Let us find your solution

News & Analysis

Insights and advice from the HTR team to find the best technology to grow your hotel business

Trending Hotel Software Articles

How to Connect Popular Gaming Consoles to Hotel Wifi

by
Hotel Tech Report
5 days ago

The next generation of travelers is increasingly likely to bring a video game console with them on their travels. It’s estimated that 73% of Gen Z – those who are born between 1995 and 2015 – own a video game console, such as a Playstation 4, Xbox or Nintendo Switch. And, as Gen Z travelers begin to dominate the market, your front desk team is likely to get lots of calls from guests trying to connect their gaming system to the WiFi from their hotel room. For those of us who are less technologically savvy, these calls can be stressful. Each type of console is different; troubleshooting with a guest on the line is challenging and frustrating for everyone involved. We’re here to help get your guests set up to start playing on hotel internet, and also help you learn about different games for each system so you can provide recommendations and better connect with your guests. We’ll get into the specifics of each system in greater detail; start here for an overview of connecting to Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, and XBox. When guests are seeking some advice about playing video games on your hotel WiFi, this is the guide for you.   Connect PS4 to your WiFi First, make sure your property’s WiFi is working and that your guest has their WiFi password handy. Then, walk your guest through these steps. Connect your PS4 to the hotel TV and turn it on.  Scroll to Settings. Press X to select the Toolbox icon Next, select Network from the Toolbox options Select “Set Up Internet Connection” Choose the option to use WiFi Choose the Easy set-up option (not the Custom one) Find the name of your hotel’s WiFi network and choose that option. PS4 will then go through the process of trying to connect and will prompt you for a password. It will show that the internet settings have been saved once you’ve connected.  Test the connection by selecting the Test Internet Connection button. If the connection says “failed,” it’s ok – just select the Details option to fix it. Tap the option “Suggested Actions”. If it tells you the security of the page cannot be verified, just say “Yes” and move on to the next page.  A browser window will appear with the sign-in for your hotel’s WiFi network. Login with the details of your property’s WiFi and press connect. Once you’re connected, press the back button on your PS4 console to get back to the network screen. Test the internet connection again to see if what you did worked. If your guest is still struggling to connect, check out our more extensive guide for connecting a PS4 console to hotel WiFi. We’ll have some tips for troubleshooting, as well as some games you might recommend during their stay. Check out our in-depth guide on setting up an Playstation 4 on Hotel Wifi.   Connect Nintendo Switch to your WiFi The process for connecting a Nintendo Switch is a little more complicated than for a PS4. Try following these steps:  Toggle to “Settings” in the main menu Under Settings, on the lefthand menu, select “Internet” and navigate to “Internet settings” The Switch will start to search for a network.  Your hotel’s network should appear. If the network is open – i.e., not password-protected – simply select the network and connect.  If the network requires a password, or requires registration to use the network, hit “Next” A browser window will open where the guest can submit the login details.  The WiFi will connect once the guest sends through the password. Some guests on Reddit report having trouble connecting to the login page. One hotel front desk manager noted that hotel connections are just slower. The solution he used was to set up the Switch to not go to sleep and leave it trying to connect: “After a while, the login window does pop-up. I tried it myself and it does work, it stays trying to connect for 15-20 minutes, but in the end the window does appear so that you can just use your hotel's login credentials or whatever.” Check out our in-depth guide on setting up an Nintendo Switch on Hotel Wifi.   Connect Xbox to your WiFi Finally, if your guest is trying to connect their Xbox, you can help them connect either by using an ethernet port or wirelessly. To connect wirelessly, walk the guest through these steps:  Turn on the Xbox console.  Navigate to “Settings” and select “Network”  Go to the “Set up wireless network” option and select “connect to a new network”  Find the name of the hotel WiFi network and choose to connect Enter the password of the network when requested. The console will automatically connect as long as there are no errors in the password or other login information. It will let you know once the connection has been established. If you have an ethernet cable, you can also use that to connect an Xbox console to the internet. Ask the guest to plug the ethernet cable into the Xbox’s LAN port, located at the back of the console. Make sure the other end of the cable is plugged into the internet source. Once you turn on the Xbox console, it should connect to the internet automatically.   Check out our in-depth guide on setting up an Xbox on Hotel Wifi.  

What is a CRS? (Central Reservation System)

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 week ago

How can you maximize your hotel’s exposure in real-time among OTAs, travel agencies, metasearch sites, and the GDS? Good news: you do not need to spend your valuable time updating all of these channels individually. Instead, you can let a central reservation system (CRS) do the legwork for you. If you’ve never heard of a CRS  - or if you’re doing some additional research before choosing a system - then this article is for you. We’ll review all the features and benefits you can expect from a CRS, and we’ll answer some common questions about them. By the end of this article, you’ll be able to determine whether a CRS is right for your hotel and make more informed decisions about your hotel’s distribution strategy.   What is a Central Reservation System? Let’s start at the beginning: what is a central reservation system exactly? A CRS system is used in the hospitality industry and specifically within hotel management to manage room rates and availability and to share this information across various distribution channels, like online travel agencies and the GDS. When a booking is made or rates are changed, the CRS adjusts your hotel’s rates and availability on all of your channels accordingly. The CRS also allows different users to create and modify reservations in one central place, like call center representatives or remote reservations agents.  The CRS is your central source of reservation data and typically comes with or at least seamlessly integrates into your booking engine and channel manager which ensures that hotel rooms aren't overbooking across different channels.  When a hotel room is booked on your hotel website, the CRS then shares that information with your property management system and pushes updated hotel reservation data to both your website and 3rd party channels such as GDS or online travel agencies.  It's important to know what isn't a "central reservations system"?  A central reservation system is not the single source of truth for guest profiles - that is where your hotel CRM comes in and it's also not the central repository of room inventory (PMS). A CRS centrally manages and distributes room inventory, rates, and reservations. The CRS typically receives inventory from the PMS, then distributes rates and availability in real-time to direct and third-party channels, including the hotel’s own website booking engine and call center (direct channels), as well as channel managers, OTAs, GDS, and metasearch (third-party channels). Reservations from these channels are sent back to the CRS and subsequently synced into the PMS for room allocation. Hotel revenue managers and marketing/e-commerce managers use the CRS to create various promotions and offers through rate plans for different channels and to adjust pricing quickly to be updated across all channels. Reservation agents also work in the CRS to manage reservations.   Download the Free 2020 CRS Buying Guide   Why Should I Use a CRS? A CRS offers a few major benefits to hotels and to hoteliers. When your hotel uses a CRS, you’ll enjoy better visibility on many distribution channels and, therefore, the potential for increased revenue and occupancy. As a hotelier, you can use your time more efficiently by automating tasks and integrating various systems.  You'll use this tool daily so it's critical that the reservations management software you choose is user-friendly. It's no surprise that major hotel brands view the CRS as their core technology - providing the core hotel distribution and channel management infrastructure to succeed in a hyper-competitive industry.  One of the top reasons to use a CRS is to gain better exposure on distribution channels. A CRS links your rates and availability to a multitude of online and offline channels. These channels include online travel agencies like Booking.com and Expedia, brick-and-mortar travel agencies, independent travel agents, the booking engine on your own website, your reservations call center, metasearch sites like Kayak and Trivago, and global distribution systems (GDS). With a CRS, you can easily sell rooms on many different channels, which increases your exposure to potential bookers. If you didn’t use a CRS and wanted to list your rooms on all of these channels, you would need to spend hours uploading rates, adjusting availability, and manually inputting new reservations. Not only would there be plenty of chances for human error, you simply don’t have time in your busy schedule for all of that manual work! A CRS unlocks opportunities for efficiency for reservations staff and revenue managers by doing the heavy lifting for you. With a CRS in place, you make all rate and availability changes just once, then the CRS distributes those changes to all of your connected channels automatically. A CRS makes running promotions, taking rooms out of inventory, or using dynamic pricing a breeze. A CRS also streamlines your reservations processes by housing all of your bookings in one place; everyone from front desk staff to call center agents can enter and modify reservations within the same system. In addition, your CRS can run reports automatically and integrate with other on-property systems (like your revenue management system) for further synergy.   What’s the Difference Between a CRS and a GDS? On the surface, both a CRS and a GDS seem to offer similar functionality. These two systems distribute your hotel’s rates and availability to various channels. Is it necessary to use both? The difference lies in the types of channels each system connects to. A GDS can connect your hotel to a network of travel agents and corporate travel planners. A CRS offers connections to these partners too, but also to guests themselves via online travel agencies, metasearch sites, and your direct booking engine. For most hotels, travel agents aren’t the sole source of reservations. Today’s hotels also need connections to Expedia, Booking.com, and others - plus a solid booking engine to take direct reservations. For many hotels, a CRS can offer more value than a GDS alone can.   Do I Need a CRS if I Already use a PMS? When you change rates or update availability, where do you do it? If you don’t already use a CRS, you probably make these changes in your property management system (PMS). You may be thinking, “well, what’s the difference between a CRS and a PMS?” Again, the difference lies in distribution. Property management systems are best suited to handle everything related to on-property operations. A PMS is ideal to manage check-ins and check-outs, housekeeping operations, and guest information. But when it comes to distributing your rates and availability, a CRS can offer connections and functionality that your PMS may not have. If your hotel’s PMS does not offer robust channel connections and you want to distribute rates and availability to more channels, then a CRS can add value.   What are Some Popular Central Reservation Systems? Choosing a CRS will likely depend on your hotel’s brand affiliation or lack thereof. Hotel chains like Hilton and Marriott use proprietary reservation software, which means that every hotel connected to that chain uses the same, often proprietary, CRS. In many cases, connecting to their CRS is contractually required. These systems allow branded hotels to easily tap into the chain’s huge distribution network and for the chain to easily scale the distribution process as they add new properties. For independent hotels, the choice is not so clear cut. However, having more options means you can find a CRS that closely fits your needs. Some popular central reservations systems include Pegasus, Windsurfer, Amadeus (TravelClick), and Synxis, but that doesn’t mean these systems are the right fit for your property. When researching your CRS options, it’s important to determine what your priorities are. Do you want a system with exceptional customer support? Do you want additional marketing or promotional tools? And how much do you want to spend? Some systems are better suited for large convention hotels, while others have tailored features for small boutique hotels. Ready to take the next step in your hotel’s distribution strategy? A CRS might be the tool you need to connect to more distribution channels, sell more rooms, run a more efficient reservations department, and grow your hotel’s revenue.  

Hospitality Careers: Job Descriptions, Salaries and Live Opportunities

by
Hotel Tech Report
9 hours ago

Considering a role in hospitality? Looking to nurture your hospitality career by taking on new responsibilities or a new role? You've come to the right place. Below, we've broken down all of the various roles and responsibilities across different hospitality departments. You'll see which skills you need to move up the career ladder as well as common career progressions.  Armed with this information -- and the tips and tricks on our blog for hotel professionals -- you’ll be ready to nurture your career through this challenging time.  Hospitality professionals have a wide array of opportunities from food services to housekeeping jobs, event manager roles and even the ones you won't find in job postings like c-suite hotel management company positions.  Hotel jobs in particular can be incredibly diverse ranging from menial tasks to advanced data science, part-time to full time and everything in between.   Hospitality Jobs, Descriptions and Career Paths Hospitality management career opportunities are broken down into two buckets: the front office (front of house), which has direct contact with the public, and the back office (back of house), which includes support roles with less frequent frontline contact. For larger brands, and franchises, many back office roles are centralized off-property and have purview over multiple properties.  While we focus on the hotel segment many of these roles are similar across cruise ship, restaurants and all facets of the industry. Here we break down the various hospitality roles and responsibilities, along with key skills that you need to thrive in each of these roles, as well as the potential career path. Many corporate roles, such as marketing, finance and sales, earn more responsibility by moving from a single property to a cluster, where the role oversees that function across several properties.  In order to get into higher paying corporate roles you'll need at least a high school diploma and likely a bachelor's degree (ideally from a hospitality school).  Having said that, even some of the most advanced roles and management positions can be achieved without fancy degrees through proper job training and determination. Also, larger properties will see more atomization of these roles. A hotel in Times Square with 2,000 rooms will need more housekeeping shift supervisors whereas a smaller hotel with only 50 rooms may have just one housekeeping manager overseeing the department. As far as skills required, we've added some specific to each row. These are in addition to the essential traits of any hospitality employee: problem-solving, customer service, effective use of technology and time management, among others. There are dozens of wonderful career paths so skip to the category that's most relevant for you: Front of House Back of House Revenue Management Sales & Marketing Hospitality Management   FRONT OF HOUSE HOSPITALITY JOBS       Front Desk Agent/Clerk The front desk agent is responsible for checking guests in and out, keeping the front desk area tidy in the lobby clean and fielding guest requests on the phone and in-person. They also contribute around the hotel as needed.  This is often an entry-level role and doesn't require any specific skills, beyond authentic customer service, a desire to learn and a lack of tardiness. Career-minded front desk agents could eventually become shift supervisors and then assistant managers, front-of-house managers, and other management roles within the property. [Explore job data for Front Desk Agents on Glassdoor and open roles on Hcareers]   Reservations Agent Reservations Agents handle everything related to guest reservations, so just handling phone calls for new reservations, updating existing reservations, and answering guest communications via email, phone and other channels.  This may be an entry-level role but still requires emotional intelligence, as well as patience, customer service, follow-through and the ability to focus and stay on task with limited oversight. A Reservations Agent could cross-train on the front desk and then move onto the management track. [Explore job data for Reservations Agents on Glassdoor and open roles on Hcareers]   F&B Director The Food and Beverage Director is responsible for managing the frontline staff and mid-level managers of the food and beverage outlets on-site. Depending on the size of the property, the F&B Director can manage anywhere from a few to dozens of employees. This person can do anything from running interviews with potential new employees, developing new menus with kitchen and bar staff, working with marketing on promotions, doing performance evaluations and handling customer service issues. The F&B Director is the primary liaison to upper management and attends regular management meetings. Often, the Food and Beverage Director has worked her way up from frontline roles at restaurants and bars. As a career, the Director can transition into a larger property with more responsibilities and staff, open a new hotel’s outlets or seek out a GM role.  [Explore job data for F&B Directors on Glassdoor and open roles on Hcareers]   Assistant F&B Director As the assistant to the F&B Director, this person contributes to the day-to-day operations of food and beverage outlets. This can mean working supervisor shifts and generally supplementing the work of their boss. This role is often promoted up through frontline staff and has aspirations to become a director and move into managing larger food and beverage outlets either at a hotel or elsewhere. [Explore job data for Assistant F&B Directors on Glassdoor and open roles on Hcareers]   Outlet Manager This role manages the daily operations of an on-property outlet. Do this could be a spa manager, bar manager or restaurant manager. These roles are most often found on larger properties with more amenities. Responsibilities vary depending on the outlet; this person will be responsible for hiring and firing, scheduling staff, handling customer service and monitoring overall performance. An outlet manager usually has three to five years of experience in a related service sector, with some management experience prior to arriving at the hotel.  And all that manager may aspire to become a Director of Operations, Director Of Food And Beverage, or another director-level role. [Browse open Outlet Managers roles on Hcareers]   Executive Chef The Executive Chef is responsible for all food that is served on site. This can include banquets, meetings, food and beverage outlets, room service and even external catering. Most often found in larger properties with bigger budgets (and greater operational need), the Executive Chef leads a team that may include multiple Sous Chefs, a Banquets/Events Chef, and a Pastry Chef, with each of those people responsible for different areas of food and beverage operations. As the head of the kitchen, the Executive Chef may also be asked to participate in pitches for large conferences and events, and have a much more public-facing role than other kitchen managers. The Executive Chef may move on from a single property to a hotel group as an Area Executive Chef, or even to a restaurant group or corporate entity.   [Explore job data for Executive Chefs on Glassdoor and open roles on Hcareers]   BACK OF HOUSE HOSPITALITY JOBS     Accountant The hotel accountant manages all aspects of a hotel’s finances, from processing payroll to reconciling income and expenses, paying taxes and creating reports for management. This person will also spend time presenting these reports and working with management to understand the drivers behind the numbers.  Accountants need a specialized college degree and will need different levels of experience, depending on the hotel’s size and revenue.  for an accountant just out of college, a smaller property would be the best place to start, while a more experienced accountant will look for a larger hotel group. Accounting principles generally translate well across industries, although specialized industry knowledge enhances competitiveness in the labor market. In addition to strong financial management and sound judgment, a great hotel accountant has forensic skills to track down discrepancies and investigate the story behind the numbers.  A successful accountant also needs the ability to communicate about numbers in an understandable way to others. An accountant could become a Director of Finance or an accountant role elsewhere, such as moving up to a larger property with more responsibilities or in another industry entirely as a VP of Accounting.  [Explore job data for Accountants on Glassdoor and open roles on Hcareers]   Night Auditor A hotel's Night Auditor audits each day’s financial transactions, such as reconciling and settling credit card transactions and verifying cashiers’ work for any outlets that take cash. As you can guess from the name, this work generally takes place at night once the hotel has completed the majority of its business. This person is also often in charge of the front desks turn the overnight hours While some aptitude with finances is desirable, this is often an hourly position that is less experienced than an accountant. The Night Auditor must be comfortable working overnight hours and also managing the customer service element, in addition to supporting the property’s financial management. A night auditor could become a shift supervisor and move their way up the management ladder.  [Explore job data for Night Auditors on Glassdoor and open roles on Hcareers]   Director of Finance The Director of Finance manages all accounting functions and financial controls of a hotel. This person ensures that all financial reports, budgets, forecasts and other financial data are compiled accurately and that all legal and tax documentation is maintained and secured according to accepted accounting practices. This person also makes recommendations based on financial data and helps hotel management achieve its financial goals. The Director of Finance is a senior role, which requires an accounting/finance degree and at least 8 to 10 years of experience in hospitality. A Director of Finance pursues progressively more senior roles, such as VP of Finance or potentially moving into new hotel development and launching larger properties. [Explore job data for Directors of Finance on Glassdoor and open roles on Hcareers]   Human Resource Manager At a certain point, a hotel’s headcount merits full-time Human Resources support. This role advises management and helps everyone adhere to the strict legal guidelines around hiring, firing, and monitoring performance. This person will also be responsible for much of the paperwork around staff and supporting the on-boarding process for each employee.  A human resource manager could be fresh out of college, or with multiple years of experience. The essential skill here is balancing empathy and humanity with laws and business. On one hand, a human resource manager must protect business;  on the other, there must be some level of humanity involved and what is often an emotional area of hotel operations.   The Human Resource Manager eventually moves onto a Director of Human Resources role, moving from an individual property to a regional manager.  [Explore job data for Human Resource Managers on Glassdoor and open roles on Hcareers]   Executive Chef The Executive Chef is responsible for all food that is served on site. This can include banquets, meetings, food and beverage outlets, room service and even external catering. Most often found in larger properties with bigger budgets (and greater operational need), the Executive Chef leads a team that may include multiple Sous Chefs, a Banquets/Events Chef, and a Pastry Chef, with each of those people responsible for different areas of food and beverage operations. As the head of the kitchen, the Executive Chef may also be asked to participate in pitches for large conferences and events, and have a much more public-facing role than other kitchen managers. The Executive Chef may move on from a single property to a hotel group as an Area Executive Chef, or even to a restaurant group or corporate entity.   [Explore job data for Executive Chefs on Glassdoor and open roles on Hcareers]   Director of Housekeeping The Director of Housekeeping is responsible for all things housekeeping: the daily cleaning of rooms, maintaining service standards, managing housekeeper schedules and room assignments, collaborating with maintenance to perform regular, hiring and training, managing performance reviews, and any other duties related to the housekeeping department. As the leader of the department, this person also attends management meetings and serves as a liaison between direct reports and upper management.  A Director of Housekeeping has at least five years of experience working in hospitality, with major preference given to those with direct housekeeping experience. it's helpful to have that hands-on experience, not only to see things on the ground but also to build credibility with housekeepers.  As a career, a Director of Housekeeping works at progressively larger properties and transitions into managing housekeeping departments at a cluster of hotels, hotel group or another institution such as a college or hospital.  [Review job data for Directors of Housekeeping on Glassdoor and open roles on Hcareers]   Housekeeping Manager The housekeeping manager assists the Director of Housekeeping and manages daily operations of the hotel cleaning staff. This usually includes scheduling staff, maintaining cleanliness standards, and supervising individual shifts. Smaller properties may only have a Housekeeping Manager; larger properties likely have multiple managers reporting into the Director of Housekeeping. A Housekeeping Manager usually has several years of experience as a housekeeper and may be promoted internally. A logical next step for this role is as Director of Housekeeping and then seeking more responsibilities by working at larger properties and portfolios. [Explore job data for Housekeeping Managers on Glassdoor and open roles on Hcareers]   Head of Maintenance/Chief Engineer The Head of Maintenance/Engineering maintains a property’s Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment (FF&E) to extend their useful life. This is an extremely important role, as it ensures that ownership extracts the most value out of its investments in the hotel asset. To accomplish this, a Head of Maintenance must be both organized (for routine maintenance) and extremely capable at troubleshooting -- especially when it comes to things that impact the guest experience, such as fixing a broken guestroom AC unit. A friendly demeanor is also a helpful asset, as this role often interfaces with frustrated guests who want a problem resolved quickly. Flashlight certifications are almost always required for this role; if not, there needs to be a minimum of five years of experience in engineering elsewhere. [Explore job data for Engineers on Glassdoor and open roles on Hcareers]   IT Manager/Systems Manager The IT Manager is responsible for everything related to the alphabet soup of hotel technology: WiFi, in-room technology, PMS, CRS...If the technology optimizes hotel operations, the IT/Systems Manager is responsible for sourcing, implementing and maintaining it. As more properties transition to cloud-based technology, this role is increasingly seen only in larger properties, hotel groups, and corporate offices. Independents and smaller properties rely more on vendors and contractors to provide this type of support. For example, if the Wi-Fi goes down, a vendor or contractor would help the front desk/management resolve the issue. The skills required to be an effective IT Manager are, well, geeky. This person needs to have a thorough understanding of how technology Works come on as well as the way that technology can improve operations. The IT manager should be able to translate “geekspeak” into plain language so as not to alienate others and to build trust and credibility.  The career trajectory involves taking on progressively more responsibilities at larger organizations and eventually moving into a corporate role, culminating in a Chief Technology Officer. [See open roles for System Managers on Hcareers]   Loss Prevention Manager/Security Officer At a certain size, security becomes non-negotiable. This role may sometimes be called Head of Security or in other instances, it may be a Loss Prevention Manager or Security Officer. The job is simple: keep guests and staff safe while preventing theft and other incidents that cause a loss to the hotel. This role is often hourly but may also be salaried. As far as skills, strong judgment, effective risk assessment, and a detective’s mindset are all important for a loss prevention/security officer. Like other roles, the career path involves taking on more responsibilities at larger properties and eventually managing multiple departments across properties as a regional or corporate manager. [Explore job data for Loss Prevention on Glassdoor and open roles on Hcareers]   HOTEL REVENUE MANAGEMENT JOBS       Revenue Manager/Revenue Analyst The Revenue Manager’s job is to define and execute a hotel revenue strategy that optimizes a hotel's revenue across channels. The revenue manager uses technology and analytical skills to translate historical data into demand forecasts and then setting pricing accordingly (usually in real-time). A revenue manager's work is done in collaboration with other departments, especially sales and marketing. So collaboration is a must, as is creativity, strategic thinking, scenario planning and robust analysis. A revenue manager could be just out of college or with a few years of experience working in other revenue roles or in other parts of the hospitality industry.  With enough experience, a Revenue Manager could take on revenue responsibilities of multiple properties as a Cluster Manager or lead revenue as a Director of Revenue. Eventually, the career path could include VP of Revenue and Chief Revenue Officer. A revenue manager could also move over to marketing or a revenue analyst role in another industry. [Explore job data for Revenue Managers on Glassdoor and open roles on Hcareers]   Cluster Manager/Area Revenue Manager Cluster Revenue Manager is responsible for revenue management at a “cluster” of several hotels and is often based at corporate headquarters. An Area Revenue Manager handles a specific geographic area and could be located on-site or remote. Given the greater responsibility, these roles generally have three to five years of experience working in revenue management or a comparable role in another industry. As far as skills, they're similar to a revenue manager, with an additional layer of interpersonal skills and time management. When managing revenue for several properties, there's more to juggle -- especially when it comes to managing relationships with each individual property.  A cluster manager also needs to spot trends across multiple datasets for broader insights. A Cluster Manager might become a Director of Revenue, a hotel GM, VP of Revenue, and eventually a Chief Revenue Officer.  [Explore job data for Area Revenue Managers on Glassdoor and open roles on Hcareers]   Director of Revenue The Director of Revenue could be a solo practitioner (for instance, at a smaller boutique property) or she could be responsible for a team of Revenue Managers. It really comes down to the property's size, revenue profile and individual needs.  A Director of Revenue needs a minimum of 3 years experience, with the majority of it in some revenue-related role. However, it's more common to see around five years of experience or more at this level, depending on the market and hotel category. Alongside the typical revenue management skills of collaboration, creativity, strategy and data analysis, a Director of Revenue has to be able to translate analysis into digestible language that motivates others. Success in this role requires the ability to communicate and collaborate in a way that aligns everyone -- especially sales and marketing, who are key stakeholders in achieving revenue goals. Next steps on the career ladder are lateral moves to a larger/more prestigious/more challenging property, moving from an individual property to corporate, as well as becoming a hotel GM, VP of Revenue and eventually a Chief Revenue Officer. [Explore job data for Directors of Revenue on Glassdoor and open roles on Hcareers]   VP of Revenue This leadership position is found at larger hotel groups and major chains, where the VP of Revenue will be responsible for multiple teams across properties, brands, and/or geographies. These teams will most definitely include revenue, and may also include sales and marketing. Basically, anyone that has to do with bringing in revenue may report to the VP of Revenue. A VP of Revenue requires strong management and leadership skills, next-level strategy and ability to align/motivate teams in different geographies towards shared objectives. There's also I have to go staff managing competing priorities, acting as the conduit between management and frontline revenue management teams.  This is a senior role, so you’ll need around 5-7 years of experience at the very minimum. It greatly varies depending on a brand’s location, with smaller markets requiring less experience than larger ones. For the largest, most prestigious brands, you'll need at least 10 years of relevant experience to be considered for a role at this level. The next steps from here are the hotel C-suite (Chief Revenue Officer, Chief Commercial Officer), or another leadership role in another industry or hotel group. [Look for job data on VP of Revenue roles on Glassdoor and open jobs on Hcareers]   Chief Revenue Officer This C-suite position is found only in the largest of hospitality brands and requires decades of experience. This person is responsible for driving revenue across all areas of the brand’s business, working closely with the Chief Marketing Officer on demand  generation efforts at the brand level, as well as being directly responsible for revenue management and group sales on a regional level.  The CRO has world-class management skills, with a clearly demonstrated ability to work across a global organization. With so many distributed teams, it's a massive challenge to motivate everyone around a common vision with shifting priorities. So communication and empathy are vital. A CRO may move to become CEO onwards to another commercial C-suite role in another industry.   SALES AND MARKETING HOSPITALITY JOBS       Sales Manager/Group Sales Manager  The sales manager is responsible for prospecting corporate and leisure groups, as well as conferences and other events that draw larger groups to the hotel. The role also works to sell property amenities to locals and other groups that may be interested in the property.   As far as experience, a sales manager could be just out of college or have one to three years in a related role. That role should showcase skills such as strong networking and relationship building as well as the ability to read people and close deals.  a sales manager will also need to excel in proposal writing, using marketing technology to automate prospecting and business development, and the ability to set achievable targets and deliver without folding under pressure. The next steps on the career ladder for a sales manager would be as Regional/Cluster Sales Manager, Director of Sales, VP of Sales and Chief Revenue Officer. This role also provides plenty of experience for someone looking to eventually become a hotel GM. [Explore job data for Sales Managers on Glassdoor and open roles on Hcareers]   Marketing Manager A Marketing Manager is responsible for creating targeted advertisements across digital channels, such as email, social media, display advertising and traditional channels. This could be an entry-level role for a recent college graduate or someone with one to three years in a marketing role elsewhere. Since this role is all about marketing a hotel, a marketing manager needs to have a balance of creativity, such as copywriting and storytelling, and analysis. A marketing manager needs to understand how to segment audiences, create targeted campaigns, measure performance and adjust strategy as needed. Also required is a thorough understanding of various marketing channels, effective networking, effective collaboration skills and the ability to both create and execute strategy.  A marketing manager can be promoted to Area/Cluster Marketing Manager, Director of Marketing, VP of Marketing and eventually CMO or CRO. A marketing manager could also translate these skills into a management role of an individual property as GM. [Explore job data for Sales Managers on Glassdoor and open roles on Hcareers]   Events Manager/Meeting Planner The Events Manager (or Meeting Planner) works with sales managers to craft proposals that convert into business for the hotel. Once a contract is signed, this person manages all elements of an event relationship, from planning to execution to post-event reporting. With experience ranging from one to five years, this role is very customer-facing and requires great customer service skills in addition to planning and time management. Since this person manages scheduled events, there's usually a less traditional work schedule as well. You’ll need strong organizational skills with attention to detail, an authentic desire to deliver a memorable experience, interpersonal skills, conflict resolution and effective use of technology to plan and execute events,  The career path could include Marketing Manager, Sales Manager, Director of Events, and GM. [Explore job data for Sales Managers on Glassdoor and open roles on Hcareers]   HOSPITALITY MANAGEMENT CAREERS       Hotel Manager (GM) The General Manager is responsible for every detail about a hotel's operations, all in service of managing costs and increasing revenues to maintain a profitable operation. All director-level roles report to this person, who is ultimately responsible for maintaining service/brand standards and delivering on performance expectations from ownership/corporate. To hold everyone accountable and maintain a culture of service, the GM sets the tone for everything. The GM also prepares yearly budgets to submit to hotel ownership or the corporate office. More often than not, the GM  has a college degree with a specialization in hospitality. A general manager that may not come from hospitality, this person usually has invested in a hospitality certification to develop a deeper understanding of the industry. A successful GM has strong leadership and communication skills, which she uses to clearly articulate a vision and motivate staff. Organized and effective, a GM  can balance many competing priorities each day Barstow to Lorain on the Brand's promise of hospitality. Also useful are a commitment to training, knowledge of safety, hygiene and employment law.  Having already reached a significant milestone in her career, a GM could look to manage multiple properties or perhaps go into the corporate organization as she moves up the corporate ladder. [Explore job data for General Managers on Glassdoor and open roles on Hcareers]   Operations Manager/Assistant GM Reporting directly to the general manager, the Operations Manager (or Assistant GM) monitors performance across departments and supports all Heads of Departments as needed. This includes running weekly meetings with all relevant teams to address any guest feedback, discuss sales targets and any other operational issues.  The Operations Manager must be exceptionally organized, able to juggle priorities and tasks that change frequently. This person must also have a firm grasp on all aspects of a hotel operation, which is why the ideal Operations Manager candidate has experience in multiple departments. An Operations Manager has multiple paths for promotion, from stepping into the GM job to overseeing several Operations Managers as a regional Director of Operations and then onwards to VP of Operations at the corporate level. [See job data for Operations Managers on Glassdoor and open roles on Hcareers]   FOH Manager/Guest Services Manager The Front of House/Front Office Manager oversees all things guest relations. This role hires, trains, and manages the team of front desk agents that handles guest relations. As the most visible frontline staff at a hotel, this team exerts a major influence on the guest experience.  As such, the FOH Manager must have an eye for talent and a heart of hospitality, building a guest-centric culture that's reflected in guest reviews. The FOH Manager has often learned the ropes from the ground up from a front desk position, which builds credibility and shapes approach.  One of the most important skills here is the nuance needed to motivate a team of hourly workers with high turnover while still maintaining service standards. This requires a significant amount of conflict resolution, patience, resilience and a “get it done” mentality The FOH Manager may move into operations as an Operations Manager or become an Assistant General Manager with an eye on the General Manager job. [Explore job data for FOH Managers on Glassdoor and open roles on Hcareers]   Reservation Manager Reservations Manager supervises other Reservations Agents and makes sure that the team stays on task and meets its objectives. Smaller properties may just have a single Reservation Manager and no Agents.  an ideal reservation manager has some experience, anywhere from one to five years. The most relevant experience involves customer service, not necessarily and hospitality. This person needs the ability to communicate warmly and graciously across the phone and an email, an eye for hiring and training, as well as a mentality that motivates a team of hourly Reservations Agents. [Explore job data for Reservations on Glassdoor and open roles on Hcareers]   Night Manager/Duty Manager The Night Manager, Duty Manager or Shift Supervisor handles all front desk operations during a specific period. This could involve handling reservations, fulfilling guest requests, and managing other front desk agents. A few years of experience in a related role is required, often as a front desk agent at another property. The Night/Duty Manager is a great candidate for moving up to assistant manager, front of house manager or another management role in operations. [Explore job data and open roles on Hcareers]   --   Adapting for Covid-19     The pandemic is a standard feature of our foreseeable future. As such, job descriptions and roles must be updated to reflect the shifting nature of hospitality work.  In most cases, the pandemic necessitates amplifying existing roles. Housekeepers are no longer only cleaners, they’re sanitation experts. GMs and other department heads are no longer just managers but also therapists, cheerleaders and process optimizers. Everyone is doing more with less and that must be accounted for in job descriptions and staff expectations. Here are a few ways that hospitality roles and responsibilities must adapt to doing business during a pandemic.  Sanitation Superstars: Cleaning is no longer limited to certain staff. It'll be everybody's job to clean their stations and participate in facilities upkeep. Since constant and consistent cleaning is at the center of any reopening strategy, the increased work must be spread broadly. Everyone must be empowered, encouraged and rewarded for contributing to a culture of guest and staff safety. Hybrid Roles: As with cleaning, staff will need to adjust to an all-hands-on-deck mentality. Lower occupancy means fewer employees. As we embark on the road to recovery, with demand fluctuating in fits and spurts, staff will take on expanded duties to cover for vacant roles. For example, you'll see more front desk staff double as valets and bellhops -- especially at larger hotels built for higher guest throughput.  Motivational Managers: As staff returns to work, managers must expand their skill sets to be even more attuned to their staff and guests. Many have suffered trauma and the lingering effects of uncertainty can cause ongoing stress. Managers must be careful to balance the property’s needs with those of staff. Everyone is living in stressful times and managers must account for that by being more empathetic, patient and understanding. Digital Concierge: As hotels reduce touchpoints to increase safety, concierge services will increasingly be performed via digital communications, such as text messaging and live chat. Voice calls will also make a comeback in certain property types.  

Vacation Rental Software: How to Choose From the 7 Most Popular Vendors

by
Adrienne Fors
1 week ago

Are you wondering how you can streamline and simplify your vacation rental management operations? You don’t necessarily need to hire a third-party management company or a big reservations team to drive online bookings; property management software can do the heavy lifting and make your vacation rental business much smoother. But what exactly can these systems offer you? And which vacation rental property management systems are the best? In this article, we’ll explain exactly what you can expect from a short-term rental property management system and help you pick a system that works well for your business. With a system in place, you can not only run a more efficient business, but also take advantage of marketing opportunities, new listing channels, and exciting integrations with ancillary services.  Before you know it your property won't just be live on major booking sites but you'll even have your own website and operations system!   What is Vacation Rental Management Software? In short, a property management system centralizes the reservations and operational tasks for your vacation rentals. Rather than logging into Airbnb, Vrbo, and Booking.com separately to manage reservations and communicate with guests, a property management system lets you do it all in one place. Most vacation rental property management systems offer these basic features: Multi-calendar: One calendar where you can see all reservations from all channels for all of your listings. Reservation management: The reservation system module or CRS as it's called in more sophisticated hotel software gives the ability to change dates, prices, and other details for existing reservations. Channel management: Synchronizing rates, availability, and sometimes content across all listing sites such as AirBnB, VrBO, Homeaway and Flipkey. With a channel manager, you can change your availability in your property management system and let the change be sent across all of your listing channels. Booking engine: Booking software provides the ability to enter direct reservations booked offline (over the phone or in person) or online (via your own website or booking widget) and increase revenue coming from direct channels. Integrations: Most property management systems offer a library of integrations that range from payment processors to dynamic pricing systems to keyless entry solutions. Mobile app: Many vacation rental owners run their properties remotely so if you fit into that category you'll want a dedicated mobile app to run your business on the go wherever and whenever.   What are the Benefits of Vacation Rental Software? Although property management systems do come with a subscription fee or commission, that fee is far less than what it costs vacation rental managers in time and lost bookings when trying to complete those same tasks without them. From the moment you set up your system and sync all of your channels, you can rest assured that you won’t receive a double booking or lose a reservation in the shuffle. These systems also allow vacation rental owners to automate many operational tasks from bookings to guest experience. For example, you can configure check-in templates to be sent automatically before arrival. You could also set up automated text messages for your cleaning staff to alert them when you need a new cleaning. Many property management systems also offer a booking engine, which lets you easily accept direct bookings with major credit cards and other mainstream payment methods to rely less on the online travel agencies.   7 Great Short-Term Rental Property Management Systems Let’s dive right into some vacation rental property management systems. Note that these are just a few of the many systems available, but they all offer a good combination of features and value.  Each system has its own unique user experience and design to facilitate vacation rental owners in customer acquisition, guest management and general business operations.  Many of these software solutions are also used by small b&bs who need real-time business management capabilities.  These smaller properties are often staffed and run similar to vacation properties of a similar size.   Guesty As one of the most well-known companies in the vacation rental technology space, Guesty offers a lot of value to short-term rental owners and managers who are looking to take their businesses to the next level. The company has generated a lot of buzz, having graduated from the Y Combinator startup incubator and raising nearly $60M in funding (including a $35M series C investment in 2019). Guesty offers all of the standard property management system functionality: a multi-calendar, a messaging tool, and reporting and analysis tools. The system also allows you to set up multiple user accounts with different access levels, create automated message templates and tasks (charging the balance of a reservation on the day of arrival, for example), and manage your listings’ content and photos from one central place. Guesty pushes rates, availability, content, photos, fees, and policies to its direct integration channels, so you don’t need to update this information on each channel individually.      Unique features: The owner view allows you to configure special accounts for property owners to view only their specific properties - a major plus for property managers who manage listings on behalf of several owners. With certain subscription plans, you may also receive access to a dedicated account representative or a 24/7 support line. Integrations: Guesty offers full, direct integrations with Agoda, Airbnb, Booking.com, HomeAway/Vrbo, Misterb&b, and TripAdvisor. Guesty also connects to Rentals United, a channel manager, which provides connections to more than 60 additional channels like Expedia, Housestay, Trip.com, and Google. Guesty’s extensive Marketplace offers integrations with dynamic pricing software (Wheelhouse, PriceLabs), payment processors (Stripe), home automation and monitoring systems (Noiseaware, Minut), luggage storage solutions (LuggageHero), and keyless entry solutions (RemoteLock) - just to name a few. Pricing: Guesty charges a commission between 2% and 5% per booking (including cancelled bookings), depending on how many listings you have. Accounts with more listings receive a lower commission rate. Guesty may also charge a setup fee (sometimes over $1000) depending on the plan you choose. Disadvantages: While Guesty’s direct integrations with the most popular channels are handy, the system does not offer iCal integration. If you use smaller, regional channels (or use an iCal feed for some other purpose), then Guesty may not be the best solution for your business. Bottom Line: Guesty is one of the best short-term rental property management systems available, due to its impressive set of features and integrations. However, the system is also one of the most expensive (especially for high-end properties due to the commission structure), so you will need to decide for yourself whether Guesty’s features justify the cost.   Lodgify Based in Barcelona, Spain, Lodgify offers a beautiful property management system that’s user-friendly and functional. The multi-calendar works well for multiple units, and it’s easy to input reservations manually. The customer service team is always friendly and quick to respond (you can even take advantage of personalized onboarding support), and the company maintains a robust library of resources and blog articles. Unique features: Lodgify’s website builder is one of the best in the market. The tool includes several templates so you can quickly drag and drop widgets and add your own custom text. You can even add videos, maps, and custom code.     Integrations: Lodgify connects directly to Airbnb, Booking.com, and Expedia for rate and availability synchronization. A direct Vrbo is also available if you manage at least 5 properties. For all other channels, Lodgify uses an iCal connection that syncs availability and reservations, but not rates. The system also has free integrations with Mailchimp, Google Analytics, Zapier, and PriceLabs. Some integrations, like Stripe, come with an additional monthly fee. Pricing: After a 7-day free trial, Lodgify’s annual subscriptions for one property start at $12 per month with a 1.9% booking fee, or you can opt for the Professional version ($32 per month) which has no booking fee. For 25 properties, the Professional version costs $220 per month. Monthly subscriptions without an annual commitment cost slightly more. Disadvantages: Lodgify’s automated messaging tool falls short; it does not allow for much customization, especially with trigger timing and contact assignments. Bottom Line: Lodgify is an excellent choice for property managers who want a solid property management system and an eye-catching website without needing to hire a website designer. However, Lodgify doesn’t offer many integrations with third-party services, like keyless locks and dynamic pricing software (only with PriceLabs), so if you use many of these ancillary services, you may want to opt for a different system.   FantasticStay FantasticStay recently acquired Vreasy, a popular short-term rental property management system, but luckily FantasticStay is retaining much of Vreasy’s functionality. The system offers the standard package of calendar management, booking management, and a channel manager, plus a website builder and automated messaging. The user experience is smooth, and the system has a clean, modern look. Unique features: One of FantasticStay’s add-ons is a 24/7 guest response service, so your guests can receive quick responses to inquiries and messages even during the middle of the night or when you’re busy with other things. You can also purchase a revenue management add-on that provides pricing guidance and a customer support add-on that gives you phone support around the clock. Integrations: Direct connections to Airbnb, Vrbo, and Booking.com allow you to update rates and availability from FantasticStay rather than on each site individually. For all other sites, you can sync reservations and availability with an iCal connection. Through Vreasy, integrations to PriceLabs and Quickbooks are available. Pricing: FantasticStay’s basic plan has no monthly subscription fee, just an 0.8% booking fee, for an unlimited number of listings. This plan does not include integrations or any add-ons, like customer support. Higher-tier plans include all integrations, no payment processing fees, and personalized support. The annual Pro plan costs $214 per year for 20-29 listings. Disadvantages: FantasticStay does not offer a direct connection to Expedia (yet), and since the software was originally built for the European market, some tax settings may not work properly for other markets. Bottom Line: FantasticStay is a fantastic choice for Europe-based property managers. It’s also great for property managers who want a low-cost, basic software to manage listings on Airbnb, Vrbo, and Booking.com with no additional integrations via the free plan.   Hostfully In 2018 Hostfully acquired Orbirental, and today Hostfully’s property management system still looks and feels a lot like Orbirental. The system offers a multi-calendar, automated messaging, a booking engine, and channel management for Airbnb, Booking.com, Vrbo, and Tripadvisor. Hostfully also connects to a couple other channel managers, like Rentals United and myBookingPal, which allows you to distribute rates and availability to additional sites.   Unique features: When many property management systems are shifting toward self-service customer support, Hostfully offers plenty of phone support. Even the most basic plan includes two setup calls with a support rep. Hostfully also offers its Digital Guidebooks feature, which is actually separate from the property management system. Even if you don’t use the property management system, you can still purchase a guidebook-only subscription. Integrations: Hostfully has a huge “Integration Zone” which includes integrations with dozens of complementary systems. You can connect to dynamic pricing tools, home automation solutions, cleaning management systems, and even HelloSign for digital signatures. Pricing: Hostfully offers three plans: 1-4 properties pay $79 per month, 5-19 properties pay $189 per month, and 20+ properties pay on a sliding scale depending on the number of listings. 50 listings cost $375 per month. Monthly subscriptions come with a $400 setup fee, but the fee is waived (and you get a small discount!) if you sign an annual contract.  Disadvantages: Some features, like automated text messaging and multiple user access, are not available for accounts with fewer than 5 properties. Hostfully itself doesn’t offer an Expedia connection, but you can connect to Expedia via an integrated channel manager like Rentals United. Bottom Line: Hostfully is perfect for property owners or managers who want a little extra support in the setup process and on an ongoing basis. Though it’s slightly more expensive than other systems, there are no hidden fees or add-ons.   Beds24 Beds24 offers all of the standard property management functionality (multi-calendar, channel manager), plus a booking engine and integrations with several ancillary services. It’s best for property managers who want to take full control of their operations and don’t need much guidance from support representatives, since Beds24 does not offer phone support. Unique features: Beds24 allows for a lot of customization - you can add essentially any restriction, pricing rule, fee, and policy you want, and the system makes it easy for you to set up channel connections on your own without the assistance of a support representative. Integrations: Beds24 offers direct connections to Airbnb, Agoda, Booking.com, Expedia, Vrbo, and Tripadvisor. Several other regional channels are also available, as is iCal import and export functionality. Beds24 also integrates with PriceLabs, Wishbox, Mailchimp, several keyless entry solutions (igloohome, RemoteLock), and several payment processors (PayPal, Stripe).   Pricing: After a 14-day free trial, a Beds24 subscription starts at about $10 per month for one property. Additional properties/units and links to channels cost about $1 each. If you have 5 properties listed on 3 channels each, your monthly fee will be about $20. If you have 50 properties on 3 channels each, the monthly fee is about $70. Disadvantages: Unlike some other systems on this list that have invested heavily in user experience and building a sleek, beautiful interface, Beds24 is a bit clunky. But while it’s not the most fashionable system, it’s certainly functional. Bottom Line: Beds24 packs a lot of features into a very small price. If you’re comfortable with a less user-friendly experience, this system is an excellent value.   iGMS Since its launch in 2015, iGMS has grown to support over 100,000 listings with its property management system. You may know the company by its old name, AirGMS. In addition to a multi-calendar, automated messaging, and booking management, the system offers special functionality for automating cleaning team operations and notifications. Unique features: Some systems only let you set up a direct Airbnb or Vrbo connection to one Airbnb or Vrbo account, but iGMS allows you to configure direct connections with multiple Airbnb accounts, which is a nice option for property managers who list different properties under different profiles. The cleaning management features also help to streamline cleaning operations at scale. Integrations: Direct integrations are available with Airbnb and Vrbo (for rates, availability, and reservation); all other sites use a simple iCal connection. iGMS doesn’t offer much in terms of third-party software integration. Pricing: After a 14-day free trial, iGMS offers two plans: a pay-per-booking plan with a fixed cost (around $1) per booking, or a monthly or yearly subscription with no fees per booking. The “Pro” plan costs $100 per month for 5 properties and includes 24/7 email and phone support. Under the same plan, 20 listings cost $360 per month with an annual subscription. Disadvantages: iGMS does not offer a direct connection with Booking.com or Expedia, making it a less strategic system for property managers or hosts who want to distribute listings on sites beyond Airbnb and Vrbo. As of today, iGMS also does not offer a website builder. Bottom Line: Professional property managers, rather than individual owners or part-time hosts, may get the most benefit from iGMS, especially if your business is focused on Airbnb and Vrbo and not Expedia, Booking.com, or direct bookings.   OwnerRez Catering to the traditional vacation home market, OwnerRez brands itself as “built by owners, for owners.” The company believes in simplicity and transparency, but that doesn’t mean the system lacks functionality. In fact, OwnerRez offers a vast array of features, from a multi-calendar to a guest database to automated message templates and responders. OwnerRez is known for its clean, user-friendly interface and hands-on customer service. The company is open to suggestions and encourages users to let them know about any features they’re missing.   Unique features: OwnerRez offers their own damage protection and travel insurance products. The system also allows you to collect and analyze your guest reviews from a variety of different sites. Integrations: OwnerRez offers integrations with dynamic pricing software (PriceLabs, Beyond Pricing, Perfect Price), several keyless entry systems (RemoteLock, among others), guest communication tools (Wishbox), and QuickBooks (extra fee applies). You can also add an OwnerRez widget to your website via Wordpress, Weebly, SquareSpace, and WIX. Pricing: After a 14-day free trial, OwnerRez charges a monthly fee dependent on the number of listings and a choice of add-on features. With no add-ons, the monthly fee for 5 listings is $28.99 (as of June 2020) and $131.99 for 50 listings. The plans include unlimited bookings. Add-ons include website hosting, channel management, and QuickBooks integration for a few more dollars per month. Disadvantages: iCal imports and exports are included in the monthly fee, but for property managers who want to use the channel management functionality to sync rates, availability, restrictions, content, and policies to sites like Airbnb, Booking.com, Vrbo, and Tripadvisor, you’ll need to pay extra. OwnerRez does not have an integration with Expedia (yet). Bottom Line: OwnerRez is a great choice for cost-conscious property managers who want a lot of features, integrations, and input into the company’s development pipeline.   How to choose the best property management system for your short-term rental business With so many systems to choose from, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Take a minute to think about the functionality that matters most to your business. Do you want a great website builder, or do you want to focus on listing your properties on as many channels as possible? Do you want a dedicated support representative or are you comfortable with email support through a queue? And how much are you willing to spend? Once you’ve determined which features are the most important to you - and what your budget looks like - then you can make an educated decision about which property management system works best for your business. If you’re not sure which features you want, then you can sign up for a few free trials and explore several systems. It’s worth investing some time in choosing the right system because your business will become much more efficient in the long term when you’ve partners with a strategic short-term rental property management system.  

What to Look for in a Hospitality TV

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 week ago

The humble hospitality tv has long been derided as clunky and outdated. And rightly so: too often, hotel TVs were relics of the past, never aligned with the tech that most guests had in their own homes. The reason why? Hardware used to quickly become outdated and it was really expensive.  Today consumers can get slick LCD TVs cheap and those TVs can update software in real time.  This makes it a great time to invest in new hospitality TVs if your property is stuck in 1999. Hospitality TVs are more than just channels, they are smart hubs for guest experience, branding and communications. From controlling lights to streaming content and ordering room service, the hotel TV has adapted alongside guest expectations. Today’s guests are used to having top-notch tech at-home and have begun to expect more from the hotel experience. They expect far greater control over their experience -- and the tech-enabled guest room necessitates a single point of control.   So how can you give guests what they want? It’s time to upgrade your hotel entertainment system. For hoteliers, there's a lot at stake. It’s a long-term investment decision that has a direct impact on the guest experience: Hospitality Tech’s 2019 Guest Engagement Technology study found that 72% of guests would return to a property when the tech they want is available. The right entertainment options are also important to guests: 40% of those same respondents said that Smart TVs and content streaming were a top consideration when choosing a hotel. What screen size is optimal? Should TVs be leveraged as a form of in room digital signage?  Do they want to control the TV with their mobile device? With such a major decision, which touches both hardware and software, we highly recommend going through a formal Request for Proposal process that allows you to engage vendors directly  so you can have 100% confidence that the decision you make is the best one for your property. We know it's intimidating --  but it doesn't have to be. We've broken down the various components of the decision, first looking at what the hotel needs, followed by the guests expectations and the best hardware and top hotel software to guide you through this high-stakes decision process. It’s a big one but we’ve got your back!   What To Look For in a Hospitality TV and Guest Entertainment System First and foremost it's important to understand the difference between consumer displays and commercial displays. While you could certainly go to a store and buy a bunch of smart TVs for your property, you may also want to consider the benefits of a hospitality-grade commercial tv solution. Displays that are ideally suited for hotels Customizability. Look for a system that allows you to do things like control access to specific features, customize menus, add personalized welcome greetings, manage content easily and generally adapt to your property’s needs as they evolve. Ideally, the in-room TV helps market your on-property amenities to bring you more incremental revenue.  Interoperability. If you're not planning on ripping out an existing system (or building one for a new property), you'll need to make sure that the system is compatible with existing infrastructure. Infrastructure. Streaming entertainment takes up a lot of bandwidth on WiFi. And even serving content through a hard-wired system requires infrastructure. So whether you are providing a mostly bring-your-own-device (BYOD) experience or a hybrid one that includes in-room entertainment options, you need to be sure that your system can deliver an interruption-free experience, even when your hotel is sold out. So, if you’re going with a cloud-based solution versus hosted on-premise, be sure that your property’s internet infrastructure can handle the constant streaming of entertainment.  Connectivity. If guests are going to be casting content from their devices to the TV, it needs to be easy. Carefully consider the steps guests need to go through to take advantage of BYOD.  Sound. Even the most crisp display can be ruined by poor sound. Be sure that your speakers are strong enough to deliver a good audio experience as well. For reference, check out Hilton’s Connected Room Platform, a personalized platform for guests to interact with various in-room technologies. It comes from a big brand (and thus isn’t necessarily affordable for all categories) but shows you the potential of aggregating entertainment and in-room functionality into a single platform for guests.   What Guests Want From Their In-Room TVs In-room entertainment has become a major factor in the guest experience. Nearly 75% of guests use in-room entertainment, and 28% said it is “very or extremely important” to their overall hotel experience. Guests prioritize modern in-room hotel technology so much that they would be willing to forgo amenities like a business center (34%), a fitness center (27%), spa (24%), or room service (15%). Whether via hotel-provided devices or their own, guests also want access to the entire hotel experience at their fingertips. For in-room technology specifically, most guests wanted to use TVs provided by the hotel (69%) versus their own devices (31%). Another guest survey from Oracle put personalization in focus, with 64% of those surveyed saying they would share their entertainment preferences so that the content could be pre-loaded in the room upon arrival. This aligns with the macro trend of personalization, as in-room entertainment is a visible and desirable place to add a “home-like” personal touch to the guest experience.  Guests prefer streaming their own content on different devices, depending on where they’re from. To distill this down, there are three core “wants” from guests: flexibility, control, and ultimately, simplicity. Flexibility. Give guests the flexibility to browse live TV, choose on-demand content, stream content from apps like Netflix, Hulu and HBO, or use their own devices to cast their own content to in-room TV. Control. Personalization is easier and more accurate when you provide the technology for guests to control and curate their own experience. Ideally, this technology works seamlessly across devices and channels to provide a single point of contact between guests, the hotel and its technology. Simplicity. Guests just want the technology to work flawlessly. As we all know, hotel operations are rarely that smooth.  Even so, we have to offer a simple, unfussy entertainment solution that anyone can figure out in a couple of minutes max. Tech that’s stress-free and easy to use its good tech! As guests demand that hotels invest more on the in-room experience, you’ll need to look carefully at how fast your WiFi is, how easy it is to connect devices to in-room TVs (Bluetooth and more HDMI ports), and generally what your property’s target demographic expectations are. In a world where more U.S. households subscribed to a streaming service than traditional TV (69% vs 65%), your hotel must keep up with how consumers prefer to consume content.   Choose Your Hardware: Hospitality TV Vendor Overviews  There are three primary hardware players in hospitality tv solutions:  Samsung, LG, and Phillips. Each offers different categories of television with varying viewing experiences and picture quality, from HDTVs (high definition) all the way to high-end 4K displays (ultra HD). Samsung Hospitality provides commercial-grade displays that can be used as lobby signage, F&B menus and in-room LED TVs. The company also has hotel versions of its Galaxy tablets, which can be used for check-in or in-room as a master remote control for the TV and other room tech. LG Hospitality LG has something the others don't: the CLOi, a robot porter that ferries guest luggage to and from their rooms. It’s a digital amenity that can certainly differentiate the guest experience!  Philips Hospitality has a two standout features for its hospitality TVs: simplified drag-and-drop system management and its Ambilight “immersive viewing experience” that splashes light on the wall behind the TV. It also uses Android, which makes it easy to add apps and develop interactive entertainment experiences.   Choose Your Content Software: Vendor Overviews Once you select your commercial grade TVs, you also need to have a way to get content on your displays. You have two options here, which can be used independently or together:  vertical entertainment, which are complete in-room entertainment platforms often accompanied by set top boxes, and streaming providers. Vertical Entertainment Platforms perform multiple functions for hotels. First, there’s the interactive guest room entertainment with live TV and  “over the top” native apps for streaming services such as Hulu, HBO and Netflix. Platform functionality can usually be extended guest messaging software, local destination recommendations, and info on other on-property amenities, such as spas and restaurants. Many also offer a hotel WiFi solution. These are usually priced as separate products but work together seamlessly across property.   Some of the hardware OEMs have their own software for hospitality such as Samsung Lynk which allows for centralized TV management from a single end point. Enseo is a complete platform for hotels. As a hospitality integrator, it pulls together and It was one of the first to offer Netflix, which allows guests to enjoy Netflix content from their rooms (either via a logged-in account or as a guest). Sonifi’s interactive content and connectivity solution is found in 1.2 million hotel rooms. It has broadband connectivity and interactive content, but what really sets it apart is its advertising media solution that builds incremental advertising revenue into its platform as well as video-on-demand and pay per view solutions. Evolve by DISH combines the company’s flagship live TV with streaming apps. The service uses Android-based hardware in guest rooms, which also has Chromecast so guests can stream their own content and native apps for further customization. The software is compatible with 4K TVs and can stream Netflix 4K content. Streaming and Internet Providers offer a combination of cloud-based streaming and internet services. The larger companies mostly offer access to internet and cable TV content, and really lean into the value proposition of being a secure, capital-efficient platform for providing both on-property connectivity and content. The big players in providing both internet and TV services are:  Comcast Business TV for Hotels puts a lineup of 80+ channels into guest rooms throughout the U.S. The service can be spotty and pricing somewhat high, according to some HTR reviewers. But the service is “tolerant to weather compared to satellite signals” and “great content/channel selection.” Spectrum Enterprise combines TV, managed WiFi, fiber internet, voice and ethernet services Cox Business is a regionally-relevant option for hotels looking to combine hospitality WiFi and IT with TV service. For limited-service hotels, boutiques, vacation rentals and others looking to offer entertainment that’s both affordable and guest-centric, streaming devices such as Google Chromecast, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV give guests access to premium content (with a signed-in account) and the option to stream their own content to the in-room display.  HBO and Netflix have entered agreements with major brands like Marriott and Hilton, as well as with several vertical entertainment platforms to give guests access to those services in-room. Guests can either sign in to see their own content options or use the service for free without logging in.   When Selecting a Hospitality TV Vendor it's About Hardware + Software One final consideration is whether or not the hardware and software is built in a way that is at least somewhat future-proof.  You should get a good five years out of your hardware, and your software should come from a vendor that offers frequent updates according to the latest trends in entertainment and guest expectations. One major shift -- perhaps accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic -- is towards virtual reality content. The tech has been “emerging” and “just around the corner” for years but as more people experience it from the comfort of their own homes, they may eventually begin to expect some sort of VR-enabled experiences at hotels. Definitely a trend to monitor! “64% of hotel operators were likely to use VR to provide on-property entertainment.” -Oracle Hotel 2025 As we’ve seen time and again, traveler expectations can evolve slowly or change quite rapidly. Seek out systems that adapt to changing needs. Investing in a new hotel entertainment system isn't for the faint of heart. It's expensive. To make this expense more digestible, look for a system that is at least mostly future-proof for the next five years. The vendor should be able to support the technology as it stands with software updates, so that you can extend the life of your in-room technology for as long as possible -- without sacrificing the guest experience.  

12 Hospitality Companies that Stepped Up in Crisis

by
Hotel Tech Report
4 weeks ago

It’s no surprise that the travel industry has been hit hard by the spread of COVID-19. Oxford Economics projects that hotel revenue will face a 50% decline by the end of 2020, the worst year on record for hotel occupancy. Despite these worrying indicators, there are reports of members of the hotel industry stepping up to support others. Hotels around the world are providing beds for medical staff and first responders, financial support to employees and communities, and credits for future travel to frontline workers and travelers. Here are some of the creative and crucial ways the hospitality industry is doing its share to battle the fallout of COVID-19.   Housing for Frontline Workers The hospitality industry is uniquely positioned to provide support to hospital workers and medics on the frontlines of the pandemic – and many brands have risen to the challenge. Because nurses and doctors working with COVID-19 patients may have been exposed to the virus, these workers are unable to return home to their families and risk transmission. Cloudbeds, Mews, and GuestCentric are just a few companies working to house hospital workers and patients during this time. Cloudbeds founders Adam Harris and Richard Castle are behind Hospitality Helps, a cross-industry initiative to provide beds from hotels and guest houses to healthcare providers and government agencies who are at capacity. Hospitality Helps has led to over one million beds pledged to date for doctors, nurses, and first responders, as well as patients directly affected by COVID-19, those who need in-patient care, and family members who need to be near a loved one at a hospital. Mews Systems and GuestCentric have similar efforts called Hotels for Helpers and Rooms Against COVID, respectively. Hotels for Helpers provides free or heavily discounted rooms to healthcare professionals. Nurses, doctors, and families of patients can book accommodation at a maximum of €25 per night in the US, UK, Netherlands, and the Czech Republic – in the Netherlands alone, Mews has linked 120 hotels all over the country with over 400 realized room nights. GuestCentric works exclusively in cities in Portugal to provide free accommodation for professionals fighting against COVID-19 for a minimum of two weeks; it’s an entirely volunteer-run initiative that has the support of the Portugal Association of Local Accommodation. AHLA, Airbnb, and Guest Centric are all running initiatives to help connect the resources of the hospitality industry with those who need them most. AHLA's Hospitality for Hope Initiative connects hotel properties with the health community for housing and support during COVID-19. AHLA has worked with HHS to create a national database of properties that the government can then search based on geographic location. This database includes listings from over 17,000 hotels to date. Airbnb’s Frontline stays program gives hosts the opportunity to list their room or apartment to first responders; more than 100,000 places to stay have been offered to those fighting the pandemic. The platform is also partnering with the National Health Service in the UK, Sutter Health in California, the Ministry of Housing in France, and Barcelona Official Doctors Association, as well as many international health organizations to meet their needs. Finally, Expedia launched a $275 million recovery package for hotels and operators of alternative accommodation. This package includes many different resources for hotel owners, such as $250 million in marketing credits, reduced or delayed commission payment options, and $25 million in credits for destination advertising campaigns. Experts say that Expedia’s program – while generous – slightly favors property managers and vacation rental owners with a substantial number of listings, rather than individual property owners.   Supporting Communities and Employees in Need Rosewood Raise is an initiative by Rosewood Hotel Group to support the group’s associates and communities that have been impacted by COVID-19. This relief effort will support staff in corporate offices and hotels across three Rosewood brands: Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, New World Hotels & Resorts, and KHOS. Rosewood Raise aims to meet the needs of those facing financial difficulties due to healthcare-related needs, and will also help local communities that have been hit hard by the pandemic. Rosewood Raise is managed by a 501c(3) nonprofit called the Emergency Assistance Foundation, Inc. This entity operates multiple employer-sponsored disaster relief and employee hardship funds, and has since raised nearly $2 million from Rosewood’s executives and associates. The company matches all employee cash contributions to the fund. As such, any additional funds not dedicated to containing the impact of COVID-19 will be used to continue to support Rosewood Group’s associates against future hardship.    Fundraising Through Gift Card Initiatives Small businesses and retailers around the country are surviving by offering gift cards to customers that can be redeemed at a later date. The hotel industry has also benefited from this method of fund-raising through two initiatives led by Toast POS and Porter & Sail, a mobile concierge program. Toast is providing a short-term solution to boost revenue at your property while bookings are depressed. Sell gift cards online by adding your website or online ordering site set up through Toast Online Ordering. Gift cards can be redeemed at a later date or for meal delivery, if your kitchen is up and running. Toast’s data shows that not only do gift cards improve short-term cash flow, they also can increase revenue: guests who purchase using a gift card typically spend more than the value of the gift card. Toast isn’t the only restaurant-friendly POS system to offer gift cards at the moment. Clover, Square, and Shopify all offer gift card integrations with their POS platform. See if your property’s POS is equipped to start offering virtual gift cards, and put your restaurant back in business. Porter & Sail created Hotel Credits, discounted hotel gift certificates for 21 independent and high-end properties.  Similar gift card initiatives include WeTravelForward and Buy Now, Stay Later. Travelers can purchase vouchers to be redeemed at a later date, with deals like $200 for a $300 credit at The Williamsburg, NYC, or $1,000 for $1,500 credit at Habitas Tulum. Some hotels are associating their gift cards with charitable causes:  La Fonda on the Plaza pledged to donate $10 from each $100 gift certificate sold to a first responder support fund providing meals to emergency medical workers. The Robey hotel in Chicago set up a GoFundMe page for laid-off employees, where a $500 contribution gets the donor a one-night stay and a $100 food and beverage credit. Lastly, Buy One, Give One gives travelers the chance to purchase gift cards or donate loyalty points to charitable organizations for distribution to healthcare providers after the pandemic. Frontline workers can redeem donated gift cards and points at participating properties for future vacations and leisure stays as a thank you from travelers and way to boost to the hospitality industry. Buy One, Give One is currently partnering with the American Nurses Association and New York-Presbyterian.    Helping Local Business with Consulting What may be needed most for property owners during this time is advice. Seated is partnering with two professional services firms, CohnReznick LLP and Golenbock Eiseman Assor Bell & Peskoe LLP to provide one hour of complimentary consultation on topics such as taxes, accounting, employment, real estate, and more. If you have specific questions that can help you run your business more efficiently and survive the slowdown in bookings, this is a great free resource.   

RFPs Made Easy: Everything You Need to Know

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 week ago

A request for proposal (or RFP) is a frequent and familiar tool used to solicit bids from a variety of vendors. The objective is to receive bids from a broad array of vendors so that teams can compare and contrast the individual bids. In an ideal world, this side-by-side analysis helps teams evaluate the price, parameters and specs of each bid and creates a level playing field by reducing bias towards a single vendor. As you may know firsthand, the RFP process is also an immense time suck. First, you have to create the RFP in a way that attracts accurate bids from the right kinds of vendors. Next, you have to evaluate each bid and follow up with any areas that need clarification. Finally, you have to select a vendor and negotiate the final terms. To help you navigate this process more effectively, and get you the best bids from the best hotel technology vendors possible, we’ve created a guide to making the RFP easier and more successful. You’ll learn the steps you need to take for building an RFP process that saves time in multiple facets of the process. You’ll learn how to increase clarity around what you’re looking for so you only get responses from relevant vendors;  You’ll learn how to reduce confusion among key internal stakeholders so that there’s fewer emails and pointless meetings;  You’ll learn how to build momentum so that you get the RFP process done quickly without sacrificing quality. By the end of the guide, you'll be able to confidently create RFPs that get you the bids you need -- without wasting time on irrelevant responses, unnecessary emails, frequent meetings and drawn-out timelines.   We Interviewed Leading RFP Experts to Research this Guide Running an RFP process can be incredibly complex which is why major brands prefer to work with consultants and expert third parties to help them manage the process.  We interviewed dozens of the best consultants in the business to glean insights for this article.  Most notably we interviewed these top experts: Loren Gray, Hospitality Digital Marketing Dan Wacksman, Sassato Evelyne Oreskovich, HeR Consulting Caryl Helsel, Dragonfly Strategists Anthony Gambini, Premiere Advisory Group David Chestler, Provision Partners Want help running your next technology RFP? We’ve put their bios and info below so you can reach out directly.   How to Write an RFP (4 Step Process) Set up your RFP process for success by keeping two mantras in mind. The first is “be specific.” An RFP that's loosely defined will never perform as well as one that’s well-defined.  As you lay out your requirements, clearly lay out any specific needs (such as it must work with an existing POS system), as well as any other requirements (such as bids only from vendors in the United States). Keep your questions brief and to the point to encourage exact and comparable responses that support objective comparisons later. Examples of open-ended questions: What does your product roadmap look like? How does your company prevent cyber security threats? What do you think is the biggest area for improvement in your software based on Hotel Tech Report reviews? Examples of quantifiable questions: Do you integrate with my current tech stack? Do you have more than 95% up time? Is your HotelTechScore greater than 90 Has your company achieved Hotel Tech Report’s Customer Support Certification? The second is “avoid bias.” It's very easy to build an RFP  that already angles towards a specific solution. Be on the lookout for any language that seems to suggest that you've already selected a solution, approach, technology or vendor. When you create a blank canvas that a vendor can paint for you, you allow the RFP process to do what it's supposed to do: surface the best solution for your needs.  If you're already going into this having selected a vendor, it's kind of useless! One way to reduce bias is to have several rounds of questions, which keeps the RFP process brief and to the point. At each stage, you narrow down the options. When you launch wide and narrow as you go, you avoid starting with a request that’s geared towards only a small number of vendors. Remember: An RFP process with a pre-ordained outcome is a waste of time.   Step 1: Launch Preparation is arguably the most important aspect of the RFP process. Proper preparation ensures that the RFP accurately reflects the organization’s needs and will thus solicit bids from vendors that more closely align with those needs. Vendors will use the RFP document (more on the document itself in section three below)  to shape their responses; they simply cannot be precise and accurate with the wrong inputs.  For instance, if you're soliciting bids for a new POS system but neglect to add a requirement for integrating with your property’s accounting system, then you’ll get a bunch of useless bids. So rather than rushing the process, and trying to get the request out to vendors as quickly as possible, focus on balancing speed with thoroughness. Gather the right people It all starts with gathering inputs from the right people. You need the right people in the room from the get-go so that the RFP accurately reflects current needs. Otherwise, the process goes off the rails rather quickly if you don't have the right people in the room. You need to include the people that are not just the decision-makers but also that will be directly impacted by the decision. This reduces the chance of a drawn-out review process that starts to become a decision by consensus. If the right people are in the room, and they are gathering requirements correctly, then the evaluation process should be relatively straightforward. For example, a GM setting up an RFP committee for a new revenue management system may want to include owners, revenue managers and front desk agents, as these are the people who use the software daily. “We believe it is necessary to have a well-rounded team of people involved in the process. Key stakeholders should be included. When we’ve done this with clients, we usually include a steering committee with people representing various departments including operations, revenue management, sales, marketing, finance and an executive sponsor. Including too many people means you may take a really long time to make a decision and including too few people means that you may not have buy in once a decision is made.” Caryl Helsel, Dragonfly Strategists “Regardless of the project and solution/technology being solicited, the primary sponsor must ensure that all stakeholders in the process understand the overall objectives of the project and that individual goals do not conflict with those objectives.  That includes an understanding of how a solution interfaces across the enterprise.  For example, how many integrations, input variables and data-points are needed from how many systems.  A well-defined requirements document provides the “one source of truth” that all stakeholders can reference and will determine the ultimate features and functions, their supportability, and expected utilization.” David Chestler, Provision Partners You don't want too many cooks in the kitchen but it's important to crowd source requirements from all stakeholders. “Successful properties have absolute buy in from organization leadership. A fully established SOP on sales processes. Namely that they have people who are fully trained to respond to RFPs and know exactly what they want to convey and the unique selling points for their property that relate to who is requesting the pricing,” says Anthony Gambini of Premiere Advisory Group.   There's nothing worse than buying software to find out that the daily users can't effectively leverage the platform and their work is being inhibited. Avoid this by including relevant stakeholders. It can also be helpful to have representatives from IT, legal and procurement, as appropriate. These participants will keep the process from hitting snags later by surfacing potential issues and needs early on in the process.   Define the parameters The RFP committee is responsible for outlining the requirements of the software,  identifying deal breakers, and then pulling all those points into the RFP itself. Clearly stated requirements will structure the RFP so that responses are tailored to your property’s specific needs. Otherwise, you may have to sort through bids from vendors they can't actually meet your specific needs. Make sure that  everyone is on the same page about the must-haves and nice-to-haves. You don’t want surprises later -- such as a housekeeping management system that doesn’t feature an offline mode for a property that only has WiFi in public areas! See our section below for some common sections to include. "Buyers make a number of key mistakes in the RFP process: Underestimating the level of engagement and detail needed to analyze and assess the product compared to other competitive offerings. Not isolating the must-haves from the nice-to-haves and how the technology can deliver against those functional criteria is imperative. Not knowing where the hidden traps may be and what steps a company has taken to future proof a product. Budget is another area to validate.  I am reminded of a dear friend who always asked for BANT in every deal.  Bank, Authority, Need and a Timeline.  Those are the areas of critical failure when coordinating and working on a program for development and deployment.   Check those boxes and a deal will get done," says David Chestler. One way to define these requirements is to define the “jobs to be done” by clearly mapping the user journey. During your kickoff meeting for the review committee, define the primary jobs that the software must do -- and then map those out. It’s less about a feature list and more about the tasks and problems at hand. Let the vendor outline how their features give you what you need! Deal breakers are equally important to define upfront. Some examples are the usage of sub-contractors, a vendor that provides no uptime guarantees, a software that doesn’t meet security standards or a product requiring custom development. Agreeing on the deal breakers upfront keeps everyone honest and prevents snags later in the process. Some are hesitant to put budget requirements and at this phase. However, if you know that you must come in under a certain number, include it. Not only will it help vendors opt out of submitting responses, it can help you negotiate later. Note that it's advisable to include a budget if you are sending out an RFP for digital marketing agencies; otherwise, it looks like you are either disorganized or fishing for free ideas.   Set a realistic timeline Lay out your timeline, including submission deadlines, decision dates and major milestones such as implementation. This not only aligns vendors with your expectations, but also gives the RFP committee clarity and structure. And then stick with the timeline! Only in extreme circumstances, such as a dramatically shifted business environment that changes your needs, should this timeline be tweaked.  Urgency is the name of the game here; otherwise, the process may be drawn out endlessly, never resulting in a solution.  A good rule of thumb is a no less than 30 days but no more than 90. It really comes down to the complexity of solutions: Software is often more straightforward than hardware and technology that impacts multiple departments requires more coordination and collaboration. Your timeline should include: RFP launch date Due date for follow-up questions from vendors Due date for answers to those questions from your team Date of bidder’s conference RFP due date Announcement date of finalists Date of finalist presentations Final award date Implementation date Dan Wacksman from technology consulting firm Sassato told Hotel Tech Report that the timeline is actually where many buyers mess up, “There are usually unrealistic expectations amongst buyers of the time it takes from RFP to implementation kick-off, everything always takes longer than expected. Creating the RFP, choosing a shortlist of vendors, signing NDA's, getting responses, clarification questions, in-person presentations, decision, contract negotiation all have to take place prior to kick-off. In addition, there are often many stakeholders that need to be involved, and often there is an internal resource leading the project who is also expected to do his/her fulltime job, thus further adding potential delays to the timeline. For these reasons it can make sense to bring in a third party to help shepherd the process; this can often shave weeks if not months of the timeline and lead to a more successful implementation.”   Build the Scoring Matrix Don't wait until proposals start coming in to decide how you’ll evaluate a vendor’s ability to meet your needs. Ensure transparency and cross-functional alignment by building the Scoring Matrix at the same time as you build the proposal. By agreeing on the scorecard upfront, you can make sure that the RFP is structured in such a way that all proposals will align with your scoring. Since your Scorecard must be based on objective measurements, include only quantifiable questions in your proposal. These are questions that don’t leave a lot of gray areas. For example, instead of asking “what’s your service philosophy” word it as a yes/no question: “do you have 24/7 support?” Using multiple choice questions within the proposal is also a great way to streamline scoring. Two potential approaches are qualitative and weighted. The qualitative approach scores vendors according to specific around your most important criteria. Answers are scored based on how closely they meet your requirements, with higher scores for closer alignment. Each score is then given a clear, qualitative basis for the score. For example, this scorecard template from Smartsheet uses eight criteria on a qualitative basis for evaluation: Adherence to RFP Instructions Company Information Project Understanding Requirements Product Viability & History Terms & Conditions Vendor Demonstration Fee Summary You may also want to consider the weighted approach, which adjusts scores based on their relative importance to your hotel. This scoring approach is definitely more complicated but it can be a much more accurate way to gauge alignment. Without weighting, you might not give more attention to the most important criteria for your hotel. Two templates to consider are the Weighted Decision Analysis from Expert Program Management and the Weighted Criteria Matrix from GoLeanSixSigma. These examples are great for seeing how to effectively weight your unique criteria and properly score your vendors.   Expert tips about creating your scoring matrix: Loren Gray: Identify current use / current perceived issues / identify current version / Identify current training, (awareness of current platform function not perceived function) / Identify current dialog with current service provider, (are they aware of the frustration of their client and have exhausted all solution options) Dan Wacksman: This is such a critical step and should be done upfront (at least the draft). As mentioned above, many companies fail to fully identify what business problem(s) they are trying to solve for and what key features and functionality they want. This is where the project lead/consultant plays a vital role in helping them flesh this out. Meeting with key stakeholders and understanding their pain points, challenges, and opportunities is paramount. Also, understanding how other companies utilize the technology is also important, as in many instances, people may not know the full scope/capabilities available. In an ideal world, the scoring matrix is reviewed by all key stakeholders. The matrix is very important, and it helps to guide the decision. But the reality is, it is not possible to perfectly weight everything so that you can numerically determine a winner, the score will be one aspect of the decision. Evelyne Oreskovich: I begin every project with a full review of not only how they do business now, but what they need or want to be able to do (their wish list) but are restricted by their technology. Many companies are doing things manually, or jury-rigging features of their current technology to support their requirements. I categorize and weight requirements into 3 categories: Must have, would like to have (to allow for SOP changes or innovative approach), nice to have (but not absolutely necessary). This allows the team to determine how well each vendor’s solution actually meets their needs or will help them get to the next level. David Chestler: This is a simple methodology approach using weighting and averages to determine the priority of features, functions, support, operational ease and training amongst other variables.  The responses and features are assigned a numeric value on a multiple point matrix and then the math does the rest if the right questions and assumptions are asked and scored. The most important thing we can do as experts is understand the client’s needs, interpret and clarify their customer needs, and then present a blueprint that will deliver a ROI on the selection of a solution quickly.  We should not tell the client what is important; we should help them identify what their clients believe is important.   Write your RFP Now it’s time to compile everything you’ve gathered into your RFP, which is the document that guides vendors in their responses. A poorly-worded, hastily-structured or ill-defined RFP usually results in similarly weak responses. For the purposes of clarity and apples-to-apples comparisons, it’s helpful to have a familiar template for RFPs across the organization. Otherwise, each individual team will come up with something that works for them and it becomes confusing for cross-functional collaboration. The template should include a brief description of the project at hand, and a clear list of key requirements of the software. Don't feel like you need to be overly prescriptive or include every “nice to have”; simply include the most essential functionality and let the vendors go from there. An example would be: “We’re a 500 room property in a resort destination seeking to increase upsells and ancillary sales by 100% in 18 months. We’re looking for upselling software to assist with this objective.” Your template should be broken down into specific sections: Overview: background about your organization, including a problem statement or the “jobs to be done” Timeline: the entire RFP process and eventual implementation Budget: how much you want to spend Technical Specifications: everything you need from the software Vendor Requirements: geography, documentation/certifications, insurance Process Guidelines: who and how to communicate with your team For inspiration, check out these useful RFP template resources. HubSpot recommends including a section for potential roadblocks. Template Lab has over a dozen different RFP examples to guide your own RFP templatization. SmartSheet has a number of useful RFP-related templates for requesting, tracking, scoring and comparing different vendors.    Invite vendors Now it's time to invite vendors to participate. We recommend also asking for references and case studies -- either as a part of the formal RFP process or in advance of choosing which vendors to invite.  it can be helpful to review case studies and or talk to existing customers before deciding which vendors should even enter the consideration funnel.  One easy way to ensure quality is to start with the top vendors in your target category. on HotelTechReport. That way you know that these vendors are well-reviewed and active in hospitality. HTR reviews are also a valuable source for sales challengers, as you can ask vendors to respond directly to any issues mentioned in reviews. Always have them sign an NDA in advance! That can be especially important when you need to disclose confidential information as part of the process.   Begin the bidding process A bidders conference is the final step in the launch phase. Invite your vendors onto a group call so vendors can ask any final questions. The conference call format ensures that everyone has access to the same information and avoids giving preferential treatment to one vendor over another. “Some buyers believe you don’t need to ask detailed questions. Often companies assume that every tech provider has the basics down. That is not always the case. Whether it be functionality, business process, account management or migration – details are important and they reveal the strengths and weaknesses of each provider,” says Caryl Helsel, RFP expert from Dragonfly Strategists. Remember that any answers you provide to individual vendors should be provided to all vendors to keep everyone aligned and working from the same information. That’s why you want to route all Inbound questions from vendors to the same person; if the GM is answering one email and the DIrector of Operations is answering another, there’s  information asymmetry that disrupts the level playing field.   Step 2: Evaluate During this phase, keep the RFP process moving along swiftly.  All too often, the process gets snagged on the evaluation criteria. There are many opinions to navigate and usually other stakeholders come out of the woodwork to comment. It’s also a heavy load to score and evaluate all the responses. “Some buyers are wowed by the bells and whistles. Tech vendors will show off the “cool” innovations whether or not they aligned with the actual needs of the prospective client. Another issue is focusing on price… You’ve heard of the phrase “You get what you pay for.” Choosing technology based on price is like shooting yourself in the foot. The purchasing or procurement departments inevitably get involved, but they shouldn’t run the decision process,” says HeR Consulting’s Evelyne Oreskovich. Pay close attention to each vendor’s approach during the process. Take cues from their behavior: Are they slow to respond? Are they friendly? Are they asking smart follow up questions? You can learn a lot about potential vendors during this process. When they show you their stripes, pay attention! Share and score proposals in advance of in-person review The biggest snag here is the time it takes to evaluate responses. Refer back to your initial timeline to remind your RFP committee about expectations. Especially in hospitality, daily operations have a way of taking precedence over longer-term projects. To resist that pull, have a streamlined scoring and evaluation process. Send out all the proposals in a single batch to the RFP review committee. Ask them to review and score proposals. If there are any follow-up questions, gather those into a single shared document to send out to vendors. You can then bring those answers to your in-person review meeting. Another great way to organize responses is to use a project management tool like Trello, Asana or Airtable. These tools offer interactive checklists so you can be sure that the committee reviews proposals in the same way. These can also be handy ways to aggregate feedback in a single view. Announce your shortlist After everyone has had a chance to review, convene the committee to select the shortlist. Scores are obviously the top criteria; use a group vote as tiebreaker. Keep your list to no more than four vendors ideally but that number could grow with a large enough base of qualified vendors. It all depends on your unique needs. Schedule shortlist presentations and select finalist Invite your shortlist to one last round. These presentations give your team the chance to dive deeper into specifics (see “Focus Areas” below). You can learn a lot about how vendors approach these presentations; anyone who doesn't take it seriously should be immediately eliminated. This is the time to step it up and any vendor that can't isn't worth the risk! When it comes to length, 20 minutes per vendor is plenty. Leave more time for questions than a formal presentation. Ask each vendor to give a 5 minute presentation oriented towards what they can bring to your hotel and then focus most of the time on addressing specific questions that pertain to your needs. Don’t delay your final decision. The committee should choose the top two finalists immediately after the shortlist presentations. This keeps the topic fresh and moves this along.   Step 3: Negotiate Once the team has selected the final two options, it's time to negotiate. The reason we recommend choosing two vendors at this stage is so that you have the opportunity to compare and contrast contracts and pricing. “Ask for BANT in every deal.  Bank, Authority, Need and a Timeline.  Those are the areas of critical failure when coordinating and working on a program for development and deployment.   Check those boxes and a deal will get done,” says David Chestler of Provision Partners. As you review contracts, pricing and scope of work, look for red flags such as “bait and switch” pricing that doesn’t align with what was promised during the RFP process. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for onerous terms or vague commitments to metrics. The contract should clearly stipulate the vendor’s obligations related to performance, security, service reliability and implementation. The negotiation phase also tends to take longer than you expect. Keep the pressure up so that you can reach the finish line and get to your final offer to finish the procurement process!   Step 4: Implement The RFP process formally ends once negotiations wrap up and a contract is signed.  However, we recommend a fourth phase that includes the implementation.Even as other operational teams take over the execution, the RFP team should be kept in the loop. Why is this important? Because there are learnings to be had when it comes to implementation. For example, did the vendor promise something that they didn't deliver? Were there any gaps that appeared or things we overlooked that could have been solved during the RFP process? Implementation can provide feedback to loop back into the RFP process -- so stay aware throughout implementation and identify any improvements for the next time.   Focus Areas When Evaluating Vendor RFP Responses As you build your RFPs, here are a few potential areas to consider: Product Security, Uptime and Service-level Agreements: Technology hosted off-premise has different requirements, as there’s less direct control over access and up time. So you must be crystal clear about the vendor’s responsibility around the quality and availability of its services. Lean on your technical/legal representatives on the RFP committee on this so you can get the most reliable software possible. Must haves in an SLA include a “time to alert” clause that stipulates how quickly the vendor will notify you of any breaches, as well as the Service availability metrics that guarantees a certain level of uptime. Here’s a boilerplate SLA for purposes of comparison.  Account Management and Implementation: What is the plan for getting you up and running after you sign the contract? And What happens after implementation when you transition to account management? Get crystal clear about the implementation process so that you can understand the vendor’s promised timeline. You’ll also want to know who’s responsible for implementing the contract on the vendor’s end so know what to expect.  Integrations & Connections to Existing Systems: Are you looking at a holistic solution or one that connects to multiple platforms? You’ll need to understand your new vendor fits into your existing tech stack.   Specific Features and Functionality: It can’t be said enough: be certain that the system does what you need it to do! Ask the RFP review committee: Does it solve the overall problem that we are trying to address? Scope creep is a problem for every project; don’t let the RFP process drift from solving your core needs. Open-ended Use Cases: Finally, look beyond your existing tech stack and think about your ideal workflow. Does the product meet that workflow? Or is this new software going to further calcify a tech workflow that’s undesirable? Now is the time to make sure that all new software fits into the longer-term tech plan for your property.   Questions for Hardware Vendors Hardware has an entirely different set of needs than software.  You'll want your RFPs to reflect that fact -- otherwise, you'll be spending a lot of time fielding requests for further information from vendors, dragging out the process and wasting time. Here are four questions to ask potential hardware vendors: How often do you recommend your hardware be upgraded? Hardware upgrades are expensive and potentially destructive. Get some clarity upfront about how often the vendor recommends hardware upgrades. How do you handle hardware upgrades? One of the worst parts about hardware is that it is expensive to upgrade. And it can cause disruption during those periods of downtime. You want to have a clear understanding of the risks, responsibilities and costs related to any future upgrades.  What about the software on your hardware? More often than not, you're not just buying hardware; rather,  It's paired with software. you want to have a clear and detailed understanding of how software upgrades are handled, specifically around additional cost and any downtime. If you purchase hardware, but future software updates cost additional, you need to factor that into your evaluation. What are the installation costs? Hardware is expensive. And much of this cost comes from the installation. It's critical to have that information up front and not later on down the process.   RFP Expert Bios Hospitality Digital Marketing (Loren Gray): Marketing 'only pay for what you need' we are a completely scalable service provider that brings the best of industry talent (adhoc) to directly work on whatever goal is indicated and then leaves once accomplished. I'll give one example: we kept a hotel at 67% occupancy in the middle of a major metro through this entire time while almost its entire compset closed for lack of business. You think it - we can do it, 'the impossible only takes longer' -- I know it sounds arrogant but seriously we have not lost a fight yet. Anyone in hospitality we help everyone, big small branded non branded, F&B, Spa, Golf ,multi-unit, service to market, we've literally done them all. Sassato (Dan Wacksman): We help hotels make decisions and get sh*t done. With over 20 years of senior-level experience working directly in the hotel and travel space with focus on marketing, distribution, and technology I help fill the gap experienced by many organizations of having to quickly bring on capable "ready to run" leaders to assess, recommend and deliver on key initiatives, to help quickly improve their performance in marketing, distribution, technology and implementations. Sassato is the Seal Team 6 of hospitality and travel (but much geekier), who will come in and quickly fill holes, solve problems, and rescue projects, but without the cost of adding more headcount. HeR Consulting (Evelyne Oreskovich): Bringing decades of property and head office experience in reservations, sales, revenue & channel management, CRM and systems integration, projects are approached with the eyes of the hotelier. No cookie cutter approach will achieve your goals; we take the time to understand where you are and where you want to go. Your success is our success. Dragonfly Strategists (Caryl Helsel): Our target clients are small to medium sized hotel groups, new hotel owners, independent hotels, boutique hotels and new brands. We act as an outsourced corporate office for hotel companies that either need additional resource as their teams are limited or as qualified resource that they don’t have. A piece of our team is less expensive than a full-time less experienced employee and delivers more value because we know what we are doing. We typically don’t work with big brands. They have their own teams – we like to serve as the team for the smaller groups and owners. We specifically provide an experienced commercial, IT & operations strategy team including sales, marketing, revenue strategy and revenue for hire, distribution, reservations, operational process improvement and IT planning, strategy and launch. Premiere Advisory Group (Anthony Gambini): As an advisory firm we specialize in Sales, Revenue & Distribution Optimization. We work with hotel operators and management companies, to maximize revenue and drive market share across all booking channels. Taking a comprehensive look at the hoteliers distribution ecosystem we identify areas of improvement while making strategic recommendations on how to increase your overall return on investment and decrease your client acquisition cost. Among our clients portfolio we count SH Group, Dream Hotel Group, Sixty Hotels, Warwick Hotels, Hard Rock Hotels… What sets PAG apart from other service providers is our proactive client services and support. Our executive team is composed of Travel distribution and system connectivity specialists with years of experience in account management and implementation of customized solutions for Technology Hospitality companies. Properties have unlimited access to our team of distribution experts throughout the year. Provision Partners (David Chestler): An outcomes-based and execution-oriented approach to solving the critical business challenges of our travel and hospitality clients.  We are uniquely positioned to provide the insights born out of deep industry and professional experience.  Our focus is on providing actionable, measurable recommendations.  These are tactics meant to have immediate impacts.   When to Use RFQ and RFIs A Request for Information (RFI) is used when you think you know what you want but need more information from the vendors. It will typically be followed by an RFQ or RFP. A Request for Quotation (RFQ) is commonly used when you know what you want but need information on how vendors would meet your requirements and/or how much it will cost.  

What is a Global Distribution System (GDS)? 2020 Guide for Hotels

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 week ago

Did you know you could book a flight, tour operator, car rental or hotel room in real-time via electronic GDS systems since the 1960s? You may be thinking, “hmm… online travel agencies like Expedia and Booking.com aren’t that old, are they?” But years before the OTAs gained prominence, global distribution systems provided real-time access to hotel and flight inventory for travel agent service providers across the world.  In this article, we’ll explore the history of the legacy hotel technology known as GDS in the travel industry, explain who uses it (and why), and ponder whether the GDS still has a place in today’s travel distribution sector. If you’re considering using the GDS as a distribution channel for your hotel - or if you’re weighing the pros and cons of removing your hotel from it - this article will help you make an educated decision.   Booking Travel Online: The History of the GDS Before the 1960s, the fastest way to make a hotel reservation or book a flight was to pick up the phone and call the hotel or the airline. This method was extremely inefficient; when a travel agent (or assistant for business travel) would call an airline to make a booking, it could take  the airline representative over an hour to shuffle through the paper booking reports, find an available seat, and enter the new booking manually. The growth of airlines’ reservations departments was limited to however many people could access those files at one time. To meet the growing demand for air travel, airlines developed their own reservation systems to streamline the booking process. American Airlines was the first company, in partnership with IBM, to implement an electronic reservation system for their reservations agents to use. This new technology, called the Semi-Automated Business Research Environment (SABRE), allowed American Airlines to greatly expand their reservations team beyond the number of people who could huddle around the paper booking files. Other airlines followed suit soon after, and by the early 70s, Delta, American Airlines, British Airways, and United were all using electronic reservations systems. The first hotel company to implement an electronic reservations system was Westin in 1970. Up until this point, the only people who could access these distribution systems were airline or hotel employees, but that changed in 1976, when a travel agency was granted access to SABRE for the first time. By 1985, more than 10,000 travel agencies used SABRE. Over the next decade, many new companies popped up that offered travel agents a direct, electronic connection to airline and hotel reservation systems. Finally, in 1992, owners of a North America-based system and a Europe-based system joined forces to create the world’s first global distribution system.   How Does a GDS Work? In short, a GDS functions as a middleman between a travel agent and a hotel’s (or airline’s) central reservation system. Travel agents can see real-time rates and inventory for a given hotel via the GDS, though the GDS doesn’t actually hold its own inventory. It’s simply a window into the hotel’s system, which shows available room types, rates, and restrictions. When a travel agent books a room, the GDS transfers the reservation information to the hotel’s system and removes that room from the hotel system’s inventory. The travel agent does not need to talk to anyone from the hotel, and the hotel’s reservations agents don’t need to enter any data manually. It’s much more efficient than back in the 60s!   What Benefits Does the GDS Offer? Besides the time savings, the GDS allows travel agents to tap into reservation systems for a world of travel providers. Today you can book not only airfare and hotels via the GDS, but also rental cars, cruises, rail tickets, and tours. For a travel agent who is booking a vacation package that might include all of the above, they can complete the reservations in just a few clicks, rather than calling each individual provider. For hotels, airlines, and the like, the GDS offers massive marketing power. Before the GDS became popular, hotels would need to undertake huge marketing efforts in order to be seen by travel agents. The GDS effectively democratized this process, with chain hotels getting the same visibility on the GDS as independent hotels. The GDS also gives hotels access to new segments of guests, such as corporate travelers via companies like American Express and Carlson Wagonlit, who likely would not book direct. While hotels do need to pay a fee per booking to use the GDS, that fee is often less than the average OTA commission.   What are the Most Popular Global Distribution Systems? The GDS industry has come a long way since the 60s; while Sabre is still a major player, several GDS companies operate today. The major global distribution systems for travel reservations include: Amadeus is the world’s largest GDS, accounting for about 40% of GDS transactions, and it’s especially popular in Europe. Though many of these reservations are for airfare, it’s still a powerful tool for hotels, with over 600,000 hotels connected. Sabre is the second-largest GDS, accounting for about 35% of travel agency bookings. Around 175,000 hotels are connected to Sabre, but its portfolio in North America is larger than its competitors. Travelport GDS  owns systems called Galileo, Worldspan, and Apollo. Travelsky is a state-run GDS in China. In addition to these big GDS companies, you’ll find smaller, regional players like KIU, which is popular in Latin America.   Which GDS is the Best? No one GDS can be called the “best” travel service provider, since they all provide similar functionality and have their own unique differences. If you’re wondering how to choose a GDS, you’ll want to consider a few variables, including the system’s presence in the markets where your guests come from, the system’s functions and which travel websites that GDS connects into. Travelport, for example, supports more options for discounts for corporate travelers. In addition, you should ensure your existing property management system offers integration with the GDS that you choose. And you’ll also want to consider the price. Each system has a different fee structure that varies by property and market, so you’ll need to contact the company to find out which fees apply to your hotel.  GDS fees can skyrocket quickly in the hotel management world and it's important to understand how rates and commissions are structured to ensure that your e-commerce channel on GDS networks can be profitable.   No More GDS? The Future of Global Distribution In 2006 the volume of internet reservations exceeded GDS reservations for the first time, thanks to the growing popularity of online booking channels and the decline of brick-and-mortar travel agencies. Does the GDS still serve a purpose when travelers can easily book directly with the airline or hotel? In many cases, yes, the GDS still delivers value, especially for airlines and corporate travel companies. Airlines still distribute their inventory to OTAs via the GDS, and corporate travel planners continue to use the GDS to find corporate rates. However, with so much innovation happening in the travel space, the GDS’s legacy technology definitely faces competition from other booking systems.  -- With decades of history and an enormous user base of travel agents, using the GDS can be a great way to expand your hotel’s marketing and distribution strategy. But the GDS doesn’t necessarily provide value to every hotel; if you’re wondering how to use the GDS or why to add it as a distribution channel, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons for your individual hotel.  

A Complete Guide to the 4 Biggest Vacation Rental Websites

by
Adrienne Fors
1 week ago

Deciding to start a vacation rental business - or grow your existing one - is a big decision (especially in the wake of covid-19). But that’s just one of many decisions necessary to turn your goals into reality.  Many of the major hotel booking sites have been expanding into vacation rentals and vice versa as the lines blur between these categories of lodging. The vacation rental world is only getting bigger and more complex, and many property owners and managers feel overwhelmed at first. We wanted to eliminate the confusion and put property managers on the path to earning 5-star reviews with as few headaches as possible. That’s why we created our comprehensive guides to the most popular vacation rental websites: Airbnb, Vrbo, Tripadvisor, and Booking.com.  This can also be your guide if you're trying to understand which listing website can help you book the best vacation or getaway. Within these guides, you’ll learn about the basics, like logging in, setting up your property listings and getting support, as well as more complex topics, such as pricing models, service fees and promotional strategies. After reading about each site, you can make informed decisions about what’s best for your business. Do you list on all sites or just one? What can some sites offer you that others can’t? Which sites get the most traffic? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about selling your property on the top four short-term rental sites.   Airbnb: Your Guide to Getting Started The first step in the Airbnb listing process is to create an account for your vacation rental property. If you’ve booked vacation rentals or Experiences on Airbnb in the past, then you don’t need to create a new account. Unless, of course, you want to keep your business separate from your personal account. If you’re wondering how to set up a new account or check if you already have one, then you’ll want to read our guide to how to log into Airbnb. Once you’ve logged in, then you can start building your listing. You’ll upload your photos, write compelling descriptions, set your rates, outline your house rules, and, when you’re ready, push the listing live. But all of those little steps can make a big impact on your listing’s attractiveness and your business’s bottom line. Our detailed guide to Airbnb FAQs covers all the specifics from refund policies to taxes. If you have any questions along the way, you can always browse Airbnb’s Community Center forum or contact Airbnb’s support team. They’re available via phone or online chat 24/7 and while they charge a hefty booking fee it's actually much better than what is charged by firms like Expedia and Booking to hospitality businesses for selling hotel rooms. Airbnb is one of the most popular travel sites in the world, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best choice for your business. Airbnb’s competitors can offer different features and commission rates, and some sites even target different types of guests.    Vrbo: Your Guide to Getting Started Like on Airbnb, the first step to listing your property on Vrbo is to create an account and log in. Need help with this step? Check out our guide on how to log into Vrbo. By the way, Vrbo and HomeAway are the same company now and both are owned by Expedia Group. There’s no need to create two separate accounts or two separate listings; your listing will show on both Vrbo and HomeAway automatically. After logging in, you can begin to build your listing. The listing process is similar to Airbnb’s; you’ll write your descriptions, upload photos, check off all those little amenity checkboxes, and choose your subscription plan. Wait, what? You need a subscription plan for Vrbo? This must be one of the most frequently asked questions about Vrbo and HomeAway. Like other vacation rental sites, Vrbo charges a small commission on every reservation if you do not go for the subscription model. The subscription model costs $499 per year, so for hosts and owners who plan to rent full-time, the subscription can make good financial sense. If you have any questions along the way, you can always contact Vrbo support for assistance. When we look at user reviews for Vrbo and Vrbo’s competitors, Vrbo’s support team actually gets great ratings! That’s just one difference between Vrbo and other sites, though. If you’re planning to list a shared space, like a private room in a house, then a site like Airbnb or Booking.com would be a better option. The bread and butter of Vrbo’s business is traditional vacation homes and condos.   Tripadvisor: Your Guide to Getting Started Few travelers book hotels without checking the Tripadvisor reviews first, but Tripadvisor now lets travelers book directly on their site. And we’re not just talking about hotels, but vacation rentals too. Through the Tripadvisor Rentals program, which includes sites like FlipKey and Holiday Lettings, you can make your property available to book on this popular channel. After you’ve set up a Tripadvisor Rentals account, the listing process is quite simple. In fact, it might be the fastest onboarding process out of this group. Compared to Tripadvisor’s competitors, though, the site gets the least amount of monthly visitors, but it can still be a good addition to your vacation rental business strategy.  Like other sites, Tripadvisor operates on a commission model, so there’s no risk in setting up your listing. You’ll only pay the commission on money you earn from reservations. In our guide to listing on Tripadvisor, you can learn more about Tripadvisor’s policies, features, and best practices. Throughout the listing process (and when you’re managing listings that are live), Tripadvisor offers plenty of support options in case you need assistance. The site contains helpful how-to guides, a database of support articles, and a team that you can contact by phone.   Booking.com: Your Guide to Getting Started It’s impossible to write a guide to vacation rental listing sites without including the biggest of them all: Booking.com. This site attracts the most visitors of any travel site in the world, so it seems like an obvious partner for your vacation rental business. Well, not so fast! As you’ll learn in our Booking.com listing guide and our study of Booking.com’s competitors, there are a few reasons why the site might not be the best choice for your business. For one, Booking.com charges a 15% commission - that’s a lot higher than Airbnb’s 3% commission! Despite the cost, Booking.com can bring a lot of value to savvy vacation rental owners. Once you’ve logged into Booking.com and gotten acquainted with their host portal, called the Extranet, you’ll find a slew of market research tools, promotional options, and resources for running a successful hospitality business. Being a massive, global company, Booking.com also offers some of the best customer support out of the vacation rental listing sites. The company has offices in dozens of countries, so no matter what language you speak or what time zone you’re in, you can get great support at any time of day. The Booking.com support team can also communicate with you through the Extranet Inbox, which is conveniently available on desktop and in their Pulse mobile app. Ready to set your vacation rental business up for success? One of the most important steps is choosing which vacation rental listing sites to use. After all, these sites are responsible for bringing potential guests to your property - so it’s a good idea to choose wisely. You’ll also want to consider the time commitment necessary to manage multiple sites. But, after you’ve read our guides to each listing channel, perhaps you want to dive right in and partner with all of them. Whatever you choose, we wish you nothing but happy guests and 5-star reviews!  

Best 30 Hotel Booking Sites: 2020 Cheap Deals, Quirky Pads and More!

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 week ago

Are you feeling as couped up as we are with this Coronavirus quarantine? Looking for inspiration and deals to plan your revenge trip when the world opens back up again? Nothing beats that rush when you book a killer hotel deal! With the number of hotel booking sites multiplying at a rapid pace, it can be difficult to know where to find the best deals - and without getting scammed. In this article, we’ll introduce you to several types of hotel booking sites, including online travel agencies, comparison or “meta-search” sites, branded hotel sites, innovative booking sites, flash sales and “mystery hotel” deals, and some sites offering unique accommodations. By the end of this page, you’ll know several sites where you can find the best deals for the kind of travel that’s in your future. Ultimately finding the best hotel booking website will mean different things to different people.  Even a single person may define "best" differently for different types of trips. Are you looking for the most sophisticated search engine that makes  your hotel search fast and painless? Google would likely be considered a top contender.  Maybe you're looking for cheap hotels to stay at on your next business trip to San Francisco where you'd prefer Kayak.  Maybe you need an all suites hotel in Las Vegas for a bachelor party or an all-in package for your family to Disneyland Orlando with car rental, activities and more. In this article we'll break down 'best' into 5 categories to make it easy for you to find what you're looking for on different types of trips: Top Hotel Deal Sites Online travel agencies Price comparison websites Branded hotel booking Unique accomodations Let’s dive in!   Online Travel Agencies If making hotel reservations were like online shopping, then the online travel agencies are the Amazon of the hotel industry. These mega-sites contain millions of listings for hotels, vacation rentals, and everything in between. If you travel frequently, some OTAs even offer loyalty programs which can bring you even more perks and discounts. Booking.com If you’ve ever searched for hotels online, chances are you’ve come across Booking.com. This massive hotel booking site is the largest in the world, with over 28 million properties listed. You can find everything from luxury hotels to hostels to apartment rentals on Booking.com. In the search results, you can quickly see the property’s guest review score, the cheapest room type, and the total reservation price - unlike some other sites which only show the nightly rate. At most Booking.com properties, you pay directly at the hotel when you arrive. Unique feature: Sheer volume of properties Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: Through Booking’s Genius program, you get extra discounts after staying at two properties within two years, and after five stays, you get perks like room upgrades and free breakfast. Did you know? Booking.com is the most popular travel website in the world, with hundreds of millions of visitors per month!   Expedia Expedia can be considered your one-stop-shop for travel. You can book not only hotels on the site, but also flights, rental cars, cruises, and activities. Hotels can join Expedia’s frequent flash sales, and travelers can often get extra discounts with promo codes around major holidays, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Expedia is one of the few sites that offers package deals (a bundle of flight, hotel, and/or rental car reservations), which often include significant discounts.     Unique feature: Package deals Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: Expedia Rewards members get access to members-only discounts and collect points on every booking. Members can redeem points for free stays, and higher-tier members enjoy perks like room upgrades and free amenities. Did you know? Expedia owns Orbitz and Travelocity, so you’ll see exactly the same properties and rates on those sites.   Hotels.com Hotels.com is part of the Expedia Group, so you’ll find the same hotels (and hostels, vacation rentals, etc.) on this site, but the real difference lies in the loyalty program. Sign up for a free Hotels.com Rewards account to get one free night for every 10 nights you stay. The value of your free night is an average of the 10 paid nights, and the location, brand, or star rating doesn’t matter. It’s a great way to get free nights at independent hotels, especially if you travel a lot!      Unique feature: Loyalty program Region: Worldwide, but most popular in the US and Canada Loyalty program: Stay 10 nights, get one free. Membership is free. Did you know? The Hotels.com spokesperson is Captain Obvious.   Agoda If you’re traveling in the US or Europe, you have a plethora of booking sites at your fingertips. In Asia, however, especially in less popular and rural areas, Agoda is often your only option. Agoda has over 2 million listings, which can be hotels, resorts, hostels, homestays, and vacation rentals. Check the “Today’s Deals” page for promo codes valid for extra discounts.     Unique feature: Volume of properties in Asian markets Region: Most popular in Asia Loyalty program: The PointsMAX program lets you pair your airline loyalty program (like AAdvantage) and earn miles after each Agoda stay. Did you know? Agoda’s website and mobile app are translated into 38 languages.   Hotel Booking Comparison Sites With so many booking sites, it could take hours for you to compare the prices for one hotel on all of them. Comparison sites, also known as meta-search sites, do the heavy lifting for you and pull the rates from various OTAs into one place. You can then click the link for the website with the cheapest rate and book directly through that site. Kayak Even though Booking.com owns Kayak, you can use Kayak to compare prices for hotels, rental cars, and flights on dozens, if not hundreds, of different websites. If you’re watching a specific flight or hotels over specific dates, you can sign up for a price alert and receive an email when rates increase or decrease. Unique feature: Price comparisons for hotels and flights Region: Worldwide, but most popular in the US Loyalty program: None Did you know? Kayak’s “Deals” page sells discounted tours and concert tickets.   HotelsCombined Another popular meta-search site is HotelsCombined, which - you guessed it - combines the search results from all the big booking sites into one consolidated hotel list. After plugging in dates and a destination, you can filter the results by star rating, guest review score, neighborhood, brand, amenities, and more. Unique feature: Price comparisons for hotels, flights  Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? Over 400 million travelers used HotelsCombined last year.   Trivago If you’re searching for the best deals on hotels, Trivago is a good place to look. The site compares over 1.8 million hotels and pulls in prices from over 400 different websites. You can filter your search results by star rating, review score, and amenities, and you can see average hotel prices per day to find cheaper days of the week or month.     Unique feature: The calendar highlights cheaper and more expensive dates. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? Trivago doesn’t just shop hotels, but also hostels and vacation rentals.   Tripadvisor Though you may know Tripadvisor best as a review site, it’s also a travel booking and comparison site. On each hotel listing, above the reviews section, you’ll see rates for that hotel on all of the big OTAs and, usually, the hotel’s own website. Tripadvisor lists not only hotels, but you can also book vacation rentals, tours, activities, and restaurant reservations.     Unique feature: Easy to find added-value offers, like free breakfast Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? Tripadvisor highlights the cheapest dates for a given hotel so you can find the best deals.   Google Is there anything you can’t find on Google? As a newer player in the travel game, many people don’t know that Google can reveal some good hotel deals. You can find hotels on Google in two ways: a simple Google search for “hotels in ___” and through Google Maps. Google’s hotel listings contain all of the hotel’s Google Maps info, like contact information, photos, and guest reviews, and the listings also show prices and links to book at various sites, often including the hotel’s own website. Unique feature: Google Maps data, including reviews and photos. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? Some hotels have Google Street View 3D tours.   Hotel Brand Booking Websites Do you crave quality, consistency, and lots of loyalty perks? The world’s global hotel chains offer a lot of value to frequent travelers through their loyalty programs, which are free to join and often offer members-only rates and benefits. The three chains below offer a myriad of different brands ranging from budget to ultra-luxury with properties around the world. These are just a few brands of the many across the globe, but they offer some of the best loyalty programs and property portfolios. Hilton HHonors As one of the world’s most well known chains, Hilton Worldwide has a portfolio of over 6000 hotels in 120 countries. The Hilton umbrella includes brands like Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn, Embassy Suites, and Waldorf Astoria, and you can book all Hilton hotels on the brand’s main website or app. When you create a free Hilton HHonors account, you’ll receive access to special member discounts and get free WiFi at all Hilton properties. Unique feature: All HHonors members can use digital check-in to choose their own room. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: HHonors tiers include Member, Silver, Gold, and Diamond, and all members accumulate points which can be redeemed for free nights. Did you know? Gold and Diamond members receive free breakfast at all Hilton properties.   Marriott Bonvoy Marriott International comes in at #3 in the list of largest hotel chains in the world, and the company has over 7000 properties in its portfolio. After Marriott’s merger with Starwood in 2015, the company’s portfolio grew to include a whopping 30 brands, including Courtyard, Four Points, Moxy, Sheraton, Westin, and Ritz-Carlton. Marriott’s website and mobile apps allow you to book all 30 brands in the same place.     Unique feature: Elite members staying at least 10 nights per year receive late checkout at all Marriott properties. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: Marriott’s Bonvoy program has six tiers from standard Member to Ambassador Elite. Did you know? If you stay 250 nights at Marriott properties and earn Elite status for 5 years, you get Elite status for life.   World of Hyatt Though Hyatt’s portfolio size pales in comparison to Marriott and Hilton, World of Hyatt members enjoy some pretty incredible perks at the company’s roughly 900 hotels around the world. Hyatt’s brands include Hyatt Place, Hyatt Centric, Andaz, Hyatt Regency, and Park Hyatt, and you can book them all on Hyatt’s website and apps. Hyatt also has several “independent collections,” such as Joie de Vivre, which include boutique hotels with no Hyatt branding. Unique feature: World of Hyatt members enjoy perks at Exhale Spas, American Airlines, and Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: World of Hyatt’s membership tiers include Member, Discoverist (10 nights/year), Explorist (30 nights/year), and Globalist (60 nights/year). Did you know? Globalist members get free breakfast or executive lounge access at every Hyatt property.   Innovative Hotel Booking Site Concepts Looking for something a little different? These specialized sites go beyond what the traditional OTAs offer. You’ll find sites that focus on specific types of hotels - or even specific hotel amenities - as well as platforms that utilize technology to deliver better prices than you can find elsewhere. Some even offer hidden, members-only deals that you must sign in to view. Take your deal-hacking to the next level with these disrupters. Roomer Travel Have you ever needed to cancel a non-refundable hotel reservation? In most cases, you can’t get your money back, but you can post your reservation on Roomer. This site offers discounted stays at hotels around the world - but be warned, the dates are very specific and you can usually only choose from one room type. If you get lucky and the dates align with your travel dates, then you’re in luck!     Unique feature: Reselling hotel reservations that other people can’t use. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? Though the original booker couldn’t get a refund from the hotel, some of Roomer’s offers are refundable when you book through the Roomer site.   Splitty Travel This money-saving site uses technology to hack other travel sites and find the best deals. Splitty’s technology combines multiple offers at the same hotel to secure a lower-priced reservation. How, you ask? Maybe you’re searching for a 4-night stay in Dallas, and the cheapest room at Hotel ABC is $75, but it’s only available for the first 3 nights. Because it’s not available for your entire stay, the other sites won’t show it in their search results. Instead, they’ll show a $120 room that is available for the whole stay. Splitty, however, can create a “split” reservation for you that includes a combination of the $75 and $120 rooms - as an example.     Unique feature: Creative rate-hacking technology. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? Sometimes Splitty’s technology will reveal available combinations of rooms or rates at hotels that appear sold out on other sites.   Secret Escapes This members-only deal site offers great discounts on luxury hotels and resorts around the world. Well, that sounds too good to be true. What’s the catch? The sales are only available for a limited time (a couple days, usually), and the travel date ranges are often limited too. But if your travel dates are flexible, you can find fantastic deals. Browse the site’s upcoming offers and if you see one that looks interesting, you can get an email reminder when the sale goes live.   Unique feature: Limited-time-only sales on luxury properties. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None, but you must create an account in order to see deals and book. Did you know? Some of Secret Escapes’ offers include airfare.   Pruvo Have you ever bought a new pair of shoes only to learn they went on sale a week later? The same thing happens with hotels; prices can decrease between the time you booked and the time you check in, and Pruvo helps you take advantage of these price drops. When you book a room with a free cancellation policy on any booking site (like Expedia or Booking.com), you can email your confirmation to Pruvo and they’ll keep an eye on your hotel’s rates. If prices drop, you’ll get an email with instructions for booking that cheaper rate. Best of all, Pruvo’s service is free! Unique feature: Save money back after you book. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? Install Pruvo’s Chrome extension so you don’t need to manually email your reservation confirmations.   HotelTonight If you’re the type of traveler who waits to book a hotel until you’ve arrived at the airport, then HotelTonight is the app for you. HotelTonight offers discounted rates at just a handful of properties, so you don’t get stuck with analysis paralysis. The deepest discounts are usually on last-minute reservations, though you can book months in advance if that’s your style. The company puts hotels into categories like “Basic,” “Hip,” and “High Roller,” to make your decision even easier. Unique feature: Best deals on same-day reservations. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: Get extra discounts, credits, and amenities through the HT Perks program. The more you spend, the better the benefits. Did you know? The “Daily Deal” gives you an extra discount at one property - but you need to book it within 15 minutes.   Dayuse Day trips, red-eye flights, meetings, photoshoots - there are many reasons why you could need a hotel room just for a day. But until Dayuse came along, you usually had to book the room for the night in order to get access for the couple of hours you need. Dayuse allows you to book rooms at over 5,000 hotels in 25 countries for prices up to 75% off the nightly rate. Some hotels even include pool, spa, or fitness center access.     Unique feature: Deep discounts for daytime-only hotel rooms. Region: Select countries around the world. Loyalty program: None Did you know? Some Dayuse hotels offer time slots so you only pay for the hours you need.   ResortPass Nothing says “vacation” like reclining in a lounge chair, drink in hand, on a palm tree-lined pool deck at a swanky resort. But what if your budget doesn’t include the room rate at that swanky resort? ResortPass offers day passes to pools, spas, and other amenities at over 400 high-end hotels so you can enjoy the vacation vibes at a serious discount. ResortPass is perfect for locals and vacation rental guests too. Unique feature: Access to luxury hotel amenities without paying the nightly rate. Region: Mostly US, but some properties in Mexico and the Caribbean. Loyalty program: None Did you know? You can earn a 10% discount by tagging ResortPass in a social media post.   Hopper Some studies say the best day of the week to book travel is Tuesday, but maybe the greatest savings for your hotel pop up on a Friday - you never know! Hopper is the closest thing we have to a glimpse into the future of hotel rates. The app uses high-tech price monitoring algorithms to notify you when prices drop on the hotels or flights you’re tracking. Unique feature: Price alerts for flights and hotels. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? Over 30 million travelers have used Hopper.   Mr. and Mrs. Smith For fans of high-end boutique hotels, Mr. and Mrs. Smith is a dream come true. You won’t find any big box-style chain hotels on this site - only unique, independent hotels that offer five-star service. These are hotels you’d pick for a honeymoon or special occasion trip. Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s team handpicks and reviews hotels for the site, so you can be sure that every property offers quality and value. Members-only perks include extra discounts, free amenities, and access to the company’s concierge team. Unique feature: Exclusive perks and discounts and luxurious boutique hotels. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: The basic BlackSmith membership is free, but SilverSmith and GoldSmith tiers come at a monthly cost, though they include perks like room upgrades and airport lounge access. Did you know? Some of Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s perks include free dinners or hundreds of dollars in resort credit.   Tablet Hotels Another site designed for boutique hotel lovers, Tablet offers deals on unique hotels around the world. The site lists properties included in the MICHELIN Guide, so you know they’re all highly rated for quality, service, and amenities. Tablet Plus members can enjoy extra discounts, late check-outs, room upgrades, and more.     Unique feature: Only the best hotels are listed on Tablet - if guest reviews fall short, the hotel is removed from the site. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: Access to Tablet’s hotel deals is free, but the Tablet Plus program offers deeper discounts and extra perks for $99 per year. Did you know? Tablet’s online magazine, The Agenda, contains high-quality articles that will surely inspire you to travel.   Best Hotel Booking Sites to Find Deals Trying to save cash? These hotel booking sites are designed to get you the best deals possible. If you’re looking for certain amenities, a fixed location, or a specific set of dates, these sites might not deliver, but if you’re flexible, you can find impressive savings. Hotwire Have you ever booked a hotel without knowing the name, the exact location, or what kind of room you’ll get? If you dare to roll the dice on Hotwire’s “Hot Rate” hotels, you just might be rewarded. Hotels in this program offer significant discounts (think 40 or 50% off), but with a catch: Hotwire does not reveal the name of the hotel until you’ve confirmed your reservation.      Unique feature: “Mystery hotel” offers. Region: Primarily US Loyalty program: None Did you know? Hotwire’s Hot Rate hotels do disclose some amenities, so you’ll know if your hotel has free parking, a pool, or a gym.   Groupon If you’re searching for a cheap vacation with no particular dates or locations in mind, Groupon can be a gold mine. The site offers hotel stays or vacation packages for destinations around the country (and sometimes Mexico and the Caribbean), but the terms and conditions usually include fixed dates or restrictions. Make your decision quick, though, because the offers are often only available for a limited time.     Unique feature: Deep discounts on only select participating hotels. Region: United States, Caribbean, Mexico Loyalty program: None Did you know? You can search by “interest” rather than destination, so if you’re looking for a romantic vacation to nowhere in particular, for example, you can discover someplace new.   TravelZoo TravelZoo is like the clearance rack at your favorite store: it has a mix of everything, prices are deeply discounted, and sometimes you can find an absolute gem. TravelZoo offers over 2,000 travel products - including cruises, airfare, hotels, and packages - at significantly reduced rates. Most offers are only valid for a specific set of dates, so if your travel is flexible, you can get the best value. Unique feature: Discounts on hotels, cruises, airfare, and vacation packages. Region: Worldwide, but primarily US Loyalty program: None, but TravelZoo does have a referral program. Did you know? TravelZoo also offers spa and entertainment discounts - you just need to look for them!   Best Sites to Book Unique Accomodations Why stay in an ordinary hotel room when you can have a truly one-of-a-kind experience? Browse these sites to find everything from cabins to castles and treehouses to tipis - often at cheaper prices than standard hotels. Who knows, you might even meet new friends too! Airbnb Though Airbnb wasn’t the first website to offer vacation rentals, it definitely made more people consider switching from hotels to rental properties. Airbnb hosts offer a huge variety of spaces, including apartments, homes, treehouses, tiny houses, private rooms, and more. Because many Airbnbs don’t offer the same services as hotels (like daily housekeeping), you can find some great deals, especially in big cities. But not all Airbnbs are cheap - prepare to pay hundreds of dollars per night for a castle or a beachfront villa! Unique feature: Airbnb encourages hosts to provide exceptional hospitality to their guests, even rewarding top hosts with “Superhost” status. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? You can pair your accommodation with an Airbnb Experience, which are host-led tours or activities like cooking classes, walking tours, or bike expeditions.   Vrbo Originally called “Vacation Rentals By Owner,” Vrbo focuses on traditional vacation rentals, like homes and condos. You won’t find any cheap shared rooms here, but you can still find some great deals, especially if you’re staying for a while. Some Vrbo property owners offer weekly or monthly discounts. Unique feature: You can filter Vrbo’s search results by Property Type, so you can narrow down your search to cabins, bungalows, or chalets, just to name a few. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? Vrbo and its sister site, HomeAway, are now part of the Expedia Group.   Hipcamp If you want to get out in nature, Hipcamp might be your new favorite site. Instead of hotels, this site lets you book more than 300,000 camping experiences that range from BYO-tent campsites to RVs, cabins, and yurts. Listings are created by hosts, so you can enjoy the same personal touch and connection that you can find on Airbnb.     Unique feature: The Hipcamp of the Year lists highlights the top-rated campsites in every state. Region: United States Loyalty program: None Did you know? You can invite your friends to join Hipcamp and earn a nice referral bonus!   Upcamp Looking to score a spot at a sold-out campsite? Upcamp will alert you instantly if your dream campsite receives a cancellation. When you get notified, you can book the campsite on the campsite’s own booking page. Upcamp is only available on a mobile app for now, which is easy to use and showcases some beautiful photos! Unique feature: Availability alerts for thousands of campsites around the country. Region: United States Loyalty program: None Did you know? You can choose to receive alerts for specific dates or a range of dates.   Couchsurfing.com Travelers looking to save money and meet people can join events and crash on extra beds, couches, and air mattresses in hosts’ homes in over 200,000 cities around the world - for free. Couchsurfing.com uses a review and profile system to build trust among its 12 million members, and it’s not uncommon for hosts and couchsurfers to become lifelong friends. Unique feature: Emphasis on community and building personal connections. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? Couchsurfing.com members have organized over a half million events.   Getaway Craving an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life? Getaway’s tiny houses are conveniently located in rural locations within driving distance of major cities like New York City, Boston, and Los Angeles. The cabins offer plenty of modern conveniences so you can enjoy the outdoors without roughing it too much. They include private bathrooms, kitchenettes, and A/C and heat, plus a huge window that occupies an entire wall.     Unique feature: Every cabin has a self check-in system. Region: United States Loyalty program: You automatically get an 8th night free after staying for 7 - no membership program sign-up necessary. Did you know? Getaway donates to Feeding America for every booking made.   Ready to hit the road? With these money-saving hotel booking sites, you can save cash on your accommodation so you can splurge on a delicious meal, a bucket list tour, or a new smart suitcase. Did we miss any cool sites? Let us know about your favorite!