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Siegel Sez

January 08, 2015

Siegel Sez

by: Richard Siegel

Happy New Year! How many times are we going to hear that over the next two weeks? Who cares, I love it. It is fun to reconnect with everyone after the holidays, and vacations have been taken and life gets back to normal. But with the New Year comes the traditional New Year’s resolutions. That is another thing I love, trying to figure out the things we need to change in our lives. The problem is that we do it during the worst times, during the holiday season. The best thing to do now that we are back to what I would call “normal” is we should think about the things we need to change in our lives and let them kick in February 1st. We can plan and then we can implement. None of them last a year anyway, so why not enjoy the first month of the year. Or is this my excuse to put things off that I want to change in my life? Who can be sure, but ask me between now and the end of January. One thing I will not change is my opening to our first Siegel Sez of the year, I am keeping it short. What follows is what 40,000 readers all over the world look forward to, Jon Inge’s look back at all that happened in 2014. It is an amazing read and even if you are not a diehard technology follower, take a few minutes and read all the way through it. It was an amazing year and it gets us thinking about what lies ahead for this year. We thank Jon for his great support throughout the year and for keeping the industry abreast of all that is happening. Enjoy his look back followed by the recent happenings; I will see you at the end with this week’s attempt at you-know-what. Here is to a great 2015 for all!

Technology NEWSSTAND

by: Jon Inge
Systems News in Plain English from Jon Inge



- 2014 Year-end Review (long)
An intriguing year.  While many of us expected some vendor consolidation or possible outside acquisitions, who would have guessed that the biggest vendor in the industry would be purchased?  The implications of Oracle’s acquisition of MICROS have yet to make themselves felt – at least outside the companies – but are likely to be significant.  Mobility and Wi-Fi continued to dominate the rest of the news, with an even stronger focus on guest service apps now that mobile management apps are pretty much a given.  Greater synergy between the multitude of guest-facing apps and management systems is still necessary, though, if their real potential is to be realized.  Maybe this year it will finally happen…

Smartphone-based room keys were one of the most discussed trends.  There seems to be very high interest in these, yet several concerns remain to be resolved before they see widespread use, not least the underlying security of Bluetooth LE.  Even then they’re unlikely to be as seamless as the traveling public (or at least their most vocal spokespeople) would like in letting them bypass the front desk; many hotels still want to verify the ID of the person holding the phone before letting them into a room.  Nevertheless this seems to be an unstoppable trend; Hilton plans to implement phone-based keys chainwide by the end of 2016, and Starwood tested them at Aloft, Element and W Hotels.  Smaller operators already use them in one form or another, whether with OpenWays’ acoustic key (Personality Hotels in San Francisco added these), its BlueWays Bluetooth version, or other vendors’ products such as Zaplox, which was installed at HTL Hotel, Stockholm, Munich Derag Livinghotel Am Viktualienmarkt and Hotel Schani Vienna.  OpenKey and Ve-Go Technologies’ accurately but confusingly named RoomKey (there are two other vendors using that name) also launched key apps. 

Mobile apps in general are now widespread, with guest-service apps being launched this year in surprising quantities given that most offer very similar functionality.  The hot button seems to be in facilitating pre-arrival “check-in,” though quite what that gets the guest isn’t clear.  It certainly helps the hotel to have confirmation that the guest actually plans to show up, and an indication of arrival time is definitely useful, but all the guest typically gets is reassurance that the hotel has a room for her.  Being able to pick your own room number sounds appealing – Hilton rolled this out chainwide last year – but by the very nature of guests’ stay dates changing and housekeeping needing to have the room available, selection is limited to 24 hours ahead of arrival.  It’s often a question of picking a room number from a list too, which is meaningless to most guests.  Many of these apps lack interfaces to the front desk system to identify available rooms, so their ability to offer anything other than a message to the front desk is limited. 

Nevertheless, it was a hot topic last year.  Marriott expanded mobile check-in and checkout to an additional 11 brands, Ritz-Carlton rolled out a mobile app for check-in, checkout and service requests, Intelity added pre-arrival services and Knowcross’s KNOW SERVICE guest request management module to ICE, LUX Resorts and Kempinski Hotel Bahía picked iRiS’ Guest Valet, protel released its Voyager mobile guest service app, and Accor announced phase two of its Monscierge-based Novotel Virtual Concierge.  James Hotels launched the James Pocket Assistant, FCS developed an interface with Ariane’s online check-in system, and Kalahari selected Percipia to develop a mobile application.  CheckMate was on a roll, being picked up by Rydges (49 properties), Airline Hotels (nine properties) and several independents, and was integrated into Sabre’s TripCase itinerary management tool; it also let guests check in via cards in Google Now.  Rotana launched its Neorcha tablet-based guest service application at all 43 hotels, Proxce announced a mobile check-in and guestroom key app, GuestDriven launched a Mobile Check-In and Upgrades app, Palmer House Hilton deployed HCN’s tablet Navigator to all guestrooms, the Ruby Hotel, Vienna, installed SuitePad in-room tablets, and Delta deployed an Intelity ICE-based guest service app for all 38 properties.  As mentioned earlier, however, better integration between guest service apps, hotel systems and guests’ own devices is still needed before the potential synergies of these apps can be fully realized.

Mobility is now a given for management systems.  NORTHWIND made Maestro on a tablet via a browser UI, MICROS and Agilysys announced new tablet versions of their POS systems, as did IDeaS for revenue management and ResortSuite for spa check-in.  StayNTouch’s OPERA-linked mobile applications for front office and housekeeping had a hot start, being picked up by Thompson Chicago, YOTEL New York, Joie De Vivre and Hotel Nikko San Francisco.  iBeacon™ began to find practical uses in hotels, too, as broadcast points for advertising messages to hotel apps on guests’ phones, as well as (from GenieConnect) in conferences to push presentation data to attendees.

Google Glass came and went.  It sounded promising for guest service uses and several properties launched pilot programs, both for guests (Starwood’s SPG app and Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine’s app for self-guided guest tours, among others) and staff (concierge use at The Fairmont San Francisco and Montcalm London Marble Arch).   On the vendor side iTesso developed a Glass-assisted hotel check-in application, Tambourine’s Glass app could capture hotel video for social media channels, and Spanish OTA Destinia created one to search for and book hotels.  In practice, though, its voice-activated interface isn’t ideal for guest interactions and interest seemed to wane towards the end of the year.  Perhaps a future version 2.0 will be less intrusive, as the concept of presenting useful information directly in one’s line of sight is certainly attractive.

Mobile payment also struggled for traction.  Bitcoin made a brief appearance; payments were accepted by D Las Vegas Casino Hotel and the Golden Gate Hotel & Casino, and REVPAR GURU and BitPay announced their GuestLeader Bitcoin-compatible hotel booking engine.  Best Western and Motel 6 integrated Google Wallet with their mobile apps.  In general, though, public adoption of specialty mobile payment apps still seems to be glacial.  Apple Pay is the latest approach to catch the imagination, but it’s much too early to tell if it will see widespread adoption. Rather than use a separate payment app, it may become more common to pay within the app used to book a service, as with Uber. OpenTable is testing the same concept.

Wi-Fi was still a hot topic; guest demand continued to soar and the last bastions against free service began to fall at year-end as more chains introduced tiered service.  Most chains now offer basic service at no charge for members of their no-cost loyalty programs, and Hyatt now offers it to all guests.  More flexibility in charging plans is still required, though, to let guests pay for a high-speed link when they need it (e.g., for streaming a movie) and otherwise stay with basic service; hotels still usually make it all or nothing.  The quality of service is key, too, and Hotel WiFi Test launched a helpful independent service rating Wi-Fi cost, bandwidth and quality at chains and independents.   

Hotels continue to struggle with the bandwidth loads imposed by guests’ ever-increasing number of connected devices, but need to have a better approach to the problem than Marriott’s blocking of personal hotspots within meeting spaces, which turned into a PR nightmare for the company.  Cell phone coverage inside hotels also grew in prominence as not every guest wants to sign into the hotel Wi-Fi network to make and receive calls, and RoamingAround’s RoamBoost devices gained several new clients.

New-generation guest management systems all saw progress during the year.  PAR Springer-Miller’s ATRIO gathered pace with orders from Las Vegas Downtown Project, Scout Hotels (seven properties), broughtonHOTELS (14 properties) and Vive Hospitality’s Qliq Damansara Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, it’s first international sale.  hetras added the Dutch-based Qbic hotel group and Travel24, and Infor offered several apps bundled into its CloudSuite Hospitality suite hosted on Amazon Web Services.  Value Place migrated 190 properties to MSI’s TruCloud, Best Western certified it for general release, InnDependent Boutique Collection offered it at a discount to its 4,000+ members, and La Quinta implemented MSI’s CloudConnect to link GMSs at 830 hotels to its website.  Agilysys showed its promising new rGuest at HITEC and had its first implementation (Harbor Winds Hotel) by the end of 2014, and right at year-end Cobblestone Hotels picked SkyTouch’s Hotel OS platform for its 63 properties.

Proving there’s life in the older systems yet, Agilysys gained clients for Visual One in the Comanche Red River Hotel, Casa Ybel Resort and Palm Garden Hotel, while Springer-Miller’s Host was ordered by StreamSong Resort, Singita (12 safari camps and lodges) and Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.  Worldhotels named Protel as a Partner Software Provider for its 500 hotels, and The Ascott Limited ordered additional protel MPE licenses for 5,000 apartment units.  Spicers Retreat in Australia implemented RoomKeyPMS at seven properties, a welcome international sale for the Canadian vendor.

ERP systems gained significant traction.  MGM deployed Cenium’s full hospitality enterprise suite at its Chengdu China property, the third of 15 Cenium implementations it’s planning worldwide, and Boyne Resorts is deploying Cenium across 12 resorts in the United States.  NH Hotel Group selected Indra’s complete Travel Management Suite (TMS) for its 400-hotel portfolio, John Keels Holdings ordered TMS for 14 Cinnamon properties, and H10 Hotels selected TMS for its 44 properties.

Three intriguing announcements came with no clear indication yet of what they might mean.  The impact of Oracle’s acquisition of MICROS has yet to be seen.  Sabre announced its SynXis Enterprise Platform, starting with the SynXis Property Manager (an updated version of the SoftHotel system it acquired earlier) but nothing has been heard since.  IHG entered into a strategic relationship with Amadeus for “development of consumer-facing technology” but with no specific project mentioned.  Watch this space.

Sceptre’s Windsurfer had a good year, with Magnuson launching its Windsurfer-based CRS1 reservation system in the United States and with Millennium & Copthorne and Red Lion both migrating to Windsurfer.  Sabre also grew, renewing its contracts with Accor, Hilton and Sun-N-Sand Group for SynXis and picking up Morgans (12 properties), China’s HNA Hotels & Resorts and Wyndham (4,000 sites).  Trust added Welcome Hotel Groups’ 17 hotels and Aerowisata Hotels & Resorts.  Pegasus landed Maritim Hotel Group (51 hotels for the OpenView Internet booking engine), Sorell Hotels (17 hotels to Pegasus Connect+, RVNG) and Sunway Hotels & Resorts (OpenView for 10 hotels) and renewed its contract with Astotel for Connect+ Premium at 15 hotels.  Louvre Hotels deployed MICROS’ OPERA 9 Reservation System (ORS) for 220+ Tulip-brand sites.

The big unknown in this space is where Google and Amazon are heading.  Google licensed the technology behind Room 77 to use in its own hotel search applications and has been adding Street View imagery to hotel search pages, and Amazon announced plans to start offering hotel booking services in a few select cities.  Neither vendor has much experience with chain reservations, but their potential impact is very significant.

Revenue/Channel management
This is still one of the hottest areas of activity as hotels remain fully aware of the need to fine-tune their offerings for maximum revenue.  Newcomer Duetto was much in the news, not least due to its energetic and visible CEO, Patrick Bosworth, and landed clients including Woodside Hotels, Red Lion (53 properties), The Charles Hotel, Cambridge and the Westgate Las Vegas.  IDeaS was chosen by 25hours (7 properties), Delta (37), Petit Palace Hotels (33), Kamp Group (5) and Extended Stay America (nearly 700).  Infor announced more than 340 orders for EzRMS in the last 12 months, including glh and Kempinski (73 hotels).  eRevMax’s RateTiger was endorsed by Hyatt for EAME and Southwest Asia and by Sweden Hotels (60 affiliated properties), and was ordered by Oakwood Managed Properties (12 sites), Vincci Hotels (22), Transamerica Hospitality (21) and Brazil Hospitality (49).  SiteMinder was chosen by Derag Livinghotels (14 properties), Dorsett Hospitality (20) and Grand City Hotels (80+).  RezNext acquired more than 400 customers in 113 cities in India during the last quarter of 2013, and Best Western integrated Revcaster’s rate shopping tool into its BestREV revenue management for 2,100 properties.

Reputation management
Affirming the major influence of travelers’ comments on hotel bookings, reputation management tools were incorporated into many more systems and booking sites last year.  TrustYou was particularly active; its TrustScore data was provided by Alberta Hotel & Lodging Association, Irish Hotels Federation, Check In Canada and the Lindner hotel group to their properties.  On the vendor side TrustScore data was incorporated into Infor’s EzRMS, JackRabbit, KAYAK, MakeMyTrip, Wego, Rainmaker’s GuestREV, Thomas Cook’s 45,000-hotel tracking system, Worldhotels, SmartDepart’s booking engine and FindMyCarrots’ search engine in India.  Sabre’s Red App store for travel agents added an app for TrustYou, and Sabre also renewed its relationship with ReviewPro.  ReviewPro was licensed by PwC Switzerland for its clients’ use and was selected by Dorsett Hospitality and Centara Hotels & Resorts. 

Online booking and event management were definitely the leading focus here last year.  Prologic First released its Central Banquets multiproperty event booking system, Passkey launched its PasskeyANYWHERE free online portal for meeting planners, and John Q. Hammons deployed Passkey's GroupMAX at 39 additional sited.  Hyatt deployed Social Tables to all North American hotels, and Social Tables’ On-Site allowed hotels to embed an editable function space diagram onto their websites.  Groupize made a big impact with its new Group Booking Engine (GBE), which aims to replace the traditional RFP process and was picked up by Highgate Hotels, Denihan, The James, The Sanctuary Hotel New York, Mohegan Sun, InnSuites and The Lenox Hotel Boston.  Vantage Hospitality also encouraged its 1,000+ properties to deploy GBE.  Sonesta picked EMI’s SpeedRFP for its 51 properties, and MCR Development added hotel SalesPro to a further 26 hotels.  Highlighting the ever-growing thirst for data on booking traffic trends and microsegments, nSight’s data was adopted by CVBs and DMOs in the United States and internationally, including the CVBs of Tucson, Scottsdale and Flagstaff, VisitEngland, the Beaver Run Resort and Conference Center and Stein Eriksen Lodge.

Guestroom tech
Other than the perpetual demand for more Wi-Fi coverage and bandwidth, much of last year’s developments in guestroom technology focused on more partnerships between vendors (such as Guest-tek with both DIRECTV and LG Electronics’ PrCentric IPTV platform) and on ways to link the guest’s devices to the TV display.  at-visions integrated Google’s Chromecast with its ONEvision Hotel TV service, and the Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs equipped all rooms with Nexus Tablets and Google Chromecast.  Quadriga added Apple’s Airplay® streaming to its Sensiq IPTV service (and added its Personal Video Recorder (PVR) and Pause Live TV capabilities), and Intelity partnered with Guest-tek to let guests stream media content from their mobile devices to the TV.  Hilton named SONIFI and Bulk TV & Internet as preferred free-to-guest service suppliers to U.S. hotels; Red Lion also approved Bulk TV & Internet for HD programming.  Ocean Properties picked Guest-tek to upgrade the Internet service in 25 hotels, as did InTown Suites for 134 locations.  Scandic Hotels named Ruckus Wireless as its brand standard.

Vendor partnerships
In addition to the normal development of inter-system interfaces, last year saw a greater degree of more formalized partnerships between vendors.  In addition to Guest-tek’s efforts mentioned above, Indra added SiteMinder as its channel partner for distribution services, and Infor added SmartFocus’ email marketing services to its Epiphany BI tool and partnered with Booker Software to offer activity management software alongside its HMS guest management system.  Passkey and Flip.to integrated their platforms, MICROS added iRiS’ guest service apps to its hosted Commerce Platform, at-visions made its ONEvision Hotel IPTV available as a managed service through telephone companies, and Newmarket added Zingle’s guest texting service to HotSOS.  I expect this trend to keep on growing as the synergies available from integrating multiple systems become ever more apparent.

Multiproperty implementations
In addition to the major contracts listed above, significant orders were announced by the following:
- Aptech’s Execuvue Business Intelligence was deployed by MHG Hotels across 11 properties and by Oliver Companies for 13, and its Profitvue was picked by LTS Hospitality Management for 8 properties.  Its Targetvue Budgeting and Forecasting software was selected by American Liberty Hospitality for 22 properties and by Pinnacle for 26.  HRI Lodging installed Targetvue, Execuvue and Profitvue systems for 17 hotels.
- InvoTech was on a roll, installing its UHF-RFID Linen System throughout the year at a rate greater than one per month.
- MICROS’ Simphony Enterprise POS was selected by Marriott for F&B operations at Marriott brands in the United States and Canada.
- Optii Solutions’ housekeeping software was offered by Worldhotels to all members .
- ProfitSword’s ProfitSage BI was selected by Gemstone Hotels & Resorts for all 13 hotels.
- ResortSuite was picked by Omni for activities management at six properties.

It was another surprisingly busy year for takeovers and mergers.  In chronological order:
Infor acquired PeopleAnswers
Cendyn picked up Arcaneo
ACTIVE Network Business Solutions merged into Lanyon
Guest-tek acquired TelNet and iBAHN
TravelClick was sold to Thoma Bravo
IHS GmbH added InnLink to its portfolio of Trust International, Worldhotels and Nexus World Services
Clarabridge acquired Market Metrix
Lanyon bought Passkey
Oracle bought MICROS
Priceline acquired OpenTable, buteeq and Hotel Ninjas
TripAdvisor acquired restaurant booking service LaFourchette
Infor bought Saleslogix
Safemark Systems and ScooterBug merged
Sonata Software acquired Rezopia and XYKA
Alibaba’s Taobao subsidiary took a stake in Beijing Shiji Information Technology
Sabre acquired Genares
SAP bought Concur
Regent Equity Partners acquired Pegasus Reservations Services
Quadriga merged with SmarTV
Pegasus Electronic Distribution Services was purchased by H.I.G. Capital
Sabre sold Lastminute.com to Bravofly Rumbo
PriceMatch acquired PowerYourRoom

And that’s it.  What will this year bring?  Will Google and Amazon make serious moves into the reservations space, or perhaps CRM?  They already know scary amounts about most of us.  Will Oracle fund significant developments for MICROS or be content to coast with it for a while?  Will a major U.S. chain commit to a non-MICROS GMS?  Will Airbnb develop into a full-fledged chain?  Beats me, but it’s going to be fascinating watching it unfurl.



- Qatar Airways chooses Trust for distribution services at its first hotel
Qatar Airways has chosen Trust International to provide distribution services for its first hotel, The Airport Hotel, inside the passenger terminal at Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar.  Qatar Airways has strong expansion plans with several new hotel openings scheduled for the next two years.  http://www.hiahotel.com, http://www.Trustinternational.com


- Accor deploying Nor1's eStandby at all upscale and luxury hotels
- Sceptre integrates Flip.to into WindsurferCRS
- nSight launches nGenius Community partner digital marketing program. 
For more information on Marketing/Management for 01/08/15


- PriceMatch acquires PowerYourRoom
- Duetto integrates Revcaster’s comp-set data
- The Hotel Collection selects SiteMinder for distribution management in 21 hotels
For more information on Revenue Management for 01/08/15


- Xiamen C&D Tourism and Hotels selects Newmarket’s Delphi 2015 and N2GO
Xiamen C&D Tourism and Hotels Incorporation has selected Newmarket International’s Delphi 2015 and N2GO.  C&D owns and operates 11 hotels under the C&D Hotels and YIHO Hotels brands, as well as one international travel agency.
http://www.cndhotels.com/web/en/, http://www.newmarketinc.com


- ResortSuite lands five new resort clients
- Remington Hotels picks SpaSoft for two spas in Key West
ResortSuite announced five new clients for the activity management modules of its software suite:
- The Inn at Palmetto Bluff, a Montage Resort, for spa, activities, golf, club, retail, concierge, Web, dashboard, Connect, ResortSuite OPS (SPA Check-In App, SPA Staff Portal).
- Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas for spa, activities, golf, club, Web, mobile and Connect.
- The Lodge and Cloister at Sea Island for spa, activities, golf, club, retail, Web, mobile, Connect and SPA Staff Portal.
- Bulgari Hotel, London for spa, activities, club, Web, mobile, dashboard and Connect.
- Omni Amelia Island Resort for spa, activities, golf, club, retail, Web, dashboard and Connect.
Remington Hotels has selected PAR Springer-Miller Systems’ SpaSoft spa and activity management for two spas in Key West, Fla.: Top Spa at La Concha Key West and The Spa at Pier House.  http://www.laconchakeywest.com, http://www.partech.com


- Chains cave, finally launch free Wi-Fi service
- Bittel releases UNOMedia 5 alarm/clock/radio/telephone with USB charging ports and NFC-enabled Bluetooth
Chains cave, finally launch free Wi-Fi service:
- Marriott International has announced that, starting in January, it is offering free wireless Internet to guests who join its loyalty rewards program.
- Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide will similarly offer free Wi-Fi, starting in February, to members of its loyalty program who book their rooms through the Starwood website or the SPG app.
- Hyatt Hotels Corp. announced that it is offering free standard Wi-Fi from February for all guests, even those who don't join its loyalty rewards program.  Elite loyalty members will be able to upgrade to premium Wi-Fi service at no charge, while non-members will be charged a fee, which has yet to be announced.
Bittel has released its UNOMedia 5 guestroom multifunction unit that includes an alarm/clock/radio/telephone with device charging and NFC-enabled Bluetooth for wireless music playing.  The unit includes Bittel's EasyCharge multifunction cable which supports Apple Lightning™ (iPhone® 5 and 6 series, new iPad®), micro USB (Android, BlackBerry® and Windows), Apple legacy (iPhone 4s and older) and audio 3.5mm (for music).  It also features four USB charging ports for both standard and high-power charging requirements.  http://www.bittelcom.com  


- Gold Miners Inn chooses WAKEUP CALL to support risk management efforts
Destination Properties’ Gold Miners Inn in Grass Valley, Calif., has chosen WAKEUP CALL to help its risk management, procedural and human resources processes.  http://www.wakeupcall.net  


- Marriott picks Verizon’s Hospitality Communications Express unified communications platform
Marriott International has signed a multiyear agreement for Verizon Hospitality Communications Express, making it the first hospitality company to deploy Verizon's Unified Communications platform.  The platform provides Marriott properties with a cloud-hosted voice service that reduces the need for onsite hardware and IT support, can replace aging PBX systems and includes seamless integration with hotel property management systems and Verizon 4G LTE wireless failover for business continuity.  http://www.marriott.com, http://www.verizon.com


- Kevin Costello joins board of directors at Rainmaker
Kevin Costello has joined the board of directors at The Rainmaker Group.  Mr. Costello has more than 25 years of experience in executive leadership roles, most recently as president of SaaS developer Ariba, which was purchased by SAP in 2012.  He was also global managing partner for Andersen Business Consulting and served as a director of Cbeyond.


- Cobblestone selects SkyTouch for 63 properties
- Hilton digital check-in and room selection now available chainwide
- Springer-Miller adds Flip.to integration to ATRIO
For more information on Guest Management Systems for 01/08/15


And now for you-know-what...

For a couple years I've been blaming it on lack of sleep and too much pressure from my job, but now I found out the real reason: I'm tired because I'm overworked. The population of this country is 237 million. And 104 million are retired. That leaves 133 million to do the work. There are 85 million in school, which leaves 48 million to do the work. Of this there are 29 million employed by the federal government, leaving 19 million to do the other work. Then 2.8 million are in the Armed Forces, which leaves 16.2 million to do the other work. Take from that total the 14,800,000 people who work for state and city governments and that leaves 1.4 million to do the other work. At any given time there are 188,000 people in hospitals, leaving 1,212,000 to do the work. Now, there are 1,211,998 people in prisons. That leaves just two people to do the work. You and me. And you're sitting at your computer reading jokes.

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