Reimagining Hotel Technology with Open APIs Based on Strategic Partnership Alignment

By Alan E. Young

The last few years have been a whirlwind of innovation for hospitality technology. Despite its longstanding reputation for being resistant to change and slow to adopt technological evolution, the industry has made impressive strides toward reinventing its future. And yet, the gradual implementation of the latest advancements is only half the battle. With the rise of new technology (and subsequently, new technology vendors) comes the synonymous demand for strategic alliances and integrations.

Recognized as hospitality technology visionaries, Jos Schaap, CEO StayNTouch and EVP Shiji Group, and Ryan King, StayNTouch's Director of Strategic Partnerships, shared their insights on the impending shift that faces the market. With evolving guest demands and increasingly fragmented primary and guest-facing systems needed to support a hotel’s operational structure, the demand for effective collaboration between technology suppliers has reached a fever pitch.

At first glance, understanding the case for strategic partnerships across technology vendors in the hospitality industry might not seem obvious. With this in mind, Jos urged us to consider the following scenarios:

“In the first scenario, we have a room comprised of the most notable, talented experts in various segments – each qualified in some specific way to assist in solving a larger problem. However, despite the accumulated wealth of knowledge and expertise, those individuals are unable to speak to each other and collaborate. Siloed to their respective cubicles, each expert chips away at the presented problem on their own, according to their individual process and agenda. In the second scenario, we enter the same room, filled with the same impressive individuals. Only this time, we find everyone seated at a large, round table. Rather than going off on individual assignments to face the common problem, each expert can present their skill set and unique knowledge set collaboratively with the entire group. The experts work together, as a cohesive unit, to solve the presented problem.”

“Which scenario would you expect to have a more successful or efficient outcome?” questions Jos. “The hospitality sector is no different. The common problem is rather simple – how can each hotel provide the most optimal guest experience? Various technology platforms tackle different segments of this primary goal, addressing operational efficiency, bookings, revenue, customer-facing communications, and so on. Ultimately, they help the hotel to arrive at the same desired end result – profitability.”

“But let’s imagine that each new piece of technology is a renowned expert, in the scenario described above,” Ryan chimes in. “Unsurprisingly, technology platforms can only be truly optimized and successful if they are aligned and integrated with the other platforms they are working alongside. Why? Because otherwise their processes or data captures may contradict or clash, rather than contribute to the bigger picture/common goal of superior guest service. Hoteliers need the technology platforms they invest in to communicate and work together, not against each other.”

With an understanding of why these strategic partnerships are so important, we arrive at the next question – what should these partnerships look like? Unsurprisingly, Jos and Ryan share the same view.

“The success of this new technology relies largely on whether that technology is built on an open API,” says Jos. “As hotels respond to increasing guest demand for a hyper-connected and frictionless experience, they feel the pressure to invest in systems which help their staff to curate consistently intelligent, personalized and delightful experiences. This requires a great deal of behind the scenes work, with hotel systems working relentlessly (and seamlessly in tandem) to support the operational demands of the hotel.”

According to Jos, this just cannot be achieved if each individual platform adheres to the “everyone for themselves” approach that resists the modern demand for open integration. Legacy systems were notorious for this; relying on the profit accrued from those CAPEX costs associated with individual integrations and secondary support fees.

“APIs (better known as Application Programming Interfaces) should, especially in today’s climate, have the capacity to communicate seamlessly with each other,” Ryan adds. “If hotel companies or legacy suppliers try the plug-and-play integration with random technology, it can become a nightmare. This creates the need for strategic partnerships and alliances between technology providers to ensure open APIs can be seamless and valuable. Ultimately, the closer tech companies are aligned, the better the outcome for hotels. This is, quite simply, a win-win scenario for vendors and hoteliers alike, as both parties hope to establish a long-term, profitable relationship.”

But are all open architecture systems created equal? According to these experts, no.

Ryan explains, “Hotel technology companies have historically viewed partnerships through myopic, one-way lenses, often focusing on what the partner can do for them, rather than taking a broader scope in their partnership strategy.”

“Certain software providers still adhere to a legacy mentality and see integration costs as an opportunity to make money,” says Ryan. “Rather than requiring a one-time fee to ensure seamless integration across platforms, those vendors would charge an interface fee as well as the secondary system provider fee. But as hotels continue to evolve their guest offerings and require more robust technology, they will have no choice but to rely on various third-party providers for the various services they need. If those providers adhere to a legacy model, it simply creates unnecessary barriers for hotel’s hoping to utilize that technology.”

It is clear that solution providers that are strategically and tightly associated, like those in the Shiji hotel technology ecosystem, can adapt seamlessly to the unique and varying needs of hotels, offering far more efficiency, customization and cost savings.

This brings Ryan to an important point – “Of course, an application that is a perfect fit for one property, may not be the right fit for another. The same ideology applies to software platforms. Some software platforms are not an ideal match, which creates a need for a more in-depth vetting process for prospective new platforms that includes tech stack analysis, measures of scalability, flexibility and development.”

Jos and Ryan agree that ultimately, the degree of alignment between hotel technology partners will have a significant impact on the success or failure of hotels.

When asked what shifts we can expect to see in the realm of hospitality technology and if open APIs are the new industry standard, Ryan appears to have no doubts. “Shiji’s recent acquisition of StayNTouch, along with several other leading hospitality technology platforms marks a critical transformation in the industry. Overseeing these various platforms allows us to establish a unique, cohesive development architecture so that any hotel we service can ‘mix and match’ to make the perfect operational stack. The previous issue of cross-system compatibility will finally become a concern of the past, as hoteliers can customize their technology suite to their unique needs, much like any iPhone user can do with apps on their phone.”

Jos continues, “Partnering with the Shiji network of best-in-class technology providers allows hotels of all sizes to keep up, or better yet, remain ahead of guest demands as they innovate at scale while still maintaining security, control and reliability in those systems. Moving beyond the stifling limitations of legacy infrastructures, hoteliers can finally capitalize on new opportunities in stride with progressive technology.”