Distribution is a costly expense for hotels. Each time a booking is made through a third-party, commissions must be paid throughout the chain of distribution. While it’s convenient to capture demand from these channels, it’s not always clear that the commissions paid are worth the bookings received. The question of value is especially pertinent given that most hotels pay more for commission then they have in the past, per Kalibri Labs data: Kalibri Labs data from 19,000 hotels worldwide shows how much more hotels spend on distribution since 2015. The stark reality of rising distribution costs has led many hotels to broaden their metrics from the simple RevPAR to NetRevPAR, which adjusts for distribution costs within top line results. To deliver stronger profits (and not just greater booking volume), hotels must deploy a comprehensive direct booking strategy that pulls more bookings away from those third parties. One hospitality technology company in particular has stepped up to the challenge with a comprehensive set of direct booking tools: Triptease. “Paying large commissions for valuable guests is over. Identify and reach your highest-value guests first with a platform that works across the booking journey - from acquisition to conversion - to make sure they book directly with your hotel.” ~Triptease Triptease initially began as a price check widget on hotel websites and has since evolved into an end-to-end guest intelligence platform. Today Triptease helps not only improve hotel website and booking engine conversion rates but also helps hotels bring more prospective guests into the top of the funnel with tools that improve the ways they market on 3rd party channels like OTAs and metasearch platforms (e.g. TripAdvisor). The company’s website optimization tools then convert those guests more often with personalized offers, notifications and even website live chat. When used in combination with a hotel’s existing marketing efforts, these tools are a powerful driver of direct revenue. Here are 5 reasons why hotels need Triptease’s direct booking tools to boost business in the direct channel. #1: Attract the most valuable guests to your hotel website With intelligent audience acquisition, hotels get more of the right customers. Triptease’s platform ensures that your hotel reaches the most valuable guests first. With its metasearch ad tool, Triptease’s system identifies and prioritizes high-value guests for conversion. The tool promises to “bring the right guests straight from search” so that your advertising spend can be targeted to the guests most likely to convert. The secret sauce here is that Triptease aggregates and analyzes your hotel’s data to calculate a precise bid amount. The tool adjust bids according to the potential value of a stay, as well as that individual guest’s likelihood to book. To get to this ideal bid, Triptease uses two different systems: the Guest Value Index, which judges how the guest’s purchase intent compares to your hotel’s ideal customer profile, and the Trip Value Index, which is calculated from the booking’s qualities, such as parity and overall booking value. Hotels stand to gain a lot from these calculations: Triptease Meta aims to drive metasearch traffic that pays for itself with an additional 10% of direct revenue for hotels. More guests at a lower cost drives profitability for hotels, which is the core value proposition of Triptease’s guest intelligence platform. #2: Convert more lookers to bookers The goal of attracting more guests, and converting them more often, is driven by Triptease’s focus on transparency and trust. Thanks to blanket discounts and “Only X rooms left!” messaging, there’s a lot of mistrust and skepticism around hotel search. Triptease works to build trust by letting guests know that they’ll get the fairest price on the direct channel. The Triptease Price Check Widget shows guests how much that same search would cost on three OTAs. The popular tool provides price transparency and boosts trust with guests. Rather than pretending like guests weren’t shopping around, the Price Check Widget calls attention to it by giving guests the confidence to book direct. Triptease has expanded on the widget with a full suite of conversion tools. Now, the platform includes non-price offers, such as offering a value-add bonus for booking direct, as well as highlighting recent searches and essential information about a hotel’s location. In total, there are thousands of messages across multiple content types that hotels can use to convert lookers to bookers. Messages can also be personalized dynamically to different types of guests, so that hotels can best target message to demographic. This intelligent targeting improves conversion. #3: Compare rates and track parity The Disparity Dungeon sounds like a terrible place to be. And that’s by design. This Triptease feature ensures that your hotel is priced competitively compared to your comp set -- and that your rates are in parity across your distribution channels. By monitoring parity often, hoteliers can make sure that guests always get the best rates when booking direct. Triptease has also recently expanded to include wholesalers here so the tool aids hotels with often-contentious wholesaler relationships. While there are certainly standalone tools for tracking rate parity, such as OTA Insight, there’s an advantage to packaging it into a direct booking platform: namely, ease of use. It’s right there within the same tool, so there’s no need to click away to another login screen. This ease of use also extends to format: Triptease provides regular weekly emails that identify surge events and other trends. By understanding when and where parity is changing, hoteliers can identify issues without necessarily having to watch parity daily. For those that want to monitor disparity in real-time, there’s a live feed of every search on your website that’s being undercut by an OTA. Hotels can also opt into instant alerts for parity violations. Armed with this information, hoteliers can identify the patterns and root causes of rate disparity. They can then use the documentation provided by Triptease to bring parity issues to their account reps at major OTAs that assist in the negotiation process and ultimately can help lower commissions or drive more bookings over the long term. #4: Assist your customers with live chat In its bid to be the “everything” store for direct bookings, Triptease has recently added live chat to its platform. Chat keeps the guest’s attention and gives hotels a clear path to capture bookings. Hotels can reach out directly, answer questions, and generally be accessible. The chat interface is optimized for mobile, making it easy for your reservations team to connect directly with guest’s in the channel they prefer (which is increasingly mobile). There’s also an automated component to the chat tool. The Triptease automated AI chatbot also answers the most frequently asked questions to instantly assist guests. The automated live chat can also check availability and take payment details right in the chat interface. By removing pain points, the path to purchase is smoother and more likely to convert. #5: Know what works with OTA-level data OTAs promise not just bookings. They also promise a level of data that’s hard to beat, especially for hotels that don’t necessarily have a sophisticated data capability in-house. Triptease turns this on its head by providing OTA-level data on who books direct, where they come from, and who they are. The Insights Dashboard gives hotels all the necessary numbers to build a direct distribution channel that works for their own unique situation. The analytics provides complete visibility into hotel performance, as well as broader industry benchmarks for comparison. That type of granular, interaction-level data is comparable to what OTAs leverage to make more money for their own channels. Hotels can compete using their own data, and maintain a healthy (and growing) direct distribution channel. Pricing and getting started with Triptease Triptease prices packages depending on which products a hotel wants, as well as the scale of the hotel’s needs (for example, multi-property applications). As far as implementation and setup, there’s not a lot required of hotels to get started. Hotels will need to add some code to their websites to support specific products. The most complex part is connecting the Triptease platform to existing data sources to power the hotel-level insights. Triptease offers extensive coaching, so it’s not just providing software but also the knowledge layer and long term partnership for amplifying direct bookings. Triptease has a global team of Direct Booking Coaches available to assist hotels of all sizes. From digital marketing to website optimization, data analysis, and product training, these coaches apply their regional expertise ensure ongoing success for partner hotels. To get started with the Guest Intelligence Platform, schedule a demo with the team right from the Triptease Hotel Tech Report profile.
Hotel Marketing Software Articles
1. FOSSE creator Dave Berkus uses lessons from history to predict the future of hotel technology Listen now > 2. Freehand Creator and Angel Investor Roy Alpert on Using Technology to Create Revolutionary Hotel Brands Listen now > 3. Former Sabre Strategy Chief: Hotel Tech in Emerging Markets, Cyber Security in the Hotel Industry and the Future of GDS Listen now > 4. Cendyn Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, Tim Sullivan Talks Artificial Intelligence, Hotel Technology’s Place in Web 1.0 and Why Everyone is Wrong About the OTAs Listen now > 5. Triptease Founder Charlie Osmond Tells All: How his tech startup got into 12k hotels, raised $20M in venture funding and beat a $65B company Listen now > 6. Former Ruckus Wireless VP of Hospitality Ted Watson Discusses the Recent $800M Acquisition, Major Trends in WiFi Connectivity and the Critical Role HTNG Plays for Innovation Listen now >
The Hotel Tech Twins just returned home from HFTP’s annual US HITEC show which just so happened to find itself in...wait for it...the twin cities. This year’s location in Minneapolis is the hometown of hotel tech darling IDeaS which happened to be celebrating its 30th year in business - serendipity was in the air. The week kicked off with our favorite part of every major conference, Klaus Kohlmayr’s exclusive tech startup happy hour where we got to bump elbows with CEOs like ALICE’s Alex Shashou, Meeting Package’s Joonas Ahoola and Triptease’s Charlie Osmond who just returned from running a marathon in North Korea (nope that’s not a typo...NORTH Korea!). During the conference we met with more than 50 tech companies to learn about the latest tech developments and tips to grow your hotel business. In this article we distill major trends that we saw in the market and highlight key innovations that should be on every hotelier’s radar within each trend. Consolidation certainly seems to be driving the market with Travel Tripper + Pegasus making its first combined HITEC debut, Jonas Hospitality launching its Jonas Chorum brand and HeBS/Serenata rebranding the organization Next Guest. Whether you were at HITEC and were too overwhelmed to cut through the noise or couldn’t make it at all...fear not, we've got you covered. Below you’ll learn about the 6 biggest hotel tech trends we saw at the show, discuss what they mean for your hotel business and highlight the companies that are pushing the envelope within each. TLDR; HITEC trends at a glance TREND 1 | Companies are doubling down on automated workflows to save time and reduce human error (12 products covered) TREND 2 | A cambrian explosion of tools to help hoteliers manage and make sense of their data (6 products covered) TREND 3 | A new focus on enabling guests and driving revenue with self service (8 products covered) TREND 4 | Big tech is leaning into hotels for new use cases & distribution (4 products covered) TREND 5 | Housekeeping software is heating up (4 products covered) TREND 6 | Fraud and security are still poignant post-Marriott breach (8 products covered) Bonus Coverage: More Notable Product Rollouts and Launches From the Show (10 products covered) Before we jump into the trends...3 shout-outs for creativity at the show Most creative HITEC marketing initiatives: a tie between IDeaS and Infor IDeaS went big for their 30th anniversary and brewed their own line of local craft beers for the show. We heard they still have a few extra cases left so when you are negotiating that contract for your hotel group’s next RMS - make sure to ask them for a hoppy throw in. Infor launched its new grab-and-go POS solution where guests can purchase food on a touch screen kiosk. The Company went all in on the demo and had a full service food and beverage operation running in real time. It turns out hoteliers love free food and the demo was super slick so the Infor booth was slammed every time we passed by. ALICE delighted conference goers by shelling out envelopes of cash to announce its latest release. While envelopes of cash alone would have been enough to secure a shout out for creativity, the meaning behind the stunt sealed the deal with class, creativity and customer centricity. Having just launched the all new ALICE Housekeeping, the envelopes were actually tip envelopes for conference goers to bring back to their hotel rooms and leave for their room attendent paying homage to housekeepers and the back breaking work they do day-in and day-out. Congrats to SABA Hospitality, the winner of E20X People's Choice Award. SABA Hospitality manages every aspect of the guest journey. From answering questions, to managing requests, making recommendations, fulfilling F&B orders and everything in between. Their artificial intelligence driven chatbot transforms a hotels guest experience, while lowering staff workload and driving revenue. TREND 1 | Companies are doubling down on automated workflows to save time and reduce human error Due to years of overzealous media hype, when hoteliers hear the word ‘automation’ they mostly think about robots but the kind of automation that’s actually changing the hotel industry is a very different kind of automation. Most techies are familiar with companies like Zapier and IFTTT (If This Then That). Essentially these companies are platforms that help businesses setup and execute rules for repetitive processes. For example, you could set a “Zap” that triggers a Google Calendar meeting scheduled every time someone fills out a form on your website. These kinds of automations are the backbone of building a great business because they free up your team to focus on high value tasks. Hotels are notorious for having these kinds of repetitive tasks. For example, every time a room attendent finishes cleaning a room they need to radio the housekeeping manager who then needs to mark the room ready for inspection. Take another example where your night audit team needs to do a manual bucket check to cross reference each in-house folio against your in-house list in your PMS. All of these tasks can be automated away which frees up those team members to focus on higher value tasks which can really move the needle for your business. At HITEC this year we saw a ton of companies from guest messaging platforms to revenue management systems showcasing ways for hoteliers to automate away those redundant and tedious tasks. These tools help you save time, eliminate frustration and mitigate the risk of error across your property operations. Below are the key HITEC launches and showcases that help hoteliers like you with task automation. Whistle launched AI conversation and dispatch automation for its guest messaging product Some hoteliers fear that adding guest messaging at their property will increase the amount of work for their teams by adding a new channel for requests. The good news is that Whistle has been honing their conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI) / Machine Learning (ML) model which now claims to predict responses to 80%+ of guest questions and requests. With this knowledge, Whistle can suggest or automatically prompt the appropriate response back to the guest, and even auto-prompt service requests and work orders to internal departments via Whistle’s lightweight task management module or other integrated Service Optimization solutions like Quore. Whistle has won the top rated Guest Messaging category two years running and its new time saving functionality looks like they're likely to step up their game again this year. IDeaS showcased Investigator, a new feature to show hoteliers how pricing decisions were made As technology plays more of a role in revenue management many revenue managers want to know the “why” behind pricing decisions to ensure that mistakes aren’t being made and so that they can effectively communicate strategic decisions to stakeholders. With Investigator, revenue managers can drill into the analytics behind decisions made by IDeaS’ G3 revenue management system. Investigator allows revenue managers to embrace automation while also staying in the loop to make sure everything is working properly. OTA Insight adds intelligent rate parity breach detection and bulk actioning via automated alerts Hotel distribution is extremely complex and due to the way that 3rd parties resell inventory it’s nearly impossible to track down parity issues like price discrepancies or room-type issues. Parity Insight provides a turnkey solution to detect, action and resolve parity issues in real-time. The new functionality provides workflow automation and streamlines communication between groups, chains and hotels. OTA Insight is trusted by more than 40,000 properties globally and leverages data across the entire group to help each individual client ensure that their distribution partners aren’t engaging in costly breaches of contracts. Zingle launched automatic message categorization and intent triggered automation Without the right automation, guest messaging can add more work onto your team’s already busy plate so it’s important to have the right automations in place to ensure that this great guest amenity doesn’t come at the expense of team productivity. Zingle’s messaging software has pre-made and customizable automated workflows that re-route and follow up to messages to save staff valuable time on repetitive tasks. There are dozens of automations available today, including recognition of plumbing issues, process information requests (like gym hours), or housekeeping related messages like room-cleaning and turn down service. Zingle streamlines communication for hotels and improves service times by reducing the need for manual ticket entry, routing and follow-up by staff. Zingle raised $11M from Peakspan Capital to fuel technical R&D and drive growth. Fun fact, Zingle's founder Ford Blakey also happens to be the brother of billionaire Spanx founder, Sarah Blakely. Travel Tripper showcased its ADA compliance audit and monitoring platform to automatically detect compliance issues with your website. The platform offers a proactive approach to the increasing threat of ADA website lawsuits in the hotel industry, allowing hoteliers and their web service providers to address website accessibility issues and mitigate the risk of ADA compliance lawsuits. This platform is the first of its kind (in the hotel industry) which actively audits hotel websites according to WCAG 2.1 AA-Level standards and automatically alerts property teams if a technical violation is found. Upon recognizing an ADA violation, the platform sends regular notifications to account users until the issue is fixed. In addition, Travel Tripper assists hoteliers’ legal teams by giving them the proper documentation they need when responding to an ADA website compliance lawsuit. Cendyn announced a new funding round lead by Accel/KKR to increase the capabilities of its marketing automation products both in SMB (Guestfolio) and enterprise (eInsight). Cendyn was one of the first movers in the hotel CRM market and to this day is amongst the top hotel CRM choices in the enterprise clients with its eInsight product. Back in 2016 Cendyn acquired Guestfolio, a provider of hotel CRM independents and moving forward AKKR is likely to have its sights set on more M&A opportunities like Guestfolio (or even a larger merger). With Tim Sullivan taking the helm from founders Robyn and Charles Deyo, hoteliers can expect the firm to push deeper into automation. Over the last few years hotel CRM vendors have needed to invest heavily in GDPR compliance initiatives but with that behind them expect more "Marketo" like marketing automation functionality out of this category in the next 6-12 months. Protel launched zero cost 1-click integrations to fuel automation Integration is the key to all automation but historically integrations have been extremely expensive and time consuming to set live. protel launched one-click connect and slashed activation costs for select partners in its i/o marketplace. Now protel clients can instantly turn on top rated apps like OTA Insight, Oaky Upselling and Atomize revenue management without paying a dime. While this is a small step towards a more integrated future it is a critical one since this kind of move from a major PMS company like protel with 14,000 clients will put pressure on others to follow suit. Atomize launched its group booking price optimization functionality Group sales reps often price groups manually which takes a lot of work. If they ask too much they could lose the contract and if they charge too little they leave money on the table. Atomize’s new group booking functionality allows hoteliers to automatically set optimal prices for group booking packages. The software cuts out manual calculations, negotiations and collaborations by taking into account the total expected spend of various groups on property. Atomize can factor varied requests within the same group like different arrival and departure dates. Atomize won top rated revenue management system in the 2019 HotelTechAwards and has been taking the industry by storm ever since. This new group functionality is another step towards rounding out Atomize as a complete revenue management software the platform. SevenRooms launched email marketing for hotel restaurants Hotel food & beverage operations often lack the resources and know how to run personalized marketing campaigns. SevenRooms’ segmentation and email automation enables F&B managers to easily add customizable tags to guest profiles then run rules based marketing campaigns to those segments. Run unique marketing to critical segments like: first timers, high value regulars, positive reviewers and more. Companies like Revinate and Cendyn have demonstrated the immense value of personalized hospitality marketing campaigns. Now F&B outlets can benefit from marketing automation too. Zoox debuted facial recognition technology for hotel check-in Front desk agents are overloaded with repetitive tasks like identity verification which creates bottlenecks at check-in and hurts the guest experience. Zoox’ facial recognition software allows guests to check into the hotel in under 15 seconds without the front desk ever needing to verify their identity with ID or credit card. Facial recognition is already being used in markets like China which have leap frogged some of the West’s archaic traditions by using next gen tech. Avvio showcased its Allora powered booking engine Each guest is enticed by different booking messages, layouts and visuals so having a static booking engine means that you’re losing guests by not putting the right offer and presentation in front of them. Allora leverages data from Avvio’s client base to put the right messages and visuals in front of guests that are likely to be enticed by those calls to action. Continuous website optimization is mainstream in eCommerce and is a critical piece of maximizing direct bookings. Avvio guarantees that you will see a 25% increase in direct booking revenue when you switch to their booking engine. Knowcross launched KNOW Maintenance to automate preventative maintenance KNOW Maintenance is a cloud based multilingual application that helps automate, schedule and monitor all preventive maintenance activities at hotels. The application organizes all engineering responsibilities for hotels, thus ensuring superior guest satisfaction, minimize malfunction accidents and maximized equipment lifetimes. This also results in enhanced productivity and better manpower forecasts. Event Temple showcased group sales automation. Sales & catering is the lifeblood of any business hotel and managing your group sales pipeline effectively could be the difference between making or losing money. Event Temple's group CRM is purpose built for the hotel industry and features digital contract signatures, banquet orders, pipeline overview, menus and more. With this software your sales team can track progress at the property or portfolio level. Event Temple features built in emails and the ability to automate initial drip outreach with new leads. TREND 2 | A cambrian explosion of tools to help manage and make sense of your data We know that you and your staff are probably sick of tech companies talking about artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data. Ultimately the big hotel data challenge can be boiled down into 3 simple buckets: (1) Guest profile data (2) Market data (3) Operations data Most of the datasets that tech marketers are referring to are not really big data. Here’s how analytics firm SAS defines big data. “Big data is a term that describes the large volume of data – both structured and unstructured – that inundates a business on a day-to-day basis.” Since big data can be overwhelming for hoteliers, let’s first define our data types so that we can see it’s actually not so scary: Guest profile data helps us target new guests and better serve them on property. CRM systems use recency, frequency and monetary value as the core data points but this data includes PMS data like stay dates as well as 3rd party data pulled in from social media platforms, reputation platforms like Revinate, guest surveys and other data sources. Ultimately we want to use this data to find new guests who are like the ones that stay with us and to deliver personalized experiences that drive loyalty Market data helps us price our rooms and plan for the future. This data includes historical pricing, demand trends, local events and more. Market data sources come from platforms like OTA Insight or TravelClick Demand360 as well as 3rd parties like Kalibri Labs, STR or CBRE. Operations data helps us streamline how we run our business. This data comes from PMS and operations systems. We’ll want to look at things like how long it takes to turn our rooms, average cost per occupied room, time to service requests and more. The challenge becomes tying all of this data together in ways that enable us to make business decisions and act on them in real time. Integrating these datasets and visualizing them in a clear and understandable way is critical for the success of any hotel. Because this data is constantly flooding into our properties it’s impossible for humans to process it and make good decisions without the right software systems in place. From budgeting and forecasting to marketing and operations, the vendors below showcased new ways of visualizing and manipulating a hotel’s existing data to help hoteliers make better business decisions. Revinate debuted its new platform that promises to manage and organize all of your hotel’s marketing data How can hotels manage relationships with guests? Not just manage room inventory, but create and manage rich guest profiles that tell them everything they need to know about potential guests: recency, frequency, and spending of previous stays to really understand who their VIPs are and when and how they should be marketed to. Currently, data is tied up in various systems that don’t speak to each other very well. Hoteliers need tools specifically built for the complexities and nuances of the hospitality industry. Nowhere is this truer than when it comes to managing guest relationships effectively at scale. The Hotel GMS allows hoteliers to easily surface insights on their guest, segment and market to them, and learn more about them over time to make future communications even more effective. Hotel Effectiveness showcased its labor optimization dashboards and new wage benchmarking capabilities With labor costs on the rise and labor being the single largest line item on most hotel’s P&L, finding ways to monitor and optimize your labor and staffing is mission critical for most hoteliers. The problem is that most hotels still track and manage their labor manually on pen and paper but luckily, Hotel Effectiveness (in depth review). The team showcased their purpose built tool that is used by major clients such as Heritage Hotels & Resorts, Interstate Hotels & Resorts, Pacific Host Hotels and Chartwell Hospitality and promises to reduce total labor costs by 5-10% by turning labor hours and cost data into actionable recommendations served up right in the dashboard. SHR launched its Wave RMS (revenue management system) SHR is the latest in a slew of companies launching revenue management systems in the last couple of years. SHR's algorithm uses Reinforcement Learning techniques with a proprietary mathematical model that recommends prices not only based on one specific date, but factoring in both days-to-arrival and optimal price on shoulder dates, as well, to maximize revenue across the stay pattern. Wave combines advanced algorithms with a Strategy Builder tool so that Revenue Managers don't need to solely trust a “black box” recommendation. Cenium showed off its Microsoft BI powered customizable dashboards If you’ve used multiple PMS’ before you know that the dashboards often look the same. Based on your role, there are different metrics and views that are most important to you but it takes a million clicks to get to your favorite view. With a redesigned interface, Cenium put its new customizable dashboards on display at HITEC. Powered by Microsoft BI, hoteliers can pick from pre-built templates or easily slice and dice data to personalize their dashboard. Owned by a Norweigan hotel conglomerate, Cenium was built for the portfolio’s own hotels and is now being made available globally to other hotels outside its portfolio. Funded by the cashflow of the real estate business, Cenium’s pockets are deep and offer a deep resource pool to build a strong product with a customer mindset at the heart of product development. SnapShot rolled out its V1 POS Analytics to compare PMS and POS data in one interface While PMS Software was built for hotels, most POS Software was built for restaurants which often becomes evident when trying to run hotel analysis of various F&B outlets or compare POS and PMS data in one interface to identify performance by outlet as well as slice and dice data from both systems to do things like remap and unify POS outlets' names, payment methods, F&B categories and price modifiers. Snapshot POS Analytics is currently only available for hotels who utilize sister Shiji company Infrasys’ POS and the lightning fast growing Lightspeed POS. Profitsword showcased its custom financial performance dashboards The new user interface is a continuation of ProfitSword's commitment to provide instant and straightforward access to the information that businesses need in order to plan and ensure a successful, efficient and profitable operation. ProfitSword customers are now able to instantly access, group and compare real-time performance data in a way that fits their specific needs at any given time, and with a level of detail that is truly a first for our industry and save custom reports as favorites for easy 1-click access. TREND 3 | A new Focus on enabling guests and driving revenue with self service We’re living in an age where we manage our investments on mobile devices via apps like Robinhood and choose our workouts at home via platforms like Peloton. As technology gets better, we’re able to go straight to the source and get exactly what we want, when we want it and at a fraction of the cost. In the hotel industry the notion of self service has taken a bit longer to catch up except in innovative markets like Las Vegas. Many hoteliers believe that disintermediating services is detrimental to delivering a great hospitality experience. In many ways they are right and there will always need to be a highly personal component between guests and staff to truly create a great guest experience. Having said that, there are many facets of hotel operations where guests are actually better served completing these tasks themselves which also frees up staff to focus on building personal relationships, surprising and delighting. An example of this in our professional lives exists within the meeting booking space. Platforms like Calendly and x.ai are actually much better at scheduling meetings because they integrate directly with our calendars and don't require back and forth to coordinate between parties. That doesn't mean executives no longer need personal assistants, it just means that personal assistants can focus on adding more value for their employers and skip the back-and-forth. There are lots of examples of this dynamic in hotels. Most guests would prefer an automated grab and go where they don’t need to go through an entire transaction process with an associate. This seamless experience at the front desk actually builds loyalty by cutting out any wait time or frustration - something that is increasingly critical in the age of instant gratification. Similarly, there is no check-in experience that can make up for waiting in line at the reception. Solutions like mobile check-in and keyless entry can alleviate wait times and free up staff to focus on higher value tasks. Below you’ll find the latest technology developments within the self service trend that deliver instant gratification and consistently perfect service to guests while freeing up your team to focus on surprising and delighting. Zoox Smart Pass rolls out facial recognition for seamless and verified self-checkin So you’ve been Global Entry or Nexus and wondered why the kiosks there can check you in but you have to talk to someone at the front desk at a hotel. Well, now you don’t have to. As self service check-in goes more mainstream especially at select service and extended stay properties, it’s only logical that facial recognition will allow for a more frictionless and secure identification process. With this new tech, guests simply walk up to the computer camera like they would a Global Entry terminal, scan their face and checkin to their room in under 15 seconds. Impulsify showed off its ShopPop hotel pantry solution that they're so confident in it actually comes with an ROI guarantee Having a hotel pantry has often been reserved for brands and larger properties who have the manpower to be able to properly service customers. Even so, in the majority of cases front desk agents double as grab-n-go cashiers and anytime something is sold it creates a bottleneck at the front desk. Impuslify’s purpose built pantry POS, ShopPop, allows any hotel to easily run their own pantry to offer additional convenience items to guests while driving ancillary revenue through an easy to use self service checkout kiosk. In addition to time saving features like automated shopping lists and PMS integrations-- Impulsify has processed over 5 million transactions, giving it a growing database of information so you won't have to rely on instinct or habit to decide what guests prefer. The results are so good that Impulsify even offers new clients an ROI guarantee. Infor showed conference goers just how easy self-service can be with its POS Kiosks Usually we expect creative displays from smaller companies but at HITEC, Infor stole the show with a live demonstration of it’s grab-and-go solution where attendees ordered food and beverages on one of Infor’s new self service POS kiosks. Similar to Impulsify, Infor’s self service kiosk allows hotels to offer additional food and convenience items to guests with the tap of a button without having to worry about staff oversight. Zaplox rolled out its new customizable self-service check-in kiosk While self service check-in/check-out kiosks are ubiquitous in the airline and grocery industries, most hotels have lagged behind the trend and few offer a fully self-service check-in process. More and more technology providers are creating solutions hoping that hotels will wise up and follow their more technologically advanced sibling categories. Following the likes of Mew’s Self Service Checkin Kiosk that was released earlier this year, Zaplox launched their take on the tech hoping to bolster usage of keyless entry by offering a more fluid end-to-end check-in experience. Zaplox Kiosk enables guests to skip the lines and check in and print their own key cards - with 24 hours availability. The kiosk's custom-branded interface enables hotels to create a cohesive brand experience and because the kiosk runs on any tablet-based device, hotels can select the hardware that best matches the interior and space limitation. Whistle put its conversational commerce on display with its new text based upselling feature According to Whistle, nearly 30% of guest interactions on their guest messaging platform are potential revenue generating opportunities for the hotel. While guests often express their interest in purchasing an item or placing an order through messaging, they are then inconveniently redirected to communicate their request to the appropriate department (ex. Please call room service to place your order) which both adds friction for guests and reduces conversion to purchase for hotels (aka lost revenue). With Whistle’s new upsell module, hotels can add custom inventory from their F&B outlets, pantry, local businesses or even add-ons like late checkout and guests can now seamlessly purchase with one click and have the charges added to the room via PMS integration or leverage 1-click checkout with Apple or Google Pay. Conversational commerce has long been the gold standard in Asian markets so its great to see frictionless ways to tap into more guest wallet share during their stay while simultaneously adding convenience value for consumers, a win-win for Whistle, hotels and their guests. MeetingPackage showcased it's group booking engine and channel manager If you’ve ever tried to book a hotel meeting space or venue online you know just how cumbersome of a process it usually is. First you have to fill out a form, then you wait for a response, then when you finally get a response the first question hotels often ask is ‘how much is your budget’. The whole experience is cumbersome, awkward and feels inherently like you’re being taken by a used car salesman. In comes MeetingPackage to the rescue with its M&E booking engine and channel manager that allows you to manage content, sync across channels to increase your reach and add a booking flow with rich content, add-ons and full customization for your next event promising to drastically increase conversion rates while delivering corporate clients and meeting planners a seamless self-service booking experience that consumers expect. Aethon Robotics turned heads with its delivery robots to cut down on delivery times Aethon’s TUG robots take a different approach to self-service by delivering things like food, linen, banquet supplies and luggage via an R2D2 looking robot. Except for singularity believers waiting for the Terminator to jump through a time warp portal to initiate Skynet--the Aethon is likely to leave guests with a unique and memorable experience that they’ll want to tell their friends and social media followers about. Beyond the buzz factor, for hotels looking to cut down on expensive labor can leverage Aethon’s robots to automate common deliveries and cut down on delivery times. Intelity's tablets got a backend upgrade to make it easier for guests to access information at their fingertips New additions to INTELITY Staff include an enhanced ticketing system, a more robust content management solution (CMS), in-depth guest and operations analytics, and Guest360™, which provides a 360-degree view of guest preferences, designed to help hotel staff across all departments make the right decisions at the right time while further personalizing the guest experience. The new enhancements to INTELITY Staff will provide staff with access to comprehensive business intelligence and the ability to streamline daily workflows, seamlessly track, manage, and organize preventative maintenance and service recovery, and make real-time content updates. One of the biggest challenges today's hoteliers face is connecting and engaging with their guests in a personalized manner on digital platforms. Guests expect highly personal experience and interactions in hospitality, but also want to have access to the convenience that technology affords them. The new enhancements to INTELITY Staff streamline staff workflows so that staff can spend more time focusing on creating the connection and personalization guests crave. Saba's chatbot and no-download app SABA Hospitality manages every aspect of the guest journey. From answering questions, to managing requests, making recommendations, fulfilling F&B orders and everything in between. Their artificial intelligence driven chatbot transforms a hotels guest experience, while lowering staff workload and driving revenue. Swyft put its Amazon-esque cashierless stores on display And we’re back...more automated retail! Have you ever walked by a Best Buy or CVS vending machine in the airport? If so, then you’ve seen Swyft’s cashierless retail kiosks in action. While not as widely adopted in hotels Swyft’s tech offers another option to generate ancillary pantry and merchandise revenue without the added labor bottlenecks or cost. StayMyWay rolled out all new keyless entry door hardware StayMyWay featured a series of shiny new access solutions including its signature Cylinder door lock hardware and 3 more unique digital replacements that each boasted clean lines and strong functionality without breaking the bank starting at under $200. 4Suites showcased its app-less mobile key solution 4Suites mobile keys are fully automated for hotels and frictionless for guests. No actions required from hotels, no app download or login for guests. All intelligence and security is handled by 4Suites in the background to offer the easiest, yet most advanced mobile key solution. Mobile keys can simplify guest operations, reduce costs and improve the guest experience. If done correctly. 4Suites removes friction and has created a fully automated process for hotels and a simple, seamless and impossible-not-to-understand journey for guests. Qwick showcased its short term staffing platform The Qwick app refines and matches job listings for professionals and allows them to accept and confirm shifts all through a smartphone device. The Qwick app has features all in one central place: view matched shifts to accept, view work schedules, clock-in and clock-out, and receive payments within as little as thirty minutes after completing a shift through their secured platform. This level of convenience and accessibility is helping to grow Qwick’s database of professionals, ensuring high quality workers and quickly filled shifts for businesses. TREND 4 | Big tech is leaning into hotels for new use cases & distribution Hospitality has always been a big focus for big tech and fortune 500s but it seems to be heating up in recent years. Travel and tourism contribute $1.5 trillion to GDP globally so it’s no surprise that these companies want in on the action. Traditionally companies within the room automation space (e.g. Honeywell), high tech materials (e.g. Corning) and business electronics (e.g. LG) focus on the hotel sector and increasingly we’re seeing big tech get into the mix with the likes of Samsung, Microsoft and Amazon. Below we highlight some of the key hospitality launches for big tech players at HITEC this year. Peloton made its HITEC debut offering a new way to attract a fitness focused audience for hotels Peloton made it’s HITEC debut where the firm unveiled its new “Hotel Finder” feature. With Hotel Finder, riders can find and book hundreds of hotels with Peloton bikes across the United States. The Company is set for IPO this year with it’s last valuation set at $4.15B and growth has been on a tear. Peloton’s rider base recently surpassed Soul Cycle as it doubled its user count year over year and the firm is naturally looking for new growth avenues. Fitness focused hotel brand Westin partnered with Peloton and this move seems to be an evolution of that thesis. More than 400,000 bikes were sold by February of 2019 and many of those riders are die hard fitness junkies who are highly likely to seek out hotels where they can get their fitness fix. As Peloton continues to grow it’s install base and product offerings (e.g. Peloton Tread) hotels could find an interesting niche distribution channel to reach fitness enthusiasts. Samsung mounted its 8k QLED monitors dubbed, ‘The Wall’ outfitted with captivating next generation digital art Samsung’s gorgeous 8K QLED and The Wall stole the show with digital art provided by partners Niio and Black Dove. 8K digital signage delivers impeccable picture quality and resolution that was previously unimaginable at scale. Samsung’s technology uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) upscaling to produce lifelike images and immersive experiences. Great hoteliers know that first impressions are everything. For select service hotels digital art can provide new advertising revenue while for more upscale high end and boutique properties it can give your hotel a huge leg up. Digital art leaders include firms such as Niio, Blackdove and the 2019 HotelTechAward winner in the digital art category, Wrapped. Create your own next gen hotel check-in experience with digital art like Sharks from Wrapped on an 8K Samsung Wall. If you need some inspiration, we highly recommend checking out Wrapped Studios’s Shark installation that wow’d even the high brow crowd of attendees at this year’s renown Art Basel in Miami. Amazon and LG’s hospitality divisions collaborate to make in-room entertainment remoteless Gernophobes will be rejoicing at Amazon for Hospitalty’s latest partnership announced with LG. Together the companies will infuse Alexa voice controls into the hotel TV experience allowing guests to never have to touch a remote again. Other than being carriers for germs, most hotel remotes are clunky and make channel surfing a frustrating experience so voice controls promise to make for more seamless guest room entertainment. Microsoft steps up to the plate looking to bring its Teams for Frontline Workers product to hotel operations and compete in the employee engagement category While most offerings in the staff collaboration and employee engagement categories are purpose built for the hotel industry, Microsoft appears to be testing the waters by tailoring its employee communication offering to empower frontline workers. Teams for Frontline workers dubs itself as “the hub for teamwork” and touts benefits including easier employee training, culture building and document management. With Microsoft’s office suite already being used by most hotels to manage email, the company has a strong foothold into the industry already and may just be able to gain footing in the employee communication category if it plays its cards right. TREND 5 | Housekeeping software is heating up Earlier this year the NY Times wrote a great piece titled ‘The next wave of unicorn startups’ where it argued that the next wave of billion dollar tech firms will not look like the last. Rather than splashy consumer facing companies like Snapchat, Uber and AirBnB making their way towards IPOs - the article hypothesizes that the next wave of unicorns will be filled with B2B software companies focused on seemingly boring and unexpected industries. Now, many of the up-and-coming start-ups that may become the next unicorns have names like Benchling and Blend. And they largely focus on software for specific industries like farms, banks and life sciences companies. ~New York Times Add hospitality to that list because there are some major players entering the market. Where the OTAs and digital distribution have largely driven the last wave of massive technology adoption in hotels because they focus on the top line, the next wave of hotel tech adoption is coming from operations software and specifically within the housekeeping segment. After watching Quore take the title as “Top Rated Housekeeping Software for Hotels” in the HotelTechAwards two years in a row, several newcomers are entering the space to capitalize on the opportunity. ALICE upped its game with the launch of its all new ALICE Housekeeping While ALICE has always offered a flexible staff communication and task management platform that is used by housekeeping teams across the globe--the all new housekeeping offering is designed from the ground up to deliver a magical experience that will leave even non-housekeepers wanting to take it for a spin. The platform packs a punch with mission critical housekeeping management functionality like automated room assignments but delivers this functionality in an elegant and easy to use solution that integrates each department on property like a finely tuned orchestra. ALICE gave us a glimpse into the future of housekeeping with an exclusive behind the scenes tour of their reimagined housekeeping product. ALICE gave Hotel Tech Report an exclusive behind the scenes look at the all new ALICE Housekeeping See the product in action Hkeeper showed off new functionality that enables housekeeping departments to track materials usage and supply levels Using HKeeper, you will find all needed operational management hotel's tools and avoid unnecessary problems related to the human factor and lack of collaboration between departments. HKeeper will optimize all daily routine processes, improve your guest relations quality, and free up more time for working with projects and vendors. Hkeeper is one of the best tools for managing the personnel of the hotel and tracking material usage. With HKeeper, you can streamline workflows, reduce the turnaround time between tasks, and increase employee productivity. One of the main advantages over other housekeeping software is that Hkeeper offers a unique feature that allows tracking all materials used during cleaning and maintenance tasks or other operations through the program in real time. Moreover, HKeeper also monitors working progress in real time and analyzes staff performance by counting active working time, turnaround time, and time required for each task. Another exceptional function in the HKeeper program is that the mobile application can work off-line. Not all similar programs are offering integration with PMS software, and Hkeeper does, so hotels can easily stay updated on room status, availability, and guest information. Nuvola showed hoteliers if you can't measure it, you can't manage it The housekeeping department in the hotel industry is simultaneously one of the most valuable areas in creating the best guest experience possible while at the same time the hardest to optimize. Introducing new technologies and systems can often make daily processes seem more complicated and be met with resistance. Developed by former hoteliers with this unique understanding in mind, Housekeeping Productivity has been created to meet the specific department needs through an easy to use system and provides accessibility across desktop and mobile devices. Daily room attendants are now able to streamline activities (i.e., room assignment needs, cleaning service tasks) through an intuitive platform that speaks to the notion of making their lives easier. Nuvola's analytics suite helps hoteliers gain critical insights to reduce average time spent "in between rooms" for room attendants, measure room attendant productivity by credit count and compare guest survey score vs. room attendants effectiveness. PurpleCloud takes a unique approach to housekeeping by leveraging gamification to increase staff productivity Housekeepers for hotels are in short supply and the nature of the work is unique. Their work is time sensitive and requires great attention to detail. If we give these housekeepers world-class tools to make them better at their jobs and couple this with common sense, easy to understand recognition and incentives, then we start winning their hearts. In doing so, hoteliers win for the guest. PurpleCloud organizes the housekeeper’s day with a world-class digital platform. Gone are messy paper assignment sheets and balky walkie-talkies. The system is easy to use: self-explanatory; requires only a few clicks; and is available in the housekeeper’s given language. The system further provides housekeepers with feedback on their performance and rewards them for doing well by way of a gamification leaderboard. The result: housekeepers are connected and function as a team. TREND 6 | Fraud and security still poignant post-Marriott breach A recent study by the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) reports that as much as 55% of all credit card fraud in the US takes place within the hospitality industry. Of course, that only considers criminal fraud; but when you factor-in other loss sources like fraudulent chargebacks, the real figure is much higher. Fraud tends to impact the travel and leisure industries even more heavily than other sectors like retail or digital goods. According to Kount, this is attributable to five specific factors: Fluidity: Multiple and last-minute booking changes create more opportunities for fraud. Perishability: Fraudsters tie-up space that cannot be used for legitimate bookings. Margins: Higher ticket values for hotel bookings mean greater impact on the bottom line. Revenue Loss: Excessive false positives mean merchants are declining valid bookings. High OPEX: More manual reviews mean increased operating expenses. With such high transaction volumes and so many moving pieces--hotels continue to be highly susceptible to fraudsters and hackers as evidenced by the Marriott data breach earlier this year of more than 500 million guest records that were hacked earlier this year. Luckily companies are coming out with new and innovative ways to help hotels ward of expensive fraud and damaging hacks. Canary showcased its Y Combinator approved software that claims to cut chargebacks by up to 90% While not the sexiest topic, payments and fraud prevention are big business when it comes to hotels. Y Combinator backed Canary Technologies has a suite of PCI compliant solutions to secure guest data, reduce chargebacks, and speed up sales and catering contract execution by eliminating paper processes on property. If you’re ready to leave your fax machine in the 80s, minimize fraud or just want to hear about why PG is bullish on the product--its probably time to reach out for a demo. Insighti offers hackers for hire to help brands and management companies pre-emptively identify security flaws and protect their data Insighti offers hackers for hire. With the hospitality industry suffering loads of hacks lately from Marriott to Sabre, insighti offers much needed protection. insighti goes in-depth with physical, social, and digital facets of security, using creativity and persistence to find the vulnerabilities other companies miss. Insighti recently partnered with former MGM Resorts VP of IT Marc Fancourt to create hiGuard.io taking the firm’s approach to cybersecurity and applying it to the unique complexities of the hotel industry. VENZA announces partnership with the PCI Council positioning them on the forefront of the latest compliances and security measures Navigating the ever changing PCI compliance regulations and ensuring that your hotel is up-to-snuff can feel like the endless climb to the top of Everest. Luckily, Venza is here to be ‘your guide to data protection’. In the limelight was Venza’s partnership with the PCI Council and certification as a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) that enables the team to work hand-in-hand with the council to set requirements, become early adopters on new PCI DSS requirements and, overall, ensure that customers are receiving the highest quality standards possible. If you’re looking to shore up your hotel’s compliance you’ll want to check out VENZA’s Everest Plan, their entry level plan to get your hotel compliant. ADAsoft launched eSwipe, a passport/ID scanning solution for speeding up and automating guest check-in ADASoft launched its new passport/ID scanning solution for speeding up and automating guest check-in and registration while eliminating data entry errors by seamlessly reading, capturing and accurately transferring data from ID documents and passports into practically any PMS in the market. The company lately announced the release of another unique feature allowing printing of a pre-filled customized registration form available after each passport/ID scan for the guest to sign. Simply scan each guest's Passport/ID in less than a second creating an accurate and complete database, and enjoy the benefits of a great marketing tool and after sales potential. ADAsoft’s eSwipe passport scanning solution facilitates GDPR regulation compliance since typing errors are eliminated and data is accurately registered as stated in GDPR regulation, Chapter II, Article 5, Section 1.d ASSA ABLOY GLOBAL SOLUTIONS unveiled its all new staff safety solution With the US hotel industry continuing to up its requirements when it comes to staff safety with many cities such as Chicago and Miami now requiring hotels to provide employees with safety devices--ASSA ABLOY is the first major company with a storied history and strong credibility to bring a safety solution to market. The safety solution runs off of blue tooth low emission gateaways (BLE) via its Vostio Location Solutions software meaning that (a) it doesn't take up any wi-fi bandwidth and (b) it allows properties to unlock additional location based services within their hotel including asset tracking, proximity messaging and wayfinding.
It’s not uncommon for tech companies in hospitality to start as B2C brands (business to consumer) then pivot to service hotel businesses instead. Triptease launched as a TripAdvisor alternative before pivoting to become a direct booking platform. Similarly, Munich based TrustYou started as a hotel booking website that aggregated reviews from around the web to provide a single trust score for properties around the world before becoming a leading guest feedback and reputation management platform. Back in 2008, TrustYou founder Ben Jost noticed that online review scores had the ability to make or break hotel performance. He also noticed that reviews were being spread to more and more websites like TripAdvisor, Google, Facebook, Yelp and Expedia. Jost and co-founder Jakob Reigger hypothesized that if they could consolidate these reviews to provide travelers with a holistic view of a hotel by creating a proprietary aggregate score that they’d be able to leverage their neutral position to become a dominant booking platform. TrustYou’s booking platform experienced some success but Jost and his team noticed that thousands of hotel managers were coming to the site because they wanted to monitor their review performance across multiple channels - this was their ‘ah-hah’ moment. With this insight, TrustYou pivoted from a B2C model into B2B (business to business) and the firm’s growth exploded. “I remember 5 years ago we had one slide in our sales deck showing a king and a queen on a throne. The headline said “when price is king, reputation is queen.” Maybe it will take another 5 years until we see those both equally presented, but I definitely see it in the future.” ~Benjamin Jost TrustYou has since doubled down on reviews and even demonstrated a commitment to reviews in it’s own business winning 2nd place in the 2019 HotelTechAwards beating out more than 100 hotel tech peers. Everything that TrustYou does tests back to the fundamental question of whether a product or service will enable hotel clients to achieve higher review scores by delivering better service to guests. That mission has resonated with hoteliers around the world and in 2017 alone the Company analyzed more than 100 million guest reviews and collected more than 4 million survey responses. TrustYou’s guest feedback and reputation platform consists of four main components that work in tandem to gather feedback, manage collection at scale and leverage that feedback to drive more business: Review marketing: Market guest reviews via a website widget to increase hotel website conversion Guest messaging: Communicate with guests before and during their stay to ensure a great experience then send surveys afterwards to increase review volumes and rankings Guest surveys: gather feedback from guests after their stay to maintain guest satisfaction scores Reputation management: Real time insights into review scores and online feedback across a variety of channels Reviews are critical to the survival of any hotel today and Benjamin Jost believes that trend is only accelerating. We sat down with him to learn about his vision for TrustYou and to get his perspective on the evolution of reputation management in the broader hotel tech marketplace. What was your background prior to starting TrustYou? After studying engineering, I worked for two Venture Capitalists in Paris and Munich. Then I decided to go on an 8 month trip around the world, and when I came back, I started working in corp dev / M&A for a renewable energy company. I think TrustYou ultimately was born from my urge to do something on my own. Tell us how you founded TrustYou. My co-founder and old friend Jakob Riegger always had his own businesses from the age of 18, and from the outside, it always looked so cool to be your own boss. I think after working for various bosses in various types of organizations, I wanted to do something on my own, and when Jakob also simultaneously wanted to start something new, we brainstormed what we could do together. So the idea of creating a business together with my co-founder came before the actual idea of TrustYou. We started as a B2C company, so actually, our very first customers were users who heard about our site and used it. I know all my family used it because I told them to! But it wasn’t enough, and we were a typical underfunded, German startup and had no idea how much it would cost to actually compete in the B2C world of travel. So while running out of money we realized that more and more hotels were using our website and were looking up their reputation scores and reviews from across the web on our site. Of course they never booked their own hotel so we didn’t earn any money. But that was the starting point of our B2B business. I think it’s much easier to earn money in B2B than B2C so kudos for all the B2C companies who succeed in this world. Wow, I didn’t realize that TrustYou started as a consumer facing brand. Can you talk about the B2B business today? We believe deeply in the power of feedback to build a better product and offer a better service. The only currency that counts to achieve that goal is feedback from your customers. Therefore, hotels need to find a product that helps them collect, understand and market guest feedback (reviews, surveys, messaging) for every customer, via every channel, at any time. I still strongly believe that a hotel’s reputation is more important than their room price and for sure a more sustainable competitive strategy. The TrustYou dashboard gives hoteliers real time insights to improve their businesses Who is one mentor that has really helped you scale TrustYou? Many people helped me over time. One mentor who was there from the very beginning until today is Philip Wolf, founder of Phocuswright, who still sits on TrustYou’s board of advisors. What makes him important to me, next to his great character, is his unvarnished opinion about tough questions and topics. You can surround yourself with people saying yes to everything or with people who point to facts that can be really are uncomfortable to tackle, e.g. cutting costs, hiring people you deem unnecessary at first, etc. And he doesn’t let go until you tackle them, which I appreciate. I don’t always like it, but I always appreciate it. What's one commonly held belief that most hoteliers believe to be true that’s actually false? I think the one I most commonly hear is “I know my guests, I don’t need software to tell me”. Even if you are the type of hotelier who listens to their guests without a survey or reputation management tool, I definitely know you don’t measure any KPIs, track your progress over time, share feedback effectively with your team, or know if you’ll improve from where you stand today. Additionally, you still don’t respond to online reviews, especially the negative ones, and you don’t reach the average guest by sending them your own survey, your own questions. Technology does all of that for you, truly helping you listen to your guests, and win against the competition. What's the most surprising thing you've learned about scaling technology into hotels? Scaling a business in hospitality requires more manpower than what I would have expected when we started. In the beginning, I thought we would be a self-service technology that hotels would just buy, login to, and use. But we quickly learned that the business would require not only our tooling but also our expertise. We have truly become a service company, as well as a software company, and that requires talented people to support the hoteliers. We’re happy to be an extension of our client’s team as their dedicated feedback experts. Are there 1 or 2 companies that have been a particularly good partners for you? We partner with hundreds of different fantastic companies, so it wouldn’t be fair to just name one or two. However, what I would like to see in our industry are more open APIs and more simple connections. I think this would be very beneficial for our common customers, the hotels, but many tech companies don’t operate that way. I wish every tech company in our space would have a section on their website “API for developers” where you can develop solutions on top of their APIs and widgets. I am pushing my company to be open in that way because it just becomes much easier for partners to work with us and new things can be created. For example, I would still love to see rate management companies correlate their data with our data. We have the APIs, just plug them in. I would want every rate management company, every IBE, every website builder, every PMS, every CRM to use our APIs and products to build a better product. Review content plugged into different hospitality solutions is already happening on a small scale, but not everyone out there knows how easy and convenient it is and what kind of value add it can provide to their own solutions. We have an entire team dedicated to those needs. Where do you see TrustYou in 5-years? I want us to power feedback not only from guests but from other stakeholders as well. I believe we will enable feedback and communication between hotels and guests using messaging apps like Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, and SMS instead of email. To help service our clients, I would want our platform to act as an AI solution and suggest actions to hotels based their data instead of just presenting it. I also think feedback will move from “3 days after stay” to “real time”. And I want TrustYou to spearhead those trends. How will the online reputation management category change in the next 5-years? I hope to see guest feedback become a “must-have”, where it belongs to a hotel stack like a website or internet booking engine. More and more hotels will have figured out that with a 4.1/5 overall score they can offer a $100 room rate, but with a 4.6/5 score they can charge $150. I remember 5 years ago we had one slide in our sales deck showing a king and a queen on a throne. The headline said “when price is king, reputation is queen.” Maybe it will take another 5 years until we see those both equally presented, but I definitely see it in the future. Does TrustYou have any new products or feature launches that you're particularly excited about? We just launched a new restaurant analytics product (May 2019) that is seamlessly connected to the hotel’s toolset, so for all hotels that run a restaurant in parallel, they can more easily manage their online reputation. Additionally, we have combined our Analytics and Survey with our Messaging product together into one platform so that as a hotel you can manage pre-stay, onsite, or post-stay communication and feedback from one place. Another big launch is coming towards the end of 2019, but I can’t talk about it just yet. Stay tuned! What's one piece of advice that you have for any entrepreneurs looking to get into the hotel tech space? When seeking funding and putting together your business plan, calculate an amount you think you need, and then double it! What is the best book you've read lately? Blitzscaling by Reid Hoffman. It’s written by Reid Hoffman, founder of Linkedin and Paypal. What is your favorite podcast My favorite “podcasts” these days are live interactions with my children. Very funny. Topics change every time. No scripts. I love it. What is one thing that most people don't know about you? I’m very approachable, and I think anyone who has ever reached out to me knows that. I’m an open book. So if you have questions or need information, I’m always happy to hear it and respond back.
Before signing up with an independent loyalty program it’s important for hotels to reflect on why branded loyalty programs like Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton HHonors add value. These types of loyalty programs incentivize guests to book with a brand by offering experiential and monetary incentives. Experiential incentives include things like room upgrades, WiFi and late checkout which sway frequent travelers into booking via a loyalty program because they actually get better treatment than the average guest. Monetary incentives enable loyalty program members to experience higher property tiers which also can drive loyalty. For example, a frequent Marriott Courtyard business traveller can build up points and use them towards a stay at W Hotels where they ordinarily wouldn’t have stayed. By staying at a higher tier property within the network that guest now has a haloed perception of the Marriott brand as a whole. Circa 2010, independent hotels took note of the massive growth in branded loyalty programs and banded together via programs like iPrefer (by Preferred Hotels & Resorts) and Stash Hotel Rewards. An April 2018 study by Oracle Hospitality (study here) highlights the dynamic that helped such programs grow. Namely, there is a discrepancy between hotel perceptions of loyalty programs and the reality of such programs. According to the study, hotel managers believe that 61% of guests sign-up for loyalty programs while in reality only 24% actually do. Similarly, hotels perceive that 54% of guests will find offers relevant while in reality only 22% of guests believe that offers made by loyalty programs are relevant. Revinate summarizes data from Oracle's loyalty study Just because hotels overestimate the value of loyalty programs doesn’t mean that they don’t add value. Ultimately even small volumes of incremental bookings can still deliver a high ROI so independent hotels should still consider joining an independent loyalty program but should do so with realistic expectations. Independent loyalty programs that try to mimic branded programs rarely work. Smart hoteliers know that points are mostly irrelevant when it comes to the world of independents since booking with another property in the network has no impact on loyalty for your own property. The landing page for Destination Hotels & Resorts’ Destination Delivers program is a testament to the death of points for independent hotels: "This unique loyalty club is filled with perks. Not points." ~ Destination Hotels & Resorts A 2019 Revinate study shows that groups with more than 50 hotels can sometimes benefit from pursuing points based programs while smaller groups (under 50 properties) rarely benefit from such programs. When loyalty members receive points towards a program like Marriott Bonvoy their loyalty is building towards Marriott corporate rather than towards an individual property or sub-brand. The problem with what we call ‘independent loyalty 1.0’ (e.g. iPrefer and Stash Rewards) is the misconception that loyalty is actually being built towards a specific property. Where programs such as iPrefer and Stash Rewards are still operating dated points based system models, Guestbook Rewards is a new kind of loyalty program that is more in touch with how today’s traveller behaves and books. It's worth noting that Preferred Hotels & Resorts has sales infrastructure and relationships with travel advisors that bring material business for it's portfolio. The firm also provides cost purchasing benefits so while the iPrefer value prop is in our opinion relatively weak there are other facets of the program which are definitely attractive for independent hotels. Guestbook Rewards understands that driving true guest loyalty to independent properties by giving points to spend at other properties is a near impossible feat. As a result, the Company has positioned itself as a way to increase conversion on hotel websites via offers and cashback. Guests choose between three options: 5% cash back, a 5% charitable donation or 15% trip cash that can be used within The Guestbook’s network of ~700 hotels. By offering cashback through a 3rd party, hotel clients are able to circumvent rate parity clauses with OTAs and create their own version of a private offer program like many of the brands have today and leverage exclusive loyalty network pricing to bring in more direct bookings. Independent hotels should explore the Guestbook because they want to incentivize direct bookings without breaking parity, not because they expect material bookings from The Guestbook’s loyalty program member base. While expectations should be modest the Company now offers a "Guestbook Guarantee” of fully offsetting its fees with new inbound business. To their credit, The Guestbook recognized this and developed a Chrome Plugin called Gopher which helps internet browsers find the best hotel deals by scanning hotel websites in real time. According to the Google Chrome store, the Gopher plugin has ~3,600 users so it’s unlikely to drive material volume for clients today but has the potential to solve the problem and is a clear demonstration that The Guestbook has a better pulse on technology and internet behavior trends than most of its competitors. The Guestbook claims that it also has a similar number of users in the Safari App store but Apple doesn't publicize figures. Gopher has taken queue from a company called Honey which allows shoppers to check prices while shopping ecommerce websites. While the Gopher strategy doesn’t seem to have paid off yet for The Guestbook, the Honey plugin has grown to 10M+ users which is a testament to the larger opportunity around online shopper price checking if the team can figure out the right growth strategy over the medium to long term. Independent hotels that are looking to increase direct bookings can benefit from joining a program like The Guestbook but benefits can vary property by property so it’s important for hoteliers to read authentic peer reviews and request unmoderated referrals to properly evaluate the program. Read Guestbook reviews Request Guestbook references Independent hotels should think of The Guestbook’s program as a substitute to a direct booking platform like Stay Wanderful which also offer rewards for booking direct but can be used in tandem with platforms like Triptease. Where The Guestbook has a narrow focus on facilitating offers, platforms like Triptease have a more comprehensive and data driven website conversion optimization approach. Stay Wanderful sits somewhere in the middle. We sat down with The Guestbook’s Dev Dugal to get his take on where independent loyalty has been and where it’s going. Dev brings an interesting perspective to the discussion having previously owned his own hospitality business and also having worked in several mid sized hotel organizations before making the leap into hotel software and technology. Dev advanced quickly in his career by leveraging a unique combination of interpersonal skills and technical adaptability. As a hotelier, Dev was always a technology maven who constantly sought to implement new technologies and marketing strategies for his hotels. His story provides a roadmap for competitive hotel marketers seeking to beat out the compset and also for hoteliers with aspirations to leverage their hospitality skills to build a successful career in technology. Dev is widely regarded in the hotel community as a networking guru and marketing expert so we were lucky to catch up with him in between his jet setting. The Guestbook's Dev Dugal Tell us about your career in hotels. I started my career in hospitality as a barback in some of the busiest bars in LA. Eventually working my way to bartender, manager and eventually opening up my own bar in DTLA in 2006 called The Redwood. The bar business was very exciting but once my wife and I started a family, I sought a different pace of life and not the 3am late nights. So I transitioned to the hotel space in 2008 joining a family owned Hospitality company called Globiwest Hospitality as their VP of Marketing & IT. I was immediately tasked with helping to launch the first independent boutique hotel in Brooklyn called Hotel Le Bleu. Next, joining broughtonHOTELS as VP of Sales & Marketing, I led the marketing vision for 16 hotels on the California coast and Chicago. During both roles, I challenged myself to cross train in Revenue Management, Operations and Finance. More importantly I enjoyed working the Front Desk and Housekeeping to stay grounded to the heart of the hotel. I took a hiatus in 2014 for a few years to start a non-profit focused on building schools in the slums of India and re-entered by joining an amazing team at The Guestbook in 2017. I consider myself a connector of ideas and people. Hospitality gives me that platform to shine, travel the world and impact businesses. I also gravitate to boutique hotels rather than brands as they allow for much more creativity with an elevated curated experience for the guest. Some of my most challenging times in hotels were working with Owners to clearly grasp digital marketing concepts. Similar to how people self prescribe diagnosis after reading WebMD, hotel owners often dictated marketing direction with buzzwords like PPC or SEO however, never fully understanding them. This was a consistent battle but I thrived in those challenges and breakthroughs, eventually letting the analytics speak for themselves. What was one technology that you couldn't live without in your former role in hospitality? Google Analytics has always been a solid tool to use as a source of analytics. It provides for so much data in one place to see real time the success of integrated strategies. One of the most important tools in the last few years was the CRM tool. It provided a landscape to work within the entire life cycle of the guest experience and the digital touch points were a vital part to success. When did you first become interested in leveraging technology to become a better hotelier? I think it started when I had an early stint in Real Estate as an agent. In the early 2000's I saw veteran agents knocking on doors and buying ads in newspapers. I realized leveraging technology was the more efficient way than knocking on doors. So I slowly built up a database of emails to over 15k and sent out a monthly newsletter for lead generation. With that same logic I noticed that trend in the hotel space in 2008. After the financial crisis, hotels were scrambling for business and heavily relying on the OTAs. With the help of eCommerce and integrated solutions, I knew this was the future for hotels too. I became an avid reader of industry leaders and leveraged the best of breed in marketing practices shortly after. As a hotelier what was your biggest frustration with technology vendors? One of my biggest frustrations with technology vendors is the sneaky "Auto Renewal". I got burned by a vendor early in my hotel career and they wouldn't let me out of the contract. Talking to friends in the business I discovered this was a shared pain point. After that first incident, I made a decision to never let it happen again and continue to share my technique with hoteliers today. Right after executing an Agreement with any vendor, I immediately send them an email stating my notice to not renew. Literally the day after the ink is dry. The notice indicates that we do not intend to renew and will discuss the option as the renewal period closes in. Most importantly, I have them confirm it in writing over email. This leaves a nice audit trail for anyone on my team and with the vendor should there be a change in management. What is the biggest misconception that hoteliers have about technology? Some folks tend to overanalyze technology. I love that we have the ability to A/B test products and solutions. However, some hoteliers never get out of the starting gate. One of my mentors really honed in and taught me about the age-old saying, "Perfection is the enemy of good." He was the first leader that forced me to break previous habits of "getting it right" and simply start. He said to get it "good" and clean up the mess along the way. With this in hand, we were able to test out many new technologies and marketing strategies. Tell us about your journey from hotelier into technologist? Funny thing is that I started my career as a computer nerd. I graduated with a Computer Information Systems major in college and spent my early career coding in a cubicle with .NET development and SQL. I started bartending at night to have a break from the tech world. So in a way, technology has always been a part of me before becoming a hotelier. Now I'm able to leverage and have a real passion for connecting those dots to business strategy. What was the most challenging part of moving from hotels into technology? For me personally, losing a little of the human touch and pulse of the hotel. With the technology, it's very easy to only have digital relationships. Being a hotelier provided opportunity to be at the Front Desk, walk the property and connect with guests from all around the globe. I miss those elements. The Guestbook has become the clear independent loyalty leader and disrupted incumbents in a very short period of time - what’s driving that growth? The Guestbook is the first and only Cash Back Loyalty platform for independent and boutique hotels. We work with over 700+ hotels in 65+ countries to increase direct booking conversion on a hotel's website by 20%+. Guests have the availability to earn and redeem either of 3 options; 5% cash back on their stay, donate that 5% to any charity of their choice, or 15% Trip Cash towards a future Guestbook stay at any of our properties around the world. No set-up fee. No commitment. Cancel anytime. Imagine that you're going to open the hotel of your dreams tomorrow. What kind of hotel would it be? Independent boutique, Select-Serve maybe with a lobby bar. I'm a big proponent for Downtown LA and feel there is also opportunity in markets like Oakland. 75-100 rooms paying homage to local street artists. I'm also a big fan of the bed+beverage concept. Bar on the ground floor and maybe 40 keys above into an integrated space. Can't reveal any names just yet as I already have some domains secured. ;-) What technology would you leverage at your hotel? Cloud based PMS, robust CRS with significant channel management integration, backed by an easy to use CRM. An AI smart concierge, eventually reducing the dependency on the front desk and of course a rewards platform, The Guestbook! What's one piece of advice you have for hoteliers who have dreams of working in technology one day? Read (books, not social media) + source mentors. Mentors have been integral to the trajectory of my career. Balanced with what you learn from books with the real life experience of mentors. Book knowledge + street knowledge. What's one podcast, newsletter or book that you recommend hoteliers read if they'd like to eventually move into tech? Glenn Haussman has a series of great podcasts (No Vacancy). I love reading about direct booking strategies so Triptease blog, OTA Insight newsletters and webinars are underrated. A free interactive webinar with live Q&A is one of my favorite places to learn. What is your favorite hotel in the world and why? Currently, I'm digging the CitizenM brand. The simply went against the grain and put the guest experience first. For example, they went with King sized beds when everyone stuck with Queens. Their founder said something to the likes of, "If a car is Tesla, then a hotel is CitizenM". I dig that and their hotels are awesome. What is the most exciting technology you've seen in the hotel tech space lately? The team at Go Moment have been working on some neat AI tech with their smart concierge. The tech gets smarter and smarter with more data points and interaction from a guest perspective is seamless. What is one thing that most people don't know about you? Recently, I moved our family of four from the comforts of Los Angeles to Spain! We are giving our children an opportunity to be global citizens and honing my skills in being a true digital nomad. Experiences over things.
IDeaS CEO Ravi Mehrotra: Revenue management will be the glue that connects siloed departments “I’m no Nostradamus, but there are quite a few areas ripe for disruption. In my opinion, there are two main areas we will see a major category shift in the next five years. First, I believe automation in day-to-day revenue management will become standard, resulting in a higher-order shift of the revenue manager and leaders’ roles. This is especially true when we deal with inevitable market upturns, and most importantly, downturns. The sheer number and complexity of the daily decisions a revenue leader must make will exceed their capacity, driving them to rely on intelligent automation to ensure they remain competitive in a fast-paced market. Second, revenue management concepts will continue to spread across more segments in the guest’s total trip compilation, from the time they start searching online to the time they are reflecting on their memories and preparing to plan the next trip. All of this layers together to show that revenue management will be a major hub, if not the major driver, between marketing, distribution and sales systems. I think we will see players in complementary areas start to link themselves together to drive a more direct connection to revenue, while delivering the right price to the right person at the right time.” Cendyn CEO Charles Deyo: CRM will be seen as an operational tool and not just as a marketing platform. “We will see more intelligent use of data with AI and bots to further leverage the guest experience. Because of more integrations between technology systems and a higher flow of data between platforms, bots and AI will increase in learned automation and intelligence that can deliver more of the right messages, at the right time through the right channel. We’re in the process of breaking new ground with CRM technology as the core with bots and AI serving based off centralized intelligence. In five years, it will all evolve around the model of a central global profile for guests that references a sophisticated rolodex of data to help serve the customer’s desire for personalization at every touchpoint. Bots will make recommendations, personalize communications and adjust service algorithms in real-time based on data points. CRM will no longer be seen as a marketing function, but rather an operational tool that intelligently orchestrates how everyone interacts with a guest.” SiteMinder CEO Sankar Narayan: Data will make it possible for hotels to understand their guests like never before. “The emergence of new players in the market has been great for competition and I think it’s forced innovation that ultimately hotels have been the beneficiaries of. However, I think the breadth of choice now available to hotels, coupled with the level of complexity that now exists to keep up with today’s traveler, has indirectly created further disparity that means, as a hotel, it is more overwhelming than ever to know which technological solutions are best and if they will work together to make the day-to-day easier, not harder. I think the disparity and complexity will continue to grow over the next five years, but it will be met with tech innovators that rise to that challenge and provide a way for hotels to benefit from a single, holistic, reliable solution that unlocks a world of potential guests and personalizes every relationship. That will be the pinnacle of data democratization and I think it’s coming. There is a huge opportunity to ace the guest journey end-to-end. I think the in-stay experience has traditionally been the sole focus for hotels, as it’s what they’ve always had immediate visibility and control over, but of course we know that the journey began long before the guest arrived and continues long thereafter – if it ends at all. The explosion of data and technology has made it possible for hotels to understand their guests in a way they’ve never been able to before, and it’s an opportunity I think most hotels are missing.” Travel Tripper President Gautam Lulla: Winning hotels will be powered by technology platforms not products. “Traditionally, the companies in the hotel tech space have focused on being very good at one “category” of product. Sure, a PMS company could offer a booking engine, but ultimately it was more known for being a PMS company. The new startups in the space have amplified this trend. But now that companies are starting to mature and consolidate (ourselves included), the lines are going to start blurring and it’s going to be difficult to pigeonhole a company into a product type or category. The industry is moving quickly in the direction of a “platformization” model, where the breadth and interconnectedness of solutions will trump—or at least bring together—smaller niche solutions.” Revinate COO Dan Hang: Antiquated systems will go extinct and secure cloud based systems with open architectures will be the status quo “There’s a big opportunity for hotel tech to become more guest-centric by bringing together all of the industry’s raw and disparate data and turning it into actionable insights. Unfortunately today, a lot of the tech in this space is antiquated, unnecessarily complex, inflexible, and not really optimized around the guest. For example, the property management system, even by name, is designed to manage an inventory of rooms in a building as opposed to optimizing guest experience or driving revenue. Future systems need to close the gap I just mentioned. They need to harvest all the guest data, make sense of it all, and provide the hotelier with actionable insights or automated campaigns that drive revenue. With this year’s launch of the GDPR and all the news surrounding data breaches, I think we’ll also see increased efforts in security and data privacy protection over time.” INTELITY CEO Robert Stevenson: Front and back of house tech will become unified. “Digital technologies for the guest and the back office will be very integrated and standard at hotels. There may be different usages from property to property, but automated processes, streamlined connections, and seamless messaging between guests and staff will be standard across the board. It will feel like a near frictionless experience for guests who opt-in to being entirely digital. Guests, vendors and hoteliers alike will look back and wonder how we ever dealt with the mishmash of technologies and implementations we do today.” Oaky CEO Erik Tengen: Guests will truly experience hotels before they even book. “I think in 5-years upselling will be embedded in native platforms in our phones, offered on all communication channels, automated, hyper-personalised, integrated with the total revenue management strategy and gamified for the full (in destination) guest experience. I imagine guests booking and playing VR games pre-stay to experience the hotel, and adding activities to the stay after testing them out from their couch at home.” Atomize Chairman Leif Jaggerbrand: Revenue management systems will specialize in tactical revenue management or strategic but not both. “I think we will see a clear split between strategic & tactical revenue management systems. Building a strategic revenue management system, and building a tactical revenue management system, are two VERY different skill sets. I deem it pretty close to impossible for any company to be #1 in both of those categories, the people that have the right skillset to build a tactical revenue management system won't be attracted to building a strategic revenue management system. As both strategic and tactical revenue management is utterly important hotels will have both type of systems.” Hotelogix CEO Aditya Sanghi Small and mid-sized hotel businesses will flourish like never before with access to technology that was previously reserved only for large enterprises. “We are highly passionate about small to mid-sized hotel businesses. For a very long time, this segment didn’t have access to great technology as service providers across the globe concentrated on the five starred community, like Opera and Travelclick. Things are changing now. Tech providers are focusing on this segment as adoption of technology lagged in this sector. The popularity of this segment has also been purely driven by market dynamics, where travelers are now choosing to stay in independents and smaller properties. So, it’s time to focus on enhancing the guest experience for such properties. The community should look at creating more services/products that are geared towards the guest. Treating them like 5-star guests by leveraging AI driven technology can be used to serve and monetize better.”
When designing a hotel lobby for ideal first impressions, each decision signals a brand position: high-end, luxury, rustic, down-to-earth, approachable, practical, inviting, welcoming, distant, elegant. Get just one of these wrong, and brand dissonance may lead guests astray. A poor or disjointed first impression can lead to long-lasting perceptions that damage your brand. The same goes for your hotel’s website. It’s your digital lobby. It’s where you welcome guests, offer guideposts about what to do and indicate that they’re in the right place. A bad first impression can discolor the entire guest experience, says JRK Property Holding’s Matt Lippman: “We've found lobbies and common areas to have a strong halo and horns effect on the guest experience. If a guest's first impression is good then they think of later impressions as good too which can help them overlook less attractive qualities about a property. The reverse happens if that first impression is bad. A bad lobby or website experience can actually overshadow the positive aspects of the guest experience that follows." Unlike a physical lobby, the added advantage of the digital lobby is that it can be updated often. You can -- and should -- be making improvements frequently. The continuous optimization means that your hotel can refine messaging depending on who’s visiting your website, from which channel. One option to manage the refinement process is Hotelchamp, a website experience and marketing optimization tool for hotels. The value is in the “test and learn” approach, which enables hotels of all sizes to test, analyze, and optimize their websites, landing pages, and offers to convert more direct business. With this optimization superpower, here are four ways to optimize your hotel’s digital experience. Autopilot helps hotels of any size optimize in real time by leveraging its proprietary dataset Your website is the entry point to your offering, so it must make a good first impression. If a luxury hotel presents itself poorly online, it’s a turn-off. On the flip-side, if your midscale hotel presents elegantly, it can have a halo effect on guest perceptions. To effectively manage your first impressions online, Hotelchamp encompasses more than just looks. It optimizes how each guest interacts with your website. For larger groups and brands Hotelchamp's constant website optimization via A/B testing makes websites better, all in response to how actual humans interact rather than a set of assumptions. There's one problem: independent hotels and smaller groups rarely have enough data to run statistically significant A/B tests. Enter Autopilot by Hotelchamp. Autopilot leverages millions of data points and the massive dataset that Hotelchamp has collected over years in the business to provide real time optimization for hotels without significant enough volumes to run A/B tests. Hotels that invest in a digital marketing agency that handles search, social and metasearch advertising to drive direct bookings will be especially well-suited to optimize with Autopilot. The ability to test different offers and creative on your digital marketing extends to your website, as you can match the targeting and copy from your digital ads to a specific landing page on your website. Or, for traffic arriving from an OTA, you can hammer home the benefits of booking direct. Each experience can be fine-tuned for specific segments. “Autopilot knows how the direct channel is behaving in the broader context of the ecosystem, for example metasearch. Combine that and put it next to the patterns we’ve found in the data sets that we’ve gained over the years, we are quite good in predicting not only who you are, what you’re intentions are, but - more important - that Autopilot is serving you dynamically with the right message. Based on that and based on your behaviors after that, it learns more about you, and every time we find the next action.” ~Kristian Valk, CEO of Hotelchamp Even hotels without as much marketing spend can benefit. In fact, those with no marketing spend will find value in Hotelchamp’s Autopilot automation launched at ITB Berlin. The system runs many experiments across the entire ecosystem, then contextually applies those insights to each property's website and seamlessly optimizes what potential guests see according to what it’s learned. In the example above, you can see how two messages would be tested, and then the highest-converting one selected as the “winner” to move forward. The test-and-learn process continues in perpetuity, automatically optimizing messaging and website experience based on rules developed by analyzing the entire dataset rather than just one individual website. Personalize the experience with behaviorally targeted offers Kalibri Labs’ 2018 Direct Booking Report found sustained growth in direct bookings since its last report in 2016: When compared to the contribution to occupancy from the OTA channel, the Brand.com channel maintained its growth running approximately 50% greater than the OTA bookings. To sustain this growth, hotels turn to targeted offers that encourage more direct bookings. Website optimization is a constant -- and low-cost -- renovation to your digital lobby. When using optimization strategies, such as the ones offered by Hotelchamp, hotels can simply highlight the advantage of booking direct or then can target offers to specific demographics. With each new visitor, your website experience can be personalized with persuasive messaging that converts. It converts because the messaging is precisely aligned with a guest’s intentions, as inferred by guest attributes, such as repeat visitors, geo-location, and which website a visitor arrives from. Known as “proposition testing,” it’s a technique that aligns a user’s behavior with a specific offer. For instance, a proposition for a newsletter signup or a direct booking discount for a user that’s clicking away. Another example is offering a voucher, such as for a complimentary drink upon check-in. Targeted offers also extend to smart notifications. These are similar to the urgency-generating messaging popular on OTAs. Hotels can build that urgency and share specific data around how often a hotel has been viewed, for example. Another common use of Smart Notifications is to highlight a specific feature, such as a gym, for specific type of traveler, like a business traveler. Set a Smart Notification to fire whenever a user arrives from a corporate booking tool URL -- and boom, you have a segmented communication that can improve conversion with a carefully crafted message. Build trust by highlighting reviews, location, on-property amenities -- and live customer chat In an analysis of conversion rates across hotel star ratings, Hotelchamp found that 5-star hotels convert at less than half the rate of 3- or 4-star hotels. On its face, this is surprising. One would expect conversion rates to be in a narrower band between categories. It comes down to how guests search for information, says Hotelchamp: “Many 5-star properties across the world also contain luxurious spa facilities or illustrious restaurants and cafés that draw visitors who are not necessarily guests of the hotel. Hotelchamp conversion specialists often see that portions of the website traffic only visit these specific pages on the website, such as spa facilities or afternoon tea.” To build trust with guests, point them to the right information at the right time (and in the right language!). When you have an idea of who they are and what they need, you can then personalize the website experience -- automatically and without having to deploy extensive code. Hotelchamp has three specific callouts that highlight a property’s review score, a property’s location, and a floating tab that calls out specific property amenities. As you can see in the screenshots below, guests can engage directly with each of these optimizations. Successful targeting requires a detailed understanding of guest behavior. For 5-star hotels, the floating tab may feature rich content highlighting the on-site spa or restaurant. Then this tab might be served to any visitor from the hotel’s own IP address. This puts pertinent information right at the fingertips of on-property guests, reducing barriers and ideally generating more revenue for the business. Another way to build trust via your digital lobby is to make it easy for potential guests to connect with staff. It’s like walking up to the front desk -- it should be simple with a reasonable wait time. Hotelchamp integrates this right into its solution, so hoteliers can engage via live chat without implementing another vendor. All of these tools exist to build trust and give individual guests the information they need quickly and without fuss. Bringing it all together with comprehensive analytics The Hotelchamp dashboard keeps you up-to-date on the latest active tests, as well as the results from former tests. As you (and Hotelchamp’s team of conversion specialists supporting each account) learn more about how guests interact with each proposition, the data then informs new tests. It’s a virtuous circle that fuels a continuously improving your digital lobby. A fully-implemented optimization tool for hotels can lead to a conversion mindset with enormous potential. Not only will it empower staff to come up with better-targeted offers, but it will also make guests happier. As guests encounter stronger offers, they convert more often and the hotel enjoys a revenue boost. For one Hotelchamp hotel, the Hotel Casa in Amsterdam, the optimization technology resulted in a 38% increase in direct bookings. Another hotel, Frankfurt’s New Century hotel, saw a 24% increase in conversion rates on its website, leading to an additional €4,685 in revenue per month. One caveat: What you sell, how you sell it, and who you sell it to differs dramatically across hotels. Rely on your data, set aside your assumptions, and use “test and learn” to determine which propositions, targeting, and offer types work best for your hotel. You may be surprised at which combinations work best! Sponsored by HotelChamp
1. Don't overestimate the difficulty of delivering a personalized experience “Hoteliers believe delivering personalized experiences is hard. I have always looked at technology as an enabler for innovation. With the right enablers, hoteliers can take advantage of technology to make personalization easy, which is one of the cornerstones of our eInsight CRM product. I think either hotels don’t know where to start with their data, or they haven’t democratized access to the right people who can leverage it to drive home personalization. Hotels that standardize 2-way communication among systems and make data integrations a priority are the ones able to break through and outperform in personalization. Information is more relevant, robust and customized when all the systems are speaking to the touchpoints guests have in the journey.” ~Charles Deyo from Cendyn eInsight CRM “Many hoteliers believe that personalisation is not important enough to spend time on. But in reality, the cost of standardised digital communication, and generic upsell offers and promotions is enormous. Hotels are literally losing money with every guest that is walking through the front door.” ~Erik Tengen from Oaky Upsell Software 2. Place importance on vendor quality rather than size “Unfortunately, in this industry, the size of a hotel tech vendor sometimes is overplayed or overemphasized, while the quality of product and engineering teams is underemphasized. People often assume that large companies have better products simply because they can afford better engineers relative to smaller companies. This is far from the truth—I've seen very large companies struggle with their platforms and engineering initiatives. And I’ve seen smaller companies blow away the industry with their solutions. The important thing for hotels to remember is not to judge tech vendors by the size of the company, but by the quality and capabilities of their product and their dedication to customer service. It seems obvious, but happens more often than you think.” ~Gautam Lulla from Travel Tripper RezTrip CRS 3. Understand that artificial intelligence will not take your job “Hoteliers believe that revenue managers will lose their jobs when artificial intelligence gets good enough. I believe that artificial intelligence is going to make revenue management an even more valuable skill because it will take more insight and analytical rigor to stand out from the competition set in a data-driven world. Hoteliers are used to looking at PMS as a cost centre of the hotel. With the maturity of Cloud PMS, the paradigm has changed. A PMS should not be considered as cost, but as a system that will help them grow revenues and business. Also, for most hoteliers, deciding on PMS is an operational decision whereas I feel it should be more of a strategic decision.” ~Aditya Sanghi from Hotelogix PMS 4. Stop running your operations with pen and paper “Perhaps the most common belief I used to hear was that the Concierge didn’t need an application because they could use Excel or their logbooks. We obviously felt differently especially after spending time behind the desk and seeing the amount of work done manually and the importance of providing a tool to enable the team to be more efficient. We believe the role of the Concierge should be in the center of the hotel operation since their work touches so many departments and has such a significant impact on the overall guest experience. A good Concierge team does the job so well that they make it look easy. What is often not recognized or seen is the volume of work being done behind the scenes to deliver such a great guest experience. Investing in a tool allows the team to be more efficient and spend more time and attention on the guests. I believe the reason guests come back now is mostly because of the way the Concierge and other team members make the guests feel when they leave, more so than just having a beautiful hotel. Without a tool such as ALICE, it is very difficult to be efficient and create that great guest experience.” ~Adam Isrow from ALICE Hotel Operations Platform 5. Leverage technology to decrease staff churn “I think the single biggest misconception is that hoteliers think the solution to their traveler personalization problems is to invest in traveler facing technology and create an omni-channel experience. The biggest problem hoteliers face is actually their staff turnover. What is the point of having traveler facing technology, without experienced staff that have the right technology to empower them to deliver on the brand experience? Your staff must always come first if you want to truly personalize and fulfill your brand promise. This means hoteliers need to balance their traveler facing and staff facing investments more effectively.” ~Kevin Brown from Amadeus Hospitality 6. Place less emphasis on meeting budget in volatile markets “Hoteliers are not comfortable making changes to prices without knowing the effect it has on their ability to reach budget. In a volatile market, too much emphasis is placed on meeting budget and making safe pricing decisions that ultimately limit a hotel’s revenue achievement. Placing an emphasis instead on demand-based pricing will help secure the highest possible revenue from the marketplace. "Some hoteliers believe it is prudent to wait until business is strong and making more profit before they invest in “nice to have” tools such as revenue management software. That is like saying an athlete should wait until they can run faster before they buy good running shoes. It is the revenue management system that will enable them to maximize their yield and create the bigger profits." ~Ravi Mehotra from IDeaS Revenue Solutions 7. Embrace technology, software is cheap and extremely easy to use today “Most hoteliers are skeptical about technology - for good reason. Tech companies have a long history of over promising and under-delivering. As a result, new technologies are not often eagerly adopted by experienced hotel people. They would rather "wait and see" before embracing yet another "shiny object" tech solution. The last thing we need is another complicated software program that takes up all of our time and delivers little value. Tech providers need to focus on the benefits of their solution and design products to require minimal effort for maximum value. Don't assume that because hotels are multi-million dollar businesses that we like to sit around on our laptops all day - we have become successful by taking care of travelers - and each other - with the service and care that we'd provide to our own families.” ~Del Ross from Hotel Effectiveness Labor Management System “The most common misconception about technology is that it's too expensive. Hoteliers have this misconception because they don’t fully understand the value that the technology brings. They see it as a cost rather than as a profit center. Hoteliers often buy technology the same way they would buy a TV or a pillow. And because of that, tech vendors have been forced to limit their innovation.” ~Marco Benvenuti from Duetto Revenue Management 8. Don't ever manually price hotel rooms “They believe they can do good or decent manual pricing... but in reality there is no way a human can do even a decent job at pricing a hotel. The math behind that statement is really simple, there are two main reasons why a human has absolutely zero chance versus an automated AI system: 1) The sheer scale of the problem. If you're a hotel with 5 room types, 4 variations on each room type (breakfast/cancellation), bookable 365 days in advance, and want to update each price once per hour then you have 0.49 seconds per price to do your analysis and set the price. Even if you simplify the problem drastically, let's say you have a fixed additional cost for breakfast & cancellation, that you just want to update the prices once every four hours, and that you only allow your guests to book in the last 30 days, then you still only have 96 seconds per price to do the calculations and set the price. The sheer scale of the problem makes it impossible for any human to keep up and do a good job. 2) The complexity of the problem. It's important to acknowledge that no price is an isolated island, if you change the price of one room type for a particular arrival date then it will have an effect on all the other room types for the same arrival day. But that's not enough, it will also have an effect on the adjacent days as many people stay more than one night and some one-nighters are flexible and price sensitive. There is this ripple effect and you need to present the optimal set of prices, not the price that is thought to be optimal for one specific room type. Quite often the optimal price for one room type will have a negative impact on the overall revenue, and to calculate the optimal set of prices is both hyper complex and very computationally intensive, it simply cannot be done by a human. Humans should focus on strategic revenue management, not at setting prices.” ~Leif Jaggerbrand from Atomize 9. Stop paying massive sums for integration fees when the entire world has moved to open APIs “Hoteliers that its extremely hard and expensive to integrate different software solutions. Having built our own PMS with open API, I can confidently say that this is no longer true, and we stimulate hoteliers to integrate as much as possible to make their lives easier.” ~Matthijs Welle from Mews Systems 10. Use technology to create more personal interaction, not less “Messaging is impersonal, you can’t replace in-person interactions.” The aim of messaging is not to replace in-person interactions or even phone calls, it is to fill the customer service whitespace or void that exists today. There are a large portion of travelers and consumers today who are not communicating with your organization because you may not have the proper means. With the increasing influx of technology separating the hotel staff and guests (e.g. OTAs and Mobile Room Keys), messaging is one of the main components connecting hotels with their guests today.” ~Chris Hovanessian from Whistle
Cendyn’s Charles Deyo isn’t your typical hotel tech founder by any stretch of the imagination. Deyo is an avid scuba diver, he meditates under pyramids for spiritual guidance and even plans to play guitar at an underwater music festival next year. By 1996, the same year that Expedia was born, Deyo had spent 20 years in the hotel industry before founding Cendyn with his wife Robin to help hoteliers win in the digital age. Cendyn’s first product to market was its eProposal solution which allowed hotels to accept group business RFPs via their websites and grow their group business. While eProposal is still a core component of the Cendyn Hotel Sales Suite, it is only a small piece of Cendyn’s current offering. Today Cendyn’s sales and marketing solutions power more than 30,000 hotels globally through products that touch on hotel CRM, sales software and hotel digital marketing services. Back in 1996, Cendyn’s initial product to market was its eProposal solution which allows hotels to accept group business RFPs via their websites to increase group bookings. Today, eProposal is still a core component of the Cendyn Hotel Sales Suite. The best tech companies listen carefully to client pain points and develop solutions based on those requirements. The history of Cendyn is a textbook example of how to build a great business by listening to your customers. As the internet boomed through the early 2000s Deyo and his team noticed that there was a huge skills deficiency in digital marketing amongst hotels and began to offer digital marketing services to help clients grow their direct channel. During our interview with the Cendyn chief, Deyo told Hotel Tech Report that the biggest inspiration for building his empire was Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia. When asked why, he noted that the Grateful Dead is not just an iconic band but is actually one of the greatest brands of all time. The Grateful Dead brand is so prolific that at its peak it raked in more than $90M per year. Deyo believes that the Grateful Dead’s success could be attributed to one of Garcia’s core beliefs that is summed up in this iconic quote: “We did not want to just be the best at what we did, but the only ones doing it.” ~Jerry Garcia Deyo has always wanted to innovate ahead of the competition and be the “only one doing it” as an ode to Garcia. When Deyo started Cendyn there were few (if any) online platforms facilitating group business RFPs in hotels and he wanted eProposal to be the only one doing it. While others were busy copying his recipe for success, Deyo was pioneering the concept of hotel CRM to provide actionable marketing insights where hotel marketers previously lacked any tools to make data driven marketing decisions. Cendyn is yet again pushing ahead with plans to change the way hotels leverage CRM systems within their businesses. Historically, the hotel CRM sits within the marketing function but Deyo and his team believe it will become much more operational in the future and Cendyn is focused on pioneering the ways hotels leverage CRM systems for operations and not just marketing. Related article: "Super Angel" Dave Berkus on the convergence of PMS, CRS and hotel CRM Deyo believes that hoteliers, too, can benefit massively from living by Jerry Garcia’s credo. The hotel industry is one of the most competitive in the world and in order to stand out hoteliers must find unique ways to can add value for hotel guests, shareholders and staff. In this exclusive interview we spoke with Cendyn CEO Charles Deyo about the competitive advantage enjoyed by hotel technology early adopters, the evolution of hotel CRM as an operational tool and more. Power couple Charles and Robin Deyo co-founded Cendyn together What was your background prior to starting Cendyn? Before starting Cendyn I had many years of hospitality experience including 13 years at Hyatt Hotels as Regional Controller and AVP of Sales and Marketing, 3 Years at Kerzner International as Senior Vice President during the development of Atlantis in the Bahamas and 3 Years as Regional Vice President at Boca Resorts (which also owned The Biltmore and Registry Hotels). Tell us about the Cendyn founding story. After spending 20 years in the hotel industry, I realized that hotels needed software solutions to run their business better. We developed solutions that eliminated the pain points for hotels and drove sales and marketing performance. When Robin and I started Cendyn in 1996, the Internet bloomed in front of us and we decided to use this new medium to develop web-based tools that could help the industry we had worked in for years run their businesses better. The first product we brought to market was eProposal, which is still the industry leader almost 20 years later as part of the Cendyn Hotel Sales Suite. Back then, I did it all, from being the programmer to the accountant and everything in between. We were a small, family-run tech firm. After expanding into hotel CRM and digital marketing, (we were one of the early trailblazers in these areas for the industry), the momentum kept going as we won some of the biggest brands and best hotels in the world as clients. That really amped up with the investment from Accel-KKR a few years ago that gave us opportunities to open new locations, acquire companies and accelerate product innovation. Today, we’re lucky to have over 30,000 hotel clients using our solutions. Who was Cendyn's first customer? Frank Calaguire at Starwood. Frank and I worked at Hyatt together and we deployed our first SAAS solution (Cendyn eProposal) at The Westin back in the 90’s. Frank was a good friend and the Managing Director at Westin Copley Place. eProposal is now in over 22,000 hotels worldwide. The hotel tech market is incredibly competitive, how does Cendyn stand out? Cendyn is a cloud-based software and services provider that develops integrated technology platforms for driving sales and marketing performance in the travel and hospitality industry. The Cendyn Hospitality Cloud offers the most complete set of innovative software and services in the industry, covering hotel marketing, guest engagement, group sales, and event management. Cendyn's eInsight CRM is more than a marketing tool and delivers operational insight Who is one mentor that has made a big impact on your entrepreneurial journey? This is probably not one you hear everyday in hotel tech interviews but The Grateful Dead has had a huge influence on my perspective both personally and within the realm of entrepreneurship. Jerry Garcia said: “We did not want to just be the best at what we did, but the only ones doing it.” Most people don’t realize that the Grateful Dead was one of the most successfully marketed bands of their time and turned their brand into a cash cow which generated $95 million a year at one point. What's one commonly held belief that most hoteliers believe to be true that is actually wrong? Hoteliers believe delivering personalized experiences is hard. I have always looked at technology as an enabler for innovation. With the right enablers, hoteliers can take advantage of technology to make personalization easy, which is one of the cornerstones of our eInsight CRM product. I think either hotels don’t know where to start with their data, or they haven’t democratized access to the right people who can leverage it to drive home personalization. Hotels that standardize 2-way communication among systems and make data integrations a priority are the ones able to break through and outperform in personalization. Information is more relevant, robust and customized when all the systems are speaking to the touchpoints guests have in the journey. What's the most surprising thing you've learned about scaling technology into hotels since founding Cendyn? I was always surprised that standardized integration took so long for our industry. Today, we integrate to hundreds of hotel systems which is key to getting a true 360-degree view of your guest. There are hotels leading the way in how they use technology integrations and those at the other end of the spectrum, but what we do see day-in-day-out is in those hotels that have done so, they have an improved ability to; send the right message to the right guest, through the right channels; gain a clear understanding about the history and preferences of each guest in real time regardless of how they booked; empower their guests to receive information and communicate in the ways that work for them; and deliver the best kind of service, whether it be human interaction or through the use of technology. How do you see hotel tech changing in the next 5-years? We will see more intelligent use of data with AI and bots to further leverage the guest experience. Because of more integrations between technology systems and a higher flow of data between platforms, bots and AI will increase in learned automation and intelligence that can deliver more of the right messages, at the right time through the right channel. We’re in the process of breaking new ground with CRM technology as the core with bots and AI serving based off centralized intelligence. In five years, it will all evolve around the model of a central global profile for guests that references a sophisticated rolodex of data to help serve the customer’s desire for personalization at every touchpoint. Bots will make recommendations, personalize communications and adjust service algorithms in real-time based on data points. CRM will no longer be seen as a marketing function, but rather an operational tool that intelligently orchestrates how everyone interacts with a guest. For Cendyn specifically, we will continue to grow our organic revenue at 20% year over year, along with continued evaluation of M&A opportunities. Do you have any new products or feature launches? As we continue to operationalize CRM for hotels, our latest release of eNgage allows for more sophisticated algorithms that anticipate varying engagement opportunities with hotel guests that, in turn, alert hotel staff. We have a lot of hotels using this solution with great success for personalization, including our client TFE Hotels, headquartered in Australia. They’ve got eNgage across their international hotel group in Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Denmark and Hungary. What advice do you have for hoteliers in this economy? Adopt more technology. Even with all the strides the hotel industry has made, it is still behind other industries. Technology must have an ROI by driving sales and marketing performance. With eInsight, our CRM product, we drove an average 33X ROI for our hotel customers in 2018. As the economy hits an inevitable slow down, technology will determine the winners and losers. What's one piece of advice that you have for any entrepreneurs looking to get into the hotel tech space? Keep it simple. Make it valuable. This has been a mantra of Cendyn from the beginning of our company. What is the best book you've read lately? I think we are experiencing significant generational differences due to technology, social media and the varying thought processes. Given that, I thought “Sticking Points” by Haydn Shaw does a great job of explaining how we can make this work with our evolving business teams. Great people working in harmony make great companies. What is your favorite podcast Cendyn’s upcoming podcast series, of course. What is one thing that most people don't know about you? I play guitar and am certified in scuba diving. I plan to play the underwater music festival in Big Pine Key, FL next year. I also meditate under a pyramid on life and business opportunities when needed.