Direct Booking Tools Articles

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

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 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.  

Hotel Tech Report

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

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. 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  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 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? brings channel management and a seamless booking experience to your meeting space inventory.  Meeting Package’s Joonas Ahola Joonas also announced his firm’s launch of a meeting space channel manager which allows  inventory and rates to syndicate not just on a hotel’s website but across a myriad of 3rd party channels that have popped up to help them find new demand to generate additional revenue .  Meeting spaces today can be booked on platforms like AirBnB as well as on niche marketplaces like Breather, Bizly and VenueBook. Venuesuite launches demand side marketplace to help venues and planners work better together online.  Announced its direct booking platform (or marketplace) that helps venues & planners work better together online. The platform significantly simplifies the RFP process and sourcing of venues. The time required to book a venue for a meeting/event is reduced from days to minutes.  Both planners and venues. It enables planners to find venues fast, book instantly and configure meetings & events 24/7. For venues it generates more revenue via qualitative leads & higher conversion rates as prices are shown upfront to bookers. Within 10 months 1,000+ spaces available in The Netherlands via dedicated venue partners who've joined the new way of online (platform) working.       Other notable product launches and showcases Business Intelligence Pegasus announced its Business Intelligence Platform. It's difficult, if almost impossible to transform raw data into actionable insights - it pains most hotel companies, particularly independents.  Pegasus BI combines guest data from multiple sources and deliver it with automated intelligence and an easy-to-understand dashboard. Hoteliers can gain immediate insights that allow their properties to increase bookings, revenue, occupancy and profitability. Revenue Management RevControl announced rate recommendations calculated by room type separately. This announcement is specifically meant for hostels where the rate difference between private rooms and individual beds in a dormitory is huge and unrelated. It is now possible to use a separate set of business rules for each room/bed type and link each room/bed type to its exact match at hotels in de comp set to get individually calculated rate recommendations for each room/bed type.   RateBoard announced revenue management modules for leisure hotels. RateBoard offers a special module for leisure hotels, taking historical  holiday seasons from different countries, matching this data with the booking window of the different nations and optimizing the forecast due to this important factors. HotelPartner Yield Management announced the implementation of success-based billing models.  The implementation of success-based billing models aligns incentives between HotelPartner and clients since they don't charge new partners without having achieved added value in regards to room revenue.  This is an interesting and innovative approach - we're curious to see how it works as demonstrating uplift is a really difficult thing to prove given market fluctuations and the massive # of variables that can't be controlled. Marketing Travel Tripper announced Real Time Ads & Metasearch Direct. These tools help hotel marketers minimize costs and maximize RoAS on their digital marketing campaigns. Real Time Ads is the first digital marketing tool that allows hotels to advertise—in real time—their rates, availability, popularity and more right on their Google search ads, delivering double the conversion rates. With Metasearch Direct, Travel Tripper has helped hotels generate 38x their spend on metasearch with our direct connect to Google Hotel Ads. Their unique commission model means that independent hotels with smaller budgets can play on the metasearch channel without any risks—and for less cost than an OTA commission. Travel Tripper announced ADA Monitoring Platform. Many hotels in the U.S. are in constant risk of ADA compliance lawsuits simply because their websites are not accessibility friendly. Not only does the TT Web team offer full-service ADA audits on websites, but they also have built out an automated ADA monitoring platform that performs website checks in real time to ensure compliance. Hotel marketers are immediately notified whenever an element of their site falls out of the accessibility guidelines (for example, lack of alt tags, color contrast etc.) Serenata CRM & IgnitionOne launched a next generation CRM partnership that combines both historic guest information combined with real-time intent data. By tracking and scoring website visitors interests and propensity to convert hoteliers can tailor messaging, content and offers, both on the website and in the booking engine accordingly to this data. The scoring technology also supports new guest acquisition by identifying unknown website user that show high interest in a hotel property or a specific offering from the hotel. Based on the interest and score, the visitor can be prompted with personalized newsletter invite. This approach has proven to massively increase the number of newsletter signups, something necessary for many hotels after recent introductions of privacy regulations like GDPR that eliminated a large part of the hotels marketable profiles due to lack of marketing consents.  The newly created newsletter subscription profiles are enriched with the interests and intent information from the IgnitionOne scoring engine monitoring the hotel website and can be used for marketing purpose complementing the historical data points already stored in Serenata CRM. With Serenata CRM and the real-time intent triggered personalization powered by IgntionOne you can deliver a true personalized experience for your guests and website visitors to drive incremental revenue. Integrator announcements HAPI announced it’s recent Salesforce integration following a 2-way oxy connect with Oracle’s PMS dailypoint™ - software made by Toedt, Dr. Selk & Coll. GmbH announced a data cleansing solution which allows hotels to automatically clean, correct, and de-duplicate their guest profiles and push that data back to the hotel’s PMS. The fully automated, AI-based process includes hundreds of steps, reviewing all key data points within the guest profile. It removes duplicate profiles, corrects mistakes made from human errors, corrects addresses for more than 240 countries and ultimately creates one single, accurate guest profile for each guest. This data is stored in the central data management solution by dailypoint™ as well as pushed to the hotel’s PMS so that data is accurate across all key sources. Operations Customer Alliance announced Customer Experience Hub extending their surveying capabilities from solely focused on post-stay reputation and review gathering into the full guest journey.  The Customer Experience Hub allows hoteliers to customize automated messaging based on events through the guest journey to collect feedback and pipe it in real time to the department or team member who can act on it to recover fast, improve the guest experience and in-turn--improve review sentiment and gss scores. Betterspace GmbH announced Smart Check-out feature with digital invoice and the Self-Ordering function, both for the digital guest directory iQ Tab.The Smart Check-Out enables guests to comfortably check out of the hotel and allows them to view and split their invoice digitally and receive it by e-mail. Thanks to this feature, long waiting lines at the reception desk are a thing of the past. Self-Ordering for the digital guest directory gives guests the opportunity to order food and drinks with the digital guest directory - without leaving the hotel room. Orders are sent directly to the hotel restaurant Both features simplify operational workflows, optimize processes and thus relieve staff and relax guests. This reduces administrative/bureaucratic efforts, saves time and money and the time saved can be devoted to what is important: hotel guests. Travel Appeal announced Mobile Coach, a mobile app designed for on-the-go managers. By combining artificial intelligence with human experience, the Coach is able to detect even the most granular details from customer feedback. It’s the perfect solution for obtaining actionable insights about everything that really matters to a business. Review and operations  management, made simple. The Coach app not only improves and simplifies business strategies, but helps users manage and respond directly to customer feedback - reviews, posts and photos published by customers are
 delivered directly to your mobile. Uncover what your clients really think to offer the best experience and maximize satisfaction. Live updates and a seamless user experience allow managers to track competitors and monitor brand reputation while also collaborating and assigning tasks to staff members. hotelkit GmbH announced a HOUSEKEEPING module.  Their existing platform is used by over 40.000 hotel employees in more than 800 hotels worldwide. This new solution now focuses on all housekeeping needs and guarantees high-quality housekeeping standards through fully digitalized processes. Through an easy and modern paper-free task allocation, housekeeping processes are way more efficient. The workload can be distributed efficiently according to an employee's time and skill credits, thus, productivity is enhanced. Through digital checklists, quality standards are significantly high and the entire cleaning process can be monitored easily through real-time tracking. Smooth and efficient housekeeping routines are a crucial aspect in hotels, as cleanliness is particularly important when it comes to the guest decision making process. However, typical housekeeping processes within hotels are still highly inefficient. In order to be able to substantially increase guest satisfaction, hotelkit HOUSEKEEPING was developed together with several luxury hotels - among them the Sacher Hotel Vienna and Salzburg, and the Radisson Blu Hotel Hamburg Airport. As all processes are digitized, fast reactions, increased quality standards, and high guest satisfaction can be guaranteed! Knowcross announced PANIC BUTTON.  Hospitality workers are subjected to an inordinate amount of sexual harassment and abuse, which is why as a technology provider we considered the introduction of  Panic or Safety Buttons as our way of giving back to the industry. Panic buttons give hospitality workers the ability to summon assistance when needed. PANIC BUTTON helps hotels to provide a safer working environment by instant reporting of harassment complaints by hospitality workers by using technology such as GPS and Bluetooth. Guest Applications & Devices Criton announced multiple property group functionality which was piloted with London-based Cheval Residences became the first brand to adopt the new product. Created specifically for the hospitality sector, the new product gives accommodations providers with multiple properties a platform to include information on each one within a single parent app.  With locations across the capital city, luxury serviced apartment specialist Cheval Residences are the first group to adopt the new technology with eight of their luxury properties contained within their new app. Group functionality is a game-changer for multi-property organizations like Cheval; enabling them to showcase the unique personality of each property while reinforcing their brand, increasing direct bookings and driving loyalty from new and repeat guests. GuestTraction announced online check-in to reduce queuing at Front Desk by moving check-in to pre-arrival. More than a third of guests polled (38%) indicated that a source of frustration was the front desk taking too long to complete requests.

Hotel Tech Report

How successful have hotels been in earning more direct bookings?

Direct booking campaigns have been a centerpiece of hotel marketing for several years now. The push to encourage guests to ‘Book Direct’ stems from efforts to both reduce commissions paid to third-parties and to forge stronger bonds with guests. Without an intermediary, a hotel can market to the guest before, during, and after the stay, regaining control over the guest relationship, both financially and strategically. Evidence shows that the efforts have begun to pay off, says hospitality marketing firm Kalibri Labs: Loyalty member campaigns have either strengthened or stabilized the growth through, while the OTA channel has either held steady or decelerated. generates 50% more bookings on average to U.S. hotels than the OTA channel. To make its assessment, Kalibri Labs analyzed 80 million transactions from 18,000 hotels in its proprietary database. The results are promising, revealing solid gains in profitability and rate competitiveness among sampled hotels. Related article: Do loyalty programs for independents actually work?   Direct bookings are more profitable Hotels prefer direct bookings due to the lower customer acquisition costs, which have been rising for the past several years. When it comes to how much revenue hotels spend on booking-related costs, the data reinforces the narrative that OTA commissions have risen at the greatest clip. With hotels facing 45% commissions from that channel, the 27% cost for loyalty-based bookings is a striking contrast.     However, once a hotel turns away from intermediaries, it must spend money on marketing to secure bookings, some of which is spent on paid search and some on discounted Book Direct rates. So, some of the money saved on third-party commissions ends up going out the door anyhow. Even after accounting for the additional costs of paid search and discounting, the Kalibri Labs analysis found that direct bookings were 12.5% more profitable than those derived from OTAs. In fact, the more impactful value of direct bookings may be in the corresponding rise in Average Daily Rate. The ADR for Member Rate/Loyalty bookings reflects a solidpremium compared to OTA bookings (after acquisition costs are removed). ADR has grown to 9% in 2018, up from 8.6% in 2016. Even when tested for weekend/weekday and lead time differences, Net ADR for loyalty bookings is higher in total, and for each chain scale. This is counterintuitive, as members-only rates are promoted as the “best available rate.” Are hotels lying to guests? On the contrary, guests are responding to the upsell. That’s the whole point of recapturing control of the guest relationship: Once a hotel can market directly to the guest through its upselling platform, it reveals new revenue opportunities such as room upgrades, bundled room rates, and premium experiences. It appears that guests respond to these efforts, pushing up the net ADR for when compared to the OTA channel. To achieve the greatest profitability for your hotel’s direct booking efforts, keep your marketing costs in check with metasearch management tools. And don’t neglect your hotel website - make sure you are working with a top rated digital marketing agency for hotels that can optimize conversion to your booking engine; you want potential guests clicking through from search to have a user-friendly experience. Direct booking tools can also encourage new sources of demand, such as from travel agents, in addition to existing loyalty members.     Loyalty programs generate more bookings at a lower cost Since the launch of mainstream direct booking initiatives in 2016, loyalty program memberships have grown at between two to five times the growth rate before Direct Book. As more guests enroll to take advantage of exclusive rates, more bookings originate from loyalty members. In fact, the report found that “almost half of the business in the U.S.branded hotels is derived from loyalty members.”   Do loyalty programs for independent hotels actually work?   The cost savings are also significant. It’s just more expensive for a hotel to keep purchasing a booking from an intermediary, rather than re-engage a loyalty member to generate a booking.   When calculating the benefit of a recurring guest coming three times after an initial visit, the average net benefit to a hotel using industry averages is approximately $65 per loyalty member, compared to cycling through 4 different OTA customers. To maintain that top-of-mind engagement with loyalty program members, carefully segment guests in your hotel’s CRM and then schedule e-mail marketing campaigns to nurture those relationships. With a precise and thoughtful approach to loyalty marketing, your hotel can generate more bookings at a lower cost, all while building that long-term relationship. A Revenue Management System is also beneficial to hoteliers seeking a more balanced approach to distribution. With the power of a comprehensive RM, small tweaks can create big results. This granular control of pricing strategy drives better ROI for direct bookings, which generate $8.33 for every $1 spent. Compared to the $4.77 to $1 ratio for OTA bookings, the investment in loyalty-based revenue management technology delivers more bang for the buck.            It’s all about the mix Ultimately, it all comes down to channel mix. Hotels that work with OTAs must do so with an honest appraisal of the value these channels bring -- and how direct bookings fit into a specific hotel’s revenue profile, says study co-author Cindy Estis Green: “[OTAs] will do anything to be a part of the sales path. If you collaborate with them, you have to do it with your eyes open. The trick for each hotel and brand is to determine in each market what pipes are flowing and what’s available. It’s optimal to cherry pick which bookings are available at the highest possible profit margin. That’s the challenge everyone has.”

Hotel Tech Report

The 10 Best Places to Work in Hotel Tech 2019

Creating a great work environment is the single biggest determinant of success for any business.  Companies that foster great work environments attract the best people and the best people build the best products. A 2017 study that analyzed 326,000 employee reviews at publicly traded companies found that firms with high employee satisfaction outperformed the overall stock market each year by 135bp (1.35%).  A similar study of 400,000 employee ratings found evidence of a statistical relationship between employee perception and a firm’s future earnings. Sophisticated enterprise software buyers know that when they partner with a technology company, they are buying into not just its products but its vision, mission and team.  These buyers perform due diligence to understand the viability of any business that they plan to partner with and a deep analysis of employee satisfaction and vendor culture is part of that process.  Hotel Tech Report hosts this award not just to help the community find great jobs, but also to help fast track diligence for hotel tech buyers who want to learn about the best vendors to work with. Understanding organizational culture is important for software buyers because companies that create great work environments retain employees longer, service customers better and innovate faster. Perks like ping pong tables,  office snacks and vacation days are nice,  but our 10 Best Places to Work in Hotel Tech list is determined by the glue that holds companies together. Each year we ask thousands of employees at hotel tech companies how they feel about their employers and anonymize the results.  The 2019 scoring is based on 7 key data points: Work-life balance: Please rate how well your employer promotes work/life balance. Personal development: How much importance does your employer place on your own personal development? Gender equality: How would you rate the opportunities available to women in your firm? Employee confidence: How much confidence do you have in the future of your company? Values alignment: How well do your values align with the culture of your organization? Employee engagement: How passionate are employees about the company? Growth prospects: How many open roles are there for your employees to grow into?   Without further adieu we give you 2019's 10 Best Places to Work in Hotel Tech:       10. Triptease Our research on Triptease validates that the Company truly lives and breathes the ethos of its name.  Employees consistently cited off-sites and team trips as the highlights of their year. According to LinkedIn data, Triptease has grown its employee count 72% in the last 2 years.  Sometimes when companies grow that quickly, it’s hard to maintain a great team culture. With the team spread all around the world, Triptease brings new employees for training and team building to the LondonHQ.  New employees rave about the experience for the learning and friendships that come from it. Other notable events include Triptease’s renowned Direct Booking Summits (America, Europe, Asia) and a company wide Christmas party in Madrid (let us know if you need HTR on the scene to cover next year’s party - this one sounded like a rager!).  Triptease employees are constantly blown away by how much management cares. One employee cited an unexpected bonus for a month of killer performance and another described to us how open management is to employee travel focused on career development. Ultimately, Triptease is one a big happy family and employees around the world are constantly connecting through a multitude team building activities and trips.  Employees love the fast paced nature of consistently launching new innovative products. Check out open positions at Triptease     9. GuestRevu GuestRevu had a year in which critical company milestones rallied the team together.  Not only did GuestRevu acquire a large regional competitor but the team also launched a major version update that required all hands on deck.  Despite all the craziness of rapid growth, a new version launch and a major acquisition - one employee raved to Hotel Tech Report about how supportive the entire team was during the loss of a loved one.  Another told us that she often needs to bring her 9-year old to work where he is always made to feel welcome and at home. The firm is so committed to its team that it sent out a company wide survey asking what employees wanted to learn and then purchased everyone access to Udemy classes to help them develop those new skills. The marketing team took classes on video editing and is already leveraging those skills to develop a series of video case studies for GuestRevu. Check out open positions at GuestRevu     8. Beekeeper For a company building software to help teammates communicate better - Beekeeper takes employee engagement and experience very seriously internally.  As one employee told us, “Beekeeper does an excellent job of capturing feedback and always checking in to understand where you want to go and providing actionable feedback and support to get you there.” The Company promotes a healthy lifestyle through lunchtime sports and CrossFit.  Taking it one step further, Beekeeper offers unlimited PTO and flexible work schedules to accommodate the expectations of the modern workforce. Beekeeper’s culture exudes transparency and humility. One employee told us that the team was initially put off by management’s decision to require employees to clean dishes at an off site before they realized that this was all part of the team building.  This employee told us that the people they ended up washing dishes with ended up being their closest new friends and that the experience gave them an opportunity to bond in a way that most rarely do in the modern workplace. Another employee told us about a rewarding experience they had volunteering together at a homeless shelter. The team’s humility shined through further when a new employee (2 weeks in) alerted management about tensions between two departments.  Much to their surprise both teams were thrilled to hear their new colleague’s insight and showed their appreciation. Management even went one step further offering this individual to run a huge cross-departmental retrospective 5 weeks into their job. It’s not often that companies are so open to self-reflection and change coming from a new junior hire and we really admire the culture that Beekeeper has nurtured. Check out open positions at Beekeeper       7. Hotel Effectiveness Hotel Effectiveness is an incredibly successful company that largely flies under the radar of hotel tech buzz.  The Company provides revolutionary labor management software that we’ve covered here.  If there’s one word that sums up the Hotel Effectiveness team culture - it’s ‘performance’.  Employees are unilaterally motivated by consistently hitting lofty sales goals time and again.  As a testament to this performance driven culture - one employee told us that one time their boss had to tell them to go home early and make some time for family when they were overworking themselves.  This performance culture isn’t mandated from the top and is completely grassroots in that it’s driven by internal employee motivation and ambition. While you can expect to work alongside incredibly driven and ambitious colleagues at Hotel Effectiveness - they definitely know how to have a good time host a hilarious annual white elephant Christmas party. Check out open positions at Hotel Effectiveness     6. Revinate Revinate’s culture is characterized by constant iteration and testing.  The Company is always trying new things and that affords a ton of learning opportunities to team members.  This year while the technical team executed a full shift from hosted data center to cloud based AWS infrastructure the sales and marketing teams were tasked to rapidly grow the install base of the Revinate Marketing product.  Both teams executed with near perfection and everyone celebrated with an impromptu party where key team members reflected on the incredible achievements of such a relatively short time period. Revinate embodies the startup spirit with enterprise scale.  Revinate CEO Marc Heyneker is deeply involved in the day to day operations of the business and employees across the organization rave about his ability to inspire and teach. One employee told us a story about a serious head injury that left this person working remotely for several months.  His team made sure to make him feel included as part of the office through the entire time away but that was only the beginning. The employee recalled being shocked that over a year after his injury Heyneker pulled him aside to check in on his health and to ask what he could do personally to help. Check out open positions at Revinate     5. Cloudbeds Cloudbeds management recently surprised its team with a beautiful new San Diego headquarters equipped with a 14 ft indoor willow tree, a massive outdoor workspace, game areas, stand up workstations and more.  The environment is fun, welcoming and echoes the company theme - all things travel. Cloudbeds has an extensive wellness program because management knows that healthy employees are productive ones. This productivity paid off in 2018 where Cloudbeds achieved #75 on Inc Magazine’s fastest growing companies list.  How are they growing so fast you ask? Well it’s probably because CEO Adam Harris told the team he’d dance to any song of their choosing. We will keep you posted once we get our hands on the video from Harris’ co-founder Richard Castle. The Company maintains several internal chat threads exclusively for team sharing of funny photos, videos and memes - so we expect the video to surface there as well.  All jokes aside, Cloudbeds takes both employee and team growth very seriously. Each employee has weekly 1-1 meetings to review competencies and revisit their path to promotion. The Company is growing rapidly and there are constant opportunities for employees who prove themselves. Cloudbeds is also a 100% flexible organization where remote employees and those stationed at the headquarters all enjoy the ability to work from anywhere anytime.  Cloudbeds has fostered a culture where its team members truly enjoy hanging outside of work and building friendships important for their personal and professional lives. Several Ukrainian teammates trained for a marathon together and one customer success rep has leveraged her friendship with the UX designers to pursue her passion for design. After taking several courses independently the UX team has given her several opportunities to practice her skills on live projects. Check out open positions at Cloudbeds       4. Clock Software Clock Software is another company on our list that is growing insanely fast but doesn’t take itself too seriously.  One Clock employee told us that on their birthday coworkers wrapped his entire workstation and even put a bow on it.  The only complaint we heard from Clock Software team members was that they are growing too fast and needed more staff to manage the growth.  This is the best kind of problem to have. Clock is the oldest company on our list and celebrated their 22nd anniversary this year - a testament to the longevity of the business.  Clock founder Krasimir Trapchev has focused on growing the client base without scaling the team too quickly. Trapchev is all about execution and he’s prioritized building a long term sustainable business over rapid scaling which is extremely unique in an environment where funding is so plentiful that CryptoKitties, a company that enables users to breed and trade digital cats can raise $15M.  Clock is now starting to scale the team so it can take on more enterprise clients and its employees are fired up.  If you want to learn how to build a real business without massive amounts of venture capital - check out open jobs at Clock because Trapchev is the Mr. Miyagi of entrepreneurship and you’d be wise to make yourself his Karate Kid. Check out open positions at Clock     3. Screen Pilot Screen Pilot takes team building very seriously with activities like bubble soccer, a British Bakeoff (it’s ok we Googled it, too), volunteering at an animal shelter, an escape room and even a city wide scavenger hunt around its hometown in Denver.  The scavenger hunt and Screen Pilot’s quarterly volunteer days are a testament to Screen Pilot’s commitment to the surrounding community. While Screen Pilot is a top rated digital marketing agency, it’s a technology innovator as much as a marketing service provider.  The Company has created what it calls SP Labs where employees brainstorm ways to better leverage technology to help its clients win more direct bookings. Think of SP Labs like an ongoing internal hackathon with dedicated teams set on solving acute problems for clients. It’s this kind of innovative mindset that lead Screen Pilot to a 2018 Adrian Award for social content creation. Check out open positions at Screenpilot     2. Mews Systems If you caught the Mews Systems booth at WTM you might think that it was a rocket science company with all the lab coats and futuristic decor that earned it the Best Stand Award.  While Mews isn’t quite a rocket science company it is taking off like a rocketship having doubled its client base in the second half of 2018 alone. To support that kind of insane customer growth Mews had to 4x its team size in the last year - the fastest growth of any company in our list.  So how can a company even hire that fast? Mews attracts 40% of new hires via referrals. If that doesn’t say something about the company culture we don’t know what does. With that kind of insane growth supported by an $8M Series A in June you’d think it’s all business but Mews employees say it’s very much a “work hard, play hard” culture.  One employee told us that one of his favorite things about working at Mews is “daily banter with the boizz” - this kind of hilariousness is exactly what’s helped the Company take the industry by storm. Hoteliers everywhere are sick of generic jargon and boring brand marketing from hotel tech firms and Mews is the antidote. Employees frequently cite founder Richard Valtr and CEO Matt Welle as saying “At Mews we are family and we will take care of any family member in need."  Mews also boasts an extremely inclusive culture illustrated by the firm’s attendance at the Prague Pride celebration wearing special edition Mews gear to the event. The Company also has a shared value culture at its core and participated in UK Byte Night last year.  Byte Night prevents youth homelessness by having corporate teams sleep in the streets to raise awareness and funds for the cause.  Richard and team participated which is really cool and a statement to the quality of people that you’ll work with when you join the Mews team. Check out open positions at Mews     1. ALICE ALICE employees widely agreed that quarterly town hall meetings are the foundation of ALICE’s connected team culture.  ALICE staff loves the opportunity to connect with colleagues from around the world, align around the company vision and get transparency into how the business is performing at a macro level. More than doubling its size in 2018, ALICE unsurprisingly had to upgrade its HQ office to add more space and acquire obligatory startup amenities like a cold brew keg, stand up desks and lockers.  ALICE goes so much deeper for its team and invests heavily in career development. Employees participate in a company wide book club, receive access to free Udemy courses and are nurtured along a very clear path to promotion.  ALICE employees talk about the clarity of path to promotion more than any other company’s employees on our list. Setting a clear path to promotion is important for making employees feel like they’re constantly progressing and puts them at ease knowing that there’s always room to grow internally.  Major consulting firms like BCG and McKinsey have perfected this art but rarely do we see startups who are able to provide such transparency to their staff - kudos ALICE management.One employee told us that she was promoted 4 times in the last 3 years - a testament to ALICE’s ability to reward top employees.  Even a remote worker was able to win ALICE’s Culture and Values Award twice in 6 months. This individual told us that they felt like they were on an island while working previous remote jobs - but felt very connected to the inclusive ALICE team. ALICE acquired GoConcierge this year and is making serious strides with major enterprise clients after its $30M Series B funding - a testament to the strong prospects for the firm and probably why employee confidence in the firm is best in class.  “When you receive a high five from the CEO, that says a lot about the culture of the company,” says one team member. High fives all around! Check out open positions at ALICE

Hotel Tech Report

How to maximize your hotel’s bookings by aligning your technology with your goal

The growth in technology tools for hotels has complicated life for hoteliers. While it has always been important to bring potential guests into the conversion funnel, there are now many ways to both capture and convert lookers to bookers. When considering the different ways to bring prospects into your hotel’s funnel, it can be helpful to start with the goal and then look at technologies that accomplish that goal. This approach differs from other common vendor evaluation processes in one key way: it puts the goal first rather than the category. For instance, rather than comparing only direct booking tools to one another, this process focuses on the desired outcome -- and then compares tools across categories that may help a hotel achieve that outcome. With this outcome-based approach, hotels have stronger odds of successfully matching with the correct vendor for a specific issue.   "I want to improve conversion on my website" When it comes to getting more direct bookings, it’s all about the hotel website. After all, a hotel with a buggy website and poor user flow will scare off many potential guests who seek a trustworthy booking experience. Direct booking tools promise growth in direct bookings by increasing conversions on a hotel’s website through price check tools, real-time guest messaging, smart segmentation, and pricing optimization. These direct booking tools offer a mix of capabilities, so it’s best to evaluate each according to how your hotel prioritizes direct bookings. Booking engines are a necessity for selling rooms directly. Without a modern and intuitive interface that’s optimized for conversion, guests will go elsewhere out of frustration or suspicion. Look for a booking engine with real-time inventory updates; otherwise, you risk double booking across channels. Reputation management is more than just an operational tool: it’s also handy for marketing. Most hotel reputation management solutions have the ability to feature previous guest reviews on your website; doing so can dramatically boost your conversion rate. Virtual tours can help conversions. When potential guests consider a hotel, they want to be certain that the property is as advertised. Consider investing in a virtual tour to give guests piece of mind.   "I want to drive new traffic to my website" Once a website has been optimized for direct bookings and conversion, the next step is to entice more potential guests to it. There’s a blended approach to making this happen.   Content marketing is one of the most affordable ways to engage potential guests and to bring them to your website. With great content, you’ll have an engaging website to attract visitors, as well as plenty to post on social media. Be sure to make your content relevant to your guest profile. Social media is a challenging place but can deliver results when done right -- especially for distribution of the great content you’ve created! Social media is also a goldmine of consumer insights. Leveraging social media tools can bring you closer to your customers. Influencer marketing continues to be a growth area for hospitality marketers. Inviting influencers to experience the property, or paying them to post about the property, appeals to hotels looking to reach particular demographics. These influencer marketing tools should factor into the mix, helping identify the right influencers and tracking the success of your campaign. Digital marketing agencies are assets for those hotels that have enough budget to engage subject matter experts. Hospitality marketing agencies use their experience across clients to build high-impact campaigns that can be quite intimidating to deploy solo.   "I want to bring back old guests" According to research from the company that invented the Net Promoter Score, increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%. Statistics aside, it really comes down to customer acquisition cost for hotels. With each booking channel taking a large commission for bringing in a guest, it can be extraordinarily lucrative to re-engage former guests. Loyalty programs are helpful assets to organize and track a comprehensive loyalty program for independents. The best technology will give you insights into your guest profiles, and help you craft the best offerings to each group.  Read our article "Do independent hotel loyalty programs actually work?" to decide if this option is right for your hotel or properties. Email marketing is a critical piece of the loyalty puzzle. When evaluating email marketing tools, you want to be sure that it integrates with your existing loyalty program and hotel CRM tools.   "I want more bookings on OTAs & Metasearch" Third-party websites and metasearch are important pieces of any hotel revenue management strategy. As part of a cohesive approach that includes direct bookings, wholesale, and groups, these channels are valuable tools to shore up low demand periods and achieve overall revenue targets. Metasearch and ad tech bring advanced reporting, bidding and inventory management to your third-party distribution strategy. These metasearch tools help hoteliers wrangle the complex web of metasearch campaigns, as well as integrating in real-time with existing systems to maximize profitable bookings without overbooking. Review management software performs a critical function: it monitors your hotel’s reviews for potential operational issues. Catching poor performance before it affects the guest experience means better reviews -- and a higher ranking in search results on OTAs and metasearch sites.

Hotel Tech Report

Former IHG Lead Strategist: Hotel Groups that Build Tech in House Are at Risk

During my second week on the global partnerships team at Starwood Hotels & Resorts, the firm laid off a significant portion of the corporate office as it prepared for a sale. Adam Aron (interim CEO at the time) called all corporate employees to a town hall behind it's Stamford Connecticut headquarters to allay concerns about future layoffs and set a clear message about the changes happening at Starwood. One of the most critical messages from this meeting was the idea that "we are not a technology company". In the years leading up to this event, Starwood had spent hundreds of millions of dollars on proprietary technology such as SPG Keyless and Aron wanted to reduce that spend by finding strategic partners who would take on the R&D risk, innovate faster and add expertise without being on Starwood's payroll. In the age of digital transformation one of the key decisions that managers must weigh is whether to buy or build technology. When big brands choose to build proprietary tech in house it often comes at the cost of sub-par products, hemorrhaging cash and stifled innovation. As former head of global strategy for industry powerhouse InterContinental Hotels Group, Triptease's Alexandra Zubko is no stranger to this paradigm. Now a co-founder of one of the industry's fastest growing tech upstarts, Zubko has an undeniably unique perspective on the market. We sat down with Zubko to get her take on build vs. buy, why vendors misunderstand hoteliers, her favorite hotel in the world and more.   Tell us about your career in hotels Prior to Triptease, I was the Head of Global Strategy for IHG, responsible for strategy across all brands, verticals and regions. I had started in the EMEA region and was thrilled about working across markets near and far. I was originally attracted to hotels after having spent 10 years outside of them in finance, television and consulting. The global role piqued my interest as I'd lived as a little girl in Korea, Venezuela and Brazil. As a continuous learner, the industry was constantly challenging me. Delivering a global brand through diverse cultures and people is constantly inches beyond grasp. We weren't particularly tech-savvy in the strategy team. We worked in data and analysis, not systems and processes. With that in mind, on any given day, you'd find me in Think-Cell. 10 years later, that'd probably be Tableau or Looker. Since my first job as an investment banker, I've always been fascinated with telling stories through numbers and data. At its heart, Triptease is a data and analytics company. These insights recommend digital marketing strategies to hotels to drive profitable, incremental revenue. When did you first become interested in leveraging technology to become a better hotelier? Honestly, I didn't. My obsession with new technology happened outside of, and in spite of, being a hotelier. It was a side obsession which began with teaching myself to code in the 90s, continued when I started a travel tech business in the mid 90s and then persisted through reading blogs and articles while at IHG.  As a hotelier what was your biggest frustration with technology vendors? I couldn't stand the pitches from vendors who didn't understand my role or my business; the pitch was really all about them/their business and didn't understand my business challenges. Hoteliers are skeptical about adopting new technology, quite rightly. The onus is on the vendors, on the tech startups, on the entrepreneurs to reduce the friction and showcase the benefit as quickly as possible. We're lucky at Triptease because the benefits are obvious from day 1. We've reduced our integration to one day for hotels operating on one of our preferred partners. Because the skepticism exists and because tech can take long, hoteliers reach the wrong conclusion. They decide to build instead of buy. I have witnessed a transformation in travel tech. Increasingly, hotels are embracing the rules of comparative advantage and are embracing tech where they can move fast, learn fast and benefit quickly. Tell us about your journey from working at IHG in strategy to now running the Triptease business? I met Charlie Osmond when I was at IHG. I was moving back from London to New York and we connected. It was clear that the team (him and Alasdair Snow) wanted to solve big and challenging problems. It took about 6 months from the moment we first met to my first day in our London office. I had no idea what a whirlwind the experience would be, how much I would learn, how fast we would move and how much of an impact we would make for our hotelier clients. I had always worked for big brands, established companies with well-known reputations. What was it going to be like to risk everything I'd worked for? Risk wasn't something we had a lot of appetite for at IHG as a large, publicly-traded company. On top of that, I had two children under 5 and was pregnant with a third! It's not exactly the prime time in one's life that Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos and many others would recommend starting a company! Give us the Triptease elevator pitch Hotels use Triptease's data and analytics to optimize their presence and compete successfully in the digital space. Through a joined-up platform across a hotels' tech stack, Triptease knows who your guests are, who is likely to book and delivers a personalized online guest experience on the hotel website and booking engine.   Imagine that you're going to open the hotel of your dreams tomorrow.  What kind of hotel would it be and what tech would you leverage? Consumers are conscious of the choices they make and the impact on communities, sustainability and, increasingly, their own brand and values. I'd build a hotel that has a positive impact on poorer communities in distant destinations. A hotel like Nihi on the island of Sumba in Indonesia is the best representation of this ambition. The hotel combines economic impact, training of indigenous people, ultra luxury and a sublime guest experience. Starting with the user in mind, I'd leverage the following technologies for my property: 1) Triptease's direct booking platform 2) Mews' Property Management System to deliver the best guest experience 3) SiteMinder's Channel Manager to maximize 3rd party channel performance 4) ALICE's Hotel Operations Platform to facilitate day to day operations What's one piece of advice you have for hoteliers who have dreams of working in technology one day? Be confident you've learned enough. Be willing to take the leap and disregard titles and job roles. Join a company destined to solve big problems quickly with a set of people and values that inspire you. Put your hand up for anything and everything and suggest solutions. What's one podcast, newsletter or book that you recommend hoteliers read if they'd like to eventually move into tech? I'd recommend "Masters of Scale with Reid Hoffman". It's a great way to learn what it's like to be a founder and what land mines to avoid. What is your favorite hotel in the world? Nihi Sumba in Indonesia which was voted #1 hotel in the world by Travel + Leisure What is the most exciting technology you've seen in the hotel tech space that is not built by your own company? Tableau. Data visualization that unleashes data locked away deep in an on-premise PMS  What is one thing that most people don't know about you? I obsess about learning and development - for my team, my company and my clients. Here are some examples of how we've brought this idea into the Triptease culture: 1. Radical Candor approach to developing people. We strive to provide continuous feedback. After every meeting or interaction. It’s a human need to know where you stand and how you’re doing. Annual performance feedback and reviews are antiquated in today’s world of immediate likes on social media, for example. 2. Development framework. So everyone knows where they stand at their level across 6 competencies. They know what they need to demonstrate to move to the next level. 3. Engineers do pairing so they’re constantly learning from one another as they code 4. We have firesides and sharing lunches where we learn from one another and the volunteer gets public speaking practice. Topics range from digital marketing to color blindness to ballroom dancing 5. Each employee has an annual obsessive learning budget so they can invest in themselves 6. In person offsites and training courses during the year

Jordan Hollander

Triptease Named 2018’s Top Rated Direct Booking Platform in the HotelTechAwards

February 12, 2018 -  Hotel Tech Report has named Triptease 2018’s top rated Direct Booking Platform based on data from thousands of hoteliers in more than 40 countries around the world.  Over 100 of the world’s elite hotel technology products competed for a chance to win this prestigious title. The HotelTechAwards platform (by leverages real customer data to determine best of breed products that help hoteliers grow their bottom lines. “You don’t have to be a hotelier to understand the value of Triptease.  When we book hotels as consumers we start by researching on OTA’s to see variety.  Once we’ve narrowed our consideration set we look at hotel websites for better information.  Many travelers then return to book on the OTA costing hotels billions of dollars each year.  Triptease has an elegant suite of solutions that solve this problem. It’s no surprise that hoteliers everywhere are joining the Triptease party by the thousands,” says Hotel Tech Report’s Jordan Hollander. Triptease is poised for sustained growth in 2018. Hoteliers recognized Triptease’s impeccable global customer support where Triptease exceeded the category average by more than 9%. Few companies inspire as much fervor amongst customers as Triptease as evidenced by commentary from a Switzerland based General Manager, “Triptease is what the hotel industry has been waiting for! It is visionary and constantly looking to improve their product. All employees that I dealt with were dedicated and enthusiastic and gave great support." To read the full review and more, head to the Triptease profile on Hotel Tech Report

Hotel Tech Report

(Podcast) Triptease Founder Charlie Osmond Tells All: How his tech startup got into 12k hotels, raised $20M in venture funding and beat a $65B company

Download Hotel Tech Report's 2019 Direct Booking Platform Buyers Guide     Here's the unedited interview transcript: Jordan: Could you start by telling us a little about your journey into the world of hotel tech? Charlie: Hi, so yes, straight out of University started my first business and I did that then for another think 10 or 12 years. And so I was coming to the end of that and feeling thinking about what what is it? I want to do next which industry but I like to be in for the next decade and I guess that's worth pointing out. So I think a lot of people don't always. Realize how long it takes from startup to successful business, but in my mind definitely it's worth thinking about Decades of your career if you're doing a start-up so as all when I showed the place I'd really like to spend time is online travel. And the reason for that was that. It was the biggest Market on the internet, right? It's a huge market and I think as an entrepreneur you need to go after big markets if you want to create a large business and also because when I thought about my life and the thing the single thing that upset me most throughout the year the single biggest pain and frustration. It was always when I was booking our family holiday. I can never quite understand how you know one week holiday would take me seemingly 3 or 4 weekend's worth of effort in looking at assessing choosing then getting input from My Wife and before eventually booking the damn thing and it hurt me so much that experience that I just thought. How can it be that this this massive Market online is still so painful to navigate their just have to be opportunities here, too. To make a difference. So yeah, that was really that's what kick me off. I think that's something that really a lot of people can relate to it's incredible that with all the tools out there today. We're still not able to book travel seamlessly it could you give us the elevator pitch for tripped. He's tripped. He's today is a technology company that is focused on helping hotels Drive direct bookings and improve the guest experience on the website. So really everything we do is about optimizing. The current website the current booking engine hotel has and making it a better guest experience and increasing bookings a result. J: Yeah. I've seen the product and I'm a huge fan of what you guys are doing and it's incredible the impact you've been able to have on your hotel customers with such a simple and scalable product. I think one of the really interesting parts of your business is that you've created a really fun and engaging brand for something that's somewhat of a niche and Technical product. Could you tell us a little bit about what the Triptease brand means to you and how that's played into your success. C: It's a really really want so it's funny because we started the business as a sort of consumer-facing brand and Triptease was actually trying to get across. The way in which people could share their great travel experiences and tease others about their trips. So as a there was a very good reason for why the name is as it is and also the other reason why the name is striptease is because it's a little playful and I wanted something that would stick in people's minds the when we shifted to becoming focus on really the brand is targeting hoteliers and hoteliers are our customers. We did a one of our investors was actually quite Keen that we change the brand. But we stuck with it and I think the reason is because it is seen as playful and yeah, maybe maybe 1% of people really hated or really dislike it but I think it's far better that brand drives and motion. And if that means there's something don't like it, but others really do love it then then I'm all for it. I. I've there's a there's a great investor great VC in Silicon Valley who runs a firm called 500 startups and I think it's advice on branding is do crazy stuff because you're startups probably going to fail anyway, and I guess we see our name is just one little bit of a little bit fun we can have. J: Yeah, that's a great point. And I think a lot of times with the ups and downs of the startup roller coaster. It can be difficult to have fun. So it's great that you guys were able to find a way to bring that into your day-to-day speaking of those kind of that early period and that roller coaster in those pivots. Can you talk a little bit about your first 18 months and what that felt like? C: Yeah, I mean it was a it was a horrendous time our first 18 months horrendous, but also fabulous it was. To extreme emotions and the thing that surprised me the most was how many different times in one day it was possible to oscillate between disaster and success as excitement and misery and really that was it I would say is 18 months of a roller coaster ride, where one day you might think. Oh, we had this great new idea for a distribution or we've had this great result where we got someone who really is excited about what we're doing. And then later that same day or later that week something disastrous would happen and what you expected or he thaws already believed it turned out wasn't true or you found another competitor that was doing something or a tried the same thing and had failed which was actually worse than a competitive doing well in many ways. So yeah, it was just it was a roller coaster and then at the same time as the business, I guess fortunes and potential going up and down. You also would have the the finances of the company. So I mean from a personal point of view. We had to sell our house. We had to move the company into our basement in a place. We rented to save money on rent which meant my wife and kids coming back into the coming home in the afternoons and finding, you know computers and people strewn across the house doing their work. So there was some definitely stressful moments, but at the same time all of that stress was. So rewarding and so much fun and it's a great feeling when you're literally building a business on your dining room table. It's it just feels I guess it imbues the company with a special culture and having gone through some of those hardships together the core team who was there at the beginning I think, you know when we're connected for life really and so it was hard but it was also really rewarding that's really an incredible story and such an example. I bought a sad for entrepreneurs going through some of the trials and tribulations at this stage. J: I want to start talking a little bit more about some of those tribulations that you had in 2015 you woke up one day to a letter from alleging that you had been unlawfully using their data. Can you tell me what that felt? Like I can only imagine how I would feel in that situation. C: Yeah, well, I've described we went through a few ups and downs before we ever got there. So I guess the roller coaster of emotions. I was quite used to it was it was not a great day. I have to admit when a I think at the time 64 billion dollar business tells you that they want to take you out of business and they write to all your customers and tell you that they're going to sue you and sue your customers and so it was quite quite worrying but the same time I'm an eternal optimist and I look at every. Challenge as an opportunity and immediately. I was thinking this is good. We've been we've been starting to see other companies try to copy us this this threat is also going to be an issue for them. And when we resolve how to get through this it's going to be hard for the next people trying to follow us. So, you know every hurdle is an obstacle for your future copycat competitors, right? So so so there were worries and there were concerns but the same time it was like, okay, how can we turn this to our advantage? And we spent a fair bit of time. I got to say talking to lawyers that was important. And and we also you know, it's all about as you should always do in every situation. What are the. What are the opportunities you've got in Your Arsenal that you can kind of use and I guess in one sense the pr was one side of that. Actually, we would just kind of deciding about how do we talk about this and then somebody else leak? The letter leaked a letter to one of the hotels to the Press so it kind of Hit the Press before we had quite decided how we're going to respond. And then once it is done that we just thought well then which case we have to be we've got to be talking about this. It's it can be slightly harder as a large company in a dispute to give a clear opinion to every question from a journalist. But as a small company that one advantage we've got is. I'm making decisions and I can you know immediately give my opinion without having to confer with lots of other stakeholders internally. So we kind of felt this is this has got to be our opportunity. Then the issue has blown up in the Press. Let's make sure that we're open and available to talk about our Viewpoint, right? J: Yeah. I think I can completely understand booking trying to protect their lunch. But at the same time, I think it's. Such a testament to what you guys have done the really kind of Judo philosophy of using the weight of your opponent against them obviously really played out in your favor speaking of I have seen a lot of OTAs moving into the service business and even heard an Expedia executive talk about seeing himself as a service business rather than a distribution play. You kind of see the investment into Alice from Expedia and. And Priceline into Boutique and hotel ninjas. Can you talk a little bit about what you're seeing in terms of OTAs moving into the direct booking space and services. C: Yeah, I think it's fascinating seeing the OTAs get more into dark bookings. I think that there were some important strategic Investments for The O'Jays to make because it's one way if for example consumer opinion or whatever was to shift dramatically towards booking directly. Then that could be a real challenge to Oda. So it's important that they sort of spread their bets and they get involved. I think also actually it's just it's a really smart move on the oth pause again so much of the value that's duty is to bring it to Market is tied up in their ability to analyze data on behavior. And so with Priceline owning booking sweets and therefore managing and running thousands of Hotel website. Again, that's just that's just more information more data that they're able to use. So I think they just they see it as a Naturals of extension of what they're doing. I think there is a there's again there's a definite risk, right the risk is that if you're a small hotelier and you got there for very very little power in the big scale of things and your website and your booking engine is. Provided to you by one of the OTAs and your central reservation system is provided to you by one of the OTAs their ability to then for example, get you to only display availability or to make sure they display more availability or always have laws from availability on their site goes up right there the power Dynamic shift even further in their favor. There are plenty of hotels all say. is just one of the best run websites on the internet if those guys it also going to build my website and I'll be a fool to let anyone else do it because probably it will convert at a higher rate. I don't know that that's right, but that's certainly the other side of the aisle. Right. That's what anything there are trade-offs on both sides and really just kind of choosing what risk you're willing to accept as a hotelier is the main point here when you look at at the OTAs and Priceline Expedia, specifically you just see massive massive Market. But at the same time J: David Temple who is a member of Hotel Tech Insider and the founder of Hello Scout kind of points out that VC and the industry is really difficult. The industry doesn't have high enough margins to support a strong SAS business. What's your take on that? One of the things that the OTAs have done without question why particularly compare Car Hire or you can pair Airline fees the commission's that the OTAs are managing to command from hotels. All incredibly high and that's you know, that's why the margin the OTAs are getting is massive. So the idea that there isn't there isn't a big enough market if you're shifting people's direct. It's just it's just not an issue right price line is one of the biggest markets one of the biggest biggest biggest digital businesses globally full stop. And there they are that size and they'll that scale because of the margins that they have the commission's are charging. Right? So it makes sense that it really depends on where you play into the value chain and which part of the p&l you're going after with your product or service and where you want to move the needle whether it's increasing revenue or decreasing costs and really looking at that on a more granular level. I wanted to switch gears a little bit. And go to a question from euclides major who is the founder and CEO of guests. J: Our listener named Euclides Major who's the founder of Uguest is really curious about what your day-to-day looks like. I know since you've hired your brother your leadership philosophy is changed. Can you talk about kind of what you were doing as the business started and how that's changed today? C: I think I might have hesitated to talk about hiring my brother in the past. But actually it was one of the best things I ever did. So I'm quite proud of it and my brother who'd been running a another business very successfully, but she sold before this one. He had a very clear I guess view that what the business needed. Now as we were going through a new stage of growth was to hire a senior management team and that really all the decisions were going to be made by the senior management team not by me the chief tease. And he was pretty adamant about this and that was that really did lead to a shift of yeah hiring a more experience more Senior Team internally and. Me moving from try to be involved in every decision to not being able to be involved in, you know, even 5% of them because it's just so much going on now the team's expanded and I'm overseas when you see other people in the business going ahead and making decisions that I guess you wouldn't have and then you see that they were right and they were successful and great decisions. Then you think okay. This is so much better. The company is so much better for it. But I think now the answering the question of what I do day today, I'm often diving in and it's deciding. So the specific projects or specific things that are going on today or specific customers who needed help where it's appropriate and it's right for me to really dive in because. Yeah, now I think about my role as being what are the things that uniquely I can do and what are things I can do uniquely as the chief T's is I can shine a light very brightly on specific issues that I think exists within the company or that may exist. That's a great point. And I know Steve Jobs used to say that you hire smart people to do smart things and it seems like that's really working for you at striptease. And I know in the past we've talked about shining that Spotlight on company culture and. J: Estella Hale, who's the VP of product at SHR and also a Hotel Tech Insider wanted to know how you've been able to maintain the company culture as you've had such rapid growth when I think about small businesses and you know, our goal is to hire amazing people and keep them motivated and excited and within the business the there are so many things that big companies can do you know that we can't for example, we don't fly people in anything other than economy. C: And so I always think well, what are the things we can do? No business is harder for a big company and one of the things that we can be complete transparency because and also we're going to a great journey as a start-up we've been growing quite quickly. And so we kind of feel it's our duty to educate everyone on his everything. We're learning about how to grow a fast-moving business and hopefully those are things that will inspire them all to start their own companies in the future. Ray and that's definitely something that I think is lacking in a lot of corporate culture today. It's kind of hitting the top piece of Maslow's hierarchy and that self-actualization and really empowering employees and making them feel valued. So I think that's an incredible retention tool and a great way to really build that corporate culture. The next question comes from Shawn Carter Shawn is the director of operations at Bisley very successful New York based startup that helps. Hotels and other businesses rent out and meeting space via their online platform. So coming from a little bit outside of the industry Sean was curious as to how you tackled some of the scaling issues because as he points out hotels can be slow to adopt new technology and not wrongfully so it's more because new technology can disrupt existing processes. J: So what do you think was the key for you to drive such rapid adoption? C: Maybe some of the the smallest attract we've done to try and identify early adopters is actually look at the technology that you've got. So there are. It also tells on lots of different booking engines. For example, we believe there are some but they're a bit more that are a bit more sort of up-to-date and therefore we look for hotels with those booking engines because we know that if hotels working with this with this bit of software then that hotelier is probably a bit smarter about their business and they're more prepared to try new things. And so you can look for indicators like that that suggests that this is a dynamic organization that wants to try things first. Yeah. Sure. J: I think Charlie brings up a really. Interesting perspective here and that you might not want to think about your Target customer as a specific type of hotel by their rooms or their chain scale, but even going deeper than that and understanding the kind of Behavioral traits of the actual buyers and adopters of your product could be an interesting angle to. And so Charlie the last question before we head into the speed round comes from Erlanger Johnson, who is the CTO of Tour Desk? And he really wants to understand what your most effective Channel or tactic has been to scale your business today. C: It was always the most effective tool in my last business. I think the SaaS industry in general is one that has grown very quickly through inside sales. So that's people sitting inside the company as it were not not leaving their desks and phoning up prospects. That's been that's been our number one. J: What is the worst piece of advice you've received since founding Triptease? C: He's so I said, we would we built the digital post called products. We'd managed to get the investors to back us and give us a million pounds and a month later. We went back to my said thanks for the money. We've just decided we think that there's actually much better product called price check that we want to do and they versus said the rest said look we've just given you a million pounds, please use it to work on digital postcards because that's what we agreed. And so they said carry on with what we're doing and a month later. I went back and said I ignored you and we're going to build price check instead. It's going to be a lot better. It's incredible. I am sure that they're thankful. You did not regard their advice today. J: If you could form a partnership with any travel company, who would it be and why? C: Well, you just got to think big right so I mean Google is the is probably the single organization. That was most hotels Google analytics. I think is really fascinating because it's probably the one bit of code that's on more hotel websites than any other and yet I feel that at the moment because it's generic tool hotels get very little often get little value from it because I don't set it up properly. So I'd love to find a way to work with. J: And last one here Charlie, who is the single most interesting person you've met in this industry C: Steve Rubin at Dennihan. He is every time I meet him I learned a whole bunch of new things and I often have to get in to repeat them a couple of times because I'm not as fast enough to keep up with his brain.

Jordan Hollander

OTAs vs Hotels: The Age-Old Battle Over Online Booking

While OTAs and hotels seem at odds with each other, they both have one important thing in common: their dedication to the customer” or more specifically the guest.In regards to online booking, there are important and striking differences between how the two cater to the guest” which has resulted in OTAs seemingly dominated the online booking market.As shown, OTAs control approximately two-thirds of all online bookings, with an 0.8% increase from last year. On the other hand, hotels, controlling one-third, saw a 0.8% decrease in total share of online bookings since last year.Within the OTA market, the top brands include: Expedia,, and Priceline” which control 28.09%, 19.13%, and 16.15% respectively. OTAs show no signs of slowing down, as it's predicted the Priceline group (which includes and Expedia will account for 94% of all online bookings by 2020.Within the hotel market, the top brands include: Marriott International, Hilton Hotels, and IHG” which control 26.21%, 17.25%, and 15.58% respectively. While overall hotels lost a small amount of market share, according to Skift, the number of occupied rooms in 2017 were more than those in 2016” meaning, the volume of bookings has increased.This skew towards OTA online booking can be attributed to multiple factors. Compared to OTAs, hotels have limited control over their main operational costs, which include: labour costs, debt services, franchise fees, utilities, real estate taxes and distribution costs. Even more, OTA's increasing market share has caused hotel distribution costs to steadily rise over the last 5 years. Inherently, hotels have less inventory than OTAs” 99% less. As explained by Skift, this not only gives greater power to OTAs in marketing and online hotel sales, but also increases their bargaining power. Hotels face a dilemma of complying with OTAs and losing market share, or not complying and losing even more. Lastly, OTAs invest significantly more in marketing initiatives than hotels. While OTAs typically invest 30-40% of their revenue in marketing, hotels spend around 6%. This significant difference can partly explain why the guest believes OTAs to have cheaper prices” that's simply what they're more exposed to.That being said, hoteliers have a few unused tricks up their sleeves. For starters, 50% of OTA users will visit the official hotel website before booking. Hotels can better capture the guest through improved user experience, user-driven design, and an emphasis on making booking as easy as possible. Within the hotel market, Wyndham saw the biggest market share gains, tripling its market share since last year. Their achievement can be attribute to their success in catching OTA users, and converting them before they leave. To do so, Wyndham improved their website by prioritizing guest experience, and improved their Rewards app's usability.The overwhelming majority of travellers (85%) believe price to be the most important factor when deciding where to book” and associate lower prices with OTAs. Hoteliers can combat some of their operational costs, and consequently have more flexibility with pricing, through investing in digital technology. Moreover, through increasing their marketing initiatives and offering additional non-monetary incentives, hoteliers can better compete with OTAs on travellers perceptions of price. Barry Goldstein, Wyndham Hotel Group's chief marketing officer, revealed one of the major factors of Wyndham's success was their shift to an "intense focus on technology". Wyndham also leveraged travellers price sensitivity through consistently offering discounts to guests who book direct, and through implementing a summer travel message that highlights price.Increasing numbers of occupied rooms have also opened the doors for hoteliers to increase their amount of direct bookings. Hoteliers should focus on capturing and targeting the guest through increased investments in marketing. Since last year, Wyndham has increased their marketing initiatives and placed within the top 10 largest hotel advertisers on US television, spending over $19 million.Considering the reach and traffic OTAs generate daily, hoteliers should strategically use OTA channels only during needed periods, such as offseason. Even more, hotels should track guests who book through OTAs and target them with special direct booking deals during their stay and after they check-out.It's finally time for the age-old battle between OTAs and hotels to end” and with a little refinement hoteliers may just come out on top.

Dan Lawrence