Before signing up with an independent loyalty program it’s important for hotels to reflect on why branded loyalty programs like Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton HHonors add value. These types of loyalty programs incentivize guests to book with a brand by offering experiential and monetary incentives. Experiential incentives include things like room upgrades, WiFi and late checkout which sway frequent travelers into booking via a loyalty program because they actually get better treatment than the average guest. Monetary incentives enable loyalty program members to experience higher property tiers which also can drive loyalty. For example, a frequent Marriott Courtyard business traveller can build up points and use them towards a stay at W Hotels where they ordinarily wouldn’t have stayed. By staying at a higher tier property within the network that guest now has a haloed perception of the Marriott brand as a whole. Circa 2010, independent hotels took note of the massive growth in branded loyalty programs and banded together via programs like iPrefer (by Preferred Hotels & Resorts) and Stash Hotel Rewards. An April 2018 study by Oracle Hospitality (study here) highlights the dynamic that helped such programs grow. Namely, there is a discrepancy between hotel perceptions of loyalty programs and the reality of such programs. According to the study, hotel managers believe that 61% of guests sign-up for loyalty programs while in reality only 24% actually do. Similarly, hotels perceive that 54% of guests will find offers relevant while in reality only 22% of guests believe that offers made by loyalty programs are relevant. Revinate summarizes data from Oracle's loyalty study Just because hotels overestimate the value of loyalty programs doesn’t mean that they don’t add value. Ultimately even small volumes of incremental bookings can still deliver a high ROI so independent hotels should still consider joining an independent loyalty program but should do so with realistic expectations. Independent loyalty programs that try to mimic branded programs rarely work. Smart hoteliers know that points are mostly irrelevant when it comes to the world of independents since booking with another property in the network has no impact on loyalty for your own property. The landing page for Destination Hotels & Resorts’ Destination Delivers program is a testament to the death of points for independent hotels: "This unique loyalty club is filled with perks. Not points." ~ Destination Hotels & Resorts A 2019 Revinate study shows that groups with more than 50 hotels can sometimes benefit from pursuing points based programs while smaller groups (under 50 properties) rarely benefit from such programs. When loyalty members receive points towards a program like Marriott Bonvoy their loyalty is building towards Marriott corporate rather than towards an individual property or sub-brand. The problem with what we call ‘independent loyalty 1.0’ (e.g. iPrefer and Stash Rewards) is the misconception that loyalty is actually being built towards a specific property. Where programs such as iPrefer and Stash Rewards are still operating dated points based system models, Guestbook Rewards is a new kind of loyalty program that is more in touch with how today’s traveller behaves and books. It's worth noting that Preferred Hotels & Resorts has sales infrastructure and relationships with travel advisors that bring material business for it's portfolio. The firm also provides cost purchasing benefits so while the iPrefer value prop is in our opinion relatively weak there are other facets of the program which are definitely attractive for independent hotels. Guestbook Rewards understands that driving true guest loyalty to independent properties by giving points to spend at other properties is a near impossible feat. As a result, the Company has positioned itself as a way to increase conversion on hotel websites via offers and cashback. Guests choose between three options: 5% cash back, a 5% charitable donation or 15% trip cash that can be used within The Guestbook’s network of ~700 hotels. By offering cashback through a 3rd party, hotel clients are able to circumvent rate parity clauses with OTAs and create their own version of a private offer program like many of the brands have today and leverage exclusive loyalty network pricing to bring in more direct bookings. Independent hotels should explore the Guestbook because they want to incentivize direct bookings without breaking parity, not because they expect material bookings from The Guestbook’s loyalty program member base. To their credit, The Guestbook recognized this and developed a Chrome Plugin called Gopher which helps internet browsers find the best hotel deals by scanning hotel websites in real time. According to the Google Chrome store, the Gopher plugin has ~3,600 users so it’s unlikely to drive material volume for clients today but has the potential to solve the problem and is a clear demonstration that The Guestbook has a better pulse on technology and internet behavior trends than most of its competitors. The Guestbook claims that it also has a similar number of users in the Safari App store but Apple doesn't publicize figures. Gopher has taken queue from a company called Honey which allows shoppers to check prices while shopping ecommerce websites. While the Gopher strategy doesn’t seem to have paid off yet for The Guestbook, the Honey plugin has grown to 10M+ users which is a testament to the larger opportunity around online shopper price checking if the team can figure out the right growth strategy over the medium to long term. Independent hotels that are looking to increase direct bookings can benefit from joining a program like The Guestbook but benefits can vary property by property so it’s important for hoteliers to read authentic peer reviews and request unmoderated referrals to properly evaluate the program. Read Guestbook reviews Request Guestbook references Independent hotels should think of The Guestbook’s program as a substitute to direct booking platforms like Stay Wanderful, Hotelchamp or Triptease which generally run on monthly fees rather than commissions. Where The Guestbook has a narrow focus on facilitating offers, platforms like Triptease and Hotelchamp have more of a comprehensive and data driven website conversion optimization approach. Stay Wanderful sits somewhere in the middle. We sat down with The Guestbook’s Dev Dugal to get his take on where independent loyalty has been and where it’s going. Dev brings an interesting perspective to the discussion having previously owned his own hospitality business and also having worked in several mid sized hotel organizations before making the leap into hotel software and technology. Dev advanced quickly in his career by leveraging a unique combination of interpersonal skills and technical adaptability. As a hotelier, Dev was always a technology maven who constantly sought to implement new technologies and marketing strategies for his hotels. His story provides a roadmap for competitive hotel marketers seeking to beat out the compset and also for hoteliers with aspirations to leverage their hospitality skills to build a successful career in technology. Dev is widely regarded in the hotel community as a networking guru and marketing expert so we were lucky to catch up with him in between his jet setting. The Guestbook's Dev Dugal Tell us about your career in hotels. I started my career in hospitality as a barback in some of the busiest bars in LA. Eventually working my way to bartender, manager and eventually opening up my own bar in DTLA in 2006 called The Redwood. The bar business was very exciting but once my wife and I started a family, I sought a different pace of life and not the 3am late nights. So I transitioned to the hotel space in 2008 joining a family owned Hospitality company called Globiwest Hospitality as their VP of Marketing & IT. I was immediately tasked with helping to launch the first independent boutique hotel in Brooklyn called Hotel Le Bleu. Next, joining broughtonHOTELS as VP of Sales & Marketing, I led the marketing vision for 16 hotels on the California coast and Chicago. During both roles, I challenged myself to cross train in Revenue Management, Operations and Finance. More importantly I enjoyed working the Front Desk and Housekeeping to stay grounded to the heart of the hotel. I took a hiatus in 2014 for a few years to start a non-profit focused on building schools in the slums of India and re-entered by joining an amazing team at The Guestbook in 2017. I consider myself a connector of ideas and people. Hospitality gives me that platform to shine, travel the world and impact businesses. I also gravitate to boutique hotels rather than brands as they allow for much more creativity with an elevated curated experience for the guest. Some of my most challenging times in hotels were working with Owners to clearly grasp digital marketing concepts. Similar to how people self prescribe diagnosis after reading WebMD, hotel owners often dictated marketing direction with buzzwords like PPC or SEO however, never fully understanding them. This was a consistent battle but I thrived in those challenges and breakthroughs, eventually letting the analytics speak for themselves. What was one technology that you couldn't live without in your former role in hospitality? Google Analytics has always been a solid tool to use as a source of analytics. It provides for so much data in one place to see real time the success of integrated strategies. One of the most important tools in the last few years was the CRM tool. It provided a landscape to work within the entire life cycle of the guest experience and the digital touch points were a vital part to success. When did you first become interested in leveraging technology to become a better hotelier? I think it started when I had an early stint in Real Estate as an agent. In the early 2000's I saw veteran agents knocking on doors and buying ads in newspapers. I realized leveraging technology was the more efficient way than knocking on doors. So I slowly built up a database of emails to over 15k and sent out a monthly newsletter for lead generation. With that same logic I noticed that trend in the hotel space in 2008. After the financial crisis, hotels were scrambling for business and heavily relying on the OTAs. With the help of eCommerce and integrated solutions, I knew this was the future for hotels too. I became an avid reader of industry leaders and leveraged the best of breed in marketing practices shortly after. As a hotelier what was your biggest frustration with technology vendors? One of my biggest frustrations with technology vendors is the sneaky "Auto Renewal". I got burned by a vendor early in my hotel career and they wouldn't let me out of the contract. Talking to friends in the business I discovered this was a shared pain point. After that first incident, I made a decision to never let it happen again and continue to share my technique with hoteliers today. Right after executing an Agreement with any vendor, I immediately send them an email stating my notice to not renew. Literally the day after the ink is dry. The notice indicates that we do not intend to renew and will discuss the option as the renewal period closes in. Most importantly, I have them confirm it in writing over email. This leaves a nice audit trail for anyone on my team and with the vendor should there be a change in management. What is the biggest misconception that hoteliers have about technology? Some folks tend to overanalyze technology. I love that we have the ability to A/B test products and solutions. However, some hoteliers never get out of the starting gate. One of my mentors really honed in and taught me about the age-old saying, "Perfection is the enemy of good." He was the first leader that forced me to break previous habits of "getting it right" and simply start. He said to get it "good" and clean up the mess along the way. With this in hand, we were able to test out many new technologies and marketing strategies. Tell us about your journey from hotelier into technologist? Funny thing is that I started my career as a computer nerd. I graduated with a Computer Information Systems major in college and spent my early career coding in a cubicle with .NET development and SQL. I started bartending at night to have a break from the tech world. So in a way, technology has always been a part of me before becoming a hotelier. Now I'm able to leverage and have a real passion for connecting those dots to business strategy. What was the most challenging part of moving from hotels into technology? For me personally, losing a little of the human touch and pulse of the hotel. With the technology, it's very easy to only have digital relationships. Being a hotelier provided opportunity to be at the Front Desk, walk the property and connect with guests from all around the globe. I miss those elements. The Guestbook has become the clear independent loyalty leader and disrupted incumbents in a very short period of time - what’s driving that growth? The Guestbook is the first and only Cash Back Loyalty platform for independent and boutique hotels. We work with over 700+ hotels in 65+ countries to increase direct booking conversion on a hotel's website by 20%+. Guests have the availability to earn and redeem either of 3 options; 5% cash back on their stay, donate that 5% to any charity of their choice, or 15% Trip Cash towards a future Guestbook stay at any of our properties around the world. No set-up fee. No commitment. Cancel anytime. Imagine that you're going to open the hotel of your dreams tomorrow. What kind of hotel would it be? Independent boutique, Select-Serve maybe with a lobby bar. I'm a big proponent for Downtown LA and feel there is also opportunity in markets like Oakland. 75-100 rooms paying homage to local street artists. I'm also a big fan of the bed+beverage concept. Bar on the ground floor and maybe 40 keys above into an integrated space. Can't reveal any names just yet as I already have some domains secured. ;-) What technology would you leverage at your hotel? Cloud based PMS, robust CRS with significant channel management integration, backed by an easy to use CRM. An AI smart concierge, eventually reducing the dependency on the front desk and of course a rewards platform, The Guestbook! What's one piece of advice you have for hoteliers who have dreams of working in technology one day? Read (books, not social media) + source mentors. Mentors have been integral to the trajectory of my career. Balanced with what you learn from books with the real life experience of mentors. Book knowledge + street knowledge. What's one podcast, newsletter or book that you recommend hoteliers read if they'd like to eventually move into tech? Glenn Haussman has a series of great podcasts (No Vacancy). I love reading about direct booking strategies so Triptease blog, OTA Insight newsletters and webinars are underrated. A free interactive webinar with live Q&A is one of my favorite places to learn. What is your favorite hotel in the world and why? Currently, I'm digging the CitizenM brand. The simply went against the grain and put the guest experience first. For example, they went with King sized beds when everyone stuck with Queens. Their founder said something to the likes of, "If a car is Tesla, then a hotel is CitizenM". I dig that and their hotels are awesome. What is the most exciting technology you've seen in the hotel tech space lately? The team at Go Moment have been working on some neat AI tech with their smart concierge. The tech gets smarter and smarter with more data points and interaction from a guest perspective is seamless. What is one thing that most people don't know about you? Recently, I moved our family of four from the comforts of Los Angeles to Spain! We are giving our children an opportunity to be global citizens and honing my skills in being a true digital nomad. Experiences over things.
Hotel Direct Booking Tools Software Articles
When designing a hotel lobby for ideal first impressions, each decision signals a brand position: high-end, luxury, rustic, down-to-earth, approachable, practical, inviting, welcoming, distant, elegant. Get just one of these wrong, and brand dissonance may lead guests astray. A poor or disjointed first impression can lead to long-lasting perceptions that damage your brand. The same goes for your hotel’s website. It’s your digital lobby. It’s where you welcome guests, offer guideposts about what to do and indicate that they’re in the right place. A bad first impression can discolor the entire guest experience, says JRK Property Holding’s Matt Lippman: “We've found lobbies and common areas to have a strong halo and horns effect on the guest experience. If a guest's first impression is good then they think of later impressions as good too which can help them overlook less attractive qualities about a property. The reverse happens if that first impression is bad. A bad lobby or website experience can actually overshadow the positive aspects of the guest experience that follows." Unlike a physical lobby, the added advantage of the digital lobby is that it can be updated often. You can -- and should -- be making improvements frequently. The continuous optimization means that your hotel can refine messaging depending on who’s visiting your website, from which channel. One option to manage the refinement process is Hotelchamp, a website experience and marketing optimization tool for hotels. The value is in the “test and learn” approach, which enables hotels of all sizes to test, analyze, and optimize their websites, landing pages, and offers to convert more direct business. With this optimization superpower, here are four ways to optimize your hotel’s digital experience. Autopilot helps hotels of any size optimize in real time by leveraging its proprietary dataset Your website is the entry point to your offering, so it must make a good first impression. If a luxury hotel presents itself poorly online, it’s a turn-off. On the flip-side, if your midscale hotel presents elegantly, it can have a halo effect on guest perceptions. To effectively manage your first impressions online, Hotelchamp encompasses more than just looks. It optimizes how each guest interacts with your website. For larger groups and brands Hotelchamp's constant website optimization via A/B testing makes websites better, all in response to how actual humans interact rather than a set of assumptions. There's one problem: independent hotels and smaller groups rarely have enough data to run statistically significant A/B tests. Enter Autopilot by Hotelchamp. Autopilot leverages millions of data points and the massive dataset that Hotelchamp has collected over years in the business to provide real time optimization for hotels without significant enough volumes to run A/B tests. Hotels that invest in a digital marketing agency that handles search, social and metasearch advertising to drive direct bookings will be especially well-suited to optimize with Autopilot. The ability to test different offers and creative on your digital marketing extends to your website, as you can match the targeting and copy from your digital ads to a specific landing page on your website. Or, for traffic arriving from an OTA, you can hammer home the benefits of booking direct. Each experience can be fine-tuned for specific segments. “Autopilot knows how the direct channel is behaving in the broader context of the ecosystem, for example metasearch. Combine that and put it next to the patterns we’ve found in the data sets that we’ve gained over the years, we are quite good in predicting not only who you are, what you’re intentions are, but - more important - that Autopilot is serving you dynamically with the right message. Based on that and based on your behaviors after that, it learns more about you, and every time we find the next action.” ~Kristian Valk, CEO of Hotelchamp Even hotels without as much marketing spend can benefit. In fact, those with no marketing spend will find value in Hotelchamp’s Autopilot automation launched at ITB Berlin. The system runs many experiments across the entire ecosystem, then contextually applies those insights to each property's website and seamlessly optimizes what potential guests see according to what it’s learned. In the example above, you can see how two messages would be tested, and then the highest-converting one selected as the “winner” to move forward. The test-and-learn process continues in perpetuity, automatically optimizing messaging and website experience based on rules developed by analyzing the entire dataset rather than just one individual website. Personalize the experience with behaviorally targeted offers Kalibri Labs’ 2018 Direct Booking Report found sustained growth in direct bookings since its last report in 2016: When compared to the contribution to occupancy from the OTA channel, the Brand.com channel maintained its growth running approximately 50% greater than the OTA bookings. To sustain this growth, hotels turn to targeted offers that encourage more direct bookings. Website optimization is a constant -- and low-cost -- renovation to your digital lobby. When using optimization strategies, such as the ones offered by Hotelchamp, hotels can simply highlight the advantage of booking direct or then can target offers to specific demographics. With each new visitor, your website experience can be personalized with persuasive messaging that converts. It converts because the messaging is precisely aligned with a guest’s intentions, as inferred by guest attributes, such as repeat visitors, geo-location, and which website a visitor arrives from. Known as “proposition testing,” it’s a technique that aligns a user’s behavior with a specific offer. For instance, a proposition for a newsletter signup or a direct booking discount for a user that’s clicking away. Another example is offering a voucher, such as for a complimentary drink upon check-in. Targeted offers also extend to smart notifications. These are similar to the urgency-generating messaging popular on OTAs. Hotels can build that urgency and share specific data around how often a hotel has been viewed, for example. Another common use of Smart Notifications is to highlight a specific feature, such as a gym, for specific type of traveler, like a business traveler. Set a Smart Notification to fire whenever a user arrives from a corporate booking tool URL -- and boom, you have a segmented communication that can improve conversion with a carefully crafted message. Build trust by highlighting reviews, location, on-property amenities -- and live customer chat In an analysis of conversion rates across hotel star ratings, Hotelchamp found that 5-star hotels convert at less than half the rate of 3- or 4-star hotels. On its face, this is surprising. One would expect conversion rates to be in a narrower band between categories. It comes down to how guests search for information, says Hotelchamp: “Many 5-star properties across the world also contain luxurious spa facilities or illustrious restaurants and cafés that draw visitors who are not necessarily guests of the hotel. Hotelchamp conversion specialists often see that portions of the website traffic only visit these specific pages on the website, such as spa facilities or afternoon tea.” To build trust with guests, point them to the right information at the right time (and in the right language!). When you have an idea of who they are and what they need, you can then personalize the website experience -- automatically and without having to deploy extensive code. Hotelchamp has three specific callouts that highlight a property’s review score, a property’s location, and a floating tab that calls out specific property amenities. As you can see in the screenshots below, guests can engage directly with each of these optimizations. Successful targeting requires a detailed understanding of guest behavior. For 5-star hotels, the floating tab may feature rich content highlighting the on-site spa or restaurant. Then this tab might be served to any visitor from the hotel’s own IP address. This puts pertinent information right at the fingertips of on-property guests, reducing barriers and ideally generating more revenue for the business. Another way to build trust via your digital lobby is to make it easy for potential guests to connect with staff. It’s like walking up to the front desk -- it should be simple with a reasonable wait time. Hotelchamp integrates this right into its solution, so hoteliers can engage via live chat without implementing another vendor. All of these tools exist to build trust and give individual guests the information they need quickly and without fuss. Bringing it all together with comprehensive analytics The Hotelchamp dashboard keeps you up-to-date on the latest active tests, as well as the results from former tests. As you (and Hotelchamp’s team of conversion specialists supporting each account) learn more about how guests interact with each proposition, the data then informs new tests. It’s a virtuous circle that fuels a continuously improving your digital lobby. A fully-implemented optimization tool for hotels can lead to a conversion mindset with enormous potential. Not only will it empower staff to come up with better-targeted offers, but it will also make guests happier. As guests encounter stronger offers, they convert more often and the hotel enjoys a revenue boost. For one Hotelchamp hotel, the Hotel Casa in Amsterdam, the optimization technology resulted in a 38% increase in direct bookings. Another hotel, Frankfurt’s New Century hotel, saw a 24% increase in conversion rates on its website, leading to an additional €4,685 in revenue per month. One caveat: What you sell, how you sell it, and who you sell it to differs dramatically across hotels. Rely on your data, set aside your assumptions, and use “test and learn” to determine which propositions, targeting, and offer types work best for your hotel. You may be surprised at which combinations work best!
Arise Travel is an early stage startup that most hoteliers haven’t heard of today but the firm’s technology could be the answer to the seemingly never ending direct booking wars if things go according to plan. The firm was founded in December of 2017 by two early (former) employees at cloud property management system provider Frontdesk Anywhere who got loads of experience dealing with intermediaries while building the business. Every industry has intermediaries and those intermediaries deserve to get paid for driving business to their partners. Before we jump into how Arise can help build healthier (and more equitable) relationships between OTAs and their hotel partners let’s take a quick 10,000 foot view of where the relationship sits today. Why haven't the OTAs been broken up yet? The problem with the OTA-hotel dynamic is mostly a result of consolidation that has surprisingly not been addressed effectively by most antitrust authorities. The reason that antitrust authorities haven’t addressed this issue is likely because the duopoly actually benefits consumers (by delivering lower prices for accommodations) and many of the world’s most powerful antitrust authorities have mandates to protect consumers rather than businesses. Here’s a quote directly from the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division website about the group’s mandate: “Competition in a free market benefits American consumers through lower prices, better quality and greater choice. Competition provides businesses the opportunity to compete on price and quality, in an open market and on a level playing field, unhampered by anti competitive restraints.” As such, it is unclear that the Booking/Expedia duoply (which is estimated to control ~80% of the market today) will ever be broken up given the focus on consumer protection. Arise shifts the focus from direct bookings to lower commissions Historically, most of the companies that help hotels gain leverage against OTAs today have been focused on driving new direct bookings. The general idea is that by helping hotels increase their mix of direct bookings - these hotels will pay lower absolute commissions in the short term and also in theory should be able to negotiate lower commissions over the long haul. The earliest companies to play in this space were Triptease, Stay Wanderful and Hotelchamp. These direct booking platforms help hotels optimize their website performance to increase conversion and effectively maximize their funnel rather than bring new prospective guests into it. More recently, The Hotels Network and 123Compare.me have jumped into the fray. Similarly, digital marketing agencies began positioning around direct bookings with firms such as Screen Pilot, Travel Tripper and TravelClick leading the pack. Ultimately the goal of any great hotel digital marketing agency should be to drive bookings at a lower cost relative to OTA commissions. In addition to the benefits of website optimization based direct booking platforms, digital marketing agencies help bring new prospective guests into that funnel through digital marketing on paid channels such as Google, Facebook, Email Marketing and Instagram. So tech companies have gone a long way to help hotels gain leverage with the OTAs by driving direct bookings via digital marketing, website optimization, etc. While this is a great approach, Arise Travel has a surprising way to end the direct booking wars - and the team wants to do this without a single shot fired. With an OTA duopoly, is there a big enough market for Arise? While Expedia and Booking have approximately 80% of the OTA market, there are many other stakeholders in the accommodation supply chain. The total retail value of accommodations globally hovers around $570B and $200B of that gets passed to the hotel industry (Statista). Booking and Expedia revenue for all business units combined (incl. airline, activities, etc.) are ~$25B which shows that even though they have huge OTA market share, they actually have modest shares of the overall intermediary markets. So who else is in this intermediary market? Some examples include: traditional travel agencies, corporate travel businesses, smaller OTAs and OTA affiliate partners. Arise wants to help hotels fight the OTAs by mixing in more cost effective 3rd party bookings. When a hotel today forecasts a period with high demand, they’ll often use their channel manager to shut down distribution in what are called “closeout dates.” Closeout dates include peak times like big conferences coming to town, city wide events, etc. That sounds reasonable, right? Wrong. When hotels activate these closeout dates they are intentionally leaving bookings on the table today to save themselves for lower commission bookings tomorrow. Then, as occupancy begins to rise, hotels are able to increase rate which is why they’re ok to leave those bookings on the table. In super simple terms, let’s say a hotel will pay 20% to the OTA and 0% incremental for direct bookings (because many direct costs are fixed). The reason they shut down OTA inventory is because they believe that the rate increase they can command tomorrow will not justify the distribution cost today. Arise Travel founder Nadim El Manawy believes that billions are being left on the table and thinks that commissions should be dynamic just like room rates. Everyone knows that revenue management software is essential to running a profitable hotel business. If you charge too much - you lose bookings. If you charge too little - you leave profit on the table. Revenue management systems help hoteliers make sure that they can walk that fine line to maximize profitability and Arise Travel can have the same effect on 3rd party commissions. Here’s how Arise Travel’s technology works to supercharge your existing channel manager Arise automatically downloads closeout dates from your channel manager where your hotel is leaving bookings on the table. Your revenue manager can then go into the Arise Travel dashboard and input commission rates that they’d be willing to sell hotel rooms for during those periods. Rates and desired commissions then get pushed to Arise Travel’s network of intermediaries so hotels can sell rooms to prospective guests on 3rd party channels without commission negotiations or even the need for a traditional contract. Let’s say, for example, that The World Cup is coming to your city next summer so you don’t want to allow Expedia bookings at 20% commission knowing that you’ll fill your hotel regardless. You can’t renegotiate with Expedia but you can now login to your Arise Travel dashboard and notify intermediaries like small OTAs and corporate travel agencies that you’d be willing to sell rooms for a 7% commission during those times. You can even set variable commissions on a per room type basis, by rate code, day of the week and even by channel. Eventually the technology will make this all automated through integrations with top rated revenue management systems. Those intermediaries can then accept those terms and list your rooms for booking on their channels with automated rules. The big value prop for these intermediaries is that they can now sell accommodations that aren’t available on Booking and Expedia - this helps them differentiate and ultimately grow their businesses. You can now get rooms booked for a reasonable commission while driving up rates during this peak period. Consumers win by accessing your inventory in more places, distributors win by getting access to unique inventory and you win by maintaining reasonable commissions and selling your inventory more quickly. Arise’s technology handles all commission reconciliation and payouts automatically to save your team time. The entire payment and service history can be viewed at any time providing ultimate transparency into your channel management strategy. If Arise Travel can get big enough, it will eventually pressure Expedia and Booking to accept variable commissions that are market based. While Expedia and Booking may see short term headwinds from a concept like Arise Travel hitting scale, this is ultimately bringing much needed fair market dynamics and transparency to the industry which will lead to healthier hotel-OTA relationships and more innovation. Nadim has a massive vision for the industry and he needs the help of our global hotelier community to jump on board with what we at Hotel Tech Report believe is a “no brainer.” We recently sat down with Nadim to chat about his background, the future of hotel distribution, what’s next for Arise Travel and more. Hotel Tech Report's exclusive interview with Nadim below What was your background prior to starting the company? Before co-founding Arise, I led sales and partnerships for 4+ years at a cloud-based property management system company in San Francisco called Frontdesk Anywhere. Prior to moving to the Bay Area in 2011, I worked in Shanghai and grew up in Belgium. What made you decide to jump in and disrupt the travel distribution space? I met Alex Lamb, my co-founder in this business, at Frontdesk Anywhere where we were the second and third employees. Alex lead the engineering team there for 4+ years. Being in the PMS business, we became very familiar with how things work on the operational side at hotels, but we also had to work with many players in the distribution chain such as channel managers, GDS and wholesalers. We got to see how things are patched together behind the scenes today. Many of the hotels we worked with were very vocal about how a few online travel agencies were controlling their distribution and how much they were paying in commissions and fees. We also saw how the fragmentation of the PMS space and old technology used by existing intermediate networks was making it difficult for travel companies to gain access to hotel data and efficiently transact with hotels. We starting thinking about how we could use emerging technology to fix many of these problems, allowing new travel companies to grow faster and help move the industry forward. Who was your first customer? One large player in the corporate travel space (we can’t name the company yet) is taking a chance working with us in order to solve some of the problems and inefficiencies they face today. Our experience with hotel distribution technology gained over the years when building and maintaining a cloud PMS combined with our knowledge of distributed ledger technology and how it can be applied to travel distribution is what made them want to work with us. What is there so much excitement about Arise Travel as a disruptor? We build technology that helps hotels gain more control over the inventory they share with their partners. Our distributed ledger technology lets hotels enforce rate parity at the point-of-sale and dynamically adjust their commission rates based on demand, significantly increasing hotel profitability. Who is one mentor that has really helped you scale the business? I need to mention two people who have been very helpful since the beginning. Jing Zhou, who was at Hyatt for many years leading e-distribution for Asia Pacific, has been sharing her knowledge on hotel operations and distribution strategies. She has helped us stay focused when building our technology to make sure it fits with hotels needs. Varsha Rao, who was head of Global Operations at AirBnB for many years, has tons of experience in building and scaling businesses. Her constant ideas and advice on ways to start and grow the business have been extremely helpful. What's one big misconception that hoteliers have about distribution? Many hoteliers believe that they are powerless to change the distribution technology they’re dependant upon. Most hoteliers are quick to complain but because they don’t view distribution technology as a core competency, the idea of investing resources into something they’ve never taken ownership of before seems daunting. This mindset may have been reasonable in the past, but not anymore. Distributed ledger technology will show hotels that updating their distribution technology is possible with very little IT investment and without affecting their operations and current distribution channels. What's the most surprising thing you've learned about hospitality distribution since founding the business? That most innovative technology being worked on focuses on the travel search and booking process, but technology that can improve the traveler experience after booking is held back because many of these services have to rely on outdated distribution technology to function. If you could partner with any vendor in hotel tech, who would it be and why? AirBnB. Our technology creates a shared source of truth for hotels and OTAs, making it possible to automate commission reconciliation processes. With this automation in place, it becomes feasible for hotels to start setting variable commission rates for the inventory they send to OTAs. Instead of closing entire channels during high demand periods, hotels can lower their commission rate to maximize their profitability. We can help AirBnB grow its hotel business by accepting variable commission rates from hotels, giving them access to desirable inventory that is currently unavailable to other OTAs using a fixed commission model. Where do you see Arise in 5-years? Most of the intermediaries that survive of rate arbitrage and don’t bring real value to hotel distribution will disappear. We believe the efficiency and trust that distributed ledger technology can bring to the industry will drive down the commissions paid by hotels for bookings. I’d hope most hotels, including independent, will be benefiting from the control and efficiency our technology will bring to their online distribution. I’d expect many players involved on the supply and on the demand side to be using our technology. Do you have any new products or feature launches? Variable commissions hotels fully control and payouts are automatically handled. Starting with high demand periods, hotels can decide how much they are willing to pay in commissions for any given date, room type and rate. Today hotels pay fixed high commissions to OTAs and at times of high demand often take the risk to close those expensive channels as they are confident enough they’ll drive enough direct bookings to fill their hotel. Hotels no longer have to do that as they can now set variable commissions that they are willing to give OTAs on those high demand dates. We provide the transparency and control to hoteliers and we automate the commission payouts so it doesn’t add any more work for hoteliers. We work with hotel channel managers and switches. To get going hotels can contact us or also check with their service provider to see if they are already connected to Arise. Is there anything that the community can do to be helpful for you? We’d love for people involved in hotel distribution on either the supply or demand side to talk to us. The more people that understand and get comfortable with the idea that upgrading distribution infrastructure isn’t such a daunting task, the faster everyone will be able to benefit from it. Advances in Distributed Ledger Technology actually make distribution less complex than the processes in place today. What's one piece of advice that you have for any entrepreneurs looking to get into the hotel tech space? Make sure there’s a clear need for your solution in the space and if so, have a very good understanding of all the current players, how they work together and all the moving pieces that shape today’s hotel tech space.
Last week Hotel Tech Report attended ITB to discover the most cutting edge innovations in travel and hotels. Each year thousands congregate at Messe Berlin to connect with peers, partners and clients from around the globe. Below are 5 key trends that every hotelier needs to know about this year. In this article we outline each trend, tell you how it impacts your hotel and give an overview of the companies that launched or showcased on trend products at ITB. For those of you who couldn't make it to Berlin we also cut a reel from the show so you can get the next best thing to being there. Check out Hotel Tech Report's official ITB Berlin 2019 Recap video above 5 key trends & takeaways from ITB 2019 1. Automation is going mainstream 2. Software tools are breaking down operational silos 3. Hotel software is moving towards self service 4. App marketplaces are soaring 5. Meeting venues are getting wired up Our take on automation in hotel software Automation allows for time consuming, tedious and repetitive processes to be handled completely by software. When a task or process reaches the limits of the software’s capability, the appropriate team member is looped in to take over which is a beautiful thing. Let’s face it, if you’ve ever worked in a hotel you know that there are dozens of repetitive tasks that seem like a computer should be able to handle and in many cases perform even better, and now they can. Automation frees up staff to focus on the things that those computers can’t handle like high level strategic thinking, trying new products and serving guests. Many hotels are still afraid that technology and the personal touch are conflicting ideas; however, innovative hotel groups are realizing that technology and automation actually enable them to focus on the personal aspects of experience in a way they couldn’t when they were bogged down with repetitive tasks. What's new in automation? IDeaS launches Investigator to let revenue managers uncover the rationale behind automated pricing decisions by asking Alexa. IDeaS announced Investigator, an intuitive way to answer your management's question: How did you achieve that price and those results? IDeaS G3 is the most popular RMS on the market and now clients can ask the system via Amazon Alexa to rationalize the decisions that it automates to provide transparency into the decision making process that is out of a revenue managers hands and handled by the systems powerful A.I. engines. Hotelchamp launches Autopilot to help hoteliers leverage web data and user behavior to deliver personalized web experiences to boost conversion. Hotelchamp announced Autopilot technology, which wants to transform how hotels approach their online guest bookings and experience. Autopilot uses AI to deliver an adaptive experience that is tailored to every single website visitor, and is completely GDPR compliant. Using an A.I. engine to identify customer segments and audiences, Hotelchamp Autopilot can automatically serve the best information for each guest. Autopilot has been trained using pre-populated content, insights from the Hotelchamp data science team, and millions of A/B test impressions. Using this knowledge and live insights from the hotel’s website, Autopilot recognises and personalizes the website experience in real-time to convince visitors to book direct. All Hotelchamp tools can now be controlled by Autopilot, meaning the system will only deploy the right tools at the right time to the right audience. This process happens in real-time and is entirely personalised to each individual website visitor and moment in the booking phase. Crave Scheduler enables hotels to send targeted automated messages generating $5,000/mo in late checkouts. With the amount of times mobile comes up in conversation and the media, you might think BYOD (bring your own device) is the only way to go but the reality is there are lots of occasions where hotels just simply don’t have the ability to get a guest’s contact info or get them to download an app. Crave Interactive has a unique, and near unavoidable, position in the guest’s periphery with its in room tablets that see upwards of 90% guest engagement. At ITB, Crave announced a new feature called Crave Scheduler that puts a unique spin on automation allowing hotels to set rules to send target messages to guests. One of the prime use cases that Crave customers have been taking full advantage of is timed late checkout offers which have seen upwards of $5,000 month in revenue at Crave hotel partners who received early access to the feature. UpsellGuru announced "Auto Pilot" which automates the entire up-selling process. Upsell Guru now sends targeted emails, calculates the dynamic minimum and maximum upgrade bidding prices, sets up the system to decide which offers to accept and when, updates the PMS - all fully automated not requiring human interaction. The new feature allows hotels to up-sell their rooms & ancillary services without moving a finger. This saves hotels plenty of time and allows them to use the system without having to log-in on a daily basis. They’re initial trial was successful with a British chain of 30 hotels where they achieve GBP 65,000 per month in up-selling revenue without any manual human work. Quicktext showcased its website chatbot to help guests find answers faster while unlocking $140,000 in requests per 100 rooms. With Quicktext, guests can book at your hotel through a conversation (on various channels like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Website Live Chat and SMS), something that has been mainstream throughout Asia (specifically China) via WeChat but has been slower to catch up in the West. The most practical use of chatbots is on a hotel website where prospective guests often get lost looking for basic information. A chatbot can answer critical questions instantly like “how far is your hotel from the convention center?”, “what is the best way to get from the airport to the hotel on public transportation?” and “can we add a cot to our room?”. This helps shorten the time needed to research the hotel and in turn increases conversion into your booking engine flow. Humanise.AI had Gem on display boasting automation of 80% of inquiries. Humanise.AI announced automated web-chat for hotels ensures that guests get an immediate response most of the time, but can still summon a member of hotel staff when needed. When hotels use human-only web-chat systems, they often struggle to respond to enquiries quickly enough, meaning guests leave the web site before they get a reply. With Humanise’s Gem product, they claim to automate ~80% of enquiries, radically improving the guest service and improving conversion-ratios for direct bookings. SABA put its multilingual guest request and F&B ordering chatbot on display. SABA Hospitality Technology announced a bespoke and fully automated hospitality chatbot (SABAGuest Request). This multilingual chatbot and digital F&B ordering platform provides guests with a seamless communication experience, without the need for downloads. It provides operators the opportunity to eliminate language barriers, provide instant answers to all guest requests and enquiries, and engage with guests on their preferred communication platform: messaging. This allows for the redeployment of staff away from call centers and other low-value repetitive tasks, to engage in meaningful guest interactions that help build long-term guest loyalty. Our take on breaking down silos in hotel organizations It’s no secret that hotels have historically suffered from siloed organizational departments because historically without better communication tools and access to data, teams were essentially on an island in their own physical locations. Technology companies are starting to realize that their products and tools can help hoteliers to become more effective by aligning departments around common goals, systems and data. At ITB we saw a lot of this happening as evidenced by a shift where CRM companies are starting to focus heavily on the operational applications of their guest data where historically that data has just been used for marketing purposes. Who's breaking down operational silos? TravelClick weaves Demand360 data into its Campaign Advisor toolkit to leverage market intelligence data to optimize marketing campaigns fostering collaborative efforts between revenue and marketing. TravelClick announced the addition of Demand360 to the Campaign Advisor toolkit. Building on last year’s email send time optimizer, Campaign Advisor now allows hoteliers to take the guesswork out of marketing by providing them with recommendations on when to run marketing campaigns based on predictive occupancy in the market. Demand360 is the hospitality industry’s competitive market intelligence product providing forward-looking reservation metrics and competitive share by segment and channel. Hoteliers using TravelClick’s GMS and Demand360 products will have access to current and projected occupancy data versus competitive sets to best identify the most valuable time periods to run campaigns, allowing them to avoid offering discounts and packages during peak market occupancy and place campaigns when they need it most. A huge pain point for hoteliers is knowing when to send promotions and emails to customers, as hoteliers do not have a clear picture of how their future occupancy compares with their comp set. It’s hard to determine the most valuable time to run a campaign. The Campaign Advisor and Demand360 integration, which is proprietary to TravelClick, takes guesswork out of the equation and enables hoteliers to leverage market data to feel confident that they are choosing the best time to run campaigns and capture demand. Serenata CRM announced Decision Maker, a solution that combines business intelligence with campaign management. Serenata Intraware's Decision Maker allows different users groups like owners, management, operations and marketing to view the same data but from different perspectives to get an optimal view of the hotel operation, identify potential problems and take corrective actions. The Decision Maker KPI dashboard gives a high-level insight into revenue, OTA share, loyalty contribution and other key metrics and trends. Other dashboards give subject matter experts from operations and marketing the ability to drill-down and identify the root cause for a problem and based on this insight create marketing campaigns using micro-segmentation to mitigate the problem without changing tools or breaking the workflow. Cendyn announced eNgage which brings marketing’s CRM data and customer profiles to front line operations teams bringing the gap between marketing and operations. Cendyn's next generation product empowers front-line and call center staff to instantly access guest profiles including historical guest feedback, membership information, brand-wide stays, social profile information and more. Used in conjunction with Cendyn’s eInsight hotel CRM, eNgage sits on top of a hotel’s property management system or call center application and intelligently guides staff to create authentic, meaningful encounters and upsell offerings based on guest history, preferences and loyalty status. This lightweight application can be accessed on any device and features configurable messaging prompts and data displays. Like all Cendyn products, eNgage integrates seamlessly with other hotel systems, utilizing an open architecture that ensures the accuracy and completion of guest information for all team members at every touchpoint in the guest journey. Cendyn’s eNgage solution allows hoteliers to provide the right approach to personalization for guests throughout their stay. eNgage brings to life all the data that hotels are collecting on guests and it displays it in real-time through an application window that always sits on top of the hotel PMS. For staff on the front-line, access to data instantly is critical for them to manage their workload and allows them to navigate every situation elegantly with customer service and upselling, so guests feel known and valued, not overly monitored. Fornova expands its business intelligence offering to create a cross department interface for data insights. Fornova announced that they recently acquired HotelsBI, a hotel Business Intelligence platform. With this acquisition, Fornova now caters to all roles and departments in the property and chain. With this acquisition, Fornova now has three product offerings; Distribution Intelligence, HotelsBI & eCommerce Optimisation. HotelsBI simplifies the process of analysing internal and external data sources thanks to simple, intuitive dashboards - enabling faster, data-driven decisions to optimize hotel performance. Revinate’s CRM is now being used by front desk staff and showcased the scalability of its platform on newly AWS servers. This shift allows Revinate to scale more efficiently and ultimately open guest data to new departments. Revinate showcased the capabilities that get unlocked when front desk staff and managers can access CRM data. MeetingPackage.com brings revenue management and pricing optimization to your sales team. The Company announced a partnership with IDeaS revenue solutions to bring real time dynamic pricing to meeting venues. When paired with MeetingPackage’s online booking engine for event spaces, this is a truly groundbreaking development providing hoteliers with real time insights to optimize pricing and a seamless, intuitive, flexible and real time booking experience. Our take on self service software in the hotel industry This is one of the trends that we’re most excited about at Hotel Tech Report. Freemium and free trials are ubiquitous in the software world but it’s not until recently that it’s broken into the hotel market. The challenge historically with hotel software has been that you need to ingest data from core systems like the PMS to make any software work; therefore, it’s hard to offer a free trial or self service. As the hotel software market moves this direction we’ll continue to see exponential upticks in innovation and sophistication. Another key reason that hotels don’t like trying technology is because even if they like the solutions that they try - they’re so busy that they don’t want to add one more thing onto their teams’ respective plates. Long complex implementations have stifled innovation for years and lead to a massive trust gap between buyers and sellers. At ITB, Oaky cracked the code on this problem by launching it’s simple onboarding wizard which helps hotels go live in just a few simple steps. Who's helping you take things into your own hands? Oaky’s new self service onboarding lets hoteliers start upselling in under 5-minutes. Oaky announced an onboarding wizard which allows hoteliers to go live themselves, by completing a few steps. This reduce onboarding time and effort, and allow hotels to buy Oaky from marketplaces and go live without human touch. Inside the wizard they’re putting together many millions of upsell moments, and predicting the optimal upselling set-up based on the type of hotel and its guests. From combining variables around the upsell, with data around the guest and the property - they suggest the optimal setup for the hotel (what deals to sell, which content, and so on) which also predict how much conversion and ancillary revenue guests that have not yet booked will spend using this setup. In today's revenue management, the room rate is often based on the room and not taking predictable revenue from segments into account. This upsell variable can impact the distribution decision and help hotels better price their rooms. When the revenue management system knows the upsell spend of a guest from various booking channels, they can deduct the distribution costs and end up seeing how to price their rooms for a more profitable booking. Some segments spend 20% on top of the ADR, which makes sense for the hotel to 1) have an upsell setup that allows for that, and 2) an RM strategy that takes it into account to acquire more of those (more profitable) guests. Atomize’s self service functionality lets hoteliers try out automated revenue management on their own time. Atomize showcased its advanced revenue management platform that has flexibility that allows hotels to control as much or as little as they’d like when it comes to revenue strategy. Atomize’s mobile first platform has been designed from the ground up with the idea that hoteliers should be able to go live and try it out without ever speaking with an Atomize rep. The company’s founder, Leif Jaggerbrand told us that he’s had clients come in that his team has never met from countries he’s never heard of. This dynamic is widespread in the broader SaaS industry and companies like Atomize are bringing this dynamic to hotels. Cloudbeds’ PIE bakes new revenue management capabilities native into the PMS. Cloudbeds announced PIE - Pricing Intelligence Engine. PIE is built directly into Cloudbeds hospitality management suite. It is seamlessly integrated with the entire Cloudbeds suite, including PMS, booking engine and channel manager. This helps hoteliers and hosts who want one easy-to-system to manage everything. Many of Cloudbeds’ clients have never used revenue management software before so this provides a lightweight way for them to get started making better pricing decisions. Our take on hotel software app marketplaces Marketplaces are nothing new to the software industry. The reality is that it’s impossible for one technology company to be the best at everything. Historically the hotel tech industry has taken a different approach where incumbents have tried to bolt all functionality into the PMS and maintain a closed architecture but that is rapidly changing as hoteliers are increasingly unwilling to work with closed vendors and sub-par tools. In response to the shift most forward thinking providers are taking towards open architectures, several innovative cloud PMS companies have taken note from tech darlings like Salesforce, Intuit and Apple by creating marketplaces. These marketplaces facilitate seamless integrations and eventually the ability to easily try new products with the click of a button making it easier than ever to find the best tools to grow your hotel business. Cloudbeds, Mews, Hotelogix, protel and Apaleo were the latest entrants into the marketplace space each launching their own native marketplace baked into their PMS empowering hoteliers to easily tap into a plethora of best-of-breed tools to grow their businesses right from their PMS. eRevMax was the first non-PMS marketplace on the market and Snapshot was next but SiteMinder and more recently BookingSuite are clear favorites in the race to marketplace dominance. Hapi is also taking a unique and differentiated approach by building a marketplace that is solution agnostic. Hoteliers should note that none of these marketplaces have gained significant traction from a demand perspective so the field is wide open. While the idea has been around for some years we are still in the early innings. Two-sided marketplaces require supply and demand to develop but those rarely happen simultaneously. Each of the players below has focused on signing supply/tech partners lately so it will be interesting to see which is able to deliver the best user experience and actually change the way hotels interact with their software. Who's who in the rise of marketplaces Cloudbeds Marketplace. On top of announcing its native revenue management tool, PIE, Cloudbeds announced the official rollout of its marketplace offering enabling its 20,000+ hotel clients to access a variety of best-of-breed 3rd party tools to mix and match to find the perfect fit. Mews Marketplace. In a blaze of glory Mews Systems continued its streak of creative conference displays to showcase its marketplace with this year’s theme of Pimp Your PMS (a parody of MTV’s Pimp My Ride) and its booth was cleverly referred to as ‘The Pitstop’. In true Mews style, each team member was adorned head-to-toe in race car pitstop jumpsuits with patches for various apps that are integrated into their marketplace. Touche team Mews, touche... Hotelogix Marketplace. Hotelogix Marketplace launched at ITB and is a one-stop shop for all the hospitality technology needs of a hotelier. It helps hoteliers find and evaluate best-in-class Hotel Technology products on a single platform. Hapi. Hapi is taking a unique and differentiated approach by building a marketplace that is solution agnostic. Why is this important? By being solution agnostic, Hapi's marketplace is freed from the confines of being locked into a single PMS. In fact, Hapi offers technology partners (ie marketplace apps) a way to normalize fragmented and messy data into a streamlined and unified structure opening up the potential to integrate to multiple PMSs (as well as various other hotel systems). Their marketplace offering enables partners to gain exposure to hotels on the platform and enables hotels to tap into other available systems that are connected to Hapi. Although Hapi is a smaller marketplace with only about 30 partners currently, its connectivity to multiple solutions from companies like Oracle, Infor and Salesforce signals a great deal of potential. apaleo. apaleo announced its One connection, where data from all pre-connected tools within apaleo's store is available directly within apaleo’s property management system. No switching between browsers or systems. It happens all too often that hoteliers start off their work day organized, and then somehow within a matter of hours (or sometimes even minutes!), end up with dozens of browser tabs open and many systems running. Especially for front desk staff, it takes tons of clicks and searching around to find the info they need, when they need it. It isn't pleasant. With apaleo One, all the info that hoteliers need is visible within apaleo's PMS, saving staff time and creating a more seamless journey for guests. protel Services Marketplace (SMP). While not quite its first appearance, protel proudly featured its services marketplace at ITB showing off its shiney new native ratings and reviews (syndicated from yours truly) to help hoteliers research, vet and discover the best tools to grow their businesses without leaving the protel app store. Pretty awesome! From the protel team, “The SMP empowers protel customers to choose from a variety of certified and evaluated 3rd party technology vendors covering all the essential hospitality technology services, such as RMS, CRM, PMS and POS. In other words, it's THE App Store to start integration with protel. It's also the point of entry to integrations for any 3rd party vendor to showcase and offer their powerful services to our 14,000 customers around the globe.” The protel SMP marketplace features reviews from Hotel Tech Report to deliver transparency for its users BookingSuite App Store (by Booking.com). BookingSuite unveiled its app store for the first time where hoteliers can use single sign on (SSO) to activate new apps. Many hoteliers are naturally wary of relying more on Booking.com or giving them more data, but overall it is a clear strategic move by Booking to provide more value to hoteliers to mend their often shakey relationship. BookingSuite’s approach is similar to the way LinkedIn, Google, Amazon and Facebook allow users to login to 3rd party apps with their APIs. The difference between BookingSuite and these other tech giants is that they want to take commissions (into perpetuity) from technology vendors. The commission vendors pay in the BookingSuite App Store is 25% for year 1, then 15% into perpetuity. If you are a vendor with an average monthly revenue of $800 per hotel and a 7 year average customer lifetime that means you'll be paying Booking $2,400 in year 1 and $10,080 over the duration of the contract to acquire that single customer. In our opinion, this fee will eventually be passed to the end user (hoteliers) over time and is just another form of integration fee. Google and LinkedIn give away this service free to foster innovation and strengthen their respective platforms. So while BookingSuite’s tech is innovative we’re concerned about their commercialization model and understand why hotels and vendors might want to remain cautious. eRevMax. eRevMax rolled out updates to its LiveOS platform that allows its hotel clients to centralize the usage of various software applications into one interface using single sign-on. While the LiveOS platform was one of the first to offer a marketplace offering, they seem to have fallen behind the competition with a limited range of apps available but seems to be pushing forward continuing to try to continue to explore the potential of LiveOS as a central operating platform, that can plug in various systems to help hotels make critical and time saving decisions across multiple systems without having to piece the data together manually. Our take on wiring up meeting spaces for easy booking During November’s Phocuswright event Hotel Tech Report tried to book the rooftop of several hotels for a client event. In order to book the spaces we had to go to the hotel websites and fill out a form, then wait for responses from sales reps. Some websites didn’t even have a form so we had to manually email reps based on contact info from their website (that we had to dig around for). Out of the 5 desired locations which were some of the hottest hotels in downtown Los Angeles - not a single one responded within 24 hours and 1 didn’t respond to our inquiry at all. Then to make matters worse, by the time they responded the first question was ‘how much budget do you have to spend’. Needless to say, this was a pretty horrible customer experience so we decided to take our business elsewhere and avoided hotels all together for our event. Imagine if you had to write to a hotel to inquire about availability. Now imagine that when you wrote, the hotel wrote back asking “what’s your budget?” The idea is absurd. Hotel websites and OTAs have wired up the industry to make sure this would never happen again. It starts the relationship off with a bad taste for the customer and completely undermines the intended nature of a collaborative ally that a sales manager should be for any client but especially given that they are a prospect who intends to spend thousands of dollars to throw an event. Meetings and events contribute $325B of direct spending in the U.S. alone (source AmexGBT) - so it’s about time this highly profitable inventory got wired up. Who's laying the groundwork to wire up meeting venues? MeetingPackage.com brings channel management and a seamless booking experience to your meeting space inventory. Meeting Package’s Joonas Ahola Joonas also announced his firm’s launch of a meeting space channel manager which allows inventory and rates to syndicate not just on a hotel’s website but across a myriad of 3rd party channels that have popped up to help them find new demand to generate additional revenue . Meeting spaces today can be booked on platforms like AirBnB as well as on niche marketplaces like Breather, Bizly and VenueBook. Venuesuite launches demand side marketplace to help venues and planners work better together online. Announced its direct booking platform (or marketplace) that helps venues & planners work better together online. The platform significantly simplifies the RFP process and sourcing of venues. The time required to book a venue for a meeting/event is reduced from days to minutes. Both planners and venues. It enables planners to find venues fast, book instantly and configure meetings & events 24/7. For venues it generates more revenue via qualitative leads & higher conversion rates as prices are shown upfront to bookers. Within 10 months 1,000+ spaces available in The Netherlands via dedicated venue partners who've joined the new way of online (platform) working. Other notable product launches and showcases Business Intelligence Pegasus announced its Business Intelligence Platform. It's difficult, if almost impossible to transform raw data into actionable insights - it pains most hotel companies, particularly independents. Pegasus BI combines guest data from multiple sources and deliver it with automated intelligence and an easy-to-understand dashboard. Hoteliers can gain immediate insights that allow their properties to increase bookings, revenue, occupancy and profitability. Revenue Management RevControl announced rate recommendations calculated by room type separately. This announcement is specifically meant for hostels where the rate difference between private rooms and individual beds in a dormitory is huge and unrelated. It is now possible to use a separate set of business rules for each room/bed type and link each room/bed type to its exact match at hotels in de comp set to get individually calculated rate recommendations for each room/bed type. RateBoard announced revenue management modules for leisure hotels. RateBoard offers a special module for leisure hotels, taking historical holiday seasons from different countries, matching this data with the booking window of the different nations and optimizing the forecast due to this important factors. HotelPartner Yield Management announced the implementation of success-based billing models. The implementation of success-based billing models aligns incentives between HotelPartner and clients since they don't charge new partners without having achieved added value in regards to room revenue. This is an interesting and innovative approach - we're curious to see how it works as demonstrating uplift is a really difficult thing to prove given market fluctuations and the massive # of variables that can't be controlled. Marketing Travel Tripper announced Real Time Ads & Metasearch Direct. These tools help hotel marketers minimize costs and maximize RoAS on their digital marketing campaigns. Real Time Ads is the first digital marketing tool that allows hotels to advertise—in real time—their rates, availability, popularity and more right on their Google search ads, delivering double the conversion rates. With Metasearch Direct, Travel Tripper has helped hotels generate 38x their spend on metasearch with our direct connect to Google Hotel Ads. Their unique commission model means that independent hotels with smaller budgets can play on the metasearch channel without any risks—and for less cost than an OTA commission. Travel Tripper announced ADA Monitoring Platform. Many hotels in the U.S. are in constant risk of ADA compliance lawsuits simply because their websites are not accessibility friendly. Not only does the TT Web team offer full-service ADA audits on websites, but they also have built out an automated ADA monitoring platform that performs website checks in real time to ensure compliance. Hotel marketers are immediately notified whenever an element of their site falls out of the accessibility guidelines (for example, lack of alt tags, color contrast etc.) Serenata CRM & IgnitionOne launched a next generation CRM partnership that combines both historic guest information combined with real-time intent data. By tracking and scoring website visitors interests and propensity to convert hoteliers can tailor messaging, content and offers, both on the website and in the booking engine accordingly to this data. The scoring technology also supports new guest acquisition by identifying unknown website user that show high interest in a hotel property or a specific offering from the hotel. Based on the interest and score, the visitor can be prompted with personalized newsletter invite. This approach has proven to massively increase the number of newsletter signups, something necessary for many hotels after recent introductions of privacy regulations like GDPR that eliminated a large part of the hotels marketable profiles due to lack of marketing consents. The newly created newsletter subscription profiles are enriched with the interests and intent information from the IgnitionOne scoring engine monitoring the hotel website and can be used for marketing purpose complementing the historical data points already stored in Serenata CRM. With Serenata CRM and the real-time intent triggered personalization powered by IgntionOne you can deliver a true personalized experience for your guests and website visitors to drive incremental revenue. Integrator announcements HAPI announced it’s recent Salesforce integration following a 2-way oxy connect with Oracle’s PMS dailypoint™ - software made by Toedt, Dr. Selk & Coll. GmbH announced a data cleansing solution which allows hotels to automatically clean, correct, and de-duplicate their guest profiles and push that data back to the hotel’s PMS. The fully automated, AI-based process includes hundreds of steps, reviewing all key data points within the guest profile. It removes duplicate profiles, corrects mistakes made from human errors, corrects addresses for more than 240 countries and ultimately creates one single, accurate guest profile for each guest. This data is stored in the central data management solution by dailypoint™ as well as pushed to the hotel’s PMS so that data is accurate across all key sources. Operations Betterspace GmbH announced Smart Check-out feature with digital invoice and the Self-Ordering function, both for the digital guest directory iQ Tab.The Smart Check-Out enables guests to comfortably check out of the hotel and allows them to view and split their invoice digitally and receive it by e-mail. Thanks to this feature, long waiting lines at the reception desk are a thing of the past. Self-Ordering for the digital guest directory gives guests the opportunity to order food and drinks with the digital guest directory - without leaving the hotel room. Orders are sent directly to the hotel restaurant Both features simplify operational workflows, optimize processes and thus relieve staff and relax guests. This reduces administrative/bureaucratic efforts, saves time and money and the time saved can be devoted to what is important: hotel guests. Customer Alliance announced Customer Experience Hub extending their surveying capabilities from solely focused on post-stay reputation and review gathering into the full guest journey. The Customer Experience Hub allows hoteliers to customize automated messaging based on events through the guest journey to collect feedback and pipe it in real time to the department or team member who can act on it to recover fast, improve the guest experience and in-turn--improve review sentiment and gss scores. Travel Appeal announced Mobile Coach, a mobile app designed for on-the-go managers. By combining artificial intelligence with human experience, the Coach is able to detect even the most granular details from customer feedback. It’s the perfect solution for obtaining actionable insights about everything that really matters to a business. Review and operations management, made simple. The Coach app not only improves and simplifies business strategies, but helps users manage and respond directly to customer feedback - reviews, posts and photos published by customers are 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.
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 Brand.com, while the OTA channel has either held steady or decelerated. Brand.com 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 Brand.com 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 brand.com 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.”
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.
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 direct booking platform 2) Mews Systems Property Management System to deliver the best guest experience 3) SiteMinder Channel Manager to maximize 3rd party channel performance 4) ALICE Hotel Operations Software 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
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 HotelTechReport.com) 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
(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 booking.com 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 booking.com. 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. Booking.com 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.