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.
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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.
Everyone texts -- and not just with friends and family: 9 out of 10 consumers prefer to text businesses they frequent. And, increasingly, many turn to messaging apps for regular communications: 55% of U.S. consumers use a mobile messaging app at least once a month. The proliferation of inbound communications channels creates complexity for hotels; it’s just not simple to manage, track, and triage requests across so many different channels. This complexity is why more hospitality brands are implementing guest engagement technology. The tech pulls guest communications into a single platform, enabling guests to communicate seamlessly with hotels via text messaging, apps, and social media. These platforms generally rely on automation and A.I.-powered chatbots to augment human customer service agents, a trend that Salesforce sees as growing by 241% in the next 18 months. The combination allows for a more nuanced approach to customer service, pushing predictable requests to chatbots and complex interactions to humans. This combination increases the relevance, accuracy, speed, and convenience of your guest communications. A recent SalesForce report predicts a 241% increase in usage of A.I. chatbots across travel and hospitality. One of the leading guest messaging platforms serving hospitality brands is Zingle, which enables hotels to provide more consistent, accurate communications through whichever channels guests prefer. The platform also streamlines comms for staff, uniting all conversations in one place so nothing is overlooked. The benefits of stronger guest engagement is threefold: improved operational efficiency, better guest satisfaction, and higher RevPAR. Staff is more efficient, wastes less time, and respond to requests quicker, so guests are more satisfied and leave better reviews (and thus higher RevPAR). Here are three key ways that Zingle’s guest engagement platform increases the relevance, accuracy, speed, and convenience of your guest communications. #1: A more personalized experience Personalization is certainly buzzed about -- but it’s no longer just a buzzword, it’s a best practice. For hotels, this plays out in very specific ways, such as these two recent experiences from Hotel Tech Report staff with hotel guest messaging platforms. The Thompson Cape in Cabo used a guest messaging platform to ask about allergies during our stay last September. We disclosed a severe allergy to pumpkin seeds which enabled the hotel to ensure all outlets (e.g. the pool bar, room service, etc.) were able to help us avoid incident. More recently, at the Kimpton EPIC Hotel in Miami during Amadeus’ customer conference, a front desk agent named Dante texted the guest to let them know of his availability for any issues; sure enough, the key didn’t work and Dante sent a new one up after a single text avoiding what could have been an extremely poor arrival experience. These experiences underscore just how much personalized texting can help to improve the guest experience and mitigate risk of issues while on property. Unfortunately, there’s still a disconnect between what consumers expect and what hospitality brands deliver. In a 2018 Epsilon survey, 87% of respondents said they are more likely to do business with travel websites/apps offering personalized experiences. And yet only 64% say travel brands currently deliver personalized experiences either very or somewhat well. The gap between consumer expectations and actual performance is a massive opportunity across a hotel’s operation. For marketers, personalization can boost conversions for things like end-of-stay surveys and review requests. For GMs, personalization means more efficient allocation of resources. Notable feature: Put your hotel at the leading edge of personalization with Zingle’s modules, called “zings.” Each zing is customizable to respond to specific triggers, similar to setting up marketing automation workflows or email drip campaigns. These flows allow hotels to customize how messages are routed, and what happens on specific triggers. For instance, hotels can personalize a checkout survey or escalate a lost-and-found request to the right person. #2: More streamlined communications There’s nothing worse than a hotel that silos guest communications by channel, as it leads to a poor experience -- a guest may have messages unanswered or have to explain a situation over and over to whomever is tasked with answering a particular channel. And that’s not just frustrating for guests: Hotel staff also struggle with siloed guest communications, as knowledge isn’t always shared across shifts. Without a single source of truth, there’s a bad feeling of always playing catch up. Part of providing a consistent experience means that guests are able to communicate how they like with the hotel. Guests want to be able to chat, text, or call, and know that the requests are all being monitored. They don’t care how they make a request; they just want requests answered -- and fulfilled -- promptly. A guest messaging platform helps hotels meet that expectation. With a single platform for communications, staff aren’t constantly toggling between tools and can respond to guests across all channels (including popular messaging apps like WhatsApp). The fact that Zingle’s A.I.-driven system also answers common questions and escalates service issues to humans means that it’s like having a new staff member working 24/7. Hotels that use Zingle emphasize how easy it is for both guest and staff, saying that it is a “wonderful amenity that streamlines communication.” “We like the ease of contacting guests. This is great for special in-house offers at the outlets, we have seen extra revenue at the spa when we send out specials. It's also great to alert groups when the function has been moved inside due to weather. We had a pipe break a few weeks back and used Zingle to alert the guests that the water would be shut off from 1-3.” ~ Assistant GM from Clearwater, United States The fact that this GM identifies both guests and associates as strong advocates underscores how powerful a unified communications platform can be. Staff is less stressed, confused, and overwhelmed managing new and existing requests, and guests get the support they need quickly on channels they already use. This consistency help hotels deliver the best experience possible -- and to quickly resolve emerging problems before they escalate. Notable feature: Zingle’s platform resolves common guest requests with intelligent routing. There are also “quick keys” for common messages, which saves agents time when responding directly to guests. The intelligent routing and shortcuts reduce the amount of time staff spends on repetitive responses while also quickly getting guests the information they seek. #3: A more empowered staff A guest engagement platform makes staff more productive. Guests receive responses personalized to their requests, some of which are boilerplate responses to common questions (“Where’s the gym”) and others are written by customer service agents. With Zingle handling routine requests, staff can devote more brainpower to complex tasks. The Salesforce report we mentioned earlier also found that: Chatbots make customer service agents 64% more efficient and frees them up to spend more time solving complex problems. Guests also get frustrated when hotels make it difficult to find answers to common questions. With customer service agents spending less time on repetitive responses, it benefits both teams and customers alike. Staff have more bandwidth to resolve those thornier guest issues which results in a better guest experience. For example, let’s say a front desk agent is busy answering a phone call about the pool’s opening hours. Zingle’s A.I. could have answered that question on its own, freeing up the front desk agent for higher-impact tasks, such as taking a new reservation or handling a high-touch guest request. As La Cantera Resort & Spa’s Director of Revenue confirms in a recent review, Zingle’s automation makes guests happier and frees up staff so that more can get done: Read more Zingle reviews Notable feature: Sentiment-based alerts. Zingle actively monitors inbound communications, acting as a 24/7 sentry for your property’s guest experience. Overlooking a negative message can poison the guest experience -- and damage your brand. Zingle’s sentiment-based alerts allow you to prioritize resources so that the most pressing situations are addressed first. This automatically identifies opportunities for service recovery -- and ensures that a bad situation doesn’t get worse. Bringing it all together With its cross-platform messaging, Zingle will keep your staff organized and on-point, uniting guest communications in one place -- regardless of channel. The platform does all the work, reliably and consistently. Guests don’t even need to know how their requests are processed. The platform simply routes it all according to a property’s rules, without any intervention. For pricing, Zingle offers a free trial so hotels can try before they buy. After the trial, there’s a one-time implementation fee and a monthly subscription charged on a per room basis. To get set up, you’ll need to thoughtfully map out your guest touchpoints, connect your communications channels to the platform, and then train staff. Zingle’s team has 10 years of experience, so implementation actually becomes a great opportunity to improve operations. One final piece of data to guide your decision in choosing a guest messaging software: consumers prefer a blend of chatbots and human agents. It’s not as simple as replacing one for the other. By implementing a A.I.-driven model that relies on the strengths of both bots and humans, hotels stand to benefit immensely from an improved guest experience that results in better reviews.
Revenue management has been part of the hospitality business for many decades. Its origins can be traced back to a meeting between American Airlines and Marriott back in the 1970s. Marriott wanted to learn more about American’s success in what it called yield management or the process of optimizing revenue by matching price to demand. Marriott went on to develop software tools of its own, such as the Demand Forecast System, and began calling this revenue management. Those tools have evolved immensely in the intervening years, riding the wave of Big Data and predictive analytics to bring revenue management discipline to all categories of hospitality. Many hotels leverage real-time data analysis to crunch a variety of inputs and optimize pricing many times per day. One of the newer entrants to the field of revenue management software is Pace, which enables hotels to change prices accurately 1000s times a week and those changes help clients achieve higher rates, more occupancy, and significant revenue growth. Here’s what you need to know. What Pace does: Intelligent revenue management Traditionally, pricing strategies have been guided by how our hotel wants to position itself within a specific Comp Set. This means that the hotel follows other peoples’ decisions, rather than setting their own strategy. Hotels that base their pricing on what the comp set charges are “price followers,” rather than “price leaders.” Hotels that want to be price leaders need to rely more on a revenue management strategy that doesn’t exclusively rely on competitor pricing. This is accomplished through: Revenue science: Revenue science is ”the discipline of infusing sophisticated mathematics to transform data into accurate, automated, and actionable revenue-enhancing decisions” (more here). To do this, Pace relies on your hotel’s bookings reveal a lot about how you should price your hotel. It pulls this data via a direct integration with a hotel’s PMS to analyze performance, reservations, and booking pace. Strategy is the key word -- it’s not just about rate management but rather a holistic rate strategy. It identifies high-quality booking data patterns to drive decision making. Continuous pricing: Accurate, quick responses to changing market dynamics is the path to success with revenue management. Price with confidence with Pace’s “Continuous Pricing,” which simulates different variables, such as market demand, price sensitivity, room type, and date, to find the price with the highest RevPAR. Since the average hotel receives bookings every few minutes, it’s not realistic for humans to keep up with all of this new information. The system processes each new data input to update pricing recommendations hourly. Adaptive forecasting: Forecasting is a tricky thing. Whenever you change a rate, it affects everything else; each price change impacts forecasts of your occupancy and total bookings. These are complex interdependencies that are nearly impossible for a human to calculate. Pace’s forecasting adapts so that forecast evolve when one variable is changed, so RMs can make decisions on the most up-to-date and accurate information. Who Pace is for: Independent hotels and hostels Pace is a mature platform that is both enterprise and brand ready but has found a sweet spot in the hostel segment as it is one of very few RMS players that can actually price beds (vs. rooms). Pace works with both hotels and hostels worldwide, with a sweet spot for Europe (the company is based in London). The company works mostly with unbranded independents, both those with a dedicated revenue function and those without. For existing teams, Pace saves time and increases accuracy. For hotels where GMs run revenue management, Pace can boost effectiveness and provide additional resources without hiring a full-time seat. Pace’s client includes groups like Generator Hostels that blend across categories. Since Pace relies on a hotel’s own data first, it's ideally positioned to support blended lodging categories that don’t easily fit into the competitive set benchmarking of traditional revenue management. With available integrations through popular marketplaces like Mews, Opera, apaleo and Protel, the Pace software can be integrated and customized. This flexibility makes Pace a versatile tool for all kinds of hotels, who can slot it into existing tech stacks with less cost. 5 reasons why hoteliers love Pace 1. Intuitive calendar that simplifies optimal rates. Pace evaluates recent bookings and runs simulations to compare all possible pricing strategies. The engine then identifies the optimal price for each unique room night, so revenue managers can make hundreds of accurate pricing decisions in only seconds. The Calendar makes this process simple and straightforward, without any further manual work from staff. 2. Advanced segmentation. Pace Makes it easy to keep tabs on your hotel segments. Segmentation becomes especially pertinent when demand differs across segments. Thanks to this advanced segmentation, Pace can isolate segments and evaluate the impact of each segment on your rates. This also includes detailed segment analysis, so you can quickly see how your various segments are performing -- and take action as needed. 3. Events module. Many rate shopping tools have an events module that highlights local events that may affect demand. Pace includes a similar module so that all revenue decisions can be made with an eye towards local events and related market demand. It’s worth noting that Pace does consider secondary data, such as local demand patterns, in its pricing recommendations. Having an integrated event calendar ensures that revenue managers have the information they need when accepting pricing decisions or manually adjusting rates. 4. Dedicated team that’s responsive to feedback. If there's one theme found throughout Pace’s user reviews on Hotel Tech Report, it's that the company is responsive. The team is quick to acknowledge and act on customer feedback, while also improving functionality. One HTR reviewer was thrilled to work “with a company who listens, adapts and evolves to your business needs is paramount.” Another noted “Great support, very easy to work with & fast acting on feedback,” as well as “thorough on-boarding & training.” These are all positive signs when trusting a vendor to deliver on its revenue optimization promises. Read more Pace reviews 5. Pace gets results. Pace argues that basing pricing decisions “on primary data is a superior strategy” because it helps hotels “react faster to future trends by selling at the right prices at the right time.” Reference customers, such as Floris van Es, the GM at Star Lodge Hotels, seem to agree: “After using Pace for 6 weeks and RevPAR was up 25% year on year. Since then we've continued to see very clearly that Pace is helping us outperform last year and the market.” Pace pricing Hotels looking to implement Pace for revenue management can try it out for a month without cost. After that, there’s a monthly subscription based on the number of rooms in a hotel or beds in a hostel, with a minimum monthly commitment of €300. Simple and transparent, no strings attached just like software should be. Get a custom price quote for your hotel Conclusions: Should you consider Pace? If you’re one of the 90% of hotels that still manage pricing manually, Pace is definitely worth consideration. It’s simple to use, quick to on-board, and doesn’t require a deep knowledge of data, analytics, or statistics to take advantage of. Pace also has a refreshing approach to revenue management, focusing not just on optimizing price but also on the optimal strategy. In Pace’s own words: Every feature that we build at Pace is designed to inspire the right action for you. Our philosophy is one of building tools that enable you to take the correct actions at the right time in a joyful way. In this way, we believe, the best possible results for your business will emerge. One of the most important characteristics of a valuable vendor is also one of the hardest measures: a partnership mentality. Vendors that see themselves as critical allies and partners will provide a stronger backbone that supports a beneficial relationship. Judging from user reviews and Pace’s own words, there seems to be just such a mentality in play here -- a good sign, indeed!
The Hotel Tech Twins just returned home from HFTP’s annual US HITEC show which just so happened to find itself in...wait for it...the twin cities. This year’s location in Minneapolis is the hometown of hotel tech darling IDeaS which happened to be celebrating its 30th year in business - serendipity was in the air. The week kicked off with our favorite part of every major conference, Klaus Kohlmayr’s exclusive tech startup happy hour where we got to bump elbows with CEOs like ALICE’s Alex Shashou, Meeting Package’s Joonas Ahoola and Triptease’s Charlie Osmond who just returned from running a marathon in North Korea (nope that’s not a typo...NORTH Korea!). During the conference we met with more than 50 tech companies to learn about the latest tech developments and tips to grow your hotel business. In this article we distill major trends that we saw in the market and highlight key innovations that should be on every hotelier’s radar within each trend. Consolidation certainly seems to be driving the market with Travel Tripper + Pegasus making its first combined HITEC debut, Jonas Hospitality launching its Jonas Chorum brand and HeBS/Serenata rebranding the organization Next Guest. Whether you were at HITEC and were too overwhelmed to cut through the noise or couldn’t make it at all...fear not, we've got you covered. Below you’ll learn about the 6 biggest hotel tech trends we saw at the show, discuss what they mean for your hotel business and highlight the companies that are pushing the envelope within each. TLDR; HITEC trends at a glance TREND 1 | Companies are doubling down on automated workflows to save time and reduce human error (12 products covered) TREND 2 | A cambrian explosion of tools to help hoteliers manage and make sense of their data (6 products covered) TREND 3 | A new focus on enabling guests and driving revenue with self service (8 products covered) TREND 4 | Big tech is leaning into hotels for new use cases & distribution (4 products covered) TREND 5 | Housekeeping software is heating up (4 products covered) TREND 6 | Fraud and security are still poignant post-Marriott breach (8 products covered) Bonus Coverage: More Notable Product Rollouts and Launches From the Show (10 products covered) Before we jump into the trends...3 shout-outs for creativity at the show Most creative HITEC marketing initiatives: a tie between IDeaS and Infor IDeaS went big for their 30th anniversary and brewed their own line of local craft beers for the show. We heard they still have a few extra cases left so when you are negotiating that contract for your hotel group’s next RMS - make sure to ask them for a hoppy throw in. Infor launched its new grab-and-go POS solution where guests can purchase food on a touch screen kiosk. The Company went all in on the demo and had a full service food and beverage operation running in real time. It turns out hoteliers love free food and the demo was super slick so the Infor booth was slammed every time we passed by. ALICE delighted conference goers by shelling out envelopes of cash to announce its latest release. While envelopes of cash alone would have been enough to secure a shout out for creativity, the meaning behind the stunt sealed the deal with class, creativity and customer centricity. Having just launched the all new ALICE Housekeeping, the envelopes were actually tip envelopes for conference goers to bring back to their hotel rooms and leave for their room attendent paying homage to housekeepers and the back breaking work they do day-in and day-out. Congrats to SABA Hospitality, the winner of E20X People's Choice Award. SABA Hospitality manages every aspect of the guest journey. From answering questions, to managing requests, making recommendations, fulfilling F&B orders and everything in between. Their artificial intelligence driven chatbot transforms a hotels guest experience, while lowering staff workload and driving revenue. TREND 1 | Companies are doubling down on automated workflows to save time and reduce human error Due to years of overzealous media hype, when hoteliers hear the word ‘automation’ they mostly think about robots but the kind of automation that’s actually changing the hotel industry is a very different kind of automation. Most techies are familiar with companies like Zapier and IFTTT (If This Then That). Essentially these companies are platforms that help businesses setup and execute rules for repetitive processes. For example, you could set a “Zap” that triggers a Google Calendar meeting scheduled every time someone fills out a form on your website. These kinds of automations are the backbone of building a great business because they free up your team to focus on high value tasks. Hotels are notorious for having these kinds of repetitive tasks. For example, every time a room attendent finishes cleaning a room they need to radio the housekeeping manager who then needs to mark the room ready for inspection. Take another example where your night audit team needs to do a manual bucket check to cross reference each in-house folio against your in-house list in your PMS. All of these tasks can be automated away which frees up those team members to focus on higher value tasks which can really move the needle for your business. At HITEC this year we saw a ton of companies from guest messaging platforms to revenue management systems showcasing ways for hoteliers to automate away those redundant and tedious tasks. These tools help you save time, eliminate frustration and mitigate the risk of error across your property operations. Below are the key HITEC launches and showcases that help hoteliers like you with task automation. Whistle launched AI conversation and dispatch automation for its guest messaging product Some hoteliers fear that adding guest messaging at their property will increase the amount of work for their teams by adding a new channel for requests. The good news is that Whistle has been honing their conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI) / Machine Learning (ML) model which now claims to predict responses to 80%+ of guest questions and requests. With this knowledge, Whistle can suggest or automatically prompt the appropriate response back to the guest, and even auto-prompt service requests and work orders to internal departments via Whistle’s lightweight task management module or other integrated Service Optimization solutions like Quore. Whistle has won the top rated Guest Messaging category two years running and its new time saving functionality looks like they're likely to step up their game again this year. IDeaS showcased Investigator, a new feature to show hoteliers how pricing decisions were made As technology plays more of a role in revenue management many revenue managers want to know the “why” behind pricing decisions to ensure that mistakes aren’t being made and so that they can effectively communicate strategic decisions to stakeholders. With Investigator, revenue managers can drill into the analytics behind decisions made by IDeaS’ G3 revenue management system. Investigator allows revenue managers to embrace automation while also staying in the loop to make sure everything is working properly. OTA Insight adds intelligent rate parity breach detection and bulk actioning via automated alerts Hotel distribution is extremely complex and due to the way that 3rd parties resell inventory it’s nearly impossible to track down parity issues like price discrepancies or room-type issues. Parity Insight provides a turnkey solution to detect, action and resolve parity issues in real-time. The new functionality provides workflow automation and streamlines communication between groups, chains and hotels. OTA Insight is trusted by more than 40,000 properties globally and leverages data across the entire group to help each individual client ensure that their distribution partners aren’t engaging in costly breaches of contracts. Zingle launched automatic message categorization and intent triggered automation Without the right automation, guest messaging can add more work onto your team’s already busy plate so it’s important to have the right automations in place to ensure that this great guest amenity doesn’t come at the expense of team productivity. Zingle’s messaging software has pre-made and customizable automated workflows that re-route and follow up to messages to save staff valuable time on repetitive tasks. There are dozens of automations available today, including recognition of plumbing issues, process information requests (like gym hours), or housekeeping related messages like room-cleaning and turn down service. Zingle streamlines communication for hotels and improves service times by reducing the need for manual ticket entry, routing and follow-up by staff. Zingle raised $11M from Peakspan Capital to fuel technical R&D and drive growth. Fun fact, Zingle's founder Ford Blakey also happens to be the brother of billionaire Spanx founder, Sarah Blakely. Travel Tripper showcased its ADA compliance audit and monitoring platform to automatically detect compliance issues with your website. The platform offers a proactive approach to the increasing threat of ADA website lawsuits in the hotel industry, allowing hoteliers and their web service providers to address website accessibility issues and mitigate the risk of ADA compliance lawsuits. This platform is the first of its kind (in the hotel industry) which actively audits hotel websites according to WCAG 2.1 AA-Level standards and automatically alerts property teams if a technical violation is found. Upon recognizing an ADA violation, the platform sends regular notifications to account users until the issue is fixed. In addition, Travel Tripper assists hoteliers’ legal teams by giving them the proper documentation they need when responding to an ADA website compliance lawsuit. Cendyn announced a new funding round lead by Accel/KKR to increase the capabilities of its marketing automation products both in SMB (Guestfolio) and enterprise (eInsight). Cendyn was one of the first movers in the hotel CRM market and to this day is amongst the top hotel CRM choices in the enterprise clients with its eInsight product. Back in 2016 Cendyn acquired Guestfolio, a provider of hotel CRM independents and moving forward AKKR is likely to have its sights set on more M&A opportunities like Guestfolio (or even a larger merger). With Tim Sullivan taking the helm from founders Robyn and Charles Deyo, hoteliers can expect the firm to push deeper into automation. Over the last few years hotel CRM vendors have needed to invest heavily in GDPR compliance initiatives but with that behind them expect more "Marketo" like marketing automation functionality out of this category in the next 6-12 months. Protel launched zero cost 1-click integrations to fuel automation Integration is the key to all automation but historically integrations have been extremely expensive and time consuming to set live. protel launched one-click connect and slashed activation costs for select partners in its i/o marketplace. Now protel clients can instantly turn on top rated apps like OTA Insight, Oaky Upselling and Atomize revenue management without paying a dime. While this is a small step towards a more integrated future it is a critical one since this kind of move from a major PMS company like protel with 14,000 clients will put pressure on others to follow suit. Atomize launched its group booking price optimization functionality Group sales reps often price groups manually which takes a lot of work. If they ask too much they could lose the contract and if they charge too little they leave money on the table. Atomize’s new group booking functionality allows hoteliers to automatically set optimal prices for group booking packages. The software cuts out manual calculations, negotiations and collaborations by taking into account the total expected spend of various groups on property. Atomize can factor varied requests within the same group like different arrival and departure dates. Atomize won top rated revenue management system in the 2019 HotelTechAwards and has been taking the industry by storm ever since. This new group functionality is another step towards rounding out Atomize as a complete revenue management software the platform. SevenRooms launched email marketing for hotel restaurants Hotel food & beverage operations often lack the resources and know how to run personalized marketing campaigns. SevenRooms’ segmentation and email automation enables F&B managers to easily add customizable tags to guest profiles then run rules based marketing campaigns to those segments. Run unique marketing to critical segments like: first timers, high value regulars, positive reviewers and more. Companies like Revinate and Cendyn have demonstrated the immense value of personalized hospitality marketing campaigns. Now F&B outlets can benefit from marketing automation too. Zoox debuted facial recognition technology for hotel check-in Front desk agents are overloaded with repetitive tasks like identity verification which creates bottlenecks at check-in and hurts the guest experience. Zoox’ facial recognition software allows guests to check into the hotel in under 15 seconds without the front desk ever needing to verify their identity with ID or credit card. Facial recognition is already being used in markets like China which have leap frogged some of the West’s archaic traditions by using next gen tech. Avvio showcased its Allora powered booking engine Each guest is enticed by different booking messages, layouts and visuals so having a static booking engine means that you’re losing guests by not putting the right offer and presentation in front of them. Allora leverages data from Avvio’s client base to put the right messages and visuals in front of guests that are likely to be enticed by those calls to action. Continuous website optimization is mainstream in eCommerce and is a critical piece of maximizing direct bookings. Avvio guarantees that you will see a 25% increase in direct booking revenue when you switch to their booking engine. Knowcross launched KNOW Maintenance to automate preventative maintenance KNOW Maintenance is a cloud based multilingual application that helps automate, schedule and monitor all preventive maintenance activities at hotels. The application organizes all engineering responsibilities for hotels, thus ensuring superior guest satisfaction, minimize malfunction accidents and maximized equipment lifetimes. This also results in enhanced productivity and better manpower forecasts. TREND 2 | A cambrian explosion of tools to help manage and make sense of your data We know that you and your staff are probably sick of tech companies talking about artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data. Ultimately the big hotel data challenge can be boiled down into 3 simple buckets: (1) Guest profile data (2) Market data (3) Operations data Most of the datasets that tech marketers are referring to are not really big data. Here’s how analytics firm SAS defines big data. “Big data is a term that describes the large volume of data – both structured and unstructured – that inundates a business on a day-to-day basis.” Since big data can be overwhelming for hoteliers, let’s first define our data types so that we can see it’s actually not so scary: Guest profile data helps us target new guests and better serve them on property. CRM systems use recency, frequency and monetary value as the core data points but this data includes PMS data like stay dates as well as 3rd party data pulled in from social media platforms, reputation platforms like Revinate, guest surveys and other data sources. Ultimately we want to use this data to find new guests who are like the ones that stay with us and to deliver personalized experiences that drive loyalty Market data helps us price our rooms and plan for the future. This data includes historical pricing, demand trends, local events and more. Market data sources come from platforms like OTA Insight or TravelClick Demand360 as well as 3rd parties like Kalibri Labs, STR or CBRE. Operations data helps us streamline how we run our business. This data comes from PMS and operations systems. We’ll want to look at things like how long it takes to turn our rooms, average cost per occupied room, time to service requests and more. The challenge becomes tying all of this data together in ways that enable us to make business decisions and act on them in real time. Integrating these datasets and visualizing them in a clear and understandable way is critical for the success of any hotel. Because this data is constantly flooding into our properties it’s impossible for humans to process it and make good decisions without the right software systems in place. From budgeting and forecasting to marketing and operations, the vendors below showcased new ways of visualizing and manipulating a hotel’s existing data to help hoteliers make better business decisions. Revinate debuted its new platform that promises to manage and organize all of your hotel’s marketing data How can hotels manage relationships with guests? Not just manage room inventory, but create and manage rich guest profiles that tell them everything they need to know about potential guests: recency, frequency, and spending of previous stays to really understand who their VIPs are and when and how they should be marketed to. Currently, data is tied up in various systems that don’t speak to each other very well. Hoteliers need tools specifically built for the complexities and nuances of the hospitality industry. Nowhere is this truer than when it comes to managing guest relationships effectively at scale. The Hotel GMS allows hoteliers to easily surface insights on their guest, segment and market to them, and learn more about them over time to make future communications even more effective. Hotel Effectiveness showcased its labor optimization dashboards and new wage benchmarking capabilities With labor costs on the rise and labor being the single largest line item on most hotel’s P&L, finding ways to monitor and optimize your labor and staffing is mission critical for most hoteliers. The problem is that most hotels still track and manage their labor manually on pen and paper but luckily, Hotel Effectiveness (in depth review). The team showcased their purpose built tool that is used by major clients such as Heritage Hotels & Resorts, Interstate Hotels & Resorts, Pacific Host Hotels and Chartwell Hospitality and promises to reduce total labor costs by 5-10% by turning labor hours and cost data into actionable recommendations served up right in the dashboard. SHR launched its Wave RMS (revenue management system) SHR is the latest in a slew of companies launching revenue management systems in the last couple of years. SHR's algorithm uses Reinforcement Learning techniques with a proprietary mathematical model that recommends prices not only based on one specific date, but factoring in both days-to-arrival and optimal price on shoulder dates, as well, to maximize revenue across the stay pattern. Wave combines advanced algorithms with a Strategy Builder tool so that Revenue Managers don't need to solely trust a “black box” recommendation. Cenium showed off its Microsoft BI powered customizable dashboards If you’ve used multiple PMS’ before you know that the dashboards often look the same. Based on your role, there are different metrics and views that are most important to you but it takes a million clicks to get to your favorite view. With a redesigned interface, Cenium put its new customizable dashboards on display at HITEC. Powered by Microsoft BI, hoteliers can pick from pre-built templates or easily slice and dice data to personalize their dashboard. Owned by a Norweigan hotel conglomerate, Cenium was built for the portfolio’s own hotels and is now being made available globally to other hotels outside its portfolio. Funded by the cashflow of the real estate business, Cenium’s pockets are deep and offer a deep resource pool to build a strong product with a customer mindset at the heart of product development. SnapShot rolled out its V1 POS Analytics to compare PMS and POS data in one interface While PMS Software was built for hotels, most POS Software was built for restaurants which often becomes evident when trying to run hotel analysis of various F&B outlets or compare POS and PMS data in one interface to identify performance by outlet as well as slice and dice data from both systems to do things like remap and unify POS outlets' names, payment methods, F&B categories and price modifiers. Snapshot POS Analytics is currently only available for hotels who utilize sister Shiji company Infrasys’ POS and the lightning fast growing Lightspeed POS. Profitsword showcased its custom financial performance dashboards The new user interface is a continuation of ProfitSword's commitment to provide instant and straightforward access to the information that businesses need in order to plan and ensure a successful, efficient and profitable operation. ProfitSword customers are now able to instantly access, group and compare real-time performance data in a way that fits their specific needs at any given time, and with a level of detail that is truly a first for our industry and save custom reports as favorites for easy 1-click access. TREND 3 | A new Focus on enabling guests and driving revenue with self service We’re living in an age where we manage our investments on mobile devices via apps like Robinhood and choose our workouts at home via platforms like Peloton. As technology gets better, we’re able to go straight to the source and get exactly what we want, when we want it and at a fraction of the cost. In the hotel industry the notion of self service has taken a bit longer to catch up except in innovative markets like Las Vegas. Many hoteliers believe that disintermediating services is detrimental to delivering a great hospitality experience. In many ways they are right and there will always need to be a highly personal component between guests and staff to truly create a great guest experience. Having said that, there are many facets of hotel operations where guests are actually better served completing these tasks themselves which also frees up staff to focus on building personal relationships, surprising and delighting. An example of this in our professional lives exists within the meeting booking space. Platforms like Calendly and x.ai are actually much better at scheduling meetings because they integrate directly with our calendars and don't require back and forth to coordinate between parties. That doesn't mean executives no longer need personal assistants, it just means that personal assistants can focus on adding more value for their employers and skip the back-and-forth. There are lots of examples of this dynamic in hotels. Most guests would prefer an automated grab and go where they don’t need to go through an entire transaction process with an associate. This seamless experience at the front desk actually builds loyalty by cutting out any wait time or frustration - something that is increasingly critical in the age of instant gratification. Similarly, there is no check-in experience that can make up for waiting in line at the reception. Solutions like mobile check-in and keyless entry can alleviate wait times and free up staff to focus on higher value tasks. Below you’ll find the latest technology developments within the self service trend that deliver instant gratification and consistently perfect service to guests while freeing up your team to focus on surprising and delighting. Zoox Smart Pass rolls out facial recognition for seamless and verified self-checkin So you’ve been Global Entry or Nexus and wondered why the kiosks there can check you in but you have to talk to someone at the front desk at a hotel. Well, now you don’t have to. As self service check-in goes more mainstream especially at select service and extended stay properties, it’s only logical that facial recognition will allow for a more frictionless and secure identification process. With this new tech, guests simply walk up to the computer camera like they would a Global Entry terminal, scan their face and checkin to their room in under 15 seconds. Impulsify showed off its ShopPop hotel pantry solution that they're so confident in it actually comes with an ROI guarantee Having a hotel pantry has often been reserved for brands and larger properties who have the manpower to be able to properly service customers. Even so, in the majority of cases front desk agents double as grab-n-go cashiers and anytime something is sold it creates a bottleneck at the front desk. Impuslify’s purpose built pantry POS, ShopPop, allows any hotel to easily run their own pantry to offer additional convenience items to guests while driving ancillary revenue through an easy to use self service checkout kiosk. In addition to time saving features like automated shopping lists and PMS integrations-- Impulsify has processed over 5 million transactions, giving it a growing database of information so you won't have to rely on instinct or habit to decide what guests prefer. The results are so good that Impulsify even offers new clients an ROI guarantee. Infor showed conference goers just how easy self-service can be with its POS Kiosks Usually we expect creative displays from smaller companies but at HITEC, Infor stole the show with a live demonstration of it’s grab-and-go solution where attendees ordered food and beverages on one of Infor’s new self service POS kiosks. Similar to Impulsify, Infor’s self service kiosk allows hotels to offer additional food and convenience items to guests with the tap of a button without having to worry about staff oversight. Zaplox rolled out its new customizable self-service check-in kiosk While self service check-in/check-out kiosks are ubiquitous in the airline and grocery industries, most hotels have lagged behind the trend and few offer a fully self-service check-in process. More and more technology providers are creating solutions hoping that hotels will wise up and follow their more technologically advanced sibling categories. Following the likes of Mew’s Self Service Checkin Kiosk that was released earlier this year, Zaplox launched their take on the tech hoping to bolster usage of keyless entry by offering a more fluid end-to-end check-in experience. Zaplox Kiosk enables guests to skip the lines and check in and print their own key cards - with 24 hours availability. The kiosk's custom-branded interface enables hotels to create a cohesive brand experience and because the kiosk runs on any tablet-based device, hotels can select the hardware that best matches the interior and space limitation. Whistle put its conversational commerce on display with its new text based upselling feature According to Whistle, nearly 30% of guest interactions on their guest messaging platform are potential revenue generating opportunities for the hotel. While guests often express their interest in purchasing an item or placing an order through messaging, they are then inconveniently redirected to communicate their request to the appropriate department (ex. Please call room service to place your order) which both adds friction for guests and reduces conversion to purchase for hotels (aka lost revenue). With Whistle’s new upsell module, hotels can add custom inventory from their F&B outlets, pantry, local businesses or even add-ons like late checkout and guests can now seamlessly purchase with one click and have the charges added to the room via PMS integration or leverage 1-click checkout with Apple or Google Pay. Conversational commerce has long been the gold standard in Asian markets so its great to see frictionless ways to tap into more guest wallet share during their stay while simultaneously adding convenience value for consumers, a win-win for Whistle, hotels and their guests. MeetingPackage showcased it's group booking engine and channel manager If you’ve ever tried to book a hotel meeting space or venue online you know just how cumbersome of a process it usually is. First you have to fill out a form, then you wait for a response, then when you finally get a response the first question hotels often ask is ‘how much is your budget’. The whole experience is cumbersome, awkward and feels inherently like you’re being taken by a used car salesman. In comes MeetingPackage to the rescue with its M&E booking engine and channel manager that allows you to manage content, sync across channels to increase your reach and add a booking flow with rich content, add-ons and full customization for your next event promising to drastically increase conversion rates while delivering corporate clients and meeting planners a seamless self-service booking experience that consumers expect. Aethon Robotics turned heads with its delivery robots to cut down on delivery times Aethon’s TUG robots take a different approach to self-service by delivering things like food, linen, banquet supplies and luggage via an R2D2 looking robot. Except for singularity believers waiting for the Terminator to jump through a time warp portal to initiate Skynet--the Aethon is likely to leave guests with a unique and memorable experience that they’ll want to tell their friends and social media followers about. Beyond the buzz factor, for hotels looking to cut down on expensive labor can leverage Aethon’s robots to automate common deliveries and cut down on delivery times. Intelity's tablets got a backend upgrade to make it easier for guests to access information at their fingertips New additions to INTELITY Staff include an enhanced ticketing system, a more robust content management solution (CMS), in-depth guest and operations analytics, and Guest360™, which provides a 360-degree view of guest preferences, designed to help hotel staff across all departments make the right decisions at the right time while further personalizing the guest experience. The new enhancements to INTELITY Staff will provide staff with access to comprehensive business intelligence and the ability to streamline daily workflows, seamlessly track, manage, and organize preventative maintenance and service recovery, and make real-time content updates. One of the biggest challenges today's hoteliers face is connecting and engaging with their guests in a personalized manner on digital platforms. Guests expect highly personal experience and interactions in hospitality, but also want to have access to the convenience that technology affords them. The new enhancements to INTELITY Staff streamline staff workflows so that staff can spend more time focusing on creating the connection and personalization guests crave. Saba's chatbot and no-download app SABA Hospitality manages every aspect of the guest journey. From answering questions, to managing requests, making recommendations, fulfilling F&B orders and everything in between. Their artificial intelligence driven chatbot transforms a hotels guest experience, while lowering staff workload and driving revenue. Swyft put its Amazon-esque cashierless stores on display And we’re back...more automated retail! Have you ever walked by a Best Buy or CVS vending machine in the airport? If so, then you’ve seen Swyft’s cashierless retail kiosks in action. While not as widely adopted in hotels Swyft’s tech offers another option to generate ancillary pantry and merchandise revenue without the added labor bottlenecks or cost. StayMyWay rolled out all new keyless entry door hardware StayMyWay featured a series of shiny new access solutions including its signature Cylinder door lock hardware and 3 more unique digital replacements that each boasted clean lines and strong functionality without breaking the bank starting at under $200. 4Suites showcased its app-less mobile key solution 4Suites mobile keys are fully automated for hotels and frictionless for guests. No actions required from hotels, no app download or login for guests. All intelligence and security is handled by 4Suites in the background to offer the easiest, yet most advanced mobile key solution. Mobile keys can simplify guest operations, reduce costs and improve the guest experience. If done correctly. 4Suites removes friction and has created a fully automated process for hotels and a simple, seamless and impossible-not-to-understand journey for guests. Qwick showcased its short term staffing platform The Qwick app refines and matches job listings for professionals and allows them to accept and confirm shifts all through a smartphone device. The Qwick app has features all in one central place: view matched shifts to accept, view work schedules, clock-in and clock-out, and receive payments within as little as thirty minutes after completing a shift through their secured platform. This level of convenience and accessibility is helping to grow Qwick’s database of professionals, ensuring high quality workers and quickly filled shifts for businesses. TREND 4 | Big tech is leaning into hotels for new use cases & distribution Hospitality has always been a big focus for big tech and fortune 500s but it seems to be heating up in recent years. Travel and tourism contribute $1.5 trillion to GDP globally so it’s no surprise that these companies want in on the action. Traditionally companies within the room automation space (e.g. Honeywell), high tech materials (e.g. Corning) and business electronics (e.g. LG) focus on the hotel sector and increasingly we’re seeing big tech get into the mix with the likes of Samsung, Microsoft and Amazon. Below we highlight some of the key hospitality launches for big tech players at HITEC this year. Peloton made its HITEC debut offering a new way to attract a fitness focused audience for hotels Peloton made it’s HITEC debut where the firm unveiled its new “Hotel Finder” feature. With Hotel Finder, riders can find and book hundreds of hotels with Peloton bikes across the United States. The Company is set for IPO this year with it’s last valuation set at $4.15B and growth has been on a tear. Peloton’s rider base recently surpassed Soul Cycle as it doubled its user count year over year and the firm is naturally looking for new growth avenues. Fitness focused hotel brand Westin partnered with Peloton and this move seems to be an evolution of that thesis. More than 400,000 bikes were sold by February of 2019 and many of those riders are die hard fitness junkies who are highly likely to seek out hotels where they can get their fitness fix. As Peloton continues to grow it’s install base and product offerings (e.g. Peloton Tread) hotels could find an interesting niche distribution channel to reach fitness enthusiasts. Samsung mounted its 8k QLED monitors dubbed, ‘The Wall’ outfitted with captivating next generation digital art Samsung’s gorgeous 8K QLED and The Wall stole the show with digital art provided by partners Niio and Black Dove. 8K digital signage delivers impeccable picture quality and resolution that was previously unimaginable at scale. Samsung’s technology uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) upscaling to produce lifelike images and immersive experiences. Great hoteliers know that first impressions are everything. For select service hotels digital art can provide new advertising revenue while for more upscale high end and boutique properties it can give your hotel a huge leg up. Digital art leaders include firms such as Niio, Blackdove and the 2019 HotelTechAward winner in the digital art category, Wrapped. Create your own next gen hotel check-in experience with digital art like Sharks from Wrapped on an 8K Samsung Wall. If you need some inspiration, we highly recommend checking out Wrapped Studios’s Shark installation that wow’d even the high brow crowd of attendees at this year’s renown Art Basel in Miami. Amazon and LG’s hospitality divisions collaborate to make in-room entertainment remoteless Gernophobes will be rejoicing at Amazon for Hospitalty’s latest partnership announced with LG. Together the companies will infuse Alexa voice controls into the hotel TV experience allowing guests to never have to touch a remote again. Other than being carriers for germs, most hotel remotes are clunky and make channel surfing a frustrating experience so voice controls promise to make for more seamless guest room entertainment. Microsoft steps up to the plate looking to bring its Teams for Frontline Workers product to hotel operations and compete in the employee engagement category While most offerings in the staff collaboration and employee engagement categories are purpose built for the hotel industry, Microsoft appears to be testing the waters by tailoring its employee communication offering to empower frontline workers. Teams for Frontline workers dubs itself as “the hub for teamwork” and touts benefits including easier employee training, culture building and document management. With Microsoft’s office suite already being used by most hotels to manage email, the company has a strong foothold into the industry already and may just be able to gain footing in the employee communication category if it plays its cards right. TREND 5 | Housekeeping software is heating up Earlier this year the NY Times wrote a great piece titled ‘The next wave of unicorn startups’ where it argued that the next wave of billion dollar tech firms will not look like the last. Rather than splashy consumer facing companies like Snapchat, Uber and AirBnB making their way towards IPOs - the article hypothesizes that the next wave of unicorns will be filled with B2B software companies focused on seemingly boring and unexpected industries. Now, many of the up-and-coming start-ups that may become the next unicorns have names like Benchling and Blend. And they largely focus on software for specific industries like farms, banks and life sciences companies. ~New York Times Add hospitality to that list because there are some major players entering the market. Where the OTAs and digital distribution have largely driven the last wave of massive technology adoption in hotels because they focus on the top line, the next wave of hotel tech adoption is coming from operations software and specifically within the housekeeping segment. After watching Quore take the title as “Top Rated Housekeeping Software for Hotels” in the HotelTechAwards two years in a row, several newcomers are entering the space to capitalize on the opportunity. ALICE upped its game with the launch of its all new ALICE Housekeeping While ALICE has always offered a flexible staff communication and task management platform that is used by housekeeping teams across the globe--the all new housekeeping offering is designed from the ground up to deliver a magical experience that will leave even non-housekeepers wanting to take it for a spin. The platform packs a punch with mission critical housekeeping management functionality like automated room assignments but delivers this functionality in an elegant and easy to use solution that integrates each department on property like a finely tuned orchestra. ALICE gave us a glimpse into the future of housekeeping with an exclusive behind the scenes tour of their reimagined housekeeping product. ALICE gave Hotel Tech Report an exclusive behind the scenes look at the all new ALICE Housekeeping See the product in action Hkeeper showed off new functionality that enables housekeeping departments to track materials usage and supply levels Using HKeeper, you will find all needed operational management hotel's tools and avoid unnecessary problems related to the human factor and lack of 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. One of the main advantages over other housekeeping software is that 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. Moreover, 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. Nuvola showed hoteliers if you can't measure it, you can't manage it The housekeeping department in the hotel industry is simultaneously one of the most valuable areas in creating the best guest experience possible while at the same time the hardest to optimize. Introducing new technologies and systems can often make daily processes seem more complicated and be met with resistance. Developed by former hoteliers with this unique understanding in mind, Housekeeping Productivity has been created to meet the specific department needs through an easy to use system and provides accessibility across desktop and mobile devices. Daily room attendants are now able to streamline activities (i.e., room assignment needs, cleaning service tasks) through an intuitive platform that speaks to the notion of making their lives easier. Nuvola's analytics suite helps hoteliers gain critical insights to reduce average time spent "in between rooms" for room attendants, measure room attendant productivity by credit count and compare guest survey score vs. room attendants effectiveness. PurpleCloud takes a unique approach to housekeeping by leveraging gamification to increase staff productivity Housekeepers for hotels are in short supply and the nature of the work is unique. Their work is time sensitive and requires great attention to detail. If we give these housekeepers world-class tools to make them better at their jobs and couple this with common sense, easy to understand recognition and incentives, then we start winning their hearts. In doing so, hoteliers win for the guest. PurpleCloud organizes the housekeeper’s day with a world-class digital platform. Gone are messy paper assignment sheets and balky walkie-talkies. The system is easy to use: self-explanatory; requires only a few clicks; and is available in the housekeeper’s given language. The system further provides housekeepers with feedback on their performance and rewards them for doing well by way of a gamification leaderboard. The result: housekeepers are connected and function as a team. TREND 6 | Fraud and security still poignant post-Marriott breach A recent study by the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) reports that as much as 55% of all credit card fraud in the US takes place within the hospitality industry. Of course, that only considers criminal fraud; but when you factor-in other loss sources like fraudulent chargebacks, the real figure is much higher. Fraud tends to impact the travel and leisure industries even more heavily than other sectors like retail or digital goods. According to Kount, this is attributable to five specific factors: Fluidity: Multiple and last-minute booking changes create more opportunities for fraud. Perishability: Fraudsters tie-up space that cannot be used for legitimate bookings. Margins: Higher ticket values for hotel bookings mean greater impact on the bottom line. Revenue Loss: Excessive false positives mean merchants are declining valid bookings. High OPEX: More manual reviews mean increased operating expenses. With such high transaction volumes and so many moving pieces--hotels continue to be highly susceptible to fraudsters and hackers as evidenced by the Marriott data breach earlier this year of more than 500 million guest records that were hacked earlier this year. Luckily companies are coming out with new and innovative ways to help hotels ward of expensive fraud and damaging hacks. Canary showcased its Y Combinator approved software that claims to cut chargebacks by up to 90% While not the sexiest topic, payments and fraud prevention are big business when it comes to hotels. Y Combinator backed Canary Technologies has a suite of PCI compliant solutions to secure guest data, reduce chargebacks, and speed up sales and catering contract execution by eliminating paper processes on property. If you’re ready to leave your fax machine in the 80s, minimize fraud or just want to hear about why PG is bullish on the product--its probably time to reach out for a demo. Insighti offers hackers for hire to help brands and management companies pre-emptively identify security flaws and protect their data Insighti offers hackers for hire. With the hospitality industry suffering loads of hacks lately from Marriott to Sabre, insighti offers much needed protection. insighti goes in-depth with physical, social, and digital facets of security, using creativity and persistence to find the vulnerabilities other companies miss. Insighti recently partnered with former MGM Resorts VP of IT Marc Fancourt to create hiGuard.io taking the firm’s approach to cybersecurity and applying it to the unique complexities of the hotel industry. VENZA announces partnership with the PCI Council positioning them on the forefront of the latest compliances and security measures Navigating the ever changing PCI compliance regulations and ensuring that your hotel is up-to-snuff can feel like the endless climb to the top of Everest. Luckily, Venza is here to be ‘your guide to data protection’. In the limelight was Venza’s partnership with the PCI Council and certification as a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) that enables the team to work hand-in-hand with the council to set requirements, become early adopters on new PCI DSS requirements and, overall, ensure that customers are receiving the highest quality standards possible. If you’re looking to shore up your hotel’s compliance you’ll want to check out VENZA’s Everest Plan, their entry level plan to get your hotel compliant. ADAsoft launched eSwipe, a passport/ID scanning solution for speeding up and automating guest check-in ADASoft launched its new passport/ID scanning solution for speeding up and automating guest check-in and registration while eliminating data entry errors by seamlessly reading, capturing and accurately transferring data from ID documents and passports into practically any PMS in the market. The company lately announced the release of another unique feature allowing printing of a pre-filled customized registration form available after each passport/ID scan for the guest to sign. Simply scan each guest's Passport/ID in less than a second creating an accurate and complete database, and enjoy the benefits of a great marketing tool and after sales potential. ADAsoft’s eSwipe passport scanning solution facilitates GDPR regulation compliance since typing errors are eliminated and data is accurately registered as stated in GDPR regulation, Chapter II, Article 5, Section 1.d ASSA ABLOY GLOBAL SOLUTIONS unveiled its all new staff safety solution With the US hotel industry continuing to up its requirements when it comes to staff safety with many cities such as Chicago and Miami now requiring hotels to provide employees with safety devices--ASSA ABLOY is the first major company with a storied history and strong credibility to bring a safety solution to market. The safety solution runs off of blue tooth low emission gateaways (BLE) via its Vostio Location Solutions software meaning that (a) it doesn't take up any wi-fi bandwidth and (b) it allows properties to unlock additional location based services within their hotel including asset tracking, proximity messaging and wayfinding.
[PODCAST] Former Sabre Strategy Chief: Hotel Tech in Emerging Markets, Cyber Security in the Hotel Industry and the Future of GDS
Balaji Krishnamurthy was previously Chief Strategy Officer at Sabre Hospitality Solutions. Prior to this role, he was responsible for new market development efforts in Africa and China across Sabre’s three business units. Prior to Sabre, Krishnamurthy was at Orbitz Worldwide, a global online travel leader, where he led the global corporate strategy function for the diverse travel portfolio of B2C brands and B2B businesses. Before Orbitz, he was at LinkedIn in Silicon Valley, where he led North America sales strategy and operations for their Sales Solutions business. Krishnamurthy was a management consultant with McKinsey & Company for over five years, serving C-level executives on a diverse set of business-strategy, operations, and technology-related topics in financial services (asset management, retail banking, insurance), healthcare, high-tech, travel, and transportation sectors. Prior to management consulting, he spent over eight years with General Electric in different leadership and management roles across healthcare businesses focusing on global product management, development, and commercialization of several innovative healthcare technologies, imaging, and informatics products. Krishnamurthy is passionate about developing innovative new products, building new businesses, developing new markets, and fostering high-performing teams globally. He has spoken at many industry events on data science and analytics, including HITEC. Krishnamurthy graduated with an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, majoring in finance and strategy, and obtained his bachelor’s degree in electronics and communications engineering from Bangalore University.
TLDR: Key lessons from our interview with Klaus Most hotel companies have too many cooks in the kitchen to be nimble The power pendulum is shifting back to hotels from the OTAs - and that’s good for everyone 5G and IOT building sensors will fuel the next wave of innovation in hotel tech Direct bookings don’t necessarily have the lowest acquisition cost Just because a system is working doesn’t mean it’s not hurting your business Owners need to make unconventional investments in futuristic infrastructure to develop their competitive advantage in crowded markets In the world of hotel tech it can be hard to keep up with what seems like a never ending supply of self proclaimed ‘pundits’ and ‘experts’. Klaus Kohlmayr, Chief Evangelist at IDeaS revenue solutions stands in stark contrast with those self proclaimed ‘experts’. Klaus is one of the most down to earth people you’ll ever meet and that’s the secret to his wisdom. His role as Chief Evangelist at IDeaS gives him unparalleled access that most can only dream of. Klaus leaves promotion at the door and lets authentic conversations lead the way everywhere he goes. Klaus has been tasked by IDeaS founder Ravi Mehrotra to bring an unbiased ear to the discussion then synthesize findings into what have become a game changing competitive advantage for the firm. Epictetus famously said that, "we have two ears and one mouth for a reason - to listen twice as much as we speak." Klaus is an incredible listener and spends most of his time traveling to meet with hotel owners, managers and operators so that he can understand and empathize with their experience. Being a hotel company CEO can be lonely and the role bears an incredible burden. Hotel company CEOs have thousands of workers who rely on them to put food on the table, they have investors to appease on a quarterly basis and managers who depend on them for career growth. Disruption is constantly knocking at their doors but they have little time to focus on the future because the present demands so much. Where many tech companies use scare tactics and FOMO to encourage investment in their products, Klaus’ strategy with IDeaS is both calming and optimistic. The space has become incredibly diverse and dynamic over the last few years. When I look at other industries, I feel everyone struggles with the same issues – data silos, outdated technology, data not flowing freely, etc. Many people complain about the lack of innovation in the industry; however, I feel the hotel technology space is buzzing. It’s an exciting time to be in the industry. ~Klaus Kohlmayr, IDeaS Klaus effectively leverages public speaking as a key channel to build his network. He is what leadership experts call a power broker. Power brokers are constantly building their networks and then identifying ways to deliver value as quickly and frequently as possible. In a stroke of genius, IDeaS CEO Dr. Ravi Mehrotra gave Klaus a mandate to remain neutral and non-promotional in his role as Chief Evangelist. In an underinvested industry that’s notoriously behind the proverbial 8-ball, Mehrotra knew that leaders like his firm IDeaS would need to educate the market and placed a bet on his Chief Evangelist - a bet that has paid off handsomely for both IDeaS and for the industry as a whole. Revenue management system adoption is growing at a record clip and it’s impossible to unbundle that growth from Kohlmayr’s crusade. Klaus’ evangelism doesn’t stop with hotel CEOs and revenue management. In recent years Klaus has organically created one of the most coveted event series in the industry with his startup gatherings preceding major industry events. These events are filled with everyone from top entrepreneurs in hotel tech to venture capitalists, hotel executives and even hospitality division leaders at major firms like Microsoft. So how does a former hotelier become the super connector of hotel tech? Who better to ask than the man himself - Klaus Kohlmayr. We caught up with Klaus to talk about his career journey, where hotel tech is today and where it’s going. What does your role as Chief Evangelist mean to you? IDeaS, a SAS company, is the world’s leading provider of revenue management software and services. With 30 years of expertise, IDeaS drives better revenue for more than 11,000 clients in 129 countries. Combining industry knowledge with innovative, data-analytics technology, IDeaS creates sophisticated yet simple ways to empower revenue leaders with precise, automated decisions they can trust. I describe my role as “looking at the biggest trends and developments that will shape the industry in the next 5-7 years.” These trends could cover a lot of ground from consumer to technology developments within the industry. I am in constant dialogue with a wide range of industry players: hospitality groups, owners & asset managers, technology providers, consultants and start-ups. I also look outside the hotel industry for a view on how broader developments will impact the industry as a whole. Throughout my conversations, certain themes emerge, which I then share and communicate back with the industry, as well as within IDeaS so we can all be prepared for the future. Tell us about your career journey from hotels into hotel tech. My passion for revenue management led me to technology. I was working as a front office manager at a variety of InterContinental Hotels (IHG) around the world. Revenue management didn’t really exist yet, and I became passionate about how I could play with price and demand. I didn’t have any tools, so I taught myself how to program in Microsoft and coded my own Excel-based tools to help me track and analyze data and make what now seem to be very basic revenue management decisions. The results were pretty spectacular for the hotels, so I decided to move into revenue management full time. IDeaS created the first Revenue Management System (RMS) I used, and I quickly understood the power of automating revenue management tasks and decisions. In 2010, after a few years leading revenue management in Europe and Asia Pacific and working on some global projects at IHG, I joined IDeaS to build up the company’s consulting arm and lead innovation projects. Since 2017, I have been IDeaS’ Chief Evangelist, which means I am in a continuous dialogue with the wider industry to identify long-term trends and share how companies should prepare themselves for an exciting future of revenue management and pricing. Essentially, I am spreading the good news (which is what the word “evangelist” means) about revenue management and revenue science to the world. When did you first become interested in hotel technology? I remember around 1987 we had some computer programming classes in the hotel management school I attended. That was pre-Windows, pre-internet, pre-everything. GW-Basic – green text on black screen. That was pretty cool, and I loved the coding aspect. I really got into hotel technology when I was exposed to the first property management systems at various hotels and of course when I used IDeaS for the first time as a hotel revenue manager in 1999 – what a revelation! Moving from hotels to hotel tech made me realize the incredible universe and ecosystem technology brings to hotels. The space has become incredibly diverse and dynamic over the last few years. When I look at other industries, I feel everyone struggles with the same issues – data silos, outdated technology, data not flowing freely, etc. Many people complain about the lack of innovation in the industry; however, I feel the hotel technology space is buzzing. It’s an exciting time to be in the industry. What makes 'hotel tech' different than just 'tech'? The industry is both decentralized and disintermediated, which means very unique challenges. I think the biggest challenge is twofold – one, the pendulum of power between OTAs and hotels has not yet reached equality. Hotels were blindsided by the power of OTAs and their huge investments in technology, and it took some time to realize technology is essential to differentiation. Two, many people influence decision-making in the industry – from hotel owners to asset managers to operators and brands. For every technology investment at the brand level, a huge effort has to go into creating buy-in from owners and franchisors to actually commit to the investments. That takes time and doesn’t allow for nimbleness. What's the single biggest opportunity that hotels are missing today? So, of course I have to say revenue management solutions! Kidding aside, an RMS is a must today. The average hotel makes five million revenue management decisions a year, and no human is able to get that right all the time. Other than that, if I was a hotelier, I would invest in two areas: guest engagement systems that allow hotels to interact efficiently and dynamically with guests throughout their journey and labor effectiveness tools because labor costs continue to increase faster than revenue and anything which helps increase productivity goes straight to the bottom line. What is the most exciting technological innovation that you've seen implemented in hotels within the last 2-3 months? This should fall into the category of "cool tech" and doesn't necessarily need to be practical. I think we have not talked enough about the Internet of Things (IoT) and how this will help hotels be more efficient in their use of resources. When everything has sensors and devices are able to exchange information, a hotel’s efficiency will go through the roof. IDeaS’ parent company, SAS, is a huge believer in IoT and has partnered with Cisco in those areas. For example, people are already able to monitor and optimize waterflows and energy-use remotely and dynamically. The roll out of 5G will have a huge impact in this area. How will the hotel tech landscape be different in 5-years? One word that comes to mind is convergence. In hotel tech, data is converging in the cloud which means systems are also converging. I believe we will see separate systems such as PMS, CRS, CRM and RMS begin to disappear. Hotels will buy capabilities, not systems and plug them into their platforms. We are already seeing the emergence of marketplaces or hotel app stores. It’s a huge shift, but that’s where investment is going today. What is one thing that most hotel owners believe to be true that is actually false? That direct bookings have the lowest acquisition costs and that a system that’s “good enough” is good enough. What are the most important skills or characteristics that hotel owners need to thrive in today's market conditions and why? Vision, strategy and guts. With the industry being in the midst of transformation, the owners who are most successful are the ones who foresee long-term trends, understand their impact and invest into their infrastructure of today for tomorrow, even if it means going against conventional wisdom. Sameness will not result in success. What is your favorite hotel in the world? I think there is a difference between most memorable and favorite hotels. On the most memorable side, the Oberoi Amarvilas Agra next to the Taj Mahal in India probably tops my list. Spectacular location and incredible service make this a very special, once-in-a-lifetime experience. My favorite stays have actually been in very small hotels or guest houses, including a century old Ryokan in Kyoto, Japan, a seven-bedroom guest house in the middle of rice fields in Bali, Indonesia, a homestay on the Nepalese/Indian Border on the way to Sandakphu Pass in India or the Taj Vivanta Sawai Madhopur Lodge at the Ranthamboree National Park, to name just a few. I left all of them with a sense of having experienced something unique and special. What is one thing that most people don't know about you? I am passionate about cooking. I am a trained chef and a member of the only remaining chapter of the Amateur Chefs Club in the United States.
Accounting as a hotelier is a time and resource intensive process. Finding the right tool or platform to manage it all can make or break your business – and potentially lead to efficiencies and cost-saving that can vault you ahead of your competitors. While there are many tools available in the marketplace, today we’ll focus on M3. Widely regarded as a top back-office hosted software solution provider for the hospitality industry, the M3 platform offers state-of-the-art, intuitive accounting, business intelligence, and payroll solutions across all brands and independent hotels in the U.S. and Canada. Built by hoteliers, exclusively for hoteliers, the platform allows franchisees access to their financial and operating information in real-time with user-friendly reports. Leveraging the various platform solutions, users are able to reduce overhead and labor to remain competitive in the industry. But don’t take our word for it; let’s take a look at some real-world examples of the platform in action and highlight the efficiencies and added capabilities afforded to those that have adopted M3. "What got us here won't get us there." In 2002, HP Hotels was seeking to shift their focus. The hotel brand was spending time and resources building, updating, and maintaining an expensive computer infrastructure on which their accounting and business intelligence programs would run. Accounting and business intelligence were burdensome processes that were preventing the brand from reaching their growth goals. Rather than continuing to focus on the older, expensive computer infrastructure, the company was interested in taking a proactive approach to manage assets and generate returns for owners. Enter M3. After listening to recommendations from industry peers, HP Hotels signed onto the M3 platform. The move has since paid dividends, with the brand growing from two hotels in 2002 to more than 35 properties in 2019. What specifically spurred the growth? The M3 Accounting Core and Operations Management software. After adopting a streamlined staffing model, HP Hotels needed to manage the bulk of their accounting above property, which would eliminate the need for full-service accounting staff at the hotel level. The Accounting Core tool of the M3 platform provided the means for the efficiencies it didn’t think possible, saving both time and resources. Additionally, by utilizing the Benchmarking tool in Operations Management when considering new properties, HP was able to view a quick snapshot of where the potential hotel compares with like brands in the system. This allowed for quick and easy evaluations to be made, leading to smarter, more educated investments. Additionally, Benchmarking has been incorporated into HP Hotels' budgeting cycle to provide leadership with the intelligence needed to analyze how they are measuring up to the competition, because, according to CDO Kerry Ranson, "What got us here won't get us there." Functionality: Accounting to manage the bulk of their accounting above property. Benchmarking in Operations Management for more immediate and actionable Business Intelligence reports. Business impact: Allowed for executing of the streamlined staffing model as well as quick evaluations of new properties, leading to the brand growing from two properties in 2002 to more than 35 in 2019. “M3 has helped us turn our IT department from a cost center into a profit center” Working to handle the needs of 24 properties, Coakley & Williams Hotel Management Company's two-person IT department found it was spending much of its time responding to simple requests for information. Many of information requests were routine in nature. C&W wanted to find a way to give the IT department the ability to spend its time in more productive ways, which would help C&W increase its own efficiencies. After a series of conversations designed to help M3 understand all sides of the issue, M3 recommended its Accounting Core solution. The software’s setup keeps each individual property’s data confidential, unless a member of a particular property is accessing the system. It also creates aggregate data to help C&W compare each property’s income and expenses against other properties of a similar size and branding. The solution directly addressed C&W’s needs by allowing each of its managed hotels to access its financial information directly and providing the ability to look at the day-to-day performance of each hotel. Prior to the adoption of the M3 platform, the IT department, was spending up to 50 to 60 percent of their time serving as backups for information requests. Now, C&W’s IT staff says it spends less than 5% of its time on hotel-related issues, allowing the department to offer its services to other clients as a way to generate revenue for the company. “In essence, M3 has helped us turn our IT department from a cost center into a profit center,” reports CIO Stephan Hahn. Functionality: Allows each hotel to access its financial information directly and provides the ability to look at the day-to-day performance of each hotel. Business impact: The access to real time and individual hotel-specific information led to a 55% reduction in resources spent by IT on property-specific requests. This allowed IT to offer additional services to clients and generate additional revenue for the company. “My advice to hoteliers located in at-risk areas? Get on M3 tomorrow!” On August 29, 2005, everything changed. Hurricane Katrina tore through the Mississippi Gulf Coast, destroying much of the Biloxi office of Encore Hospitality as well as flooding their IT room. Deploying their disaster-recovery plan, the team righted ship and ultimately moved to Dallas, TX, deciding on a location that was less at-risk for natural disaster. The disaster allowed Encore the opportunity to evaluate its current accounting process:, a bloated, outsourced model that had become very costly and required a large, non-scalable infrastructure of hardware, custom software, and 4-5 IT staff to maintain. Additionally, though they relocated their headquarters, the model provided them no assurance that the accounting functionality could be seamlessly maintained and remain operational in the event of another natural disaster or unforeseen incident. M3 was able to intervene and assist. By implementing M3’s products and solutions, Encore was able to downsize its IT department to just two team members, and the offshore accounting team has been reduced to a few associates who input hotel accounting data remotely into Accounting Core. More importantly, the costly hardware infrastructure has been replaced by M3’s private, cloud-based solutions, which store data safely in redundant locations and provide a zero unscheduled downtime solution in the event of disaster or loss at any hotel location. Functionality: Accounting Core reduces the need for superfluous headcount by making the account process more efficient. Additionally, the cloud-based platform ensures access in the event of a natural disaster. Business impact: Encore was able to reduce its IT department to just two team members and gained confidence and comfort that they would be able to access their platform regardless of the circumstances. It’s evident that M3’s platform allows for resource efficiency as well as real time business intelligence and analytics, and the outcomes above speak to that fact. Adopting the M3 platform allowed for each company to streamline their headcount and accounting process, compare properties in real time, and secure their data in the event of a natural disaster. In the ultra-competitive landscape of hotel management, M3 has provided a leg up to HP Hotels, Coakley & Williams, and Encore and helps to ensure each company will stay ahead of the pack for years to come.
If you own or operate a hotel, you know that labor is the single largest expense on your P&L and that housekeeping is typically the largest expense within your labor budget. If you want to boost NOI, look no further than your housekeeping department. Cleaning the average hotel room typically costs between $10 and $16 with luxury hotels often spending more than $20 (CPOR). The majority of that cost (~65%) is spent on housekeeping salaries and wages. Hotels that are laser focused on housekeeping optimization often enjoy higher margins and ones that pioneer new housekeeping initiatives often enjoy a significant competitive advantage. Starwood’s “Make a Green Choice” program is one such initiative that not only drove company profits but also fundamentally changed the hotel industry. Starwood’s program allows guests to opt out of room cleanings in exchange for loyalty program points or F&B credit and is still running today - over 10 years later. In fact, the program was so successful that almost every hotel in the world followed suit. As pioneers in the “Make a Green Choice” movement, Starwood enjoyed a competitive advantage for years as the competition slowly caught up. Today hotels around the world are enjoying a similar competitive advantage through the early adoption of cutting edge housekeeping management software. Shockingly, most hotel housekeeping departments today still operate the same way they did in the 1980s. Every morning, housekeeping managers create boards for their room attendants to reference in order to be able to identify which rooms they have been assigned to using age old tools like pen and paper, PMS exports, radios and other manual methods. Due to the manual nature of the task, this process can take anywhere from a half hour to several hours each morning and the plan immediately becomes obsolete as soon as anything changes--even something as simple as a housekeeper arriving to their next assigned room to find a do not disturb on the door. Manual methods also hamper efficiency offering little in the way of performance optimization data and lots in the way of potential human error. Housekeeping management software provides a suite of manager and room attendant tools that combine real time departmental communication and synchronization with sophisticated reporting and analytics. This week, New York City based hotel tech darling ALICE made an announcement that is poised to shake things up for hotels across the globe with its all new Housekeeping product. While ALICE has always offered a flexible staff communication and task management platform that is used by housekeeping teams across the globe--the all new housekeeping offering is designed from the ground up to deliver a magical experience that will leave even non-housekeepers wanting to take it for a spin. The platform packs a punch with mission critical housekeeping management functionality like automated room assignments but delivers this functionality in an elegant and easy to use solution that integrates each department on property like a finely tuned orchestra. ALICE gave us a glimpse into the future of housekeeping with an exclusive behind the scenes tour of their reimagined housekeeping product. Let’s dive in, shall we… The All-New ALICE Housekeeping at a Glance A fresh take on a department that is one of the biggest cost centers for hotels, yet hasn't changed the way it operates in decades Forward-thinking design and intuitive user interface based on a system of simple icons and labels that minimize training requirements and maximize team adoption Push one button and watch your rooms inventory get magically assigned to the optimal members of your team based on your properties’ bespoke rules and characteristics Real time updates and notifications that make manual entry, tracking and repetitive tasks a thing of the past Automated reporting that unlocks new levels of visibility into real time and retrospective performance to bring more to your bottom line Platform approach enables seamless inter departmental handoff to supercharge your team’s collaboration and put an end to expensive and frustrating human error The all new ALICE Housekeeping boasts clean lines and an intuitive user interface that your team will actually want to use One of the single biggest problems in hotel tech is adoption (i.e. getting your team to actually use software and use it correctly). When hotel software implementations fail it’s usually due to the fact that on property teams lack the product knowledge needed to properly leverage the tool. For this reason, hotel software must first and foremost be simple and easy to use--clunky and bloated software rarely (if ever) reaches its full potential. With ALICE, you can put this concern to rest. The new housekeeping app design is stunningly beautiful and shockingly simple. The product team over at ALICE has taken design hints from best-of-breed user interfaces like Facebook and Google. Students of product design know that simplicity has long been the holy grail of product adoption and customer experience. Housekeeping teams often suffer from high staff turnover, challenging language barriers and in many cases and a lack of formal education. These factors make design one of the most important factors when selecting housekeeping management software for your hotels. Legacy housekeeping software platforms often run on confusing code based systems (e.g. code 1724 = clean room) that can be difficult to train new employees on. Contrastingly, ALICE runs on an intuitive set of icons and colored labels which deliver an easy to use experience for new hires and housekeeping veterans alike. Great software design delivers direct business benefits such as reduced training and generally faster on-boarding of new hires. There’s also a significant indirect benefit to ALICE’s cutting edge UX design which often gets overlooked by hoteliers. Choosing a technology vendor is as much about the future as it is about the present. Legacy software vendors often have hundreds or even thousands of features developed over the years that 90% of their users don’t even know exist (let alone know how to use). ALICE’s intuitive design ensures that your team will be able to easily learn and adopt new feature functionality as the platform progresses. In fact, the ALICE interface is so simple and intuitive that your team can literally get started with little to no prior training on the software. It's not surprising how intuitive ALICE Housekeeping is given that the product team didn’t even begin designing the product until they had spent more than six months shadowing hotels and performed more than 100 user interviews with hoteliers across various segments and geographies to learn about their pain points, daily routines and what makes them tick. Push one button and watch your rooms inventory get automatically assigned to the optimal members of your team based on your properties’ bespoke rules and characteristics While ease of use is critical for team adoption--the true magic lies in ALICE’s pièce de résistance which is (drum roll please…) automated smart room assignments. If you operate your housekeeping department the old fashioned way (as most hotels still do), your executive housekeeper sits down at their desk each morning to assess available labor and rooms turnover. They then spend anywhere from 30-minutes to several hours assigning ‘points’ to staff (ie. the standardized way of allocating housekeeping labor availability to demand on a daily basis) ensuring that all rooms that need to be cleaned are scheduled to be cleaned as efficiently and quickly as possible to accommodate incoming arrivals. This process can be extremely manual and intuition based which leads to lots of guesswork and a myriad of snowballing sub-optimal decisions that cost your hotel valuable time and money. For hotels that want to skip the guesswork and run an efficient housekeeping department, ALICE’s new housekeeping product allows your team to press a magic button then watch everything fall into place like a game of Tetris. Once you press the “auto-assign” button, ALICE’s algorithm instantaneously matches your staff with their optimal room assignments based on your hotel’s pre-determined staffing and inventory rules. This process can save your housekeeping managers anywhere from one to three hours each morning. Your housekeeping managers can then use that time saved to focus on other mission critical items that improve the guest experience and optimize your assets. Don’t want to let the computer do the work for you? No problem, ALICE offers complete flexibility for human override coupled with a simple drag-and-drop interface. You know what they say though, once you go auto-assign you never go back. Auto room assignment is only the tip of the iceberg because in a hotel, things are constantly changing. These critical changes don’t just happen daily, but hourly and sometimes even by the minute. A housekeeper calls in sick. A guest arrives early. An elevator breaks down. The list of exceptions, changes and variables is nearly infinite so keeping track of them and adjusting in real time is critical - this is where ALICE really shines. Every room change, late checkout, VIP arrival, etc. upends your whole plan and requires you to reoptimize. These types of real time optimizations with hundreds of variables and constraints are extremely difficult (if not outright impossible) for the human mind to compute. With ALICE, however, things like a rushed room will trigger the software to re-optimize room assignments instantaneously sans the mental math and back and forth team coordination. So unless your housekeeping manager is able to calculate sophisticated optimization algorithms on the fly - they’ll be forever grateful for your decision to invest in ALICE. The platform is likely to save them time, alleviate stress, make them better at their jobs and allow them to focus on the more strategic decisions within the department. Not to mention, it may even help them fend off some grey hair. Just considering the time savings alone for each fully turned room, investing in housekeeping software should be a no brainer for bottom line focused hoteliers The fatal mistake that many hoteliers make is that they are so caught up in the day-to-day operations that they miss the bigger picture and the impact that seemingly small boosts to efficiency can have on their bottom line at scale. A few minutes here and a few minutes there might not seem like a big deal in the moment (especially if you don't have software to track and measure this inefficiency) but that's exactly what makes these types of invisible inefficiencies so dangerous silently sucking profit out of your operation. Let's look at an example. Imagine you operate a 200 room hotel running 80% occupancy and 2.5 night LOS (length of stay). Based on those numbers, you are going to be cleaning north of 20,000 rooms each year and that's not even considering turndown service, mid-stay cleanings or special requests. So while shaving 4-minutes off of every one hour room cleaning might not seem like a big deal on its own can actually have a major impact on your hotel's bottom line. In fact, this one optimization alone has the potential to lead to enough in cost savings to pitch ownership on upgrading your hotel's housekeeping software to the 21st century as a 2-4x ROI initiative as shown in the image below. The new housekeeping product stays true to ALICE's platform approach creating a one stop shop for running and optimizing your hotel's operations With this robust new housekeeping offering, ALICE’s platform creates a seamless symphony between front of house and back office team members while enabling hotel owners and operators to gain critical visibility into their operations and make more informed decisions that ultimately lead to serious bottom line results. The day-to-day operation of a hotel rests on hundreds of daily requests both internally between departments, and from guests. Each of these requests involves subtle critical details, back-and-forth communication, execution and follow-up which is what makes seamless pass-on of critical information to the right team member, with native escalation procedures so essential when it comes to identifying and reducing human error. Equipped with ALICE, a housekeeper can leave a note about damaged equipment which automatically creates a work ticket, assigns the ticket to an engineer and notifies them to address the issue. A room attendant can quickly tag an item left behind for lost & found by snapping a photo so that the front desk knows which guest to expect a call from in real time. ALICE has done an incredible job converting the daunting complexity of hotel operations into elegant simplicity. What’s also great is that once you start using ALICE, you can say goodbye to all manual tracking, note taking and back and forth communication relays thanks to automated notifications, updates and task routing built directly into the platform. Is ALICE Housekeeping right for your property? The platform is a fresh take on a department that for most hotels hasn’t changed the way it operates in decades. While housekeeping features like automatic room assignments and real time progress reporting stand on their own as valuable additions to the ALICE product suite, the power truly gets unlocked when the platform is utilized by your whole team: front desk, engineering, concierge and housekeeping. Leveraging the full ALICE platform gives your team the tools they need to operate at peak performance by being completely in sync with each other. The all new ALICE Housekeeping combines the computing power of the cloud with deep operational expertise to simplify hundreds of housekeeping decisions made on property each day, and ensure that the optimal decision is effortlessly made in even the most complex scenarios. For some hoteliers, the intuitive UI and sheer awesomeness of ALICE’s new automatic room assignments feature will be enough to upgrade their hotel's housekeeping software. But if that's not enough for you then the promise of empowering your team to make better decisions that shrink the single biggest expense on your P&L is likely to do the trick. So the question is, if your team can save time, communicate seamlessly, decrease human error, reduce operating expenses, improve service delivery, foster happier employees and give management the visibility and tools to make better decisions from the comfort of their desk - why wouldn’t you give ALICE a try? This content was created collaboratively by ALICE and Hotel Tech Report.