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10 Best Central Reservations System

Comprehensive distribution and seamless connectivity in one powerful reservations platform
92
HT Score
Hotel Tech Score is a composite ranking comprising of key signals such as: user satisfaction, review quantity, review recency, and vendor submitted information to help buyers better understand their products.
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COMPANY DESCRIPTION

Travel Tripper's Central Reservation System is designed to help you make the smartest pricing and distribution decisions for your hotel... read more

  • Based in
    New York (United States)
  • Founded in
  • 163 employees on Linkedin
Web-based central reservation system that connects to multiple distribution channels and offers d...
Most Popular
This vendor is the most popular in the category with 45 reviews across 28 countries.
91
HT Score
Hotel Tech Score is a composite ranking comprising of key signals such as: user satisfaction, review quantity, review recency, and vendor submitted information to help buyers better understand their products.
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COMPANY DESCRIPTION

Optimize your distribution strategy and maximize direct bookings with TravelClick’s Reservations & Booking Engine solutions. This... read more

  • Based in
    New York (United States)
  • Founded in
  • 1317 employees on Linkedin
Reservation Services, Revenue Management for Hire, Website Design & Development, and Online Booki...
78
HT Score
Hotel Tech Score is a composite ranking comprising of key signals such as: user satisfaction, review quantity, review recency, and vendor submitted information to help buyers better understand their products.
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COMPANY DESCRIPTION

SHR–Keeping Hotels Competitive. SHR, Sceptre Hospitality Resources, provides advanced tools and services that help hotels execute their... read more

  • Based in
    Houston (United States)
  • Founded in
  • 96 employees on Linkedin
Not sure which Central Reservations System is right for your hotel?
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Cost effective customer contact centers and user management.
69
HT Score
Hotel Tech Score is a composite ranking comprising of key signals such as: user satisfaction, review quantity, review recency, and vendor submitted information to help buyers better understand their products.
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COMPANY DESCRIPTION

Let your most qualified staff sell all your properties from a single location. Or from any location.  Make your entire inventory bookable... read more

  • Based in
    London
  • Founded in
  • 27 employees on Linkedin

Recent Central Reservations Systems Articles

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[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

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.

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

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Hotel Tech Report

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!

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

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Hotel Tech Report

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.

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

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Hotel Tech Report

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.

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

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Hotel Tech Report

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.

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Central Reservations System Category Overview

What is a central reservations system?
A central reservation system (CRS) is a platform used by hotels to centrally manage and distribute room inventory, rates, and reservations. The CRS typically receives inventory from the PMS, then distributes rates and availability in real-time to direct and third-party channels, including the hotel’s own website booking engine and call center (direct channels), as well as channel managers, OTAs, GDS, and metasearch (third-party channels). Reservations from these channels are sent back to the CRS and subsequently synced into the PMS for room allocation. Hotel revenue managers and marketing/e-commerce managers use the CRS to create various promotions and offers through rate plans for different channels and to adjust pricing quickly to be updated across all channels. Reservation agents also work in the CRS to manage reservations.

For info on CRS trends, questions that you should ask vendors and more download the 2019 Hoteliers Guide to Central Reservations Systems.

How can a central reservations system improve profitability and efficiency?
  • Increases efficiency: A CRS allows hotels to distribute their rates and inventory and receive reservations through a singular system—a hotel only needs to input rates and manage inventory through one backend instead of manually updating rates in various channels. A CRS also allows for cost efficiencies in distribution; although hotels can connect their PMS for channel distribution, CRS companies typically have the ability to integrate to different channels and partners (such as GDS and call center), giving hotels a broader reach for less cost.
  • Grows distribution: A CRS allows hotels to connect to a broad network of travel distributors, allowing the hotel to expand its reach to different types of sellers (OTAs, travel agents, consortia, etc.) in many different worldwide markets.
  • Delivers insight: A CRS gives hotel revenue managers a bird’s-eye view over their pricing and inventory allocations through all distribution channels, which allows them to quickly adapt to the market as needed.

What are the most important features of a central reservations system?
  1. Integrations and distribution: channels The CRS should integrate seamlessly with your existing PMS and allow your hotel to distribute rates and availability through a wide network of channels, including direct channels (website, call center) and third-party channels (OTAs, GDS, metasearch). 
  2. Pricing capabilities and flexibility: Every good revenue manager needs a good toolset. Your CRS partner should offer dynamic pricing tools that will give your hotel enormous flexibility when it comes to executing complex revenue strategies. Also consider whether integrations between your revenue management, merchandising, and CRM platforms with the CRS would help to increase operational efficiency (e.g. being able to automate pricing from an RMS, being able to enter rates only once within a backend, etc.) 
  3. Booking engine / e-commerce platform: A huge deciding factor for many hotels is the quality of the CRS’s booking engine, which should offer conversion optimization features to encourage direct bookings. Key features include the ability to showcase strikethrough pricing, social proof, scarcity messaging, and incremental pricing, among others. 
  4. Support and account management: A good CRS partner should not only provide round-the-clock technical support, but should also have active account management focused on customer success. Client services should include performance reviews with detailed analytics and reporting, as well as advice on revenue and pricing strategies. 
  5. Innovation: Your CRS partner should always be seeking to enhance features, support the latest technology trends, and evolve the platform to fit the needs of today’s hotel.

What makes great a central reservations system?
  • Drives high volume of bookings: A good CRS should help a hotel to gain visibility and expand global reach across all distribution channels, which should raise overall revenue via increased bookings and occupancy. 
  • Helps shift share from OTAs: A good CRS will help to shift more bookings from high-cost channels (third-party) to low-cost channels (direct ) . Hotel s with poor - performing / low-converting booking engines will often see a shift ranging from 7 to 25+% when switching to a good CRS. It’s not a panacea, however — a smart direct booking strategy also takes into account a high-converting website, well-managed digital marketing strategy, and other direct booking tools to accomplish its goals.
  • Direct impact on NOI (net operating income): If hotels are seeing their overall revenue increase through increased overall bookings, while simultaneously shifting more of those bookings from third-party channels to direct channels, overall profitability should increase as hotels pay out less commissions.

What is the typical pricing for a central reservations system?
A CRS is typically priced on a variable basis and varies by channel.  For example, direct bookings via booking engine can cost 1-5% of bookings or a flat fee per booking.  Call center reservations are generally priced on talk time or commissions and GDS is usually priced on a flat fee per booking plus membership fees.  Pricing varies dramatically in this category so make sure to compare quotes on Hotel Tech Report to find the best fit for your business.

For a full breakdown on how CRS pricing works and download the 2019 Hoteliers Guide to Central Reservations Systems.

How long does it usually take for a hotel to implement new a central reservations system?
A designated implementation team will reach out to begin the implementation process, which includes completing required forms, building out the system, and proactively reaching out to third-party vendors where integrations are needed. Generally, implementation can be completed within 2-4 weeks, including staff training, provided that hotels provide all the required information in a timely manner and attend the training sessions.

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