Airbnb is considered public enemy number one by hoteliers all over the world. But, is Airbnb’s reputation deserved? Research based on data from 2014 showed that in the ten US cities with the largest Airbnb market share, 1.3% fewer hotel nights were booked, resulting in a 1.5% loss in hotel revenue. Over the last five years, those losses have continued to add up. By one estimate, Airbnb is capturing 10-12% of travel demand in New York City, Paris, and London. Airbnb’s financial impact on the hospitality market is a hard pill to swallow. But, there’s actually a silver lining. Smart hotel owners can benefit from listing on Airbnb with a little strategy, effort, and the right channel manager. It turns out that Airbnb is the best thing that’s happened to hotels in quite a while. A good channel manager should enable hoteliers to easily manage inventory across channels like Airbnb. Efficient inventory management across channels can increase occupancy, improve reach and visibility, efficiently manage rates, availability, and reservations. Channel managers like SiteMinder give hoteliers what they need to capitalize on Airbnb. Here’s how you can leverage Airbnb to elevate your hotel’s profile and reach more guests. How do hotels benefit from Airbnb? There are direct and indirect ways in which a hotel can benefit from Airbnb. First and foremost, by listing on Airbnb, a hotel can increase their short-term bookings. Several hotels in the Hotel Tech Report community have reported that Airbnb is now delivering up to 15% of bookings. Airbnb gets a very high rating for brand advocacy, an indicator of customer loyalty and repeat customers. Guests not only return to the Airbnb platform to make another booking – but Airbnb guests will also refer other customers at a higher than market-average rate. Hotels can take advantage of high affinity on Airbnb to connect with a broader, more engaged customer base (relative to OTAs). Perhaps the biggest of trends in the hotel industry over the last decade has been the consolidation of OTAs. Beyond the short term direct benefits of including Airbnb into your hotel marketing strategy there exists a major long-term advantage of listing your hotel inventory on Airbnb: relief from OTA commission fees. OTAs like Expedia and Booking.com charge massive commission fees – between 15-30% for larger hotel chains, and even higher for smaller hoteliers. Airbnb is a third major player that can bring more competition to the market. The end result? Hotels will inevitably benefit as high-charging OTAs are forced to lower their prices to compete for listings. The OTA market has become somewhat of a duopoly so adding a strong 3rd competitor is actually a really good thing for hotels in the long run which is why we encourage hotels to list on Airbnb using a channel manager connection like SiteMinder. Listing on Airbnb is a win-win for hotels and for the platform. Airbnb needs hotels to stock their platform with desirable inventory. And, more importantly, guests – especially millennials – prefer to stay in hotels over Airbnb homes. “Customers appreciate the consistency of experience guaranteed by booking a stay at, for example, a Marriott hotel anywhere around the world,” writes Forbes. “But they need to differentiate their offerings. Not every room should be the same cookie-cutter mold at the same price. They should have a modicum of personality, and a diverse set of amenities, from fully-stocked kitchens to second bathrooms to common spaces and more.” Want to fight the negative effects of Airbnb? List on it. If you can’t beat them, join them: smart hotel owners are capitalizing on Airbnb by listing their hotel inventory on the platform. Channel managers that have a direct connection to Airbnb, like SiteMinder, make it easy to compete with hosts, managed properties, and other hotels for bookings. “There is a huge opportunity to ace the guest journey end-to-end. I think the in-stay experience has traditionally been the sole focus for hotels, as it’s what they’ve always had immediate visibility and control over, but of course we know that the journey began long before the guest arrived and continues long thereafter – if it ends at all. The explosion of data and technology has made it possible for hotels to understand their guests in a way they’ve never been able to before, and it’s an opportunity I think most hotels are missing,” says SiteMinder CEO Sankar Narayan. Airbnb’s user-friendly platform gives hotels the chance to get their offers in front of guests at the right moment in their room search. The more accommodations that list on the platform, the less likely each listing is to get attention and convert interested browsers to paid guests. This works out in favor of hotels, which can crowd out hosts and alternative accommodations. To some extent, this is already happening: unhappy Airbnb hosts are already complaining about the number of big-box listings shown in search results. Airbnb host commentary on the impact of hotel listings (source: Airbnb) Inevitably, a larger mix of hotels will lead to the erosion of Airbnb’s reputation as an alternative way to stay. As guests perceive Airbnb on par with traditional OTAs and booking agents, we also expect the platform will be regulated as such. More regulation for Airbnb means a more level playing field for hoteliers – just another indirect bonus to listing your hotel on the platform. A channel manager help you manage visibility across critical channels like Airbnb Channel managers can do more than just empower a hotel to list open rooms on Airbnb. “At its core, a channel manager creates a two-way connection between a hotel’s property management system (PMS) and that hotel’s chosen marketing and sales channels, be they online travel agencies (OTAs) like Expedia, metasearch sites like Trivago, wholesalers, tour operators, travel agents and even their own hotel Brand.com website. It literally connects the hotel’s PMS to those channels, so property owners can instantly and simultaneously distribute all their rooms on the Internet, and have reservations delivered back to them just as fast,” says SiteMinder’s Director of Product, Gregor Vogel. A channel manager allows a hotel to reach new customers, improve their online visibility, and proactively manage rates, availability, and reservations. Tools like SiteMinder provide access to hundreds of online distribution channels so hotels can list all their rooms and availability while automatically updating in real-time whenever a new booking is made. At the same time, a channel manager prevents hotels from becoming overbooked by tracking inventory across OTAs and all third party channels. What’s the best channel manager technology for your hotel? These are the key things to look for in a channel manager: Does the channel manager offer two-way channel connections? Does the channel manager connect to all of your current and new channels? Does the channel manager allow you to pool inventory to maximize your revenue? Does the channel manager integrate with your current CRS, PMS, and RMS? Does the channel manager have reporting tools that allow you to concretely measure its impact? If the answer to each of these questions is yes, then it’s highly probable that the channel manager has the basic functionality your hotel needs. Evaluate each channel manager tool based on its distribution, analytics, and ability to provide consistency in real-time across all channels. Last but not least: keep in mind how much training and support the channel manager offers. Learn what training is available, how much it costs, and whether or not it’s offered in your time zones and languages. There’s no use in spending money on a tool that your employees find impenetrable. How to get your hotel listed on Airbnb Ready to join Airbnb and start selling? The fastest way to get started is by working with a channel manager like SiteMinder to manage rates. Airbnb has specific guidelines for hotel listings to get approved. First and foremost, your property must have the right business licenses and be legally authorized to sell directly to the public. Then, your listing must meet Airbnb’s basic requirements for hosts as well as the additional hotel listing guidelines mostly around hotel property type. Airbnb has an innate bias towards unique independent boutiques but has been known to allow all types of hotels on the platform, especially since the Hotel Tonight acquisition. As Airbnb describes, your room listings should “have a unique, independent environment and style.” Take time to go through the listing process and set up your channel manager to optimize your listing on Airbnb.
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There are many industries where third party reseller issues present a profitability and liability problem. Even Amazon is forced to contend with marketplace reseller issues, where federal courts ruled in an “unprecedented” decision that customers can hold the e-commerce giant financially accountable for defective products sold by third-parties. The hotel industry has bigger third party profitability issues than retail and other verticals. Hotel rooms are sold through third parties, specifically online travel agent (OTA) sites, more than any other industry. OTAs entered the market in the mid-nineties and since then have grown to take 39% of the US online digital booking market. This number is expected to climb to 41% market share by 2020. Selling on OTA channels significantly dents the profitability of a hotel for a variety of reasons. A dynamic pricing model that responds to fluctuating supply and demand mandates that hotels use quality, up-to-date data. There is an overwhelming amount of data hoteliers need to manage in order to respond to the market’s supply and demand fluctuations. PMS data can provide insight to the following questions: Market segmentation: what segment of the market does each reservation fall under? Rate code: which PMS price code is attached to each reservation? Distribution channel: which distribution channel was used to make the reservation? Location data: where is the guest traveling from? Day of the week stay: which days of the week are being booked most commonly? Length of stay: for how many room nights is each reservation? Lead time: how far in advance is the reservation made? Company: is the reservation linked to a company with a negotiated rate? Agency: which travel agent made the reservation? However, pricing needs to be informed by market intelligence data as well: everything from competitor data (revenue per available room, occupancy rates, and average daily rates from STR) to event data (i.e., when a local concert is in town or an airport terminal is being renovated). Rate parity data is the most critical touchpoint, offering a comprehensive view about how your hotel is selling on third-party channels. This data set is necessary for profitable pricing – yet many hoteliers struggle to get the full picture they need from OTAs and other third party partners. Non-contracted OTAs obfuscate the data needed for a hotel brand to profitably price their rooms. Parity is also impacted by contracted OTAs who charge commission fees between 15-30% for larger hotel chains; sometimes higher for smaller shops. Here’s how parity works (or doesn’t work) in the hotel industry, and how smart hotel owners can begin to approach the data problem. What is rate parity? Rate parity, or disparity in the case of the hotel industry, is the difference between prices quoted on a hotel’s branded website versus the prices quoted by an online travel agent such as Booking.com. When online travel agents first appeared on the scene, they were considered a promising new channel for hotel brands seeking to offload excess inventory in the off-season or reach customers through new and different advertising. However, as OTAs have become more popular, many hotel owners no longer see this relationship as a win-win: mostly due to parity issues. There are two main scenarios where rate parity gets thrown off, mainly due to the way the hotel ecosystem has evolved to account for online travel agents. Here’s a snapshot of what the current booking marketplace looks like: “Hotel Rate Parity: Understanding and Meeting the Challenges” by OTA Insight (source) Hotels, wholesalers, search engines, and OTAs are the main players in the “parity landscape.” As OTAs capture more and more market share, each relationship is impacted financially. Contracted OTAs, those agents that work directly in a commissionable or direct net merchant agreement with a hotel, cause parity problems usually through technical issues. For example, tax miscalculations or other outdated “cached” data can throw off a pricing model despite the OTAs aboveboard commitment to parity with the hotel. Non-contracted OTAs that have a relationship with a wholesaler present a bigger problem. Hotels offer an exclusive “gated” rate to a third party reseller. That reseller turns around and unofficially resells rooms at that gated rate to a party who lists that rate publicly. This forces the hotel to pay a high commission for rooms that sell at a much lower rate, losing tons of profit in the process. The problem of rate parity is only becoming more serious. Travelers are constantly comparing rates across channels – especially Millennials and Gen Y, who hold the largest travel market share at 33% of the market. When you consider that 52% of Millennials prefer to book using an online travel agent, the problem becomes clear. “Customers are much savvier these days. I had a guest contact us on our website directly to ask, 'Is this the best deal you can give me? We are trying Airbnb as well'. We had that same guest going through Airbnb to see if they could get a lower price, and then they also went to the extended-stay agent. And this customer was actually part of a very big international company; they had a contracted rate with the hotel as well. The guest had all these different ways to contact the hotel and get the best rate possible,” says Jennifer Kim, the Director of Revenue Management at Cycas Hospitality. How to solve the rate parity problem The good news is there tools that hotels can deploy to solve the rate parity problem that arises from working with OTAs. Great rate shopping software should not only deliver real time competitive set intelligence but should also alert hotel owners when there are parity breaches. “The basic mechanism involves wholesalers contracting inventory at a big discount and selling it on to OTAs at a discount which still leaves room for the OTAs to undercut hotels,” says Clive Wood, Global Commercial Manager for Parity Insight at OTA Insight. “But it’s surprising how unaware some hoteliers are about what’s happening, day in, day out when guests book through the many channels out there. Just how much of their revenue is being threatened?” Rate shopping software, like Rate Insight by OTA Insight, shows how your direct competitors are pricing hotels rooms. Additionally, OTA Insight's Parity Insight product highlights channels that violate parity agreements. Hoteliers can use this information to react swiftly to unauthorized resellers, remedy parity discrepancies, and improve profitability by utilizing data that was previously unavailable. Both rate shopping and parity management platforms are easy-to-implement due to how they leverage publicly available data; this means there’s no integration with your existing software to work though. There are many rate shopping tools out there that can map a hotel’s rooms, define competitive sets, and deliver reports to improve pricing decisions. In the past, we’ve highlighted a few of our favorites such as OTA Insight's Rate Insight tool which really stands out with it's integrated BI platform and parity monitoring system to give you a full view into the areas of your business that require attention. “One of the things that makes OTA Insight unique on a technical level is that we collect over 1 billion data points a day,” says Mathias Verhoeven, Director of Engineering at OTA Insight." Hoteliers can’t sleep on solving the threat to hotel profitability posed by working with online travel agents and unauthorized resellers. OTAs are only becoming more popular with travelers looking for the best deal out there. Therefore, it’s incumbent on hotels to take charge of their data and lock down pricing parity in their favor.
Hospitality trends indicate that your hotel’s old property management system just isn’t cutting it. Guests demand mobile check-in as travelers are more connected than ever. Can your PMS handle the needs of tomorrow’s traveler? Hilton Hotels & Resorts recently revealed mobile check-in as one of the most popular features with its HiltonHHonors app: “One-third of guests have used the digital check-in with room selection available on the Hilton HHonors app,” says Dana Shefsky, Senior Director of Digital Product Innovation at Hilton Worldwide. Despite the rising popularity of mobile check-in, many PMS systems today are outdated and ill-equipped to integrate with new mobile platforms of the future. The lack of mobile check-in capabilities is one of several reasons that the majority of hoteliers (and their guests) are unhappy with their current property management system. A survey by Fuel Travel reported that 55.2% of hotel managers were not satisfied with their current PMS provider. Hotel technology must evolve to allow hoteliers to keep pace with the needs of an increasingly mobile traveler. Hoteliers around the globe are flocking to modern property management systems and mobile check-in is amongst the reasons that your peers are looking to the cloud (get it, cloud PMS?). 4 reasons why your peers are upgrading to modern property management systems (and why you should, too) 1. Their vendor’s customer support is unresponsive A property management system, when it works, is supposed to make your job easier. But, when a PMS fails and you can’t take bookings, the system quickly becomes more trouble than it’s worth. Every minute your system is down, you’re losing revenue and failing to deliver a five-star guest experience. Your team members get demoralized when trying to deal with an unresponsive or unhelpful customer support team. If PMS downtime is the norm, rather than the exception, it’s time to find another solution. Smaller PMS providers like Hotelogix tend to rate higher for customer support because they have cloud based infrastructure that is easier to service and more manageable customer bases which leads to stronger client relationships. Hotelogix gets rave reviews for their customer support, posting a score of 4.7 out of five points. One reviewer writes, “Customer service has always been fast, attentive and helpful. Any concerns or questions we have had have been answered to the fullest and promptly. We always receive any updates in regards to software or if there will be any down time while they fix Hotelogix.” Hotel managers love Hotelogix’s 24/7 customer support availability. If something goes wrong – and with any PMS system, it inevitably does – Hotelogix’s team is known for being on standby to troubleshoot at a moment’s notice. 2. Their vendor isn’t well integrated Without the right integrations, it’s extremely difficult to run a hotel. Housekeeping and room assignments are impossible to manage. When you miss out on the right integration to upsell, you miss out on revenue. You shouldn’t have to pay through the nose to give your system the ability to integrate with other software – especially with so many open APIs available. If this sounds familiar, you aren’t alone: “53% of hoteliers cited outdated technology architecture and the effort required to integrate systems as the top pain point holding back investments in new technology. Integration has long been a heated topic, but businesses in the space are gaining real momentum in 2018.” A poorly integrated PMS system can hinder every other facet of your operation. Pioneering PMS companies are building app stores to solve this problem like the Hotelogix app marketplace. These kinds of marketplaces provide a roster of third-party solutions that integrate fully with your PMS. 3. Their PMS doesn’t support mobile check-in Travelers are increasingly checking into flights using mobile apps or from a mobile-optimized webpage. By some estimates, 46% of leisure travelers and 61% of business travelers use a smartphone to check into their flight. Flights are just the beginning of that has become an increasingly mobile travel industry. Because most flight check-ins happen via mobile, guests want to have that same experience when they arrive at the hotel. Studies show that 60% of guests will elect to stay at a hotel that allows them to check-in via their mobile device over one that doesn’t have that capability. Guests are beginning to expect to be able to avoid the front desk formalities on arrival; instead of waiting in line to check in, your hotel staff can greet a weary traveler at the door and show them straight to their room. The key takeaway: your hotel PMS system must be equipped to handle mobile check-in. If your property management system isn’t able to keep up with the expectations of your guests, it’s time to consider a new PMS. 4. Their new team members have trouble learning the system The employee turnover rate within the hotel industry is 73.8% each year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That means more than six percent of your hotel staff are departing every month. To put that in perspective, the national average turnover rate across all industries is 17.8%. Every time someone leaves, a replacement employee must be hired and retrained. Those hiring and training costs place a huge burden on your operational budget – even more so if your PMS is difficult to understand. New team members need coaching on everything from the company culture to disaster preparedness. The most critical training a new team member needs is on the reservation and check-in process. An old PMS makes this training even more challenging: the system’s poor design, non-intuitive UX, and confusing instructions complicate the learning experience. Feature bloat makes it difficult to discern what parts of the system are relevant to the new team member’s job – and what features are just unnecessary or irrelevant. Many old property management systems lack quality training content, such as online videos. This lack of training resources only adds to your bottom line. How to select your next PMS vendor like a pro If this article reads like a checklist of everything that’s wrong with your PMS, then it’s time to select a new vendor. Start by reading verified reviews on Hotel Tech Report. Hotelogix, for example, stands out for their customer support, user-friendliness, and integration marketplace. Customer’s love Hotelogix’s flexibility, easy to understand design, and fast set-up. Hotel Tech Report also has a tool that allows you to compare feature functionality between different PMS options. See the difference between Hotelogix and your existing PMS with ratings on ease of use, ROI, implementation, customer support, and features and services side by side. Create a checklist of integrations you need today and ones you want tomorrow then make sure your next partner has them using Hotel Tech Report’s marketplace functionality. Hotelogix has a wide range of integration categories available, from hotel management tools to reputation management, IT and security, and marketing platforms like Mailchimp. Last but not least, ask what the relationship will look like once you sign a contract with your new PMS vendor. How long will it take for the vendor to respond to your support calls? What training materials does the vendor have available? What’s their NPS rating from current clients? References from similar clients on Hotel Tech Report can give you insight into how the new PMS vendor treats their partners. These tips and the resources on Hotel Tech Report can help you find the right PMS to upgrade your guest experience – without sacrificing your team’s sanity in the process.
One of the major proponents of the alternative lodging sector has been Thayer Ventures, a travel tech focused venture capital firm with deep ties to the hotel industry. Thayer’s focus on travel and hospitality gives the firm a unique perspective so we sat down with Venture Partner Katherine Grass to discuss hotel tech, the rise of alternative lodging and more. Katherine previously founded Amadeus Ventures and has met with literally thousands of startups in the space over the years - she’s seen it all and has unparalleled insight into the alternative accomodation trend. How did you get into travel tech venture investing? I started my venture career at Amadeus IT Group where I founded Amadeus Ventures and went on to build out an entire ecosystem of programs working with external players and created their global Innovation & Venturing unit. Ventures had always been my first passion - aiding startups to be successful. Therefore, when the opportunity arose to join Thayer Ventures, Thayer being the leading travel-technology fund globally, I naturally jumped at the idea! Thayer Ventures is unique because we are not only one of the few travel-technology focused funds globally, but all partners come with a very deep expertise and network in this space. Therefore, we are not only able to make solid investment decisions based on our industry expertise, but we are able to truly help our portfolio companies, whether that be with industry contacts, strategic direction or business development. What hotel and hospitality tech companies have you invested in? Being travel-technology focused, we have many hospitality tech investments in our portfolio. Mews Systems, Optii Solutions, HYP3R, Sonder, BookingPal, Duetto, Groupize and Social Tables are examples of hospitality tech investments. Social Tables recently being sold to Cvent. While Dishcraft Robotics and xx are additional investments that apply to the hotel sector. How do you usually come across hotel tech investment opportunities? Because we are one of the leading funds in travel technology, we have a combination of companies reaching out to us, referrals from other generalist funds looking for a travel-tech expert as well as directly discovering startups at major events. Most of our investments tend to be Series A and we will absolutely lead rounds where it makes sense. What’s one piece of advice you have for hotel tech entrepreneurs when raising capital? Hard to pick one piece of advice! My advice would be to ensure you are addressing a real business problem in the industry. You would be surprised by how many startups develop ideas for concepts that aren’t seen as real pain point opportunities by the hotels. Additionally, ensure your opportunity has a big enough addressable market. This means there is enough profit to be made by your idea if you’re successful. Small opportunity means small profits, and you won’t get investors attention with this. How do you think the hotel technology space will change over the next 5 years? We will definitely see the hospitality tech stack open up and be more interactive. This means open APIs and the ability for various pieces to interact with each other and not necessarily all be from the same vendor. On alternative lodging, we still have massive growth in this sector and we will see this continue over the next 5 years. People often say that the hotel industry is slow to adopt technology. Do you agree? I don’t agree. We have seen hotels becoming increasingly open to quick experimentation and pilots, and as solutions become more cloud-based and API-led, it will only increase. Some legacy systems made this testing more difficult in the past due to the integration effort required for experimentation, but we are definitely seeing this change. What is the most interesting or surprising thing that you’ve learned from investing in hotel tech? An interesting trend we are seeing in the hospitality tech space has been the continued growth and strength of what we call alternative accommodations. For all of the startups that might want to pitch in your office, what can you tell them about your investment criteria, etc. to help them decide if they are a good fit for your portfolio? We are looking for stellar teams. Most all of our investments are Series A, meaning the startup already has some initial traction and customers with strong growth potential. Are investments are global but must be in the space of travel-technology. For us this means hospitality tech stack, alternative lodging, tours & activities, corporates & meetings, smart cities and mobility & transportation.
There are more than 2.1M apps in the Google Play app store. Guess how many mobile apps the typical U.S. smartphone user downloads each month? The answer will shock many of you: zero. 51% of U.S. smartphone users say they download zero apps each month (on average). That’s not to say that mobile apps are dying, it just means that users rarely download an app unless it provides utility (and value). Why aren't they downloading? Well, finding and downloading mobile apps is a pain in the butt. The majority of app usage (i.e. time on device) goes to social media, music, video and gaming. Hotel apps do none of these things yet somehow the lion's share of hoteliers still believe their properties need a dedicated mobile app. Your guests don’t want to download your hotel's app and they certainly don’t want to book another room on said app while they’re staying on property. Rather than just getting an app because you think you should, dive into the real use cases and you'll realize that tech like in room tablets and guest messaging are way better at serving some of those same guest needs without the barrier of a download. “If you think about it, when was the last time you downloaded an app because your local supermarket suggested it? It’s just too much of a hassle. Hotel apps are no different-the barriers in the way of usage are too high. Over the years, this belief has become less common, but we still hear it.” ~Tilmann Volk, Founder of SuitePad Hilton and Marriott’s apps enjoy relatively high engagement rates but those are because of loyalty programs (i.e. high volumes of repeat bookings). It’s important to highlight that these are NOT hotel apps, they are brand apps. With brand apps guests don’t need to download a new app for each stay. Further, even with those programs guests rarely use their apps in stay outside of the core use case highlighted by Hilton’s 2018 Annual Report. That use case is mobile key (and check-in): Hilton guests downloaded 7.6 million mobile keys through the app in 2018. The only real incentive that moves the needle is mobile check-in/mobile key but even those are better suited in a download-free environment when possible. App developers usually pitch hotels and hotel groups with stats like the ones below from MCD Travel: 80% of guests want to use their mobile device to browse hotel amenities 78% of guests want to use their mobile device to view local area maps 55% of guests want to use their mobile device to schedule a hotel taxi pickup 43% of guests want to use their mobile device to sync with the in room television It’s true that your guests bring their phones everywhere and are constantly using them for in destination functions but these statistics are making one key (and majorly flawed) assumption - that guests already have your hotel app on their phones. If your guests want to search local maps or schedule a taxi, they’ve already got Google Maps and Uber/Gett/etc, so there’s no need for your hotel to have an app that just routes them to those places. The core guest needs that aren’t already being met by apps they already have are things like: the ability to make requests (e.g. late checkout), order room service, connect with the concierge and control in-room entertainment (like Sonifi or Enseo), mobile key and mobile check-in. So what options do hoteliers have to meet these needs and drive increased engagement on property? The two solutions that really hit the nail on the head are: guest messaging platforms and in room tablets. Which of these solutions your hotel employs is really a matter of preference. Each has unique advantages and drawbacks. Guest messaging is great because the medium requires no hardware and allows guests to communicate with staff wherever they are. The drawback is that messaging requires guest consent/active opt-in in today’s hyper sensitive privacy environment so there will inevitably be guests who stay with you that do not access the service. All of those stats above support leveraging a guest messaging platform where guests can meet all those needs with an app they already have on their phones. In room tablets are a great alternative for hotels to reach 100% of guests with in room tech. The physical form factor of a tablet digitizes in room folios which saves paper and time. Tablets are a great way for hotels to market services and amenities like bookable spa appointments, F&B offers and local tours to drive incremental revenue. Some tablet software vendors are getting extremely creative with data initiatives like time based offers to fill need periods in F&B outlets and real time dynamic pricing for room service. SuitePad is one of Europe's leading guest room tablet providers working with brands like Ruby Hotels, Jumeirah and Falkensteiner. We sat down with SuitePad founder Tilmann Volk to discuss the future of guest engagement, why hotel guests don’t want to download apps and more. SuitePad founder Tilmann Volk What was your background prior to starting the company? We started SuitePad coming almost directly out of university. Aside from a few months of professional experience in a different startup right before SuitePad, I learned everything here. My co-founder Moritz, and I were both at a crossroads of sorts in our lives. We had stayed friends after leaving university and had both recently moved to the buzzing city of Berlin, each working on other things. I think we both felt the urge for a change and started brainstorming concepts and tinkering on ideas after work. At the time, in 2012, the tablet-PC market for consumers was just taking off. We saw the opportunity to take a consumer technology and bring it into a B2B context. That it was going to be hotels we were serving, wasn’t immediately clear to us. We just saw the technology without understanding how to best employ it. When we spoke to hotels, it clicked. Digital guest engagement was still a very young field and we were keen on shaping it. Who was SuitePad's first customer? One of the very very first hoteliers we talked to was Erich Falkensteiner from Falkensteiner Hotels and Residences. He’s been a leading voice in the hotel industry, so when he said that he’d buy our product, we knew we were onto something. At the time, our product was only a clickable powerpoint presentation on an iPad. I think we, as newbies to the industry, only were successful with this start because we listened closely to what hotels wanted and shaped our product accordingly. I spent a night at the Circus Hotel in Berlin and got a chance to use SuitePad a couple months back. For our readers who haven't yet had a chance to use the product can you tell them a little about the platform? The world around us travellers has become digital- I can book my stay, reserve a restaurant table, and leave a review digitally. Now think of the hotel room of today: the guest directory, phone, remote control, spa brochure, room service menu are remnants of analogue days that clutter the hotel room and don’t provide much upselling potential. We combine all of these things on a single device, making them easier to use and providing up-selling and cost-reduction possibilities while we’re at it. In short: we’re here to help hotels engage their guests in a digital world. What's one common belief amongst hoteliers that is actually false? If I had a cent for every time someone told us that it is a good idea to have guests download a hotel app onto their phones for digital guest engagement, I’d have millions. If you think about it, when was the last time you downloaded an app because your local supermarket suggested it? It’s just too much of a hassle. Hotel apps are no different-the barriers in the way of usage are too high. Over the years, this belief has become less common, but we still hear it. What's the most surprising thing you've learned about scaling technology into hotels since founding the business? Scaling in the hotel tech field seems to take longer than in other industries, as hotels often seem cautious to adopt new technologies. So tech trends might be slow to come, but I believe they are pretty sustainable when they do- which is good, because we’re in it for the long haul. Hotel tech is a small community and vendors are constantly developing partnerships with companies who have built complementary products. Are there 1 or 2 companies that have been a particularly good partners for you? How have these partnerships been unique? Where do you see guest tech going in the next 5-years and beyond? We want to continue to shape the ways hotels engage with their guests. In 5 years’ time, we’ll have replaced pretty much everything in the hotel room save for the bed and the TV. We’ll be doing this in hundreds of thousands of hotel rooms around the globe. The entire hotel tech space is seeing the arrival of platforms, marketplaces, and other facilitators of interfaces. I think that interfaces between different hotel tech players will be more important than ever, and that hotels have every reason to be excited about this development. Do you have any new products or feature launches of late? We just recently went live with SuitePad TV, enabling guests to control the TV from their tablet. We’re excited about the feature, because it’s about more than just replacing the remote control. SuitePad TV offers a better user experience because it lets guests filter for preferences and languages when choosing a channel. It also significantly drives up guest-interaction on the SuitePad, which is great news for hotels looking to promote their offers & services! We’re currently also testing a new product that lets guests seamlessly stream their content from their phones to hotel TVs. I’m really looking forward to how it pans out! What's one piece of advice that you have for any entrepreneurs looking to get into the hotel tech space? Do it! Partnering with hotels means partnering with people who are full-blooded hosts and care deeply about their customers, and it’s contagious! Plus, the coffee is great! What is the best book you've read lately and why? Thinking Fast and Slow by Kahnemann and Tversky is worth reading and re-reading! What is your favorite podcast? NPR car talk re-runs are my guilty pleasure on long drives. What is one thing that most people don't know about you? I have a terrible sense of direction.
Distribution is a costly expense for hotels. Each time a booking is made through a third-party, commissions must be paid throughout the chain of distribution. While it’s convenient to capture demand from these channels, it’s not always clear that the commissions paid are worth the bookings received. The question of value is especially pertinent given that most hotels pay more for commission then they have in the past, per Kalibri Labs data: Kalibri Labs data from 19,000 hotels worldwide shows how much more hotels spend on distribution since 2015. The stark reality of rising distribution costs has led many hotels to broaden their metrics from the simple RevPAR to NetRevPAR, which adjusts for distribution costs within top line results. To deliver stronger profits (and not just greater booking volume), hotels must deploy a comprehensive direct booking strategy that pulls more bookings away from those third parties. One hospitality technology company in particular has stepped up to the challenge with a comprehensive set of direct booking tools: Triptease. “Paying large commissions for valuable guests is over. Identify and reach your highest-value guests first with a platform that works across the booking journey - from acquisition to conversion - to make sure they book directly with your hotel.” ~Triptease Triptease initially began as a price check widget on hotel websites and has since evolved into an end-to-end guest intelligence platform. Today Triptease helps not only improve hotel website and booking engine conversion rates but also helps hotels bring more prospective guests into the top of the funnel with tools that improve the ways they market on 3rd party channels like OTAs and metasearch platforms (e.g. TripAdvisor). The company’s website optimization tools then convert those guests more often with personalized offers, notifications and even website live chat. When used in combination with a hotel’s existing marketing efforts, these tools are a powerful driver of direct revenue. Here are 5 reasons why hotels need Triptease’s direct booking tools to boost business in the direct channel. #1: Attract the most valuable guests to your hotel website With intelligent audience acquisition, hotels get more of the right customers. Triptease’s platform ensures that your hotel reaches the most valuable guests first. With its metasearch ad tool, Triptease’s system identifies and prioritizes high-value guests for conversion. The tool promises to “bring the right guests straight from search” so that your advertising spend can be targeted to the guests most likely to convert. The secret sauce here is that Triptease aggregates and analyzes your hotel’s data to calculate a precise bid amount. The tool adjust bids according to the potential value of a stay, as well as that individual guest’s likelihood to book. To get to this ideal bid, Triptease uses two different systems: the Guest Value Index, which judges how the guest’s purchase intent compares to your hotel’s ideal customer profile, and the Trip Value Index, which is calculated from the booking’s qualities, such as parity and overall booking value. Hotels stand to gain a lot from these calculations: Triptease Meta aims to drive metasearch traffic that pays for itself with an additional 10% of direct revenue for hotels. More guests at a lower cost drives profitability for hotels, which is the core value proposition of Triptease’s guest intelligence platform. #2: Convert more lookers to bookers The goal of attracting more guests, and converting them more often, is driven by Triptease’s focus on transparency and trust. Thanks to blanket discounts and “Only X rooms left!” messaging, there’s a lot of mistrust and skepticism around hotel search. Triptease works to build trust by letting guests know that they’ll get the fairest price on the direct channel. The Triptease Price Check Widget shows guests how much that same search would cost on three OTAs. The popular tool provides price transparency and boosts trust with guests. Rather than pretending like guests weren’t shopping around, the Price Check Widget calls attention to it by giving guests the confidence to book direct. Triptease has expanded on the widget with a full suite of conversion tools. Now, the platform includes non-price offers, such as offering a value-add bonus for booking direct, as well as highlighting recent searches and essential information about a hotel’s location. In total, there are thousands of messages across multiple content types that hotels can use to convert lookers to bookers. Messages can also be personalized dynamically to different types of guests, so that hotels can best target message to demographic. This intelligent targeting improves conversion. #3: Compare rates and track parity The Disparity Dungeon sounds like a terrible place to be. And that’s by design. This Triptease feature ensures that your hotel is priced competitively compared to your comp set -- and that your rates are in parity across your distribution channels. By monitoring parity often, hoteliers can make sure that guests always get the best rates when booking direct. Triptease has also recently expanded to include wholesalers here so the tool aids hotels with often-contentious wholesaler relationships. While there are certainly standalone tools for tracking rate parity, such as OTA Insight, there’s an advantage to packaging it into a direct booking platform: namely, ease of use. It’s right there within the same tool, so there’s no need to click away to another login screen. This ease of use also extends to format: Triptease provides regular weekly emails that identify surge events and other trends. By understanding when and where parity is changing, hoteliers can identify issues without necessarily having to watch parity daily. For those that want to monitor disparity in real-time, there’s a live feed of every search on your website that’s being undercut by an OTA. Hotels can also opt into instant alerts for parity violations. Armed with this information, hoteliers can identify the patterns and root causes of rate disparity. They can then use the documentation provided by Triptease to bring parity issues to their account reps at major OTAs that assist in the negotiation process and ultimately can help lower commissions or drive more bookings over the long term. #4: Assist your customers with live chat In its bid to be the “everything” store for direct bookings, Triptease has recently added live chat to its platform. Chat keeps the guest’s attention and gives hotels a clear path to capture bookings. Hotels can reach out directly, answer questions, and generally be accessible. The chat interface is optimized for mobile, making it easy for your reservations team to connect directly with guest’s in the channel they prefer (which is increasingly mobile). There’s also an automated component to the chat tool. The Triptease automated AI chatbot also answers the most frequently asked questions to instantly assist guests. The automated live chat can also check availability and take payment details right in the chat interface. By removing pain points, the path to purchase is smoother and more likely to convert. #5: Know what works with OTA-level data OTAs promise not just bookings. They also promise a level of data that’s hard to beat, especially for hotels that don’t necessarily have a sophisticated data capability in-house. Triptease turns this on its head by providing OTA-level data on who books direct, where they come from, and who they are. The Insights Dashboard gives hotels all the necessary numbers to build a direct distribution channel that works for their own unique situation. The analytics provides complete visibility into hotel performance, as well as broader industry benchmarks for comparison. That type of granular, interaction-level data is comparable to what OTAs leverage to make more money for their own channels. Hotels can compete using their own data, and maintain a healthy (and growing) direct distribution channel. Pricing and getting started with Triptease Triptease prices packages depending on which products a hotel wants, as well as the scale of the hotel’s needs (for example, multi-property applications). As far as implementation and setup, there’s not a lot required of hotels to get started. Hotels will need to add some code to their websites to support specific products. The most complex part is connecting the Triptease platform to existing data sources to power the hotel-level insights. Triptease offers extensive coaching, so it’s not just providing software but also the knowledge layer and long term partnership for amplifying direct bookings. Triptease has a global team of Direct Booking Coaches available to assist hotels of all sizes. From digital marketing to website optimization, data analysis, and product training, these coaches apply their regional expertise ensure ongoing success for partner hotels. To get started with the Guest Intelligence Platform, schedule a demo with the team right from the Triptease Hotel Tech Report profile.
With simultaneous rising labor costs and stubbornly high turnover, hotel housekeeping remains a top challenge facing the industry. According to STR’s 2019 HOST Almanac, a compilation of operating statistics of more than 5,000 U.S. hotels, 2018 labor costs tallied an estimated $70 billion. As a percentage of total revenue, the median full-service hotel spends 30 percent, while limited-service hotels spend 22 percent. And that number is only going up. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a 3.2 percent increase in hourly wages for non-supervisory works in the accommodations business at the end of 2018. At the same time, job openings are also near record-highs: per the BLS, the hospitality sector had more than 900,000 job openings. And that’s despite the wage increase! On the supply side, labor shortages are likely to worsen as hotel pipelines continue to grow. STR reported nearly 18 percent growth in global hotel inventory during the decade between 2008 and 2018 while CBRE’s December 2018 edition of Hotel Horizons accessed a 1.9 percent net increase in U.S. hotel supply in 2018. More hotels are competing for fewer capable employees. This labor crunch is especially acute in the housekeeping department. Adding fuel to the fire, immigration laws are tightening in primary markets like the United States and in parts of Western Europe. To do more with less, hotels must deploy housekeeping software that streamlines housekeeping’s day-to-day tasks while still maintaining strict brand standards. “The use of such software is dramatically speeding up the process of turning rooms over, leading to lower costs and higher revenues.” -HTR’s Housekeeping Management Software Buyers Guide With technology, time-consuming tasks, such as creating housekeeping schedules, tracking room attendants’ progress, and adjusting to changing requests in real-time, are much simpler. Staff carry mobile devices, which centralizes communications and optimizes routes in real-time throughout shifts. In short, housekeeping software expedites housekeeping operations, captures data to continuously improve performance, and makes your hotel more organized than ever. Here’s what to look for as you start evaluating housekeeping management software vendors. What to look for in housekeeping management software When evaluating the best housekeeping management software for hotels, here's what to look for at a higher-level: Mobile-first. A non-negotiable. Mobile-optimized applications ensure that your staff can do the work whether they are on property. Reporting. Accurate, timely, and useful reporting ventures your teamIs optimized for performance. Find a solution that gives you the visual reports in formats that work best for your team. Automated room assignments. Manually assigning rooms isn’t efficient, especially for routine cleans. Look for automation to eliminate wasted work. Intuitive user interface. Tech that isn’t easy for everyone to use will cause more headaches than its worth. Focus on usability so that your staff needs less training on the software. Plenty of integrations. Your housekeeping management software will be severely hobbled without the appropriate integrations. Be sure that any solution you select integrates with your existing property management system! With clearer visibility into the hotel’s day-to-day operations, owners and operators can also make more informed decisions to improve their bottom lines. To help you decide which tool to select for your hotel, here are the 6 housekeeping tech tools that have hoteliers talking. Popular housekeeping software vendors 1. Quore Cleaning Plus Quore’s Cleanings Plus software has been named the top Housekeeping Management Solution for two years running in the HotelTechAwards. This was its second consecutive year at the top spot, likely influenced by the fact that the tool is used at more than 3,600 properties across 80 brands in 29 countries. With Cleanings Plus, housekeeping managers can record and view room updates and also schedule, manage and track cleanings and inspections. Additional functions include analysis of individual and department-wide performance trends as well as the ability to immediately report work order requests. Rooms can be assigned by cleaning type and a virtual breakout board can be created in the app for everyone to view. Room attendants also have the capability, via mobile access, to make relevant updates on their end. As one HTR reviewer pointed out, much of the data is retained so hotel management can go back and reference it without the hassle of having to physically store older information. “[I like] having so much in one program and the ability to keep so much historical data without keeping paper files,” he said. Notable feature: The software is available in 22 languages so staff can communicate in their native tongue. This is a fantastic way to improve productivity and staff engagement, not to mention stronger guest satisfaction when they communicate in their native tongues as well. Quore is the #1 rated housekeeping app by hoteliers on Hotel Tech Report. What clients say: Quore is extremely popular with branded properties in the U.S. and is highly recommended by 95% of its users. Clients rate Quore 4.8/5 for ease of use and 4.7/5 for customer support making it the most highly recommended software in its category on Hotel Tech Report. 2. ALICE Housekeeping Hotel operations platform ALICE debuted its latest evolution in June (check out our exclusive coverage), a housekeeping solution that enables direct and immediate communication between individual members of housekeeping staff as well as between housekeeping and all other hotel departments. The platform can directly reduce a hotel’s labor costs by at least 10 percent, and the company says it saves an average of four minutes in cleaning time per room. The platform is wholly customizable, with a tool kit that includes: A dashboard-like feature that gives housekeeping managers a comprehensive overview of their department’s operations, from room attendant assignments and task sheets to room clean status, special requests and personalized guest details. The ability for managers to automatically prepare staff task sheets and balance assignments The ability for room attendants to track their cleaning progress and immediately report any unexpected issues The new housekeeping software solves for two critical pain points that typically drive up hotel operations costs. ALICE Housekeeping reduces training time for new hires by replacing the numerical code-based systems with icons and colored labels to indicate tasks and other messages. It also directly connects front of house and back office teams, the software drives a 60 percent reduction in radio and in-person communications. Notable feature: The platform can also alleviate housekeeping managers of the daily and time-consuming burden of accessing the day’s room inventory and subsequently assigning available staff to occupied rooms and rooms in the midst of turnover. ALICE Housekeeping has an algorithm for that. Just hit the “auto-assign” button –or override it for manual control. ALICE is the #2 rated housekeeping app by hoteliers on Hotel Tech Report. What clients say: ALICE is popular with boutique properties around the world, and comes recommended by 97% of HTR users, ranking Number 2 in popularity. 3. Flexkeeping Flexkeeping’s housekeeping feature is purpose-built to keep housekeeping staff up-to-date, rooms clean, and workflows organized. Since the platform provides an intuitive home for housekeepers, there are fewer miscommunications and far less confusion. In fact, hotels that use the app have an average of 70 percent fewer disruptive phone calls to housekeeping. With a clear overview of rooms that need servicing, housekeeping managers can dynamically assign available staff, with the added ability to confirm room cleanliness instantly and manage other duties such as turndown service and minibar refills. On the housekeepers end, the app has clear checklists and integrated messaging to keep on top of quality and recent requests. Get a free Flexkeeping demo The app also offers an inspection checklist for quality control in addition to a translation feature to accommodate non-English speaking staff. Flexkeeping allows for integrations with several Property Management Systems (PMS) including Oracle Hospitality OPERA Cloud Services, Mews Systems, Cloudbeds Myfrontdesk and protel. The app is described by one hotel manager as “simple to use and very helpful.” Notable feature: The Flexkeeping interface is colorful and clear. It’s easy to see at a glance which rooms have been tended to and which ones still need attention. With this interface, managers can be more efficient and spend less time on room assignments and more time on quality control. Flexkeeping is the #4 rated housekeeping app by hoteliers on Hotel Tech Report. What clients say: Flexkeeping is recommended by 98% of reviewers on HTR. Users rate its ease-of-use and support highly, as the platform is simple and helpful, allowing users to fix issues quickly. 4. RoomChecking With both intuitive mobile and desktop applications, RoomChecking directly connects to a hotel’s PMS, with dozens of integrations available. The platform streamlines communication between housekeeping, maintenance the front desk and management so that operational tasks can be expedited and tracked. As one HTR reviewer explained “all employees use the same software (room attendant, maintenance, front office, F&B).” But the same user also noted that load times can sometimes be long. RoomChecking’s housekeeping product is equipped with a mobile app for room attendants and another for supervisors inspecting rooms as well as schedule planning and a function to convey housekeeping changes in real time. The software also warehouses all cleaning and inspection records. As far as cost, implementation fees range between $1,000 and $2,500, while the monthly subscription cost is around $3 per room on a monthly basis. Get a free RoomChecking price quote Notable feature: RoomChecking has standalone apps for different parts of your business. With its Cleaner, Inspector, and Runner apps, each role has specific tools at its disposal, while still benefiting from communication across the different applications. RoomChecking is the #6 rated housekeeping app by hoteliers on Hotel Tech Report. What clients say: RoomChecking’s housekeeping product comes in at Number 6 on the HTR popularity index; 96 percent of reviewers recommend the product. The software’s highest overall rating was for ROI, scoring 4.7 out of 5 with ease of use following just behind at 4.5 of 5. The platform was given a score of 4.2 of 5 for support and 4 of 5 for implementation. 5. HotSOS Housekeeping (by Amadeus) HotSOS Housekeeping’s purpose is threefold; the app prioritizes the process of guestroom cleaning, digitizes the guest room inspection process; and virtually mobilizes management of the housekeeping department. In 2016, it saved hotels $166 per room. More specifically, the launch of HotSOS Housekeeping throughout one hotel client’s property resulted in a 14 percent increase in productivity and a total labor savings of $136,000 annually. HotSOS was one of the earliest housekeeping products brought to market and has the largest install base. The drawback of going with the largest player is usually legacy that comes with scale. When a software is widely used it can be hard to change this drastically without alienating users. For HotSOS one major drawback is the code based system used which can be confusing for room attendants who haven’t yet memorized the platform and have lots else on their minds. The benefit of this system is that it’s widely used so many experienced room attendants will be familiar with it from a previous property. Another client, the 159-room Prince de Galles hotel in Paris signed on with HotSOS Housekeeping when an insufficient inventory of clean rooms upon guest arrival became a chronic issue. Room attendants had to located by radio or physically in order to be updated on last-minute changes and new cleaning priorities, leaving supervisors with little time for department management and room inspections. To solve this, HotSOS Housekeeping provided the team with an automated solution for consistent communication in real-time. The consistency pushed cleanliness scores higher, as the hotel’s Director of Housekeeping said: “Our GEI scores for 2016 show a 2% increase in guestroom cleanliness and a 5% increase in guestroom condition since 2014. Having more time to spend on guestroom inspections and the ease and efficiency in reporting deficiencies in real time, have helped improve our guest ratings.” Notable feature: HotSOS’ focus on service optimization includes an automated dispatch feature that pushes operational and guest requests to the right person instantly to reduce wait times and increase efficiencies. HotSOS is the #7 rated housekeeping app by hoteliers on Hotel Tech Report. What clients say: 96% of reviewers would recommend HotSOS, which is used across hotel categories, with reviewers appreciating fast housekeeper responses and the customizable reports. 6. OPTii Solutions OPTii streamlines housekeeping operations by optimizing room-attendant path of travel and reducing manual communications by at least 60 percent. This housekeeping software can automatically estimate cleaning times to predict, manage and optimize housekeeping schedules in real time, allowing managers to automate the vital tasks of creating daily schedules. On average, hotels that use Optii see up to 500 percent within just months of implementation by reducing housekeeping labor costs up to 18% and increasing productivity up to 24%. Additionally, OPTii gives managers the ability to identify room status as it pertains to housekeeping, including those ready for inspection. Managers can also view room attendant progress, for real-time insight on how well each attendant stays on, ahead or behind schedule, how quickly they’re completing rooms and how many rooms each attendant has completed at any given time during their shift. Notable feature: OPTii also has in-depth reporting capabilities that can compile metrics and analytics to generate 15 different reports. These reports can be personalized to deliver a quick-and-easy way to stay on top of your team’s performance trends. OPTii is the #8 rated housekeeping app by hoteliers on Hotel Tech Report. What clients say: The product is recommended by 72% of HTR reviewers and scores 3.8 of 5 in both ease of use and support. A number of users also commented that they would like to see an option to delete and edit notes or the addition of a real time messenger system so that housekeepers can instantly be notified of reservations changes. 6. HKeeper is an innovative newcomer in the housekeeping software space While HKeeper is one of the newer entrants in the housekeeping software space, the Company's product is surprisingly mature. The founding team at HKeeper is comprised of hotel owners who have built and extensively tested the software on their own properties long before bringing the product to market. Using HKeeper, you will find requisite tools to avoid unnecessary problems that arise as a result of lacking collaboration between departments. HKeeper will optimize all daily routine processes, improve your guest relations quality, and free up more time for working with projects and vendors. Hkeeper is one of the best tools for managing the personnel of the hotel and tracking material usage. With HKeeper, you can streamline workflows, reduce the turnaround time between tasks, and increase employee productivity. HKeeper also monitors working progress in real time and analyzes staff performance by counting active working time, turnaround time, and time required for each task. Another exceptional function in the HKeeper program is that the mobile application can work off-line. Not all similar programs are offering integration with PMS software, and HKeeper does, so hotels can easily stay updated on room status, availability, and guest information. Notable feature: HKeeper offers a unique feature that allows tracking all materials used during cleaning and maintenance tasks or other operations through the program in real time. Read more HKeeper reviews
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A recent study conducted by the AHLA found that Gen Z workers value four main characteristics in a hospitality job: pay and benefits, interesting work, opportunity to grow and flexible work hours. Hospitality employers that successfully attract and retain young talent are able to deliver on all four of these needs but most hospitality organizations today fall short. According to Glassdoor, a typical Marriott Guest Experience professional in the U.S. makes between $12-17 per hour. It can take anywhere from 7 to 15 years for a guest experience associate to achieve a general management position. Needless to say, flexible hours and remote work are out of the question for those working in hotels. So where should Gen Z hoteliers look to achieve their career goals? Look no further than hotel tech startups. Working in a startup environment is a great way to both accelerate your learning and bring a unique perspective to any hotel company you work for in the future. Ultimately you’ll need to stand out from your peers if you want to advance to the highest ranks. Startup environments deliver the kinds of experiences that Gen Z’s value: they reward for high performers with equity compensation, provide rapid career growth opportunities and teach new skills at blazing speeds. Hotel tech companies are constantly looking for young hospitality talent with industry knowledge, strong work ethic and ambition to act as ambassadors between their technical teams and old world hoteliers who lack an understanding of just how important technology is to the future of their businesses. “What struck me as I spoke to the various technology vendors was that they all said that there was a shortage of trained hoteliers in their line of work. Of course, I saw that as an opportunity and used it to distinguish myself as a hospitality graduate.” ~Sameer Umar, HotelIQ Working at a tech startup will equip you with a mindset that can help you think differently and stand out from your peers. The hotel industry has historically been known as one that’s slow to catch up with tech trends so bringing an innovation and disruption mindset to the industry will help you stand out: “The hospitality industry has a patented four-step method to deal with disruption. Step one is to ignore it. Step two is that when it's pointed out to them, they continue to ignore it. Step three is they panic, and step four is they complain about it.” ~Forbes (via Robert Cole) Hotel tech startups provide incredibly dynamic work environments that will give you the experience you need to thrive in the hotel industry and beyond. This experience will help you see things from a perspective that a role in guest experience or operations just can’t. We sat down with Sameer Umar, VP of Customer Success at the Intelligent Hospitality, creator of the top rated BI software for hotels, HotelIQ. Sameer’s career path shows how powerful having a technology background can be for advancing your hospitality career. While studying at the Hilton College of Hotel Management in Houston Sameer worked at Hilton in operations getting to learn everything from front office to housekeeping. Upon graduation from hotel school Sameer took a different path than most of his classmates by taking a job at a hotel tech startup. That startup ended up selling to TravelClick giving Sameer exposure to technology and analytics while building his knowledge and expertise far beyond the four walls of a single hotel. Sameer was then recruited by Middle East hospitality powerhouse Jumeirah where he was responsible for building out internal business intelligence and reporting tools. He was then recruited by Four Seasons to build out their business intelligence function before joining forces with former colleague Apo Demirtas to bring enterprise grade BI to hotels everywhere with HotelIQ. Sameer’s story is a ‘must read’ for Gen Z hoteliers who want to broaden their career opportunities and for hoteliers seeking a clear roadmap to higher salary, more growth opportunity and ultimately long term success. We sat down with Sameer to learn about his career journey from hotel school to becoming a senior technology executive and dove into the key lessons that he’s learned along the way. Sameer, tell us about your career background in hotels. I began my career in hospitality when I joined the Hilton College of Hotel Management at the University of Houston. The college is part of a working Hilton Hotel and students get to work in various departments as part of their training. So I got to do everything from Front Office to Housekeeping. It was tough and I have tremendous respect for people in hotel operations. After college I took a less traditional route and, rather than working for a hotel company, I joined a startup that was developing an online CRS for hotels. We were later acquired by TravelClick and I continued working there for a few years. However, after a while I wanted to see what it was like on the other side - the hotelier's perspective. Around that time I came across an opportunity to manage distribution for Jumeirah Hotels. So I packed my bags and headed out to Dubai. At Jumeirah they were getting ready to launch a corporate BI initiative. I was very intrigued by it and ended up participating in many discussions around data flows and standards that would enable us to harness the power of information sitting in our systems. Although I wasn't planning on it, all that talking lead to me taking on the role of Director of Business Intelligence to bring the initiative to fruition. It was one of the most satisfying professional experiences for me to take a concept, work with IT to build it out, and to eventually roll it to hotels and see them benefit from it. After Jumeirah, I moved to Toronto and started working with Four Seasons on their Enterprise BI initiative. While similar in some sense, it was a bigger initiative in other regards than what I had worked on at Jumeirah. We were collaborating with consultants from leading IT companies and the initiative expanded across multiple disciplines. What was one technology that you couldn't live without in your former role in hospitality? Given my past experience, you'd expect me to mention data-warehousing or data visualization technology. But to me those things were secondary. What mattered the most was the property management system and how efficiently hotels were utilizing it. The PMS is the heartbeat of hotel operations. Reservations flow in, guests check-in, guests check-out, and night audit runs. In short, it is the system of record for all the guest and commercial intelligence at hotels. How efficiently a hotel utilizes and maintains data quality in its PMS will ultimately determine the success of any BI or analytics initiative. Else, it is garbage-in, garbage-out. Even when we implement HotelIQ (Intelligent Hospitality's BI and Analytics platform) at a new hotel, we spend significant amount of time working with our hotel partners to ensure data quality, processes, and identifying any data gaps or risks for them. When did you first become interested in leveraging technology to become a better hotelier? Quite early on in my career actually. I remember attending my first HITEC as a student. I think it was in Dallas. I was blown away by all the amazing tech ranging from hotel CRM tools that would enable hotels to provide each guest with a personalized experience to bio-metric doors to ensure the safety of high profile guests. Of course, we have come a long way since but to me it was like walking into the future of hospitality. What struck me at that conference as I spoke to the various technology vendors was that they all said that there was a shortage of trained hoteliers in their line of work. Of course, I saw that as an opportunity and used it to distinguish myself as a hospitality graduate. As a hotelier what was your biggest frustration with technology vendors? Innovation and speed to market is something I always value in a technology vendor. But to do it right, you have to pay attention to your customers needs and their feedback. And you have to listen to all of them, not just a handful of big ones. Unfortunately, with some vendors suggestions and feedback would just disappear into a black hole. Maybe years later they will come back to you when that business requirement has become outdated. It frustrated me to no end! What would you say is the most widely held misconception that hoteliers have about tech? Hoteliers sometimes treat technology as nothing more than a cost center. It is one of the things that is holding our industry back. We feel tech is all 0s and 1s for the geeks to figure out. Technology can also be a strategic tool if we choose to view it as such. It will enable us to enhance the guest experience and optimize our revenues. But for that to happen, hoteliers need to start looking at technology with different lens. Our IT teams do a great job of deploying technology for us, it is up to us hoteliers to convert tech into a strategic business solution. Tell us about your journey from hotelier into technologist? Essentially, my experience working with hotel companies was preparing me for my current role at Intelligent Hospitality. I feel very blessed that these opportunities were presented to me when they were. I just followed the natural progression. The most challenging part of moving from hotels into tech was fighting my own demons. I was intimidated by the thought of working for a tech company. I wasn't sure if I belonged there and I think I did a fairly good job of highlighting my limited knowledge of technology in front of my team. However, I came to realize that what I didn't know about tech I was making up for with my business know-how. You get the best results when business and IT work together and learn from one another. You built these sophisticated reporting systems for Jumeirah and Four Seasons, how have those experiences informed the way you’ve built HotelIQ? Transactional hotel systems such as point-of-sale, property management, central reservations and revenue management systems perform their primary functions well. However their functions are not to provide insightful hotel reporting, analytics and intelligence! HotelIQ fills this void by providing hotel managers and corporate personnel the valuable insight that they need to maximize the revenue generation and grow the market share of a single hotel, hotel portfolio, brand or management company. Imagine that you're going to open the hotel of your dreams tomorrow - what would it be? I think my dream hotel would be a city-center hotel catering primarily to business travelers and conference attendees. It would be very high tech and efficient. The kind of place where the James Bonds of the world would like to stay. What technology would you leverage at your hotel? Oracle PMS, SHR central reservations, ALICE for Ops, data sharing via HAPI, and of course, HotelIQ for planning and strategic decision support. What's one piece of advice you have for hoteliers who have dreams of working in technology one day? Go for it! There are not enough hoteliers in technology. If you want technology to serve hotels better, hoteliers need to be driving it. You don't need to be a developer, you just need to be able to connect and communicate with them to develop the right hospitality solutions. What's one podcast, newsletter or book that you recommend hoteliers read if they'd like to eventually move into tech? Revenue Management by Robert Cross. Yes, it is a "business" book. But it is a business book full of stories of visionary business people who had vision and foresight to leverage technology. You'll be surprised and inspired. What is your favorite hotel in the world and why? Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai. I love the Arabian architecture, beach side location, rustic global cuisines by the canals, and abra (boat) rides that remind you of Venice but are unique in themselves. What is the most exciting technology you've seen in the hotel tech space that is not built by your own company? I am really happy about HAPI (sorry but could not resist). For as long as I have been in the industry, interfaces have been a boon for us. Information continues to stay captured in silos while hoteliers are forced to follow gut over facts. What they are trying to do could open up the flow of information in a big way. What is one thing that most people don't know about you? I am thrill seeker. I have done bungee jumping, parasailing, walked the edge of CN Tower, and tons of roller coaster rides. However, the one thing I have not yet done, but hope to do soon, is skydiving.