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.
Hotel Guest Experience Software Articles
In 2016, Amazon unleashed a retail revolution: a store without cashiers called Amazon Go. The store uses RFID to automatically calculate what a shopper owes as they leave the store. Without cashiers, the experience is more convenient and far speedier. Amazon Go has now extended its cashier-less experience to 11 stores in 3 cities. As more consumers experience these types of seamless self-serve solutions, from grocery stores to CIBO Express markets at airports, they expect more control and convenience across other interactions. Hotels are beginning to feature these types of experiences in their lobby stores, bringing this convenience and speed to hotel guests. For hotels, the lobby store is a triple threat: it’s an amenity that guests love, it doesn’t cost too much to implement, and it builds a reliable incremental revenue stream. And, with the right technology like Impulsify, the store doesn’t have to add unnecessary layers of complexity to hotel operations. What Impulsify does: intelligent retailing tech One of the leaders in hotel pantry management technology for hotels is Impulsify. Aptly named, the technology encourages “impulse buys” with its guest-facing self-service kiosk product - Shop Pop. On the back end, the system simplifies inventory management, ensuring that adding a lobby pantry won’t also add an unreasonable burden on staff. Together, Impulsify is a powerful system for hotel gift shops, pantries, and grab-and-go markets. Impulsify’s ImpulsePoint technology has a few different features that form its approach to intelligent retailing. There’s both the hardware that guests and staff interact with on a daily basis, as well as software running in the background that optimizes inventory for a specific hotel’s situation. Across both, the experience must be flawless, with intuitive screens that are simple and straightforward to use. Impulsify powered hotel retail experience With Impulsify hoteliers get: Automated inventory management: Staff use a barcode scanner and a portable tablet to track inventory. By avoiding manual methods, such as pen and paper transferred to a spreadsheet, you reduce errors and increase productivity. Impulsify enables guests to easily grab products from your hotel lobby store and notifies your team when supplies are low. The platform delivers data that helps your team optimize the products that you’re selling for margin and volume to take the guesswork out of your retail operation. Self-serve kiosks: The Shop Pop guest-facing kiosks eliminate the need for guests to stand in line for payment. Guests select their own items, scan each, and then charge either directly to the room or on a card -- all without staff intervention. Guests can select items at their own pace, and avoid standing in line to pay. Overall, a better experience for everyone: front desk can tend to other needs and guests enjoy speedier service. Impulsify creates a frictionless retail buying experience for guests which means that they buy more from your shop all the while improving their experience on property. Data-driven decisions: Impulsify delivers real time data to help you optimize inventory selection in order to maximize margins and reduce waste. When you start with Impulsify you will see which products are moving off the shelves and which aren’t so you can optimize your selection. The platform makes it easier than ever to experiment with new product assortments and quickly identify top money-makers. Impulsify can even make recommendations about which products to stock your shelves with because they have data from millions of transactions in their hotel ecosystem. Who Impulsify is for: Hotels of all sizes Given the structure of the category, Impulsify’s core segment is select service hotels with limited on-site amenities. Since restaurants in select service hotels may offer a smaller menu with shorter operating hours than a restaurant in a full-service hotel, these properties benefit from a more tightly-operated “grab and go” market or lobby pantry. Impulsify also works well in the full-service segment, as intelligent retailing technology can be used by any hotel that has a store, gift shop, restaurant or grab and go. For hotels that currently use manual processes to manage and stock inventory, the impact of Impulsify’s automated, data-driven platform can be significant. Given that Impulsify can drive a project from design to grand opening, larger resorts could even engage Impulsify to expand retail offerings in areas of the property that may be more remote. Verified product review on Hotel Tech Report (Impulsify reviews) 5 reasons hoteliers love Impulsify 1. Intelligent strategies for assortment and merchandising. Inventory management is only one part of the equation. The true value of Impulsify comes from how it uses location, guest profiles, hotel size, and hotel type to make smart recommendations about what to stock and how to display it on your shelves. To date, 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. It's like having a 24/7 store manager without the added cost! 2. Self-pay = PMS integration. The self-service kiosk means that guests don’t have to stand in line to pay. They can pay with a card, or charge it to a room. The system integrates with your property management system to pull all purchases to the guest’s folio -- a major benefit to the guest experience. With self-pay, you can also place a kiosk in different areas of a property. Perhaps your golf resort would like to include a “grab and go” pantry in another location away from the clubhouse; self-pay makes it all work. 3. Full design services. If your property is undergoing renovations, you may already have an idea of what you’re looking for. Or, you may want to consider using Impulsify’s specialized knowledge base to design the ideal layout for your hotel’s store. Existing stores can also be renovated to better leverage Impulsify’s novel approach to intelligent retailing in hotels. The design services include renderings, elevations, and ADA-compliant construction drawings, as well as project management for the entire process. 4. Automated shopping lists by vendor. Eliminate tedious manual ordering with Impulsify’s automated shopping lists. Once your hotel implements Impulsify, the system monitors sales to automatically build order sheets. This is an incredible time savings, as staff no longer has to be trained on which vendor provides which product. The automation also prevents inaccurate ordering, ensuring that your hotel either holds excessive inventory nor runs out of things that guests want. 5. Planogramming. 5 in 6 Americans admit to impulse buys -- and a planogram likely contributed to these purchases. A planogram is a diagram that specifies where products should be placed to optimize both store space and shelf layout. A planogram uses popularity, preference, and relevancy to place products strategically so that consumers find what they need -- and, of course, make more impulse buys (such as those candy bars by the grocery store checkout)! Planograms also keeps a store organized, which appeals to consumers and makes re-stocking much faster. Most hotels could never afford a full time planogrammer (up to $47,000 a year), so Impulsify leverages its database of hotel purchases to create data backed planogram models for its hotel partners. Impulsify pricing Pricing varies according to a property’s needs, such as: Number of self-service kiosks Whether or not you need design services Size of the space, as far as number of SKUs managed Number of your properties using the Impulsify technology Length of contract Monthly vs annual billing Based on those factors, you can expect to pay a one-time implementation fee, as well as a flat monthly fee for the software (ranges from $199-249 depending on billing cycle), per the pricing below. Each subscription comes with two USB scanners, ongoing training and support, and account setup. On the hardware side, Impulsify charges some upgrades related to enabling self-pay, as well as for product scanners, kiosk units, and retail sales data analysis to benchmark your retail performance. Get a custom Impuslify price quote for your hotel here Conclusions: Should you consider Impulsify? Incremental revenue is a hotelier’s best friend. If you have an existing store, there’s the potential for capturing even more revenue. If you're building a new property, or considering adding a “grab and go” store to your hotel, Impulsify can help you achieve your revenue targets. Results from a study conducted by Impulsify with 12 select-service hotel clients using the technology are astounding: 49% increase in revenue, 220% increase in profit, 62% profit margins. The results are so good that Impulsify has an ROI guarantee. Also: 20 global chains can’t be wrong! That’s the number of larger brands already using Impulsify to optimize inventories to match shifting guest preferences. Once you add in the self-serve kiosks and mobile inventory management, Impulsify is quite appealing. It reduces the burden on staff while also optimizing profitability of on-property retail. Not to mention a big boost to guest satisfaction. Just like Amazon enabling frictionless checkouts for its customers -- and earning loyalty in the process -- hotels can make a visible impact on its guest experience with a similar approach to giving guests control and convenience. Read Impulsify reviews from verified hoteliers like you
There’s a lot of talk in the hotel industry about massive growth from homeshare players like AirBnB but relatively little talk about the immense growth of franchise brands. For years now, major brands like Marriott have growth hacked their way to scale by going asset light. By relieving themselves of physical assets and focusing on a franchise business model, Marriott projects 1,700 new hotel openings between now and 2021. This growth may seem surprising given all the buzz around travelers wanting unique and local experiences but there’s also been a ton of growth amongst incredible boutique hotel concepts. Think about brands like Two Roads (Thompson, JDV), Bunkhouse, Nomad, Freehand, Standard Hotels, Public Hotels, Bunkhouse, 25H Bikini - the list goes on and on. All of the “independent brands” mentioned above (several have been acquired by chains) have found ways to create incredible (and unique) travel experiences for guests but there is one thing holding them back - scalability. Even the best (and most capitalized) management teams have barriers to scale like identifying unique real estate, negotiating large scale transactions, securing financing and building out properties. AirBnB took a different approach to rapid scaling by leveraging the power of an unregulated marketplace model. As a result of this strategy, just 9 years after its founding, AirBnB already had more rooms online than the top 5 brands combined. AirBnB passed the top 5 chains by # of listings (CB Insights) You’d be hard pressed to find a friend who hasn’t had a crappy experience on AirBnB but they’ve probably also had some great ones. Where the franchises found a good balance between scalability and quality control, AirBnB and the homeshare economy sought rapid scale in unregulated markets. More recently a new category of hotel management company has popped up. Some call these players hometels (home+hotel) and they’re more generally referred to as alternative lodging. Brands in the alternative lodging sector include Stay Alfred, Sonder, The Guild Hotels and to some extent groups such as Selina and OYO. The alternative lodging sector brings similar scalability to homeshare companies with similar quality control to brands. Sonder, for example, was founded by college students in 2012 and just 5 years later hit $100M in revenue with it’s rapid venture capital fueled growth. The alternative lodging sector brings the consistency of a hotel without the overhead and therefore often charges cheaper rates relative to comparable properties. While attending the Triptease Direct Booking Summit in Dallas last year I slept at Sonder competitor Stay Alfred and the experience was remarkable. Stay Alfred had leased a floor of apartments next to the Statler Hotel (Hilton Curio Collection) and converted the apartment units into hotel rooms. These rooms were larger than the rooms at the Statler next door and one third the price. Upon arrival I headed to a Key Cafe kiosk in the lobby of the building to get my key - the process was completely seamless and I never interacted with a single person. The room came outfitted with DirectTV and high speed WiFi as well as HDMI cables to plug in my devices. The alternative lodging experience is undeniably something that the hotel industry needs to keep careful tabs on as it scales quickly and will be highly disruptive to certain segments of the market - perhaps even more so than AirBnB. Companies like Stay Alfred and Sonder have used distribution channels like Booking.com to kickstart their growth and have augmented digital advertising efforts by offering unbeatable (sometimes even unprofitable) prices to bring customers in the door via 3rd party distribution channels. Once customers like me are in the door and have a great experience - we then tend to look for those properties for similar use cases in the future. As an example, I recently went straight to Stay Alfred’s website to book my hotel for an upcoming conference. It’s not all fun and games though in the alternative lodging sector as the excitement has pushed valuations into what many believe is bubble territory. Alternative lodging player Selina which is often referred to as a “co-living hospitality brand” (aka glorified luxe hostel with good WiFi and coffee) recently raised $100M at an $850M valuation for it’s portfolio of 22,000 hostel beds. To put the Selina valuation in perspective, John Pritzker’s Geolo Capital sold Two Roads Hospitality to Hyatt for $430M last year. At the time Two Roads managed 17,000 hotel rooms with a significant development pipeline and iconic brands such as Thompson and Joie De Vivre. Two Roads was producing approximately $40M of EBITDA at the time of the sale while Selina is likely to see losses for many years to come. The alternative accommodation market is undeniably frothy with prices driven up by venture capitalists who have AirBnB fomo and are paying technology multiples for real estate companies. Today’s TechCrunch article fires a warning shot to investors: "...one focus will be to improve the booking process and algorithmic recommendations that people use both to figure out where to travel next, as well as what they want to do when they get there." ~TechCrunch comments on Selina’s use of $100M The question to ask is whether these are real estate companies fronting as tech companies or whether they’re the real deal. Do we actually need algorithms to tell us where to travel next? If so, is that technology actually valuable? One of the major proponents of the alternative lodging sector has been Thayer Ventures, a travel tech focused venture capital firm with deep ties to the hotel industry. Thayer’s focus on travel and hospitality gives the firm a unique perspective so we sat down with Venture Partner Katherine Grass to discuss hotel tech, the rise of alternative lodging and more. Katherine previously founded Amadeus Ventures and has met with literally thousands of startups in the space over the years - she’s seen it all and has unparalleled insight into the alternative accomodation trend. How did you get into travel tech venture investing? I started my venture career at Amadeus IT Group where I founded Amadeus Ventures and went on to build out an entire ecosystem of programs working with external players and created their global Innovation & Venturing unit. Ventures had always been my first passion - aiding startups to be successful. Therefore, when the opportunity arose to join Thayer Ventures, Thayer being the leading travel-technology fund globally, I naturally jumped at the idea! Thayer Ventures is unique because we are not only one of the few travel-technology focused funds globally, but all partners come with a very deep expertise and network in this space. Therefore, we are not only able to make solid investment decisions based on our industry expertise, but we are able to truly help our portfolio companies, whether that be with industry contacts, strategic direction or business development. What hotel and hospitality tech companies have you invested in? Being travel-technology focused, we have many hospitality tech investments in our portfolio. Mews Systems, Optii Solutions, HYP3R, Sonder, BookingPal, Duetto, Groupize and Social Tables are examples of hospitality tech investments. Social Tables recently being sold to Cvent. While Dishcraft Robotics and xx are additional investments that apply to the hotel sector. How do you usually come across hotel tech investment opportunities? Because we are one of the leading funds in travel technology, we have a combination of companies reaching out to us, referrals from other generalist funds looking for a travel-tech expert as well as directly discovering startups at major events. Most of our investments tend to be Series A and we will absolutely lead rounds where it makes sense. What’s one piece of advice you have for hotel tech entrepreneurs when raising capital? Hard to pick one piece of advice! My advice would be to ensure you are addressing a real business problem in the industry. You would be surprised by how many startups develop ideas for concepts that aren’t seen as real pain point opportunities by the hotels. Additionally, ensure your opportunity has a big enough addressable market. This means there is enough profit to be made by your idea if you’re successful. Small opportunity means small profits, and you won’t get investors attention with this. How do you think the hotel technology space will change over the next 5 years? We will definitely see the hospitality tech stack open up and be more interactive. This means open APIs and the ability for various pieces to interact with each other and not necessarily all be from the same vendor. On alternative lodging, we still have massive growth in this sector and we will see this continue over the next 5 years. People often say that the hotel industry is slow to adopt technology. Do you agree? I don’t agree. We have seen hotels becoming increasingly open to quick experimentation and pilots, and as solutions become more cloud-based and API-led, it will only increase. Some legacy systems made this testing more difficult in the past due to the integration effort required for experimentation, but we are definitely seeing this change. What is the most interesting or surprising thing that you’ve learned from investing in hotel tech? An interesting trend we are seeing in the hospitality tech space has been the continued growth and strength of what we call alternative accommodations. For all of the startups that might want to pitch in your office, what can you tell them about your investment criteria, etc. to help them decide if they are a good fit for your portfolio? We are looking for stellar teams. Most all of our investments are Series A, meaning the startup already has some initial traction and customers with strong growth potential. Are investments are global but must be in the space of travel-technology. For us this means hospitality tech stack, alternative lodging, tours & activities, corporates & meetings, smart cities and mobility & transportation.
The INTELITY platform is an extensive enterprise guest experience engagement and staff management platform for hotels, casinos, cruises, and luxury residential brands. It’s especially powerful for multi-property brands with complex operations. The platform empowers both guests and staff to manage the guest experience efficiently, accurately, and across devices. In recent “client wins,” tech-focused micro-luxury hotel brand YOTEL selected INTELITY’s as its “brand standard.” This is a testament to the strength of the INTELITY platform, as Yotel sets the bar high for providing a tech-enabled guest experience that relies on digital efficiency to keep a lid on room rates. YOTEL CEO Hubert Viriot elaborated further, highlighting the role technology plays in today’s finely-tuned and highly-optimized hotel: “At YOTEL, it is important to us to make the customer journey as seamless as possible, saving our guests and staff valuable time so that they can get on with what is important to them. It is for that reason that we will be introducing INTELITY as a brand standard across all YOTEL properties." Why did a company known for its “pioneering use of technology" in the hotel industry” choose INTELITY as it’s guest experience technology provider? Let’s answer this question by looking at the ways hotels make the most out of INTELITY’s multi-faceted guest engagement platform. #1: Improve the guest experience by leveraging staff productivity tools Hotels must have a reliable, consistent process for managing tasks, such as housekeeping and maintenance, as well as handling incoming guest requests. Sticky notes and spreadsheets lead to confusion, double-work, and mishandled requests. One of the top ways that hotels benefit from INTELITY is by compiling back-of-the-house tasks into one single system. This unified dashboard provides a quick view into a task or request’s history, so everyone can see who’s responsible and what’s been done. INTELITY’s staff management platform offers a cross-device dashboard that includes work order and task management, as well as real-time data analytics to monitor for bottlenecks. With this functionality available on both desktop and mobile, staff are untethered from the desktop and can roam freely as situations arise. Do this: Work with each department head to create a new operations manual that defines new processes, and includes staff training. Also, set your benchmarks and assign accountability to meet (or exceed!) those targets. #2: Empower guests with self-service to reduce wait times and boost satisfaction A full-featured mobile app centralizes a guest’s digital experience. It gives them a place to turn to for information and requests and it facilitates mobile check-in. According to mobile key provider OpenKey, the ability to skip the front desk reduces wait times and lobby traffic by 20%, which makes guests happier and frees up staff. This is why the brand chose INTELITY, elaborates YOTEL CEO Hubert Viriot: “An app gives guests the ability to not only skip the front desk but have ready access to hotel services, facilities and information as and when they need it.” To make the most of the platform, put INTELITY’s capabilities in the hands of guests. A mobile and web app allows guests can focus on enjoying their time on-property and in-destination. Guests enjoy easy and convenient access to staff via mobile messaging, and staff are more readily available to assist via the back-end dashboard. Some hotels, such as boutique hotel brand Lifehouse’s Miami location have even gone as far as replacing in-room guest phones with its app that allows guests to communicate with staff via voice and messaging. Do this: To encourage usage, promote the app across all guest touchpoints: social media, on-property, and especially in pre-arrival emails. And then make the app relevant and useful to guests by keeping your mobile app’s content updated and ensure rapid response times for in-app communications. #3: Use guest messaging to eliminate barriers between staff and guests Rather than forcing guests to visit the front desk, or call housekeeping, it’s all about simple, straightforward guest messaging. INTELITY guest messaging puts guest requests right in front of relevant staff so that problems can be solved and requests answered quickly. To fully eliminate these barriers, guests communicate in real-time with staff via the messaging solution. This portion of the platform directly connects operations teams and guests through SMS, as well as in-app messaging services, like Facebook Messenger. Guests communicate on whichever channel they prefer, and then all these channels are combined into a single interface. All guest communications route to the appropriate channel on the INTELITY platform, connecting the guest-facing elements to the relevant staff dashboard. Streamlined guest communications boosts productivity and accuracy when handling incoming guest requests. No more missing a guest request, or dropping the ball on responding. All of this is cross-channel and cross-device. Do this: To make the best use of the messaging solution, combine it with the back-of-office platform, which creates tickets for guest requests. Reward staff for prompt responses and celebrate wins by praising exemplary interactions. Lastly, make sure to receive opt-in prior to messaging guests. #4: Digitize room service and concierge to increase non-room revenue Guest expectations around technology have evolved. The INTELITY platform offers three components of a tech-enabled in-room experience: voice, personal device support (guest mobile), and guest tablets. When combined, guests have full control over how they personalize their rooms: whether via tablet, voice, or analog dials, guests can adjust temperature, open blinds and interact with the TV. Tablets can also be additive as a concierge touchpoint, empowering guests to craft an in-destination experience that suits them. Tablets can be a value-add for boutique and luxury properties. It’s the details that make experiences in the higher-end categories stand out -- the ability to drop blinds or pick specific channels from the tablet makes it much simpler to engage with the room. A digitized room service menu also makes it much easier to order food and beverages. Guest can avoid a phone conversation and ensure accuracy of the order, all from the in-room tablet. At the Boston Harbor Hotel, 80-90% of guests use the in-room tablets, which led to 16.4% more in-room dining revenue, as well as a 90% drop in costs for providing in-room newspapers. Do this: Room casting, tablets, and voice technology need strong Wi-Fi, so be sure that your hotel’s infrastructure is capable and flexible to support peak demand. #5: Give guests instant answers with voice technology -- and encourage more incremental spend Guests prefer engagement tools that don’t require making a call to the front desk. Voice-activated technology, such as Alexa and Google Assistant, have introduced a new interface for hotel rooms. Using voice technology, guests can access instant information about your hotel and the surrounding area, as well as control the lights and temperature. Voice can also be a “butler on a budget.” Brands like St. Regis, for example, use butler service as a luxury differentiator. As you give guests more control over their experience, voice can deliver more bespoke service, such as calling up a car from the valet, promoting upcoming events, and encouraging incremental spending through dining, spa, and activity reservations. With multilingual capability, voice assistants can also help international guests feel more comfortable with personalizing their own stay. For hotels with significant global business, this is a major value add to welcoming those guests. Do this: The technology is still relatively new, and each hotel has its own voice commands. Promote your voice assistant to guests, so they understand its capabilities and benefits. #6: Update menus and other content quickly to eliminate poor service and reduce printing costs Running low on a few items in the kitchen? Need to adjust menu pricing and description to reflect an ingredient change? INTELITY’s content management solution means that availability across food and beverage operations can be updated on-the-fly. From a single dashboard, management can sync changes immediately across all channels: web app, in-room tablet, and mobile app. Instantly, there will be no more ordering out-of-stock menu items, preventing disappointment and awkward service moments. The beauty of this solution is that you don't need to reprint menus for each guestroom or proof-read many revisions of a printed menu. Typos can be fixed right away, and F&B staff can be more creative with specials and other promotions that would have required costly printed collateral updates. Do this: Review content across all customer touchpoints regularly. Even if it seems like nothing has changed, a regular review process (quarterly or monthly) may reveal new opportunities to market the hotel’s amenities better. #7: Invest in digital keys to give guests flexibility and reduce frustration Upgrading your properties infrastructure to handle digital keys isn’t cheap. Yet many guests -- especially those loyal to the major brands -- are beginning to expect digital key locks. Combined with the mobile app, digital keys give guests more control and flexibility. The ability to access a room without a magstripe key means that hotels can offer remote check-in, so guests can skip the front desk. Digital keys also reduce the common frustration of having a magnetic key stop working after accidentally placing it near a credit card. When a guest returns to the front desk to reactivate a key, hotel staff must take the time to fix the issue -- and defuse a potential confrontation. It’s an unpleasant experience for everyone involved; integrating INTELITY’s digital key into the guest experience saves hotels money and gives guests the control they expect. On the operations side, there’s a predictive analytics upside to digital keys. Hotels can learn about guest behavior to better match staff resources to demand. Mobile check-ins and check-outs mean that housekeeping can reduce turnaround time, and close the gap between hotel systems that don’t communicate with each other in real-time. Do this: Train front desk to mention the digital key capability. Not all guests want to download an app for every hotel, so it takes intelligent on-property messaging to highlight this convenient feature. #8: Get automated reports so you know what’s happening -- even if you’re not on property There's already plenty to do when it comes to running a hospitality business. Running reports and customizing Excel spreadsheets is not always the best use of time. With its platform focus, INTELITY provides a real-time pulse of the business. Set reports to run automatically and receive up-to-date information on your computer or mobile so you can act on that information, Whether you are on property or not. Do this: Share the reports with the right people. Set the right permissions to allow key staff leads to learn and improve operations based on these reports.
Most of the ‘artificial intelligence’ being sold to hotels isn’t actually artificial intelligence. The drones used to deliver room service champagne to the ultra elite back in 2014 was just a PR stunt. Don’t even get us started on Google’s attempt to outfit hotel staff with Google Glass lenses. The list goes on and on. While we’ve been bullish on the use of voice activated technology for business use such as IDeaS Revenue Solutions’ smart revenue assistant we have historically taken a more bearish stance on voice technology for guest use until recently. Admittedly, we first thought that Alexa for hotel rooms was just another PR stunt but after meeting Dave Berger and trying Volara's technology for ourselves - our skepticism quickly became enthusiasm for Volara's impact on hotel operations and the overall guest experience. Back in 2015 Dave Berger was a lawyer and AirBnB super host. As his vacation rental business grew it began to interfere with his day job due to an increasing volume of text messages from guests asking lots of similar questions. Berger was an avid user of Amazon Alexa’s smart assistant in his personal life and decided to hack together a solution that could help answer lots of these questions for guests. Doing so instantly made managing his budding vacation rental business significantly easier. That’s when he had his “ah-ha moment”. Berger knew that if he could solve this much friction in his startup vacation rental business with Alexa that hotels would benefit from the use of this new technology due to the massive amount of complexity involved in their operations. Berger didn’t just jump in and start selling his device to hotels. He spent 2016 identifying the areas where voice technology could make a meaningful impact on the guest experience. During this research phase, he developed a partner strategy and built a platform that could easily connect with other software solutions. To this day, one of the biggest pain points for guests in a hotel room is waiting on hold when calling guest services. Volara integrates with all the leading work order management systems - like Alice, Amadeus HotSOS, SynergyMMS, Knowcross, and HMobile - so guests can can make requests and get instant confirmation that the item or service they need is being delivered Another massive pain point for hotel guests lies around the fact that hotel room TV remotes are ridden with germs and bacteria. Volara integrates with in room entertainment systems like Sonifi, BeyondTV and Innspire so that guests never have to pick up that filthy remote control ever again. One by one Berger has identified areas where voice can help other tech products perform better and faster. Volara has racked up dozens of these technology partnerships to date and its platform approach has paid off in spades for Berger resulting in an exclusive partnership to provide voice technology for Marriott franchisees and even securing a nod straight from Amazon CTO Werner Vogels - no small feat. Amazon CTO Werner Vogels talks about Volara at Reinvent 2017 While we were tempted to speak with Alexa for this interview, we felt like sitting down for a chat with Berger might be a bit more productive. Dave, what was your background before starting Volara? After five years practicing law at a big law firm, I ran like hell. I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur and have been following my entrepreneurial passions since 2008. I had been an AirBnB Superhost for three years and one day in January 2016 a particularly needy guest began peppering me the most mundane questions in rapid succession. "Where are extra towels?" "How do I use the dishwasher?" "Where can I park?" Alexa was one year old at the time and I decided that she could help me serve my guests in a fun and more efficient way. After receiving great feedback from my own guests and measurably reducing the number of guests messaging me, I saw the opportunity for a business venture and began to consider suitable markets. I spent 2016 speaking with hoteliers and learning everything I could about technology in hotels. Thanks to some great mentors early on, we were able to identify specifically what it would take to turn a consumer smart speaker and natural language processing platform into an enterprise grade solution that's suitable for the most complex hotel environments. Today, Volara's software addresses the most common concerns about consumer smart speakers deployed in hotels - guest privacy, data security, reply accuracy, and seamless integration into existing hotel technologies. While others are charging for a "skill", Volara gives its conversation models away for free to its clients and enables others to build creatively atop of those conversation models. Who was Volara’s first customer? The Acme Hotel in Chicago was the first hotel to deploy our solution in every room. This solution is live and loved by guests today. The ownership group has since deployed our solution in another one of their hotels as well. If I recall correctly, the Acme Hotel found us. It's an incredibly tech forward property with management and ownership that immediately saw the value in our solution. Why do hotels need voice activated technology? Voice technology enables hotels to engage their guests in a fun and scalable way. Volara turns leading consumer voice technologies that your guests will know from home into a compliant, flexible, and accurate fully integrated hotel business tool that will yield measurable results. Who is one mentor that has really helped you scale Volara? Armand Rabinowitz. Armand is currently the Senior Director of Strategy and Workgroups at HTNG, but at the time we met he was Director of Innovation at Hyatt. Armand was the very first hotelier to contact us through our website and helped us understand the intricacies of working with large hotel brands. Thanks to the insight he shared early on, we have managed to develop successful relationships with four of the largest hotel brands in the world. What's the most common misconception that hoteliers have about voice technology? Some hoteliers believe Amazon's Alexa is a hotel product. We've seen this mistake lead to disastrous outcomes at The Wynn Las Vegas and Best Western. In the same way that Google Chromecast needs a hotel technology overlay, so does Amazon's Alexa. Volara has built this software overlay and I'm proud to say it is being used by every successful deployment of Amazon's Alexa in hotels today. What's the most surprising thing you've learned about scaling technology into hotels since founding the business? Hoteliers don't like to take risks on startups. Its sad and holds back innovation in an industry that is in dire need of new ways of doing business. Three years on, Volara is now well established in the industry, but we didn't reach the success we have today without a fight. Volara has built deep technical integrations for 30 plus hotel technologies - from work order management systems to guest engagement platforms to IPTV solutions to room controls to valet and safety products. Our vision has been to be the voice interface for everything in the hotel and that helped us bring credibility in those early days by associating with partners who the hotels were already working with. If you could partner with any vendor in hotel tech, who would it be and why? Hotel Tech Report, because they are trying to bring transparency and efficiency to an old fashion marketplace. Hoteliers should consider vendors based on the quality of their reviews on Hotel Tech Report, rather than by the size of their booth at HITEC. How will voice technology for hotels change in the next 5-years? Hoteliers will become more educated on voice technologies and value the solutions that provide guest privacy protections, data security, improved interaction accuracy, flexible management tools, and seamless integrations. Volara will continue to lead the pack and will be voice enabling 80 hotel technologies across 8 natural language processing platforms in 26 languages on 60 different pieces of hardware in hotels across the globe. Do you have any new products or feature launches to share? While our Alexa based solution continues to scale rapidly, we are committed to providing platform agnostic conversation management for our clients. I think most folks are aware of our joint solutions with Google and IBM Watson by now, but there is more to come. Stop by to meet us at HITEC or reach out for a confidential preview. Is there anything that the community can do to be helpful for you? Keep collaborating in the best interests of our clients. I love working with partners to achieve truly remarkable outcomes. What's one piece of advice that you have for any entrepreneurs in the hotel tech space? Focus on measuring the ROI for the hotels immediately. Nice to have solutions inevitably fail. What is the best book you've read lately and why? It’s not a book but I’ve been really passionately reading the At War section of the New York Times for quite some time and I think it’s critical reading for anyone in global business. It chronicles the experience and costs of war across the globe. The impact of war - whether on combatants, civilians, the environment, lost innovation or other aspects of our world - is something we all need to try to understand better. What is your favorite podcast I enjoy listening to the investigative reports by 60 Minutes - yes, the same 60 minutes that my grandparents watched on their black and white TV. Sometimes complex stories take time to investigate, unwind and convey in a thoughtful way. What is one thing that most people don't know about you? I lived atop a butcher shop in Hong Kong. Each morning a noisy truck would drop a pig in front of our door and my wife would say "Breakfast is here."
The Independent Lodging Congress has announced an exciting new pitch event geared at hospitality startups serving independents (find out whether your startup is eligible for INDIE Cultivate here). The ILC has long been a champion of progress in the hotel industry and fundamentally believes that technology has leveled the playing field between independents and brands. Marriott recently announced that it will add 1,700 new hotels by 2021 meaning that branded properties will be taking an even bigger chunk out of the development pipeline moving forward. “Don’t expect these properties to be anything like a St. Regis or JW Marriott, though, but more cookie-cutter properties.” ~The Points Guy Despite the aggressive growth in branded hospitality, Independent Lodging Congress is unsurprisingly bullish on independents. Many of the core brand value propositions have already been recreated by technology. For example, a core value proposition that sways owners to go with a brand is getting access the brand’s distribution network. The question is: as 5, 10 or 15 properties pop up near your hotel targeting the same customer under the same brand umbrella - is that distribution really more valuable than what you get on Expedia? I was recently researching hotels for a trip down to Miami next month and I decided to check out which Marriott properties I could stay at with the goal of racking up some loyalty points. While researching I couldn’t help but notice a big CTA on the booking engine “Select from 30 unique brands”. Dozens of Marriott franchisees compete with each other in a small Miami corridor While that variety gives nice value to me as a booker, I couldn’t help but think about the owners of those properties. There were even a handful of category 6 and 7 properties within just a square mile of each other and each of those owners was competing for the same exact business. In other words, Marriott wins no matter which hotel gets booked but only one franchisee will end up winning my business. I later realized that my Chase credit card gives me the same benefits as Marriott Bonvoy (6x points on travel) but also gives me the flexibility to stay wherever I’d like - further obfuscating the value of the brand beyond the quality and vibe of each individual property. This isn’t to say that brands don’t have value because they certainly do; however, the value of being in a branded franchise has definitely changed for hotel owners and developers of late and that change continues to accelerate. From the consumer perspective we know that travellers want unique (non-cookie cutter) experiences as reflected in STR stats around independent ADR matching branded rates. The explosion of “cookie-cutter” properties (i.e. Fairfield Inn types, not St. Regis and JW Marriott) resembles the explosion of cookie-cutter retail chains like Abercrombie & Fitch and Aeropostale which experienced rapid growth for many years before hitting a brick wall and needing to close thousands of locations in short order. Further, independent hoteliers are no longer on their own according to ILC Chairman Andrew Benioff: “All of the technology that has contributed to the leveling of the playing field vis a vis the big brands. There are so many technology solutions available today at reasonable pricing that almost any owner or investor in the space can reproduce the results of having a brand and also have the flexibility to make their property unique.” The Independent Lodging Congress fundamentally believes that big hospitality’s old boys club lead by middle aged white men has left the industry vulnerable to disruption and that progress is coming from the outside and with upstart independent boutique hotel developers such as Bunkhouse and Sydell Group. "If you look at the largest hotel firms out there, both public and private, they are run primarily by middle aged caucasian men. Only in the last 5-10 years has this begun to change. I think that this is why we have been really slow to change. If you look at the rest of society here in the US, most of the population doesn't look or act like this group of leaders. We are slowly evolving to bring in new leaders which include more women, minorities and LGBT members. This will greatly assist with the appetite for change." ILC is a champion of diversity, both diversity of thought and culture. ILC’s programming is unique in that many of the speakers are from outside the industry. Between the diversity of programming and content, it’s safe to say that ILC isn’t your grandfather’s hotel investment conference and is definitely worth checking out. We sat down with ILC Chairman Andrew Benioff to talk about his vision for the future of hospitality and what the industry can achieve by thinking outside the box and bringing new ideas from the outside to disrupt from the inside. What was your background prior to starting ILC? I began my hospitality career as formal apprentice in a traditional Japanese Ryokan in Atami Japan. I then continued with my career with a number of luxury hotel brands in the states including The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and Nikko Hotels International among others. After attending conferences for years in both the hospitality and real estate finance industries I felt like there was a real dearth of interesting content. Most people attended simply to network and book meetings with others. I really felt like this was a shame and that these gatherings should of course be about connecting with others and transacting but also be a place of discovery, learning and hopefully lead to "ah-hah!" moments as well. A travel tech startup founder is reading this article and you have 3-5 sentences to convince them that ILC is a great place to network with top independent hoteliers. I'd actually prefer to flip this around and try and convince people NOT to join us if they want: 1-the same old canned content, 2-are content in what they know and don't need/want to learn, 3-aren't ready to be challenged and 4-don't believe that people outside of our industry have anything to teach us. Why is ILC starting to become interested in tech startups? Why did you decide to create the startup pitch event? We are not only interested in technology, and don't believe that all successful travel/hospitality start-ups have to be tech focused. We do believe though that all industries need to evolve and hospitality is no different. These new companies are discovering areas of improvement for the industry and as provocateurs for the hospitality and travel industry, it's part of our mandate to highlight these efforts. ILC features a lot of non-hotelier programming, what are some of the biggest lessons that hoteliers should be taking from other industries today? What are those industries that are innovating ahead of hotels? One of the reasons that hospitality has been so slow to evolve is its focus on doing the same old thing year after year with a spotlight on the same old industry "leaders". In actuality these "leaders" are uninspiring and do the same old song and dance continuously without any evolution. Looking outside of our industry to the disruptors in society, art and culture allows us to see where there is room for improvement and where our guests are focusing their energy so that we can then serve them better. What are the biggest changes that are happening right now specifically within the independent hotel market? I think that one of the biggest changes is that more and more developers and investors are realizing that with the advent of many new technology platforms, the big brands have less leverage with the customer and more and more travelers are looking for original hospitality experiences. I see more high quality Indie Hotels arriving in the market in the coming years and those that finance and invest in them becoming more comfortable in including them in their portfolios. Chip Conley (Joie de Vivre) and Liz Lampert (Bunkhouse) speak at ILC 2016 What is the most interesting or innovative technology that you've seen in hospitality over the last couple of years? All of the technology that has contributed to the leveling of the playing field vis a vis the big brands. There are so many technology solutions available today at reasonable pricing that almost any owner or investor in the space can reproduce the results of having a brand and also have the flexibility to make their property unique. What's one commonly held belief that most independent hoteliers believe to be true about technology that actually is false? Please explain your reasoning. As I mentioned above I think that there is a long held belief that you can only be successful if you have one of the big brand flags on your property and all of the technology and booking engines that they provide. I think that today most, if not all, of those benefits can be reproduced for Indie properties without the massive fees that the brands charge. What's one piece of advice that you have for any entrepreneurs looking to get into the hotel tech space given your understanding of the independent lodging market and buyer behavior? I think people should ask themselves carefully if there truly is a market for whatever they want to build and if any of behemoth tech companies started to look at this space. I have seen many companies come up with wonderful ideas only to be blown out of the water by the giants. I've also seen many who think there idea is great but there isn't as much of a need for their product as they think. Perhaps spend a bit more time speaking with consumers before going to far so that you can verify demand. Hoteliers historically have the stigma of being somewhat tech averse and slow to adapt, do you see that mentality changing? If you look at the largest hotel firms out there, both public and private, they are run primarily by middle aged caucasian men. Only in the last 5-10 years has this begun to change. I think that this is why we have been really slow to change. If you look at the rest of society here in the US, most of the population doesn't look or act like this group of leaders. We are slowly evolving to bring in new leaders which include more women, minorities and LGBT members. This will greatly assist with the appetite for change. Is technology more or less important for independent hotels (vs. branded)? Equally as important I think. No matter what type of property you are running exploiting any advantage is paramount and technology tops that list.
1. Don't overestimate the difficulty of delivering a personalized experience “Hoteliers believe delivering personalized experiences is hard. I have always looked at technology as an enabler for innovation. With the right enablers, hoteliers can take advantage of technology to make personalization easy, which is one of the cornerstones of our eInsight CRM product. I think either hotels don’t know where to start with their data, or they haven’t democratized access to the right people who can leverage it to drive home personalization. Hotels that standardize 2-way communication among systems and make data integrations a priority are the ones able to break through and outperform in personalization. Information is more relevant, robust and customized when all the systems are speaking to the touchpoints guests have in the journey.” ~Charles Deyo from Cendyn eInsight CRM “Many hoteliers believe that personalisation is not important enough to spend time on. But in reality, the cost of standardised digital communication, and generic upsell offers and promotions is enormous. Hotels are literally losing money with every guest that is walking through the front door.” ~Erik Tengen from Oaky Upsell Software 2. Place importance on vendor quality rather than size “Unfortunately, in this industry, the size of a hotel tech vendor sometimes is overplayed or overemphasized, while the quality of product and engineering teams is underemphasized. People often assume that large companies have better products simply because they can afford better engineers relative to smaller companies. This is far from the truth—I've seen very large companies struggle with their platforms and engineering initiatives. And I’ve seen smaller companies blow away the industry with their solutions. The important thing for hotels to remember is not to judge tech vendors by the size of the company, but by the quality and capabilities of their product and their dedication to customer service. It seems obvious, but happens more often than you think.” ~Gautam Lulla from Travel Tripper RezTrip CRS 3. Understand that artificial intelligence will not take your job “Hoteliers believe that revenue managers will lose their jobs when artificial intelligence gets good enough. I believe that artificial intelligence is going to make revenue management an even more valuable skill because it will take more insight and analytical rigor to stand out from the competition set in a data-driven world. Hoteliers are used to looking at PMS as a cost centre of the hotel. With the maturity of Cloud PMS, the paradigm has changed. A PMS should not be considered as cost, but as a system that will help them grow revenues and business. Also, for most hoteliers, deciding on PMS is an operational decision whereas I feel it should be more of a strategic decision.” ~Aditya Sanghi from Hotelogix PMS 4. Stop running your operations with pen and paper “Perhaps the most common belief I used to hear was that the Concierge didn’t need an application because they could use Excel or their logbooks. We obviously felt differently especially after spending time behind the desk and seeing the amount of work done manually and the importance of providing a tool to enable the team to be more efficient. We believe the role of the Concierge should be in the center of the hotel operation since their work touches so many departments and has such a significant impact on the overall guest experience. A good Concierge team does the job so well that they make it look easy. What is often not recognized or seen is the volume of work being done behind the scenes to deliver such a great guest experience. Investing in a tool allows the team to be more efficient and spend more time and attention on the guests. I believe the reason guests come back now is mostly because of the way the Concierge and other team members make the guests feel when they leave, more so than just having a beautiful hotel. Without a tool such as ALICE, it is very difficult to be efficient and create that great guest experience.” ~Adam Isrow from ALICE Hotel Operations Platform 5. Leverage technology to decrease staff churn “I think the single biggest misconception is that hoteliers think the solution to their traveler personalization problems is to invest in traveler facing technology and create an omni-channel experience. The biggest problem hoteliers face is actually their staff turnover. What is the point of having traveler facing technology, without experienced staff that have the right technology to empower them to deliver on the brand experience? Your staff must always come first if you want to truly personalize and fulfill your brand promise. This means hoteliers need to balance their traveler facing and staff facing investments more effectively.” ~Kevin Brown from Amadeus Hospitality 6. Place less emphasis on meeting budget in volatile markets “Hoteliers are not comfortable making changes to prices without knowing the effect it has on their ability to reach budget. In a volatile market, too much emphasis is placed on meeting budget and making safe pricing decisions that ultimately limit a hotel’s revenue achievement. Placing an emphasis instead on demand-based pricing will help secure the highest possible revenue from the marketplace. "Some hoteliers believe it is prudent to wait until business is strong and making more profit before they invest in “nice to have” tools such as revenue management software. That is like saying an athlete should wait until they can run faster before they buy good running shoes. It is the revenue management system that will enable them to maximize their yield and create the bigger profits." ~Ravi Mehotra from IDeaS Revenue Solutions 7. Embrace technology, software is cheap and extremely easy to use today “Most hoteliers are skeptical about technology - for good reason. Tech companies have a long history of over promising and under-delivering. As a result, new technologies are not often eagerly adopted by experienced hotel people. They would rather "wait and see" before embracing yet another "shiny object" tech solution. The last thing we need is another complicated software program that takes up all of our time and delivers little value. Tech providers need to focus on the benefits of their solution and design products to require minimal effort for maximum value. Don't assume that because hotels are multi-million dollar businesses that we like to sit around on our laptops all day - we have become successful by taking care of travelers - and each other - with the service and care that we'd provide to our own families.” ~Del Ross from Hotel Effectiveness Labor Management System “The most common misconception about technology is that it's too expensive. Hoteliers have this misconception because they don’t fully understand the value that the technology brings. They see it as a cost rather than as a profit center. Hoteliers often buy technology the same way they would buy a TV or a pillow. And because of that, tech vendors have been forced to limit their innovation.” ~Marco Benvenuti from Duetto Revenue Management 8. Don't ever manually price hotel rooms “They believe they can do good or decent manual pricing... but in reality there is no way a human can do even a decent job at pricing a hotel. The math behind that statement is really simple, there are two main reasons why a human has absolutely zero chance versus an automated AI system: 1) The sheer scale of the problem. If you're a hotel with 5 room types, 4 variations on each room type (breakfast/cancellation), bookable 365 days in advance, and want to update each price once per hour then you have 0.49 seconds per price to do your analysis and set the price. Even if you simplify the problem drastically, let's say you have a fixed additional cost for breakfast & cancellation, that you just want to update the prices once every four hours, and that you only allow your guests to book in the last 30 days, then you still only have 96 seconds per price to do the calculations and set the price. The sheer scale of the problem makes it impossible for any human to keep up and do a good job. 2) The complexity of the problem. It's important to acknowledge that no price is an isolated island, if you change the price of one room type for a particular arrival date then it will have an effect on all the other room types for the same arrival day. But that's not enough, it will also have an effect on the adjacent days as many people stay more than one night and some one-nighters are flexible and price sensitive. There is this ripple effect and you need to present the optimal set of prices, not the price that is thought to be optimal for one specific room type. Quite often the optimal price for one room type will have a negative impact on the overall revenue, and to calculate the optimal set of prices is both hyper complex and very computationally intensive, it simply cannot be done by a human. Humans should focus on strategic revenue management, not at setting prices.” ~Leif Jaggerbrand from Atomize 9. Stop paying massive sums for integration fees when the entire world has moved to open APIs “Hoteliers that its extremely hard and expensive to integrate different software solutions. Having built our own PMS with open API, I can confidently say that this is no longer true, and we stimulate hoteliers to integrate as much as possible to make their lives easier.” ~Matthijs Welle from Mews Systems 10. Use technology to create more personal interaction, not less “Messaging is impersonal, you can’t replace in-person interactions.” The aim of messaging is not to replace in-person interactions or even phone calls, it is to fill the customer service whitespace or void that exists today. There are a large portion of travelers and consumers today who are not communicating with your organization because you may not have the proper means. With the increasing influx of technology separating the hotel staff and guests (e.g. OTAs and Mobile Room Keys), messaging is one of the main components connecting hotels with their guests today.” ~Chris Hovanessian from Whistle
How Whistle used Lean Startup strategy to become the hotel industry’s favorite guest messaging platform
When non-technical entrepreneurs start a tech company, they usually start by spending ~$50,000 for a software development agency to go build their cool new idea. Startups that begin this way often burn through resources quickly and double down on markets before they even understand them. Steve Blank’s Lean Startup methodology has helped thousands of startups avoid these pitfalls. The methodology teaches startups to run a series of experiments that help founders learn quickly about the markets in which they’re operating without burning through resources too early. Running lean also forces entrepreneurs to get out of their comfort zones (usually behind a computer) and perform deep market research with prospective clients. Blank’s Lean Startup strategy is centered around the concept of an “MVP” (minimum viable product). The idea with an MVP is to build the absolutely least amount necessary to prove or disprove a hypothesis. According to Blank, creating a successful business from scratch begins with developing a hypothesis, analyzing the risks involved, then setting out to disprove each of those risks using the least resources possible. Lean Startup practitioners are non-technical hackers in their own regard, they start by asking the right questions and then build creative low cost solutions to answer those questions. Chris Hovanessian’s journey and the founding of Whistle is straight out of the Lean Startup playbook. Whistle’s guest messaging software is world renowned today, but when Chris started his business most hotels didn’t even know what “guest messaging” was. Chris, like most entrepreneurs, started with a problem. While working in the corporate relocation business he noticed that he was able to give clients great customer service when they were at home but when they got to their respective destinations, many of them didn’t have local phone (or data) plans so they were left in the dark and it created tons of problems from a customer experience perspective. He also noticed that they were communicating on a variety of platforms like SMS, Viber and WhatsApp when they were home and that messaging was becoming both cheaper and more widespread. Chris believed that messaging was the future and had a hunch that it would completely change the way businesses delivered customer service. "Texting is the most frequently used form of communication among Americans younger than 50. Sending and receiving text messages is the most prevalent form of communication for Americans younger than 50. More than two-thirds of 18- to 29-year-olds say they sent and received text messages "a lot" the previous day, as did nearly half of Americans between 30 and 49." ~Gallup To validate his hypothesis, Chris began talking to dozens of local business owners from all walks of life. One day, while speaking with a hotel manager, he realized that messaging could add a ton of value for hotels given their complex operational needs, employee shift schedules and given hotels’ maniacal focus on delivering a great guest experience. After coming to this realization, Chris scheduled a series of meetings with local hoteliers to validate his hypothesis. Before meeting with a second hotelier, Chris created mockups of what the messaging product would look like so that he could get more detailed feedback on the concept. Before the end of the meeting, that hotelier inquired about pricing and asked when they could go live. Chris partnered with co-founder Jonathan Rojas, a sales guru and college friend, then found a technical partner and built an MVP for that client since they didn’t even have a product yet - the rest is history. Chris’ partner Jonathan even started working part time as a front office manager to perfect the product and deeply understand how it was being used by clients. Steve Blank often tells entrepreneurs to “get outside the building” and Jon’s decision to work at a hotel while starting the business was exactly that. Hotels may not have known about guest messaging when Chris and Jon started the business, they certainly do today. Whistle has won Top Rated Guest Messaging Platform in the HotelTechAwards for 2 years in a row and the company is now in hundreds of hotels around the world. The old guard often saw technology as a risk to the human experience of hospitality and messaging has proven to do exactly the opposite by creating stronger connections between hotel staff and guests. Our cell phones are highly personal to us, they’re the first thing we check in the morning and the last thing we see before we go to sleep. They’re how we connect with friends, family and colleagues. Any hotel that doesn’t offer the ability for guests to text for service is missing a huge opportunity to surprise and delight. I had an incredible messaging experience while traveling to Mexico recently. Before we arrived at the hotel we were asked if anyone in our group had allergies - a proactive touch that likely saved us a trip to the hospital due to my friend’s severe pumpkin seed allergy. Our room was below the rooftop bar so when the DJ got too loud we texted the front desk late at night. To our surprise, the hotel staff told us that they felt terrible and were happy to upgrade our room at no additional charge to get us away from the noise. Messaging enabled the staff to turn what could have been an awful experience into a moment of surprise and delight. The best part is that we didn’t even have to pick up the phone. We caught up with Chris to learn about the Whistle founding story, how hotels can transform the guest experience through messaging, the biggest mistake that hotels make today and more. Whistle CEO Chris Hovanessian speaks on a hospitality panel with former Starwood CEO Jeff Lapin What was your background prior to starting Whistle? I attended Loyola Marymount University (LMU) in 2011 with a major in Business Administration - Entrepreneurship. At LMU, I gained hands-on experience with starting companies from A-Z, met my cofounder Jonathan Rojas, and was also a chapter founding member of professional business fraternity, Alpha Kappa Psi - Psi Epsilon. During my last semester and after graduating from LMU, I began working in corporate relocation. There, I worked with Fortune 500 companies to relocate their executive and personnel between headquarters, and to the U.S. Through this position, I gained exposure to certain aspects of hospitality, and immediately realized the importance of streamlined communication. What made you decide to create a guest messaging company before most hotels even knew that they needed this kind of software? In the corporate relocation world at the time, my clients came to the U.S. and primarily stayed in hotels. Once they arrived, their mobile phones were essentially useless, as they did not have new data plans in place and would have been charged enormous fees. As a result, all logistics were planned weeks in advance via email. If I needed to get in touch with the client, one of the only ways was to call their hotel and ask to be transferred to their room. As you can imagine, they were not regularly boarded up in their rooms. Through this frustration, I quickly found a better solution: ask clients to download various mobile messaging applications that were popular in their country at the time (e.g. Skype, Viber, and many others), and to connect to WiFi as often as possible. With this approach, I was more likely to engage in real-time communication. Then one day, when coordinating with multiple clients at once through multiple channels, it hit me - I need an aggregate solution, which supports all channels! We jumped in and started Whistle thereafter, using the lean methodology and identifying Hospitality as the most apparent application for the software. Who was Whistle’s first customer? Al Munguia, of the Jupiter Hotel in Portland, Oregon. Before we even built a product, we used the Lean Methodology to get off the ground. I was conducting interviews with willing participants to determine the pain points, and eventually to shape the MVP. Al was the second interview I conducted during the “Solution Stage”, which is where you show mockups or a wireframe of the potential product, and then gauge feedback for improvements and enhancements. 10 minutes into the call, he asked, “this looks great, how much does it cost?” I wasn’t prepared to answer that question so I just threw out a number, and he told me to let him know when they could start. I said one-week, and then we got to work building the platform! Most hoteliers know that guest messaging is a must have today and there are lots of players in the market but Whistle has won top rated guest messaging platform for 2 years in a row, why do you think that is? Messaging started off as a nice-to-have, but is quickly evolving into a requirement, similar to WiFi a decade ago. Whistle is the easiest GMP to get started with; we offer a free trial with no commitments, you can get setup in minutes, and you will see results on the first day of usage. Whistle will boost your guest engagement levels, drive up your guest satisfaction scores, provide ancillary revenue, improve your operational efficiency, and streamline all of your departments’ logistics -- our customers can’t live without it. Whistle's guest messaging software helps hotels run more efficiently and deliver impeccable service Who is one mentor that has really helped you scale the business? We’re so lucky to have such a strong circle of mentors, it’s truly amazing - I wish I could name them all! Someone who’s been there with us every step of the way is Michael Panesis: President and Chairman Emeritus of Tech Coast Angels Central Coast, Founding Member of Santa Barbara Angel Alliance, and the Executive Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship for Cal Lutheran. Mike has helped us in nearly every aspect of the company, and we wouldn’t be where we are today without him. The one piece of advice that really stuck with us was, “Keep selling!” We followed through with this approach, gained more ground, and eventually the pieces started falling into place: more people started believing in us, the product evolved, the team grew, and our impact tremendously improved. What's one commonly held belief that most hoteliers believe to be true that actually is false? “Messaging is impersonal, you can’t replace in-person interactions.” The aim of messaging is not to replace in-person interactions or even phone calls, it is to fill the customer service whitespace or void that exists today. There are a large portion of travelers and consumers today who are not communicating with your organization because you may not have the proper means. With the increasing influx of technology separating the hotel staff and guests (e.g. OTAs and Mobile Room Keys), messaging is one of the main components connecting hotels with their guests today. What's the most surprising thing you've learned about scaling technology into hotels? The hotel industry is very hard to break into as a new company, but then gets easier as your brand grows. We’ve all seen overnight virality in the B2C space, but hotels tend to have their guard up more-so than any other industry I’ve experienced. It’s a tight-knit community, and as a result, it takes time to grow organically and reach the inflection point. You can pump out all the marketing and metrics around your company’s impact that you want; if no one knows you, they’re likely not going to work with you. Have been a particularly good partners that have helped Whistle scale along the way? For Whistle, PMS partnerships in general have been especially powerful for both us and our PMS partners. It gives us the opportunity to grow, while providing tremendous added value to our PMS partners, making their product more sticky because we can ultimately extend their reach into the guest journey whereas the PMS usually is just used by the hotelier. Where do you see Whistle and the guest messaging space in 5-years? For the guest messaging category as a whole, artificial intelligence and machine learning will become more prevalent. AI has progressed significantly within the last two years, and we are beginning to see it provide more value. Messaging will also begin to touch more hotel software categories, beyond the guest and past the PMS/CRM. I think we’ll also begin to see consolidation within the category, speaking from the business perspective. We see Whistle in tens of thousands of hotels around the globe, providing a holistic messaging platform for guests and all departments/aspects of the hotel. People think messaging capabilities have matured, when realistically we’ve barely scratched the surface. Is there anything that the hotel tech community can do to be helpful for you? We’d really like to learn more about marketing best-practices in hospitality tech. We have a great solution with strong impact on direct bookings, and we’d like to get the word out more! What's one piece of advice that you have for entrepreneurs looking to get into the hotel tech space? It’s hard, but definitely worth it! The hotel industry is fun, traveling is literally part of the game, and everyone knows the importance of letting loose every once-in-a-while. Just like in any other industry: make sure you do your research ahead of time, find early adopters/partners, and do everything in your power to learn from them over time and keep them happy. What is the best book you've read lately and why? “The Hard Thing About Hard Things”, by Ben Horowitz. It came out a few years ago, but I just got around to reading it last year. This is a book for founders by a founder, now VC. It’s all about the ugly bits and hard truths of entrepreneurship, not the glory. It’s very comforting to learn of others’ horror stories, because it’s usually largely untold. You come away from this book understanding that most of the hardships you go through are actually very common, and that you’re not crazy after all! I highly recommend it. What is your favorite podcast I love The Joe Rogan Experience What is one thing that most people don't know about you? For the past 7 years I’ve practiced a form of intermittent fasting called time-restricted eating, where I eat only one meal per day and am fasting for the rest of the day. Fasting has helped me feel a lot healthier.
Being a hotel GM takes finesse and creativity. You have to be both analytical enough to manage your hotel’s P&L and personable enough to interact with guests. Usually employers have to choose between a people person and a numbers person but when searching for a good hotel GM owners need to look for both. Ultimately, a hotel GM is a business owner responsible for everything that happens between the four walls of a hotel. You have to handle situations ranging from a staff member who needs to be rushed to the ER for cutting their finger on the job to hiring talent and figuring out how to increase revenue per available room when occupancy is down. In case you couldn’t tell already GMs are stretched in a million directions and are expected to excel at everything, always. Due to the demanding nature of the GM role, it’s important to also spend time educating yourself on a variety of different disciplines and lots of this requisite knowledge can be found in books. Rather than tell you what books we think GMs should read we asked some of our friends who happen to be top hotel GMs about the books that have helped make them such incredible successes. We have got recommendations from GMs around the world - from Belgium to Mexico, Spain, the United Kingdom and everywhere in between. The book topics range from practical guides that help you run your hotel to productivity hacks, self improvement books and stories about how to be resilient under immense pressure. Without further adieu - here are the 16 books recommended by top GMs for their peers. 1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey Recommended by Simone Harms from Sage Hospitality in Santa Clara, California, Campbell Lee from Quest Apartment Hotels in Melbourne, Australia and Alex Obertop from SIDE Hotel Hamburg in Hamburg, Germany The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People teaches you both personal and professional effectiveness by changing your view of how the world works and giving you 7 habits, which, if adopted well, will lead you to immense success. Habits one through three are focused on self-mastery and moving from dependence to independence. Habits four through six are focused on developing teamwork, collaboration, and communication skills, and moving from independence to interdependence. Habit 7 is focused on continuous growth and improvement, and embodies all the other habits. Hotel GMs can all relate deeply to these principles and for any GMs in a rut, Quest Apartment Hotels GM Campbell Lee told us, “7 Habits was a turning point for me. I was forced into reading it a decade ago by my GM at the time (which I did kicking and screaming!), but found it so engrossing to have a fully documented system for essentially being a better person; especially one that is so easily communicated to others you yourself are helping to mentor and grow. Within 6 months of reading it, I took the leap and quit my job and applied for a Hotel GM position without any prior experience, and have never looked back!” 2. Emotional Intelligence: The Groundbreaking Book that Redefined What it Means to Be Smart by Daniel Coleman Recommended by Imran Jivani from Bedderman Lodging in Chicago, IL and Silvia Nadal from Hotel Jazz in Barcelona, Spain Emotional Intelligence explains the importance of emotions in your life, how they help and hurt your ability to navigate the world, followed by practical advice on how to improve your own emotional intelligence and why that is the key to leading a successful life. Being the general manager of a hotel can be highly emotional with extreme ups and downs. Understanding how to channel those emotions is absolutely critical for keeping your staff productive and happy. "Understanding a person is much more complicated than a position, but that understanding brought on by emotional intelligence will help create a future leader who has a vested interest in the success of the company, property, and (most importantly) themselves," says Imran Jivani of Bedderman Lodging. 3. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek Recommended by Enoch F. Nimene from Bridge Hotel Group in New York, NY and John Kirk Wright from Banyan Tree Companies in Roswell, Georgia Start With Why is Simon Sinek’s mission to help others do work, which inspires them, and uses real-world examples of great leaders to show you how they communicate and how you can adapt their mindset to inspire others yourself. Sinek’s belief is that the important thing is not what you do (run a hotel) but why you do it. It’s important for hotel GMs to understand why they run their hotel - is it for profit? Is it to make guests feel at home? Once you understand and communicate your own motivations you’ll be better able to motivate your team. 4. I Like Giving: The Transforming Power of a Generous Life by Brad Formsma Recommended by Paul Patiño from The Saguaro Palm Springs in Palm Desert, CA Paul Patino runs one of the most coveted hotels in California - the Saguaro Palm Springs. Paul believes that the essence of being a great general manager is not in your ability to simply own the P&L but in your unique ability to give of yourself. Paul told us that, “What I’ve learned in my long run in hospitality is that running an operation and answering to a P&L to ownership at the end of the month/year is all the same. Anyone can do it once they have had enough practice but the true challenge is being that leader that can move everyone in the same direction together and bring out the best in each person. Not everyone can do it and most days with social media and the world we live in, everyone wants that quick instant gratification. When in reality all great things take time, patience, and lots of love. The book I’m reading now is teaching me what I have done for a long time for others but just giving me a sharper knife. Doing right by others and leading by example, having a true connection with each person and inspiring them to be better versions than they already are is what’s truly important in this industry now a days. Once you have that the whole operation runs itself and people or group of happy people can overcome any obstacle, move any mountain. This book highlights that in so many ways and I encourage you to read it if you haven’t and go change someone else’s life and most of all have fun discovering how much you can do for others with very little.” 5. Setting the Table: The Transofrming Power of Hospitality in Business by Danny Meyer Recommended by Gary Gutierrez from HRI Lodging in New Orleans, LA This is not a typical business book, and it’s certainly not a how-to book. For hoteliers, what’s most meaningful is creating positive, uplifting outcomes for human experiences and human relationships. Running a hotel, like life, is all about how you make people feel. It may sound easy but this is actually pretty difficult to execute on. Danny Meyer, founder of Union Square Hospitality and the global hamburger empire, Shake Shack coins what he calls ‘Enlightened hospitality.’ Danny’s lessons help you put hospitality to work for first for the people who work for you, guests, community, suppliers, and investors — in that order. 6. The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday Recommended by Peter Smiley from Hotel Nexus in Seattle, WA This book is a modern take on the ancient philosophy of Stoicism, which helps you endure the struggles of life with grace and resilience by drawing lessons from ancient heroes, former presidents, modern actors, athletes, and how they turned adversity into success, thanks to the power of perception, action and will. Many CEOs joke that their job is to be a plumber, finding holes in their respective businesses and plugging those holes. As the CEO of their hotels, GMs are constantly facing obstacles and adversity - this book gives GMs tools to turn obstacles into success. 7. Leading with Questions: How Leaders Find the Right Solutions by Knowing What to Ask by Michael J. Marquardt Recommended by Joseph Kirtley from Highgate Hotels in San Francisco, CA This is a highly acclaimed book that blends theory and practice on a leadership skill that is universally appreciated but seldom illustrated - asking the right questions. Joseph Kirtley, GM at Highgate Hotels says it best, “Leaders often feel that we are supposed to have all the answers. In actuality, being a great leader takes humility, and asking the right questions. Opening yourself to the strengths and knowledge of those around you takes you to another level.” Throughout the book, he demonstrates how effective leaders use questions to encourage participation and teamwork, foster outside-the-box thinking, empower others, build relationships with customers, solve problems, and much more. 8. Zapp: The Lighting of Empowerment by William C. Byham, Ph.D Recommended by Gary Gladstone from Diamond Mountain Hotel & Casino in San Jacinto, CA “Zap taught me to think a different way. When making a decision about how to handle a guest problem I now remember to ask the agent involved their opinion and what they recommend,” says Gary Gladstone of the Diamond Mountain Hotel & Casino. Employee motivation is often a difficult idea to truly grasp, yet alone to influence and leverage. Yet, if companies are to continuously improve, as is necessary for survival and success, everyone in the organization needs to be engaged. Byham writes that people with this engagement (those who are "zapped") have "responsibility, a sense of ownership, satisfaction in accomplishments, power over what and how things are done, recognition for their ideas, and the knowledge that they're important to the organization." 9. How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie Recommended by Guillaume Verchere from Radisson Hotels in Brussels, Belgium How To Win Friends And Influence People teaches you countless principles to become a likable person, handle your relationships well, win others over and help them change their behavior without being intrusive. Many GMs even go on to take the Dale Carnegie course which teaches interpersonal skills and public speaking to help them become better leaders in their respective communities. Some of the concepts that Carnegie outlines seem intuitive and simple but are fundamental to creating and fostering strong interpersonal relationships. 10. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt Recommended by Liutauras Vaitkevicius from Good Hotels in London, UK Freakonomics helps you make better decisions by showing you how your life is dominated by incentives, how to close information asymmetries between you and the experts that exploit you and how to really tell the difference between causation and correlation. This is a somewhat nontraditional pick for GMs but provides a valuable framework to think about incentivizing team members on property to consistently deliver the best experiences to guests. Luitauras told Hotel Tech Report, "this book helped me to become more efficient, more effective in my work. Once I understand correlation, reasoning, needs of my guests and my team, I can make right decisions quicker. It has also taught me to look into data more closely and challenge 'old ways' of doing things. And that really pays off long-term in building structure, new processes and helping my team achieve more in shorter periods of time." 11. Switch: Hot to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath & Dan Heath Recommended by Mohamed Elbanna from Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts in Palm Beach, FL Switch is about how you can lead and encourage changes of human behavior, both in yourself and in your organization, by focusing on the three forces that influence it. You might have heard the analogy of your brain as a rational rider, sitting on top of an emotional, stubborn elephant, trying to direct it, which makes it easier to understand how your brain’s rational and emotional side work together. Hotels are often thought of as slow to adapt when market dynamics shift and Heath gives a strong framework to help get your team ahead of changes to beat out the compset. Heath argues that what many think is resistance to change is actually just a lack of clarity around how to change. Setup incentives correctly and give a clear path forward for your team and even ownership for that matter - you won’t regret it. 12. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff: Simple Ways to Keep the Little Things from Taking Over Your Life by Richard Carlson Recommended by Rob Flinter from PPHE Hotel Group in London, UK Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff will keep you from letting the little, stressful things in life, like your email inbox, rushing to trains, and annoying coworkers who drive you insane and help you find peace and calm in the stressful world that is your hotel property. This is a great book that gives you tools to cope with those days when it just feels like the whole world is on your shoulders and you can’t do anything right. 13. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't by Jim Collins Recommended by Heather (Dighton) Strauss from Prime Group US in Miami, FL Good To Great examines what it takes for ordinary companies to become great and outperform their competitors by analyzing 28 companies over 30 years, who managed to make the transition or fell prey to their bad habits. With companies like AirBnB and the OTAs, hoteliers are no strangers to disruption. Unfortunately this is just the beginning. While many GMs have thrown their arms up in defeat - there is still time to reinvent and out innovate some of these newcomers. 14. How to Run a Great Hotel: Everything you need to achieve excellence in the hotel industry by Enda M. Larkin Recommended by Brandon Sheldon from Mission Point Resort in Mackinac Island, MI According to Brandon Sheldon, GM of Mission Point Resort, “How to Run a Great Hotel really taught me to think about goals, but also how I will achieve the goals.” This book is based on the premise that being good is just not good enough in today's competitive environment. For hotel owners & managers who want to achieve lasting business success through a root & branch review of key business processes, 'How To Run A Great Hotel' is a 'must read'. 15. 100 Tips for Hoteliers: What Every Successful Hotel Professional Needs to Know and Do by Peter Venison Recommended by Jil Vivienne Berghäuser from Hotel Brandenburger in Potsdam, Germany Hotel Brandenburger GM Jil Berhauser told Hotel Tech Report that it’s important to lead with passion: “[as a general manager] you must be passionate about your job. You must have a clear vision about what you hope to achieve and find ways to share this vision and passion with everybody in your team. - If you're not passionate about it, who else should? Not having complaints does not mean that you are satisfying your guests. Find time for feedback and listen to your guests. To meet guests effectively, a manager needs to be around in guest area at business time. 100 Tips for Hoteliers details the strategies that have helped Jil channel her passion into results. 16. Nuts!: Southwest Airlines' Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success by Kevin Freiberg Recommended by Xavier Moulin from SH Hotels & Resorts in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico “Strategy and leadership publications offer relevant concepts and systems that are, in most cases, adaptable to a given business model. Beyond the theory however, lies a host of creative yet often unconventional solutions that have not only proven wildly successful in real life, but at times helped transform the very fabric of an industry. Immersing myself into the thought process and reasoning of business visionaries such as Kevin Freiberg in his book Nuts! helped me define fun and motivating productivity techniques that truly resonate with a team and are particularly well aligned with the emotional nature of our hospitality trade. Beyond the direct financial impact, the sheer associate engagement, fulfillment and retention observed as a result proved overwhelming.”
Last week Hotel Tech Report attended ITB to discover the most cutting edge innovations in travel and hotels. Each year thousands congregate at Messe Berlin to connect with peers, partners and clients from around the globe. Below are 5 key trends that every hotelier needs to know about this year. In this article we outline each trend, tell you how it impacts your hotel and give an overview of the companies that launched or showcased on trend products at ITB. For those of you who couldn't make it to Berlin we also cut a reel from the show so you can get the next best thing to being there. Check out Hotel Tech Report's official ITB Berlin 2019 Recap video above 5 key trends & takeaways from ITB 2019 1. Automation is going mainstream 2. Software tools are breaking down operational silos 3. Hotel software is moving towards self service 4. App marketplaces are soaring 5. Meeting venues are getting wired up Our take on automation in hotel software Automation allows for time consuming, tedious and repetitive processes to be handled completely by software. When a task or process reaches the limits of the software’s capability, the appropriate team member is looped in to take over which is a beautiful thing. Let’s face it, if you’ve ever worked in a hotel you know that there are dozens of repetitive tasks that seem like a computer should be able to handle and in many cases perform even better, and now they can. Automation frees up staff to focus on the things that those computers can’t handle like high level strategic thinking, trying new products and serving guests. Many hotels are still afraid that technology and the personal touch are conflicting ideas; however, innovative hotel groups are realizing that technology and automation actually enable them to focus on the personal aspects of experience in a way they couldn’t when they were bogged down with repetitive tasks. What's new in automation? IDeaS launches Investigator to let revenue managers uncover the rationale behind automated pricing decisions by asking Alexa. IDeaS announced Investigator, an intuitive way to answer your management's question: How did you achieve that price and those results? IDeaS G3 is the most popular RMS on the market and now clients can ask the system via Amazon Alexa to rationalize the decisions that it automates to provide transparency into the decision making process that is out of a revenue managers hands and handled by the systems powerful A.I. engines. Hotelchamp launches Autopilot to help hoteliers leverage web data and user behavior to deliver personalized web experiences to boost conversion. Hotelchamp announced Autopilot technology, which wants to transform how hotels approach their online guest bookings and experience. Autopilot uses AI to deliver an adaptive experience that is tailored to every single website visitor, and is completely GDPR compliant. Using an A.I. engine to identify customer segments and audiences, Hotelchamp Autopilot can automatically serve the best information for each guest. Autopilot has been trained using pre-populated content, insights from the Hotelchamp data science team, and millions of A/B test impressions. Using this knowledge and live insights from the hotel’s website, Autopilot recognises and personalizes the website experience in real-time to convince visitors to book direct. All Hotelchamp tools can now be controlled by Autopilot, meaning the system will only deploy the right tools at the right time to the right audience. This process happens in real-time and is entirely personalised to each individual website visitor and moment in the booking phase. Crave Scheduler enables hotels to send targeted automated messages generating $5,000/mo in late checkouts. With the amount of times mobile comes up in conversation and the media, you might think BYOD (bring your own device) is the only way to go but the reality is there are lots of occasions where hotels just simply don’t have the ability to get a guest’s contact info or get them to download an app. Crave Interactive has a unique, and near unavoidable, position in the guest’s periphery with its in room tablets that see upwards of 90% guest engagement. At ITB, Crave announced a new feature called Crave Scheduler that puts a unique spin on automation allowing hotels to set rules to send target messages to guests. One of the prime use cases that Crave customers have been taking full advantage of is timed late checkout offers which have seen upwards of $5,000 month in revenue at Crave hotel partners who received early access to the feature. UpsellGuru announced "Auto Pilot" which automates the entire up-selling process. Upsell Guru now sends targeted emails, calculates the dynamic minimum and maximum upgrade bidding prices, sets up the system to decide which offers to accept and when, updates the PMS - all fully automated not requiring human interaction. The new feature allows hotels to up-sell their rooms & ancillary services without moving a finger. This saves hotels plenty of time and allows them to use the system without having to log-in on a daily basis. They’re initial trial was successful with a British chain of 30 hotels where they achieve GBP 65,000 per month in up-selling revenue without any manual human work. Quicktext showcased its website chatbot to help guests find answers faster while unlocking $140,000 in requests per 100 rooms. With Quicktext, guests can book at your hotel through a conversation (on various channels like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Website Live Chat and SMS), something that has been mainstream throughout Asia (specifically China) via WeChat but has been slower to catch up in the West. The most practical use of chatbots is on a hotel website where prospective guests often get lost looking for basic information. A chatbot can answer critical questions instantly like “how far is your hotel from the convention center?”, “what is the best way to get from the airport to the hotel on public transportation?” and “can we add a cot to our room?”. This helps shorten the time needed to research the hotel and in turn increases conversion into your booking engine flow. Humanise.AI had Gem on display boasting automation of 80% of inquiries. Humanise.AI announced automated web-chat for hotels ensures that guests get an immediate response most of the time, but can still summon a member of hotel staff when needed. When hotels use human-only web-chat systems, they often struggle to respond to enquiries quickly enough, meaning guests leave the web site before they get a reply. With Humanise’s Gem product, they claim to automate ~80% of enquiries, radically improving the guest service and improving conversion-ratios for direct bookings. SABA put its multilingual guest request and F&B ordering chatbot on display. SABA Hospitality Technology announced a bespoke and fully automated hospitality chatbot (SABAGuest Request). This multilingual chatbot and digital F&B ordering platform provides guests with a seamless communication experience, without the need for downloads. It provides operators the opportunity to eliminate language barriers, provide instant answers to all guest requests and enquiries, and engage with guests on their preferred communication platform: messaging. This allows for the redeployment of staff away from call centers and other low-value repetitive tasks, to engage in meaningful guest interactions that help build long-term guest loyalty. Our take on breaking down silos in hotel organizations It’s no secret that hotels have historically suffered from siloed organizational departments because historically without better communication tools and access to data, teams were essentially on an island in their own physical locations. Technology companies are starting to realize that their products and tools can help hoteliers to become more effective by aligning departments around common goals, systems and data. At ITB we saw a lot of this happening as evidenced by a shift where CRM companies are starting to focus heavily on the operational applications of their guest data where historically that data has just been used for marketing purposes. Who's breaking down operational silos? TravelClick weaves Demand360 data into its Campaign Advisor toolkit to leverage market intelligence data to optimize marketing campaigns fostering collaborative efforts between revenue and marketing. TravelClick announced the addition of Demand360 to the Campaign Advisor toolkit. Building on last year’s email send time optimizer, Campaign Advisor now allows hoteliers to take the guesswork out of marketing by providing them with recommendations on when to run marketing campaigns based on predictive occupancy in the market. Demand360 is the hospitality industry’s competitive market intelligence product providing forward-looking reservation metrics and competitive share by segment and channel. Hoteliers using TravelClick’s GMS and Demand360 products will have access to current and projected occupancy data versus competitive sets to best identify the most valuable time periods to run campaigns, allowing them to avoid offering discounts and packages during peak market occupancy and place campaigns when they need it most. A huge pain point for hoteliers is knowing when to send promotions and emails to customers, as hoteliers do not have a clear picture of how their future occupancy compares with their comp set. It’s hard to determine the most valuable time to run a campaign. The Campaign Advisor and Demand360 integration, which is proprietary to TravelClick, takes guesswork out of the equation and enables hoteliers to leverage market data to feel confident that they are choosing the best time to run campaigns and capture demand. Serenata CRM announced Decision Maker, a solution that combines business intelligence with campaign management. Serenata Intraware's Decision Maker allows different users groups like owners, management, operations and marketing to view the same data but from different perspectives to get an optimal view of the hotel operation, identify potential problems and take corrective actions. The Decision Maker KPI dashboard gives a high-level insight into revenue, OTA share, loyalty contribution and other key metrics and trends. Other dashboards give subject matter experts from operations and marketing the ability to drill-down and identify the root cause for a problem and based on this insight create marketing campaigns using micro-segmentation to mitigate the problem without changing tools or breaking the workflow. Cendyn announced eNgage which brings marketing’s CRM data and customer profiles to front line operations teams bringing the gap between marketing and operations. Cendyn's next generation product empowers front-line and call center staff to instantly access guest profiles including historical guest feedback, membership information, brand-wide stays, social profile information and more. Used in conjunction with Cendyn’s eInsight hotel CRM, eNgage sits on top of a hotel’s property management system or call center application and intelligently guides staff to create authentic, meaningful encounters and upsell offerings based on guest history, preferences and loyalty status. This lightweight application can be accessed on any device and features configurable messaging prompts and data displays. Like all Cendyn products, eNgage integrates seamlessly with other hotel systems, utilizing an open architecture that ensures the accuracy and completion of guest information for all team members at every touchpoint in the guest journey. Cendyn’s eNgage solution allows hoteliers to provide the right approach to personalization for guests throughout their stay. eNgage brings to life all the data that hotels are collecting on guests and it displays it in real-time through an application window that always sits on top of the hotel PMS. For staff on the front-line, access to data instantly is critical for them to manage their workload and allows them to navigate every situation elegantly with customer service and upselling, so guests feel known and valued, not overly monitored. Fornova expands its business intelligence offering to create a cross department interface for data insights. Fornova announced that they recently acquired HotelsBI, a hotel Business Intelligence platform. With this acquisition, Fornova now caters to all roles and departments in the property and chain. With this acquisition, Fornova now has three product offerings; Distribution Intelligence, HotelsBI & eCommerce Optimisation. HotelsBI simplifies the process of analysing internal and external data sources thanks to simple, intuitive dashboards - enabling faster, data-driven decisions to optimize hotel performance. Revinate’s CRM is now being used by front desk staff and showcased the scalability of its platform on newly AWS servers. This shift allows Revinate to scale more efficiently and ultimately open guest data to new departments. Revinate showcased the capabilities that get unlocked when front desk staff and managers can access CRM data. MeetingPackage.com brings revenue management and pricing optimization to your sales team. The Company announced a partnership with IDeaS revenue solutions to bring real time dynamic pricing to meeting venues. When paired with MeetingPackage’s online booking engine for event spaces, this is a truly groundbreaking development providing hoteliers with real time insights to optimize pricing and a seamless, intuitive, flexible and real time booking experience. Our take on self service software in the hotel industry This is one of the trends that we’re most excited about at Hotel Tech Report. Freemium and free trials are ubiquitous in the software world but it’s not until recently that it’s broken into the hotel market. The challenge historically with hotel software has been that you need to ingest data from core systems like the PMS to make any software work; therefore, it’s hard to offer a free trial or self service. As the hotel software market moves this direction we’ll continue to see exponential upticks in innovation and sophistication. Another key reason that hotels don’t like trying technology is because even if they like the solutions that they try - they’re so busy that they don’t want to add one more thing onto their teams’ respective plates. Long complex implementations have stifled innovation for years and lead to a massive trust gap between buyers and sellers. At ITB, Oaky cracked the code on this problem by launching it’s simple onboarding wizard which helps hotels go live in just a few simple steps. Who's helping you take things into your own hands? Oaky’s new self service onboarding lets hoteliers start upselling in under 5-minutes. Oaky announced an onboarding wizard which allows hoteliers to go live themselves, by completing a few steps. This reduce onboarding time and effort, and allow hotels to buy Oaky from marketplaces and go live without human touch. Inside the wizard they’re putting together many millions of upsell moments, and predicting the optimal upselling set-up based on the type of hotel and its guests. From combining variables around the upsell, with data around the guest and the property - they suggest the optimal setup for the hotel (what deals to sell, which content, and so on) which also predict how much conversion and ancillary revenue guests that have not yet booked will spend using this setup. In today's revenue management, the room rate is often based on the room and not taking predictable revenue from segments into account. This upsell variable can impact the distribution decision and help hotels better price their rooms. When the revenue management system knows the upsell spend of a guest from various booking channels, they can deduct the distribution costs and end up seeing how to price their rooms for a more profitable booking. Some segments spend 20% on top of the ADR, which makes sense for the hotel to 1) have an upsell setup that allows for that, and 2) an RM strategy that takes it into account to acquire more of those (more profitable) guests. Atomize’s self service functionality lets hoteliers try out automated revenue management on their own time. Atomize showcased its advanced revenue management platform that has flexibility that allows hotels to control as much or as little as they’d like when it comes to revenue strategy. Atomize’s mobile first platform has been designed from the ground up with the idea that hoteliers should be able to go live and try it out without ever speaking with an Atomize rep. The company’s founder, Leif Jaggerbrand told us that he’s had clients come in that his team has never met from countries he’s never heard of. This dynamic is widespread in the broader SaaS industry and companies like Atomize are bringing this dynamic to hotels. Cloudbeds’ PIE bakes new revenue management capabilities native into the PMS. Cloudbeds announced PIE - Pricing Intelligence Engine. PIE is built directly into Cloudbeds hospitality management suite. It is seamlessly integrated with the entire Cloudbeds suite, including PMS, booking engine and channel manager. This helps hoteliers and hosts who want one easy-to-system to manage everything. Many of Cloudbeds’ clients have never used revenue management software before so this provides a lightweight way for them to get started making better pricing decisions. Our take on hotel software app marketplaces Marketplaces are nothing new to the software industry. The reality is that it’s impossible for one technology company to be the best at everything. Historically the hotel tech industry has taken a different approach where incumbents have tried to bolt all functionality into the PMS and maintain a closed architecture but that is rapidly changing as hoteliers are increasingly unwilling to work with closed vendors and sub-par tools. In response to the shift most forward thinking providers are taking towards open architectures, several innovative cloud PMS companies have taken note from tech darlings like Salesforce, Intuit and Apple by creating marketplaces. These marketplaces facilitate seamless integrations and eventually the ability to easily try new products with the click of a button making it easier than ever to find the best tools to grow your hotel business. Cloudbeds, Mews, Hotelogix, protel and Apaleo were the latest entrants into the marketplace space each launching their own native marketplace baked into their PMS empowering hoteliers to easily tap into a plethora of best-of-breed tools to grow their businesses right from their PMS. eRevMax was the first non-PMS marketplace on the market and Snapshot was next but SiteMinder and more recently BookingSuite are clear favorites in the race to marketplace dominance. Hapi is also taking a unique and differentiated approach by building a marketplace that is solution agnostic. Hoteliers should note that none of these marketplaces have gained significant traction from a demand perspective so the field is wide open. While the idea has been around for some years we are still in the early innings. Two-sided marketplaces require supply and demand to develop but those rarely happen simultaneously. Each of the players below has focused on signing supply/tech partners lately so it will be interesting to see which is able to deliver the best user experience and actually change the way hotels interact with their software. Who's who in the rise of marketplaces Cloudbeds Marketplace. On top of announcing its native revenue management tool, PIE, Cloudbeds announced the official rollout of its marketplace offering enabling its 20,000+ hotel clients to access a variety of best-of-breed 3rd party tools to mix and match to find the perfect fit. Mews Marketplace. In a blaze of glory Mews Systems continued its streak of creative conference displays to showcase its marketplace with this year’s theme of Pimp Your PMS (a parody of MTV’s Pimp My Ride) and its booth was cleverly referred to as ‘The Pitstop’. In true Mews style, each team member was adorned head-to-toe in race car pitstop jumpsuits with patches for various apps that are integrated into their marketplace. Touche team Mews, touche... Hotelogix Marketplace. Hotelogix Marketplace launched at ITB and is a one-stop shop for all the hospitality technology needs of a hotelier. It helps hoteliers find and evaluate best-in-class Hotel Technology products on a single platform. Hapi. Hapi is taking a unique and differentiated approach by building a marketplace that is solution agnostic. Why is this important? By being solution agnostic, Hapi's marketplace is freed from the confines of being locked into a single PMS. In fact, Hapi offers technology partners (ie marketplace apps) a way to normalize fragmented and messy data into a streamlined and unified structure opening up the potential to integrate to multiple PMSs (as well as various other hotel systems). Their marketplace offering enables partners to gain exposure to hotels on the platform and enables hotels to tap into other available systems that are connected to Hapi. Although Hapi is a smaller marketplace with only about 30 partners currently, its connectivity to multiple solutions from companies like Oracle, Infor and Salesforce signals a great deal of potential. apaleo. apaleo announced its One connection, where data from all pre-connected tools within apaleo's store is available directly within apaleo’s property management system. No switching between browsers or systems. It happens all too often that hoteliers start off their work day organized, and then somehow within a matter of hours (or sometimes even minutes!), end up with dozens of browser tabs open and many systems running. Especially for front desk staff, it takes tons of clicks and searching around to find the info they need, when they need it. It isn't pleasant. With apaleo One, all the info that hoteliers need is visible within apaleo's PMS, saving staff time and creating a more seamless journey for guests. protel Services Marketplace (SMP). While not quite its first appearance, protel proudly featured its services marketplace at ITB showing off its shiney new native ratings and reviews (syndicated from yours truly) to help hoteliers research, vet and discover the best tools to grow their businesses without leaving the protel app store. Pretty awesome! From the protel team, “The SMP empowers protel customers to choose from a variety of certified and evaluated 3rd party technology vendors covering all the essential hospitality technology services, such as RMS, CRM, PMS and POS. In other words, it's THE App Store to start integration with protel. It's also the point of entry to integrations for any 3rd party vendor to showcase and offer their powerful services to our 14,000 customers around the globe.” The protel SMP marketplace features reviews from Hotel Tech Report to deliver transparency for its users BookingSuite App Store (by Booking.com). BookingSuite unveiled its app store for the first time where hoteliers can use single sign on (SSO) to activate new apps. Many hoteliers are naturally wary of relying more on Booking.com or giving them more data, but overall it is a clear strategic move by Booking to provide more value to hoteliers to mend their often shakey relationship. BookingSuite’s approach is similar to the way LinkedIn, Google, Amazon and Facebook allow users to login to 3rd party apps with their APIs. The difference between BookingSuite and these other tech giants is that they want to take commissions (into perpetuity) from technology vendors. The commission vendors pay in the BookingSuite App Store is 25% for year 1, then 15% into perpetuity. If you are a vendor with an average monthly revenue of $800 per hotel and a 7 year average customer lifetime that means you'll be paying Booking $2,400 in year 1 and $10,080 over the duration of the contract to acquire that single customer. In our opinion, this fee will eventually be passed to the end user (hoteliers) over time and is just another form of integration fee. Google and LinkedIn give away this service free to foster innovation and strengthen their respective platforms. So while BookingSuite’s tech is innovative we’re concerned about their commercialization model and understand why hotels and vendors might want to remain cautious. eRevMax. eRevMax rolled out updates to its LiveOS platform that allows its hotel clients to centralize the usage of various software applications into one interface using single sign-on. While the LiveOS platform was one of the first to offer a marketplace offering, they seem to have fallen behind the competition with a limited range of apps available but seems to be pushing forward continuing to try to continue to explore the potential of LiveOS as a central operating platform, that can plug in various systems to help hotels make critical and time saving decisions across multiple systems without having to piece the data together manually. Our take on wiring up meeting spaces for easy booking During November’s Phocuswright event Hotel Tech Report tried to book the rooftop of several hotels for a client event. In order to book the spaces we had to go to the hotel websites and fill out a form, then wait for responses from sales reps. Some websites didn’t even have a form so we had to manually email reps based on contact info from their website (that we had to dig around for). Out of the 5 desired locations which were some of the hottest hotels in downtown Los Angeles - not a single one responded within 24 hours and 1 didn’t respond to our inquiry at all. Then to make matters worse, by the time they responded the first question was ‘how much budget do you have to spend’. Needless to say, this was a pretty horrible customer experience so we decided to take our business elsewhere and avoided hotels all together for our event. Imagine if you had to write to a hotel to inquire about availability. Now imagine that when you wrote, the hotel wrote back asking “what’s your budget?” The idea is absurd. Hotel websites and OTAs have wired up the industry to make sure this would never happen again. It starts the relationship off with a bad taste for the customer and completely undermines the intended nature of a collaborative ally that a sales manager should be for any client but especially given that they are a prospect who intends to spend thousands of dollars to throw an event. Meetings and events contribute $325B of direct spending in the U.S. alone (source AmexGBT) - so it’s about time this highly profitable inventory got wired up. Who's laying the groundwork to wire up meeting venues? MeetingPackage.com brings channel management and a seamless booking experience to your meeting space inventory. Meeting Package’s Joonas Ahola Joonas also announced his firm’s launch of a meeting space channel manager which allows inventory and rates to syndicate not just on a hotel’s website but across a myriad of 3rd party channels that have popped up to help them find new demand to generate additional revenue . Meeting spaces today can be booked on platforms like AirBnB as well as on niche marketplaces like Breather, Bizly and VenueBook. Venuesuite launches demand side marketplace to help venues and planners work better together online. Announced its direct booking platform (or marketplace) that helps venues & planners work better together online. The platform significantly simplifies the RFP process and sourcing of venues. The time required to book a venue for a meeting/event is reduced from days to minutes. Both planners and venues. It enables planners to find venues fast, book instantly and configure meetings & events 24/7. For venues it generates more revenue via qualitative leads & higher conversion rates as prices are shown upfront to bookers. Within 10 months 1,000+ spaces available in The Netherlands via dedicated venue partners who've joined the new way of online (platform) working. Other notable product launches and showcases Business Intelligence Pegasus announced its Business Intelligence Platform. It's difficult, if almost impossible to transform raw data into actionable insights - it pains most hotel companies, particularly independents. Pegasus BI combines guest data from multiple sources and deliver it with automated intelligence and an easy-to-understand dashboard. Hoteliers can gain immediate insights that allow their properties to increase bookings, revenue, occupancy and profitability. Revenue Management RevControl announced rate recommendations calculated by room type separately. This announcement is specifically meant for hostels where the rate difference between private rooms and individual beds in a dormitory is huge and unrelated. It is now possible to use a separate set of business rules for each room/bed type and link each room/bed type to its exact match at hotels in de comp set to get individually calculated rate recommendations for each room/bed type. RateBoard announced revenue management modules for leisure hotels. RateBoard offers a special module for leisure hotels, taking historical holiday seasons from different countries, matching this data with the booking window of the different nations and optimizing the forecast due to this important factors. HotelPartner Yield Management announced the implementation of success-based billing models. The implementation of success-based billing models aligns incentives between HotelPartner and clients since they don't charge new partners without having achieved added value in regards to room revenue. This is an interesting and innovative approach - we're curious to see how it works as demonstrating uplift is a really difficult thing to prove given market fluctuations and the massive # of variables that can't be controlled. Marketing Travel Tripper announced Real Time Ads & Metasearch Direct. These tools help hotel marketers minimize costs and maximize RoAS on their digital marketing campaigns. Real Time Ads is the first digital marketing tool that allows hotels to advertise—in real time—their rates, availability, popularity and more right on their Google search ads, delivering double the conversion rates. With Metasearch Direct, Travel Tripper has helped hotels generate 38x their spend on metasearch with our direct connect to Google Hotel Ads. Their unique commission model means that independent hotels with smaller budgets can play on the metasearch channel without any risks—and for less cost than an OTA commission. Travel Tripper announced ADA Monitoring Platform. Many hotels in the U.S. are in constant risk of ADA compliance lawsuits simply because their websites are not accessibility friendly. Not only does the TT Web team offer full-service ADA audits on websites, but they also have built out an automated ADA monitoring platform that performs website checks in real time to ensure compliance. Hotel marketers are immediately notified whenever an element of their site falls out of the accessibility guidelines (for example, lack of alt tags, color contrast etc.) Serenata CRM & IgnitionOne launched a next generation CRM partnership that combines both historic guest information combined with real-time intent data. By tracking and scoring website visitors interests and propensity to convert hoteliers can tailor messaging, content and offers, both on the website and in the booking engine accordingly to this data. The scoring technology also supports new guest acquisition by identifying unknown website user that show high interest in a hotel property or a specific offering from the hotel. Based on the interest and score, the visitor can be prompted with personalized newsletter invite. This approach has proven to massively increase the number of newsletter signups, something necessary for many hotels after recent introductions of privacy regulations like GDPR that eliminated a large part of the hotels marketable profiles due to lack of marketing consents. The newly created newsletter subscription profiles are enriched with the interests and intent information from the IgnitionOne scoring engine monitoring the hotel website and can be used for marketing purpose complementing the historical data points already stored in Serenata CRM. With Serenata CRM and the real-time intent triggered personalization powered by IgntionOne you can deliver a true personalized experience for your guests and website visitors to drive incremental revenue. Integrator announcements HAPI announced it’s recent Salesforce integration following a 2-way oxy connect with Oracle’s PMS dailypoint™ - software made by Toedt, Dr. Selk & Coll. GmbH announced a data cleansing solution which allows hotels to automatically clean, correct, and de-duplicate their guest profiles and push that data back to the hotel’s PMS. The fully automated, AI-based process includes hundreds of steps, reviewing all key data points within the guest profile. It removes duplicate profiles, corrects mistakes made from human errors, corrects addresses for more than 240 countries and ultimately creates one single, accurate guest profile for each guest. This data is stored in the central data management solution by dailypoint™ as well as pushed to the hotel’s PMS so that data is accurate across all key sources. Operations Betterspace GmbH announced Smart Check-out feature with digital invoice and the Self-Ordering function, both for the digital guest directory iQ Tab.The Smart Check-Out enables guests to comfortably check out of the hotel and allows them to view and split their invoice digitally and receive it by e-mail. Thanks to this feature, long waiting lines at the reception desk are a thing of the past. Self-Ordering for the digital guest directory gives guests the opportunity to order food and drinks with the digital guest directory - without leaving the hotel room. Orders are sent directly to the hotel restaurant Both features simplify operational workflows, optimize processes and thus relieve staff and relax guests. This reduces administrative/bureaucratic efforts, saves time and money and the time saved can be devoted to what is important: hotel guests. Customer Alliance announced Customer Experience Hub extending their surveying capabilities from solely focused on post-stay reputation and review gathering into the full guest journey. The Customer Experience Hub allows hoteliers to customize automated messaging based on events through the guest journey to collect feedback and pipe it in real time to the department or team member who can act on it to recover fast, improve the guest experience and in-turn--improve review sentiment and gss scores. Travel Appeal announced Mobile Coach, a mobile app designed for on-the-go managers. By combining artificial intelligence with human experience, the Coach is able to detect even the most granular details from customer feedback. It’s the perfect solution for obtaining actionable insights about everything that really matters to a business. Review and operations management, made simple. The Coach app not only improves and simplifies business strategies, but helps users manage and respond directly to customer feedback - reviews, posts and photos published by customers are delivered directly to your mobile. Uncover what your clients really think to offer the best experience and maximize satisfaction. Live updates and a seamless user experience allow managers to track competitors and monitor brand reputation while also collaborating and assigning tasks to staff members. hotelkit GmbH announced a HOUSEKEEPING module. Their existing platform is used by over 40.000 hotel employees in more than 800 hotels worldwide. This new solution now focuses on all housekeeping needs and guarantees high-quality housekeeping standards through fully digitalized processes. Through an easy and modern paper-free task allocation, housekeeping processes are way more efficient. The workload can be distributed efficiently according to an employee's time and skill credits, thus, productivity is enhanced. Through digital checklists, quality standards are significantly high and the entire cleaning process can be monitored easily through real-time tracking. Smooth and efficient housekeeping routines are a crucial aspect in hotels, as cleanliness is particularly important when it comes to the guest decision making process. However, typical housekeeping processes within hotels are still highly inefficient. In order to be able to substantially increase guest satisfaction, hotelkit HOUSEKEEPING was developed together with several luxury hotels - among them the Sacher Hotel Vienna and Salzburg, and the Radisson Blu Hotel Hamburg Airport. As all processes are digitized, fast reactions, increased quality standards, and high guest satisfaction can be guaranteed! Knowcross announced PANIC BUTTON. Hospitality workers are subjected to an inordinate amount of sexual harassment and abuse, which is why as a technology provider we considered the introduction of Panic or Safety Buttons as our way of giving back to the industry. Panic buttons give hospitality workers the ability to summon assistance when needed. PANIC BUTTON helps hotels to provide a safer working environment by instant reporting of harassment complaints by hospitality workers by using technology such as GPS and Bluetooth. Guest Applications & Devices Criton announced multiple property group functionality which was piloted with London-based Cheval Residences became the first brand to adopt the new product. Created specifically for the hospitality sector, the new product gives accommodations providers with multiple properties a platform to include information on each one within a single parent app. With locations across the capital city, luxury serviced apartment specialist Cheval Residences are the first group to adopt the new technology with eight of their luxury properties contained within their new app. Group functionality is a game-changer for multi-property organizations like Cheval; enabling them to showcase the unique personality of each property while reinforcing their brand, increasing direct bookings and driving loyalty from new and repeat guests. GuestTraction announced online check-in to reduce queuing at Front Desk by moving check-in to pre-arrival. More than a third of guests polled (38%) indicated that a source of frustration was the front desk taking too long to complete requests.