New technology to boost operations during down times11 Nov, 2009 By: Chris Crowell
While the International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show floor wasn't as expansive or heavily trafficked as it normally is in more robust economic times, there were some several companies at the show that could not only help hotels generate business in this recession but also revolutionize the industry (in my opinion). The three companies in particular were Openways, Runtriz and Travel Tripper.
OpenWays is a provider of mobile-based access-management and security solutions. At the show, the company unveiled a new solution that completely eliminates the need for front-desk check-ins and keycards by taking advantage of guest mobility. Basically, guests get a message on their cell phones from the hotel with their room number. The cell phone communicates with the room lock and essentially becomes the key card. The guest skips the front-desk process, which is both beneficial to the guest and the hotel, which has more front-desk flexibility. The company is working with several major electronic lock manufacturers (Saflok, Haefele) system integrators, kiosk and CRS/PMS providers.
I know mobile check-in technology has been hovering around for a few years with varying degrees of success, but OpenWays is the first company to offer a solution that is compatible with every make of cell phone. And with its partnerships, the product can be retrofitted into many existing lock setups.
Runtriz is an interactive design and software firm that specializes in web design, development and interactive touch-screen solutions. The mobile application they have available mostly caters to four- and five-star properties, but I think its principles could benefit just about any hotel. After making a reservation, a guest will receive an email, which can be viewed via the web or a smartphone, that allows them to make any reservations or room requests to fully customize their stay before arriving on property. While on property, guests with smartphones can download the hotel's app and use it as their own personal concierge. Enterprising properties might want to offer their own iPod Touches for guests without their own smartphone.
What I liked about this mobile solution was its ability to upsell and process data. For example, a poolside guest that orders a drink with the property's iPod Touch, before completing the transaction, might be asked if they'd like a slightly bigger size for a little bit more money, or maybe a buy two at half price special. Options then exist to alert guests to deals while increasing hotel revenue.
Also, in this same scenario, that drink order gets registered as a preference for that guest, allowing other deals to be sent the guest's way later in his or her stay. Further, the data is collected into an overall database, and depending on what kind of service you order from Runtriz ($500 to $1,500 a month), you could learn if people sitting on that side of the pool are more inclined to one drink or another, if a drink is more likely to be ordered at specific times of day, etc. With Runtriz's technology, which works in conjunction with HotSOS, the guest has ultimate power over buying decisions during a stay—even to options they wouldn't normally have considered (who wouldn't start poking around random entertainment, food and transportation options on an iPod Touch just to see what was available?). And this, in turn, gives the hotel ultimate power to promote, upsell, customize and revenue manage all of its options. It can promote local partnerships in the surrounding area. It can quickly update its menu based on what has been selling well that week. Opportunities for on-property revenue growth and data analysis are practically endless.
Travel Tripper is a provider of hotel distribution, e-marketing and revenue-management solutions. I found its goals for a hotel website particularly spot-on: attract, convince, convert. Travel Tripper works to maximize keyword searches to get people to your site instead of finding you through an OTA. But from there, its booking engine is set up to streamline booking, remove most, if not all, confusion and frustration from the booking process, and, like Runtriz, it gives a great deal of opportunity to upsell guests to more nights, more amenities, etc.
All three of these companies provide what the hotel industry needs right now: power. They are leveraging existing technology that guests use every day (Google, smartphones), providing attractive guest-facing services (quick check-in, customization, easy booking), all while giving the hotel power to increase its revenue (upselling, revenue managing) streamline and lower costs (save time of front-desk employees and concierge).
Even if you don't use these particular companies, heed their message: Times have changed, and success will come to those who use those changes to their advantage.