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Coronavirus: Survival of the Fittest for Hotels

by
Jordan Hollander
1 day 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 It’s not only virologists suffering from inaccurate and quickly outdated predictions, hotel industry forecasters like Jan Freitag are facing the same dilemma.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.   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.   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  

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

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 month 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 (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
2 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
2 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.  

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

by
Hotel Tech Report
2 months ago

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

10 Unique Hotel Amenities Ideas You Should Consider Now

by
Hotel Tech Report
3 months ago

With so many new hotel brands, competition from short-term rentals, and new technologies, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when trying to make your hotel stand out.  Renovating your property is expensive and time consuming but hotel amenities are an easy and high impact way to stand out in your competitive set. How can you do it all - be original, earn 5-star guest reviews, and generate social media buzz - without dropping rates? Let’s go back to basics and look for ways to enhance the guest experience. Put yourself in the guest’s shoes: what are the pain points you experience while traveling? What do you wish you could bring along, and what amenities would really make a difference in your stay? Today’s guests crave novelty and utility. They want to be surprised with hotel amenities that they’ll actually use. For example, Westin partnered with New Balance to provide running shoes and exercise gear for guests who want to maintain their workout routine while on the road. In this article we’ll briefly cover the basic hotel amenities that every property needs and then dive into 10 unique amenities that will help you win the hearts and minds of guests.   Essential hotel amenities Before diving into our list of unique amenities, we want to make sure every hotel has the basics covered. These amenities used to be a main selling point for hotels, but now they’re par for the course. Simply put, when guests stay at a hotel, they expect these items to be readily available and free of charge: Lotion Shampoo Personal care (combs, shaving cream, razor, shower cap) Coffee maker, coffee and creamer Tissue Bathrobes and slippers Ready to take things to the next level? Many hotels now offer elevated amenities to better compete with vacation rentals. If your hotel is located in a market with a lot of competition from Airbnb - or if you’re just looking to grab a competitive edge - consider making these amenities available: Free breakfast: Guests want to save money and enjoy the convenience of either cooking their own breakfast or enjoying breakfast just steps from their room. When most short-term rentals include kitchens, hotels can compete on the breakfast front by offering some sort of free breakfast option, whether it’s a continental buffet or a sit-down hot meal. Options for pillows: Many guests have allergies or strong preferences for certain types of pillows, so you can make your hotel feel more like a home by offering down, foam, and hypoallergenic pillows available. Free WiFi: Remember the days of hotel WiFi that cost $20 per day? Well, some hotels are still stuck in that era. Free WiFi is quickly becoming an amenity just like shampoo: guests expect it, and they don’t want to pay for it. For some guests, no free WiFi can be a deal-breaker. Free parking: Parking is another way to compete with short-term rentals. Some short-term rentals include a parking space, so if your hotel’s parking comes at a fee, that’s another reason for guests to opt for an Airbnb. We recommend doing some research on short-term rentals in your market to see what the parking trends are. Premium coffee: Elevate your in-room offerings by swapping the cheap packets of no-name coffee for freshly ground beans from a local roaster - or even a luxe Nespresso machine. If upgrading the in-room coffee isn’t feasible for your property, consider adding a machine in the lobby that can whip up cappuccinos and lattes. Gym or fitness center: Today’s guest doesn’t want to sacrifice their workout routine on the road, so even if your hotel doesn’t have its own fitness center, guests will appreciate discounted rates (or, even better, free classes or gym time) at a nearby fitness facility.   1. Mobile check-in We hear a lot of buzz about guestroom technology and sustainability, but this innovation isn’t only limited to the guestroom. With a tech-forward property management system like Maestro, you can streamline your check-in process and make your front office more eco-friendly. Maestro’s PMS offers a completely paperless check-in with no registration cards to sign and no printouts. Instead, the entire process is handled on a tablet.  After the guest is checked in, they can leave comments via online comment cards, and when they’re ready to depart, the front desk agent can send their folio via email. In contrast to printing several copies of the guest’s bill, Maestro’s system makes it easy to sign and send folios electronically, which saves time and paper.   2. VIP shopping at local merchants  Do guests shop or dine at local restaurants when they stay at your property? If they do, they’ll certainly appreciate a little extra discount or some freebies! Create a customized area coupon book to help guests save money and encourage them to eat or shop local. This project doesn’t need to be something that you take on by yourself; partner with local businesses to create a neighborhood coupon book that includes restaurant offers (like a complimentary dessert), shop discounts, a free fitness class, or discounts on tours or activities. It’s a win-win for your hotel, your guest, and your local business neighbors.   3. In-room tablets Let’s be honest, the in-room information binder is so last millennium. Upgrade your guestroom guide to a digital format on a tablet to make it easier for guests and your staff to use. Guests can find all of the information they need at the tap of a finger, like room service menus and restaurant recommendations, and they can even contact the front desk via instant messenger with some guestroom tablet apps.  Property management systems like Maestro even integrate directly with INTELITY tablets, a popular brand of guestroom technology, making updates to folios and tracking guest preferences a breeze. Guests can even use Maestro-connected INTELITY tablets to book future reservations, since your unique amenities will definitely make them want to return.   4. Enthusiast tech For a truly unique hotel experience, you can provide technology that caters to specific guest interests. Based on your guest profile, certain amenities might not be relevant, but some could lead to guest loyalty for life. For example, cater to guests to love to golf by converting a seldom-used meeting room to a golf room with a golf simulator. If your hotel doesn’t have the space to add a full fitness center, consider purchasing a few Peloton bikes that can be delivered to guestrooms upon request. Though the bikes can be pricey (approximately $2400 each), the cost can be a lot less than the expense of building out a full gym.    Photo from Golf Digest   Unique artwork can also deliver a more memorable guest experience. Appeal to your art-loving guests with eye-catching artwork in guestrooms and public spaces. Some hotels even add functioning art galleries within their lobbies to create a truly sophisticated experience - and art available for purchase creates the opportunity to bring home a one-of-a-kind souvenir.   5. In-room cocktail station We’ve already discussed how higher quality coffee can make a big difference in guest satisfaction, and another way to elevate your in-room beverage experience is with a unique guestroom cocktail station. Infuse some local flavor into guestroom amenities with a recipe and the ingredients for a signature drink that reflects the history or character of the property, just as the Troubadour Hotel in New Orleans does with their signature old fashioned.    Photo of cocktail welcome amenity   Alternatively, offer a more memorable cocktail experience by adding a Porthole infuser to your guestroom amenity lineup, which lets guests mix their ideal combination of herbs, fruits, and spices in the morning and sip a flavorful drink in the evening.   6. Local history at turndown Current trends show that guests want a more local experience when they stay at hotels, and what could be more local than some interesting tidbits about the hotel’s or area’s history? Make the turndown experience even more special by placing a postcard or trinket with a unique story on the bed (perhaps in addition to a little sweet treat) in the evening.      Or maybe you’d like to take a page from the Grand Hotel Tremezzo’s book; during turndown service, this iconic, romantic property in Lake Como shares love letters found in the hotel’s walls. Now that’s a turndown service you wouldn’t forget!   7. Room purification Especially in urban markets, hotel rooms should be oases of calm. As a guest, you want a break from street noise, crowds, and city smells. Create the optimal environment for easy breathing with a guestroom air purifier, which isn’t only a nice amenity to have, but also a necessity for people with allergies or respiratory problems. Companies like Pure Wellness offer high-tech air sanitization specifically for hotel rooms, which make it possible to maintain hypoallergenic and great-smelling spaces with minimal extra effort.    8. Relaxation devices   After a long flight, a stressful day of meetings, or just the unpleasantness of jetlag, guests want to relax when they’re in a hotel room. Why not offer a little something extra to help your guests clear their minds? Think of what you like most about a spa: calming music, good aromatics, maybe even a massage. How can you replicate a spa-like experience in your guestrooms? Scent diffusers, soothing eye pillows, and noise machines are relatively inexpensive and easy to implement, so adding relaxation devices to your room amenities is certainly not a stressful task. If you want to deliver a truly unforgettable in-room relaxation station, consider adding a Myostorm massage ball, a unique product that was recently featured on Shark Tank. Other massage options include a foot massager or a neck massager, like these from Homedics.   9. Powerbank for the road Imagine you just got off a long flight, pulled up Google Maps to find your hotel, and completed mobile check-in. How terrible would it be to find that all that smartphone use drained your battery and you can’t take photos of your beautiful hotel room! Give travelers a much-appreciated (and unexpected!) amenity by offering power banks in the room or for rent at the front desk. As a bonus, you could encourage guests to post something about your hotel on social media in exchange for using a power bank! Or, for an over-the-top welcome gift, give guests a complimentary, hotel-branded power bank to take home.   10. Rollaway tent Let’s not forget about the youngest guests! Treat the little ones to memories of a lifetime with an above-average rollaway: a rollaway tent. This cool amenity is lots of fun for kids, and it gives parents some privacy when the whole family shares a room. For more brownie points,    Photo of The Bed Tent by Privacy Pop   That wraps up our list of 10 unique hotel amenities. With a little extra thought, you can introduce amenities that provide local experiences, useful functionality, and character that will keep guests coming back for more. Did we miss any creative ideas? Let us know!  

RMS Hospitality Cloud: What You Need To Know About Its Hotel Management System

by
Hotel Tech Report
3 months ago

The global hospitality industry has enjoyed a decade of consistent growth. And, whether or not this growth continues, hotels must be prepared to preserve profits in the inevitable downturn. Part of this preparation/preservation involves having the right technology in place to weather the next dip in global demand, technology that’s versatile enough to provide multiple functions in a single package at a reasonable cost. Technology is no longer built for one specific task — to help drive revenue, for example — but instead aims to help hoteliers work smarter and more effectively, and to help them provide a better guest experience. -Jason Freed The most mission-critical technology for any hotel is the software used to manage operations. This is the software that reaches across the operation to connect departments and facilitate efficiency and profitability. With the right hotel management system, hotels are able to more effectively allocate resources, expand their distribution visibility, and maintain service standards -- which leads to a virtuous cycle of a better guest experience, more reviews, and more bookings. That type of loop is a helpful momentum-builder in good times and bad. In our ongoing series comparing other leading hotel management systems (check out our Deep Dives of Cloudbeds HMS and Hotelogix HMS), we now turn our attention to the RMS Hospitality Cloud, a fully-integrated hotel management system.   What RMS does: All-in-one, cloud-based hotel management solution  RMS is a cloud-based hotel management solution that brings together everything a hotel needs to operate a hotel profitably and efficiently. This includes: a channel manager that distributes your hotel’s inventory across multiple channels to increase visibility and bookings. a property management system that centralizes reservations, housekeeping management, and back-office tools in one place.   a booking engine to take reservations on your own website.  a mobile app and guest portal that centralizes guest communications, property information, check-in, and room access. a loyalty rewards module for simple program creation and integrated redemption of accumulated points. an email marketing tool with customizable templates for automated marketing communications. Each of these modules work together by sharing data in real-time so that hotels operate at peak efficiency and profitability. That seamless collaboration is one of the main reasons for using a single hotel management solution: no expensive integrations or messy workarounds; it all just works.      Read reviews of RMS Hospitality.   Who RMS is for: Properties of all sizes There are two flavors of RMS: Pro and Prime. RMS Pro is ideally suited to multi-property portfolios and larger hotels, motels resorts that have more complex needs. These are properties that generally want some measure of customization to align their hotel management technology with the unique needs of their operation.  The all-in-one hotel management system from RMS syncs across devices. Prime, which was introduced in 2019, is a streamlined version of its hotel management software that’s geared towards independents and boutique hotels. These single properties are usually smaller with less complex operations and prefer tech solutions that are quick to onboard and affordable. They definitely don’t want to pay for functionality that they won't use, or face a steep uphill battle when integrating a new technology and training staff. With the addition of RMS Prime, hotels of all sizes can find a hotel management solution that meets their needs. One unique aspect of RMS is that it also serves other lodging categories, offering management software for marinas, campgrounds, and RV resorts. Each of these categories has specific needs that the software accommodates, such as creating detailed boater profiles for marinas, managing different site types for campgrounds, and interactive maps for RV resorts.   Why RMS: Notable Features For Hoteliers Customizable Loyalty Program Loyalty is a major force in hospitality. Consumers are willing to spend more to stay at their preferred hotel brands: for business travelers, it’s a $27 premium and for leisure travelers it’s $23. Unfortunately, even though guest rewards can be a revenue-driving marketing tool, launching a loyalty program can be a complicated and pricey prospect for hotels. RMS is trying to reduce that burden with its Guest Rewards module launching in early 2020. The module empowers RMS customers to create their own rewards programs and encourage guest loyalty by awarding points for each stay. These points can then be redeemed for future stays. Enrollment is simple and straightforward: staff can enroll existing guests into the loyalty program with a hassle-free, one-click experience. Redemption is also easy: with direct integration into the booking engine, guests can redeem points without having to jump through additional hoops.   The RMS Rewards Module allows hotels to launch campaigns with loyalty-based incentives. Hotels can then use smart segmentation of rewards members to drive business priorities. For example, creating marketing campaigns that offer double points or half-price reward redemptions to incentivize specific segments of past guests to book or redeem rewards. This type of segmentation is essential to building a successful loyalty program, as different segments have different motivations. Hotels must be able to target their loyalty marketing efforts accordingly -- especially as consumers are willing to spend more to stay at their preferred brands. Integrated housekeeping management and POS With stress in the workplace rising and talent shortages making headlines, hotels must be mindful of both controlling labor costs and empowering teams with the tools that improve work life. RMS’ all-in-one approach to hotel management offers: Housekeeping management. Room status and housekeeping work assignments are handled right within the PMS. While this is a standard feature in property management software, each software handles it differently. RMS centralizes everything in a Housekeeping Portal, so that managers can allocate tasks and staff can complete tasks in the same interface. The Portal is also mobile-capable so staff can update room status for up-to-date status reports accessible from anywhere.   Point-of-sale management. The integrated POS management makes it easier to generate ancillary revenue. Staff can process sales and returns, as well as charge guest accounts directly to avoid manual folio nightmares. There’s also an inventory component so that you don’t necessarily need separate inventory tracking software. Both of these modules have the added benefit of making more money for hotels. Whether it’s by flipping rooms more quickly for upsells or generating more revenue from guests, these tools are also potential boosts to the bottom line. Guest portal with mobile check-in and automated marketing Guests can check-in anywhere they like, from any device. This speeds up the check-in process and prevents lines from backing up in the lobby. Self-service allows guests to self-select; those that prefer in-person interactions will continue to check in at the front desk and others can skip the front desk. When guests are empowered to craft their own experience, they are generally more satisfied. And satisfied guests lead to more positive reviews and a better online reputation.  And it’s not just mobile check-in. The guest portal features the ability to message a property, add names to a reservation, and to update the expected time of arrival -- such instant self-service functionality is fast becoming an expectation for all hotels, as 90% of consumers prefer doing business with brands that answer questions immediately. In addition to the online chat via the guest portal, RMS supports SMS texts, with all communications centralized in a single dashboard view so that staff can easily follow each thread, regardless of who is working the shift. Hotels can also increase upsells via the guest portal. RMS has “automated self-service technology” that doesn’t require additional investment in upselling software. Upsells and other offers can be displayed at different points in the check-in process, both in the guest portal and via the customizable email marketing automation tool that’s integrated into the RMS system. Dynamic Pricing Engine With RMS, dynamic pricing isn't only reserved for major brands with standalone revenue management tools. Hotels can maximize profits and occupancy through a dynamic pricing engine that’s plugged directly into the booking engine. Rather than static rates that don’t adjust to demand, rates are adjusted based on how a predetermined occupancy levels. You set the desired occupancy and the rates fluctuate depending on property- and market-level demand signals. Rates automatically go up as demand increases and go down when demand drops. The RMS Dynamic Pricing module also allows hotels to set expiration dates on specific rates. This is useful for marketing campaigns that feature time-limited rate promotions. By setting a timeframe for that special offer, you won’t suddenly discover a bunch of underpriced bookings because a special rate from a previous promotion was never turned off.  Smart Printing As one RMS reviewer expressed frustration with printing folios (lamenting going through the “the BS to print a receipt”), RMS offers Smart Printing. The functionality addresses the very real frustrations of setting up printers with proper routing. For properties with multiple POS, there’s greater complexity in routing each print actions to the preferred printer. This routing can be especially beneficial for faster night audits and more organized group checkouts. In only a couple of clicks, RMS Smart Printing reduces that complexity by allowing: (1) Smart routing to define which print jobs go to which printers, so folios print at the front desk and reports print in the back office. (2) User-level printing rules so a user can be logged into multiple devices but only enable Smart Printing on one device and not all devices.    RMS: Pros and Cons According to its Customers  RMS has 20 verified customer reviews, nearly each of which has a direct response by the RMS team. That responsiveness makes sense, as the most common thread mentioning the stellar customer support. It’s something that was mentioned in nearly every review, with words like “excellent,” “awesome,” “patient,” “kind,” polite and “knowledgeable.” As far as implementation, one reviewer said that “the assistance in setting up the system was great,” and another thanking “the support team for working through tricky implementations.” Even so, there’s room for improvement, with one user lauding the quality of support but also saying that “the knowledge base could be improved. It would also be nice to have a user forum, where users could help each other out.” The dual-edged sword of a deeply customizable system was also mentioned by one reviewer, who said that RMS is a “powerful software that is customizable and has a lot of options...this is both a strength and a weakness. Strength for being able to customize, but weakness for complexity.” Some other pros and cons per verified RMS user reviews: Pros: Great support: “very appreciative of the Tech support assistance” that’s “courteous, timely, patient in assisting our staff” and accessible: “There is always someone to assist when I have a question (and I had a lot of questions).”  Interface: “The system is easy to use” Easy group reservations: “the ease of doing group reservations and being able to manipulate existing reservations right from the booking chart.” Cons: Data sync: “Some of the synchronization issues have been challenging” with a lack of “True two way connections.” Country-specific printing issues: “In Canada tax receipts are just a copy of the folio and can be printed at any time. There is no need in this country to go through the BS to print a receipt.” Accounting: “The owner accounting portion needs work.” Integrations: “I would like to see more integrations with other products like Google Data Studio.”   Next Steps with RMS For hotels requiring customization, it will take a conversation with an account manager to determine the next steps. The conversation will help the team understand your property’s specific needs and the best path to a successful implementation. For smaller properties, RMS Prime can be implemented quickly and with little downtime. In both cases, the 24/7/365 RMS support team strives for a smooth transition, as evidenced by reviews highlighting “informative as well as creative” support with “experienced troubleshooting skills” for any implementation issues that arise. No matter what happens economically, the power of technology is that it frees staff from mundane, repetitive tasks that make work miserable, says hotelier Jonathan Tisch: “We need to ask, how can technology free-up our team members from more mundane tasks and allow them to focus their energies on high value-added service that only humans can deliver.” With that freedom, hotels are able to boost efficiency while also preserving -- or even enhancing -- service standards.  

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

by
Hotel Tech Report
3 months ago

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

Digital Transformation in the Hotel Industry

by
Hotel Tech Report
4 months ago

“Digital transformation” is one of those buzzy phrases that gets thrown around, much like “big data” and “artificial intelligence.” Few leaders, however, actually recognize how digital transformation impacts their business. Digital transformation is not just about technology investment, but refers to the ways organizations restructure themselves to adapt and alter corporate culture to empower innovations that leverage technology and take their businesses to new levels of growth. The term ‘digital transformation’ was coined in the late 1990s to describe the first time a customer was connecting to a company via a website or other digital channel. As the internet matured companies started to connect all processes and devices into networks. Nearly every company has gone through a digital transformation to learn how to leverage data, retain talent, grow their revenue, and innovate. Today, digital transformations have achieved a macroeconomic scale. “By 2018, the number of IoT devices is expected to double, spurring the development of 200,000 new apps. By 2020, spending on cloud services will be more than $500 billion, three times the current level.” digital transformation is at the forefront of nearly every industry’s investment priorities. Hotel owners seeking to harness this trend are adding a holistic PMS system like Oracle OPERA to their technology stack. A PMS is a perfect example of a tool that can be deployed to help achieve a specific business goal. Successful digital transformation takes focused planning, targeted technological integration, and professional development – along with the right PMS. Here’s how hotel teams are bringing digital transformation to their business.    What is Digital Transformation? Digital transformation at its core refers to the ability of an organization to change its approach to technology, people, and processes to impact business performance and deliver value to consumers. As one expert describes, “Digital transformation closes the gap between what digital customers already expect and what analog businesses actually deliver.” Digital transformations involve some digitization of assets and/or increased use of technology, but for a transformation to be successful, it must holistically involve cultural and operational changes as well. This might mean a change in leadership, the adoption of a new business model, evolving the company culture, or reassessing how the company delivers value to its customers. Companies are often motivated to attempt a digital transformation when new competitors enter the market. A perfect example is Uber’s rapid success – and subsequent disruption – in the transformation market. Their model forced had a widespread impact on taxis, car rental agencies, car manufacturers, and even bike companies like Citibike, forcing these companies to learn how to incorporate similar technology into their business model. Digital transformations are rarely self-motivated; and often, these transformations fail due to lack of preparation.     Digital Transformation Examples: Learning from Failure Unfortunately, less than 30% of digital transformations succeed. There are a few reasons why digital transformations aren’t successful, but a common thread among failed transformations is lack of focus. Consumer goods leader Proctor & Gamble’s unsuccessful digital transformation perfectly epitomizes why focus is imperative for hoteliers seeking to undergo their own transformation process. In 2012, P&G attempted to become “the most digital company on the planet.” If this sounds like a far-reaching goal, it was – and too broad a goal to be achievable. This unspecific goal led to broad initiatives that lacked purpose. In practice, P&G’s initial approach was “anywhere, anytime shopping” with the goal of abandoning marketing in favor of “personal conversations” with consumers. It was an ambitious (and ambiguous) goal with unsurprisingly subpar results. When the economy slumped, P&G’s digital transformation imploded; the CEO was asked to resign and the company had to reassess their approach. As Harvard Business Review describes, “P&G could probably have lost little ground to competitors had it invested in digital in a more targeted fashion. Today it does so; no digital initiative is undertaken at P&G if it doesn’t fit the strategy closely and if it’s not hardwired to value.” The lesson here? Hotels should break out their digital transformation into small, achievable efforts directly connected to a business outcome. At the brand level hotel chains should not build tech in house and should partner with best in class tech vendors.  By definition, successful digital transformation takes integrating new technology with your processes and people. Hotels must focus on one area of improvement at a time, rather than trying everything at once.    Digital Transformation Strategy For Hotels Hotel owners know there are many goals a digital transformation can help achieve. The mission in approaching digital transformation is to pick the goal with the highest impact. Digital transformation can help to:  Increase digital revenue and website traffic Reduce operational costs Improve product and service quality Improve customer outcomes Pick one of these goals, or something similar, to begin your digital transformation. Pegging your technology acquisition to a specific outcome will drive the operational and personnel changes necessary to be successful. If anything, the P&G experience proves that your goal should drive the adoption of new technology; and your goal must be specific and focused. Imagine a scenario in which your hotel decides to increase digital revenues across your properties. One obstacle toward gaining digital revenue is a high volume of overbookings. Overbookings occur when the total number of rooms reserved by guests during a certain time period is more than the number of rooms available. Hotels often overbook to mitigate losses from no-shows, cancellations, or early check-outs; however, overbookings also indicate poorly run operations. In this scenario, one potential digital transformation initiative could include the adoption of a new property management system – like Oracle OPERA – that includes an intelligent accommodation management tool. This tool avoids overbookings of specific room types and ensures that rooms are cleaned and maintained in a timely manner. The platform automatically enforces booking rules, schedules, and availability of item inventory to deliver a great guest experience and ensure there are no added costs from bringing guests to a second location. A PMS can also play a significant role in a second example of digital transformation: improving customer outcomes. In this scenario, a hotel is trying to solve for long wait times at check-in. Oracle OPERA is equipped with a mobile version to allow staff to check-in guests via any smartphone or tablet. The mobile platform also allows for reservation management, room status, task sheet management, room maintenance, and real-time updates on rooms and maintenance requests. Your team can go mobile to improve efficiencies around the property and meet the needs of guests quickly – leading to an overall better guest experience and shorter wait times.   Bringing Digital Transformation to Your Hotel A digital transformation is as much about the operational and cultural changes you make as it is the technology. A PMS can provide many solutions for reaching your business goals: but, having the right leaders in place is also critical. Oracle’s many digital upgrades work only as far as your training program, lines of communication, and other staff support tools do. Three of McKinsey’s five factors that contribute to the success of digital transformation are people-oriented. Their analysis of successful digital transformations found that hotels must have the right digital-savvy leaders to steer the way; empower teams to work in new ways; and, lastly, to build the skills and capabilities of entry-level workers (and future leaders). Only when hotel owners consider their digital transformation outside the narrow window of tools and platforms – and tie their digital transformation to measurable business results – can they be successful.