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26 July 2018

Hotels: Are you a Clunker or a Sports Car?

By Stephan Wiesener - Co-Founder and CTO at apaleo

"The most successful technological innovation should feel so natural to the user that it's almost completely invisible. We only notice things when the user experience is awkward or clunky, or when it simply doesn't work." Otto Berkes, CTO CA Technologies

This quote is more than two years old, and yet, the hospitality experience still feels clunky, both for hotel staff, as well as for guests. Just think of the check-in experience at most hotels: the front desk staff must ask the guest key details (name, etc.), look up the reservation, make sure the guest has the right room assignment and that the room is clean, type in more guest details, activate the card, and so on. Meanwhile, the guest is standing awkwardly at the other end of the desk, waiting to get access to the room when they would rather be doing almost anything else.

Clunky, like a beat up car. You know what guests want? They want the sports car of hotels. Doesn't matter what category, what kind. So how do we go from lemon to luxe? One way to remove the clunkiness is with APIs. Public, 2-way, APIs.

Let me back up. If you're a hotelier, you've likely heard the term API a lot recently. You may not know what it is or why it will save you from awkwardness. But you should. API's are the backbone of any digital network of programs. They are the way that we connect software, data and applications. In fact, Forbes Contributor Louis Columbus called 2017 the Year of the API Economy.

For those catching up, API stands for Application Programming Interface, and, on the most basic level, it allows systems to communicate with programs. In the "explain-like-I'm-five" version, it is how computers talk to one another.

What, then, is a public, two-way open API? This is an API that is available for anyone to use and can push data in, you guessed it, two directions, to and from applications. This is a set-up that allows total developer access to the programming interface. No extra charges, no walls that keep some clients in and some out. Complete access. They allow programmers outside of an organization to access back-end data to make their own applications better. This is what apaleo offers. A true public, open API.

So why does it matter? Loads of PMS providers say they have an open API, but they don't really. Tiered pricing that only allows some customers access doesn't really qualify as public or open. And it matters a lot, because this is where the magic happens.

It means integrations become a non-issue. No more worrying about how one piece of technology works with another. We've spent so much time and energy spinning our wheels about integrations in the hotel industry. It's time to move on and this is how.

It also means the potential for extreme innovation. As Columbus notes about APIs, "The greatest revenue potential they provide is removing barriers to growing revenue by integrating platforms and apps so organizations can quickly launch new business models and scale fast." For this very reason, we want hotels to play around in the API, to innovate, create new apps, new models for an industry that has been historically slow to evolve. An open API speeds up the rate of evolution exponentially as developers discover new possibilities, try them, and sometimes fail but more often sometimes succeed.

Hotels aren't the only industry standing at the precipice of revolutionary change. The banking industry is going through a transformative period, exploring open APIs and the potential for innovation. Some say, "But banks are banks, we need them, why would they bother?" Because, as The Global Treasurer reports, there is a danger for banks in not innovating. "Established banking institutions become utilities focused only on providing core basic services that can be accessed via alternative, low-cost personal lifestyle apps such as Venmo." Hotels are similarly at risk. When hotels become just a bed for the night, they will be replaced by efficient, accessible lifestyle alternatives—think Airbnb. Evolution is necessary to stay relevant to today's consumer.

Every industry is now underpinned by technology and in order to grow, to avoid being outpaced by the tech savvy of Airbnb and HomeAway, hotels must innovate. Yes, in-room technology matters. And, yes, the way the lobby is laid out is important. But, today, true innovation starts with core technology. A core PMS system with an open API is where this begins. Time to trade in the beat-up ride for something that can cruise the Autobahn.

Stephan Wiesener

Stephan is and entrepreneur and CTO. He is the founder of apaleo, a Munich based start-up developing a next generation hotel management SaaS platform. Prior to apaleo, Stephan built several tech startups. In 2000, he co-founded conject, a SaaS company for the real estate industry which was acquired by Aconex and belongs to Oracle today. In 2009, he co-founded HouseTrip a peer-to-peer holiday rental platform which was acquired by TripAdvisor. Until 2016 he was CTO and managing director of hetras, a SaaS company for the hospitality industry which was acquired by Shiji in 2016. Stephan holds a PhD in computer science. He is a passionate product & tech guy and mentors numerous other startup companies.


Lodging IndustryGlobal

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