For the many of you who have commented on our latest HU High Five, thank you. Interviewing hotel tech leaders and creating these videos is fun, but this week it was nice to do one with an ex-tech industry leader. Page Petry who spent most of her adult life at Marriott tells us about starting as a front desk person and becoming the CIO for the Americas and most recently her retirement. If you have not seen it, please click here. I had to smile when she mentioned starting her career at the front desk of a hotel. I remember my first hotel job working the front desk at the Laurels Lake Hotel and Resort in the Catskill Mountains wanting to learn the hotel business. If you have ever seen the movie Dirty Dancing, I will tell you from first-hand experience that movie does a great job sharing what it was like working at a Catskill Mountain Hotel for the summer. And that is all I will say about that. Yes, it is amazing how many execs in the hotel world I have met who started their careers working the front desk of a hotel. Out of all the jobs I had in my life being a front desk agent will always be my favorite. I treated every guest arriving as a new audience. A great way to start a career in hospitality.
For the first time in a long time there is a sense of optimism in the industry. Yes, the vaccine is the big thing as we deal with the current COVID-19 challenges, but I have had quite a few conversations with hoteliers who have shared they are getting many smaller group bookings starting in May. Our first conference that Hospitality Upgrade puts on each year is our Executive Vendor Summit where we bring technology leaders from the vendor side together for two and a half days. Amazing what comes out of this event especially the new partnerships that are formed. We are pointing towards May to have our 16th EVS and hopefully it will happen. So many have asked us to do the event and that is exciting. Right now, all we can do is plan and hope that we can pull this off. You never know unless you try, right? Our fingers are tightly crossed.
Doug Rice does a nice job in his Definitely Doug column that follows my opening as he shares his experience this week at HT-Next. We were happy to be invited and also thought there were many positive things to come out of the conference but as Doug mentions after this event that followed Cyber HITEC most of us are just done with the virtual events. I know I am, though we are planning an online gathering in January that will be a bit on the creative side and let’s just say not-so-normal. We shall see. Make sure you get our Hospitality Upgrade Watercooler newsletter to stay informed. You can register for the Watercooler newsletter by clicking here. Here now is Doug’s column with quite a bit of industry tech news included this week. I will see you at the end with this week’s attempt at you-know-what.
It was good to catch up with many industry colleagues this week at HT-NEXT. As much as I would have preferred a physical event, I will give the organizers a lot of credit for pulling together an engaging program and clever use of two technology platforms. I’ve mentioned the conference/exhibit hall platform (UgoVirtual) in an earlier blog on meetings technology, and for the most part it performed well.
The second one, Shindig, was a surprise. It did an excellent job of simulating a networking cocktail reception. Everyone there showed up with their video picture thumbnail; you saw their name instantly if you hovered over it. If you saw someone you wanted to greet, you just clicked their picture to start an instant video chat (if they’re already in a group, someone in the group has to approve you).
After just a few minutes of fumbling, I was having a great conversation with friends that was really as close as you could get to a real networking event. People would drop in to say hello, or if you saw another group that looked more interesting, you could take your leave and join them. Some people took the theme to heart and had cocktails with which to make virtual toasts. The only thing different was, as one hotelier put it, it’s the first industry networking event in his memory where he had to buy his own drinks!
To be sure, there were a few glitches and ideas that failed, but mostly things worked well. The conference shed a lot of light on what is possible to do with virtual conferences, and many of these lessons will transfer to the hybrid event world that will be with us for at least a while, and most likely permanently. Still, to me the event reinforced the value of face-to-face events, where attendees are much more immersed in the moment, multi-tasking isn’t an issue, and you have the opportunities to share a coffee, meal, or cocktail to reinforce the human bonds.
Of course, my focus was looking for new and interesting technologies. As was the case with Cyber HITEC, it was disappointing to see so few new exhibitors. Unfortunately, I didn’t succeed at finding technologies that were truly new. I did find some interesting new use cases that I will mention, and many of the technologies I have mentioned in prior columns that are getting much more adoption. To avoid repetition for regular readers, I have linked some of the topics below to the prior articles that covered them in more detail; this article is really more about their adoption trends.
Many of the technologies and vendors I have highlighted in this column since the arrival of COVID-19 are clearly getting more traction. Whereas many were brand new when I first covered them, it was evident at HT-NEXT this week, both in presentations and side conversations, that hotels that are actually starting to use some of them in significant numbers.
Chat applications are becoming ubiquitous, although there were differences of opinion about whether they needed to be omnichannel or SMS only, and whether they should be voice-enabled through Siri or Google. I don’t see much of a case for specific voice-chat functionality from the guest mobile device; someone who wants to use voice will already know how to use the speech-to-text function of their phone to accomplish that. There is much better recognition among hoteliers that requiring an app download for chat defeats the objective of getting as many guests as possible to utilize it; as a result, more hotels are supporting standalone SMS texting (often in addition to app-based chat). Most hotels’ adoption of chat still uses simple messaging applications rather than AI-supported ones that try to automate responses, probably a result of both the maturity of AI as well as higher costs. Outside the conference I have seen evidence that AI chat is gaining traction as well, but it still hasn’t entered the mainstream discussion.
Loews talked about an interesting initiative in support of hybrid meetings, providing (at some of their hotels) professional studio capabilities to support high-quality remote events. With meeting organizers, keynote speakers, and panels all having to present remotely, this is a great option, and the hotel can provide either just the facility itself or the facility plus professional AV services to stage them. It can also support hybrid meetings staged at multiple hotels around the country simultaneously, allowing attendees to remain in smaller groups while still meeting together. The technology here is not new, but the flexible packaging and turnkey options are.
Contactless deployments were everywhere, with several mentions of prearrival messaging to both inform guests what they can do to avoid contact during their stay or to collect information or health forms. One hotel group was using prearrival messaging to learn the guest’s attitude toward COVID risks so that they could customize interactions and housekeeping appropriately. Also ubiquitous were contactless check-in options, mobile key, and food and beverage ordering. Many housekeeping departments have started using electronic checklists to help arm room attendants for the revised cleaning processes; one executive said they were invaluable in helping changing the behavior of staff who may have been cleaning rooms the same way for 25 years.
One interesting concept mentioned in a couple different sessions was electronic lockers for food delivery. These can be heated, refrigerated, or ambient; can be used to deliver hotel-prepared meals or to allow third-party delivery to guests more efficiently and without contact, and can be used for non-food items as well. The guest typically gets a QR code by text when the order is placed in the locker; they just scan the code to open the correct locker. Aspen Skiing Company is using a similar technology to deliver pre-purchased lift tickets without the need for queueing.
One innovation that I haven’t seen before, but that was shown in a presentation and has been installed in some Mandarin Oriental, is a contactless in-room coffee maker. It can be activated from the guest’s mobile phone or watch to make coffee without touching it, and it is reportedly also easier for housekeeping to clean. While this will likely be too expensive to make sense in most guest rooms, some of the same company’s products appear to be equally usable in a lobby or self-serve restaurant setting, and a quick Internet search tells me that there are other options, some of which may well be usable in hotels.
HT-NEXT also included presentations from three of the winners of the HTNG 2020 TechOvation competition, an annual contest designed to highlight some of the best new technologies. The winners’ innovations all slightly predated COVID, but benefited because they all happened to support reduced-contact guest experiences. Enseo Connect allows a guest to scan a QR code that is on their TV welcome screen to begin controlling both the TV and any IoT-connected devices in the room from their phone. Nonius Cast enables a guest to pair their device to the TV for casting without having to touch the remote control. Startup Yoonik provides a biometric solution for verifying a guest’s identity from their mobile phone or kiosk that can eliminate the need to view a drivers license or scan a passport where required by local regulation or hotel policy, making self check-in feasible for more hotels.
The content from HT-NEXT will be available online until January 8 if you were registered or have a colleague willing to share it with you. I liked that most of the sessions were short (a few were under 10 minutes and most were 10 to 20); nothing seemed to drag and every session was worthwhile.
I can’t wait for a return to normal for events like HITEC and HT-NEXT, but it was an engaging and enjoyable three afternoons, and there was much to learn.
Recent Technology News, from Hospitality Upgrade and Hotel Online
– Phonesuite Direct Separates from Phonesuite into Stand-Alone Company
Phonesuite, a leading provider of hospitality communications for 30+ years, is proud to announce that Phonesuite Direct is now a stand-alone, focused company dedicated to serving the needs of its most important end-user customers, including hotels, management companies and major brands. As part of the spinoff, Phonesuite Direct has formed a new leadership team, with each member bringing years of industry experience.
People on The Move
– BirchStreet Systems Hires Ex-Avendra Hospitality Supply Chain Expert Craig Selwitz as SVP Supplier Services
With more than 30 years of experience in hospitality supply chain automation, Selwitz brings a 360-degree perspective and comprehensive vision for how buyers and suppliers can partner to innovate and transform the hospitality supply chain.
Guest Management Systems
– Infor Launches Hospitality Management Cloud Solution Based on Amazon Web Services in China to Spur Digital Transformation Among Chinese Hotels
Infor today announced the launch of Infor Hospitality Management Solution (HMS) in China together with AWS China (Ningxia) Region (operated by Ningxia Western Cloud Data – NWCD). The launch is aimed at helping more customers in China’s hospitality management industry rapidly implement seamless solutions that streamline operations, with the overall goal to provide enhanced guest services and experiences.
– IHG Signs With Siamese Asset to Bring Crowne Plaza to Bangkok
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG®) has signed a landmark franchise agreement with real estate experts, Siamese Asset to expand its world-renowned Crowne Plaza brand in Bangkok.
Revenue Management & Analytics
– IDeaS and Mews Partner to Provide Two-Way Data Exchange
Hotel-industry-leading technology providers, IDeaS and Mews, announce a new integration between their best-in-class systems. The 2020 HotelTechAward winners have developed a two-way data exchange that automates the seamless transfer of information between IDeaS’ revenue management solutions and Mews Commander, a property management system (PMS).
– Meeting Point Hotels Adopts Amadeus Integrated Booking Suite to Drive Revenue and Guest Loyalty
It is against this backdrop that Meeting Point Hotels, which is part of the FTI Group, is partnering with Amadeus to adopt the new Amadeus Integrated Booking Suite. The combination of Amadeus’ iHotelier Central Reservations System, Guest Management Solutions and web will enable them to strategically connect and market to over 400 distribution channels around the world and ensure they’re present where travelers are shopping, capture more bookings to increase revenue, and track guest preferences and loyalty.
Guest Facing Technology
– Virdee and SALTO Systems Partner to Deliver Contactless Arrival and Entry Solutions Across the Built Environment
Virdee, a SaaS company serving the lodging, multifamily and commercial real estate industries, announced today a partnership with SALTO Systems, a leading manufacturer of electronic access control solutions. The integration provides a powerful answer to the market’s demand for contactless arrival options by leveraging Virdee’s advanced ID verification module and the ability for guests to video chat with a remote agent before accessing a property.
– Sea Containers London Implements a Safer Guest Journey with Nonius Solutions
Sea Containers London, managed by Lore Group, is an incredible hotel located in the heart of London. It surprises its guests with its brutalist architecture, incredible views over the River Thames, but especially with its flawless guest journey.
– Deutsche Hospitality Relies on dailypoint for H Rewards
Deutsche Hospitality presented its new loyalty and rewards program H Rewards in summer 2020. With the bonus program, Deutsche Hospitality opened up a significantly expanded benefits package for all guests of its five brands. Behind one of the most modern and efficient hotel bonus programs is dailypoint™.
Communications and Infrastructure
– Zoox Smart Data Selected by Choice Hotels to Oversee Wi-Fi Landing Pages with Latest in Guest Experience Personalization
Zoox, Zoox Smart Data, an international provider of technological solutions that harnesses big data to build customer profiles from existing Wi-Fi networks, announced that it has successfully deployed its Zoox Media solution across 4,141 Choice Hotels branded hotels along with the Zoox Smart Data platform at 197 properties.
– Hotel Vin, Autograph Collection Partners With Hotel Internet Services
Hotel Internet Services (HIS), a full-service internet provider for the hospitality industry, has announced the successful implementation of an advanced Wi-Fi network at Hotel Vin, Autograph Collection.
– Doubletree Orlando UCF Adds Pure Rooms to Promote Well-Being
Pure Wellness, the global leader in health and wellness for the hospitality industry, announces the installation of new Pure Rooms at the Doubletree Orlando East University of Central Florida Area. The Doubletree is convenient to all attractions in the Orlando area and is the closest hotel to the University of Central Florida.
Food & Beverage
– Volara Partners with Butler Hospitality and Synergy Global Housing to Bring Roomservice to Guests at Synergy Chelsea NYC
With Volara-powered Google Nest Hubs in each corporate residence, guests scan an on-screen QR code to access an in-room restaurant menu with orders prepared at one of five hotel hub kitchens in Manhattan.
– Another Atlanta Hotel Chooses Clear Sky Software
Clear Sky Software, Inc.® announced today that the Renaissance Atlanta Airport Gateway Hotel has completed the installation of its beverage inventory control software. The Renaissance selected Clear Sky Software to help control all beer, liquor and wine inventory.
– Knowcross Announces Launch of COVID-19 Ready Know Housekeeping
Knowcross, the world’s leading service quality management platform announce the release of the updated, COVID-19 Ready KNOW Housekeeping. The enhanced solution was designed with direct input from Knowcross’s diverse customer base, faced with new challenges to streamline their operations due to ever-changing government guidelines and the introduction of new SOPs related to COVID-19.
– Blossoming in the Time of Adversity
SpaSoft, an industry leading, all-in-one spa management system, is excited to reveal the new brand identity for their next generation solution. The brand enhancements reflect the resilience and growth journey SpaSoft has taken over the years to deliver a robust, customizable and flexible software to power luxury spas around the world.
– ALICE Announced as the Hotel Operations Technology Provider for Curator Hotel & Resort Collection
In selecting ALICE as their preferred operations technology provider, Curator Hotel & Resort Collection is ensuring its properties have the proper tools for its hotels and staff to provide a superior guest experience.
– How Digitalizing the Workforce with Beekeeper Helped Jurys Inn Engage All Employees During the Pandemic and Better Prepare Us for the Next Normal
Early this year Jurys Inn & Leonardo Hotel Group had the foresight to digitalize our workforce to stay engaged with all workers regardless of their locations or job classifications.
– ASSA ABLOY Global Solutions Equips TownePlace Suites by Marriott St. George With Mobile Access and Latest in IoT Lock Security
ASSA ABLOY Global Solutions with its leading expertise in security access innovation, has enhanced the abilities of TownePlace Suites by Marriott St. George in maximizing guest safety, convenience and operational efficiency with the implementation of VingCard Classic RFID door locks equipped with Mobile Access.
– Architects’ Darling Award for MyLock Online Configurator from SALTO
From the experts’ point of view, the clear design and intuitive user experience were the main reasons for voting to award the SALTO MyLock Configurator a 2020 Architects’ Darling Award. In addition, they positively highlighted the immediate display of configuration changes and the user navigation. SALTO MyLock was clearly above the average of all participants in most evaluation categories.
Hospitality Events and Association News
– AHLA Statement on Problem Solvers Caucus Bill
The following is a statement from Chip Rogers, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, on the bipartisan, bicameral COVID-19 relief proposal released today by the Problem Solvers Caucus.
– Human Trafficking Training Available to Help Hotel Owners and Operators Meet New State Mandate
In an effort to crack down on human trafficking across Florida, a new law is going into effect mandating that all lodging establishments provide annual human trafficking awareness training for housekeeping and front desk employees.
– Live Meetings & Events – What’s the Reality for 2021?
Jon FAU’s Dr. Peter Ricci and experts from the hospitality industry on what their expectations are for meetings and events in 2021.
Piqued Our Interest
And now for you-know-what.…
Why men are just happier people – What do you expect from such simple creatures?
Your last name stays put. The garage is all yours. Wedding plans take care of themselves. Chocolate is just another snack. Car mechanics tell you the truth. The world is your urinal. You never have to drive to another service station to find a loo that isn’t too icky. Same work, more pay. Wrinkles add character. Wedding dress: five thousand dollars. Tux rental: a hundred dollars. People never stare at your chest when you’re talking to them. New shoes don’t cut, blister or mangle your feet. One mood, all the time! Phone conversations are over in 30 seconds flat. A five-day vacation requires only one suitcase. You can open all your own jars. You expect and get extra credit for the slightest act of domestic work. If someone forgets to invite you, he or she can still be your friend. Your underwear is $8.95 for a three-pack. Three pairs of shoes are more than enough. The same hairstyle lasts for years, maybe decades. You only have to shave your face and neck. One wallet and one pair of shoes – one color for all seasons. You can wear shorts no matter how your legs look. You can ”do” your nails with a pocket-knife. You have freedom of choice concerning growing a moustache.
AND….you can do Christmas shopping for 25 relatives on December 24 in 24 minutes!!