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This is the biggest trend in hotel tech that you’ve never heard of

by
Hotel Tech Report

Creating revolutionary technology for hotels has historically been a slog but lately we’re seeing a change in fate for hotel software companies due to increased investment in the space.  One of the biggest investors in hospitality tech is Menlo Park based TCV, the growth equity firm that has invested in breakout companies like Sojern and SiteMinder within hotel tech.  TCV has also made major investments in the broader hospitality and travel space such as: Airbnb, TripAdvisor, HomeAway, Expedia, Orbitz, SeatGeek and Toast. TCV is one of the largest names in the world of technology investing with a successful track record in the massive hospitality and travel vertical.  Vertical market software is an extremely hot investment theme right now. “The easy opportunities for disrupting old-line industries are drying up. Now, many of the up-and-coming start-ups that may become the next unicorns have names like Benchling and Blend. And they largely focus on software for specific industries.” ~New York Times Long time TCV investor and former SiteMinder CFO John Burke is excited about the opportunities within the vertical market software. John and his team have identified a trend within a sub investment theme that they've coined: ”SaaS as a Network”.  Here’s how they describe the concept. “When a SaaS provider starts serving a high enough density of merchants, they can leverage that strength to build two-sided marketplaces with the merchant's customers, suppliers, and employees.” ~David Yuan, TCV General Partner The general hypothesis is that once vertical market software companies achieve scale with regards to their core products they can always bolt on new point solution functionality but would be wise to focus on a much bigger opportunity.  Specifically, TCV believes that these software companies can create two-sided marketplaces that connect their users to new channels of customers, suppliers and employees. Back in February, Hotel Tech Report identified the explosion of marketplaces as one of the 5 biggest tech trends at ITB Berlin, a trend that mirror’s TCV’s investment thesis.  Of all the software companies creating marketplaces in hospitality, TCV’s portfolio company SiteMinder has the largest scale to date. Image from David Yuan's article SaaS as a Platform, SaaS as a Network   Last year SiteMinder threw its hat in the ring with the launch of SiteMinder Exchange aimed at “breaking down the industry’s notorious integration barriers, connecting hotel systems and applications through smart and simple connectivity.” “The reality is that few industries are as fragmented as hospitality particularly at the PMS level. There has always been demand for many of the new applications, but innovation has been stifled by lack of connectivity and the sales model makes the economics challenging. Some of these barriers are starting to be broken down by SiteMinder and others which I think can unlock a lot of innovation for the industry.  But this is a hard problem and it’s a complicated space with lots of moving pieces so that makes it challenging.” ~John Burke, TCV Executive Vice President SiteMinder’s Exchange marketplace is aimed at allowing other applications to access the firm’s broad user base consisting of more than 30,000 hotels worldwide.  Most of those hotels are using SiteMinder’s highly popular channel manager which connects hotel inventory to 3rd party distribution channels as well as other products within the firm's broader guest acquisition platform such as a rate intelligence tool and an online booking engine. The firm is betting that it can add value for users by allowing them to try more hotel tech applications with ease and in turn create new business opportunities for those suppliers. We sat down with Burke to discuss his views on hotel tech, the future for platforms like SiteMinder Exchange and highlight the most cutting edge developments happening right now within the hotel space.   How did you get into venture investing? I’ve been in and around venture since 2011. I started my career with EY in their audit and transaction advisory teams. Getting into venture was a bit of good timing and persistence. The TCV team were looking for an immediate hire and decided to take a chance. I was with TCV from 2011 to 2014 as part of the B2B software team. As I thought about what was next for me, I was drawn to the experiences and mentorship of the TCV Venture Partners (e.g. former senior operating executives such as Erik Blachford). The tech market at that time had been heating up with a few high-profile IPOs. It was my belief that the next wave of great investors was not going to be able to rely on multiple expansion or financial engineering. I believed the best investors over the next 10 years would need to be partners driving actual business growth. That brought me to SiteMinder down in Sydney, Australia. TCV had just led the Series B investment in the company, and the fundamentals of the business were remarkable.  On top of that, they were ramping up for aggressive growth across Europe, SE Asia and were about to launch in the U.S. which I thought would be great experience. I was also excited to work with Mike Ford and the entire SiteMinder team. Mike is a special entrepreneur who is not only very smart and a product visionary, but also authentic and humble. I joined SiteMinder initially in an analytics role and then for the next 3.5 years as CFO. For family reasons, we decided to move back to the U.S. last year, where I reconnected with TCV and rejoined the team. I continue to spend a lot of time in the hospitality and vertical software space and TCV just led an investment in Toast, an exciting next-generation restaurant platform.   Tell us about TCV. TCV was founded in 1995 as a $100M venture fund and today has raised over $15 billion across 10 funds, focusing exclusively on technology companies. We recently began investing out of TCV X, a $3 billion fund. TCV looks to partner with companies that have potential for a sustained category leadership position and are looking to succeed at an even greater scale. This typically means that a company has been growing for several years – with a history of customer trust and engagement and a business model that is reflective of the value they provide. We are flexible on transaction type with experience in public and private markets and are comfortable in minority or majority positions. Over the past 24 years, we’ve had more than 60 IPOs in our portfolio and have worked with some of the largest franchises in technology including ExactTarget, Facebook, Netflix, GoDaddy and Spotify.   At this point, I’ve talked with many investors in the space which helps me appreciate how the various funds are different. For TCV, I think it’s the depth of industry knowledge and a growth mindset. We have close to 100 team members now and our investment team focuses every day on technology and goes deep in verticals and sub-verticals. When we identify a compelling technology trend, we take the time to thoroughly understand the underlying drivers, business model, and competitive environment. Having a developed perspective means we can have much more meaningful conversations about a company’s business and growth opportunities and are positioned to be a better thought partner for the executive teams as they drive towards expansion and category leadership. We’re not afraid to make bold bets especially when we have conviction on category leadership and to do whatever it takes to help companies reshape industries.     Can you talk about TCV’s view on hotel tech and its SiteMinder investment? Travel and Hospitality has been a core focus of TCV for well over a decade. In addition to SiteMinder, the active portfolio companies we are working with include Airbnb, TripAdvisor, Sojern, Tour Radar, and Klook.  Previously we were investors in Expedia, HomeAway, Orbitz, and Travelport, among others. For SiteMinder, TCV led the Series B round and we have continued to stay active with the company as the lead director since then. Two of my partners David Yuan (General Partner) and Erik Blachford (Venture Partner) continue to serve on the Board of Directors. SiteMinder has an incredible history, where is the company today? SiteMinder is a hotel guest acquisition platform that connects hotels to future guests, so hoteliers can go back to doing what they love.  It’s trusted by more than 30,000 hotels of all sizes, across 160 countries and has helped generate more than 87 million reservations worth over US$28 billion in revenue for hotels each year. SiteMinder is based in Australia, how did you come across the investment? It was a team effort. Back in 2011 to 2013 we spent a bunch of time mapping out the ecosystem for online travel and hospitality attending industry shows like HITEC and Phocuswright. Ultimately, we identified the channel management sector as promising albeit a lesser known segment in the category. Our view at the time was that online travel was increasingly complicated and in flux with new players vying for hotel distribution. Independent hotels were harder to aggregate but would also allow these same middlemen an ability to offer differentiated supply that was higher margin. Channel management became interesting because it aggregated and provided connectivity to this supply. We thought this was a hard problem particularly to do in a cost-effective way but when executed it could be highly strategic given the long-tail nature of both hotel supply and PMS. From there we focused on the best product and category leader which led us to SiteMinder. One of my colleagues got us an introduction to Mike Ford through an employee. We then got on the 14-hour flight over to Sydney and created a deal. What's one piece of advice you have for hotel tech entrepreneurs when raising capital? Test the investors. Anyone can look at metrics, but make sure you push them on the nuances of your positioning and make sure they understand the depth of your industry and strategic implications of the various alternatives. Mike did this to us in a big way when we pursued SiteMinder and it always stuck with me.   One pitfall I’ve seen is entrepreneurs who get ahead of themselves with regards to the amount of capital raised or valuation and focus on those items vs. choosing the right partner. This can have implications down the road. I would say to raise what you need and what strategically makes sense given your market and opportunity. And focus as much time and energy as you can on the partner. In addition to the strategic perspective which is table stakes, I tend to think entrepreneurs should focus on investors with candor (to drive constructive feedback delivered in the right way) and humility (it’s all about the team and this also makes it more fun). How do you think the hotel technology space will change over the next 5-years? It’s a great time to be in hotel technology given how dynamic this market is. I think we are still early in the growth journey for hotel software. In my mind, there is no doubt that software will continue to play a larger and larger role in the next 5 years and continue to reshape the industry and guest and operator experience.  We have also been spending a bunch of time on a thesis we are excited about, called “SaaS as a Platform and SaaS as a Network,” which is around the continued extension of the SaaS business model and platform companies leveraging their position in creating marketplaces with employees, suppliers, or customers. I think this trend has many opportunities in travel.   For hotels specifically, I think data, connectivity, and personalization will only increase in importance. Tools like SiteMinder Exchange, which is a data layer connecting PMS with applications and demand channels, can be a big part of this and drive innovation. I also think there will continue to be more dominant global players with companies like Ctrip continuing global expansion and Google, Facebook/Instagram, and TripAdvisor starting to see momentum on their new models. The lines in the accommodation industry will continue to blur as Airbnb ramps up their investment and focus on hotels as well. I also feel labor management will matter more, and there will be new innovative ways to tackle this challenge. This is something we’ve seen in the retail vertical which I think will also make its way to the travel industry.    People often say that the hotel industry is a bit slow to adopt technology. Do you agree? I agree. But I don’t think it’s been driven by the lack of interest or desire.  Hoteliers care deeply about guest experiences and the ones that I’ve spent time with often always go above and beyond what’s expected. The reality is that few industries are as fragmented as hospitality particularly at the PMS level. There has always been demand for many of the new applications, but innovation has been stifled by lack of connectivity and the sales model makes the economics challenging. Some of these barriers are starting to be broken down by SiteMinder and others which I think can unlock a lot of innovation for the industry.  But this is a hard problem and it’s a complicated space with lots of moving pieces so that makes it challenging. Related article: Everything hoteliers need to know about APIs in plain english If you were leaving venture capital tomorrow and forced to start a hotel technology company - what would it be? That’s a tough one. Part of working in an operator role at SiteMinder helped me realize how hard it is to be an entrepreneur and scale a company. This only deepened my respect for what they do. I’m a big believer that you need to follow your heart, so I’d want to align it to something I am passionate about. Maybe I’d do something connecting hotels/travel and yoga which is something I’ve come to enjoy. And being a CFO and travelling a lot, I also think the opportunities in corporate travel remain significant. What is the most interesting or surprising thing that you've learned from investing in hotel tech? Not too much is surprising me at this point. It feels like there is never a dull day in hotel tech! One thing I did notice about some of the larger players in the space is that they serve hospitality, but at their core they are surprisingly not hospitable. One of my partners recently did a podcast with the former CMO at Airbnb and Coca-Cola and he talked about authenticity as an enduring and compounding competitive advantage. I think this is something that will matter more and more. I think it will eventually catch up with those companies who forget that, especially in hospitality tech. What is the best book you've read lately and why? “The Outsiders” by Will Thorndike. I read it a couple of years ago and it continues to stand out to me. The book profiles eight understated CEOs who took a different approach to corporate management.  These “outsider” CEOs often didn’t have the charisma that society has conditioned us to expect and were often in their position for the first time. Humble, unassuming and often frugal, they shied away from advisors and the hottest new management trends, instead focusing on a pragmatic and a disciplined approach to capital allocation which drove extraordinary returns. I found myself getting lost in each of their stories and admiring their independent thinking and patience to wait for the right opportunity. “Shoe Dog” and “Limping on Water” are two others I enjoyed.   What is your favorite podcast? The top 3 for me right now are Farnam Street, Invest Like the Best, and Acquired. All the them have caused me to think differently and continually expand my curiosity. What is one thing that most people don't know about you? I love yoga and meditation. For all the startups that might want to pitch in TCV's office, what can you tell them about your investment criteria? We recently began investing out of TCV X, a $3 billion fund, so the opportunities we pursue are typically between $30-300M. We tend to be flexible on all other aspects of a transaction type and focus on category leadership potential and growth. I really enjoy spending time with entrepreneurs and would love for folks to reach out even if they are a bit early. Companies can scale quickly so we would love to start a relationship well in advance.

A 1,000 word micro-history of hotel distribution

by
Simone Puorto

To get a grasp on the current hotel distribution landscape and how much intelligence and work is needed to optimize each channel, it’s worth taking a moment to review its early history. Distribution mix was once a simple concept: walk-ins, phone calls, and the occasional (physical) mail were, fundamentally, the sole sources of hotel bookings. But things started changing when electronic reservation systems made their first appearance in the '60s and, eventually, became mainstream in the ’80s. By the end of the 20th century, hotel distribution shifted (literally almost overnight) online, and started to resemble what it is today. Over the last two decades, consolidation and new players entering the market have been crucial to an extraordinary growth in digital hotel distribution. Flash-forward to today, the current landscape is touted as merely a duopoly held by Booking and Expedia, and that is a quite accurate statement, at least to a certain extent and for the moment being. Even though it seems like distribution is ever-moving, in fact, there are clear patterns and trends. According to Phocuswright, for example, 2016 was “the first year when OTA lodging bookings in the U.S. exceeded total hotel website gross bookings”, and forecasts expect OTAs to reach over 40% market share by next year. This means that despite above-the-line marketing, targeted discounts and revamped loyalty programmes, consumers are not shifting to direct as their primary booking option as intensely as the big chains wanted. With this in mind, perhaps hotels should start reconsidering their relationships with online travel agencies and focus on the channels bringing the highest profit and volume. In an age where OTAs and wholesalers flex their rates across metasearch engines or marketplaces it is very unlikely that users will just “stop clicking around”. You just need to accept it and move on. There are, however, alternative distribution channels that could be leveraged with success or, at least, kept under one's radar. So let's dig into these distribution Goliaths.   Booking.com Born from the merging of booking.nl, bookings.org and Active Hotels (a.k.a. ctivebooking.com), over the years Booking.com became the biggest e-commerce website for travel, with around 200 offices worldwide and over 17,000 employees. Two years after Expedia turned the opportunity to buy booking.nl down in 2003 (ouch!), the Dutch startup was eventually acquired by Booking Holdings (at the time still operating under the Priceline Group moniker), which rebranded to Booking.com in 2006. The first version of the booking.nl website went live in '97, with an inventory of ten hotels and a commission rate of 1/4 of what it is today. According to its founder, Geert-Jan Bruinsma, he had the original idea during a dinner with friends, "got inspired" from the Hilton official website source code the and launched it with barely 50,000 €. During the years, Booking Holdings continued to grow thanks to an almost-mistakeless acquisition strategy: from Asian-based OTA Agoda to rental car service TravelJigsaw (a.k.a. Rentalcars.com), from travel metasearch engines Kayak, Momondo, CheapFlights, Mundi and HotelsCombined to restaurant-reservation service company OpenTable, not to mention yield management solution PriceMatch (now integrated in BookingSuite), RocketMiles, ASDigital, Buuteeq, Hotel Ninjas and the heavy investments made over the years in Chinese OTA Ctrip. Expedia Founded in 1996 as a division of Microsoft, Expedia was acquired by IAC/InterActiveCorp in 2003, which eventually spun it off in 2005. In 2012, Expedia took a majority stake in trivago (which the American OTA still owns after the metasearch went public). Under the IAC/InterActiveCorp brand first, and the Expedia's brand then, dozens of companies (eventually acquired or merged) operated and continue to operate: TripAdvisor (spun off in 2011), Hotels.com, HomeAway (merging VRBO, bedandbreakfast.com, vacationrentals.com, Abritel and FeWo), Egencia, Travelocity, Orbitz, HotWire, Wotif, lastminute.com.au, Ebookers, CheapTickets, AirAsiaGo, Venere.com (eventually merged into the mother brand), Classic Custom Vacations and many others. Today's market value of the company is almost $20 Billion, with over 22,000 employees around the World. Agoda Founded in 2005 by Michael Kenny and Robert Rosenstein, merging planetholiday.com and precisionreservations.com, Agoda can be viewed as a precursor in the industry. PlanetHoliday, in fact, was founded in 1997, just one year after Booking.nl and Expedia. Agoda focus is mainly on the Asia-Pacific region and it has a portfolio of over 1,000,000 vacation rentals and hotels worldwide. In 2007, the Bangkok/Singapore-based company has been acquired (for an undisclosed amount), by Booking Holdings, even though it continues operating independently. HRS With almost half a century of history, HRS Group is the (grand)father of all OTAs. Founded in 1972 by hotel clerk Robert Ragge, in 1995 it became the first website to provide an online hotel database. In his book, Outliers, Gladwell popularized what became known as the 10,000-hour rule, by documenting the lives of successful people. “Ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness”, he wrote, inspired by the work of Daniel Levitin, the neurologist who scientifically proved that “10,000 hours of practice are required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert in anything”. The theory is fascinating, though, not always reliable, and HRS is the perfect example of this fallacy: even with almost half a century (or 400,000 hours) of experience under its belt, today it has a significantly less prominent market share than it used to have, while OTAs born decades later have outgrown it. In 2008 Ragge's son, Tobias, succeeded his father and acquired Tiscover, hotel.de, HolidayInsider and bought stakes in meetago and Lido Group. HRS currently lists 850,000 properties, operating mainly in German-speaking Countries. Wholesalers and Bedbanks Wholesalers and bed banks both made an extraordinary (yet unexpected) comeback over the last few years, mainly fueled by nebulous B2B2C rate strategies and smart acquisitions. With its database of over 70,000 beds and around 5,000 employees, the World’s largest bedbank is, of course, HotelBeds. Founded in 2001, HotelBeds became independent in 2016 (it was, up until that moment, owned by TUI), thanks to the backup of private equity funds Cinven and CPPIB. HotelBeds recently played the divide et impera card, by acquiring two of its main competitors: Tourico and GTA. AirBnB, Google and Amazon So, while even the small hotel entrepreneur is familiar with the aforementioned players, there are at least three companies trying to undermine this status quo. Airbnb, for example, recently officially stated that it offers more listings than Booking.com, while Google entered aggressively into the travel space, thanks to the European introduction of its facilitated booking system Book-on-Google and with its redesigned destination hotels page (https://www.google.com/travel/hotels/). Amazon, after trying (and failing) to get into the industry back in 2016, is rumored to be slowly (but steadily) trying to gain a more prominent slot in the market. Conclusions Far from being fully exploited or stagnated, the hotel distribution space still has a lot of potential, both in growth and diversification. With, on one side, main OTAs turning into metasearch engines-slash-marketplaces-slash-B2B providers hybrids and, on the other, search engines and retailers playing the OTA’s game, our industry has never been so interesting.

Arise Travel is the hotel industry's secret weapon against the OTAs

by
Hotel Tech Report

Arise Travel is an early stage startup that most hoteliers haven’t heard of today but the firm’s technology could be the answer to the seemingly never ending direct booking wars if things go according to plan.  The firm was founded in December of 2017 by two early (former) employees at cloud property management system provider Frontdesk Anywhere who got loads of experience dealing with intermediaries while building the business. Every industry has intermediaries and those intermediaries deserve to get paid for driving business to their partners.  Before we jump into how Arise can help build healthier (and more equitable) relationships between OTAs and their hotel partners let’s take a quick 10,000 foot view of where the relationship sits today.   Why haven't the OTAs been broken up yet? The problem with the OTA-hotel dynamic is mostly a result of consolidation that has surprisingly not been addressed effectively by most antitrust authorities.  The reason that antitrust authorities haven’t addressed this issue is likely because the duopoly actually benefits consumers (by delivering lower prices for accommodations) and many of the world’s most powerful antitrust authorities have mandates to protect consumers rather than businesses.   Here’s a quote directly from the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division website about the group’s mandate: “Competition in a free market benefits American consumers through lower prices, better quality and greater choice. Competition provides businesses the opportunity to compete on price and quality, in an open market and on a level playing field, unhampered by anti competitive restraints.” As such, it is unclear that the Booking/Expedia duoply (which is estimated to control ~80% of the market today) will ever be broken up given the focus on consumer protection.   Arise shifts the focus from direct bookings to lower commissions Historically, most of the companies that help hotels gain leverage against OTAs today have been focused on driving new direct bookings. The general idea is that by helping hotels increase their mix of direct bookings - these hotels will pay lower absolute commissions in the short term and also in theory should be able to negotiate lower commissions over the long haul.  The earliest companies to play in this space were Triptease, Stay Wanderful and Hotelchamp.  These direct booking platforms help hotels optimize their website performance to increase conversion and effectively maximize their funnel rather than bring new prospective guests into it.  More recently, The Hotels Network and 123Compare.me have jumped into the fray. Similarly, digital marketing agencies began positioning around direct bookings with firms such as Screen Pilot, Travel Tripper and TravelClick leading the pack.  Ultimately the goal of any great hotel digital marketing agency should be to drive bookings at a lower cost relative to OTA commissions.  In addition to the benefits of website optimization based direct booking platforms, digital marketing agencies help bring new prospective guests into that funnel through digital marketing on paid channels such as Google, Facebook, Email Marketing and Instagram. So tech companies have gone a long way to help hotels gain leverage with the OTAs by driving direct bookings via digital marketing, website optimization, etc.  While this is a great approach, Arise Travel has a surprising way to end the direct booking wars - and the team wants to do this without a single shot fired.   With an OTA duopoly, is there a big enough market for Arise? While Expedia and Booking have approximately 80% of the OTA market, there are many other stakeholders in the accommodation supply chain.  The total retail value of accommodations globally hovers around $570B and $200B of that gets passed to the hotel industry (Statista).  Booking and Expedia revenue for all business units combined (incl. airline, activities, etc.) are ~$25B which shows that even though they have huge OTA market share, they actually have modest shares of the overall intermediary markets. So who else is in this intermediary market? Some examples include: traditional travel agencies, corporate travel businesses, smaller OTAs and OTA affiliate partners.  Arise wants to help hotels fight the OTAs by mixing in more cost effective 3rd party bookings. When a hotel today forecasts a period with high demand, they’ll often use their channel manager to shut down distribution in what are called “closeout dates.”  Closeout dates include peak times like big conferences coming to town, city wide events, etc.  That sounds reasonable, right? Wrong. When hotels activate these closeout dates they are intentionally leaving bookings on the table today to save themselves for lower commission bookings tomorrow.  Then, as occupancy begins to rise, hotels are able to increase rate which is why they’re ok to leave those bookings on the table. In super simple terms, let’s say a hotel will pay 20% to the OTA and 0% incremental for direct bookings (because many direct costs are fixed).  The reason they shut down OTA inventory is because they believe that the rate increase they can command tomorrow will not justify the distribution cost today.   Arise Travel founder Nadim El Manawy believes that billions are being left on the table and thinks that commissions should be dynamic just like room rates.  Everyone knows that revenue management software is essential to running a profitable hotel business.  If you charge too much - you lose bookings. If you charge too little - you leave profit on the table.  Revenue management systems help hoteliers make sure that they can walk that fine line to maximize profitability and Arise Travel can have the same effect on 3rd party commissions.   Here’s how Arise Travel’s technology works to supercharge your existing channel manager Arise automatically downloads closeout dates from your channel manager where your hotel is leaving bookings on the table.  Your revenue manager can then go into the Arise Travel dashboard and input commission rates that they’d be willing to sell hotel rooms for during those periods.  Rates and desired commissions then get pushed to Arise Travel’s network of intermediaries so hotels can sell rooms to prospective guests on 3rd party channels without commission negotiations or even the need for a traditional contract. Let’s say, for example, that The World Cup is coming to your city next summer so you don’t want to allow Expedia bookings at 20% commission knowing that you’ll fill your hotel regardless.  You can’t renegotiate with Expedia but you can now login to your Arise Travel dashboard and notify intermediaries like small OTAs and corporate travel agencies that you’d be willing to sell rooms for a 7% commission during those times.  You can even set variable commissions on a per room type basis, by rate code, day of the week and even by channel. Eventually the technology will make this all automated through integrations with top rated revenue management systems. Those intermediaries can then accept those terms and list your rooms for booking on their channels with automated rules.  The big value prop for these intermediaries is that they can now sell accommodations that aren’t available on Booking and Expedia - this helps them differentiate and ultimately grow their businesses.  You can now get rooms booked for a reasonable commission while driving up rates during this peak period. Consumers win by accessing your inventory in more places, distributors win by getting access to unique inventory and you win by maintaining reasonable commissions and selling your inventory more quickly.  Arise’s technology handles all commission reconciliation and payouts automatically to save your team time. The entire payment and service history can be viewed at any time providing ultimate transparency into your channel management strategy. If Arise Travel can get big enough, it will eventually pressure Expedia and Booking to accept variable commissions that are market based.  While Expedia and Booking may see short term headwinds from a concept like Arise Travel hitting scale, this is ultimately bringing much needed fair market dynamics and transparency to the industry which will lead to healthier hotel-OTA relationships and more innovation.  Nadim has a massive vision for the industry and he needs the help of our global hotelier community to jump on board with what we at Hotel Tech Report believe is a “no brainer.” We recently sat down with Nadim to chat about his background, the future of hotel distribution, what’s next for Arise Travel and more. Hotel Tech Report's exclusive interview with Nadim below   What was your background prior to starting the company? Before co-founding Arise, I led sales and partnerships for 4+ years at a cloud-based property management system company in San Francisco called Frontdesk Anywhere. Prior to moving to the Bay Area in 2011, I worked in Shanghai and grew up in Belgium. What made you decide to jump in and disrupt the travel distribution space? I met Alex Lamb, my co-founder in this business, at Frontdesk Anywhere where we were the second and third employees. Alex lead the engineering team there for 4+ years. Being in the PMS business, we became very familiar with how things work on the operational side at hotels, but we also had to work with many players in the distribution chain such as channel managers, GDS and wholesalers. We got to see how things are patched together behind the scenes today. Many of the hotels we worked with were very vocal about how a few online travel agencies were controlling their distribution and how much they were paying in commissions and fees. We also saw how the fragmentation of the PMS space and old technology used by existing intermediate networks was making it difficult for travel companies to gain access to hotel data and efficiently transact with hotels. We starting thinking about how we could use emerging technology to fix many of these problems, allowing new travel companies to grow faster and help move the industry forward. Who was your first customer? One large player in the corporate travel space (we can’t name the company yet) is taking a chance working with us in order to solve some of the problems and inefficiencies they face today. Our experience with hotel distribution technology gained over the years when building and maintaining a cloud PMS combined with our knowledge of distributed ledger technology and how it can be applied to travel distribution is what made them want to work with us. What is there so much excitement about Arise Travel as a disruptor? We build technology that helps hotels gain more control over the inventory they share with their partners. Our distributed ledger technology lets hotels enforce rate parity at the point-of-sale and dynamically adjust their commission rates based on demand, significantly increasing hotel profitability. Who is one mentor that has really helped you scale the business?  I need to mention two people who have been very helpful since the beginning. Jing Zhou, who was at Hyatt for many years leading e-distribution for Asia Pacific, has been sharing her knowledge on hotel operations and distribution strategies. She has helped us stay focused when building our technology to make sure it fits with hotels needs. Varsha Rao, who was head of Global Operations at AirBnB for many years, has tons of experience in building and scaling businesses. Her constant ideas and advice on ways to start and grow the business have been extremely helpful. What's one big misconception that hoteliers have about distribution? Many hoteliers believe that they are powerless to change the distribution technology they’re dependant upon. Most hoteliers are quick to complain but because they don’t view distribution technology as a core competency, the idea of investing resources into something they’ve never taken ownership of before seems daunting. This mindset may have been reasonable in the past, but not anymore. Distributed ledger technology will show hotels that updating their distribution technology is possible with very little IT investment and without affecting their operations and current distribution channels. What's the most surprising thing you've learned about hospitality distribution since founding the business? That most innovative technology being worked on focuses on the travel search and booking process, but technology that can improve the traveler experience after booking is held back because many of these services have to rely on outdated distribution technology to function. If you could partner with any vendor in hotel tech, who would it be and why? AirBnB. Our technology creates a shared source of truth for hotels and OTAs, making it possible to automate commission reconciliation processes.  With this automation in place, it becomes feasible for hotels to start setting variable commission rates for the inventory they send to OTAs. Instead of closing entire channels during high demand periods, hotels can lower their commission rate to maximize their profitability. We can help AirBnB grow its hotel business by accepting variable commission rates from hotels, giving them access to desirable inventory that is currently unavailable to other OTAs using a fixed commission model. Where do you see Arise in 5-years? Most of the intermediaries that survive of rate arbitrage and don’t bring real value to hotel distribution will disappear. We believe the efficiency and trust that distributed ledger technology can bring to the industry will drive down the commissions paid by hotels for bookings. I’d hope most hotels, including independent, will be benefiting from the control and efficiency our technology will bring to their online distribution. I’d expect many players involved on the supply and on the demand side to be using our technology. Do you have any new products or feature launches? Variable commissions hotels fully control and payouts are automatically handled. Starting with high demand periods, hotels can decide how much they are willing to pay in commissions for any given date, room type and rate. Today hotels pay fixed high commissions to OTAs and at times of high demand often take the risk to close those expensive channels as they are confident enough they’ll drive enough direct bookings to fill their hotel. Hotels no longer have to do that as they can now set variable commissions that they are willing to give OTAs on those high demand dates. We provide the transparency and control to hoteliers and we automate the commission payouts so it doesn’t add any more work for hoteliers. We work with hotel channel managers and switches. To get going hotels can contact us or also check with their service provider to see if they are already connected to Arise. Is there anything that the community can do to be helpful for you? We’d love for people involved in hotel distribution on either the supply or demand side to talk to us. The more people that understand and get comfortable with the idea that upgrading distribution infrastructure isn’t such a daunting task, the faster everyone will be able to benefit from it. Advances in Distributed Ledger Technology actually make distribution less complex than the processes in place today. What's one piece of advice that you have for any entrepreneurs looking to get into the hotel tech space? Make sure there’s a clear need for your solution in the space and if so, have a very good understanding of all the current players, how they work together and all the moving pieces that shape today’s hotel tech space.  

How to determine the best channel manager for your hotel

by
Hotel Tech Report

A channel manager is a powerful piece of hotel technology that increases occupancy, saves time, and maximizes profits. It allows a hotel to expand its reach and visibility online, as well as more easily manage its rates, availability, and reservations. With a channel manager, hotels can connect to hundreds of online distribution channels in real-time. This allows the hotel to boost visibility (and ultimately reservations) with almost no risk of being overbooked. Without a channel manager, hotels must manually update inventory and availability on each channel -- a tedious, time-consuming process that often creates inconsistencies across channels. A channel manager also empowers hotels with greater control over the channel mix. Revenue managers can set specific targets on a channel-by-channel basis, and then adjust inventory and/or pricing on individual channels to optimize revenue. By using this dynamic approach, Revenue managers can more precisely manage a hotel’s distribution and prioritize the most profitable channels at any given time. How hotel channel managers fit into the distribution picture, per Altexsoft.   Presently, only about 50% of hotels worldwide employ dedicated channel managers to help them manage and optimize distribution. If your hotel is considering a channel manager, here are the top criteria to use when choosing the best channel manager for your hotel.   #1: Real-time connectivity and pooled inventory One of the major benefits of hotel channel managers is real-time connectivity; without it, the risk of overbooking remains. The best way to accomplish this real-time synchronization is through two-way XML connectivity. Instant sync ensures that room rates and availability are current and accurate across all chosen channels. Without that assurance, a channel manager will be less effective in increasing your bookings and resulting revenue. Effective channel management also requires a pooled inventory model, which means that your room inventory is shared across channels, rather than allocated manually on a channel-by-channel basis. Pooled inventory ensures accurate availability so that rooms can be advertised across all channels at the same time, without fear of overbooking.   #2: Channel optimization To distribute inventory on the most optimal channels for your hotel, you'll first need to know which channels matter most. Look closely at which channels a potential channel manager supports. If any of your most important channels are missing, consider another vendor. Channels vary dramatically by region.  Also: refer to your guest personas (or take the time to do that critical work!) to determine which channels help you reach those kinds of guests. It's also revealing to consult your CRS reports to surface the popular booking channels among your target demographics. “If you’re a hotel looking to attract Chinese travelers, for example, you will want access to the booking channels that Chinese travelers use most, like Ctrip or Fliggy. The makeup of travelers is constantly evolving, so gaining access to these more niche channels, as well as the top global ones, will allow you to broaden your distribution strategy and attract new types of guests.” -SiteMinder director of product Gregor Vogel, in TravelDaily The best channel manager allows you to leverage your most productive channels, as well as experiment with less-obvious channels that might bring you untapped demand from hard-to-reach markets. And it doesn’t hurt to ask vendors for recommendations on which other channels you should consider -- the answer will show you how the company approaches customer service.   #3: Training, support, and implementation As with any new system, users will have questions and encounter issues that require troubleshooting, so training and constant support is a must. Depending on the size of your property, this could be a make-or-break item. You need to know what training is available, how much it costs, and if it's offered in the appropriate time zones and languages for your business. The same goes with ongoing support -- you should be able to get a response via chat, e-mail, or phone within a few hours at the most. There are five milestones on the path to implementing a channel manager. These include an introduction, group training, setup, private follow-up, and set live. Free trials typically last about 2-weeks where the hotelier can test out the full feature set and upon completion can immediately activate their subscription or choose not to invest at no further cost.   #4: Deep integrations with pricing rules A good channel manager should have the ability to integrate with all the hotel’s existing core systems, such as the PMS, RMS, and CRS. PMS: The property management system is the central hub for hotel management, so data from the channel manager must flow back and forth. RMS: To accurately and effectively manage revenue and profits, the revenue management system and channel manager need to share data. CRS: For seamless operations and a single unified view of property management, the channel manager must feed data to the central reservation system which then links with other systems.   An effective channel manager eliminates content inconsistencies by making it easy to update room inventory, availability, and rate plans through a simple interface. This interface should also facilitate cross-channel content updates, you can update your property’s photos, descriptions, room types, and related content all from one central location. No more endless manual updates, or forgetting to update content on a rarely-used channel. “The ability for distribution technology to seamlessly manage and sync content can save property’s time and, more importantly, drive reservations.” -Cloudbeds director of global partnerships Sebastien Leitner Hotels should also be able to set pricing- and availability-related rules to maximize profitability on each channel. These include: Direct pricing rules to maintain the direct channel’s Best Available Rates, setting stop-sells for rooms and packages when a specific channel has met its targets, setting the minimum number of days a booking can be made (to entice specific behaviors on certain channels), and offering discounted rates prior to a guests’ arrival. #5: Intuitive, easy-to-understand reporting Channel managers provide valuable data for revenue managers to adjust their distribution strategy dynamically. The right channel manager for your hotel is the one that gives you the insights you need to optimize your channel mix. It's not enough to just distribute inventory across channels; best-in-class channel managers invest heavily in advanced analytics and easy-to-understand reports that show occupancy, reservations, and revenue for specific periods of time. m. Armed with this information, revenue managers can make pricing decisions based on supply and demand. The reports will identify under- and over-performing channels for further investigation. For channels where the marketing cost per booking is low, it may be advantageous to address underperformance with price adjustments to encourage more bookings. For channels with high commissions or other customer acquisition costs, a spike in bookings may negatively affect a hotel’s Net RevPAR.   Choosing the best channel manager for your hotel Channel managers are valuable allies for revenue managers as they balance profitability-per-booking with gross room revenue targets. Distributing your inventory to the broadest base maintains visibility and increases your chances of bookings. The ability to selectively choose channels keeps you in control over the optimal channel mix and profitability at the booking level. When vetting vendors, use the criteria above and ask the following questions to determine the best channel manager for your property: How many channels are you connected to? Are you connected to the most important channels for my hotel? How many channels, room types per channel, and days can my hotel manage simultaneously? How far out can you manage availability? What reports will you provide me? Will you show me which channels deliver the most bookings and which provide the most revenue? Read relevant and recent reviews of the 10 top rated hotel channel managers.  

SiteMinder CEO: "The SaaS economy has made best-of-breed solutions accessible to every type of hotel"

by
Hotel Tech Report

In May of 2018 I wrote a piece for Lodging Magazine called "Hotel Technology's Paradigm Shift" where I discussed the #1 barrier to innovation in the hotel industry - the lack of integration between different components in the hotel tech stack.  In the last couple of years a slew of ambitious companies have set out to solve this connectivity problem. One of the most interesting contenders in this fight decided to throw its hat in the ring in June 2018 when SiteMinder launched its Exchange marketplace.   To be clear this ring is massive and there's definitely room for several winners.  SiteMinder's approach is unique in that they started with a massive install base of clients (30,000+) who use the firm's technology products such as their Channel Manager, TheBookingButton and Prophet rate shopping software.   Snapshot has taken a similar approach to SiteMinder while Protel, Mews Systems and Apaleo have set out to solve the problem by building property management systems with integrated app marketplaces for their clients to add different components onto their tech stack with ease.  Impala created an open API that allows hotel tech products to connect directly and seamlessly with PMS providers - very much like Zapier provides the underlying infranstructure required to maintain a seamless connection between 2 different product as they evolve.  HAPI has similarly focused on connecting directly into the PMS and recently signed it's solution with Red Lion Hotels.   The race to connect the entire guest journey is on.  Incumbents like Sabre have talked about doing this for years but have yet to deliver a real end-to-end experience in a simple and elegant solution desired by hotels and are very much shackled by legacy technology that was bolted on through acquisitions rather than built in house.  Nothing against Sabre here, it's just much harder to turn a ship of that size and paradigm shifting innovation rarely comes from incumbents resting on cash cow businesses.   SiteMinder's chances of winning this race increased dramatically when they hired current outgoing Xero COO Sankar Narayan who previously led the now $5B+ Accounting Software firm through rapid growth.  Perhaps the most interesting thing about Sankar's move is that Xero was seeing similar changes in the accounting software market that we are seeing in hotel tech.    Based on these market trends, Xero chose to double down on small business by providing increasing value to its existing customer base (increase share of wallet) rather than attract larger (and largely new) enterprise clients.  This maniacal focus on their core customer has paid off in spades and we imagine Narayan will steer SiteMinder in this direction as well.   Xero has built a very impressive and robust partner marketplace much like the one SiteMinder is set on developing for hospitality.  This past year Xero rebranded itself changing the firm's tagline from "Beautiful accounting software" to "Beautiful business".  This change reflects a shift in the firm's view of evolving market forces.    Essentially the firm is moving from being just software to becoming a platform for small businesses - and Sankar was at the center of it all.  Needless to say, selling into small businesses like hotels is extremely difficult and requires a unique skillset.  Xero's value is derived in its ability to sell into and service those types of businesses.   Backed by venture capital powerhouse TCV and now under the joint leadership of Narayan and founder Mike Ford, SiteMinder is positioned to transform the hotel tech industry like never before.  We sat down with Sankar and discuss his views on the market, why he traded his Ducati for video games and the road ahead for SiteMinder.     Tell us about your career in technology. How did you first get into technology and what was the path like into your current role? My career began in technology. It was what I studied at university and I also gained my Masters in Electrical Engineering, specializing in computer engineering, in the US, before I landed a role creating software and designing computer hardware in Silicon Valley; that was my first full-time job. From there, I did some consulting work and then life took me to the other side of the world, to Australia, where I got into more of the business side of things at one of the country’s largest mobile telecommunications companies and Internet service providers. I’ve since had the opportunity to experience other sectors, including media and travel, and got back to technology in 2011 to head up IT and finance at Virgin Australia Airlines. In 2015, I accepted the role of CFO and COO at cloud accounting software company Xero, and I’m thrilled to officially assume the CEO position at SiteMinder in the New Year. The SiteMinder elevator pitch SiteMinder is the leading provider of technology that connects hotels to future guests, so hoteliers can go back to doing what they love. In today’s age where people have the freedom to access travel however they like, SiteMinder is the name synonymous with the belief that technology can empower any hotel to win in a consumer-led world and unleash their potential. SiteMinder is the global hotel industry’s leading guest acquisition platform, ranked among technology pioneers for its smart and simple solutions that put hotels everywhere their guests are, at every stage of their journey. Combined with a unique ability to cater to hotels of all sizes, it’s this central role that has earned SiteMinder the trust of more than 30,000 hotels, across 160 countries, to generate in excess of 80 million reservations worth over US$26 billion in revenue for hotels each year.     Read why hoteliers ranked SiteMinder's Channel Manager #1 on Hotel Tech Report   When did you first become interested in hotel technology? I first arrived at the intersection of technology and travel during my time at Virgin Australia. As for hotel technology, specifically, I’ve followed SiteMinder for a number of years, due to my involvement with Bailador Technology Investments, and think it’s an incredibly exciting space to be in.How would you characterize the learning curve moving from tech into hotel tech? There are definitely a lot of unique characteristics to hotel tech, but also many commonalities with other verticals that have experienced the cloud and SaaS disruption in the last two decades. Hoteliers are passionate about hospitality; it’s what they know and love, and what they go back to when given the opportunity to step away from all the other demands that now come with being a hotelier. As the world increasingly moves to online, hoteliers know it’s a movement they can no longer ignore, but it’s an incredibly complex space to navigate through and so they’re still finding how to seamlessly introduce technology into their day-to-day to a point where they’re comfortable knowing it’s not an avoidable detractor, but a necessary enabler of getting closer to their guests. They say hotels have traditionally been slow to adopt tech, but when you consider that such a large proportion of hotels are small to medium-sized businesses, that’s hardly shocking to me. Naturally, one can probably expect that the larger chains and brands would be at the forefront of tech adoption, but even then, as we know, that’s not entirely the case and, again, I don’t think that’s a challenge that’s unique to hotels. The cost of tech to any large enterprise is always going to be significant and that cost goes far beyond the initial dollar value. When you’re talking about a complete overhaul of an enterprise-wide system, you’re talking about the cost of setup, training and everything else that comes with change management.What makes 'hotel tech' different than just 'tech'? I think the vastness of the opportunity is inherently what makes hotel tech a little different to other verticals. We’re talking about a massive space occupied by accommodation providers of every type and budget – with different needs as well as varied levels of education and appetites for technology use – hoping to win in a diverse, complex and ever-changing landscape of consumers. For me, that’s what makes hotel tech so exciting. The opportunity for innovation is limitless. You can dream up solutions very quickly; the only restriction is your imagination.Do you think it's harder for hotel tech companies to raise capital relative to general tech companies? I don’t think so. Every business needs to articulate its customer proposition, technology and business model, and we’re seeing great support for some of the newer, exciting entrants into the market, especially within the hotel guest application space. There is a large, unaddressed need with accommodation providers that businesses like SiteMinder are solving, and I think that need has surfaced in recent years. There could certainly be more capital flowing into hotel tech, but I think that ultimately comes down to our ability as an industry to demonstrate what untapped potential exists – and our role in enabling the traveler experience.What's the single biggest opportunity that hotels are missing today? Acing the guest journey end-to-end. I think the in-stay experience has traditionally been the sole focus for hotels, as it’s what they’ve always had immediate visibility and control over, but of course we know that the journey began long before the guest arrived and continues long thereafter – if it ends at all. The explosion of data and technology has made it possible for hotels to understand their guests in a way they’ve never been able to before, and it’s an opportunity I think most hotels are missing. How will the hotel technology landscape be different in five years? The emergence of new players in the market has been great for competition and I think it’s forced innovation that ultimately hotels have been the beneficiaries of. However, I think the breadth of choice now available to hotels, coupled with the level of complexity that now exists to keep up with today’s traveler, has indirectly created further disparity that means, as a hotel, it is more overwhelming than ever to know which technological solutions are best and if they will work together to make the day-to-day easier, not harder.  I think the disparity and complexity will continue to grow over the next five years, but it will be met with tech innovators that rise to that challenge and provide a way for hotels to benefit from a single, holistic, reliable solution that unlocks a world of potential guests and personalizes every relationship. That will be the pinnacle of data democratization and I think it’s coming.Do you think that branded hotels have better or worse technology than independents? I don’t think the adoption of hotel tech is quite this black and white. For sure, we’re seeing a number of the large hotel brands take the lead in the areas of room technology, A.I., robots and the like, but we’re also seeing innovation happening at the smaller end of the spectrum where independent boutiques are leveraging technology to create a more personalized and memorable stay for their guests. Independent hotels constitute a significant portion of SiteMinder’s global customer base and I think that’s testament to how level the playing field actually is. The cloud and SaaS economy has made best-of-breed solutions accessible to every type of hotel, irrespective of their size, budget or structure, and arguably it’s been the smaller independents that have benefited most.If you were to start a business in hotel tech tomorrow, what would it be Probably something in the hotel guest application space, as that really blurs the lines between B2B and B2C tech and has a real potential to change how we all, as tech innovators and consumers, experience and engage with tech. What's one piece of advice you have for engineers and entrepreneurs who are interested in starting a hotel technology company? The hotel tech industry is fast, exciting and has no limits, but the competition is fast-growing and those that can harness a hotel’s deepest pain points to produce something of value stand the best chance of being relevant not only today, but three, five and even ten years from now. Get in it and carve out your space. What's one podcast, newsletter or book that you recommend hoteliers read if they'd like to eventually move into tech? The SiteMinder Blog (here)What is your favorite hotel in the world? Peppers on the Point at Lake Rotorua, New Zealand What is one thing that most people don't know about you? I’ve swapped my Ducati motorbike for more online video games and have achieved Great Summoner Status in Fire Emblem Heroes!

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"

AxisRooms Named 2018’s Top Rated Channel Manager in the HotelTechAwards

by
Hotel Tech Report

February 12, 2018 -  Hotel Tech Report has named AxisRooms 2018’s top rated Channel Manager based on data from thousands of hoteliers in more than 40 countries around the world.  Over 100 of the world’s elite hotel technology products competed for a chance to win this prestigious title. The HotelTechAwards platform (by HotelTechReport.com) leverages real customer data to determine best of breed products that help hoteliers grow their bottom lines. “It’s no secret that today’s hotelier faces profitability constraints when their channel mix skews too far towards OTAs.  AxisRooms and other channel managers provide the critical connectivity tools that enable hoteliers to profitably manage their channel mix and leverage 3rd party distributors as tools to drive growth.” says Hotel Tech Report’s Jordan Hollander. AxisRooms is poised for sustained growth in 2018. Hoteliers recognized AxisRooms’ truly world class customer support network where AxisRooms exceeded the category average by more than 15%. “The Bar Pricing Mechanism is amazing. I just update the rate for my base occupancy and category. After this the system will automatically publish the prices for all the combinations configured on the channel Manager. Reduced my time for managing multiple properties.,” says a Mumbai based hotel owner. To read the full review and more, head to AxisRooms' profile on Hotel Tech Report

Why hotel distribution is no longer a job, but a button

by
Mateus Coelho

I read an article recently about the slow demise of publishing. It looked into how publishing is hardly still an industry in today's day and age, thanks to platforms such as Wordpress which have empowered anybody, from any professional background, based anywhere in the world, to be a publisher of their own content “ to a mass audience and in an instant, no less.It made me wonder whether “ or, rather, hope that “ one day soon, I'd be reading a similar article about the demise of slow, onerous and manual data entry at hotels. As both someone who flies the hotel technology flag and stays at numerous hotels around the world, I really look forward to that day.It seems a long way away, though, doesn't it? But is it possible? I truly believe so.Thanks to the power of cloud-based channel managers, and the integrations that are made possible through this technology, distribution no longer has to be a job. It's a button. Or, at least, it can be.The search for hotelier freedom Over the last few decades, the front desk has evolved from being a physical table to cloud-based software.It's an evolution all hoteliers today must be embracing. As Peter O'Connor, professor of information systems and dean of academic programs at Essec Business School, puts it: "Archaic systems aren't collecting the right data, and when they do (the data is) siloed and can't be used together."Interestingly, it's an issue many hoteliers clearly realize. In late 2015, SiteMinder and Revinate released groundbreaking research which found that, behind managed guest relationships, integrated technology systems were the second most critical need of hoteliers when it came to distribution and online marketing.The finding was encouraging, as it affirmed that hoteliers are recognizing the freedom modern technology can provide to maintain a property without having to physically be there. And, as we know too well, today's hoteliers must wear many hats “ they need to understand room distribution, online marketing and revenue management just as well as they know hotel operations “ so being able to run their property efficiently is both a tremendous benefit and a growing need.A recent survey by Starfleet Research is further proof of this. Ninety-six percent of those who responded to the survey said the integration of their property management system with different technologies, to create a 'command and control center' with a 360-degree view of operations, was either 'important' or 'very important' to them.Because, with seamless integrations, comes power In spite of the latest research, sadly too many hoteliers today continue to operate in silos, using on-premise technology rather than solutions which are cloud-based and have the ability to literally connect a hotel property to the world.I know, for some of these hoteliers, it feels easier to just put up with the technology they are using because of the scars of installing it all those years ago. As our partners from StayNTouch have said, the easiest decision is not to make one. But at what cost?With mobile phone users being forecast to reach 4.77 billion in numbers in 2017, there are obvious reasons why mobile is continually a hot topic in the trade press and at any major trade conference. However, I find what is often understated is the equal importance of mobility to hoteliers, and, with that, the cruciality of seamless integrations and strong connectivity which lie at the core of automated transactions “ and hotelier freedom.SiteMinder provides a platform that more than 200 property management systems seamlessly connect into today. That's more than any other hotel technology platform, because we believe the front desk should be the single source of data and truth for hoteliers; data that should be shared “ distributed “ to guests in real-time, with the click of a button.In late 2016, Jose Morilla, commercial director of Hoteles Casas y Palacios de Espana, said the integration of SiteMinder's Channel Manager with the group's property management system marked a real "turning point" in the way online bookings were managed. The integration was responsible for lifting the group's occupancy and average daily rate by fifteen percent that year. Additionally, for Mr Morilla, the integration meant the group could "optimize and sell our rooms right up to the last minute without any fear of being overbooked".Hotel distribution doesn't have to be a full-time job. The integration of a property management system with a cloud-based channel manager not only provides hoteliers a centralized view of their guests' journey, it provides efficiency that simply wasn't possible thirty years ago.Importantly, a tightly-integrated distribution setup significantly lowers costs and provides hotels the tipping point for exponential growth in reaching and converting more guests.So, will I soon be reading about the demise of slow, onerous and manual data entry at hotels? Only time will tell.