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
Revenue Management Software Articles
In our Product Deep Dive series, we go deep into one solution to help hoteliers evaluate and assess the best software for their specific situations. Among the growing number of revenue management tools, IDeaS has established itself as one of the world’s top revenue management systems. Its flagship IDeaS G3 RMS processes 100 million revenue-enhancing decisions each day across 1.6 million rooms, translating rich data inputs into a dynamic revenue engine for peak profit performance. Here are 6 of the features of the IDeaS G3 system that we most certainly can’t live without. #1: Demand-based pricing by room type One of the latest IDeaS G3 RMS features allows revenue managers to yield by room type. For example, let’s say the system detects a spike in demand for the “deluxe double” room type. It will automatically increase the price for that room type -- without also boosting prices on other room types. Yielding by room type unlocks a purer yield management approach, with rates priced according to guest demand and price sensitivity for specific room types, rather than simple attributes or inflexible rules. This reduces the burden of manually yielding across multiple room types, says Angelo Fernandes, SVP for Terranea Resort: “This technology has enabled us to look at inventory by type or segment and actually make decisions to yield room types uniquely across different channels. Terranea is very unique, with 582 keys and a mix of rooms, suites, villas, casitas, and bungalows. IDeaS helped us understand pricing, availability, and demand for each room in order to optimize profitability.” The demand-based pricing approach gives revenue managers a more accurate, holistic view of a hotel’s demand profile. Automation ensures that each room type is priced appropriately for the demand, which yields the most profitable business mix. Sometimes dynamic room-type pricing can be unintuitive, says Fernandes, where smaller rooms are actually priced higher than larger, more premium ones. But it’s all based on actual demand rather than instinct or historical performance. “Effectively, each room type has its own BAR, so we’re now selling more rooms at the correct rate, and we’re also avoiding overbooking a certain room type and then having to move guests to a bigger room.” The IDeaS RMS “at a glance” dashboard #2: Virtual Revenue Management Service (VRMS) Most hoteliers feel under-resourced. Yet, smaller properties are naturally at a disadvantage when it comes to resources -- especially independents that find themselves in direct competition with “soft” brands that don’t directly rely on their parent company’s identity. These brands appeal to a different cohort than the majors, while still taking advantage of the parent’s revenue management expertise. That’s not to say that brand-affiliated hotels don’t also feel the squeeze when it comes to finding resources to devote to revenue strategy. IDeaS set out to solve this issue for any hotel, with its Virtual Revenue Management Service. VRMS helps hotels accelerate their revenue strategy by assigning an industry revenue expert to work directly with hotel staff—no matter the business objective, resource mix or skill level. The three phases of VRMS align hotel management and staff around the techniques and habits of a revenue-focused culture. With the end goal of establishing clear standard operating procedures around revenue optimization, VRMS ensure that hotels of all kinds benefit from the revenue management revolution. #3: Ideal Pricing delivers continuous pricing Automation is at the core of the IDeaS approach to revenue management. Through artificial intelligence and machine learning, it makes precise revenue management decisions that most revenue managers would never be able to see. Ideal Pricing uses deep market intelligence, such as search penetration, competitor rates, booking trends, and reputation scores, to intelligently forecast demand and power a continuous pricing model. The automated system prices room types at the ideal rate for a given product and set of guestroom attributes. The ideal pricing model intelligently prices by day or length of stay, while also allowing hotels to price within a range or set specific price levels for certain attributes. Revenue managers can link products to BAR or independently price as agile rates to dynamically flex products based on unique demand and attributes. The best part of this is that it all happens in real-time and in the background, so revenue managers can focus on tactics and strategy rather than manual data entry. The AI-powered analytics recognize relationships between all rates and segments, continuously making the smartest pricing decisions based on the latest information. With Ideal Pricing, hoteliers achieve peak profitability decoupled from a traditional rates-based framework. #4: Support before, during, and after implementation It’s a common refrain here at HTR: customer support is always a core consideration when evaluating new partners for your hotel. Poor support can scuttle even the most advanced product; without knowledgeable resources available before, during, and after the implementation, a tool risks failing due to low adoption and minimal integration into existing processes. IDeaS sees itself as an ally in implementation, and, as a result, provides robust implementation support that supports a hotel’s efforts to nurture a sustainable revenue culture. The clear plan is to train staff at the outset, as well as through continuous learning so that everyone has the tactical knowledge necessary to get the most of your chosen software. This includes how to read reports and what actions to take action based on those reports. #5: Rate publishing tool Most hotels realize that all distribution channels are not created equal. For peak profit performance, the highest value booking at the lowest acquisition cost. Individual channel performance, plus overall channel mix, equals the optimal revenue strategy. To achieve the optimal mix, hotels need a rate publishing tool that consistently and accurately updates rates across all chosen channels. This Functionality is integrated into the workflow, making it simple and easy to publish rates across channels. No more logging into multiple extranets and manually entering the same information multiple places. It’s all about working smarter and more strategically. Hotels also realize that there’s a trust issue when it comes to rates appearing equal across channels. Rate parity breeds confidence, and an integrated rate publishing tool empowers hotels to build that confidence through seamless rate management. The Demand360 view highlights the competitive market data alongside your hotel’s forecast and decisions. #6: Limited Data Build functionality Launching a new hotel is both an exciting and challenging time. It's a fresh slate to serve a new segment or expand in an existing market. The freshness also poses a problem for revenue management: Without any historical data, how should a hotel be properly priced in its early days? Pricing affects positioning; getting the pricing wrong can alter demand and consumer perception. The Limited Data Build feature addresses this existential issue for new hotels. To forecast demand in the early days, IDeaS will clone data from existing hotels with similar business mixes to provide baselines for demand and predicted guest behavior. One new brand in Germany, Me and all, found that the baseline data helped beat its ADR expectations by 15% in the first half year. “Up until now, one of the biggest problems has been forecasting how a new business will unfold. Normally, we rely heavily on a hotel’s historical market data besides examining the public price points of other hotels to get a feel for the market. On this occasion, however, there was a bigger knowledge gap to fill. -Monika Sand, Corporate Manager Revenue at Lindner Hotels AG Bonus! Lucky #7: Smart Space The complexity of managing revenue grows exponentially when adding groups and meetings to the mix. For larger hotel groups, there may be an additional layer of communication between a centralized revenue management team and property-level sales managers. SmartSpace is a dynamic cloud-based strategy application that provides a revenue-focused visual analysis of meetings-and-events trends and performance. Thanks to more intelligent analysis, hotels can finally optimize revenue on key demand days by using detailed demand profiles to price more strategically. The SmartSpace Functionality guides hotels on forecasted demand, performance trends, market competitiveness, and pricing strategy. Through data and visualizations, it provides a guide to pricing decisions, as well as prioritization of RFP responses. Demand-level data can also reveal patterns across many meeting room types, to reveal which rooms are most popular and which were underutilized. These patterns inform the optimal configuration of those event spaces to ensure that supply meets demand. For instance, rarely-used rooms could be combined or repurposed to better suit the needs of today’s event and meeting organizers. “Smart Space makes it a lot easier for us to study our booked and lost business and better prioritize sales team efforts,” said Christine. “To be able to pull vast sums of relevant data and see that presented in an intuitive and consumable format is such an advantage. It’s the first step of some very exciting progress we’re seeing in meetings and events.” -Christine Wassell, director of revenue optimization for Radisson Hotel Group
Back in September we were excited to see RLH Corporation partner with data integration firm Hapi to streamline connectivity and be one of the first hotel brands to embrace a truly open technology architecture. Since then, the company’s tech stack has grown to include companies such as IDeaS Revenue Solutions, Monscierge, Oracle, and CRM and CRS platforms, among others. The benefit of an open architecture is that 3rd parties can seamlessly plug in to systems with very little time or cost associated with implementation. This mentality in theory should allow RLH Corporation to become a lean hotel company with capabilities to quickly experiment and iterate with new technologies with minimal upfront investment - a critical ingredient for innovation. Our optimism, however, has been somewhat paired back with the recent announcement of RLabs by RLH Corporation, a “technology-based innovator that houses and builds on the groundbreaking technology platform the company has created.” 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 and trying to hock it to independent hotels? RLH Corporation is taking a cue and is instead opting to monetize the tech stack they have already compiled (and that has proven successful for nearly 1,500 franchised hotels), by offering it to other hotels as an independent solution. From our conversations with RLHC management, the firm wants to offer its support infrastructure, preferred pricing and instant integrations to independents. The firm has not yet scaled up its customer service infrastructure to support additional independents so it is to be seen whether they will be able to support a larger volume of support requests. RLHC has also indicated that it is still negotiating with it's tech vendors to secure preferred rates for independents which would effectively turn Red Lion Hotels Corp into a technology reseller. There are certainly reasons to believe that technology companies wouldn't want RLHC to mark down their products and resell them to non-franchisees. The instant integrations component is interesting and RLHC management told Hotel Tech Report that the firm was able to switch from the Serenata hotel CRM platform to Cendyn's eInsight in under 90 days with no interruptions - a feat that usually takes months to implement. Migrating a hotel CRM is complicated because it involves so much sensitive data - so this is a promising value proposition if it can be delivered at scale. We believe that when hotel brands try to build tech in house it ultimately brings them into precarious waters for 3 key reasons: It distracts management from their core business They lack the resources to compete with pure play technology companies Hotel brands usually underestimate the ongoing effort required to maintain and scale a technology business (let alone multiple business lines and products) Views or opinions in this article are not intended to malign any organization, company, or individual. These views are intended to highlight an important debate in the hotel community about whether hotel brands should build technology in house. Statistics and data have been pulled from publicly available information and the opinions stated are the views of the author. Running a public company is no easy feat and for every public company CEO there are 1,000 critics. Our intention with this article is not to become number 1,001 but rather to leverage our position to start a meaningful conversation intended to course correct the industry and ultimately add value for hotel organizations, guests and shareholders alike. Reason #1: When non-tech focuses on tech they get distracted from their core businesses When non tech companies start to build tech in house they tend to get distracted and RLHC's stock chart certainly seems to support that argument. Presumably RLHC has been gearing up for the launch of RLabs for the last 6 months and during that period it’s stock has dramatically underperformed Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt losing more than 36% of its market value. Red Lion Hotels Corporation has dramatically underperformed its peers leading up to the launch of RLabs (Yahoo) While we certainly understand that there are other factors involved in RLHC’s recent stock performance - last 6 months results compared to its peers fire a warning shot to RLHC investors and franchisees about management focus. Adding fuel to the fire, a 36% decline in stock price is likely to raise flags with activist investors. If RLHC isn't able to turn around results, management will be forced by investors to cut costs and the first cuts would hit non-core business expenses. So what do you think would happen to RLabs' under that scenario? Not only that, but if the RLabs budget gets cut (or it becomes a complete write-off) what do you think happens to their hotels using the software or other independents they sold to (assuming they were able to convince anyone other than their hotels to buy it). Needless to say, they are in precarious waters. If an activist investor or private equity firm became involved in RLHC, RLabs would certainly be a contender for the chopping block leaving franchisees and any independents that bought its software on the hook. Reason #2: 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. While it’s great to see a hotel company like RLHC interested in technology and we commend them for the intention, there appears to be some severely flawed strategic reasoning here. RLH has grossly underestimated the resources required to compete with tech companies and hasn’t properly analyzed feasibility of the project. At the time of writing, RLHC’s market capitalization hovers around $200M - there are many independent hotels with single property valuations in excess of the entire RLHC company. In 2018 RLHC achieved $2M in net income, even if the firm was to invest every penny of that into RLabs - that number is less than the monthly technology investments made by many hotel tech companies. To put this in perspective, IDeaS is the revenue management software company of choice for RLHC 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 RLHC can afford the spend levels to develop one competitive product let alone multiple product lines that compete with a myriad of different specialist software businesses. Reason #3: Technology is not a static good and 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 so it’s ~65x bigger than RLHC 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. RLHC TripAdvisor reviews show what happens when hotel companies don’t renovate their product frequently enough, the same happens with software. 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 own version of RLabs. 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” The thesis with Accor was actually pretty similar to RLHC and in our opinion was actually even more compelling for independents. 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. RLHC isn’t even promising distribution - in many ways the RLHC offering isn’t clear at all. In the same article Hotel Management reports that RLHC aims to sell technology to independents and also use the same software vendors that independents use. “RLab’s is focused on creating travel technology and products like RLH’s RevPak revenue-management software. RLabs eventually will develop more elaborate technology for hotels including robotics and artificial intelligence...RLH said it uses technology currently accessible by most independent hotels for revenue management, channel management and global sales” ~Hotel Management RLHC has publicly stated that it partners with IDeaS for it’s massively popular revenue management software and based on this introductory video about RevPak on RLHC's YouTube channel - RevPak isn’t actually revenue management software but a data warehouse that integrates data from their 3rd party vendors (this warehouse, too, now seems to be outsourced to Hapi so it’s unclear whether RLHC is building anything unique in house at all). So RLHC is actually using the same systems that independents are using - what unique value will RLabs offer them? Adding to the confusion, RLabs claims to be working on a housekeeping robot. Hardware and robotics are entirely separate businesses from software and distribution - again indicating a lack of focus or intention with RLabs that will likely lead to subpar results. 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, RLabs is likely to go the way of the Room Key booking platform and other projects where hotel companies chased higher multiples by attempting to call themselves “tech companies.” 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 like RLHC stay focused. Unfortunately RLHC has lost 36% of its value in the last 6 months and we expect this trend to continue while focus on the core hotel business is blurred by the shiny new RLabs. This should be deeply concerning for investors and franchisees alike. 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. RLHC and its peer 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. 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 Map out clear technology systems required to deliver on core business goals and all potential providers Lay foundational infrastructure for open systems and clean data (e.g. to RLH’s credit, their partnership with Hapi is a good first step) Design scalable processes to constantly beta test competitive products in the market and identify new products that can drive core business goals. 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. 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 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. For hotel companies like RLHC 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.
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.
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.
Many academics spend their careers publishing research on obscure topics distributed via infrequently read academic journals but Daniel Kahneman and Dr. Ravi Mehrotra break from that mold. Kahneman’s seminal work “Thinking, Fast and Slow” not only won him a Nobel Prize and the title “Father of Behavioral Economics” but has impacted the entire way humanity understands the world around us. In the book, Kahneman breaks down human cognition into two modes which he calls System 1 and System 2. System 1 refers to fast, instinctive and emotional processing of information. System 2 is slower and more logical. Kahneman uses empirical observation to show areas where humans are particularly bad at making critical decisions due to tendencies from System 1. He discovered a set of rules we have developed to help make fast decisions —he calls these rules “heuristics” (or biases). One such heuristic is the hot-hand fallacy. This bias occurs when a person who has experienced luck with a random event becomes more likely to believe that luck will ensue with future outcomes. Think of your friend who made money on Bitcoin and then blew their earnings chasing Ethereum during the crypto crash. Or maybe your friend who rode the slots all the way up and then all the way back down during your last Vegas trip. We developed the hot-hand fallacy as a cognitive shortcut to help us make quick decisions when required for survival. For decisions that require more thought — this heuristic often leads to poor decision making. Decades before Kahneman’s work went mainstream, a young Carnegie Mellon doctoral student noticed these biases were causing businesses to lose billions of dollars each year — enter Dr. Ravi Mehrotra. Mehrotra went on to become a professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering at North Carolina State University but couldn’t shake the problems he discovered as a young doctoral student. In 1989 Mehrotra left his successful career as a professor and set out to change the way companies make pricing decisions using data and predictive models. Many innovators fail because their inventions are ahead of their time. Ravi is unique in that his invention was before its time, but through determination, patience and tenacity he has been able to persevere and has achieved unbelievable commercial success. Today Dr. Mehrotra's firm, IDeaS revenue solutions, is the world’s largest revenue management software company with more than 10,000 clients, and Ravi is still at the helm. IDeaS is not just a technological pioneer but has perfected a customer first approach at massive scale. IDeaS was recently awarded the most beloved company in hotel technology by its clients, and it was an honor to sit down with Ravi to learn from his experience and intuition. Ravi’s story is an inspiration for academics, entrepreneurs, managers and hoteliers alike. Find out why Ravi thinks that hoteliers make tech decisions when it’s too late, how chess made him a better entrepreneur and more in this exclusive interview. IDeaS Founder Dr. Ravi Mehrotra What was your background prior to starting the company? After receiving my doctorate degree from Carnegie Mellon University, I started my university career as a professor in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at North Carolina State University where I worked on pioneering models for parallel computing and algorithms for distributed processing based on data science and artificial intelligence. I became very interested in exploiting the power of data science to make better business decisions. Data science could be used to improve our problem-solving abilities by helping us explore new ideas and acquire greater knowledge through the collection, analysis and interpretation of data. What made you decide to leave your prestigious academic career and create IDeaS? I found it confounding that most companies were relying on guesstimates and gut feelings to make important business decisions. Complex decisions in any business encompass far too many variables for the human mind to comprehend and analyze. I was convinced the amount of available data and the ability to process it with machines would continue growing exponentially, whereas human brain processing capacity is limited. As a result, I became passionate about applying mathematical and scientific reasoning, as well as quantitative data analysis and optimization, to support complex decision-making in business, removing ambiguity and improving speed and accuracy. This led to the establishment of IDeaS (Integrated Decisions & Systems, Inc.) in 1989 that began a journey to change the revenue management industry from a culture that largely depended on gut feelings and heuristics in decision-making to a culture that was much more objective by combining the power of data, advanced mathematics and sophisticated technology. We pioneered the “opportunity cost” approach that provided a simple yet optimal way for the practical determination of asset availability and pricing that later became the industry standard for dealing with the complexities of the network or length-of-stay effects in hotel revenue management. Who was your first customer when starting the business? We initially focused our software development efforts on the airline industry. Our first client, Northwest Airlines—later acquired by Delta—chose IDeaS to provide the world’s first network optimizer for airline revenue management. When we transitioned our successful applications to the hospitality industry, our first client was Hilton International. We convinced them and other early clients to work with us based on a scientific estimation of the benefits they would achieve from our partnership. The benefit estimations were derived using a forecasting and simulation workbench—a computer simulation of the real-world yield management environment we had developed. The simulation environment capabilities permitted our early hotel clients to vary any or all inputs to the yield management system. By creating a study of what can happen if certain changes were made in the assumptions about the marketing environment, we were able to provide objective estimates of the revenue improvement that can be achieved. Most massive companies lose touch with their customers, how has IDeaS been able to please customers at such a massive scale? IDeaS empowers hoteliers with revenue science, driving greater profitability and productivity by infusing sophisticated, integrated technologies with deep hospitality industry knowledge. We are a proactive partner, balancing a relentless pursuit of innovation with a client-first mentality. Our automated solutions simplify the complex and transform data into precise pricing and forecasting decisions hotels can count on. With 30 years of expertise and over 10,000 clients in 124 countries, we are the world’s leading and most trusted provider of revenue management software and services. Read what IDeaS clients are saying about the product You’ve worked with literally tens of thousands of hoteliers over the years, what’s the most common mistake you see hoteliers making today? 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." What's the most surprising thing you've learned about scaling technology into hotels? Since forming IDeaS in 1989, there have been many dramatic changes to the hospitality business, but I have continually been surprised by the speed of change in critical technology systems, such as the CRS and PMS. While there has always been a focus on the technologies surrounding the guest experience, the rate of change at the core operational level for the hotels has been very slow. This reticence to change, on one hand, is understandable, but it undeniably has become an area holding the hotels back, especially across the complex ownership structures. Ultimately, reticence to change makes it difficult for hoteliers to take advantage of opportunities to grow revenue the proper way. At IDeaS, our lifeblood has always been the data and the quality of the data provided from those systems. The faster hoteliers adapt to change, the more they will be able to drive revenue-enhancing decisions across their internal department silos and create real business-impacting changes to their revenue picture. The most exciting thing, though, is that this picture is actively changing for the better. Hotel technologists are embracing more modern ways to construct their software, which will make it easier to avoid being locked into a specific technology or approach. Hotel tech is a tight knit community and vendors are constantly developing partnerships with companies who have built complementary products. Is there a company that has been a particularly good partner for IDeaS? We have enjoyed many outstanding partner relationships over the years that have been instrumental to our growth. One partner, in particular, comes to mind for their ability to drive innovation in the space so quickly. OTA Insight has been fantastic to work with due to their approach on scaling their breadth across the industry and their willingness to be part of some incredibly thought-provoking conversations. If you could partner with any vendor in hotel tech, who would it be and why? I can’t say there is just one partner we would target, partly because we are partnering or in conversations with so many great vendors in this space. However, I will say we look for partners that have three very focused objectives in their respective space: 1. Integration ease across critical property systems 2. The ability to scale their solutions quickly 3. A strong focus on client and customer success These three elements are core to our business, and it’s these elements that will enable IDeaS, and our partners, to drive the industry forward. Where do you see IDeaS revenue solutions in 5-years? I can’t help but be excited about the future for IDeaS, whether it is next year, five years or another 30 years in the future. By our estimation, there are still hundreds of thousands of hotels, meetings & events venues and car parks going without the power of automated, science-based revenue management solutions. Our immediate goal is to show the hospitality and travel industry, in tangible ways, how revenue science can empower their business success and growth. I believe IDeaS will be at the center of the largest global commercial evolution between sales, marketing, distribution and revenue management we have seen yet. What are the biggest disruptive changes that you expect in the revenue management software space over the coming years? I’m no Nostradamus, but there are quite a few areas ripe for disruption. In my opinion, there are two main areas we will see a major category shift in the next five years. First, I believe automation in day-to-day revenue management will become standard, resulting in a higher-order shift of the revenue manager and leaders’ roles. This is especially true when we deal with inevitable market upturns, and most importantly, downturns. The sheer number and complexity of the daily decisions a revenue leader must make will exceed their capacity, driving them to rely on intelligent automation to ensure they remain competitive in a fast-paced market. Second, revenue management concepts will continue to spread across more segments in the guest’s total trip compilation, from the time they start searching online to the time they are reflecting on their memories and preparing to plan the next trip. All of this layers together to show that revenue management will be a major hub, if not the major driver, between marketing, distribution and sales systems. I think we will see players in complementary areas start to link themselves together to drive a more direct connection to revenue, while delivering the right price to the right person at the right time. What are some of the most interesting features that IDeaS is pioneering today? Our commitment to innovation and elevating what’s possible for our clients drove us to create a feature called Agile Rates. The industry is shifting away from pricing products in isolation. Agile Rates provides the ability to dynamically price and distribute key linked or independent products for the wider market or specific guest micro-segments while maximizing profitability of all priceable products. This technology offers hotels—especially resort and all-inclusive properties—the ultimate flexibility to personalize rate plans and deliver a customer-choice driven shopping and buying experience. Agile Rates empowers hoteliers to transform their pricing strategy through multiple dimensions of demand, guest behavior and product attributes to build the most relevant and unique price and product for each guest. Who is one person that has changed the way you see the world? Many have influenced how I think, and I’ve learned from so many successful business leaders, but nothing is more important and influential than self-confidence and belief in oneself. The one person who has influenced me the most and shaped how I think is my favorite mathematician and scientist, Albert Einstein. What really helped me in taking this business to the next level was understanding what Einstein meant when he said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” A large part of making any business a success relies on a willingness to take chances and our ability to come up with new ideas before anyone else. And, above all, never give up being curious, and remember, “You never fail until you stop trying.” What advice do you have to entrepreneurs and executives in this space? The best thing the hotel technology community can do is to remain curious and continue exploring and innovating. We must always strive to find better, faster ways to integrate systems and create more streamlined data exchanges. The more we do this, the more we can transform data into knowledge and make even smarter decisions that simultaneously create better guest experiences and grow our businesses. What's one piece of advice that you have for any entrepreneurs looking to get into the hotel tech space? Four words: LISTEN TO YOUR CLIENTS. Starting a business that serves the hotel industry is a huge undertaking. You have to be in it for the long term because this is a journey that won’t always move in a linear direction. But if you’re always there for your clients, listening to them and creating solutions to better serve their needs, they’ll stick with you in return. What is the best book you've read lately and why? SWITCH by Chip and Dan Heath. This book is all about managing change. It does a great job of reminding us that in order to innovate toward the future, we must continue to lay a clear path to avoid constraining ourselves with how things were in the past. What is one thing that most people don't know about you? I love the game of chess and have been known to play multiple games simultaneously. I find that strategy in chess translates very well to strategy in business. In both, you must always try to imagine all possible outcomes and plan accordingly, considering all your resources, before making each move—all while keeping an eye on the clock and, of course, playing to win.
The buck stops with the hotel’s general manager. The GM is responsible for anything and everything to do with a property’s operation. However, a hotel that manages a stellar guest experience does not necessarily make money. It may be cliché, but it's true: a hotel is only as good as its weakest link. All parts of the operation must run well -- which is why the general manager role is often seen as the most stressful. The general manager is responsible for managing the entire team, including but not limited to: revenue, marketing, operations, sales, and finance. GMs also must manage up to ownership and down to guests. With these many moving pieces, the role of a GM can be overwhelming even during the calmest periods on property -- but it doesn’t have to be that way. GMs who leverage the right technologies can access key metrics on a dime when their owners call on a whim, recruit top talent when turnover is on the rise and understand changing guest preferences in a rapidly changing market. Here’s how to make your daily life simpler, more successful, and far less stressful. GMs can leverage next generation tools to gain realtime insights, no calculations required Operational efficiency and profitability are the core metrics that measure the effectiveness of hotel GMs. These measures of success are intertwined: strong operations generally leads to healthy profitability. Success as a General Manager means understanding not just which metrics to measure, but also what the metrics say about the hotel. Metrics help GMs identify areas for improvement, ideally before those areas become problematic. In fact, a GM’s primary responsibility is to monitor metrics and proactively make changes to keep the operation running at peak performance. Yet, it’s not so simple for a GM to know which metrics matter most, how to calculate them, and what to do with the resulting analysis. For the GM focused on profitability. Great GMs are laser-focused on Gross Operating Profit Per Available Room (GOPPAR). GOPPAR combines revenue generation with operational efficiency to keep a real-time pulse on a hotel’s heartbeat. GMs need familiarity with finance and accounting software to align revenue coming in with expenses going out. Absolute metrics like GOPPAR can be difficult to put in perspective. Proper benchmarking is a hallmark of a well-run hotel. Not only is it important to track progress towards performance goals internally, but it's also a best practice to benchmark against a competitive set of similar hotels using rate shoppers. A direct booking tool can reduce a hotel’s reliance on third-party demand (and the related commissions). Coupled with the expertise of a digital marketing agency or internally managed metasearch and ad technology, a hotel GM can boost Net Revenue per Available Room (NRevPar) -- a measure of how profitability a hotel distributes its inventory. For the GM focused on productivity. A GM that spends hours in spreadsheets tracking all of these important benchmarks is poorly positioned to thrive. Business intelligence software tracks performance and reports in real time while providing valuable benchmarking data to put the numbers in perspective. As guests turn to messaging, hotels must apply technology that manages incoming requests across channels. Whether it's on the guest’s personal device, an in-room tablet or even via voice, a guest messaging platform unites incoming requests into actionable threads for hotel staff. This improves staff efficiency, reduces redundant customer service, and makes the guest happier -- all daily priorities for a hotel GM. For the GM focused on operational efficiency. Even the most seasoned GMs struggle to build and maintain a balanced operation that is highly efficient without negatively impacting the guest experience. The property management system is a GM’s best friend. It sits at the core of a hotel’s operations, pulling in data from across a hotel’s technologies to provide the GM a comprehensive real-time view. Whether it's guest-facing things, such as reservations and check-ins, or operational tasks, such as tracking clean rooms and maintenance requests, the PMS is the single source of truth for a GM. As such, it really is the most important technology to get right. It must work well with a hotel’s tech stack, and be easy-to-use for a hotel’s staff, as it will be used around the clock by on property staff. GMs should use tech to optimize team efficiency and recruit new rockstars As one of the top expenses for a hotel, GMs must stay focused across all departments to deftly manage labor costs.. Ignore at your peril! Depending on size, some hotels may benefit from segmenting according to the department. That way trends can be seen and acted on at the departmental level, rather than hotel-wide. The first step to consistent, predictable labor costs is cross-departmental collaboration. By working with department heads, a GM can identify root causes of labor overages and analyze where technology may improve performance by adding more predictability to a hotel’s labor costs. Alongside establishing clear expectations for performance for specific roles, GMs must set standards for evaluating employees fairly and equitably. By setting realistic-but-reach goals that both inspire at the individual level and create accountability within the broader team, a GM positions her team for success. These performance goals can be set, managed and adjusted through staff task management software, as well as guest messaging software. Housekeeping management software eliminates paper headaches from your housekeeping process. With real-time room updates and performance tracking, room turnovers are faster and with greater adherence to brand standards. Keeping track of both new and existing guest requests has always been a weak point in a hotel’s operation. Miscommunication leads to failed fulfillment or double-work. Staff task management software keeps staff aligned and communicative while creating an audit trail for a GM. The mobile nature of the GM job also means that tasks need to be assigned on the fly. This software makes it possible. Software can help GMs understand changing guest needs to deliver better experiences and increase ADR An efficient operation must also be an effective one. To ensure that your operation is both efficient AND effective, benchmark your hotel’s reputation to both itself and its comp set. Use reputation management software to track progress, celebrate wins, and encourage staff to take ownership of improving the average guest rating. This is a soft KPI for performance across all departments, so it requires a holistic approach from a GM. An upward trend indicates strong staff performance and usually demonstrates that the GM is being effective in building ownership and culture across departments. A hotel’s revenue is directly correlated to its reputation. Since reputation management software simplifies the process of responding to reviews, it makes staff more efficient and effective. For a time-pressed GM, the software makes it much easier to stay on top of review and reputation trends. By solving small problems before they grow, a GM benefits from rapid identification of any slippage in the guest experience. Average Daily Rate is a simple benchmark to track revenue and identify potential issues before they get off track. There is a direct correlation between guest experience and ADR. GMs control ADR by working closely with revenue management to survey the compset and price rooms competitively according to local market conditions. ADR should never be used as a standalone KPI, as it’s an average that may not highlight how well a hotel yields its room. Each day, a GM should consult with revenue management to ensure that the ADR is on target for projections. The concierge is another valuable asset to GMs focused on the guest experience. Concierge software helps you understand how guests interact with your concierge team, and what information and services are important to guests. Concierge software pulls guest preferences into a unified view, empowering concierge staff to over deliver on guest expectations while giving the GM a useful picture of guests. Finally, consider adding new technology that improves the guest experience (driving higher ADR) while also generating more revenue overall (higher RevPar) In-room tablets put amenities, entertainment and off property experience at guest’s fingertips to reduce customer service queries while increasing satisfaction. Tablets in guest rooms don’t just create better experiences but also help to streamline operations via seamless room service, housekeeping requests, and spa/restaurant reservations.
Each year along with individual awards for the top rated product in each category, Hotel Tech Report recognizes the top 10 most customer centric global companies in the annual People's Choice Awards. The People's Choice Awards serve to honor and recognize companies who have balanced strong growth with a relentless focus on customer centricity. Hotel Tech Report has named IDeaS the winner of the 2019 People’s Choice Award based on data from thousands of hoteliers across more than 120 countries around the world. Over 100 of the world’s elite hotel technology companies competed for a chance to win this prestigious title. Other finalists include: TrustYou (2nd place), Clock (3rd place), TravelClick (4th place), GuestRevu (5th place), Mews (6th place), Guestline (7th place), Travel Tripper (8th place), Cloudbeds (9th place) and ALICE (10th place). The HotelTechAwards platform (by Hotel Tech Report) leverages real customer data to determine best of breed products and companies that help hoteliers grow their bottom lines. “The People’s Choice Award goes to the single company across all categories who demonstrates the strongest customer relationships during the HotelTechAwards. Clients came out to support IDeaS in droves - it has been incredible to see” says Hotel Tech Report’s Jordan Hollander. The most common pitfall that successful technology companies face is that scale often has an inverse correlation with customer satisfaction. With each new hire customers become further removed from the leadership team and with each new client their business becomes less critical to the company. IDeaS breaks the mold and is not just the largest revenue management software company in the world but also the most beloved hotel technology company in the industry as determined by verified client data. The key factors used to determine the annual People’s Choice award include total verified customer reviews, geographic reach of reviews and overall review sentiment and ratings. More than 200 verified IDeaS clients dedicated more than 25 hours to supporting the company by writing reviews about their authentic experiences with the firm. Unbiased and verified reviews build trust in a way that biased case studies and whitepapers cannot. The best companies know that the most effective way to communicate their value proposition is to empower and amplify the voices of their customers. “We saw 5 star reviews come in from Zambia to Moscow and everywhere in between. Happy customers vouched for IDeaS from cities we had never even heard of. This is the one of the most impressive organizations we’ve seen in hotel tech history. It’s hard to imagine how IDeaS keeps clients this satisfied at such an enormous global scale but if there’s one company everyone can definitely learn from about scaling a global organization with a relentless focus on customer centricity, its IDeaS ” says Hollander. IDeaS clients from the United States, Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America commended the company for it’s world class customer service and software. Congrats to this year's finalists: IDeaS, TrustYou, Clock, TravelClick, GuestRevu, Mews, Guestline, Travel Tripper, Cloudbeds and ALICE! About the People's Choice Award The People's Choice Awards serve to honor and recognize companies who have balanced strong growth with a relentless focus on customer centricity. Early on as a startup its easier for companies to maintain strong customer relationships with a limited customer base. But as a company grows its install base and scales globally, maintaining high customer satisfaction becomes increasingly more challenging. Each year along with individual awards for the top rated product in each category, Hotel Tech Report recognizes the top 10 most customer centric global companies in the annual People's Choice Awards acknowledging the achievements of top innovators across all categories who embody the values, transparency and customer centricity that lie at the core of truly great companies. More info on the People's Choice Awards and scoring methodology
Hospitality's next 5 years will be shaped by mobile saturation, shrinking office spaces and the gig economy
It's never easy to push through the hype and find the substance -- especially in hospitality, which is a challenging blend of guest-facing technology and back office software. Each year the technology world looks to Wall Street analyst-turned-VC Mary Meeker for her annual “Internet Trends Report”. Meeker’s report uses data to tell stories of business-related trends that are shaping society. Using data from Meeker’s report we identify some of the macro global trends impacting hospitality in 2019 and beyond. Unless otherwise noted, supporting images below are pulled directly from Mary Meeker’s presentation. Mobile saturation means devices everywhere This slide highlights the slowdown of smartphone growth. How does that impact hotels? The slowing growth of smartphone sales means that we’re approaching market saturation and consequently every single traveler in the world will soon have at least one in their pockets. This means that we need to focus on being where they are. The saturation of mobile also means that guests -- and staff -- expect easy-to-use interfaces and seamless cross-device experiences. Technology must be unfussy and straightforward, working wherever and however the guest and staff need. For guests: Mobile-optimized booking engines and guest messaging platforms are two of the most visible guest-facing applications. When searching for hotels, potential guests want to see a modern booking engine that builds trust in the experience a hotel provides. When staying at a hotel, guests want to communicate with the hotel as easily as they do with friends and family, and via the same channels (such as SMS and messaging apps). For staff: When hotel staff comes to work, they shouldn’t have to re-learn how to interact with technology. Mobile task management and collaboration software allow staff to use familiar mobile devices to get things done more efficiently on-the-go with built-in accountability. When evaluating vendors, these factors should be towards the top of the list for any hotel that wants to offer the most modern experience. Remember that both staff and guests have plenty of options when it comes to where to stay and where to work. Providing technology that makes life easier, better, and less stressful will bear fruit over time. The simplicity of consumer experiences now extends to B2B. People expect all technology to have intuitive interfaces and reliable connectivity. App explosion delivers near-infinite options It seems like every company has an app store these days. As more and more companies seek platform status, they launch app stores to encourage development on their platforms. By opening up development, the underlying technology becomes stickier, making it more useful to hotels and also more lucrative for the platform company. There are two things driving this “appification everywhere” trend: plummeting storage costs and rising computer power, which has made cloud computing not just practical but affordable. In parallel to the growth in mobile, cloud computing has made it more feasible for apps to be more lightweight and nimble. Stats showing the growth of computing power and hard drive capacity alongside the steady decrease in the price of storage. Apps no longer require heavy computing power and on-device storage to deliver the impact required in a B2B setting. Now, apps can connect to the cloud to pull necessary information in real-time, making apps faster and more accurate even as apps become more complex. Apple’s App Store was the first to thrive. Now, nearly every platform and many travel technology companies have app stores as well. For hotels, 'appification' has ushered in a golden age of choice. There are now app stores for many of the largest travel companies, allowing hotels to plug-in specific apps for a wholly customized tech stack. In 2018 alone, we saw the launch of app marketplaces and integrators from travel technology companies Mews, Apaleo, SiteMinder, and Snapshot. Here at Hotel Tech Report, we’ve partnered with protel’s I/O marketplace to integrate rich reviews to its app store experience. This layer of social proof adds richness to the company’s marketplace, which allows hotels to pick, mix and test cutting-edge technologies all in one place. App integrations are also becoming much easier as services such as Impala and HAPI emerge to simplify the process of connecting apps through configurable APIs. As more hotels push to build the specific tech stack that works for them, these app marketplaces and API services will grow exponentially in the coming years just the same as we’ve seen happen with more mature app stores from companies like Apple and Google as shown in Meeker’s deck. An app store with honest reviews builds trust. Hotel Tech Report reviews are fully integrated into the protel I/O app marketplace. On-demand jobs exacerbate talent shortage More workers are turning to the on-demand gig economy to supplement earnings. Freelance workers also find work much more easily thanks to technology. As more workers find freelance work feasible, hotels face growing competition for talent, exacerbating an already-acute talent shortage. Technology continues to empower workers to build a work life that works for them. Hotels must keep up to remain competitive for workers. The flexibility in freelance and gig work appeals to workers, so hotels can apply some of this to their own scheduling. Providing workers with a degree of latitude in the way they work will make for a more appealing workplace. With more individualized control for staff, mobile-optimized labor scheduling solutions foster trust and transparency across a hotel’s operations. In addition, technology must be leveraged as a key selling point to potential workers. With staff task management and collaboration tools, applicant tracking solutions, and other HR/staffing technologies, hotels build resilience within the recruiting and staff management parts of the business. The objective is to leverage available technology to effectively track applicants and avoid letting the best candidates slip away to other hotels or on-demand work platforms. Today, hotels themselves can tap into the gig economy with next generation on-demand staffing platforms. Just like technology makes it easier for workers to find jobs, technology also helps hotels sharpen focus on recruiting and retaining top talent. As competition for workers heats up, people have more options than ever. It behooves hotels to provide a modern, sensible work environment across departments that attracts and keeps the best workers. To foster loyalty, invest in the right talent management solutions that develop your workforce. By providing opportunities for employee training and learning, hotels have a better chance of keeping the most ambitious employees engaged. Workers should be incentivized to stay through these development opportunities, as well as through a workplace that prioritizes workers as professionals. More workers turn to the on-demand economy to supplement wages and/or add flexibility to their work lives. The real-time and on-demand nature of these platforms diminishes loyalty in favor of flexibility. Office spaces shrinking, off-sites growing Another area affected by unprecedented flexibility is office space. The average square footage per employee is lower than it used to be, both due to open floor plans and the rise of remote work. Denser office spaces, coupled with remote workers, has expanded the role of hotels as destinations for off-site meetings. With less space at work, and teams dispersed geographically, more companies rely on off-sites. These events bring together remote teams in a non-office setting to accomplish concrete goals. For hotels, this means a potentially lucrative incremental revenue stream from groups. It also means more requests for proposal taking up precious staff resources for a non-guaranteed event booking. As the RFP pace picks up in 2019, hotels will turn to group sourcing and RFP tools to reduce the burden on over-taxed staff. Other technologies will further enhance hotels’ event capabilities, such as event planning software that brings efficiency and organization to the process, as well as sales platforms that aggregate knowledge and empower sales teams to sell more effectively. Data is also increasingly vital to successfully building a book of group business, with meetings and events intelligence tools growing in sophistication. Airbnb offers ultra-affordable accommodations 2018 saw an expansion of available channels for hotels. For example, Airbnb added boutique hotels to its platform, saying that it now considers itself in direct competition with OTAs. This year, Airbnb also released a meetings and events tool for corporate travel companies. These are only two examples of the growing ecosystem offering hotel bookings outside of traditional intermediaries like OTAs. The evolution of Airbnb into a full-fledged online travel agency creates pricing pressure for hotels but could also benefit hotels by breaking the Expedia/Booking duopoly that’s crippling them. The slide above shows how significant the average discount of an Airbnb is when compared to a hotel. The ultra-affordability of some Airbnb listings versus hotels will continue to influence how hotels price their rooms in certain markets. Hotels will look to rate intelligence solutions to monitor rate parity -- and may eventually even pull in Airbnb rates for a more accurate compset in many market segments. All of this data must be considered for revenue management software to make the right rate recommendations. The lower price point for some Airbnbs is also an opportunity for hotels to deliver rate competitiveness through streamlined operations. For hotels in hyper-competitive markets, technology rewards hotels with more profitable operations. The ultimate goal here is to either bring in more guests at similar prices or bring in the same number of guests at a more efficient cost structure. Bring in more guests: Price more efficiently to offer the right price to the right guest using revenue management tools. Consider contracting with a hospitality-focused digital marketing agency, as well as adding direct booking, and metasearch/ad tech tools to keep your marketing spend in high-performance mode. Streamline operations: Wasteful operations bleed a hotel’s profitability. Technology keeps costs in check. Tools for staff task management and collaboration, as well as for housekeeping management, help managers track staff performance through comprehensive reporting that identifies areas for improvement. A tighter operation gives a hotel breathing room as far as pricing and profitability. For 2019, outsource your hotel’s R&D So what do these trends mean for your hotel? Since most hotels are not in the technology business, outsource your research and development to trusted technology partners that specialize in defining and building technology. Meeker pulls together the top companies by research and development expenditures. The slide emphasizes the competitiveness of these investments; the fastest growing companies are also the ones that invest heavily in R&D. As these companies attract prime talent and continue to invest millions in exploring the applications of new technologies, there’s an economy of scale that fuels future growth. The top companies in the world by research and development. When it comes to technology, hotels don’t typically invest in research and development in the traditional sense. The outsourcing of these efforts is therefore not only sensible but imperative to compete in today’s digital economy. By investing in technology, hotels sharpen the edge in a fiercely competitive environment.
Anyone who tells you stats about hotel technology spending or forecasts is honestly full of it. Warren Buffett famously said, “it’s better to be approximately right than exactly wrong.” We’re not going to tell you “stats” of how much a handful of hotel CIOs say they’re spending on tech. We also don't claim to have exact market data that’s frankly impossible to get an accurate read on for reasons that we won’t go into here. In this article we’re going to talk about what we’re seeing in the market, how hotel tech is coming of age and what it means for your hotel business. For the last decade or so hotel tech has been out of fashion for investors. Serious venture capitalists cringed when they heard about the newest startup raising a million dollars to ‘revolutionize the guest experience’. This had a surprisingly positive effect on the hotel tech industry forcing companies to focus on delivering clear ROIs and strong value propositions to prospective hotel clients. The companies that weathered the investment drought are now better positioned than ever to help hoteliers compete in the digital age and investors are taking note. When the funding ocean dried up only the best positioned ships survived - and that's good for the whole ecosystem. We witnessed 5 key trends in the second half of 2018 that foreshadow 2019 as a breakthrough year for the industry: 1) Venture capitalists are getting bullish on hotel tech 2) The companies who have achieved scale with niche products are evolving into platforms 3) Private equity is buying up strong cash flow businesses 4) Top firms are attracting talent from big tech 5) App marketplaces are ushering in a new era of connectivity Venture capitalists are getting bullish on hotel tech Venture investors also like the healthy blend of enterprise clients and long tail SMB that the hotel world provides. Churn rates at hotel tech firms are extremely low compared to the broader SaaS industry and there is whitespace pretty much across the board. Our sources tell us that only 10% of hotels have cloud property management systems and just 7% use revenue management software to price their rooms. New categories are emerging like direct booking tools, metasearch management software and upselling platforms that are still in their infancy. Venture capitalists are also circling hotel tech firms as the industry matures. Silicon Valley behemoth TCV recently achieved a nice exit in Cvent’s $100M acquisition of Social Tables and simultaneously lead Sojern’s $120M Series D financing. TCV has also invested in Airbnb, Expedia, HomeAway, TripAdvisor, SiteMinder, ExactTarget, Act-On and Ariba within the travel space. Thayer Ventures co-invested with TCV on the Social Tables deal. Thayer owns stakes in Nor1, ADARA, Mews Systems and Optii. Thayer Ventures also co-invested in Mews Systems alongside Europe based Notion Ventures who happens to also be an investor in Triptease. Notion VC’s Jos White points to the underlying catalyst that’s causing VC’s to eye the space carefully: “We think the hotel industry is at a tipping point in terms of the way it uses technology to better manage their operations and transform the guest experience.” Investment isn’t good in itself but investment indicates that there is capital being deployed to drive innovation and innovation is exactly what hotels need to compete with hometel players such as Stay Alfred ($47M round), Selina ($95M round) and Sonder ($85M round, Thayer participated) let alone the AirBnB’s, VRBO’s and Homeaways of the world. The companies who have achieved scale with products are evolving into platforms Great hotel tech companies usually start out as niche micro-SaaS products which at first seem like features rather than fully fledged products, then the successful ones gain traction and usually move into a platform approach. In 2019 we’re seeing a slew of these niche provider platform approaches start to play out. Revinate started as reputation management software and has now become a leading CRM provider in the space. Triptease, the category creator of direct booking tools has launched its own metasearch management platform and website live chat functionality. Revenue management system provider Duetto has launched products in Meetings & Events Intelligence and Business Intelligence. Rate shopping platform OTA Insight also launched it’s own business intelligence platform in 2018. "The SaaS economy has made best-of-breed solutions accessible to every type of hotel" ~Sankar Narayan These companies are blurring the lines between products and platforms - something incumbents have been doing for years. Where companies like Amadeus, Sabre and TravelClick once grew their product portfolios through acquisitions - the new breed of platforms is building new product lines in house and pose a material threat because they can move faster and adapt to market demand more effectively. Private equity is coming into play It’s not just venture capitalists and platform players signaling this change. Private equity has taken note of these evolving market dynamics and it’s making a different type of bet altogether. Canadian private equity firm Jonas Software recently purchased hotel ad tech firm Leonardo. The firm also owns MSI Solutions, Springer Miller Systems and Bookassist. Similarly, Valsoft recently purchased CMS Hospitality, creator of GuestCentrix PMS. The firm also owns PMS providers WelcomeSystems and Innquest, creator of roomMaster PMS. A new kind of conglomerate is emerging In 2018, Alibaba backed Shiji escalated its position in the space buying PMS provider StayNTouch. Shiji owns many other hospitality tech products such as ReviewPro, Kalibri Labs, Snapshot and Infrasys. They even took down a majority stake in Horwath’s APAC division to bolster service offerings for these disparate products in the portfolio. Major hotel tech conglomerates are nothing new. In fact, we’ve covered some of the history here. Having said that, old world conglomerates like Amadeus and Sabre were founded decades ago and a new era of contenders are emerging. It will be interesting to see who comes out on top. In 2018, Amadeus doubled down on its hotel tech business acquiring TravelClick for $1.5B. Top talent is flooding to hotel tech In parallel to these large infusions of capital, hotel tech is also recruiting a new generation of leaders from top tier bulge tech firms like Facebook, Twitter and Xero. SiteMinder recently tapped Xero COO Sankar Narayan to become it’s CEO and turn the firm from a channel management product into a hotel technology platform. Similarly, Duetto recently brought on card counting guru and former Twitter analytics chief Jeff Ma to bolster the firm’s data analytics brain trust. App marketplaces usher in a new era of connectivity SiteMinder happens to also be one of those companies shifting from (channel manager) product to platform and has now built its own app marketplace with Siteminder Exchange. The exchange seems similar to Snapshot's strategy in that both have proprietary products but also want to act as a platform rather than just a Channel Manager (SiteMinder) or BI platform (Snapshot). Property Management System companies like Apaleo, Protel and Mews Systems have all developed proprietary marketplaces for 3rd party vendors to build on. A third kind of connector is emerging with companies like Hapi and Impala. There's a huge market opportunity here and we think there's room for each of these companies to carve out a niche. The reality is that connectivity is a massive challenge and it's going to take multiple parties to solve - this is by no means a winner take all scenario. 2018 was defined by capital injections, talent acquisition, integrations and M&A. 2019 is shaping up to be a year of collaboration, platform maturity and rapid scaling - what are you most excited for?