the other room types for the same arrival day. But that's not enough, it will also have an effect on the adjacent days as many people stay more than one night and some one-nighters are flexible and price sensitive. There is this ripple effect and you need to present the optimal set of prices, not the price that is thought to be optimal for one specific room type. Quite often the optimal price for one room type will have a negative impact on the overall revenue, and to calculate the optimal set of prices is both hyper complex and very computationally intensive, it simply cannot be done by a human. Humans should focus on strategic revenue management, not at setting prices.” ~Leif Jaggerbrand from Atomize   9. Stop paying massive sums for integration fees when the entire world has moved to open APIs “Hoteliers that its extremely hard and expensive to integrate different software solutions. Having built our own PMS with open API, I can confidently say that this is no longer true, and we stimulate hoteliers to integrate as much as possible to make their lives easier.” ~Matthijs Welle from Mews Systems   10. Use technology to create more personal interaction, not less “Messaging is impersonal, you can’t replace in-person interactions.” The aim of messaging is not to replace in-person interactions or even phone calls, it is to fill the customer service whitespace or void that exists today. There are a large portion of travelers and consumers today who are not communicating with your organization because you may not have the proper means. With the increasing influx of technology separating the hotel staff and guests (e.g. OTAs and Mobile Room Keys), messaging is one of the main components connecting hotels with their guests today.” ~Chris Hovanessian from Whistle

Cendyn CEO: This is what hotels can learn from the Grateful Dead

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Hotel Tech Report

Cendyn’s Charles Deyo isn’t your typical hotel tech founder by any stretch of the imagination.  Deyo is an avid scuba diver, he meditates under pyramids for spiritual guidance and even plans to play guitar at an underwater music festival next year.  By 1996, the same year that Expedia was born, Deyo had spent 20 years in the hotel industry before founding Cendyn with his wife Robin to help hoteliers win in the digital age. Cendyn’s first product to market was its eProposal solution which allowed hotels to accept group business RFPs via their websites and grow their group business. While eProposal is still a core component of the Cendyn Hotel Sales Suite, it is only a small piece of Cendyn’s current offering.  Today Cendyn’s sales and marketing solutions power more than 30,000 hotels globally through products that touch on hotel CRM, sales software and hotel digital marketing services.   Back in 1996, Cendyn’s initial product to market was its eProposal solution which allows hotels to accept group business RFPs via their websites to increase group bookings.  Today, eProposal is still a core component of the Cendyn Hotel Sales Suite.    The best tech companies listen carefully to client pain points and develop solutions based on those requirements.  The history of Cendyn is a textbook example of how to build a great business by listening to your customers. As the internet boomed through the early 2000s Deyo and his team noticed that there was a huge skills deficiency in digital marketing amongst hotels and began to offer digital marketing services to help clients grow their direct channel. During our interview with the Cendyn chief, Deyo told Hotel Tech Report that the biggest inspiration for building his empire was Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia.  When asked why, he noted that the Grateful Dead is not just an iconic band but is actually one of the greatest brands of all time. The Grateful Dead brand is so prolific that at its peak it raked in more than $90M per year.  Deyo believes that the Grateful Dead’s success could be attributed to one of Garcia’s core beliefs that is summed up in this iconic quote: “We did not want to just be the best at what we did, but the only ones doing it.” ~Jerry Garcia Deyo has always wanted to innovate ahead of the competition and be the “only one doing it” as an ode to Garcia.  When Deyo started Cendyn there were few (if any) online platforms facilitating group business RFPs in hotels and he wanted eProposal to be the only one doing it.  While others were busy copying his recipe for success, Deyo was pioneering the concept of hotel CRM to provide actionable marketing insights where hotel marketers previously lacked any tools to make data driven marketing decisions. Cendyn is yet again pushing ahead with plans to change the way hotels leverage CRM systems within their businesses.  Historically, the hotel CRM sits within the marketing function but Deyo and his team believe it will become much more operational in the future and Cendyn is focused on pioneering the ways hotels leverage CRM systems for operations and not just marketing. Related article: "Super Angel" Dave Berkus on the convergence of PMS, CRS and hotel CRM Deyo believes that hoteliers, too, can benefit massively from living by Jerry Garcia’s credo.  The hotel industry is one of the most competitive in the world and in order to stand out hoteliers must find unique ways to can add value for hotel guests, shareholders and staff.  In this exclusive interview we spoke with Cendyn CEO Charles Deyo about the competitive advantage enjoyed by hotel technology early adopters, the evolution of hotel CRM as an operational tool and more. Power couple Charles and Robin Deyo co-founded Cendyn together What was your background prior to starting Cendyn? Before starting Cendyn I had many years of hospitality experience including 13 years at Hyatt Hotels as Regional Controller and AVP of Sales and Marketing, 3 Years at Kerzner International as Senior Vice President during the development of Atlantis in the Bahamas and 3 Years as Regional Vice President at Boca Resorts (which also owned The Biltmore and Registry Hotels). Tell us about the Cendyn founding story. After spending 20 years in the hotel industry, I realized that hotels needed software solutions to run their business better. We developed solutions that eliminated the pain points for hotels and drove sales and marketing performance. When Robin and I started Cendyn in 1996, the Internet bloomed in front of us and we decided to use this new medium to develop web-based tools that could help the industry we had worked in for years run their businesses better. The first product we brought to market was eProposal, which is still the industry leader almost 20 years later as part of the Cendyn Hotel Sales Suite. Back then, I did it all, from being the programmer to the accountant and everything in between. We were a small, family-run tech firm. After expanding into hotel CRM and digital marketing, (we were one of the early trailblazers in these areas for the industry), the momentum kept going as we won some of the biggest brands and best hotels in the world as clients. That really amped up with the investment from Accel-KKR a few years ago that gave us opportunities to open new locations, acquire companies and accelerate product innovation. Today, we’re lucky to have over 30,000 hotel clients using our solutions. Who was Cendyn's first customer? Frank Calaguire at Starwood. Frank and I worked at Hyatt together and we deployed our first SAAS solution (Cendyn eProposal) at The Westin back in the 90’s. Frank was a good friend and the Managing Director at Westin Copley Place. eProposal is now in over 22,000 hotels worldwide. The hotel tech market is incredibly competitive, how does Cendyn stand out? Cendyn is a cloud-based software and services provider that develops integrated technology platforms for driving sales and marketing performance in the travel and hospitality industry. The Cendyn Hospitality Cloud offers the most complete set of innovative software and services in the industry, covering hotel marketing, guest engagement, group sales, and event management. Cendyn's eInsight CRM is more than a marketing tool and delivers operational insight Who is one mentor that has made a big impact on your entrepreneurial journey? This is probably not one you hear everyday in hotel tech interviews but The Grateful Dead has had a huge influence on my perspective both personally and within the realm of entrepreneurship.  Jerry Garcia said: “We did not want to just be the best at what we did, but the only ones doing it.” Most people don’t realize that the Grateful Dead was one of the most successfully marketed bands of their time and turned their brand into a cash cow which generated $95 million a year at one point. What's one commonly held belief that most hoteliers believe to be true that is actually wrong? Hoteliers believe delivering personalized experiences is hard. I have always looked at technology as an enabler for innovation. With the right enablers, hoteliers can take advantage of technology to make personalization easy, which is one of the cornerstones of our eInsight CRM product. I think either hotels don’t know where to start with their data, or they haven’t democratized access to the right people who can leverage it to drive home personalization. Hotels that standardize 2-way communication among systems and make data integrations a priority are the ones able to break through and outperform in personalization. Information is more relevant, robust and customized when all the systems are speaking to the touchpoints guests have in the journey. What's the most surprising thing you've learned about scaling technology into hotels since founding Cendyn? I was always surprised that standardized integration took so long for our industry. Today, we integrate to hundreds of hotel systems which is key to getting a true 360-degree view of your guest. There are hotels leading the way in how they use technology integrations and those at the other end of the spectrum, but what we do see day-in-day-out is in those hotels that have done so, they have an improved ability to; send the right message to the right guest, through the right channels; gain a clear understanding about the history and preferences of each guest in real time regardless of how they booked; empower their guests to receive information and communicate in the ways that work for them; and deliver the best kind of service, whether it be human interaction or through the use of technology. How do you see hotel tech changing in the next 5-years? We will see more intelligent use of data with AI and bots to further leverage the guest experience. Because of more integrations between technology systems and a higher flow of data between platforms, bots and AI will increase in learned automation and intelligence that can deliver more of the right messages, at the right time through the right channel. We’re in the process of breaking new ground with CRM technology as the core with bots and AI serving based off centralized intelligence. In five years, it will all evolve around the model of a central global profile for guests that references a sophisticated rolodex of data to help serve the customer’s desire for personalization at every touchpoint. Bots will make recommendations, personalize communications and adjust service algorithms in real-time based on data points. CRM will no longer be seen as a marketing function, but rather an operational tool that intelligently orchestrates how everyone interacts with a guest. For Cendyn specifically, we will continue to grow our organic revenue at 20% year over year, along with continued evaluation of M&A opportunities. Do you have any new products or feature launches? As we continue to operationalize CRM for hotels, our latest release of eNgage allows for more sophisticated algorithms that anticipate varying engagement opportunities with hotel guests that, in turn, alert hotel staff. We have a lot of hotels using this solution with great success for personalization, including our client TFE Hotels, headquartered in Australia. They’ve got eNgage across their international hotel group in Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Denmark and Hungary. What advice do you have for hoteliers in this economy? Adopt more technology. Even with all the strides the hotel industry has made, it is still behind other industries. Technology must have an ROI by driving sales and marketing performance. With eInsight, our CRM product, we drove an average 33X ROI for our hotel customers in 2018.  As the economy hits an inevitable slow down, technology will determine the winners and losers.   What's one piece of advice that you have for any entrepreneurs looking to get into the hotel tech space? Keep it simple. Make it valuable. This has been a mantra of Cendyn from the beginning of our company. What is the best book you've read lately? I think we are experiencing significant generational differences due to technology, social media and the varying thought processes. Given that, I thought “Sticking Points” by Haydn Shaw does a great job of explaining how we can make this work with our evolving business teams. Great people working in harmony make great companies. What is your favorite podcast Cendyn’s upcoming podcast series, of course. What is one thing that most people don't know about you? I play guitar and am certified in scuba diving. I plan to play the underwater music festival in Big Pine Key, FL next year. I also meditate under a pyramid on life and business opportunities when needed.

Arise Travel is the hotel industry's secret weapon against the OTAs

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Hotel Tech Report

Arise Travel is an early stage startup that most hoteliers haven’t heard of today but the firm’s technology could be the answer to the seemingly never ending direct booking wars if things go according to plan.  The firm was founded in December of 2017 by two early (former) employees at cloud property management system provider Frontdesk Anywhere who got loads of experience dealing with intermediaries while building the business. Every industry has intermediaries and those intermediaries deserve to get paid for driving business to their partners.  Before we jump into how Arise can help build healthier (and more equitable) relationships between OTAs and their hotel partners let’s take a quick 10,000 foot view of where the relationship sits today.   Why haven't the OTAs been broken up yet? The problem with the OTA-hotel dynamic is mostly a result of consolidation that has surprisingly not been addressed effectively by most antitrust authorities.  The reason that antitrust authorities haven’t addressed this issue is likely because the duopoly actually benefits consumers (by delivering lower prices for accommodations) and many of the world’s most powerful antitrust authorities have mandates to protect consumers rather than businesses.   Here’s a quote directly from the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division website about the group’s mandate: “Competition in a free market benefits American consumers through lower prices, better quality and greater choice. Competition provides businesses the opportunity to compete on price and quality, in an open market and on a level playing field, unhampered by anti competitive restraints.” As such, it is unclear that the Booking/Expedia duoply (which is estimated to control ~80% of the market today) will ever be broken up given the focus on consumer protection.   Arise shifts the focus from direct bookings to lower commissions Historically, most of the companies that help hotels gain leverage against OTAs today have been focused on driving new direct bookings. The general idea is that by helping hotels increase their mix of direct bookings - these hotels will pay lower absolute commissions in the short term and also in theory should be able to negotiate lower commissions over the long haul.  The earliest companies to play in this space were Triptease, Stay Wanderful and Hotelchamp.  These direct booking platforms help hotels optimize their website performance to increase conversion and effectively maximize their funnel rather than bring new prospective guests into it.  More recently, The Hotels Network and 123Compare.me have jumped into the fray. Similarly, digital marketing agencies began positioning around direct bookings with firms such as Screen Pilot, Travel Tripper and TravelClick leading the pack.  Ultimately the goal of any great hotel digital marketing agency should be to drive bookings at a lower cost relative to OTA commissions.  In addition to the benefits of website optimization based direct booking platforms, digital marketing agencies help bring new prospective guests into that funnel through digital marketing on paid channels such as Google, Facebook, Email Marketing and Instagram. So tech companies have gone a long way to help hotels gain leverage with the OTAs by driving direct bookings via digital marketing, website optimization, etc.  While this is a great approach, Arise Travel has a surprising way to end the direct booking wars - and the team wants to do this without a single shot fired.   With an OTA duopoly, is there a big enough market for Arise? While Expedia and Booking have approximately 80% of the OTA market, there are many other stakeholders in the accommodation supply chain.  The total retail value of accommodations globally hovers around $570B and $200B of that gets passed to the hotel industry (Statista).  Booking and Expedia revenue for all business units combined (incl. airline, activities, etc.) are ~$25B which shows that even though they have huge OTA market share, they actually have modest shares of the overall intermediary markets. So who else is in this intermediary market? Some examples include: traditional travel agencies, corporate travel businesses, smaller OTAs and OTA affiliate partners.  Arise wants to help hotels fight the OTAs by mixing in more cost effective 3rd party bookings. When a hotel today forecasts a period with high demand, they’ll often use their channel manager to shut down distribution in what are called “closeout dates.”  Closeout dates include peak times like big conferences coming to town, city wide events, etc.  That sounds reasonable, right? Wrong. When hotels activate these closeout dates they are intentionally leaving bookings on the table today to save themselves for lower commission bookings tomorrow.  Then, as occupancy begins to rise, hotels are able to increase rate which is why they’re ok to leave those bookings on the table. In super simple terms, let’s say a hotel will pay 20% to the OTA and 0% incremental for direct bookings (because many direct costs are fixed).  The reason they shut down OTA inventory is because they believe that the rate increase they can command tomorrow will not justify the distribution cost today.   Arise Travel founder Nadim El Manawy believes that billions are being left on the table and thinks that commissions should be dynamic just like room rates.  Everyone knows that revenue management software is essential to running a profitable hotel business.  If you charge too much - you lose bookings. If you charge too little - you leave profit on the table.  Revenue management systems help hoteliers make sure that they can walk that fine line to maximize profitability and Arise Travel can have the same effect on 3rd party commissions.   Here’s how Arise Travel’s technology works to supercharge your existing channel manager Arise automatically downloads closeout dates from your channel manager where your hotel is leaving bookings on the table.  Your revenue manager can then go into the Arise Travel dashboard and input commission rates that they’d be willing to sell hotel rooms for during those periods.  Rates and desired commissions then get pushed to Arise Travel’s network of intermediaries so hotels can sell rooms to prospective guests on 3rd party channels without commission negotiations or even the need for a traditional contract. Let’s say, for example, that The World Cup is coming to your city next summer so you don’t want to allow Expedia bookings at 20% commission knowing that you’ll fill your hotel regardless.  You can’t renegotiate with Expedia but you can now login to your Arise Travel dashboard and notify intermediaries like small OTAs and corporate travel agencies that you’d be willing to sell rooms for a 7% commission during those times.  You can even set variable commissions on a per room type basis, by rate code, day of the week and even by channel. Eventually the technology will make this all automated through integrations with top rated revenue management systems. Those intermediaries can then accept those terms and list your rooms for booking on their channels with automated rules.  The big value prop for these intermediaries is that they can now sell accommodations that aren’t available on Booking and Expedia - this helps them differentiate and ultimately grow their businesses.  You can now get rooms booked for a reasonable commission while driving up rates during this peak period. Consumers win by accessing your inventory in more places, distributors win by getting access to unique inventory and you win by maintaining reasonable commissions and selling your inventory more quickly.  Arise’s technology handles all commission reconciliation and payouts automatically to save your team time. The entire payment and service history can be viewed at any time providing ultimate transparency into your channel management strategy. If Arise Travel can get big enough, it will eventually pressure Expedia and Booking to accept variable commissions that are market based.  While Expedia and Booking may see short term headwinds from a concept like Arise Travel hitting scale, this is ultimately bringing much needed fair market dynamics and transparency to the industry which will lead to healthier hotel-OTA relationships and more innovation.  Nadim has a massive vision for the industry and he needs the help of our global hotelier community to jump on board with what we at Hotel Tech Report believe is a “no brainer.” We recently sat down with Nadim to chat about his background, the future of hotel distribution, what’s next for Arise Travel and more. Hotel Tech Report's exclusive interview with Nadim below   What was your background prior to starting the company? Before co-founding Arise, I led sales and partnerships for 4+ years at a cloud-based property management system company in San Francisco called Frontdesk Anywhere. Prior to moving to the Bay Area in 2011, I worked in Shanghai and grew up in Belgium. What made you decide to jump in and disrupt the travel distribution space? I met Alex Lamb, my co-founder in this business, at Frontdesk Anywhere where we were the second and third employees. Alex lead the engineering team there for 4+ years. Being in the PMS business, we became very familiar with how things work on the operational side at hotels, but we also had to work with many players in the distribution chain such as channel managers, GDS and wholesalers. We got to see how things are patched together behind the scenes today. Many of the hotels we worked with were very vocal about how a few online travel agencies were controlling their distribution and how much they were paying in commissions and fees. We also saw how the fragmentation of the PMS space and old technology used by existing intermediate networks was making it difficult for travel companies to gain access to hotel data and efficiently transact with hotels. We starting thinking about how we could use emerging technology to fix many of these problems, allowing new travel companies to grow faster and help move the industry forward. Who was your first customer? One large player in the corporate travel space (we can’t name the company yet) is taking a chance working with us in order to solve some of the problems and inefficiencies they face today. Our experience with hotel distribution technology gained over the years when building and maintaining a cloud PMS combined with our knowledge of distributed ledger technology and how it can be applied to travel distribution is what made them want to work with us. What is there so much excitement about Arise Travel as a disruptor? We build technology that helps hotels gain more control over the inventory they share with their partners. Our distributed ledger technology lets hotels enforce rate parity at the point-of-sale and dynamically adjust their commission rates based on demand, significantly increasing hotel profitability. Who is one mentor that has really helped you scale the business?  I need to mention two people who have been very helpful since the beginning. Jing Zhou, who was at Hyatt for many years leading e-distribution for Asia Pacific, has been sharing her knowledge on hotel operations and distribution strategies. She has helped us stay focused when building our technology to make sure it fits with hotels needs. Varsha Rao, who was head of Global Operations at AirBnB for many years, has tons of experience in building and scaling businesses. Her constant ideas and advice on ways to start and grow the business have been extremely helpful. What's one big misconception that hoteliers have about distribution? Many hoteliers believe that they are powerless to change the distribution technology they’re dependant upon. Most hoteliers are quick to complain but because they don’t view distribution technology as a core competency, the idea of investing resources into something they’ve never taken ownership of before seems daunting. This mindset may have been reasonable in the past, but not anymore. Distributed ledger technology will show hotels that updating their distribution technology is possible with very little IT investment and without affecting their operations and current distribution channels. What's the most surprising thing you've learned about hospitality distribution since founding the business? That most innovative technology being worked on focuses on the travel search and booking process, but technology that can improve the traveler experience after booking is held back because many of these services have to rely on outdated distribution technology to function. If you could partner with any vendor in hotel tech, who would it be and why? AirBnB. Our technology creates a shared source of truth for hotels and OTAs, making it possible to automate commission reconciliation processes.  With this automation in place, it becomes feasible for hotels to start setting variable commission rates for the inventory they send to OTAs. Instead of closing entire channels during high demand periods, hotels can lower their commission rate to maximize their profitability. We can help AirBnB grow its hotel business by accepting variable commission rates from hotels, giving them access to desirable inventory that is currently unavailable to other OTAs using a fixed commission model. Where do you see Arise in 5-years? Most of the intermediaries that survive of rate arbitrage and don’t bring real value to hotel distribution will disappear. We believe the efficiency and trust that distributed ledger technology can bring to the industry will drive down the commissions paid by hotels for bookings. I’d hope most hotels, including independent, will be benefiting from the control and efficiency our technology will bring to their online distribution. I’d expect many players involved on the supply and on the demand side to be using our technology. Do you have any new products or feature launches? Variable commissions hotels fully control and payouts are automatically handled. Starting with high demand periods, hotels can decide how much they are willing to pay in commissions for any given date, room type and rate. Today hotels pay fixed high commissions to OTAs and at times of high demand often take the risk to close those expensive channels as they are confident enough they’ll drive enough direct bookings to fill their hotel. Hotels no longer have to do that as they can now set variable commissions that they are willing to give OTAs on those high demand dates. We provide the transparency and control to hoteliers and we automate the commission payouts so it doesn’t add any more work for hoteliers. We work with hotel channel managers and switches. To get going hotels can contact us or also check with their service provider to see if they are already connected to Arise. Is there anything that the community can do to be helpful for you? We’d love for people involved in hotel distribution on either the supply or demand side to talk to us. The more people that understand and get comfortable with the idea that upgrading distribution infrastructure isn’t such a daunting task, the faster everyone will be able to benefit from it. Advances in Distributed Ledger Technology actually make distribution less complex than the processes in place today. What's one piece of advice that you have for any entrepreneurs looking to get into the hotel tech space? Make sure there’s a clear need for your solution in the space and if so, have a very good understanding of all the current players, how they work together and all the moving pieces that shape today’s hotel tech space.  

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

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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 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. 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. 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‚Ä® 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.

This is what 789 hoteliers said about their technology priorities

by
Hotel Tech Report

Have you ever wondered which hotel software upgrades sit at the top of the priority list for other hotel tech buyers? After all, benchmarking is an important piece of a hotelier’s professional life. The knowledge of how other hotels (especially those in your competitive set) prioritize software upgrades is an additional data point for hotel managers. While new software should improve a hotel’s operation, it also helps hotels meet consumer expectations shaped by their experiences at other hotels. To remain competitive, hotels must consider which technologies power a guest experience that appeals to target demographics. To get a line on hotelier priorities for upgrading technology, we surveyed 789 hotel tech buyers with a single question: Which software categories are you prioritizing for investment and upgrades in the near-term? At the high level, revenue-related hotel software came out as a clear leader accounting for 30% of demand amongst the top 12 categories.  There has been an explosion of sophisticated business intelligence software providers on the market and nascent entries from categories like rate shopping which are low cost and highly effective tools that just didn't exist 5-10 years ago.  One likely reason for this is the sustained coverage in both mainstream and trade press of concepts like machine learning and artificial intelligence to inform yield management. In short, hoteliers are starting to understand the importance of an analytical toolkit and are taking it upon themselves to think of data as an asset rather than a buzzword.  Thanks to comprehensive coverage of these technologies, hotels are dialed in with data-driven revenue management strategies. Operations came in second just behind revenue for near-term investment with 19%. While not surprising, given the complexity of running a hotel, it highlights the continued appetite among hotels for operations-enhancing technology.  Every hotel needs a property management system and increasingly hoteliers are fleeing closed legacy server based systems in favor of innovative and flexible cloud solutions.  This is evidenced by the fact that cloud based property systems contributed the lions share of demand for operations software amongst respondents. Ultimately what's most important is the specific products that your fellow hoteliers researching right now so now that we've reviewed the higher level placements, here's how hoteliers ranked their most pressing subcategories of hotel software. With each, we’ve added some color as to why this particular technology is hot in today's market.  While our list only includes the top 12 categories of hotel software, notable mentions go to: concierge software (3.85%), guest messaging platforms (3.71%), staff task management software (3.71%), merchandising and upsell software (3.42%) and reputation management software (3.00%). #1: Property management systems One of the most critical pieces of hotels daily operations is the property management system. The PMS is the workhorse that keeps the hotel operating smoothly and profitably. As such, it's often one of the most deliberated decisions.  14.9% of respondents said that the PMS was the top software under evaluation for investment.   Rightly so: Gartner predicts that 85% of relationships will be managed without human interaction. Extrapolate that to hotels and it's clear that the importance of a capable PMS only grows with time. If guests expect a hotel that fulfills their requests seamlessly without humans, then the core operations system for a hotel must unite all parts of a hotel to reliably deliver on this expectation. “We look at technology as something that enhances the humanity, not replaces it. We’re removing hardware from hotels, which is reducing cost and also reducing complexity for our colleagues in hotels so they can interact with the guests. On top of that platform, next we can bring guest experience.” -Elie Maalouf, CEO of the Americas, InterContinental Hotels Why it’s hot: The shift to cloud-based PMS, which increases flexibility and speed, has many hotels considering an upgrade from on-premises systems. There are many vendors competing in this crowded space, which gives hotels plenty of options and peace-of-mind that the software is secure and reliable. Price is also appealing: competition among vendors and lower-cost cloud computing brings best-in-class software to all hotel categories. Learn more: Our 2019 Hoteliers Guide to Property Management is your comprehensive resource for all things property management. We also recommend browsing through the property management category to learn more about top-rated vendors in the space.   #2: Booking engines Offering guests a simple way to book direct is a fundamental part of pulling more bookings into a hotel’s Ecosystem. The stubborn reality has been one of underinvestment in the direct booking experience. How can hotels expect guests to book direct with an outdated website that's hard to use or poorly designed for mobile? These type of experiences have made consumers less likely to book direct and stand in stark contrast to the smooth user experience enjoyed by travelers on most third-party channels.  9% of respondents are interested in implementing new booking engines into their hotel tech stack. Why it's hot: Direct booking continues to be a hot topic. Whether it's conferences dedicated to driving more direct bookings, casual chats between colleagues at industry events, or Hilton CEO saying that 75% of bookings come from direct channels, direct booking is a key piece to the revenue puzzle. To succeed at direct booking, hotels must have functional websites geared towards conversion. Also: as hotel marketers see rising search and social media marketing campaigns, More marketers are thinking about conversion. Poor conversion increases costs; once a potential guest clicks an ad, it’s up to the hotel's website to convert. Learn more: Download our comprehensive Guide to Booking Engines to evaluate the ideal booking engine for your hotel.   #3: Revenue management systems Coming in a close third, revenue management systems allow hoteliers to focus on profitability at the individual guest and room level. RMS analyzes data, such as a hotel’s booking pace and market trends, and then forecasts demand and recommends a rate for each segment and room type, for each channel. Revenue management systems are an investment priority for 8.8% of respondents. It's not surprising that two out of the three top technologies were related to revenue. As hotels implement more technology to streamline operations, boost productivity, and increase guest satisfaction, revenue earns greater focus. Hotels also have access to more data than ever before, so leveraging this data into revenue-positive insights has gone mainstream across all categories.  “We continue to invest in tools to automate as much of that process in the back of the house as much as humanly possible, therefore allowing a much higher level of productivity.” -Mike Deitemeyer, CEO Interstate Hotels & Resorts Why it's hot: As we saw in the top-level view, revenue-related technologies continue to be important pieces of the hotel tech stack. Advances in both data capture and data analysis (also driven by plummeting cloud-computing costs), means that hotels have a stronger upside to leveraging revenue management systems. And, just like with other hotel tech categories, the proliferation of vendors has both increased awareness of revenue management among hoteliers and made these solutions more financially feasible. Learn more: Our Ultimate Guide to Revenue Management Software goes deep into the complex world of technology-driven revenue optimization.   #4: Channel managers The unbundling of hotel software has allowed hoteliers to customize their tech stacks to select vendors for specific functionality. With this approach, a hotel can choose smaller startups that move more rapidly than some of the traditional bundled vendors. Hotels can also save money by paying only for the required functionality. Standalone channel managers have emerged to help hoteliers manage distribution from a single tool, regardless of which other software is in use.  Channel managers are under consideration by 7.4% of respondents. Why it's hot: Channel proliferation continues unabated. For hotels, this leads to an inherent conflict: How to get inventory on the shelves on whichever channel potential guests prefer? There are simply not enough hours in the day to update inventory across many channels via each channel’s dashboard. It's also nearly impossible to stay current with the best channels for your hotel. A channel manager wrangles this complexity and streamlines inventory management across channels. Even for the smallest of properties, a channel manager makes a big impact -- and thus it’s something hoteliers are considering for their operations. Learn more: As you research channel managers for your hotel, refer to our Ultimate Guide to Channel Managers.   #5: Central Reservations Systems (CRS) The CRS weaves revenue management, pricing, and distribution strategy into a single tool for managing a hotel’s revenue. The hotel CRS is the revenue engine that sits alongside the PMS at the core of a hotel’s operation. This is the system that centrally manages guest reservations, as well as distributes rates, availability, and room inventory In real-time to direct and third-party channels. Hotel revenue managers and marketing/e-commerce managers use the CRS to create various promotions and offers through rate plans for different channels and to adjust pricing quickly to be updated across all channels. As hotels become more adept at matching inventory and pricing on a channel-to-channel basis, the CRS takes on outsized importance as the center of a hotel’s revenue management strategy.  6.1% of respondents said that investing in a CRS is a near-term priority. Why it's hot: Hotels want tighter integrations between a hotel’s PMS and CRS, which follows the cross-category trend of cloud-native solutions enabling flexibility and speed. The ultimate outcome is to completely eliminate any data latency or synchronization issues that cause discrepancies in rates reservations and availabilities. And, with more systems from major players allowing guests to select a specific room while booking, there's a desire to remain competitive by implementing central reservation solutions that actually improve the guest experience before, during, and after the stay. Learn more: For a deep dive into all things CRS, download our Complete Guide to Selecting the Best Central Reservations Software for your hotel.   Rounding out the rest Rounding out the top 10 is mobile key/keyless entry (6%), direct booking tools (5.1%), guest room tablets (4.6%), business intelligence (4.4%), and housekeeping management software (4.3%). Some notable surprises: Only 4% of respondents prioritize voice-activated technology. Voice tech is one of those technologies that gets a lot of coverage but has yet to prove itself as an essential component of the guest room experience. Keyless entry nearly tied Central Reservation Systems. It appears that, at least with this cohort, progress made at brands like Marriott (21% of rooms installed) and Hilton (75% of rooms) has not triggered a rush to replicate. Or perhaps it's that the majority of hotels that prioritized keyless entry have already completed the investment. Interested in upgrading your hotel software? Here are some helpful resources 1. Property Management Systems - See Top Rated Property Management Systems | Download the Official Property Management System Buyers Guide 2. Booking Engines - See Top Rated Booking Engines | Download the Official Booking Engine Buyers Guide 3. Revenue Management Systems - See Top Rated Revenue Management Systems | Download the Official Revenue Management Software Buyers Guide 4. Channel Managers - See Top Rated Channel Managers | Download the Official Channel Management Software Buyers Guide 5. Central Reservations Systems  - See Top Rated Central Reservations Systems | Download the Official Central Reservations System Buyers Guide 6. Mobile Key & Keyless Entry - See Top Rated Keyless Entry Technologies | Download the Official Mobile Key Buyers Guide 7. Direct Booking Tools - See Top Rated Direct Booking Tools | Download the Official Direct Booking Platform Buyers Guide 8. Guest Room Tablets - See Top Rated Guest Room Tablet Vendors | Download the Official Guest Room Tablet Buyers Guide 9. Business Intelligence - See Top Rated Business Intelligence Software | Download the Official Business Intelligence Software Buyers Guide 10. Housekeeping Management Software - See Top Rated Housekeeping Software Vendors | Download the Official Housekeeping Software Buyers Guide 11. Voice Activated Tech - See Top Rated Voice Technologies | Download the Official Voice Activated Tech Buyers Guide 12. Rate Shoppers and Market Intelligence - See Top Rated Rate Shop Tools | Download the Official Market Intelligence Software Buyers Guide

Smart technology buyers judge companies by capabilities not number of employees

by
Hotel Tech Report

Unseasoned technology buyers often make the assumption that the biggest companies have the best products.  It’s not a terrible assumption when you think about it. After all, didn’t the biggest companies become so big by delivering great products to clients? There’s the old adage that “nobody gets fired for buying a Xerox” - doesn’t that still hold true? It’s true that big companies often get big by delivering great service to clients but technology changes so quickly that assuming ‘bigger = better’ can lead technology buyers into precarious waters.  When companies get to a certain size, they risk losing focus on customer relationships. Many massive companies, especially in hotel tech, have become synonymous with poor customer service. Think about the last time you called your CRS vendor because the system went down but they don’t reply for 48-hours - that’s a major problem.  Similarly, when engineering team grows to a certain size, the company’s products become plagued with feature bloat. Teams become more and more disparate which makes working on the same product a disaster if the organization isn’t managed properly. Big companies are also notoriously susceptible to disruption from smaller and more nimble firms. This isn’t to say that everyone should go jump into bed with the startup down the street.  The most savvy buyers know to look for the most innovative vendors who have achieved product market fit, are innovating quickly and will become the giants of tomorrow.  Travel Tripper is a firm that has proven itself in the market, is innovating at a rapid clip and still maintains strong relationships with clients through world-class customer support.  Don’t take our word for it, read what verified Travel Tripper customers are saying.  Perhaps that’s why hoteliers have rated Travel Tripper’s CRS #1 in the world for 2 years in a row.  The firm has recently expanded its offerings through a highly praised merger with Pegasus so we sat down with Travel Tripper president Gautam Lulla to get a behind-the-scenes perspective on what’s to come. The important thing for hotels to remember is not to judge tech vendors by the size of the company, but by the quality and capabilities of their product and their dedication to customer service.  ~ Gautam Lulla Prior to launching Travel Tripper, Gautam worked at hotel tech giant Amadeus so he has seen the inner workings of both startups and massive enterprise in the space.  He also began his career working in hotel operations and eventually corporate hospitality where he developed unique insights about the hotel tech vendor landscape before jumping in himself.   As with many great businesses, Travel Tripper’s founding team created the business to solve real-world problems that they were experiencing.  After working with several distribution and marketing technology vendors, the leadership team at Highgate Hotels wasn’t impressed by the results they achieved and thought they could do it better, so they launched Travel Tripper.  It turns out that they were right -- now hotels around the world are knocking on Travel Tripper’s door to tap their knowledge, technology and services. We are lucky to have caught Gautam in the midst of his integration between Pegasus and Travel Tripper, which he calls a highly synergistic transaction.   Gautam Lulla Travel Tripper's NYC Headquarters   What does the Travel Tripper-Pegasus merger mean for clients? It’s important for us to emphasize that as a combined company, no capabilities or services will be lost. In fact, exactly the opposite is the case. The driving force behind the merger was our complementary set of strengths, from our product offerings to our customer base. In this case, 1 + 1 really does = 3! To illustrate, Pegasus has always been uniquely and natively built for enterprise hotel chains and have more experience serving chains than any other business in the history of the hospitality industry. Additionally, Pegasus has a long and proven record of helping hotels increase corporate business with their Corporate Sales Representation Services, offering instant connections to 800+ corporations and 30+ consortia and TMCs.  Additionally, the recent introduction of Pegasus Business Intelligence Platform gives Revenue Managers the ability to turn their raw data into actionable information to positively affect their bottom line. Travel Tripper has built its reputation among independent hotels and casinos with its powerful CRS, e-commerce, and digital marketing solutions, which work together to help hotels grow their overall business while maximizing revenues in their direct channel. Combining this strong suite of products means that we can now offer existing customers and prospects a broader range of solutions tailored to their needs. What is Accel-KKR's thesis behind the new infusion of capital? Accel-KKR is a company that invests in high-growth technology companies in many verticals and different industries, not just hospitality. The primary thesis for their investment was the recognition that both Travel Tripper and Pegasus were two companies with a similar DNA of innovation and top-notch customer service, as well as complementary sets of strengths in our product offerings and customer base. They believe that they can provide us the infrastructure and support to help take our combined company to the next level. What was your background prior to launching Travel Tripper? I started my career in the hotel industry with Taj Hotels in India, where I was introduced to the world of hotel technology, after spending about a year or so in the front office. As Electronic Marketing Manager, I was responsible for managing the usage of our central reservation system as well as building and strengthening relationships with our CRS providers. I was also responsible for growing the GDS business. Subsequently, I joined Pegasus Solutions in Scottsdale, Arizona as a Product Manager and stayed there for about two years. It is where I learned all about the the workings of a CRS, and what better place to learn it than at Pegasus. It was the clear leader in the space with no competitor even a close second to Pegasus. Later on, I accepted an offer from Amadeus in France to join their e-commerce team. Hotel booking engines were a part of the portfolio, however as a GDS company it was not economically viable for hotels to pay GDS transaction fees on top of CRS fees for their direct booking channel. But Amadeus decided to invest in Hotel IT solutions, with the intent of replicating their success in Airline IT. I subsequently moved from France to the United States and continued with Amadeus for two years, during which time I became deeply involved with our first prospective customer. But after a short while with Amadeus USA, I realized I was also far removed from the center of activity within Amadeus and got a little bored.  It’s when I decided to join Travel Tripper, in its earliest days. What made you decide to jump in and launch Travel Tripper? My friend and ex-colleague Kurien Jacob had just started a booking engine company and asked me to run and grow the business. After leaving Amadeus, I was ready for a new challenge that would allow me to work at a much faster pace, so I jumped right in. Technically, I didn't found the company, but I joined as a partner when we were just a team of three people. As a partner, I did or oversaw everything on a daily basis—from product design and development to engineering, sales, and marketing, invoicing, customer support, so, literally everything that a young company of that size has to deal with.   Travel Tripper's Reztrip CRS took gold in the 2019 HotelTechAwards   Who was Travel Tripper’s first customer? Highgate Hotels was our first customer at Travel Tripper. Kurien, who had started the company, was the Chief Revenue Officer at Highgate Hotels at the time. He was convinced that Highgate could earn more direct business if they designed a booking engine, designed by the way, as a seed that would grow into a full-scale CRS, with certain features. So, that was sort of the rationale in founding, the raison d'être of the company. It became our motto and philosophy: Be Direct. Highgate tried out the first version of our product on one of their properties, a very large midtown Manhattan property. Even though it was a big risk for them, they went ahead and tested the technology anyways. After seeing spectacular results with the first property, we rolled out the booking engine across various Highgate hotels in New York and elsewhere. One of our other early customers was the Leela Hotel Group in India, which also benefited a lot by taking a chance on us. We increased their website contribution by very impressive numbers. Another early customer of ours was the Stratosphere Hotel, a large 2,500-room hotel in Las Vegas and our first casino hotel (a segment in which we now have 30% market share in the U.S.). We were able to get them on board because of our strong track record. They joined us in 2008 and significantly increased their website contribution as the result of our partnership. How do you see Pegasus and Travel Tripper working together moving forward? The combined entity of Pegasus and Travel Tripper provides a solid platform for hotels that  want innovative technology solutions combined with the best customer service in the industry. Pegasus has a deep and storied history in CRS and distribution, and offers world-class demand generation services designed to increase direct and corporate bookings while considerably expanding a hotel’s market reach. Travel Tripper has grown a strong reputation in helping independent hotels and casinos/resorts in direct channel optimization, bringing user experience to the forefront in our CRS, booking engine, e-commerce, and marketing solutions to help drive highly profitable direct bookings. Our merger brings together the best of our combined capabilities to help hotel groups large and small to directly own guest relationships and maximize bottom-line ROI. In short, we are a formidable and disruptive challenger to some of the bigger (yet more stagnant) players in this space! Who is one mentor that has really helped you scale the business? I’m lucky to have several mentors who have helped and influenced me at different stages of my career. In my early days at Travel Tripper, right after leaving Amadeus, I remained close friends with an ex-colleague of mine, Andy Ahluwalia, who has since passed unfortunately. Andy had built a successful business in our space and was very encouraging and gave me sound advice about the effort and the patience that it would take to make this company successful. He also taught me a lot about how to sell the product and negotiate with customers. I'm very grateful to have known him. Kurien and the team at Highgate, from whom I’ve learned a lot, have also been spectacular supporters of Travel Tripper. Of course, they have been one of our key customers since the beginning and have a vested interest in our success as a company. They’ve always been very encouraging and have provided me with the space and room to make mistakes and persevere while growing Travel Tripper. Highgate itself has grown tremendously since the time when we started our company. Watching their growth and expansion, even as they were already such a large company, has been an inspiration for me. And Paul McGrath, erstwhile and now again Product Manager extraordinaire was my first boss at Pegasus—he taught me all about the workings of a CRS. Paul led the product management team at Pegasus during its heyday and has returned to the company to once again lead the product management team of our combined company.  What's one commonly held belief that most hoteliers believe to be true in your niche that actually is false? Unfortunately, in this industry, the size of a hotel tech vendor sometimes is overplayed or overemphasized, while the quality of product and engineering teams is underemphasized. People often assume that large companies have better products simply because they can afford better engineers relative to smaller companies. This is far from the truth—I've seen very large companies struggle with their platforms and engineering initiatives. And I’ve seen smaller companies blow away the industry with their solutions. The important thing for hotels to remember is not to judge tech vendors by the size of the company, but by the quality and capabilities of their product and their dedication to customer service. It seems obvious, but happens more often than you think. What's the most surprising thing you've learned about scaling technology into hotels? I don't know if I can call it a surprise as much as learning, but one of the things that we have learned how to do effectively is to scale the platform based on evolving needs. For many organizations, it is quite difficult to anticipate the proper architecture in its early days until you meet challenges along the way. You can plan and design for scale, but there will alway be unexpected hiccups and scaling issues that you will certainly come across along the way, no matter how well you plan ahead. Therefore, you should plan and design as best as you can, but also be prepared to make some fundamental changes along the way when you encounter obstacles. We've done that several times throughout our history and have been able to successfully scale the platform. For example, when Travel Tripper took on Stratosphere Hotel around 2008, I recall that traffic volumes would peak around a certain time of day, and the system would simply keel over and fall down, so we always had to reboot at around 4:00 p.m. It turned out that was a relatively small problem to solve that wasn’t anticipated at initial design time. Along the way, we've come across other challenges as our customer base grew to a certain size. At one point, we started getting hit by a lot of robots that were scraping our booking engine user interface to get pricing information on our hotel customers. This is a common phenomenon in our industry and we were able to resolve the issues along the way when we encountered them. What have been some of the most successful partnerships for Travel Tripper over the years? Obviously we have numerous close partners in the industry, and our relationships with all of them are very important. We enjoy our partnership with Stay Wanderful, which provides a conversion optimization tool that helps hotels to increase their direct bookings and revenue through instant gratification and AI technology. We have worked closely to provide a strong integration and good user interface that generate good results for our customers. OTA Insight has also been a great partner for us on the industry level. Their company offers one of the top hotel Rate Intelligence/Business intelligence platforms on the market. We often run many marketing initiatives together to help educate the industry, such as webinars, roundtables, and our upcoming Tech Talks series at ITB Berlin. If you could partner with any vendor in hotel tech, who would it be and why? As a CRS company, there are so many vendors that we need to build interfaces and integrations with. We particularly enjoy working with the ones that are open to quick integrations in order to foster better functioning between our respective products. In other words, they do not lock up their APIs and charge unreasonable fees for integration and certification. How will the hotel distribution landscape change in the next 5-years? Traditionally, the companies in the hotel tech space have focused on being very good at one “category” of product. Sure, a PMS company could offer a booking engine, but ultimately it was more known for being a PMS company. The new startups in the space have amplified this trend. But now that companies are starting to mature and consolidate (ourselves included), the lines are going to start blurring and it’s going to be difficult to pigeonhole a company into a product type or category. The industry is moving quickly in the direction of a “platformization” model, where the breadth and interconnectedness of solutions will trump—or at least bring together—smaller niche solutions. We think we are on the cutting edge of that trend. We see ourselves as the strongest provider of the products and services we offer to the hotel industry. We are well on the way already.     Does Travel Tripper have any new product or feature launches we should know about? Travel Tripper and Pegasus have recently launched innovative new products lately that we think are going to be very exciting for our respective customers and prospects. To help hoteliers combat rate disparity and increase direct revenue, we created Rate Match, a powerful price checking and rate matching tool that automates best rate guarantee against the OTAs. On the e-commerce side, we recently introduced a very simple but enormously helpful ADA Monitoring Platform and audit services to help hotels mitigate legal risk of potentially expensive ADA compliance lawsuits. We are also about to launch Conversion Plus, a new direct booking optimization tool that drives conversions using personalized messaging and special offers based on real-time booking engine rates, OTA comparative rates, and user behavior. There is power in numbers which is why we recently launched the Pegasus Business Intelligence Platform. This solution offers Revenue Managers a way to turn raw data into immediately actionable information to amplify revenue management and marketing success across all distribution channels, all in one place. We combine guest data from multiple sources and deliver it with automated intelligence and easy-to-understand dashboards. The result is instant insights that help guide a hotelier’s strategy to increase bookings and occupancy and improve revenue and profitability.   What's one piece of advice that you have for any entrepreneur looking to get into the hotel tech space? Be patient and persevere. It's a crowded space, and it’s getting increasingly more crowded and competitive. There are a ton of companies that you will need to work and integrate with in order to succeed. In the hotel CRS space, the barrier to entry is quite high so it will require a lot of money and technology to be built before you can come in with a viable product for a meaningful segment of the market.

Deep dive into Revinate's hotel marketing and CRM technology

by
Hotel Tech Report

In our Product Deep Dive series, we go deep into one solution to help hoteliers evaluate and assess the best software for their specific situations. In hospitality, relationships are everything. When a potential guest browses search results on third-party channels, price is the most prominent attribute. If a hotel wants to capture this booking, reputation and brand must be strong enough to push through the clutter. Ideally, the hotel has established a relationship with this potential guest and has thoughtfully nurtured this relationship over time. A top-of-mind relationship encourages more direct bookings, which improves overall profitability per booking.  This relationship materializes through return visits to your property or hotel group. To accomplish these objectives, hoteliers turn to top rated hotel marketing software, such as Revinate, that delivers 1:1 relationship building via email marketing, powered by a hotel CRM with rich guest profiles.  Revinate’s hotel marketing platform combines email marketing, CRM and upsell functionality into one suite that facilitates stronger connections between guests and hotels. Here’s what you need to know about Revinate.     Revinate CRM helps you build rich guest profiles and leverage their data to drive incremental revenue In a recent presentation, Chief Revenue Officer Karen Stephens shared how Revinate’s focus on data unlocks revenue for hotels. With deep integrations across 45 different property management systems, the value of data is made more accessible and valuable through rich guest profiles. By busting silos and bringing this information together in one view, it's much easier to personalize messaging which in turn fosters a more accurate and authentic guest relationship.   Revinate’s guest profiles include data that helps personalize communications to ensure that you are delivering the right offer to the right guest at the right time. Of course, it's not easy to integrate data into existing workflows. Data is often isolated in disparate systems, creating quite the complexity for hotels that want to merge data sources into a single view. Complexity adds cost and impedes speed, tempering even the most ambitious initiatives. Revinate’s product integrations solve this problem allowing the software to both pull and push data from core systems. Related reading: Everything you need to know about hotel CRM software Grow your email list at the front desk and enrich those contacts with data from various systems automatically Revinate wrangles this complexity with its various PMS integrations. By synchronizing information between the PMS, and Revinate’s marketing suite, hoteliers can rely on rich guest profiles to improve segmentation. Each guest becomes a segment of one, which empowers the hotel to prioritize personalization over mass marketing. Data from these integrations are then aggregated and distilled into unified dashboards that eliminate the need to log into multiple systems. With PMS data pulled all the way up, hoteliers can see a top-level view of guest profile count, guest geography, average stay length, average spend, and more. Since Revinate surfaces all of this data into a single view, hoteliers can easily monitor the recency, frequency, and monetary value of individual guests, segments, or the entire property. This is called RFM analysis, which identifies customers most likely to purchase again in the near future. For example, marketers could target a segment of Loyal Guests Without Stays in the Past 90 Days to re-engage a cohort with slipping frequency.     The dashboard also shows how many guest profiles have emails attached, which acts as a useful metric and motivator for the front desk, says Revinate CRO Karen Stephens: “The number one thing properties want to do is to gather emails at the front desk. You can filter this by custom time field. This means you can set a goal with the front desk to collect a certain number of emails in a certain timeframe. What’s measured gets done, and this is a great way to check that.” Notable feature: View into top booking channels. It’s impossible to surface this information in typical email marketing. Booking channel insights help you understand your best channels and run your distribution accordingly.   Revinate's profile-based approach decreases unsubscribes and increases revenue per contact As they aggregate information across touchpoints, these rich profiles become the center of the guest relationship. Guest communications flow from there, says Karen Stephens, Revinate’s CRO, “All the fields on here can be used as merge tags in communications, so it’s really a beautiful way for hotels to surface this data and understand how to speak to each guest.” Instead of relying only on instinct or common demographic segmentation, hotel marketers can now use any data point on a guest’s profile as a hook. With recency, frequency, and spend data readily available alongside guest preferences, marketers can deploy smart segmentation to send personalized emails. Divide your hotel’s total email list subscriber count by total revenue from email offers and you’ll come to a ‘revenue per subscriber’ metric.  When your email list subscribers receive generic content that doesn’t meet their needs they become more likely to unsubscribe and each unsubscribe costs you real money. Conversely, personalized product recommendations generate up to 170% lift in revenue compared to non-personalized recommendations (Bariliance). For example, the guest below could be pulled into a campaign targeting Past Guests with Last Stay Over 90 Days, Past Guests with VIP Status, or Past Guests Who Work for Amazon, as well as a campaign for Spa Lovers.   Rich profiles on Revinate's dashboard highlights key guest history summary data   Another option for hotel marketers looks at recent survey data for segmentation opportunities. Dissatisfied guests may be carefully segmented to avoid certain types of promotions or phrasing. For example, a guest who felt that the room wasn’t well-designed shouldn’t be paired with a promotion focused on room design. All of this is rolled up into the guest profile, which becomes the “single source of truth” about a guest’s history with a property.   Revinate's guest profile integrate directly with guest surveys for attribution analysis   Increase ancillary revenue and grow tRevPAR with upsells In recent years, hotels have looked at airline ancillary revenue with envy. As airlines saw such strong results with unbundling, hotels have dedicated more attention to incremental revenue. With fixed costs for rooms and on-property amenities, additional revenue has outsized impact on profitability. Alongside the traditional Revenue Per Available Room, many hotels now track Total Revenue Per Available Room and/or Total Revenue Per Client to monitor how well they're doing at growing revenue from upsells and non-room sources.   Data from Phocuswright on which add-ons interest hotel guests most.   Revinate’s rich guest profiles are tied deeply to email marketing, which means that email campaigns can be precisely targeted for optimal performance. With detailed analytics to show which campaigns work best, revenue can be easily attributed to the proper segment. This analysis can be looped back into hotel marketing workflow to improve incremental revenue efforts continuously.   Upselling and targeted offers can help marketers pick up lost revenue in real time   As far as pricing, Revinate's Marketing platform allows for an Oaky-style model with upselling functionality charged on a flat fee basis. This is in contrast to some other upsell platforms, such as Nor1, that charge up to 20% on commissions. The simple flat fee structure aligns everyone towards a common goal: more revenue from precisely targeted campaigns that don't alienate guests. Notable feature: Any field in a guest profile can become a merge tag or a segment. Hotels that develop accurate guest profiles can create smarter segments that personalize messaging more accurately. Precise segmentation means marketing to guests based on hotel-chosen attributes (such as “wine lover”) and not just basic segments (such as geography).   Revinate integrates seamlessly with sales applications to drive more group business When using smart segmented campaigns, Revinate’s clients see an average of 73% higher revenue per recipient. Whether it's a one-time campaign or automated, the efficacy of e-mail marketing is greatly improved by segmentation based on Revinate’s rich guest profiles. The power of using data to inform segmentation becomes quite clear when considering examples of marketing campaigns geared towards specific segments. Group segment: Target group bookers with specific offers by importing lists from third-party event management software, such as Social Tables and EventPro, RFP software, such as Cendyn Sales Suite and Cvent Hospitality Cloud, or hotel CRM software, like Revinate and Salesforce.  Once these lists arrive into Revinate’s system, e-mails are matched with existing guest profiles to further enhance your segmentation abilities.     Corporate: Target specific companies to encourage more direct bookings by showing show what’s included with the corporate rates. Business travelers that book out-of-program may not realize what they're sacrificing, as far as negotiated perks. Use this segmentation to inform this cohort about the benefits of booking direct or via their corporate booking tool.       Locals: Boost transient revenue by segmenting drive markets to entice nearby guests with exclusive deals. Messaging can be targeted to individual cities, giving marketers the chance to be more nuanced in writing copy that resonates with guests from each city.       Current guests: Use “time of week targeting” to extend existing stays. The “Sunday Check Outs” segment is low-hanging fruit that engages on-property guests with 1:1 offers that aren’t public. Weekday targeting could also focus on upselling additional activities, such as spa booking or in-destination activities.     Notable feature: Real-time email list integrity checks. The system monitors database health to maintain email deliverability and sender reputation. By keeping your list accurate and avoiding spam flags from email providers, you’ll enjoy higher open rates which lead to more conversions.  Each email you send has a theoretical monetary value so email sendability is critical for hotel email marketing success.   Is Revinate the best hotel marketing platform for you? Revinate’s hotel marketing platform is a powerful ally for hotel marketers looking to optimize marketing efforts and nurture long-term relationships with guests. With its centralized, data-rich approach, hotels can engage in ways that meet guest expectations, preserve guest privacy, and deliver business results.   Related reading: Everything you need to know about hotel CRM software