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Siegel Sez

December 06, 2019

Siegel Sez

Hospitality Upgrade produces two industry events each year – the Executive Vendor Summit in the Spring which brings together those who run tech companies, and in September the CIO Summit limited to the “who’s who” of technology leaders. The process of finding a hotel and getting RFPs is always a challenge, and something with which meeting planners and hotels both struggle. Doug Rice follows this opening with a thorough look at where we are on this subject including those new in the marketplace that are having different levels of success. His timing is perfect as we are deciding on the location of our Executive Vendor Summit planned for March 25, 2020. Still a few months away, right now we want to focus on the last month of the year and a much-needed holiday break. Doesn’t everybody feel the same way? Doug might want to add the sales and catering system that Agilysys is going to be offering to all of its PMS products in the near future. I bring this up because I just attended the Agilysys Consultants forum where the company shared where it is and its plans for the future. It was eye opening for many in attendance and I loved how open and honest the company leaders were.  It was a great event and nothing like going to Florida in December. I thank them for inviting me!

It has been a hectic few weeks with so many events being squeezed in before Thanksgiving. I was honored to be able to share the stage with Ted Horner at the HTNG European Conference in Monte Carlo. It is always fun talking about the history of technology in this industry and I really enjoyed the session Ted and I led. The HTNG conference was very well attended and supported by the vendors who conduct business in that part of the world. Nothing beats face to face meetings and the opportunity to reconnect. Thank you HTNG for inviting Hospitality Upgrade to be a part of your event.

Here now is the real reason we are here, the aforementioned column from Doug Rice. I will see you at the end with this week’s attempt at you-know-what. The home stretch of 2019 is upon us. Here’s to everybody finishing the year on a positive note. I know I am going to try!


Definitely Doug

Meetings Innovation
The sale and delivery of groups and meetings is perhaps the most significant and under-automated functions for many hotels. Even though groups often account for 30% to 60% of revenue, most group bookings are still handled manually for most if not all of steps, as they move from a meeting planner’s research to a confirmed booking.
Hotel sales staff are inundated with Requests for Proposals (RFPs), most of them sent via electronic portals such as Cvent. Most of these are not qualified leads:  the hotel may not have the required function or sleeping rooms at all, or they may already be booked, or the price point may be wrong. Sales managers literally sort through mountains of RFPs trying to guess, with very limited information, which ones are worth pursuing. Meeting planners get frustrated that hotels don’t even respond to most RFPs. Large group bookings generate huge stacks of documentation, typically in the form of Banquet Event Orders (BEOs). Then every minor change, such as to a guest count for a single meal, causes regeneration of yet another huge stack, in which only one page has changed.
It’s sad, but perhaps the biggest advance in the traditional sales and catering (S&C) software programs over the years was the conversion of that huge stack from paper or fax, to sending it as an electronic PDF document. From a technology standpoint, this caught the sales process up to where the rest of the world was around 2000-2005, but about ten years later.
The good news is that today, there is lots of innovation in the S&C space, some of it quite disruptive. Amadeus and Oracle have long dominated the market for hotels, but for this article I spoke with eight companies trying to disrupt the status quo, and got a great view from them of some of the trends, as well as some cool new capabilities. Let’s start with the trends; each of these were mentioned by multiple companies or were reflected in their product designs. Then I’ll provide an overview of what I found interesting about six of the companies I spoke with.
There is a clear and definitive move toward instant online quotation and booking of both guest rooms and function space, as has been the case for transient guest reservations for at least 30 years. Where a group is larger or more complex, some of the systems now do electronic qualification before an RFP is sent to a sales manager’s inbox. There is more electronic connectivity, so that third parties such as Travel Management Companies (TMCs) or Online Travel Agents (OTAs, some of which have group specialties) can create RFPs within their own systems and get electronic responses from multiple hotels, often without human intervention (although the number of hotels able to support this is still quite limited). Group booking engines are proliferating, including single-hotel versions, white-labeled options for brands, and white-labeled versions for TMCs and OTAs.
Business rules are being used to manage the sales funnel more effectively, and to gather data to measure conversion at each transition point. Hotels using these tools are reporting dramatic reductions in the number of RFPs their sales staff need to respond to, and better conversion on those they do.
User interfaces and training are getting simpler, with some systems usable entirely on mobile devices and trainable in as little as 30 minutes. Many of these are have made S&C technology practical for even limited-service hotels, typically at a fraction of the cost of mainstream solutions. Many such hotels do have substantial group business, but it tends to be heavily skewed toward sleeping rooms rather than meeting space and catering; compared with most of the newer solutions, the traditional S&C solutions may seem overpowered, cumbersome, and costly. Many of the newer systems are also designed from the ground up to support the enterprise needs of hotel groups, with consolidated booking engines, reporting capabilities, cross-selling, support for cluster and national sales offices, and payment services that cater to this market.
Much industry attention has been focused on the Group360 deal with Accor, Hilton, IHG and Marriott, who are investing a combined $50 million to get “the first truly transparent, efficient, and cost-effective online tool for meeting planners to source and book meetings and events across a wide selection of brands.” Leaving aside the question of why this didn’t exist 10 or 15 years ago, or whether the shared development model is workable (it doesn’t exactly have a great history in hospitality), the financial commitment from these major brands is clear evidence that they see this as an important and unmet need.
Four of the products I will cover this week fit roughly into the standard definition of an S&C solution, while two others are trying to solve more focused S&C problems.
iVvy offers a comprehensive S&C solution suitable for hotels of any size, but with two significant innovations vs. the status quo. iVvy enables hotels to define rules that can be used to qualify customers and leads, effectively triaging electronic inquiries into ones that can be quoted and potentially converted online; ones that can be rejected outright without human intervention; and ones that really need a sales manager to handle. Second, iVvy is designed for third-party distribution. Its white-label group booking tools are used by distribution channels such as TMCs within their own websites, as well as on hotel and brand.com websites, and they can accept electronic RFPs from other systems as well. Innovations in the electronic booking process allow a meeting planner to see, where appropriate, specific availability of function space down to the hour, so that a request for a two-hour meeting from 9am to 11am won’t be rejected if the group has some flexibility and there is availability later in the day.
Event Temple is another S&C package, targeting select service hotels with a focus on pipeline management. Sales managers work from a visual display that has a single column for each stage of the pipeline funnel with a brief summary of each opportunity; in one glance they can see which ones they should be working on to advance to the next stage. A simple right-click on any opportunity yields a menu to send an email, create a document or invoice, assign a workflow, add a note, change a status, or take another action. Event Temple can easily integrate leads from external sources such as Facebook. It sells for a fraction of the cost of higher-end systems, and the company’s claim that users can learn how to use it in 30 minutes was supported by the simplicity of the user interface I saw.
Another option is Tripleseat, which evolved about year ago from its prior focus on restaurant events, adding guest-room bookings in order to enter the hotel market. It retains much of the simplicity that made it successful in restaurants, where full-featured S&C systems were too cumbersome. With a low cost and easy installation compared to traditional S&C systems, Tripleseat targets limited service hotel properties. It is also designed to work well alongside a higher-end S&C system in full-service hotels that may need a simpler solution for restaurant events. Tripleseat started out in the enterprise space in restaurants and it maintained that approach with hotels; in addition to the normal enterprise functionality, it claims to be the only solution that can natively book a single group across multiple hotels.
Meetings Maker from BookingTek offers real-time booking for function space, although at this time sleeping room blocks can only be booked “on request.” One unusual feature, useful to many larger groups, is its SinglePay function, which allows each property in a hotel group to accept online payments without having to set up a separate merchant account per property; it works with multiple payment gateways and providers. Another feature, used by some Crowne Plaza properties for casual-use meeting rooms off their lobbies, is a tablet interface that allows immediate booking when, for example, an informal meeting in the lobby needs to move to a more private area.
MeetingPackage is not a traditional S&C solution but offers hotels a software layer with business rules that sits between the key data sources (S&C systems, Property Management Systems, and Revenue Management Systems) and the customer. It has a booking engine and web portal that can be white-labeled or inserted plug-and-play into a web site, and third-party connectivity via a group channel manager; it also connects to a payment gateway. Its focus on the connectivity layer allows collection of better end-to-end data on conversion and productivity across more of the marketing funnel, starting with search engine marketing, continuing through the booking engine, the sales process, and ultimately to revenue. Change orders for an event simply require online acceptance by the customer in the web portal, which always reflects the latest order – no need to send an updated PDF!
IDEM Hospitality focuses on the specific problem of managing individual bookings into group blocks, serving three parties:  the booker (through a booking site), the venue (via integration with the Property Management System as well as direct reporting), and the event planner (who has full visibility of the block through a portal). Group delegates can book and securely transmit payment data. A key advantage over existing solutions like Passkey is that IDEM’s software is custom built for hotels rather than convention bureaus, so it is much simpler to set up a group block, taking just two to three minutes. At the same time, it can still handle city-wide events for a hotel group has multiple hotels in a city. It offers capabilities to upsell both within a hotel or to better hotels within the hotel group, and the ability to down-sell to less expensive hotels.
If your hotel handles groups and doesn’t have an S&C solution, or if you’re looking for an alternative to your current solution, potentially at much lower cost, there are some good options out there to look at. As always, these aren’t recommendations to buy, just companies I think are worth looking at – always do your own due diligence!
Douglas Rice
Email: douglas.rice@hosptech.net
Twitter: @dougrice
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ricedouglas/


- Meet HSMAI’s Top 25 Extraordinary Minds of 2019
The Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association (HSMAI) is thrilled to recognize the brightest minds in the hospitality industry with the 2019 HSMAI Top 25 Extraordinary Minds in Sales, Marketing and Revenue Optimization.

- HSMAI Awards Bjorn Hanson and Lee Pillsbury with Lifetime Achievement Honors
The Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association (HSMAI) is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2019 HSMAI Lifetime Achievement Awards in marketing and public relations. Bjorn Hanson, Ph.D., will be honored with the Winthrop W. Grice Award for Public Relations. Leland “Lee” Pillsbury, managing director of Thayer Ventures, will be recognized as the recipient of the Albert E. Koehl Award for Hospitality Marketing.


- 30th Year of the Host Users Group Conference
This year, Springer-Miller Systems celebrated their 30th year anniversary of the Host Users Group Conference in Kohler, Wisconsin at The American Club, a five-star, five diamond hotel that has been part of the hospitality industry for over 50 years.

- The Digital Guest Journey Advances with Maestro PMS Mobile Check-Out and Tablet eFolio Display
Maestro PMS’ integrated Tablet eFolio Display and Mobile Check-out hotel software applications give guests the mobile control they want while reducing the property’s wasteful paper consumption.


- ResortPass Sees Record Growth Fueled by Experience Economy and Redefines Guest Revenue Opportunities for Hotels & Resorts
The gold standard in hotel and resort guest day passes enters 2020 with the momentum of expanded partnerships, investment rounds, and record sales performance.
- Pegasus Partners with Shiji Group to Grow Asia-Pacific Market Presence
Pegasus, a leading provider of hotel distribution and e-commerce solutions, is partnering with Shiji Group, a global technology provider for the hotel, retail, food service and entertainment industries, to expand distribution connectivity into the Asia-Pacific market.
www.pegs.com   www.shijigroup.com


- IDeaS Achieves Global Customer Support Certification from Hotel Tech Report
IDeaS earns high scores across the GCSC Rubric for its pre-emptive support, reactive support, coaching and customer validation


- LVMH Hotel Management's Cheval Blanc Randheli Partners with InnSpire to Adopt Luxury Guest Connectivity Platform 
- Benchmark Inn Partners with HIS to Cater to Guest Demands for Content Casting Functionality with BeyondTV GuestCast®
- Oceana Launches Intelity Platform, Elevating Guest Experience
- Travel Industry Apps and Websites Continue to Play Catch-Up with Digital Leaders in Other Industries, J.D. Power Finds
- AAA Four-Diamond Rating Awarded to The Inn at Harbor Shores
- ME Dubai Partners with InnSpire to Offer Complete Digital Guest Journey Ahead of 2020 Opening


For more information on Guest Facing Technology for 12/6/2019


- CustomerCount® Adds Text Analytics Upgrade to Customer Feedback System
CustomerCount®, leader in online customer feedback management, partners with Keatext to incorporate the option of text analytics into its popular system.  Now CustomerCount offers the upgraded version of the Montreal-based company’s sophisticated analysis component as part of its growing suite of services.
- Fuel Adds Robust In-App Functionality to Its AI-Powered Cross-Channel Marketing and Guest Engagement Platform
Newly released platform update makes it easier than ever for hoteliers to create personalized marketing campaigns with in-app mobile and campaign building features.


- Most Companies Host Their Holiday Parties in January, According to Tripleseat’s Recent Survey
Award-winning hospitality software company releases top trends for venue bookings around this holiday season.


- Northwood Hospitality Implements the Entire BirchStreet Systems Procure-to-Pay Automation Portfolio – Including New BirchStreet Pay – to Drive Bottom Line Impact
BirchStreet Systems, the market leader in procure-to-pay software for the hospitality industry, announces today that Northwood Hospitality has implemented BirchStreet’s full suite of modules, including new BirchStreet Pay.


- Broadband Hospitality Wins AT&T Partner Exchange Network Solutions Award
Broadband Hospitality, a preferred provider of cost-effective and scalable total unified technology solutions for hotels, senior living facilities, student housing and MDUs announced that as a 3+ year member of the AT&T Partner Exchange reseller program, they have been awarded the Strategic Product Cowbell Award, in the Network Solutions category (AT&T* Managed Service and/or AT&T Virtual Private Network), for highest new sales revenue June-Sept 2019.

- Hotel St. Michel Adapts to Latest Guest Wi-Fi Trends by Partnering with Hotel Internet Services
Historic and European style property leverages HIS expertise to cater to guest demands for high speed and multi-device compatible internet connectivity.

- Best Western Hotels & Resorts Takes Guest Wi-Fi to a New Level by Adding Broadband Hospitality as an Endorsed HSIA Supplier
Broadband Hospitality (BBH), a preferred provider of cost-effective and scalable total unified technology solutions for hotels, senior living facilities, student housing and MDUs, announced that it has been selected by Best Western Hotels & Resorts as an Endorsed HSIA Supplier.


- Charleston SC Hotel Implements Clear Sky Software and Benefits from Better Control over Beer, Liquor and Wine Inventory
Renaissance Charleston takes advantage of industry-leading beverage inventory system, Clear Sky BEVERAGE.


- Shujaat Khan at Capital Hilton Tells Us Why He’s Not Looking for Another Concierge Platform
Capital Hilton uses ALICE to enhance the guest experience and consistently deliver personalized, efficient, and effective service.

- Desert Diamond Casino West Valley Expansion Project Implements InvoTech Uniform System
InvoTech RFID Uniform System is now used at Desert Diamond Casino West Valley to manage the uniform operations for complete control and accountability.


- Courtyard Bucharest Floreasca Maximizes Guest Security and Convenience with ASSA ABLOY Global Solutions
ASSA ABLOY Global Solutions has announced the successful implementation of its advanced security access platforms at the Courtyard Bucharest Floreasca. A recently opened hotel located within the business area of Bucharest, Courtyard Bucharest Floreasca is able to provide each guest with both seamless and secure access to their guestrooms using VingCard Signature RFID and VingCard Flex door locks equipped with Mobile Access functionality.


- U.S. Lodging Industry Is Healthy, But Growth Is Slow Through 2021 According to Hotel Horizons December 2019 Edition
CBRE Hotels Research forecasts that revenue growth will continue to diminish, but the U.S. lodging industry will remain strong through the next two years. As outlined in the December 2019 edition of Hotel Horizons, U.S. occupancy levels will dip slightly, but remain above 65.5 percent through 2021, 300 basis points greater than the STR long-run average. Concurrently, rooms revenue per available room (RevPAR) is forecast to increase at less than 1 percent per year during the same timeframe.


- Streamlining Hotel Housekeeping in a Tight Labor Market
- How Augmented Reality Will Help the Hospitality Industry
- The Story Behind North Korea's 1,080-foot 'Hotel of Doom'
- U.S. Hotels Where Your Favorite Movies and TV Shows Were Filmed


For more information on Piqued Our Interest for 12/6/2019


And now for you-know-what.… 

A businessman was interviewing job applications for the position of manager of a large division. 
He quickly devised a test for choosing the most suitable candidate. 

He simply asked each applicant this question, "What is two plus two?"
The first interviewee was a journalist. 

His answer was, "Twenty-two".
The second was a social worker. 

She said, "I don't know the answer but I'm very glad that we had the opportunity to discuss it."
The third applicant was an engineer. 

He pulled out a slide rule and came up with an answer "somewhere between 3.999 and 4.001."
Next came an attorney. 

He stated that "in the case of Jenkins vs. the Department of the Treasury, two plus two was proven to be four."
Finally, the businessman interviewed an accountant. 

When he asked him what two plus two was, the accountant got up from his chair, went over to the door, closed it, came back and sat down. 

Leaning across the desk, he said in a low voice, "How much do you want it to be?" 

He got the job.

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