RLH Corporation is working with Monscierge and utilizing new enterprise programs from Apple to add new technology to its Hotel RL-branded properties. According to John Edwards, CIO at RLHC, the company is hoping to install Apple TVs in all RLHC-managed Hotel RLs by the end of 2017, with franchisees following close behind. Other additions include an updated iOS app allowing guests to check in using their iPhones, iPad kiosks in hotel lobby areas and more.
“The Hotel RL brand was set up in the beginning as a tech-focused brand,” Edwards said. “Owners coming in day one understand the essence of the brand is technology, and since we operate five RL properties ourselves we are committed to the risk and handling it on a managed portfolio, prove it works, take in feedback and improve along the way so our franchisees can see it.”
Edwards joined RLHC in October 2015, and immediately began looking for a company to help facilitate the brand’s desire to provide a more fluid mobile experience for travelers. He said RLHC needed a company capable of scaling an app for multiple operators, was flexible and was capable of seeing the same vision RLHC saw, which ultimately led him to Monscierge, a hospitality technology platform that was in the midst of navigating Apple’s partnership program for enterprise solutions. With the MPP, Apple built a channel partner network of solution providers and developers for enterprise, instead of engaging directly as a sales organization. Monscierge was selected as the hospitality partner and is provided support from Apple to help transform the hotel and travel experience for both guests and hotel staff.
The Hello Rewards Red Lion hotel app is being updated to allow guests to manage their loyalty accounts and check in and out using their phones. The app also allows guests to communicate with staff via text. The Hello Rewards app will also have integration with Expedia, a continuation of RLHC’s friendly relationship with the online travel agent. Through this partnership, guests booking through Expedia will be able to sign up for the loyalty app during the booking process, allowing RLHC to capture the attention of these travelers prior to their arrival where they normally would have slipped through the company’s fingers. Edwards defends RLHC’s continued partnership with Expedia simply: travelers don’t care, and hotels have to adapt.
“We are focused on what we have to do, but travelers are focused on travel,” he said. “Parents getting tired or sick kids to their room easily don’t want to wonder where the closest Walgreens is, and we can provide that information ahead of time. They can let the hotel know they need a crib or a refrigerator, and the assurance that the hotel knows their needs ahead of time is worth it.”
Another bonus the app provides is a paper trail, protecting both the guest and operator in the event that no one takes ownership of a request, or if a request was claimed but never submitted. This informs hotels on how to escalate a situation operationally without asking too many questions.
“This is not new, but the difference is communicating with the guest prior to their arrival on property and building that relationship as early as possible," Edwards said. “If we start early, the guest will interact more.”
The key behind Hotel RL’s other technology push—the Apple TV concept—is the brand’s Living Stage, a community-driven area where events, music and forums can be held within the hotel lobby with arena-style seating. By partnering with Monscierge having the added benefits of their MPP partnership with Apple, these events are all filmed and broadcast to the guestroom, as well as the guestrooms of all other Hotel RL properties that opt into the program.
“We produce content, produce it, almost every day,” Edwards said. “We started wondering, ‘how do we create a consumer-facing living stage app?’ Part of it is about helping to promote artists, political advocates, etc., and we will help.”
When asked if the Apple TV and Hello Rewards technology would be a fit throughout the rest of RLHC’s portfolio, Edwards said time will tell. The company currently is using its Hotel RL brand as a lab to test potential technologies, amenities and strategies, knowing that some of them won’t “stick” anywhere else.
“We try to keep that startup mentality for an entire brand, and our owners know that,” Edwards said. “They get excited because they are that kind of owner, and they see other hotels in the RL brand taking risks and they are on board.”