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Siegel Sez

July 12, 2019

Siegel Sez

by: Rich Siegel

This is always an interesting time of year for me. HITEC is in the rearview mirror, but those who were there as attendees, exhibitors and speakers keep it alive in the many industry conversations. We had a great article written in Hospitality Upgrade’s Watercooler newsletter by Dave Rubin of Greystone Hotels. Dave shared his experience as a first-time HITEC attendee. Click here to read Dave’s article. This is also the time of year when I have nonstop conversations with the technology leaders from the hotel industry as we prepare for our annual CIO Summit. During my conversations with them, the industry leaders share their challenges, successes and how they try to keep up with new innovation in the marketplace. Doug Rice opens up the news section of this newsletter by sharing what new technology he has been watching and shares his opinions about where these solutions might go. It isn’t just the startups that are being creative.  It’s amazing how much we were exposed to at HITEC Minneapolis from established companies which are planning for the future. All this innovation will be covered in our next issue of Hospitality Upgrade which will also include our very popular CIO Summit review. One last comment about HITEC, if you were in Minneapolis you probably made our video. Or if you weren’t there this year, then this is an easy way to see what you missed. For a fun and offbeat 4-minute look back at HITEC, click here.

I will keep this short so you can read Doug’s article, but I had to laugh when he mentioned learning how to roll a joint. I wonder how much that has changed since I was in college? One last thing to share, I’m always amazed when I have conversations at events and how quickly the conversations turn to questions about our horse, Hoboe. It makes me smile. For anybody around Saratoga, NY or who has a trip planned for upstate New York this month, Hoboe is scheduled to run next Saturday, July 20.  You never know for sure if he will actually run since ultimately the weather and the entry process for his race can come into play for the final race lineup. If you have never experienced a day at America’s most famous race track and would like to come, send a note to me at rich@hospitalityupgrade.com and I will tell you where I’ll be. Others from the industry have come before and with a little luck it can be magical.

Here now is the real reason we’re here, the latest industry happenings with the aforementioned thoughts from Doug Rice on those companies in their early growth stages. I’ll see you at the end with this week’s attempt at you-know-what. Go Hoboe!

Definitely Doug

by: Douglas Rice

No Reservations About Innovation
It’s hard to find disruptive innovation at the core of hotel reservations technology. Given the size and complexity of the distribution environment, the investment needed to build a truly disruptive platform is massive. Marketing claims to the contrary, attribute-based sales (which would indeed be truly disruptive) are still much more of a goal than a reality.
To be sure, there are many small companies that have distribution solutions that include central reservations, channel manager and/or OTA connectivity, a booking engine, and maybe a few other tools. Some of them are quite good and are fully cloud-architected, but only one or two seem to be getting the kind of scale that could ultimately make them relevant to the larger hotel brands. Only one of the newer players has made notable inroads into the upscale and luxury market, where functional requirements are much greater. And quite frankly, most of these companies are really just reproducing the same technology that has been around for many years. Maybe cheaper, on using a newer technology stack, or more integrated or better architected, or with a better UX, but not materially different in functional use.
On the other hand, it’s not hard to find some disruptive young companies focusing on specific, unrecognized or under-served aspects of the reservations puzzle, and they will be the subject of today’s column. Some of these uncover overlooked revenue, while others address cost, reliability, or service. They are designed to work with your existing reservation platform, not to replace it. They could be built into the larger platforms, but they haven’t been (at least not yet).
As always, my purpose with this column is to expose readers to things they may not have run across before, and to consider whether and how these innovations could help them. I found all of these products interesting and innovative, but I provide my overviews with the usual caveat emptor:  I have not done the kind of due diligence I would do before buying, and a lot of products that look or sound cool may not be ready for prime time in your hotels.
Today’s first company allows a hotel to upsell almost anything as an add-on, but personalizes the offer based on the specific situation. The hotels using this platform have defined a combined total of 8,000 different add-ons so far, which can be anything the hotel is prepared to deliver, on its own or through local partners. The platform can make intelligent guesses about what might be relevant for a particular booker based on the size of the party, day(s) of the week, number of adults/children, time of the year, and other factors. Hotels are limited only by their imagination in designing add-ons – one Dutch hostel customer with a young, price-sensitive clientele offers workshops on how to roll-your-own joints! Offers are data-driven to maximize sales, and are made only after the guest has confirmed the booking. This approach avoids the leakage that can occur when the basic booking offer has too many options, and also ensures that the offer can be made regardless of booking source (even OTAs). And whatever revenue the hotel gets, it keeps, since the business model is flat fee rather than commission based. www.oaky.com
The second company focuses on the dimension of time, making it easy to monetize early check-ins and late check-outs without disrupting the operation. It kicks in whenever occupancy is below a hotel-defined threshold for a given night. It reaches out to customers who are due to depart that day to sell the option of a late check-out, and to those planning to arrive the next day for an early check-in. Because the room was otherwise going to be empty, and is now being sold as a stay extension for a guest who was going to be there already on the same day, any revenue is pure profit – there are no additional rooms to clean. It’s priced to the guest on a per-hour basis, typically at around 10% of the nightly rate.  The company reports about a 15% uptake when the offer is extended. hotelflex.io
A third product can be used to upsell, or simply to provide guests with greater control over their stay. It is used with a PMS to allow select guests to choose their own specific room, just like airlines let you choose your seat. While the concept itself isn’t new (Hilton has offered this for years), a key innovation is immersive 360-degree photography that enables a guest to actually walk into each room and view it, almost as if they were there. The company handles the photography, intelligently determining how many and which guest rooms to photograph, and which other rooms are close enough to identical (layout, view, bedding, etc.) that they can share photography. The platform can also upsell to better rooms from the visual images. It can now sell late checkouts and other features as well, but it is not as flexible at those tasks as Hotelflex or Oaky respectively. Operational issues are managed by limiting the size of the audience who is offered the option, such as only elite members or direct bookers. www.koridor.com
A fourth product focuses on a problem that many of us thought didn’t need solving – the automation of email reservation requests. Who uses email for reservations anymore? I was surprised to learn that in Europe, 22% of reservations are made that way, requiring inefficient manual processing and often leading to errors and insecure credit card processing. That percentage may be lower in North America, but after hearing about this product, I had a conversation with an executive at one of the top global brands and he confirmed that it’s a lot more than most people think, and a real challenge (he immediately asked for an intro to the company). The product uses Artificial Intelligence to read and respond to emails, to request clarification for any missing information, to call an API to get a real-time price quote, to confirm the booking directly into the PMS, and to accept payment securely. The process can be fully automated for most reservations, with light staff intervention (Outlook-integrated) for the others (or for all, if the hotel prefers). While labor savings are part of the benefit, a major consideration is that many hotels take days to answer emails, whereas the AI responds in seconds. With chatbots becoming ever more pervasive in ecommerce, quick response is now essential to avoid losing the business. www.hotel-reservation-bot.de/en/
A fifth product simplifies interfaces, and has a particularly interesting value proposition for hotel groups that operate a single central reservation system but multiple PMSs. It operates somewhat like an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB; see my earlier blog), but uses APIs to stream data (using the Apache Kafka distributed streaming platform) from every transaction as it occurs (or periodically, depending on the capabilities of the source system). It also fosters innovation by third parties, since it can enable young companies that need to connect to multiple PMSs a means to do so with a single integration, potentially at much lower cost than before. It doesn’t require the infrastructure of a full ESB to get started, which can be a definite advantage.  And while the subject of this post is limited to reservations, the product can connect lots of other systems, too. hapicloud.io
The last product, which I covered in my HITEC review on June 28, simplifies the group rooming list process. I won’t repeat that review here, but you can find it at that link.
What innovative hotel tech product have you seen that has caught your imagination? Drop me a note and let me know about it!
Douglas Rice
Email: douglas.rice@hosptech.net
Twitter: @dougrice
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ricedouglas/


- GCommerce Announces Lisa McGivney as Director of Marketing
McGivney will be responsible for better aligning paid search, optimization, social media marketing, display advertising and other digital initiatives for hospitality digital marketing clients and leading the team to a successful future.
- Holzberg Voted to HTNG Vendor Advisory Council
Cloud5 is excited to announce that CEO Mark Holzberg has been selected by fellow hospitality technology industry leaders to serve on the vendor advisory council of Hospitality Technology Next Generation (HTNG).


- Apaleo Partners with SiteMinder to Create an Open World for Hotels
The partnership sees Apaleo’s PMS integrated with SiteMinder’s platform, so mutual hotel clients of the two companies can automate how they distribute inventory across their chosen marketing channels online and capture reservations.
- Meituan Partners with SiteMinder to Explore the Overseas Hotel Market
Meituan, China's leading e-commerce platform for services, has appointed SiteMinder, a global hotel industry leading guest acquisition platform, as its online distribution partner.


- Coast Hotels Selects IDeaS’ Automated Technology to Evolve Its Revenue Strategy
IDeaS announced today that after a thorough review of revenue management system (RMS) providers and products, Coast Hotels has selected them as its trusted technology partner and is implementing IDeaS G3 RMS at 20 of its Canadian properties.
- Exploit Revenue Opportunities and Power Your Reservations Team with Real-Time Dynamic Yield Management in Maestro PMS
An effective revenue management strategy supported by reliable hotel yield management tools is essential to maintain profitability in today’s market.


- Lodging Interactive Launches CoMMingeDIRECT – 24/7 Social Media Reputation & Crisis Management for Hotels
CoMMingleDIRECT provides 24/7 social media reputation and crisis management for hotels and resorts covering Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

- Lodging Interactive Announces Website and Social Media Marketing Promotion
For a limited time through August 31st, hotels entering into a new website design and digital strategy agreement will also receive comprehensive social media marketing and engagement services at no charge for one year.

- TravelNet Solutions Celebrates 20th Anniversary by Releasing Its First Commercial “Transformation”
"Every day we renew our mission and vision of a transformed industry in which every company competes on a level playing field," said Ryan Bailey, CEO.


- Aptech Congratulates Clients Recognized as ‘Top Management Companies’ by Hotel Industry Publications
Aptech Computer Systems, an industry standard for hospitality financial systems, congratulates its multi-property clients cited in Hotel Business and Hotel Management magazine as industry leaders.


- Knowcross Expands Its Operations In Portugal With The Signing Of Corpo Santo Hotel
Knowcross a preferred service quality management platform of the finest hotels across the globe, is thrilled to share that the Corpo Santo, Lisbon, has decided to implement the Knowcross platform to increase operational productivity and enhance the quality of guest services.

- Hotels Can Now Overcome Language Barriers and Enforce Incidental Policies with Mobile Devices and Connect Staff by Monscierge
A new photos and images feature recently launched in the Monscierge Connect Staff app both improves staff communication and justifies incurred fees.


- Marriott International Update on Starwood Reservation Database Security Incident
Marriott International announced that the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has communicated its intent to issue a fine in the amount of £99,200,396 against the company in relation to the Starwood guest reservation database incident that Marriott announced on November 30, 2018.
- Sheraton Bucharest Implements Seamless Check-in and Guestroom Entry with ASSA ABLOY Global Solutions Mobile Access
ASSA ABLOY Global Solutions has announced the successful implementation of its mobile access solution at the Sheraton Bucharest Hotel, a luxury property located in the heart of Romania's capital.
- SALTO Systems and INTEREL Deliver BLE Wireless Lock Integration for Guest Room Connectivity
SALTO Systems, a leading manufacturer of wire-free smart electronic locking solutions, and INTEREL, an award-winning hospitality guest room management solution, announced the integration of SALTO’s BLUEnet technology into INTEREL’s guest room control solutions,


- Chinese city introduces hotel sheets that tell you when they were last washed
- D.C. Attorney General sues Marriott for ‘misleading’ resort fees
- How the hotel industry has adapted to GDPR
- Greg Webb, SVP & GM Oracle Hospitality, named CEO at Travelport
- The ROI of people: Employee engagement key to profitability


For more information on Piqued Our Interest for 7/12/2019


And now for you-know-what.…  

During her physical examination, a doctor asked a retired woman about her physical activity level. The woman said she spent 3 days a week, every week, in the outdoors.
"Well, yesterday afternoon was typical; I took a five hour walk about 7 miles through some pretty rough terrain. I waded along the edge of a lake. I pushed my way through 2 miles of brambles. I got sand in my shoes and my eyes. I barely avoided stepping on a snake. I climbed several rocky hills. I went to the bathroom behind some big trees. I ran away from an irate mother bear and then ran away from one angry bull elk. The mental stress of it all left me shattered, so I drank a scotch and three glasses of wine."
Amazed by the story, the doctor said, "You must be one heck of an outdoor woman!"
"No," the woman replied, "I'm just a really bad golfer!”

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