By Fran Worrall

In the fall issue of Hospitality Upgrade, we began our four-part series on the outlook for the hospitality industry by asking vendors the following question: What are your thoughts on the future of hotels and the industry in general?

Overwhelmingly, respondents were optimistic. Despite the seriousness of the pandemic and its devastating impact on hotels around the globe, most vendors agreed that the industry is resilient and will recover. Some said it would come back even stronger than before. Not surprisingly, most believe that technology will play a key role in the process.

In Part 2 of our series, we asked the following question: How has your company pivoted to meet the new demands the industry is facing? Here’s what some of the leading vendors had to say:

Francisco Pérez-Lozao Rüter, President-Hospitality, Amadeus:
Earlier this year, we launched a series of initiatives that included complimentary instructor-led training opportunities on multiple products as well as thought leadership webinars highlighting industry performance in different regions. We also implemented the H24 rate code, which provided free or discounted hotel rooms to medical workers and other emergency personnel during the height of the pandemic response. And we introduced new functionality for our hospitality diagramming, service optimization, and business intelligence solutions that allow hotels to respond to pandemic-related challenges more effectively—from improving meeting and event set-up to refining global occupancy insights. We want to make sure we deliver solutions that not only meet our customers’ immediate needs but also support their long-term recovery.
Jill Wilder, Vice President, Aptech:
We’ve seen the need to assist clients in using our applications for different purposes, such as looking at cost analysis rather than focusing on revenue. When room demand is strong, revenue is a focal point of the applications; when demand disappears, you pivot toward expense management. For example, as clients are evaluating new expenses related to cleaning supplies, they also need to examine the reduction in labor associated with not cleaning rooms on stayover nights. How do these new changes impact the P&L?  The knowledge gained can then be used to help forecast the future. 
Nicolas Aznar, President-Americas, ASSA ABLOY Global Solutions:
In addition to providing hoteliers with contactless digital key and access management technology, we continue to prioritize the innovation of new technologies that reduce touchpoint risks and help ensure guest safety. Examples include copper alloy-based door handles, which reduce the amount of time that viruses and bacteria can survive, as well as hands-free door opening and closing capabilities. As the industry experiences an ever-growing range of expectations regarding secure and hygienic environments, we’ll continue to leverage our expertise in customer journey mapping to offer solutions that address both current and future needs.
James Tubo, Executive Director of Operations, Blueprint RF:
We’ve pushed forward while carefully considering the hospitality landscape as it changes. We’ve talked with brands as well as hotel management companies about the impact of the pandemic and have learned that while the challenges are overwhelming for everyone, each situation is unique. Our commitment to the industry is unwavering, and with Cox Business behind us, we’ll continue to support it throughout the recovery and beyond.
Steve Woodward, President, Centrada Solutions:
During the initial lockdowns, we prioritized implementation of our business continuity plans so we could seamlessly provide services to our clients. More recently, we’ve focused on lowering our fees through efficiency improvements, which have allowed us to address clients’ decreases in occupancies and hotel closings. Improvements include upgrades of our internal systems, implementation of new processes and procedures, and retraining and reorganization of staff.
Mark Holzberg, President-Americas, Chief Executive Officer, Cloud5 Communications:
To address specific needs accelerated by the pandemic, we’re providing new solutions that meet three primary needs: 1) Help venues remain in compliance with local occupancy regulations via an AI-driven platform that can accurately track and report occupancy data; 2) Contact tracing through a touchless SMS-based solution that enables visitors to register and venues can track and report incidents to reduce viral spreading; and 3) Digital engagement through chatbots, mobile ordering and digital compendiums to enable guests to get information and communicate with the hotel via AI-driven chatbot that can be seamlessly handed off to humans. We are linking this technology with our contact center agents who can communicate live, both digitally and by voice, when the need arises.
Nick Pledge, Chief Operating Officer, Crave Interactive:
We were able to fast-track the development of our mobile solution, AppLess™, which uses customized QR codes to deliver instant access to guest services directly to consumers’ mobile devices. The solution streamlines in-room dining, drives extra revenue with smart up-sell options, helps properties save money with easy opt-out of housekeeping, increases staff efficiency, and enables real-time updates and messaging. Going paperless not only saves on printing and distributing costs, but also enables hotels to be extremely agile and update content at the touch of a button.
Dr. Michael Toedt, Managing Partner and Chief Executive Officer, dailypoint:
We’re offering very flexible pricing as well as new product bundles. We also started a training initiative to make sure our clients use the full scope of dailypoint. I like the phrase ‘good is the biggest enemy of great’, and our goal is to provide a great product and a great service.
Mike Chuma, Vice President of Marketing, Engagement & Enablement, IDeaS:
We’ve enhanced our client services and support models to help customers keep up with the market disruptions resulting from the pandemic. We’ve also accelerated the pace of product development and recalibrated revenue management systems to adjust for the COVID-impacted period. And we’ve developed free revenue management foundation courses that teach hoteliers how to build a solid commercial success framework. 
Mark Loyd, President, Jonas Chorum: Our focus has always been to create world-class software at an affordable price, so our business model works well for those hotels paying high prices for less functional software. Our pivot has been to work to get this message out more clearly. Because of this, we’re having a record year in sales helping hotels save money and move onto a modern platform.
Warren Dehan, President, Maestro:
The new guest journey increasingly relies on technology, particularly technology that enables properties to manage through lower staffing levels without compromising the guest experience. For the past few years, we’ve offered a variety of integrated modules, touchless tools, and apps that reduce or eliminate the need for physical contact. We also offer 24/7 call center support, free version upgrades, on-demand live one-on-one training, in-application live chat and direct email support, an online e-learning center, complimentary live webinars, and professional productivity audits to ensure longevity in the hotel’s PMS investment. Our culture has always been ‘customer first’ and client driven, so we’re continuing to meet the fluctuating demands of the market during the pandemic.
André Lalande, Vice President of Sales, Onity:
For our hotel customers that are reopening, we’ve created a checklist that ensures their Onity locking systems are in working order and ready for guests. It covers front desk start-up, door lock function, lock hardware cleaning guidelines, and more. For properties undertaking new projects and upgrades, we’ve developed procedures that allow our technicians to provide many services remotely. With the cooperation of hotels’ facilities teams, technicians are conducting remote site surveys and troubleshooting problems via mobile collaboration tools. This new contactless approach gathers all lock hardware requirements from the property without an on-site visit. And we’re offering this service at no charge.
Frank Pitsikalis, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, ResortSuite:
We’re focusing  more on guest-facing technologies. Online and mobile applications not only make it easy for guests to manage their hotel and resort experiences, but they also drive revenue. More importantly, these applications make guests fee safe. There’s no need for them to touch kiosks, tablets, pin pads, or menus. Using these technologies, guests can explore and book room packages, spa services, golf, or dining–all from their own ‘clean’ devices. Questions about safety protocols can be answered easily online or through video, and guest safety can be addressed via mobile applications.
Michael Cline, Vice President of Hospitality Sales, SALTO Systems:
With the greater demand for data and mobile credentialing, we’ve accelerated our mobile app integrations. We’re also making sure that existing customers know exactly how much data they already have at their fingertips with their SALTO Space software. Our product and solution roadmaps are always guided by what customers tell us. The key is being flexible and understanding their challenges, especially when it comes to the number of people who have been affected by furloughs and layoffs as well as hotel closings and re-openings.
Daniel Montellano, Senior Vice President of Enterprise Business Development, Shift4 Payments:
While we have supported contactless NFC payments for quite some time, we expanded our development efforts around contactless technologies at the beginning of the pandemic. Over the past few months, we’ve rolled out a number of additional offerings to meet the demand for contactless options, such as QR Pay, and we’re confident that these solutions will be useful to businesses even after the pandemic ends.
Kevin King, Chief Operating Officer, Shiji Group:
With most of the industry coming to a standstill, we had to reset a lot of priorities. First, we worked on solving immediate needs—releasing products that we had planned for later, mostly focused on contactless payments through Shiji Payment Solutions, Infrasys Cloud POS and MyCheck, and on guest communication solutions to facilitate answering guest questions with ReviewPro. But we also worked with many of our customers to see how we could plan for their long-term technology needs. This was an opportunity to look to the future and work on a new platform for enterprise hotel companies, a project we had initiated years ago that suddenly became critical. We recognize that now is a time to focus on helping hotels solve immediate needs through immediate solutions but also a time to work on foundational systems that will help customers in the coming decades.
Bernhard Ballin, Regional Vice President-Americas, SiteMinder:
In March, as we watched global hotel bookings plummet, our founders conceived the idea of sharing that live data with the world in the hope that as bookings returned, hoteliers would have the best chance to prepare for future guests. That idea came to fruition as the World Hotel Index. Sourced from the bookings of SiteMinder’s 35,000 customers through more than 400 booking channels globally, it provides insight into when guests are likely to return to hotels after the pandemic.
Kara Heermans, Vice President of Product Management and User Experience, SONIFI:
When many states were in full lockdown and traveling was at a standstill, we worked with hotels to turn off or minimize offerings to help them save money. We’re now working with these same properties to leverage technology they already have to adapt to new guest expectations about cleanliness, amenities and contactless options. We’re also having a lot of conversations with clients about finding cost-saving options and implementing easy lifts that can go a long way with guests. Additionally, our product and engineering teams are working with clients to determine how our platform and technology can evolve to address guest expectations surrounding communication, cleanliness and convenience in a post-pandemic environment.
John M. Clark, Vice President, SynergyMMS:
The industry’s new safety protocols have greatly impacted front desk employees, housekeeping staff and engineering staff. Our reaction was to quickly modify our solutions to support the new standards and procedures so that these team members could be as productive as possible. We also revamped our on-boarding process to provide thorough knowledge transfer to multiple skill levels—all in a virtual environment.
Daniel Johnson, Partner and Co-Founder, VENZA:
Our company provides data protection for hospitality. So, pre-pandemic most of our activities revolved around helping hotel groups achieve compliance to standards such as PCI DSS and regulations such as GDPR. With a drastic reduction in room revenues, our customers looked to us for help in reducing costs. We’ve done that by crafting strategies that consolidate solutions—endpoint protection, email security, and log and threat monitoring—so they can save money while maintaining security.
Mark Lewis-Brown, President & Chief Executive Officer, Vertical Booking USA:
We haven’t had to alter our business model since the pandemic began; our core business continues to be full CRS services for independent hotels. However, we have added some new solutions designed to assist hoteliers, including a gift certificate booking engine that allows hotels to sell gift certificates directly from their websites, a customizable pop-up banner for client websites and booking engines to communicate health and safety measures, and refund vouchers that allow hotels to easily generate vouchers as alternatives to refunds. We’ve also implemented numerous automated solutions internally to improve efficiencies and minimize the need for in-person collaboration.

The vendor community has risen to the challenges surrounding the pandemic, responding in a variety of ways—from offering customers discounted or free services to fast-tracking the development of contactless and mobile solutions that provide safe alternatives for guests and support long-term recovery for hotels.

In Part 3 of our series, we pose the following question to vendors: Which of your solutions or services have done particularly well during the pandemic?

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