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This is why every hotelier should spend time working in a startup

by
Hotel Tech Report

A recent study conducted by the AHLA found that Gen Z workers value four main characteristics in a hospitality job: pay and benefits, interesting work, opportunity to grow and flexible work hours.  Hospitality employers that successfully attract and retain young talent are able to deliver on all four of these needs but most hospitality organizations today fall short. According to Glassdoor, a typical Marriott Guest Experience professional in the U.S. makes between $12-17 per hour.  It can take anywhere from 7 to 15 years for a guest experience associate to achieve a general management position.  Needless to say, flexible hours and remote work are out of the question for those working in hotels. So where should Gen Z hoteliers look to achieve their career goals? Look no further than hotel tech startups.  Working in a startup environment is a great way to both accelerate your learning and bring a unique perspective to any hotel company you work for in the future.  Ultimately you’ll need to stand out from your peers if you want to advance to the highest ranks. Startup environments deliver the kinds of experiences that Gen Z’s value: they reward for high performers with equity compensation, provide rapid career growth opportunities and teach new skills at blazing speeds.  Hotel tech companies are constantly looking for young hospitality talent with industry knowledge, strong work ethic and ambition to act as ambassadors between their technical teams and old world hoteliers who lack an understanding of just how important technology is to the future of their businesses. “What struck me as I spoke to the various technology vendors was that they all said that there was a shortage of trained hoteliers in their line of work.  Of course, I saw that as an opportunity and used it to distinguish myself as a hospitality graduate.” ~Sameer Umar, HotelIQ Working at a tech startup will equip you with a mindset that can help you think differently and stand out from your peers.  The hotel industry has historically been known as one that’s slow to catch up with tech trends so bringing an innovation and disruption mindset to the industry will help you stand out: “The hospitality industry has a patented four-step method to deal with disruption.  Step one is to ignore it. Step two is that when it's pointed out to them, they continue to ignore it. Step three is they panic, and step four is they complain about it.” ~Forbes (via Robert Cole) Hotel tech startups provide incredibly dynamic work environments that will give you the experience you need to thrive in the hotel industry and beyond.  This experience will help you see things from a perspective that a role in guest experience or operations just can’t. We sat down with Sameer Umar, VP of Customer Success at the Intelligent Hospitality, creator of the top rated BI software for hotels, HotelIQ.  Sameer’s career path shows how powerful having a technology background can be for advancing your hospitality career. While studying at the Hilton College of Hotel Management in Houston Sameer worked at Hilton in operations getting to learn everything from front office to housekeeping.  Upon graduation from hotel school Sameer took a different path than most of his classmates by taking a job at a hotel tech startup. That startup ended up selling to TravelClick giving Sameer exposure to technology and analytics while building his knowledge and expertise far beyond the four walls of a single hotel. Sameer was then recruited by Middle East hospitality powerhouse Jumeirah where he was responsible for building out internal business intelligence and reporting tools.  He was then recruited by Four Seasons to build out their business intelligence function before joining forces with former colleague Apo Demirtas to bring enterprise grade BI to hotels everywhere with HotelIQ. Sameer’s story is a ‘must read’ for Gen Z hoteliers who want to broaden their career opportunities and for hoteliers seeking a clear roadmap to higher salary, more growth opportunity and ultimately long term success.  We sat down with Sameer to learn about his career journey from hotel school to becoming a senior technology executive and dove into the key lessons that he’s learned along the way.     Sameer, tell us about your career background in hotels. I began my career in hospitality when I joined the Hilton College of Hotel Management at the University of Houston.  The college is part of a working Hilton Hotel and students get to work in various departments as part of their training.  So I got to do everything from Front Office to Housekeeping. It was tough and I have tremendous respect for people in hotel operations.   After college I took a less traditional route and, rather than working for a hotel company, I joined a startup that was developing an online CRS for hotels.  We were later acquired by TravelClick and I continued working there for a few years. However, after a while I wanted to see what it was like on the other side - the hotelier's perspective.  Around that time I came across an opportunity to manage distribution for Jumeirah Hotels. So I packed my bags and headed out to Dubai. At Jumeirah they were getting ready to launch a corporate BI initiative.  I was very intrigued by it and ended up participating in many discussions around data flows and standards that would enable us to harness the power of information sitting in our systems.  Although I wasn't planning on it, all that talking lead to me taking on the role of Director of Business Intelligence to bring the initiative to fruition. It was one of the most satisfying professional experiences for me to take a concept, work with IT to build it out, and to eventually roll it to hotels and see them benefit from it. After Jumeirah, I moved to Toronto and started working with Four Seasons on their Enterprise BI initiative.  While similar in some sense, it was a bigger initiative in other regards than what I had worked on at Jumeirah.  We were collaborating with consultants from leading IT companies and the initiative expanded across multiple disciplines.     What was one technology that you couldn't live without in your former role in hospitality? Given my past experience, you'd expect me to mention data-warehousing or data visualization technology.  But to me those things were secondary. What mattered the most was the property management system and how efficiently hotels were utilizing it.   The PMS is the heartbeat of hotel operations.  Reservations flow in, guests check-in, guests check-out, and night audit runs.  In short, it is the system of record for all the guest and commercial intelligence at hotels.  How efficiently a hotel utilizes and maintains data quality in its PMS will ultimately determine the success of any BI or analytics initiative.  Else, it is garbage-in, garbage-out.   Even when we implement HotelIQ (Intelligent Hospitality's BI and Analytics platform) at a new hotel, we spend significant amount of time working with our hotel partners to ensure data quality, processes, and identifying any data gaps or risks for them.   When did you first become interested in leveraging technology to become a better hotelier? Quite early on in my career actually.  I remember attending my first HITEC as a student.  I think it was in Dallas. I was blown away by all the amazing tech ranging from hotel CRM tools that would enable hotels to provide each guest with a personalized experience to bio-metric doors to ensure the safety of high profile guests.  Of course, we have come a long way since but to me it was like walking into the future of hospitality. What struck me at that conference as I spoke to the various technology vendors was that they all said that there was a shortage of trained hoteliers in their line of work.  Of course, I saw that as an opportunity and used it to distinguish myself as a hospitality graduate.     As a hotelier what was your biggest frustration with technology vendors? Innovation and speed to market is something I always value in a technology vendor.  But to do it right, you have to pay attention to your customers needs and their feedback.  And you have to listen to all of them, not just a handful of big ones. Unfortunately, with some vendors suggestions and feedback would just disappear into a black hole.  Maybe years later they will come back to you when that business requirement has become outdated. It frustrated me to no end!   What would you say is the most widely held misconception that hoteliers have about tech? Hoteliers sometimes treat technology as nothing more than a cost center.   It is one of the things that is holding our industry back. We feel tech is all 0s and 1s for the geeks to figure out.  Technology can also be a strategic tool if we choose to view it as such. It will enable us to enhance the guest experience and optimize our revenues.  But for that to happen, hoteliers need to start looking at technology with different lens. Our IT teams do a great job of deploying technology for us, it is up to us hoteliers to convert tech into a strategic business solution.   Tell us about your journey from hotelier into technologist? Essentially, my experience working with hotel companies was preparing me for my current role at Intelligent Hospitality.  I feel very blessed that these opportunities were presented to me when they were. I just followed the natural progression. The most challenging part of moving from hotels into tech was fighting my own demons.  I was intimidated by the thought of working for a tech company. I wasn't sure if I belonged there and I think I did a fairly good job of highlighting my limited knowledge of technology in front of my team.  However, I came to realize that what I didn't know about tech I was making up for with my business know-how. You get the best results when business and IT work together and learn from one another.    You built these sophisticated reporting systems for Jumeirah and Four Seasons, how have those experiences informed the way you’ve built HotelIQ? Transactional hotel systems such as point-of-sale, property management, central reservations and revenue management systems perform their primary functions well. However their functions are not to provide insightful hotel reporting, analytics and intelligence! HotelIQ fills this void by providing hotel managers and corporate personnel the valuable insight that they need to maximize the revenue generation and grow the market share of a single hotel, hotel portfolio, brand or management company.   Imagine that you're going to open the hotel of your dreams tomorrow - what would it be? I think my dream hotel would be a city-center hotel catering primarily to business travelers and conference attendees.  It would be very high tech and efficient. The kind of place where the James Bonds of the world would like to stay.    What technology would you leverage at your hotel? Oracle PMS, SHR central reservations, ALICE for Ops, data sharing via HAPI, and of course, HotelIQ for planning and strategic decision support.   What's one piece of advice you have for hoteliers who have dreams of working in technology one day? Go for it! There are not enough hoteliers in technology.  If you want technology to serve hotels better, hoteliers need to be driving it.  You don't need to be a developer, you just need to be able to connect and communicate with them to develop the right hospitality solutions.   What's one podcast, newsletter or book that you recommend hoteliers read if they'd like to eventually move into tech? Revenue Management by Robert Cross.  Yes, it is a "business" book.  But it is a business book full of stories of visionary business people who had vision and foresight to leverage technology.  You'll be surprised and inspired.   What is your favorite hotel in the world and why? Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai.  I love the Arabian architecture, beach side location,  rustic global cuisines by the canals, and abra (boat) rides that remind you of Venice but are unique in themselves.   What is the most exciting technology you've seen in the hotel tech space that is not built by your own company? I am really happy about HAPI (sorry but could not resist).   For as long as I have been in the industry, interfaces have been a boon for us.  Information continues to stay captured in silos while hoteliers are forced to follow gut over facts.  What they are trying to do could open up the flow of information in a big way.   What is one thing that most people don't know about you? I am thrill seeker.  I have done bungee jumping, parasailing, walked the edge of CN Tower, and tons of roller coaster rides.  However, the one thing I have not yet done, but hope to do soon, is skydiving.

Juyo CEO on the secret for hoteliers who want a career in tech

by
Hotel Tech Report

For some hoteliers working on property is their dream job.  Working at a hotel combines fast paced analytical challenges with meaningful interpersonal relationships.  While many hoteliers aspire to stay on property for the duration of their successful careers - others dream about ways to leverage their hospitality experience to launch a successful career in high growth fields like technology.  A career in hotel technology can provide immense financial gains and create new professional opportunities while enabling hoteliers to stay connected with the industry that they love. Here at Hotel Tech Report we’ve interviewed dozens of former hoteliers that have leveraged hospitality experience into executive roles at top technology firms such as Del Ross (CRO, Hotel Effectiveness), Alexandra Zubko (CCO, Triptease) and Matthijs Welle (CEO, Mews Systems).  Each of these leaders has shared unique advice guiding hoteliers who want to pursue a career in technology and if you’re interested in making the move you should soak up all of their wisdom.   Hotel tech companies love hiring forward thinking hoteliers because they have deep industry knowledge and relationships.  Most of these hires don’t start with formal job applications but arise out of a tech company working with a hotelier as a client and seeing their work ethic and potential first hand.    Related content: 10 Best Places to Work in Hotel Tech 2019   If you are one of the many hoteliers interested in pursuing a hotel tech career, our interview today will be your bible and guiding light.  Vassilis Syropoulos is the CEO of Juyo Analytics, a Brussels based commercial analytics platform for hotels.  During his long and successful career as a hotelier he noticed that departments were siloed and rarely communicated with each other.  In fact, these disparate teams weren’t even looking at the same datasets so they were comparing apples to oranges in quarterly business meetings.   Syropoulos was VP of Demand Management for Pandox AB (a large European hotel ownership and management company) and was feeling first hand the immense cost of this problem when he decided to build the analytics platform that is now an independent company - Juyo Analytics. Pandox was such a big believer in Syropoulos and his idea that they even became his first customer. Vassilis spent years in hotels learning from technology companies, trying products and being a true technology maven before diving into the space himself.  His story is an inspiration for hoteliers looking to start a career in technology or even start a business of their own in the space. “Since the beginning I was very curious. Every time a vendor called me I saw it as an opportunity to learn something new, to build my network, understand the market from a different perspective and potentially find something that would make more money for the company I was working for. I was thirsty to learn and then it became a habit.” ~Vassilis Syropoulos Syropoulos previously worked with independent properties and major brands having spent time at senior positions within IHG and Starwood properties all the while trying new technologies, learning from his vendors and keeping his eye on the long term opportunity to become a technology leader himself.  Today he’s also an investor in event intelligence firm Get Into More and has a busy schedule to say the least - so we were lucky to catch him in between running two high growth technology businesses.   Tell us about your background in hotels. I was born and raised in Greece, My parents owned a beautiful café at the seaside so I was in hospitality since I was 10 years old. Travelling and Hotels is what I really wanted to do. I studied in Switzerland and then started at the Front Desk during night and day and then moved to Revenue Management. That was with IHG and their very beginnings of Revenue Management in Europe. I had no clue what the job would be but it sounded sexy so I almost begged the GM to put me in that position. I thought it was the future and I was right. The first few months I didn't know what I was doing. The first week I started at the new job, my hotel was audited and the score was worst in class in EMEA. I was even publicly shamed at the annual conference by the VP at that time. That first week made me want to be the best so I worked hard, read books, went to conferences, and learned myself pretty much everything there is to learn. I ended up being sponsored by IHG to go to Cornell and finally made it on the top 10 list of top revenue talent within the global organization. Hard work pays off. 15 years ago there was not much I actually loved when working on property. I felt that chains were standardizing everything with standard operating procedures and rigid hierarchies. Also when I started in Revenue Management I was disappointed to see the “real work” involved. We’re talking 15 years ago now. I was picturing myself as revenue manager like some sort of rocket scientist but instead I was copying pasting stuff in Excel. Systems did not talk to each other, everything was manual. For the geeks out there I had a master Excel file whereby I was translating hurdle rates in minimum length of stay restrictions that I had to manually put one by one into the CRS. Wholesalers and static rates were all over the place and reservation input in the PMS was often late as teams were trying to catch up. No real time stuff… I really don’t get sometimes what everyone is complaining about today. The world is such a better place. I did not know what the optimal way should be but for sure as hell I knew it was not what I was doing at the time. On the other hand, I did love the contact with the guest. At least when I was on the front line. That was something I was very good at as I was working since being 10 years old. And no there is no such thing as child labor in Greece! You just put your stone on the family business. I loved it and so much money from tips I could use partly to pay my school. My parents paid most of it but they could barely afford such an expensive school. All this helps keeping your head screwed on when running a business and watching your cash flow. I learned so much from such a young age and I am deeply grateful for those learnings. It helps develop emotional intelligence - something I could use later when needing to pull teams together towards a common Revenue Strategy.   When did you first become interested in leveraging technology to become a better hotelier? From day one in my job. But 15 years ago there was really not much by way of technology so a lot has changed in that time. I was a total Excel junkie as I mentioned. You know it’s an amazing tool. You can do everything. It just does not scale and is not made for complex data sets. But at that time it was brilliant. And there was nothing else so Excel it was.   As a hotelier what was your biggest frustration with technology vendors? I cannot recall being frustrated with tech vendors, you see I had a different approach. Since the beginning I was very curious. Every time a vendor called me I saw it as an opportunity to learn something new, to build my network, understand the market from a different perspective and potentially find something that would make more money for the company I was working for. I was thirsty to learn and then it became a habit. I kept inviting vendors and getting the teams to assess, learn and perhaps implement something. My hotels where I was working were always the first ones to adopt a piece of tech. I was on all the pilots. One of the companies I signed up had not even Incorporated yet. I said I love your product; incorporate your company and we will sign up with you straight away. We are still friends today with that vendor. It’s like its not us and them or us vs them. Were all in this together with aligned interests.   What is the most widely held misconception that hoteliers have about technology?   There are many misconceptions still out there despite all the progress and things are constantly changing but the one misconception that I consistently see in the market is the idea that it’s a massive project to install something (hotel software). Today it’s pretty easy, takes minimum effort and the ROI can be great. It’s sort of getting to a place where hoteliers can JUST DO IT.   Tell us about your journey from hotelier into technologist? There was a point in my career where many things came together in the world and my environment. First of all there as much more data than before for Revenue Managers to use, Secondly the lines between revenue management, distribution, marketing were blurring with the digital landscape. Thirdly cloud technology although existing since a long time it was more and more present in Hotels and access to tech development was easier and easier. And last I was involved with Pandox which is one of the leading Hotel ownership groups in Europe. Value creation is the main driver for such a sophisticated owner. How do you drive value? More profit obviously. All this together I felt we needed a new sort of Analytics for Hotels. I looked at the market to find a vendor or piece of tech that I could plug in but could not find anything suitable. So I said to myself (probably the most naïve thing) “This should not be hard, write few interfaces, connect some data points and let the magic happen. Obviously, I realized quickly I was wrong.   What was the most challenging part of moving from hotels into technology? So, I don’t even know where to start. First of all I knew my job but knew nothing about technology. Knowing all the features on your iPhone does not make you proficient in tech. Once more in my career I had to learn everything again. There’s a great quote from Richard Branson that says: “If someone gives you an opportunity and you don’t know how to do it say ‘yes’ and learn how to do it after” - that has always resonated with me. I had a customer, there was a need but I had no clue so I needed to learn. I went to conferences, read blogs, books, trained myself, spoke with people in tech, you name it. I was fortunate enough to find a great tech partner and that has been critical. The truth is that even with all the reading at the beginning when you actually have to do it you really have no clue. I made mistakes every day, small, big you name it. Woke up in the morning solving only issues and doing the same all over again every day. But the people around me like partners, developers, team​ believed in it and we persevered. We bootstrapped the Juyo Analytics business - so I couldn’t afford to make existential mistakes. I would wake up and go to sleep with cashflow excels. I still do today. It makes you quite pragmatic in your decisions and damn focused. We have been approached by VC’s but we don’t think it’s the right fit for us. I feel it will distract us. It’s like I need to spend 9 months hunting VC’s, I prefer to hunt customers. I am a simple person it’s not necessarily a world I understand or want to be part of. It will take longer but we are making something great.   Give us the elevator pitch for Juyo. Organizational silos are breaking down across hotel organizations: from revenue to distribution, marketing, sales, digital acquisition, and finance.  Juyo is a Hotel Commercial Analytics Platform that helps hotels connect the dots across these disciplines and empower managers to make better decisions. We turn data into profit.  Digitalization brings more opportunities to improve business performance; however, as datasets become more complex - managers are increasingly being forced to connect the dots across many disciplines and systems.   The Juyo platform enables hotels to easily customize dashboards combining all of their data sources   Imagine that you're going to open the hotel of your dreams tomorrow.  What kind of hotel would it be? I think it would be something that would be at the Intersection of Hotel and alternative accommodation. Probably upscale not luxury. Uncomplicated, Unpretentious, certainly independent, I would attach great importance on the customer journey. The right mix of digital and hospitality. A digital customer journey should 1) remove friction and 2) empower people to get back to the essence of hospitality. Back to hospitality, in Greek it’s called Filoxenia.   What technology would you leverage at your hotel? A robust PMS with an open marketplace whereby I can connect different apps and tools. I like what Richard and Matthijs are doing with Mews Systems. I would spend time to design the customer journey customer made for our needs through a mix of in house development and partners with open API’s. I would have difficulty selecting a revenue management system. It would need to take personalization and attribute selling into account. Not many do that today. It's the start but the right way to go. I would attach great importance on the pre check-in and check-in process. Digital no keycards, no apps, seamless. Disconnect the transaction from the experience. But overall keep it simple and fully automated.   What's one piece of advice you have for hoteliers who have dreams of working in technology one day? It’s not a dream just go for it.  Make sure you learn a lot about entrepreneurship because it’s a very different field than hospitality.  Read The Lean Startup by Eric Ries and listen to podcasts like How I Built This with Guy Raz. It’s not 100% focused on tech but it gives deep insights into the life of startups. I love it.   What is your favorite hotel in the world? I don’t think I have anyone in particular. Depends on the mood and time of year. I love The One in Miami Beach, I love what One Hotels stands for in regard to sustainability, I love the interior design and wish my house looked like the interior. I love how they communicate. For the winter my all time favorite is Cervo Zermatt. They really get it and have brought something new to Swiss hospitality by getting rid of the stuffy part while delivering true luxury. For business I love the Nobis in Stockholm (one of our customers). They have managed to make a true difference hospitality wise. The Hotel Brussels, (also one of our customers which I personally did the rebranding from Hilton to Independent - Top Project and Hotel).  But being in this business there are so many hotels that I love - too many to name. Some recommendations: Worthwhile to check Chromata in Santorini, Sophia’s Suites in Santorini, Boheme Mykonos, Habitas Tulum, Hideout Bali, Hotel des Grand Boulevards in Paris, The Curtain in London, 25 Hours Bikini in Berlin, Relais Sant Elena in Tuscany and La Bandita in Tuscany. I’d love to stay at The View Lugano but haven’t stayed yet. Pictured: Habitas Tulum   What is the most exciting technology you've seen in the hotel market lately? I love what Lennart de Haan is doing with 4Suites. 4suites wants to be the leader in digital access. The piece of tech is very clever and elegant. Basically, when you want to enable door locks to open with your phone you need to install an app. What they do is different they install a chip in the hotel lock and an “Antenna” gateway that is connected to the Internet. Now when the customer receives the link to open the door on his or her phone (by email or SMS) and clicks on it. Their phone then communicates via the web to the gateway that sends a radio signal to the chip in the lock and opens the door. All that in few milliseconds. It’s brilliant. It’s completely seamless and a great way to support a digital customer journey. I wish them all the success.

The definitive guide to ITB Berlin 2019: 5 key trends that every hotelier must know

by
Hotel Tech Report

Last week Hotel Tech Report attended ITB to discover the most cutting edge innovations in travel and hotels.  Each year thousands congregate at Messe Berlin to connect with peers, partners and clients from around the globe. Below are 5 key trends that every hotelier needs to know about this year.  In this article we outline each trend, tell you how it impacts your hotel and give an overview of the companies that launched or showcased on trend products at ITB.  For those of you who couldn't make it to Berlin we also cut a reel from the show so you can get the next best thing to being there.   Check out Hotel Tech Report's official ITB Berlin 2019 Recap video above   5 key trends & takeaways from ITB 2019 1. Automation is going mainstream 2. Software tools are breaking down operational silos 3. Hotel software is moving towards self service 4. App marketplaces are soaring 5. Meeting venues are getting wired up   Our take on automation in hotel software Automation allows for time consuming, tedious and repetitive processes to be handled completely by software. When a task or process reaches the limits of the software’s capability, the appropriate team member is looped in to take over which is a beautiful thing. Let’s face it, if you’ve ever worked in a hotel you know that there are dozens of repetitive tasks that seem like a computer should be able to handle and in many cases perform even better, and now they can.   Automation frees up staff to focus on the things that those computers can’t handle like high level strategic thinking, trying new products and serving guests. Many hotels are still afraid that technology and the personal touch are conflicting ideas; however, innovative hotel groups are realizing that technology and automation actually enable them to focus on the personal aspects of experience in a way they couldn’t when they were bogged down with repetitive tasks.   What's new in automation? IDeaS launches Investigator to let revenue managers uncover the rationale behind automated pricing decisions by asking Alexa. IDeaS announced Investigator, an intuitive way to answer your management's question: How did you achieve that price and those results?  IDeaS G3 is the most popular RMS on the market and now clients can ask the system via Amazon Alexa to rationalize the decisions that it automates to provide transparency into the decision making process that is out of a revenue managers hands and handled by the systems powerful A.I. engines. Hotelchamp launches Autopilot to help hoteliers leverage web data and user behavior to deliver personalized web experiences to boost conversion.  Hotelchamp announced Autopilot technology, which wants to transform how hotels approach their online guest bookings and experience. Autopilot uses AI to deliver an adaptive experience that is tailored to every single website visitor, and is completely GDPR compliant. Using an A.I. engine to identify customer segments and audiences, Hotelchamp Autopilot can automatically serve the best information for each guest.  Autopilot has been trained using pre-populated content, insights from the Hotelchamp data science team, and millions of A/B test impressions. Using this knowledge and live insights from the hotel’s website, Autopilot recognises and personalizes the website experience in real-time to convince visitors to book direct. All Hotelchamp tools can now be controlled by Autopilot, meaning the system will only deploy the right tools at the right time to the right audience. This process happens in real-time and is entirely personalised to each individual website visitor and moment in the booking phase. Crave Scheduler enables hotels to send targeted automated messages generating $5,000/mo in late checkouts.  With the amount of times mobile comes up in conversation and the media, you might think BYOD (bring your own device) is the only way to go but the reality is there are lots of occasions where hotels just simply don’t have the ability to get a guest’s contact info or get them to download an app.  Crave Interactive has a unique, and near unavoidable, position in the guest’s periphery with its in room tablets that see upwards of 90% guest engagement. At ITB, Crave announced a new feature called Crave Scheduler that puts a unique spin on automation allowing hotels to set rules to send target messages to guests.  One of the prime use cases that Crave customers have been taking full advantage of is timed late checkout offers which have seen upwards of $5,000 month in revenue at Crave hotel partners who received early access to the feature. UpsellGuru announced "Auto Pilot" which automates the entire up-selling process.  Upsell Guru now sends targeted emails, calculates the dynamic minimum and maximum upgrade bidding prices, sets up the system to decide which offers to accept and when, updates the PMS - all fully automated not requiring human interaction. The new feature allows hotels to up-sell their rooms & ancillary services  without moving a finger. This saves hotels plenty of time and allows them to use the system without having to log-in on a daily basis. They’re initial trial was successful with a British chain of 30 hotels where they achieve GBP 65,000 per month in up-selling revenue without any manual human work. Quicktext showcased its website chatbot to help guests find answers faster while unlocking $140,000 in requests per 100 rooms.  With Quicktext, guests can book at your hotel through a conversation (on various channels like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Website Live Chat and SMS), something that has been mainstream throughout Asia (specifically China) via WeChat but has been slower to catch up in the West.  The most practical use of chatbots is on a hotel website where prospective guests often get lost looking for basic information.  A chatbot can answer critical questions instantly like “how far is your hotel from the convention center?”, “what is the best way to get from the airport to the hotel on public transportation?” and “can we add a cot to our room?”.  This helps shorten the time needed to research the hotel and in turn increases conversion into your booking engine flow.  Humanise.AI had Gem on display boasting automation of 80% of inquiries.  Humanise.AI announced automated web-chat for hotels ensures that guests get an immediate response most of the time, but can still summon a member of hotel staff when needed. When hotels use human-only web-chat systems, they often struggle to respond to enquiries quickly enough, meaning guests leave the web site before they get a reply. With Humanise’s Gem product, they claim to automate ~80% of enquiries, radically improving the guest service and improving conversion-ratios for direct bookings. SABA put its multilingual guest request and F&B ordering chatbot on display.  SABA Hospitality Technology announced a bespoke and fully automated hospitality chatbot (SABAGuest Request).  This multilingual chatbot and digital F&B ordering platform provides guests with a seamless communication experience, without the need for downloads. It provides operators the opportunity to eliminate language barriers, provide instant answers to all guest requests and enquiries, and engage with guests on their preferred communication platform: messaging. This allows for the redeployment of staff away from call centers and other low-value repetitive tasks, to engage in meaningful guest interactions that help build long-term guest loyalty.     Our take on breaking down silos in hotel organizations It’s no secret that hotels have historically suffered from siloed organizational departments because historically without better communication tools and access to data, teams were essentially on an island in their own physical locations.  Technology companies are starting to realize that their products and tools can help hoteliers to become more effective by aligning departments around common goals, systems and data. At ITB we saw a lot of this happening as evidenced by a shift where CRM companies are starting to focus heavily on the operational applications of their guest data where historically that data has just been used for marketing purposes.   Who's breaking down operational silos? TravelClick weaves Demand360 data into its Campaign Advisor toolkit to leverage market intelligence data to optimize marketing campaigns fostering collaborative efforts between revenue and marketing.  TravelClick announced the addition of Demand360 to the Campaign Advisor toolkit. Building on last year’s email send time optimizer, Campaign Advisor now allows hoteliers to take the guesswork out of marketing by providing them with recommendations on when to run marketing campaigns based on predictive occupancy in the market.  Demand360 is the hospitality industry’s competitive market intelligence product providing forward-looking reservation metrics and competitive share by segment and channel. Hoteliers using TravelClick’s GMS and Demand360 products will have access to current and projected occupancy data versus competitive sets to best identify the most valuable time periods to run campaigns, allowing them to avoid offering discounts and packages during peak market occupancy and place campaigns when they need it most. A huge pain point for hoteliers is knowing when to send promotions and emails to customers, as hoteliers do not have a clear picture of how their future occupancy compares with their comp set. It’s hard to determine the most valuable time to run a campaign. The Campaign Advisor and Demand360 integration, which is proprietary to TravelClick, takes guesswork out of the equation and enables hoteliers to leverage market data to feel confident that they are choosing the best time to run campaigns and capture demand. Serenata CRM announced Decision Maker, a solution that combines business intelligence with campaign management. Serenata Intraware's Decision Maker allows different users groups like owners, management, operations and marketing to view the same data but from different perspectives to get an optimal view of the hotel operation, identify potential problems and take corrective actions.  The Decision Maker KPI dashboard gives a high-level insight into revenue, OTA share, loyalty contribution and other key metrics and trends. Other dashboards give subject matter experts from operations and marketing the ability to drill-down and identify the root cause for a problem and based on this insight create marketing campaigns using micro-segmentation to mitigate the problem without changing tools or breaking the workflow. Cendyn announced eNgage which brings marketing’s CRM data and customer profiles to front line operations teams bringing the gap between marketing and operations.  Cendyn's next generation product empowers front-line and call center staff to instantly access guest profiles including historical guest feedback, membership information, brand-wide stays, social profile information and more. Used in conjunction with Cendyn’s eInsight hotel CRM, eNgage sits on top of a hotel’s property management system or call center application and intelligently guides staff to create authentic, meaningful encounters and upsell offerings based on guest history, preferences and loyalty status. This lightweight application can be accessed on any device and features configurable messaging prompts and data displays. Like all Cendyn products, eNgage integrates seamlessly with other hotel systems, utilizing an open architecture that ensures the accuracy and completion of guest information for all team members at every touchpoint in the guest journey. Cendyn’s eNgage solution allows hoteliers to provide the right approach to personalization for guests throughout their stay. eNgage brings to life all the data that hotels are collecting on guests and it displays it in real-time through an application window that always sits on top of the hotel PMS. For staff on the front-line, access to data instantly is critical for them to manage their workload and allows them to navigate every situation elegantly with customer service and upselling, so guests feel known and valued, not overly monitored. Fornova expands its business intelligence offering to create a cross department interface for data insights.  Fornova announced that they recently acquired HotelsBI, a hotel Business Intelligence platform. With this acquisition, Fornova now caters to all roles and departments in the property and chain.  With this acquisition, Fornova now has three product offerings; Distribution Intelligence, HotelsBI & eCommerce Optimisation. HotelsBI simplifies the process of analysing internal and external data sources thanks to simple, intuitive dashboards - enabling faster, data-driven decisions to optimize hotel performance. Revinate’s CRM is now being used by front desk staff and showcased the scalability of its platform on newly AWS servers.  This shift allows Revinate to scale more efficiently and ultimately open guest data to new departments.  Revinate showcased the capabilities that get unlocked when front desk staff and managers can access CRM data. MeetingPackage.com brings revenue management and pricing optimization to your sales team.  The Company announced a partnership with IDeaS revenue solutions to bring real time dynamic pricing to meeting venues.  When paired with MeetingPackage’s online booking engine for event spaces, this is a truly groundbreaking development providing hoteliers with real time insights to optimize pricing and a seamless, intuitive, flexible and real time booking experience.      Our take on self service software in the hotel industry This is one of the trends that we’re most excited about at Hotel Tech Report.  Freemium and free trials are ubiquitous in the software world but it’s not until recently that it’s broken into the hotel market.  The challenge historically with hotel software has been that you need to ingest data from core systems like the PMS to make any software work; therefore, it’s hard to offer a free trial or self service.  As the hotel software market moves this direction we’ll continue to see exponential upticks in innovation and sophistication. Another key reason that hotels don’t like trying technology is because even if they like the solutions that they try - they’re so busy that they don’t want to add one more thing onto their teams’ respective plates.  Long complex implementations have stifled innovation for years and lead to a massive trust gap between buyers and sellers. At ITB, Oaky cracked the code on this problem by launching it’s simple onboarding wizard which helps hotels go live in just a few simple steps.   Who's helping you take things into your own hands? Oaky’s new self service onboarding lets hoteliers start upselling in under 5-minutes.  Oaky announced an onboarding wizard which allows hoteliers to go live themselves, by completing a few steps. This reduce onboarding time and effort, and allow hotels to buy Oaky from marketplaces and go live without human touch. Inside the wizard they’re putting together many millions of upsell moments, and predicting the optimal upselling set-up based on the type of hotel and its guests. From combining variables around the upsell, with data around the guest and the property - they suggest the optimal setup for the hotel (what deals to sell, which content, and so on) which also predict how much conversion and ancillary revenue guests that have not yet booked will spend using this setup. In today's revenue management, the room rate is often based on the room and not taking predictable revenue from segments into account. This upsell variable can impact the distribution decision and help hotels better price their rooms.  When the revenue management system knows the upsell spend of a guest from various booking channels, they can deduct the distribution costs and end up seeing how to price their rooms for a more profitable booking. Some segments spend 20% on top of the ADR, which makes sense for the hotel to 1) have an upsell setup that allows for that, and 2) an RM strategy that takes it into account to acquire more of those (more profitable) guests. Atomize’s self service functionality lets hoteliers try out automated revenue management on their own time.  Atomize showcased its advanced revenue management platform that has flexibility that allows hotels to control as much or as little as they’d like when it comes to revenue strategy.  Atomize’s mobile first platform has been designed from the ground up with the idea that hoteliers should be able to go live and try it out without ever speaking with an Atomize rep. The company’s founder, Leif Jaggerbrand told us that he’s had clients come in that his team has never met from countries he’s never heard of.  This dynamic is widespread in the broader SaaS industry and companies like Atomize are bringing this dynamic to hotels. Cloudbeds’ PIE bakes new revenue management capabilities native into the PMS.  Cloudbeds announced PIE - Pricing Intelligence Engine. PIE is built directly into Cloudbeds hospitality management suite. It is seamlessly integrated with the entire Cloudbeds suite, including PMS, booking engine and channel manager. This helps hoteliers and hosts who want one easy-to-system to manage everything.  Many of Cloudbeds’ clients have never used revenue management software before so this provides a lightweight way for them to get started making better pricing decisions.     Our take on hotel software app marketplaces Marketplaces are nothing new to the software industry.  The reality is that it’s impossible for one technology company to be the best at everything.  Historically the hotel tech industry has taken a different approach where incumbents have tried to bolt all functionality into the PMS and maintain a closed architecture but that is rapidly changing as hoteliers are increasingly unwilling to work with closed vendors and sub-par tools. In response to the shift most forward thinking providers are taking towards open architectures, several innovative cloud PMS companies have taken note from tech darlings like Salesforce, Intuit and Apple by creating marketplaces.  These marketplaces facilitate seamless integrations and eventually the ability to easily try new products with the click of a button making it easier than ever to find the best tools to grow your hotel business. Cloudbeds, Mews, Hotelogix, protel and Apaleo were the latest entrants into the marketplace space each launching their own native marketplace baked into their PMS empowering hoteliers to easily tap into a plethora of best-of-breed tools to grow their businesses right from their PMS.  eRevMax was the first non-PMS marketplace on the market and Snapshot was next but SiteMinder and more recently BookingSuite are clear favorites in the race to marketplace dominance.  Hapi is also taking a unique and differentiated approach by building a marketplace that is solution agnostic.  Hoteliers should note that none of these marketplaces have gained significant traction from a demand perspective so the field is wide open.  While the idea has been around for some years we are still in the early innings.  Two-sided marketplaces require supply and demand to develop but those rarely happen simultaneously. Each of the players below has focused on signing supply/tech partners lately so it will be interesting to see which is able to deliver the best user experience and actually change the way hotels interact with their software.   Who's who in the rise of marketplaces Cloudbeds Marketplace.  On top of announcing its native revenue management tool, PIE, Cloudbeds announced the official rollout of its marketplace offering enabling its 20,000+ hotel clients to access a variety of best-of-breed 3rd party tools to mix and match to find the perfect fit.   Mews Marketplace.  In a blaze of glory Mews Systems continued its streak of creative conference displays to showcase its marketplace with this year’s theme of Pimp Your PMS (a parody of MTV’s Pimp My Ride) and its booth was cleverly referred to as ‘The Pitstop’.  In true Mews style, each team member was adorned head-to-toe in race car pitstop jumpsuits with patches for various apps that are integrated into their marketplace. Touche team Mews, touche... Hotelogix Marketplace.  Hotelogix Marketplace launched at ITB and is a one-stop shop for all the hospitality technology needs of a hotelier. It helps hoteliers find and evaluate best-in-class Hotel Technology products on a single platform. Hapi.  Hapi is taking a unique and differentiated approach by building a marketplace that is solution agnostic.  Why is this important? By being solution agnostic, Hapi's marketplace is freed from the confines of being locked into a single PMS.  In fact, Hapi offers technology partners (ie marketplace apps) a way to normalize fragmented and messy data into a streamlined and unified structure opening up the potential to integrate to multiple PMSs (as well as various other hotel systems).  Their marketplace offering enables partners to gain exposure to hotels on the platform and enables hotels to tap into other available systems that are connected to Hapi.  Although Hapi is a smaller marketplace with only about 30 partners currently, its connectivity to multiple solutions from companies like Oracle, Infor and Salesforce signals a great deal of potential. apaleo. apaleo announced its One connection, where data from all pre-connected tools within apaleo's store is available directly within apaleo’s property management system. No switching between browsers or systems. It happens all too often that hoteliers start off their work day organized, and then somehow within a matter of hours (or sometimes even minutes!), end up with dozens of browser tabs open and many systems running. Especially for front desk staff, it takes tons of clicks and searching around to find the info they need, when they need it. It isn't pleasant. With apaleo One, all the info that hoteliers need is visible within apaleo's PMS, saving staff time and creating a more seamless journey for guests. protel Services Marketplace (SMP).  While not quite its first appearance, protel proudly featured its services marketplace at ITB showing off its shiney new native ratings and reviews (syndicated from yours truly) to help hoteliers research, vet and discover the best tools to grow their businesses without leaving the protel app store.  Pretty awesome! From the protel team, “The SMP empowers protel customers to choose from a variety of certified and evaluated 3rd party technology vendors covering all the essential hospitality technology services, such as RMS, CRM, PMS and POS. In other words, it's THE App Store to start integration with protel. It's also the point of entry to integrations for any 3rd party vendor to showcase and offer their powerful services to our 14,000 customers around the globe.”   The protel SMP marketplace features reviews from Hotel Tech Report to deliver transparency for its users   BookingSuite App Store (by Booking.com).  BookingSuite unveiled its app store for the first time where hoteliers can use single sign on (SSO) to activate new apps.  Many hoteliers are naturally wary of relying more on Booking.com or giving them more data, but overall it is a clear strategic move by Booking to provide more value to hoteliers to mend their often shakey relationship. BookingSuite’s approach is similar to the way LinkedIn, Google, Amazon and Facebook allow users to login to 3rd party apps with their APIs. The difference between BookingSuite and these other tech giants is that they want to take commissions (into perpetuity) from technology vendors. The commission vendors pay in the BookingSuite App Store is 25% for year 1, then 15% into perpetuity.  If you are a vendor with an average monthly revenue of $800 per hotel and a 7 year average customer lifetime that means you'll be paying Booking $2,400 in year 1 and $10,080 over the duration of the contract to acquire that single customer. In our opinion, this fee will eventually be passed to the end user (hoteliers) over time and is just another form of integration fee. Google and LinkedIn give away this service free to foster innovation and strengthen their respective platforms. So while BookingSuite’s tech is innovative we’re concerned about their commercialization model and understand why hotels and vendors might want to remain cautious. eRevMax.  eRevMax rolled out updates to its LiveOS platform that allows its hotel clients to centralize the usage of various software applications into one interface using single sign-on.  While the LiveOS platform was one of the first to offer a marketplace offering, they seem to have fallen behind the competition with a limited range of apps available but seems to be pushing forward continuing to try to continue to explore the potential of LiveOS as a central operating platform, that can plug in various systems to help hotels make critical and time saving decisions across multiple systems without having to piece the data together manually.     Our take on wiring up meeting spaces for easy booking During November’s Phocuswright event Hotel Tech Report tried to book the rooftop of several hotels for a client event.  In order to book the spaces we had to go to the hotel websites and fill out a form, then wait for responses from sales reps.  Some websites didn’t even have a form so we had to manually email reps based on contact info from their website (that we had to dig around for).  Out of the 5 desired locations which were some of the hottest hotels in downtown Los Angeles - not a single one responded within 24 hours and 1 didn’t respond to our inquiry at all.  Then to make matters worse, by the time they responded the first question was ‘how much budget do you have to spend’. Needless to say, this was a pretty horrible customer experience so we decided to take our business elsewhere and avoided hotels all together for our event. Imagine if you had to write to a hotel to inquire about availability.  Now imagine that when you wrote, the hotel wrote back asking “what’s your budget?”  The idea is absurd. Hotel websites and OTAs have wired up the industry to make sure this would never happen again.  It starts the relationship off with a bad taste for the customer and completely undermines the intended nature of a collaborative ally that a sales manager should be for any client but especially given that they are a prospect who intends to spend thousands of dollars to throw an event.  Meetings and events contribute $325B of direct spending in the U.S. alone (source AmexGBT) - so it’s about time this highly profitable inventory  got wired up.   Who's laying the groundwork to wire up meeting venues? MeetingPackage.com brings channel management and a seamless booking experience to your meeting space inventory.  Meeting Package’s Joonas Ahola Joonas also announced his firm’s launch of a meeting space channel manager which allows  inventory and rates to syndicate not just on a hotel’s website but across a myriad of 3rd party channels that have popped up to help them find new demand to generate additional revenue .  Meeting spaces today can be booked on platforms like AirBnB as well as on niche marketplaces like Breather, Bizly and VenueBook. Venuesuite launches demand side marketplace to help venues and planners work better together online.  Announced its direct booking platform (or marketplace) that helps venues & planners work better together online. The platform significantly simplifies the RFP process and sourcing of venues. The time required to book a venue for a meeting/event is reduced from days to minutes.  Both planners and venues. It enables planners to find venues fast, book instantly and configure meetings & events 24/7. For venues it generates more revenue via qualitative leads & higher conversion rates as prices are shown upfront to bookers. Within 10 months 1,000+ spaces available in The Netherlands via dedicated venue partners who've joined the new way of online (platform) working.       Other notable product launches and showcases Business Intelligence Pegasus announced its Business Intelligence Platform. It's difficult, if almost impossible to transform raw data into actionable insights - it pains most hotel companies, particularly independents.  Pegasus BI combines guest data from multiple sources and deliver it with automated intelligence and an easy-to-understand dashboard. Hoteliers can gain immediate insights that allow their properties to increase bookings, revenue, occupancy and profitability. Revenue Management RevControl announced rate recommendations calculated by room type separately. This announcement is specifically meant for hostels where the rate difference between private rooms and individual beds in a dormitory is huge and unrelated. It is now possible to use a separate set of business rules for each room/bed type and link each room/bed type to its exact match at hotels in de comp set to get individually calculated rate recommendations for each room/bed type.   RateBoard announced revenue management modules for leisure hotels. RateBoard offers a special module for leisure hotels, taking historical  holiday seasons from different countries, matching this data with the booking window of the different nations and optimizing the forecast due to this important factors. HotelPartner Yield Management announced the implementation of success-based billing models.  The implementation of success-based billing models aligns incentives between HotelPartner and clients since they don't charge new partners without having achieved added value in regards to room revenue.  This is an interesting and innovative approach - we're curious to see how it works as demonstrating uplift is a really difficult thing to prove given market fluctuations and the massive # of variables that can't be controlled. Marketing Travel Tripper announced Real Time Ads & Metasearch Direct. These tools help hotel marketers minimize costs and maximize RoAS on their digital marketing campaigns. Real Time Ads is the first digital marketing tool that allows hotels to advertise—in real time—their rates, availability, popularity and more right on their Google search ads, delivering double the conversion rates. With Metasearch Direct, Travel Tripper has helped hotels generate 38x their spend on metasearch with our direct connect to Google Hotel Ads. Their unique commission model means that independent hotels with smaller budgets can play on the metasearch channel without any risks—and for less cost than an OTA commission. Travel Tripper announced ADA Monitoring Platform. Many hotels in the U.S. are in constant risk of ADA compliance lawsuits simply because their websites are not accessibility friendly. Not only does the TT Web team offer full-service ADA audits on websites, but they also have built out an automated ADA monitoring platform that performs website checks in real time to ensure compliance. Hotel marketers are immediately notified whenever an element of their site falls out of the accessibility guidelines (for example, lack of alt tags, color contrast etc.) Serenata CRM & IgnitionOne launched a next generation CRM partnership that combines both historic guest information combined with real-time intent data. By tracking and scoring website visitors interests and propensity to convert hoteliers can tailor messaging, content and offers, both on the website and in the booking engine accordingly to this data. The scoring technology also supports new guest acquisition by identifying unknown website user that show high interest in a hotel property or a specific offering from the hotel. Based on the interest and score, the visitor can be prompted with personalized newsletter invite. This approach has proven to massively increase the number of newsletter signups, something necessary for many hotels after recent introductions of privacy regulations like GDPR that eliminated a large part of the hotels marketable profiles due to lack of marketing consents.  The newly created newsletter subscription profiles are enriched with the interests and intent information from the IgnitionOne scoring engine monitoring the hotel website and can be used for marketing purpose complementing the historical data points already stored in Serenata CRM. With Serenata CRM and the real-time intent triggered personalization powered by IgntionOne you can deliver a true personalized experience for your guests and website visitors to drive incremental revenue. Integrator announcements HAPI announced it’s recent Salesforce integration following a 2-way oxy connect with Oracle’s PMS dailypoint™ - software made by Toedt, Dr. Selk & Coll. GmbH announced a data cleansing solution which allows hotels to automatically clean, correct, and de-duplicate their guest profiles and push that data back to the hotel’s PMS. The fully automated, AI-based process includes hundreds of steps, reviewing all key data points within the guest profile. It removes duplicate profiles, corrects mistakes made from human errors, corrects addresses for more than 240 countries and ultimately creates one single, accurate guest profile for each guest. This data is stored in the central data management solution by dailypoint™ as well as pushed to the hotel’s PMS so that data is accurate across all key sources. Operations Betterspace GmbH announced Smart Check-out feature with digital invoice and the Self-Ordering function, both for the digital guest directory iQ Tab.The Smart Check-Out enables guests to comfortably check out of the hotel and allows them to view and split their invoice digitally and receive it by e-mail. Thanks to this feature, long waiting lines at the reception desk are a thing of the past. Self-Ordering for the digital guest directory gives guests the opportunity to order food and drinks with the digital guest directory - without leaving the hotel room. Orders are sent directly to the hotel restaurant Both features simplify operational workflows, optimize processes and thus relieve staff and relax guests. This reduces administrative/bureaucratic efforts, saves time and money and the time saved can be devoted to what is important: hotel guests. Customer Alliance announced Customer Experience Hub extending their surveying capabilities from solely focused on post-stay reputation and review gathering into the full guest journey. The Customer Experience Hub allows hoteliers to customize automated messaging based on events through the guest journey to collect feedback and pipe it in real time to the department or team member who can act on it to recover fast, improve the guest experience and in-turn--improve review sentiment and gss scores. Travel Appeal announced Mobile Coach, a mobile app designed for on-the-go managers. By combining artificial intelligence with human experience, the Coach is able to detect even the most granular details from customer feedback. It’s the perfect solution for obtaining actionable insights about everything that really matters to a business. Review and operations  management, made simple. The Coach app not only improves and simplifies business strategies, but helps users manage and respond directly to customer feedback - reviews, posts and photos published by customers are
 delivered directly to your mobile. Uncover what your clients really think to offer the best experience and maximize satisfaction. Live updates and a seamless user experience allow managers to track competitors and monitor brand reputation while also collaborating and assigning tasks to staff members. hotelkit GmbH announced a HOUSEKEEPING module.  Their existing platform is used by over 40.000 hotel employees in more than 800 hotels worldwide. This new solution now focuses on all housekeeping needs and guarantees high-quality housekeeping standards through fully digitalized processes. Through an easy and modern paper-free task allocation, housekeeping processes are way more efficient. The workload can be distributed efficiently according to an employee's time and skill credits, thus, productivity is enhanced. Through digital checklists, quality standards are significantly high and the entire cleaning process can be monitored easily through real-time tracking. Smooth and efficient housekeeping routines are a crucial aspect in hotels, as cleanliness is particularly important when it comes to the guest decision making process. However, typical housekeeping processes within hotels are still highly inefficient. In order to be able to substantially increase guest satisfaction, hotelkit HOUSEKEEPING was developed together with several luxury hotels - among them the Sacher Hotel Vienna and Salzburg, and the Radisson Blu Hotel Hamburg Airport. As all processes are digitized, fast reactions, increased quality standards, and high guest satisfaction can be guaranteed! Knowcross announced PANIC BUTTON.  Hospitality workers are subjected to an inordinate amount of sexual harassment and abuse, which is why as a technology provider we considered the introduction of  Panic or Safety Buttons as our way of giving back to the industry. Panic buttons give hospitality workers the ability to summon assistance when needed. PANIC BUTTON helps hotels to provide a safer working environment by instant reporting of harassment complaints by hospitality workers by using technology such as GPS and Bluetooth. Guest Applications & Devices Criton announced multiple property group functionality which was piloted with London-based Cheval Residences became the first brand to adopt the new product. Created specifically for the hospitality sector, the new product gives accommodations providers with multiple properties a platform to include information on each one within a single parent app.  With locations across the capital city, luxury serviced apartment specialist Cheval Residences are the first group to adopt the new technology with eight of their luxury properties contained within their new app. Group functionality is a game-changer for multi-property organizations like Cheval; enabling them to showcase the unique personality of each property while reinforcing their brand, increasing direct bookings and driving loyalty from new and repeat guests. GuestTraction announced online check-in to reduce queuing at Front Desk by moving check-in to pre-arrival. More than a third of guests polled (38%) indicated that a source of frustration was the front desk taking too long to complete requests.

Hotel analytics series pt 1: Why your reports are not analytics

by
Hotel Tech Report

At Intelligent Hospitality we’re often asked to replicate existing reports that hotels produce manually.  The thinking behind such a request is understandable: “My hotel spends X hours producing reports at regular intervals (usually daily, weekly, or monthly).  We like these reports.  If they can be automated by a tool, that would save us a lot of time.” While on the surface, that logic is reasonable, it completely misses the advantages of analytics solutions.  More importantly, it highlights a big gap in our thinking and approach towards analytics in the hotel industry.  If you are making the decision to move on to more sophisticated technology, it is important to understand and leverage all its benefits.  Not just to get a substantial ROI out of it, but to be able to compete in today’s market.  My grandfather loved his typewriter and never used a computer.  According to him the only reason to switch from a typewriter to a computer would be to get clearer print.  A computer was too expensive to do just that, so he never bought one.     We all understand today (hopefully) that the ability to type and print is the least of a computer’s capabilities.  We look for speed, memory, connectivity, and overall computing power when we are in the market for a computer.  In fact, it is inconceivable that someone could survive in today’s job market without basic know-how about computers. Similarly, with the information era in full swing, hoteliers who don’t “get” analytics solutions won’t be able to compete in a market full of data-savvy OTAs and rental alternatives like Airbnb.  These new players have already mastered data analytics; They live and die by it.  If you still think it’s “just reporting”, I have taken up too much of your time already.  This article is intended as a starting point for those hoteliers who want to take a more analytical approach to their business. If you’re still reading, I promise this will be more fun than it sounds.  However, just to test your commitment, I will start with something dry…   Definitions Here is how Adobe defines Reporting and Analytics respectively: Reporting is “the process of organizing data into informational summaries in order to monitor how different areas of a business are performing.” Analytics is “the process of exploring data and reports in order to extract meaningful insights, which can be used to better understand and improve business performance.” You don’t have to memorize these definitions.  Just remember one thing - reporting is “monitoring” while analytics is “exploring”.  When we run day to day meetings using templatized reports, we condition ourselves to look for and monitor specific cells/fields – day after day, week after week, month after month.  We only react when we see a significant fluctuation in those values, and even then, we must wait for an analyst to go and get us the answer to our next question.  It’s a slow and reactive process.  Yet, it’s familiar and comfortable. Analytics on the other hand, is driven by curiosity, competitive drive, and a sense of adventure.  It gives us multiple views and perspectives by dimensionalizing data.  It takes us on a journey of discovery by giving us the ability to answer questions on the go.  Thus, it expedites the discovery of opportunities and threats while minimizing surprises.    Visualization Looking at familiar designs and layouts makes our eyes dull to minor changes.  Hence, we don’t see what we don’t expect to see.  Here’s a rose:   Can you spot the Dolphin in this rose? What if I told you that there is a dolphin inside the rose?  Can you find it?  Hint: Take a closer look at the petals.  I hope you were able to find it.  However, I doubt anyone would have noticed it had I not pointed it out. A wall of numbers in a spreadsheet is no different.  You see rows and columns populated with figures.  Unless you know what to look for, it’s hard to see it.   Spotting the proverbial "dolphin" in this wall of numbers is near impossible   Good data visualization should not just be pretty, it should draw your attention to what needs your attention.  To be able to do that, you must crunch huge amounts of data, contextualize, compare, and conditionally format.  And that’s just the basic stuff you should expect from your BI/Analytics solution.   The HotelIQ dashboard draws your eye to critical insights via red dots on the map   The above dashboard consolidates a ton of information.  It includes data by hotel, by month, and by market segment - actuals, OTB, STLY, Budget, and Forecast.  Plus, based on current and historical trends, it also estimates where you are likely to finish against your goals.  Yet, it only needs three simple visuals to convey all that information and more.  The goal is not to bombard you with information, but to highlight what’s most relevant.   Interactivity Looking at the map, you know right away which hotels in which markets need attention.  The color and size of the bubbles can change instantly to indicate the risk levels based on various parameters.  It becomes even more engaging and meaningful as you easily zoom in, filter, and dissect the underlying cause(s).  All this momentum and insight with just a few clicks!  In contrast, with a typical report produced manually by the hotels and consolidated at the corporate office, users would either make due with an aggregate figure or painfully (depending on the size and scale of your operation) go over each hotel one at a time.  Even when you are looking at a single property there are many dimensions like market segments, profiles, feeder markets, channels, and room types that you have to look into and consider in order to make the right business decisions.  And should you have any further questions…like Adobe says, reports are for monitoring, not exploring.  That is the fundamental reason why reports don’t translate well into an analytics environment.  They are restrictive because they are built using simpler tools with lower technical complexity.  When you transpose those reports into an analytics environment they often bring along with them the limitations of their original design.   Effort and Opportunity A lot of hotels have Excel junkies on staff who copy & paste data from various sources, run macros, build pivot tables, and go through data gymnastics every day to lay out the information in a manner the GM likes.  They love these “spread-marts” because they have birthed them at their hotels.  So please forgive me if it sounds like I’m calling your baby ugly.  However, no matter how much you master these basic tools, they are no match for the BI tools used by Data Scientists (with degrees in Computer Science and Data Analytics) to design robust analytics solutions.    Cooking steak in your backyard is very different than running a commercial kitchen   My neighbor can grill a mean steak on the BBQ in his backyard but that doesn’t mean you should trust him to run a commercial kitchen.  It’s nothing against steaks, BBQ, or my neighbor.  We understand that a trained chef in a professionally equipped kitchen can do a lot more with the same ingredients. A hotelier’s job is to optimize profits at the hotel while ensuring that guests get the best experience possible.  The hotel staff should be focused on the achievement of those goals rather than toiling with data for hours – just to create a report.  What you get at the end of the day may be familiar but is also probably outdated information and subject to human error.  Instead, if the same talent that produces reports focused on discovery and insight using the latest BI and Analytics solutions, you’d go much further.   Start Exploring The objective of this article is not to put reports down.  In fact, reports are an important part of analytics. But hotels need to elevate their standards towards analytics.  Stop asking your BI solutions to give you more of the same.  Stop staring at the same rows and columns waiting to see different results.  In this age of information, data fuels success.  If you want to stay relevant, challenge yourself to go further with data analytics.  To help you achieve that, in the coming months I will be taking a more tactical approach to discuss topics related to hotel analytics like improving your hotel’s forecast with the help of analytics, optimizing the performance of hotel sales team with data analytics, and using analytics to run more productive meetings at your hotel.   Partner content brought to you by HotelIQ

How to solve the most common complaints that hotel managers make about owners

by
Hotel Tech Report

For hotel owners, a positive, productive relationship with hotel managers is central to a hotel’s performance. There can often be a breakdown between hotel managers, who deal directly with front-line staff to navigate day-to-day challenges, and hotel owners, who are not always in-tune with the current state of the business. Since owners often have other corporate entities, or represent entities like Real Estate Investment Trusts, there’s not always enough time in the day to stay up-to-date. Other owners may have little operational expertise within the hospitality industry, which can make communicating succinctly and accurately with hotel managers difficult. In either case, the owner may be perceived by hotel management as out-of-touch or uneducated when it comes to the hotel’s day-to-day operational realities. This disconnect can diminish trust, cause miscommunications, and lead to unrealistic expectations that set the manager up to fail. Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things. ~Peter Drucker To combat this disconnect, and foster a relationship built on trust and respect, owners should strive for a thorough and detailed understanding of the business -- a bar that’s incredibly difficult to reach for a non-operational partner. That’s where technology comes into focus. With tools that provide real-time insights through mobile-optimized interfaces, owners can stay connected to the pulse of the hotel from anywhere in the world. This effort to stay informed builds an owner’s operational credibility with their management teams, which models the kind of leadership and engagement owners themselves expect from their management teams. Leveraging technology is not only the most efficient way to stay in touch with the business but it’s also the most reliable route to tackle the most common complaints managers make. By proactively addressing these issues, owners are setting their teams up for success. After all, trust is the defining feature of a fruitful relationship between the hotel manager and ownership. With trust, even conflicts and complaints become opportunities for action and collaboration. Finding common ground gets things done -- and ultimately builds a healthier hotel.   “They don’t understand nuances of hotel operations” Common sense says that a hotel owner is either passionate about the business, or at least understands it. However, some hotel general managers feel that hotel owners “don’t get it,” focusing only on short-term performance and a hotel’s bottom line. A savvy GM respects the owner’s own business acumen and thus will communicate everything that the owner needs to know about the business -- and nothing that they don’t. A savvy hotel owner will engage at a deeper level to develop a solid understanding of the management’s challenges and the hotel’s performance. To achieve this nuanced perspective, hotel owners should be familiar with business intelligence software for hotels that tracks performance and offers analysis at a glance. When integrated into a hotel’s operation, BI tools help owners stay current without wasting time trudging through spreadsheets. Another input comes from Revenue Management Systems (RMS), which reveals the “why” behind pricing decisions. So, rather than going on “gut” instinct, the team’s pricing decisions can be rigorously informed by data. Owners can turn to this data for a clear view into the hotel’s revenue profile, using the data as the basis for incisive, probing questions that inspire the team to better performance. Better questions get better answers!   Deployed in combination, the RMS/BI toolset makes for more productive meetings with management, builds stronger staff relationships, and aligns managers and ownership around a shared perspective on performance -- with minimal time investment for owners   “They don’t invest in technology or aren’t digitally savvy” Owning a hotel doesn't necessarily require extensive operational expertise, which is why building owners often outsource management to third-parties. This is especially true in the case of Real Estate Investment Trusts or owners with businesses outside of hospitality. Owners rely on the expertise of management companies to deliver reliable profitability and consistent returns on the asset. Even so, owners should stay engaged with the business and build trust with their lieutenants by introducing new tech products to their teams. With the information provided by these tools, owners can ask engaging questions about both the business and the problems solved by these technologies. With this lightly hands-on approach, owners build trust with managers without micromanaging and demonstrate a healthy understanding of trends in both the business and the broader industry. Hotel owners have a few levers to show their digital savviness. First, ensure that the team has the tools necessary to run a cutting-edge, modern hotel that guests expect. Guest rooms should feature solid entertainment options and potentially guest room automation. The hotel should consider a guest messaging platform to reach guests in the channels they prefer, including chatbots, which not only makes guests happier but also makes staff more productive. Digital marketing agencies can be powerful allies for hotel owners, offering expert opinions on performance that can inform how an owner approaches marketing discussions with their team. Other technologies for the tech-savvy owner to consider include metasearch management software, website optimization, hotel CRM, upsell software and on-demand staffing platforms that tap into the booming gig economy. During meetings with the hotel’s team, owners should propose relevant new technologies to solve the problems that the team mentions -- and that the owner identifies from the hotel’s business intelligence tools, review and reputation management software, and revenue management platform.     “They don’t invest in my staff or understand how hard we work” Empathy for a hotel manager’s work is an owner’s greatest asset. Hotel managers have a tough position as liaison between hotel ownership and staff, as they must simultaneously motivate staff and fulfill owner expectations. An owner must help the manager navigate this terrain and proactively solve staffing issues. For example, when hotel staff feels overworked, or not heard by hotel management, they may begin looking for work elsewhere. Also, under-investment in staff training may lead career-oriented employees to leave the hotel in pursuit of more supportive professional opportunities. These negative perceptions affect the hotel’s ability to hire and retain workers, which may trickle down to the guest experience -- a huge issue for owners. “With owner expectations of a high-profit margin and keeping variable expenses low, we run very lean operations these days. It’s hard to find good, customer-centric employees who are willing to work for pennies over the minimum wage. It’s hard to be as customer-focused as you want to be with a skeleton crew.” -Amanda Singer, former hotel trainer for IHG Thankfully for hotel owners, maintaining profitability doesn't necessarily mean placing limits on staff investments. There are several categories of technologies that provide outsized impact relative to the investment (high ROI). First off, implementing an Applicant Tracking System for hotels helps management be more productive in their rolling hiring efforts. A hotel thrives with great staff, and an organized process for inbound applications encourages quality candidates. Once quality candidates are hired, it’s all about loyalty and engagement. It takes a lot of time and money to find good people, so it’s worthwhile to invest in loyalty. First, offer a mobile-optimized scheduling solution for hotels that empowers staff with more control over switching shifts. Next, encourage collaboration and accountability to foster an “owner’s mindset” with both a hotel task management and collaboration tool and modern housekeeping software. Each of these tools gives an owner instant access to the pulse of the business through real-time reports and analytics. Finally, maintain the momentum with hotel employee engagement software. With these mobile-optimized tools, staff stay aligned and feel heard and happy at work. For the hotel owner that really wants to recognize a hard-working staff, check the hotel’s reputation management software at regular intervals to highlight exceptional experiences and reward staff for exceeding guest expectations. *** Relationships are built on trust. And when it comes to hotel owners and general managers, that trust is forged through proven performance. Owners appreciate managers that focus on performance, share wins, and showcase staff. Owners must also provide the tools management needs to achieve that outsized performance. It's a delicate balance that both sides must calibrate to keep a hotel profitable in the near-term and competitive in the long-term.

The top tech tools you need to improve your revenue management

by
Hotel Tech Report

Revenue management has made great strides in recent years. The transition to cloud-based systems built flexibility into the software development process, accelerating the pace of new features. The shorter cycles allow the software to more accurately meet the evolving needs of hoteliers. This is a relief to many hoteliers with less-than-pleasant memories of the shackles of frozen legacy technology. “Hotels face large hurdles to shrug off legacy back-end systems. Revenue management and the related issues of marketing and distribution require a full set of data to be done right.” -Skift A review of today’s revenue management technology highlights just how far the industry has come in fulfilling a vision of connected revenue management systems that use data to dynamically price room inventory. Real-time, data-driven intelligence now comes standard in the industry-leading tools.   An agile approach to releasing new features is also a requirement. As the industry experiments with new ways to sell its inventory, such as attribute-based selling, the best revenue management software anticipate change, test features, and deliver on the promise of true revenue optimization. Even so, only 1 in 10 hotels deploys some level of revenue management software, due largely to the complexity of practicing proper revenue management. A comprehensive approach to revenue management generally includes a solution from each of the following categories: CRS, RMS, rate shopper, and business intelligence. Some solutions offer more of a one-stop-shop, while others overlap. Whether you choose to stick with one multi-purpose solution or craft a bespoke tech stack, be sure to prioritize agility, flexibility, and extensibility. You want a vendor that keeps ahead of the trends, while also offering a flexible product that can be customized to your needs through flexible implementation and extensible integrations. With that in mind, here are the top tools you need to improve your revenue management, as rated by the Hotel Tech Report community of verified customers.   Central reservation systems (CRS)  The central reservation system is the heart of revenue management. Everything pumps through the CRS: each reservation is processed and managed in this centralized hub which prevents double booking and keeps availability updated in real-time across all systems and channels. As such, the CRS acts as your distribution hub. Any inventory distributed to third-party channels will flow out from the CRS via a two-way connection that pulls inventory once its booked while also pushing out newly available inventory for potential booking. While there are technically CRS platforms that do not automate availability across channels, this approach is not recommended. Manual updates to third-party channels nearly always result in double-booking. That being said, some may prefer a basic CRS augmented with a channel manager. Desirable features: XML connectivity to your preferred third-party channels, extensible modules that allow you to reduce the clutter of unwanted features; decent reporting with visibility into channel profitability; integrations with your other technology solutions; 99.9% uptime; 24/7 customer support; compliance with global security standards. The top three central reservations systems solutions: TravelTripper. The TravelTripper CRS integrates with major PMS software to ensure accurate distribution of rates and availability. Windsurfer by SHR. The Windsurfer CRS features an Internet Booking Engine (IBE) to merchandise and sell your rooms, packages, and add-ons in any configuration. TravelClick’s iHotelier. The CRS from TravelClick maximizes visibility across all distribution channels and drive demand to your property, with a focus on direct bookings. The Travel Tripper RezTrip CRS dashboard is intuitive as it's booking engine is beautiful   Related article: Why these 3 hotel groups love Travel Tripper's RezTrip CRS Revenue management software (RMS) Revenue management software, also known as revenue optimization (RO), focuses on optimizing revenue through better pricing decisions. While inputs vary across solutions, the two primary factors that determine price are the demand forecasts for an individual property, as well as the local market’s popularity. Automation factors heavily in RMS, although some solutions provide levers to control these pricing decisions manually. Desirable features: real-time direct connects to the distribution channels you use most; real-time calendar updates of new bookings and cancellations; demand-based pricing optimization at both property and market level; integrated demand forecasting to inform pricing decisions; customizable levels of automation for adjusting pricing in real-time; easy integrations with your CRS and business intelligence tools. The top three revenue management software solutions: IDeaS G3. One of the largest incumbents, IDeaS is a division of global conglomerate SAS. The company serves 10,000 properties with its revenue management software that increases “better revenue” opportunities across the entire hotel operation. Duetto Gamechanger. Duetto’s “revenue strategy platform” focuses on pricing decisions based on micro-segmentation, which means that each channel, room type, and segment can be independently yielded in real-time. Atomize. The only startup on the top three, Atomize’s cloud-based system can fully automate pricing decisions, or provide pricing recommendations based on revenue urgency for manual adjustment.   The IDeaS G3 dashboard seamlessly blends automation with self service Related articles: These are the 6 most powerful IDeaS G3 revenue management software features and services   Atomize founder on automating revenue management   Rate shoppers Rate shoppers save time. Lots of time. Only recently, a revenue manager would pull rate data from the competition in a spreadsheet to track changes. Or perhaps rely on a rudimentary module baked into an existing technology solution. Today’s rate shoppers make manual updates and inaccurate competitive rates a thing of the past. A rate shopper has two primary functions: to see how your hotel’s competition is pricing rooms and to identify channels that violate parity agreements. This information can then be used to react to competitor pricing and to rectify parity violation with offending channels.  Rate shoppers are the most easy-to-implement revenue management solutions. As they shop publicly available rates, there’s no integration hurdle to clear. Within a few days, a hotel’s rooms can be mapped, its competitive set defined, and reports pulled that accurately guide pricing decisions.  Desirable features: Rate data pulled from sanctioned direct API connections; robust room mapping that allows you to build an apples-to-apples comparison; easy-to-understand visual reports that identify parity violations; comprehensive event schedule to accurately identify factors impacting market demand.  The top rated rate shopping solutions: TravelClick Demand360. Recently acquired by Amadeus, Demand360 offers a segmented view of historical and future pricing across the market and a hotel’s competitive set. Rate Insight by OTA Insight. A relative newcomer, OTA Insight’s Rate Insight product has captured a sizable chunk of the market with a focus on data visualization and ease of use.   Business intelligence If the central reservation system is the heart of revenue management, business intelligence is the brain. Your BI system will process and analyze your hotel’s data, alongside market demand data, and deliver insights that help you understand performance. It’s true that most revenue management software has reporting functionality. However, the more data-hungry visualizers won’t be satisfied with limited analytics and reporting. BI solutions unlock insights hidden in data, while also providing a gut check for hoteliers with robust reports. Since BI tools are integration-heavy, they often paint the most accurate picture of a hotel’s performance. By pulling in data from multiple sources, BI improves the accuracy of its own analysis and insight into the true state of a hotel’s revenue forecasts. Desirable features: Customizable reporting according to your own individual KPIs; real-time connections across your hotel’s tech stack; visual dashboards that are easy to understand; exportable reports to share with your team.  These are the top three business intelligence solutions for hotels: HotelIQ. The HotelIQ solution pulls in data from the property management system, as well as other connected operational software, to glean insights. Reports can be at the property level, portfolio, or brand. Revenue Insight by OTA Insight. The business intelligence tool from OTA Insight features a flexible approach for smarter hotel analytics. Year-over-year performance is trackable and combines future and historical performance.  Juyo Analytics. Juyo Analytics uses dashboards for data visualization, forecasting, and revenue pacing. The tool also allows for productivity tracking of sales teams.   Related article: Hotel analytics series pt 1: Why your reports are not analytics Channel managers  A channel manager is a specialized tool for those hoteliers seeking much tighter control over where and how inventory is distributed. If the CRS is the heart, the channel manager is the valves, controlling where your inventory flows. Many RMS solutions have integrated channel managers, so this may be redundant functionality for some. Nonetheless, for those looking for a light-touch software approach that doesn’t involve RMS, a channel manager can be used in conjunction with a CRS and rate shopper to adjust pricing based on internal property targets and external demand factors.  Desirable features: Easy, stress-free connectivity to your CRS; ability to update the content of individual room types across channels; allocation management to control availability on each channel; consider GDS/metasearch connectivity; decent reporting that provides visibility into channel profitability and booking trends. These are the top three channel managers for hotels:  MyAllocator by Cloudbeds. The Cloudbeds channel manager connects the property management software in real-time to global distribution channels, including Airbnb and niche sites for hostels and backpackers. SiteMinder. With 350 direct connections to distribution channels, as well as 250 integrations with popular hotel software, SiteMinder’s channel manager has wide reach. Cubilis by Stardekk.  Stardekk's channel manager helps with online management of availability and rates on many booking channels. With their integrated booking engine is you can receive commission-free bookings through your hotel website.       Related article: SiteMinder CEO: "Best-of-breed solutions for every type of hotel"

Lost In Translation- How "Owner Fluency" Improves Budget Outcomes

by
Mike Medsker

While in high school, I traveled with my family to San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico. It was my first time south of the border, and though it had been over a year since I completed my last Spanish class, I was excited to have the opportunity to show off my dual language skills. My first opportunity came shortly after we arrived in town when we stopped at the supermercado to pick up some groceries for the upcoming week. As I walked through a crowded aisle, I came across a young couple scanning the shelves with their cart blocking the way. Ever the diligent cultural ambassador, I gave them a warm smile and indicated I’d like to move by with a polite “escúchame.” Rather than part the way, they looked back at me with an odd expression. Unable to navigate around them, I reversed direction and headed back down the aisle the way from which I’d came. As I made my way through the rest of the store, this experience repeated itself several times—each polite “escúchame” met by a confused look and lack of movement. Frustrated, I relayed this experience to my older sister as we checked out and left the store. She had previously spent several months in Mexico and was intimately familiar with their customs and cultural norms, in addition to being fluent in Spanish. “Did they see me as an impatient American rudely cutting my way through everyone?” I asked. “Or perhaps my accent was too thick?” Struggling to contain her laughter, Jess kindly informed me that “escúchame” was not a request to squeeze by, but rather an order to “listen to me.” With a sheepish smile, I realized that although I’d been operating under the assumption that I was speaking the same language as those I’d encountered at the supermercado, I’d conveyed something altogether different than what I had intended. Years later, as a greenhorn Director of Revenue Management, I had a similar experience during my first annual budget meeting. As I laid out my strategies for the upcoming year and the tools I’d need to achieve our projected growth, I worked to articulate the benefits of the investments I was asking our owners to make. “This revenue management system will reduce the amount of time needed to update rates,” I stated, “freeing me up to spend more time analyzing the big picture.” With an odd look on their faces, our asset managers nodded their heads in an indication of agreement. However, several weeks later, I discovered my suggested investments in technology had died on the proverbial budget chopping block. As I reflected back on how our owners could have possibly missed seeing how my ideas would benefit our hotel, I realized that I’d once again failed to communicate in the language of my intended audience. If I’d spent a little more time gaining fluency in their language, I’d have more effectively sold my priorities and obtained a commitment to invest from our owners as part of the budgeting process. KEYS TO IMPROVING BUDGET OUTCOMES LEARNING THE LANGUAGE When pitching investment ideas to owners as part of the budgeting process, it is important to understand the ways in which they make money through their participation in hospitality assets. 1. Operational Income Operational income is the wealth creating mechanism with which hotel managers are most familiar. Any time a hotel charges a guest more for their room than they incur in costs to support the sale of that room, it generates income for the owners. As a rule of thumb, each dollar in revenue generated results in some portion of that dollar being recorded as Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization (EBITDA) on a hotel’s income statement. 2. Equity Paydown Similar to the paydown of the mortgage on a single-family home, hotel owners build equity by paying down their note. Ideally cash flow from operations will cover any financing costs so that the owners of a hotel will not need to budget for additional financial resources to pay down the mortgage. 3. Asset Appreciation Hotel owners also make money via the appreciation of their assets, which can take place via inflation, repositioning, and/or operational improvements. Given that hotel assets generally run a high gross profit margin, increases in revenue often have a much more substantial impact than refining the hotel’s expense model. UNDERSTANDING NUANCES There are a number of ways that hotel owners can be categorized. Examples of hotel owner categories include private equity funds, high net worth individuals, pension fund investment funds, and real estate investment trusts (REITs). Targeted objectives will vary considerably based on the type of organization involved. For example, private equity investors such as Blackstone often approach hotel investment by buying underperforming assets (either large hotels or entire branded portfolios) and improving operations before selling the asset at a market premium or unwinding their position via public offerings (IPOs). On the flip side, REITS may take a longer-term view when purchasing assets; buying assets with a lower risk profile in order to benefit from stable cash flows and the long-term potential for appreciation. Economic cycles often also have a significant impact on the way in which hotel owners view investments. For example, when capital is cheap and hotels are trading at bargain levels, owners may prefer to invest in new assets rather than deploying their cash to improve the operations of existing hotels. Conversely, as interest rates rise and/or hotel asset values skyrocket, owners often prefer to generate returns through improvement of their current assets as it becomes increasingly more difficult to purchase new properties at compelling values. Taking the time to fully grasp the incentives of your owner(s) will allow you to better understand the way they consider additional investments in technology, FF&E, or property enhancements. This understanding will allow you to ensure that you are pursuing the right investment strategies, thus making it easier to gain approval for future expenditures. CONVERSING FLUENTLY Once you have a strong understanding of the priorities of your owners, it is important to calculate the financial impact of any recommended investments in relation to any competing opportunities. Focal has created a detailed investment calculator to assist in your budgeting process. By walking through the steps that follow, you will be able to calculate the financial impact of new investments and convey them in a language your owners understand. 1. Determine Available Options Start by listing out all strategies for the upcoming year and the resources you will need to execute them. Perhaps you plan to renovate your suites in order to drive room type upsells. Or, perhaps you plan to deploy a new business intelligence system to reduce the time spent on menial data gathering tasks and free up your team for more strategic concerns. Once you’ve identified the tools you’ll need to execute your business strategies, research a minimum of two to three providers for each tool. In addition to obtaining pricing for each, a thorough evaluation of features should be completed in order to determine the value provided. 2. Establish Performance Targets Develop an estimate for any revenue increases or expense savings generated by the investment being analyzed. This step can be the most challenging as it relies on assumptions regarding both tangible and non-tangible benefits. For example, a business intelligence system may not reduce staffing expense materially. Instead, it will allow your current team members to repurpose their time towards deploying marketing campaigns, directing outbound sales efforts, and shifting to a more profitable business mix. In cases where established benchmarks are unclear, it can be helpful to consider prior performance gains from similar initiatives or strategy deployments in the past. For example, if reducing the time spent on compiling and analyzing data via a new business intelligence system allows for the deployment of one additional marketing campaign and the acquisition of three new corporate accounts from your competitors, a 1-3% increase in hotel room revenues does not seem to be unreasonable. Performance targets may vary for each option analyzed. When gauging the relative impact of each, it may be helpful to refer back to the feature evaluation completed in step one. 3. Calculate Total Cost of Ownership When compiling your budget assumptions, consider all costs associated with implementation and continued support to ensure any hidden costs are accounted for. For example, often times business intelligence providers do not include any costs for property management system interface fees or additional servers needed to utilize their products. Fortunately, the industry is headed towards a more open pricing model, with new providers such as Focal Revenue Solutions including all associated costs in their price quotes. It is also crucial to include any initial setup costs in addition to the recurring costs, as they will have a material impact on the total cost of ownership. In order to provide an apples-to-apples comparison, it can be helpful calculate all costs over the duration of the project or contract. Focal’s Investment Calculator allows you to compare total cost of ownership for multi-year periods. 4. Evaluate Return on Investment In order to assess return on investment, any revenue increases established in step two should be marginalized in accordance with the hotel’s net profitability benchmarks in order to provide an indication of the additional money an owner can expect to take to the bank at the end of the year. Once the profit impact has been calculated, Return on Investment (ROI) and Net Present Value (NPV) can be used to compare alternative options. Doing so will allow you to analyze the payback threshold for the investment as well as the cash flow the hotel’s owners can expect to receive, and adjusts for the fact that one dollar spent today is worth more than one dollar received a few years from now. Focal’s Investment Calculator contains additional information regarding Total NPV and Annualized ROI, as well as the calculations for each. 5. Analyze the Impact on Asset Value Hotel asset values are often calculated as a multiple of annual net operating profits using the capitalization (cap) rate from recent comparable transactions. In order to calculate the impact of a given investment on a hotel’s asset value, divide the increase in net operating income by the average cap rate for similar property types. If you’re unsure of the appropriate cap rate to use, ask your owner. They have likely been tracking recent comparable sales and can provide you with a benchmark rate for your location and property type. You may notice that it’s possible for an investment option to have a higher ROI but lower impact on asset value than its alternatives. This may initially seem counter-intuitive. However, you’ll notice the ROI calculation highlights profitability in relation to expense without considering variability in total profit contribution from one investment to the next. For this reason, it’s important to consider both metrics when comparing the merits of competing investments. For the true nerds reading this- while we’ve recommended the cap rate methodology for calculating asset value given its simplicity, there are a number of additional ways to calculate asset value. By pitching budget initiatives in the language of your owners, you’ll find that it’s easier to align priorities and obtain investment.

How to Simplify a Hotel Construction Process

by
Lillian Connors

The hotel industry is on a perpetual rise, as the modern way of life and the increasingly favourable economic trends are opening the doors to worldwide travel – business and pleasure alike. This favourable climate creates an opportune environment for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to get into the hospitality game and create long-term success that will swiftly follow the rise of their hotel brand. However, as with any new business venture, getting your hotel off the ground is no easy feat to accomplish. First off, you need to build a hotel that will truly resonate with the hearts and minds of your target demographic and accommodate every need of the 21st century traveller. Here is how to simplify a hotel construction process and get your business underway. Thorough financial planning Every successful construction project begins with a sound financial plan in place, detailing the amount of capital needed for the project. A financial plan is needed in order to be able to apply for a construction loan and to monitor the entire project from a financial standpoint as it progresses through its many stages. What’s more, a financial plan is sort of a contingency plan as well, as a comprehensive report will also take into account the unexpected expenses you are sure to run into at some point in the construction or even finalisation phase. Remember that any delays in the opening of the hotel will put the financial plan in jeopardy and impact your estimated ROI. Gathering your A-team Building a hotel is a huge financial investment, and as such, there can be no room for error. Moreover, this type of project will require an extensive and highly professional team, including a general contractor and an architect, an extensive construction crew, legal support, and much more. This is why you want to assemble your A-team from the start and develop a trusting relationship with them in order for the project to run smoothly. It’s not just about who bids the lowest price - sometimes it’s better to make a greater investment in a team that will truly deliver on their promises, remain within the projected timetable, and understand your needs and desires on a deeper level. Remember, the contractor needs to provide you with a unique solution, so avoid cookie-cutter project plans. Use the right tools to expedite the process Plenty of manpower will be required to build something as complex and grand as a hotel that will be competitive in the modern market, but the workforce alone will not be enough to bring the construction plan to fruition. The use of adequate machinery is one of the most important aspects of a successful construction project, and it can significantly expedite the entire process. Make sure the construction crew is equipped with the latest machinery, such as a contemporary concrete laser screed, in order to avoid human error and transform a meticulous design into reality. Keep in mind that laying a leveled foundation is one of the most important aspects that will define the rest of the project. Staying on schedule no matter what In reality, there is no telling what could go wrong along the way. From unfavourable climate conditions to an unmotivated construction crew, defining a realistic construction timetable can be a nightmare for entrepreneurs. However, you cannot hope to reach your goals without a strict deadline in place. The best thing you can do is to set up multiple smaller milestones and assign unique deadlines that must be met. Be prepared to make some sacrifices along the way in order to keep the project moving forward. Ultimately, you want to avoid missing the opening date, as launching your business at the right time can make or break your it in the long run. Monitor the process at all times Finally, making sure you monitor the entire process on a daily basis from inception to finalisation can go a long way in boosting productivity and keeping the project running smoothly. It’s not uncommon for the construction crew to slack off due to a lack of professional supervision, so you can also employ on-site surveyors to keep the workforce in check and make sure all of their needs are met. Remember that a happy employee is a productive one, so ensure the workers are doing their job in favourable conditions. Building a hotel is by no means a walk in the park, as it requires substantial financial investments and meticulous planning and preparation in order for the dream to become a reality. In order to avoid the common kinks and pitfalls in the project, be sure to stick to these tried-and-tested tips that will allow you to simplify the construction process.

Hottest Cities in Europe for Hotel Investments

by
Lillian Connors

When planning a hotel investment, its location is your first and foremost consideration. It is not just about geography or popularity; it is a mega-cocktail of countless factors that inform your decision, from nearby attractions to economic trends.   In today’s ever-accelerating world, opportunities come and go in a blink of an eye and last year’s promised land is today’s land of broken dreams. Circumstances are changing at a rapid pace in many of the world’s metropoles, with new trends emerging and new opportunities arising. Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at some of Europe’s hottest cities for hotel investment.   London The only downside to London’s real estate market is an extraordinarily high entry price, but England’s capital offers strong profits for investors who can stretch for some high priced property. A popular tourist and corporate hub, London is registering a steady increase in visits over the past several years. In 2017, the increase was 6.2 % over 2016 with 39.9 million visitors, while a further increase of 4.4% is expected in 2018. The same can be said for hotels and other means of accommodation in London, which have topped the Europe’s chart for the number of overnight stays in 2016 with 56 million, increasing it further by 7.7.% in 2017. And with London looking to expand its accommodation capacities both in short and long term, prospects for business immigration and hotel investment are looking very favorably - if you can afford it.   Madrid While Barcelona still reigns supreme as Spain’s main tourist draw, the city’s recent ban on the expansion of accommodation capacities in the city center has brought its tourism growth into question, forcing the investors to look elsewhere. For a lot of them, that “elsewhere” is found in the country’s capital, Madrid. Madrid is still primarily a business destination, but its vast cultural offer and a burgeoning nightlife are making it a popular tourist hub as well, with an upward trend of visit numbers in the last several years. Coupled with the city’s expansive policies and favorable economic circumstances, as well as a popular investment residency program in Spain, Madrid is certainly calling for the attention of hotel investors.   Budapest Long gone are the days when Budapest was an outdated remnant of the formerly communist Hungary. Today, Budapest is a booming, modern European metropole, while Hungary is a proud, economically stable member of the EU. The country also has a low 9% corporate tax and low-priced real estate, particularly in its capital city which is registering a steady increase in annual visits and overnight stays. Hungary is currently one of the most attractive countries included in business immigration (residency by investment) plans, the so-called golden visa programs that provide an array of benefits for a certain volume of foreign real estate investments. In Hungary, you can get an investment residency for a minimum investment of €200.000, and this relatively low price offers a premium spot in one of Europe’s fastest growing tourist destinations.     Milan It is a neck-to-neck race between Milan and Rome, when it comes to hotel investment on the Apennine Peninsula, but Milan barely wins out, owing to its position as Italy’s business hub and its appeal to luxury oriented visitors. Milan is a world-renowned trade-fair city for a variety of industries, receiving a steady supply of traffic all year round. Unlike Rome, it also benefits from clean and transparent procedures for obtaining property, which particularly suits foreign investors. With key indicators showing a trend towards further expansion of city’s accommodations - particularly on the luxury end - Milan continues to hold a strong appeal for hotel investment.   Paris The history, the culture, and a long list of attractions make the City of Light one of the strongest and most consistent tourist draws in Europe. Current trends show a particularly high level of investment interest in the high-end segment of the market, with a number of major international luxury hotel chains looking to gain a foothold in France’s capital, and for a good reason! The latest PWC European cities hotel forecast places Paris in the top spot (shared with Lisbon) for anticipated revenue per available rooms in 2019, showing a clearing of clouds in the once-troubled real estate market and showing positive signs for potential investors.    

Big Data for Hoteliers

by
Frank Vertolli

"Companies have access to vastly more information than they used to, it comes from many more different sources than before, and they can get it almost as soon as it's generated." - The Wall Street Journal There is an ever-increasing amount of guest intelligence available to hoteliers, and it can be overwhelming. Big data is a hot topic across business sectors, but in many ways the travel industry has been a data-rich channel for years. Make it more manageable, and effective, by getting back to the basics and evaluating current data as it relates to your goals. Big Data is a Journey, Not a Destination It"s true, and it doesn"t matter where you are on the journey. Start simple. We find when working with our clients that most hotels and resorts already have a substantial amount of data. It"s just not organized and accessible. Using the tips and tools below, you can gather a surprising amount of data on your consumers and begin to put together the puzzle of who is coming to your website, who is staying with you and how they are getting there. Website Metrics: The website is the most important consumer touch point, outside of the travel experience itself, as it offers the most comprehensive source of what your business has to offer, branded your way. Also, travelers are often in the early stages of the planning process when they visit your website. This is a gold mine for data, from click throughs to bounce rates, and other behavior. While there is a tremendous amount of data you can draw from websites, start by focusing on key areas including visitors, shoppers and buyers. Visitors are people who come to your site, and you can tell how they got there, which is incredibly valuable. Shoppers stay awhile longer and click through to product and pricing pages or even check availability. You can easily track what visitors and shoppers are browsing on your website (pricing, reservations, availability, etc.). Buyers, also referred to as conversions, actually book a room or complete some other desired action such as signing up for newsletters. You can also measure what is driving revenue from buyers. For example, which packages and offers are performing or converting best can be broken down into different segments including geographic origin, market, traffic sources, keywords and more. Call Center Data: Manning the call center comes with an extra cost for hotels but don"t dismiss it just yet. In the new world of mobile browsing, we"re finding that the phone is going through a renaissance. People prefer to book via phone when they are browsing on a mobile device. While the cost to transact via phone is more expensive than the website, it"s much better than paying a third-party commission or having the consumer book via phone with a competitor. More on that in our next article. And, even the most archaic systems capture insights from callers so there is data to be collected! Connecting your call center to your website can be powerful. Relatively new, inexpensive and powerful tools enable the measurement of phone calls and associated bookings. We use sites such as CallTrackingMetrics.com, which is affordable (pricing as low as $30 per month). For additional resources, check out our blog. Consumer Profiles: Almost every hotel has some type of hosted email solution through a newsletter or database with permission for marketing purposes. These systems collect an array of demographic data and contact information. People who like your product enough to give you their information; is it mostly men or women? Where are they located? You can also collect booking data from previous guests. This is a great resource and, depending on what you find, you might come up with additional questions you want to ask your guests when they stay with you. For example, a Florida property can see when a large number of Floridians are staying, which might help the team decide when to target marketing efforts to locals and regional consumers. Ask yourself what you are looking for when analyzing these profiles. For example, are you interested in finding out when you should up your marketing efforts during the year? What are your top feeder markets? What is the composition of guests who stay with you? If you can hone in on these specific questions, it will help you make decisions about allocating those limited marketing dollars. Transactional Data: By analyzing credit card data from guests, you can monitor on-property spending for trends. Credit card data can also help you decide which loyalty programs you should consider partnering with, among other things. You can also purchase average household data from credit card companies to research your guests, finding out their average income and more. Survey Data: There are two types of data hoteliers can retrieve from surveys: quantitative (numbers) and qualitative (feelings). In order to collect this data, you can offer comment sections or surveys on your website, comment cards onsite at the hotel and even send guests a survey after their visit, encouraging them to share their experience on social media and review sites such as TripAdvisor. One of our favorite, and free, survey providers is SurveyMonkey.com. Publicly Available Data: Google controls 70 percent of all search in the United States. Since search is so important when it comes to travel planning, you can go to Google"s trends site (no cost!) to measure search trends about your industry, service, competition and more. The data is indexed and available in real time, while most CVB information is typically from the previous year. A good starting place would be to look at last year"s searches compared to this year, as it relates to your brand and category. We can search for bigger brands, such as our client Nassau Paradise Island, and slice the information by date searched, interest, city, state and country. We can also look at competitors to benchmark the findings. A smaller hotel might not be able to search for their name on Google Trends, but they can still research the market to see where they stand. For example, a hotel in Toronto can search the term "downtown Toronto." They can see if this s term has increased or decreased year-over-year and then compare it to their bookings. If the search is 20 percent down, but business has not decreased or increased, the hotel has maintained a solid position in the marketplace. Google Trends also recommends the top 10 related search terms that people look for when you input a search term. We recommend looking at these to come up with SEO ideas for your website. For example, if you were to search for "Orlando Travel" within the United Kingdom, the top related searches are travel-related (Disney, Orlando Hotels, etc.). However, if you were to search "Orlando Travel" within Brazil, only a few of the top 10 related terms are travel-related. A majority are shopping specific, which is popular for Brazilian travelers heading to Orlando. If the Brazilian consumer is your target, you"ll need to adjust your strategy. Trending, Reporting and Analysis You can easily spend hours, days reviewing all of this data. "Analysis paralysis," as we like to call it, is common and it"s easy to go down a rabbit hole without a strategic approach. Don"t stress! Look at your goals and break the data down by what is imperative for your business. Start with your brand and the category. Look at last year versus this year. From there you"ll see you can slice it many ways. Capture it in a way that makes it easy to review, and to add to it over time. We love Excel for this. Look at how the data is trending over time to identify weaknesses, opportunities and challenges. Make a few key benchmarks for yourself that you can track over time. For example, start by analyzing the overall number of calls per day compared to the number of bookings, or how guests" pay for their room. You"ll be amazed at how quickly valuable insights start to surface. We find that looking at these key factors helps you ask the right questions and dig deeper for answers. It also gives you the tools to quickly adjust your efforts, as needed. So, if you have a sharp drop in calls one day or your web conversions soar, you can figure out pretty quickly what is causing this change. Over time, you will be able to identify cause and effect for your marketing dollars, pricing, etc. What you measure, how it is organized and how it"s trending over time will help you make important decisions about allocating marketing dollars that will effectively drive business, instead of throwing spaghetti on the wall and hoping it sticks. Eric Schmidt, Google"s executive chairman, estimates that humans now create in two days the same amount of data that it took from the dawn of civilization to 2003 to create. - USA Today Transition to Big Data Congrats! You are on the path to big data. The transition from data to big data is really a function of available data and the tools and staffing utilized to manage them, and it"s important to remember that everything doesn"t need to happen at once. The critical part is setting up a system for collecting the right data and ensuring that you evolve and adjust based on findings, industry trends and the needs of your consumer. Listening to your consumers, and potential consumers, through the data is the key to success. Over time you will find the right mix of: Collection of multiple and growing datasets and details available related to your consumers, their behaviors, preferences, etc. Usage of tools/technology to integrate and manage the data including databases, dashboards, reports and analysis Staffing to support the channel: IT, analysts, organization wide buy-in (marketing, sales, operations, product development and more) Paying someone to help make your quantifiable data more efficient makes sense but, like any other business decision, you need to know it will add value. After you invest in a system, measure your profitability, margins and gross sales to determine success. There are many expensive ways to measure what"s on your website and, depending on the size of your hotel, this might not be an option. We recommend starting with the free solutions. When you start asking questions that they can"t answer, then it"s time to look at alternatives. Understanding your data will make it easier for you to understand the value of and make educated decisions about paid solutions. The Big Data Journey There has always been data. At some point we just start to call it "big." The lesson is that you can start small and simple with what you already have and will see the benefits from organizing, processing and analyzing it against your goals. Measure the things that are most important to your business and go deeper over time. The basic fundamentals of business still apply; balancing what you spend with revenue generated to maximize profit. You should always be aware of what you spend to drive business and how much revenue comes out of it. Every employee (not just the revenue team) should understand the data on some level and know how you are trending as a company, because they all play a role in your success. If everyone has an oar in the water, and they should understand where you are going so the boat keeps moving in the right direction. Steadily outpacing your competition, of course. Big Data is not an elusive destination. It's a journey, and the data you need to advance your business is available today. How will you put it to work for your hotel?