The pandemic has completely transformed the hotel experience for guests, managers and employees alike. As the new normal unfolds, hotel companies are adjusting accordingly with new technology products and processes for competitive advantage.Here, Hotelier explores the latest technology hotels can put into action in different departments.

Food and Beverage
U.S.-based GoTab, Inc. recently expanded into Canada to offer hospitality operators a restaurant commerce platform (RCP). The cloud-based solution provides contactless ordering and payment technology to “optimize their dining operations, reduce operating costs and drive incremental F&B revenues,” says Tim McLaughlin, CEO, GoTab. GoTab can be an integrated or stand-alone service, requiring minimal set up and a nominal pre-transaction fee. Since March 2020, GoTab has experienced a 7,000 per cent increase in transaction volume, according to its website.

Hotel guests can use GoTab on their mobile device for in-room service and onsite dining at coffee shops, bars, rooftop restaurants and more. This solution eliminates the cost for traditional menus, boosts sales with product recommendations and permits customers to track order status and communicate directly with staff.

So far, GoTab has partnered with Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott and Pacifica Hotels brand locations in the U.S., with Canadian operators slated to come onboard in the upcoming weeks and months.

Sales and Marketing
UpStay is a fully automated upselling solution for the post-booking stage that sends targeted offers to guests, allowing them to place bids on additional purchases. Using artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms, UpStay pushes up to 20 per cent of guests to buy room upgrades and other products and services, generating additional revenue.

“Previously, optimization goals for hotels [often] included email-marketing products, which are not automated or data driven, and they don’t adapt automatically to the hotel’s needs. It required attention and maintenance from hotel teams,” says Tzafrir Blonder, CEO of UpStay. “UpStay combines elements from science data, economic behaviour, dynamic pricing and automation to create a fully adaptive system that optimizes inventory for hotels.”

Compatible with commonly-used property management systems (PMS) and central reservation systems (CRS), UpStay charges hotels a percentage of new revenue generated, depending on the department. However, UpStay allows hotels to recuperate its investment in third-party connectivity before it starts to charge the hotel.

Choice Hotels International rolled out ChoiceMAX across its global enterprise, in partnership with IDeaS. This mobile revenue solution adapts to changes in the market through re-pricing. Additionally, ChoiceMAX has helped franchisees ease the burden of staffing shortages.

“When we planned for this investment in innovation, we required every dollar spent on technology to have an equal dollar spent on support and activation to ensure a high adoption rate while our franchisees were going through significant operational changes on a daily basis throughout the pandemic,” says Douglas Lisi, VP of Revenue Management, Choice Hotels. “Labour continues to be a challenge, so we needed a way to bring staff out from behind the desk and put a revenue-management solution in their pocket.”

React Mobile supplies its hospitality partners with panic-button apps and devices to maximize safety and security in the workplace. React Mobile offers Cellular LTE Panic Buttons, which are wearable devices; Bluetooth Panic Buttons, which can be paired with mobile devices; React Beacons for immediate reporting of room number; and the React Mobile app, which is used in combination with the Bluetooth panic button. Additionally, the cloud-based client portal can be accessed to configure alerts and hardware in any web browser. In Canada, Fairmont Pacific Rim Vancouver and Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise have adopted React Mobile’s safety solution.

Human Resources
Rodd Hotels & Resorts has adopted the full Optii Solutions technology package, including housekeeping features, across all seven properties throughout P.E.I., Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Specifically, Optii Service allows Rodd Hotels to optimize labour while Optii Chat enables team communication across departments and properties.

“With Optii Solutions, [we like the] 360-degree visibility of our operations so we can see where we need to improve,” says Bobbi Lawlor-White, CFO, Rodd Hotels & Resorts. Our team will also benefit from “the ability to update our teams’ skills with the Optii training capabilities, which will be a real benefit as we head towards the busier summer season.”

Busy Bots
According to the Hospitality Robots Market by Type and end user Sales Channel: Global Opportunity Analysis and Industry Forecast 2021-2030:

The hospitality robots market was valued at $295.5 million in 2020, and is estimated to reach $3,083 million by 2030.

Major players operating in the market include Savioke, which has been recently acquired by Relay Robotics, Connected Robotics, BotsandUS, Travelmate Robotics and more.

Most recently, Seaview Investors LLC added Relay Service+ Robots to each of its seven hotel properties in the U.S.

Engineering and Maintenance
A lack of hot water is a common complaint from hotel guests. To minimize guest dissatisfaction and reduce compensation, Symmons Industries launched Symmons Evolution, an app-based building-management system to detect leaks, dramatic temperature changes or loss of hot water.

Symmons Evolution offers three different packages that can be self-installed in less than two hours, avoiding installation costs for operators. Its entry-level offering, Evolution Essential, contains a communications gateway, an AC power adapter, three gateway antennas, four green sensor control modules and four sensors, which can be any combination of leak or temperature sensors, as well as other accessories needed for installation.

“We believe products should do more for you than you do for them,” says Tim O’Keeffe, CEO, Symmons Industries. “An expensive piece of equipment is not intelligent, but when you add intelligence like Symmons Evolution to your equipment, you’re lighting up information that otherwise would’ve been kept in the dark. When you have to guess what’s happening, it’s costing thousands of dollars from the team trying to resolve the issue locally, as well as reliance on third-parties.”

While U.S. hotels are still the majority of its customer base, Symmons is looking to scale-up in Canada. Currently, the supplier is working on a pilot at a Holiday Inn north of Toronto. To date, more than 2,500 sensors have been installed at more than 50 properties. Hotel merchants include The Godfrey, XSS Hotels, Buffalo Lodging, Residence Inn by Marriott and more.

National Payments is the only merchant service provider in Canada that specializes in hotels, supplying brands with a more secure way of processing credit cards. In 2020, credit-card fraud was $31 billion, with half of this amount occurring in Canada and the U.S., according to National Payments’ website. Additionally, 55 per cent of all chargebacks are happening in the hospitality industry alone.

To prevent chargebacks, reduce risk and lower processing fees, National Payments offers solutions using EMV Chip & Pin for card-present transactions and Converge 3DS2 technology for card-not-present transactions, which can be integrated with hotel PMS.

Hotels that continue to process credit cards using mag-stripe authentication are paying 30 Basis Points more than hotels processing with EMV Chip & Pin. Hotels processing manually-entered transactions are paying even more. Also, merchants will be liable for fraudulent chargeback losses.

“Since 2011, the Visa, MasterCard and American Express chargeback rules in Canada state that if a credit card with a chip is processed in a non-chip way — swiped through a PMS or typed in by hand — the hotel will not be able to refute a chargeback if it turns out to be fraudulent or the cardholder claims it’s fraudulent, resulting in loss,” says Michael Strong, COO, National Payments.

To date, National Payments has carried out more than 700 on-site implementations and 12,300 chargebacks have been saved.

“It’s all hands on deck for the hotel industry as business starts to ramp up again,” says Strong.

By Nicole Di Tomasso


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