After growing through acquisition, Sonesta turned to Hapi to centralize and normalize guest data from multiple Property Management Systems across its various brands in real-time, which will power a new Customer Data Platform.
Boston-based Sonesta International Hotels was founded nearly 100 years ago, but it was just over the past few years that Sonesta kickstarted its growth trajectory to becoming a global hotel powerhouse. Even before the acquisition of Red Lion Hotels in 2021, which added more than 1,000 franchised and managed properties and pushed Sonesta over the 1,200 properties mark, Sonesta had standout hotels in Los Angeles, Chicago and New Orleans, and in countries like Peru, Chile, Colombia and Egypt.
Today, Sonesta encompasses a variety of properties up and down the chain scale, including luxury resorts, boutique hotels and extended-stay suites. The portfolio is made up of 17 brands, including Royal Sonesta, Sonesta ES Suites, America's Best Value Inn, Signature Inn and Red Lion Hotels, to name a few. As the company grew, many of those 174 brands came by way of conversion, and when you bring on new properties, inevitably you’re bringing on new systems, software and technologies.
So before Sonesta even started down the path of implementing a world-class loyalty system to reward guests and drive repeat business, it faced a seemingly insurmountable challenge of collecting reservations data, stay data, and guest information from 16 Property Management Systems across its various brands.
In 2022, Sonesta turned to Hapi, the hospitality industry’s leading platform for fast and cost-effective connectivity between technology systems, to extract reservations and stay data from each of those PMSs, normalize it, and deliver it to other key systems in a single datastream. Most data is delivered to Sonesta’s new, in-house Customer Data Platform, which powers Tally, the company’s new loyalty program.
“To me, the most complex part of the puzzle was how to pull stay data specifically out of our 16 different Property Management Systems,” says Shaun Wood, head of enterprise architecture at Sonesta, describing Sonesta’s new guest-centered data strategy. “That's where Hapi came in. Hapi already communicates with the various PMS, and they pull data and provide it in one common data model. It was very easy for me to see the amount of work that it would've taken my team to build that on our own.”
Challenge: Centralize Data for Scalability
Like many hotel brands, Sonesta is on a mission to get to know its guests better. By providing call center and property-level staff with as much information about travelers as possible, team members can provide personalized experiences that convert into bookings at higher levels and drive guest satisfaction.
“We want our call center and our guest facing hotel staff to know who is staying with us,” Wood says. “We want to give them a 360-degree view of our guests so they have the ability to serve them better.”
But a 15-year-old legacy loyalty system wasn’t getting the job done. On top of that, as the company added more and more properties to its portfolio, data was siloed in disparate systems and the corporate team had very little insight into property-level activity.
Particularly important to Sonesta as it laid the groundwork for a cutting-edge loyalty program was the ability to extract folio data, or what Sonesta calls “stay data,” which is only available once the guest has departed.
“We only award points to a guest when we know the reservation has been paid for,” Wood said, “and the best way to know that the reservation has been paid for is by knowing that the guest has checked out.”
Solution: Hapi Saves Time and Development Costs
To overcome disparate data from multiple PMSs, Sonesta partnered with Hapi, which has built existing integrations with many of the industry’s leading systems and can push and pull data without any development work required from hotels. “Partnering with Hapi saved significant time and resources that would have been spent developing a proprietary solution,” Wood says.
“Every PMS has its own database and has its own columns, and every column has its own data types, each with their own lengths and quirks,” he says.
“Hapi pulls those disparate datasets in, normalizes them, and delivers it to you through an API written to one common data model. It was very easy for me to see the amount of work it would've taken my team if we tried to do that ourselves. We were looking at two years of work, and the Hapi solution already solves that problem.”
Partnering with Hapi ensured a quick and efficient integration delivery process for all the systems involved, which helped Sonesta meet its goals of a timely rollout.
Now, as guests check out of Sonesta properties, Hapi pushes stay data from the property management system to Sonesta’s Enterprise Service Bus (ESB), which acts as an interface to Sonesta’s centralized Customer Data Platform (CDP), hosted on Azure. The ESB facilitates the transfer of stay data from the CDP to Tally for automated points calculation, which is sent back to the CDP. This closed-loop system allows guests to view their earned Travel Pass loyalty points through Sonesta’s website or mobile app.
Other data captured by Hapi is also stored in raw format in Sonesta’s data warehouse, where it can be accessed later and added to Sonesta’s CDP for additional use cases, many involving Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.
“Today, we have this complete, 360-degree, live, no touchpoint system,” Wood says. “Everything is automated.”
Results: An Award-Winning Data Strategy
In November, at The Hotel Technology Forum 2023 in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., Sonesta was awarded a “Hotel Visionary 2023 Product Innovation Award” for its work introducing a modern, data-driven loyalty program.
“Visionary Award winners are bringing incredible imagination and expertise to address many of the lodging industry’s most pressing challenges,” said Hospitality Technology’s Editor-in-Chief, Robert Firpo-Cappiello. “From connectivity to loyalty, from digital guest experience to reservations, we applaud these exceptional accomplishments and the efficiencies they offer to guests and staff.”
Wood is proud of the work his team has accomplished so far, but knows that as guest behaviors continue to change, so will the need for innovative, data-driven solutions.
“A year and a half ago, we didn't have a CDP, and our data was spread all over the place within different systems,” he says. “Now that we have this system in place where we have a live view of what's happening across the company – we know who our guests are, who our members are, who our non-members are, we know every reservation they've ever booked. If a guest logs into our WiFi, we know. All that behavior is being added to our CDP.”
Wood says that, with all of the data available today, even team members who were skeptics of an in-house CDP have converted. Now, when they’re brainstorming potential projects to enhance guest experiences, there’s a good possibility that the necessary data is available in Sonesta’s CDP.
“The big result is having a near real-time view of what is happening in the company in one database, and being able to report on it,” Wood says.
“I think Hapi is the most technical and experienced vendor I've ever worked with. We went live with this new system in 2023, and not once have we had an issue with it.”
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