by
Rich Siegel
2.9.2024

Siegel Sez 2/9/24

Siegel Sez 2/9/24

Definitely Doug 2/9/24: The Path to Personalization

CORPORATE NEWS

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE

GUEST MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS

RESERVATIONS & DISTRIBUTION

GUEST FACING TECHNOLOGY

MARKETING

BACK OFFICE

COMMUNICATIONS & INFRASTRUCTURE

FOOD & BEVERAGE

HUMAN RESOURCES

SECURITY

HOSPITALITY EVENTS AND ASSOCIATION NEWS

MARKET REPORTS

PIQUED OUR INTEREST

Only Doug Rice can start his Definitely Doug column that follows with - do you remember the emergence of the World Wide Web? Then, he goes to the introduction of the iPhone. Before you know it, he is comparing how hotel rooms are booked to how we buy groceries. Then before he is done, he comments that when planning a trip you’re going to be dealing with a group called LAMs. Historically hotels haven’t embraced new technologies which is a big mistake, but if you want to know why you shouldn’t make that mistake again, beyond the fact that it costs the industry way too much money, take a few minutes and read this edition of Definitely Doug. My friend ChatGPT will be glad you did!

Here at Hospitality Upgrade much of our focus this week is on our upcoming 19th Executive Vendor Summit (EVS). Last year we had more than 50 CEOs from a wide range of companies — from very big to just out of the startup phase — join us amongst the near 100 in attendance that included many other senior executives and the industry’s top consultants. Many of the hotel technology leaders at our CIO Summit in Austin last year requested attending EVS so there will be quite a few CIOs joining this year including Andrew Arthurs of Aimbridge Hospitality, Scott Strickland with Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, Gustaaf Schrils with Omni Hotels and McLean Xavier with INNVest Hotels participating on our annual CIO panel. If you’re a technology vendor and work closely with others in the hotel industry, you, too, should be in Denver on March 26-28. Registration closes soon so, reach out to Kim@hospitalityupgrade.com quickly since there are requirements to attend.

I hope you saw the release about Hospitality Upgrade being the Platinum Sponsor of the new HITEC IC Investment Conference which the industry has needed for the technology folks. As EVS is a much smaller and intimate setting than HITEC, we have quite a few from the investment community also joining us this year. I love the many conversations that I have with those in the money world, and hearing how they look at the industry often differs greatly from how I do. If you’re a technology vendor and want to experience the industry’s most unique conference, then please join us at EVS 2024. If you have any questions about an invitation, please reach out to kim@hospitalityupgrade.com.

Here now is Definitely Doug along with the latest happenings in the tech world for the hospitality industry. I will see you at the end with this week’s you-know-what. Go Niners! Give the points!

Rich

rich@hospitalityupgrade.com

In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, businesses often find themselves prioritizing functional changes and component upgrades over experimenting with new technologies, even critical ones.

In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, businesses often find themselves prioritizing functional changes and component upgrades over experimenting with new technologies, even critical ones.

Consider some pivotal moments in recent technology history, such as the emergence of the worldwide web or the introduction of the iPhone. Brick-and-mortar businesses like hotels were slow to realize that fundamental and ultimately threatening changes were afoot. This is understandable, since applications of new technologies are often not obvious, and the technologies themselves can be time-consuming to learn. Moreover, it is impossible to anticipate all the changes they will ultimately bring about. With the web and mobile web, third parties—notably online travel agents (OTAs)—invested sooner and more heavily than hotels. In doing so, they gained a foothold that hotels have never completely taken back. The same is true in many other industries.

If a hotel company could go back in time and be an early (or at least not lagging) adopter of web or mobile technologies, I suspect many would. These were missed opportunities that proved very costly to hotel operators. To be sure, early adoption of new technologies carries risks, and many early initiatives fail. But even failures provide important learnings for the organizations that have tried them, positioning them to succeed sooner than rivals. And early failures are usually small ones.

The technology environment today is at an inflection point as important as those represented by the worldwide web and the iPhone. But this time, instead of being an issue to understand for the future, key emerging technologies hold the potential, or even the promise, of solving some critical and immediate business priorities for hotels and other travel providers. The question is, will the hotels take the opportunity and act on it, or will intermediaries or alternative accommodation providers once again lead the way?

Intersecting Trends

On the business front, two pressing issues consistently top the priority list of hotels and other travel-related businesses. First is the growing desire to personalize the selling process, tailoring offers to match each unique sales opportunity. Loyalty, mobile apps, massive customer data platforms, attribute- and ancillary-based selling, and conversational interfaces are among the key initiatives many hotel companies are already prioritizing to meet this objective. And none of them work particularly well.

Simultaneously, corporate risk managers see skyrocketing costs and reduced coverage options for cyber insurance, resulting from the rising frequency, scope, and expense of data breaches and the associated regulatory and legal costs; these have been particularly bad for hotels. And these two priorities would seem to conflict: more personalization means more personally identifiable information (PII) to store, and more stored PII means more cyber risk.

Meanwhile, technology has seen explosive growth (and many useful applications) of artificial intelligence (AI), most notably large language models (LLMs) and now large action models (LAMs), the latter illustrated by the new Rabbit r1. Behind the scenes but equally important are foundational Web-3 technologies including self-sovereign identity (SSI), some of its building blocks, which include trusted identity, provable statements about people, biometric proofs tied into phone features like FaceID, and mobile apps that make these accessible to everyday consumers and businesses.

For hotels and many other travel industry participants, these trends are not in opposition. Web3 and AI technologies provide the opportunity to completely redefine how we handle personalization, how we store PII, and how travelers and hotels interact. I have no doubt that they will lead to dramatic changes in the way travel is imagined, purchased, and consumed within the next decade, and possibly much sooner – much as the web and mobile phones did in decades past. I would go as far as to say that without new approaches enabled by these new technologies, personalization will never truly work.

What remains to be seen is which companies will be like Kodak, betting on a future with pictures engraved on silver oxide film, and which will be Apple betting on digital images. If you think Apple had the better answer, and want to avoid Kodak’s fate, then this article is for you.

Why It Matters

Today, travel and tourism suppliers and intermediaries essentially broadcast rate and availability offers through various distribution channels. Collectively they spend billions of dollars to get consumers to visit those channels. Then they wait for potential travelers to come, look, evaluate, and hopefully buy.  

But when they do, every prospective traveler gets pretty much the same offer. To the extent there is any personalization, it is almost entirely at the edges of the process rather than at the core. It is like a grocery store where prices are marked on the shelves for consumers to see and decide. On shopper might have clipped a digital coupon that she knows will result in a better price at checkout, but that’s as personal as it gets. To be sure, I have seen a few truly personalized offers in travel. Airlines trying to get passengers to pay to upgrade to first class sometimes quote different prices based on your history, whether your status is more or less likely to get you a free upgrade, and the like. But this type of personalization is far from mainstream.

Tomorrow’s technology will still support the “grocery shelf” model, but it also offers better options. In particular, consumers (or more likely AI agents acting on their behalf) will be able to broadcast a set of travel needs and preferences and invite travel suppliers and intermediaries to respond with tailored product offerings.

My good friend and industry legend Gene Quinn has compared the new model to the open-outcry stock exchange floor, where sellers shouted out what they had to sell and at what price, and buyers announced what they wanted to buy and how much they were willing to pay; the old model only had sellers doing this. At a macro level this is an accurate and useful analogy. At the micro level, it has even more depth, enabling a private negotiation between each buyer and each seller (or more likely between their AI agents). And that negotiation is not just about price, but can cover features, add-ons, inclusions, booking policies, and other attributes that have value to a particular buyer and that produce more profit to the supplier. Moreover, the marketing language used to describe the offer can be personalized to appeal to the hot buttons of the specific traveler (AI can already do this well).

This model is supported by the combination of SSI (now an integral part of the worldwide web standards), emerging standards for digital trust, emerging mobile apps for consumer interactions, and LLMs. I have written about SSI before so I will not elaborate further here (if you need a primer, you can find one here). LLMs like ChatGPT have gotten a lot more publicity than SSI; I am pretty sure you do not need an explanation. Let us see how these can work together.

Painting the Picture

For this, we will utilize our time travel machine and project ourselves into the future. I will not guess a precise time frame, but based on progress to date, I expect the current proof-of-concepts and early pilots to evolve into a few stable, scalable products within one to two years. The full adoption timetable will take much longer; thirty years after the launch of the worldwide web, there are plenty of hotels that still only accept reservations by phone. My best guess is that a scenario like what follows will be common within four to five years and will be the norm in less than a decade. The technology itself will likely stabilize within the first few years, but historical experience suggests hotels (and particularly the long tail of smaller hotels) might not be the speediest of adopters.

In a few short years, a consumer who wants to travel will interact with an LLM-based agent on their phone, expressing some general desires (location, purpose, sun, beach, skiing, fishing, whatever), budgetary guidelines, who is traveling, and other relevant specifics. The AI agent maintains a (private) version of the traveler’s profile, which includes identifying information; ongoing requirements, likes, preferences, and behavioral characteristics; and cryptographic verifiable proofs of relevant credentials or affiliations (such as might be needed to access a negotiated rate or to prove certifications for certain high-risk experiences).

The agent broadcasts the consumer’s requirements and preferences to qualified suppliers and intermediaries, sharing whatever information the consumer has approved from their profile. This will be done anonymously unless the traveler prefers otherwise. Suppliers and intermediaries then construct offers tailored to each request and return them to the agent.

The agent evaluates and ranks them, presenting the best matches to the traveler. In the early years, the responses will need to be augmented with published (non-personalized) options, since many suppliers will not be ready to respond to broadcast requests for offers. And the process may iterate if, for example, the traveler realizes that the criteria were not as tight as needed to avoid getting back some unacceptable options. The traveler and the agent will likely be conversing in a LLM interface, using voice or text and plain language, as in “I’m looking for someplace sunny, on a beach, and all-inclusive for a week-long vacation sometime in March, but not the Caribbean. My budget is $2000 for two people.”

The supplier uses LLMs to construct personalized marketing descriptions for their offer, based on the requirements and preferences expressed by the consumer. A consumer whose profile says they enjoy art shows might get a description of a hotel offer that highlights its proximity to an arts district or a scheduled art fair or exposition, for example. Another consumer with detailed culinary interests might see something for the same hotel highlighting interesting neighborhood restaurants.

The process is not limited to a single supplier or intermediary. A complex trip might include air, hotel, rental car, restaurants, and multiple activities; the AI agent can have simultaneous conversations with multiple suppliers for every aspect, and construct the best options based on the results, essentially a package on the fly. The traveler’s app basically becomes a digital super-travel-agent. Alternatively, the agent might get quotations from OTAs or traditional tour operators that handle multiple pieces in a package. The search results are not limited to one or the other, they can include both.

Eventually, the traveler selects an option and is ready to book. This might be handled by a Large Action Model. LAMs are just starting to emerge in the real world, but you can find a good overview of how LLMs and user agents may evolve into LAMs in this Salesforce research piece (their example of buying a car is quite instructive). The LAM knows what to do to make bookings happen. This will often involve sending additional information from the traveler’s profile, such as name, address, and payment information. Shopping will often be anonymous as it is today, but travel suppliers typically require a name (and often other information) to confirm a booking.

The conversation between the agent app and suppliers and intermediaries has several important aspects that are often missing today.

  • Both parties can be 100% confident who they are dealing with (or more accurately, they can be confident whenever they need to be). If my agent is in a conversation with a hotel company, the hotel company can ask for proof that I am who I say I am, and I can provide it. Similarly, I can be sure I am dealing with the hotel (or whatever supplier or intermediary) and not an online impostor. This can significantly reduce online fraud.
  • Each conversation is one-on-one (traveler to agent, and agent to supplier or intermediary), and  human participants are dealing in natural language throughout the process.
  • The exchange of PII can be managed for compliance with virtually any modern regulatory framework, such as GDPR (SSI is GDPR compliant by design). The PII is stored on a device or cloud facility controlled by the traveler, who can reuse the same information with all travel suppliers and intermediaries (and for that matter with non-travel suppliers). Sharing requires the traveler’s consent, which the traveler provides through their agent app. The scope of shared information can be as narrow or as broad as the situation requires. The supplier or intermediary requesting PII states how it will use the data and how long it needs to retain it. The traveler can limit retention or revoke consent at any time; for a trusted supplier, they may choose to provide ongoing access so that the supplier always has access to current information about them.
  • All PII becomes current, first-party data, not data that became outdated ten years ago. The traveler can maintain a single profile and share it with multiple suppliers and intermediaries. If they move or change phones or emails, or decide to go vegan, a single update will allow every supplier who has the traveler’s consent to get the update. Today there is a big barrier to updating all your online profiles, and it simply doesn’t happen; as a result, a large chunk of PII held by travel suppliers and intermediaries today is hopelessly out of date. One company recently asked me to verify my phone number when I called for support on my account; what they had on file was a number that has not been mine for more than 25 years!
  • Suppliers and intermediaries with which travelers have consented to share PII have no need to store most of it. Instead, they have permissioned, ongoing, secure, real-time access to some or all information from the most current version on the traveler’s cloud storage. They can access it any time (unless and until the traveler revokes consent), so they do not need their own copy. This should make risk managers ecstatic. To be sure, certain PII may always be needed transactionally; hotels need a guest name in their property management system for a host of reasons. But do they need addresses, phone numbers, or even credit card numbers? I would argue that they need a way to communicate with customers and they need a guarantee of payment – the reasons this information was historically collected. Web3 and SSI provide multiple options for this that do not require storing copies of emails, phone numbers, and credit card details.

Where Are We on This Journey?

The key elements of this future vision are falling into place today. The Worldwide Web standards around SSI, secure communications, and verifiable documents and credentials are now reasonably mature. Trust frameworks, necessary to ensure prevent impersonations, are more complex and vary by use case, but are a current focus of numerous standards and industry efforts. There are now many pockets where trust can be established unequivocally, but others that still need work. Many governments (including all 27 member states of the European Union) are building identity trust frameworks around individual, corporate, and web identity, and other bodies are establishing digital certification frameworks for various industries and applications. The EU has an objective that 80% of citizens will use digital IDs by 2030.

Many private and public entities are developing digital wallets – a catch-all term that encapsulates the way a person interacts with digital identity and third parties, typically through an app a mobile device (think Google Wallet or Apple Wallet, but on steroids). As described in the above examples, wallets can maintain a secure copy of PII, requirements, and preferences (and not just for travel). They can store a backup on the cloud and enable parties to securely access portions for which the traveler has consented. They can manage updates to the profile and maintain multiple versions (such as a business travel profile vs. leisure). They can manage negotiations with suppliers and intermediaries, and they can interact with AI to help formulate requests to suppliers and intermediaries and to evaluate offers received in response, and other functions.

Much of the market leadership on SSI and digital wallets has been coming from the European Union, led by the public sector but with many private startups and established companies also actively participating. The EUDI wallet, now in pilot, is planned for rollout to all 27 member EU countries within the next couple of years. The EUDI Wallet Consortium is a joint effort to leverage this into digital travel credentials. Numerous other countries, states, and local governments also have efforts in production or under development.

IATA, the international association of airlines and airports, has an SSI effort that is aimed at eliminating the need for multiple stops at an airport to check documents such as boarding passes, identity documents, passports, and visas. In addition, the Known Traveller Digital Identity program has a pilot involving the governments of Canada and the Netherlands, three airports, two airlines, Accenture, Vision-box (just acquired by Amadeus), and Idemia. Amadeus also has a significant internal group focused on SSI, although I have not yet seen any announced products in the consumer space.

Several mostly earlier stage companies have developed wallets and related technologies to support this vision in various parts of the travel industry. Autoura has developed an AI tour guide that is driven by a digital SSI wallet; there is a fun and eye-opening five-minute video from a recent Phocuswright conference here. Condatis, Gimly, IDNow, Indicio, MATTR, Neoke, PassiveBolt (see a deeper dive in my blog from last March), SICPA, TravlrID and Youverse are others I recommend looking at. I am sure there are others, and it is far too early to pick winners and losers, but these efforts are all worth watching. Many of these companies are looking for additional pilot partnerships.

A final and critical piece is the traveler profile. The typical historical profile used by travel suppliers and OTAs today has maybe 10-20 pieces of user-provided information (name, address, phone, email, and things like seat or room type preference). That first-party data is typically enhanced by third-party data that overlays demographics, psychographics, browsing history, past purchase, and other factors. While useful, this approach does not facilitate the personalized travel discovery, shopping, and booking process described here.

To get the best options, profiles need to enable a traveler to specify much more information: preferred cuisines, attitudes towards safety (would you venture out in a strange city alone at night or not?), what you like to do, whether you are willing to shared taxis or accommodations, any accessibility requirements, dietary needs or preferences, and many other factors. It would be too laborious to ask a traveler to provide this level of detail to every travel supplier or intermediary; the self-sovereign profile ensures that they can create it once, add to it or update it over time, and then share from their wallet selectively with suppliers and intermediaries during travel discovery and booking (or for trusted suppliers, permanently).

An ongoing effort within the Hospitality and Travel special interest group of the Decentralized Identity Foundation (the nonprofit association that developed SSI standards that have been adopted by the Worldwide Web Consortium) has spent the last nine months developing a standard for such a profile for the travel industry. It is an open effort that anyone can join for free. In the coming months, the group intends to publish it as an open-source resource and schema that can be enhanced over time. Several companies who have already developed their own profiles as part of new products are participating and see the value in a global standard that will promote cleaner and more precise communications between AI agents, suppliers, and intermediaries.

When a profile is combined with an AI-based LLM and a travel wallet, you have all the pieces needed for intelligent travel agents that can live on your phone. Now it is up to suppliers and intermediaries to plug into the ecosystem.

Conclusion

Travel distribution and marketing will not change overnight. New technologies take time to mature and be adopted; the old and the new will coexist for a decade or longer. But for the most part, we now know the key building blocks and capabilities of the next generation of digital travel distribution, and are gaining experience in how to use them. The question for hotels is who will be the first to start the transition to a world where travelers can tell us what they want and we can respond with personalized offers? Will it be one of the major hotel companies? A service provider like Amadeus or Sabre? An intermediary like Booking.com or Expedia? Or a startup like one of the ones mentioned above?

More important, will your company be leading the move towards personalization in a future with better and better AI-based LLMs, while reducing your PII risk, cyber insurance costs, and cost of regulatory compliance? Or will you let your competitors take the lead? The choice is yours.

If you’d like to connect with any of the efforts or companies mentioned in the article, please reach out to me directly.

Mews Acquires US-based Frontdesk Anywhere

The acquisition, which was managed by Mews Ventures to accelerate transformation in the hospitality industry, is the third acquisition in North America in just under a year. It represents further investment into the region as Mews continues to grow its presence. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

www.mews.com

Amadeus appoints Maria Taylor to lead Marketing, Partnerships & Commercial Operations for the Hospitality Business Unit

Amadeus today announces the appointment of Maria Taylor as Senior Vice President of Marketing, Partnerships, and Commercial Operations, for Hospitality. Based in Madrid, Maria succeeds Paul Barron who held the role for the last three years.  

www.amadeus.com

Ben Jared Joins VENZA as Vice President of Sales

VENZA, a leading provider of data protection and regulatory compliance solutions for the hospitality industry, today announced that it has hired Ben Jared as Vice President of Sales, U.S. In this role, he will play a central role in VENZA’s ambitious growth plans in its home market of the United States.

www.VENZAgroup.com

Liz Chidiac Promoted to Senior Director of Client Services at Springer-Miller Systems

Springer-Miller Systems (SMS) is proud to announce the promotion of Liz Chidiac to Senior Director of Client Services. In her new role, Liz will oversee all of client services at SMS, including the Account Management, Professional Services, and Customer Support functions. Liz has a diverse background in almost every operational area at SMS. Her broad operational experience and strong leadership skills have driven her success.
springermiller.com  

Olga Brunnerová Named Customer Success Manager at VENZA

VENZA, a leading provider of data protection and regulatory compliance solutions for the hospitality industry, today announced that Olga Brunnerová has been promoted to Customer Success Manager. In that role, she will lead a core component of VENZA’s delivery process, overseeing a team of expert Customer Success Coaches who guide its clients to better visibility and better defense.

www.VENZAgroup.com

IDeaS Appoints Ibrahim Saba as Principal Sales Director in the Middle East, Expands Regional Presence

IDeaS Revenue Solutions, the world’s leading provider of automated revenue management software and services, announced today the appointment of Ibrahim Saba as principal sales director. Based in Dubai, Saba will oversee the strategic growth of IDeaS in a region with one of the fastest-growing hospitality sectors in the world, the Middle East and North Africa.

ideas.com

Jonas Hospitality Appoints Davis Howatt-Lambert as Director of Marketing, Property Systems

Jonas Hospitality is excited to announce the recent promotion of Davis Howatt-Lambert to Director of Marketing, Property Systems. Davis will oversee the marketing efforts of Jonas Chorum, Springer-Miller Systems, SpaSoft, as well as Leonardo Worldwide. To this role, he brings his experience as a valued Marketing leader within the Jonas Hospitality organization for the last seven years.

jonashospitality.com

Tom Hempel Joins VENZA as Vice President of Sales

VENZA, a leading provider of data protection and regulatory compliance solutions for the hospitality industry, today announced that it has hired Tom Hempel as Vice President of Sales, United States. In this role, Hempel will play a key role in extending VENZA’s strong positioning and sales efforts throughout North America.

www.VENZAgroup.com

Pivot Selects Stayntouch PMS to Power Seven Properties

Stayntouch, a global leader in cloud hotel property management systems (PMS) and guest-centric technology, announced a new partnership with Pivot, the lifestyle operating vertical of Davidson Hospitality Group. Stayntouch will implement its flexible, modern cloud PMS across seven Pivot hotels in the United States.

www.stayntouch.com

Oracle Cloud to Help Elevate Property Management for Marriott International

Oracle today announced that Marriott International has selected Oracle Hospitality OPERA Cloud Property Management System (PMS) and Sales and Event Management as a hospitality cloud platform for Luxury, Premium, Select Service, and Midscale Properties.

www.oracle.com/hospitality

Oracle OPERA Cloud Central All-in-One Hospitality Solution Now Available

Oracle today announced the general availability of Oracle OPERA Cloud Central. The all-in-one hospitality platform unites data and functionality from OPERA Cloud’s modules under a common user interface and experience. With it, customers can get a comprehensive view of their hotel business, including distribution, sales, service interactions, loyalty programs, and more to make faster decisions that can benefit staff and guests.

www.oracle.com/hospitality/

Paramount Hospitality Management Partners with Travel Outlook, The Premier Hotel Call Center to Boost Conversions

In a search for a trustworthy technology partner that’s experience and reputation in the hospitality industry match the high standards at Paramount Hospitality Management™, the company has partnered with Travel Outlook, The Premier Hotel Call Center™ to combat labor shortages and increase conversion rates.

traveloutlook.com

Five Star Functionality for Affordable Hospitality Settings: PPDS Debuts Philips Hospitality Tv 4500 Series with Chromecast Built-In and Google Play Store

PPDS, an exclusive global provider of Philips Professional Displays and complementary solutions, is delighted to announce the launch of a brand new line of Philips Hospitality TVs with Chromecast built in™, delivering the features and functionality expected from a premium TV, at a lower price tag.

www.ppds.com

DAZN selects PPDS – teaming up to bring the world’s largest sports streaming platform to hotel rooms exclusively on Philips MediaSuite TVs

PPDS, the exclusive global provider of Philips Professional Displays and complementary solutions, is delighted to announce a new partnership with DAZN – the world’s leading sports entertainment platform and Europe’s largest football broadcaster – to bring its live and on-demand content streaming services into hotel guest rooms for the first time, exclusively via Philips MediaSuite hospitality TVs.

www.ppds.com

InnSpire Partnership with RealTime Reservation Empowers Hotel Guests with Seamless Control of Their Property-wide Stay Experience

InnSpire, a leading provider of innovative hospitality technology solutions that help drive seamless, world-class guest experiences for some of the world’s most iconic hotels and brands, has announced a strategic partnership with RealTime Reservation (RTR), a centralized inventory control and management platform that assists hotels in maximizing ancillary revenue from services and amenities.

www.innspire.com

North America Hotels Leveraging Maestro PMS’s Revolutionary GuestXMS Features to Improve Communication and Boost Guest Engagement

Maestro PMS, a leader in cloud hosted, All In One, private cloud and on-premise property-management systems for independent hotels and luxury resorts, conference centers, vacation rentals, and multi-property groups, continues to help elevate hotel operations through expanded communications provided by its Guest Experience Management solution, or GuestXMS.

www.maestropms.com

Jonas Hospitality Introduces its Latest Brand, Jonas Unify

Jonas Hospitality is a family of technology brands serving the hospitality industry that utilize cutting-edge technology solutions to meet critical business needs. Jonas Unify solves the industry’s customer data problem by creating a master record accessible across your entire tech stack, removing silos from disparate systems while ensuring data accuracy and security.

www.jonashospitality.com

How Centralized Data Powers Sonesta’s Award-Winning Loyalty Program

After growing through acquisition, Sonesta turned to Hapi to centralize and normalize guest data from multiple Property Management Systems across its various brands in real-time, which will power a new Customer Data Platform.

www.hapicloud.io

HSMAI to Honor GCommerce Solutions with Three Adrian Awards for Outstanding Travel Marketing

GCommerce Solutions will be honored for travel marketing excellence by the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) at the annual Adrian Awards Celebration Award winners to be celebrated at an in-person event at the New York Marriott Marquis, on February 13, 2024.

www.gcommercesolutions.com

North America Hoteliers Say PVNG Accounting Software from Aptech Is ‘Grrreat!’

Bigger does not mean better. But better is how companies thrive. Such is the case for Aptech. PVNG by Aptech was recently named a finalist in the Hotel Tech Report “Best Finance & Accounting Software” 2024 popularity index for the second consecutive year.

www.aptech-inc.com



Nomadix Earns Patent for Enhancing Passpoint (Hotspot 2.0) with Loyalty Program Integrations

Nomadix Inc ., bringing connected experiences to life, was issued U.S. Patent No. 11,855,986 by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on December 26, 2023. The patent, titled “Management of network intercept portals for network devices with durable and non-durable identifiers,” represents Nomadix’s ongoing innovations in networking technology and adds to its growing patent portfolio.

nomadix.com

Toast Restaurant Technology Selected by Choice Hotels as Brand Standard for Two Upscale Brands

Toast, a digital technology platform built for restaurants, today announced an innovative collaboration with Choice Hotels International to make its Toast for Hotel Restaurants technology a brand standard for two of Choice’s upscale brands, Cambria Hotels and Radisson. Toast is also a Qualified Vendor for Choice’s other brands.

www.toasttab.com

Silverware POS Partners With UK-Based Intuitas Technologies to Drive Sales and Strengthen Customer Relationships

Silverware POS has partnered with Intuitas Technologies to serve as a local sales and customer success resource for all new and existing clients in the UK. Silverware’s current UK client portfolio includes world renowned properties The Ritz London, The Savoy, The Goring, Belmond L’Manoir, Galgorm, Rudding Park, Historic Sussex Hotels, and Crieff Hydro hotels.

www.silverwarepos.com

VENZA Expands Human Resources Compliance Training Offerings with Mitratech

VENZA, a leading provider of data protection and regulatory compliance solutions for the hospitality industry, today announced a partnership with Mitratech, through newly acquired Syntrio, to offer new human resource and compliance training courses in the VENZA Learning™ Content Library. By expanding its content to include a range of new topics, VENZA continues to establish itself as the premier provider of comprehensive training courses for hoteliers.

www.VENZAgroup.com

Beekeeper Study Finds Nearly 50% of Frontline Workers Changed Jobs in 2023

Beekeeper, provider of the leading frontline success system, today released its 2024 Frontline Workforce Pulse Report. The report surveyed 8,000 individuals to explore trends for frontline industries and details several ways frontline businesses can improve the employee experience amid high inflation and increased rates of attrition.

www.beekeeper.io

The SALTO WECOSYSTEM: A new brand DNA for the future of advanced access

Salto Systems is proud to unveil the SALTO WECOSYSTEM, a new brand platform that brings together its core brands – Salto Gantner, and the newly introduced Vintia – to lead the digital transformation of access and identity management. This strategic move synergises a diverse range of innovation expertise under one brand platform ecosystem and signals a significant leap forward in the access control industry.

www.saltowecosystem.com

VENZA Expands Risk/Compliance Team Focusing on Pen Testing

VENZA, the leading provider of data protection and regulatory compliance solutions for the hospitality industry, today announced the significant expansion of its leading Risk/Compliance Team with a major focus on expanding its capabilities for quick, effective delivery of Pen Testing as a Service (PTaaS).

www.VENZAgroup.com

VENZA Completes Vision ’24; Announces Updates Roadmap Updates for Q4 2023

VENZA, the leading provider of data protection and regulatory compliance solutions for the hospitality industry, today announced the completion of its Vision ’24 strategic planning agenda and released significant updates to its Product Roadmap for Q4 2023. By completing Vision ’24, the company has again delivered on its promise to generate new, captivating, and innovative tools for better visibility and better defense.

www.VENZAgroup.com

HFTP Announces Inaugural Technology Investment Conference: HITEC-IC, Co-Located with HITEC 2024

Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP®) announced the HITEC Investment Conference (HITEC-IC), a new event designed to connect hospitality technology company executives with the investment community. Scheduled for June 27–28, the conference will be co-located with the 2024 Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition and Conference (HITEC®).

www.hftp.org

Hunter Hotel Investment Conference Marks Its 35th Year by Honoring Bob Hunter, Founder, with the 2024 Hunter Conference Award for Excellence and Inspiration

The Hunter Hotel Investment Conference (“HUNTER” or “Hunter Conference”) is pleased to present Bob Hunter, Founder of Hunter Hotel Advisors and Hunter Conference, with the 2024 Hunter Conference Award for Excellence and Inspiration. Each year, the award recognizes a hotelier who exemplifies exceptional leadership, citizenship, and innovation.

hunterconference.com

HSMAI Americas Announces 2024 Executive Committee and Board of Directors, Lead by Chair Andrew Rubinacci

The Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) is proud to announce the members of its 2024 Americas Board of Directors and Executive Committee, led by new chair, Andrew Rubinacci, who begins a two-year term. HSMAI America’s leaders represent a cross section of the industry’s most respected hotel and hospitality brands, academics, and suppliers.

www.hsmai.org

HSMAI Americas Honors Chapters with Frank W. Berkman Best of the Best Awards

The Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) Americas announced the recipients of the Frank W. Berkman “Best of the Best” Awards on January 23, 2024, at the HSMAI Mike Leven Leadership Conference in Las Vegas, NV.

www.hsmai.org

HFTP Announces Program, Entrepreneur 20X Participants for Digital Horizons 360

Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP®) has announced the planned roundtable discussion topics set to be considered at its inaugural Digital Horizons 360 (DH360) Symposium next month in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. An invitation-only, non-sales event, DH360 will bring together dozens of hospitality leaders for roundtable discussions on the technologies set to have the biggest industry impact in Europe.

www.hftp.org

Global Revenue Forum Announces Sommet Education as a Multi-City Sponsor for a Day of Unique Educational, Networking, and Commercial Opportunities at GRF 2024 - 30 January, Across Europe

Themed "Roadmap to Resilience", the forum will enable attendees to learn new strategies and solutions to help them adjust to today's evolving market conditions and adapt to the future of hospitality before it arrives.

www.sommet-education.com

AHLA Announces Global Technology 100 to Lead the Future of Hospitality Tech

Today, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) announced the launch of the Global Technology 100 (T100), a group of the world’s best and brightest hospitality technology leaders that will advise the hotel industry on leveraging the latest technology to better serve guests and maximize profitability.

www.ahla.com

Secondary Markets Beat the Top 25 in Meeting and Events Growth in January, Knowland Reports

Knowland, the world’s leading provider of data-as-a-service insights on meetings and events for hospitality, reported meetings and events in secondary markets outpaced the traditional Top 25 markets in January. Most notably, the highest growth Top 25 market, Nashville, was up 16.1 percent, while top growth secondary market city, Lexington, Ky., had a 76.4 percent uptick in meetings and events for the month.

www.knowland.com

Cloudbeds Reveals Highest Revenue-Generating OTAs for Independent Properties

Cloudbeds, the hospitality management platform powering more reservations and happier guests for independent lodging businesses around the globe, has today revealed rankings of the highest revenue-generating Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) worldwide, as well as by various countries and regions.

www.cloudbeds.com

U.S. Group Revenue Recovery in Q4 Hits 110 Percent According to Hospitality Group and Business Performance Index by Knowland and Amadeus

The fourth quarter of 2023 demonstrated that group business in 10 of the top markets in the U.S. has recovered 110 percent compared to the same time in 2019. Group bookings are calculated using occupancy and average daily rate (ADR). The Index combines event data from Knowland with hotel booking data from Amadeus’ Demand360+ to provide individual and aggregate views of the key drivers of hotel performance and is updated quarterly.

www.amadeus-hospitality.com

Hotels Under Pressure to Respond as OTA Competition for Guests Lead Gen Explodes — SHR Group’s Hotel Industry Trends Report 2024

The battle for direct bookings has entered a new phase as online travel agents (OTAs) ramp up efforts to establish ownership of hotel guests and their booking journeys, a new report from hospitality technology specialist SHR Group reveals.  While OTAs and hotels have a mutually beneficial relationship, the Hotel Industry Trends Report 2024 exposes for the first time the way a recent influx of marketing spend from OTAs is fast reducing hotels’ share of direct bookings.

shrgroup.com

Amadeus Report in Collaboration with UN Tourism Shows Confident Start to 2024 for Travel in the Americas

The report - Travel Insights 2024: Focus on the Americas - finds the industry is prepared for a strong start to the year, with air capacity in the region up by 20% over the first four months of the year when compared to the same period of 2023.

amadeus.com

Mews Data Dive Reveals Online Check-ins and Revenue Beyond Overnight Stays Soar as Travel Tops Pre-Pandemic Levels in 2023

Mews, an industry-leading hospitality cloud, today released the Mews Data Dive, a real-time measure of hospitality’s performance in 2023. Based on data from more than 4,000 Mews partners in 85 countries, the Mews Data Dive unpacks hospitality’s performance across 12 key areas to pinpoint how the hospitality sector is changing.

www.mews.com

Only Doug Rice can start his Definitely Doug column that follows with - do you remember the emergence of the World Wide Web? Then, he goes to the introduction of the iPhone. Before you know it, he is comparing how hotel rooms are booked to how we buy groceries. Then before he is done, he comments that when planning a trip you’re going to be dealing with a group called LAMs. Historically hotels haven’t embraced new technologies which is a big mistake, but if you want to know why you shouldn’t make that mistake again, beyond the fact that it costs the industry way too much money, take a few minutes and read this edition of Definitely Doug. My friend ChatGPT will be glad you did!

Here at Hospitality Upgrade much of our focus this week is on our upcoming 19th Executive Vendor Summit (EVS). Last year we had more than 50 CEOs from a wide range of companies — from very big to just out of the startup phase — join us amongst the near 100 in attendance that included many other senior executives and the industry’s top consultants. Many of the hotel technology leaders at our CIO Summit in Austin last year requested attending EVS so there will be quite a few CIOs joining this year including Andrew Arthurs of Aimbridge Hospitality, Scott Strickland with Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, Gustaaf Schrils with Omni Hotels and McLean Xavier with INNVest Hotels participating on our annual CIO panel. If you’re a technology vendor and work closely with others in the hotel industry, you, too, should be in Denver on March 26-28. Registration closes soon so, reach out to Kim@hospitalityupgrade.com quickly since there are requirements to attend.

I hope you saw the release about Hospitality Upgrade being the Platinum Sponsor of the new HITEC IC Investment Conference which the industry has needed for the technology folks. As EVS is a much smaller and intimate setting than HITEC, we have quite a few from the investment community also joining us this year. I love the many conversations that I have with those in the money world, and hearing how they look at the industry often differs greatly from how I do. If you’re a technology vendor and want to experience the industry’s most unique conference, then please join us at EVS 2024. If you have any questions about an invitation, please reach out to kim@hospitalityupgrade.com.

Here now is Definitely Doug along with the latest happenings in the tech world for the hospitality industry. I will see you at the end with this week’s you-know-what. Go Niners! Give the points!

Rich

rich@hospitalityupgrade.com

Definitely Doug 2/9/24: The Path to Personalization

The Path to Personalization

In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, businesses often find themselves prioritizing functional changes and component upgrades over experimenting with new technologies, even critical ones.

Consider some pivotal moments in recent technology history, such as the emergence of the worldwide web or the introduction of the iPhone. Brick-and-mortar businesses like hotels were slow to realize that fundamental and ultimately threatening changes were afoot. This is understandable, since applications of new technologies are often not obvious, and the technologies themselves can be time-consuming to learn. Moreover, it is impossible to anticipate all the changes they will ultimately bring about. With the web and mobile web, third parties—notably online travel agents (OTAs)—invested sooner and more heavily than hotels. In doing so, they gained a foothold that hotels have never completely taken back. The same is true in many other industries.

If a hotel company could go back in time and be an early (or at least not lagging) adopter of web or mobile technologies, I suspect many would. These were missed opportunities that proved very costly to hotel operators. To be sure, early adoption of new technologies carries risks, and many early initiatives fail. But even failures provide important learnings for the organizations that have tried them, positioning them to succeed sooner than rivals. And early failures are usually small ones.

The technology environment today is at an inflection point as important as those represented by the worldwide web and the iPhone. But this time, instead of being an issue to understand for the future, key emerging technologies hold the potential, or even the promise, of solving some critical and immediate business priorities for hotels and other travel providers. The question is, will the hotels take the opportunity and act on it, or will intermediaries or alternative accommodation providers once again lead the way?

In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, businesses often find themselves prioritizing functional changes and component upgrades over experimenting with new technologies, even critical ones.

Consider some pivotal moments in recent technology history, such as the emergence of the worldwide web or the introduction of the iPhone. Brick-and-mortar businesses like hotels were slow to realize that fundamental and ultimately threatening changes were afoot. This is understandable, since applications of new technologies are often not obvious, and the technologies themselves can be time-consuming to learn. Moreover, it is impossible to anticipate all the changes they will ultimately bring about. With the web and mobile web, third parties—notably online travel agents (OTAs)—invested sooner and more heavily than hotels. In doing so, they gained a foothold that hotels have never completely taken back. The same is true in many other industries.

If a hotel company could go back in time and be an early (or at least not lagging) adopter of web or mobile technologies, I suspect many would. These were missed opportunities that proved very costly to hotel operators. To be sure, early adoption of new technologies carries risks, and many early initiatives fail. But even failures provide important learnings for the organizations that have tried them, positioning them to succeed sooner than rivals. And early failures are usually small ones.

The technology environment today is at an inflection point as important as those represented by the worldwide web and the iPhone. But this time, instead of being an issue to understand for the future, key emerging technologies hold the potential, or even the promise, of solving some critical and immediate business priorities for hotels and other travel providers. The question is, will the hotels take the opportunity and act on it, or will intermediaries or alternative accommodation providers once again lead the way?

Intersecting Trends

On the business front, two pressing issues consistently top the priority list of hotels and other travel-related businesses. First is the growing desire to personalize the selling process, tailoring offers to match each unique sales opportunity. Loyalty, mobile apps, massive customer data platforms, attribute- and ancillary-based selling, and conversational interfaces are among the key initiatives many hotel companies are already prioritizing to meet this objective. And none of them work particularly well.

Simultaneously, corporate risk managers see skyrocketing costs and reduced coverage options for cyber insurance, resulting from the rising frequency, scope, and expense of data breaches and the associated regulatory and legal costs; these have been particularly bad for hotels. And these two priorities would seem to conflict: more personalization means more personally identifiable information (PII) to store, and more stored PII means more cyber risk.

Meanwhile, technology has seen explosive growth (and many useful applications) of artificial intelligence (AI), most notably large language models (LLMs) and now large action models (LAMs), the latter illustrated by the new Rabbit r1. Behind the scenes but equally important are foundational Web-3 technologies including self-sovereign identity (SSI), some of its building blocks, which include trusted identity, provable statements about people, biometric proofs tied into phone features like FaceID, and mobile apps that make these accessible to everyday consumers and businesses.

For hotels and many other travel industry participants, these trends are not in opposition. Web3 and AI technologies provide the opportunity to completely redefine how we handle personalization, how we store PII, and how travelers and hotels interact. I have no doubt that they will lead to dramatic changes in the way travel is imagined, purchased, and consumed within the next decade, and possibly much sooner – much as the web and mobile phones did in decades past. I would go as far as to say that without new approaches enabled by these new technologies, personalization will never truly work.

What remains to be seen is which companies will be like Kodak, betting on a future with pictures engraved on silver oxide film, and which will be Apple betting on digital images. If you think Apple had the better answer, and want to avoid Kodak’s fate, then this article is for you.

Why It Matters

Today, travel and tourism suppliers and intermediaries essentially broadcast rate and availability offers through various distribution channels. Collectively they spend billions of dollars to get consumers to visit those channels. Then they wait for potential travelers to come, look, evaluate, and hopefully buy.  

But when they do, every prospective traveler gets pretty much the same offer. To the extent there is any personalization, it is almost entirely at the edges of the process rather than at the core. It is like a grocery store where prices are marked on the shelves for consumers to see and decide. On shopper might have clipped a digital coupon that she knows will result in a better price at checkout, but that’s as personal as it gets. To be sure, I have seen a few truly personalized offers in travel. Airlines trying to get passengers to pay to upgrade to first class sometimes quote different prices based on your history, whether your status is more or less likely to get you a free upgrade, and the like. But this type of personalization is far from mainstream.

Tomorrow’s technology will still support the “grocery shelf” model, but it also offers better options. In particular, consumers (or more likely AI agents acting on their behalf) will be able to broadcast a set of travel needs and preferences and invite travel suppliers and intermediaries to respond with tailored product offerings.

My good friend and industry legend Gene Quinn has compared the new model to the open-outcry stock exchange floor, where sellers shouted out what they had to sell and at what price, and buyers announced what they wanted to buy and how much they were willing to pay; the old model only had sellers doing this. At a macro level this is an accurate and useful analogy. At the micro level, it has even more depth, enabling a private negotiation between each buyer and each seller (or more likely between their AI agents). And that negotiation is not just about price, but can cover features, add-ons, inclusions, booking policies, and other attributes that have value to a particular buyer and that produce more profit to the supplier. Moreover, the marketing language used to describe the offer can be personalized to appeal to the hot buttons of the specific traveler (AI can already do this well).

This model is supported by the combination of SSI (now an integral part of the worldwide web standards), emerging standards for digital trust, emerging mobile apps for consumer interactions, and LLMs. I have written about SSI before so I will not elaborate further here (if you need a primer, you can find one here). LLMs like ChatGPT have gotten a lot more publicity than SSI; I am pretty sure you do not need an explanation. Let us see how these can work together.

Painting the Picture

For this, we will utilize our time travel machine and project ourselves into the future. I will not guess a precise time frame, but based on progress to date, I expect the current proof-of-concepts and early pilots to evolve into a few stable, scalable products within one to two years. The full adoption timetable will take much longer; thirty years after the launch of the worldwide web, there are plenty of hotels that still only accept reservations by phone. My best guess is that a scenario like what follows will be common within four to five years and will be the norm in less than a decade. The technology itself will likely stabilize within the first few years, but historical experience suggests hotels (and particularly the long tail of smaller hotels) might not be the speediest of adopters.

In a few short years, a consumer who wants to travel will interact with an LLM-based agent on their phone, expressing some general desires (location, purpose, sun, beach, skiing, fishing, whatever), budgetary guidelines, who is traveling, and other relevant specifics. The AI agent maintains a (private) version of the traveler’s profile, which includes identifying information; ongoing requirements, likes, preferences, and behavioral characteristics; and cryptographic verifiable proofs of relevant credentials or affiliations (such as might be needed to access a negotiated rate or to prove certifications for certain high-risk experiences).

The agent broadcasts the consumer’s requirements and preferences to qualified suppliers and intermediaries, sharing whatever information the consumer has approved from their profile. This will be done anonymously unless the traveler prefers otherwise. Suppliers and intermediaries then construct offers tailored to each request and return them to the agent.

The agent evaluates and ranks them, presenting the best matches to the traveler. In the early years, the responses will need to be augmented with published (non-personalized) options, since many suppliers will not be ready to respond to broadcast requests for offers. And the process may iterate if, for example, the traveler realizes that the criteria were not as tight as needed to avoid getting back some unacceptable options. The traveler and the agent will likely be conversing in a LLM interface, using voice or text and plain language, as in “I’m looking for someplace sunny, on a beach, and all-inclusive for a week-long vacation sometime in March, but not the Caribbean. My budget is $2000 for two people.”

The supplier uses LLMs to construct personalized marketing descriptions for their offer, based on the requirements and preferences expressed by the consumer. A consumer whose profile says they enjoy art shows might get a description of a hotel offer that highlights its proximity to an arts district or a scheduled art fair or exposition, for example. Another consumer with detailed culinary interests might see something for the same hotel highlighting interesting neighborhood restaurants.

The process is not limited to a single supplier or intermediary. A complex trip might include air, hotel, rental car, restaurants, and multiple activities; the AI agent can have simultaneous conversations with multiple suppliers for every aspect, and construct the best options based on the results, essentially a package on the fly. The traveler’s app basically becomes a digital super-travel-agent. Alternatively, the agent might get quotations from OTAs or traditional tour operators that handle multiple pieces in a package. The search results are not limited to one or the other, they can include both.

Eventually, the traveler selects an option and is ready to book. This might be handled by a Large Action Model. LAMs are just starting to emerge in the real world, but you can find a good overview of how LLMs and user agents may evolve into LAMs in this Salesforce research piece (their example of buying a car is quite instructive). The LAM knows what to do to make bookings happen. This will often involve sending additional information from the traveler’s profile, such as name, address, and payment information. Shopping will often be anonymous as it is today, but travel suppliers typically require a name (and often other information) to confirm a booking.

The conversation between the agent app and suppliers and intermediaries has several important aspects that are often missing today.

  • Both parties can be 100% confident who they are dealing with (or more accurately, they can be confident whenever they need to be). If my agent is in a conversation with a hotel company, the hotel company can ask for proof that I am who I say I am, and I can provide it. Similarly, I can be sure I am dealing with the hotel (or whatever supplier or intermediary) and not an online impostor. This can significantly reduce online fraud.
  • Each conversation is one-on-one (traveler to agent, and agent to supplier or intermediary), and  human participants are dealing in natural language throughout the process.
  • The exchange of PII can be managed for compliance with virtually any modern regulatory framework, such as GDPR (SSI is GDPR compliant by design). The PII is stored on a device or cloud facility controlled by the traveler, who can reuse the same information with all travel suppliers and intermediaries (and for that matter with non-travel suppliers). Sharing requires the traveler’s consent, which the traveler provides through their agent app. The scope of shared information can be as narrow or as broad as the situation requires. The supplier or intermediary requesting PII states how it will use the data and how long it needs to retain it. The traveler can limit retention or revoke consent at any time; for a trusted supplier, they may choose to provide ongoing access so that the supplier always has access to current information about them.
  • All PII becomes current, first-party data, not data that became outdated ten years ago. The traveler can maintain a single profile and share it with multiple suppliers and intermediaries. If they move or change phones or emails, or decide to go vegan, a single update will allow every supplier who has the traveler’s consent to get the update. Today there is a big barrier to updating all your online profiles, and it simply doesn’t happen; as a result, a large chunk of PII held by travel suppliers and intermediaries today is hopelessly out of date. One company recently asked me to verify my phone number when I called for support on my account; what they had on file was a number that has not been mine for more than 25 years!
  • Suppliers and intermediaries with which travelers have consented to share PII have no need to store most of it. Instead, they have permissioned, ongoing, secure, real-time access to some or all information from the most current version on the traveler’s cloud storage. They can access it any time (unless and until the traveler revokes consent), so they do not need their own copy. This should make risk managers ecstatic. To be sure, certain PII may always be needed transactionally; hotels need a guest name in their property management system for a host of reasons. But do they need addresses, phone numbers, or even credit card numbers? I would argue that they need a way to communicate with customers and they need a guarantee of payment – the reasons this information was historically collected. Web3 and SSI provide multiple options for this that do not require storing copies of emails, phone numbers, and credit card details.

Where Are We on This Journey?

The key elements of this future vision are falling into place today. The Worldwide Web standards around SSI, secure communications, and verifiable documents and credentials are now reasonably mature. Trust frameworks, necessary to ensure prevent impersonations, are more complex and vary by use case, but are a current focus of numerous standards and industry efforts. There are now many pockets where trust can be established unequivocally, but others that still need work. Many governments (including all 27 member states of the European Union) are building identity trust frameworks around individual, corporate, and web identity, and other bodies are establishing digital certification frameworks for various industries and applications. The EU has an objective that 80% of citizens will use digital IDs by 2030.

Many private and public entities are developing digital wallets – a catch-all term that encapsulates the way a person interacts with digital identity and third parties, typically through an app a mobile device (think Google Wallet or Apple Wallet, but on steroids). As described in the above examples, wallets can maintain a secure copy of PII, requirements, and preferences (and not just for travel). They can store a backup on the cloud and enable parties to securely access portions for which the traveler has consented. They can manage updates to the profile and maintain multiple versions (such as a business travel profile vs. leisure). They can manage negotiations with suppliers and intermediaries, and they can interact with AI to help formulate requests to suppliers and intermediaries and to evaluate offers received in response, and other functions.

Much of the market leadership on SSI and digital wallets has been coming from the European Union, led by the public sector but with many private startups and established companies also actively participating. The EUDI wallet, now in pilot, is planned for rollout to all 27 member EU countries within the next couple of years. The EUDI Wallet Consortium is a joint effort to leverage this into digital travel credentials. Numerous other countries, states, and local governments also have efforts in production or under development.

IATA, the international association of airlines and airports, has an SSI effort that is aimed at eliminating the need for multiple stops at an airport to check documents such as boarding passes, identity documents, passports, and visas. In addition, the Known Traveller Digital Identity program has a pilot involving the governments of Canada and the Netherlands, three airports, two airlines, Accenture, Vision-box (just acquired by Amadeus), and Idemia. Amadeus also has a significant internal group focused on SSI, although I have not yet seen any announced products in the consumer space.

Several mostly earlier stage companies have developed wallets and related technologies to support this vision in various parts of the travel industry. Autoura has developed an AI tour guide that is driven by a digital SSI wallet; there is a fun and eye-opening five-minute video from a recent Phocuswright conference here. Condatis, Gimly, IDNow, Indicio, MATTR, Neoke, PassiveBolt (see a deeper dive in my blog from last March), SICPA, TravlrID and Youverse are others I recommend looking at. I am sure there are others, and it is far too early to pick winners and losers, but these efforts are all worth watching. Many of these companies are looking for additional pilot partnerships.

A final and critical piece is the traveler profile. The typical historical profile used by travel suppliers and OTAs today has maybe 10-20 pieces of user-provided information (name, address, phone, email, and things like seat or room type preference). That first-party data is typically enhanced by third-party data that overlays demographics, psychographics, browsing history, past purchase, and other factors. While useful, this approach does not facilitate the personalized travel discovery, shopping, and booking process described here.

To get the best options, profiles need to enable a traveler to specify much more information: preferred cuisines, attitudes towards safety (would you venture out in a strange city alone at night or not?), what you like to do, whether you are willing to shared taxis or accommodations, any accessibility requirements, dietary needs or preferences, and many other factors. It would be too laborious to ask a traveler to provide this level of detail to every travel supplier or intermediary; the self-sovereign profile ensures that they can create it once, add to it or update it over time, and then share from their wallet selectively with suppliers and intermediaries during travel discovery and booking (or for trusted suppliers, permanently).

An ongoing effort within the Hospitality and Travel special interest group of the Decentralized Identity Foundation (the nonprofit association that developed SSI standards that have been adopted by the Worldwide Web Consortium) has spent the last nine months developing a standard for such a profile for the travel industry. It is an open effort that anyone can join for free. In the coming months, the group intends to publish it as an open-source resource and schema that can be enhanced over time. Several companies who have already developed their own profiles as part of new products are participating and see the value in a global standard that will promote cleaner and more precise communications between AI agents, suppliers, and intermediaries.

When a profile is combined with an AI-based LLM and a travel wallet, you have all the pieces needed for intelligent travel agents that can live on your phone. Now it is up to suppliers and intermediaries to plug into the ecosystem.

Conclusion

Travel distribution and marketing will not change overnight. New technologies take time to mature and be adopted; the old and the new will coexist for a decade or longer. But for the most part, we now know the key building blocks and capabilities of the next generation of digital travel distribution, and are gaining experience in how to use them. The question for hotels is who will be the first to start the transition to a world where travelers can tell us what they want and we can respond with personalized offers? Will it be one of the major hotel companies? A service provider like Amadeus or Sabre? An intermediary like Booking.com or Expedia? Or a startup like one of the ones mentioned above?

More important, will your company be leading the move towards personalization in a future with better and better AI-based LLMs, while reducing your PII risk, cyber insurance costs, and cost of regulatory compliance? Or will you let your competitors take the lead? The choice is yours.

If you’d like to connect with any of the efforts or companies mentioned in the article, please reach out to me directly.

CORPORATE NEWS

Mews Acquires US-based Frontdesk Anywhere

The acquisition, which was managed by Mews Ventures to accelerate transformation in the hospitality industry, is the third acquisition in North America in just under a year. It represents further investment into the region as Mews continues to grow its presence. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

www.mews.com

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE

Amadeus appoints Maria Taylor to lead Marketing, Partnerships & Commercial Operations for the Hospitality Business Unit

Amadeus today announces the appointment of Maria Taylor as Senior Vice President of Marketing, Partnerships, and Commercial Operations, for Hospitality. Based in Madrid, Maria succeeds Paul Barron who held the role for the last three years.  

www.amadeus.com

Ben Jared Joins VENZA as Vice President of Sales

VENZA, a leading provider of data protection and regulatory compliance solutions for the hospitality industry, today announced that it has hired Ben Jared as Vice President of Sales, U.S. In this role, he will play a central role in VENZA’s ambitious growth plans in its home market of the United States.

www.VENZAgroup.com

Liz Chidiac Promoted to Senior Director of Client Services at Springer-Miller Systems

Springer-Miller Systems (SMS) is proud to announce the promotion of Liz Chidiac to Senior Director of Client Services. In her new role, Liz will oversee all of client services at SMS, including the Account Management, Professional Services, and Customer Support functions. Liz has a diverse background in almost every operational area at SMS. Her broad operational experience and strong leadership skills have driven her success.
springermiller.com  

Olga Brunnerová Named Customer Success Manager at VENZA

VENZA, a leading provider of data protection and regulatory compliance solutions for the hospitality industry, today announced that Olga Brunnerová has been promoted to Customer Success Manager. In that role, she will lead a core component of VENZA’s delivery process, overseeing a team of expert Customer Success Coaches who guide its clients to better visibility and better defense.

www.VENZAgroup.com

IDeaS Appoints Ibrahim Saba as Principal Sales Director in the Middle East, Expands Regional Presence

IDeaS Revenue Solutions, the world’s leading provider of automated revenue management software and services, announced today the appointment of Ibrahim Saba as principal sales director. Based in Dubai, Saba will oversee the strategic growth of IDeaS in a region with one of the fastest-growing hospitality sectors in the world, the Middle East and North Africa.

ideas.com

Jonas Hospitality Appoints Davis Howatt-Lambert as Director of Marketing, Property Systems

Jonas Hospitality is excited to announce the recent promotion of Davis Howatt-Lambert to Director of Marketing, Property Systems. Davis will oversee the marketing efforts of Jonas Chorum, Springer-Miller Systems, SpaSoft, as well as Leonardo Worldwide. To this role, he brings his experience as a valued Marketing leader within the Jonas Hospitality organization for the last seven years.

jonashospitality.com

Tom Hempel Joins VENZA as Vice President of Sales

VENZA, a leading provider of data protection and regulatory compliance solutions for the hospitality industry, today announced that it has hired Tom Hempel as Vice President of Sales, United States. In this role, Hempel will play a key role in extending VENZA’s strong positioning and sales efforts throughout North America.

www.VENZAgroup.com

GUEST MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS

Pivot Selects Stayntouch PMS to Power Seven Properties

Stayntouch, a global leader in cloud hotel property management systems (PMS) and guest-centric technology, announced a new partnership with Pivot, the lifestyle operating vertical of Davidson Hospitality Group. Stayntouch will implement its flexible, modern cloud PMS across seven Pivot hotels in the United States.

www.stayntouch.com

Oracle Cloud to Help Elevate Property Management for Marriott International

Oracle today announced that Marriott International has selected Oracle Hospitality OPERA Cloud Property Management System (PMS) and Sales and Event Management as a hospitality cloud platform for Luxury, Premium, Select Service, and Midscale Properties.

www.oracle.com/hospitality

Oracle OPERA Cloud Central All-in-One Hospitality Solution Now Available

Oracle today announced the general availability of Oracle OPERA Cloud Central. The all-in-one hospitality platform unites data and functionality from OPERA Cloud’s modules under a common user interface and experience. With it, customers can get a comprehensive view of their hotel business, including distribution, sales, service interactions, loyalty programs, and more to make faster decisions that can benefit staff and guests.

www.oracle.com/hospitality/

RESERVATIONS & DISTRIBUTION

Paramount Hospitality Management Partners with Travel Outlook, The Premier Hotel Call Center to Boost Conversions

In a search for a trustworthy technology partner that’s experience and reputation in the hospitality industry match the high standards at Paramount Hospitality Management™, the company has partnered with Travel Outlook, The Premier Hotel Call Center™ to combat labor shortages and increase conversion rates.

traveloutlook.com

GUEST FACING TECHNOLOGY

Five Star Functionality for Affordable Hospitality Settings: PPDS Debuts Philips Hospitality Tv 4500 Series with Chromecast Built-In and Google Play Store

PPDS, an exclusive global provider of Philips Professional Displays and complementary solutions, is delighted to announce the launch of a brand new line of Philips Hospitality TVs with Chromecast built in™, delivering the features and functionality expected from a premium TV, at a lower price tag.

www.ppds.com

DAZN selects PPDS – teaming up to bring the world’s largest sports streaming platform to hotel rooms exclusively on Philips MediaSuite TVs

PPDS, the exclusive global provider of Philips Professional Displays and complementary solutions, is delighted to announce a new partnership with DAZN – the world’s leading sports entertainment platform and Europe’s largest football broadcaster – to bring its live and on-demand content streaming services into hotel guest rooms for the first time, exclusively via Philips MediaSuite hospitality TVs.

www.ppds.com

InnSpire Partnership with RealTime Reservation Empowers Hotel Guests with Seamless Control of Their Property-wide Stay Experience

InnSpire, a leading provider of innovative hospitality technology solutions that help drive seamless, world-class guest experiences for some of the world’s most iconic hotels and brands, has announced a strategic partnership with RealTime Reservation (RTR), a centralized inventory control and management platform that assists hotels in maximizing ancillary revenue from services and amenities.

www.innspire.com

North America Hotels Leveraging Maestro PMS’s Revolutionary GuestXMS Features to Improve Communication and Boost Guest Engagement

Maestro PMS, a leader in cloud hosted, All In One, private cloud and on-premise property-management systems for independent hotels and luxury resorts, conference centers, vacation rentals, and multi-property groups, continues to help elevate hotel operations through expanded communications provided by its Guest Experience Management solution, or GuestXMS.

www.maestropms.com

MARKETING

Jonas Hospitality Introduces its Latest Brand, Jonas Unify

Jonas Hospitality is a family of technology brands serving the hospitality industry that utilize cutting-edge technology solutions to meet critical business needs. Jonas Unify solves the industry’s customer data problem by creating a master record accessible across your entire tech stack, removing silos from disparate systems while ensuring data accuracy and security.

www.jonashospitality.com

How Centralized Data Powers Sonesta’s Award-Winning Loyalty Program

After growing through acquisition, Sonesta turned to Hapi to centralize and normalize guest data from multiple Property Management Systems across its various brands in real-time, which will power a new Customer Data Platform.

www.hapicloud.io

HSMAI to Honor GCommerce Solutions with Three Adrian Awards for Outstanding Travel Marketing

GCommerce Solutions will be honored for travel marketing excellence by the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) at the annual Adrian Awards Celebration Award winners to be celebrated at an in-person event at the New York Marriott Marquis, on February 13, 2024.

www.gcommercesolutions.com

BACK OFFICE

North America Hoteliers Say PVNG Accounting Software from Aptech Is ‘Grrreat!’

Bigger does not mean better. But better is how companies thrive. Such is the case for Aptech. PVNG by Aptech was recently named a finalist in the Hotel Tech Report “Best Finance & Accounting Software” 2024 popularity index for the second consecutive year.

www.aptech-inc.com



COMMUNICATIONS & INFRASTRUCTURE

Nomadix Earns Patent for Enhancing Passpoint (Hotspot 2.0) with Loyalty Program Integrations

Nomadix Inc ., bringing connected experiences to life, was issued U.S. Patent No. 11,855,986 by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on December 26, 2023. The patent, titled “Management of network intercept portals for network devices with durable and non-durable identifiers,” represents Nomadix’s ongoing innovations in networking technology and adds to its growing patent portfolio.

nomadix.com

FOOD & BEVERAGE

Toast Restaurant Technology Selected by Choice Hotels as Brand Standard for Two Upscale Brands

Toast, a digital technology platform built for restaurants, today announced an innovative collaboration with Choice Hotels International to make its Toast for Hotel Restaurants technology a brand standard for two of Choice’s upscale brands, Cambria Hotels and Radisson. Toast is also a Qualified Vendor for Choice’s other brands.

www.toasttab.com

Silverware POS Partners With UK-Based Intuitas Technologies to Drive Sales and Strengthen Customer Relationships

Silverware POS has partnered with Intuitas Technologies to serve as a local sales and customer success resource for all new and existing clients in the UK. Silverware’s current UK client portfolio includes world renowned properties The Ritz London, The Savoy, The Goring, Belmond L’Manoir, Galgorm, Rudding Park, Historic Sussex Hotels, and Crieff Hydro hotels.

www.silverwarepos.com

HUMAN RESOURCES

VENZA Expands Human Resources Compliance Training Offerings with Mitratech

VENZA, a leading provider of data protection and regulatory compliance solutions for the hospitality industry, today announced a partnership with Mitratech, through newly acquired Syntrio, to offer new human resource and compliance training courses in the VENZA Learning™ Content Library. By expanding its content to include a range of new topics, VENZA continues to establish itself as the premier provider of comprehensive training courses for hoteliers.

www.VENZAgroup.com

Beekeeper Study Finds Nearly 50% of Frontline Workers Changed Jobs in 2023

Beekeeper, provider of the leading frontline success system, today released its 2024 Frontline Workforce Pulse Report. The report surveyed 8,000 individuals to explore trends for frontline industries and details several ways frontline businesses can improve the employee experience amid high inflation and increased rates of attrition.

www.beekeeper.io

SECURITY

The SALTO WECOSYSTEM: A new brand DNA for the future of advanced access

Salto Systems is proud to unveil the SALTO WECOSYSTEM, a new brand platform that brings together its core brands – Salto Gantner, and the newly introduced Vintia – to lead the digital transformation of access and identity management. This strategic move synergises a diverse range of innovation expertise under one brand platform ecosystem and signals a significant leap forward in the access control industry.

www.saltowecosystem.com

VENZA Expands Risk/Compliance Team Focusing on Pen Testing

VENZA, the leading provider of data protection and regulatory compliance solutions for the hospitality industry, today announced the significant expansion of its leading Risk/Compliance Team with a major focus on expanding its capabilities for quick, effective delivery of Pen Testing as a Service (PTaaS).

www.VENZAgroup.com

VENZA Completes Vision ’24; Announces Updates Roadmap Updates for Q4 2023

VENZA, the leading provider of data protection and regulatory compliance solutions for the hospitality industry, today announced the completion of its Vision ’24 strategic planning agenda and released significant updates to its Product Roadmap for Q4 2023. By completing Vision ’24, the company has again delivered on its promise to generate new, captivating, and innovative tools for better visibility and better defense.

www.VENZAgroup.com

HOSPITALITY EVENTS AND ASSOCIATION NEWS

HFTP Announces Inaugural Technology Investment Conference: HITEC-IC, Co-Located with HITEC 2024

Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP®) announced the HITEC Investment Conference (HITEC-IC), a new event designed to connect hospitality technology company executives with the investment community. Scheduled for June 27–28, the conference will be co-located with the 2024 Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition and Conference (HITEC®).

www.hftp.org

Hunter Hotel Investment Conference Marks Its 35th Year by Honoring Bob Hunter, Founder, with the 2024 Hunter Conference Award for Excellence and Inspiration

The Hunter Hotel Investment Conference (“HUNTER” or “Hunter Conference”) is pleased to present Bob Hunter, Founder of Hunter Hotel Advisors and Hunter Conference, with the 2024 Hunter Conference Award for Excellence and Inspiration. Each year, the award recognizes a hotelier who exemplifies exceptional leadership, citizenship, and innovation.

hunterconference.com

HSMAI Americas Announces 2024 Executive Committee and Board of Directors, Lead by Chair Andrew Rubinacci

The Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) is proud to announce the members of its 2024 Americas Board of Directors and Executive Committee, led by new chair, Andrew Rubinacci, who begins a two-year term. HSMAI America’s leaders represent a cross section of the industry’s most respected hotel and hospitality brands, academics, and suppliers.

www.hsmai.org

HSMAI Americas Honors Chapters with Frank W. Berkman Best of the Best Awards

The Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) Americas announced the recipients of the Frank W. Berkman “Best of the Best” Awards on January 23, 2024, at the HSMAI Mike Leven Leadership Conference in Las Vegas, NV.

www.hsmai.org

HFTP Announces Program, Entrepreneur 20X Participants for Digital Horizons 360

Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP®) has announced the planned roundtable discussion topics set to be considered at its inaugural Digital Horizons 360 (DH360) Symposium next month in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. An invitation-only, non-sales event, DH360 will bring together dozens of hospitality leaders for roundtable discussions on the technologies set to have the biggest industry impact in Europe.

www.hftp.org

Global Revenue Forum Announces Sommet Education as a Multi-City Sponsor for a Day of Unique Educational, Networking, and Commercial Opportunities at GRF 2024 - 30 January, Across Europe

Themed "Roadmap to Resilience", the forum will enable attendees to learn new strategies and solutions to help them adjust to today's evolving market conditions and adapt to the future of hospitality before it arrives.

www.sommet-education.com

AHLA Announces Global Technology 100 to Lead the Future of Hospitality Tech

Today, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) announced the launch of the Global Technology 100 (T100), a group of the world’s best and brightest hospitality technology leaders that will advise the hotel industry on leveraging the latest technology to better serve guests and maximize profitability.

www.ahla.com

MARKET REPORTS

Secondary Markets Beat the Top 25 in Meeting and Events Growth in January, Knowland Reports

Knowland, the world’s leading provider of data-as-a-service insights on meetings and events for hospitality, reported meetings and events in secondary markets outpaced the traditional Top 25 markets in January. Most notably, the highest growth Top 25 market, Nashville, was up 16.1 percent, while top growth secondary market city, Lexington, Ky., had a 76.4 percent uptick in meetings and events for the month.

www.knowland.com

Cloudbeds Reveals Highest Revenue-Generating OTAs for Independent Properties

Cloudbeds, the hospitality management platform powering more reservations and happier guests for independent lodging businesses around the globe, has today revealed rankings of the highest revenue-generating Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) worldwide, as well as by various countries and regions.

www.cloudbeds.com

U.S. Group Revenue Recovery in Q4 Hits 110 Percent According to Hospitality Group and Business Performance Index by Knowland and Amadeus

The fourth quarter of 2023 demonstrated that group business in 10 of the top markets in the U.S. has recovered 110 percent compared to the same time in 2019. Group bookings are calculated using occupancy and average daily rate (ADR). The Index combines event data from Knowland with hotel booking data from Amadeus’ Demand360+ to provide individual and aggregate views of the key drivers of hotel performance and is updated quarterly.

www.amadeus-hospitality.com

Hotels Under Pressure to Respond as OTA Competition for Guests Lead Gen Explodes — SHR Group’s Hotel Industry Trends Report 2024

The battle for direct bookings has entered a new phase as online travel agents (OTAs) ramp up efforts to establish ownership of hotel guests and their booking journeys, a new report from hospitality technology specialist SHR Group reveals.  While OTAs and hotels have a mutually beneficial relationship, the Hotel Industry Trends Report 2024 exposes for the first time the way a recent influx of marketing spend from OTAs is fast reducing hotels’ share of direct bookings.

shrgroup.com

Amadeus Report in Collaboration with UN Tourism Shows Confident Start to 2024 for Travel in the Americas

The report - Travel Insights 2024: Focus on the Americas - finds the industry is prepared for a strong start to the year, with air capacity in the region up by 20% over the first four months of the year when compared to the same period of 2023.

amadeus.com

Mews Data Dive Reveals Online Check-ins and Revenue Beyond Overnight Stays Soar as Travel Tops Pre-Pandemic Levels in 2023

Mews, an industry-leading hospitality cloud, today released the Mews Data Dive, a real-time measure of hospitality’s performance in 2023. Based on data from more than 4,000 Mews partners in 85 countries, the Mews Data Dive unpacks hospitality’s performance across 12 key areas to pinpoint how the hospitality sector is changing.

www.mews.com

Only Doug Rice can start his Definitely Doug column that follows with - do you remember the emergence of the World Wide Web? Then, he goes to the introduction of the iPhone. Before you know it, he is comparing how hotel rooms are booked to how we buy groceries. Then before he is done, he comments that when planning a trip you’re going to be dealing with a group called LAMs. Historically hotels haven’t embraced new technologies which is a big mistake, but if you want to know why you shouldn’t make that mistake again, beyond the fact that it costs the industry way too much money, take a few minutes and read this edition of Definitely Doug. My friend ChatGPT will be glad you did!

Here at Hospitality Upgrade much of our focus this week is on our upcoming 19th Executive Vendor Summit (EVS). Last year we had more than 50 CEOs from a wide range of companies — from very big to just out of the startup phase — join us amongst the near 100 in attendance that included many other senior executives and the industry’s top consultants. Many of the hotel technology leaders at our CIO Summit in Austin last year requested attending EVS so there will be quite a few CIOs joining this year including Andrew Arthurs of Aimbridge Hospitality, Scott Strickland with Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, Gustaaf Schrils with Omni Hotels and McLean Xavier with INNVest Hotels participating on our annual CIO panel. If you’re a technology vendor and work closely with others in the hotel industry, you, too, should be in Denver on March 26-28. Registration closes soon so, reach out to Kim@hospitalityupgrade.com quickly since there are requirements to attend.

I hope you saw the release about Hospitality Upgrade being the Platinum Sponsor of the new HITEC IC Investment Conference which the industry has needed for the technology folks. As EVS is a much smaller and intimate setting than HITEC, we have quite a few from the investment community also joining us this year. I love the many conversations that I have with those in the money world, and hearing how they look at the industry often differs greatly from how I do. If you’re a technology vendor and want to experience the industry’s most unique conference, then please join us at EVS 2024. If you have any questions about an invitation, please reach out to kim@hospitalityupgrade.com.

Here now is Definitely Doug along with the latest happenings in the tech world for the hospitality industry. I will see you at the end with this week’s you-know-what. Go Niners! Give the points!

Rich

rich@hospitalityupgrade.com

Siegel Sez 2/9/24

Only Doug Rice can start his Definitely Doug column that follows with - do you remember the emergence of the World Wide Web? Then, he goes to the introduction of the iPhone. Before you know it, he is comparing how hotel rooms are booked to how we buy groceries. Then before he is done, he comments that when planning a trip you’re going to be dealing with a group called LAMs. Historically hotels haven’t embraced new technologies which is a big mistake, but if you want to know why you shouldn’t make that mistake again, beyond the fact that it costs the industry way too much money, take a few minutes and read this edition of Definitely Doug. My friend ChatGPT will be glad you did!

Here at Hospitality Upgrade much of our focus this week is on our upcoming 19th Executive Vendor Summit (EVS). Last year we had more than 50 CEOs from a wide range of companies — from very big to just out of the startup phase — join us amongst the near 100 in attendance that included many other senior executives and the industry’s top consultants. Many of the hotel technology leaders at our CIO Summit in Austin last year requested attending EVS so there will be quite a few CIOs joining this year including Andrew Arthurs of Aimbridge Hospitality, Scott Strickland with Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, Gustaaf Schrils with Omni Hotels and McLean Xavier with INNVest Hotels participating on our annual CIO panel. If you’re a technology vendor and work closely with others in the hotel industry, you, too, should be in Denver on March 26-28. Registration closes soon so, reach out to Kim@hospitalityupgrade.com quickly since there are requirements to attend.

I hope you saw the release about Hospitality Upgrade being the Platinum Sponsor of the new HITEC IC Investment Conference which the industry has needed for the technology folks. As EVS is a much smaller and intimate setting than HITEC, we have quite a few from the investment community also joining us this year. I love the many conversations that I have with those in the money world, and hearing how they look at the industry often differs greatly from how I do. If you’re a technology vendor and want to experience the industry’s most unique conference, then please join us at EVS 2024. If you have any questions about an invitation, please reach out to kim@hospitalityupgrade.com.

Here now is Definitely Doug along with the latest happenings in the tech world for the hospitality industry. I will see you at the end with this week’s you-know-what. Go Niners! Give the points!

Rich

rich@hospitalityupgrade.com

Definitely Doug 2/9/24: The Path to Personalization

The Path to Personalization

In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, businesses often find themselves prioritizing functional changes and component upgrades over experimenting with new technologies, even critical ones.

Consider some pivotal moments in recent technology history, such as the emergence of the worldwide web or the introduction of the iPhone. Brick-and-mortar businesses like hotels were slow to realize that fundamental and ultimately threatening changes were afoot. This is understandable, since applications of new technologies are often not obvious, and the technologies themselves can be time-consuming to learn. Moreover, it is impossible to anticipate all the changes they will ultimately bring about. With the web and mobile web, third parties—notably online travel agents (OTAs)—invested sooner and more heavily than hotels. In doing so, they gained a foothold that hotels have never completely taken back. The same is true in many other industries.

If a hotel company could go back in time and be an early (or at least not lagging) adopter of web or mobile technologies, I suspect many would. These were missed opportunities that proved very costly to hotel operators. To be sure, early adoption of new technologies carries risks, and many early initiatives fail. But even failures provide important learnings for the organizations that have tried them, positioning them to succeed sooner than rivals. And early failures are usually small ones.

The technology environment today is at an inflection point as important as those represented by the worldwide web and the iPhone. But this time, instead of being an issue to understand for the future, key emerging technologies hold the potential, or even the promise, of solving some critical and immediate business priorities for hotels and other travel providers. The question is, will the hotels take the opportunity and act on it, or will intermediaries or alternative accommodation providers once again lead the way?

CORPORATE NEWS

Mews Acquires US-based Frontdesk Anywhere

The acquisition, which was managed by Mews Ventures to accelerate transformation in the hospitality industry, is the third acquisition in North America in just under a year. It represents further investment into the region as Mews continues to grow its presence. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

www.mews.com

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE

Amadeus appoints Maria Taylor to lead Marketing, Partnerships & Commercial Operations for the Hospitality Business Unit

Amadeus today announces the appointment of Maria Taylor as Senior Vice President of Marketing, Partnerships, and Commercial Operations, for Hospitality. Based in Madrid, Maria succeeds Paul Barron who held the role for the last three years.  

www.amadeus.com

Ben Jared Joins VENZA as Vice President of Sales

VENZA, a leading provider of data protection and regulatory compliance solutions for the hospitality industry, today announced that it has hired Ben Jared as Vice President of Sales, U.S. In this role, he will play a central role in VENZA’s ambitious growth plans in its home market of the United States.

www.VENZAgroup.com

Liz Chidiac Promoted to Senior Director of Client Services at Springer-Miller Systems

Springer-Miller Systems (SMS) is proud to announce the promotion of Liz Chidiac to Senior Director of Client Services. In her new role, Liz will oversee all of client services at SMS, including the Account Management, Professional Services, and Customer Support functions. Liz has a diverse background in almost every operational area at SMS. Her broad operational experience and strong leadership skills have driven her success.
springermiller.com  

Olga Brunnerová Named Customer Success Manager at VENZA

VENZA, a leading provider of data protection and regulatory compliance solutions for the hospitality industry, today announced that Olga Brunnerová has been promoted to Customer Success Manager. In that role, she will lead a core component of VENZA’s delivery process, overseeing a team of expert Customer Success Coaches who guide its clients to better visibility and better defense.

www.VENZAgroup.com

IDeaS Appoints Ibrahim Saba as Principal Sales Director in the Middle East, Expands Regional Presence

IDeaS Revenue Solutions, the world’s leading provider of automated revenue management software and services, announced today the appointment of Ibrahim Saba as principal sales director. Based in Dubai, Saba will oversee the strategic growth of IDeaS in a region with one of the fastest-growing hospitality sectors in the world, the Middle East and North Africa.

ideas.com

Jonas Hospitality Appoints Davis Howatt-Lambert as Director of Marketing, Property Systems

Jonas Hospitality is excited to announce the recent promotion of Davis Howatt-Lambert to Director of Marketing, Property Systems. Davis will oversee the marketing efforts of Jonas Chorum, Springer-Miller Systems, SpaSoft, as well as Leonardo Worldwide. To this role, he brings his experience as a valued Marketing leader within the Jonas Hospitality organization for the last seven years.

jonashospitality.com

Tom Hempel Joins VENZA as Vice President of Sales

VENZA, a leading provider of data protection and regulatory compliance solutions for the hospitality industry, today announced that it has hired Tom Hempel as Vice President of Sales, United States. In this role, Hempel will play a key role in extending VENZA’s strong positioning and sales efforts throughout North America.

www.VENZAgroup.com

GUEST MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS

Pivot Selects Stayntouch PMS to Power Seven Properties

Stayntouch, a global leader in cloud hotel property management systems (PMS) and guest-centric technology, announced a new partnership with Pivot, the lifestyle operating vertical of Davidson Hospitality Group. Stayntouch will implement its flexible, modern cloud PMS across seven Pivot hotels in the United States.

www.stayntouch.com

Oracle Cloud to Help Elevate Property Management for Marriott International

Oracle today announced that Marriott International has selected Oracle Hospitality OPERA Cloud Property Management System (PMS) and Sales and Event Management as a hospitality cloud platform for Luxury, Premium, Select Service, and Midscale Properties.

www.oracle.com/hospitality

Oracle OPERA Cloud Central All-in-One Hospitality Solution Now Available

Oracle today announced the general availability of Oracle OPERA Cloud Central. The all-in-one hospitality platform unites data and functionality from OPERA Cloud’s modules under a common user interface and experience. With it, customers can get a comprehensive view of their hotel business, including distribution, sales, service interactions, loyalty programs, and more to make faster decisions that can benefit staff and guests.

www.oracle.com/hospitality/

RESERVATIONS & DISTRIBUTION

Paramount Hospitality Management Partners with Travel Outlook, The Premier Hotel Call Center to Boost Conversions

In a search for a trustworthy technology partner that’s experience and reputation in the hospitality industry match the high standards at Paramount Hospitality Management™, the company has partnered with Travel Outlook, The Premier Hotel Call Center™ to combat labor shortages and increase conversion rates.

traveloutlook.com

GUEST FACING TECHNOLOGY

Five Star Functionality for Affordable Hospitality Settings: PPDS Debuts Philips Hospitality Tv 4500 Series with Chromecast Built-In and Google Play Store

PPDS, an exclusive global provider of Philips Professional Displays and complementary solutions, is delighted to announce the launch of a brand new line of Philips Hospitality TVs with Chromecast built in™, delivering the features and functionality expected from a premium TV, at a lower price tag.

www.ppds.com

DAZN selects PPDS – teaming up to bring the world’s largest sports streaming platform to hotel rooms exclusively on Philips MediaSuite TVs

PPDS, the exclusive global provider of Philips Professional Displays and complementary solutions, is delighted to announce a new partnership with DAZN – the world’s leading sports entertainment platform and Europe’s largest football broadcaster – to bring its live and on-demand content streaming services into hotel guest rooms for the first time, exclusively via Philips MediaSuite hospitality TVs.

www.ppds.com

InnSpire Partnership with RealTime Reservation Empowers Hotel Guests with Seamless Control of Their Property-wide Stay Experience

InnSpire, a leading provider of innovative hospitality technology solutions that help drive seamless, world-class guest experiences for some of the world’s most iconic hotels and brands, has announced a strategic partnership with RealTime Reservation (RTR), a centralized inventory control and management platform that assists hotels in maximizing ancillary revenue from services and amenities.

www.innspire.com

North America Hotels Leveraging Maestro PMS’s Revolutionary GuestXMS Features to Improve Communication and Boost Guest Engagement

Maestro PMS, a leader in cloud hosted, All In One, private cloud and on-premise property-management systems for independent hotels and luxury resorts, conference centers, vacation rentals, and multi-property groups, continues to help elevate hotel operations through expanded communications provided by its Guest Experience Management solution, or GuestXMS.

www.maestropms.com

MARKETING

Jonas Hospitality Introduces its Latest Brand, Jonas Unify

Jonas Hospitality is a family of technology brands serving the hospitality industry that utilize cutting-edge technology solutions to meet critical business needs. Jonas Unify solves the industry’s customer data problem by creating a master record accessible across your entire tech stack, removing silos from disparate systems while ensuring data accuracy and security.

www.jonashospitality.com

How Centralized Data Powers Sonesta’s Award-Winning Loyalty Program

After growing through acquisition, Sonesta turned to Hapi to centralize and normalize guest data from multiple Property Management Systems across its various brands in real-time, which will power a new Customer Data Platform.

www.hapicloud.io

HSMAI to Honor GCommerce Solutions with Three Adrian Awards for Outstanding Travel Marketing

GCommerce Solutions will be honored for travel marketing excellence by the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) at the annual Adrian Awards Celebration Award winners to be celebrated at an in-person event at the New York Marriott Marquis, on February 13, 2024.

www.gcommercesolutions.com

BACK OFFICE

North America Hoteliers Say PVNG Accounting Software from Aptech Is ‘Grrreat!’

Bigger does not mean better. But better is how companies thrive. Such is the case for Aptech. PVNG by Aptech was recently named a finalist in the Hotel Tech Report “Best Finance & Accounting Software” 2024 popularity index for the second consecutive year.

www.aptech-inc.com



COMMUNICATIONS & INFRASTRUCTURE

Nomadix Earns Patent for Enhancing Passpoint (Hotspot 2.0) with Loyalty Program Integrations

Nomadix Inc ., bringing connected experiences to life, was issued U.S. Patent No. 11,855,986 by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on December 26, 2023. The patent, titled “Management of network intercept portals for network devices with durable and non-durable identifiers,” represents Nomadix’s ongoing innovations in networking technology and adds to its growing patent portfolio.

nomadix.com

FOOD & BEVERAGE

Toast Restaurant Technology Selected by Choice Hotels as Brand Standard for Two Upscale Brands

Toast, a digital technology platform built for restaurants, today announced an innovative collaboration with Choice Hotels International to make its Toast for Hotel Restaurants technology a brand standard for two of Choice’s upscale brands, Cambria Hotels and Radisson. Toast is also a Qualified Vendor for Choice’s other brands.

www.toasttab.com

Silverware POS Partners With UK-Based Intuitas Technologies to Drive Sales and Strengthen Customer Relationships

Silverware POS has partnered with Intuitas Technologies to serve as a local sales and customer success resource for all new and existing clients in the UK. Silverware’s current UK client portfolio includes world renowned properties The Ritz London, The Savoy, The Goring, Belmond L’Manoir, Galgorm, Rudding Park, Historic Sussex Hotels, and Crieff Hydro hotels.

www.silverwarepos.com

HUMAN RESOURCES

VENZA Expands Human Resources Compliance Training Offerings with Mitratech

VENZA, a leading provider of data protection and regulatory compliance solutions for the hospitality industry, today announced a partnership with Mitratech, through newly acquired Syntrio, to offer new human resource and compliance training courses in the VENZA Learning™ Content Library. By expanding its content to include a range of new topics, VENZA continues to establish itself as the premier provider of comprehensive training courses for hoteliers.

www.VENZAgroup.com

Beekeeper Study Finds Nearly 50% of Frontline Workers Changed Jobs in 2023

Beekeeper, provider of the leading frontline success system, today released its 2024 Frontline Workforce Pulse Report. The report surveyed 8,000 individuals to explore trends for frontline industries and details several ways frontline businesses can improve the employee experience amid high inflation and increased rates of attrition.

www.beekeeper.io

SECURITY

The SALTO WECOSYSTEM: A new brand DNA for the future of advanced access

Salto Systems is proud to unveil the SALTO WECOSYSTEM, a new brand platform that brings together its core brands – Salto Gantner, and the newly introduced Vintia – to lead the digital transformation of access and identity management. This strategic move synergises a diverse range of innovation expertise under one brand platform ecosystem and signals a significant leap forward in the access control industry.

www.saltowecosystem.com

VENZA Expands Risk/Compliance Team Focusing on Pen Testing

VENZA, the leading provider of data protection and regulatory compliance solutions for the hospitality industry, today announced the significant expansion of its leading Risk/Compliance Team with a major focus on expanding its capabilities for quick, effective delivery of Pen Testing as a Service (PTaaS).

www.VENZAgroup.com

VENZA Completes Vision ’24; Announces Updates Roadmap Updates for Q4 2023

VENZA, the leading provider of data protection and regulatory compliance solutions for the hospitality industry, today announced the completion of its Vision ’24 strategic planning agenda and released significant updates to its Product Roadmap for Q4 2023. By completing Vision ’24, the company has again delivered on its promise to generate new, captivating, and innovative tools for better visibility and better defense.

www.VENZAgroup.com

HOSPITALITY EVENTS AND ASSOCIATION NEWS

HFTP Announces Inaugural Technology Investment Conference: HITEC-IC, Co-Located with HITEC 2024

Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP®) announced the HITEC Investment Conference (HITEC-IC), a new event designed to connect hospitality technology company executives with the investment community. Scheduled for June 27–28, the conference will be co-located with the 2024 Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition and Conference (HITEC®).

www.hftp.org

Hunter Hotel Investment Conference Marks Its 35th Year by Honoring Bob Hunter, Founder, with the 2024 Hunter Conference Award for Excellence and Inspiration

The Hunter Hotel Investment Conference (“HUNTER” or “Hunter Conference”) is pleased to present Bob Hunter, Founder of Hunter Hotel Advisors and Hunter Conference, with the 2024 Hunter Conference Award for Excellence and Inspiration. Each year, the award recognizes a hotelier who exemplifies exceptional leadership, citizenship, and innovation.

hunterconference.com

HSMAI Americas Announces 2024 Executive Committee and Board of Directors, Lead by Chair Andrew Rubinacci

The Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) is proud to announce the members of its 2024 Americas Board of Directors and Executive Committee, led by new chair, Andrew Rubinacci, who begins a two-year term. HSMAI America’s leaders represent a cross section of the industry’s most respected hotel and hospitality brands, academics, and suppliers.

www.hsmai.org

HSMAI Americas Honors Chapters with Frank W. Berkman Best of the Best Awards

The Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) Americas announced the recipients of the Frank W. Berkman “Best of the Best” Awards on January 23, 2024, at the HSMAI Mike Leven Leadership Conference in Las Vegas, NV.

www.hsmai.org

HFTP Announces Program, Entrepreneur 20X Participants for Digital Horizons 360

Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP®) has announced the planned roundtable discussion topics set to be considered at its inaugural Digital Horizons 360 (DH360) Symposium next month in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. An invitation-only, non-sales event, DH360 will bring together dozens of hospitality leaders for roundtable discussions on the technologies set to have the biggest industry impact in Europe.

www.hftp.org

Global Revenue Forum Announces Sommet Education as a Multi-City Sponsor for a Day of Unique Educational, Networking, and Commercial Opportunities at GRF 2024 - 30 January, Across Europe

Themed "Roadmap to Resilience", the forum will enable attendees to learn new strategies and solutions to help them adjust to today's evolving market conditions and adapt to the future of hospitality before it arrives.

www.sommet-education.com

AHLA Announces Global Technology 100 to Lead the Future of Hospitality Tech

Today, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) announced the launch of the Global Technology 100 (T100), a group of the world’s best and brightest hospitality technology leaders that will advise the hotel industry on leveraging the latest technology to better serve guests and maximize profitability.

www.ahla.com

MARKET REPORTS

Secondary Markets Beat the Top 25 in Meeting and Events Growth in January, Knowland Reports

Knowland, the world’s leading provider of data-as-a-service insights on meetings and events for hospitality, reported meetings and events in secondary markets outpaced the traditional Top 25 markets in January. Most notably, the highest growth Top 25 market, Nashville, was up 16.1 percent, while top growth secondary market city, Lexington, Ky., had a 76.4 percent uptick in meetings and events for the month.

www.knowland.com

Cloudbeds Reveals Highest Revenue-Generating OTAs for Independent Properties

Cloudbeds, the hospitality management platform powering more reservations and happier guests for independent lodging businesses around the globe, has today revealed rankings of the highest revenue-generating Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) worldwide, as well as by various countries and regions.

www.cloudbeds.com

U.S. Group Revenue Recovery in Q4 Hits 110 Percent According to Hospitality Group and Business Performance Index by Knowland and Amadeus

The fourth quarter of 2023 demonstrated that group business in 10 of the top markets in the U.S. has recovered 110 percent compared to the same time in 2019. Group bookings are calculated using occupancy and average daily rate (ADR). The Index combines event data from Knowland with hotel booking data from Amadeus’ Demand360+ to provide individual and aggregate views of the key drivers of hotel performance and is updated quarterly.

www.amadeus-hospitality.com

Hotels Under Pressure to Respond as OTA Competition for Guests Lead Gen Explodes — SHR Group’s Hotel Industry Trends Report 2024

The battle for direct bookings has entered a new phase as online travel agents (OTAs) ramp up efforts to establish ownership of hotel guests and their booking journeys, a new report from hospitality technology specialist SHR Group reveals.  While OTAs and hotels have a mutually beneficial relationship, the Hotel Industry Trends Report 2024 exposes for the first time the way a recent influx of marketing spend from OTAs is fast reducing hotels’ share of direct bookings.

shrgroup.com

Amadeus Report in Collaboration with UN Tourism Shows Confident Start to 2024 for Travel in the Americas

The report - Travel Insights 2024: Focus on the Americas - finds the industry is prepared for a strong start to the year, with air capacity in the region up by 20% over the first four months of the year when compared to the same period of 2023.

amadeus.com

Mews Data Dive Reveals Online Check-ins and Revenue Beyond Overnight Stays Soar as Travel Tops Pre-Pandemic Levels in 2023

Mews, an industry-leading hospitality cloud, today released the Mews Data Dive, a real-time measure of hospitality’s performance in 2023. Based on data from more than 4,000 Mews partners in 85 countries, the Mews Data Dive unpacks hospitality’s performance across 12 key areas to pinpoint how the hospitality sector is changing.

www.mews.com

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Three ecosystems — Hospitality & Leisure, Food & Beverage, and Inventory & Procurement — operate independently and together depending on your needs.

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7 Questions to Ask Before You Invest in a Hotel Mobile App

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With high rates of mobile device users and high expectations to digitally connect, what should your hotel app do? Besides providing a great digital guest experience, your hotel mobile app should be a reflection of your property and should give your guest the digital access they need to experience your property to the fullest.

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Return on Experience solutions delight guests, retain staff & grow margins

Agilysys’ Cloud platform, solely engineered for hospitality, delivers Return On Experience (ROE) across every hospitality touchpoint. That means more repeat stays, greater spend, stronger reviews, a more empowered staff and a healthier bottom line.

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