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  • Meet Minneapolis: Travel to the Twin Cities this Summer for HITEC 2019

    We all know that travel can be a real hassle. So, what about a trip makes it worth packing up your suitcase, saying goodbye to your family for the next few days, fighting the airport and staying in a.

  • New Global Directors Join the 2018-2019 HFTP Board

    The HFTP 2018-2019 Global Board of Directors was installed during the association's 2018 Annual Convention and introduces new directors Toni Bau, Carson Booth, CHTP and Mark Fancourt. These extensive director profiles give insight into the distinguished professions and personal goals of HFTP's newest association leaders.

  • A Series of Must-Read Articles on Cybersecurity Produced by the HFTP Research Centers

    Data security remains a pressing concern and top priority for the hospitality industry. The HFTP Research Centers are dedicated to producing findings that can significantly aid hospitality businesses in their efforts to protect their guests’ privacy and personal information against potential cyber threats and attacks.

  • HITEC Special: Does EU GDPR Affect U.S. Hospitality Companies?

    By Alvaro Hidalgo. The EU General Data Protection Regulation has set a path towards protecting personal data which many other countries will follow. In a global industry such as hospitality, it should be a primary objective to take the steps towards compliance.

What's the Number One Concern Keeping Hotel Group CIOs Up at Night?

DataArt ·28 March 2019
"People trust us to allow them to sleep safely and securely. There's a longstanding tradition of an innkeeper, that we fulfill that commitment to them. Has it extended naturally, with the same diligence, to the digital environment? Not always." - John Burns, President of Hospitality Technology Consulting.Last November's news that the private information of approximately 500 million Marriott International guests had been leaked was a sobering reminder of the catastrophic security vulnerabilities that exist in the hospitality industry.Cyberattacks on hotels are particularly prevalent because of the vast amount of personal data stored, with PwC's Hotels Outlook Report 2018-2022 indicating that the hospitality industry suffers from the second highest number of data breaches across all sectors.But is the massive amount of personal data the sole reason that hackers frequently attempt to compromise hotel cybersecurity, or does this reality also illustrate a lack of comprehensive solutions in the hospitality industry to prevent such attacks?The (In)Security of Acquisitions In September 2016, Marriott International acquired the Starwood hotel chain. The November 2018 hack has been traced back to the room reservation network of Marriott's Starwood branch with the revelation of continued unauthorized access to the database since 2014. Therefore, it's now clear that Marriott International unwittingly purchased an ongoing data breach along with the Starwood customer information that the company was seeking. Even though the Starwood data compromise began before the acquisition, the damage to Marriott's reputation upon its discovery is undeniable.What's the lesson here?All of us in the hospitality industry must comprehensively scrutinize every aspect of other companies prior to acquisition, including data handling and cybersecurity processes. And the same goes for all technology brought on board, such as new applications and systems. Due to rapid tech advancements, effective security measures require constant and consistent attention if we're to stay on top of the game and one step ahead of malicious hackers who attempt to compromise the security of our data storage.Digital Compliance and Security MaintenanceThe modern hotel relies on data storage and tech systems for virtually every aspect of operations. While the benefits of advanced technological solutions are incredible, these products open up the hospitality industry to extraordinary potential for the exposure of cybersecurity vulnerabilities.Any mistakes in the setup or management of a company's systems can lead to disastrous cyberattacks, including the leak of massive amounts of highly confidential guest data through even just one breach. Unfortunately, while some hoteliers may believe that their systems can arrive in a guaranteed state of security, the reality is a far different story. For example, a flaw as simple as a weak admin password can result in an entry point for hackers, as can insecure remote access or software that isn't completely up-to-date with the newest security patches. Therefore, the onus remains on the hotel brand to maintain its systems with the utmost care and attention to every detail to avoid malware infection, ransomware installations, and other highly destructive security breaches.Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks can leave a brand devastated, as this level of network compromise shuts down an entire hotel chain's website by overwhelming it with traffic sources. From sprinklers to closed-circuit TVs, the sheer number of devices in a hotel that are controlled by computers is staggering. And each of these systems can be maliciously used to send pulses to other systems within a hotel's technological infrastructure, leading to a complete shutdown of operations.Is every hotel PCI compliant? Unfortunately--and I write this with a bit of shock--some hotel brands still fail to meet full compliance to the set of standards that are intended to ensure that all companies that accept, process, store or transmit credit card information maintain an environment that is protected from compromise. The lack of comprehensive security measures may also extend to gaps in following the conventional procedures to destroy data once it's used, furthering the potential for credit card information to be accessed by hackers.As you can see, the hotel industry is falling short of meeting the expectations for overarching security of its systems, leading to catastrophic exposures such as the recently uncovered Marriott situation. But before we throw our hands up in the air, let's remember that effective security measures can be applied to every aspect of a hotel's technological systems to keep them safe from those with malicious intent. To succeed, brands require strong leadership and exceptional technical expertise with a full commitment to doing everything that it takes to stay on top of the latest security standards and procedures. Consistent penetration ("pen") testing and consultation with technical experts will ensure that a hotel's systems are always up-to-date and utilizing the best protection that's available at all times.Our guests deserve a good night's sleep, and so do we. Let's all tighten up our security belts so we can rest with ease, knowing that our widespread attention to detail will keep our systems secure and leave the hackers as the only restless ones. Please share your thoughts about hotel tech security concerns with me on LinkedIn.

HEDNA 2019 Wrap-up: Inspirational Insights

DataArt · 8 February 2019
The HEDNA 2019 agenda illustrated the incredible potential for a meeting of the top minds in the hospitality industry, and the conference certainly didn't disappoint.This year's HEDNA gathering exceeded even my loftiest expectations, with 355 people marking the highest attendance to date. It was an inspirational meeting with the leading thinkers in our field providing plenty of insights to spark in-depth discussions about the core challenges facing today's hospitality sector and the future direction of our industry.The attendees had the privilege of listening to many fascinating, high-level speakers, including:Sam Shank: Founder and CEO of Hotel TonightTodd Dunlap: Managing Director at Booking.comAdam Harris: CEO and Co-founder of CloudbedsJordan Hollander: Co-founder of HotelTechReportCammy Houser: Hotels Program Lead at AirbnbAbhijit Pal: Head of Research at ExpediaSteven Van Belleghem: Co-founder of NexxworksJason Dorsey: Co-founder and President of The Center for Generational KineticsArtificial Intelligence and Machine Learning AI and ML were major topics of discussion throughout the conference, with a focus on the great importance of seamlessly integrating artificial intelligence into the core ingredients required to provide exemplary customer service.The future of our industry will include a wide range of technologies driven by AI and ML, including facial recognition (smart glasses), caching (using ML to determine which data is most valuable to cache at specific times), and room mapping (harmonizing the multitude of systems describing a room type differently).At the same time, as the use of these advanced technologies increases, the industry faces the significant challenges involved in its integration. The growth of AI and ML is particularly difficult to manage due to the hospitality sector's frequent use of older technology with siloed data that cannot easily talk to the latest systems. I hope to see our industry take a big leap over the coming year to let go of antiquated ways of managing data to develop comprehensive solutions capable of full integration with every technological arm required to run today's software as well as tomorrow's innovations.Major advancements in the value of algorithms are already changing the manner in which buying and decision making occurs, with increasingly accurate predictions of the ancillary services and products that a consumer will be interested in based on a purchase.Shifting Consumer Preferences Millennials prefer texting to all other forms of communication, with other generation segments rapidly joining this shift. Although luxury hotels remain focused on "high touch," their customers desire this style of communication less-and-less. This fundamental change in consumer preferences is expected to result in the growing usage of chatbots, webchat widgets, and messaging, as an increasing percentage of people embrace this evolution.Virtually everyone has a mobile device these days, which is leading the industry toward further deployments of systems that resemble the simplicity of the very things that people are already familiar with, such as voice and other IoT solutions frequently used in homes.Industry Challenges Latency continues to be one of the biggest obstacles standing in the way of deploying advanced technology solutions. In the dynamic world of hospitality, data sharing must be immediate for technology to be effective. When a hotel is connected to Expedia or other OTAs, a delay of even just a few seconds can cause havoc, with the potential of double bookings and other unacceptable complications. Technology experts in our industry are working diligently to solve this significant challenge to allow the deployment of the best solutions without any latency of connectivity.On the disruption front, Airbnb's star continues to rise as consumer expectations and preferences shift, with the travel "experience" coming to the forefront of the market landscape.Unfortunately, many experts believe that an economic downturn is on the horizon. Although it's too early to know when this situation will impact the hospitality sector, some believe we'll see this slip beginning as soon as the end of this year.Overall, HEDNA 2019 was a wonderful opportunity to discuss the core principles of our evolving industry with the leading minds. As the integration of technology grows exponentially throughout the hospitality sector, the execution of innovative solutions is improving the landscape of our industry in monumental ways.Please share your thoughts about HEDNA 2019 with me on LinkedIn.

HEDNA Global Distribution Conference: The Top Must-See Sessions For 2019

DataArt ·25 January 2019
One look at the 2019 HEDNA agenda makes it clear that we're about to embark on an exhilarating and illuminating time in Los Angeles. At the same time, there's so much going on that it's difficult to do everything. Therefore, I decided to offer my picks for the top must-see sessions at this year's conference.Keynote: Cracking the Gen Z Consumer Code with Jason Dorsey(Day 3: 9:10am-10:00am)The post-millennial Gen Z consumers are sometimes difficult to wrap our heads around, as this generation's native technology results in a very different style of shopping and demands from a usability perspective. From the manner in which Gen Z communicates to their preferred payment options, researcher and keynote speaker Jason Dorsey will uncover the latest information about this generation's expectations to help hotel operators in their quest to gain trust and loyalty from this critical demographic.I have seen Jason speak before and chatted with him in detail: this is not to be missed!HEDNA U 202: Engaging with the Guest: Management and Measurement(Day 1 during 1:45pm-3:15pm session)andHEDNA U 203: Engaging with the Guest: The Booking Process(Day 1 during 11:15am-12:45pm session)This year's Engaging with the Guest series promises to deliver valuable insights into one of the key ingredients to success in the world of hospitality, as the title implies. The broad nature of effective guest engagement runs across these ongoing sessions throughout the conference, with each one providing a specific focus within this complex area. Management and Measurement will feature discussions about the essential skills involved in optimizing content to third parties while analyzing a range of advertising models and looking at various methods for accurately uncovering ROI as it relates to expenditures. The Booking Process session aims to inspire in-depth discussions around not only the booking decision but also the processing of information and connectivity to CRS/PMS functions. The session will include additional analysis and conversations about marketing, as well as looking at what's most important in a mobile app.HEDNA U 207: Direct Booking(Day 1 during 1:45pm-3:15pm session)Skift's Senior Hospitality Editor, Deanna Ting, captures the core of direct booking in the following quote: "Whether you choose to view it as a war or not, it's fairly unanimous that nearly every hotelier wishes he or she would have more direct bookings versus bookings made through an online travel agency." While this excellent statement appears indisputable, how can hotel operators increase direct bookings of their rooms? The Direct Booking session at HEDNA should help to sort out this concept by opening up discussions about how the direct booking channel operates within the overall distribution framework.HEDNA U 205: Channel Management(Day 1 during 11:15am-12:45pm session)The importance of efficient channel management cannot be overstated. The sheer number of online distribution options can be overwhelming at times, while a hotel operator's decisions result in a monumental difference in ROI and global reach. HEDNA's Channel Management session will attempt to tackle this difficult realm to look at the multitude of options available to today's hoteliers while analyzing the various associated costs to unveil comprehensive assessment possibilities to implement.Well, there you have it. While these are my top picks at HEDNA, there are a vast number of fascinating sessions to attend at this year's conference. I'm greatly looking forward to networking, learning, and discussing the latest developments and future direction of our industry with the leading thinkers in hospitality. Hope to see you in Los Angeles!Please share your thoughts about must-see sessions for HEDNA 2019 with me on LinkedIn.About DataArt: DataArt is a global technology consultancy that designs, develops and supports unique software solutions, helping clients take their businesses forward. Recognized for their deep domain expertise and superior technical talent, DataArt teams create new products and modernize complex legacy systems that affect technology transformation in select industries.DataArt has earned the trust of some of the world's leading brands and most discerning clients, including Nasdaq, S&P, Travelport, Ocado, artnet, Betfair, and Apple Leisure Group among others. Organized as a global network of technology services firms, DataArt brings together expertise of over 2,500 professionals in 20 locations in the US, Europe, and Latin America.www.dataart.com

Will Marriott data breach herald the death of personalization?

DataArt ·21 December 2018
This analysis could be titled in a number of ways, each with a lean towards what was disclosed by Marriott last week when it emerged some 500 million guest accounts had been hacked.Because of the size of the breach and the underlying issues that may have caused it, many may point to the hotel sector's drive towards personalization and trigger a major rethink.Alternatively, stopping the next Marriott-like data breach may simply be a question of implementing many of protocols and strategies outlined below.Or, perhaps, it's more of a rallying cry for stronger legislation - at least in the U.S. - which will ensure that brands across the travel spectrum take security (more) seriously.But first some background...I recently attended The Phocuswright Conference, where some of travel tech's mightiest flock to debate industry trends. Apart from a few companies that are leveraging machine learning to battle the "black hat" hackers, security was absent from the agenda.It was not on a single marquis, nor was it the subject of a hot debate or an executive interview. Let's face it, as far as tagline topics go... "security" may be one of the least exciting topics at a conference covering the market's leading innovation.In short: despite the growing number and scale of security breaches, hospitality companies are still slow to invest in security.But why?!A number of factors may be at play.First of all, there is no upside to security. It doesn't drive new revenue or customer acquisition, making the "cost" of increased security measures difficult to justify (until now, anyway).Furthermore, hotels' complex, distributed IT systems (internet booking engines, distribution systems, customer relationship management and hotel local systems) call for sophisticated, multi-dimensional, and expensive security measures.Below are some ways that hospitality companies can improve their security and avoid data breaches. Personally identifiable information (PII) has become the new target for attackers, and organizations are still making too little effort to protect it.PII is often duplicated across multiple systems, un-encrypted, and kept longer than needed and can be easily exported in bulk.A sensible approach for handling PII is data "pseudonymization" whereby personal information is transferred to a separate database with adequate security controls (encryption, access control, audit, etc.) and each person is assigned a unique ID.All other systems operate with unique IDs instead of actual PII, which can be retrieved via a separate process. Any PII that is not required for immediate business needs should be deleted or archived.Most organizations focus on their perimeter security at the expense of breach detection and response within the internal network.They simply ignore the fact that attackers need only find a single flaw in a vast landscape, while defenders need to cover the entire attack surface. Even if they do so, there is a range of "unfair" attack methods, including social engineering, zero-day flaws, and insider attacks, that are not possible to cover by perimeter defense.Hotels need subscribe to regular audits and penetration testing of their infrastructure, both internal and external.Red pill, not the blue pillA recent trend among advanced organizations is to employ "red teams," which are independent groups that take the adversarial point of view and challenge the effectiveness of a security program."Red teams" use various techniques, including social engineering, phishing, or posing as a company employee, to penetrate the internal network. During such simulated attacks, companies get a realistic view of their defense capabilities.Traditional perimeter defenses such as firewalls, IDS/IPS, patching, anti-virus, etc, are still required, but IT security teams need to go further, assuming that the perimeter is compromised and taking a proactive approach to detecting malicious activity.Here are some essential controls that are often overlooked but can massively improve security:Enable outbound traffic filtering where possible, as it allows detection of attackers when they attempt to copy the stolen information to their servers.Deploy group policies on non-IT staff computers that detect suspicious activity such as running PowerShell, opening a reverse-shell, making network attacks, etc.Run regular social engineering simulation exercises to train the staff to react appropriately.Update password policies that check new passwords against dictionary words or common patterns that attackers use during brute-force attacks (in most attacks, after the perimeter is bypassed, attackers access accounts with weak passwords).Enforce MFA for privileged accounts and sensitive areas.Collect audit logs from various sources and ship them to a central secure server with separate access control.Finally, I submit that it is time for the U.S. - home to some of the largest and most advanced technology companies in the world - to introduce legislative data security measures and force the travel industry to take data protection seriously.The evolving nature of cyber threats calls for a continuous legislative effort as well as for collaboration with other governments, industries, and academia.At the time when personalization is a critical driver of innovation and progress, it is imperative that data security takes center stage.This article was first published on phocuswire.com
Article by Andrew Sanders

Reap the Rewards of New Hotel Technology - Avoid the Pitfalls

DataArt ·28 March 2018
Most people won't argue that technology innovation can be a very good thing. It can help hoteliers streamline their operations, help engage with their guests more effectively and in certain cases, drive ancillary revenues. The challenge that the hotel industry faces in dealing with this level of innovation is the struggle to keep up with guest demands while still ensuring that they are making solid technology decisions for their business and their guests. This can be an incredibly difficult juggling act to perform. Just because there is a new technology in the market, it is no reason for you to adopt it. It is vital that your organization's new technology integration strategy must be closely lined up with its strategic objectives and goals. Though technology innovation can be an enabler, it must be implemented effectively to maximize the impact. For example, a hotel can't implement a guest messaging platform that can't connect to an incident management platform or a food ordering system that doesn't connect to the point of sale. Though this should seem straightforward, at times, it may be anything but.Interoperability and integration will be our industry's biggest challenge as innovation takes hold. Hotel properties, on average, have 20+ systems in place to help run operations efficiently, receive reservations, take orders, plan for meetings, etc. Many of the systems at the forefront of the hotel technology movement have already been integrated. However, with the speed of emerging technologies in play now, integration can, and will be, a critical challenge due to development bottlenecks, one-off interfaces, and costs. Companies at the center of these integrations often have a backlog of interface requests that impact any roll-outs of new technology initiatives, and some of the interface schemes need to be updated. Also, in most cases, each company in the integration chain will charge a fee for the interface development.Don't get me wrong, there is time for everything, and everything will have its time. One of the key aspects that helps hoteliers remain at the forefront is its vision and capability of adopting new technologies. The hotels that place the right bets now will probably be the industry leaders in the next ten to 15 years if they match their greater investment in technology with a company-wide commitment to change. However, much will depend on how the new technology integrates into the guests' world as well as the hotel's technological infrastructure. This is an exciting time for our industry as we begin to embrace chatbots, artificial intelligence, robots, augmented reality and more. However, hotels need to know what tech is worth adopting, and what isn't as well as the best way to integrate new technologies into their current operations.Please share your thoughts about hotel and travel technology with me on LinkedIn.
Article by Andrew Sanders

Frictionless Commerce in Travel and Hospitality - Can It Be Achieved?

DataArt ·22 March 2018
We are now able to book our air, hotel and rental car all via a mobile device. We can then use this same device to check-in at airports, hotels, and car rental sites. Many of us even assume that our smartphones should be used to open our hotel room door. All of these conveniences would have been impossible on such a scale five years ago. Though some were individually achievable from a technology standpoint - all of it combined was a reality still waiting in the wings of the future.There are still some essential elements lagging in the modernized travel ecosystem. The tours and activities space is one that remains cluttered with paper transactions instead of mobile or digital experiences. The good news is that there are many exciting advancements on the cusp of disrupting both air travel and hotel stays over the next few years.Frictionless commerce, on the other hand, has still proven elusive for the travel industry. All of the back-end processes to ensure that payment is seamless between the travelers, intermediaries, and suppliers is still disjointed.The hotel industry has been especially challenged when it comes to implementing an effective commerce experience that serves both the guests and the hotel. This was a hot topic at the HEDNA Conference in Austin that I attended last month. Hotel Electronic Distribution Networking Association (HEDNA) developed a whitepaper via their Payment Working Group that tries to tackle this issue head-on. I would highly suggest that you download the whitepaper so here's the LINK.This comes directly from their whitepaper:While most hotels have a centralized room reservation system, they do not have a centralized payment processing solution. When the guest reserves a room, payment information is captured during the booking process but then gets forwarded to the individual property where the guest will stay. That individual property is the merchant of record, which has its own acquiring relationship to manage and process the payment. When you think about this situation, it is disturbing on many levels. There is so much money being left on the table via payment commissions which really may not be warranted. The report goes on to state that there are four major hurdles that impact the process of frictionless commerce:Payment AcceptanceMulti-CurrencyOperational InefficiencyPCI Compliance and SecurityWhen it comes to achieving frictionless commerce, there are several areas where hotels are failing to retain revenue via these four major areas of concern.By simply moving away from a property by property payment model to a centralized model, hotels will save an enormous amount of money (1). Also, displaying prices upfront to guests in their relevant currency will lead to increased conversions and sales (2).Operational efficiencies (3) are somewhat in line with payment acceptance whereby if the process is done centrally, the brand can optimize the number of relationships it has with service providers/payment gateways. Then there is the matter of PCI compliance (4). I believe that we, as an industry, are well on our way to having a very good handle on this issue. Unfortunately, data breaches and hacks to platforms will likely continue, so we must stay vigilant.In a landscape of ever-increasing technology and business model disruption, pull from consumers and profitability will be the catalysts for frictionless commerce. Trust, convenience, and perceived value are the ingredients that will propel these changes in order to lower the fee structures while enhancing the travel journey at every touchpoint. Essentially, if it makes travelers' lives easier and boosts the bottom line, then there is a huge opportunity just waiting to be taken advantage of.Please share your thoughts about hotel and travel technology with me on LinkedIn.
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Dataart To Sponsor Ht-next Conference 2018 In San Diego

DataArt · 8 March 2018
New York -- DataArt, the global technology consultancy that designs, develops and supports unique software solutions, will be a Silver Sponsor of HT-NEXT 2018 in San Diego, CA, March 12-14.Andrew Sanders, VP of Travel & Hospitality at DataArt North America, will be in attendance. HT-NEXT unites two leading industry events, Hotel Technology Forum and HTNG's North American Conference, into one high-quality educational and networking forum for hospitality executives and technology solution providers. This year's discussions will bring into focus cybersecurity, guest experience, digital transformation, GDPR, blockchain and other trending topics for the industry.Sanders is also co-chairing HTNG's Blockchain Workgroup, which will hold a session at HT-NEXT. The session includes subject matter experts and will explore how to enable and accelerate the adoption of this emerging technology in the hospitality sector.Andrew Sanders has held executive and sales leadership positions at global companies specializing in enterprise hospitality technology solutions for over 20 years. Andrew's involvement in the hotel sector includes mobile technologies such as Mobile Key room access, in-building Distributed Antenna System (DAS) infrastructure, mobile application development including location based marketing and guest engagement plus in-room entertainment. His notable sales achievements were enterprise solutions to Whitbread plc, Bass Leisure Retail and the US Army Lodging. At DataArt, Andrew leads initiatives in the areas of business strategy and innovation mainly in the hospitality technology sector.Event session detailsLocation:Manchester Grand Hyatt1 Market Place,San DiegoCalifornia 92101Date and Time: Wed. Mar 14, 20181:45 - 3:00 - HTNG Workgroup 9: Blockchain
Article by Andrew Sanders

Messaging, Chatbots and Omni-Channel Marketing

DataArt ·23 January 2018
"By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without interacting with a human." - Gartner PredictsOnce relegated to science fiction, bots are now very much a part of our daily lives. From chatbots that learn a user's moods to provide meaningful responses, to messenger bots that can answer weather questions to help users dress appropriately for a day out, bots are becoming increasingly valuable and sophisticated. At the same time, brands are faced with a growing number of marketing channels to navigate, further expanding the complexities involved in delivering the correct message in the most effective place to increase conversions. Advertising is an expensive and time-consuming undertaking, making it essential for hotel brands to accurately address all channels in order to maximize success.Personalization Through Messaging and ChatbotsThe profound importance of personalization and comprehensive customer care in the hotel industry makes it an ideal environment for applying messaging and chatbot innovations that enhance the user experience.Major advancements in artificial intelligence, voice search, and messaging chatbots carry the potential for significant disruption in the hotel industry by allowing new players to gain traction through inventive means. The modern consumer expects immediate responses to their queries, and chatbots can consistently meet this demand, while the inclusion of call-to-action buttons and images within chat bubbles speeds up the conversion process further. As the sophistication of chatbots increases to offer human-like conversation, a multitude of opportunities arise for hotels to improve customer service while reducing costs at the same time.Paid ads and promotions are a necessary but costly way to generate traffic. However, this traffic must be properly engaged in order to increase conversions and warrant the expense. Direct bookings can be effectively secured via chatbots, whether through Facebook Messenger or a hotel's website, while the automated process reduces employee resource requirements.Chatbots provide an excellent way for guests to check-in and check-out on their mobile device. Consumers love avoiding lineups at a front desk when conducting a simple task, making chatbots an ideal method for saving time and improving the customer experience both at the beginning and end of a visit.Many questions and complaints that arise in a hotel are actually relatively simple to understand and solve, such as being booked in a room with the wrong beds or wanting to know the correct time for checking out. A hotel bot can easily offer a solution to the majority of these problems without the need for human intervention. And an intelligent bot is aware of the scenarios that demand a personal touch or a more complex response that can only come from human intervention, thereby directly notifying staff to provide seamless customer service.Personalization and hotels go hand-in-hand. Although it may initially seem counter-intuitive, chatbots can actually enhance the personal experience. By staying connected through the entire journey, from before guests arrive until after they return home, chatbots can greatly increase loyalty through comprehensive attention and exceptional care.The vast range of services available at a hotel can result in guests calling multiple extensions throughout their stay for both information and reservations. This situation is far from ideal, sometimes causing aggravation and even a reduction in the number of services ordered due to frustration. A chatbot can provide a wonderful solution, eliminating the need for multiple extensions and even prompting guests about other services they may be interested in but don't know about yet. In fact, Gartner stated: "By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without interacting with a human." And while some of this shift will be due to automated shopping through a website and other media, it's likely that a significant amount of guest interaction will be with chatbots in the not-too-distant future.Hitting the Right Channel at the Right TimeAccording to research conducted by Expedia Media Solutions, consumers visit an average of 38 websites per travel search. It's common for people to jump between various marketing channels and mediums while planning the details of a trip before they make their final decisions. In the evolving travel ecosystem, solidifying a thorough omni-channel marketing strategy is an essential component of keeping up with the expectations of the modern consumer.In general, customers are channel agnostic, moving from one marketing source to another as they research options, read reviews, and compare prices. And the travel industry is certainly not an exception to this rule. Brands that provide seamless navigation to allow customers to continue right where they stopped, regardless of the device, are able to create a superior experience leading to an increase in bookings.Although it can be a daunting world to navigate, social media is a critical component of a comprehensive marketing strategy. Posting the right photos and videos at the right time can provoke interest and excitement in potential guests, while including an interactive concierge app on a hotel's pages can be an ideal method for providing additional information within social media. For some hotels, frequent Tweeting generates a significant buzz that leads to bookings from new guests via Retweets and the creation of popular hashtags.Of course, personalization is always the key to success, and a focus on highly shareable content is essential. Because the number of travel brand options can sometimes be overwhelming for consumers, a data-driven strategy that delivers the right content at the right time via the right channel can allow a company to stand out from the pack.The importance of technology and omni-channel marketing in the hotel industry is growing at a rapid pace. And while it may seem daunting at times, innovative travel technology solutions, such as new applications of messaging and chatbots, offer exciting ways for hotels to personalize customer care. Similarly, while the number of marketing channels increases, brands can develop strategies that cut through the noise to reach interested consumers in new ways, leading not only to an increase in bookings but also creating personalized impressions that build an exceptional level of customer loyalty in the long-term.Please share your thoughts about hotel and travel technology with me on LinkedIn.
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DataArt Joins HEDNA to Champion Technology Innovation and Collaboration

DataArt ·18 January 2018
New York, London, Munich - January 16, 2018 - DataArt, the global technology consultancy that designs, develops and supports unique software solutions, today announced it has joined the Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association (HEDNA).As a member of HEDNA, DataArt joins hundreds of the most influential companies in the hospitality industry focused on accelerating innovation and advancing the hotel distribution landscape through strategic collaboration and knowledge sharing. DataArt's Travel and Hospitality team helps navigate the complicated, domain-specific systems and inner workings of the travel industry, having designed and delivered end-to-end solutions in and around GDS, CRS, PMS, RMS, IBE, TMC, CRM, CMS and POS systems in travel and hospitality.According to Andrew Sanders, VP of DataArt's Travel and Hospitality Practice, "Becoming a member of HEDNA is a testament to the company's ongoing and long-term commitment to supporting and advancing the hotel and travel industry. We look forward to becoming actively involved with HEDNA and its members as both attendees at the upcoming HEDNA Conference in Austin and supporting the Working Groups."Over the past few years, DataArt has become one of the most widely recognized and important technology consultancies in the world. It has been included in the Inc. 5000 List of the fastest-growing private U.S. companies for seven consecutive years, posting record revenue and consistent annual growth of over 30% during that time, on track to repeat this stellar performance in 2018. DataArt is also a member of HTNG, HSMAI, and OpenTravel and plans to expand involvement in the future, engaging with the community on a deeper level."We are thrilled to welcome DataArt as a new member," said Sarah Fults, President of HEDNA. "It is imperative to include development and design companies as part of our organization due to their agnostic approach and domain expertise. Bringing together the best professional minds from such a diverse membership base makes for a better association."To learn more about DataArt's travel solutions, visit dataart.com.About DataArt DataArt is a global technology consultancy that designs, develops and supports unique software solutions, helping clients take their businesses forward. Recognized for their deep domain expertise and superior technical talent, DataArt teams create new products and modernize complex legacy systems that affect technology transformation in select industries.DataArt has earned the trust of some of the world's leading brands and most discerning clients, including Nasdaq, S&P, Travelport, Ocado, artnet, Betfair, and Apple Leisure Group among others. Organized as a global network of technology services firms, DataArt brings together expertise of over 2,500 professionals in 20 locations in the US, Europe, and Latin America.www.dataart.comTwitter: @dataartMedia Contacts:U.S. & Americas : Vica Miller +1 (212)378-4108 x 4014+44 (0) 2070-999464 x 4014 vica@dataart.comUK & Europe : Lief Anya Schneider +44 (0) 7971 950 899+44 (0) 2071 04 2213 lief@sbc.londonAbout Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association (HEDNA)HEDNA (Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association) is a not-for-profit trade association whose worldwide membership includes executives and managers from the most influential companies in the hospitality industry. Founded in 1991, HEDNA's mission is to be the leading global forum for advancing hospitality distribution through collaboration and knowledge sharing. Its vision calls for HEDNA to be known for creating an environment that fosters strategic collaboration toward business development in the global hospitality industry. For more, visit www.HEDNA.org.
Article by Andrew Sanders

VR or AR? Will the hotel industry really cozy up to either one?

DataArt ·14 December 2017
While AR and VR have a lot in common, they could also lead us down totally different paths. Augmented reality is a synthetic, computer simulated reality or recreation of a real-time environment where a user can interact with the replicated real environments, whereas virtual reality is entirely immersive.It is understood that both VR and AR have their unique applications, but right now, the latter is proving to be much more traveler friendly. The use of VR can be very attractive when used as a way to entice a prospective traveler or group buyer to give them visibility into your property look and feel. It can also be leveraged as a proactive sales tool, and in fact - it should be used in this manner. Selling space for conferences, weddings, and larger group bookings can be managed and results delivered with virtual reality. The big shift towards AR occurs when we look at how to impress the physical traveler. When it comes to impressing the individual traveler, augmented reality is definitely where it's at!There are many app development companies in the hotel and travel space that are implementing AR into their platforms. The goal of these innovations is to amplify the traveler or guest experience. Including data that is delivered via a mobile solution is certain to pique the interest of almost every leisure and business traveler. AR information can be consumed to make a business trip more efficient or productive, but it is also in place to educate and make a leisure trip much more interesting.Some of the ways that AR can impact a trip are:It can show directions and routes to the tourist.It helps to translate the signs on the boards while traveling.It gives the travelers a detailed information about sightseeing at a particular location.It helps the users to track and guide the locations by adding the layer of AR technology.It provides a new cultural experience to the mobile app user.A great example of this functionality is illustrated in the image below (mtrip):mtrip, based out of Montreal, Quebec has been in the location guide/technology business for quite some time, and they are beginning to perfect the implementation and delivery of AR to impact the guest journey directly. This is the essence of AR. It needs to be impactful to be widely adopted. It also has to be incredibly in-depth so as not to leave out information that a traveler seeks. It may be the evolution to a predictive environment that ultimately makes the adoption of AR by the traveler or guest a top priority. Once the persona or details of the guest and their individual likes or wants is applied, it will be much easier to deliver relevant information to them. This approach is far more effective than the delivery of just generalized information.Some of the challenges that face the AR travel world are significant. One of the biggest involves the cost of developing the content. In a Lifestyle Magazine article, DestinationCTO founder Alex Bainbridge brought a dose of reality to the Travel Tech portion of WTM in London. He noted that creating high-quality AR and VR content is expensive in today's current environment and that he looks forward to the time when independent tour providers and hotels can all participate in these technologies. Bainbridge explains, "Technology teaches us something. 10 to 15 years ago a content management system was $1 million now you can use systems such as WordPress for free. When technology is expensive, it's winner takes all which means the big intermediaries."While VR and AR have been a hot topic for a while, the next few years will see an explosion in applications, innovations, and revenues in the category. The travel industry is merely scratching the surface with these technologies, and there is still a great deal of groundwork to be done in delivering the optimal VR or AR experiences. Technical issues posed by AR are of a very different nature than in other technologies. Though the challenges can be overcome, companies delving into this space will need to stay focused on the emerging expectations of today's travelers and guests in order to successfully develop relevant offerings and meaningful content. They will also need to fully appreciate both the technological and human engineering requirements that are necessary to create engaging solutions that provide value and reach mass adoption.With technology changing so fast, it's hard to imagine what's coming next. Your imagination may very well be the limit and seeing the game-changing potential for augmented reality in travel and hospitality isn't hard.
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DataArt, Hudson Crossing, partner to fill travel industry void

DataArt · 3 November 2017
From strategy and new product conception through design, IT development and delivery, Hudson Crossing and DataArt help companies leap ahead of competition without having to distract internal IT teams from their existing workloads. We work with companies like American Express, Hilton Worldwide, Skyscanner, Booking.com, Hotelbeds, HotelTonight, Hipmunk, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group and many others to fill the gaps and complete their vision.For more information regarding the DataArt and Hudson Crossing partnership, please visit http://hudsoncrossing.dataart.com/
Article by Andrew Sanders

What to Look for When Budgeting for 2018

DataArt ·17 October 2017
The hotel industry is now entering "budget season" and making budget decisions this year may be quite an interesting process. There has been a dynamic shift related to the hotel operations landscape. A new type of hotel competitor has been gaining ground quickly, and now the guest is more in control of their stay than ever before. Having a comprehensive plan will increase the chance to garner a competitive advantage in such a vibrant environment.Fueled by new innovations, the hospitality market is evolving exceptionally quickly. Recently Oracle conducted a research initiative titled, "HOTEL 2025: Emerging Technologies Destined to Reshape Our Business". Among 150 hoteliers and 702 guests surveyed, it was revealed that more and more guests want to engage with hotels that offer the latest innovative technologies. The likelihood of this number continuing to increase is incredibly high as technology filters into every aspect of our work and personal lives. The challenge lies with hoteliers and their respective vendors determining the right combination of solutions that deliver either cost reductions or revenue gains as well as defining where to invest their CAPEX or OPEX dollars. We also mustn't forget about the guest. There are a plethora of technologies that are guest-facing - designed to help hotels build a better relationship with guests. Unfortunately, the exact ROI on these particular types of offerings is often hard to find. However, don't let that stop you from investing and implementing these technologies. People are always asking, "What is the ROI on the new engagement platforms?" We must then also ask ourselves, "What is the ROI on trust? What is the ROI on loyalty?"Some of the technology trends that are re-invigorating our industry and that should be considered for your 2018 budget:Mobile - BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) where people bring their mobile devices to watch (stream or cast) their own video content on the hotel TV.Digital Keys - "Keyless entry" allows guests to bypass the front desk, sends a notification to staff before guests arrive, and gives guests the option to book a variety of hotel amenities directly from the app.Data Analytics & Artificial Intelligence - Provides more personalized offerings such as suggesting services based on previous purchases or submitted preferences.Voice Activated Devices - Used as a channel of communication with the hotel (e.g., ordering room service or reporting issues with the room).Wi-Fi - This seems like nothing new, but bad Wi-Fi can sink a hotel's reputation.There is one glaring issue that often seems to be missed. This issue focuses on relevant expertise. As these new technologies are being adopted and implemented, the chance that you have on-property expertise and resources may be limited. Also, if you would like to expand the current offering and integrate it with other platforms such as analytics - you may not be able to perform these development initiatives in-house. Hotel companies need to fully understand the future development roadmap of the products they purchase and ensure that they meet their current and future needs. These new solutions will be part of the hotel technology ecosystem in short order, so you also need to prioritize your technology spend based upon your market segment and upon your typical guest profile. Some of these investments can be viewed as immediate requirement versus future needs. Ultimately, it is up to you, your marketing team, and your IT team to put together the tech budget that help you achieve your unique goals. You should also provision for consultancy and development services as the complexities of our business grow. The quality and speed of technology adoption are critical conditions in our highly competitive environment.Technology providers and solution design consultants, like DataArt, help hotel companies and IT vendors to partition the challenges. Further, they engage with optimized resources to help mitigate the risk related to the adoption of innovative and relevant solutions or platforms. The goal... to help hotels choose and integrate the technologies that will clearly reflect their values and aspirations back to the guest.

Blockchain: Prepare, disrupt or be disrupted. In any event, get started!

DataArt ·27 September 2017
The lesson here is stark: traditional hotel operators need to be learning, educating their teams, working with vendors and forming plans to get ahead of something that could disrupt their business. It's time to prepare, disrupt or be disrupted!Many readers will have heard of blockchain, or most certainly the reason it came into being in the first instance: bitcoin. But as with any new technology, there's a great deal of misinformation circulating. Blockchain is here to stay, and will likely become a significant disruptor in travel and hospitality. But what is it, and what should you be doing about it?What is blockchain?Put simply, blockchain is a distributed digital ledger, meaning that data relating to transactions is stored using a particular methodology that guarantees a transaction cannot be amended. Therefore, and by definition, a trusted chronology of transactions is created. Further, these transactions are stored on multiple servers, and any member of a particular blockchain has visibility into the data stored. This is necessary to ensure integrity, but also means sensitive information, like personally identifiable information (PII) and payment details should still be stored in databases and systems outside a blockchain.Regardless of the variety of blockchain flavors, these primary characteristics are constant:The data is immutable, meaning that records can only be added and never deleted or changedIt is distributed among many computers that each store full or partial copies of the ledgerIt creates a guaranteed 'trusted' environment between two parties"Trusted environment between two parties" is akin to a middleman where 'trust' would otherwise have to be artificially manufactured somehow. It facilitates the direct transfer of value between two parties who don't have to trust each other. The unit of currency, or the 'value', can be any digital asset, e.g. property deed, money, loyalty points, identity, music, votes and much more. Since the process of creating trust in a traditional sense can take time, blockchain has the potential to settle that aspect of a transaction much more rapidly than at present. Therefore, any entity that currently exists as a middleman and trades transactions between two parties stands to be disrupted by blockchain. In the hospitality world, the transactions most widely thought to be impacted by blockchain include loyalty points, travel insurance, mobile key and any authentication of assets including payments/settlements, procurement and possibly booking transactions and history.As of August 2017, as many as 80% of banking institutions worldwide are already investing in blockchain technology. Some governments are mandating that imported goods must (within a few years) be processed on technology based on blockchain, and it is already having a big impact on supply chain logistics and traceability. This means that blockchain is here to stay, and is the reason that everyone involved in hospitality technology, from hotel chain CTOs to software developers and vendors, need to ensure they're both educated and have a plan in place on the subject.What you should be planning/doing if you're not already1. Educate yourself and your teams.Make sure you know what blockchain is, how it works, and what your peer group and people in other industries are doing. This information is widely available via Tnooz, Forbes, HospitalityNet and DataArt.2. Develop a short- and medium-term strategy (pilot and vision).Blockchain has some significant benefits but will demand some business process re-engineering and, with it, changes to your software systems and likely infrastructure. Quite how it will impact you is unknown, so for now it's worth exploring what the impact could be and what your vision is. Start building the skills needed to support a blockchain environment with some small pilot projects.3. Influence the industry on strategy and priorities.In the spirit of being the influencer rather than the influenced, those who have an interest should be active in HFTP's task force on blockchain when it convenes, and follow HTNG's work group on the topic.4. Find suitable talent internally.You may find that your company has people who know something about blockchain already. Understand what talent you have and can access internally and what else you need.5. Source expertise externally.Experts and consultants exist and can help not only with strategy, education and policies but also with hands-on development in a blockchain world. DataArt is one of the few with live experience of developing application software on blockchains and has practices with industry experts in several sectors, including travel and hospitality.While blockchain may take some years to mature into something that is a mandatory requirement in software solutions that interact with other partners in hospitality, there's no doubt that it will also take a long time for organizations to understand what they need to do, and build those skills and infrastructure that will be essential. Now is the time to make sure you're not disrupted!
Article by Andrew Sanders

Top 5 Questions to Ask When Searching for Development and Consulting Partners

DataArt ·20 June 2017
Our industry can be viewed, at times, as being somewhat 'Schizophrenic' due to the influx of new platforms and products hitting the market. The challenge lies in connecting all these new solutions to our incumbent platforms such a CRS's, PMS's, CRO's, etc. and the list goes on and on. So, when looking for a tech partner to assist you with adding more horsepower and expertise to your current IT and development resources, there are a number of key questions you should ask.Do They Focus on Speed of Adoption?Many organizations believe that being first to market is the most important factor when developing software. However, this couldn't be farther from the truth. It's true that you need to focus on speed, but more importantly, you need to focus on the speed of adoption related to the engagement. When completed, how well and quickly will the implementation and adoption of a product or integration be received? Your development partner must be keenly aware of the market and changes within it as they are in throws of providing you with strong consulting and technology support. Also, related to adoption, end-user communication is vital to the success of any engagement so the lines of communication with the user community must always be open and active.How Do They Manage Risk Avoidance?In several cases, technology and consulting engagements fail due to the lack of up-front due diligence and a full needs assessment. Impeccable documentation regarding findings is key along with a very clear statement of work and strong project, engagement and delivery management. Most technology partners will understand that invariably there will be "scope creep" and both parties need to be flexible, however, keeping things moving is very important.Ensuring engagement with your company as the project continues through its evolutionary process is something that needs to occur. This ensures quality deliverables at each milestone. This all needs to be wrapped up upon completion of the project with user acceptance testing sign-off and launch support.Do They Fully Understand the Impact of Guest Experience and Engagement?Within the travel and hospitality industry, traveler experience and guest engagement are the key areas of focus when it comes to new technologies. When deciding upon a development partner, you will want to ensure that they are experts in the industry and have a strong track record of delivering products or integrations that can enhance overall traveler/guest engagement. You will also have to have confidence in where your prospective partner stands related to the value of user experience and user interaction. As new products are being designed for our industry, you will need your partner's guidance to make sure that the engagement goals of your technology are delivered.Do They Understand Your Business?We often hear that technology service providers do not require domain experience. This is a costly mistake when it comes to the travel and hospitality industry. Our industry is unique because high touch service is the driving force of the business. With this in mind, your partner needs to have a strong grasp of specific operations, technology, integrations and the hierarchy specific to this complex ecosystem. Look for companies that have a senior management team with a wealth of experience, ongoing involvement and that have been in the trenches when it comes to working with industry stakeholders. To grow, you need a network of skilled partners to fill in your service or expertise gaps.How Strong is Their Bench?When we talk about a technology and consulting partners "bench," we mostly mean how strong are the people that will be working on your project and also how strong are others that may need to jump in to support the primary development team. How deep is their technical knowledge and will the resources required be complimentary to your business and sector? Unexpected things often transpire during the development and delivery of a solution, product or integration. Knowing that the people working on your project and those backing them up are top-notch, will ensure a successful engagement.Finally, thinking long term is critical. Technology is changing at a breakneck pace, and if a company does not consistently move their systems forward, they are falling behind. The last few Phocuswright reports have focused on some of the latest emerging trends set to reshape the industry. These trends include speech recognition and natural language processing, chat and messaging, neural networks, artificial intelligence and the impact of the mobile traveler. Once again, ensuring that you choose a technology and consulting partner that has their finger on the pulse of our industry will guarantee a mutually beneficial and successful partnership.
Article by Andrew Sanders

Guest Engagement and the Customer's Digital Journey

DataArt ·13 June 2017
What are the top five ingredients in the race for 'first to adoption' that both hoteliers and tech suppliers share? DataArt's unique domain experience of delivering successful solutions to vendors and operators positions it to offer an inside track on successfully implementing an integrated guest-engagement strategy.The rules of engagement with hotel guests are changing as their needs, motivations and budgets evolve. We have identified several vital ingredients in ensuring optimal guest engagement and all the positive things that flow from having fully engaged customers: consistency of approach, frictionless interaction, and providing tools to establish guests enjoy their 'experiences' before, during and after their hotel stay.DataArt's experience designing and building travel and hospitality software solutions uniquely positions it as a master builder in all aspects of the digital journey. This knowledge, which spans from online tour operators (OTAs), to hotel operators and technology suppliers to the hotel industry, allows DataArt to shine a light on the critical areas that operators and suppliers alike need to champion:1. Deliver a consistent, holistic approach that offers good valueTripAdvisor recently reported (Ref i) that 34% of travelers want their accommodation to offer mobile check-in. However, this is only part of the story. In cases where a hotel actually offers this capability, how will they communicate it to the guest? There is a continual obligation on the hotel to engage with the customer, not the other way around. Furthermore, do the existing systems and data even allow the hotel to make the guest aware of this service in the first place and support it in each transaction? OTAs and many indirect, and sometimes even direct, booking channels either don't provide the hotel with the guest's contact details, or preclude it from using it for reasons that may be perceived as marketing or promotion, therefore making it impossible to fully interact.It is essential for both supplier and hotel operator/management company/chain to spell out in detail the end-to-end guest experience and explore all pitfalls and opportunities from a system and data point of view. A third-party facilitator, who can act as a catalyst for the strategy and bring technical expertise within the context of the business needs, will help design a well-thought-out and holistic solution, and may, perhaps, deliver this integration itself.2. Guests want to enjoy their experience. Make sure your touch points are enjoyable, i.e. simple, intuitive and work as promised. Guests expect their 'stay experience' to go beyond the walls of the hotelWhen Airbnb announced its "Trips" platform in November 2016 (Ref ii), it meant they were embarking on becoming a full-fledged travel company that would allow its customers to become immersed not only in their accommodation, but in their destination.Guests want to enjoy their experience, and travel technology needs to be frictionless - that is, allow the guests to do whatever they need in an intuitive way. Our experience at DataArt demands that our customers, be they hotel operators or technology vendors, have a clear view of what makes their end users (guests) tick, what motivates them and how a solution can be enjoyed the most.Integration and highly-efficient, well-designed interfaces between systems are essential. For instance, a guest may book a room and then pre-order a spa service. If they subsequently change details of their room booking, they expect their spa reservation to follow suit. Our experience shows this is often not the case - an example of a non-frictionless experience that must be avoided.3. Have a clear vision of what you want your systems to do, and why it will make the guest experience betterClarity of vision and ownership of your systems and what you provide your customers creates a pure identity of what it is you offer (thus helping you communicate your message). It also limits tangential changes that fundamentally alter the scope of your product or service, helps maintains quality and consistency and enhances the engagement with the customer you can achieve by keeping their use of your systems straightforward.While an operator or vendor should have a clear view of what it is THEY want to provide, early and active involvement of users can also make the difference between success and failure. Our preferred approach, and that which we believe is more likely to succeed, is to utilize a user-driven design. Non-user driven products can fail for the smallest reasons that could have easily been prevented with the right amount of user involvement at the right moments. DataArt encourages championing the users and develops software around a framework of iterative cycles, often involving end users.4. Ensure your guest interaction is fully integrated. Disengaged guests are less likely to return: but only 20% of guests feel fully engagedAccording to Gallup (Refs iii and iv), hotel guests that are fully engaged spend 46% more per year than actively disengaged guests. Full engagement means that customers are emotionally attached and rationally loyal - they go out of their way to obtain their preferred product or service. Offering tightly integrated and fully interfaced solutions means guests can engage with a hotel at any point and can rely on consistent interaction, thereby maintaining their emotional involvement. Since engagement rests heavily with the emotional as well as rational connection between customer and provider, consistency is key.Outstanding systems design, analysis, prototyping, proof of concepts, development, maintainability, documentation and execution are all critically important to the successful implementation of a system, and again an area where expertise delivers results.5. First-to-market is not the objectiveIt's commonly believed that first-to-market is a measure of success. While that is important, DataArt believes a greater measure of success is first-to-adoption: that is, optimal active take-up by users of any new solution or product.DataArt has been helping travel and hospitality practitioners, as well as suppliers, gain first-to-market and first-to-adoption advantage for nearly 10 years. Its breadth of experience of developing diverse application software, middleware and integration tools in its chosen sectors are second to none, and have been harnessed by some of the leading global travel and hospitality brands. The consultancy has successfully completed over 1,600 projects over 20 years in operation.Ref i - http://ir.tripadvisor.com/releasedetail.cfm?ReleaseID=919990Ref ii - http://www.businessinsider.com/airbnb-trips-launch-2016-11Ref iii - http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/192710/brands-aren-winning-millennial-consumers.aspx?g_source=HOSPITALITY&g_medium=topic&g_campaign=tilesRef iv - http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/172637/why-customer-engagement-matters.aspx
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The Need for Speed: Runtriz leverages DataArt's expertise and ASSA ABLOY Hospitality technology to deliver "Front of the Line" program to hotels

DataArt ·24 May 2017
DataArt (www.dataart.com) has announced that it was selected by Runtriz to help enhance its "Front of the Line" (www.FrontoftheLine.com) feature to reward guests with a VIP level experience. It is unique as it builds on Runtriz's installed base in over 100 countries to enable hotel guests to use their mobile device to not only check-in prior to their arrival, but additionally bypass the front desk at enabled hotels and head straight to their room, entering with Runtriz's mobile key."Runtriz chose DataArt to extend its platform to create a solution that seamlessly interacts with third party systems. Getting industry leaders involved was critical. DataArt brought not only development breadth but industry experience that enabled us to solve technical problems together for some of our high-profile customers. ASSA ABLOY Hospitality was the security and access technology company we wanted to engage with first due to our mutual high profile customers," said Alonso Vargas, Runtriz President and co-founder."DataArt worked with Runtriz and the ASSA ABLOY Hospitality SDK to deliver a practical solution, offering mobile keys within the Runtriz ecosystem," explained Alex Shchedrin, Vice President of Strategic Services at DataArt. "Our approach was to create a form of a CRM that acts as a glue when interacting with a variety of platforms."The ASSA ABLOY Hospitality Mobile Access solution greatly increases the guest experience, to allow guests to skip front desk lines and access their rooms via a secure, encrypted digital key on their smart phones. The company's goal in bringing mobile access to more properties worldwide is to work with companies who share the same passion and commitment to innovation.Runtriz is recognized as a pioneer in mobile guest facing solutions that enhance the guest experience including two-way chat, room upgrade promotions, offers, food and beverage/room service, proximity marketing, concierge in addition to expedited check-in and mobile keys. Runtriz wants to accelerate the cost savings benefit to hotels due to lower key costs while launching mobile key. Concurrently, guest satisfaction will rise as guest check-in times decline. Runtriz also focuses on solutions where it is able to achieve adoption faster than its competitors."Capitalizing on DataArt's experience has allowed us to deploy solutions rapidly with lower risk, enabling us to get to the "Front of the Line", while giving our hotel customers the ability to offer their guests the same," concluded Vargas.About DataArt:DataArt is a global technology consultancy that designs, develops and supports unique software solutions, helping clients take their businesses forward. Recognized for their deep domain expertise and superior technical talent, DataArt teams create new products and modernize complex legacy systems that affect technology transformation in select industries.DataArt has earned the trust of some of the world's leading brands and most discerning clients, including Nasdaq, S&P, United Technologies, oneworld Alliance, Ocado, artnet, Betfair, and skyscanner. Organized as a global network of technology services firms. DataArt brings together expertise of over 2,200 professionals in 20 locations in the US, Europe, and Latin America.www.dataart.com@dataartAbout ASSA ABLOY HospitalityThe global leader in hotel security technology, ASSA ABLOY Hospitality is part of the ASSA ABLOY Group, a publicly listed company. With products installed in properties all over the world, securing millions of doors globally, the company's comprehensive range of security and technology solutions is comprised of VingCard electronic locks, Elsafe in-room safes, integrated software platforms and advanced mobile access solutions. ASSA ABLOY Hospitality has worldwide service and support in more than 166 countries. For more information, please visit www.assaabloyhospitality.com.About Runtriz:Runtriz provides a suite of mobile software solutions for hotels, resorts and casinos. The Company launched the hotel industry's first iPhone app, and today many of the world's top hotels and casinos run their apps and mobile solutions on Runtriz platforms. The Company's hospitality platform enables brands and properties to quickly and inexpensively build a customized mobile app that provides guests access to all amenities and services at their fingertips via any device - smartphone, tablet or laptop - anytime, anywhere. Guests can expedite their check-in, order room service, make spa or golf appointments, book reservations, email and text with hotel staff and much more. In addition to its guest-facing hospitality solutions, Runtriz also offers several staff-facing mobile solutions that facilitate staff-to-staff communication as well as expedite and dispatch food and beverage orders poolside or at any venue on property. Clients using Runtriz platforms are experiencing higher guest service scores, greater revenues and significant efficiencies. For more information, visit www.runtriz.com.

Travel Agent 2020

DataArt ·19 December 2016
The concept of "travel agent 2020" is on everyone's mind today. It's tempting to be skeptical of all the predictions regarding the future of travel agents, but we can't deny that the digital revolution has already transformed the way we plan book and experience travel.Another force that is causing major changes in the industry is the Millennials, who have quickly emerged as the largest travel segment. According to a recent Skift report, by 2020 Millenials are expected to make 320 million international trips annually (a 47% increase from 2015), and outpace older generations. Today youth travelers turn to travel agents because of the presumed knowledge of destinations and local providers. Travelers want "local experiences" in their destinations combined with the comforts of home; for example, they want to book the airline/or book the same hotel chain they're used to at home. They want local food, drinks, and events to give them the feeling of being immersed in the local culture. The ability of travel agents to provide this unique, personalized experiences is a great motivator for travelers.When it comes to personalization, the buzz around chatbots continues to grow. It sounds great to have an AI system to plan and book your dream vacation. Digital Personal Travel Assistants have the potential to improve the travel experience since they will know preferences for airlines and hotels and help streamline the process of choosing rather than actually making the choice. The booking process has never been so simple: insert text, scan the options, approve. But are these chatbots smart enough to make a difference? Full AI ignores the whimsical nature (or indecisiveness) of the Millennial traveler. Travelers are increasingly looking for new experiences and stories that their friends haven't experienced. In this case, a knowledgeable travel agent is the solution for those who want to optimize their experience. This is, the direct counter-trend to fully independent travelers who risk booking on their own and risk quality and security in unknown destinations.Moreover, when it comes to security, it's easier to get a travel agent to plan all the intricacies of a trip than to do it independently. If something goes wrong on vacation, travelers want an expert who knows how to solve the problems, a human validator who can relieve all the frustration for the traveler.Also, today's vacation planning takes into account that travel to new location should be combined with an epic event at the destination: Where can I go on vacation next month?" turns into "Your favorite band is playing their final show of the tour in this exotic location and here are some hotel and ticket options" or "That's the week of the world cup final in Brazil, want me to see about ticket options?" Here travel agents can often get better deals than the DIY traveler might be able to find alone.All in all, despite the negative forecasts over the past decade, travel agents have proven to be more valuable than anyone ever expected. It is doubtful that travel agents will become obsolete, but it is obvious that their role will continue to change in the future, owing not only to the continued emergence of new technology and innovations within the travel and hospitality spaces but also because of increasing demands for personalized service.
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DataArt exhibits latest travel innovations at The Phocuswright Conference, Los Angeles 14-17 November 2016

DataArt · 1 November 2016
DataArt, the global technology consulting firm that creates end-to-end solutions, will be exhibiting its cutting-edge and business-proven travel technology innovations at the annual Phocuswright Conference being held in Los Angeles from November 14th thru the 17th.The travel innovations include an improved white label solution for Skyscanner for Business. This iteration includes an enhanced new format, more advanced customizable flight search tools for site owners and purpose-built features across the product. The improved features enable Skyscanner to be more accessible, easier to use and more exciting for their partners. Also on display will be three projects for Triometric. including a system which collects XML data and extracts information for analysis, and a user monitoring system, which in real-time helps analyze behavior and reduces service downtime.DataArt will also be demonstrating an API/integration system which was developed for a leading tour operator as well as the results of DataArt's consultancy services for a multiple partner airline alliance.Greg Abbot, SVP of Travel and Hospitality Practice at DataArt said:"DataArt will be presenting a number of case studies which show we are at the very forefront of technology innovation in the travel industry. We pride ourselves in delivering solutions that are being put to good use by our clients. These are not just concepts but technologies that are working right now for some of the biggest and most exciting companies in travel. Combining technological innovation and a clear focus on business use is at the heart of what DataArt does."EVENT DETAILS:Date: 14 - 17 November 2016Location: LA Live at The JW Marriott, Los AngelesRegister for this event.DATAART WILL PRESENT:SkyscannerA new version of the White Label product DataArt developed which provides advances in the user interface and introduces new purpose-built features.OneworldA new "single sign-on" system for Oneworld alliance.Through consultancy to implementation, DataArt delivered a simplified and significantly more secure system. The new system enables users to operate between Oneworld partner airlines' systems with ease, safe in the knowledge that they are recognized without their security being compromised.SummitQwestThe SummitLink(r) Red App -packaged Sabre Red App solution. The App allows agents to receive price quotes, book, and manage chauffeured ground transportation in real-time. DataArt designed the application architecture, developed the Red App, and integrated it with the existing SummitLink(r) web solution and managed the application documentation and certification process.Other InnovationsNew CMS for a major Chinese technology companyAPI/integrations for a tour operatorAbout DataArtDataArt is a technology consulting firm that creates end-to-end solutions, from concept and strategy, to design, implementation and support, helping global clients in the financial services, healthcare, hospitality, media and IoT sectors achieve important business outcomes. Rooted in deep domain knowledge and technology expertise, DataArt designs new products, modernizes enterprise systems and provides managed services delivered by outstanding development teams in the U.S., UK, Central and Eastern Europe, and Latin America. As a recognized leader in business and technology services, DataArt has earned the trust of some of the world's leading brands and most discerning clients, including McGraw-Hill Financial, Coller Capital, BankingUp, Ocado, artnet, Betfair, Skyscanner, Collette Vacations, Booker and Charles River Laboratories.About Phocuswright Inc.Phocuswright is the travel industry research authority on how travelers, suppliers and intermediaries connect. Independent, rigorous and unbiased, Phocuswright fosters smart strategic planning, tactical decision-making and organizational effectiveness. Phocuswright delivers qualitative and quantitative research on the evolving dynamics that influence travel, tourism and hospitality distribution. Our marketplace intelligence is the industry standard for segmentation, sizing, forecasting, trends, analysis and consumer travel planning behavior. Every day around the world, senior executives, marketers, strategists and research professionals from all segments of the industry value chain use Phocuswright research for competitive advantage.To complement its primary research in North and Latin America, Europe and Asia, Phocuswright produces several high-profile conferences in the United States, Europe and Asia Pacific, and partners with conferences in China, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates. Industry leaders and company analysts bring this intelligence to life by debating issues, sharing ideas and defining the ever-evolving reality of travel commerce.The company is headquartered in the United States with Asia Pacific operations based in India and local analysts on five continents.Phocuswright is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Northstar Travel Group, LLC.

The Importance of Business Travel Innovation

DataArt ·19 October 2016
I recently had the pleasure of sitting on a panel with prestigious business travel leaders to discuss the major issues facing the sector. One of the overarching sentiments emerging from the event was the fact that we are entering a period of significant evolution for the business travel sector, with technology moving at an increasingly rapid pace. Although the business travel industry has previously lagged behind other travel sectors regarding traveler focused innovations, the largest Travel Management Companies seemed poised to "take back" ownership of their technical destiny. This is a significant step considering most of the technology in these companies is served by GDS' and products from pure tech companies like Concur, Deem, etc.The panel featured many industry experts, including Evan Konwiser, Vice President Digital Traveller, American Express Global Business Travel; Miriam Moscovici, Director, Emerging Technologies, BCD Travel; Mat Orrego, Co-Founder and CEO, Cornerstone Information Systems and Chip Coyle, Senior Vice President and CMO, Infor. The audience was comprised of delegates from a range of business travel providers and stakeholders, including Phocuswright, Dropbox, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, UBS, the Barbados Tourism Authority and Nasdaq.The Evolution of AI and BotsWhile the robotics or bots aren't new to the business travel industry, the concept of using artificial intelligence (AI) and bots automation is entering a higher level of sophistication than has existed in the past. The current surge in the development of bots is related to the growing popularity of message-based communication, such as Facebook Messenger. Today's AI is technology that attempts to emulate the manner in which a human brain works, and it has already become a standard component in our lives, with personal assistants such as Apple's Siri, Amazon's Echo, and Microsoft's Cortana built into mobile and home devices. The recent rise of AI in the business travel industry is due in large part to the advancing technology and growing consumer acceptance of automated services.There are several companies in the travel industry that are employing AI to augment services provided by human agents, such as Lola and Pana. One of the key drivers for using this technology is cost-savings, with AI attempting to answer customer queries first, thereby allowing companies to reserve their human assets for the highest value work. While many believe that AI is not yet at the point where it can entirely replace human interaction, other companies are already going completely virtual with their efforts. HelloGbye provides one of these services, which allows consumers to message travel plans via a chat interface and creates an itinerary for up to nine people in an initial search, with no human agents being used to fulfill requests.As AI continues to evolve, experts predict it will bring an increased level of personalization to the business travel industry while simultaneously reducing selling time and providing significant cost-savings.Alternative Lodging Challenges Business travel is directly connected to negotiated rates with airlines, hotels, and other travel products. However, the industry is now faced with the challenges of travelers staying at alternative places, such as Airbnb. Although alternative lodging options may not exist in the current ecosystem of many business travel providers, it's becoming increasingly important to understand how to include these products. To retain control, some travel companies are now integrating Airbnb's data into their own proprietary systems, thereby bringing alternative lodging bookings into view for managed business travel in order to adapt to the evolving landscape.Moving Beyond "Digital Duct Tape"Unfortunately, the business travel industry is still in a phase of using "digital duct tape". As Miriam Moscovici, Director of Emerging Technologies at BCD Travel, noted during the panel, companies are continuing to use the GDS PNR as a CRM, and taking an Airbnb address and pushing it into the GDS. In the past, many tech providers kept technology in place until it was broken, instead of embracing and developing new methods of delivery and process. Certainly, one of the challenges preventing innovation is the infrastructure and technology expenses, which may not always present significantly increased value to customers.At the same time, as the industry and consumer expectations evolve, it's essential for companies to make traveler-centric changes. Experts agree that travel companies used to be primarily concerned with keeping complaints to a minimum, while the industry is now rapidly shifting to focus much more on the customer. Although the client often used to be one CFO, the modern business traveler is now influencing the travel industry, making it increasingly important for companies to use machine learning, natural language processing (NLP) and AI to meet the evolving expectations of business travelers.Innovation Leads to SuccessOverall, the event solidified the belief that the business travel industry must focus on innovation to succeed. As technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, our industry must embrace the changes by developing innovative utilizations of these advancements to lead the tech revolution into the future.What is going to be the next big thing in business travel tech? Let me know by reaching out to me on Twitter @jgabbott or LinkedIn.

Leveraging the Most Useful Business Travel Apps

DataArt ·20 September 2016
As an increasing number of business travel apps become available, given your organization allows you a choice, finding the most effective solutions can be a real chore. In an effort to help, we are sharing information about our opinion of the most useful and innovative apps that exist in today's app market across several categories:Travel Booking Management Businesses of all sizes can benefit from using travel booking management apps to improve accuracy, reduce duplication, and increase efficiency.Concur's mobile app is a valuable choice for a broad range of businesses, providing an efficient means to reduce the effort and time spent on managing travel details. In addition to offering the basic tools that all expense-tracking services provide, including custom reports and expense categories, this solution features photo receipts. Users can capture a receipt, invoice or business card using their device's camera and attach it to their expense record to store the information securely. The app also allows users to book their travel needs directly, including rental cars and hotel rooms. Concur's solution can be linked to other apps, such as financial and GPS tracking applications, providing a convenient method for storing all travel information in one location.KDS Neo is a popular app (and recently acquired by American Express), which uses a timeline approach for booking travel and submitting expenses. The innovative solution is designed to provide a fully priced itinerary based on three simple questions: Where does my journey start? Where does it end? What time do I need to be there? KDS Neo automatically creates an expenses report, while analyzing the preferences and previous behavior of each individual traveler to offer personalized itineraries.Trip TrackingThere are many trip tracking apps available, but some stand out from the others as exceptionally useful for the majority of business travelers.TripIt (owened by Concur) is described by many users as creating the feeling of having a highly efficient personal travel assistant by their side. The app allows users to forward all travel details to a TripIt email address, including flights, hotel reservations, car rentals, restaurant bookings, and more. These travel plans are subsequently converted to a succinct itinerary that is accessible on a mobile device, even when it's offline. The "Pro" upgrade provides a great deal of additional functionality, including real-time flight alerts, a place to store points from different rewards programs, and some special perks, such as access to the Hertz Gold counters and the ability to jump to the front of some security lines.TripCase is another very strong trip tracking app. The straightforward interface, and my personal preference, allows users to store all travel details, including flights, rentals, hotel reservations, and more, as well as sending alerts for flight information. The app also provides the ability to add all other plans associated with a trip to create a single, complete itinerary.App in the Air features a streamlined interface and all of the functionality that you expect to find in a robust trip tracking app. This solution stands apart from others due to its social component, allowing you to provide feedback on the flight experience, report delays, engage in airport specific chat with other users, and share your trips with friends via social networks.KAYAK offers a trip tracking component to its already popular travel search app, which allows users to search for, book, and view trip itineraries. For users who book travel arrangements on several different websites, this solution offers the added convenience of compiling the information into a single itinerary.Expenses Processing Processing travel expenses is typically a time-consuming task, which can be significantly alleviated by utilizing one of the top apps that are currently available.Chrome River has created a fantastic solution, providing streamlined functionality that takes a lot of the work out of the process. The app allows users to capture and approve expenses while traveling, as well as to view and approve third-party invoices. It provides the ability to edit and modify the features and reports in the tool, and will seamlessly audit all of the uploaded expenses to create a concise final report.Expensify is another excellent option for accurately recording and extracting expenses details. The app also provides the ability to use the GPS functionality in a mobile device to automatically track the miles traveled during a business trip, in addition to including a convenient currency converter and rate-exchange calculator to process international expenses efficiently.Concierge Booking As an option to some of the services of a traditional travel agent, several companies have created concierge-focused booking solutions, which employ "bot technology" mixed with traditional services to handle traveler requests.Pana is a useful concierge app that helps make travel booking easier by shopping for flights, making hotel reservations, and arranging transportation. The solution utilizes a combination of live travel experts and artificial intelligence "bot" technology to create a robust service that may be especially appealing to frequent travelers.Mani provides what the company calls "full-service travel concierge bots" to handle all aspects of customers' travel requests, including booking, rescheduling, and cancellation. The service also utilizes artificial intelligence technology to learn about its users' preferences to deliver personalized recommendations, taking details such as rewards points and hotel amenities into account.App development in the travel marches on, with new bot augmented solutions arriving at a fair pace. While there is always room for improvement, the apps described in this article are likely to reduce the tasks associated with light managed or unmanaged travel, allowing both businesses and individuals to leverage technology for a streamlined experience.What did we miss? What are your favorite practical biz travel apps? Let me know by reaching out to me on Twitter @jgabbott or LinkedIn.

Business Travel Innovation: Where Is it?

DataArt ·18 August 2016
those focused on procurement and driving compliance--were only nominally satisfied, registering a 59 on a scale of 100. Their counterparts in less managed travel programs were more satisfied. Today's business travelers desire seamless technology; booking flexibility; and mobile access to as much of their travel as possible. The problem for travel managers is that since technology hasn't kept pace with business traveler desires, travelers are "regularly jail-breaking their travel programs in search of better rates and/or more intuitive shopping and booking paths" (BTN, April 2016).As a result, the business travel sector has been losing share to leisure/unmanaged travel. A survey of corporate travelers found that while many of them were booking flights via agent/GDS, 48% would turn around and book their accommodations on an OTA, known as "leakage" (TravelPort). Further complicating things, many of the big brands are promoting deeper discounts for rewards members who book directly. Simultaneously, many TMCs are seeing corporate negotiated rates rise 2-3% in 2016 (BTN, May 2016). Largely these problems stem from lagging innovation in business travel.Strides have been made, no doubt, but business travel technology is far behind the leisure industry. Managed programs are in need of more than updated compliance policies to recapture corporate travelers, they are in need of the technology that allows them to offer travelers flexibility and mobility--and this is the baseline, this is playing catch up. Going above and beyond this is where innovation happens.That said some companies are pioneering the kind of change that will make business travel more satisfying and cost effective. Here's our take on where the innovation is--and where there could be more.Where the Business Travel Innovation Is NowCompanies that are innovating are seeing the company and the traveler have needs. These companies are creating models that merge and meet these needs. One of the few accomplishing this is Rocketrip. Their service incentivizes travelers to book wisely (i.e., to be cost conscious) by earning rewards. Their technology offers real-time budgets for business travelers to meet and encourages them to save while still providing booking flexibility.The business travel industry is so focused right now on playing catch up that much innovation is in very specific features rather than disruptive, game-changing technology. For instance, American Express Global Business Travel has launched a feature that creates a digital travel record (combining travel and credit card data) that allows a travel manager to visualize the location of their travelers. This is especially useful in the event of an emergency in which a company needs to reach their travelers. Another progressive feature from MTT focuses on mobile communication on the "Day of Travel," with real-time flight disruption details, check-in and gate status notifications, and other capabilities that ease stress and elevate communication on travel days.Where There's Opportunity for InnovationClearly, the industry is ripe for transformative technology that will not only change the way corporate travelers get from point A to point B but will also change the way they do business. A technology that integrates a business travel itinerary with the company CRM could mean that a sales person who is visiting a client in Cleveland receives a notification that, according to the CRM, he has hot leads in Pittsburgh and Buffalo. Then the system would ask if he would like to add one or both of these stops to his itinerary, saving on travel costs with one trip instead of two or three, and increasing the potential ROI of the trip.Open booking is slowly changing managed travel programs. Many travelers are already going rogue, so the opportunity is for companies that embrace it to get a better handle on costs. Technology that supports data integration from disparate systems, specifically integration that doesn't require the employee to forward confirmation emails, can and will usher in a new phase in business travel. Creating a robust, supportive, and mobile-friendly system for open booking is the natural next evolution.The ideal end is to build programs that work for companies and road warriors. Not only do innovative business travel technologies save companies money, but they also have the potential increase traveler satisfaction, which improves employee retention. tClara has found that 76% of business travelers want easier/faster expense reimbursement, 55% desire better trip planning, and 40% want better mobile apps for traveling. The company, which investigates trip friction for companies with travel programs, suggests modifying travel policies and addressing individual needs. Yes. However, supporting travelers also requires technology. Moreover, this technology should support traveler flexibility, autonomy, and mobility.
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3 Technologies to Watch from HITEC 2016

DataArt ·12 July 2016
As the Senior Vice President for the Travel and Hospitality practice here at DataArt, it's important that I stay on top of the latest digital trends affecting the industry. So each year I look forward to attending the Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition and Conference (HITEC), the world's largest hospitality expo that brings together the brightest minds and hottest hospitality products and services. And this year, it seems I was not alone. HITEC 2016 saw record-breaking attendance, with 6,395 hospitality professionals from 65 countries descending on the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans from June 20-23, 2016.This record attendance doesn't surprise me. It seems that each year more and more new products and services are coming to market, promising to revolutionize the hospitality industry as we know it. Hospitality professionals are hungry for innovation; for that next big thing that's going to make their day-to-day lives a little easier. Walking the exhibit floor at HITEC, it was evident to me that what we've been searching for is well and truly here. From the Internet of Things (IoT) to robotics, mobility, and payment security, HITEC 2016 had it all.Here are three companies that piqued my interest, and which I believe are poised to impact the hospitality industry in the near future.BeewakeBeewake is a mobile app looking to end the stigma of booking hotels by the hour. It enables consumers to book daytime hotel space to function as a temporary office, meeting room or co-working environment. Given that most U.S. properties today are hovering around a 65% occupancy rate, Beewake represents a significant opportunity for hotels to explore alternative revenue streams.Consumers can sort by distance, price, or the built-in map to find a space that best suits their needs, and book by the day or hour. On the flip side, hotels can register on Beewake for free and receive a 15% commission on any bookings made through the app. Through Beewake's extranet, they can define their own space and inventory, set daily rates and time slots, and manage their bookings in real-time.While not the first to specialize in selling hotel space by the hour (HotelsByDay, DayUse, and ByHours do it as well), Beewake is one of the first to focus on the business market, capitalizing on one of the biggest trends shaping today's workforce: mobility. Coworking centers, temporary work hubs, and turnkey workspaces that don't require a multilayer commitment have become one of the hottest trends among tech startups, freelancers, creative types and entrepreneurs. These folks aren't working a traditional 9am-5pm work day; their business can take them anywhere, anytime. Companies that can offer flexible solutions to meet their needs are poised for tremendous success. I have high hopes for Beewake, not to mention the properties who use them!SaviokeSavioke (pronounced savvy-oak) is a robotics company based in San Jose, California. Founded in 2013, they create autonomous robot helpers for the services industry, including hotels, aged care facilities, hospitals, restaurants, and offices. Needless to say, their booth at HITEC was awesome! It was here that I met "Relay", their robot for hotels, designed to relay items between hotel operations and the in-room guest.Here's a typical scenario of how Relay would work in a hotel: Say, for example, while on a trip you forget your toothbrush. You call down to the Front Desk Manager, and they get a toothbrush for you. They place it inside Relay, type in your room number, and the robot will make its way to your room on its own. When it gets to your door, it calls your phone. Once you open the door, it opens its lid, and you can remove the toothbrush. Kind of cool, huh? Crowne Plaza, Grand Hotel, Holiday Express and Resident Inn all think so, with Relay already being put to work in some of their properties. Relay is also delivering coffee to guests from the lobby Starbucks at the Marriott Los Angeles LAX. To date, Relay has completed over 30,000 autonomous deliveries.Of course, this isn't the first time we've heard about robots being put to work in hotels. Earlier this year, the Hilton McLean introduced Connie, its first robot concierge designed to help hotel guests decide what to do in the local area, and how to find places on-property. It's clear that we've reached a point in time where we're ready for robots. As Savioke's CEO, Steve Cousins, explains, "Computers and sensors are now cheap enough that we can build robots to help people. [They] can be aware of the presence of humans near them and work safely in that environment." Just how soon robots will make their way into every hotel remains to be seen, but I for one would love my next room service order to be delivered by Relay! I wonder if you would have to tip...check out the Henn'na Hotel video here.CheckMateThough hard to compete with a robot, CheckMate is making serious strides of its own in the area of automation. Travel shoppers, in particular, Millennials, are hungry for greater personalization throughout the travel shopping journey. The issue for most hoteliers has been how to make personalization scalable; CheckMate is poised to answer that question.CheckMate is a personalized communication system that allows hotels to reach guests in any modern channel - SMS, email, or Facebook Messenger. It enables hotels to map the guest journey and engage the guest via automated messages at each moment. These can include welcome messages, in-stay service alerts, or pre-departure messages, and each can be customized to different guest segments; for example, first-time guests, repeat guests, loyalty program members, attendees of a group or wedding, etc. Segments make it easy for hotels to communicate the right information to the right guest at the right time, resulting in a better overall guest experience.Importantly, CheckMate also provides an easy way for guests to communicate back. Through a shared team inbox, employees can respond to customer emails and texts in real-time, or route them to an appropriate team member for action, as well as leave internal notes. The result is a more open, efficient communication experience that leaves guests feeling valued and helps correct any negative experiences quickly, without waiting for feedback surveys, or the dreaded negative online review.Checkmate integrates with StayNTouch and Frontdesk Anywhere using PMS sign-on credentials. This makes it incredibly easy for hotels to begin using Checkmate to communicate with their guests. It will even remember individual guest preferences, so you can continue to deliver better service and, in turn, create brand evangelists. And at the end of the day, isn't that what you want?It's exciting times ahead for the travel and hospitality industry, with technologies like these looking to evolve the travel experience in significant ways. Let me know what you think of the technologies mentioned here. Would you use them in your business? And if you attended HITEC 2016, I'd love to hear what tech stood out to you. Leave your comments below, or hit us up on LinkedIn or Twitter.
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DataArt Joins the Travelport Developer Network

DataArt ·10 June 2016
DataArt, a technology consulting firm that develops end-to-end solutions, and Travelport (NYSE:TVPT), a leading Travel Commerce Platform, today announced that DataArt has become the latest technology partner to join the Travelport Developer Network.With access to Travelport's newest generation of developer tools, content, resources and commercial support, including the Travelport Universal API (uAPI), DataArt will expand its roster of custom, end-to-end app and web services, which include solution design, development, certification and on-going support."We've been working alongside Travelport for many years and see that the new direction taken by Travelport Developer Network is strategically aligned with the services that DataArt provides to its clients," said Greg Abbott, SVP of Travel & Hospitality at DataArt."The addition of DataArt to the growing Travelport Developer Network allows customers to accelerate app development while taking advantage of the open platform technology, unrivalled travel content, and global reach offered by our Travel Commerce Platform," said Steve Croft, senior director of Agency Commerce Solutions - Americas for Travelport.The Developer Network is one piece of Travelport's growing focus on the digital economy. Last year, Travelport acquired leading mobile apps and solutions provider Mobile Travel Technologies (MTT). Members of the Developer Network, such as DataArt, potentially provide additional ways for Travelport to introduce innovative technologies to the travel industry through seamless integration with Travelport Smartpoint, its industry leading agency desktop technology.About DataArt (www.dataart.com)DataArt is the technology consulting firm that creates end-to-end solutions, from concept and strategy, to design, implementation and support, helping global clients in the financial services, healthcare, hospitality, media and IoT sectors achieve important business outcomes. Rooted in deep domain knowledge and technology expertise, DataArt designs new products, modernizes enterprise systems and provides managed services delivered by outstanding development teams in the U.S., UK, Central and Eastern Europe, and Latin America. As a recognized leader in business and technology services, DataArt has earned the trust of some of the world's leading brands and most discerning clients, including McGraw-Hill Financial, Coller Capital, BankingUp, Ocado, artnet, Betfair, SkyScanner, Collette Vacations, Booker and Charles River Laboratories. www.dataart.com @DataArtAbout Travelport (www.travelport.com)Travelport is a Travel Commerce Platform providing distribution, technology, payment, mobile and other solutions for the global travel and tourism industry. With a presence in approximately 180 countries, over 3,700 employees, and an additional 1,200 employees at IGT Solutions Private Ltd who provide us with application development services, our 2015 net revenue was over $2.2 billion.Travelport is comprised of:A Travel Commerce Platform through which it facilitates travel commerce by connecting the world's leading travel providers with online and offline travel buyers in a proprietary business-to-business (B2B) travel marketplace. Travelport has a leadership position in airline merchandising, hotel content and rate distribution, mobile travel commerce and a pioneering B2B payment solution that addresses the needs of travel intermediaries to efficiently and securely settle travel transactions.Technology Services through which it provides critical IT services to airlines, such as shopping, ticketing, departure control and other solutions, enabling them to focus on their core business competencies and reduce costs.Travelport is headquartered in Langley, U.K. The Company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and trades under the symbol "TVPT".

Solution Design for the Travel Industry: Part 4 of 4

DataArt · 6 May 2016
Effective Solution Design involves a systematic and holistic approach to all aspects of development, including human and technical engineering, to build a comprehensive product that allows for changes over time as the business landscape evolves. These concepts are essential components for success in the travel tech industry, as the examples illustrate in the final article in this Solution Design series.The travel industry is highly complex and continually evolving although some would argue too slowly. From the initial consultative phase through to software development and the ultimate deployment of any product, long-term success is achieved by ensuring flexibility in the solution to allow for future growth. The implementation of sound Solution Design concepts is absolutely essential when integrating a myriad of ideas into a cohesive end product.The recent success of Expedia illustrates the importance of Solution Design in the travel tech industry. The company made numerous acquisitions throughout its history, including Travelocity, Orbitz, Trivago, Wotif.com, HomeAway and others. Expedia faced a massive challenge to integrate these businesses together into a cohesive environment to successfully connect users into systems that run hotels and airlines. It would have been virtually impossible to accomplish this goal without utilizing comprehensive human and technical engineering approaches, making Solution Design an essential component of Expedia's path to success.Air Canada provides another excellent example of the importance of implementing effective Solution Design principles as a key aspect of establishing itself as a leader in the travel tech industry. Air Canada's booking engine was designed with the necessary flexibility to be altered over time as available options and consumer preferences changed. The airline's website now offers innovative unbundled pricing that allows customers to individually choose the features they desire, such as insurance, meals, pillows, and other options. They were one of the first airlines to implement merchandizing on their website. This was possible not only by having a flexible front-end design but also required the team's ability to build up the back-end to allow different transactions to go to the appropriate cost centers and service departments. Air Canada's practical Solution Design approach enables the company to continue evolving while ultimately increasing revenue and improving customer service.Conversely, when Solution Design principles are not implemented, the results can be disastrous. One remarkable example of this failure can be found in the Calleam Consulting case study of the Denver Airport Baggage System project from the 1990s. Although the plan was to develop the world's largest automated airport baggage handling system, the lack of Solution Design concepts destroyed the entire project.The city of Denver elected to build a new state-of-the-art airport to increase its capacity and cement its place as an air transportation hub. The airport was to be the largest in the United States, with a capacity to handle more than 50 million passengers per year. One of the critical components of the plan was the airport's baggage handling system. The development concept was to automate baggage handling to reduce aircraft turnaround time to as little as 30 minutes, thereby creating more efficient operations and giving the airport a highly competitive advantage.However, the lack of effective Solution Design principles crippled the plans. The development rapidly fell apart due to a massive underestimation of the project's complexity, resulting in snowballing problems and public humiliation. The airport's opening was delayed by 16 months, caused largely by difficulties with the baggage system. The city of Denver paid a massive $1.1 million per day throughout the delay to maintain the empty airport and cover interest charges on construction loans.To make matters worse, the system was merely a shadow of the original plan when the airport finally opened its doors. As opposed to automating all three concourses into one integrated system, the automation was used only in a single concourse by a single airline, and only for outbound flights. The remainder of the baggage handling was accomplished using simple conveyor belts and a manual tug and trolley system, which was hastily constructed when it became apparent that the conceived automated system would never come to fruition. United Airlines eventually abandoned the system altogether, as the $1 million per month maintenance costs exceeded the monthly cost of a manual tug and trolley system.The disastrous outcome of the Denver Airport Baggage System project illustrates a valuable example of the importance of ensuring comprehensive Solution Design principles in every phase of development. Solution Design aims to attack and mitigate risks by utilizing a systematic approach in helping the client determine the optimal solution and path for implementation. To ensure the success of a project from the initial analysis stage to the final deliverable product, it is essential to employ equal parts technical and human engineering.The vast majority of development projects do not transpire in a vacuum but instead occur within the existing technological landscape of an organization. Successful development in the travel tech industry requires a comprehensive understanding of both the business and user needs, as well as the technical needs and skill sets that exist within the company.The complexities of the travel industry require development projects to employ extensive Solution Design principles that involve all-encompassing analysis of both the technical and human aspects of the client's requirements to establish comprehensive integration and flexibility, leading to long-term growth and the ultimate success of the end product.
Article by Greg Abbott

The Art and Science of Solution Design Part 3 of 4: Human Engineering

DataArt ·29 March 2016
Successful Solution Design requires the full analysis of all aspects of human engineering from the initial planning stage through the entire development process to ensure effective implementation and widespread adoption of the final product.While the technical engineering component of Solution Design is vital, software development is a human-centered process. Although a myriad of human factors has a major impact on the success of development ventures, many of these components are often overlooked, which can result in a breakdown of the entire initiative and the eventual abandonment of projects.Human engineering failures from the past provide some insight to the complexities that must be thoroughly addressed by a team to successfully execute a project. One disastrous and very public example occurred in 2012, when reports emerged that the U.S. Air Force had to abandon a major software development project called the Expeditionary Combat Support System (ECSS), after spending $1 billion but failing to create any significant military capability. A lack of thorough planning between out-of-sync stakeholders was cited as the primary issue, resulting in ballooning costs, misused resources, and the ultimate failure of the massive project.Conversely, development projects that involve the thorough analysis and implementation of effective human engineering processes will be poised for success. A 2013 U.S. Department of Defense Better Buying Power fact sheet illustrates that the Air Force identified and implemented cost-saving initiatives of 15 percent by addressing fundamental human engineering areas in the software development process related to the modernization of its fleet, equaling a $32 million reduction in its costs.The human component of Solution Design is complex. One of the keys to achieving successful human engineering is ensuring that the expectations of all stakeholders in the organization are not only understood, but are also in unison throughout the process to ensure ultimate adoption throughout the company. Certainly, while this can prove to be a difficult task, it is an essential aspect of all successful development projects.Determining the scope of a project can obviously have a massive effect on its eventual success or failure. To further complicate, not all initiatives will have a clear scope at the onset. Although the visionary stakeholders, such as the CEO and COO, may have lofty aspirations of what they want to develop, the company must organize internally to identify its ability to provide the resources and full funding that will be required in the long-term. Even in cases where a company has their own development resources available, a comprehensive analysis of the plans should be conducted. Can the project be completed within the budget that the company has in place? What capacity and resources are required? The design team should acquire the answers to these key questions in the initial stages to harmonize stakeholder interests and concepts, which will lead to the timely and complete creation of the deliverable product.Establishing a process where the primary stakeholders have participated in designing the solution is a critical component to ensuring that they will embrace and champion the final product. Truly, the process is as important as the outcome, allowing the solution to emerge through the genuine collaboration of all interested parties.The human engineering aspect of successful Solution Design requires the ability to be equally comfortable talking to all facets of an organization, including technical, management, visionary, and financial, to fully understand the comprehensive needs of the company as a development plan is determined.Software has a major impact on every level and function of an organization. Therefore, it is essential to allow key stakeholders to have their say in how the solution is developed. However, from a project management and design perspective, the challenge lies in actively taking input from many people, yet effectively cutting through the noise to ensure that the solution is adoptable and manageable in the long term. Certainly, many projects involve a dramatic series of concepts and goals from a wide range of stakeholders with varied interests from their business units. The design team must consider each of these inputs to ensure that everyone feels that they have a voice, while preventing the project from becoming so fractional that it cannot be completed within the specified budget and timeline.Although clients may believe that they know exactly what they want created, there are many circumstances where the suggested product is not actually the most effective solution to reach their goals. The key to successful human engineering is to thoroughly analyze and manage stakeholder expectations to align with objectives to best meet business constraints. Tying these elements together to result in the actual outcome that the client wants is the art of solution design.A solid human engineering process is a critical component of effective Solution Design to ensure that all aspects of the client's requirements are both understood and implemented, leading to exceptional value for the entire organization and long-term integration of the deliverable product.
Article by Greg Abbott

The Art and Science of Solution Design Part 2 of 4: Technical Engineering

DataArt ·15 March 2016
One of the critical components of successful Solution Design is the thorough analysis and implementation of a highly effective technical engineering approach for each specific project that leads to the final product that is being developed.The lack of solid technical engineering processes can result in disastrous failures. An infamous example of this problem occurred in 2013, when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched the Healthcare.gov website. The intention of the portal was to enroll approximately 7 million users over a six-month period. However, issues with the technological solution and framework were so extreme that two months after its release, only 29,000 users had succeeded in utilizing the website amid reports of massive access failures, including incorrect information, missing data, and dead-end applications during the enrollment process.A great deal can be learned from development failures that have occurred in the past in order to avoid similar pitfalls. Designing solutions is a complex task that must be approached carefully from the initial stages through to the implementation of the final deliverable product. Although it may be impossible to release a completely perfect system, experienced development teams embrace the need for a flexible solution with a solid and comprehensive foundation that is able to withstand and overcome the potential problems that are inherent in technological interfaces.On the other side, The Texas Department of Information Resources launched the highly effective one-page Texas.gov website in 2015. The reimagined platform was carefully designed utilizing a plethora of analytics data to ensure that it was developed with a clear understanding of both user needs and technical requirements. The success of the final product illustrates the power of effective technical engineering, which determines the best combination of usability, requirements, and performance to maintain a solid and manageable solution that meets all aspects of a project's goals.Successful technical engineering requires the development team to get back to basics to determine the answers to key questions before product development commences. For one, what is the architecture that you will build the platform on? As mentioned in the previous Solution Design overview article, it's essential to remember that the large majority of development projects do not transpire in isolation, but instead take place within the existing technological landscape of an organization. It is therefore important to define a structured solution that meets all of the technical and operational requirements of the company, while ensuring that the final product can be seamlessly integrated into the current processes of the business.Technological development plans must be optimized for performance, manageability, and security, as each of these decisions will have a significant impact on the quality and overall success of the end solution. Poor architecture can create highly unfavorable results in the long-term, such as a solution that lacks stability, is difficult to deploy, or is unable to support either current or future requirements of the business.Another key component to ensuring effective technical engineering is the determination of the connection points that will be required in the end product. Does the company need multifaceted software that will provide the ability to utilize the solution in both business-to-business and business-to-consumer scenarios? Is an e-commerce component necessary in the current or future business model of the organization?Successful architecture identifies the requirements of the eventual solution, while providing the flexibility to be able to evolve over time as changes in hardware and software technology occur, as well as user requirements. The overall effect of design decisions must be carefully considered, including the inherent tradeoffs between quality attributes, such as performance and security, as related to usability and the requirements of the business. These components should not be created in a bubble with only technologists, rather in symbiosis with the product design team & business stakeholders.Once a finely tuned technical engineering plan is in place, the product development plan can be established, which will enable the comprehensive understanding of what will be required from resources. By establishing a solid initial foundation, the development team can move into the next phase of determining the human engineering components that will work in conjunction with these plans to reach the ultimate goal of creating the most effective end solution.

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