The Outlook for Hospitality, Part 3: Technology Vendors Reveal the Solutions That are Helping the Industry Recover
By Amy|2020-12-03T15:59:22-05:00December 2nd, 2020|
Fran Worrall | December 02, 2020
By Fran Worrall
Last week, in Part 2 of our series on the outlook for hospitality, we asked some of the industry’s leading technology vendors the following question: How has your company pivoted to meet the new demands the industry is facing?
Overwhelmingly, the vendor community has risen to meet the challenges surrounding the pandemic, responding in a variety of creative ways—from offering clients free or discounted services to speeding the development of solutions that provide safe alternatives for guests and support long-term recovery.
This week, in Part 3 of our series, more than 30 leading hospitality technology vendors reveal the solutions and services that have done particularly well during the pandemic. From mobile ordering and payment applications to accounting and business intelligence systems, following are the products that are helping the industry get back on its feet.
Don DeMarinis, Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing-Americas, Agilysys:
We’ve had tremendous demand for our contactless solutions, including Agilysys OnDemand for online/mobile food and beverage ordering, and Agilysys Pay to enable QR code payments. But hoteliers have shown the most interest in a collection of three solutions that work together to enable a contactless guest journey. rGuest Book, our commission-free online booking engine, has received a lot of attention, and customers like to pair it with rGuest Express Kiosk or Mobile for check-in/check-out and digital keys. The adoption of these solutions by guests is high, as it not only gives them control over their stay but also enhances their experience.
Francisco Pérez-Lozao Rüter, President-Hospitality, Amadeus: Our business intelligence suite is playing a vital role in guiding revenue strategies during the pandemic. Demand360® provides the industry’s most comprehensive forward-looking market data, enabling hoteliers to see the types of travelers that are booking, the channels travelers are booking on, and how their property’s performance stacks up against that of their competitive set. With short-term rentals on the rise, hoteliers are also subscribing to our alternative accommodations solution, which provides booking data on 27 million home share listings down to the ZIP code. We’ve also seen an increased focus on cleanliness, sanitization and operational procedures that address traveler concerns. And our service optimization solutions are helping hotels streamline housekeeping, guest requests, work orders, and communication best practices to deliver a positive experience, even with leaner staffs.
Cam Troutman, Vice President, Aptech: All of our business intelligence, accounting and planning applications continue to be critical to clients as a foundation for navigating these uncertain times. BI is a valuable front line application that provides immediate access to current revenue and labor data, which is vital to managing day-to-day operations. Analyzing P&L to understand break-even occupancy numbers assists clients in determining if a hotel close is necessary; and, if so, when a reopen can be realized. And our planning application has enabled clients to toss aside budget numbers—which are essentially useless at this point—and focus instead on forecasting. The application gives clients the ability to create various scenarios based on favorable changes and information gleaned from BI and P&L, so that forecasts are updated as the landscape shifts.
Nicolas Aznar, President-Americas, ASSA ABLOY Global Solutions: Our Mobile Access solution has experienced a significant increase in adoption rates due to its contactless and social distancing advantages. With Mobile Access, guests check in and receive a digital key using their personal devices, avoiding lobby areas where close contact with others might pose a virus exposure risk. Digital key access is also being expanded to a variety of hotel locations such as building entrances, elevators, fitness centers, parking garages and pool areas to minimize shared surface contact risks. In addition, our cloud-based Vostio Access Management solution is gaining traction due to its efficiency-enhancing benefits. It enables staff to monitor and control access operations from virtually anywhere there is an internet connection.
James Tubo, Executive Director of Operations, Blueprint RF: Early into the pandemic, we developed a database approach to understanding the challenges faced by everyone in the industry. We used our proprietary data to view the industry through the unique lens of properties with our Wi-Fi solutions. From this, we created the Hospitality Recover Tracker and have shared our industry knowledge with brands and hotel management companies.
Michael Bennett, Chief Marketing Officer, Cendyn: For our customers, CRM is playing a huge part in the recovery effort. Long gone are the days when standardized messaging can be sent to all guests. Today’s consumers expect communications to be tailored and relevant, with regular updates about safety and cleaning protocols. Through the leveraging of CRM data, hoteliers can engage with guests at every stage of their journey—from searching and booking to in-house and post-stay—using sophisticated personalization techniques. Whether it’s managing guest preferences or on-property requests, CRM enables hotels to offer exceptional service and a highly customized experience while respecting social distancing in the new normal.
Steve Woodward, President, Centrada Solutions: We’ve seen a dramatic increase in requests to outsource IT services as a way for hotels to decrease overall expenses, and our core services have expanded to meet that demand. Centrada’s outsourced IT Support Services have helped customers maintain their systems while significantly reducing their payroll expenses. Also, hotels have benefited from our professional outsourced Implementation Services when deploying contactless technologies like Mobile-Key, as they don’t need to add staff to complete the projects.
Mike Schmitt, Chief Executive Officer, Clairvoyix: We were in the process of launching our Group/Event Sales and Marketing Automation Solution when the pandemic hit. While we believe our group solution will be in high demand as hotels recover, we found that our tried-and-true leisure solution was the answer to what we hope is a short-term problem. In fact, we didn’t need to modify the solution; what the industry needed was modified pricing and payment terms. So, we became creative and launched R3, or the Rapid Recovery Response program. We allowed one-off leisure email campaigns at a low price and offered deferred payments to those that needed to market now but didn’t have the funds. Being flexible with clients in the face of adversity makes the most sense to us.
Mark Holzberg, Chief Executive Officer, Cloud5 Communications: Fortunately for Cloud5, internet service and network solutions are essential technology that supports every aspect of a hotel’s daily business operations. We see emerging technology, such as 5G and Wi-Fi6, offering opportunities to improve reliability and functionality of digital networks, not only for guests but also for businesses that must transform to more efficient operating models with remote and shared services. We’ve also heard consistent feedback from customers that heightened caution among travelers is driving up call volumes at a time when hotels have fewer on-property resources. To help hotels manage incoming calls and guest requests, we’ve added guest services to our reservations offering at the Contact Center. We’ve also partnered with a leading guest communication platform to offer chatbot solutions that use AI and machine learning to personalize the guest experience. Frequent questions are answered quickly; and, if the automated chat needs a human touch, our Contact Center takes over. The result is a reduction in call volumes to hotel reception, potential increased revenue from property upsells, and improved guest service.
Nick Pledge, Chief Operating Office, Crave Interactive: As many hospitality businesses began to reopen, we were able to offer the Mobile Order and Pay module of AppLess™ as a solution for restaurants and bars. Many of the businesses using this solution have found that order value has increased, and it takes staff half the time to serve. With guests controlling orders via QR code access to digital menus, accuracy is improved, staff can focus on delivering great service, and 66 percent of users admit to ordering more due to up-sell features and prompts. Our market research also proved that 93 percent of guests felt safer using mobile ordering, and 71 percent preferred using a QR code to downloading an app.
Dr. Michael Toedt, Managing Partner and Chief Executive Officer, dailypoint: dailypoint is not only a complex CRM but also a platform with more than 130 integrations. During the pandemic, most of our customers used the time to review and improve their current settings. In particular, our loyalty program, website tracking, AI and marketing automation were the focus of many customers. And, of course, almost all companies tried to consolidate their IT landscape. On average, dailypoint replaces seven individual vendors and is a key success factor for a digitalization strategy.
Mike Chuma, Vice President of Marketing, Engagement & Enablement, IDeaS: IDeaS G3 RMS, our flagship product, is helping hotels during these uncertain times. An advanced revenue management system powered by revenue science, advanced analytics and machine learning, the solution is simple to use yet highly sophisticated in its capabilities. G3 RMS allows hotels and revenue managers to quickly adjust pricing and demand forecasts as business segments shift when markets reopen.
Jason Floyd, General Manager, Infor Hospitality: Several of our hospitality products have been specially adapted to meet the requirements for doing business in a pandemic. Our table reservation system allows hotels and food service outlets to reduce capacity, control patron count, and enforce social distancing through table selection and restriction. We also offer text paging when tables are ready so guests don’t have to congregate in lobby areas. Our point-of-sale solution has addressed some unique pandemic problems. First, the issue of supply chain disruption. Fast-food locations needed improved control over items sold through mobile order menus. Now, as items are nearing depletion, enhanced menu controls automatically limit mobile order menus and transfer control to in-store sales, preventing accidental overcommitments. Second, some of our restaurant clients support charities through donations left at in-store collection boxes. When the pandemic hit and in-store traffic disappeared, so did virtually all charitable donations. We were asked to help by adding a ‘round-up’ feature to the settlement process so mobile customers could give to charity by rounding their purchase total to the next highest dollar. We’ve also enhanced our suite of mobility features that allow hotel guests to confirm reservations, select accommodations, and check in/check out with minimum delay and contact. And we’ve adapted our housekeeping system to respond to new COVID-19 requirements. It can automatically enforce a pre-set vacancy time period, which allows for proper room cleaning and disinfecting, and impose new restrictions in room rotation and floor selection, so that occupied rooms are spread further apart rather than grouped more closely together as was customary in pre-pandemic days.
Mark Loyd, President, Jonas Chorum: Our entire suite of cloud-based software has done well during the past several months. Installation costs are minimal and word-of-mouth has grown stronger as more users experience our solution and our emphasis on customer service. We’ve taken the opportunity during the pandemic to focus more intently on the features our customers are requesting. We want all our customers to be fanatics about their partnership with us.
Robert Post, Chief Executive Officer, Knowland: We operate in the group segment of hospitality, so doing well during the pandemic is relative considering the restrictions that have been placed on gathering. Despite that, our data shows that meetings are happening, although they look different. More than 64 percent of events are corporate. These tend to be smaller and more regional meetings conducted with socially distanced protocols and within driving distance of venues. During this time, we’ve launched several free tools for hoteliers, including Knowland Prospector, designed to help small and boutique properties. Since Knowland is the only source of group prospecting for these smaller meetings, we’ve gained significant momentum in new sales as hotel sales teams and asset managers realize this is a source of high-margin revenue in a time when cashflow and revenue are hard to come by. Our AI-based algorithms serve up the likeliest account targets for hotels to pursue based on configurable searches of our proprietary database of more than 16 million historic events.
Scott Watson, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer and Partner, M3:At its inception, M3’s cloud technology was developed to accommodate offsite access to key financial data across portfolios. As a result, we were well positioned to assist customers as they made the transition to remote workplaces. At the onset of the virus, we rolled out new software features to provide our accounting core customers with expanded data management support and to ease the challenges associated with supporting a larger work-from-home, back-office enterprise. With updates to our General Ledger, Daily Report, Intelligent Imaging, Check Writer, Cash Management and Accounts Payable modules, M3 customers have realized a multitude of time-saving features as well as efficiencies. In an uncertain and tumultuous year, we zeroed in on enhancements that allow hospitality professionals to work remotely with unparalleled efficiency while maximizing human capital with software-based assistance.
Warren Dehan, President, Maestro: Since the pandemic hit, we’ve been fielding calls from frustrated independent hoteliers who feel they are being pushed by their PMS providers to migrate to their latest cloud versions, supposedly so they can take advantage of the most up-to-date web-based and contactless technologies. Imposing a PMS change to the cloud—often motivated by vendors’ sunsetting their legacy software—doesn’t allow hoteliers to choose what’s best for their properties. A one-size-fits-all approach isn’t right for everyone, and hoteliers shouldn’t be forced to incur additional expenses for new systems just to get the latest tools. It’s important to work with a PMS partner that offers the latest innovations, provides options in deployment, and secures the hotel’s investment with included upgrades and services. Most importantly, the vendor must provide solutions that meet the hotel’s business objectives. We offer complete flexibility and scalability for independent properties that need a more customized solution, and we also offer a myriad of deployment options with our Web Browser solution, including traditional cloud hosting, on premise, or private cloud. Hoteliers have shown interest in this technology because it allows them to gain access to the latest platforms and product features without having to commit to a cloud-hosted solution.
Shane O’Flaherty, Global Director of Travel, Transportation & Hospitality, Microsoft: Our technology has assisted hospitality clients in the key areas of guest experience, employee empowerment, and intelligent operations. We’ve seen significant growth in the use of our TEAMS product to aid in remote collaboration and to assist in the field for communication/collaboration to drive operational efficiency. We’ve also seen increased use of our PowerApps product, which is a low-code, no-code tool that automates many manual paper processes. Finally, the hospitality industry has continued its acceleration to the Azure cloud, which helps properties reduce costs, increase efficiency, and position themselves to provide unique and flexible offerings to guests.
Niklas Moeller, Vice President, MODIO Guestroom Acoustic Control:Following a brief lull, we’ve seen a resurging interest in MODIO Guestroom Acoustic Control, as properties seek ways to improve the guest experience and offset the loss or reduction of other types of amenities and services in the wake of the pandemic. Hoteliers recognize that while health and safety are predominant concerns at the moment, they’re not the only things that matter to guests. A good night’s sleep and a comfortable environment will always be important, and our case studies highlight MODIO’s effectiveness in that regard.
André Lalande, Vice President of Sales, Onity: The need for contactless property access is growing. Now more than ever, the Onity DirectKey system plays an important role in providing contactless check-in and property access. Since its launch in 2015, the DirectKey mobile access solution has enabled millions of hotel guests to bypass front desk check-in, and it eliminates many traditional touchpoints throughout a hotel stay. DirectKey technology has been deployed in more than 5,000 hotels around the world and has been used to open doors more than 100 million times. In many cases, hotels can implement contactless access through a simple upgrade of existing locks and even across lock brands.
Laura Calin, Vice President, Strategy and Solutions Management, Oracle Hospitality: Our digital learning tools that support our PMS and POS solutions have done very well. Hotels need them to keep existing staff prepped and to train new hires as they deal with shutdowns and restarts. Hotels also have recognized guest demand for contactless technologies, resulting in interest in our open APIs and the Oracle Hospitality Integration Platform (OHIP), which enables the incorporation of such solutions simply and quickly. And we’re seeing hotels move to OPERA Cloud, our cloud-based, mobile-enabled property management system, because of pandemic-related challenges to get IT staff on property to maintain on-premises PMS.
James Prestileo, Director of Sales and Marketing, Phonesuite Direct: Our SIP Trunking service has been a critical solution during the pandemic. Saving money is more important than ever, and hotels that switch over to our service typically save $500 a month. For ownership groups, that’s $6,000 per hotel in annual savings. It adds up quickly, and hotels can deploy the savings to other areas of the property.
Frank Pitsikalis, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, ResortSuite: Obviously, mobile has had tremendous uptake, but we also rolled out a program for enhancing our clients’ direct Online Booking Engine to drive significant revenue capture as hotels moved toward reopening and higher occupancies. We offered to perform the work during the pandemic but hold invoices until 30 days after properties reopened. This program was incredibly successful, and many clients are excited about the improvements to their online booking journey.
Michael Cline, Vice President of Hospitality Sales, SALTO Systems: Our solutions inherently provide more data than others and can provide it from every door. With this, contract tracing can be used to help minimize exposures due to the pandemic. Additionally, our touchless check-in has been a hot solution. Lastly, we offer BioCote® on every lock. It delivers 99.9 percent protection against an array of microbes.
Daniel Montellano, Senior Vice President of Enterprise Business Development, Shift4 Payments: Our SkyTab mobile payment terminal, which addresses the need for curbside payments and supports contactless NFC transactions, has done especially well. We’ve also released some new solutions this year that meet the need for contactless transactions. QR Pay allows guests to scan a QR code with their smartphone’s camera—either printed on the receipt or on the screen of the terminal—and complete entire transactions on the phone. Another solution we recently released is SkyTab Online, which allows businesses to quickly and easily create a customized online ordering website that integrates directly with their POS solution. This was vital as restaurants changed their operations to rely completely on online ordering and take-out, which previously was a supplementary part of their business.
Kevin King, Chief Operating Officer, Shiji Group: Contactless solutions with Infrasys Cloud POS, Shiji Payment Solutions and MyCheck have been critical for hotels and restaurants. We’ve also been working with ReviewPro to help hotels improve guest communications through guest engagement automation solutions. Most of these have been provided at no cost to our customers. The solutions have done well in terms of
helping our clients, and we’re proud of the hard work our teams have put in, not only in shipping solutions in record time but also in implementing them remotely and training customers remotely.
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: Our guest engagement platform, STAY Interactive, has helped hotels adapt to the ever-changing situation this year. Features that enable contactless services, such as guest request, hotel directory, account review, and happenings channels, were already built into the TV platform and have simply been elevated and customized to meet each hotel’s needs. In the past few months, hoteliers have integrated the platform so that the in-room TV turns on automatically when a guest checks in and displays customized information about cleanliness initiatives, in-room services, and how to utilize a mobile device as the TV remote. The latter uses an on-screen QR code to connect the guest’s phone to tune channels, adjust volume, view the channel list, and turn the TV on or off. The in-room TV platform gives guests peace of mind about safety while offering entertainment and streaming options. Our hotel clients have seen guest usage of streaming more than double this summer compared to pre-pandemic usage.
Robert Selwah, President, Springer-Miller Systems: Our guest-facing app, WorldNXT Mobile, has done very well, perhaps not surprisingly because of its ability to place the ‘experience’—check-in, check-out, room-keys, etc.—in the hands of the guest during a low-contact time.
John M. Clark, Vice President, SynergyMMS: What changed most for our clients was not only what they do and how they do it, but also how often. We quickly modified the program to deliver the multitude of new inspections, PPE reminders and guidelines with many various frequencies, all in a digital realm for complete accountability. Writing a policy isn’t the same as making sure it is followed properly. That’s where SynergyMMS comes in.
Daniel Johnson, Partner and Co-Founder, VENZA: Our COVID-19-related training materials, including online courses and job-aids with hospitality-specific details, were warmly received by our customers. Additionally, our Remote Monitoring & Management (RMM) solution has been embraced by the industry, enabling hotel groups to continue to secure their networks while employees are working from home.
Mark Lewis-Brown, President & Chief Executive Officer, Vertical Booking USA: Our subscription-based pricing model continues to gain momentum as hoteliers look for ways to cut costs and reduce overhead. However, our most valued feature has been our commitment to customers and our ability to provide innovative solutions during this worldwide crisis.
Clearly, hospitality technology vendors are committed to offering solutions that not only meet current client needs but also will support future consumer demand, especially for safe travel experiences.
Coming up in Part 4 of our series on the outlook for hospitality, we pose a final question to vendors: In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, is your company planning to branch out to other industries? And, if so, which ones?
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