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Hotel Central Reservations Systems Software Articles

[PODCAST] Former Sabre Strategy Chief: Hotel Tech in Emerging Markets, Cyber Security in the Hotel Industry and the Future of GDS

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 month ago

Balaji Krishnamurthy was previously Chief Strategy Officer at Sabre Hospitality Solutions. Prior to this role, he was responsible for new market development efforts in Africa and China across Sabre’s three business units. Prior to Sabre, Krishnamurthy was at Orbitz Worldwide, a global online travel leader, where he led the global corporate strategy function for the diverse travel portfolio of B2C brands and B2B businesses. Before Orbitz, he was at LinkedIn in Silicon Valley, where he led North America sales strategy and operations for their Sales Solutions business. Krishnamurthy was a management consultant with McKinsey & Company for over five years, serving C-level executives on a diverse set of business-strategy, operations, and technology-related topics in financial services (asset management, retail banking, insurance), healthcare, high-tech, travel, and transportation sectors. Prior to management consulting, he spent over eight years with General Electric in different leadership and management roles across healthcare businesses focusing on global product management, development, and commercialization of several innovative healthcare technologies, imaging, and informatics products. Krishnamurthy is passionate about developing innovative new products, building new businesses, developing new markets, and fostering high-performing teams globally. He has spoken at many industry events on data science and analytics, including HITEC. Krishnamurthy graduated with an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, majoring in finance and strategy, and obtained his bachelor’s degree in electronics and communications engineering from Bangalore University.

An expert review: What you need to know about Sabre's SynXis CRS

by
Hotel Tech Report
3 months ago

Sabre Hospitality Solutions recently announced its completion of the Wyndham migration, closing out the years-long process after on-boarding La Quinta’s 900 properties. Wyndham’s 19 brands now operate with SynXis central reservations, joining the 40,000 properties across 160 countries that use the SynXis platform worldwide. So why choose SynXis for your central reservations solution? Let this Expert Review guide you as you evaluate Sabre’s SynXis CRS and how it aligns with your property’s objectives -- and how the central reservations piece fits into the rest of the SynXis Platform.   What SynXis CRS does: The platform proposition for direct bookings In today's hospitality technology marketplace, platforms are everywhere. Vendors want to be able to provide a comprehensive portfolio of complementary products that still leaves flexibility for a la carte usage. One of the main selling points of SynXis is that it can be molded to your property or brand’s needs, and can scale to accommodate emerging priorities. For example, you can start with one piece of the platform, such as central reservations, and then layer others over time. Or, you can drop the entire platform into your operations and transform your workflow. Sabre buckets its SynXis platform into four discrete objectives: driving direct bookings, optimizing distribution mix, managing the business, and increasing guest loyalty. This article focuses on the first part of this platform: driving direct bookings with SynXis CR central reservations and its associated Booking Engine, Digital Experience, and Voice Assistant. The central reservations tool manages reservations and rates; the booking engine drives direct bookings on desktop and mobile; the Digital Experience designs digital experiences for hotels; and Voice Assistant allows hotels to provide integrated voice support via Sabre call centers. SynXis Central Reservations (CR) is a rate, inventory, and reservations management solution that enables a finely-tuned distribution strategy individualized at the property level. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt to use a solution from a major player in the distribution space -- there’s a level of familiarity that hotels can expect from a solution provided by one of the major GDS. As laid out in the graphic below, the SynXis CR solution functions as the connectivity engine that powers a property’s revenue.     Who SynXis is for: The ideal customers and uses SynXis is built for scale. This structure means that the platform is best suited for mid-to-large scale brands and properties with more complex operations. Smaller independents will be better served with cloud-based central reservation systems built (and priced) for their needs.   Since SynXis is available in 8 languages, another ideal customer and use case is for a brand with international properties. Sabre has regional HQs in Montevideo, London, and Singapore, as well as field offices in most major cities, which means that your hotel is likely to have at least a regional support team. That’s a helpful thing to know for properties that prefer a global support team to a smaller vendor footprint. Having said that, at the time of writing, Sabre’s customer support rating on Hotel Tech Report is 3.8 out of 5 which is lower than comparables such as TravelClick iHotelier CRS (4.3) and Travel Tripper Reztrip CRS (4.7). For Quality Reservations, a brand with 280 hotel properties, SynXis’ global scope was a key differentiator when evaluating technology partners, says Quality Reservations’ Managing Director Carolin Brauer: “We needed a strategic partner that had the ability and knowledge to leverage travelers’ shopping and booking preferences while offering greater international reach and found such a provider with Sabre Hospitality Solutions. All without losing the regional variations in customers’ preferences when maximizing online bookings for each of our hoteliers.” After deploying the SynXis central reservation system, as well as the booking engine, Quality Reservations saw 20% increases in bookings and room nights, and a 32% jump in revenue. For brands of a certain size, there’s clearly a benefit to SynXis global scope. Let’s look at some of the most essential features, followed by a candid look at SynXis’ online reviews.   Five essential Sabre SynXis features Integrated revenue management controls SynXis CRS has very rudimentary revenue management capabilities built in, so you don’t need another vendor to optimize rates but you are advised to use one as firms like IDeaS, Duetto and Atomize specialize in rate optimization and profit maximization. SynXis offers real–time rate and inventory information across all channels, from a single system of record that these distributes rates effortlessly across over 400 online channels through direct GDS/IDS/switch connectivity. Given the fast pace of online channels in international markets, these types of integrated rate controls help hoteliers be more responsive to changing market conditions -- without the latency of a third-party integration or manual processing. And, with advanced revenue management strategies, such as Length of Stay Pricing, Dynamic Packages, Loyalty Program, Seasons, and Predictive Inventory, you can take control of revenue right from the CRS.     Optimized for tablets Many hotels are doing away with complete desktop systems at the front desk, preferring the slimmer footprint of tablet computers. The SynXis CRS system is optimized for tablets, allowing all of the same functionality. The UX is equally functional, enabling staff to touch and tap through the system.   OTA channel activation wizard Managing OTA connectivity can be a hassle. Activating new channels can take weeks, and then there’s time to test the connection to be sure everything works as it should. SynXis offers an OTA channel activation and management wizard from within the CRS. While this feature requires a Channel Connect agreement with Sabre, it’s a handy addition to the CRS that greatly reduces time and pain associated with independently managing your distribution channels. Channels can be added, removed, and edited from a single screen, so you can individualize distribution with less stress and headache. The Channel Connect feature connects to nearly 600 OTA channels, allowing you to manage pricing at the channel level.     Refreshed design and updated UX Sabre has made great strides over the past couple of years on the UX front. The dated legacy design is nearly fully sunsetted in favor of a modern, card-based user interface that’s easy to navigate and much easier on the eyes. No longer does the software look like a nightmare from the days of 90s legacy software -- an important point for hotels looking to avoid alienating younger staff with outdated technology. Great design improves the staff experience, so staff can get the information they need and complete the tasks required to maintain a consistently great guest experience.  Despite these improvements, users on Hotel Tech Report rate Sabre Synxis CRS usability and design slightly lower than comparable products at 4.2 out of 5 versus a 4.3 for Travel Tripper Reztrip CRS and 4.6 rating for TravelClick iHotelier CRS (view side-by-side ratings comparison).   Dynamic packages Incremental revenues can be the silver bullet that helps you hit your revenue targets. The SynXis CRS has a simple setup for packages, which allows your team to build unique packages that can then be sold right in your website’s booking flow. Packages can be attached to a specific rate plan or room type so that you can build a menu of appealing add-ons for guests.   Once the packages are created and pushed live, guests will be offered new options as they check out. This is where the value of the platform comes into play -- you’ll need SynXis Booking Engine to fully take advantage of these dynamic reservation add-ons. You can see how that would look below. If you’d prefer not to have guests book these add-ons during check out, you’ll see additional options in the Booking Engine.       SynXis CRS pricing Like any platform, pricing depends on which solutions are used across how many properties. Here are a few key points on pricing when it comes to SynXis: Monthly subscription: You’ll pay a per-property monthly subscription fee based on your customized package. Depending on which integrations you have (such as a per property fee for 2-way PMS integration), and functionality (such as channel management, rate insights, etc), this pricing adds up. It’s one of the reasons why smaller hotels are better served by an “all-in-one” solution that meets their needs without increasing price. GDS fees: Of course, you’ll pay a fee to whichever GDS partner sources a booking. This won’t change as a Sabre customer; although larger properties and brands have much more leverage to negotiate an overall package that includes lower GDS commissions in return for using more of Sabre’s technology. Here’s a pricing example: If your average booking is 1.5 nights at $100 per, then your "direct commission" to Sabre is 5/150 or 3.3%. That’s just to facilitate your own bookings without including the subscription fee, PMS integration, etc. Now add the channel connect fee of $2.50/reservation and any OTA commissions and it is looking even more bleak. If you go with a provider, such as SiteMinder or Cloudbeds, you’ll pay a flat fee. SiteMinder is $75/month, meaning that you’re better off there if your hotel has more than 30 OTA bookings per month. IDS fee: There’s also a per reservation charge for connecting to the Internet Distribution Fee, which can range upwards of $9.25. And, for reservations that go through third-parties, there can be an associated Channel Connect fee as well. Booking engine: Not all providers charge a fee for bookings through a hotel’s direct channel. These per-reservation fees add up quickly: 250 keys at 85% occupancy and 1.5 length of stay, can cost $710 per month just to facilitate the direct channel! This doesn’t even include the subscription, cost to build and maintain your website or any paid advertising used to bring in that direct business. As you can see, pricing is a major impediment for hotels of a certain size. SynXis really thrives in larger environments where it can provide the cost savings and productivity boost that justify its higher cost.   Areas for improvement For quick reference, here are a few areas for improvement, as perceived by both our expert opinion and candid SynXis user reviews shared on Hotel Tech Report. There’s also some interesting nuggets unearthed from the always-rich TalesFromTheFrontDesk on Reddit. Manual involvement: For certain hotels that don’t have Channel Manager or that are using the standard SynXis CR without add-ons, there may be some overbooking issues related to channel management, per this review: “I guess our night guy didn't know to call SynXis and have them take us offline on the 3rd party websites, and it just kept piling up. He would cancel, the rooms would look open again, and it was a loop. From stories of guests so far this morning, he had a lobby full of disgruntled guests without a place to go all night.” Another HTR reviewer mentioned manual involvement when discussing adding new features: “[I’d like] access to more items to do on your own as opposed to waiting for customer service to do it for you.”   Reliability: Uptime and system availability are frequently reported issues. While anecdotal, the reports are worth mentioning. A Hotel Tech Report review from March 18, 2018, said that there are “lots of outages, delays and poor customer support. The system seems to be degrading instead of improving.” Security: Two years ago, Sabre did report a breach of its systems, telling Forbes that “less than 15 percent of the average daily bookings on the Sabre Hospitality Solutions reservation system [...] were viewed.” It appears that the issues have since been addressed, but we’d be remiss in not mentioning it. Be sure to grill you sales rep on security!   Conclusions: Should you consider SynXis? Overall, Sabre’s SynXis is a powerful platform with ambitions to stretch across departments. For larger properties, corporate hotels, and multi-brand groups, the scope and scale of this ambition aligns with their needs. Having said that, products such as Reztrip and iHotelier have gained a ton of ground on Sabre and are versatile alternatives for both small independents and large hotel groups alike.  There’s also an ongoing investment to improve Sabre Hospitality Solutions’ University training portal, which includes videos, progress trackers and printable guides for sharing tips with colleagues. These efforts will help reduce on-boarding time and keep everyone up-to-speed on the technology. For smaller and to some extent mid sized properties, proceed with caution and really push the sales team to put down in writing how they intend to value your business with customer support guarantees and trainings. You’ll be a small fish in a big pond, and that’s not always the best place to be with a mission-critical system like a CRS. All that being said, you absolutely must have a CRS! It’s an essential piece of managing a hospitality business in a digital world. So, for those who can afford it (and are able to navigate the corporate environment of a massive vendor), there’s a strong ROI proposition from Sabre. The cost isn’t cheap but if you have both the budget and the internal buy-in, then it’s worth it. Remember that the front desk can be a busy place -- there’s always another guest to serve, another issue to handle.  The key is to select software that staff want to use each day, that’s easy to use, easy to train on and has top notch customer support. The CRS should function without fail, effectively and accurately distributing inventory to the right channels at the right prices, and then slingshotting reservations into the PMS seamlessly. When staff spends hours each day staring at a screen, be sure that the tool removes barriers and eliminates frustrations -- and doesn’t become a source of frustration itself. The question that remains is how Sabre will help you effectively on-board the new solution, and keep your team engaged and willing to give it enough patience and attention. A successful rollout of any new tech requires a partnership between client and vendor -- so be sure that you’re confident in that partnership before signing that contract!

Why these 3 hotel groups love Travel Tripper's RezTrip CRS

by
Hotel Tech Report
3 weeks ago

In our Product Deep Dive series, we go deep into one solution to help hoteliers evaluate and assess the best software for their specific situations. Vetting vendors is an intensive process. It starts with the discovery phase, where online research and consultations with colleagues inform the initial list of promising companies. Next, that list is whittled down after deeper dives into individual products, watching demos, and likely speaking with individual vendors. Finally, the selection happens -- and the truth eventually reveals itself. After implementation, and a few months of using the service, you’ll revisit and evaluate. Was it the right decision? For the following hotels, the answer was a decisive ‘yes’ after choosing a new central reservation system. When discussing the search process with Travel Weekly, Brian Christensen, the corporate VP of revenue management and distribution for American Casino & Entertainment Properties, noted that his team “spent a lot of time on discovery” and “looked at some of the best.” The vendor evaluation process is a deliberative marathon that results in a decision with wide-reaching organizational implications. With that in mind, it's instructive to consider why hotels select one vendor over another. These insights may accelerate your own decision process when selecting a new central reservation system for your hotel. Here's why these hotel groups selected Travel Tripper’s RezTrip CRS.   Meriton Group: Optimized for direct bookings on both mobile and desktop Over the past two years, hotels have become acutely aware of rising commission payouts to intermediaries. To increase direct bookings -- and reduce reliance on third-parties -- many hotels have focused their online efforts on simplicity and clarity. When potential guests can make a decision as quickly as possible, it enhances the search experience and leads to stronger performance in the direct channel for hotels. When comparing CRS providers, Meriton Serviced Apartments sought an integrated system that would power a shift from high-commission OTA channels to direct bookings on both desktop and mobile. After implementing RezTrip CRS, and its smart rate and revenue management tools, Meriton enjoyed a significant spike in direct business, says Matthew Thomas, Group General Manager of Meriton Serviced Apartments. “Our direct bookings instantly increased once we launched RezTrip across our portfolio of hotels. The newly enhanced mobile version has enabled us to capture the growing global shift towards mobile-device made bookings.” To successfully capture more mobile bookings, hotels must address consumer reluctance to purchase on mobile devices. The comScore Mobile Hierarchy report explored the “m-commerce gap,” or the disconnect between time and money spent on mobile.   For hotels that want to drive more mobile bookings, this disconnect highlights some key hurdles to overcome, such as improving navigation and providing more detailed product information. After evaluating all options, the Meriton team felt that the Travel Tripper technology excelled. It made the mobile experience just as easy to use as on desktop, and effectively translated hotel’s engaging imagery to the smaller screen. Functionality: More direct bookings through an integrated booking engine optimized for conversion on both mobile and desktop Business impact: Since launching with Travel Tripper in summer 2016, Meriton has experienced significant uplift in conversion rates across its properties, particularly in its mobile channel, where it is using RezTrip’s recently redesigned mobile booking engine.   Mayfair Hotel: Conversion-optimized booking flow By 2020, Euromonitor predicts that 44% of sales will be made online in the travel industry -- more than any other industry. With such a massive share of commerce occurring through digital channels, hotels must implement conversion-optimized reservation systems to compete.     When the Mayfair, a boutique hotel in Miami, began evaluating new central reservation systems, the mandate was clear: Replace the existing clunky booking technology, with its poor usability, small images, and hard-to-read descriptions. Rich content engages guests, and so the hotel’s new solution had to be modern, usable, and emphasize the unique appeal of the property’s elegant, understated style. In addition to featuring bolder, more prominent images, rooms should be easy to browse, select, and book. Mayfair wanted a streamlined booking flow that didn't take too long to complete. RezTrip’s two-step process fulfilled this objective, resulting in more lookers converting to bookers on Mayfair’s website. Functionality: Simplified browsing with rich content, and a booking flow streamlined into two steps to optimize conversion across devices; Business impact: Mayfair saw an 84% increase in year-over-year website revenue, alongside a 76% increase in direct bookings and a 60% increase in conversion rates.   Stratosphere: OTA-like rate controls Despite intensive marketing efforts by hotels, direct bookings remain flat. To succeed in earning more direct bookings, hotels must mirror some of these platform’s most favorable features. Consumers turn to OTAs because of usability and utility. This is especially true on mobile, which is perceived as easier to use with instant updates, discounts and streamlined search and booking.     Another growing threat to direct bookings is metasearch, which also offers finely-tuned mobile experiences, such as Google’s new combined flight/hotel user experience. To compete for bookings, hotels need more granular rate controls that level the playing field with both OTAs and meta. As a casino and resort located in Las Vegas, the Stratosphere has many rooms spread across multiple room types, and, given its size, has high volume and multiple sources of revenue. The resort’s local market is also extremely competitive and prone to demand fluctuations, which requires more precise revenue optimization to adapt to changing dynamics. To improve the precision of its revenue management in the direct channel, the Stratosphere team prioritized the ability to personalize rates and offers with best-rate guarantees, strikethrough bookings, room countdowns and geo-targeted rates with Dynamic Pricing Rules. This functionality allows the hotel to do things like include breakfast in rates displayed to European travelers. With more control over individual rates and personalized offers, the hotel was able to enhance its revenue management capabilities. Functionality: Granular rate controls, such as Dynamic Pricing Rules with geo-targeting, as well as urgency messaging such as Stricter pricing and “rooms remaining” countdowns. Business impact: The stratosphere Hotel doubled the conversion rate within four months of integrating RezTrip CRS. Learn more about Reztrip CRS and Booking Engine screenshots   RezTrip is an integrated solution that drives targeted results TravelTripper’s RezTrip is a trifecta: a robust central reservation system, an integrated booking engine, and a comprehensive distribution solution. It combines these three important tools into one coordinated e-commerce platform which gives hotels greater control over how rates are merchandised and distributed. The CRS connects directly to your hotel’s property management system, keeping reservation details, availability, and rates up-to-date without manual intervention. The outcomes are impressive. Meriton Serviced Apartments achieved an increase in direct bookings by switching to Reztrip's mobile-optimized booking engine. Reztrip also optimizes revenue across other key channels, as the single reservation system that connects to OTAs, GDS, metasearch, and even call centers. Mayfair leveraged RezTrip’s intuitive and elegant interface booking flow to increase website revenue 84% year-over-year. The integrated booking engine’s customizability allowed the hotel to build a powerful solution that met their exacting specifications. The Stratosphere more than doubled the conversion rate on its website, relying on geo-targeted Dynamic Pricing Rules and integrated rate matching to convert more lookers to bookers. Other features that improve conversions include automated email retargeting, strikethrough pricing, and “rooms remaining” countdowns. Inspired to experience RezTrip? Click here to learn more.

This is why hotel brands shouldn't build tech in house

by
Hotel Tech Report
2 months ago

When enterprise companies spend loads of money on technology they usually think about building tech in house so they can have more control over development and ultimately save money.  Sometimes this equation favors building tech in house and other times it does not. Several high profile failures in the hotel industry include a collaboration amongst all major hotel groups to create an online booking platform called Room Key which was eventually shuttered.  We’ll discuss this initiatives and more in detail below. Most sophisticated enterprise companies (think Nike and McDonalds) understand that they are not tech companies so they effectively outsource their tech R&D spend to 3rd parties that are focused on innovation.  Could McDonalds build software to help franchisees manage their listings? Yes, but they partner with Yext.  Nike could definitely build prototyping software in house for its digital products, but it chooses to partner with InVision.  Firms like Nike and McDonalds have become innovators by being experts at identifying trends and partnering with top tech companies to meet their core business goals. So the question is, if McDonalds and Nike outsource their respective technology needs - should hospitality companies really be building tech in house? We believe that when hotel brands try to build tech in house it ultimately brings them into precarious waters, here's why: 1. They lack the resources to compete with pure play technology companies 2. Hotel brands usually underestimate the ongoing effort required to maintain and scale a technology business (let alone multiple business lines and products)   Hospitality companies don't have the resources to compete with tech companies. Charles Schwab is a massive financial institution worth more than $60B.  The firm could easily build custom marketing automation solutions for the business but they choose to work with with Marketo because they know that Marketo will be able to innovate over the long run.  Even Citrix and Microsoft, technology companies themselves, use Marketo’s marketing technology so that they can focus on their core businesses. IDeaS, a popular revenue management software company and it’s parent company SAS just announced a 3-year plan to invest $1B in artificial intelligence.  SAS is a company that deeply understands the power of focus and investing in its core competencies. "If I want to host a SaaS application, I choose a cloud host. If I want to manufacture a consumer product, I partner with a company like Foxconn. If I need delivery for my restaurant I work with a delivery company. Yet, brands without a technology focus still believe it will be cheaper and more effective to build their own software internally when history has shown us, time after time, that these projects will be over budget, unsustainable, and competitively weaker than the professional tech products in the market." ~Adam Harris, CEO, Cloudbeds The median publicly traded software company spends 23% of revenue on R&D with many high growth firms spending 50% of revenue.  It’s hard to imagine that even Marriott could afford the spend levels to develop one competitive product let alone multiple product lines that compete with a myriad of different specialist software businesses.   Technology is not a static good. Sophisticated enterprise companies buy into the future of a tech product as much as the present. Technology requires immense amounts of capital to scale and increasing investments to remain competitive.  Technology requires even more upkeep than hotels. Where hotels build up their capital reserves and renovate roughly every 5-7 years, tech companies are constantly “renovating” their products daily through product sprints.  When enterprise companies “buy” tech they are partnering with tech companies for the future as much as selecting products for the present. The reason that the SaaS business model (recurring subscriptions) aligns value so well between buyers and sellers is because the product is constantly being reinvented so it forces tech companies to maintain their end of the bargain.  When you sign up for SaaS (software as a service) you are not only signing up for the product today but you’re buying into its roadmap for the future. Hotel companies that try to build tech in house are rarely prepared for the constant investment required to maintain let alone scale products and keep up with the ongoing massive investment, iteration and innovation of tech firms. So what does history tell us about hotel companies who have miscalibrated this decision? Starwood was bought by Marriott for $13B and itself has taken huge losses on technology investments when they were no longer able to invest enough to remain competitive. According to Starwood’s (now Marriott) 2015 10K filing, the firm took a $6M charge for “technology related costs and expenses that were no longer deemed recoverable.”  Go back further to Starwood’s 2013 annual filing for stockholders and you’ll find a $19M charge related to “technology related expenses” that the firm “decided to absorb” because they couldn’t collect from managed and franchise properties.     When we draw the analogy between maintaining software and maintaining a hotel, Starwood was effectively unable to properly renovate its technology and investors paid for it.  Every hotelier knows what happens when you let a property go too long without renovation and the same happens when software isn’t maintained properly. Similar to Starwood building tech in house and having trouble maintaining the infrastructure, Choice created Skytouch PMS internally with the vision of transforming the tech market and has similarly struggled. “In 2014, it [Skytouch] generated a net loss to the company of up to $20 million. Investors have pressured Choice to either make SkyTouch profitable, sell it, or close it down.” Choice stopped reporting the results of its Skytouch division and now includes those results within its “Corporate & Other” expense line (pg. 102 of Choice 2018 10K filing). So while Choice no longer gives updates on how Skytouch is doing - it is highly inprobable that a company like Choice would decide to include the a business unit as an expense line if that unit was doing well.  In addition to the Skytouch debacle, we've also heard that Choice is winding down its Choice Labs innovation division.  Accor, too, recently reported a $288M write-off on tech investments such as AirBnB competitor Onefinestay and concierge service John Paul. Accor even tried to sell it’s distribution to independents and shuttered the project after 2 years, here’s what happened in the words of Accor’s own spokesperson. “This initiative is no longer relevant in regards to the Group’s strategy and its new profile as per today.  Results are below expectations” Accor wanted to plug independents into its massive distribution which in theory could add a ton of value if executed well and even that didn’t work. Even when all the big hotel groups banded together to build the online booking platform Room Key they failed (Choice, Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental, Marriott, Wyndham) - isn’t it time that hotel companies learned this lesson? Even Booking.com had to shut down it’s hotel software operations after some high profile acquisitions - a testament to how tough the business really is.   Conclusion: Hotel brands shouldn’t build tech - they should get better at buying it The lesson here is clear - hotel brands need to focus on what they do best.  They should leverage their scale and clout to secure great service and attention from tech partners. It’s up to franchisees and investors to ensure that operators stay focused. Hotel brands have insanely complex businesses managing many stakeholders who often have conflicting interests.  The business of running a hotel is a huge feat both operationally and from a revenue/distribution perspective. "Because the skepticism exists and because tech can take long, hoteliers reach the wrong conclusion. They decide to build instead of buy. I have witnessed a transformation in travel tech. Increasingly, hotels are embracing the rules of comparative advantage and are embracing tech where they can move fast, learn fast and benefit quickly." ~Alexandra Zubko (former IHG Lead Strategist) Because of these factors, hotel companies who want to succeed in the digital age should be experts at technology procurement and management.  Historically hotel brands have been very weak when it comes to technology procurement and management so many have tried to compensate for that weakness by building tech products in house. Unfortunately this strategy often leads to write-offs, burning piles of cash and consequently the executives who lead these disastrous projects being pushed out. "Great technology products enable a valuable job to be done to be easily performed with maximum success and consistent results. With the blistering pace at which the world is changing, our expectations change. That means jobs to be done change. And that means software needs to rapidly iterate and evolve. That is why the world is headed to simple, modular solutions that can nail jobs to be done as they evolve. The smartest brands know that to create compelling and lasting technology advantage, it’s now about identifying and bringing best-in-class interoperable solutions together into powerful system that gives lasting advantage.  From a cost, resource, time to market and life time value perspective, you’ll waste literally millions of dollars even before calculating the opportunity cost. Brands need to get amazing at hand-picking and investing in their strategic technology partners who are proven to design, build and iterate the purpose-built software hotels require, so they can then focus on delighting guests, growing locations and enhancing the value of their networks for franchisees." ~Marc Heyneker, CEO @ Revinate   Large enterprise brands have some clear motivations: (1) They want to expand to more and more hotels worldwide, and be able to do so quickly and efficiently. That means needing a consistent stack of solid technology that can be deployed, enabled and operationalized to run and add those hotels to the overall system. (2) They want to proudly position their Technology Stacks and enabled programs as unique value-adds that differentiate their Brand and their Brand value. So they can both convince Owners why they’re better, and monetize and justify their Brand fees in an age where consumer preference for brands is in decline. This sometimes gives large enterprises the false sense of belief that they need to build their own. In fact, building your own puts both goals in jeopardy, almost immediately. These multi-million dollar, multi-year, multi-faceted technology projects become sinkholes for capital investment, anchors to business progress and optimization, and turn into tough write-downs as we saw in the examples above. Hotel brands should instead be focused on rethinking their technology organizations to be better buyers and managers.  Corporate hotel purchasing units have historically focused on price negotiations and software customization (i.e. product roadmap hijacking) but in order for brands to thrive in today’s hyper competitive markets they are in need of a massive strategy shift. Red Lion Hotels Corporation is one such company that has taken a deep look at how it buys technology and optimizes its tech stack. Red Lion Hotels Corporation CIO John Edwards shared his firm's approach to technology vendor selection with Hotel Tech Report. "At RLHC, we have been able to establish ourselves as leaders in hospitality innovation by focusing on what we do best: finding the right technology partners to create solutions that meet our hotel’s needs. We believe that is the fastest way to change the technical landscape in our industry.  RLabs and Canvas Integrated Systems were created to house our already existing technology and innovation solutions, which provide customized best-in-class solutions for our hotels. Our tech stack includes well known industry solutions such as IDeaS, Opera, & WindSurfer as well as new industry solutions such as Monscierge and HAPI." Digitally savvy hotel owners want technological choice and they want the procurement benefits that brands command with scale.  The brand development teams that win in the digital age will be the ones who are able to deliver choice to owners around which technology vendors to use, the scale that comes with warehousing and leveraging data from that warehouse and the cost benefits that come from bundled negotiations with vendors.   Recommendations to hotel brands who want tech to be a core differentiator 1. Map out clear technology systems required to deliver on core business goals and all potential providers 2. Lay foundational infrastructure for open systems and clean data Design scalable processes to constantly beta test competitive products in the market and identify new products that can drive core business goals. 3. Set aside designated resources for technology management. Hotel groups should maintain a vendor CRM and dedicated staff for managing vendor relationships. This staff should also be tasked with collecting market insights and sharing new technological developments as well as vendor status updates on a regular basis with leadership. 4. Set clear and tangible KPIs with each vendor that must be met in order to retain the contract (e.g. customer support response time) Create clear roadmaps for switching systems in the event that suppliers do not deliver on KPIs 5. Invest in tech startups that fit your strategic criteria above! Highgate (invested in Stay Wanderful, Travel Tripper, LodgIQ, OTA Insight) and CitizenM (invested in Snapshot, exited to Shiji) have been incredibly successful executing on this strategy. They put strategic money to work then derisk their investments by giving those startups proof of concept in their properties. 6. For hotel companies that don't have the resources to start a fund internally like them there are great strategic venture capital firms that are focused on real estate and can do the heavy lifting for you - check out Metaprop VC and Fifth Wall Ventures. Investing enables you to gain access to innovation and lend your expertise without snuffing out the creativity. Leadership is about investing in great people and trusting them to do the work, not about micromanaging every aspect of the process yourself.

"Super Angel" Dave Berkus on the convergence of PMS, CRS and hotel CRM

by
Hotel Tech Report
4 months ago

Dave Berkus knows hospitality technology more than nearly anyone. Back in the early 1980s, his company, Computerized Lodging Systems, dominated the nascent hospitality technology market with one of the first electronic Property Management Systems on the market. The immediate popularity of the technology resulted in rapid growth for the company, which was recognized on the Inc 500 list -- twice. Dave also created FOSSE, the property management system technology that Marriott used for almost 36 years. Today, there are over 700 property management systems for hotels. With such a dense thicket of choices, it's hard to imagine the early days of hospitality technology. These are the days when only a few players dominated, offering truly game-changing solutions that defined how hotels began using technology to operate more efficiently and profitably. Dave is also an accomplished angel investor, having achieved an impressive 97% internal rate of return from over 150 investments to date. His Wayfare Ventures unites five partners from AIG, TAJ Hotel Group and Starwood, alongside a board of accomplished travel industry veterans, to make early stage investments in travel technology startups. Hotel Tech Report’s Jordan Hollander recently enjoyed a wide-ranging conversation with Dave on the Hotel Tech Insider podcast, where the two discussed how Dave’s history in hospitality technology has shaped the way he sees the industry today. These are the most pertinent themes that reveal how this hospitality technology luminary sees the future of hotel tech, as well as what he looks for when evaluating both ideas and entrepreneurs for investment.   The future of the PMS With so many property management solutions competing for business, it's hard to envision a post-PMS future. Yet, this future is coming, Berkus says, due to the increased importance of the Central Reservation System. The CRS owns the guest name record, which has made it more of a centralized source of data than the PMS: The PMS systems are, for the chains at least, becoming increasingly less important, as they handle right now in-house functions only. Berkus notes that the cloud PMS companies of today are likely to be the players who evolve these CRS like capabilities so while he believes that their technology will remain a core piece of the tech stack, he believes that what it means to be a PMS will change more in the next 5-10 years than in the last 20 years combined. Guest history has shifted to the CRS, while the PMS has transitioned into a fully operational role for specific properties. As hotels have both consolidated and established micro-brands, the CRS naturally became the way to share guest preferences across the portfolio. The centralization of data cemented the role of the CRS at the center of modern data-driven personalization and marketing strategies. says Berkus:   Big Data's being used in very important ways but certainly not just from the PMS system anymore. The question then is: if the CRS could potentially supplant the PMS as the source of all-important guest data, will we need a PMS system in the future? Berkus says yes but the legacy PMS companies will be forced to innovate and more specifically open up their architecture to become platforms themselves because CRS, CRM and even Revenue Management companies of today have the requisite data necessary to become the center of the tech stack according to Berkus. Eventually, Berkus sees most hotels relying on a single cloud-based system that aggregates all functionality into one flow, which reduces errors and increases accuracy as it doesn't require passing information around multiple systems. A hybrid PMS/CRS/CRM solution means a single guest record that enables better, more accurate personalization. The consolidation of functionality also simplifies the tech stack and should help hotels effectively use existing data to power personalization at the individual guest level. A unified tech stack unleashes the full power of data-driven decision making, which will soon be table stakes for how hotels everywhere compete. Rather than relying on incomplete sets of data, hoteliers can constantly make decisions based on the holistic view. A unified tech stack can also be achieved through seamless integrations and Berkus says that “there will always be best of breed solutions in various categories.” This vision will take a while to achieve, and so the PMS will continue to play a critical role for hotel operations: If we look ahead ten years, it would be easy to see a single cloud-based system integrating everything from CRM to reservations to the accounting functions at the properties, all the way through all forms of marketing and follow-through. Even with this view, Berkus sees the potential for category leaders to dominate specific verticals, while still providing the essential services necessary to run a hotel. For example, revenue management, which may be a feature of a CRS or a standalone solution -- all depending on how an individual property derives its revenue, and the sophistication of its revenue generation strategies. Part of the problem, he says, is that people confuse hotel tech with quality hotel tech: just because a hotel has a system doesn't mean that it is a good system. For Berkus, this means that the hospitality technology industry has plenty of dynamism ahead of it and he believes that it’s far from maturity.   The transformative power of analytics For Berkus, the primary reason for the PMS’ uncertain future is due to its isolation from data and analytics. Even the most integrated systems have challenges when it comes to gathering data from disparate sources into a unified view. Even so, it’s the analytics on top of all of this data that drives profitable hospitality today. Whichever technology hotel uses, It must facilitate the types of analysis that drive “more capable decisions,” across the organization, says Berkus: Analytics are everything. The most important single change that's going to come is the fact that every piece of data that arrives at the central source will be analyzed. You're going to find that more capable decisions will be made to maximize revenue...based upon AI and data analytics. That's your future. The unsaid implications here is that hotels with a sub-par data and analytics approach will be left behind. Hospitality has become not just about the guest-facing product but also the hidden back-end of intelligent data capture and analysis. The top performers will effectively oscillate between analyzing the data and making clear improvements based on this analysis.   The data-driven hotel GM As data and analytics move to the core of a hotel’s operation, general managers must evolve their skill sets to match. While operations will never cease to be a part of a hotel general managers role, success in this role is increasingly about the ability to enhance profitability by effectively translating data analytics into actionable initiatives. Currently, GMs have a steep learning curve to build muscle memory around analyzing large amounts of data from disparate sources. As machines become more capable of doing the analysis on their own, the best GMs will be able to take action on the analysis presented by the tools to increase profitability, Berkus predicts: A manager has to be able to add value by adding revenue and by increasing guest satisfaction. Those two things are not necessarily the operational things that a manager today normally concentrates on. Marketing also matters more to the GM of the future. As marketing campaigns become data-focused, GMs will engage more deeply with their marketing teams to leverage a data-driven approach to spend marketing dollars more efficiently. It's all about the relevant message consumed in the right context, as GMs seek to add value in new ways.   Sourcing true pain points from sales and marketing Berkus is an active angel investor, and his recent announcement of Wayfare Ventures brings his focus to travel technology. When it comes to developing an idea, Berkus sees real value in entrepreneurs solving true pain points rather than perceived problems: I love it when somebody in marketing or sales develops a company and says “I feel the pain” and let's try and solve the need. As opposed to what I see most often, which is an engineer says I really got an idea and I'm going to make that idea work. The contrarian view is noteworthy in its opposition to the engineer-focused view espoused by many investors and technologists. Part of this view comes from the plummeting costs of cloud computing, as well as the prevalence of APIs which make it simpler to plug into an existing ecosystem without having to build as much technical infrastructure. Differentiation comes less from tech and more from truly knowing the problem and having clarity around what needs to be solved -- rather than building a technically-flawless solution that misses the mark and fails to gain traction because it doesn't solve an actual problem. An early-stage solution that solves a real problem for a specific segment sells itself and helps a startup gain traction at a lower cost. It’s expensive to convince people that a product solves a non-existent problem.   Market trends poised for investment As far as trends in the market that have potential, Berkus points to artificial intelligence, robotics, and data analytics as three disruptive forces. However, things change fast. Apps are no longer the hot commodity they once were. Today’s opportunities are all about AI, robots, and data analytics. When evaluating the most exciting opportunities for investment, Berkus expands his view to encompass all of travel technology. This expanded view allows him to see opportunities from the interconnectedness of the travel and hospitality industries, which is a core part of the thesis at Wayfare Ventures. It all comes down to using modern technology to find new revenue that may not have been easy to uncover in the past. Whatever it be, there are opportunities now for revenue that weren't easily available in the past but are today. But the whole point is if guest satisfaction goes up and guests are able to do things they couldn't do before, like order a meal from text, then you're going to have better revenue and more satisfaction.   Enjoy the full podcast episode here. Outside of the points covered above, Berkus shares the fascinating foundational story of the first property and yield management tools for hotels.

Smart technology buyers judge companies by capabilities not number of employees

by
Hotel Tech Report
2 months ago

Unseasoned technology buyers often make the assumption that the biggest companies have the best products.  It’s not a terrible assumption when you think about it. After all, didn’t the biggest companies become so big by delivering great products to clients? There’s the old adage that “nobody gets fired for buying a Xerox” - doesn’t that still hold true? It’s true that big companies often get big by delivering great service to clients but technology changes so quickly that assuming ‘bigger = better’ can lead technology buyers into precarious waters.  When companies get to a certain size, they risk losing focus on customer relationships. Many massive companies, especially in hotel tech, have become synonymous with poor customer service. Think about the last time you called your CRS vendor because the system went down but they don’t reply for 48-hours - that’s a major problem.  Similarly, when engineering team grows to a certain size, the company’s products become plagued with feature bloat. Teams become more and more disparate which makes working on the same product a disaster if the organization isn’t managed properly. Big companies are also notoriously susceptible to disruption from smaller and more nimble firms. This isn’t to say that everyone should go jump into bed with the startup down the street.  The most savvy buyers know to look for the most innovative vendors who have achieved product market fit, are innovating quickly and will become the giants of tomorrow.  Travel Tripper is a firm that has proven itself in the market, is innovating at a rapid clip and still maintains strong relationships with clients through world-class customer support.  Don’t take our word for it, read what verified Travel Tripper customers are saying.  Perhaps that’s why hoteliers have rated Travel Tripper’s CRS #1 in the world for 2 years in a row.  The firm has recently expanded its offerings through a highly praised merger with Pegasus so we sat down with Travel Tripper president Gautam Lulla to get a behind-the-scenes perspective on what’s to come. The important thing for hotels to remember is not to judge tech vendors by the size of the company, but by the quality and capabilities of their product and their dedication to customer service.  ~ Gautam Lulla Prior to launching Travel Tripper, Gautam worked at hotel tech giant Amadeus so he has seen the inner workings of both startups and massive enterprise in the space.  He also began his career working in hotel operations and eventually corporate hospitality where he developed unique insights about the hotel tech vendor landscape before jumping in himself.   As with many great businesses, Travel Tripper’s founding team created the business to solve real-world problems that they were experiencing.  After working with several distribution and marketing technology vendors, the leadership team at Highgate Hotels wasn’t impressed by the results they achieved and thought they could do it better, so they launched Travel Tripper.  It turns out that they were right -- now hotels around the world are knocking on Travel Tripper’s door to tap their knowledge, technology and services. We are lucky to have caught Gautam in the midst of his integration between Pegasus and Travel Tripper, which he calls a highly synergistic transaction.   Gautam Lulla Travel Tripper's NYC Headquarters   What does the Travel Tripper-Pegasus merger mean for clients? It’s important for us to emphasize that as a combined company, no capabilities or services will be lost. In fact, exactly the opposite is the case. The driving force behind the merger was our complementary set of strengths, from our product offerings to our customer base. In this case, 1 + 1 really does = 3! To illustrate, Pegasus has always been uniquely and natively built for enterprise hotel chains and have more experience serving chains than any other business in the history of the hospitality industry. Additionally, Pegasus has a long and proven record of helping hotels increase corporate business with their Corporate Sales Representation Services, offering instant connections to 800+ corporations and 30+ consortia and TMCs.  Additionally, the recent introduction of Pegasus Business Intelligence Platform gives Revenue Managers the ability to turn their raw data into actionable information to positively affect their bottom line. Travel Tripper has built its reputation among independent hotels and casinos with its powerful CRS, e-commerce, and digital marketing solutions, which work together to help hotels grow their overall business while maximizing revenues in their direct channel. Combining this strong suite of products means that we can now offer existing customers and prospects a broader range of solutions tailored to their needs. What is Accel-KKR's thesis behind the new infusion of capital? Accel-KKR is a company that invests in high-growth technology companies in many verticals and different industries, not just hospitality. The primary thesis for their investment was the recognition that both Travel Tripper and Pegasus were two companies with a similar DNA of innovation and top-notch customer service, as well as complementary sets of strengths in our product offerings and customer base. They believe that they can provide us the infrastructure and support to help take our combined company to the next level. What was your background prior to launching Travel Tripper? I started my career in the hotel industry with Taj Hotels in India, where I was introduced to the world of hotel technology, after spending about a year or so in the front office. As Electronic Marketing Manager, I was responsible for managing the usage of our central reservation system as well as building and strengthening relationships with our CRS providers. I was also responsible for growing the GDS business. Subsequently, I joined Pegasus Solutions in Scottsdale, Arizona as a Product Manager and stayed there for about two years. It is where I learned all about the the workings of a CRS, and what better place to learn it than at Pegasus. It was the clear leader in the space with no competitor even a close second to Pegasus. Later on, I accepted an offer from Amadeus in France to join their e-commerce team. Hotel booking engines were a part of the portfolio, however as a GDS company it was not economically viable for hotels to pay GDS transaction fees on top of CRS fees for their direct booking channel. But Amadeus decided to invest in Hotel IT solutions, with the intent of replicating their success in Airline IT. I subsequently moved from France to the United States and continued with Amadeus for two years, during which time I became deeply involved with our first prospective customer. But after a short while with Amadeus USA, I realized I was also far removed from the center of activity within Amadeus and got a little bored.  It’s when I decided to join Travel Tripper, in its earliest days. What made you decide to jump in and launch Travel Tripper? My friend and ex-colleague Kurien Jacob had just started a booking engine company and asked me to run and grow the business. After leaving Amadeus, I was ready for a new challenge that would allow me to work at a much faster pace, so I jumped right in. Technically, I didn't found the company, but I joined as a partner when we were just a team of three people. As a partner, I did or oversaw everything on a daily basis—from product design and development to engineering, sales, and marketing, invoicing, customer support, so, literally everything that a young company of that size has to deal with.   Travel Tripper's Reztrip CRS took gold in the 2019 HotelTechAwards   Who was Travel Tripper’s first customer? Highgate Hotels was our first customer at Travel Tripper. Kurien, who had started the company, was the Chief Revenue Officer at Highgate Hotels at the time. He was convinced that Highgate could earn more direct business if they designed a booking engine, designed by the way, as a seed that would grow into a full-scale CRS, with certain features. So, that was sort of the rationale in founding, the raison d'être of the company. It became our motto and philosophy: Be Direct. Highgate tried out the first version of our product on one of their properties, a very large midtown Manhattan property. Even though it was a big risk for them, they went ahead and tested the technology anyways. After seeing spectacular results with the first property, we rolled out the booking engine across various Highgate hotels in New York and elsewhere. One of our other early customers was the Leela Hotel Group in India, which also benefited a lot by taking a chance on us. We increased their website contribution by very impressive numbers. Another early customer of ours was the Stratosphere Hotel, a large 2,500-room hotel in Las Vegas and our first casino hotel (a segment in which we now have 30% market share in the U.S.). We were able to get them on board because of our strong track record. They joined us in 2008 and significantly increased their website contribution as the result of our partnership. How do you see Pegasus and Travel Tripper working together moving forward? The combined entity of Pegasus and Travel Tripper provides a solid platform for hotels that  want innovative technology solutions combined with the best customer service in the industry. Pegasus has a deep and storied history in CRS and distribution, and offers world-class demand generation services designed to increase direct and corporate bookings while considerably expanding a hotel’s market reach. Travel Tripper has grown a strong reputation in helping independent hotels and casinos/resorts in direct channel optimization, bringing user experience to the forefront in our CRS, booking engine, e-commerce, and marketing solutions to help drive highly profitable direct bookings. Our merger brings together the best of our combined capabilities to help hotel groups large and small to directly own guest relationships and maximize bottom-line ROI. In short, we are a formidable and disruptive challenger to some of the bigger (yet more stagnant) players in this space! Who is one mentor that has really helped you scale the business? I’m lucky to have several mentors who have helped and influenced me at different stages of my career. In my early days at Travel Tripper, right after leaving Amadeus, I remained close friends with an ex-colleague of mine, Andy Ahluwalia, who has since passed unfortunately. Andy had built a successful business in our space and was very encouraging and gave me sound advice about the effort and the patience that it would take to make this company successful. He also taught me a lot about how to sell the product and negotiate with customers. I'm very grateful to have known him. Kurien and the team at Highgate, from whom I’ve learned a lot, have also been spectacular supporters of Travel Tripper. Of course, they have been one of our key customers since the beginning and have a vested interest in our success as a company. They’ve always been very encouraging and have provided me with the space and room to make mistakes and persevere while growing Travel Tripper. Highgate itself has grown tremendously since the time when we started our company. Watching their growth and expansion, even as they were already such a large company, has been an inspiration for me. And Paul McGrath, erstwhile and now again Product Manager extraordinaire was my first boss at Pegasus—he taught me all about the workings of a CRS. Paul led the product management team at Pegasus during its heyday and has returned to the company to once again lead the product management team of our combined company.  What's one commonly held belief that most hoteliers believe to be true in your niche that actually is false? Unfortunately, in this industry, the size of a hotel tech vendor sometimes is overplayed or overemphasized, while the quality of product and engineering teams is underemphasized. People often assume that large companies have better products simply because they can afford better engineers relative to smaller companies. This is far from the truth—I've seen very large companies struggle with their platforms and engineering initiatives. And I’ve seen smaller companies blow away the industry with their solutions. The important thing for hotels to remember is not to judge tech vendors by the size of the company, but by the quality and capabilities of their product and their dedication to customer service. It seems obvious, but happens more often than you think. What's the most surprising thing you've learned about scaling technology into hotels? I don't know if I can call it a surprise as much as learning, but one of the things that we have learned how to do effectively is to scale the platform based on evolving needs. For many organizations, it is quite difficult to anticipate the proper architecture in its early days until you meet challenges along the way. You can plan and design for scale, but there will alway be unexpected hiccups and scaling issues that you will certainly come across along the way, no matter how well you plan ahead. Therefore, you should plan and design as best as you can, but also be prepared to make some fundamental changes along the way when you encounter obstacles. We've done that several times throughout our history and have been able to successfully scale the platform. For example, when Travel Tripper took on Stratosphere Hotel around 2008, I recall that traffic volumes would peak around a certain time of day, and the system would simply keel over and fall down, so we always had to reboot at around 4:00 p.m. It turned out that was a relatively small problem to solve that wasn’t anticipated at initial design time. Along the way, we've come across other challenges as our customer base grew to a certain size. At one point, we started getting hit by a lot of robots that were scraping our booking engine user interface to get pricing information on our hotel customers. This is a common phenomenon in our industry and we were able to resolve the issues along the way when we encountered them. What have been some of the most successful partnerships for Travel Tripper over the years? Obviously we have numerous close partners in the industry, and our relationships with all of them are very important. We enjoy our partnership with Stay Wanderful, which provides a conversion optimization tool that helps hotels to increase their direct bookings and revenue through instant gratification and AI technology. We have worked closely to provide a strong integration and good user interface that generate good results for our customers. OTA Insight has also been a great partner for us on the industry level. Their company offers one of the top hotel Rate Intelligence/Business intelligence platforms on the market. We often run many marketing initiatives together to help educate the industry, such as webinars, roundtables, and our upcoming Tech Talks series at ITB Berlin. If you could partner with any vendor in hotel tech, who would it be and why? As a CRS company, there are so many vendors that we need to build interfaces and integrations with. We particularly enjoy working with the ones that are open to quick integrations in order to foster better functioning between our respective products. In other words, they do not lock up their APIs and charge unreasonable fees for integration and certification. How will the hotel distribution landscape change in the next 5-years? Traditionally, the companies in the hotel tech space have focused on being very good at one “category” of product. Sure, a PMS company could offer a booking engine, but ultimately it was more known for being a PMS company. The new startups in the space have amplified this trend. But now that companies are starting to mature and consolidate (ourselves included), the lines are going to start blurring and it’s going to be difficult to pigeonhole a company into a product type or category. The industry is moving quickly in the direction of a “platformization” model, where the breadth and interconnectedness of solutions will trump—or at least bring together—smaller niche solutions. We think we are on the cutting edge of that trend. We see ourselves as the strongest provider of the products and services we offer to the hotel industry. We are well on the way already.     Does Travel Tripper have any new product or feature launches we should know about? Travel Tripper and Pegasus have recently launched innovative new products lately that we think are going to be very exciting for our respective customers and prospects. To help hoteliers combat rate disparity and increase direct revenue, we created Rate Match, a powerful price checking and rate matching tool that automates best rate guarantee against the OTAs. On the e-commerce side, we recently introduced a very simple but enormously helpful ADA Monitoring Platform and audit services to help hotels mitigate legal risk of potentially expensive ADA compliance lawsuits. We are also about to launch Conversion Plus, a new direct booking optimization tool that drives conversions using personalized messaging and special offers based on real-time booking engine rates, OTA comparative rates, and user behavior. There is power in numbers which is why we recently launched the Pegasus Business Intelligence Platform. This solution offers Revenue Managers a way to turn raw data into immediately actionable information to amplify revenue management and marketing success across all distribution channels, all in one place. We combine guest data from multiple sources and deliver it with automated intelligence and easy-to-understand dashboards. The result is instant insights that help guide a hotelier’s strategy to increase bookings and occupancy and improve revenue and profitability.   What's one piece of advice that you have for any entrepreneur looking to get into the hotel tech space? Be patient and persevere. It's a crowded space, and it’s getting increasingly more crowded and competitive. There are a ton of companies that you will need to work and integrate with in order to succeed. In the hotel CRS space, the barrier to entry is quite high so it will require a lot of money and technology to be built before you can come in with a viable product for a meaningful segment of the market.

The top tech tools you need to improve your revenue management

by
Hotel Tech Report
3 weeks ago

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 for hotels 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"

Hotel Tech Report Recognizes TravelClick for Top-Rated iHotelier® Central Reservations System with 2018 HotelTechAward

by
Hotel Tech Report
4 months ago

  February 12, 2018 – Hotel Tech Report, the premiere global research platform for hotel technology globally, announced today that it has named TravelClick, a leading global provider of data and revenue-generating solutions for hoteliers, as the recipient of a 2018 HotelTechAward for its top-rated Central Reservations (CRS), based on data from thousands of hoteliers in more than 40 countries. Over 100 of the world’s elite hotel technology products competed for a chance to win this prestigious title.   “The hospitality industry has one of the most complex distribution landscapes out there, and TravelClick’s industry-leading CRS enables hoteliers to optimize their distribution strategies and maximize visibility across all channels,” said Jordan Hollander, Hotel Tech Report co-founder. “As such, hoteliers have the ability to manage availability, rates and inventory from a single point of entry – all of the while continuously improving performance. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.”   “Our goal is to revolutionize reservations as we know it to maximize direct bookings and improve hoteliers’ bottom lines.” said Curtis Brewer, Senior Vice President, Reservations and Web Solutions, TravelClick. “We are honored to receive this award as it recognizes both the significant innovations of iHotelier and the tremendous benefit that our customers receive.”   One Zurich-based General Manager at an independent property told Hotel Tech Report, “For me the biggest pro is, that even with little technical knowledge you can easily use this product. You do not rely on customer service to help you do anything, from loading rates to adding new channels you can all do yourself and someone from TravelClick will check that everything is set up correctly.”   Hotel Tech Report’s HotelTechAwards platform leverages real customer data to determine best-in-class products that help hoteliers to grow their bottom lines.   To learn more, head to: https://hoteltechreport.com/company/travelclick-crs/   ###   About Hotel Tech Report Hotel Tech Report (www.hoteltechreport.com) is the premiere global research platform for hotel technology globally. We help buyers save time identifying the best technology products to run their hotel properties by easily comparing vendors based on unbiased reviews from verified users. HotelTechReport's global community consists of hoteliers spanning 40+ countries with representation from every major hotel brand and thousands of independent hotels.  Our platform connects these hoteliers with hundreds of the world’s top hotel technology suppliers with billions of dollars in market capitalization.   About TravelClick TravelClick offers innovative, cloud-based and data-driven solutions for hotels around the globe to maximize revenue. TravelClick enables over 49,000 hoteliers to drive better business decisions and know, acquire, convert and retain guests. The Company’s interconnected suite of solutions includes Business Intelligence, Reservations & Booking Engine, Media, Web & Video and Guest Management. As a trusted hotel partner with more than 30 years of industry experience, TravelClick operates in 176 countries, with local experts in 39 countries and 14 offices in New York, Atlanta, Barcelona, Bucharest, Chicago, Dubai, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Myrtle Beach, Orlando, Ottawa, Paris, Shanghai and Singapore. The Company also provides its hotel customers with access to a global network of over 600 travel-focused partners. Follow TravelClick on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

The hotel tech rollercoaster accelerates in pursuit of the perfect tech stack

by
Jordan Hollander
3 months ago

In the 1920s DuPont and General Electric began to develop diversified organizations with business units that lacked cohesion. They were pioneers of what later became known as “conglomerate strategy”.  These companies (and the many that followed) drew on modern portfolio theory to build businesses that could weather any economic climate.  If one business unit was in a trough, the other could pick up the slack -- or so they thought. During the 1980s this theory crumbled destroying billions in enterprise value.  The problem that unraveled the conglomerate craze was simple: diversification creates strong investment portfolios, but weak products and confused organizations. Creating great products takes a maniacal focus on singular problems.  It takes rallying a team who’s passionate enough to work on those problems every day.  Each milestone is just one step closer to proverbial perfection. Yet it's incredibly more challenging to deliver in today's fragmented and competitive landscape. One has only to look at recent restructurings to see that there's more twists and turns to come in travel and hotel technology.   Today's hotel technology industry map is near impossible to follow Thirty years ago there were two main technologies that powered hotels: GDS and property management systems.  Today, the ecosystem has sprung thousands of niche players delivering innovative products with incredible ROIs. Direct booking tools like Triptease, guest messaging platforms like Kipsu, revenue management software (e.g. Duetto), digital marketing platforms (e.g. Travel Tripper), email CRM (e.g. Guestfolio), website optimizers (e.g. Hotelchamp), reputation managers (e.g. Revinate), the list goes on and on. As incumbents watched these players grow they adopted conglomerate strategies but for them it was less about diversification, it was about buying and developing products to increase spend amongst their existing customers.  GDS companies bought up sales management software businesses, developed property management products, central reservations systems, booking engines and more. In some cases, the core products produced by these conglomerates are great but even for them not all of their products are great - they can’t be. Don’t believe me? How often do you login to Google’s social network?  Would you use Apple’s spreadsheet tool just because you have a Mac? Sure, it’s easy and pre-installed - but if your business relies on spreadsheet wizardry you’re going to need Microsoft Excel.  So why would you use a property management system just because it’s provided by the same supplier as your booking engine? In pursuit of the perfect tech stack Challenges like customer education, industry structure, and fragmentation have forced even small companies to merge as evidenced by Porter & Sail’s 2016 acquisition of Guest Driven and Go Concierge buying Gold Keys in 2012. This has made it incredibly difficult for hoteliers to understand hotel technology let alone find and adopt the right solutions for their properties. Take channel managers. There are over 150 in the market and many suppliers also advertise other products like website development, apps, pricing tools, market intelligence, booking engines, etc. Choosing the wrong channel manager can be insanely costly - down time means that your rooms aren't being sold on 3rd parties, parity bugs cause you to lose high margin direct business, this is mission critical software.  Go to each of those 150 supplier websites and you’ll find raving testimonials alongside claims of market leadership. The question becomes: how can hoteliers find the best solution for every business need and build a tech stack that drives efficiency, profits and guest satisfaction? It’s no secret that hospitality is currently facing unprecedented pressures from OTA commissions and home-share platforms that continue to disrupt the industry. If the industry is to survive and thrive, tech stacks need to rationalize and evolve faster than ever before. The hotel industry is at a critical inflection point. Today’s zeitgeist is plagued by disruption yet enabled by the same technologies that threaten the very existence of traditional hotels. SaaS business models have lowered switching costs and accelerated innovation. By embracing this wave of technology the industry can thrive like never before.  The first step towards modernizing our industry is isolating the signal from the noise, consolidating data and eliminating information asymmetries. Collecting the knowledge of hoteliers in one place is essential to realize this vision of a modern hotel industry. We are aligned towards an improved world with happy guests, fulfilled hotel staff, and satisfied investors.