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A great deal has been written over the years about the viability of moving a hotel’s property-management system (PMS) to the cloud to take advantage of the latest technologies, but hoteliers need to realize that it’s not the only viable option. All platforms have advantages, including self-hosted, private cloud and on-premise solutions that leverage the latest mobile, contact free and web-based technologies. Independent operators can still enhance the digital guest experience, support personalized and mobile check-in, deploy contact free technologies, and secure hotel/guest data even if their PMS does not reside in the cloud. It should not be a question of “Cloud or On Premise?” but rather “Does the PMS solve your business objectives in both technology and service?”

Much has been written in the mainstream hospitality press about the challenges COVID-19 has presented to the industry. Hotels are in more pain than at any time in our memories. Because of the extensive media coverage, I won’t dwell on this topic further in what is primarily a technology column. But it’s the background for this week’s column, and so merits acknowledgement.

Are You All In?
Posted: 07/27/2020

Imagine everyone in your organization engaged, aligned, and performing to their potential. Imagine everyone playing “All In.”

Great organizations have synergy. Their culture allows them to play to a rhythm at a different tempo than the average organization. How do you get that at your organization?

Many front-line hospitality workers rely on tips for a significant part of their paychecks. If not for tips, many hotel associates who serve as waitstaff, bartenders, housekeepers, bell staff, concierges and pool attendants would soon be looking for other jobs. This is a regional issue: in most of Asia and Europe, staff get higher base pay, and tips are either not expected at all, or are truly discretionary. But in the U.S., Canada, Britain and other countries, tips are an important reality, and one that’s not likely to change anytime soon.

As somebody who’s helped to grow a company from 13 people to nearly a thousand, I know very well the excitement that comes with having a mindset focused entirely on growth. Every newly acquired customer, every new office and every milestone means the gap between you and your nearest competitor is that much bigger and that much harder to overtake.

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How Your Hotel is Helping Thieves Steal Money from Your Guests

by Jeff Parker

Right now in your lobby or lurking around a corner, or in a small room or closet is a potential thief, one that is ignored or unnoticed because of its ubiquity. That’s your ATM, sitting there as an attack vector against our guests and your reputation.
We all have them, that lonely old ATM kiosk. At first, they were welcomed into our properties as a guest convenience, then we turned them into potential revenue centers by charging our guests sometimes exorbitant fees to access their own money. After another report from one of my hotels finding a skimmer and a hidden camera near its ATM, I think it is time to ask the question: is having an ATM for our guests more of a liability than any benefit we or our guests receive?
The biggest threats are skimmers.

According to Rippleshot: “ATM skimming is reaching record levels, with no signs of slowing down.”
The definition from PC Magazine: “Skimmers are essentially malicious card readers that grab the data off the card's magnetic stripe attached to the real payment terminals so that they can harvest data from every person that swipes their cards. The thief has to come back to the compromised machine to pick up the file containing all the stolen data, but with that information in hand he can create cloned cards or just break into bank accounts to steal money. Perhaps the scariest part is that some skimmers don't prevent the ATM or credit card reader from functioning properly.”
Skimmers are getting smaller and smaller, and with the very common ATM hardware in hotels, mass production of a skin or cover that sits over the swipe mechanism can sit visually undetected. Couple this with a small camera (I just saw one that was built into a collateral display pocket that the thieves put hotel brochures in) to catch a PIN code and now we are literally inviting our guests to be stolen from. We might as well ask our guests to hand over their cards and PIN numbers; at least that would be more efficient.
OK, OK, I hear you; only a very select few of our hotels have been attacked in this manner. Facts are the attacks can happen over months and the data is often stored locally and collected quarterly by the thieves. You could have been attacked six months ago and still not know. Plus, the independent ATM company is not incentivized to even tell your hotel that it has been hacked. You might have dozens or hundreds of your clients that have been impacted.
Further, thieves are putting in cash traps that grab the moola before it is dispensed to the card holder. Money is dispensed, but the trap circumvents the money out slot and keeps the cash. Often the guest just thinks the ATM is empty, until they get their statement.
The first question is: are you making any money on the ATM? The 2016 Accenture ATM Benchmarking Study casts doubt, stating that: “…only a small portion of ATM operators are running their business profitably.”

Chances are the only one making money from your ATM is the independent ATM owner. They take a large cut of the fee, often giving less than $.50 per transaction to the hotel. Some even have contracts that only pay the hotel after a certain threshold is met.

The next question is: are your guests using the ATM? Given that hotels often put ATMs out of sight, out of high traffic areas, and out of mind for our guests, are you really providing a convenience to your guest? Is there another ATM close to your hotel? Is it worth the risk?

If you are not going to take that ATM out, make sure that your partner has deployed these anti-fraud techniques:
· Cameras, not on the key pad, but focused on the area around the machine, plus any egress or ingress points in the area. These should be obvious, as they provide a deterrent just by their presence.
· Anti-cash trapping physical prevention measures
· Anti-skimming jamming measures
· Remote monitoring for unusual ATM device behavior
· Anti-ram raid bollards
· Anti-skimming detection sensors
· Anti-card trapping detection sensors
· Place a larger mirror to help guests detect shoulder surfing
· Have PIN pad shields/guards to keep prying eyes/cameras blind
· ATM fascia and cabinet alarms

I know that there are several markets where having an ATM is a requirement, and I know that there are hotels that have ATMs that are getting a lot of use, providing a true amenity to your guests and profit center to the operation. I also know that many of our hotels should be examining their ATMs and making the determination that it is time to get rid of them. 
About The Author
Jeff Parker

Jeff Parker is the vice president of Hotel Technology for Red Lion Hotel Corp.

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