3 Technologies to Watch from HITEC 2016
July 14, 2016 8:00am
By Greg Abbott
As the Senior Vice President for the Travel and Hospitality practice here at DataArt, it’s important that I stay on top of the latest digital trends affecting the industry. So each year I look forward to attending the Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition and Conference (HITEC), the world’s largest hospitality expo that brings together the brightest minds and hottest hospitality products and services. And this year, it seems I was not alone. HITEC 2016 saw record-breaking attendance, with 6,395 hospitality professionals from 65 countries descending on the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans from June 20-23, 2016.
This record attendance doesn’t surprise me. It seems that each year more and more new products and services are coming to market, promising to revolutionize the hospitality industry as we know it. Hospitality professionals are hungry for innovation; for that next big thing that’s going to make their day-to-day lives a little easier. Walking the exhibit floor at HITEC, it was evident to me that what we’ve been searching for is well and truly here. From the Internet of Things (IoT) to robotics, mobility, and payment security, HITEC 2016 had it all.
Here are three companies that piqued my interest, and which I believe are poised to impact the hospitality industry in the near future.
Beewake is a mobile app looking to end the stigma of booking hotels by the hour. It enables consumers to book daytime hotel space to function as a temporary office, meeting room or co-working environment. Given that most U.S. properties today are hovering around a 65% occupancy rate, Beewake represents a significant opportunity for hotels to explore alternative revenue streams.
Consumers can sort by distance, price, or the built-in map to find a space that best suits their needs, and book by the day or hour. On the flip side, hotels can register on Beewake for free and receive a 15% commission on any bookings made through the app. Through Beewake’s extranet, they can define their own space and inventory, set daily rates and time slots, and manage their bookings in real-time.
While not the first to specialize in selling hotel space by the hour (HotelsByDay, DayUse, and ByHours do it as well), Beewake is one of the first to focus on the business market, capitalizing on one of the biggest trends shaping today’s workforce: mobility. Coworking centers, temporary work hubs, and turnkey workspaces that don’t require a multilayer commitment have become one of the hottest trends among tech startups, freelancers, creative types and entrepreneurs. These folks aren’t working a traditional 9am-5pm work day; their business can take them anywhere, anytime. Companies that can offer flexible solutions to meet their needs are poised for tremendous success. I have high hopes for Beewake, not to mention the properties who use them!
Savioke (pronounced savvy-oak) is a robotics company based in San Jose, California. Founded in 2013, they create autonomous robot helpers for the services industry, including hotels, aged care facilities, hospitals, restaurants, and offices. Needless to say, their booth at HITEC was awesome! It was here that I met “Relay”, their robot for hotels, designed to relay items between hotel operations and the in-room guest.
Here’s a typical scenario of how Relay would work in a hotel: Say, for example, while on a trip you forget your toothbrush. You call down to the Front Desk Manager, and they get a toothbrush for you. They place it inside Relay, type in your room number, and the robot will make its way to your room on its own. When it gets to your door, it calls your phone. Once you open the door, it opens its lid, and you can remove the toothbrush. Kind of cool, huh? Crowne Plaza, Grand Hotel, Holiday Express and Resident Inn all think so, with Relay already being put to work in some of their properties. Relay is also delivering coffee to guests from the lobby Starbucks at the Marriott Los Angeles LAX. To date, Relay has completed over 30,000 autonomous deliveries.
Of course, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard about robots being put to work in hotels. Earlier this year, the Hilton McLean introduced Connie, its first robot concierge designed to help hotel guests decide what to do in the local area, and how to find places on-property. It’s clear that we’ve reached a point in time where we’re ready for robots. As Savioke’s CEO, Steve Cousins, explains, “Computers and sensors are now cheap enough that we can build robots to help people. [They] can be aware of the presence of humans near them and work safely in that environment.” Just how soon robots will make their way into every hotel remains to be seen, but I for one would love my next room service order to be delivered by Relay! I wonder if you would have to tip… check out the Henn’na Hotel video here.
Though hard to compete with a robot, CheckMate is making serious strides of its own in the area of automation. Travel shoppers, in particular, Millennials, are hungry for greater personalization throughout the travel shopping journey. The issue for most hoteliers has been how to make personalization scalable; CheckMate is poised to answer that question.
CheckMate is a personalized communication system that allows hotels to reach guests in any modern channel - SMS, email, or Facebook Messenger. It enables hotels to map the guest journey and engage the guest via automated messages at each moment. These can include welcome messages, in-stay service alerts, or pre-departure messages, and each can be customized to different guest segments; for example, first-time guests, repeat guests, loyalty program members, attendees of a group or wedding, etc. Segments make it easy for hotels to communicate the right information to the right guest at the right time, resulting in a better overall guest experience.
Importantly, CheckMate also provides an easy way for guests to communicate back. Through a shared team inbox, employees can respond to customer emails and texts in real-time, or route them to an appropriate team member for action, as well as leave internal notes. The result is a more open, efficient communication experience that leaves guests feeling valued and helps correct any negative experiences quickly, without waiting for feedback surveys, or the dreaded negative online review.
Checkmate integrates with StayNTouch and Frontdesk Anywhere using PMS sign-on credentials. This makes it incredibly easy for hotels to begin using Checkmate to communicate with their guests. It will even remember individual guest preferences, so you can continue to deliver better service and, in turn, create brand evangelists. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what you want?
It’s exciting times ahead for the travel and hospitality industry, with technologies like these looking to evolve the travel experience in significant ways. Let me know what you think of the technologies mentioned here. Would you use them in your business? And if you attended HITEC 2016, I’d love to hear what tech stood out to you. Leave your comments below, or hit us up on LinkedIn or Twitter.
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Greg Abbott is a Partner at DataArt, leading the Travel & Hospitality Practice, which he formed in 2010. Greg has deep experience in executive sales & travel system operations, with 20+ years in domestic and international online travel industry sector, including entrepreneurship, management, product development, and consulting. His career in travel began in the early ’90’s while attending the University of California at Berkeley and working at the corporate campus travel agency that was later acquired by STA Travel.
Over his decade with STA Travel, Greg rose to the Director position and later departed to join NEXGEN Travel in Munich, Germany's leading online travel startup, assuming the role of Product Director for nearly four years. While at NEXGEN, his team tackled some of the most unique system and technology challenges in the hospitality & tour operator distribution landscape. On his return to the U.S., Greg joined DataArt as SVP of Travel & Hospitality to lead the charge in building out DataArt’s service to leading travel technology companies around the globe. He is a frequent speaker and a thought leader, with a loyal following in the press and social media alike. @jgabbott
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