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

Hotel IT & Security Software Articles

What is a PBX Phone System and How Does it Work for Hotels?

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 month ago

Your hotel's telephone system can be a costly burden or a beneficial asset. Even in a world where guests prefer to bring their own devices and may never pick up an in-room phone, your team will still need to connect with each other and the outside world. In fact, phone calls are still a strong business driver for many hotels! Whether you’re building out a new property or considering a tech upgrade, here’s what you need to know about PBX business phone systems for hotels.   What is a PBX Phone System? A Private Branch Exchange (PBX) is a private telephone network for your property (or company). It's a fancy way to say “business-grade phone system.” A PBX enables both internal and external dialing, so users can communicate with each other and the outside world. It provides features like extensions, hold music, call routing, hold queues, call conference and off-hours call management.  Traditional PBX telephony systems were analog, connecting to the Public Switch Telephone Network via buried landlines. We don’t recommend these! These systems lock you into either the hardware or the vendor, limiting your options for upgrades and often costing you more money. Plus, there’s so much value in going with a modern PBX system that uses digital connectivity to provide business-boosting functionality. While PBX is a legacy technology that began by leveraging analog switchboards but most hosted PBX systems used by hotels today use digital networking protocols (IP) for internal calling referred to as IP PBX.  An alternative to virtual PBX is VoIP, which stands for 'voice over the internet'. Before we dive into those features and benefits, it’s helpful to contextualize the structural advantages of a modern PBX compared to a traditional landline system: Connectivity: PBX streamlines internal communication. You can connect as many different lines internally as you would like, all without having to pay the per-line cost of traditional connectivity. You’ll also enjoy high-definition calls and more options to connect with colleagues and customers, as well as on-property guests.  Reachability: Direct internal communications preserves reachability among colleagues.  The system won't route calls to an outside switch and then back into the organization, which makes the system more reliable -- and your colleagues more reachable.  Flexibility. You can add or remove handsets without the burden of long-term costs per phone line. And you can more easily adjust your phone system to changing needs, and upgrade to new features over time.   How Does a PBX Phone System Work? Modern PBX systems rely on IP (or Internet Protocol) to communicate. IP PBX systems convert IP calls from digital to analog, so that they can be routed through traditional landline connections.  Since the systems use internet broadband to communicate rather than fixed copper landlines, there are more digital features available that align with how we do business today. An IP PBX system uses the same Local Area Network that your property uses to connect its computers, so each phone will connect via Ethernet (rather than phone jack). For older properties, this may require upgrades to Ethernet-enabled phones; most modern phones are capable.  Similar to other elements of your property’s connectivity infrastructure, you have two options for your IP PBX, virtual/hosted or on-premise. The virtual option is hosted by your vendor and the on-premise option is located on-site.  The decision between cloud-based and on-premise is guided by cost and complexity. Smaller properties with simpler systems will likely benefit more from virtual systems, which are easier to set up, have low upfront costs, and predictable monthly fees. Larger properties with greater complexity may prefer the proximity and control of on-premise, as the additional setup costs and ongoing maintenance fees are worthwhile tradeoffs for increased access and more customization.    How Hotels Use a PBX Phone System Even as guests rely more on their mobile phones to communicate with staff, hotel phone systems are the communications backbone for most hospitality operations. From the front desk to the back office and the guest rooms, the system is used across the hotel. The front desk is the communications hub of the hotel. The phone system allows guests to reach out to the front desk -- and some systems also display the guest’s name to the front desk agent, aiding personal greetings. The system also empowers the front desk to set automated reminders (such as wake-up calls) and offload tedious tasks. With a digital operator, the phone system can also route calls to other departments (such as housekeeping and room service) so the front desk can tend to other tasks. The back office is also a heavy user of the phone system. Your sales team will have dedicated extensions, as well as digital voicemail that can be transcribed directly to email. Your hospitality phone system can also handle faxes so that your team can receive booking confirmations from intermediaries. Staff can set “do not disturb” mode and route phone calls to mobile phones automatically if they are off property. The guest experience benefits from a modern phone system in multiple ways. Of course, there’s the in-room phone that offers a direct line to staff, and most modern systems support multilingual messaging. But there’s also a major advantage that’s hidden from view: integrations. A legacy landline system performs just a couple of main functions: calls and voicemails. Replacing a limited use system with something that is more flexible means that you can build a  communications infrastructure that accommodates guest preferences. For instance, you could extend your property’s telecommunications infrastructure to support guest smartphones, extending their coverage while on-property. Other useful integrations: the ability to enter PMS codes from the guest room to update room status and availability, connecting to on-property WiFi for seamless billing.     What to Look For in a PBX Phone System For Hotels Choosing the best PBX system for your hotel comes down to how you plan to integrate it into your existing communications flow. The best way to think about a hotel phone system is to view it as another application in your technology stock. It should integrate with everything else, allowing you to leverage its full functionality.  Here are a few things to consider: Integrations: Since IP PBX leverages the internet, it can integrate and interchange between different tools. We recommend doing a quick sketch of different communications flows to understand how you may want to implement IP PBX.  One of the biggest use cases is a direct integration with your CRM so that you can log calls and make sure that sales teams are following up quickly with prospects and customers. Digital Operator: Your PBX system is your digital operator, routing calls and helping guests get to the right person. Emergency calls: When guests call emergency numbers, the front desk should be immediately notified.  Ring Groups: As you're well aware, things can get busy rather quickly at the front desk and in the back of house. The ability to set up ring groups, which will ring multiple phones until one of them answers, keeps your team on top of guest requests and other essential communications. Intelligent Call Routing: Intelligent call routing efficiently connects calls to the right person. For example, you may want to schedule call routing so that calls go to one person (like the GM) during business hours and to another person in off-hours (like a Night Manager).  Fax: Many hotels still need access to a fax. A PBX system can accommodate that need, providing inbound and outbound faxing, all integrated into a single telecommunications product.  Voicemail-to-Email: One of the most dramatic productivity boosters provided by a modern PBX system is voicemail to email. The system will transcribe your voicemails into emails, which can then be routed to the appropriate Dept. Or, you could have an external resource (such as a virtual assistant or corporate office) prioritize and assign tasks based on voicemails. Toll-free Services: If you use a toll-free line for inbound calls, be sure to find a vendor that can adequately support it.  In-room features: Consider whether or not you want to include others, such as a do not disturb mode or automated wake-up calls. Many hospitality PBX phone systems provide functionality that improves the guest experience and eliminates some of your staff's day-to-day responsibilities. Admin interface: The last thing any of us need is another tool that’s complicated to administer.  it can be extremely frustrating if you always have to contact the vendor to make small tweaks changes. Look for a browser-based administrative portal or other account admin interface that simplifies self-service. You should be able to add and remove users, monitor usage, and manage your account from a centralized dashboard.  Reporting: Look for full detail call records and accounting so that you have a holistic view of how the system is being used at your property. Detailed reporting keeps you informed and able to optimize the experience for both staff and guests. Security: Only choose vendors with great reputations. If you go with an IP PBX, which uses your property’s internet connectivity, you’ll need strong security to prevent unwanted intrusions -- and massive headaches. When it comes to security, trust recommendations from colleagues above everything else. When in doubt, go with your gut!   A modern PBX system can become part of your property’s omnichannel communications strategy. It allows you to communicate with guests on their preferred channel and to keep relevant information synced across channels so you can maintain a holistic view of your guests. There’s a lot that a digital phone system can unlock for your property!  

What is a Chargeback? How to Reduce Risk at Your Business

by
Hotel Tech Report
2 months ago

Payment processing is a significant expense for hotels. And it often feels like more of a tax rather than a payment paid for a service. This dynamic is the most visible when it comes to chargebacks, which are when a consumer disputes a transaction as invalid, inaccurate or fraudulent. Given the contentious nature of these types of disputes, they're unpleasant for both  travelers, who may harbor negative sentiment around “shady” payment practices, and hotels, who must invest time and attention to fight fraudulent chargebacks. The cost of chargebacks is real: merchants lost 4.4% of revenue to chargebacks in 2019, due to chargeback fees ranging from $20 to $100. And that doesn’t even include the time you spent managing the dispute! Here’s what you need to consider when reducing chargeback pain at your hotel.   What's a Chargeback? Chargebacks are a part of the payment processing process that generally happens after a traveler has checked out of your property and sees an unknown or inaccurate charge appear on the bill. A chargeback occurs when a traveler disputes a charge with their card issuer or bank, which then triggers an investigation into the validity of the charge. Chargebacks can also happen due to processing errors (such as charging a card twice) or fraudulent activity identified by credit card processors. Typically, a chargeback occurs when a customer sees what they believe is a fraudulent transaction on their credit card statement.  They then open customer disputes on those credit card transactions.  The acquiring bank or issuing bank (i.e. credit card companies like Visa, Mastercard and American Express) then opens an investigation into the transaction as a consumer protection for members of their card network given rampant credit card fraud.  The customer then provides compelling evidence such as identity theft, incorrect amounts and charges, etc.   The chargeback process is initiated by the cardholder, who disputes a transaction. [Source]   Since chargebacks are seen as a protective layer against sketchy merchants, customer-initiated chargebacks are usually approved pending further investigation. This puts the onus on your hotel’s finance team to prove that the charge is legitimate. If the charge is proven legit, the funds will be reversed and sent back to your hotel. So you'll be made whole --  but it will not compensate for the amount of time spent fighting the potentially fraudulent charges. If the chargeback is valid, then the customer keeps the money and you’ll pay a chargeback fee to compensate the bank for its dispute management costs. The actual amount of this fee varies; it depends heavily on your chargeback ratio, or how many chargebacks your hotel receives in comparison to revenue. The higher your ratio, the higher the fees. You’ll pay more simply because you’ll be a higher risk merchant.     The rise of virtual cards has also impacted chargebacks for hotels. Virtual cards are meant to be used for a specific amount, trip, or timeframe, or only for a single use. In travel,  Virtual cards have become the primary means of payment for travel booked through corporate travel agents and even OTAs, like Expedia. There are also several consumer services, such as Privacy.com, that enable consumers to use  virtual cards  online purchases. Virtual cards complicate chargebacks, as the cards are not directly tied to a specific person. Rather, the issuing entity must be the one to manage the chargeback.  This can lead to chargeback costs that are even greater than standard credit cards, sometimes up to 2% more. So, even though virtual cards are nearly fraud proof, they can still increase costs.   The Most Common Reasons for Chargebacks Most chargebacks aren’t legitimate because consumers often misuse the chargeback process. The reason? They don’t want to confront the merchant directly. And, since it’s simple to do online without having to talk to somebody, it’s easy and avoids confrontation. This is called “friendly fraud” and it makes up the bulk of chargebacks. In one survey,  81% of customers said they contacted the bank before dealing directly with the seller.” Another estimated that 86% of chargebacks are actually friendly. This adds up to a significant burden on merchants, with 34% of merchants saying they had experienced friendly fraud, costing anywhere from $20 billion to $31 billion. And, with friendly fraud increasing at 41% every two years, hotels need a proactive strategy to keep a lid on chargeback costs.   Analysis showing the real impact of chargebacks on merchants like hotels.    Thankfully for hotels, it's much easier to prove that a service has been delivered when compared to ecommerce businesses. There are no damaged packages or delayed deliveries, and most people using a stolen credit card are hesitant to show up for a hotel stay. However, chargebacks can still be a significant cost per day --  and a giant headache -- for hotels.   How to Reduce Chargebacks at Your Hotel The more chargebacks you have, the higher your processing fees. So it's in your best interest to take a strong stance against fraudulent chargebacks and prevent artificial inflation of your property’s processing costs. And it’s not always a sureshot at winning a chargeback dispute; in fact, only 18% reported winning at least 60% of their chargeback disputes -- pretty terrible odds for the average merchant. Here are a few tactics for reducing valid (and fraudulent) chargebacks. Provide itemized invoices. Whether it's a printout at the front desk, sliding an invoice under the guest’s door, or sending an email right at checkout, have a clear process to share itemized invoices with your guests.The best time to fix any overcharges is while the guest’s still on property. Once home, it’s much easier for them to initiate a dispute -- and reduce your profit margin from that booking! Match payment to ID. One of the simplest ways ro reduce fraud is to verify that a government-issued ID matches the payment card.  Even if a reservation was paid for online, there’s value to verification when it comes to potentially documentation for a future chargeback.  Monitor your chargeback ratio. A higher-than-average ratio signals to processors that you may be a high-risk merchant. The higher the risk, the higher the fees. For example, Visa has an acceptable ratio of 0.9% and 100 disputes per month. A rising chargeback ratio could indicate that there’s something failing in your billing operations -- or that your hotel is being targeted by bad actors. Be thorough and prepared. You never know which transaction may trigger a chargeback, so keep good records. You need to have clear proof to respond to any disputes. Save a copy of the sales draft, folio, or rental agreement -- especially one that has been initiated or signed by the customer in question. All folios/receipts should be itemized, with the date and transaction amount. Keep records for 3 years. Most card issuers require a 13-month retention timeframe, at the minimum. Discover requires two years and American Express requires three. Make sure to keep your records at least this long. Digital copies may be accessible, But be sure to check your agreements to be sure.  Respond quickly. Chargebacks are an unpleasant chore. But don’t avoid them because there’s a time limit for responses. Each issuer has its own process, so get familiar and stay on top of it. You automatically forfeit the revenue if you don't respond on time --  even if you have the documentation to prove validity! Train your staff. Incorrectly entered payments or inaccurate bills can cause costly chargebacks. Make sure that you train new staff well and periodically refresh the team’s awareness of proper payment processing procedures.  Know your chargeback codes. Each issuer has codes for specific chargeback reasons. Make sure that you (or someone on your finance team) is familiar with each of these codes; that way, you can be sure to orient your dispute documentation around the specific reason for the chargeback. Each chargeback diverts staff labor that could go to more productive uses and can also reduce your revenue. These are two undesirable outcomes that should be avoided at all costs. Instead, protect your hotel with strong operations and clear procedures, tackling chargebacks with a standardized, thoughtful approach to reducing chargebacks.  

What are the Geopolitical and Cyber Risks in Hospitality?

by
Hotel Tech Report
4 months ago

Nobody is immune to hacking and cyber attacks.  Almost all major hotel chains and tech companies have been hacked in recent years.  It’s not just the hotel industry either - some of the biggest data breaches in history have been inflicted on the most advanced tech companies in the world like Adobe, LinkedIn and eBay. As hoteliers we don’t have time to take advanced online cybersecurity courses or go back to college for a masters in geopolitics.  At the same time, we’re all increasingly afraid that our property is going to be featured in the next front page newspaper headline about hackers stealing data from the hotel industry. A guest data breach opens us to public scrutiny, damages our reputation and exposes our businesses to massive financial liability. While it’s impossible to outright prevent cyber attacks in today’s complex digital businesses environment, we’re all responsible for protecting guests and mitigating risks to the best of our abilities.  In order to help you protect your customers and your hotel business you’ll need to first understand a bit about the recent history of hacking. This article will inform you on the latest data security trends.  It will then apply these learnings to hotel technology decision making.  Specifically we’re going to focus on how to mitigate the risks associated with vendor selection through geographic screening, financial diligence and IT architecture.   Data Sovereignty and Cybersecurity Data sovereignty refers to the rights and storage of company and customer data based on geography.  The main purpose of data sovereignty laws is to secure data and ensure the privacy of populations from foreign threats.  Data sovereignty began to popularize around the time that GDPR laws went into effect.  The data privacy movement has largely been spearheaded by Europe with the United States and Canada as fast followers. Unsurprisingly, the lion’s share of data sovereignty debates have occurred between Western countries (U.S. & E.U.) and China.  China’s rapid rise to power has come with many reforms but the country still faces significant stigmas associated with its approach to data privacy and intelligence gathering. China has a different vision from the West (and many in the East) for the future of the internet: “China has pushed through dozens of regulations and technical standards that, in conjunction, bolster the government’s control of and visibility into the entire internet ecosystem, from the infrastructure that undergirds the internet, to the flow of data, to the dissemination of information online, to the make-up of the software and hardware that form the basis of everything from e-commerce to industrial control systems.” ~ The Atlantic So what does Xi Jinping and the PRC’s vision for the future of cybersecurity and data sovereignty have to do with your hotel business? In short, a lot.   Data Sovereignty and Hotel Tech Vendor Selection Back in March the hotel tech world was shocked when American President Donald Trump took action to block Shiji’s acquisition of U.S. property management system StayNTouch.  Some conspiracy theorists attempted to draw connections to Trump’s relationship with Oracle founder Larry Ellison in the wake of Shiji cancelling it’s longstanding reseller agreement with the firm. These theories fail to put the dispute into the larger context of Chinese data security issues in recent decades.  Trump’s blockage of Shiji’s deal is hardly the first straw drawn in the cyber dispute between the West and China.  Before we assess the perceived risks associated with U.S. and European hotels purchasing Chinese technology, let’s look at the history of data surveillance.   Understanding Risk in the Context of Huawei China is hardly the first government to develop a global monitoring system.  Back in the 1960s the American government began collaborating with the U.K. to develop a global system of satellites and software backdoors that would later expand to other allies such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand (Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance).  Global telecom powerhouse Huawei is widely regarded as China’s solution to the West’s multi-decade head start on surveillance technology. “Huawei’s corporate strategy – which is to say, the strategy of China’s intelligence services – is to grant massive discounts on the installation of a network’s less critical bits on the condition that Huawei can also install and maintain the cores,” says Peter Ziehan, a leading geopolitics strategist. In March of 2019, the Five Eyes alliance officially blocked Huawei’s ability to deploy 5G technology into its member states.  Additionally, the US government banned US firms from selling components to the firm.  For critics who claim that Trump’s reaction to the StayNTouch acquisition is a blunt overreaction, the Huawei response is orders of magnitude more severe. So why was this action taken against Huawei? “Huawei would have no choice but to hand over network data to the Chinese government if Beijing asked for it, because of espionage and national security laws in the country,” experts told CNBC.   A Stark Contrast with U.S. and European Tech There are signs of reform in China coming from the corporate sector but these signs are early at best.  Alibaba and Tencent have recently attempted to refuse sending data to Beijing (mostly unsuccessfully).  Notably, Alibaba is a minority investor in Shiji after making a $486M investment in the firm back in 2014. Similarly, WeChat made a decision not to store chat logs on its platform.  Many believe this was to remove the responsibility of sending on demand data to Beijing.  Others are skeptical of whether the firm is being honest in it’s claim that it doesn’t store chat data. Despite these small but important reforms, the paradigm within western democratic data sovereignty lies in stark contrast to that seen in China where U.S. and European companies are in constant litigation around user data with governments and visa versa - a testament to the checks and balances that preserve the rights and privacy of consumers.  These checks and balances are far from perfect, but they lay the groundwork for progress. In 2015, Apple famously declined the U.S. government’s request to unlock a criminal’s iPhone citing its unflinching focus on security and user privacy.  A letter from Apple to iPhone customers demonstrates just how difficult it is for U.S. authorities to violate consumer privacy: “The implications of the government’s demands are chilling. If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data. The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.” Apple Customer Letter Not only do U.S. and European companies have the ability to substantially fight their government in the interests of consumer privacy, but Western governments have demonstrated an interest in regulating the same for their corporate counterparts.  This fact has been highlighted numerous times in recent years.  Perhaps the highest profile case relates to U.S. federal regulators mounting a legal offensive against Facebook for it’s handling of customer data in the context of Cambridge Analytica.  EU regulators are perhaps even more aggressive in their protection of consumer data as evidenced by a lawsuit against Google resulting in a $57M fine. The important takeaway here is that U.S. and European companies can publicly (and aggressively) fight the government and visa versa.  In China, that still seems to not be the case and that likely poses a material risk to any U.S. or European hotel property that chooses to adopt Chinese technology.   It’s Just Business In our increasingly globalized economies xenophobia is dangerous and counterproductive.  The arguments being made here are far from that - these are important business considerations.  China has a vested interest in its new kind of patrolled internet and despite activists' criticism, those interests are well founded based on its desire to maintain domestic security and prevent internal social unrest. There are no “good guys” and “bad guys” in this debate, it’s merely a political and strategic dance between different interests and cultures.  Having said that, China’s national interests and world views are in stark conflict with those of the democratic Western countries in Europe and North America meaning that private businesses who consider adopting Chinese technology need to consider the implications of that conflict.  So what are the implications for private businesses like your hotel? As experienced hoteliers know, corporate meeting planners from major clients like Google manage a close knit group of hotel partners that are certified to host high profile meetings.  These partners are closely vetted based on security protocols.  Oftentimes these hotels need to  enter corporate code names into the PMS upon booking in order to maintain confidentiality and mitigate any potential risks. So if corporate groups like Google and Amazon require secure hotel meeting environments it’s no shock that the U.S. government demands the same.  The U.S. government is a major corporate group segment for hotels.  Given the steps taken by corporations like Google and Amazon to ensure secure meetings it’s no wonder that the Federal government doesn’t want China to have access to government worker data and government meeting information.  Additionally, China has a history of being linked to hotel industry hacking. In February of 2020 the United States Department of Justice formally charged four members of the Chinese military in connection with the 2017 Equifax hack leaking identifying information about millions of people in the U.S.  “The Equifax attack was explicitly linked to the Marriott and OPM breaches as part of the same larger operation. This was an extremely rare move — the U.S. rarely files criminal charges against foreign intelligence officers in order to avoid retaliation against American operatives — that underscored how seriously the U.S. government took the attack” writes the New York Times. Additionally there is evidence connecting China directly to the massive Starwood/Marriott hack,  “The cyberattack on the Marriott hotel chain that collected personal details of roughly 500 million guests was part of a Chinese intelligence-gathering effort that also hacked health insurers and the security clearance files of millions more Americans, according to two people briefed on the investigation.”  Security experts point out the fact that Starwood’s data leak was never released online for sale on the dark web.  They assert that if the hackers didn’t do this for the money, it’s highly probable that this was related to an intelligence gathering exploit.   How is Your Hotel Affected? There are many technical ways to mitigate these risks such as penetration testing, hiring a cyber security audit firm, securing WiFi networks and more.  The single most important thing that any hotel can do to mitigate cyber risk is to be diligent in hotel technology vendor selection. As we saw in the case of Starwood’s hack, Marriott ended up taking responsibility despite not being the responsible party at the time of the breach.  The same goes for your hotel.  Every manager and IT leader needs to understand their technology architecture, vulnerabilities and steps being taken to protect their guests.  Technology firms spend millions of dollars on engineering to ensure this security but it’s on hotel tech buyers to ensure that they’re asking the right questions and selecting the right vendors. Every hotelier needs to understand the data sovereignty of their systems.  It’s important to consider the risks of storing your guest data in China or other regions of the world that might be vulnerable to leakage, hacking or straight up confiscation by local governments. Another important facet to consider is the financial viability of your technology partners.  Businesses that are cash strapped or struggling often aren’t able to invest to the same level in cyber security and innovation which poses a risk.  SaaS stands for “software as a service” and while you might be “buying”tech today, the shrewdest buyers understand that they are buying into the future of that business including their product roadmap and investments in critical innovation to remain competitive.  Just last year, Drury Hotels was forced to notify guests of a security incident that occured on an undisclosed third party technology service provider involving information related to online booking sites. The best way to ensure that your hotel group does not become the next Drury Hotels is to perform extensive diligence on your vendors.  Where are they located? Where does data get stored?  Who has the rights to that data? How much have they invested in cyber security? What steps and protocols exist to ensure that your hotel’s data (especially sensitive guest data) is kept from malicious cyber attacks?  

Hospitality Innovation is Thriving Despite the Crisis (Q2 Innovation Report)

by
Jordan Hollander
2 months ago

Innovation is alive and well in hospitality. Don't believe us? Check out the 47 new hospitality innovations that we cover in this report.  In the age of coronavirus we all catch ourselves thinking that the world is coming to an end from time to time. Don't worry, this article has nothing to do with coronavirus (but it's hard not to address the elephant in the room these days). In order to keep this article COVID free, let's run a scenario analysis using Hotel Tech Report's Innovation Wager™.  The wager considers four alternate universes based on two axes.  On our X axis we consider two worlds: Scenario A considers optimal decision making if the hotel industry does not recover, Scenario B considers what to do if you believe that it will. On our Y axis we consider what happens if we improve the way we do business with new technology and processes.  The wager shows us that in any potential outcome, it's always in our interest to improve the way we operate our businesses.  The only unacceptable outcome is the one where the world does not come to an end and we do not improve our tech and hotel operations processes.   So the next question is how did we choose our Y axis (i.e. update my hotel's tech and operations)?  The math is simple, if your hotel group's breakeven is at 25-30% occupancy and you're currently running at 0% you are essentially racing against time to hit that occupancy.  Global travel demand is unfortunately out of your control, so what can you do to get there as quickly as possible? You can improve your margins to lower your breakeven occupancy by getting more efficient at your property.  For this you may explore technology like keyless entry or staff collaboration tools to help your slimmed down team do more with less.  You can sell long term group business today to bring deposit revenue in ahead of those bookings and for that you'll need airtight sales tech and processes.  You could also get more efficient at acquiring guests to hit that 25-30% occupancy rate faster. In this article, we showcase 47 hospitality innovations that have been launched in the crisis.  As you explore ways to improve your margins, get smarter at guest acquisition and more - this list can put you on the cutting edge.  We've divided the article into five categories: Revenue Management Innovations Marketing Innovations Operational Innovations Guest Experience Innovations Sales and Meetings Innovations     BONUS: Look for the contactless badge next to products in the innovation report to identify technologies that will help your hotel go contactless, boost your recovery efforts and prepare now for the inevitable changes that are coming.  The tools have functionality that will enable you limit human physical contact to pre-emptively prepare for new government regulations and even more importantly, guest expectations.   Q2 Innovations in Revenue Management   1. OTA Insight Market Insight Tool OTA Insight’s Market Insight tool offers a smarter way to predict demand and price your rooms accordingly. Market Insight gathers and analyzes data from hotel web searches, flight data, events, holidays, online reviews, weather forecasts, and alternative lodging inventory to give your revenue team location-specific insights segmented into different customer groups. Learn more about your target guest’s booking intent and use real-time market trends to capitalize on revenue opportunities before your competition. 2. SiteMinder Insights SiteMinder Insights allows hotels to be smarter about their sales and marketing strategies while maintaining their brand integrity. This tool has monitoring and reporting capabilities that provide hoteliers a single place to access clear and actionable data on their local market, business performance and guests. This integration can help hoteliers make more informed decisions about hotel pricing and distribution, based on impartial data, as well as reveal insights that help get ahead of the competition. 3. Infor Price Optimizator Infor Hospitality Price Optimizer (HPO) is a mobile-first app that helps hotels price their rooms in a more accurate and timely manner. The algorithms that drive the app replicate the approach the guest takes to book a room: the system data from star ratings, location, pricing, and reviews to select which hotels are the valid competitors that should influence the pricing decision. he system automatically detects seasons and events for a dynamic pricing solution that updates throughout the day as needed.   4. HotelIQ Monthly Forecasting HotelIQ has been working on a Monthly Forecasting & Budgeting Tool that can generate forecasts and budgets for up to 12 months at a time. The platform pulls your real-time PMS data to use as a baseline, automating the burdensome task of maintaining spreadsheets and forecasting by hand. Easily edit figures, track performance, and generate market segment level forecasts and budgets.   5. IDeaS RevPlan IDeaS RevPlan is a total revenue forecasting, planning and enterprise consolidation tool. RevPlan can automate scientific forecasting, budgeting and financial submission for your entire property – from rooms to food & beverage and other income revenue streams. Save time and manual effort while driving greater profitability: RevPlan provides hotels the ability to forecast accurately and precisely.   6. RateGain MarketDRONE RateGain is launching MarketDRONE, a new feature for its rate intelligence platform OPTIMA. MarketDRONE tracks intra-day rates and rate-plan changes by hotels in real-time. Whenever a competitive hotel makes a rate change, your revenue manager receives an alert. Hotels are constantly changing rates for existing plans and introducing new rate plans close to check-in-date to sell off their unsold inventory and maximize revenue. As such, a revenue manager, on an average, may lose $1,000 or more per day by not acting on these intra-day market changes in real-time. With MarketDRONE, revenue managers do not have to pull out rate shopping reports on a daily basis to make the strategic decisions. The instant alerts provide them the market insights on the fly and basis that they can take the recommended actions on the go.   7. HotelTime Instant Reporting HotelTime Solutions is debuting Instant Reporting, a reporting and forecasting tool that helps revenue managers working at multi-location properties get a clear picture on their distribution. It aggregates data on key metrics across different properties. This tool makes it easy to get accurate reports, merging revenue center statistics at the chain level.   8. Hotelchamp Demand Tracker Hotelchamp’s new demand tracker will give revenue managers insight into how much demand there is predicted for future stay dates in their hotel. Set up automatic alerts to be notified when demand increases for a specific stay date. Get insights for a specific demand period to better predict trends in revenue.   9. HotelPartner Synergy Model HotelPartner’s synergy model is a new service offering for individual hoteliers that combines manpower, technology, and expertise in one package. The firm will offer a revenue management tool as well as the team to use it; the synergy model offers a blend of consulting, technology, and a revenue management solution tailored to your property.   10. 5stelle Business Intelligence 5stelle* is introducing a new business intelligence tool that provides 18 interactive dashboards. Get reporting on your reservation lead time, month-to-date revenue and occupancy, RevPAR analysis, and more all in one place.   11. Fairmas Advanced Revenue Planner Fairmas Advanced Revenue Planner simplifies the planning and controlling of all hotel revenues, either by market segment or by account line item, on a daily or monthly basis. The platform is built for different user groups – from department managers who need to plan on the operational level, to revenue managers for a detailed view of the total hotel, and to the general managers who can refer to its consolidated view. The  Pickup Planning feature allows a different way of planning that may be a more realistic approach depending on the day-to-day situation (e.g., How many more rooms do I still need to pick up to achieve my goal?).     Q2 Innovations in Hotel Marketing   12. Revinate Guest Data Platform Revinate’s Guest Data Platform is another take on consolidating guest information to deliver the insights hotel managers can use to drive direct bookings, provide a great guest experience, and increase profit. The Guest Data Platform combines guest data into rich, unified profiles that can inform your sales and marketing campaigns.   13. SHR Maverick CRM SHR Maverick™ CRM by Sceptre Hospitality Resources LLC is a new CRM system that unlocks information from third-party providers. This CRM shows your hotel data about customers no matter where they booked: direct, or through an OTA. Maverick gives hoteliers access to clean, consolidated guest data, including user behavior and booking habits. The platform includes a loyalty and rewards platform and integrates with Windsurfer CRS, Windsurfer CRO, Windsurfer IBE, and a built-in Campaign Management Platform.   14. D-EDGE CRM D-EDGE launched Guest Management, a CRM tool that integrates with the brand’s existing CRS product. Guest Management offers hoteliers a way to centralize data from your PMS, CRS, website, and other sources into one guest profile. By consolidating all data about each guest in one place, your team can more easily send specific, customized offers to guests, driving guest satisfaction and loyalty. 15. Dailypoint Content Bot The dailypoint Content Bot is a tool which pushes email communication finally to an individual experience with each guest. The bot pulls data from guest profiles in dailypoint to select content pieces from a library, offering individualized, concierge-style recommendations based on each individual’s unique needs. Content Bot allows your marketing team to get hyper-focused with messaging. Send a newsletter customized per person, rather than per target group.   16. Suiteness OTA Distribution Suiteness launched a partnership with Booking.com for travelers to book connecting hotel rooms and suites through Booking.com. When connecting rooms are available, they are booked 3.3x more often than multi-bedroom suites in the same hotel. Customer segments like families and groups are heading to AirBnB in droves because they demand more space and don’t want to risk showing up at your property only to find out they can’t get connecting rooms. Give them peace of mind and you’re more likely to win their booking.   17. RoomRacoon Integrated Upselling RoomRaccoon is developing an integrated upselling tool for its hotel management system.  This will allow clients of its HMS to offer add-ons like breakfast or room upgrades prior to arrival.  While there are quite a few standalone upselling tools on the market, RoomRaccoon is one of the first HMS players to offer this functionality.   18. AskSuite Booking Engine Chatbot AskSuite’s latest integration syncs your booking engine with their chatbot to recapture a guest who may be having trouble booking directly. For instance, if a traveler tries to book a room on an unavailable date, the chatbot will automatically respond with a message that there are no rooms available and suggest the next earliest date with availability. Or, the chatbot can be set up to suggest a nearby property from the same chain that does have availability. This integration helps your reservation team work more productively, captures more direct bookings, and standardizes customer service messaging on your site. Asksuite is also in the process of building a Smart Chat Distribution tool that can matches a reservation agent to an open chat, helping large reservation teams coordinate their responses to individual customers. Your property defines specific rules – using triggers such as language, communication channel, type of inquiry, and more – and the algorithm uses these qualifiers to send an open request to the right customer service representative. The goal is to improve your property’s customer service and make it easier for your team to work efficiently.   19. Profitroom WebAssistant Profitroom’s WebAssistant is a new tool for creating and maintaining your hotel website. The tool is built specifically for the hotel industry, with templates designed to set up booking pages that drive direct bookings as well as unlimited data transfer and automated free updates. This website builder is an option for hotel properties that do not have the budget to work with a digital marketing agency to set up their site.   20. Quicktext Lead Generation Quicktext’s chatbot aims to improve your sales cycle by generating new leads for your sales team. When a customer engages with this chatbot, the program checks your CRM to see if this user exists; if they do, the tool will add any missing contact details and customer interests as determined through the chat interaction. If this is a new customer, the bot will upload insights into your CRM that can be used by your sales and marketing team to send more personalized offers and marketing messages. The Quicktext bot interacts with 9% of online visitors each month; if you have 3,000 visitors every month, Quicktext will create 270 new leads to whom your team can market.   21. myhotelshop GmbH Link Travel Ads myhotelshop GmbH recently launched Link Travel Ads, a metasearch marketing platform for hotel chains, booking engines, and hotel marketing agencies. This tool is built specifically for properties that have struggled to run, manage and report metasearch marketing campaigns. Link Travel Ads will take you through the process from start to finish. With this tool, one account manager can manage campaigns for more than 500 different properties, with reporting and invoicing all in one place.   22. Experience Hotel Dedupe Experience Hotel, like D-EDGE, is trying to solve the problem many hotels have: multiple entries for the same guest. Hotel brands that have multiple properties with multiple data sources (the restaurant, spa, reservation system, etc.) tend to have duplicate profiles for the same guest in their PMS. Experience Hotel’s approach is Unified Customer Repository (UCR), a system that can identify all the duplicates in your guest list and combine every guest's details in one single profile. This allows your team to see an entire guest history in one place, and use insights from multiple sources to deliver personalized messages and offers.   Q2 Hotel Operations Innovations   23. hotelkit Facility Management Hotelkit debuted a new Facility Management platform that enables maintenance teams to  plan, schedule, and track corrective and preventive maintenance tasks. The tool help maintenance managers allocate resources such as time, money, and employees more effectively, and can automate and oversee daily maintenance routines. Get data and reporting on energy consumption or wear and tear of equipment to predict future expenses.   24. Mews Online Check-Out Mews Systems now offers an online check out feature aimed at reducing lines at the front desk and streamlining your property’s operations. Guests can checkout online without having to stand in a queue before departure; the platform sends housekeeping an alert once the guest has left, and your revenue managers can start upselling early check ins. Mews Online Checkout gives time back to guests and hoteliers alike with essential automation to guests who are in a hurry and hotels who are trying to turn around rooms.   25. HelloShift Inventory Management HelloShift is introducing Inventory Management to systemize the process of ordering and maintaining your stock of hotel supplies – parts, tools, equipment, linen, guest amenities, and more. Store detailed information about your supplies (warranty, brand, model, etc.), automate reordering, and reconcile inventory levels with regular checks. Reduce error that can lead to over and under-stocking, and reduce costs associated with ordering the wrong amount of supplies.   26. Bookboost Multi-Property Inbox Bookboost Guest Messaging added an all-in-one inbox with multi-property function that integrates messages from a number of channels into one inbox. Manage messages from your website, email, Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, and more in one platform. This allows one team member to oversee one unified inbox – a big gain in efficiency, especially for multi-property hotels.   27. Sertifi eConfirmations Sertifi eConfirmations allows travel companies to send payment digitally to travel suppliers (e.g., your hotel). Receive corporate credit card payments, virtual card payments along with the corresponding payment instructions, and guest information, such as check-in time and room preference, all at once – quickly and securely. All payment data is tokenized and transferred in a PCI compliant manner. Offer a smooth, hassle-free payment experience for corporate travelers.   28. Beekeeper Task Management Beekeeper’s Whispr Partnership will help frontline workers learn their job duties more quickly and help add consistency to your operations. Whispr transmits “motivational audio messages”, as well as work instructions in your employee’s preferred language through Beekeeper’s operational communication platform. Facilitate communication between your housekeeping team and management in an innovative and authentic way.   29. Telkonet Ecoinput Telkonet introduces EcoInput, a simple way to save energy and reduce your costs. EcoInput turns any light switch into an energy management device. Using the Zigbee wireless protocol, lighting can be controlled locally – e.g., guests can use the light switch as normal – or remotely via software or mobile control. Add sustainability and energy savings to your property without sacrificing guest experience.   30. Hoxell Quality Operations Hoxell has a new tool called Quality Operations. With Quality Operations, members of your team can send messages, create and assign tasks, and digitize workflows to improve productivity. The platform aims to streamline housekeeping activities, create direct communication channels, and improve reporting by reducing friction in communication and knocking down siloed reporting structures.   31. Mister Booking Payment Automation Mister Booking’s Payment Automation feature offers a simple way to process payment from your Hotel Management System. All credit cards collected as guarantee from OTA or booking engine can be verified and pre-authorized directly from the PMS. Automate advanced payments for all non-cancellable and non-refundable reservations, according to their payment conditions. It will save your team time by automating the administrative burden of payment verification.   Q2 Guest Experience Innovations   32. Crave AppLess Mobile Crave unveiled AppLess™ Mobile, a tool that gives guests access to guest services through location-specific QR codes. Guests simply scan a QR code and choose from the services you offer. Create multiple custom QR codes and post them at different points throughout your property: for instance, a QR code for ordering drinks at the bar, a QR code for catering in a meeting room, a QR code for more towels by the pool. AppLess™ enables frictionless digital experiences for consumers to access services on their own devices, without the need to download a mobile app. Includes payment technologies such as Apple Pay and Google Pay.   33. SuitePad Premium Docking Station SuitePad has two new products to share, the SuitePad Premium Docking Station and the SuitePad 10" Tablet. The SuitPad 10 is a premium version of their previous model, featuring a 1920 x 1200px resolution screen, larger battery for longer use, and 2GB of RAM for smoother content delivery. The docking station includes new features such as a bluetooth speaker, in-room presence sensor, and telephone handset. These features increase your property’s ability to send offers to guests at the right moment, and provide a premium in-room technology experience.   34. Volara Google Interpreter Volara introduced Google Assistant Interpreter Mode for Hospitality, a partnership with Google that facilitates real-time conversations with guests through instant translation. The tool translates between 29 different languages to help your staff welcome guests from diverse language backgrounds. Improve the guest experience and solicit reviews in multiple languages with this quick and easy translation platform. 39. TrustYou On-Site QR Feedback TrustYou’s On-Site Solutions Beta is a new product that solicits feedback during the guest stay using a QR code or short URL. This survey tool proactively asks each guest about their stay, escalating any issues occurring at your hotel for immediate attention. One hotel property that tested this product was able to increase their post-stay review scores by 3.8 points by asking for feedback in real-time.   35. Travel Appeal Destination Report Travel Appeal’s On-demand Destination Reports are tailor made for independent and chain hotels, DMOs, and tour operators looking for deeper information about their territory. These reports are available for any city, region, or territory within a few days, and can be used to analyze visitor groups, sentiment scores, trends, competitors, online channels, seasonality, and more. Compare different time periods (up to three years back) and learn about the reputation of the destination, individual sectors (F&B, retail, experiences, and more), and what topics are most discussed in relation to your specific area. Know what to highlight in your marketing campaign and help your concierge team craft the perfect experience for your guests.   36. LoungUp WhatsApp Messaging LoungeUp debuted its new WhatsApp Messaging function, adding a new way to communicate with guests. Use this tool to initiate contact with each customer before they arrive over WhatsApp. Send guests a way to check-in in advance, pay their deposit, book a shuttle to the hotel, or offer an upgrade. Automate some of the time-consuming administrative process and offer real, conversational exchanges with guests. With 1.5 billion worldwide users per month (as of January, 2019) worldwide, WhatsApp is the number one messaging platform, ahead of Facebook Messenger (1.3), Wechat (1.1), Skype (0.3), Snapchat, Viber and Line.   37. Zaplox Mobile Check-in Zaplox Premium iterates on Zaplox’s original product with new mobile-check in and mobile key functionality. This app integrates with most leading PMS and lock systems to streamline check-in. The custom-branded app allows your property to connect with guests before, during, and after their stay. Guests can use the Zaplox app to check-in, preauthorize their credit card, and complete the guest registration before they arrive at the hotel. Includes mobile keys with integration with lock vendors ASSA ABLOY, dormakaba and SALTO systems as well as large PMS providers, such as Oracle, Agilysys, protel, StayNTouch, Maestro, and more.   38. MyStay Mobile Check-in MyStay Check-in Agent is a tablet-based software solution that can make your check-in process 100% digital at the front desk and anywhere at your hotel. The tablet scans guest documents, and then prompts the guest to add missing information, agree to house rules, and sign the check-in card. This increases the accuracy of your guest data, streamlines the check-in process, and allows your team to focus on the guest experience rather than data entry.     Q2 Sales & Group Travel Innovations   39. OPERA Sales & Event Management Oracle’s OPERA Sales and Event Management Cloud (OSEM) helps hotels reduce the extra time spent managing data entry related to events. OSEM provides a single view of all a hotel’s event booking details and revenue across rooms and event spaces for easier audit and analysis. Properties can increase their event revenue by optimizing inventory, bookings, streamlining logistics and providing smooth event logistics. The tool helps streamline operations, increase communication and cooperation across departments, and respond faster to customers.   40. Atomize Group Booking Pricing Module Atomize announced fresh updates to its Group Booking Pricing Module with a tool that helps revenue managers to instantly calculate the optimal rate for groups. This module now presents both the total recommended price and displaced transient revenue for the group, along with details such as prices per room type and date. A separate module introduces the ability to email yourself the group pricing recommendation for future reference.   41. MeetingPackage Analytics MeetingPackage has a new analytics extension for meetings and events bookings that allows you to advertise your meetings and events the same way you would advertise your hotel rooms. The analytics extension allows Google Analytics to track the full customer journey, capturing the total revenue of the meeting/event. Measure the booking process from the very first ad click until the event date, and make smarter marketing decisions on Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn to drive valuable direct traffic.   42. SABA Hospitality Digital Conference Tool SABA Hospitality’s SABA Conference is a digital conference tool that provides automatic answers to the questions and requests of conference hosts and attendees directly to their mobile devices. From conference information, directions and amenities, and information on the surrounding area, all information is easily accessible in multiple languages, and can be presented in any format (e.g. links, videos, text, maps and images). Users don’t need to download a thing, making it easier for conference organizers to ensure all relevant information is received by attendees. Hosts and property operators simply enter the relevant information, and the platform presents it in a branded and engaging way.   43. EVENTMACHINE Instant Quote EVENTMACHINE IQ Instant Quote automatically plans and quotes events based on a few simple inputs, like date or event type. Rather than tasking an event manager to manually select and calculate event spaces, catering and equipment. Eventmachine IQ can reduce that manual effort. Get instant, custom quotes emailed in a professional PDF proposal.   44. Get Into MoRe Strategy Dashboard Get Into MoRe has built a new Strategy Dashboard advises whether or not you should allow an inquiry to proceed with booking your events space. One small event could easily reserve a space and prevent a more profitable, large event. Strategy Dashboard uses a red light/green light system to tell you if an inquiry is worth accepting – or if you should hold out for another booking request.   45. THYNK Meetings Management THYNK has a new product, MYCE, a customer-centric meeting events and venue management system. The flexible, cloud-based system uses Salesforce to automate the sales process follow-up with task automation and two-way integration with your PMS, POS, and other applications. Assign tasks across departments and add the group booking module to make it easier to manage event bookings.   Q2 New Innovations in Food & Beverage   46. Bbot Smart Ordering System Bbot Smart Ordering system allows guests to order room service on their phone from their room without downloading an app or signing up for a new service and integrates with popular hotel PMS and POS systems.  Guests order and pay for food + drinks right from their room without having to call down, which means you save on labor and menu management.  Bbot recently rolled out new PMS integrations including Mews & Opera.                   47. Apicbase's Production Planning Tool Apicbase’s Production Planning tool streamlines kitchen operations at your property by making food production reliable and repeatable. Save money and reduce food waste by up to 30% with automated to-do lists, real-time inventory updates, and a function that allows your team to predict how many quantities will be needed at each meal. Prep only what you need and make the most of ingredients in your pantry to lower your food budget.  

What is an API and How Do They Work in the Hotel Industry?

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Hotel Tech Report
9 months ago

Really, another acronym? You might feel as if your mind is already boggled by all the hotel industry terminology that you’re expected to know, but we have some good news about APIs. You likely already use APIs on a regular basis, and APIs can play a big part in making your hotel’s technology work seamlessly. By developing a deeper understanding of what an API is, you can better understand the systems at work in your hotel and make more informed technology decisions. And when your technology works effectively (and economically!), your hotel can benefit from more efficient employees and happier guests. In this article, we’ll break down what is an API, describe some API examples, and show how you can incorporate APIs into your hotel’s daily operations. If you’ve been in the industry for a while - or even a technology user in general - you have probably noticed the huge shift away from analog systems and toward software. APIs are at the core of how the software “revolution” is possible. We can explain the rise of software through economist Adam Smith’s theory of specialization. In economics, he explains that instead of every country producing all the goods they need, each country can produce only what they’re best at and trade with other countries to get the things they’re missing. This system decreases production costs and creates economies of scale. Thinking about software again, APIs enable software companies to become specialized, that is, only building software that has a specific purpose. A network of systems that each provide specific services can work together seamlessly thanks to APIs that act as translators and messages between them.   What is an API? The acronym “API” stands for application programming interface, although for most hoteliers it might as well be gibberish. Don’t stress though, because the concept is actually quite simple. In the early days of software, systems were server based which meant that they rarely (if ever) spoke with each other. Think about that first Mac in your house before the internet - it was very much a lonely island. As processing power advanced and internet speeds increased exponentially, software became easier to develop and more accessible. As the world shifted from a myriad of lonely server based systems to an ecosystem of hyper connected platforms, there became a need to enable seamless communications amongst those systems - enter the API. Ok, let’s use a hotel analogy to better understand the concept. Imagine you’re sitting at a table in your hotel’s restaurant. The kitchen is the part of the “system” that will prepare your order. What’s missing is the critical link to communicate your order to the kitchen and deliver your food back to your table. That’s where the waiter (or API) comes in. The waiter is the messenger – or API – that takes your request and tells the kitchen – the system – what to do. Then the waiter delivers the response back to you; in this case, it’s your food. APIs are effectively messengers of data between applications.  Every time you book a flight on Expedia you are using an API that delivers pricing and availability from the respective airline’s database onto Expedia’s website.  That same dynamic now happens between hotel software and hardware systems.   API Examples in the Hotel Industry Now that we’ve established that APIs serve as links between two systems, you might have an idea of why they’re so important in the hotel industry. In order for a hotel’s systems to provide value, they need to be able to communicate with each other - and with external players like online travel agencies. What do APIs look like in a hotel environment? Let’s dive into some API examples. Connecting an RMS to a PMS In order for revenue management systems to deliver valid and relevant pricing recommendations, they need information from the hotel’s property management system, like occupancy numbers. Some property management systems, like protel, have developed seamless integrations with specific revenue management systems, which are possible with APIs. Protel, for instance, uses an API to integrate with Atomize, which receives a 24/7 feed of data from protel to deliver insightful pricing recommendations. The API converts the stream of occupancy and rate information from protel into data that Atomize can use in its rate and market analysis algorithms. Connecting a PMS to upsell software Is speaking with your front desk staff still the only way for guests to upgrade their room? With an upselling software that connects to your PMS, guests can purchase room upgrades or add-ons without the need for staff assistance.  If your upsell software didn’t communicate with your PMS, front desk agents would need to manually enter every modified reservation. Thanks to an API, the “interconnectedness” of the two systems can lead to more efficient operations. Protel offers an integration with upselling platform Oaky, so hotels that use protel’s PMS can also benefit from the upselling services that Oaky provides without disrupting current front office operations.  Connecting business intelligence software to a PMS Your hotel produces so much data on a daily basis that it can be hard to make sense of it. A business intelligence tool can synthesize data from the front office, your F&B outlets, and even competitor hotel performance to deliver valuable insight into your strategy. Was your marketing campaign successful? Do you need to add another cocktail server to your bar staff? BI software can answer many data-related questions about your hotel operations. However, a BI tool is worthless without a reliable feed of data from your PMS or any other systems that provide operational data. BI software uses APIs to connect to your hotel’s other systems in real-time. A BI tool like OTA Insight’s Rate Insight offers a seamless integration with protel, which is made possible through an API. Rate Insight receives a steady stream of PMS information from protel so that it can analyze trends and provide recommendations. By now we hope you can appreciate how API isn’t just another acronym. APIs make technology more user-friendly and efficient, and they’ve made a world of innovation possible in the hotel software industry. If your hotel’s technology solutions don’t have open APIs yet - which allow complementary systems to integrate - then we recommend opening a conversation with your software vendor to explore options for building an API in the future. If your systems do have APIs, then we encourage you to work with your vendors to leverage their technology most effectively and maximize the value that your hotel receives. Interested in switching to a system that offers a broad catalog of integrations? Check out protel’s partner marketplace to see examples of how APIs connect their hotel technology ecosystem.  

Payment Processing: Here's What You Need to Know in Plain English

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Hotel Tech Report
10 months ago

You might be thinking that it’s not the most exciting topic in the world, but payment processing is an important factor in your hotel’s overall financial health, especially as more guests pay with credit cards. Whether you’re setting up a payment processor for the first time, considering switching to a different system, or just taking stock of your hotel’s operations, we’ll show you how to make payment processing as easy and affordable as possible. Imagine cutting your costs just by switching to a new payment system! In this article, we’ll define what exactly payment processing is, explore the vendor landscape, and offer some advice for choosing the right systems for your hotel.   What is Payment Processing? Back in the days when cash was king, payment processing was as simple as opening the cash drawer and handing back change. These days, especially in hotels, credit cards have surpassed cash as the preferred method of payment, which brings new challenges and complexity.  For a hotel, receiving money from a credit card transaction isn’t as straightforward as receiving cash, and it’s also more expensive. When a guest swipes their credit card at the front desk or uses your online booking engine, the bank or association that issued their card must issue credit to cover the purchase. This credit comes with a set of fees, called interchange. Hotels cannot access the funds straight away; a payment processor, like a middleman, actually receives the money, then charges the hotel a markup when the funds are paid out. Because the fees vary depending on the type of card and the bank that issued it, payment processors charge hotels flat fees ($0.15 per transaction, for example), percentage fees, or a combination of both. To make sure you’re paying a reasonable amount for credit card processing, it’s important to understand the fee structure.    Merchant Account vs. Payment Gateway We hear a lot of confusion about the various types of systems that hotels can use to process payments. Depending on their financial services needs, businesses can choose between comprehensive payment solutions, standalone merchant accounts, and third-party payment gateways to handle credit card payments. Wondering what the differences are?  In short, a simple payment gateway allows your hotel to charge credit cards. It’s the link between the hotel and the credit card issuers. When a guest books a room online, for example, they’ll enter their credit number, which allows the payment gateway to communicate with their bank, and upon approval or denial of the transaction, the payment gateway will circle back to finish the transaction. When the transaction is complete, the funds need to go somewhere. Some businesses opt for immediate deposit into a bank account, while other businesses use a merchant account. While a merchant account is not a bank account, it acts as a sort of “holding area” for funds so that they can be easily refunded and so that balances can be deposited into a bank account in bulk on a regular schedule. For hotels, merchant accounts can make a lot of sense, because they allow for easy refunds if a guest cancels, and they can orchestrate bank transfers on a regular cadence to make things easy for your accounting team. If using a separate payment gateway and merchant account sounds taxing (pun intended), there’s a third option: an all-in-one payment solution that offers both a payment gateway and merchant account.   A Brief Overview of Online Payment Processors If your hotel has a website that accepts online reservations, then you’ll need an online payment processor to allow your hotel to collect funds online. Payment gateways, also known as payment service providers, make charging cards a breeze, but they aren’t free. You have to spend money to make money, right? Fees vary by system; for example, Stripe charges 2.9% plus $0.30 on each transaction, no matter what kind of card is being charged. Other systems, like PayPal, for example, charge an increased fee for American Express cards and international cards. Just like the property management system landscape, you have a plethora of payment processors to choose from. Each one has their own pros and cons, so we recommend doing some research instead of opting for one just because it’s popular. Here are some of the top online payment processors: Authorize.Net Stripe PayPal Braintree Amazon Pay Square BlueSnap WePay As with any type of sensitive data, hotels must be careful to keep their financial information secure and compliant with PCI and PSD2 regulations. Some payment processors offer resources to help you stay compliant, and the systems constantly adapt to changes in financial technology, like accepting digital wallet payments, for example. When choosing a vendor, you might be tempted to just go with the cheapest option. However, we recommend researching a few more factors so you can choose a system that’s truly right for your business. Don’t forget to look into these criteria: Monthly fees and transaction fees Countries and currencies supported Card types accepted On-form payments or redirects to another site to complete payment Mobile payments PSD2 compliant With a little research, you can find a payment service provider that’s right for your hotel.   Payment Processing for the Hotel Industry Do you know exactly how much you’re paying for each credit card transaction? If you don’t have access to a variety of processors, you could be paying exorbitant and unnecessary processing fees. Don’t want to pay fees that you don’t need to pay? If you use a popular PMS, such as Oracle OPERA, then you likely already have access to several processors. If you don’t use a common PMS yet, then you may want to consider switching to avoid getting gauged by payment vendors who know you have no other options. Using a payment processor that’s integrated with a PMS can streamline many operational tasks. For example, Oracle OPERA’s integrated payment solution makes it easy to run pre-authorizations (for incidentals, for example), release authorizations, complete purchases, issue refunds or reversals, void transactions, and more. Imagine if your front desk team needed to switch to a different system every time they placed an authorization on a card during check in; a PMS with payment processing integrations like Oracle OPERA makes your front desk more efficient. Integrated payment processors aren’t just beneficial to the front-of-house. Back office tasks like issuing invoices, paying vendors, and collecting membership fees can be handled more easily when all of your systems communicate easily. And when the payment processor can communicate with your PMS, you can pass details like check-in date and folio number through with the transaction, so guests and banks have full clarify as to what the charge was for.   Key Takeaways for Choosing a Payment Processor Even though selecting a payment service provider may not seem like a major technology, remember that you will pay more in processing fees than for any other technology. In this case, doing your homework can really pay off. Compare vendors to find not only the best price, but also the best value, because a system that costs slightly more but is completely PSD2 compliant could save you a lot of headache down the road - not to mention reducing the risk of a security breach. In addition, using a popular PMS is critical to ensuring you have access the right integrations. A widely used system like Oracle OPERA has connections with a variety of payment processors so you can always take advantage of the best rates. Payment processors might not be the most exciting part of hotel operations, but saving thousands of dollars by switching to a better system certainly is.  

Protel Deep Dive: This Is The Promise Of An Open Platform For Your Hotel

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Hotel Tech Report
11 months ago

Until very recently, hoteliers looking for an open platform for managing their properties didn’t have many options to choose from. It was basically “pick your poison,” with hotels locked into a single vendor ecosystem that prioritized status quo over fresh functionality. Thankfully, hospitality technology companies are waking up to the power of the platform, resulting in a wave of hospitality marketplaces that integrate a hotel’s siloed technologies into a more functional tech stack. These integrators allow hoteliers to build a bespoke bundle of tech tools that rely on the same real-time data, thus empowering better outcomes across revenue, guest experience, and loyalty marketing. One of the companies pioneering an open approach to property management is protel. Its flagship property management system was recently enhanced with protel I/O, a marketplace for third-party vendors to offer their services directly to hotels. By allowing multiple integrations to connect directly via its vendor-neutral open infrastructure, protel enables hotels to store and use data from across touchpoints in real time, anywhere they need to. That way, hotels can take control of their technology and build a tech stack that aligns with their philosophies around operating hotels, serving guests, and making money. With over 14,000 hotel customers in 90 countries, protel saw firsthand how draining data silos can be. Hotels face an uphill battle to simply share data among each of their tools, further entrenching data silos and limiting the upside of their hotel technology. By eliminating those silos, the company knew just how powerful a platform could be that aggregates property data into a secure, open platform. Here’s what the promise of the protel platform looks like for hoteliers worldwide.  Read reviews of protel PMS   What Protel Does: Property Management with Open APIs The core of the protel promise to “put your hotel at the heart of the digital economy.” But what exactly does this mean? It means that the technology enables easy connections between your PMS data and third-party technology so that you can leverage guest data in real-time, without delay.    The complete protel platform   To achieve this, protel has opened up its platform with APIs that hotels and vendors can use to connect into this data. That’s the promise of an open platform, and while protel isn’t the only way to integrate data across multiple hotel tech vendors, it’s one of the few that is already offering the service to thousands of customers around the world and is the only legacy enterprise PMS vendor offering these capabilities. Here’s how it works. Since your property management system sits at the center of your operation, it is the source of plenty of data that could be used to make your other tech tools more effective. For instance, interactions between staff and guests can shape your subsequent post-stay outreach, with communications seamlessly tailored based on each guest’s actual interactions. Rather than having to build multiple direct connections, or manually transfer data across systems, you can let the technology aggregate data into a single layer across multiple integrations. That way, the data stays accurate and up-to-date, allowing you to focus on the high-impact work, such as nurturing guests relationships, building creative campaigns, and strategizing for the future.   Who Protel Is For: Properties Of All Sizes That Want To Customize Protel’s sweet spot is any property that has a desire to customize how their property management system interacts across touchpoints. The majority of HTR reviews come from boutique hotels, as well as branded hotels in city centres and airports. While this isn’t the complete picture of protel’s client base, it does point to the underlying appeal across segments and hotel types. Given the platform’s focus on customizability, single properties with fewer rooms can still leverage the power of the core PMS functionality while properties with more complex integration needs can take advantage of the platform’s full flexibility. There’s also a standalone module for groups, called CENTRAL, which extends functionality to work across a multi-property portfolio.    Read more reviews of protel PMS   Five Essential Features of the Protel Platform The protel platform is built around connectivity, extensibility, and customizability. Protel believes hotels should be able to connect to whichever services they choose, with a future-proof, flexible solution that can be customized to multiple users, multiple views, and multiple properties. These core beliefs appear in the following five essential features: Open APIs: Build for today and future-proof for tomorrow The flagship is the protel PMS, which was the original product when the company was founded 25 years ago. The industry-leading benefit of the protel PMS is its open ethos. Protel provides an open API that interfaces with other hotel technology, so that hotels can connect their existing tools to the same set of property-level data. With these APIs, hotels can develop any custom solution they want, moving data across revenue management systems.  This data is also seamlessly shared across the Protel Platform, so that relevant PMS data translates error-free into other protel products, such as the GENIUS reporting module. Developers can also build their own solutions layer to protel, using relevant PMS data within existing apps. Protell offers a complete Developer Toolkit, with a sandbox environment for testing new code and reusing existing implementations. Beyond integrations, the PMS has a few other unique features. First, it’s available as either as a cloud-based or a hosted, on-premise solution. This option is welcome news to hotels that struggle with reliable internet connectivity and want to have the technology hosted on-site to improve up time.  Smart Lists: Customize your views with the most relevant information Customizability is at the heart of the protel PMS, thanks to Smart Lists.  this feature allows hotels to customize the order in which specific operational information should be displayed on a given screen and/or an individual user.  Selective information can be used to order each screen by putting the most relevant information front and center, such as arrivals, departures, VIP arrivals, birthday information, and manager overview. Smart Lists are incorporated into each element of the software, so hotels can customize screens across both desktops and the mobile experience. Marketplace: “1-Click Connect” to out-of-the-box solutions Marketplaces have become a trending feature within the fragmented hospitality technology landscape The protel Marketplace simplifies connectivity for hotels, facilitating reliable integrations between hotel technology vendors. The idea is that hotels can smash data silos and realize transformational gains by mixing and matching cutting-edge technologies in whichever combination they choose. All tools in the marketplace are verified and ready to receive a hotel’s complete live data-stream, which can then be used in the third-party app to react to real-time events across a property (or portfolio) footprint.  Protel also promises that many solutions are ready out of the box, requiring only a single click to connect a vendor to a hotel’s PMS data. And, with HotelTechReport review scores embedded in-line, hoteliers can make informed decisions even more quickly. Staff collaboration: Mobile tools for front office, housekeeping, and maintenance The protel PMS extends beyond basic property management functionality with its staff collaboration tools. As a communication layer between the front office, housekeeping, and maintenance, these tools keep everyone up-to-date and on the same page. Without dueling narratives, there’s fewer misunderstandings or communications lapses. These modules are all mobile, so that staff can stay current no matter where they are on the property. By eliminating paper, housekeeping staff and maintenance teams can be more accurate and respond in real-time to shifting priorities. For instance, a maintenance tech could quickly re-prioritize after receiving a picture of a broken faucet uploaded by a housekeeping colleague. VOYAGER: Branded app streamlines guest communications and upsells These staff collaboration tools become even more powerful for hotels that choose protel’s branded app option, VOYAGER. The app’s functionality folds easily into the existing property management flow, which facilitates better communication with guests and creates added revenue opportunities for upsells and ancillaries. The app also gives guests the convenience and speed they’ve come to expect in today’s mobile-first world. Guests can do things like view and edit profiles, add preferences, make special requests, access mobile room keys, check in/out, order room service, and interact with any content uploaded by the hotel.  Of course, protel’s open APIs extend to the app development kit as well, so hotels can fold in whichever functionality they need. With complete customization control, VOYAGER gives hotels the power of a branded app without the upfront cost, development headaches, or ongoing maintenance overhead.   Protel Pros and Cons According to its Customers Protel has 29 verified customer reviews, which offer helpful feedback straight from those who have direct experience with the product. Customers find protel to be a reliable product that offers flexibility to work with up-and-coming technologies that may not yet be widely integrated. One reviewer found the interface to be too complicated at first, with an overwhelming number of features. This is pretty natural for PMS systems with robust feature sets built for the larger hotels and enterprise clients.  Out-of-the-box reporting could also be improved, said another user. Here are some highlighted pros and cons from verified reviews of protel. Pros: “Reliable, well thought-out” with an “interface to the up-and-coming products on the market” which allows us “ to work with exciting smaller technologies too.” “User-friendly,” with an “easy interface to book rooms and email marketing/customer communications” and “well-designed reports.”  “I LOVE the pivot it has changed my way of reporting.” “Very quick response from the consultants -- great support.” Cons:  “Reporting metrics on Messenger mails...would be great to see open rate, button clicks, bounce rate, etc drilled down into market segment.” “Some user interfaces are counterintuitive” and “when we ask a question of a core feature that needs to be sent to the head office, we wait a long time for a reply.” “System could be made a little less complicated” as “it feels like there is a lot of functions that is not really necessary and that we don’t use... at first glance, it looks overwhelming until you get the hang of it.” “Standard reporting needs to be improved: very basic and not a lot of options without protel support.”   Conclusion:  Should You Consider Protel? Protel certainly has a bold vision for what the ideal hospitality technology ecosystem looks like. If you share those ideals, then you should definitely consider protel. The costs of integrating separate tech tools can be insurmountable burdens for the average operator. There’s tremendous value in freeing up development resources from having to figure out how to make everything play nice together!  Coupled with support from protel’s consultants, those integrations can empower your hotel to use technology in ways it never has before, such as seamlessly and accurately sharing guest data across marketing, operations, and revenue platforms. As verified reviewers have said, protel may have some initial complexity -- especially for those looking to leverage the open platform aspect -- but provides powerful tools for those that want to take control of their technology. As the critical interface to integrating up-and-coming technology, you can build a system that works for them (rather than the other way around) And, as many reviewers have shared, supportive protel consultants have enabled them to fully leverage the potential of the platform in their own hotels. Protel is a reminder that it’s no longer sufficient to live within a single vendor ecosystem. Hotels that limit themselves to the development roadmap of a single vendor risk losing out to hotels that define and implement a collaborative tech stack. The right combination of tools, using the same data and working together, streamline operations, enhance the guest experience, and boost profitability. Now that's a lofty goal worth fighting for!  

SiteMinder’s Hotel App Store: 9 Tools You Need to Check Out

by
Hotel Tech Report
2 months ago

At ITB Berlin, one of our top five trends was the rise of hotel app marketplaces. Forward-thinking providers like SiteMinder are creating marketplaces that allow properties to add new integrations and tools to grow their business. These apps present a powerful way to utilize the full potential of your existing technology. Most, if not all, hotel technology is developed to achieve a specific task. App marketplaces exploit an opportunity for horizontal integration, capturing a new level of functionality by syncing data from multiple sources.  While SiteMinder is known for it's channel manager which connects accomodation inventory to hotel booking sites, the firm has launched an exciting new app store. When consumers are looking for new hotels, restaurants or other services - they turn to the most popular travel apps.  It's only natural for hoteliers to do the same as hoteliers are themselves consumers for half of the day. SiteMinder's Hotel App Store powers everything from revenue management and upselling to guest messaging and review management to room controls, airport transfers, and keyless entry. Research, vet, and download more than 100 applications that let your core technology share data. The marketplace includes a selection of tools that integrate with more than 80 different property management systems, as well as SiteMinder’s channel manager. Growth equity firm TCV believes that software companies can create two-sided marketplaces that connect their users to new channels of customers, suppliers, and employees. TCV is a key investor backing SiteMinder’s Hotel App Store ambitions; their launch fulfills this vision of “breaking down the industry’s notorious integration barriers, connecting hotel systems and applications through smart and simple connectivity.” In practice: adding an app from Siteminder’s app store syncs the critical tech systems used by your operations and communications, revenue management, reputation management, and CRM systems, giving you a competitive advantage. Every hotel app must integrate two pieces of technology to help hotel owners:  Make more money per booking Improve guest reviews Better connect with guests Grow direct bookings Add these integrations to make your PMS work smarter with your CRM, guest messaging tool, and revenue management system in seconds.   Customer Relationship Management Apps Your hotel's CRM allows teams to track, manage and grow client relationships throughout the customer lifecycle, collecting and collating information to build a relationship without needing to have been personally involved each step of the way. Integrate your CRM with your PMS to leverage data points such as recency, frequency, add monetary value in your guest segmentation, thereby running smarter, more targeted promotions. Without introducing data from your PMS into your CRM, personalized emails, text messaging, or other communication at scale is nearly impossible. Revinate Marketing Revinate allows hotel owners to run targeted, customized campaigns with messaging delivered at the right moments throughout the customer journey, leading to increased guest engagement and more direct bookings. Revinate uses survey data for powerful guest segmentation: the Database Insights tool delivers real-time insights into guest data so teams can make better marketing campaigns and improve the on-property experience. Revinate has a reputation for excellence, with 94% of customers giving the tool top marks. Compared with other CRM integrations, Revinate gets outstanding reviews for their customer service and ease of implementation. “The data provided by Revinate Marketing has truly changed the way we operate, allowing us as a company to make more informed decisions across our portfolio. From the segmentation to the reporting, the user interface is easy and intuitive,” reports one director at a boutique hotel. Cendyn Guestfolio, the Cendyn CRM platform, combines guest data and marketing automation to build a single, holistic view of each guest. By offering easy access to a guest’s history, Guestfolio empowers your staff to recognize loyal guests at check-in with a special thank you. Foster 1:1 communication with guests at every stage: pre-arrival, on-property, post-stay and re-engagement nurture campaigns foster brand loyalty, leading to repeat guests and an increase in direct bookings. A key benefit of working with Cendyn is that the platform integrates offerings in revenue, sales, and marketing to bring your teams closer together. Guestfolio is part of Cendyn’s Hospitality Cloud. Hospitality Cloud aligns marketing, sales, and revenue teams to offer optimal pricing, guest-first marketing, and better communication while saving time and stress. For-Sight For-Sight pulls data from your hotel’s PMS to give you strategies and insights to improve the guest experience, increase revenue and upsell, and make more informed decisions. Ease-of-use and a simple interface makes For-Sight one of the top-rated CRM tools. As one reviewer notes, “For-Sight makes a complex task simple and intuitive. Best-in-class email and automation alongside powerful segmentation and querying tools that our team finds easy to operate backed by attentive and responsive support when we need it.”    Guest Messaging Apps Guest messaging platforms that integrate with your PMS via SiteMinder’s App Store offer a way to improve communication among teams on-site, automatically answer frequently asked questions, and increase operational efficiency while meeting guest satisfaction. These three systems offer a way forward to happier guests and more efficient staff. Bookboost The Bookboost guest messaging platform increases guest engagement and revenue with its proprietary Omnichannel Website Chat and Proactive Direct Messaging tools. Bookboost is our top-ranked guest messaging tool, achieving perfect scores for return-on-investment, ease of implementation, and customer support. Bookboost messages have a 99% open rate and an astoundingly high 28% click-through rate. “With Bookboost, we have seen a great improvement in guest satisfaction. Bookboost has helped us to deduct 50% repetitive phone calls while improving the score of guest review by over 11% in only two months! It's also a very good tool to upsell through sending SMS. We have used it to successfully upsell parking spaces by 87.5% and increase 10% of late check-out,” reports one operations manager. Zingle Zingle uses AI to drive operational efficiency, automating intelligent communication between teams and with guests. “Zings” are automated workflows that can be set up based on a specific trigger. The trigger leads to automatic action. For instance, Zingle can read booking details from your PMS to schedule a personalized message to guests attending a wedding, telling them where on the property to gather for festivities. Or, if a guest sends a message that includes the word “broken,” Zingle can recognize the need for a plumber or maintenance staff member.  helping them increase operational efficiency, improve guest service and boost RevPAR.  HelloShift HelloShift allows your team to connect with guests through SMS, WhatsApp, SMS, Facebook Messenger, email, and more. Unlike Bookboost, HelloShift also has a team chat function to help your on-site staff coordinate. HelloShift is a cost-effective option great for properties working with a limited budget or with limited service. The platform costs less than $3/room/month and comes with a free 30-day trial. One general manager reports, “It was very easy to migrate into, and the on-boarding experience was simple as well. Took less than a day to get everything up and running, and staff were able to communicate back and forth with very little training.”   Revenue Management Apps An RMS allows hotels to sell the right product to the right customer, solving for variables like price, channel, and timing to maximize profitability. A strong, two-way integration between your RMS and your property management system gives your revenue manager historical information on rates and revenue. Analyze the data and get an accurate matrix of pricing recommendations for each segment and room type. As a result, your property gains the ability to optimize pricing and capture more revenue. These revenue management apps are not to be missed. Pace Pace’s revenue forecasting gives you booking curves for each night, room-category, and segment, offering advance notice in case you need to adjust your pricing in real-time. Immediately. Hoteliers love Pace’s customer support and implementation, giving the platform high marks for its responsiveness. In comparison with RevControl, Pace offers price sensitivity modeling and inventory management to help your teams sync and avoid overbookings. It can also forecast demand 365 days in advance, with real-time price optimization to help you hone your pricing model and squeeze the most revenue out of your available inventory. “PACE also has highly qualified revenue management experts who provides great advice on how to maximise the property's revenue. As a GM of a 63-room hotel, I can now focus more on strategy.” writes one reviewer.  RevControl RevControl forecasts revenue in one dashboard that clearly predict what demand will be, empowering hoteliers to turn insight into action immediately. Sell your rooms the right rate at the right time with RevControl’s dynamic pricing, revenue management automations, and multi-property management features. This platform also offers extended stay functionality, something RevControl competitors don’t include. “I advise hoteliers who want full control over their revenue, room rates, and RevPar to use RevControl for their hotel. This cloud-based system provides the right information by means of accurately collected data to always calculate the right prices for your hotel rooms,” writes one reviewer.  Lybra Tech Lybra Tech has integrated machine learning into their hotel revenue management tool. Machine learning makes it possible for Lybra to analyze and integrate learnings from big data into their insights. For hotel owners seeking a competitive advantage, AI and machine learning can provide faster data analysis and better calls-to-action to maximize revenue potential. This is a fast-growing entrant to the revenue management market, and one vendor that promises to push boundaries to uncover market opportunities.    Check out SiteMinder’s app store to explore integrations and download some of these great options. 

Should You Automate Hotel Property Management Workflows Using Zapier?

by
Hotel Tech Report
6 months ago

Bringing new technology into a hotel is supposed to make day-to-day operations easier and more efficient, but that’s not always the case. Too often, hoteliers find that complex software is difficult to use or that various tools do not communicate with each other. To the busy hotelier who doesn’t want to spend hours on the phone with tech support, a technology solution with a focus on automation (and integration) can be a true asset to a hotel’s operation and enhance guest experience. With automation in place, employees can spend less time completing hotel checklists and more time delivering excellent service.   What is automation? In the simplest terms, automation allows you to “teach” a process to a computer program so that the program can repeat the process on an ongoing basis without the need for human assistance. Automation is all around you - from the self-service checkout machines at the supermarket to the notifications you receive on your smartphone - and it’s now becoming more common in business operations. Automation isn’t a new concept, but it is certainly gaining traction in recent years as more and more technology companies offer automation solutions that are affordable and easy to use. In fact, according to Deloitte, 78% of survey respondents plan to invest more in automation over the next three years, and employees are onboard too - only 17% of respondents experienced employee resistance to the new systems.    How does automation apply to hotels? Automation is quickly becoming one of the top tech and hospitality trends because it can enhance operational efficiency and save time for employees, which in turn can boost revenues and increase guest satisfaction. Think about a front desk agent’s daily tasks: checklists to complete, reports to run, and problems to solve. With automation, a computer program could handle some of those routine checklists and reports, freeing up more time for the front desk agent to focus on delighting guests. It’s also possible to automate other aspects of hotel operations. Processes like managing your team, setting rates, room assignments, upselling premium room categories, and scheduling staff can all be automated, which would allow employees in those departments to devote time and energy to other tasks. In-app automation is par for the course; however, the best run hotels are laser focused on cross-app automation. As an example, your housekeeping software should automatically reconfigure rooms in your PMS when a VIP gets upgraded.  Similarly, your upselling software needs to know real time availability to automate upgrades. Many automation services now offer APIs for hotels, so it’s easier to get started than you might expect.   How do I start to automate my hotel’s processes? Curious to see how automation can benefit your hotel? The first step is to find the right technology solution. Zapier is one of the world’s top automation service providers, offering a huge marketplace of apps and integrations with programs like Gmail, Microsoft Excel, Salesforce, and more. Zapier has recently partnered with hotel property management systems, so now Zapier’s suite of tools is easily accessible to hotels. Zapier is quite simple to set up, but since the system is used by a variety of industries, there aren’t many apps in Zapier’s marketplace that cater specifically to hotels and the functionality that’s offered is quite rudimentary for the time being. In addition to Zapier, several other companies offer integration services with a hospitality focus that allow your hotel to properly automate across applications and maximize your investments. Connectors like Impala and hapi.io work to bridge the gap between individual software and apps that a hotel might use, and PMS marketplaces like protel, Mews and Hotelogix also feature a breadth of services with automation capability.   What can a PMS marketplace offer my hotel? A PMS marketplace is a fantastic way for hoteliers to begin their automation journey. With all the standard PMS features to run your hotel property, a PMS marketplace also offers add-on applications that bring incremental value. Examples of these add-ons include rate intelligence tools, email marketing, hotel CRM software, and payment processors.   protel clients benefit from instant connections with top providers via the protel app store   Instead of working with a hotel CRM that doesn’t communicate with your PMS, for instance, thus requiring an employee to copy and paste email addresses into the email tool, it’s much more efficient to use a PMS marketplace with apps that communicate seamlessly.  Your hotel’s CRM not only needs to pull massive amounts of high quality data from your PMS to properly segment clientele, but it also must feed data back into your PMS to deliver operational guest intelligence for your on property staff. One such PMS marketplace can be found with protel. protel recently announced three great additions to their PMS marketplace: Atomize, OTA Insight, and Oaky, which hoteliers can access through their intuitive, 1-click-connect platform.  When leveraged together with inter-app automation - these three apps can save time and money at any hotel. OTA Insight offers business and rate intelligence, so revenue managers don’t need to spend time combing competitors' websites in search of pricing intelligence. Atomize sheds light on the hotel’s own historical rate and occupancy trends, helping to automate a lot of the leg work and decision making that revenue managers must make daily which frees them up for more strategic tasks. Oaky’s app delivers upsell options to guests during the booking process and pre-stay experience, which can take some work off the front desk team’s plate while increasing total RevPAR. Since these three apps are all housed in protel’s PMS marketplace, they share data and work seamlessly with the PMS itself. The setup process is effortless for protel users; only one click is needed to activate each additional system from the PMS marketplace.  Having these kinds of systems seamlessly connect unlocks power that fragmented systems just can’t. When your PMS is tracking total revenue per available room (tRevPAR) including upsell revenue, your revenue management system can then price rooms based on total expected revenue rather than just rooms revenue. This can help to both acquire new guests and increase profitability. It’s time to hang up with tech support for good and start reaping the benefits that automation can bring to your hotel: incremental revenue and increased guest satisfaction. Hotels can most easily realize these benefits by adopting a hotel-specific platform like protel. Automation services like Zapier offer a wide variety of services, but without certain functionality designed for hotels, like upselling options and rate intelligence, these more generic systems fall short. With a system designed especially for hotels, properties can use technology to increase guest satisfaction and profitability.

Former Accor CIO: Hapi is the platform I was looking for

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 year ago

It’s no secret that hotel technology (and technology in general) changes quickly.  Computing power generally doubles every two years as a result of increases in the number of transistors a microchip can contain - this is what is referred to in the technology world as Moore’s Law.  As processing power increases, innovations that were previously unthinkable quickly become mainstream. This trend impacts hotel tech and our personal tech usage just the same.  3G wireless enabled the smartphone era and without it the iPhone would have never been possible.  4G and LTE enabled us to seamlessly stream content to our mobile devices without WiFi in the same way that battery advancements have helped our devices run more powerful applications.  Snapchat, for example, quite literally couldn’t have existed 10 years ago. 5G will put even LTE to shame. A 5G-enabled smartphone can download the content of an entire DVD (~5GB) in as little as four seconds.  5G will enable services and technologies that are unimaginable to present day consumers. "Stone Age. Bronze Age. Iron Age. We define entire epics of humanity by the technology they use." Reid Hastings, Netflix CEO Given the speed of technological change, it’s important for hoteliers to be on the cutting edge.  Being on the cutting edge doesn’t necessarily mean always being the first to try that shiny new guest experience startup.  To be on the cutting edge, hotels need a foundational infrastructure to adapt quickly as new trends develop. Each individual technology has the power to be transformative but what matters most is setting up your underlying hotel business to quickly disrupt itself before someone else does. "After many years working in technology as a hotelier, I believe that what matters most is a proper open architecture to remain relevant and agile." Laurent Idrac, former Accor CIO Nobody knows this better than Laurent Idrac, the former Accor CIO who was at the helm when the company invested $250M into digital transformation initiatives. Laurent believes that in order to succeed in hospitality, owners and operators need to embrace two simple principles: (1) Stay connected to every facet of your operation (2) Make sure that you can quickly adapt to new trends as they arise Corporate hoteliers often lose their connection to on property operations and even managers can get removed from how their employees live and work on a day-to-day basis.  During his time as CIO at Accor, Laurent made it a priority to work on property for at least 1-week per year shadowing every role within his hotels. This helped him stay in touch with what was happening on the ground and then develop a technology strategy to solve real world business problems that his team was experiencing. During his tenure as Accor's CIO, Laurent became frustrated with the lack of interoperability between systems.  He’d want to try a new technology platform only to learn that it didn’t properly integrate with the core hospitality ecosystem.  This integration problem was such a huge pain point for Laurent as a CIO that when he heard about a company successfully solving the problem - he knew he had to be a part of their journey. "Hapi is the platform I was looking for when I was a hotelier. It allows hoteliers to innovate faster and improve security and data compliance (GDPR, etc.) by centralizing the flows of hospitality data needed to deliver great guest experience.  Rather than following a pattern of point to point integrations, hotel companies can integrate their systems to the Hapi cloud and connect their internal or partner systems to a normalized stream of data, be it reservations, profiles or more." Laurent Idrac, former Accor CIO Laurent left the comfort of his successful c-suite career to join rocketship integrations startup Hapi founded by Luis Segredo and Nikolai Balba. Segredo was previously the founder of Mtech, the creator of HotSOS that was acquired by Newmarket and is now owned by Amadeus.  Balba had similarly founded Libra on Demand which he sold to Newmarket and Libra is now part of Amadeus sales and catering. The combination of these three dynamic leaders has formed the hotel tech dream team.   Laurent has lead technology at one of the largest hotel companies in the world and needless to say there are few people better equipped to solve this problem.  Hapi is poised to change the way hoteliers use and adopt technology. The team has made great strides since Laurent joined on board so we were fortunate to catch him on a boat cruise outside Hapi’s Miami headquarters where we discussed everything from CIO war stories to his vision for the future of the industry.   Tell us about your hospitality career before joining Hapi. I have held many positions during my tenure at Accor in France and in the US: operations, marketing, finance, reservations, F&B, and IT. Even as Group CIO of Accor, I continued to spend time in hotels.  For instance, in July 2017, I spent a full week at the Ibis Paris Bercy Village going through different shifts each day in the restaurant, front desk, engineering, and finally in housekeeping. It is very important to remain connected to the business you are serving. In 1983, I started as an intern in a restaurant during my college years and held many positions in an Argentinian Steakhouse. Once I graduated, I worked as a controller for almost 5 years. I managed reservation call centers worldwide, worked on the new Accor Central Reservation System implementation and finally spent many years in IT in the US and in France. My last position was Accor Group CIO from 2012 to early 2018, and we ran a major digital transformation (~$250M) that transformed the entire company. It’s hard to dislike anything in this industry, but hotels and restaurants are historically very hierarchical organizations with close to military standard operating processes. This does not favor employee initiative to deliver the best guest experience on the spot. Luckily, this is changing. On the technology front, the employees have been neglected: poorly designed applications, too many applications to deal with… To me, the most rewarding part of working in hotels is interacting with customers, ensuring their satisfaction, and anticipating their needs. Sharing this passion with colleagues is even more satisfying.   What was one technology that you couldn't live without in your former role in hospitality? PMS, Fax machine, 56k modem, Palm Pilot, Blackberry, Email, Chat, iPhone, cloud… It’s changing every few years. And every time, it’s impressive how we can become dependent so quickly on a specific tool or device. After many years working in technology as a hotelier, I believe that what matters most is a proper open architecture to remain relevant and agile.   When did you first become interested in hotel tech? Anything that can simplify work and improve quality interests me, and technology is the most obvious place to look at for productivity improvement. I have always been interested in technology. Before joining the hospitality industry, I interned at a computer dealer and enjoyed it a great deal. It was the early age of the IBM PC, Apple 2c & Lisa (Mac’s older sister). During my time in the Army, I was also involved in computer programming. Once I joined the hospitality industry, I had already contracted the technology “virus”.   As a hotelier what was your biggest frustration with technology vendors? Too many vendors have no real knowledge of the hospitality business. Some are great speakers but poor listeners. Some vendors should spend more time reading about our industry to make sure they are relevant. I recommend any vendor to be involved in HTNG and participate in workgroups. Regarding the solutions they are promoting, many are just creating another silo of data without integration into the hospitality ecosystem. Some may have great solutions but with poor design or performance that kills the experience.  It’s really a matter of relevance. Does the vendor really understand what it takes to deliver value to the guest or associate in hospitality? Finally, hospitality is a people’s business, it’s a matter of building trust and delivering upon. Given the aforementioned issues, vendors need to show their understanding of the industry and ultimately deliver new insights. With this comes the trust of decision makers.   What is the most widely held misconception that hoteliers have about technology today? Hoteliers and hotel owners have had trouble embracing the concept that technology needs to be changed to be fresh and relevant, and that it also needs to be used to its utmost.  On one hand, there may be a new shiny solution, but that does not mean that it should be deployed before making the most of what’s already in place. On the other hand, I remember discussing with hotel owners not convinced of the need to upgrade their wi-fi solution that was “only” six years old. Having an open mind, pragmatism and common sense are the best way to approach technology -and this is not only true for technology-   As a hotelier, when did you first become interested in technology? I have always been interested in technology because I have viewed technology as a means to offer a better service to the client and to improve the lives of employees. In all my jobs at Accor, I ended up being involved in every technology project that was around me.  At the beginning, it was in addition to my day job and then it became a full-time position. When I left Accor, I wanted to broaden my attention to industry-wide technology challenges.   What was the most challenging part of moving from hotels into technology? Having hoteliers reply to your emails or returning your calls! Seriously, the most important challenge is to remain true to your values.  My experience tells me what the industry needs and how to deliver it. I have built a reputation over the years that I am not willing to jeopardize to make a buck. Joining Hapi was not an accident. I joined Hapi because I believe it is the best answer to a critical need in our industry with the best approach to move hospitality forward.   What made you want to take the leap as CIO of Accor and want to work on a startup like Hapi? Hapi is the platform I was looking for when I was a hotelier. It allows hoteliers to innovate faster and improve security and data compliance (GDPR…) by centralizing the flows of hospitality data needed to deliver great guest experience.  Rather than following a pattern of point to point integrations, hotel companies can integrate their systems to the Hapi cloud and connect their internal or partner systems to a normalized stream of data, be it reservations, profiles or more.   Hapi offers technology partners, through its marketplace, a way to integrate multiple PMSs (as well as various other hotel systems) with a single development effort. Hapi’s marketplace enables partners to gain exposure to hotels on the platform and enables hotels to tap into other available systems that are connected to Hapi. With already 35 partners, its connectivity to multiple solutions from companies like Oracle, Infor, and Salesforce creates a great deal of potential.   Imagine that you're going to open the hotel of your dreams tomorrow. What kind of hotel would it be? ”Zappy Hotel” will be a midscale boutique hotel, sleek and modern, 100-150 rooms. Fully integrated in its community with large common spaces for locals and travelers, local food, local art. Rooms will have great lighting but also curtains that ensure full night, presence detector to optimize energy and housekeeping. Maybe I will add a small hotel nearby, “the L’Otech hotel”, with 50 rooms without any technology, all rooms will have a Faraday cage to protect guests from electronic waves, it will target electromagnetic hypersensitive guests or serve as a retreat for technology dependents who need to reconnect with real life.   What technology would you leverage at your hotel? Hapi, of course, to be able to seamlessly integrate the various systems and deliver a truly personalized experience thanks to innovative companies -just browse Hotel Tech Report to see how many great solutions are out there.  The PMS will have to be truly intuitive and focus on welcoming the guests not fulfilling administrative tasks. Apple TVs will be in the room and a solid engagement platform like Monscierge to allow a seamless experience. I must specify that Wi-Fi will be outstanding: no password to re-enter, thanks to integration with the hotel CRM, casting capabilities with huge bandwidth. Only technology that is intuitive will be implemented.   What advice do you have for hoteliers who want to work in technology? If your dream is technology, go for it but do not forget where you are coming from.  Capitalize on your experience and keep your service “can-do” attitude. I had IT team members who were night auditors, cook, pastry chef. It took them a long time to feel legitimate in their IT role. My advice is do not doubt yourself and be proud!   What’s one book that changed the way you think about hospitality technology? “Employees First, Customers Second: Turning Conventional Management Upside Down”. We are still lacking tech solutions that serve the needs of our employees. Many hotel companies have invested a lot of money to improve “digital” customer experience but not much in helping the employee to deliver a better customer experience. Hotel companies initially fought on the same battlefield as the OTA instead of focusing on the area they have the advantage on, the in-house experience.   What is your favorite hotel in the world and why? I love the architecture and the design of the Sofitel Chicago Water Tower, but my favorite hotel is probably the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac in Quebec city that is a major Canadian Landmark. The service is outstanding, and the place carries its 125+ years of history.   What is the most exciting technology you've seen in the hotel tech space that is not built by your own company? Why? I’m a big fan of STAYmyway, a mobile key solution that does need not to replace the old mag-stripe locks and embeds a guest recognition solution with ID matching to increase security and avoid any chargeback dispute. It has a hotel version and a private rental offering. I like them so much I have invested in the company.   What is one thing that most people don't know about you? My wife and I love remodeling houses, from the design to the final product. We are quite proud to present the results to our friends and family and get excited when people think there is no way we did it ourselves!