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  • Next Event

    HITEC EUROPE 2019

    Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference

    April 10–11, 2019
    Palau de Congressos
    Palma, Mallorca - Spain

  • Upcoming Event

    HITEC MINNEAPOLIS

    Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference

    Minneapolis Convention Center

    June 17-20, 2019

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    HITEC DUBAI

    Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference

    November 12 - 13, 2019
    Festival Arena
    Dubai, UAE

Article by Stuart Pallister

Guest recognition: Leveraging technology to deliver enhanced personalized service - HITEC Europe Preview

Hospitality Net 14 March 2019
"As a hotel, we're not recognizing all of our guests, although we try," says Barry Thomas, Corporate Director of Information Technology at Rosewood Hotel Group and HITEC Advisory Board member. "A lot of hotels emphasize guest name usage but it's very tricky to do, especially in city hotels. If you've got a 300-bedroom hotel and the average length of stay is two nights, given the amount of traffic passing through the lobby and F&B outlets, it's very difficult to recognize and use the names of our guests unless they're very, very regular."Thomas, who will be moderating a panel discussion on guest recognition at HITEC Europe, has been looking into the ways companies from other sectors approach this challenge. Citing Uber, the tech and transportation firm, Thomas says that when an Uber pulls up at your door, the first thing they do is confirm your identity by using your name."I can order an Uber and within two minutes it's there and they know my name. Why then is it - when I've gone through the whole booking process and provided details such as preferences, likes and dislikes - I turn up at a hotel where I may spend thousands of pounds, instead of 10-20 pounds for a journey, yet the hotel doesn't know who I am when I arrive?""We invest a lot in recognizing our guests' return on their digital journey during the booking process," he says, "but what we're trying to change is how we do that at the property."Currently hotels tend to rely on the doorman or drivers to pass on messages about guests arriving. "We're doing things traditionally, using radios and taking the guest's name." Clearly though there's room for improvement."Every stay, you receive a pre-arrival survey. If that survey keeps asking you the same questions time and time again though, why as a guest are you going to complete it? As a hotel, we should know we've previously collected your preferences and just ask you to update them, rather than you telling me each time you like jazz, strawberries and foam pillows.""It's recognizing that you're an existing guest of ours. It's that recognition journey to make you feel valued because obviously we're competing for your business as a guest. So, we want to make your journey as seamless and as easy as possible. And we don't want to be constantly asking our guests to repeat themselves as there's nothing more annoying."CCTV is already being used in hotels, but reactively, in response to an incident. What other technologies then could be used to enhance guest recognition and yet be unobtrusive?Thomas points to a couple of examples. At Disneyland, visitors wear so-called MagicBands based on radio frequency technology which can be used to make payments at outlets and gain fast track access at rides.But would hotel guests be willing to embrace this type of technology? "I don't know about using these bands in a city hotel but in a big resort hotel, yes. A lot of luxury guests wouldn't wear a band around the property, but can we utilize other devices such as a mobile phone or (RF) room key?"Airlines provide another good example of using advanced technology. When at Los Angeles airport recently, Thomas (pictured right) was impressed by automated gates which allow passengers to board the plane through facial recognition. "It was a very quick process. So, I think we need to look at what other industries are doing to see how we can do this in our hotels."Privacy though remains a major concern as many guests may not be willing to be effectively tracked while on a hotel property."What level of privacy are our guests willing to give up for enhanced service? I personally would be willing to give up some level of privacy if it means better service. But that's not every guest though.""I'm not saying we should be putting wristbands on guests but how can we do this? Can we utilize beacon technology (that is, using signals from beacons) when guests use the Wi-Fi? Can we then start to locate them in order to recognize them?""We need to be one step ahead of the guest to deliver enhance service (such as a copy of a particular newspaper over breakfast)." If it can be done seamlessly, he says, staff will be able to tailor the service they deliver based on the guest's profile.Another major advantage, of course, would be enhanced security. "If we know who's in our building, at what time, that's a big plus for us." It would allow hoteliers to know, for instance, whether someone on the property has been banned from the hotel or is on a watch list.In short, advanced technology could allow hoteliers to be more proactive. "If a guest comes curbside, walks in, and the reception knows who that person is, we can pre-prepare their room keys for them. We can already be prepared so the guests meet the butlers who escort them to their rooms and make it a seamless journey.""Would they like this enhanced service? I honestly believe that people are willing to give up a level of their information for the benefits of it. But the question is, for the people who do not want it, who truly want to be incognito, how do we turn off these technologies that we're putting in place for the majority?"Clearly a great deal of research still needs to be done and Thomas acknowledges the hotel industry faces challenges, especially following the introduction last year of the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which gives individuals more control over their personal data."I think people are a lot more aware about their own privacy and their rights to it," Thomas says. "Hotels have been recording CCTV for many years, so it's just how we're using that data."'Education is key' at HITEC EuropeFor Thomas, education is the main driver why he attends HITEC Europe. "Budgets are always tight within hospitality, so to be able to make a trip like this and get something from it, education is a massive part of why I attend HITEC Europe."As a certified hospitality technology professional (CHTP), Thomas says he needs to maintain his education credits "and this is a great way of doing that in one location and learn about what the industry is doing.""I've just moved into a new corporate role, at a time where Rosewood is going through a big expansion process. We've got more than 20 hotels in the pipeline and for us to scale at this rate, I'm going to need vendors and partners to work with. So, to be able to meet them in one place rather than have meetings over the course of three or more months, I can really condense this process and get some worthwhile face time with them."Barry Thomas, CHTP, is Corporate Director of Information Technology at Rosewood Hotels and Resorts, and is a member of the HITEC Europe Advisory Council. He will be moderating a panel discussion on 'Guest Recognition in an Uber-esque Way While in Property' at HITEC Europe which takes place in Mallorca, Spain, April 9-11.
Article by Stuart Pallister

Unlocking business potential: Building the right tech architecture in hospitality - HITEC Europe Preview

Hospitality Net 8 March 2019
Hoteliers are missing out on business opportunities as they fail to gather guest data properly. Michael Levie, Chief Operations Officer at citizenM Hotels and member of the HITEC Europe Advisory Council, says that given the rapid pace of business today, consumers are "not going to wait for us"."Let's face it, our guests travel frequently, they're very tech savvy and they don't see their smartphone as technology. It's all about functionality. If they take an Uber it's easy. If they take an airline, they can check in, they have everything available.""If we don't get our act together and react, we'll become more and more dependent (on vendors and online travel agencies). And data basically sits at the base of all that."Tech firms and others such as airlines are using data more efficiently, he says, adding that if the hospitality industry does not begin to handle reliable data better, and keep it "clean and ready for use, then I think we'll miss out on a lot of business opportunities."To date, hoteliers have relied heavily on property management systems. "But because we've hung so many interfaces on to it for point-of-sales, door lock systems or any other technology, the PMS looked as all those connections as transactional or for its functionality."Radio-frequency identification (RFID) door cards allow guests to access their rooms during the reservation period but beyond the functionality, hoteliers are failing to access "the micro detail that travels in those interfaces" about the guest's behavior."There's a richness of information about our guests and their habits in the systems, yet there's no way for us ever to bring that data to bear."By using dashboards, instead, hoteliers could gain a great deal of micro detail in addition to functionality. "Through a service bus or that one pipe that all the data travels through, we can start generating dashboards to understand a lot more information about our guests as it becomes available.""All of a sudden we get that richness of data of guest behavior." It also allows hoteliers, Levie says, to have an overview of how savings can be made and how profits can be increased."Unfortunately, data only unlocks when we've got our architecture right. And I think the biggest issue facing our industry is the systems architecture."Hotels in large chains probably have to - or have been 'advised' to - use a specific PMS but then the "knowledge that sits there basically gets sucked into the chain and doesn't necessarily sit at the hotel level. So, at the hotel level, there's very little they're allowed to do or can do.""If you think of contemporary successful organizations, they're all data driven. Take an Amazon or a Google, take what they do with data and the anticipation (of customer behavior) they're able to generate out of the data and you see that unlocks a lot of new business potential.""We, as hoteliers, are still focused on a PMS or a specific device, but unfortunately insufficiently look at what data really represents and, in order to capture that data, what type of architecture we need within our systems to be able to do better."For tech firms coming into this space, it represents an ideal opportunity. Certainly, tech issues have become highly specialized, so much so that hoteliers can no longer count on their limited tech ability to devise systems architecture and understand data flows, says Levie. "But many hotels should realize that if they become dependent on advisors - whether consultants in the broadest sense or tech firms - there's always a sales component in their advice. And what concerns me most is that hoteliers, who are not generally tech savvy and don't know what questions to ask, aren't able to steer their own destiny."Hoteliers, he says, need to understand the whole structure rather than taking a piecemeal approach by adopting, say, accounting software to generate expense reports or using a distribution tool to do rate comparisons. "On and on through the entire food chain there are all kinds of devices being glued on to old stagnant technology that sits in the PMS, whereby the data doesn't flow but gets stuck.""If you have the right architecture, you can start to organize that data: how it comes in, how it gets collated, where it gets stored and how it gets cleansed. And if you'd like to mine that data and learn from it, or have specialists work with it, then that data starts to tell the story."Investment though is a major challenge facing the industry. "If you keep on spending little by little, without looking at the big picture, you're missing an opportunity.""We are investing in technology and every day we're being asked if we want to add technology to what we have already and we readily add it if it has value and is easy to understand. But if it doesn't fit into a broader strategy, it doesn't sit in a broader architecture that enriches our own path."Vendors may be selling hoteliers another piece of software or a system that may be functional and produce a return, he says, but "in its totality, we need to be smarter.""Will that require investment? Yes. Will that require the appropriate intelligence? Yes. Will it take time for us to get better at it? Yes. But if we don't understand why we're being overtaken and we don't understand what data is all about, then we'll never get it right.""Although it's expensive to put your own house in order - and it doesn't come free - by not doing it, you pay the bill somewhere and you become totally dependent."Up to now, the industry has, with a few notable exceptions such as citizenM, glued digital solutions on to analogue processes and systems. As an industry, Levie says, "we stay on very legacy-based systems and are trying to keep up with people who've figured it out in a much more pragmatic and deep way and have started with a clean slate.""We're already behind the eight ball and need to catch up," so hoteliers need to be smarter and more pragmatic, "otherwise we'll never get there."Using the analogy of an architect designing a building to make sure it's efficient and flows well, Levie says a poorly-designed structure would be "more expensive and less intriguing." However, when it comes to IT or systems architecture, this is not viewed as a necessity. "So I would say, start with an architect who can translate what you desire and need in systems. That will reveal also the need to understand your customer and the associated data. Then, if we get that organized, we can make better overall decisions to get to the Promised Land."In search of 'a different trade wind' at HITEC EuropeFor Levie, because of the rich variety of vendors and visitors taking part in HITEC Europe, "a different trade wind starts to blow." There are opportunities to learn from participants and meet hotels, organizations or individuals that "battle the same thing that you do.""As such, we can grow and set up a network of people who can help us."Levie, who has been attending HITEC Europe for many years, says it has been "an enriching path. Through that, I've built up the knowledge I have today and the ability to be focused and get what we need.""I started citizenM and have a good understanding of technology but it's insufficient to be a CIO of the size of a company that we are today. If we hadn't invested in the right structure and architecture, we'd be as dependent as many others are in the industry on PMS releases and on what vendors are going to dish up next."
Article by Stuart Pallister

Data protection rules, one year on: Anticipating a second wave - HITEC Europe Preview

Hospitality Net 4 March 2019
Over the past year, many of us have been bombarded with emails from companies virtually begging us to allow them to keep our personal details on file.That was due to the introduction of new regulations in Europe which imposed -- in theory at least -- substantial penalties on any firm breaching the rules. And the penalties were harsh -- up to four percent of annual global revenues or 20 million euros, whichever figure is greater.According to Timo Kettern, director of information technology at Event Hotels and a member of the HITEC Europe Advisory Council, although the constant bombardment proved somewhat annoying to consumers - Kettern uses a more forthright term - companies were running scared as they realized they did not have the consent needed to handle our personal data.Kettern was part of a HFTP working group preparing for the introduction of the EU's General Data Protection Regulation and co-produced a couple of papers to help hoteliers come to terms with the GDPR rules, outlining the steps they would need to take in order to comply. The papers were presented at HITEC Amsterdam a year ago, and this year the conference on the Spanish island of Mallorca will review the progress made.Speaking specifically about the German market, Kettern says that since May last year, authorities have focused on educating businesses and the consumer about data protection rather than enforcement. Consequently, the impact so far has not been as severe as had been anticipated."I've not seen any fines for larger organizations," he says, adding that several smaller firms had been fined around 20-25,000 euros. Nevertheless, he is now expecting the data protection authorities in Germany to begin looking into complaints.Kettern says that in his own organization, he had previously struggled to convince the leadership team of the importance of data protection or of the need to increase training budgets. "GDPR has changed that. Data protection now has visibility at the C-level and GDPR has helped people like myself to get budgets approved and get working parties started, together with HR for training and for the practical changes we had to make in our operations. So that, for me, was the biggest impact."Had companies overreacted to the introduction of the new digital privacy rules? Although there may be certain parallels with the way in which companies had handled the Y2K 'non-event' nearly two decades ago, Kettern does not believe companies had overreacted, saying that the GDPR had raised awareness in the industry and given professionals like him "the budgets, the freedom and the support needed to deal with the issue because at the end of the day, it's kind of a risk exercise. How much are you prepared to spend to minimize the risk?"As to the action hoteliers should be taking now, Kettern advises they should make staff training a priority, in addition to making sure they update passwords and have firewalls in place. "It's one thing to have the procedures documented and your systems in place, but it's people who need to make those processes work.""It's very simple for someone at the reception desk to leave a guest registration card lying around or spin the (computer) monitor around so that someone else can see the data."'So, what we're doing, we're attacking this on several levels. First of all, data protection is part of the employment contract. It's also about the consent that we, as an employer, can hold the data." Staff also need to acknowledge formally, as part of the employment contract, that they aware of the guidelines.One complication though is posed by the franchise model in the hospitality industry. This means franchisees have to conduct training and self-audits, in conjunction with a data protection officer who should be part of the HR team.Kettern (pictured right) says one of the major challenges faced in running franchises in Europe for major hotel chains in the US and Canada is that "by default we are exporting guest data to North America." In terms of the GDPR, he says, this is critical.As a hotel operator working with US-based hotel chains such as Marriott and Hilton, "it's our obligation to make sure we get confirmation from the brands that they're dealing with the data in North America in the same way we deal with it in Europe. They're all giving us that (assurance) but we can't control that."As the tension rises again, a second wave will come"We've changed some - not all - of the processes because we always took data protection seriously.""We're in an acceptable position but I think we can still improve." For companies to know whether they are on the right path, they may, however, have to wait for the first court rulings with judges giving their interpretation of the regulations. These rulings will, Kettern says, "influence our future and how we're going to change things in the future for sure."The first wave of activity (and anxiety) has 'calmed down', Kettern says, but with the possibility of the authorities pursuing potential breaches, "the tension will increase again and there will come a second wave."'Networking, education and finding new things'On HITEC Europe, April 9-11 in Mallorca, Spain, Kettern says: "The networking aspect is very important as I'll be catching up with colleagues. So too are the educational sessions, to see what the trends are. There are lots of subjects around digitalization, robotics, artificial intelligence, as well as to overcome one of the challenges we face in hotel operations which is finding appropriate staff."Kettern says he'll be taking a look at the new technologies on offer and will be meeting suppliers on the exhibition floor, and not just the central aisles as those on the edges can be interesting."So, it's networking, education and finding new things ... It's going to be fun."
Article by

A Talk With InsureSign Founder & CEO Joe Floyd

Hospitality Net 30 July 2018
Just when you thought e-signature software was a foregone conclusion, a company called InsureSign raised the bar again. A company that began as a secure documents signature platform for the insurance industry has now blossomed into the highest rated e-signature tool for overall satisfaction in the industry. Fascinating with every reinvention of a wheel, I contacted the company for an interview with Joe Floyd, who is founder and CEO of InsureSign.Before launching into our Q & I, it seems relevant (and interesting) to recall here my own days as a tech analyst when "going paperless" was one of the paradigms of Web 2.0. Looking back over a decade, I cannot help but think of the early innovators like DocuSign, which is still around, and a dozen others that hit the dead pool. And discussing new horizons in this field with Floyd, I'm reminded of just how far and fast technology evolves. Here's what InsureSign's CEO had to say about his company's most recent moves.Phil Butler - The digital signature software industry is a highly competitive space. Can you go over briefly InsureSign's main points of differentiation?Joe Floyd - There are a lot of e-signature software companies out there, but we've differentiated ours by simply focusing on making the signing process as easy as possible for our users and their customers. When we talk with our users who've tried other e-sign tools, we repeatedly hear that document set-up, send-off and signing are comparatively easier and faster with InsureSign. For people in the hospitality industry who want to book more events, secure more catering contracts or more simply manage vendor agreements, we make it possible for them to easily secure signatures in minutes.Phil Butler - I ran a mini-comparison of InsureSign at G2Crowd versus some competitors like Adobe and discovered that your service clobbered other platforms across the board. Can you tell readers how a relatively unknown business there in Charleston, SC managed to outdo the world-class competition in only seven years?Joe Floyd - Since day one, we've focused on being best in class for usability and customer service. Our users not only enjoy the simplest document signing process, but they also have access to numerous innovative and automated "bells and whistles" that further simplify processes. We offer all InsureSign users unlimited signatures, documents and templates each month, and the benefits of audit trails, auto reminders, auto archival and backup, company branding and more.Phil Butler - I notice that many of your current clients are in the insurance and financial sectors. Where do you see the most significant opportunity for future growth for your company?Joe Floyd - We currently have thousands of businesses of all sizes using InsureSign, from a local soccer camp to regional dentistry chains to national insurance companies. We have several hospitality clients, from hotels to event venues, and we see the hospitality industry as a key growth area. We still find that many event sales and catering managers are sending PDFs or Word docs for signatures, and are losing out on deals because they're making the closing process cumbersome and difficult for potential customers. With InsureSign, hospitality professionals can stand out from the competition, and easily and affordably adopt our e-signature software (no additional budget approval necessary).Phil Butler - Earlier this year you released a premium plan for users which included features like text-message signing and in-person signing. Can you tell us about innovations InsureSign is currently working on?Joe Floyd - Yes, through our premium plan, we offer a suite of features that aren't available anywhere else. Hospitality pros can secure digital signatures via text message and during in-person meetings, create reusable forms, secure more Yelp reviews or Facebook likes and more. As for new innovations, we just rolled out multiple language support and a recall/redo option that makes it easy to adjust documents that have already gone out.SummaryA decade ago we were amazed at being able to do a digital signature and the first smartphones. Today, we're on the threshold of AI and once unheard-of capability. For InsureSign, as has been the case for many successful technology startups, creating a great product has led to further expansion into the wider realm of business. For hospitality, or for any business dependent on contractual agreements, technology like Joe Floyd's company has innovated will always be needed. And for those who say the wheel cannot be reinvented, it's important to remember John Boyd Dunlop, the man who took inflatable tires to market. There's utility in simple ideas that work better.Visit insuresign.com to find out more.
Article by Phil Butler

BevSpot's Rory Crawford: Fine Tuning the Food & Beverage Business

Hospitality Net 19 June 2018
Founded back in 2014, BevSpot is a promising Boston-based startup company that is delivering on a promise to make life easier for bars. Now, moving on to the next logical progression, the company has expanded its domain by launching BevSpot Food, an expanded service suited to restaurants, distributors, and suppliers. Complex at its core, BevSpot is simple in practice, allowing owners and staff to take control of critical elements of their business from any device. The potential for this kind of innovation is mirrored in the funding key investors have made in the new company. To date, BevSpot has garnered more than $17 million in successive rounds of funding. The merits of the startup have been lauded by TechCrunch and many others. For this report, I had the unique opportunity to connect with co-founder Rory Crawford. Here is the gist of our interview in which we discussed BevSpot.Phil Butler: Since I've some experience in the restaurant business, the first thing I thought of on learning about the BevSpot platform was the capability for "food cost" reduction. Can you briefly tell us about the innovative thought process involved in developing such a complete tool? Rory Crawford: We have always been very focused on making sure our product development process involves our customer as much as possible. When we began to develop our Food software, we visited our customers' kitchens, freezers, offices to observe their processes and better understand their challenges. We took that learning and built the product in a way that would be applicable to any food business anywhere in the world.We iterate on a weekly, and sometimes daily, basis to build product very quickly with real-time customer feedback. This collaborative and iterative process, combined with amazing customer support, enabled us to develop a truly innovative and highly valuable product in a fraction the time of traditional development cycles.Phil Butler: The BevSpot Food Program Management Software is technology to track everything from inventory to spoilage and even customer preferences. Just how "smart" is the software for predicting customer preferences? Do you think there's a "big data"analytics future for your product in the future?Rory Crawford: I often think the word "data" and "big data" can sound intimidating to a person trying to run a business. What has always excited me most about this industry is that "small data" has the potential to be amazingly beneficial. It can be the difference between a business' success and failure.BevSpot is "smartest" in the way in which it converts complicated information into extremely simple and actionable insights. For instance, it will tell a customer what their top-selling and least profitable drinks are. This is extremely simple data but is difficult for operators to access this data on a regular basis without our product. BevSpot will even make recommendations on how the user can improve those few items to drive significant profits. The magic of BevSpot is delivering this extremely simple and impactful data to the user in a manner that they can use to improve their business immediately. Over time, we will make increasingly exciting analytics applications on our industry data, but our approach will be the same--convert complicated information represented by large datasets into extremely simple, actionable, and impactful insights that can improve businesses.Phil Butler: It's obvious the Bevspot software will help restaurateurs get an angle on efficiency but do you have any case studies or figures on "how much" clients can improve their bottom line? Rory Crawford: One of the best things about our product is that it tracks this data for the customer so that everybody in the business can see the improvements. Across our entire customer base, we have seen an average of 4% improvement in program profitability and a 25-50% improvement in cash efficiency through inventory reduction. These are extremely impactful results for restaurants.Phil Butler: Can this software be utilized for operations outside the food and beverage area?Rory Crawford: Food and beverage operations are our core focus. Any processes associated with these processes, such as vendor relations or accounting processes, can benefit from BevSpot as well. But we are deeply focused on improving the core food & beverage operations of our customers.Phil Butler: What is the next step for BevSpot? Rory Crawford: More effort, innovation, and value for our customers. We always say we are 99.9% away from where we want to be as a product and company. We will continue to work closely with our customers to understand their challenges and use our tech-first approach to help them improve their businesses.Summing UpBevSpot now has hundreds of customers taking advantage of the efficiencies Crawford's company delivers. From a technology and startup standpoint, making technologies that streamline inventory efficiency satisfies the "Holy Grail" for success. That is, BevSpot solves a significant point of pain for food and beverage businesses. What's most fascinating for me is the fact Crawford's company seems to have become the thought leader inventory management for these niches of the hospitality industry. It will be interesting to see BevSpot in markets outside the U.S. Improving
Article by Phil Butler

SGS On Task Benchmarking the Guest Experience

Hospitality Net 9 March 2018
Late last year SGS released a comprehensive program for the industry. Hospitality Experience (HX) is a complete platform designed to help businesses maximize their brand reputation and the all-important guest experience. I caught up recently with the company's Head of Travel & Hospitality, Peter Hvidberg, in order to discuss his firm's offering and take on this important industry offshoot. Here is that discussion condensed.Peter Hvidberg, SGSPhil Butler: Where do hotel operations most often fail with their varied systems for risk management?Peter Hvidberg: Until now it has been the norm to only focus on standard risk categories like food safety, water safety and building safety, but as we know the hospitality industry is a very dynamic sector, with many new and emerging threats that can affect hotel operations. On top of that we have seen how the use of internet and virtual payments have taken over how travel is managed and booked, creating a new data and cyber security risk. The latest statistics indicate that 75% of global travel is booked online. Globally, we also face issues relative to security, hoteliers need to be protected or have all the procedures in place to prevent any attack or event that can affect guests. We also have seen the immediate impact of the social networks, and how a simple comment or a picture taken in poor context can affect the reputation of a Brand on a global scale. Studies show that 46% of all travelers read online reviews before booking their stay.For this reason, SGS have been working directly with industry influencers to hear what the needs are and as a result have designed a unique solution called HX (Hospitality Experience Program).This certification program consists of four modules, each focused on a specific industry need:Risk Module. This also contains the following submodules: [?] Food Safety[?] Water Safety[?] Building Safety[?] Security[?] Cyber Security[?] Business ContinuitySustainability ModuleCorporate Social Responsibility ModuleQuality of Service Experience ModuleTo give you some context as to how important addressing these risks can be, SGS has been collecting data from past Hotel audits and discovered that unknown conformities are more common than hotel managers think. Of over 10,000 audits performed:75% of issues detected were related to building safety15% of issues detected were related to water safety10% of issues detected were related to food safetyWith this program, our auditors can help properties to detect and prevent probable risks before they become a trend or real danger.Phil Butler: With reviews playing a bigger and bigger role in driving bookings to hotels, how can HX help hoteliers with guest expectations?Peter Hvidberg: The impact of new technologies and social media networks is huge for this industry. These technologies can make our lives easier when we would like to make a reservation or if we would like to look for information of a destination, but our guests can use them to share a bad or a good experience in our hotel, if is good great for us, but if it's bad we can't control the impact of that review.For this reason, the implementation of program like HX help the organizations to prevent risk and have more control of that kind of situation. With HX the GM will have a better view about what is going on in their hotel and with the expertise of our teams we can help to prevent any damage to the reputation of the hotel.Also, differentiation is becoming more and more difficult for hotels especially since entry of new players to the market is becoming more apparent. Three of the HX modules highlight certain values that customers are looking for when they book for hotels: QX highlights good service experience, sustainability highlights responsible use of energy / environment and management of wastes, and CSR highlights transparency and social responsibility. Depending on geographic markets, these could be attractive differentiators that if hotels practice and are certified under, could help bring more customers in.Phil Butler: Why the three levels of certification?Peter Hvidberg: First, we need to say that the HX is based on common industry painpoints that our experts have collected from performing over 10,000 property audits.HX as a management system is based in the principle of "continuous improvement". We would like to be seen as a partner of the hotelier, partners that are going to accompany the hotelier on this journey.In an ideal world, all organizations expect to achieve the big recognition, but the reality is that in very few times we find that everything is perfect. Thinking in that evolution based, in continuous improvement, the level of certification will increase with the maturity of the management system of the organization.Phil Butler: In your literature, on HX you discuss market intelligence as a facet. Can you tell us a bit about how the service enables hoteliers?Peter Hvidberg: One of the revolutionary aspects of HX is that it is a Global Recognition that combines common International Hotel painpoints, with Highly Experienced Auditors, and Big Data.As we all know, Data is power. Our HX solution is based on a very innovative IT platform that enables us to create patterns and detect trends faster than ever, using this information we can help our clients offer more accurate data that could help them to take decisions and of course help us to design more customized solutions to our clients.Phil Butler: What is "next" from SGS for the hospitality industry?Peter Hvidberg: With the success of HX, we see an even bigger need to expand the service to other aspects of the hospitality industry, apart from Hotels. For example, cruise ships, tour operators, and so on. We are beginning to partner with industry universities as well and offering internship programs to many of the graduate students. We hope to continue to grow these relationships and expand our roots into the Travel & Hospitality world. From a content perspective, we are investing heavily in several thought leadership initiatives and plan to continually release relevant industry cases and papers. Recently we were featured in Hotel Yearbook with a piece on Sustainability and we found the response to be quite positive. In our eyes this shows us that we have only scratched the surface of what HX can do and how SGS can partner with hotels and push them to be the benchmark.So, the industry is changing rapidly because of internal and external forces that decision makers must address. In order to keep abreast, hotel operations (independent or corporate) must have a fleet footed operational toolset to coincide with traditional hospitality norms. One key to solving these new flexibility and scale issues for hotels will be the engagement of global companies like SGS, which is the world's leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. I think a great many hoteliers will find it fortuitous that a company with more than 2,000 offices is already on task.

Here's Why You Should Not Miss the Skift Global Forum in NYC

Hospitality Net 21 July 2017
The Skift Global Forum in NYC is one of the most anticipated events of the year for travel and hospitality professionals and time is running out for those who want to plan a business trip to attend.With a stellar roster of speakers, the conference promises to bring great value to the attendees. Personalities like Stephen Kaufer (CEO TripAdvisor), Edward H. Bastian (CEO Delta Airlines), Dara Khosrowshahi (CEO Expedia), Glenn Fogel (CEO The Priceline Group), and Richard D. Fain (CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.) among several others will take the stage to deliver what the audience expects to be the "TED Talks of travel.""Take a day or two out, come, sit back, and listen, and we will promise you the best creative brainfood for the year," wrote Skift's CEO and Founder Rafat Ali in an article introducing the Skift Global Forum 2016. You can expect this promise to hold for the fourth edition of the conference in 2017 too.The speakers are the main reason for you to plan a trip to New York City this September. The early bird tickets already sold out, and the organizers expect more than 1000 travel professionals from across all industry sectors to attend the Skift Global Forum 2017. The venue chosen for the event is the Frederick P. Rose Hall at the Jazz at Lincoln Center performing arts complex.The conference is just three months away, and a full access ticket costs $ 3495. Thanks to a partnership between Skift, HospitalityNet, Travel Daily USA, Travel+SocialGood, Priority Pass, and Wanderful you now have a chance to attend the forum for free if you enter this giveaway. If you are lucky you will win a round-trip flight to New York City, a two-night stay at The Empire Hotel, a Skift Global Forum Priority Pass Standard Membership ticket, and four airport lounge visits.Hsyndicate.org CEO and Founder Henri Roelings encourages you to enter the giveaway for a chance to meet in person: "Make sure to grab your chance to win the ultimate Skift Global Forum package... and maybe we will meet in NYC in September 26-27."ENTER TO WINThe Skift Global Forum is "designed to inspire travel professionals about the business and creative potential of the world's largest industry," according to its organizers. More than a conference, it is an event where you can meet like-minded professionals, learn about the latest industry trends and forecasts, and even form new partnerships.
Article by Laura Kohlenberger

From Lost Dreams to Success: Interview with Jonathan Weizman, RoomChecking

Hospitality Net 20 June 2017
"I was a millionaire on paper at the time everyone believed the web will revolutionize the world," Weizman tells me with a nostalgic smile. Then he goes on talking about the odd financial machinations of the time when investors advised failed startups to wipe investments from their portfolio just to keep the investor's portfolio positive. Back then, he worked for a company that was a pioneer in GPS technology that had a good product."But when the industry crashed all investments stopped suddenly. So, the company I worked for did not sell. I left the company. I lost my dreams," Weizman recalls. This was a valuable lesson later on. The young entrepreneur left NYC and returned to France where the overall negative environment triggered by the failure of so many startups presented a career building challenge.He then worked in investment banking, later as CTO for Dane-Elec, till the high-tech wave started over and he returned to innovating in web technologies."Being innovative is not a noun but a verb," Weizman says, describing his career path. "It is a continuous movement where you are in the dark, where you don't know if you're doing right. Many people talk about successes or failure, but few describe the journey. When you discover that the path you explore won't make it, after investing so much time, energy, money, and taking the decision to move forward with a new idea, you feel your soul crushing like the waves of a tsunami. It is hard to maintain a family life because you basically get married to your project. There is no other choice than to focus totally on the project. In this context, I lead a team of ten engineers to build My Ditto, a NAS you could access remotely with literally zero configuration. I filed 5 patents and was awarded patent rights. Then things went so fast: we were awarded CES Innovation Award in Las Vegas in 2010, then Best of Macworld in 2011. But the company I worked for did not understand marketing and sales strategy. When they finally agreed to invest in marketing, it was too late, and they failed. I don't blame them, but I felt frustrated."This anecdote is one of the many Weizman has to share from his past. He finally decided to become his own boss, and, with RoomChecking, he has a successful product since 2013. RoomChecking was founded in 2013 as a project between Jonathan Weizman , Aaron Marz, and Emile Lugassy. The company is already a Microsoft Ventures Paris promising startup and has a dedicated customer base of 150+ hotels. Earlier in 2017, they got 750,000 EUR late seed-funding from Astotel Group, Maurice Hurand Hotels, and BPI. The road was not easy, but the lessons learned from the past helped develop a product which provides hotels the tools to improve guests' experience and deliver total customer satisfaction.Microsoft Ventures helped the project a lot, Weizman says. "At Microsoft Ventures I was the only guy who pitched with a two-pages Word document! Some other participants told me they thought I was old school and laughed at me, but it looks like I made it. Microsoft Ventures gave me so much: support, training, access to top entrepreneurs, and networking." These are the things small startups need to succeed, the CEO of RoomChecking believes, although he is aware that the "B2B hospitality market suffers from being too small or too hard to penetrate.""It is difficult to be honest because, as in every human interaction, when you fail you tend to blame the other parties involved," he told me relating RoomChecking's quest for funding. "We met with over 30 investors and the overall feeling was that they did not buy our vision."Surprisingly though, the funding came from the people who needed RoomChecking the most: hotel groups looking to diversify and move into the technology space. "Investment came from existing clients who understood the value of RoomChecking because they were using it for a year or so," Weizman said, and this is the takeaway of the journey: when you look for investment to develop a valuable product, ask the people who need it the most for help.

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