The pandemic accelerated technological transformation across the hospitality industry. Contactless has become a must-have, fitness centers have gone virtual, guest communications have moved to mobile, and self-service has become standard. While some hotels found themselves rapidly deploying new technologies, other hotels have been playing the tech-long game for years. Here are some of the world’s most notable high-tech hotels. We've covered the tech strategies of great hotel groups like Viceroy and Noble House who implement everything from contactless check-in to digital concierge but this article focuses on some more wacky tech implementations with a bit of focus on form over function. This list features some pretty cool hi-tech gadgets and hotel room amenities that go above and beyond the typical flat-screen tv. Some of the cutting-edge technology on this list may off-put more traditional travelers but will undoubtedly hit the spot for tech-savvy millennials. Rather than layer technology onto the operation, these properties embed technology into the fabric of the operation, making it a focal point and key feature. Some use it as an Instagrammable moment at a specific location while others structure their entire brand around the tech-enabled guest experience. Either way, technology is front-and-center at these hotels. Henn Na Hotel, Japan “The Robot Hotel” Tokyo has become the marquee high-tech hotel. The brand concept is “commitment to evolution,” which appears across its operation in the form of robots. Lots of robots! The brand claims to be the world’s first hotel staffed by robots -- and there’s really no disputing that, as guests are greeted by robots at the front desk. At one property, the front desk is even staffed by dinosaur robots and iPad kiosks, which is quite the experience. Other high-tech features at some locations include a robot barista frothing lattes, espressos and teas, as well as a 360-degree VR space for guests to immerse themselves in virtual reality experiences. The hotel is also fully enabled with Wifi powered facial recognition, which eliminates the need for a hotel key altogether. Guests can access the property, and their individual guest rooms, seamlessly using biometrics. Very futuristic, indeed! YOTEL, New York City The YOTEL brand has been synonymous with technology since it opened its doors near Times Square. The showstopper was a massive robot arm dominating the lobby, providing automated luggage storage for guests (as well as safety deposit boxes to store valuables). The YOBOT also provides self-service check-in, which puts the brand far ahead of today’s contactless guest experience. The rooms -- called cabins -- may be small, but YOTEL uses technology to deliver its promise to “give you everything you need, and nothing you don’t.” This includes Smart TVs so that guests can connect their own devices and choose their own entertainment. The guest rooms also use motorized beds as space-savers and motion-activated sensors for lighting and AC to reduce carbon emissions. It’s all about efficiency, delivering an outsized guest experience in even the smallest spaces. Blow Up Hall 5050, Poland The Blow Up Hall 50/50 is an impressive mix of form and function. Designed by BAFTA-award-winning artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, the hotel combines a restaurant, bar, gallery, and hotel into a unique vibe. There are several digital art installations, including a commentary on surveillance capitalism embedded right within the lobby. The property eliminates the traditional touchstones of the hotel experience: there’s no front desk. The guest’s smartphone provides access to the property, from check-in to room keys to staff communications. The phone also acts as a room finder: after opening the app, the assigned room lights up and the door unlocks automatically. It’s these small tech flourishes that reinforce the property’s sense of mystery and intrigue. Hotel Zetta, San Francisco At the center of Silicon Valley, the centerpiece of Hotel Zetta is most definitely its virtual reality room in the lobby. Designed by a local tech startup (naturally), the VR cube gives guests a fully-immersive opportunity to experience virtual reality. There are also Nintendo Switch consoles and Oculus VR headsets available so guests can experience next-generation technology in the comfort of their rooms. Other tech touchstones include a vintage Atari Pong table in the Zetta Suite, which is modernized to include both the classic game and a Bluetooth speaker to play personal playlists. Each guest room is also equipped with Alexa-enabled voice control in every room. Guests can order a meal from room service, set an alarm or learn about on-property dining specials. Kameha Grand, Zurich The Kameha Grand isn’t one of those kitschy places that you’re embarrassed to stay at. Quite the opposite: the high-end “lifestyle hotel” is part of Marriott’s Autograph collection. And, with rooms designed by Marcel Wenders, it’s got all of the trappings of a luxury property. Rooms Our favorite rooms are, of course, the Space Suites. It’s the most futuristic room type on this list because it quite literally connects to space. The in-room TV features a live feed from NASA TV so that you can fuel those space dreams. The atmospheric vibes will contribute to that dreamy feel, with “outer space furnishings have been designed down to the smallest detail with a floating bed, pictures of galaxies, hovering astronauts and models of rockets.” Far out! Virgin Hotels The Virgin Hotel brand has always been tech-forward and guest-centric. Even prior to the pandemic, the brand empowered guests to control their own experiences right from the palm of their hand. Now, those features are dramatically expanded to be even more contactless. Named Lucy, the app allows guests to skip check-in, using their phone to select rooms and unlock doors. Guests can also use the app to order room service, adjust room temperature, control entertainment (in-room streaming and Apple Music), plan their trip around the city, or even follow custom exercise routines by Fitbod. Following on smartly with its brand promise, the app also offers three preset lighting modes for guestrooms: Get Lit for full brightness, Get in the Mood for dimmed relaxation, and Do Not Disturb for sleep. By putting all of these elements together into a single interface, Virgin Hotels puts the guest in control. 25hours Hotels Another brand that’s focused on high-tech without losing high-touch hospitality is 25hours. Thanks to an in-house multidisciplinary think tank, the Extra Hour Lab, the brand experiments with new ways of engaging with guests, both through digital and analog channels. That balance plays out in Cologne, where the record store greets guests alongside Perhaps that’s one aspect that distinguishes the futuristic, high-tech hotels: those that understand how to inject storytelling into the experience alongside the latest technology. Cityhub A hybrid between a comfortable hotel and a convivial hostel, Cityhub is futuristic in both its technology and its approach to hospitality. It’s part of a new wave of brands that blend categories and use technology to enable a more social experience. The Cityhub brand has an app but it also takes a cue from Disney and offers RFID wristbands. These bands are used not only for check-in and property access, but also at the bar, cafe or vending machines, where guests can serve themselves and charge their rooms. Without having to constantly pull out their phones, there’s a more personal element to the experience. Each “hub” has its own customizable lighting, temperature and audio streaming, so guests can control their vibe. There’s also an on-property social network, giving guests a digital lobby to meet and plan real-world adventures. The Atari Hotel, Las Vegas (coming soon!) A notable mention is the upcoming Atari Hotel in Las Vegas. This property will blur the boundaries between hotel and immersive experience, building on Las Vegas’ long history of blending entertainment with hospitality. The experience is straight out of Blade Runner: bright lights, massive marquees, and an “everywhere you look” focus on gaming. The Atari Hotel points to a far-more futuristic vision of hotels than anything else on the market today. It very well could be the first hospitality experience built just as much for the virtual world as for the physical one. Guests can host friends in their rooms for gaming marathons, with consoles, batteries, and spare controllers available for delivery. The Atari Hotel may redefine the category and establish a new mainstream travel trend: the gamer circuit. -- What are your favorite high-tech hotel amenities? Let us know if we missed any key ones like hotels with crazy underwater speakers, air conditioning activated by motion sensors, cool touchscreen applications, and more!
Hotel IT & Building Management Software Articles
If you’re building a new hotel or upgrading hotel rooms in an existing property, you may feel overwhelmed at the plethora of door lock options. Hotel door locks today are more complicated than simple deadbolts and door handles. Electronic door locks in the hospitality industry require access control mechanisms and even keyless entry software systems to operate in a way that meets evolving guest expectations. Door locks, besides providing a simple security measure, give you an opportunity to provide a better guest experience when you choose the right one for your property. Wondering how to choose? In this article, we’ll explain the various types of door lock systems and hardware, and we’ll provide some key considerations in making your decision. Let’s get started! First Things First: Overview of Door Lock Hardware While door locks might seem like a somewhat trivial part of the guest experience, they can actually create either a frictionless experience or cause a big headache for guests and employees. Since door locks are present not only on guestroom doors but also on amenity areas (gym, business center, etc.) and exterior entrances, guests and employees will interact with them frequently. The first decision you’ll need to make is which type of door lock hardware is best: full-body locks or separate component locks. What’s the difference? Full-body locks Also known as unibody locks, full-body locks are one single piece of hardware. The handle, reader, and locking mechanism are one structure. Full-body locks come in a variety of finishes, like stainless steel, and the battery is often housed on the inside side of the lock. These locks usually require little to no modification on the actual door, meaning they’re quick and easy to install. Although they might look a little clunky, they cover roughly the same surface area as a traditional magstripe lock, so they’re a good solution if you want to upgrade from your old magstripe system with minimal modifications to the door. Separate component locks As the name suggests, separate component locks include two separate pieces: a reader and a lock handle. These locks take up much less real estate on the door, giving them a more minimalist look, but the installation is slightly more complicated as it requires two steps - installing the handle and installing the reader. However, separate component locks give you more flexibility for future lock upgrades or changes since they have a smaller footprint on the door, and since most store the battery inside the door itself, these locks have a more attractive design. How Do You Open It? Overview of Door Lock Technology Now that we’ve explained the two main types of door lock hardware, you may be wondering which type of unlocking technology is best. Software and hardware must work seamlessly to facilitate a seamless customer journey via the internet of things. Unless you’re a historic B&B, perhaps, you probably won’t be using mechanical door locks with a traditional key. Instead, you’ll want to bring your property into the 21st century with a secure and convenient electronic locking system. The four most popular types of door lock technology are magstripe, PIN code, RFID, and BLE. That’s a lot of acronyms, so let’s explore each one in more detail. Magstripe These old-school locks were once the cutting edge of lock technology, but today, many hoteliers are eager to upgrade to a more secure system. Guests or employees unlock magstripe locks with a keycard that has a magnetic strip, similar to a credit card. The keycard can be programmed to allow access to only certain rooms or during a specific timeframe. However, magstripe locks are notoriously glitchy, and the keycard can be easily deactivated near electronic devices (like smartphones), so many guests run into lockout situations that require them to return to the front desk to reactivate their keycards - not an ideal experience! PIN Code Many locks require an access item for entry, like a keycard, fob, or smartphone, but a PIN code lock only requires a numerical code. A PIN code lock has a keypad where users can type in their code. Simple PIN code locks have a static code that doesn’t change (unless you change it manually), but today many electronic PIN code locks allow codes to be changed remotely and as often as necessary. Certain PIN code locks even integrate with your property management system and automatically assign a unique code to each reservation. While guests don’t need to carry around a key for these locks, they do need to remember their code. RFID Radio frequency identification technology is becoming increasingly common as a better version of magstripe locks. Instead of magnetic stripe keycards, RFID keycards are embedded with an RFID chip that is not easily deactivated and can store more data and permissions than a magstripe keycard can. To unlock the lock, guests simply wave the RFID card in front of the reader, so it’s less error-prone than swiping a magstripe keycard. While RFID technology sounds like the obvious upgrade from magstripe locks, it’s important to note that RFID keycards are significantly more expensive than magstripe keycards. BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) Though it sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, Bluetooth low energy locks allow guests to unlock doors with their smartphones. The smartphone sends an encrypted “message” to the lock so only guests or employees with the right permissions can gain entry, meaning this type of lock is very secure - especially since there’s no possibility of losing a physical keycard. One hurdle in BLE lock adoption is the requirement that guests download an app that works with the lock system, but in recent years guests have gotten more accustomed to digital hotel amenities, so the app download isn’t as much of an obstacle. In fact, BLE locks can be a big benefit in today’s hotel landscape since they are totally contactless - guests can check in online, bypass the front desk, and let themselves into their room. How to Choose the Ideal Hotel Door Lock System There’s a lot of choice when it comes to hotel door lock hardware and software. Before making a purchase decision, you’ll want to weigh your options and determine what your priorities are. Do you want a lock that’s easy to install, or is a stylish look more important? Do you want guests to use a keycard, a PIN code, or a smartphone to gain access to their rooms? And how much do you want to spend? Magstripe locks, for example, are less expensive than RFID locks, but magstripe locks are more likely to cause guest experience issues and lockouts. BLE locks don’t require any type of keycard, but they do require every guest to install a smartphone app, which can cause confusion among less tech-savvy travelers. Once you’ve narrowed down the type of hardware and technology that would work best for your property, you can engage in conversation with a lock vendor that offers your ideal lock system. Popular hotel door lock companies include: ASSA ABLOY Dorma kaba Onity Salto Schlage With the right lock and lock technology, you can turn the simple act of entering a guestroom into a positive guest experience. Before you start down the path of a hardware provider you'll want to explore keyless entry system cost and features to ensure that whatever hardware you land on will be flexible enough to work with the software that meets your hotel's needs and to ensure that the software won't void your hardware warranties. Ready to move beyond hotel door locks and explore keyless entry solutions providers? Check out the 10 Best Mobile Key Vendors for Hotels.
Telephones have been a key component of the hotel room for well over a century—even the most rundown motel will have one (although it might not always work!). Aside from allowing guests to communicate with the outside world from the comfort of their own room, they also enable guests to communicate with the hotel staff directly. Room service, wake-up calls, and late check-out wouldn’t exist without there being telephones in hotel rooms. But, has the time come for hotels to move on with updated technology? The general public has certainly moved on from using "standard" telephone systems in the home, with more and more people now choosing to get rid of their landline phone altogether and instead solely rely on mobile devices. The same will soon be happening in the hotel room as hotel telephones are due for an upgrade! The Success of the Hotel Telephone Hotel telephones have well and truly stood the test of time. In fact, the first telephone call ever made in a hotel room was supposedly made by Alexander Graham Bell himself in 1877 at London’s prestigious Brown’s Hotel. Although modern telephones look and feel quite different from Bell’s initial invention, the basic technology behind them is essentially the same. This is where they have been so successful—they are reliable and recognizable. Almost everyone in the world knows how to use a telephone, even if they’ve never actually seen or used one themselves. Hoteliers don’t need to worry about hotel guests walking into a hotel room and being perplexed by the strange contraption in the corner. Additionally, telephone systems are reliable. In an industry where your reputation can make or break you, having reliable technology is essential to keeping guests happy. Hoteliers can be confident that guests will be able to order room service, make bookings, or receive their wake-up calls without complications. These were the main reasons put forward by Chad Collins, VP of sales in the Americas for VTech in a 2018 interview with Hotel Management. But, things have changed significantly since 2018—we’ve had a global pandemic that has completely changed how we view modern communication technology. The pandemic has changed modern communication technology The global pandemic forced many of us to use digital forms of communication more than ever before. While people from older generations such as the baby boomers would have once been more comfortable with simple legacy telephone systems, they’re now using digital forms of communication more than ever before, and they love it! One of the most popular digital communication platforms, Zoom, saw a huge increase in 2020, with over 300 million participants per day communicating through the platform as of June 2020. The fears that hoteliers once had about baby boomers and other older generations not being able to use hotel room technology are now outdated. It seems that people from all generations have really embraced modern communication technologies, so it’s time for hoteliers to realize this and offer their guests a more modern telephone system too. What is a Digital Telephone System for Hotels? A digital telephone system, such as SuitePad’s SuitePad Phone, is a telephone system that relies on modern digital technologies. While old analog systems used coaxial cables to connect telephones to the hotel’s in-built telephone system, digital telephone systems rely on modern wifi technology to carry calls through a technology called voice-over-IP (VoIP). Modern wifi systems have a huge capacity, so moving calls onto the in-built wireless network of the hotel won’t have an impact on the overall performance of the hotel wifi but makes calls much clearer and more stable than traditional telephone systems. Another defining feature of digital telephone systems for hotels is the access device. Traditional phone systems use telephones or sometimes have loudspeaker options. They use analog buttons that easily get dirty, stuck, or even broken. Digital telephone systems use digital interfaces to make calls. These could be hotel room tablets, mobile devices, or even hotel TV systems. Making calls through digital interfaces offers a much more pleasant experience for guests. They get to experience the sleek design that they’ve come to expect with using modern mobile devices such as smartphones. In addition, digital systems allow hoteliers to add an additional layer of convenience—they can add buttons that directly put guests through to certain departments in the hotel so guests don’t need to punch in any numbers at all. As the technology advances, hoteliers will also be able to offer their guests the choice of having video chat and multiple participant calls—a feature that has proven popular during the pandemic and is set to stay. The Benefits of Digital Telephone Systems: Cheaper, Updateable, and Sales-Oriented As digital telephone systems rely on wireless technology, there’s no need to ensure the physical upkeep of the aging analog telephone system. This is a massive advantage for older hotels because the upkeep of analog telephone systems can need extensive work and cause structural damage. This also gives hoteliers more flexibility with hotel remodeling jobs as they no longer need to take into consideration the internal analog telephone system when making structural changes. Updating digital telephone systems is also very simple. All you need to do is download a simple update to the system and you’re ready to go. If your system requires a hardware upgrade, there will be no complications with installations as it runs on a wireless network—all you need to do is connect the new hardware and the system is ready to go! Hotels that install digital telephone systems will also benefit from the other features that come with digital hotel technology. For example, hotels that install hotel guest tablet systems as digital telephone systems will also profit from the other associated benefits of this technology such as interactive digital menus, the ability to send push notifications, and the implementation of a digital guest directory. These features all increase in-house sales, boosting revenue and driving a strong ROI. The Future Outlook for Hotel Telephone Systems The pandemic has shown people what digital communication technology can really do and it’s unlikely people will revert back to analog systems of communication once the pandemic has passed. For hotel businesses, this is the green light to digitize their telephone systems to meet the demands of modern guests. With digital phone systems, hotel businesses will be able to save on expensive repair costs to their aging analog telephone systems, easily update their telephone systems as the technology advances, and offer guests the modern experience they expect from modern hotels. The hotels that install this technology first will benefit the most by getting ahead of the competition at the earliest possible time.
During a pandemic that’s decimated worldwide travel demand, many hotels have been stretched thin and are operating lean. Survival depends on carefully controlling costs and minimizing unnecessary expenses. It's a challenging time that has forced tough decisions in a bid to make it through to the other side of the pandemic. A major part of the COVID balancing act has been maintaining service standards with fewer employees on hand while reorienting operations around a contactless guest experience. Technology is front-and-center, as it enables hotels to do more with less and provide safer experiences during the worldwide pandemic. The impact of technology on hotels has been transformative. Not only will hotels emerge on the other side of this pandemic with greater efficiency, but the guest experience will also be more convenient and personalized. To hear about this experience firsthand, ALICE Creative Director Sean Cohen recently talked with Steven Marais, Corporate Rooms Director for Noble House Hotels & Resorts, who’s currently acting GM of one of the hotel group’s 18 assets. Steven offers a firsthand account of how technology has helped a hotel beset by wildfires, COVID, weekly changes in regulations, and fluctuating occupancies. Here are some key boots-on-the-ground insights on how to best leverage technology as a transformative ally at your hotel. Tech Enables Success Amidst Shifting Roles Hoteliers are familiar with wearing many hats. Each day presents new challenges when managing a hotel. Managers may have to step in for a sick team member or deliver items to a room during an overnight shift. It’s all hands on deck to do what needs to be done to operate the property smoothly, successfully, and profitably. One of the best uses of technology is to tackle the many hats syndrome. Technology reduces the burden of “too many tasks, so little time.” It alleviates or eliminates those repetitive tasks (like manual entry and paperwork) so that there's more time left in the day for more impactful work. By moving rote tasks to technology and refocusing energy on the highest-impact task, your property can enhance not only the guest experience but also the staff experience. Work becomes more interesting and high-impact, with stronger collaboration and less confusion. It’s transformational to how your staff works together and serves guests. Great Tech Companies Are Long Term Partners One of the issues when it comes to deploying new technologies is that it is easy to focus too much on the deployment of new tools and less on the proper usage of the existing technology, Steven points out: “Before we look at what technology we need, why don't we take a look at what technology we have first and then look at all the mediocrities.” Over time, usage tends to degrade and bad habits crystallize. Steven uses the example of the front desk emailing a screenshot of a folio to the guest -- it may sound dated, but you'd be surprised at how many workarounds exist at the average property, he continued: “It exists because somebody said, you know what, let's just do it this way because we have no time to fix it.” If there’s a silver lining to the pandemic, it’s this: there’s time to fix deeply embedded bad habits. There's space to make sure that your team is using existing technology to its fullest extent. There's also space to identify gaps in operations and guest experience that could be bridged by new technology. You have time to set up the technology to save you time. Integrations Continue to Make Work Easier Successfully harnessing the transformative power of technology comes from properly matching the problem to the solution. It’s about choosing the right technology for your property is unique needs, Steven says: “Technology needs to integrate and make our life easier, rather than it making our lives harder. Working smarter, not working harder. Technology really can help. It's just that we need to put the effort in and front-load work [when choosing new technology].” Dynamic Guest Communications Strategies are Emerging In a rapidly shifting environment, guest communications must be dynamic and adaptable. Hotels have to be especially nimble and able to clearly communicate the latest local requirements and expectations. It requires a cohesive communications strategy, Steven says: “Things are ever-changing [so] the traditional confirmation letter is not working anymore. We need the pre-arrival text; we need the app automated arrival message; we need to communicate at check-in. We need to set the expectation ahead of time.” Another guest expectation is a more convenient checkout experience. This expectation accelerated during the pandemic as guests want to avoid congregating at the front desk. To provide a better, safer guest experience (and adjust to less staffing), Noble automatically sends messages to guests anytime occupancy is over 80%: “It’s been a game-changer to be able to change your automated messages on the fly. We’ll send an automated message that says, “Tomorrow's a very busy checkout day. If you want to skip the desk and participate in contactless checkout, send us your email when you're ready to check out.” About 80% of guests check out that way. It's unbelievable how that little piece of communication just changed behavior, but it's expected: nobody wants to go to a crowded front desk right now. And there's probably only one person at the desk and maybe a manager.” Another pandemic-fueled guest communications trend is the shift to text messaging over email. With technology enabling texting at scale, it has become the preferred channel for most guests - even at higher-end properties, which has played out across ALICE’s clients: “They're finding that people are not responding to emails that they send. But you can text guests and they're pretty responsive to it. It's a method of communication that the guests like. A year ago, there was some apprehension, particularly with some more upscale hotels, that all of their guests would be receptive.” Tech Helps Hotel Operators Cope with Volatility In addition to navigating the pandemic, Noble House also faced another unexpected challenge in 2020: wildfires. With occupancy at 5%, the hotel filled up within two hours -- and this was while everyone slept overnight. It required the staff to be flexible over an extended period, Steven shared: “It was a journey. It lasted about two or three weeks and then it was ongoing because we had the LNU Lightning Complex Fire. And then we had the Glass Fire. Just one after another.” The nature of the evacuation led to some operational challenges, with rooms getting “pretty bad” as guests had dogs and things they had brought from home when evacuating. With fewer housekeeping resources, the property had to leverage its technology, optimizing room assignments and maintaining their property as best they could. The challenges of labor allocation have been exacerbated by the pandemic’s erratic demand, where occupancy falls on weekdays and jumps every weekend. That makes it hard to align labor with demand, especially when already short-staffed: “Hotels are not meant to go zero to 100 every Friday, Saturday. It’s not sustainable. We're such a lean operation and if it continues for the next year, then we have to rethink our staffing guides. We may see less full-time and more part-time [to accommodate demand fluctuations.]” The lesson here is that superb operators need effective and agile tools to run a lean hotel in an adverse and unpredictable marketplace. These tools are levers to give hotel operations more control to pivot and adapt quickly as things change. Digital Tools are the Connective Tissue Between Corporate and On-Property Technology collapses the distance between corporate and property. It connects managers with a real-time view into an operation, from anywhere in the world. Obviously, during a pandemic when social distancing is required, this is a major plus. And in normal times, it means that properties can be managed more efficiently with less manual oversight. Efficiencies are especially valuable when it comes to preventative maintenance (PM), a complicated process for larger hotel groups. The vision is complete automation by directly connecting corporate systems with the maintenance platform, Steven explains: The engineers get assigned the PM for the day. If they don't finish, it rolls over to the next day. Once they finish, it's triggered into ALICE and we have the reporting of when it was done. Eventually, that's going to be automated, so it will be sent to corporate at the end of every month, rather than them having to scan and send every day, every month. The more automation we do on that front, the better. Technology Puts Personalization in Autopilot The last takeaway from Noble House’s technology transformation is that it’s important to try new things and see how they may improve operations. “It’s just how we have always done things” is no longer an answer, Steven says: “The hotel industry can be very scared to try something new because this is the way it's always worked. The frustration is coming from hoteliers that never used the problem-solving skills that we’re so known for in the hotel industry to solve technology. Because once we don't understand it, and two, a Post-it note “works better.” These technologies will provide even deeper benefits for hoteliers, Steven notes, as hotels begin to leverage guest data to personalize the guest experience in ways that make guests more loyal and satisfied: “In 10 years, I think personalized service will elevate to a way different level. We’re going to go back to our roots of hospitality. We're going to use technology to seamlessly communicate real-time information our teams learn about our guests throughout their stay. Front Desk will be able to one-click communicate at check-in to our F&B team that, ‘Mr. Smith let us know at check-in that he likes microbrews’ and it’s added to his profile for future curated stays all in one go.” It'll get to the point where it's so streamlined, it hits every single guest…to the point where we just don't even think about technology anymore. It just works for us.” There’s no “silver bullet” technology. It’s a mix of industrial-strength best practices, battle-tested operations tools that automate and augment operations (like ALICE), and localized customizations across communications, operations, and corporate. This potent mix will help our industry thrive and emerge more robust than ever after this pandemic finally recedes. This content was created collaboratively by ALICE and Hotel Tech Report.
The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly changed how we travel in myriad ways. The guest of the future has new expectations of their hotel stay; health and hygiene now take priority for hoteliers and guests alike. One way hotels can protect the health and safety of their guests is by providing a frictionless guest experience starting with a contactless check-in process. Recent surveys have found that contactless check-in and a touchless journey can help guests feel more comfortable staying in a hotel, with 26% of consumers indicating they want digital room keys and 35% asking for contactless payment options. Many hotels are already implementing contactless check-in procedures by partnering with top-rated contactless check-in software providers. From virtual credit card authorization forms to passport scanning property management systems to mobile key to QR code menus, the hospitality industry has been innovating at a rapid clip to stave off the effects of the coronavirus pandemic shutdowns. Here’s what that means in practice – and how your hotel staff can use technology to help enforce social distancing with long-term benefits. This article outlines contactless check-in for beginners in the hospitality industry, if you're looking for a more advanced strategy guide to implementing these processes at your property - check out our 2021 Contactless Check-In Buyers Guide. What is Contactless Check-in? Many people perceive contactless check-in as a one-step process. In reality, contactless check-in involves everything from valet parking to keyless entry according to Viceroy Hotels Global Head of IT Darren Clark. For check-in to be truly contactless, your hotel needs to factor in each step of a guest’s arrival and anticipate the points at which human contact can be prevented or replaced with technology. Consider the traditional check-in process. A guest would arrive at the hotel and be greeted by the valet or doorman. A concierge may ask to take their luggage to their room. The guest will wait in the lobby – usually along with other travelers – to interact with the front desk team. Hotel guests must provide identity checks like passport and credit card so that the front desk agent can complete their registration card before handing them a key to their guest rooms. There are multiple contact points throughout this entire process, not to mention the unlikelihood that social distancing will be possible in the hotel lobby or front desk queue. Contactless check-in, however, uses technology to minimize these contact points. Mobile check-in allows guests to check-in before they arrive via mobile device or on-site via a self-check in kiosk, thereby minimizing time spent waiting in communal areas as well as contact with the front desk staff. Some properties accomplish this by providing an app in which guests can log in and tap to receive their room details. Other properties provide self-service technology, such as tablets or kiosks, to confirm their details and check-in. Keyless entry gives guests access to their rooms immediately upon arrival, using a Mobile Key on their device to lock the door. This technology removes the process of visiting the front desk upon arrival and also eliminates the hassle of lost keys or keys that demagnetize and must be replaced during their stay. The best part? Guests are already familiar with both mobile check-in and keyless entry, thanks to existing offerings by Hilton and Marriott. Hilton guests, for example, downloaded 7.6 million mobile keys through the app in 2018, a testament to the success of the brand’s digital check-in push. The Benefits of Contactless Check-in Contactless check-in isn’t just a pandemic work-around: guests like the efficiency and convenience of managing their own arrival process. And, hotels can save time and money by adding technology to their check-in process. Even before the pandemic, keyless entry was an increasingly important feature for travelers. According to survey data from Openkey, Keyless entry leads to an average increase of 7% in guest satisfaction scores Guest satisfaction scores drop by 50% when there’s a 5-minute wait at check-in 46% of travelers say a mobile key solution is an important on-property feature for them 49% of travelers say “their hotel selection is influenced by high-tech features in the hotel room, i.e., mobile key.” Likewise, hotels are able to run more efficiently through mobile check-in and keyless entry technology. Mobile check-in saves time and effort for staff, as documentation, T&Cs, and on-site offers can be sent to guests pre-arrival. Mobile check-in solutions help hotels gather customer insights about their guests: learn what their preferences are with a pre-arrival questionnaire, and see which offers and amenities a guest chooses to learn about before their stay. It’s also a simple way to send through upsell offers, highlight on-site features, and capture ancillary revenue without having to meet face-to-face. Tips for Making Check-in at Your Property Contactless With the right technology, implementing contactless check-in is relatively painless. It does, however, take some proactive communication with guests so that they know what to expect before arrival. Send pre-arrival emails detailing the check-in process and what security measures your team has put in place on-site. This email should accomplish two things. First, it should reassure guests that you are taking their health seriously. Second, it should give guests step-by-step instructions for how to check-in through their mobile device or onsite kiosk, as well as how they will receive their room key. Share this information at least 12 hours before their arrival. Make sure to send information about every step of the arrival – including whether there will be a valet, what the mask requirements are, and if someone can expect to have their temperature taken and recorded. When the guest arrives, make sure that there’s clear signage to let them know what to do next. Provide the same step-by-step check-in instructions that you sent via email. Include directions to find different areas of the property and to help guests learn how to use keyless entry. And, of course, provide hand sanitizer stations throughout the lobby.
Each year Hotel Tech Report surveys thousands of industry insiders to find the best hotel tech jobs and employers globally. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the hotel industry. The World Travel and Tourism Council predicts that 121 million of the 330 million jobs tied to tourism around the world will be lost in 2020. Despite existential challenges, hotels and their vendors have proven resilient in the face of the biggest challenge ever posed to the hospitality industry by working together. But there’s always opportunity in crisis. The pandemic has advanced digitization in the global economy by at least 5 years according to most experts. Hotels that already had adopted technology like contactless check-in and guest messaging software have had a massive advantage since the pandemic broke out and the importance of technology for running a successful hotel business will continue to rise over the coming years meaning that demand for hotel technology talent will grow with it. Here at Hotel Tech Report, we’ve interviewed countless hoteliers about their journeys from being hoteliers into lucrative technology careers like Del Ross, Marco Benvenuti, Sameer Umar, and Kevin Brown. For hoteliers furloughed on the sidelines, there is an unprecedented opportunity to pivot into a technology career leveraging skills and knowledge from hospitality experience. But which hotel tech companies should you apply to? Every year we do the hard work for you and survey thousands of hotel tech professionals to find the best companies to work for in the hospitality industry. We ask respondents to rate their employers from 1-10 on these key variables: Work-life balance Personal development opportunities Gender equality Confidence in company direction Values alignment 2021 Bonus Question: Rate your firm’s COVD-19 crisis response Hotel Tech Report creates this list each year for two reasons: (1) to help industry professionals find the best hospitality tech jobs and (2) to help hotel tech buyers understand that it’s just as important to partner with great organizations as it is to find great software tools and products. Vendor culture is important to every aspect of a vendor relationship: Product: Great workplaces attract the best talent who make the best products Customer Support: Happy client reps give better service and stay around longer developing deeper relationships. Sales: When a sales team has high turnover, innovation gets strangled because there isn’t enough cash coming in the door to invest in innovation. Our 10 Best Places to Work in Hotel Tech list features companies who foster wonderful work environments for employees. In return, those employees deliver incredible products and services to clients. Without further adieu here are 2021’s 10 Best Places to Work in Hotel Tech… 10. Siteminder (TIE) Right before the coronavirus pandemic broke out, industry leader Siteminder reached an incredible milestone earning itself unicorn status. Under the stewardship of CEO Sankar Narayan the firm quickly composed itself when the pandemic broke out and began rolling out initiatives to support both employees and customers like its World Hotel Index sharing real-time data with the industry when historical data just wouldn’t cut it. Siteminder has an internal slack channel called #stayingsocial dedicated strictly to team members having a social communal space in the age of remote work. This is pretty typical for a small startup but much rarer in the world of 700 employee behemoths. The great part about working at a large startup-like Siteminder is that there’s almost limitless upward mobility according to one employee working in operations at the firm, “They allow me opportunities to take on more responsibilities that are even beyond my scope to develop my skills and prep me up for bigger roles. They also give leadership training to enhance to continue developing my capabilities.” If you’re looking for a fast-paced global startup on a world domination path - then you should absolutely be dropping a resume at Siteminder. The best part is that they’ve got offices all around the world so even if you prefer the WFH life your colleagues shouldn’t be too far away no matter where you call home. 10. Atomize (TIE) This is Atomize’s first time making Hotel Tech Report’s annual Best Places to Work list but we doubt it will be their last. In true Swedish fashion Atomize rates amongst the highest on the list for gender equality with a 50% ratio of men to women on its leadership team. Atomize also rates very highly for culture alignment with a score of 97.8%. Perhaps the biggest standout for Atomize was how highly employees rated the firm’s COVID-19 response and support for clients during a crisis. “Everyone from finance to product development has chipped in to try to support clients. We have for instance developed a relief-program for those that are hurting really bad, we have updated the product to amend for the large drop in occupancy for hotels, etc,” one Atomize executive told Hotel Tech Report. Atomize made it through COVID-19 without a single layoff which is a testament to the longevity of the business and its and commitment to team members. During the crisis Atomize stayed calm, launched the 2.0 version of their core RMS product, and even found time to bring the team together for a BBQ this summer during a slow down in transmission rates. 9. Hotel Effectiveness Georgia (the U.S. state not the country) based Hotel Effectiveness is in the business of helping hotel owners more efficiently manage labor but the question is: how well do they manage their own labor? It turns out they do a pretty darned good job at fostering internal culture. Prior to the pandemic labor costs were the biggest focus area for most hotel ownership and management groups - despite the shift in focus Hotel Effectiveness managed to grow through the pandemic all while placing a heavy emphasis on quality of life for employees. Team members cite a high percentage of employees being groomed from junior roles into leadership positions, flexible PTO programs, and strong opportunities for women. PTO is great but Hotel Effectiveness management goes one step further where they encourage team members to completely unplug and not even check email during their vacation. Adding icing to the cake, employees raved about the firm’s response to COVID-19 where it was able to grow without any layoffs needed. One engineer raved about the Company’s COVID-19 response, “Hotel Effectiveness immediately shifted priorities specifically to address the changing needs of our clients. Hotel Effectiveness provided new guidance materials, payment options, and built new features (such as Daily Wellness Check-In) under tight deadlines to meet the new needs of our customers.” 8. EasyWay Big congrats to the first-ever Israeli startup to make this list! If you’ve ever been to Tel Aviv or the Start-up Nation (Israel), perhaps a job interview with EasyWay is the excuse you needed to visit one of the most amazing cities in the world packed with beautiful beaches, vibrant nightlife, and a foodie scene that’s truly in a league of its own. EasyWay is the quintessential startup with a mentality that so long as you hit your KPIs - the rest of your life is totally flexible. An EasyWay executive’s quote to Hotel Tech Report about the last 12-months at the company says it all, “The work around the clock in the COVID-19 time was crazy. We have developed so much stuff, that I almost miss this period. We've learned a lot from that, and staid on our feet! The rest of the team was great and it really gave me confidence in my own abilities. If you're the kind of person who likes to work hard and play hard - you’d be wise to check out EasyWay’s open positions. 7. Asksuite This is Asksuite’s second year making the list and true to their commercial team’s motto “rockets don’t have reverse”, even a pandemic couldn’t slow down this high flying Brazilian startup. Florianopolis may not be a hotel tech hub (yet) but the Asksuite team has access to lessons in language, hospitality and other training to upskill their way into global domination. During the pandemic, leaders have made themselves available for 1:1 meetings to support all colleagues and perhaps it’s this close communication that leads Asksuite employees to rate 98% confidence in the future success of the firm. Asksuite employees frequently cite an onboarding process that makes all team members feel like a part of the family in short order. 6. RoomRaccoon Despite the pandemic RoomRaccoon doubled the firm’s headcount in 2020 and achieved a major milestone in reaching 1,000 clients. Employees frequently cite similar aspects of the culture as differentiators like their annual international week at the Netherlands headquarters and an inclusive onboarding program. One employee within the marketing department told Hotel Tech Report, “This year RoomRaccoon decided to start hiring more new colleagues against the market trend of furlough and letting people go. To smoothen the onboarding process of our new hires we've created an E-learning program and two intensive onboarding weeks. So far we've onboarded 15 new hires since July 2020 that immediately are getting results. Something I'm really proud of!” If you’re looking for an ambitious organization with a strong remote culture and complementary annual trips to the Netherlands - don’t hesitate and check out open listings at RoomRaccoon. 5. Alliants The Alliants story is the cure to the common venture funded business gone wrong story. Alliants built the business developing custom software for ultra luxury hotel brands like Four Season and Jumeirah before ever dipping their toes into the SaaS world. That means they’ve got killer products, an eye for design and engineering to back it up. Starting in a consultative role for luxury brands has afforded Alliants a luxury not many early stage SaaS products have - cash flow. How would this impact you when you apply for a role there? Alliants employees are given a $5,000 stipend to invest in their own education and training. Whether it’s a paid marketing course or intro to Ruby on Rails - at Alliants you will be able to create your own journey and take control of your destiny. Have you ever had a boss block your calendar so people can’t book meetings with you? Well, Alliants employees have. During winter months with less daylight, CEO Tristan Gadsby blocked the entire team’s calendars from 11:30am - 1:30pm to encourage team members to get outside, walk or simply catch some rays. If that doesn’t sell you I don’t know what will. 4. ALICE This ain’t ALICE’s first rodeo, well it’s their fourth if we want to be precise about it. ALICE has made Hotel Tech Report’s Best Places to Work list 4 years in a row (2018, 2019, 2020, 2021). ALICE is an incredible place to work for former hoteliers because employees truly act as a strategic extension of their partner properties. During the pandemic, ALICE quickly pivoted to rollout closure checklists and other free assets to help partners quickly reconfigure their operations for the new normal. “The most memorable achievement while working at ALICE this past year was being able to provide support for our employees during the pandemic. The pandemic-related fatigue and anxiety impacted everyone and in different ways. We were able to provide support to our employees through group therapy sessions, health and wellness initiatives, increased one-on-one check-ins regarding fatigue, increased opportunities for learning and connection with one another virtually. I am so proud of how the leadership at ALICE has led us through the most difficult time in our industry's history, and with such care for both our customers, our industry as a whole, and our employees,” says one ALICE team member in an HR role. Just as important as supporting clients through COVID-19 is supporting colleagues. ALICE team members were constantly comforted that management understood the stress and challenges they were facing during this historic yet tragic year, encouraging an environment of transparency and honesty about how to cope with natural distractions from work in times of stress. 3. hotelkit Austria-based hotelkit is another repeat visitor on this list moving up from 4th to 3rd place. Founded in 2012 by hotelier Marius Donhauser, hotelkit is a majority female-run business that’s growing rapidly but responsibly throughout Europe. hotelkit’s team motto is “one team one dream” and while the team had to work remotely for a good portion of the year, colleagues are hopeful that 2021 will bring back the annual hotelkit Christmas party famous for great eats and poker. Under Marius’ leadership, hotelkit has fostered a culture that feels like family so it’s no wonder that employees rate the culture so highly across every single vector. 2. Cloudbeds Cloudbeds may be the fastest-growing hotel tech company right now so while their headquarters are in sunny San Diego the Company has got Silicon Valley energy pumping through its veins. Not to mention, Cloudbeds is extremely global with local managers in 40 countries. On March 11th (yes that’s right when COVID-19 took the world by storm) Cloudbeds announced the closing of an $80M funding round. Cloudbeds employees tend to share two main things in common: (1) they are extremely performance-driven and (2) they LOVE to travel. One Cloudbeds employee within the operations department told Hotel Tech Report, “I managed to get promoted on my 1 anniversary day at Cloudbeds, I was so happy and everyone was so attentive to me during this process. Cloudbeds is an amazing company, full of amazing individuals, it's so nice to see the owners in our calls and engaged with us all at all times. I used to think I had worked at good companies, till I met Cloudbeds. This is where I want to stay and grow. It will be hard for any other company to take me from here.” Cloudbeds has TONS of openings so make sure to browse their career page if you’re in the market. 1. Mews This is Mews’ 3rd year making the list ranking #2 in 2019 and #3 in 2020 - but this is their first year topping the list which is a testament to the strong culture at the firm. Like most fast-growing companies, the pandemic wreaked havoc on projections and business plans for Mews leading to some difficult decisions needing to be made. Mews not only came through what was maybe the darkest moment in the history of the hotel industry but came out stronger than ever before. Mews leadership set a strong course for the business cutting expenses, reorganizing the team, rebranding, focusing on remote deployments, and even making an acquisition. Quite a busy year - even if things had been normal. Mews management has created one of those infectious startup cultures that can almost feel cult-like at times often intoxicating entire trade show floors (pre-COVID). It’s not often that employees at an aggressive high-performance tier 1 venture-backed business get to see their founder dancing through a town hall (affectionately named Mews Con) in a silly costume. Mews pivoted from hyper-growth mode into a sharp focus on profitability right-sizing the business and is poised to come out of the pandemic far stronger than it went in. Lots of open roles to check out and we’re sure that list will continue to grow over the coming months.
Each year along with individual awards for the top-rated hotel software in each category, Hotel Tech Report recognizes the Top 10 most customer-centric global companies in the annual People's Choice Awards. The People's Choice Awards serve to honor and recognize companies who have balanced strong growth with a relentless focus on customer-centricity. The HotelTechAwards platform (by Hotel Tech Report) leverages real customer data to determine best of breed products and companies that help hoteliers grow their bottom lines. “The People’s Choice Award goes to a single company across all categories who demonstrates the strongest customer relationships during the HotelTechAwards. Cloudbeds had more than 550 hotelier customers come out to share overwhelmingly positive feedback about Cloudbeds products in the midst of a global pandemic. To have that kind of support from clients during the most challenging market in hotel history says all you need to know about Cloudbeds’ commitment to their partner properties,” says Hotel Tech Report CEO Jordan Hollander. Here’s the Official 2021 People’s Choice List: Cloudbeds SiteMinder RoomRaccoon Bookassist OTA Insight ALICE IDeaS Avvio Hoteltime hotelkit The key factors used to determine the annual People’s Choice Award include total verified customer reviews, geographic reach of reviews, and overall review sentiment and ratings. The best companies know that the most effective way to communicate their value proposition is to empower and amplify the voices of their happy customers. The People’s Choice Award recognizes companies whose customers really value the relationship and partnership. “Twenty years ago we lived in a world where hoteliers just used one of the three or four technology systems out there and typically just ended up using whatever system they had heard of before. Today there are thousands of SaaS choices in the market and dozens of great options available for most use cases but the market is moving so quickly that it’s hard for hoteliers to identify and keep track of the best products and companies. This award honors the companies whose hotel customers are the most vocal advocates of their products to make that process easy,” says Hollander. About the 2021 People's Choice Award The People's Choice Awards serve to honor and recognize companies who have balanced strong growth with a relentless focus on customer-centricity. Early on as a startup, it’s easier for companies to maintain strong customer relationships with a limited customer base. But as a company grows its install base and scales globally, maintaining high customer satisfaction becomes increasingly more challenging. Each year along with individual awards for the top-rated product in each category, Hotel Tech Report recognizes the top 10 most customer-centric global companies in the annual People's Choice Awards acknowledging the achievements of top innovators across all categories who embody the values, transparency, and customer-centricity that lie at the core of truly great companies. View Ranking Methodology>>
Hotel Tech Report has announced winners in the 2021 HotelTechAwards, based on more than 10,000 hotel software product reviews contributed by verified hoteliers during the competition. Winners are selected based on key performance metrics including product popularity, customer satisfaction, integration compatibility, customer support quality, and more. Winning a HotelTechAward is the highest achievement in the hotel technology industry. “In the midst of a global pandemic, 318,466 hoteliers visited Hotel Tech Report from every corner of the globe contributing 10,227 verified new product reviews during the 3-month awards period to share insights about their favorite tech products to run and grow their businesses. It has been inspiring to see this massive wave of hoteliers sharing technology insights and product recommendations,” says Jordan Hollander, CEO of Hotel Tech Report. “This is the most comprehensive dataset around hotelier preferences ever developed and it gives unprecedented insights into tech trends for hotels during a pivotal moment in history. Winning a HotelTechAward is a huge feat with the 2021 competition being the most competitive year ever. Every company on this list should be extremely proud of what they've contributed to the growth of the hotel industry.” During the HotelTechAwards, hoteliers from the world's leading hotel companies review the top tech products used at their hotels to increase operating efficiency, drive revenue, and improve the guest experience. This data is used to identify the best hotel tech products and organizations. "The HotelTechAwards are the only prize in the industry that is completely and transparently customer-driven — it's the hoteliers that decide who is best, and it's their opinion that matters most." Gautam Lulla, CEO at Pegasus. "We at SiteMinder believe strongly in the essence of openness; it is what underpins the very core of what we stand for, and the HotelTechAwards, through the program's data-driven and transparent process, aligns firmly with this value.” - Sankar Narayan, CEO at SiteMinder “This honor has deep, personal meaning as it is decided upon by our clients and represents our passion and focus for providing the most sophisticated revenue technology and comprehensive support.” Dr. Ravi Mehrotra Founder at IDeaS “The HotelTechAwards are a powerful stamp of approval for any company to possess and for hoteliers to trust. We value the HotelTechAwards process, which collects thousands of verified reviews from around the world each year.” Alex Shashou, Co-Founder at ALICE “HotelTechReport is the leading platform for technology in the hotel industry, and its meticulous and impartial verification process makes this one of the most prestigious awards.” Moritz von Petersdorff-Campen, Co-Founder at SuitePad The competition spans core areas of hotel software & technology: marketing, revenue, operations, and guest experience. 2021 Voting included participation from major hotel groups including Four Seasons, Hilton, Marriott, Accor Hotels, Hyatt, Intercontinental, Rosewood, and thousands of independents. "We originally created the HotelTechAwards as a democratized way to help our fellow hoteliers quickly determine best of breed vendors based on data they can trust and the scope of the competition this year is a testament to how far the industry has come in the last decade. The HotelTechAwards rating process is simple, transparent, and unbiased--judging is based on time tested ranking factors, publicly available data, and crowdsourced insights from verified hoteliers who have hands-on experience with each product.” The HotelTechAwards are often referred to as "the Grammys of Hotel Tech" and winners were selected from the top technology products around the world. The HotelTechAwards are the industry's only data-driven awards platform with winners determined not by a handful of judges or popularity votes but by a global community comprised of thousands of verified hotel technology users across more than 127 countries. Best Hotel Software Companies List >>
Hotel Tech Report has announced finalists in the 2021 HotelTechAwards, based on more than 10,000 hotel software product reviews from verified hoteliers during the competition. Finalists are selected based on key performance metrics like product popularity, customer satisfaction, integration compatibility, customer support quality, and more. Winning a HotelTechAward is the highest achievement in the hotel technology industry. “In the midst of a global pandemic, 318,466 hoteliers visited Hotel Tech Report from every corner of the globe contributing over 10,000 verified new product reviews during the 3-month awards period to share insights about their favorite software products. It has been inspiring to see this massive wave of hoteliers sharing technology insights and product recommendations,” says Jordan Hollander, CEO of Hotel Tech Report. “This is the most comprehensive dataset around hotelier preferences ever developed and it gives unprecedented insights into tech trends for hotels during a pivotal moment in history. Finaling in the HotelTechAwards is a reflection of quality every company on this list should be extremely proud of what they've contributed to the growth of the hotel industry.” Hotel Tech Report authenticates reviews through a strict verification process. Further, companies are ranked based on pre-defined objective data variables to avoid the biases present in other human judged competitions. "Based on real and honest customer feedback, the HotelTechAwards really do provide the most transparent view on how technology is perceived and used across the industry,” says Sean Fitzpatrick, CEO at OTA Insight. The HotelTechAwards are often referred to as "the Grammys of Hotel Tech" and finalists are selected from more than 1,000 of the top technology products around the world. The HotelTechAwards are the industry's only data-driven awards platform with winners determined not by a handful of judges or popularity votes but by a global community comprised of thousands of verified hotel technology users across more than 120 countries. -- Competition winners will be publicly announced on January 12th -- Best Guest Experience Technology Finalists Guest Messaging Software: Whistle, EasyWay, Monscierge Guest Room Tablets: SuitePad, INTELITY Guest Survey Software: TrustYou, Guestrevu, Revinate Hospitality TV Providers: Monscierge (Apple TV) Mobile Key: ASSA ABLOY Global Solutions, FLEXIPASS Mobile Ordering: Bbot, RoomOrders Hotel Guest Apps: ALICE, INTELITY, Wishbox Best Operations Software Finalists Property Management Systems: Cloudbeds, Mews, Clock PMS+, HotelTime Staff Collaboration: hotelkit, Monscierge, ALICE Hotel Management Systems: RoomRaccoon, Cloudbeds Concierge Software: ALICE Cyber Security & Fraud Prevention: Canary Technologies, Sertifi Digital Signage: Monscierge Housekeeping Software: hotelkit, ALICE, Optii Marketplaces & Integrators: Hapi, Dailypoint Preventive Maintenance: hotelkit, ALICE, Transcendent Restaurant Management: HotelTime, Oracle MICROS POS Employee Engagement Software: hotelkit, Hotel Effectiveness, Beekeeper Contactless Check-in: EasyWay, Canary Technologies, Wishbox Spa Management: HotelTime Best Revenue Management & Finance Software Finalists Revenue Management Systems: IDeaS, Duetto, Atomize Business Intelligence: OTA Insight, Duetto, ProfitSword Central Reservations Systems: Pegasus Channel Managers: SiteMinder, Cloudbeds, D-EDGE Parity Management: OTA Insight, RateGain Rate Shopping & Market Intelligence: OTA Insight, SiteMinder, RateGain Reporting & Accounting: M3, MyDigitalOffice Upselling Software: Oaky, GuestJoy, EasyWay Best Marketing Tech Finalists Booking Engines: Cloudbeds, Bookassist, SiteMinder Hotel CRM & Email Marketing: Revinate, Profitroom, Dailypoint Digital Marketing Agencies: Bookassist, Avvio, Net Affinity Direct Booking Tools: Triptease, Hotelchamp Website Live Chat and Chatbot: Asksuite, Whistle Independent Loyalty Programs: The GuestBook Metasearch & Ad Tech: Bookassist, Avvio, Koddi Reputation Management: TrustYou, Guestrevu, Revinate Hotel Website Design: Bookassist, Avvio, Profitroom Best Meetings & Events Tech Finalists Event Management Software: Event Temple Group Sourcing & RFP Software: MeetingPackage, Venuesuite Meetings Intelligence Software: Duetto, IDeaS Sales CRM: Event Temple, MeetingPackage
A data breach is every hotel’s worst nightmare - especially when personal data and guest information is leaked. Prior to COVID-19 hoteliers viewed cybersecurity and data protection as one of the biggest threats to the industry. The hospitality industry is constantly under threat; numerous high-profile malware attacks on hotels have led to hundreds of millions of guests’ data being compromised and millions of dollars in damage. Case-in-point: Marriott. The hotel chain was recently fined around $23.8 million in penalties as a result of a data breach that occurred in 2014. And, the financial burden is just the start of Marriott’s woes. The attack compromised the credit card details, passport numbers, and birthdates of more than 300 million guests stored in the brand’s global guest reservation database. It’s one of the largest data breaches ever. While insurance will cover much of Marriott’s financial repercussions, its brand reputation will suffer well into the future. Here’s how the Marriott data breach happened – and how to prevent something like this from happening to your hotel. Background: Marriott Data Breach 2014 The breach took place sometime in 2014, but it wasn’t discovered until 2018, when an internal security tool caught a suspicious attempt to access the internal guest reservation database for Marriott’s Starwood brands. Starwood Hotels was acquired by Marriott in 2016, adding 11 new brands to add to Marriott International’s original 19 assets. The internal security alert prompted an investigation which discovered that the Starwood network was compromised in 2014, before the acquisition. Starwood had not migrated Mariott’s reservation system in 2018; Starwood brands were still using legacy IT infrastructure, which contributed to the scope and scale of the data breach. In their internal investigation, Marriott found that hackers had encrypted data and removed it from the Starwood system. That information included information from up to 500 million guest records – although some of those records were duplicates. When they announced the breach, Marriott said that the hackers stole guest information that included “a name, mailing address, phone number, email address, passport number, Starwood Preferred Guest ("SPG") account information, date of birth, gender, arrival and departure information, reservation date, and communication preferences. For some of these guests, payment card data was also stolen, but Marriott did not say for how many.” How Did the Marriott Data Breach Happen? The actual specifics of the attack get pretty technical, but there were some business and cultural practices at Starwood that underpin how easy it was for a bad actor to access that many guest records. Crowdstrike cybersecurity expert Ryan Cornateanu told Hotel Tech Report, “The attack on Marriott was hapless and a popular entry point for adversaries is through email spoofing. This tactic is used in phishing in order to get malware onto a target network to then move laterally across all systems. From there hackers can leverage account numbers, driver's license numbers and other sensitive information from loyalty programs and reservations systems. The general data protection regulation has gone a long way to protect consumers but there's only so much that can be done when a hacker is able to secure login credentials or access servers directly.” Starwood was notorious for having an insecure reservation system; a separate attack in 2015 compromised data and wasn’t detected for eight months. Marriott then compounded the issue by laying off Starwoods IT staff during the acquisition in 2016. The lack of personnel prevented Marriott from quickly integrating newly added hotel properties into its own in-house reservation system. Starwood’s already-insecure guest reservation system, therefore, “limped on, zombie-like, infected with malware, breached by hackers, and without much by way of continuity of care, for another two years before the breach was finally discovered,” reports CSO Online. As to the question of who hacked Marriott, that answer is even more complicated. Both the New York Times and the Washington Post reported that the attack was part of a state-sponsored intelligence-gathering effort on behalf of the Chinese government. Patterns in the code as well as the method of the attack echo techniques previously employed by Chinese hackers, and none of the guest records ended up for sale on the dark web – a clue that this wasn’t a hack for profit. The Repercussions for Marriott Financially, Marriott faced significant penalties as a result of this data breach. Multiple class-action lawsuits were filed against the brand targeting Marriott’s failure to perform its due diligence on Starwood’s IT systems. In addition to the lawsuits, Marriott agreed to pay for passport replacements for customers who victims of the data breach. Separately, the United Kingdom’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), a consumer rights watchdog, fined Marriott $23.8 million (down from the original penalty of $123 million) for failing to meet security standards required by GDPR. The ICO argues that Marriott failed to "put appropriate technical or organizational measures in place" when processing data, though it also acknowledged that Marriott has since taken the proper measures to improve security. Notably, the original fine of $123 million would have been one of the largest penalties issued under GDPR, representing around 3% of Marriott’s total revenue. It’s true that financially, Marriott will likely survive this data breach. Customer satisfaction scores, however, dipped in 2019, bringing the brand even with Hilton and suggesting that the breach may cause more long-term harm to guest loyalty. Studies show that nearly a quarter of Americans will stop doing business with a company that has been hacked, while more than two in three people trust a company less after a data breach. How to Avoid a Similar Data Breach Ultimately independents are far safer than brands because they have less attractive loot for hackers. Less loot means less incentive. Further, independents often work with best of breed tech vendors rather than attempting to develop systems in-house. These vendors are venture-backed and take great measures to ensure data security. Hoteliers should look for software vendors who meet rigorous standards with regards to modern regulatory frameworks like SOC-2, GDPR, PSD2 and PCI compliance. But still, even amongst independents - the hospitality industry is an attractive target for hackers. There’s a huge amount of personally-identifiable information collected by hotels, and often outdated or few security protocols protecting this valuable data. It’s not out of the question that your hotel could be the target of a cyber attack in the future: however, it’s crucial to avoid the mistakes that Marriott made in failing to find the breach for four years. The first priority of any hotel’s IT team should be to encrypt guest data and set up alerts to immediately warn when there’s been a potential security breach. Legacy IT must be brought up-to-date; make sure the newest version of your software is installed on all devices. Security updates often contain patches and new fixes that evolve with the threat landscape. And, have a plan to communicate with customers as soon as you sense there’s been a breach. The question shouldn’t be “if” there will be a cyberattack – but when.