The hospitality industry is often criticized for its slow pace in driving innovation across the sector, but what is it that holds the sector back? Why is hospitality different from industries such as banking and aviation where innovation seems to be much more advanced, and what can be done to accelerate innovation in hospitality?
One of the biggest challenges hotel IT teams around the world face is the need to connect individual systems to each other in order to drive innovation, break operational silos and allow a true 360-view of their guests to deliver a personalized experience. These connections are often cumbersome and costly to achieve, which hinders innovation especially for smaller hotel groups and independent properties. In addition, technology startups with a good idea are quickly discouraged because of the time and investment it takes to integrate to the big PMS vendors, a pre-requisite to get access to guest or hotel data.
Until recently, there's been a gap in the market globally for a seamless, affordable solution that enables hoteliers to connect their various hotel systems to a wide range of technology vendors quickly and cheaply so they can drive innovation within their properties.
A 200-room upscale hotel can easily have 30+ different systems and solutions that act as the backbone of their operations ranging from PMS, POS, CRS and CRM systems to automated door locks, minibars, hotel mobile apps and TV content providers. Through the integration of these disparate systems, hotels will have the opportunity to make their operations more efficient, deliver an enhanced and more personalized guest experience and have access to valuable guest data and insights to help drive profitability, efficiency and guest loyalty.
RLH Corporation (RLHC), based out of Denver in the US, had been actively looking for a technology partner to help solve their data management challenges to support the company's rapid expansion. The group currently has over 1,100 hotels and supports seven different PMS systems.
"We have witnessed exponential growth of our portfolio over the past few years, having expanded from 55 hotels at the end of 2014 to over 1,300 hotels at the end of 2018, and we expect our expansion to continue at the same pace. At RLHC we strive to give our hotel owners freedom in the way they run their operations, which includes the choice of technology platforms and vendors, but this inherently presents a challenge at the corporate level to efficiently integrate a hotel's various systems and data streams into our corporate framework," said John Edwards, SVP and Chief Information Officer at RLH Corporation.
"Integral to our expansion strategy is our vision to drive value for owners and guests, which is only possible through high-quality, real-time data and access to the PMS, and the efficient and effective integration of technology solutions. When hotels come online, we want to ensure they can be integrated as quickly as possible to enable them to manage their revenue and profitability efficiently and equip them to deliver an optimized guest experience. "
"In September 2018 we began working with Hapi in an effort to solve this challenge for us utilizing their real-time data connectors that take data from the different PMS systems, enrich it, and stream it as one data flow, allowing us to leverage real-time data for optimizing reporting and operational systems. An integration that would easily take a few months can now be done in a matter of weeks", added Edwards.
Luis Segredo, President and CEO of Data Travel LLC, the developer of the Hapi platform, commented: "Our Hapi connectors eliminate the need for the costly and time-intensive system integrations between large and small technology vendors, which can easily take 12-18 months to materialize and often come with hefty certification fees. We were able to create the connectors for RLHC in just three months, enabling them to integrate not just their existing portfolio but also bring new hotels online within days as they expand around the world."
"In addition to the different PMS systems, RLHC had a CRM solution that was deployed to about 100 hotels and high integration costs were holding back further deployment. When the company decided to build its own CRM on Microsoft's Dynamics365, it used its connectivity to Hapi to accelerate the project with the original 100 hotels, and soon 500 Hapi connected hotels will be added to the CRM solution with additional hotels being able to join as and when they come online. Today over 640 Red Lion hotels are connected to Hapi," added Segredo.
RLHC has now taken the position that future projects will be integrated using Hapi. To date, several different technology vendors that are interested in working with RLHC will be integrating with Hapi as a prerequisite and a number of pilots are currently underway including a chatbot, an interactive Apple TV solution, an RFID system and a table management software.
Since its establishment in 2017, Hapi has opened connections between Salesforce, the world's largest CRM provider, and industry leading property management systems from Oracle Hospitality and Infor. Other brands that have been working with Hapi include Classic Hotels, Hard Rock and Nobu. Hapi has approved vendor status with leading international hospitality brands including Accor.
Hapi's vision is to accelerate innovation in the hospitality industry by providing smooth and cost-effective connections between hospitality technology solutions, which can be established in weeks not months, allowing hotels to integrate their preferred systems and transfer data across platforms seamlessly. This will be particularly interesting for progressive hotels that are looking to work with cutting-edge start-ups that can provide solutions that will truly differentiate their brands from the competition. Previously the costly and time-consuming integration that were required were unattainable by start-ups and smaller technology players in the industry presenting and innovation block.
Besides connecting technology to help hotels innovate, Hapi provides a number of other tangible benefits to its partner hotels. Even if a hotel group has a single PMS system, the configuration may vary at each property and Hapi can in this case be used to normalize the data for seamless access to high-quality real-time data that enables efficient decision-making. In addition, with the industry witnessing more mergers and acquisitions globally, the integration of different systems is no longer a hurdle to effectively integrate hotels into an existing portfolio of hotels and brands. Legacy systems can be kept in place where preferred, achieving economies of scale and savings on capital expenditure, and no training or retraining is required for staff as existing systems can continue to be used. Lastly, data governance is critically importance especially with compliance programs like GDPR and Hapi has built in logic to allow this.
"Through the use of the Hapi connectors, the pace of hotel integrations has accelerated significantly, which is a strong competitive advantage as part our growth and expansion strategy. Not only can we integrate hotels quicker, we can also provide owners with valuable data, allowing them to make smart and well-informed decisions about their business from the day they join our portfolio. Our partnership with Hapi has allowed us to innovate outside the traditional restraints of the hospitality industry, which is a breath of fresh air. We all know that open integration is the way forward for our industry and Hapi does just that," concluded Edwards.