As hospitality becomes increasingly dependent on an ever-growing range of technology, firms like San Diego-based Cloudbeds are taking steps to stay ahead of owner, operator and guest demands. The company has made some notable acquisitions and launched new programs in recent months.
Richard Castle and Adam Harris cofounded the company in 2012 after a trip to Brazil, where they faced challenges in booking hotels, and noticed what Ivo Salmre, VP of product at Cloudbeds, called “technical barriers to [hotels’] success.” As such, the two first developed Cloudbeds as a booking engine and then expanded the company to include a property-management system a year later. Over the following decade, the company launched a channel-management system, a pricing intelligence engine, a marketplace for third-party partners, a training platform, a website design program and a payment system. “All of these lodging and hospitality industries, they have had to cobble together solutions through the years," Salmre said. “You had a PMS ... You had to work with channel managers. You had to create your own website [for] direct bookings—and what makes Cloudbeds unique is really bringing this all into an easy-to-adopt package.”
Today, Salmre describes the Cloudbeds Hospitality Platform as “hotel operations in a box.” Programs overseeing operations, revenue, distribution and marketing tools work with third-party integrations for a range of back-of-house and front-of-house capabilities. The company supports a wide range of hospitality businesses, from “glamping” camps to hostels to boutique hotels and larger brands. All of this, Salmre said, gives the team “a really interesting perspective on the market,” especially as the lines between traditional hotels, serviced apartments and short-term rentals get ever blurrier. “When guests think about lodging, they think in a broad range—and we're providing software for that,” Salmre said. “[The industry is] completely powered by data now, and serving businesses of all sizes—which I think is very much the Cloudbeds journey, and the journey the industry is on.”
Over the course of the pandemic, hotels increased technology usage in the face of reduced staffing availability and concerns over close contact. As such, during its Series C and D financing in 2020 and 2021, Cloudbeds secured more than $230 million in investments, which Salmre says has gone to increase hiring. “Our engineering team now is significantly larger than it was even a year ago,” he said. “What that ultimately means is velocity.” The new capital will help the engineers improve the efficiency of operations, integrate with more partners and make the rich data they’ve sourced from operating hotels actionable.
Launches and Acquisitions
Cloudbeds announced several new developments ahead of the summer travel season. In May, the company announced Cloudbeds Amplify, a platform that includes website creation, search optimization, metasearch advertising, search-engine marketing and management of online business listings. The platform, Salmre said, is meant to help hoteliers market their property on the most lucrative travel sites without the need of a full-time marketing professional. Significantly, hoteliers will be able to see where the marketing is most effective. “You know what you're paying them and you will get an exact return and see what you're getting in the form of bookings coming to your hotel.”
At June’s HITEC event, Cloudbeds announced the acquisition of guest engagement solution Whistle. The platform will help hoteliers communicate more effectively with guests, and can even handle some common guest requests without involving the hotel staff. “The promise moving forward is deeper integration,” Salmre said. “The hotelier and the hotel’s employees have one interface they're working with [and so] the guests have a more comprehensive experience that spans everything from their direct booking and seeking the right room into their pre-stay, their stay and what happens after the stay.”
Clicking with Clients
Salmre said Cloudbeds’ customer service group, headed by Dustin Pence, works “very closely” with customers in the initial setup phases as the hotel teams learn new technology. “We have a very high-touch view of customer service,” he said. “Towards that end, we've added things like phone service availability for our customers.” In May, the company launched 24/7 live chat support that Salmre said provides a “high level of comfort, confidence, and assurance we’re there,” and the ability to respond to customer needs in real-time. Chat agents can send out a Zoom link during the chat and walk through the issue with customers using screen share. “You never want to get on a call or [be in] a situation where you just sense the person on the other end does not see and understand your specific problems or [the] needs of your hotel.” Combining that accessibility with technology lets the customer service team better understand what is going on at a partner hotel and find a solution, he added. “I think it's been a real recipe for their success.”
Logic in Logistics
As a technology company, Salmre said that Cloudbeds has “always” had a “remote-first” philosophy for its team of more than 700. (Salmre himself is completely remote, as are all of the leadership teams, he said.) The company uses video meeting platforms like Zoom and chat platforms like Slack to keep in touch. “Everyone operates asynchronously,” Salmre said. “That gives us a good worldwide multitime-zone footprint.” At the same time, he noted that workers will occasionally travel to meet with their teams in person.