From virtual events to product discounts, these vendors are stepping up to accelerate industry recovery
by Fran Worrall, Hospitality Upgrade Editor
As the travel industry begins to rally, technology companies are taking steps to help their customers get back to business. Strategies run the gamut from complimentary webinars and virtual learning events to special promotions and discounts, all designed to enable hotels and other hospitality venues to reopen confidently and economically amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Industry giant Oracle Hospitality, with support from HTNG, a global trade association dedicated to uniting hospitality companies and technology innovators to solve industry challenges, recently hosted Innovation Week, a collaborative event dedicated to accelerating the industry’s recovery. Open to any vendor with a solution that could help mutual hotel customers speed recovery, Innovation Week included free webinars, Q&A sessions, and strategic insights from the company’s subject matter experts.
Approximately 465 attendees from more than 200 technology organizations across 48 countries participated in the five-day event. The goal was to streamline economic recovery by offering hoteliers more choices in technology—particularly contactless solutions—as well as an expedited path to integration with Oracle Hospitality systems. “Hotels and vendors alike are facing new government mandates as well as ever-changing guest expectations,” said Senior Director of Marketing Louise Casamento. “We want to do everything we can to ensure their readiness for the ‘new next’.”
About 40,000 hotels around the world use Oracle’s property management systems. Accelerating innovation not only makes it easier for them to access the company’s solutions but also those of its partners, all of which supplement Oracle’s offerings. Oracle Hospitality is assisting vendors who want to become partners by offering faster ways to get validated interfaces.
In another effort to assist the industry, the Oracle Partner Network has lowered its cost to entry, and Oracle Hospitality is rolling out new low-cost options for integration. The benefits extend to hotel customers as well. Properties will have access to discounts and additional cost savings on integrations to vendors who participated in Innovation Week and have validated interfaces. Hotels can purchase these licenses in a more cost-effective way and get a quicker return on investment.
The company has also developed a playbook that addresses the technology needed to meet the new demand. It covers a variety of topics, including various types of no-touch and low-touch solutions, the barriers and costs involved with integrations to these solutions, and how properties can differentiate their offerings with innovative technology. “Hotels are looking for solutions that not only inspire guest confidence but also address staff safety,” Casamento said. “Our playbook offers clear direction on how to navigate an altered marketplace while providing safety and continuity of service.”
At Agilysys, the COVID-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity for the company to talk with customers about its portfolio of contactless solutions, including pay-at-table, menu-on-phone, mobile check-in/check-out, kiosk, and keyless entry. “Where there’s a place for technology to enable the guest journey, we want to be a part of that,” said Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Don DeMarinis. “Especially now, our mission is to help customers deliver a seamless and safe guest-centric experience.”
To that end, the company has worked with customers in a variety of ways to offer financial support, including a recent promotion providing free use of the IG OnDemand product for 90 days. More than 100 customers have taken advantage of the offer, which ended June 30. “Many hotels, even if they were closed, wanted to keep their restaurants going, while others wanted to facilitate in-room dining,” DeMarinis said, noting that the Agilysys mobile food and beverage platform enables guests to order and pay from a mobile phone using any web accessible device via a QR code and is completely integrated with the InfoGenesis POS system.
The company has also produced a series of webinars that began with sessions on broad-based topics, such as how to reopen safely, and then pivoted to product-oriented sessions that highlighted Agilysys solutions that are particularly valuable in the current environment. The company plans to continue the webinar series through the end of the year.
Infor Hospitality placed its strategic innovations on hold as soon as the pandemic arrived, focusing instead on what customers required in the short-term, either to remain open or to reopen safely. “We did whatever we could to equip them with the technology they needed to get through the crisis,” said Global General Manager Jason Floyd.
At the top of the list was improving self-service options, which included integrating RFID locks into its self-check-in app, expanding relationships with kiosk vendors, and enhancing facial recognition technology. The company also ramped up its housekeeping solution so that hotels can take rooms out of inventory for specified time periods for disinfecting and cleaning. It enhanced its point-of-sale solution to ensure completely contactless transactions, whether in a hotel or a restaurant. And it expanded its revenue management system, building in new algorithms that adjust for the effects of COVID-19 when making rate recommendations.
With social distancing at the forefront of customers’ minds, Infor modified its table reservations/floor management solution so that it can be deployed in a variety of innovative—and non-traditional—ways. For example, hotel fitness centers are using the solution to enable guests to reserve exercise equipment and to let them know when to enter the facility. And, come fall, more than 100 colleges and universities will use the solution to ensure that dining hall tables are appropriately distanced and facilities don’t exceed mandated capacity limits.
Additionally, on the financial front, Infor is working with customers as needs arise, recognizing that relief takes different forms depending on the hospitality vertical. The company has revised payment terms for some customers, granted subscription pauses for others, and worked out deferrals of active deployment projects for a number of clients.
Technology vendors are stepping up in countless ways to reduce the negative fall-out from the COVID-19 pandemic and to drive faster industry recovery. “We’re here to help, and we’ll continue to adapt to the challenges,” said Floyd. “Every vendor I know is working with customers to help them through this difficult time. This is an industry we all love, and it’s the right thing to do.”
Perhaps a silver lining will be a more streamlined and efficient guest experience. “There’s a lot of cool technology that enables guests to define their own experiences, but adoption rates have always been a challenge,” concluded Agilysys’s DeMarinis. “I think the pandemic will force travelers to embrace this technology, and the end result will be a safer and healthier experience.”
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