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

by
Hotel Tech Report

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

This is why hotel brands shouldn't build tech in house

by
Hotel Tech Report

When enterprise companies spend loads of money on technology they usually think about building tech in house so they can have more control over development and ultimately save money.  Sometimes this equation favors building tech in house and other times it does not. Several high profile failures in the hotel industry include a collaboration amongst all major hotel groups to create an online booking platform called Room Key which was eventually shuttered.  We’ll discuss this initiatives and more in detail below. Most sophisticated enterprise companies (think Nike and McDonalds) understand that they are not tech companies so they effectively outsource their tech R&D spend to 3rd parties that are focused on innovation.  Could McDonalds build software to help franchisees manage their listings? Yes, but they partner with Yext.  Nike could definitely build prototyping software in house for its digital products, but it chooses to partner with InVision.  Firms like Nike and McDonalds have become innovators by being experts at identifying trends and partnering with top tech companies to meet their core business goals. So the question is, if McDonalds and Nike outsource their respective technology needs - should hospitality companies really be building tech in house? We believe that when hotel brands try to build tech in house it ultimately brings them into precarious waters, here's why: 1. They lack the resources to compete with pure play technology companies 2. Hotel brands usually underestimate the ongoing effort required to maintain and scale a technology business (let alone multiple business lines and products)   Hospitality companies don't have the resources to compete with tech companies. Charles Schwab is a massive financial institution worth more than $60B.  The firm could easily build custom marketing automation solutions for the business but they choose to work with with Marketo because they know that Marketo will be able to innovate over the long run.  Even Citrix and Microsoft, technology companies themselves, use Marketo’s marketing technology so that they can focus on their core businesses. IDeaS, a popular revenue management software company and it’s parent company SAS just announced a 3-year plan to invest $1B in artificial intelligence.  SAS is a company that deeply understands the power of focus and investing in its core competencies. "If I want to host a SaaS application, I choose a cloud host. If I want to manufacture a consumer product, I partner with a company like Foxconn. If I need delivery for my restaurant I work with a delivery company. Yet, brands without a technology focus still believe it will be cheaper and more effective to build their own software internally when history has shown us, time after time, that these projects will be over budget, unsustainable, and competitively weaker than the professional tech products in the market." ~Adam Harris, CEO, Cloudbeds The median publicly traded software company spends 23% of revenue on R&D with many high growth firms spending 50% of revenue.  It’s hard to imagine that even Marriott could afford the spend levels to develop one competitive product let alone multiple product lines that compete with a myriad of different specialist software businesses.   Technology is not a static good. Sophisticated enterprise companies buy into the future of a tech product as much as the present. Technology requires immense amounts of capital to scale and increasing investments to remain competitive.  Technology requires even more upkeep than hotels. Where hotels build up their capital reserves and renovate roughly every 5-7 years, tech companies are constantly “renovating” their products daily through product sprints.  When enterprise companies “buy” tech they are partnering with tech companies for the future as much as selecting products for the present. The reason that the SaaS business model (recurring subscriptions) aligns value so well between buyers and sellers is because the product is constantly being reinvented so it forces tech companies to maintain their end of the bargain.  When you sign up for SaaS (software as a service) you are not only signing up for the product today but you’re buying into its roadmap for the future. Hotel companies that try to build tech in house are rarely prepared for the constant investment required to maintain let alone scale products and keep up with the ongoing massive investment, iteration and innovation of tech firms. So what does history tell us about hotel companies who have miscalibrated this decision? Starwood was bought by Marriott for $13B and itself has taken huge losses on technology investments when they were no longer able to invest enough to remain competitive. According to Starwood’s (now Marriott) 2015 10K filing, the firm took a $6M charge for “technology related costs and expenses that were no longer deemed recoverable.”  Go back further to Starwood’s 2013 annual filing for stockholders and you’ll find a $19M charge related to “technology related expenses” that the firm “decided to absorb” because they couldn’t collect from managed and franchise properties.     When we draw the analogy between maintaining software and maintaining a hotel, Starwood was effectively unable to properly renovate its technology and investors paid for it.  Every hotelier knows what happens when you let a property go too long without renovation and the same happens when software isn’t maintained properly. Similar to Starwood building tech in house and having trouble maintaining the infrastructure, Choice created Skytouch PMS internally with the vision of transforming the tech market and has similarly struggled. “In 2014, it [Skytouch] generated a net loss to the company of up to $20 million. Investors have pressured Choice to either make SkyTouch profitable, sell it, or close it down.” Choice stopped reporting the results of its Skytouch division and now includes those results within its “Corporate & Other” expense line (pg. 102 of Choice 2018 10K filing). So while Choice no longer gives updates on how Skytouch is doing - it is highly inprobable that a company like Choice would decide to include the a business unit as an expense line if that unit was doing well.  In addition to the Skytouch debacle, we've also heard that Choice is winding down its Choice Labs innovation division.  Accor, too, recently reported a $288M write-off on tech investments such as AirBnB competitor Onefinestay and concierge service John Paul. Accor even tried to sell it’s distribution to independents and shuttered the project after 2 years, here’s what happened in the words of Accor’s own spokesperson. “This initiative is no longer relevant in regards to the Group’s strategy and its new profile as per today.  Results are below expectations” Accor wanted to plug independents into its massive distribution which in theory could add a ton of value if executed well and even that didn’t work. Even when all the big hotel groups banded together to build the online booking platform Room Key they failed (Choice, Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental, Marriott, Wyndham) - isn’t it time that hotel companies learned this lesson? Even Booking.com had to shut down it’s hotel software operations after some high profile acquisitions - a testament to how tough the business really is.   Conclusion: Hotel brands shouldn’t build tech - they should get better at buying it The lesson here is clear - hotel brands need to focus on what they do best.  They should leverage their scale and clout to secure great service and attention from tech partners. It’s up to franchisees and investors to ensure that operators stay focused. Hotel brands have insanely complex businesses managing many stakeholders who often have conflicting interests.  The business of running a hotel is a huge feat both operationally and from a revenue/distribution perspective. Because of these factors, hotel companies who want to succeed in the digital age should be experts at technology procurement and management.  Historically hotel brands have been very weak when it comes to technology procurement and management so many have tried to compensate for that weakness by building tech products in house. Unfortunately this strategy often leads to write-offs, burning piles of cash and consequently the executives who lead these disastrous projects being pushed out. "Great technology products enable a valuable job to be done to be easily performed with maximum success and consistent results. With the blistering pace at which the world is changing, our expectations change. That means jobs to be done change. And that means software needs to rapidly iterate and evolve. That is why the world is headed to simple, modular solutions that can nail jobs to be done as they evolve. The smartest brands know that to create compelling and lasting technology advantage, it’s now about identifying and bringing best-in-class interoperable solutions together into powerful system that gives lasting advantage.  From a cost, resource, time to market and life time value perspective, you’ll waste literally millions of dollars even before calculating the opportunity cost. Brands need to get amazing at hand-picking and investing in their strategic technology partners who are proven to design, build and iterate the purpose-built software hotels require, so they can then focus on delighting guests, growing locations and enhancing the value of their networks for franchisees." ~Marc Heyneker, CEO @ Revinate   Large enterprise brands have some clear motivations: (1) They want to expand to more and more hotels worldwide, and be able to do so quickly and efficiently. That means needing a consistent stack of solid technology that can be deployed, enabled and operationalized to run and add those hotels to the overall system. (2) They want to proudly position their Technology Stacks and enabled programs as unique value-adds that differentiate their Brand and their Brand value. So they can both convince Owners why they’re better, and monetize and justify their Brand fees in an age where consumer preference for brands is in decline. This sometimes gives large enterprises the false sense of belief that they need to build their own. In fact, building your own puts both goals in jeopardy, almost immediately. These multi-million dollar, multi-year, multi-faceted technology projects become sinkholes for capital investment, anchors to business progress and optimization, and turn into tough write-downs as we saw in the examples above. Hotel brands should instead be focused on rethinking their technology organizations to be better buyers and managers.  Corporate hotel purchasing units have historically focused on price negotiations and software customization (i.e. product roadmap hijacking) but in order for brands to thrive in today’s hyper competitive markets they are in need of a massive strategy shift. Red Lion Hotels Corporation is one such company that has taken a deep look at how it buys technology and optimizes its tech stack. Red Lion Hotels Corporation CIO John Edwards shared his firm's approach to technology vendor selection with Hotel Tech Report. "At RLHC, we have been able to establish ourselves as leaders in hospitality innovation by focusing on what we do best: finding the right technology partners to create solutions that meet our hotel’s needs. We believe that is the fastest way to change the technical landscape in our industry.  RLabs and Canvas Integrated Systems were created to house our already existing technology and innovation solutions, which provide customized best-in-class solutions for our hotels. Our tech stack includes well known industry solutions such as IDeaS, Opera, & WindSurfer as well as new industry solutions such as Monscierge and HAPI." Digitally savvy hotel owners want technological choice and they want the procurement benefits that brands command with scale.  The brand development teams that win in the digital age will be the ones who are able to deliver choice to owners around which technology vendors to use, the scale that comes with warehousing and leveraging data from that warehouse and the cost benefits that come from bundled negotiations with vendors.   Recommendations to hotel brands who want tech to be a core differentiator 1. Map out clear technology systems required to deliver on core business goals and all potential providers 2. Lay foundational infrastructure for open systems and clean data Design scalable processes to constantly beta test competitive products in the market and identify new products that can drive core business goals. 3. Set aside designated resources for technology management. Hotel groups should maintain a vendor CRM and dedicated staff for managing vendor relationships. This staff should also be tasked with collecting market insights and sharing new technological developments as well as vendor status updates on a regular basis with leadership. 4. Set clear and tangible KPIs with each vendor that must be met in order to retain the contract (e.g. customer support response time) Create clear roadmaps for switching systems in the event that suppliers do not deliver on KPIs 5. Invest in tech startups that fit your strategic criteria above! Highgate (invested in Stay Wanderful, Travel Tripper, LodgIQ, OTA Insight) and CitizenM (invested in Snapshot, exited to Shiji) have been incredibly successful executing on this strategy. They put strategic money to work then derisk their investments by giving those startups proof of concept in their properties. 6. For hotel companies that don't have the resources to start a fund internally like them there are great strategic venture capital firms that are focused on real estate and can do the heavy lifting for you - check out Metaprop VC and Fifth Wall Ventures. Investing enables you to gain access to innovation and lend your expertise without snuffing out the creativity. Leadership is about investing in great people and trusting them to do the work, not about micromanaging every aspect of the process yourself.

Here are 16 must read books recommended by top hotel general managers

by
Hotel Tech Report

Being a hotel GM takes finesse and creativity.  You have to be both analytical enough to manage your hotel’s P&L and personable enough to interact with guests.  Usually employers have to choose between a people person and a numbers person but when searching for a good hotel GM owners need to look for both. Ultimately, a hotel GM is a business owner responsible for everything that happens between the four walls of a hotel.  You have to handle situations ranging from a staff member who needs to be rushed to the ER for cutting their finger on the job to hiring talent and figuring out how to increase revenue per available room when occupancy is down.  In case you couldn’t tell already GMs are stretched in a million directions and are expected to excel at everything, always. Due to the demanding nature of the GM role, it’s important to also spend time educating yourself on a variety of different disciplines and lots of this requisite knowledge can be found in books.  Rather than tell you what books we think GMs should read we asked some of our friends who happen to be top hotel GMs about the books that have helped make them such incredible successes. We have got recommendations from GMs around the world - from Belgium to Mexico, Spain, the United Kingdom and everywhere in between. The book topics range from practical guides that help you run your hotel to productivity hacks, self improvement books and stories about how to be resilient under immense pressure. Without further adieu - here are the 16 books recommended by top GMs for their peers.   1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey Recommended by Simone Harms from Sage Hospitality in Santa Clara, California, Campbell Lee from Quest Apartment Hotels in Melbourne, Australia and Alex Obertop from SIDE Hotel Hamburg in Hamburg, Germany The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People teaches you both personal and professional effectiveness by changing your view of how the world works and giving you 7 habits, which, if adopted well, will lead you to immense success. Habits one through three are focused on self-mastery and moving from dependence to independence. Habits four through six are focused on developing teamwork, collaboration, and communication skills, and moving from independence to interdependence. Habit 7 is focused on continuous growth and improvement, and embodies all the other habits.  Hotel GMs can all relate deeply to these principles and for any GMs in a rut, Quest Apartment Hotels GM Campbell Lee told us, “7 Habits was a turning point for me. I was forced into reading it a decade ago by my GM at the time (which I did kicking and screaming!), but found it so engrossing to have a fully documented system for essentially being a better person; especially one that is so easily communicated to others you yourself are helping to mentor and grow. Within 6 months of reading it, I took the leap and quit my job and applied for a Hotel GM position without any prior experience, and have never looked back!”   2. Emotional Intelligence: The Groundbreaking Book that Redefined What it Means to Be Smart by Daniel Coleman Recommended by Imran Jivani from Bedderman Lodging in Chicago, IL and Silvia Nadal from Hotel Jazz in Barcelona, Spain Emotional Intelligence explains the importance of emotions in your life, how they help and hurt your ability to navigate the world, followed by practical advice on how to improve your own emotional intelligence and why that is the key to leading a successful life.  Being the general manager of a hotel can be highly emotional with extreme ups and downs. Understanding how to channel those emotions is absolutely critical for keeping your staff productive and happy. "Understanding a person is much more complicated than a position, but that understanding brought on by emotional intelligence will help create a future leader who has a vested interest in the success of the company, property, and (most importantly) themselves," says Imran Jivani of Bedderman Lodging.   3. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek Recommended by Enoch F. Nimene from Bridge Hotel Group in New York, NY and John Kirk Wright from Banyan Tree Companies in Roswell, Georgia Start With Why is Simon Sinek’s mission to help others do work, which inspires them, and uses real-world examples of great leaders to show you how they communicate and how you can adapt their mindset to inspire others yourself.  Sinek’s belief is that the important thing is not what you do (run a hotel) but why you do it. It’s important for hotel GMs to understand why they run their hotel - is it for profit? Is it to make guests feel at home? Once you understand and communicate your own motivations you’ll be better able to motivate your team.   4. I Like Giving: The Transforming Power of a Generous Life by Brad Formsma Recommended by Paul Patiño from The Saguaro Palm Springs in Palm Desert, CA Paul Patino runs one of the most coveted hotels in California - the Saguaro Palm Springs.  Paul believes that the essence of being a great general manager is not in your ability to simply own the P&L but in your unique ability to give of yourself.  Paul told us that, “What I’ve learned in my long run in hospitality is that running an operation and answering to a P&L to ownership at the end of the month/year is all the same. Anyone can do it once they have had enough practice but the true challenge is being that leader that can move everyone in the same direction together and bring out the best in each person. Not everyone can do it and most days with social media and the world we live in, everyone wants that quick instant gratification. When in reality all great things take time, patience, and lots of love. The book I’m reading now is teaching me what I have done for a long time for others but just giving me a sharper knife. Doing right by others and leading by example, having a true connection with each person and inspiring them to be better versions than they already are is what’s truly important in this industry now a days. Once you have that the whole operation runs itself and people or group of happy people can overcome any obstacle, move any mountain. This book highlights that in so many ways and I encourage you to read it if you haven’t and go change someone else’s life and most of all have fun discovering how much you can do for others with very little.”   5. Setting the Table: The Transofrming Power of Hospitality in Business by Danny Meyer Recommended by Gary Gutierrez from HRI Lodging in New Orleans, LA This is not a typical business book, and it’s certainly not a how-to book.  For hoteliers, what’s most meaningful is creating positive, uplifting outcomes for human experiences and human relationships. Running a hotel, like life, is all about how you make people feel. It may sound easy but this is actually pretty difficult to execute on. Danny Meyer, founder of Union Square Hospitality and the global hamburger empire, Shake Shack coins what he calls ‘Enlightened hospitality.’  Danny’s lessons help you put hospitality to work for first for the people who work for you, guests, community, suppliers, and investors — in that order.   6. The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday Recommended by Peter Smiley from Hotel Nexus in Seattle, WA This book is a modern take on the ancient philosophy of Stoicism, which helps you endure the struggles of life with grace and resilience by drawing lessons from ancient heroes, former presidents, modern actors, athletes, and how they turned adversity into success, thanks to the power of perception, action and will.  Many CEOs joke that their job is to be a plumber, finding holes in their respective businesses and plugging those holes. As the CEO of their hotels, GMs are constantly facing obstacles and adversity - this book gives GMs tools to turn obstacles into success.   7. Leading with Questions: How Leaders Find the Right Solutions by Knowing What to Ask by Michael J. Marquardt Recommended by Joseph Kirtley from Highgate Hotels in San Francisco, CA This is a highly acclaimed book that blends theory and practice on a leadership skill that is universally appreciated but seldom illustrated - asking the right questions.  Joseph Kirtley, GM at Highgate Hotels says it best, “Leaders often feel that we are supposed to have all the answers. In actuality, being a great leader takes humility, and asking the right questions. Opening yourself to the strengths and knowledge of those around you takes you to another level.”  Throughout the book, he demonstrates how effective leaders use questions to encourage participation and teamwork, foster outside-the-box thinking, empower others, build relationships with customers, solve problems, and much more.   8. Zapp: The Lighting of Empowerment by William C. Byham, Ph.D Recommended by Gary Gladstone from Diamond Mountain Hotel & Casino in San Jacinto, CA “Zap taught me to think a different way. When making a decision about how to handle a guest problem I now remember to ask the agent involved their opinion and what they recommend,” says Gary Gladstone of the Diamond Mountain Hotel & Casino. Employee motivation is often a difficult idea to truly grasp, yet alone to influence and leverage. Yet, if companies are to continuously improve, as is necessary for survival and success, everyone in the organization needs to be engaged. Byham writes that people with this engagement (those who are "zapped") have "responsibility, a sense of ownership, satisfaction in accomplishments, power over what and how things are done, recognition for their ideas, and the knowledge that they're important to the organization."   9. How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie Recommended by Guillaume Verchere from Radisson Hotels in Brussels, Belgium How To Win Friends And Influence People teaches you countless principles to become a likable person, handle your relationships well, win others over and help them change their behavior without being intrusive.  Many GMs even go on to take the Dale Carnegie course which teaches interpersonal skills and public speaking to help them become better leaders in their respective communities. Some of the concepts that Carnegie outlines seem intuitive and simple but are fundamental to creating and fostering strong interpersonal relationships.   10. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt Recommended by Liutauras Vaitkevicius from Good Hotels in London, UK Freakonomics helps you make better decisions by showing you how your life is dominated by incentives, how to close information asymmetries between you and the experts that exploit you and how to really tell the difference between causation and correlation.  This is a somewhat nontraditional pick for GMs but provides a valuable framework to think about incentivizing team members on property to consistently deliver the best experiences to guests. Luitauras told Hotel Tech Report, "this book helped me to become more efficient, more effective in my work. Once I understand correlation, reasoning, needs of my guests and my team, I can make right decisions quicker. It has also taught me to look into data more closely and challenge 'old ways' of doing things. And that really pays off long-term in building structure, new processes and helping my team achieve more in shorter periods of time."   11. Switch: Hot to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath & Dan Heath Recommended by Mohamed Elbanna from Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts in Palm Beach, FL Switch is about how you can lead and encourage changes of human behavior, both in yourself and in your organization, by focusing on the three forces that influence it.  You might have heard the analogy of your brain as a rational rider, sitting on top of an emotional, stubborn elephant, trying to direct it, which makes it easier to understand how your brain’s rational and emotional side work together.  Hotels are often thought of as slow to adapt when market dynamics shift and Heath gives a strong framework to help get your team ahead of changes to beat out the compset. Heath argues that what many think is resistance to change is actually just a lack of clarity around how to change.  Setup incentives correctly and give a clear path forward for your team and even ownership for that matter - you won’t regret it.   12. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff: Simple Ways to Keep the Little Things from Taking Over Your Life by Richard Carlson Recommended by Rob Flinter from PPHE Hotel Group in London, UK Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff will keep you from letting the little, stressful things in life, like your email inbox, rushing to trains, and annoying coworkers who drive you insane and help you find peace and calm in the stressful world that is your hotel property.  This is a great book that gives you tools to cope with those days when it just feels like the whole world is on your shoulders and you can’t do anything right.   13. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't by Jim Collins Recommended by Heather (Dighton) Strauss from Prime Group US in Miami, FL Good To Great examines what it takes for ordinary companies to become great and outperform their competitors by analyzing 28 companies over 30 years, who managed to make the transition or fell prey to their bad habits.  With companies like AirBnB and the OTAs, hoteliers are no strangers to disruption. Unfortunately this is just the beginning. While many GMs have thrown their arms up in defeat - there is still time to reinvent and out innovate some of these newcomers.   14. How to Run a Great Hotel: Everything you need to achieve excellence in the hotel industry by Enda M. Larkin Recommended by Brandon Sheldon from Mission Point Resort in Mackinac Island, MI According to Brandon Sheldon, GM of Mission Point Resort, “How to Run a Great Hotel really taught me to think about goals, but also how I will achieve the goals.”  This book is based on the premise that being good is just not good enough in today's competitive environment. For hotel owners & managers who want to achieve lasting business success through a root & branch review of key business processes, 'How To Run A Great Hotel' is a 'must read'.   15. 100 Tips for Hoteliers: What Every Successful Hotel Professional Needs to Know and Do by Peter Venison Recommended by Jil Vivienne Berghäuser from Hotel Brandenburger in Potsdam, Germany Hotel Brandenburger GM Jil Berhauser told Hotel Tech Report that it’s important to lead with passion: “[as a general manager] you must be passionate about your job. You must have a clear vision about what you hope to achieve and find ways to share this vision and passion with everybody in your team. - If you're not passionate about it, who else should? Not having complaints does not mean that you are satisfying your guests. Find time for feedback and listen to your guests. To meet guests effectively, a manager needs to be around in guest area at business time.  100 Tips for Hoteliers details the strategies that have helped Jil channel her passion into results.   16. Nuts!: Southwest Airlines' Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success by Kevin Freiberg Recommended by Xavier Moulin from SH Hotels & Resorts in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico “Strategy and leadership publications offer relevant concepts and systems that are, in most cases, adaptable to a given business model. Beyond the theory however, lies a host of creative yet often unconventional solutions that have not only proven wildly successful in real life, but at times helped transform the very fabric of an industry. Immersing myself into the thought process and reasoning of business visionaries such as Kevin Freiberg in his book Nuts! helped me define fun and motivating productivity techniques that truly resonate with a team and are particularly well aligned with the emotional nature of our hospitality trade. Beyond the direct financial impact, the sheer associate engagement, fulfillment and retention observed as a result proved overwhelming.”

"Super Angel" Dave Berkus on the convergence of PMS, CRS and hotel CRM

by
Hotel Tech Report

Dave Berkus knows hospitality technology more than nearly anyone. Back in the early 1980s, his company, Computerized Lodging Systems, dominated the nascent hospitality technology market with one of the first electronic Property Management Systems on the market. The immediate popularity of the technology resulted in rapid growth for the company, which was recognized on the Inc 500 list -- twice. Dave also created FOSSE, the property management system technology that Marriott used for almost 36 years. Today, there are over 700 property management systems for hotels. With such a dense thicket of choices, it's hard to imagine the early days of hospitality technology. These are the days when only a few players dominated, offering truly game-changing solutions that defined how hotels began using technology to operate more efficiently and profitably. Dave is also an accomplished angel investor, having achieved an impressive 97% internal rate of return from over 150 investments to date. His Wayfare Ventures unites five partners from AIG, TAJ Hotel Group and Starwood, alongside a board of accomplished travel industry veterans, to make early stage investments in travel technology startups. Hotel Tech Report’s Jordan Hollander recently enjoyed a wide-ranging conversation with Dave on the Hotel Tech Insider podcast, where the two discussed how Dave’s history in hospitality technology has shaped the way he sees the industry today. These are the most pertinent themes that reveal how this hospitality technology luminary sees the future of hotel tech, as well as what he looks for when evaluating both ideas and entrepreneurs for investment.   The future of the PMS With so many property management solutions competing for business, it's hard to envision a post-PMS future. Yet, this future is coming, Berkus says, due to the increased importance of the Central Reservation System. The CRS owns the guest name record, which has made it more of a centralized source of data than the PMS: The PMS systems are, for the chains at least, becoming increasingly less important, as they handle right now in-house functions only. Berkus notes that the cloud PMS companies of today are likely to be the players who evolve these CRS like capabilities so while he believes that their technology will remain a core piece of the tech stack, he believes that what it means to be a PMS will change more in the next 5-10 years than in the last 20 years combined. Guest history has shifted to the CRS, while the PMS has transitioned into a fully operational role for specific properties. As hotels have both consolidated and established micro-brands, the CRS naturally became the way to share guest preferences across the portfolio. The centralization of data cemented the role of the CRS at the center of modern data-driven personalization and marketing strategies. says Berkus:   Big Data's being used in very important ways but certainly not just from the PMS system anymore. The question then is: if the CRS could potentially supplant the PMS as the source of all-important guest data, will we need a PMS system in the future? Berkus says yes but the legacy PMS companies will be forced to innovate and more specifically open up their architecture to become platforms themselves because CRS, CRM and even Revenue Management companies of today have the requisite data necessary to become the center of the tech stack according to Berkus. Eventually, Berkus sees most hotels relying on a single cloud-based system that aggregates all functionality into one flow, which reduces errors and increases accuracy as it doesn't require passing information around multiple systems. A hybrid PMS/CRS/CRM solution means a single guest record that enables better, more accurate personalization. The consolidation of functionality also simplifies the tech stack and should help hotels effectively use existing data to power personalization at the individual guest level. A unified tech stack unleashes the full power of data-driven decision making, which will soon be table stakes for how hotels everywhere compete. Rather than relying on incomplete sets of data, hoteliers can constantly make decisions based on the holistic view. A unified tech stack can also be achieved through seamless integrations and Berkus says that “there will always be best of breed solutions in various categories.” This vision will take a while to achieve, and so the PMS will continue to play a critical role for hotel operations: If we look ahead ten years, it would be easy to see a single cloud-based system integrating everything from CRM to reservations to the accounting functions at the properties, all the way through all forms of marketing and follow-through. Even with this view, Berkus sees the potential for category leaders to dominate specific verticals, while still providing the essential services necessary to run a hotel. For example, revenue management, which may be a feature of a CRS or a standalone solution -- all depending on how an individual property derives its revenue, and the sophistication of its revenue generation strategies. Part of the problem, he says, is that people confuse hotel tech with quality hotel tech: just because a hotel has a system doesn't mean that it is a good system. For Berkus, this means that the hospitality technology industry has plenty of dynamism ahead of it and he believes that it’s far from maturity.   The transformative power of analytics For Berkus, the primary reason for the PMS’ uncertain future is due to its isolation from data and analytics. Even the most integrated systems have challenges when it comes to gathering data from disparate sources into a unified view. Even so, it’s the analytics on top of all of this data that drives profitable hospitality today. Whichever technology hotel uses, It must facilitate the types of analysis that drive “more capable decisions,” across the organization, says Berkus: Analytics are everything. The most important single change that's going to come is the fact that every piece of data that arrives at the central source will be analyzed. You're going to find that more capable decisions will be made to maximize revenue...based upon AI and data analytics. That's your future. The unsaid implications here is that hotels with a sub-par data and analytics approach will be left behind. Hospitality has become not just about the guest-facing product but also the hidden back-end of intelligent data capture and analysis. The top performers will effectively oscillate between analyzing the data and making clear improvements based on this analysis.   The data-driven hotel GM As data and analytics move to the core of a hotel’s operation, general managers must evolve their skill sets to match. While operations will never cease to be a part of a hotel general managers role, success in this role is increasingly about the ability to enhance profitability by effectively translating data analytics into actionable initiatives. Currently, GMs have a steep learning curve to build muscle memory around analyzing large amounts of data from disparate sources. As machines become more capable of doing the analysis on their own, the best GMs will be able to take action on the analysis presented by the tools to increase profitability, Berkus predicts: A manager has to be able to add value by adding revenue and by increasing guest satisfaction. Those two things are not necessarily the operational things that a manager today normally concentrates on. Marketing also matters more to the GM of the future. As marketing campaigns become data-focused, GMs will engage more deeply with their marketing teams to leverage a data-driven approach to spend marketing dollars more efficiently. It's all about the relevant message consumed in the right context, as GMs seek to add value in new ways.   Sourcing true pain points from sales and marketing Berkus is an active angel investor, and his recent announcement of Wayfare Ventures brings his focus to travel technology. When it comes to developing an idea, Berkus sees real value in entrepreneurs solving true pain points rather than perceived problems: I love it when somebody in marketing or sales develops a company and says “I feel the pain” and let's try and solve the need. As opposed to what I see most often, which is an engineer says I really got an idea and I'm going to make that idea work. The contrarian view is noteworthy in its opposition to the engineer-focused view espoused by many investors and technologists. Part of this view comes from the plummeting costs of cloud computing, as well as the prevalence of APIs which make it simpler to plug into an existing ecosystem without having to build as much technical infrastructure. Differentiation comes less from tech and more from truly knowing the problem and having clarity around what needs to be solved -- rather than building a technically-flawless solution that misses the mark and fails to gain traction because it doesn't solve an actual problem. An early-stage solution that solves a real problem for a specific segment sells itself and helps a startup gain traction at a lower cost. It’s expensive to convince people that a product solves a non-existent problem.   Market trends poised for investment As far as trends in the market that have potential, Berkus points to artificial intelligence, robotics, and data analytics as three disruptive forces. However, things change fast. Apps are no longer the hot commodity they once were. Today’s opportunities are all about AI, robots, and data analytics. When evaluating the most exciting opportunities for investment, Berkus expands his view to encompass all of travel technology. This expanded view allows him to see opportunities from the interconnectedness of the travel and hospitality industries, which is a core part of the thesis at Wayfare Ventures. It all comes down to using modern technology to find new revenue that may not have been easy to uncover in the past. Whatever it be, there are opportunities now for revenue that weren't easily available in the past but are today. But the whole point is if guest satisfaction goes up and guests are able to do things they couldn't do before, like order a meal from text, then you're going to have better revenue and more satisfaction.   Enjoy the full podcast episode here. Outside of the points covered above, Berkus shares the fascinating foundational story of the first property and yield management tools for hotels.

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

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Hotel Tech Report

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

This is what 789 hoteliers said about their technology priorities

by
Hotel Tech Report

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

Hotelogix founder to hotel industry “Artificial intelligence is not going to take your job”

by
Hotel Tech Report

One of the biggest misconceptions that hotel workers believe is that technology and artificial intelligence will take their job.  Here’s a news flash - it won’t. Don’t believe us? Just take a look at history. From early Mesopotamia to 17th century Europe economic growth grew at a steady pace.  Blacksmiths forged iron, tailors made clothes and so on. At the dawn of the industrial revolution many predicted that factories would displace this workforce and create mass unemployment.  In fact, the opposite happened and factories created an entirely new economy with explosive employment and economic growth. What we see time and time again is that game changing innovation creates growth that in turn delivers net positive jobs.  Hoteliers who want to succeed in the future are advised not to focus on the jobs that technology will displace but on the jobs that it will create. The same misconception from the Industrial Revolution resurfaced in the late 70s with the advent of spreadsheets.  Analysts thought that they would lose their jobs to intelligent computing programs but found that technology actually empowered them.  The top analysts of the 70s were those who were best at doing advanced calculations off hand while the top analysts of the 80s were the ones who knew how to effectively manipulate, visualize and analyze data in spreadsheets (check out this awesome history of spreadsheets). For the hotel industry it’s inevitable that automation and A.I. have been driving a more profitable business model.  The trend is also leading to a new breed of top hoteliers with a different kind of skill set. In our interview with FOSSE creator Dave Berkus, he told us that the hotel general manager of the future is going to require less operational knowhow and more analytical chops. Hoteliers believe that revenue managers will lose their jobs when artificial intelligence gets good enough. I believe that artificial intelligence is going to make revenue management an even more valuable skill because it will take more insight and analytical rigor to stand out from the competition set in a data-driven world. ~Aditya Sanghi At the core of this change is the property management system and few have changed the game for the PMS market like Hotelogix founder and CEO Aditya Sanghi.  Aditya has launched a wildly successful business in some of the toughest markets like Asia and Southeast Asia (due to language and culture differences). The product he and his team have built is so strong that it transcends these cross border discrepancies and is widely used by hoteliers around the world.  Hotelogix is becoming increasingly popular in markets like Europe and the United States - a testament to the incredible company that Sanghi has built. During this interview we learn from Aditya’s unique perspective on life, hotels and business.  We also talk about the future of hotel property management systems and what qualities hotel managers must focus on developing in order to succeed in the A.I. revolution. What was your background prior to starting Hotelogix? Hotelogix was founded by Prabhash Bhatnagar in 2008. Before Hotelogix, Prabhash used to offer web solutions’ services, where he interacted closely with many hotels. That’s where the idea of offering a cloud-based PMS to the mid-segment hotels germinated. I joined Prabhash as a Co-founder, as I was always interested in making a product for the global market, and Cloud PMS gave me a perfect opportunity to do so. Before that, straight out of college, I had co-founded another product-based company, EDISPHERE with my brother Ajay Sanghi. I believe that my early exposure to creating products played a great role in shaping my entrepreneurial journey. What made you decide to jump in and create Hotelogix? I had a burning desire to create a product that had global reach and appeal. India was not known as a hub for products back then and I always believed that products would drive the next phase of economy for the country. I started my corporate life as an entrepreneur. I am known to be a ‘happy-go-lucky’ kind of person and have never feared consequences. I think a major factor in becoming an entrepreneur is to not have a fear of failure. I come from a strong sports background, where winning and losing was part of the game. I believe that losing a battle is an integral part of winning the war, and one must enjoy the whole journey. I think I was better prepared to live the life of an entrepreneur because of my learnings from sports and my family background where ‘risk taking’ is normal. There is also a certain sense of joy and contentment in creating footprints for someone to follow. Any footprints that Hotelogix can create for other companies to follow will be a huge accomplishment for me. Changing the life of a customer is another factor that drives me. And, co-founding Hotelogix gave me a perfect opportunity to do that. I realized that the industry would soon transition to cloud PMS as the entire travel world was poised to go digital, and I took the opportunity to drive this change. On how it started… Prabhash had shared his idea in a ‘New Year Party’ in December 2007 while we were sipping whisky by the fireplace, on a chilly winter night. I think my decision was taken in a couple of hours of our conversation. All the above factors were too compelling for me to continue working in Informatica Business Solutions in Bangalore, where I last worked. I have taken some of the most critical decisions of my life in less than a couple of hours. And, I do not regret any of them. Who was your first customer at Hotelogix? Our first customer was in 2009, a small boutique hotel called Faros Suites from Lonian Islands, Greece. Convinced by our ‘try and buy’ model, they took a free trial of our PMS. Back then, we did not have any sales team and the founding team would respond to chat and email queries. After a few days of self-running trial with assistance on chat and email for concerns and clarifications, Angelo, the owner decided to go ahead with Hotelogix. Their decision to implement Hotelogix did not involve any huge financial investment, but it did involve their time and resource investment. They were moving from pen & paper to adopting our cloud solution. Such a transition is never easy. Wow, so your first customer signed up through a trial, is that something that Hotelogix makes widely available for hotels? Look to any industry and software buyers can try different solutions before they buy.  We believe that is the future for hotels too and have made trials available to any hotelier who wants to take our software for a spin.  Great hotel business starts with a powerful Cloud PMS and hoteliers should be able to see the product in action before they sign on. This is why hotels in more than 100+ countries trust Hotelogix Cloud PMS.  Hotelogix is a smart solution that helps our clients stay organised and connected. If you want to simplify your operations, get more business and keep your guests happier - don't take our word for it - try Hotelogix free. The Hotelogix dashboard is intuitive and easy to learn for new staff Who is one mentor that has really helped you scale the business? That would be Shekhar Kirani, from Accel Partners (our investors). He is also on our board for quite a few years now. Shekhar has taught us that it is ok to make mistakes, fail and move on fast. The day and age is not suited for over analysing things to take decisions. He also taught us to how to think like a funded company, and the switch that needs to be made from the ‘boot strapped’ mind-set. Here are a few more things that we have learned from him – On hiring – If you need one sales person, hire three. Choose the best person for the job without losing time. If more than one of them turn out to be good, it is never considered as a bad investment. On our website that is expected to generate demand – The first fold of your home page is for humans, and rest is for Google. Look at your website from that perspective. Don’t overly spend time trying to beautify what pleases the human eye but has no bearing on Google. On any process, like mailers to be sent once a form fill is done on the website - Just copy the follow up mails from some service that is successful and don’t waste time recreating it.  On focus: Shekhar has also worked closely with us to bring in lot of focus in the way we think of the road ahead. This helps us choose the next two battles to win, rather than going all out and not winning anything. Hotelogix team building exercise  What's one commonly held belief that most hoteliers believe to be true in your niche that actually is false? For example: Hoteliers believe that revenue managers will lose their jobs when artificial intelligence gets good enough. I believe that artificial intelligence is going to make revenue management an even more valuable skill because it will take more insight and analytical rigor to stand out from the competition set in a data-driven world. Hoteliers are used to looking at PMS as a cost centre of the hotel. With the maturity of Cloud PMS, the paradigm has changed. A PMS should not be considered as cost, but as a system that will help them grow revenues and business. Also, for most hoteliers, deciding on PMS is an operational decision whereas I feel it should be more of a strategic decision.   What's the most surprising thing you've learned about scaling technology into hotels? The most important thing that I have learned is the difference between products for a vertical vs. horizontal industry. When you are looking at a vertical industry like hospitality, you can’t ensure a frictionless scale-up unless you understand the behaviour of even the housekeeping staff. It requires going deeper into the domain and environment. Another great learning is to choose the battles to fight. ‘Is this the right time to solve this problem?’ is one question to be answered. Gut feeling is important but scaling up needs data backing. Instinct should get things on the table for consideration, but one needs to get to data points to decide on it. Thirdly, support is the most critical aspect of serving a hotel. Even if the product is not evolving and innovating as quickly, one must spend disproportionate time trying to understand how you can be more effective in your support. Is there a company that has been a particularly good partner for you? Yes. We have been partnering with several third-party solution providers to help hotels leverage the power of cloud technology. Some of them have been quite important to us. They are - Vertical Booking Channel Manager - The integration we did with Vertical Booking was first-of-its-kind back then. It was a complete two-way integration to support very critical aspects of OTA distribution like contract allotment vs free sale. Vertical Booking also stood alongside as a robust solution and the integrated offering is still what our customers enjoy. This was the first channel manager integration with Hotelogix and our customers saw instant benefits in terms of nullifying double bookings, getting more OTA bookings, increasing revenue and many more. TripAdvisor Review Express - Review Collection automation, and ability to influence reputation from Hotelogix PMS was the perfect thing to happen. Hotelogix was mainly a solution positioned for independent hotels and we have always believed that reviews are a great leveller between independent hotels and brands. Our customers saw how Hotelogix and Review Express integration seamlessly improved their TripAdvisor ratings, that benefitted them in terms of better ARR and more bookings. Where do you see Hotelogix in 5 years? 5 years from now, I imagine Hotelogix to be a word that is synonymous with Cloud PMS. Hotelogix will be more like an Operating System for hotels, providing various services on top of its PMS platform. We will be a product that is associated with simplicity that drives great customer value. We will be known as a catalyst to this change of bringing about automation to the mid and small sized hotels, and driving the change from on-premise to cloud-based systems for running operations. More objectively, Hotelogix will be the largest Cloud PMS in the South Asia and Southeast Asia markets and will be in the top 3 leading products in developed geographies like the North American market. How will the property management system and overall hotel management software space change in the next 5-10 years? Today, Hotelogix is mainly serving semi-service and limited-service independent and group properties like Hotels, Resorts, Apart Hotels, B&Bs, Hostels and more. You will see specialized product offerings for these different property types. You will also see Hotelogix becoming a key player in anything that needs booking of a room/desk like corporate housing and co-working spaces. Hotelogix as a brand will become a ‘Gold Standard’ in the industry and will be adopted by hotel management institutes to train their students on PMS. Hotelogix will be that self-serving platform that a hotel business can get up and running within no time – where he can quickly subscribe, adopt and benefit from the solution. This means a lot more smaller hotels will be able to avail of our solution without having to go through adoption challenges that come with a new PMS. Hotelogix is highly passionate about small to mid-sized hotel businesses. For a very long time, this segment didn’t have access to great technology as service providers across the globe concentrated on the five starred community, like Opera and Travelclick. Things are changing now. Tech providers are focusing on this segment as adoption of technology lagged in this sector. The popularity of this segment has also been purely driven by market dynamics, where travelers are now choosing to stay in independents and smaller properties. So, it’s time to focus on enhancing the guest experience for such properties. The community should look at creating more services/products that are geared towards the guest. Treating them like 5-star guests by leveraging AI driven technology can be used to serve and monetize better.                                                    What are some of Hotelogix's recent product innovations that hoteliers should be aware of? Hotelogix has released its Developer platform. Using this, third parties can develop apps on Hotelogix. Our firm belief is that hotel brands will become more like consumer tech businesses (like Amazon), and each one of them would have technology at the forefront to drive their brand strategy. This would mean, giving them the flexibility to develop apps that are not necessarily provided by us or any vendor, but are customised to their needs. We have toyed with this approach and it has been adopted by a couple of customers. I think this is the ‘Uber’ effect that ‘PMSs’ can provide to brands. Additionally, we would like to promote our Mobile Developer Platform and see if the industry feels it is of value to them. What advice do you have for hotel tech entrepreneurs? It’s a fantastic industry to be in as long as you can empathize with hotels and their guest experience. Hoteliers and hospitality professionals are a very interesting bunch of people. They have many anecdotes to share as they deal with people from all walks of life. Sometimes, entrepreneurs looking to get into the hotel tech space need to be ready to wait it out, if they believe their product will bring value to hoteliers. Like, in the case of Hotelogix, we were clearly ahead of time when we released our Cloud PMS way back in 2009. But now, the environment is great and cloud PMS has emerged as one of the hottest pieces of hospitality technology. Make technology such that it can be seamlessly adopted. A hotel already deals with so many challenges that adoption of something new can become a bigger challenge. Generally, people in operations are the users of technology and your product needs to fit seamlessly in their lives.

Turning a serviced apartment stay into an experience

by
Lara Salomon

When it comes to turning a stay into an experience, it is easy to assume that hotels have the upper-hand. After all, they have the convenience of a wide array of full-time staff who get to see and interact with guests day-in and day-out. But that hardly means that serviced apartments are out of the running — they are in fact ideally placed to offer more than just a bed to sleep in, and in many ways may even find themselves at an advantage when it comes to offering what guests look for from a hospitality experience. What is it that turns a stay into an experience? “Who can really say what creates a memorable stay? It's often inconsequential things that one might recall about hotels, long after the brand of toiletry and corridor artworks have faded in the memory.” — Brian Johnston, Traveller Pinpointing what it is that turns a stay into an experience is no easy feat, but it is one that many have attempted. If you ask the community on Quora, it seems that a great experience is characterised by exceptional service, comfort and attention to detail. Anthony Melchiorri would tell you (and did tell Travel Market Report) that “you can have all the marble in the world and butler service, but if you have rude people that don’t take care of your needs, you don’t have anything.” Brian Johnston of Traveller would agree that “quirkiness, friendliness and character are, in this increasingly commercialised travel world, the greatest luxuries of all.” When it comes down to it, it seems that there are five characteristics that excellent experiences often have in common. Let’s have a look at each of them, and what gives serviced apartments the upper-hand for providing stays that guests will remember.   1. Uniqueness When it comes to hotels, it often doesn’t matter whether a guest is staying in a Hyatt in London or one in New York, they can expect the room, and the service, to be the same. Serviced apartments, on the other hand, find themselves at a great advantage for offering a different experience, often incorporating local culture, while still offering the creature comforts that guests look for. “Cookie-cutter hotels don't retain my interest for long, and don't create stories I can relate years later.... It's just a reminder that quirkiness, friendliness and character are, in this increasingly commercialised travel world, the greatest luxuries of all.” — Brian Johnston, Traveller When it comes to experiences, guests are often not looking for what makes a stay the same as every other, but what sets it apart. While some serviced apartments make efforts to keep their style consistent, and others aim to have each apartment reflect its own unique style, all can reflect the city in which they can be found. Two apartments in the same building can look worlds apart, making the experience in those two apartments different from the outset, or two apartments worlds apart can have the same basic features, while still incorporating local art or cuisine to make the experiences within them unique.   2. Comfort Soft sheets, feather pillows and carpets that anyone would want to sink their feet into are comforts that hotels and serviced apartments are both equally equipped to offer. But once again, serviced apartments have the opportunity to provide comforts that most hotels simply can’t afford — those of space and home comforts. It is rare to find a hotel that makes a guest feel at home — as luxurious as any hotel might be, it’s unlikely that guests will want to venture from their rooms barefoot, or feel that they can pop down to the restaurant for a quick cup of coffee in the middle of the night in their pyjamas. But these are things that a guest wouldn’t think twice about when staying in a serviced apartment, because they haven’t just been allocated a single room within a property — they have been given the run of an entire apartment. They may not be willing to venture outside of the apartment barefoot, but they don’t need to — everything that they need, from a space to sleep, to a kitchen that they can make coffee or a midnight snack in, to a couch on which they can put their feet up and watch whatever they choose, comes standard, without the need to leave the comfort of their own space. It’s this luxury of space and the availability of creature comforts that put serviced apartments in the perfect position to provide an excellent experience. When guests arrive at a serviced apartment, it’s already far more than just a place to rest your head. It’s a space to relax and make yourself at home.   3. People When it comes to serviced apartments, there’s often a tendency for staff to form more personal relationships with guests than they would be able to at a hotel, since those staff are often be the point of contact for everything that guests need, and serviced apartment staff are accustomed to forming relationships with guests who are frequently there for extended lengths of time. These more personal relationships benefit both staff and guests. Guests will feel better looked after, their needs taken care of without the inconvenience of trying to find the right person to speak to; while staff will have the opportunity to personalise the guests stay, accommodating their preferences and pre-empting their needs. “You can have all the marble in the world and butler service, but if you have rude people that don’t take care of your needs, you don’t have anything.” — Anthony Melchiorri, Travel Market Report But it’s not just the opportunity to form personal relationships with staff that gives serviced apartments an advantage when it comes to people and their role in turning a stay into an experience. One of the benefits that many serviced apartments offer are communal spaces — from laundries, to gardens, and more — which provide guests the opportunity to interact with each other, far more so than they would do if they were only passing each other in a hotel hallway. Guests’ visitors are also often made to feel more welcome in serviced apartments than they would be in hotels, as the increased space (and often multiple rooms) that a serviced apartment offers is more suited to entertaining than a hotel room.   4. Exceptional Service Because serviced apartment staff tend to become accustomed to building relationships with guests who are, on average, at the establishment for longer periods of time than hotel guests, a culture of personalised service, and appreciating guests as individuals (rather than the occupier of room 34 for the night) tends to develop in many serviced apartment properties. As George Westwell, director of Cheval Residences, describes, his staff have “the luxury of time to actually engage with guests, which most guests enjoy as well. It builds it almost into a friendship.” “One story that sticks in my mind was from a colleague who had worked in a major group hotel. On talking about her previous job, she said: ‘We're firefighting all the time. All the time there are guests coming in, so many problems occurring, that we didn’t really get a chance to engage with the guests. But here, at Cheval Three Quays, it's brilliant, because we’ve got so much time to engage with the guests!’ She told me about one guest who goes out at seven o'clock in the morning to get his cup of coffee and then always brings her back a cup and chats for five minutes.” — George Westwell, Cheval Residences Because serviced apartment staff get to know their guests over a longer period of time, they can be prepared to greet friends and family of the guests by name, welcome them with open arms, or even just acknowledge that they know who they are there to see. These are opportunities rarely afforded to hotel staff, simply due to the number of staff interacting with each guest on a daily basis, and the number of guests that staff interact with daily in turn.   5. Attention To Detail Sometimes it’s not big, earth-shattering, mind-altering moments that make for a great experience. Sure, going bungee jumping or seeing Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower for the first time would make a trip an experience to remember, but it’s often the moments in between that truly make an experience memorable, and it’s these moments that accommodation providers, and serviced apartment providers in particular, have the opportunity to provide. It’s attention to detail, from details about guests to details about the accommodations themselves, that sets serviced apartments apart. Attention to detail when it comes to guests goes back to having great people and providing exceptional service — the better opportunity that serviced apartments have to make note of personal preferences, and to form a relationship with guests provides them with the opportunity to pay closer attention to the details of a guests stay. It can mean making sure that a guest’s favourite coffee is waiting in his apartment on his return from a long day, noting which paper she prefers to read on her taxi ride and having it ready and waiting for her at reception, or having a vegan, gluten-free recipe at hand when a guest returns for dinner, because the cleaning staff noticed the lack of meat and bread in the kitchen. When it comes to the apartments themselves, attention to detail can mean making the style an experience in and of itself — a Victorian style to an apartment in London, for example, would provide a very different experience to an apartment with a modern feel, and it would be the details between them that would often set the two apart. Whether it’s about their unique style, the luxury of space and domestic comforts, the personal touch and exceptional service that the people who work there are able to provide, or attention to detail, because serviced apartments provide so much more than hotels in terms of accommodation and personalisation, they in turn have the opportunity to provide so much more in terms of experience.

How Adam Isrow and his team built GoConcierge into a global empire without venture funding or a marketing budget

by
Hotel Tech Report

What do you think of when asked to picture the founder of a dot com era startup founded in the year 2000?  I picture an arrogant and sharp elbowed hype man with an inflated ego who’s selling the dream of world domination and hockey stick growth.   Adam Isrow founded GoConcierge in the year 2000 during the heyday of epic dot com busts like Pets.com and Webvan but his story couldn’t be more different from his infamous peers.  If you got to trade your boss in for a new one - Adam is the kind of guy that everyone wants to work for. He’s humble and soft spoken yet firm and disciplined. While tech founders were out chasing exponential user growth in the early 2000s Adam was focused on the fundamentals.   Webvan stock chart from 1999-2001 shows the quintessential dot com bust   The GoConcierge story sits in stark contrast of companies like Webvan that were founded around the same time.  While his peers were busy seducing investors and big media with glitz - Adam focused on moderate, consistent and steady growth.  His character attracted a strong and loyal team solely focused on the elevated customer service that helped him build the GoConcierge business almost exclusively through word of mouth.   “Everyone wants some magic pill—some life hack—that eliminates the need to do the work. But that does not exist.” – Jocko Willink   Adam is not the kind of leader who looks for a magic pill.  His favorite book, Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink is a navy seal commander’s tale of humility, loyalty and discipline - three qualities that deeply characterize Adam’s leadership style. So how did Adam grow GoConcierge to more than 1,000 hotels globally without traditional venture funding? His background in the hotel industry is a huge piece of the puzzle.  While working in hotels Adam learned humility through dedicating himself to service.  The hospitality industry also taught him a deep sense of empathy that enabled him to develop technology that would become loved by even the least digitally savvy concierges. The teamwork he learned in the front office enabled him to attract and retain a team of loyal high performance contributors.  Adam’s story embodies the true spirit of hospitality in every way. While he personally considers work and service to be rewards in themselves, Adam’s years of dedication were recently validated when ALICE bought his firm GoConcierge for millions in 2017. What was your background prior to starting GoConcierge? Coming out of undergrad, I wanted both sales and management experience as a foundation to begin my career. Prior to starting GoConcierge, I had worked in hotel operations for a hotel in Los Angeles.  The goal was to turn around each department in the hotel and prepare the hotel for being sold. While overseeing guest services and ultimately the rooms division, I saw how much work the team was doing manually with logbooks and binders.  I thought if we could create a tool with a database of vendors and directions (this was pre Mapquest and Google Maps) and the ability to track activities, that it would enable our team to spend more time and attention on the guests. Just prior to launching GoConcierge, I worked for another technology startup focused on disseminating digital assets in the entertainment industry.   Once that company was sold, I was still intrigued by the Concierge tracking idea and while going back to earn my MBA during the dot com era, decided to launch GoConcierge.  Hard to believe that was back in 2000 and here we are today. What made you decide to jump in and start GoConcierge? After spending several years in hotel operations, I saw first-hand the importance of adding efficiencies where possible.  So much of the day-to-day operation in a hotel is manually driven and at the time, there were very few systems outside of the property management system.  We had created our own tools using Microsoft Access for yield management and also tracking any challenges throughout the operation. One night while talking with my partner, we discussed creating a database for vendors so that we could have a knowledge base of everything our guests were asking.  This way, no matter who was working, we could help the guest right away. I spent the evenings typing directions into each location since there was no Mapquest or Google Maps at the time. I felt it had to be extremely user-friendly and I remember having an amazing gentleman in guest services named, Frank, and he was in his 70’s and was not comfortable using a computer.  I remember thinking that if we could get Frank comfortable using this, we were onto something. Fortunately, Frank was able to use it and the team noticed that they were able to do their job better by having more information at their fingertips vs. having to look in logbooks and binders. Plus, I have terrible handwriting and if I wrote something in the logbook, there was a good chance others would not be able to read it.   Adam Isrow sold his business GoConcierge to ALICE in 2017 Who was GoConcierge’s first customer? Our first Customer was a Hyatt Hotel in Los Angeles.  I called several times and spoke to the Rooms Executive at the time and she was intrigued enough to allow me to present to her.  Fortunately for me, she understood the vision and she and her team believed that GoConcierge could enhance their day-to-day operation and ultimately the guest experience.  In addition to providing the application, I also guaranteed that I would provide exceptional support and would exceed expectations. I worked hard to earn trust and have her provide me with an opportunity. I felt if I could just get into a hotel like that, it would add credibility and help me gain additional hotels.     GoConcierge was acquired by ALICE in 2017 - how do the businesses work together today? We have created the first operations platform with a goal of going to our customers with a suite of services.  So often in hotels each department purchases their own applications. Therefore they operate as silos and most of the time and don’t communicate with each other.  We believe that there is significant value in providing one solution that can add value to multiple departments. The ALICE Platform has various modules including Concierge, Service Delivery, Messaging, Preventative Maintenance and Housekeeping.  Customers can pick and choose what is best for their property and because we have an open API, we can also facilitate integration between various systems.  Having one platform can provide cost savings to the hotel instead of paying setup fees and multiple subscriptions fees for multiple systems.  ALICE Concierge has a customizable database powered by Google Places and tracks all activities arranged for guests, creates personalized confirmation letters, itineraries, communicates with guest and team members via SMS and other platforms.  Using ALICE for service delivery, the property can dispatch requests such as towel delivery, challenges in the room and even manage preventative maintenance. ALICE provides a complete operational solution that will allow your team to provide a very personalized and exceptional guest experience. ALICE’s modern dashboard connects departments seamlessly   What's the biggest misconception that hoteliers have about technology? Perhaps the most common belief I used to hear was that the Concierge didn’t need an application because they could use Excel or their logbooks.  We obviously felt differently especially after spending time behind the desk and seeing the amount of work done manually and the importance of providing a tool to enable the team to be more efficient.  We believe the role of the Concierge should be in the center of the hotel operation since their work touches so many departments and has such a significant impact on the overall guest experience. A good Concierge team does the job so well that they make it look easy.  What is often not recognized or seen is the volume of work being done behind the scenes to deliver such a great guest experience. Investing in a tool allows the team to be more efficient and spend more time and attention on the guests. I believe the reason guests come back now is mostly because of the way the Concierge and other team members make the guests feel when they leave, more so than just having a beautiful hotel.  Without a tool such as ALICE, it is very difficult to be efficient and create that great guest experience. What's the most surprising thing you've learned about scaling technology into hotels since founding the business? In hospitality, we are a 24/7 operation and since we have customers around the world, there really is no downtime.  As we have scaled the company, in addition to our application, we remain keenly focused on our environment and optimizing the performance of the application for our users.  This is a major effort and something that requires focus for achieving results today and in the future, domestically and internationally. If you could partner with any vendor in hotel tech, who would it be and why? With respect to vendors to partner with, we believe the PMS provides a mutually beneficial opportunity.  The more integration we provide, the better we serve our customers. We are interested in speaking with any PMS that believes there is value in integrating ALICE to enhance its offering Where do you see ALICE in 5-years? We envision ALICE being the operations hub for the hotel. We are striving for that now and in the next 5 years, we want to realize our ambition of allowing all hotel staff to work effectively together and while enabling innovation around us. Ultimately, we want to provide a platform that is so widespread and so open that all innovation in the guest space can connect into it and hotel companies can deliver hospitality through it. We believe there should be full transparency where the guests can realize the same type of control and experience they love from other industries. How will the concierge software space change in the next 5-years? We believe that that Concierge will need to be connected to all departments throughout the hotel- like the hub of the operation.  Our customers will need as many efficiencies as possible to provide a high-level of service to the guest. We envision the Concierge department will have to be equipped to easily initiate requests for any department on behalf of guests. Do you have any new products or feature launches of late (or coming soon) that you'd like us to promote to our users? We are very excited to be developing our Room Assignment feature as part of our Housekeeping module.  We have gained first-hand knowledge from our customers and our team of hospitality experts about what the ideal solution would be and we are actively working on this right now.  Adding this functionality to our platform will allow us to achieve our vision of providing our customers with a complete solution for their operation and specifically, their largest department, Housekeeping. Is there anything that the community can do to be helpful for you? We are focused on interacting with other thought leaders to gain insight, share notes and collaborate together. We welcome the opportunity to connect with leaders that have grown and/or are building emerging technology.  We have a speaker series where we bring in leaders with various backgrounds from various industries to speak about successes and failures and learnings along the way. It would be great to have more thought leaders from the community share their experiences with our team. ALICE won Hotel Tech Report’s ‘2019 Best Places to Work’ in Hotel Tech competition   What's one piece of advice that you have for any entrepreneurs looking to get into hotel software? In any space it’s critical to surround yourself with the best possible team.  Specifically within this niche of hospitality technology be sure you fully understand how you can add value and be willing to adjust along the way.  The vision you start with may not be what you finish with. Be agile enough to shift when needed. What is the best book you've read lately and why? I really enjoyed reading Extreme Ownership: How Navy Seals Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.  This is a story about taking ownership and leading by example.  The story is told by two Navy SEALS and their life altering experiences in battle and how those lessons can be applied to both business world and your personal life. What is your favorite podcast? I like listening to The Tim Ferris Show and hearing his interviews with both business leaders and athletes. What is one thing that most people don't know about you? I did sports broadcasting in college and also am passionate about speaking to groups about my experience of working with the world’s finest hotels and Concierges and the impact of consistently delivering exceptional service.

Learn how Kevin Brown went from Guest Services Manager to Product Marketer at a $30B dollar hotel tech company in under 4 years

by
Hotel Tech Report

Working as a front desk agent at a hotel is insanely hard work.  Hotel guests have extremely high expectations: they want to be checked in fast, they want amazing service, a 24/7 smile and they want to be upgraded to the best room for free.  They want you to know everything about them but not too much that it’s creepy. They want friendly conversation but they don’t want you to talk too much. Check-in systems break down, reservations are lost, overbookings happen and so much more can go wrong that is completely out of your control.  All that said the buck stops with you as the front desk agent. Rarely will guests ever call your GM to tell them how great you were but they are quick to let your boss know when you’ve messed up in their eyes. So you’re frustrated and stressed behind the front desk - what do you do? If you’re anything like Kevin Brown you’ll find your passion and put in the work to follow your dreams.  Today Kevin Brown is a Product Marketing Manager at Amadeus Hospitality, creator of global hotel management software like Delphi Sales & Catering, HotSOS operations software and core GDS solutions for hotels.  Most front desk managers and housekeeping managers would think that Kevin’s role today is out of reach.  The good news is that your successful career as a technology executive is completely within reach. To get there you’ll need curiosity, outside the box thinking, self guided learning and lots of hard work while your colleagues are going out for drinks after their respective shifts.   Here at Hotel Tech Report we’ve recently documented similar career rises like how Matt Welle parlayed his role as a Hilton sales rep into becoming CEO at Mews Systems, one of the hottest technology startups in the hotel software space and creator of a leading property management system for hotels. “What I wish I understood far earlier in my hotel career is that the hotel and travel industry actually set the standards of service for every other industry out there. The skills you develop in hotels DO translate, and frankly what you learn about service in the hotel industry is cutting edge.” ~Kevin Brown Kevin began his career in hotels at the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, a property known for its sophisticated technology integrations and infrastructure.  While at the Cosmo, Kevin took every opportunity possible to learn about the technology under the hood of the hotel. His unquenchable thirst for knowledge led him into learning the intricacies of every system in the hotel and developing a clear understanding of what was working as well as what wasn’t.  Kevin took advantage of his role at the hotel to build relationships with technology companies, he became a power user of their products and they began learning from him as much as he was learning from them. When Kevin first met the Customer Experience Manager at Amadeus Hospitality he knew that’s where he wanted to be.  Kevin’s story is an incredible journey that demonstrates how you can leverage your role behind the front desk into a successful technology career so we interviewed him to learn tricks and tips for hoteliers who are thinking about a career in technology down the line.  Remember to build close relationships with your existing technology vendors, try lots of different technology products and never stop learning.   Can you tell us about your career background in hotels? My career in hotels is quite odd since I only worked in one hotel before I became a part of the tech industry.  I originally came from the marketing and production world of the music industry. It was by happenstance stumbled upon an opportunity at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.  During my time there I was able to hold almost every major departmental role in the hotel division; both traveler facing and back of house areas. What I enjoyed most about working in hospitality was the blending of so many cultures and nationalities and how much I could learn from people.  The only part I dislike about the hotel industry is that it is the most overworked and underappreciated industry. What every hotel industry professional has to go through and deal with on a day to day basis is astounding. To create memorable experiences for travelers is truly nothing short of extraordinary, and yet a majority of the time the only feedback hotel staff get from travelers is negative.  Many travelers do not get to peek into how much talent and effort goes into making their stay amazing, and I think hotel staff like room attendants and call center managers deserve recognition for that level of service.   What was one technology that you couldn't live without while working at the front desk? I could not live without any tech that automated my work processes and ability to quickly turn data into knowledge.  Manual process and effort is the absolute bane of our industry, and with the rapid evolution of traveler and group expectations for personalization and quick response times I do not know what I would’ve done without those empowerment tools. I was lucky enough that I was immediately introduced to technology the moment I stepped foot into the hotel industry, and I feel like I was exposed to cutting edge stuff like chatbots, task automation, and traveler profiling years before hoteliers even knew about it.  When the Cosmopolitan opened, the vision of tech integration was a key foundation to the success of the hotel's brand. What would you say is the most widely held misconception that hoteliers have about technology? I think the single biggest misconception is that hoteliers think the solution to their traveler personalization problems is to invest in traveler facing technology and create an omni-channel experience.  The biggest problem hoteliers face is actually their staff turnover. What is the point of having traveler facing technology, without experienced staff that have the right technology to empower them to deliver on the brand experience?  Your staff must always come first if you want to truly personalize and fulfill your brand promise. This means hoteliers need to balance their traveler facing and staff facing investments more effectively. Tell us about your journey from hotelier into the technology industry. I am 100% a geek and love keeping up with the future of technology.  Once I got into hotels, with an immediate exposure to technology, it became a goal of mine to inevitably work with hotel technology. When I was a customer many vendors just wouldn’t listen to the real pain points that my teams had.  Many vendors that I was exposed to were just trying to sell their technology without showing me what value they were bringing to solve an actual problem that we had.  I developed a strong point of view on what great vendors did and what bad ones did so that I could start adding value and also to help me identify where I’d ultimately want to work. When I met my CEM (Customer Experience Manager) with Amadeus, he and I struck a solid relationship that built over time into a really strong partnership.  When my CEM decided to get back into hotel operations, he asked me if I wanted to replace him. Every staff member I met from Amadeus was solely focused on solving problems for their customers.  After my interview with my soon to be leaders, and learning that almost every one of my teammates worked in hotels in the past, I knew I had found my new home. The rest is history! What was the most challenging part of moving from hotels into technology? There really was no challenge for me.  For me, the adjustment was so surreal to see how greener the side of this world is that suits my passions when compared to the constant, fast-paced nature of hotel operations in Las Vegas.  I have to admit, I am lucky beyond measure to let my inner geek out, travel, meet incredibly brilliant people I can learn from, and tell stories that have real meaning for our industry. You obviously loved Amadeus as a customer even before you worked there, what is it that stood out to you about the company? Hospitality is all about the human connection and a property’s ability to deliver positive experiences for guests. Amadeus’ technology solutions provide cloud-native capabilities for the Central Reservations System, Property Management System, Sales & Event Management, Business Intelligence, Media, Guest Management solutions, and Service Optimization. These solutions not only cover the entire life-cycle of a guests’ journey, but offer properties the added benefits of usability, functionality, and visibility into guest data. This represents a game changer for the industry, as venues commonly work with multiple technology vendors and have fragmented views of their guests. Imagine that you're going to open the hotel of your dreams tomorrow.  What kind of hotel would it be? My dream hotel to open would be independent, targeted at middle upper to luxury travelers.  It would be small with about 75-100 rooms in the heart of Chicago or Las Vegas that catered to music, art, and entertainment with a 40’s-50’s post modern flair.  I would also ensure that the property had tactful touches of advanced technology bordering on science fiction levels of experience. I would love to find the right way to bring back the big band era style of hospitality.  That post-modern design, and the elegance back then was so timeless. Pairing that timelessness with technology would really be unique in a market so saturated with the same kinds of offerings. I would name it The Indigo.  Not only do I enjoy the color, but indigo dye has a really interesting history and it was one of the largest influencers in the globalization of the world. From a technology perspective I would focus on building the hotel with the best infrastructure out there so it was future proof for the next 10 years like fiber lines, BLE, mesh sensors, and building management automation.  Otherwise, if I didn’t I would have to keep upgrading every other year or so which is so much more expensive in the long run. I would actually highly limit traveler facing technology, and be tasteful with what channels and tech travelers were exposed to.  I would then invest in the best staff facing development tools and technology money could buy to ensure that  my staff could work smarter and not harder. I believe staff should always come before the guest, so I would want make every effort to ensure my staff to have every tool they need to easily conduct their day, maintain building integrity, and have knowledge about any traveler they interact with to make the ecosystem engaging and meaningful for both staff and travelers we would host. What's one piece of advice you have for hoteliers who have dreams of working in technology one day? Surprisingly, there are many hospitality tech vendors out there in the world with a majority of staff that have never worked for a hotel a day in their lives.  Because of this problem, I think we actually need more hoteliers to move into the tech space than ever before. Thankfully with Amadeus, I am surrounded by decades of hotel experience between my teammates, but almost everyone I work with shared a similar sentiment when they were in hotel operations. Many hoteliers think the moment the work in a hotel, they are sucked into a vacuum of an industry they cannot get out of, and that their skills cannot translate to other industries because travel is so specific.  What I wish I understood far earlier in my hotel career is that the hotel and travel industry actually set the standards of service for every other industry out there. The skills you develop in hotels DO translate, and frankly what you learn about service in the hotel industry is cutting edge. It takes years for other industry sectors to adopt hotel industry best practices, so you have more to your advantage than you think. What's one podcast, newsletter or book that you recommend hoteliers read if they'd like to eventually move into tech? Read everything by Malcolm Gladwell.  Blink, The Tipping Point, David and Goliath, read all of his stuff. His work opened my mind to new perspectives about how to help others, learn, and gain a greater understanding about what it means to be in service to others. Hospitality is about engaging with people, and dealing with human problems.  There is no uniqueness to the problems hoteliers face every day. Travel technology needs as much humanity as possible because travel is all about connecting with a place, with people, and with yourself. What is your favorite hotel in the world? As much as I have thought about this, I honestly cannot pick a favorite hotel in the world.  It is just too hard because every great hotel I have stayed at has always offered something different that I enjoy.  Each one stands out in its own way. However, I can say this: I think the best hotels in the world are the ones that anticipate my behavior and needs based on what they know about me, especially if they greet me by using my name. What is the most exciting technology you've seen in the hotel tech space that is not built by your own company? Why? Mesh networks and beacon technology.  I think that is one of the most impressive future hardware developments not only for hospitality, but for the world.  While it is an extremely fine line – where many data collectors have pushed the creepy line to the edge with tech like this – I think that mesh network and beacon technology can truly enhance the lives of travelers and consumers alike. What is one thing that most people don't know about you? I am an identical twin.