Let us find your solution

News & Analysis

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

Hotel Property Management Systems Software Articles

12 Hospitality Companies that Stepped Up in Crisis

by
Hotel Tech Report
3 weeks ago

It’s no surprise that the travel industry has been hit hard by the spread of COVID-19. Oxford Economics projects that hotel revenue will face a 50% decline by the end of 2020, the worst year on record for hotel occupancy. Despite these worrying indicators, there are reports of members of the hotel industry stepping up to support others. Hotels around the world are providing beds for medical staff and first responders, financial support to employees and communities, and credits for future travel to frontline workers and travelers. Here are some of the creative and crucial ways the hospitality industry is doing its share to battle the fallout of COVID-19.   Housing for Frontline Workers The hospitality industry is uniquely positioned to provide support to hospital workers and medics on the frontlines of the pandemic – and many brands have risen to the challenge. Because nurses and doctors working with COVID-19 patients may have been exposed to the virus, these workers are unable to return home to their families and risk transmission. Cloudbeds, Mews, and GuestCentric are just a few companies working to house hospital workers and patients during this time. Cloudbeds founders Adam Harris and Richard Castle are behind Hospitality Helps, a cross-industry initiative to provide beds from hotels and guest houses to healthcare providers and government agencies who are at capacity. Hospitality Helps has led to over one million beds pledged to date for doctors, nurses, and first responders, as well as patients directly affected by COVID-19, those who need in-patient care, and family members who need to be near a loved one at a hospital. Mews Systems and GuestCentric have similar efforts called Hotels for Helpers and Rooms Against COVID, respectively. Hotels for Helpers provides free or heavily discounted rooms to healthcare professionals. Nurses, doctors, and families of patients can book accommodation at a maximum of €25 per night in the US, UK, Netherlands, and the Czech Republic – in the Netherlands alone, Mews has linked 120 hotels all over the country with over 400 realized room nights. GuestCentric works exclusively in cities in Portugal to provide free accommodation for professionals fighting against COVID-19 for a minimum of two weeks; it’s an entirely volunteer-run initiative that has the support of the Portugal Association of Local Accommodation. AHLA, Airbnb, and Guest Centric are all running initiatives to help connect the resources of the hospitality industry with those who need them most. AHLA's Hospitality for Hope Initiative connects hotel properties with the health community for housing and support during COVID-19. AHLA has worked with HHS to create a national database of properties that the government can then search based on geographic location. This database includes listings from over 17,000 hotels to date. Airbnb’s Frontline stays program gives hosts the opportunity to list their room or apartment to first responders; more than 100,000 places to stay have been offered to those fighting the pandemic. The platform is also partnering with the National Health Service in the UK, Sutter Health in California, the Ministry of Housing in France, and Barcelona Official Doctors Association, as well as many international health organizations to meet their needs. Finally, Expedia launched a $275 million recovery package for hotels and operators of alternative accommodation. This package includes many different resources for hotel owners, such as $250 million in marketing credits, reduced or delayed commission payment options, and $25 million in credits for destination advertising campaigns. Experts say that Expedia’s program – while generous – slightly favors property managers and vacation rental owners with a substantial number of listings, rather than individual property owners.   Supporting Communities and Employees in Need Rosewood Raise is an initiative by Rosewood Hotel Group to support the group’s associates and communities that have been impacted by COVID-19. This relief effort will support staff in corporate offices and hotels across three Rosewood brands: Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, New World Hotels & Resorts, and KHOS. Rosewood Raise aims to meet the needs of those facing financial difficulties due to healthcare-related needs, and will also help local communities that have been hit hard by the pandemic. Rosewood Raise is managed by a 501c(3) nonprofit called the Emergency Assistance Foundation, Inc. This entity operates multiple employer-sponsored disaster relief and employee hardship funds, and has since raised nearly $2 million from Rosewood’s executives and associates. The company matches all employee cash contributions to the fund. As such, any additional funds not dedicated to containing the impact of COVID-19 will be used to continue to support Rosewood Group’s associates against future hardship.    Fundraising Through Gift Card Initiatives Small businesses and retailers around the country are surviving by offering gift cards to customers that can be redeemed at a later date. The hotel industry has also benefited from this method of fund-raising through two initiatives led by Toast POS and Porter & Sail, a mobile concierge program. Toast is providing a short-term solution to boost revenue at your property while bookings are depressed. Sell gift cards online by adding your website or online ordering site set up through Toast Online Ordering. Gift cards can be redeemed at a later date or for meal delivery, if your kitchen is up and running. Toast’s data shows that not only do gift cards improve short-term cash flow, they also can increase revenue: guests who purchase using a gift card typically spend more than the value of the gift card. Toast isn’t the only restaurant-friendly POS system to offer gift cards at the moment. Clover, Square, and Shopify all offer gift card integrations with their POS platform. See if your property’s POS is equipped to start offering virtual gift cards, and put your restaurant back in business. Porter & Sail created Hotel Credits, discounted hotel gift certificates for 21 independent and high-end properties.  Similar gift card initiatives include WeTravelForward and Buy Now, Stay Later. Travelers can purchase vouchers to be redeemed at a later date, with deals like $200 for a $300 credit at The Williamsburg, NYC, or $1,000 for $1,500 credit at Habitas Tulum. Some hotels are associating their gift cards with charitable causes:  La Fonda on the Plaza pledged to donate $10 from each $100 gift certificate sold to a first responder support fund providing meals to emergency medical workers. The Robey hotel in Chicago set up a GoFundMe page for laid-off employees, where a $500 contribution gets the donor a one-night stay and a $100 food and beverage credit. Lastly, Buy One, Give One gives travelers the chance to purchase gift cards or donate loyalty points to charitable organizations for distribution to healthcare providers after the pandemic. Frontline workers can redeem donated gift cards and points at participating properties for future vacations and leisure stays as a thank you from travelers and way to boost to the hospitality industry. Buy One, Give One is currently partnering with the American Nurses Association and New York-Presbyterian.    Helping Local Business with Consulting What may be needed most for property owners during this time is advice. Seated is partnering with two professional services firms, CohnReznick LLP and Golenbock Eiseman Assor Bell & Peskoe LLP to provide one hour of complimentary consultation on topics such as taxes, accounting, employment, real estate, and more. If you have specific questions that can help you run your business more efficiently and survive the slowdown in bookings, this is a great free resource.   

What are the Geopolitical and Cyber Risks in Hospitality?

by
Hotel Tech Report
4 days ago

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

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

by
Jordan Hollander
1 week ago

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

Hotel Operations: 5 Practical Ways to Improve in 2020

by
Hotel Tech Report
3 days ago

Running a hotel is no easy task and hotel operations are insanely complex. Between managing rates and reservations on dozens of channels, keeping your teams in sync across multiple shifts, assigning rooms across various room types, and, most importantly, ensuring that guests are happy, there are a lot of opportunities for things to go wrong. And what about keeping the physical building in good shape? Organizing all of your SOPs and actioning all of these daily tasks is barely humanly possible, so how can you make sure your hotel succeeds? With the right hotel technology, you can make every department more efficient, streamline your basic hotel operations, delight guests, keep your property in tip-top shape, and even increase your RevPAR. Without it, your hotel could suffer from overworked staff, dissatisfied guests, and even physical damage. Hotel tech might seem intimidating if you’re just starting to explore the possibilities, so in this article, we’ll break down how technology can prevent things from going wrong in several hotel departments.   1. Streamline & Sync Your Presence Across Hotel Booking Sites Guests today book across dozens of hotel booking sites and the booking journey is extremely complex.  Some will book on your hotel website and others on a 3rd party OTA.  Others lean on their travel agents to book on their behalf via GDS.  A modern hotel PMS like Jonas Chorum sits at the center of reservations processes and acts as your property's single source of truth with regards to inventory management.  Without a modern PMS you risk poor connections with key systems.  A bad connection with your channel manager could lead to overbooking and a weak connection with your RMS means that you are likely losing revenue from inaccurate pricing. A modern cloud based PMS like Jonas Chorum also helps your team collaborate on reservations.  Your call center agents can quickly access and manage current bookings.  Your sales team can check to see which inventory is available and can be promised to new groups.  Your front desk agents use the PMS to create last minute walk in bookings.   2. Optimize Front Desk Agent Workflows with a Cloud PMS What if your front desk had no computers? Not only would the check-in process be tedious, there are so many opportunities for the check-in to go wrong. How would a front desk agent know which rooms are clean? How would they know about special requests? How would they search for local recommendations? A good property management system not only makes basic hotel operations more efficient for your front desk team, but it also allows the check-in process to be a positive part of the guest experience. And if you’re a hotel manager, you know that the daily hotel operations manager checklist is long enough already, so a strong property management system will allow you to automate or streamline some of these responsibilities. When a guest walks up to the front desk to check in, your front desk staff will probably ask for their name to pull up their reservation. With a property management system in place, the front desk agent can find the guest’s booking in just a few clicks and immediately see the guest’s history, preferences, and reservation details. From there, the agent can check the guest in or out, move them to a new room, extend their stay, change their payment method, and more in seconds. Without good tech working behind the scenes, your employees would spend so much time on administrative tasks and communication that they wouldn’t be able to provide a good guest experience. You’ll save your guests from a poor front desk experience (and your front desk team’s time and energy!) when you implement an intuitive and robust property management system like Jonas Chorum.   3. Bring Teams Together with Business Intelligence and Analytics Software Managing a hotel’s finances is a difficult enough task even with technology. If your finance team needed to manually add up all of the payroll expenses, utility costs, food and beverage orders, and more, they would never catch a break! Financial software can not only keep your finance department sane, but also help you uncover trends that can prevent your hotel from losing money. Except for your finance staff, most hotel employees are blissfully unaware of the billing process. Finance staff, however, know how tedious budget season is and how time-consuming it is to invoice vendors and manage payroll. Good finance technology can save your accounting team from a mountain of work by automating payroll, creating invoice templates, and even compiling reports on the hotel’s financial activities. Rather than tracking all of your hotel’s revenue and expenses in Excel, a robust accounting system can create a P&L in a quick click of the mouse. Business intelligence isn't just about revenue management or finance, it's about bringing your department heads under one centralized roof with real-time data to empower efficient hotel administration and deliver high guest satisfaction scores.   4. Price Rooms Smarter with Revenue Tools In order to sell competitive rates, you need to have a pulse on market behavior. When are the high-demand dates? What rates are your competitors selling? Since rates change constantly, if you had to do all of this research manually, revenue managers could never keep up. Revenue management software does the heavy lifting for you by analyzing market trends to recommend the best rates for your hotel, which prevents you from leaving money on the table. Revenue management tools provide rate recommendations based on market demand and competitor rates and can update your rates automatically, which saves a lot of time. These systems are especially useful for setting rates during peak demand periods (like special events), since they save your hotel from underpriced bookings that erode your RevPAR. Of course, these systems allow you to enter your own restrictions and overrides, so you can save yourself from the risk of selling rates that are too low.   5. Maximizes the Life of FF&E with Engineering Tech Your maintenance team can’t possibly catch every leak or replace every lightbulb as soon as it goes out all on their own. The engineering team needs help from other departments (especially room attendants and front desk agents) and from technology to receive, action, and track service requests. Imagine if a housekeeper noticed that a sink was leaking in a guestroom, told a maintenance employee right away, but the maintenance employee was busy and forgot about it? A few days later, your hotel could face some costly water damage all because you didn’t have technology in place to track the maintenance issue - not to mention a potentially poor guest experience. Engineering software allows hotel staff to submit service orders that can be actioned by the maintenance team, ensuring that nothing gets overlooked or forgotten. The engineering team can even access these systems from their smartphones, so if an urgent service request comes up, someone can handle it immediately. These systems also track requests in a queue, which means team members can hold each other accountable, and you can analyze trends to see which requests occur more frequently. Armed with this knowledge, your hotel can stay in perfect condition for years to come, and guests won’t keep calling the front desk about the lightbulb that hasn’t been replaced for three days. -- By now, we hope you understand just how crucial technology is for basic hotel operations. Your hotel manager duties and responsibilities are hard enough without the added stress of service recovery, missed revenue, or maintenance issues. You can prevent all kinds of guest experience failures and potential back-of-house mistakes by implementing good hotel technology that allows you to organize, automate, and streamline tasks. Besides helping you avoid these potential hiccups, good technology will free up your time so you can think strategically and delight guests.  

Hotel Technology: 8 Trends to Watch in 2020

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 week ago

In 2017, Uber predicted that the company would launch flying car ridesharing by the end of 2020. That hasn’t quite panned out, obviously – joining the list of Jetsons-like technology of the future that never lived up to the hype. For those of us keeping an eye on technology in hotels, it can be difficult to discern what trends are here to stay and what trends are simply a marketing stunt. We can’t predict what will happen in the future, but we can watch industry trends as leading indicators. That’s just what we’ve done to compile this list of trends that we believe are worth watching in 2020. From white labeling to the decline of OTA dominance, here’s where we predict hotel technology will go this year. 1. SaaS is exploding 2. APIs are mainstream 3. Guest room technology innovation 4. Privacy & cybersecurity 5. OTAs struggling 6. WiFi 6 7. Big data 8. Digital hotel companies   SaaS is Exploding Interest in investing in hotel technology has slowly ramped up in recent years. Venture capitalists are finally starting to recognize the opportunity to invest in tools and platforms that allow hotels to capture new levels of hotel operations efficiency and revenue growth. “Despite all the innovation that has taken place in the sector over the last decade, there remains massive, untapped opportunity and potential in many categories within the hospitality arena. Despite being one of the largest and most dynamic segments of the US and global economy, penetration of cloud-based technologies in the segment remains incredibly low, and the vendor landscape remains tremendously fragmented on a global basis,” says Matt Melymuka, co-founder and partner at PeakSpan Capital. Those untapped opportunities that Melymuka references? Venture capitalists are starting to catch on. This month, Cloudbeds announced a Series C minority investment round of $82 million, led by Viking Global Investors with participation from PeakSpan Capital, Recruit Co., Ltd., Counterpart Ventures, and Cultivation Capital. Cloudbeds offers an all-in-one suite of tools, including a property management system, channel manager, booking engine, and revenue manager, growing revenue and automating workflows at more than 20,000 properties. Their Series C fundraising success indicates a growing appetite among investors for cloud-based, low-cost solutions that seamlessly communicate across platforms to target, acquire, and retain guests. Mews Systems, another top-ranked, cloud-based property management system, raised $33 million in its Series B funding round led by Battery Ventures. “As hotel and other hospitality property owners look to address the challenge of competition from peer-to-peer platforms like Airbnb, Mews provides hoteliers with the tools to not have to worry about the day-to-day of running the business, and instead focus on improving guest experience and helping travelers have the trip of a lifetime,” said Sanjiv Kalevar, Principal at Battery Ventures. Oaky, one of the industry’s leading upselling tools, raised a Series A funding round of $9.5 million led by PeakScan Capital. Oaky’s appeal to investors stems from the app’s data-driven approach to driving incremental revenue. Their deep understanding of customer behavior makes Oaky one of the top-rated upselling tools on the market today. VCs aren’t the only stakeholders interested in investing in hotel tech. Zingle, a guest-messaging software, was acquired by Medallia, an experience management company, for a $42 million cash deal in 2019. Hotels use Zingle’s messaging tools to deliver five-star service at scale; Medallia’s investment in Zingle gives hotels the opportunity to provide frictionless guest service and streamline time-consuming interactions, such as check-in. Life House, a tech-first hotel experience, shows proof-of-concept: that hotels that invest in technology drive higher revenue, better guest reviews, and a higher star-rating. Life House’s market traction epitomizes the appetite for investing in hotel tech. The hospitality startup closed a $30 million Series B from a large group of investors led by Thayer Ventures. “Life House is an unusual company in that it started out as a software provider aimed at fixing ‘the broken and complex hotel operational model’ before morphing into a combination of tech provider, hotel manager and boutique hotel brand,” reports Crunchbase. Last but not least in the litany of hotel tech brands seeing interest from investors, SiteMinder raised $70 million led by BlackRock, valuing the company at $750 million – and making it the industry’s first unicorn. SiteMinder, like Cloudbeds, offers an end-to-end tech solution: a channel manager, online booking engine, website builder, and more. Its early success at over 35,000 properties shows that this market is only growing.    APIs are Mainstream White labeling is a practice in which a product – in this case, hotel software – is manufactured by a third party and uses branding by the purchaser, or marketer, so that the end product appears to have been produced by the purchaser. “The advantage is that a single company does not need to do it all: one firm can concentrate on producing the product; another on marketing it; and another can focus on selling it, each according to its expertise and preference,” writes Investopedia. White labeling has already begun in the hotel industry without hoteliers even knowing it. Property management systems that offer channel management integrations are usually white labelling their channel managers from other vendors. We believe this trend will continue, especially in the revenue management space where white labeling can solve two distinct problems: strategy and tactical management. Most revenue management systems focus on reporting and data visualization; the addition of white label software to the backend of an RMS can improve price optimization, letting hoteliers spend their time on higher value tasks and strategic revenue management. Along with white labeling, APIs are adding efficiency to hotel technology by integrating your tech stack and helping your tools talk to one another. An API, application programming interface, is simply a messenger of data between applications. APIs allow your various hotel technology tools and programs to work together, connecting your RMS to a PMS, or your PMS to your upsell software, or your business intelligence software to your PMS. An API makes your technology user-friendly and efficient; when your tools work together, you capture each platform’s full capabilities. API penetration in the hotel tech market has opened up a world of opportunities for property owners. For instance, feeding data from your PMS into a business intelligence tool leads to real, operational data to analyze trends and provide recommendations for better marketing campaigns, smarter staffing decisions, seasonal trends, and market competition. Hotels that are comfortable using APIs can automate tasks that take up much of their employee’s time with manual data entry.   Guest Room Technology Innovation Guests around the world have unprecedented convenience at home. The number of voice-controlled and streaming services that have proliferated the home in recent years is unprecedented: Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime for streaming; Alexa, Google Home, and Amazon Echo for voice; Creston, Nest, and other smart-home devices; Uber Eats, Door Dash, and Caviar for food delivery at the touch of a button. On-demand convenience dominates our lives, and guests expect this level of ease from their hotel experience as well. Hotels are catching on, adding convenience through streaming, voice activation, guest-room tablets, and food ordering tech. “Unlike other amenities that are requested but not necessarily used, streaming services are used on average by 40% of rooms—and they’re used longer than their cable counterparts,” Gavin Philipp, VP of operations at Charlestowne Hotels told Hotel News Now. The Amazon Fire Stick, Roku streaming stick, and Apple TV are all low-cost, easy-to-implement tools that some guests are even bringing with them. Hilton is taking a different approach, partnering with Netflix to allow guests to control their streaming straight from the Hilton Honors mobile app. As far as voice-activation, Volara is leading the way in providing a thoughtful, Alexa-esque guest-room solution. Volara integrates with the most popular work order management systems so that guests can make requests and get confirmation when the item or service they need will be delivered. It also integrates with in-room entertainment, eliminating the pain point of touching a germy remote control. Volara’s success is more than gimmicky – their product allows properties to interact with guests in a fun and scalable way. Guest room tablets provide convenience in a simple, straightforward upgrade that improves guest satisfaction scores virtually instantaneously. Tablets like those from Crave Interactive allow guests to customize their experience at will, booking spa appointments, taking advantage of F&B offers, and exploring local tours. And for savvy marketing managers, tablets provide a new channel through which to send targeted, automated messages generating $5,000 per month in additional revenue. Lastly, hotels are replicating the Uber Eats experience with tools like 2nd Kitchen and Bbot. 2nd Kitchen is a godsend for hotels without a kitchen on-site: guests can order room service from restaurants near your hotel, taking care of care of orders, menus, payment, fulfillment, and customer support for your property. Bbot’s mobile ordering technology gives guests a way to order and pay for food and drinks from their phones, cutting down on labor and menu management at your property. For guests, no need to call down, sign a receipt or spend time waiting in line for service.   Privacy & Cybersecurity Hotels are a prime target for hackers. “Only about 25% of all U.S. businesses, including hotel operators, are fully compliant with current data security best practices. That means that three out of four are not and are potential disasters waiting to happen,” reported one cybersecurity expert. Numerous high-profile malware attacks on the hotel industry have led to hundreds of millions of guests’ data being compromised and millions of dollars in damage. Just this February, MGM Resorts revealed they were the target of a massive data breach that compromised personal information for more than 10.6 million guests. Files leaked in the MGM attack included information on celebrities, chief executives of technology companies, reporters and government officials, according to Skift. With this trend on the rise, hotels are being forced to get smart about security. Property owners must do their research in selecting tech tools that provide multilayer security, data protection, secure transactions, and compliance with international payment and data privacy standards. Hotels must regularly host training to their staff on the proper way to handle personal information, comply with privacy regulations such as the GDPR, and change their access credentials regularly. The many tech innovations we see penetrating the market require constant vigilance of cybersecurity best practices, regular updates to security software, and dedication to routine testing and threat assessment.   OTAs are Struggling Expedia and Booking have taken some pretty big hits in recent months. Expedia’s shares ended 2019 down 4%, a slight decline but significant in comparison to the S&P 500, which returned 29%. Booking.com’s stock finished down 11% in January 2020 (in part due to COVID-19). Why the dive in stock price? There are two factors outside Coronavirus that are impacting OTAs. First, hotels are getting better at capturing direct bookings. Hotel tech like direct booking platforms, metasearch ad managers, and messaging integrations help properties draw more visitors to their site and convert more direct bookings, circumventing the high OTA commissions in the process. Direct booking tools that connect a property’s PMS, parity, behavioral and demographic data across the entire booking journey has put hotels on even footing with OTAs when it comes to winning bookings. Secondly, Google has entered the travel market in a big way. Google has expanded from traditional AdWords to include hotels everywhere via its Hotel Ads product. Google has historically been the source for much of OTAs inbound demand, and now that the platform is a direct competitor, OTAs are vulnerable unless they pay billions of dollars each year to Google to ensure they show up high in search results and get clicks from travel planners. Free traffic is “shrinking all the time”, Expedia CEO Mark Okerstrom explained to analysts.   WiFi 6 5G may be getting all the buzz, but for property owners, WiFi 6 is much more relevant. WiFi 6 is the term used to describe the next iteration of Wifi, a faster, more efficient connection enabled through new technologies. WiFi 6 is about 30% faster than our current WiFi. This might not sound that impressive at first glance, but considering how many devices we’re adding to our WiFi networks, the increase in speed is dramatic. Like 5G, WiFi 6 will have obvious implications for guests who use their smartphones to book and manage their stay. But beyond the guest experience, hotels can take advantage of faster WiFi to power all those streaming, tablet, and voice-activated devices. With WiFi 6, your property can leverage in-room technology to provide better service, driving positive guest reviews and repeat business. Smart thermostats, smart speakers, and smart locks will all perform better with the adoption of WiFi 6 over the next five years.   Big Data Investors in Oaky already recognize this next insight: data has become the world’s most valuable resource. The sooner you start to mine guest data for better customer insights, the better positioned your property will be against your competition. Why is data so valuable? “Data are now part of every sector and function of the global economy and, like other essential factors of production such as hard assets and human capital, much of modern economic activity simply could not take place without them,” argues McKinsey. Data can fuel smarter marketing campaigns, inform your pricing, and help you capture a higher market share than your competitors by knowing your guests on a deeper level. Hoteliers are just starting to realize the potential of its guest data. Earlier this year, Revinate launched the hotel industry's first Guest Data Platform to aggregate, clean and deliver rich guest profiles for hotels and property groups of all sizes. The platform combines data from multiple sources to provide a complete picture of a hotel’s guests, delivering the information needed to increase guest satisfaction scores, direct bookings, and ultimately, profit. An acquisition by CoStar Group put a dollar figure on just how much hotel industry data is worth. The Group purchased STR for $450 million in cash in the fall of 2019. STR aggregates data from more than 65,000 properties worldwide, distributing more than 1 million reports each month. That amount of data synthesized into nice reports? Priceless.   Digital Hotel Companies All these trends – the flow of VC cash into hotel tech, the rise of consumer-convenience tech, the use of white-label software and APIs – means the landscape of the hotel industry is changing. New competitors are challenging old management companies that haven’t innovated enough.  These next-gen properties are sometimes called hometels (home+hotel), or more generally, alternative lodging.  Brands in the alternative lodging sector include Stay Alfred, Sonder, The Guild Hotels and to some extent groups such as Selina and OYO.  VCs seem to love these alternative lodging options. Sonder, for instance, hit $100M in revenue thanks to its venture capital-fueled growth; the brand raised a $225M Series D and projected $313M in forward 12-months revenue (2019/2020). The biggest distraction or barrier these next-gen hotels face is that they’re taking the wrong approach to tech. The companies that win will be the ones who stop acting like tech companies – using buzzwords like AI and virtual concierge – and focus on being more innovative and agile real estate businesses than traditional market players today. Those that succeed will be tech-enabled businesses; not tech businesses. They will be better at buying and using tech components via APIs and lean infrastructure, but be founded on sound business principles enabled by the industry’s best tech tools. 

Coronavirus: Survival of the Fittest for Hotels

by
Jordan Hollander
2 months ago

In the face of a global pandemic and hotel industry meltdown we are sailing deep into uncharted waters.  No hotel (or any business for that matter) can stay alive without revenue. The U.S. hotel industry (and airline) came back strong after 9/11 when travelers were afraid of terrorism.  Regions affected by the SARS and MERS outbreaks were followed by similar bounce-backs.  But somehow this time feels different. “Without government intervention, there will be no service industry whatsoever. There’s so many people that work for me whom I am incredibly concerned about. Where are they going to get their next meal? Do they have health care coverage? How are they going to pay their bills? It’s as if aliens came from outer space and decided to totally destroy restaurants,” said famed restaurateur David Chang. The good news is that this pandemic may be over sooner than you anticipate and the mortality rate may actually be much lower than we initially thought (due to undocumented cases).  The tricky part about virality is that the models have wild swings based on even miniscule changes to the assumptions of those models (which are changing dramatically each day).  The same scientist whose very report jolted the US and UK into action has since changed his model assumptions which massively changed the forecasts. “It will recede in a converging exponential; in other words, the coronavirus can be expected to disappear from this region with the same dizzying speed with which it entered our lives,” Dr. Dan Yamin. It’s not only virologists suffering from inaccurate and quickly outdated predictions, hotel industry forecasters like Jan Freitag are facing the same dilemma.     There’s more good news.  The world is uniting against a common enemy and we’re collaborating as a species like never before.  While the media likes to portray drama and political posturing, the reality is that this crisis has helped humanity put aside our cultural differences because a virus doesn’t care where you’re from. On a Facebook live with TED, Bill Gates mentioned some of the collaboration that’s happening in the scientific community.     Even ordinary people are collaborating, as evidenced by Google Sheet of volunteer opportunities created by thousands of individuals from around the world. We’re also seeing collaboration like never before in the hotel community.  Competitive walls were broken down when major hotel chain CEOs addressed U.S. President Donald Trump in their pleas for an industry bailout.  Similarly, major hotel tech companies have banded together in an initiative spearheaded by Cloudbeds to convert excess hotel capacity into lodging for those in need like healthcare workers.  Hotel owners are listing their beds in droves at HospitalityHelps.org. It’s not all good news though.  Never before in our lifetimes has business come to a screeching halt like this...and hopefully it won’t happen again. Most hotel businesses maintain around 2x payroll as working capital (cash to run their day to day operations).  As hotels get closer to the 60-day mark we’ll see more and more layoffs because they simply can’t foot the staffing bills.  The only way to help these hotels is through government bailouts and improved payment terms on mortgages. Here in the U.S., the government has put together an incredible program to offer fully forgiven SBA loans of 2.5x monthly payroll to any hotel business under 500 employees. Here at Hotel Tech Report, we are always looking to understand how technology can help improve hotel business performance but sadly there isn’t a ton that you as a hotelier can do with new technology right now.  Revenue management systems don’t add much value when you’re at 2% occupancy, upsell software can only do so much with a couple of heads in beds and so on. We’d be lying if we said “we’re all going to get through this together.”  We’re not all going to get through this. Poorly capitalized hotels like those described in this great article by The Real Deal will go under even with government intervention.  Overextended technology companies will face the unfortunate same truths.  Even the previously untouchable venture funded alternatives like Sonder and Lyric have faced hard truths faster than we anticipated. We are a strong and resilient industry like many have pointed out.  The Darwinian reality is that these crises make all industries more antifragile.  The bad actors die out (along with many good ones) and only the fittest survive.  Ask your finance friends what major bank balance sheets look like today in comparison to 2008/2009.  The companies that come out of times like these are the leanest and smartest - and they get even leaner and smarter through the pain. We don’t say the above in a good or a bad way - it’s just the truth.  Many hotels have or will cancel software contracts while others will go out of business.  This is really unfortunate and painful for their suppliers in the short term but new owners will purchase those properties and those owners will understand more than anyone the power of running an efficient organization. They’ll be more entrepreneurial in aggregate and eager to surround themselves with the best technology partners around.  For software companies this means there will be more whitespace than ever before in history to pick up new market share - in the 12-18 months after this crisis fades we will see the defining hotel technology companies of the future separate from the pack.  COVID has been a great equalizer and while painful we believe that it will accelerate digital transformation in hospitality (like many industries) by 10-15 years.   As we said before, technology can’t save you RIGHT NOW but great software is the key to running an efficient and consistent business.  Market intelligence software helps you stay ahead of trends, revenue management software can help you price rooms automatically without relying on a revenue manager who’s basing forecasts on last year’s irrelevant results, operations tools can keep consistency of SOPs and so on. TCV’s David Yuan shared an awesome initiative from Toast POS to get consumers buying restaurant gift cards to support their favorite local businesses.  The same way that a restaurant can’t serve you when they’re shut down, tech companies can’t do all that much for hotels that aren’t open. Software is key to how you anticipate, react and recover from a recession.  It makes you better at acquiring guests, running an efficient operation and maximizing every dollar. During the Bill Gates interview with TED he was asked what he would do if he was President right now and his answer was basically “It’s too late, the time to act was 3 years ago.  All we can do now is ramp up testing, pray for a cure and promote social distancing”. Similarly, the only thing hoteliers can really do now is negotiate with lenders, stay current on local bailout opportunities, make prudent layoffs, focus on helping their employees as much as they can and pray that this ends soon.  Once we’ve sorted out all of those issues and have some downtime while our businesses are closed, the best thing we can do is prepare for the next downturn and improve our operational capabilities. Never again will you have this much time to try different technologies and lots of vendors are even offering concessions and free tools that we encourage every hotelier to take advantage of for this limited and unprecedented period before we get back to the new normal. Do everything you can afford to support the technology companies pushing our industry forward because when this is all over you’re going to need them more than ever.     The biggest barriers to adopting technology are broken down right now in ways they will never be again - take advantage of that to optimize your business before it's too late. #1 Contract Lock-in: Most can be broken with force majeure.  If you don't like a vendor, now is an opportune time to upgrade your stack. #2 Switching Risk: Especially when it comes to mission critical systems it can be scary trying to migrate while your hotel is at full occupancy.  This is the perfect time to make the move while your hotel is closed. #3 Time: Learning new software takes time no matter how easy to use the system is.  You'll never have this much time to try and learn once the market picks back up. #4 Cost: Lots of vendors are extending free trials during closures from 30-days to 90-days.  You'll never have an opportunity like this to try software and see if you like it over extended periods of time.  Having said that, your vendors are hurting as much as you are - support them don't strain their businesses unless you absolutely need payment delays etc. Use the golden rule and treat them as you hope guests treat you. #5 Integrations: This barrier is already broken down.  Simply avoid vendors who charge high integration fees or don't integrate with your critical systems.  There are plenty of great vendors who have open APIs...it's 2020 after all. Focus on ensuring your hotel business survives this crisis financially then get proactive, get creative and learn how to optimize your business to accelerate the recovery and you'll be outperforming the compset in no time.  Remember that the best defense is a good offense.  Everybody looks like a genius in a bull market, it's times of crisis that separate the average hotel businesses from the truly great ones. -- Put the proverbial oxygen mask on yourself first.  Once you've got your finances sorted out - here are some ways that you can optimize your hotel business and support the technology vendors working hard to keep the industry running smoothly.   WHISTLE GUEST MESSAGING. Extended free messaging (guest and team) for new signups. A few reasons how Whistle will help your hotel during the crisis: - Social Distancing: No need for in-person interactions between gueststaff and staffstaff - Efficiency: Hotels can manage more inquiries and help more guests, now that they are operating with even more limited staff - Remote Operations: Respond to guest inquiries remotely. Unlock offer → Offer terms: Extended free trial available until June 1, 2020 for new clients.  No CC required unless hotel is continuing after trial and cancel at any time, even after trial period, no penalties   LIFE HOUSE (HOTEL MANAGEMENT):  Life House is an VC-backed institutional management company that uses software & process innovation to increase low cost direct bookings & materially reduce the operating costs of a hotel, which is ever-more relevant with depressed revenues. To support owners who need help navigating these difficult times, Life House is offering waived management fees until 2021 and a complimentary management transition for independent hotel owners. Whether a 200-room luxury boutique hotel or a 25 room bed & breakfast, Life House's white-labeled management platform can help. Learn more about the offer →   ATOMIZE: You can now get Atomize Revenue Management Software, free of charge, up until you have realized 50% of your average occupancy. This offer comes with no setup fee, free training, and including support. This limited offer is valid until April 30. Learn more about Atomize →   TRUSTYOU'S TRAVEL HEALTH INDEX. Due to widespread limitations on travel, there is currently an unprecedented drop in hotel stays. To help hoteliers from all over the world to assess the global and regional situation, we are now introducing the Travel Health Index! This exclusive KPI is only available from the world's largest guest review database and it benchmarks current #review activity with the normal levels of 2019. Access it here and keep an eye on the Index for weekly updates.  Learn more about the Travel Health Index →   ALICE PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE CHECKLIST. Hoteliers know how to run a property, but shutting one down is a different story.  That’s why ALICE created a free checklist tool within their software that hotels can use to keep their property safe and clean with a skeleton crew that is available for free to any and all hotels looking for help. A few reasons how ALICE will help your hotel during the crisis: - Preventative Maintenance: Understand what needs to be done to keep your property safe and clean with a skeleton crew to avoid property damage and maintenance issues during downtime. - Crisis mgmt: Hotels are not meant to operate at low occupancy, or with a lean staff, yet that is the trend for so many hotels right now. ALICE Checklist helps hotels take rooms, floor and whole buildings out of service, while maintaining a record of tasks to bring a hotel back up to full occupancy quickly and easily. Get the free toolkit → Offer terms: ALICE Checklist is available to any and all hotels that are using (or not using) the ALICE platform with no strings attached. It is a free product, there are no obligations, and it can be cancelled at any time.   REVINATE'S COVID RESOURCE CENTER. Revinate ran a survey and found that 70% of hotel professionals are looking for projections on how this unfolds, and 71% are looking for planning ideas. That’s exactly what this new site aims to provide.  This resource center will aim to be a centralized source of info and resources to help hoteliers in these uncertain times. Browse the resource center →   JONAS CHORUM PMS. Save on your PMS with 90-days free of Jonas Chorum for new clients. A few reasons how Jonas will help your hotel during the crisis: - Remote work: Cloud functionality, allowing hotels to remain connected and conduct business remotely, while also specializing in remote training to avoid any face-to-face contact. - Financial relief: Provide hotels with financial relief to help them ride out the storm. Learn more about Jonas Chorum → Offer terms: This particular offer is only for new clients and is only being offered for a limited time as we are essentially getting companies up and running on our software free of charge. We would also be willing to honor this offer for a period of time whenever the impact of the pandemic starts to lessen.    ALLIANTS GUEST MESSAGING. A few ways Alliants can help your hotel during the crisis: - Easily outbound message with impacted guests across all the key channels, including, WhatsApp, SMS, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, LINE, etc - Allow your teams to stay connected with guests, staff, and vendors while helping keep social distance. - No setup fees/onboarding costs - All training & installation can be done remotely. -Get your property up and running in less than 2 days. See Alliants in action → Offer terms: We are offering our Alliants Messaging platform at no charge till the end of 2020. You can cancel at any time. No credit card is required and we can have your property live in less than 2 days. Oaky Pre-Arrival Templates. Pre-arrival communication + translations templates to ensure effective communication so your guests feel safe. Get the templates →   RATEGAIN FREE STRATEGY SESSIONS. Complimentary, one-to-one session with RateGain experts. A few reasons how RateGain can help your hotel during the crisis: - access 200+ years of combined experience across all fields - Revenue Management, Distribution, Social Media and even HR - RateGain has its own data, both current and historical. As such we possess the knowledge and insights to guide our prospects in a way that no other can. Schedule a free session → Offer terms: We are running it for three weeks starting coming Monday. We are only doing it for our prospects i.e. companies which are not a customer of RateGain. We are doing it for our customers anyhow. This is a 100% free service. Basis the request we receive we can extend it for a longer duration as well.   Want to list your company's offer? Reach out to our editorial team via live chat   BEEKEEPER INTERNAL TEAM COMMUNICATION. How are you keeping your employees up-to-date on the coronavirus? Reach every employee across shifts, locations, and languages with one easy-to-use mobile-first communication app.  A few ways Beekeeper can help your hotel: - provide instant communication between all employees - allow for real-time updates on Coronavirus as it affects your company - Allow for shift schedules to be accessed away from the hotel Learn more about Beekeeper → Offer terms: This offer is available until June 2020 and is for new clients. Cancel anytime.   UMI DIGITAL’S FREE EXPERIENCE PRE-PAYMENTS TOOL. Simple pop-up website overlay to showcase closure messages while selling future experiences. Works with existing voucher systems via outbound links. Learn more about the offer → Offer terms: FREE set up for hotels on Wordpress and FREE license for 3 months during the pandemic. We have a simple proposal that requires acceptance but do not require payment details.   HELLOSHIFT MESSAGING & WEBSITE LIVECHAT. Hotels can use Guest Messaging and Website Chat to keep the line of communication open and accessible to all guests (and future guests.) With Staff Collaboration, hotels can keep running with smaller operational footprints and more staff working remotely. Use Covid-19 specific checklists, populate a knowledge base with Covid-19 specific information, and keep in communication with laid-off employees. Learn more about the offer → Offer terms: To help hotels deal with Covid-19, HelloShift is offering free service to all sign ups till July 1, 2020.   HOTELCHAMP DEMAND TRACKER. Demand Tracker shows you real time demand based on your website date searches. Conversion Rate (CVR) helps you to contextualise performance of different dates. Change of search behaviour keeps you informed of shifting demand. A few reasons how HotelChamp will help your hotel during the crisis: - understand demand in the current market is key to steer pricing decisions - see real time demand from your website for up to 365 days in the future - create alerts for changes in demand so you can proactively act on what is changing in the market Learn more about HotelChamp → Offer terms: New and existing clients. Completely free, no subscription to be set up. Automatically ends after 90 days.   BOOKBOOST UNIFIED INBOX & WEB MESSENGER. During this difficult time, we want to stand with the hotel industry. Our Unified Inbox and Web Messenger are now available for FREE to all hotels worldwide. Bookboost Unified Inbox enables you to manage all guest inquiries from your website, email, Facebook Messenger, in one inbox. Give clear and consistent COVID-19 communications and Save your team answering repetitive questions, improve efficiency and provide service day and night with chat automation. Learn more about Bookboost   ASKSUITE HOTEL CHATBOT: We are offering our award-winning AI chatbot for free to hotels located in North America and Europe. The bot can answer questions about hotel operations during the pandemic (as we included in the AI) and has all the other functionalities like integration with booking engines. Asksuite believes that helping each other is the way to overcome this crisis. Even if the hotel is temporarily closed, it can keep providing customer assistance to future guests, answering their queries, and facilitating the booking process. - helps decrease the workload, especially now when many hotels needed to downsize; - with the addition of the COVID-19 topic in the chatbot, it helps answer all queries about the COVID-19 and its impacts on the hotel's operations, the local status, and so on.  Learn more about the offer → Offer terms: Only available to hotels in North America and Europe; - only for new clients - valid until December 2020 - if pandemic ends it will continue for free cause hotels will need help with their cash flow - no credit required   ROOMPRICEGENIE AUTOMATED REVENUE MANAGEMENT: Fully automated dynamic pricing solution in place helps you know when business is coming back and help you react immediately. Continuously track how your market behaves and understand when business is coming back. Learn more about RoomPriceGenie → Offer terms: The offer is for new clients and it is valid until further notice (as long as the tough times last). After the regular trial period, clients need to sign up and will receive a 100% discount until they see business coming back. Our monthly cancellation policy stays the same - so they can cancel at any time.   AVVIO DIGITAL ACADEMY: With so many amazing hoteliers out of work Avvio is turning their time and resources to helping out with important skills development to help out during this period of downtime. Their Hotel Digital Academy is available for free registration and the first hotel digital marketing course will be starting next week. Hospitality will have to “do more with less” as the industry recovers and we think upskilling will be more important than ever as training budgets will inevitably suffer. If you know of anyone in our industry that you feel might benefit from this can I ask you to consider please sharing. Learn more about Avvio →   EXPERIENCE HOTEL EMAIL MARKETING. Hotels can get their Free access to our CRM's Emailing tool and send up to 3 custom Email campaigns to all their customers, valid for 3 months to keep guests informed as the situation evolves via email. Learn more about Experience Hotel → Offer terms: No cost, no commitment. In order to access this free service, they must register with a professional email corresponding to their hotel; a manual check of each account is made to avoid abuse.   SAVETHEHOTELS.COM BY BOOK VISIT. Last Friday we started a marketplace called savethehotels.com which is completely free of charge. The idea is to make it easy for consumers to see all the great deals the hotels are offering right now in order to survive.  Set up unique promotions that are easy for guests to book. Learn more about Book Visit → Offer terms: Right now we have the page as long as there is a need. We have no plans for this to be an OTA in the future. Right now we just want the hotels to survive otherwise we will also go down.   HOTEL RUNNER PULSE UPDATES CENTER. With HotelRunner Pulse, our goal is to support the travel industry using the ‘big data’ from the HotelRunner platform, which performs tens of millions of transactions per day, and to give our partners a snapshot of what is happening in the industry during these extremely challenging times. HotelRunner Pulse will be updated weekly, and you will be able to access detailed data from the previous week, data-points include travel agencies that bring the most bookings, confirmed and canceled booking volumes, average stay durations! Learn more about HotelRunner → Offer terms: Starting this week, through the special panel we developed, we are providing free access to real data based on bookings made through HotelRunner in the previous week.   MYSTAY EMAIL TEMPLATES. MyStay Freemium automates the way properties can inform guests about the situation in the region and hotel's health and safety protocol using pre-defined email templates and semi-automated rebooking. It also allows automating selling extra services to the fewer guests to come in the next months through pre-arrival communication, email templates covering COVID-19 related health and safety protocols, flexible rebooking or loyalty points policy.  Special guest web as a WiFi landing page with stay-related information focusing on COVID-19 related aspects. Learn more about MyStay → Offer terms: The offer and MyStay Freemium package is and will remain available forever unless canceled by the hotel. It is available to new clients, no contract or credit card required. The product is not going to disappear once the pandemic is over, hotels will be free to continue using it for free or choose to upgrade to any of the paid profiles.   HOTEL DIRECT BOOSTER WEBSITE LIVE CHAT. Livechat software for 1 month to keep contact and convert its visitors into direct bookings on the hotel's website.  Many hoteliers closed their hotels but they shouldn't close their direct bookings. Keep contact with website visitors during the pandemic on the hotel website and helps hoteliers prepare the resumption of bookings and support travelers. Learn more about HDB → Offer terms: 1 month free offer only for new clients.  Available until April 30th 2020. Non-binding offer.  No credit card required   GO MOMENT WEBSITE LIVE CHAT. Use Go Moment’s website live chat tool to inform potential hotel guests of the steps your hotel is taking to keep guests and staff safe, suggest rescheduling instead of canceling  and collect leads for future groups.  Learn more about Go Moment → Offer terms: Offer available through June 30th, 2020. After June 30th, rate will change to $250 per month.   QUORE AID PROGRAM. The Quore Aid Program was designed to help any hotel converting its property into a COVID-19 isolation ward or temporary medical facility.  The Quore platform enables hotel management and staff to limit face-to-face interactions, implement mobile communications with guests and access modifiable templates that guide staff through recommended and/or mandated procedures that are updated in real time. These include isolation room set-up and turnover, hand and hygiene protocol, trash collection, sanitation requirements, signage placement and other actions to ensure the highest level of health and safety compliance throughout the property. Learn more about Quore

5 Things the Hotel Industry Must Learn From QSR (Quick Service Restaurants)

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 week ago

As a hotelier, you can take insights from many different industries and apply those learnings to your own property. But what can the QSR industry and restaurant business plans (quick service restaurants) teach you? If you’ve ever felt confused or overwhelmed by the idea of implementing new technology at your hotel, then the quick service restaurant sector can offer some great examples. Many businesses in the QSR space  have incorporated technology to delight guests, build loyalty, and deliver exceptional hospitality - which might be the same goals you have for your hotel. Technology doesn’t need to be scary; like these QSRs, your hotel can also leverage technology to achieve excellent results. In this article, we’ll uncover five lessons from major brands like Starbucks, Yum Brands, and Dominos.  We’ll show you how to apply their best practices to the hotel industry. While the intricacies of hotel and restaurant operations might be different, their overarching goals of hospitality, loyalty, and growth are the same. Let’s explore how hotels can take a page from the QSR book and implement technology effectively.   What are Quick Service Restaurants? While you may think that all restaurants should offer quick service, a “quick service restaurant” is a distinct category of eatery. Also known as “fast food,” quick service restaurants have a few unique characteristics: Diners order at a counter and no table service is offered Meals are priced between $4 and $8, on average Diners spend just a few minutes in the restaurant, taking most food to go Menus and kitchens are designed for speed and efficiency Brands include KFC, McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, and Starbucks Though these establishments aren’t necessarily known for their personalized service, hoteliers can learn from their efficient operations, customer loyalty, and rapid growth around the globe. Quick service is an exciting segment of the restaurant industry, and as technology becomes a more integral part of the business, some innovative quick service chains can be looked to as pioneers. You may have also heard about casual or fast casual restaurants. What makes these establishments different from quick service restaurants? Casual restaurants are a step up from quick service in terms of ambiance (diners receive table service), menu options (more sophisticated choices), and price (average check around $15). Some notable casual restaurant chains include Applebee’s, Olive Garden, and TGI Fridays. Fitting in somewhere in the middle, fast casual establishments combine the efficiency of the quick service sector with the higher quality of the casual sector. Fast casual brands include Chipotle, Panera Bread, and Jimmy John’s, offering counter service and healthier menu options.   Lesson #1 (Yum! Brands) Invest in Your Tech Suppliers For a quick service restaurant like KFC, food delivery is a crucial part of the business. KFC’s parent company, Yum! Brands, wanted to ensure that their own point-of-sale system worked seamlessly with the GrubHub interface, so Yum! invested $200M in GrubHub. The result was a streamlined process from the initial order to the delivery dispatch to satisfied customers whose orders arrive without a hitch. While we’re not recommending that every hotel invests millions of dollars in their technology vendors, there is a lesson to be learned here. By working closely with the companies that provide your hotel software (and paying them fair prices!), you can invest in their future. Become a part of their product roadmaps by providing feedback and supporting new initiatives, and you can reap the benefits of technology that works for you.   Lesson #2 (Domino’s Pizza) Consumers want instant gratification and convenience Imagine that you’ve craved pizza all day (or maybe you don’t need to imagine it to know what we’re talking about), and when you finally get home, you open your food delivery app to make your order only to find out that the estimated delivery time is an hour from now. Do you still order? Or do you find something else to eat? Domino’s realized that their pizza-loving customers want pizza now - and they don’t want to jump through hoops to get it.  To satisfy this need for instant gratification and convenience, the pizza chain implemented a “fortress strategy,” in which they opened additional stores in existing markets in order to reduce delivery time and keep their customers happy. Of course, hoteliers can’t add more front desks or put gyms on every floor, but they can eliminate friction when guests are trying to find information or resolve issues. For instance, hotels can improve room service operations by allowing guests to order via an app, which is a much smoother experience than waiting on hold when calling the room service office.   Lesson #3 (Starbucks) Consumers demand mobile transactions If you’re a loyal Starbucks customer, perhaps you remember the days of ordering coffee from a barista. Today many Starbucks customers order their coffee drinks through Starbucks’ mobile app, which is one of the most popular apps in the restaurant industry. In the app, customers can look at menus for any Starbucks location, place orders, pay, and collect loyalty points, and the user-friendly design provides an enjoyable experience. Since today’s consumers are accustomed to ordering everything from the palm of their hand - from cappuccinos to clothing - hotels need to ensure their mobile booking process is up to par. It’s not enough to have a basic website anymore; your booking engine must be optimized for mobile and guests should be able to manage their reservations on a smartphone. Software companies like Maestro PMS offer mobile-optimized booking engines that make mobile bookings easy and user-friendly so that your hotel can deliver the same type of seamless experience that consumers expect from Starbucks.   Lesson #4 (KFC) Franchisees and independent owners of hospitality establishments care more about technology than ever before It seems like KFC doesn’t just serve up fried deliciousness, but also some worthwhile lessons on leveraging technology in a busy hospitality environment. KFC figured out how to use digital data to more accurately predict busy delivery times, analyze customer behavior (like how buckets of chicken is a popular choice for group meals), and reduce the rate of errors in orders. And this attention to technology isn’t only at the corporate level; according to Christopher Caldwell, KFC’s chief technology officer, around 80% of the questions he gets from franchisees are related to technology. The same tech-forward mentality can also apply to hotels. Hotel franchisees should work closely with their brand representatives to stay on top of any new technology developments, and independent hoteliers can work closely with vendors to bring cutting-edge tech to the property level. Great technology is the key to smooth hotel operations, and with the right software in place, it can even open up new revenue opportunities.   Lesson #5 (Taco Bell) Personalization determines winners and losers In this digital age, loyalty programs mean more than simply collecting points and getting a “happy birthday” email every year. Taco Bell is stepping up their loyalty program by offering personalized deals and menu options for customers based on factors like their order history, preferences, and even the weather in their location. Hoteliers also want to gain guest loyalty, and personalization is one way to build a lasting relationship with guests. For instance, if your hotel has technology in place that can determine that a particular guest orders a glass of red wine at the bar on the first night of every stay, then you can surprise the guest with a bottle of red wine in their room on their next stay. The guest will be thrilled, tell all of their friends about the amazing experience, and likely choose your hotel again and again. Again, the secret here is to have technology in place that allows you to easily find opportunities to personalize the guest’s stay. -- In each of these lessons, we discover how technology enables quick service restaurants to deliver excellent experiences (pun intended) and build customer loyalty. Though the QSR sector might not be the first one that a hotelier would look to for advice, this industry’s quick and effective adoption of technology is something that any savvy businessperson can learn from. When you partner with technology vendors like Maestro PMS that understand the importance of mobile optimization, personalization, and convenience, you can truly take your hotel’s guest experience to the next level.  

How to Prevent Malware Attacks and Promote Cybersecurity at Your Hotel

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 month ago

Do you have a spare $1.6 million lying around? That’s the average amount that security experts now estimate a business needs to recover from a cyberattack containing malware. Hotels are easy targets for hackers. Cybersecurity is not something many hotels feel confident in. "Last year, the two biggest global reports on data breaches, Trustwave’s Global Security Report and Verizon’s Data Breach Investigation Report, both show hospitality continuing to struggle in this area. Verizon, meanwhile, reports that accommodation, food and lodging made up for nearly 54% of their caseload,” says Bob Russo, GM of the PCI Security Standards Council.” Each time a hotel’s guest records get breached, the property is burdened with financial strain and faces broken trust with guests. As a hotelier, you don’t need to be an expert in cybersecurity, but you absolutely need to understand the basics to protect your business and your guests. Here are some ways to tackle cybersecurity at your hotel and minimize your risk as much as possible.    Why Hotels are Attractive Targets for Hackers Hotels are easy – and profitable – targets for hackers. Hotels make attractive targets for two reasons: first, cybersecurity at many properties is lax. “Only about 25% of all U.S. businesses, including hotel operators, are fully compliant with current data security best practices. That means that three out of four are not and are potential disasters waiting to happen,” says Russo. Secondly, hotels process lots of transactions and store tons of guest data. A hacker can simultaneously target a property’s point-of-sale and property management system to capture payment card information as well as personal data, like passport numbers and email addresses. Malware can move between POS and PMS systems at different properties under the same brand, affecting guests in locations around the world with no one the wiser. Likewise, there are many access points a hacker can target in a single property. “In February, it was reported that of the 21 most high-profile hotel company data breaches that have occurred since 2010, 20 of them were a result of malware affecting POS systems in a hotel restaurant, bar, and retail outlet,” says Mark Voortman, Ph.D., head of the information technology program at the Pittsburgh-based Rowland School of Business. A small, 100-room hotel with a 50-seat restaurant still processes hundreds of unique payments each day. Those unique payments are virtually defenseless; few hotels have the necessary security protocols, infrastructure, and training in place to make sure any interested parties are dissuaded from stealing guest information.    What is Malware? Key Cybersecurity Concepts Defined Understanding the key concepts of cybersecurity is half the battle. Here are some common terms you will encounter while improving security at your hotel:  Phishing: phishing occurs when scammers send you an email, text, or even call you to try to trick you into revealing personal information they can then use to access your bank details or credit cards. A phishing email might look like a message from your bank warning you that it will shut down your account unless you verify your personal information.  Encryption: Encryption is a security procedure that involves scrambling data so that only parties authorized to read it can understand the information. The process takes readable data and alters it so that it appears random. The party that receives encrypted information needs a key to unscramble data and turn it into readable plaintext.  VPN: VPN stands for “virtual private network.” A VPN will mask your IP address and keep your internet activity largely untraceable. It’s a great tool for making sure your internet connection is secure and private.  Malware: malware is shorthand for “malicious software.” Malware is designed to gain access to your computer; spyware, ransomware, viruses, and Trojan horses are all different types of malware.  Penetration test: penetration testing is a procedure where a cybersecurity expert tries to identify weak points in a computer system. The expert simulates a malware or hacking attack to find any vulnerabilities that bad actors could take advantage of.  APT (Advanced Persistent Threat): an APT is the worst kind of attack, in which a bad actor uses “continuous, clandestine, and sophisticated hacking techniques to gain access to a system and remain inside for a prolonged period of time, with potentially destructive consequences.” Antivirus: a program designed to detect and destroy computer viruses on an operating system Anti-malware: Similar to antivirus software but where antivirus focuses on older/known threats, anti-malware typically focuses on newer unknown threats.  Malware protection focuses on identifying unknown threats before they turn into full on mature viruses.  Malware removal is typically more difficult than antivirus since there are more unknowns. Rootkit: A rootkit is a clandestine computer program designed by cybercriminals to provide continued privileged access to a computer while actively hiding its presence. Keylogger: A keylogger, sometimes called a keystroke logger or system monitor, is a type of surveillance technology used to monitor and record each keystroke typed on a specific computer's keyboard. Keylogger software is also available for use on mobile devices, such as Apple's iPhone and Android devices.  Keyloggers are a legitimate software that can be used for good but are often used as a scam to steal sensitive information like credit card numbers and passwords. Botnet: a network of private infected computers containing malicious code and controlled as a group without the owners' knowledge, e.g., to send spam messages. Using a VPN and encryption, as well as performing regular penetration testing can keep your network secure against malware and APTs. You should also ensure that your hotel's IT team regularly checks on property computers for keystroke loggers and that your staff doesn't open strange email attachments.  These are the bare minimum security protocols you must practice regularly to avoid disasters like these high-profile hacks in the hotel industry.   High-Profile Malware Attacks in the Hotel Industry Research from Symantec, a cybersecurity firm, found that more than 65% of hotels are routinely leaking booking reference codes through third-party sites. Why is this important? Because the information shared through these codes would allow a bad actor to login to a reservation, view personal details, and even cancel a booking altogether. When this happens, your guest information is vulnerable and you risk destroying the guest relationship. Symantec’s research showed hotels of all sizes are at risk. Major hacks have occurred at HEI Hotels & Resort, Starwood/Marriott and more. Here are just a few high-profile events: HEI Hotels & Resorts  In 2016, a data breach impacted 20 US hotels operated by HEI Hotels & Resorts. The attack exposed the payment card data from tens of thousands of food and drink transactions. Malware was discovered on the hotels’ payment systems used to process card information at on-site restaurants, bars, spas, lobby shops, and other facilities. Experts determined that hackers likely stope customer names, account numbers, card expiration dates, and verification codes. Starwood/Marriott In January 2019, Starwood/Marriott discovered that a data breach had exposed the personal information of guests who had stayed at their properties since 2014. Guest data was stolen for around 500 million people – including encrypted passport numbers and credit or debit card numbers. The New York Times reported that hackers may have been working with China’s Ministry of State Treasury, as an attack of this scale is remarkable. Omni Hotels & Resorts Omni was also attacked in 2016 in a malware breach that affected 50,000 customers. Debit and credit card information from 49 of the chain's 60 locations was stolen: including credit and debit card numbers, cardholder names, security codes, and expiration dates.  Hyatt At 41 of Hyatt’s hotels, hackers gained unauthorized access to payment card information in the second attack since 2015. Of the second attack, one security expert noted, “It’s possible the steps taken by the Hyatt group back in December 2015 are still being deployed throughout the organization, especially if those systems are dispersed around the globe and not connected by a common network. When choosing your systems management toolset, you need to implement the solution which is secured using 2048bit certificates and two-factor authentication but also works regardless of where the endpoints are located.” Sabre  Sabre processes reservations for roughly 100,000 hotels and more than 70 airlines worldwide. The company was targeted in 2017 by bad actors who stole credentials for the Sabre Hospitality Solutions’ SynXis Central Reservations system. Those credentials provided access to customer data, including payment card information and reservation details – customers’ names, email addresses, phone numbers, and addresses. These high-profile attacks grab headlines, but there are hundreds of smaller attacks that happen at hotels each month. Even recently, a massive hack, like the one at Fontainbleu in Miami, has gone unnoticed by the mainstream media. Sources reported that Fontainbleu faced a ransomware attack to their credit card system, forcing the hotel to either compromise guest data by continuing to accept card payments or to ask guests to pay in cash. Guests waited up to five hours for rooms while the front desk tried to mitigate the situation – a scene one person described as “chaos.” “The line was out the door into the lobby,” one executive told Variety Magazine. For a five-star hotel such as the Fontainebleau, an incident like this is absolutely brand destroying.   How to Protect Your Hotel Malware Attacks & Cyber Threats What’s the best way to make sure your data stays safe and no guests are left stranded? First and foremost, take extra care in selecting a point-of-sale system and credit card processor. “Agreements with those entities should be vetted and, if possible, modified to add protection and minimum data handling standards for the outside vendor. Compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) not only helps to ensure that data security software, hardware, and practices are safer, but also helps to protect against fines and penalties when a breach occurs,” writes one expert. An enterprise-grade provider, like Oracle Hospitality, can secure the vulnerable link between your PMS and POS. Oracle OPERA is a cloud-based property management system that integrates with the Micros point-of-sale system, as well as a suite of other applications. Oracle offers sophisticated security protocols, such as Cloud Security Monitoring Analytics for monitoring the platform both on-site and in the cloud. Oracle tools also include:  Cloud Compliance Control (OMC CC) for checking the configurations against company requirements or external regulations;  Cloud Access Security Broker (Oracle CASB) to discover shadow IT in the cloud and monitor corporate requirements regarding the use and configuration of Oracle and 3rd party cloud services such as AWS, Salesforce, Azure, Box etc.;  Identity Cloud Service (Oracle IDCS) for providing a user management and authentication system for on-premises or cloud services. These security protocols monitor what’s going on in your internal network as well as any external attacks. Working with Oracle gives you multilayer security, data protection, secure transactions, and compliance with payment and data privacy standards. But, as evidenced in the Sabre attack, sometimes even these measures aren’t enough. With the right credentials, anyone can get past your security system. The right technology is only half the equation; over the years, security experts have also identified employees as part of the problem. Hotels must train their staff to handle personal information security, comply with privacy policies, and change user access credentials regularly. This industry has high turnover, which is part of the reason why employees don’t always maintain security standards. Your property should regularly host info-sec seminars to make sure all new employees are trained and veterans stay up-to-date with the latest threats. Even with a great PMS/POS system and the right training, it’s important to perform routine penetration testing and risk assessments. There’s no straightforward answer as to how often you should pen test your network, but experts warn once a year probably isn’t frequently enough. Beyond training your staff, keeping your security software up to date, and investing in a platform like Oracle OPERA that's invested in cyber security, you can encourage your guests to use a VPN and to log out of their WiFi when not using it.   

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

by
Hotel Tech Report
5 months ago

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

Cloud Computing: Explained for the Hotel Industry

by
Hotel Tech Report
5 months ago

Have you ever wondered what exactly it means when something is “in the cloud?” No, we’re not talking about the weather! Cloud computing is indeed a confusing topic, especially for hoteliers who might not understand how it’s relevant to our industry. But if you want a more efficient, streamlined back office and happier guests, then “the cloud” can help you meet your goals. Furthermore, if you don’t like spending a big chunk of your budget on software, you’ll be happy to know that cloud-based applications are usually a lot cheaper than traditional systems. In this article, we’ll explain exactly what “the cloud” is and the advantages of cloud computing, and we’ll show you how cloud-based technology, such as Cloudbeds, can help hotels deliver great guest experiences.   What is Cloud Computing? We hear a lot about “the cloud,” but what is it? Where is it? Sorry to rain on your parade, but “the cloud” doesn’t have an address. It’s really just a metaphor for the internet. In short, cloud computing is when you use programs, store files, or access data via the internet rather than on your hard drive. If you’ve ever edited a Google Doc or uploaded files to Dropbox, then you’ve leveraged cloud computing. Writing in a Word document or storing photos in the “Pictures” folder on your computer’s desktop are not examples of cloud computing because they use only the local storage on your device.   One of the biggest misconceptions about cloud computing is that files and applications don’t live on physical storage servers.  When an application is “cloud based” it means that it lives on third party servers. For example, a cloud based hotel software company like Cloudbeds might choose to rent space with a company like Rackspace to host their application (and yours) or alternatively they might use a service like AWS.  AWS tends to be more scalable for fast growing applications but as end users your guests won’t notice the difference so it’s really a matter of preference. Some applications use a mix of cloud computing and local storage. If you use Microsoft Office, you might create a PowerPoint on your laptop (local storage), but when you save the file, it gets uploaded to your Microsoft OneDrive, which is housed in the cloud.   The Evolution of Cloud Computing How did we arrive at cloud computing as we know it? “The cloud” wasn’t created overnight; instead, decades of technological evolution led to cloud computing. Let’s jump back to 50 years ago, when IBM was one of the only tech companies providing a comprehensive suite of services: not only hardware and software, but also training and maintenance. Since IBM owned the entire bundle of tech services, they charged their business model to subscriptions that included maintenance, but in 1968 they separated their hardware, software, and services to avoid an antitrust lawsuit. Microsoft received the contract to build IBM’s operating systems. In 1980 Congress added “computer program” to the definition list of U.S. copyright law, which led to the beginning of software licensing. This ruling was significant because companies like Microsoft could now sell each individual copy of its software (like Windows) without needing to also sell hardware, which was a requirement previously. Shortly after, the next big wave of tech companies, like Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard, and SAP, came to prominence. These companies offered a mix of hardware and ongoing services, which would charge high fees upfront for the cost of the hardware and subscription-style payments for ongoing support. Because software is a zero marginal cost product, all of the costs are upfront and each incremental user only generates revenue - no cost. Microsoft was able to reduce the upfront cost of software by offering its products on a subscription model, which made software accessible to millions of companies that couldn’t afford it before. Although Microsoft’s software became extremely popular, the software still required installation, and the installations were often buggy, expensive, and time-consuming. In 1999 Salesforce sought to eliminate the troublesome installation process and became the first true cloud computing player, with software that didn’t require installation and ran on Salesforce’s servers. While Salesforce was growing among corporate clients, a company called Atlassian was unintentionally the last big innovator in cloud computing. Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar started the company with their project management software called Jira.  The two founders weren’t trying to hit it big and wanted to keep the company lean, so they made their software available online for trial so users could start using it without ever talking to a sales rep. This strategy allowed Atlassian to grow quickly, and they eventually added a subscription model in what later became known as the “Freemium” model. Though they weren’t seeking wealth, Atlassian is worth now $32B.   Benefits of Cloud Computing While the history of cloud computing is fascinating, you don’t need to have a deep understanding of it to realize its benefits. Cloud computing provides several advantages over traditional computing: Avoids costly and painful installations Requires minimal upfront investment Allows software companies to focus resources on R&D/innovation Eliminates negative depreciation (in fact, the software gets better with age, since updates can be made at any time)  Offers the ability to cancel at any time (plus has lower switching costs for buyers) Pushes software companies to consistently earn customer loyalty with innovation and great service   Cloud Computing in the Hotel Industry You can probably think of a few ways that cloud computing is already impacting your day to day personal life, but how does it fit into the hotel industry? No discussion of cloud computing in the hotel industry would be complete without mentioning Cloudbeds, the first property management system startup in years to serve 1 million beds with its software. Since Cloudbeds is cloud-based, it has been able to grow extremely quickly without needing clunky on-premise installations. Hotels that use Cloudbeds log into it directly in a web browser like Internet Explorer or Chrome. This is a big advantage for hotels because you can access the application on any device. Gone are the days when a system was only installed on certain computers; with a cloud-based system like Cloudbeds, you can sign on securely via any web browser - even if you’re off-site. Another reason for Cloudbeds’ rapid growth is that their software can easily integrate with other tools. Cloudbeds has an extensive marketplace of integration partners, including Whistle, TrustYou, and Oaky, that it can connect to via an API. Because everything is located in the cloud, a hotel doesn’t need to download any programs or plug-ins to add a new integration. These add-ons can offer upgrades and analyze reviews, among other things, so you can improve guest service and even earn incremental revenue. When a system is cloud-based, it can innovate faster because changes can take effect immediately. There’s no need for users to download updates. Over the years, Cloudbeds has expanded its property management system to include their PIE revenue management tool, a channel manager, a booking engine, and more. Hotels that use Cloudbeds receive the updates automatically so they always have the most cutting-edge version. At the same time, users can submit feedback to Cloudbeds about any bugs or glitches, which the Cloudbeds team can resolve quickly. So what does cloud computing mean for a hotelier? Implementing cloud-based software can make your operations more efficient, save time for your employees, and create more positive guest experiences. If you’re still using traditional software that’s installed on hotel computers, it’s time to consider switching to modern, cloud-based software that’s constantly innovating. In addition to enjoying all the benefits of a cloud-based system, you may even save some money in your IT budget! And since cloud-based software doesn’t require a lengthy installation process, your hotel can implement a new system seamlessly. While you can’t control the weather, you can use the cloud to help you meet your hotel goals.