News

      • Date Added:3/2/17


      How 'Poshtels' are reinventing the budget accommodation sector

      At a time when budget travellers are increasingly experience-driven, the hospitality industry is responding with a concept that caters to this new guest profile: the ‘poshtel’.


      Unlike traditional hostels, poshtels typically combine a design-led ambiance with small, often shared sleeping areas and a focus on innovative communal spaces.


      “This reimagined hostel meets the needs of the modern traveller,” says Graham Craggs, Managing Director of EMEA Hotels at JLL. “It offers flexibility on the room product, and, often, organised events that encourage guests to meet and mingle.”


      Independent properties have been blazing a trail with concepts such as The Wallyard in Berlin, which merges a design hotel aesthetic with dormitory accommodation, an onsite art salon, cafe and bicycle hire. In Japan, a set of two GRIDS hostels accentuate their role as a ‘travellers’ hub’, with comfortable communal spaces and a selection of basic but appealing accommodation including pods, dorms and family rooms.


      Copenhagen’s Urban House is a hotel-hostel hybrid with bunk beds and private rooms, plus a tattoo parlour, bike shop, self-service kitchen and free walking tours. Again, social areas and opportunities for immersive experiences are the main focus, anchored by a diverse range of local cultural events such as vintage markets and music concerts.


      Big brands eye poshtels

      “A number of major brands are now looking to move into this space,” says Craggs. “The so-called poshtel not only taps into some of the spending power at the younger end of the market, but is also, to some extent, a response to the influence of AirBnB and the challenges that disruptive business has had on the hotel industry.”


      While big names like Marriott’s Moxy and CitizenM have made bold moves towards a new type of budget-conscious, social hotel, Accor is taking the idea a step further with Jo&Joe.


      Announced in September 2016, Jo&Joe is a new approach to accommodation that puts design, food and user experience at the forefront. According to Sébastien Bazin, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of AccorHotels, the idea is to “break with tradition, forget old habits, be surprising, authentic, unexpected, bring a breath of fresh air to AccorHotels.” The chain hopes to open 50 properties in urban locations across the world by 2020.


      Jo&Joe is aimed squarely at Millennials, but as Craggs notes, the concept has the potential to appeal to a much wider market. “Despite a smaller sleeping space overall, the poshtel offers flexibility on room type, which may also appeal to older guests, families, and groups, who might typically book into more traditional hotel accommodation.”


      Though poshtels answer demand for the type of experiential travel offered by the likes of AirBnB, the concept also provides a consistency in quality, and, ultimately, a very different experience to that offered by the sharing economy. “These new hostels are very interesting,” says Craggs. “They offer value and an experience that you don’t get within a residential unit.”


      Strong business potential

      For developers and hoteliers, poshtels offer a number of advantages. “This type of property is generally cheaper to build and operate, and therefore has higher profitability,” says Craggs. “What’s more, they may go into buildings and locations that are not suitable for traditional hotels.”


      For modern travellers, vibrant communal areas, interesting experiences, and inexpensive rates are a winning combination when it comes to accommodation. “The concept has a lot of merits across the spectrum of guest types,” concludes Craggs. “And from a development perspective, the metrics make sense.”


      As global tourism numbers continue to rise, poshtels are carving out their niche as the place to be for both the money-conscious traveller and the profit-conscious hotelier.


      How self service technology is enhancing the guest experience

      At hotels around the world, the friendly face of a concierge who remembers your name could soon be replaced by technology that aims to do just the same.


      When it comes to a great hotel stay, that personalised touch is often the defining feature. At the Aloft hotels in Boston and Santa Clara, guests can perfect their room’s temperature not by ringing down to housekeeping, but by telling the in-room iPad to ‘cool the room’.


      When it launches next summer, the Hilton Group’s Tru brand will similarly target tech-savvy, millennial travellers, who can check-in by app, collect a virtual key on their smartphones and let themselves into their rooms by waving their phones at Bluetooth-enabled locks.


      “Customers are increasingly demanding this kind of technology. We are living in a self-service world where you can buy groceries and check-in for flights without interacting with a single person,” says Richard Pemberton, Hospitality Consultant at Avenue9, part of JLL Group.


      Starting at check-in

      Whether a hotel is a high-end boutique or a budget-friendly micro-hotel, self-service technology is increasingly impacting the hotel experience from check in to check out.


      “Reservations and check-in are probably the best implemented self-service features at the moment,” Pemberton says.


      Denmark’s budget WakeUpCopenhagen, for example, lets guests check in and out minus humans, while London’s Edwardian Hotels uses mobile and online check-in where guests can select in-room amenities or specific floors.


      Keyless entry is also on the rise – visitors to certain Hilton, Starwood and Marriott Hotels can collect digital room keys and check-in via apps, removing the hassle of (not losing) a room key.


      The rise of in room technology

      Where once part of the appeal of staying in a hotel was its vast catalogue of movies on-demand, the arrival of super-fast Wifi, Netflix and iTunes has changed all that. “Many travellers own more up–to-date tech than you can actually get in hotel bedrooms,” says Pemberton.


      As a result, many hotels – from higher-end properties like the Irvine in California and lower-cost Dutch-based CitizenM – are eschewing media channels for in-room tech that lets guests stream their own movies and music to widescreen TVs and Bluetooth speaker systems.


      “Hotels have always aimed to be a home away from home,” says Dale Nix, Hospitality Consultant at Avenue9. “Now, that means evolving to include the tablets and smart tech that are part of everyday life.”


      That includes building apps to enable guests to order what they want when they want it as part of the self-service trend. Conrad Concierge, for example, lets guests book spa treatments and airport transfers at 20 boutique properties, while the younger-facing W Hotels Worldwide has a dedicated app for ordering room service, checking out the local weather and streaming W-style music – even when guests are at home.


      The highs and lows of hotel tech

      It’s not just guests who are benefitting from evolving tech; maintenance staff are too.


      Seattle’s Hotel 1000 has rooms with sensors that detect body heat so housekeeping knows not to enter when the room is occupied. Other hotels are experimenting with robots who do everything from deliver luggage to check guests in and answer questions.


      “As the technology has matured, we’re seeing better cost efficiency and a smoother overall experience for both hotels and guests,” Pemberton says.


      For hotel operators, features such as self-check-in and room service apps can also save costs by reducing the need for staff. “Anecdotal evidence indicates that investing in technology ups in-room sales revenue by 20 per cent,” Nix adds.


      Yet as these features become more widespread, research suggests that self-service has a way to go before it is fully embraced by guests.

      “In a hotel with both check-in counter and self-check-in kiosk, guests will often look at the kiosk and go to the counter,” Nix says. “Many hotels may be throwing money into a pit because they haven’t asked – nor understood – what their guests want.”


      Guests need to have a choice, he says: “Do they want to check-in themselves, or be helped by a person?”


      Physical plan Bs are necessary in case of internet failures or lost phones, while security remains a challenge. “You can imagine the bad press for hotel brands if someone was able to hack the Bluetooth room locks,” Pemberton says.


      The hotel of the future

      “Down the line, my ideal hotel bedroom would recognise who I am when I enter the building,” Nix says, “and set my preferences for lighting and TV stations and draw the blinds, so when I get there it’s my home from home.”


      That could soon be possible, as hotel groups such as Starwood are experimenting with Bluetooth sensors that would connect to guests’ phones as they approach, displaying their names and room preferences to reception.


      While budget hotels of the future are likely to look to keyless entry and self-check-in to cut costs, higher-end hotels will focus using technology to recreate all the comforts of home – your music, movies and TV, the way you like the lights, the ability to order food from your iPad. In other words, the feeling of personalisation that once upon a time was fulfilled by the perfectly mannered concierge.


      Hollywood stars heading backstage in the hotel sector

      Actors Robert Redford, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Leonardo DiCaprio have more in common than their Oscars: all have also taken an active role in the hotel industry.


      Robert De Niro is another Academy Award winner who is slowly but surely carving out a name in the hospitality world. Already the owner of The Greenwich in New York, scene of his 1976 success Taxi Driver, and the Nobu hotel in Manila, Philippines, De Niro has just been granted planning permission for an upmarket 83-bedroom project in London’s Covent Garden. Described as a joint operator along with Capital & Counties, De Niro brought star power to the project, which in turn sparked media interest – not to mention creating a unique draw for De Niro fans.


      The New York-based actor is a good example of how stars tend to approach the sector. “They are focused on the smaller hotels,” says Charlie MacIldowie, JLL’s Vice President in the Hotels & Hospitality Group. “Most hotels owned by celebrities are boutiques.”


      It’s not just Hollywood stars turning into hoteliers: footballers have been keen to get involved in the industry. Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo is behind the Pestana CR7 chain of lifestyle hotels, which have opened in Funchal, Madeira and Lisbon, Portugal, with plans to open a further two sites in New York and Madrid later this year.


      And over in the UK, a plan to create ‘the biggest statement in architecture’ in Manchester, including a five-star hotel, would have achieved some publicity on its own but it received an extra boost with former Manchester United stars Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs in the project team.


      “In a lot of cases the arrangement is probably led by the investors who approach the celebrity,” says MacIldowie. “Getting a star involved is a form of branding the hotel to drive customers through the door.”


      Michael Douglas goes to Bemuda

      When celebrities become involved, they generally concentrate their role in the marketing, branding and profile end of business – leaving the core work to the professionals. Indeed, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones are not expected to be behind the reception desk or serving cocktails when they open their Ariel Sands resort in the next few months in Bermuda.


      The stellar quality helps hotel- and restaurant-owners improve their occupancy rates and increase their prices, says Jonathan Goldman, JLL’s Senior Vice President in Investment Sales, Hotels & Hospitality. “Everyone is looking for a way to make a hotel a bit special,” he says. “The quickest way to do that is to get a celebrity on board.”

      The Greenwich in Manhattan’s Tribeca district, for instance, attracts A-lists such as Jennifer Lawrence and singer Katy Perry and that means it can charge top dollar. It is not just the Japanese aesthetics of the $15,000-a-night penthouse suite or the Italian cooking that brings people in, but the background presence of De Niro. His father’s Picasso-style paintings hang on the walls and the actor’s well-known desire to avoid the paparazzi finds echo in the guest-only lounges and a discreet, traditional, out-of-the-spotlight atmosphere.


      Most stars follow the same route, opening a niche hotel with features that reflect and enhance their profiles. So, for instance, the 68-villa development on the Belize island of Blackadore Caye will be eco-friendly when it opens in 2018. Owner Leonardo DiCaprio expounded his views on preserving the environment when he won an Oscar this year for his leading role in The Revenant.


      Robert Redford, chair of the Robert Redford Conservancy in California, owns the Sundance Mountain Resort in Utah, complete with an art studio and theatrical events while tennis star Andy Murray’s Cromlix Hotel, near his Scottish hometown of Dunblane, offers tennis coaching


      Trophy purchases

      In general, celebrity owners will be happy to spend time in their own hotels – or even to hold their wedding reception there, as Andy Murray did. Hotels are a trophy purchase for VIPs in most cases, says Goldman. “It’s very important for celebrities to have their own clubs where they can invite friends and be seen,” he says.

      It is not all about the luxury end of the market, though. Actor John Malkovich has been in partnership with two friends for over 16 years in the Big Sleep range of design hotels for budget travellers. “I do not see the point in doing something like this unless I am interested,” he said when the flagship hotel was opened in the Welsh capital of Cardiff. The star – who made his name in Dangerous Liaisons – has taken a particular interest in the interior design of the chain, which now also operates in the English towns of Eastbourne and Cheltenham.


      Some hotel ventures could themselves inspire film plot lines, however – or even the lyrics of rock songs. U2 band members Bono and The Edge have stuck with their Dublin investment in The Clarence Hotel, despite the challenges of the Irish economic downturn.


      Overall, hotels are proving to be an attractive investment sector in difficult economic times. “They used to be considered a specialist asset,” says Goldman. “But they’ve performed very well over the last few years and more investors – whether they’re a well-known face or a behind-the-scenes player – consider them now.”


      Five ways chattiest could change the hotel industry

      With the widespread adoption of in-house apps, instant messaging and even robots, hotels are on the cusp of a chatbot revolution.


      Chatbots are already working hard in the hospitality industry, from taking fast-food orders to helping travellers plan their trips. While conversational AI is very much in its infancy in the hotel sector, it certainly has plenty of potential, says Nigel Symonds, Hospitality Consultant at Avenue9. So how could chatbots change the hotel industry?


      1. A NEW RESERVATION CHANNEL

      Earlier in August, Icelandair launched a booking bot, leveraging Facebook’s new chatbot development toolkit. Modelled on a text conversation with a real travel agent, the bot not only offers and takes reservations for flights, it also suggests a layover in Reykjavik.


      Elsewhere in the travel industry, Expedia, again taking advantage of Facebook’s technology, launched a basic bot to help travellers book hotels. According to Symonds, in order to stave off fierce competition from online travel agencies (OTAs) and encourage direct booking, hotels should be looking to follow suit. “From our perspective, hotels definitely want to start integrating this technology,” he says. Indeed, Hyatt Hotels, who began using Facebook Messenger in late 2015 told Skift that “creating and deploying a Facebook Messenger bot is something that we will explore in the future.”


      2. ENRICHING THE PRE-ARRIVAL EXPERIENCE

      “Booking additional services is where the power is,” says Symonds. At the moment, hotels usually send out an automated email several days in advance of a guest’s arrival, suggesting amenities like spa treatments, airport transfers, and dinner reservations. “It would be great to have chatbots doing this,” he adds. “The benefit of a bot is that it can interact with the guest, asking questions such as whether it’s a special occasion, for instance, and responding with relevant offerings.”


      3. ON-RESORT INTERACTION

      London’s Edwardian Hotels were among the first to launch what they call a virtual assistant. Designed for those who prefer to engage with the brand digitally, the interface allows guests to order room service or get local recommendations from Edward the bot.


      “It’s all about enhancing the guest experience,” says Symonds. “When integrated into the property management system (PMS), chatbots could be used to alert guests of real-time spa and restaurant availability, and offer last-minute rates.” Challenges include ensuring the offers are relevant to the recipient— including that your guest wants to get involved with the technology in the first place. “Certain generations will feel excluded if hotels abandon the more traditional routes of engagement,” Symonds adds.


      4. SUPPLEMENTING AND SUPPORTING STAFF

      With conversational AI able to answer straightforward questions, front-of-house staff is freed up to provide the kind of service only humans can. At the same time, “we’re seeing a shift in the desired skill set of hotel marketing and customer service personnel towards digital specialisation” says Symonds. Chatbots aid guest interaction, but when a human needs to step in, that person needs to be both tech-savvy and able to embody the voice of the brand in a spontaneous and textually interactive way.


      5. LEVERAGING DATA

      A PMS-integrated bot that interacts with guests at all stages of the customer journey can gather valuable data, which can then be used by algorithms and hotel staff alike to provide personalised services. Unlike localised human interactions, entire chatbot conversations and outcomes can be stored and recalled for relevant future exchanges.


      However, there’s a fine line between the impressive and the downright creepy. “If suggestions are too intuitive, you can risk alienating your guest,” says Symonds. As public perceptions catch up to the capabilities of technology, the solution, concludes Symonds, is a thorough and transparent permissions process.


      Capsule hotels, small spaces with big potential

      Sleeping in a box which is two meters long and a little over one meter high and wide is becoming the low cost, Japanese-style choice of thousands of international travellers.


      Launched in Osaka in 1979 to enable local businessmen enjoy an evening out, capsule hotels are now mainly aimed at international travellers. Growing numbers of these hotels have opened in recent years across Asia and into Europe and the Americas to cater for the rise in single travellers looking for low-priced rooms for one which equally offer opportunities to socialise with others in shared leisure facilities.


      “Capsule hotels offer budget tourists and backpackers a cheaper and more alternative to conventional hotels and hostels in ‘expensive’ city locations such as Singapore,” says Frank Sorgiovanni, Senior Vice President with JLL’s Hotels & Hospitality Group.


      The city state has seen more than 10 such hotels launch since 2012 with more in the pipeline. Australia is opening its first capsule hotel this year and it’s no coincidence that the new Capsule Hotel will launch in Sydney, Australia’s most expensive city. It will be pitched at “the solo traveller that might have outgrown the backpacker hostel”, according to designer Chris Wilkes. But, rather than competing solely on cost, the hotel is being designed to have a boutique design hotel feel.


      A fast changing sector

      Specialist hotel groups are leading the growth and development – including Yotel, which started at the UK’s London Gatwick Airport in 2007, now has bases in three other European airports and plans for more in the US, Middle East and Asia.


      “Low cost travel and IT are the two main drivers behind the growth,” says Yasokazu Terada, Executive Vice President in JLL Japan’s Hotels & Hospitality Group. “The number of low cost travellers has been supported by low-cost carriers and they have become able to easily find good-quality capsule hotels through online booking sites.”


      Indeed, good IT systems are key to a business model with high occupancy rates and a rapid turnover of guests. It’s this model that allows capsule hotels to charge competitive rates which, according to Sorgiovanni, tend to be about half the rate of hostels and a third of three star hotels.


      The Yotel at Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport, for instance, charges about US$51 (€46) for a four-hour stay in its seven square meter cabins, $87 overnight and $17 for an hour’s use of a shower cabin. The NineHours chain of three hotels in Japan charges, for example, about US$50 overnight and has ‘nap rates’ during the day of $10 for the first hour and $3 for additional hours.


      Adding personal touches

      The Spartan, single-sex traditional model will not work for everyone – and many operators are creating niches as they adapt the formula to their local and international markets and to the prospect of increasing competition. Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport, for instance, now has double pods at Terminal T2, for instance; a free laundry service is provided at Bali’s M Boutique Hostel.


      Yotel, with its en-suite facilities, luxury bedding and sound-proofing is a leader in the more luxurious end while South America’s first capsule hotel, the $12-a-day Capacete in Rio de Janeiro is hoping to draw ‘artists and thinkers’ through Wednesday evening talks, a bookshop and ambience.


      In Japan, capsule hotels have also become more than just places to sleep. The Anshin Oyado in Tokyo has a bar with craft beers as well as an artificial hot spring and mist sauna. The female-only Nadeshiko, also in the Japanese capital, provides guests with a free kimono during their stay. Terada says: “They typically have a guest lounge and host regular social events to facilitate communication among guests. They are selling ‘experience’ rather than physical accommodation facilities.” Staff tend to be more ‘casual and friendly’ than in traditional hotels, he adds.


      A big future for small spaces

      With the capsule concept evolving to keep pace with demand, a ‘very positive outlook’ is on the cards for the sector, says Sorgiovanni. “If capsule or cabin hotels continue to offer secure, technologically advanced and innovative designs at a much cheaper price point – those cost-sensitive travellers will continue to embrace this new offer.”

      And, in Japan, Terada predicts growth “in line with an increase in the number of foreign visitors” over the next four years. Running up to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, the Bank of Japan forecasts that construction investment, including in hotels, will “increase substantially during 2017 and 2018”.

      With many cities around the world grappling with the challenge of accommodating a growing appetite for international travel and a lack of city centre space, capsule hotels could prove a useful addition to their hospitality offerings. Certainly, the growing capsule hotel sector is working hard to show that small can mean beautiful and, does not mean compromising on quality and creature comforts.






      • Date Added:12/1/17


      Avenue9 engagement enables £335,000 saving for wasl Hospitality WiFi project

      BACKGROUND

      wasl Asset Management Group, is one of the largest real estate management and development companies in Dubai. It was established by the Dubai Real Estate Corporation (DREC) in 2008 to oversee the management of its assets and grow its real estate portfolio. wasl’s operations revolve around three main verticals; property development and management, hospitality & leisure and land asset management. Within these three verticals wasl operates in various real estate, lifestyle, leisure, hospitality, and business sectors. wasl’s main objective is to strengthen Dubai’s position as the premier hub to live and work in and at the same time be the ultimate destination for tourists.


      wasl hospitality & leisure, another subsidiary of the Group manages a portfolio of 14 hotels with approximately 5,500 rooms. The Dubai-based portfolio includes six hotels under the Hyatt Hotels Corporation – the award-winning Grand Hyatt Dubai, Hyatt Regency Dubai, Park Hyatt Dubai, Hyatt Place Dubai Baniyas Square, Hyatt Place Dubai Al Riqqa and the Hyatt Regency Dubai Creek Heights; four under Starwood Hotels and Resorts including Le Meridien Dubai, Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, Westin Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, Le Meridien Fairway; and two under Hilton Worldwide and they are Hilton Garden Inn Al Mina and Hilton Garden Inn Al Muraqabat in addition to the VOX Cineplex movie theatre complex located adjacent to the Grand Hyatt in Dubai and acts as the Owner’s representative to oversee the management of Dusit Thani Dubai hotel.


      With IT costs continuing to rise and further IT investment being encouraged by the brands, Avenue9 works closely with asset managers and owners to ensure that any investments align with the owner and asset manager’s business objectives. We also have great experience in ensuring that brand standards are met or are challenged where it is felt that the technology proposed is not appropriate. Furthermore, with our knowledge and experience in the market we are in an optimal position to ensure best value is achieved for the owner and asset manager.


      SCOPE OF WORK

      Following an approach to wasl by one of the brands to replace both wired and wireless networks in some of their 5 star properties, the core scope of work by Avenue9 was to:


      • Determine if the current infrastructure is fit for purpose or needs replacing
      • If appropriate seek agreement from the brand to retain existing infrastructure
      • Review proposals for network replacement
      • Define needs and requirements for a replacement solution
      • Negotiate network replacement proposals or suggest alternative solutions
      • Reduce the current cost of networks or reduce the investment required to replace the networks


      In order for Avenue9 to deliver against this scope of work we needed to:

      • Spend time at each branded hotel with the operational management to understand any challenges they currently face with the existing network provisions
      • Review current infrastructure and capabilities, including whether equipment is fit for purpose or is beyond its economical and functional lifecycle
      • Review brand standards for networking
      • Benchmark pricing against other providers


      THE APPROACH TO DELIVER THIS ASSIGNMENT WAS SPLIT INTO TWO PARTS

      The first was to meet with the wasl management team and spend time at the hotels in order to carry out a detailed audit of the current installation, analyse its use and identify any deficiencies and potential risks to the business. Excellent quality Wi-Fi provided free to Guests is a prerequisite standard expected in hotels today.


      Our consultant spent time with the operating teams in each of the hotels to gain a greater understanding of the issues experienced at the ‘coal face’. A number of issues were identified which had a negative impact on the business and caused loss of revenue. In addition to not providing the hotel space with ‘full’ Wi-Fi coverage It was also evident that the current installation was close to ‘end of life’ and would not therefore be able cope with the ever increasing demands of guest Wi-Fi, and the number of devices that are likely to be connected in the future.


      wasl had earlier embarked upon an RFP process (seven proposals had been received) to replace the current installation. The company wanted a completely independent review of the proposals to ensure they met Technology Brand Standards and would address any issues highlighted in our review. Of equal importance was to look at how easily the hotels might integrate other projects and future-proof technologies as appropriate.


      We recommended the project was given the green light, however the pricing of the RFP responses appeared high and we advised that an approach was made to potential vendors with a view to negotiating the price.


      The second part of the project was to approach each of the vendors to renegotiate the commercials with a view to obtaining the best possible price. The operator had expressed an interest in piloting a new mix of Wi-Fi technology (Brocade) during the review and we introduced an alternative vendor into the mix. This process took place over a period of about two weeks, following which the results were presented to wasl and the operator. A significant saving was identified following the renegotiation process.


      “The project achieved an overall saving of AED1.55m (£335k) on Wi-Fi across the three hotels, assisted by having Avenue9 lead negotiations with the vendors and by expanding the scope to include an alternative vendor. wasl hospitality engaged Avenue9 for the above-mentioned project, with the Avenue9 team doing an excellent job, completing the assigned scope of work to the great satisfaction of wasl hospitality. The Avenue9 team established excellent two-way communication with the operator, who achieved its objective at a greatly reduced cost.” 

      wasl Hospitality


      “Working through this project with wasl, we have managed to demonstrate the correct level of diligence required to make the right investment with the right technology and the right partner. The end result is significant in its cost reduction whilst maximising the operation investment that will help in delivering a seamless guest experience that will set these hotels apart from the competitive set.” 

      Kevin Edwards, Managing Director, Avenue9


      ABOUT AVENUE9

      Avenue9 help organisations reduce operational costs and increase revenues through the creation and execution of effective IT systems strategies. We analyse how people use systems and look to maximise opportunities to streamline business process, invest in the right systems and help visualise the guest journey to drive incremental revenue.





      • Date Added:7/12/16


      How self-service technology is enhancing the guest experience

      At hotels around the world, the friendly face of a concierge who remembers your name could soon be replaced by technology that aims to do just the same.

      When it comes to a great hotel stay, that personalized touch is often the defining feature. At the Aloft hotels in Boston and Santa Clara, guests can perfect their room’s temperature not by ringing down to housekeeping, but by telling the in-room iPad to “cool the room”.

      When it launches next summer, the Hilton Group’s Tru brand will similarly target tech-savvy, millennial travellers, who can check-in by app, collect a virtual key on their smartphones and let themselves into their rooms by waving their phones at Bluetooth-enabled locks.

      “Customers are increasingly demanding this kind of technology. We are living in a self-service world where you can buy groceries and check-in for flights without interacting with a single person,” says Richard Pemberton, Hospitality Consultant at Avenue9, part of JLL Group.

      Starting at check-in
      Whether a hotel is a high-end boutique or a budget-friendly micro-hotel, self-service technology is increasingly impacting the hotel experience from check in to check out.

      “Reservations and check-in are probably the best implemented self-service features at the moment,” Pemberton says.

      Denmark’s budget WakeUpCopenhagen, for example, lets guests check in and out minus humans, while London’s Edwardian Hotels uses mobile and online check-in where guests can select in-room amenities or specific floors.

      Keyless entry is also on the rise – visitors to certain Hilton, Starwood and Marriott Hotels can collect digital room keys and check-in via apps, removing the hassle of (not losing) a room key.

      The rise in in-room technology
      Where once part of the appeal of staying in a hotel was its vast catalogue of movies on-demand, the arrival of super-fast Wifi, Netflix and iTunes has changed all that. “Many travellers own more up–to-date tech than you can actually get in hotel bedrooms,” says Pemberton.

      As a result, many hotels – from higher-end properties like the Irvine in California and lower-cost Dutch-based CitizenM – are eschewing media channels for in-room tech that lets guests stream their own movies and music to widescreen TVs and Bluetooth speaker systems.

      “Hotels have always aimed to be a home away from home,” says Dale Nix, Hospitality Consultant at Avenue9. “Now, that means evolving to include the tablets and smart tech that are part of everyday life.”

      That includes building apps to enable guests to order what they want when they want it as part of the self-service trend. Conrad Concierge, for example, lets guests book spa treatments and airport transfers at 20 boutique properties, while the younger-facing W Hotels Worldwide has a dedicated app for ordering room service, checking out the local weather and streaming W-style music – even when guests are at home.

      The highs and lows of hotel tech
      It’s not just guests who are benefitting from evolving tech; maintenance staff are too.

      Seattle’s Hotel 1000 has rooms with sensors that detect body heat so housekeeping knows not to enter when the room is occupied. Other hotels are experimenting with robots who do everything from deliver luggage to check guests in and answer questions.

      “As the technology has matured, we’re seeing better cost efficiency and a smoother overall experience for both hotels and guests,” Pemberton says.

      For hotel operators, features such as self-check-in and room service apps can also save costs by reducing the need for staff. “Anecdotal evidence indicates that investing in technology ups in-room sales revenue by 20 percent,” Nix adds.

      Yet as these features become more widespread, research suggests that self-service has a way to go before it is fully embraced by guests.

      “In a hotel with both check-in counter and self-check-in kiosk, guests will often look at the kiosk and go to the counter,” Nix says. “Many hotels may be throwing money into a pit because they haven’t asked – nor understood – what their guests want.”

      Guests need to have a choice, he says: “Do they want to check-in themselves, or be helped by a person?”

      Physical plan Bs are necessary in case of internet failures or lost phones, while security remains a challenge. “You can imagine the bad press for hotel brands if someone was able to hack the Bluetooth room locks,” Pemberton says.

      The hotel of the future
      “Down the line, my ideal hotel bedroom would recognize who I am when I enter the building,” Nix says, “and set my preferences for lighting and TV stations and draw the blinds, so when I get there it’s my home from home.”

      That could soon be possible, as hotel groups such as Starwood are experimenting with Bluetooth sensors that would connect to guests’ phones as they approach, displaying their names and room preferences to reception.

      While budget hotels of the future are likely to look to keyless entry and self-check-in to cut costs, higher-end hotels will focus using technology to recreate all the comforts of home – your music, movies and TV, the way you like the lights, the ability to order food from your iPad. In other words, the feeling of personalization which once upon a time was fulfilled by the perfectly mannered concierge.





      • Date Added:16/9/16


      Modern hotels must invest more in IT

      Greater investment in IT will bring hospitality real estate up to date with other sectors, according to Avenue9.

      Checking into a flight today is a seamless, digital experience. In retail, technology has revolutionised everything from the supply chain to point of sale. Behind the scenes, these industries have invested heavily in sophisticated digital infrastructure and are reaping the rewards.

      Meanwhile, the hospitality industry has lagged behind.

      “There’s a ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ mentality in hospitality but we have to challenge that,” says Philippa Witheat, sales and marketing director of Avenue9, a specialist hospitality IT consultancy, part of JLL. “Many hotels are living in the past and some of this is based on lack of investment.”

      Hotel guests regularly have to fill in paper forms at the front desk and, when a system fails, manual workarounds are commonplace; staff at some of the world’s biggest hotel chains have resorted to makeshift excel spreadsheets for day-to day tasks such as taking payment or logging complaints. This is proving costly, with Avenue9 estimating that some properties risk losing as much as 10 percent of their operating costs as a result of manual workarounds, not to mention missing subsequent revenue opportunities.

      The chronic underfunding in hospitality IT is, in part, a hangover from the Global Financial Crisis, which stalled the industry’s modernisation. Today, the sector is finally turning a corner thanks to renewed market confidence and pent up demand for technology investment.

      Flexibility is the future for IT

      From property management systems (PMS), to door locking software and even HR solutions, most of the systems responsible for making hotels run more efficiently are IT solutions. Yet onsite IT teams in hotels are often absorbed in routine tasks including password resets and fixing printers. IT strategy on a flexible basis is the future of hospitality technology, according to Avenue9.

      “We’re seeing more forward-thinking hoteliers exploring the outsourced IT model,” says Witheat. “It allows the hotelier to rise above routine IT tasks to focus on strategy.”

      Outsourced IT is nothing new, says Dale Nix, IT Director, Avenue9. It’s the execution that differs.

      “It’s a model we will likely see adopted more and more as hotels see the value of investing in an outsourced model, rather than a single hire IT Director.”

      Nix adds: “Hotels often do not have the necessary funds to invest in all of the diverse skills needed on a full time basis. A flexible service brings multiple disciplines and varied skills.

      Until now, overhauling a hotel’s IT systems has happened on a ‘needs-must’ basis, says Nix, who recently advised a well-known UK-based hotel on a new PMS. “Their existing system was 12 years old,” he said. “It was no longer fit for purpose.”

      Like many hotels, this issue came to light through a change of ownership. As the sector sees more M&A activity, technology is being forced to the top of the agenda.

      Large hotel chains may find that legacy IT systems make change tricky without group-wide consensus. But smaller chains and independent hotels are an obvious fit for flexible IT.

      Nix explains: “If you’re Hyatt or Starwood you have a lot of resource to deploy for ad-hoc projects. While we can always provide tremendous value for the large hotel chains, its smaller groups and independent hotels who can really benefit.

      A case in point: Galgorm Resort & Spa

      It was a period of expansion that encouraged management at the Galgorm Resort & Spa in Northern Ireland to raise the IT bar.

      The five-star 163-acre property, in Ballymena, County Antrim, will be joined by a newly-built development in Belfast once completed in early 2017.

      After an initial audit, which examined every hotel system, Avenue9 set about finding solutions to make the business more efficient. The Galgorm project is now contracted for three years to see the business through its initial expansion.

      IT outsourcing may be an interim fix for some hotels but Nix warns that technology investments should be viewed as long term. “Many mainstream systems are expected to last 3-5 years, however, we are seeing more applications, such as PMS and PBX, being sweated for 8-10 years, despite technology advancements that would make deploying a new application much more efficient and cost-effective.”

      IT outsourcing is, in theory, easy to defend as a capital expenditure charge because of the tangible benefits, says Nix. But, he adds: “A lot of it is down to mentality of decision makers, it’s purely down to their willingness to put right what they have and see the real benefit of investing in IT.”





      • Date Added:31/5/16


      Hospitality IT Solutions Specialists Avenue9 engaged as IT Director of leading Northern Ireland luxury resort and spa

      Hospitality IT solutions specialists, Avenue9, is delighted to announce that it has been awarded a one-year contract to operate as an outsourced IT Director for the luxury 163-acre Galgorm Resort and Spa – incorporating a spa village, three restaurants, 122 bedrooms and 12 self-catering cottages and cabins – at Ballymena in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.


      “This is an extremely exciting project,” said Avenue9 Managing Director Kevin Edwards. “Galgorm Resort and Spa is a highly successful business that has plans for growth, with a new-build development due to open in Belfast in late 2016, early 2017. Prior to being awarded the one-year IT Director contract, Avenue9 was engaged by Galgorm to conduct an inter-departmental audit which examined every hotel system from an operational standpoint. Working closely with the Resort’s department management and staff, the audit highlighted opportunities to drive efficiencies, functional and integration challenges, as well as the need to re-engage with certain IT vendors.


      “Like many hoteliers, Payment Card Industry compliance is high on the agenda and we have conducted a PCI Compliance Gap Analysis and currently are working with Galgorm towards achieving full compliance, as part of our contract to operate as an outsourced IT Director for the luxury resort and spa.”


      In response to the inter-departmental IT audit, Avenue 9 is currently engaged in implementing remedial solutions and developing a long-term IT strategy for Galgorm, with built-in potential for expansion and diversification. There have been some quick wins in terms of upgrading a number of key systems, such as Golf and Spa Management and Human Resources Management.


      Commenting on Avenue9’s work at the hotel, Galgorm Resort and Spa General Manager Colin Johnston said: “We have been working with Avenue 9 for six months now. During this time, they have been instrumental in helping us complete a number of IT projects; and we are currently working on a future three-year plan with Avenue9 on all our in-house systems. The knowledge, expertise and advice which we have received so far – along with the results – have been fantastic. We are looking forward to working with Avenue9 over the coming year.”


      As an independent organisation, not aligned to any particular product or vendor, Avenue9 is in an ideal position to advise on this process and assist Galgorm Resort and Spa in selecting and operating a suite of IT hospitality systems that will work best together – to service the business, maximise its potential, and support any future plans for growth and diversification as efficiently and effectively as possible.


      Galgorm Resort and Spa joins the ever growing portfolio of Avenue9 clients – that currently includes major brands such as: The Gleneagles Hotel, The Hotel Collection, SACO (The Serviced Apartment Company), Generator Hostels, Redefine BDL Hotels, Bourne Leisure and Watergate Bay Hotel in Cornwall.





      • Date Added:28/4/16


      Technology is proving to be something of a double edged sword for the big hotel chains.

      On the one hand it’s helping them to engage with guests through easily scalable and cost-effective initiatives and drive loyalty in new ways. Apps and interfaces allow integration with other relevant products and service providers, and encourage customer engagement through multiple touchpoints.


      FOn the other hand, rapidly evolving technology is fueling fierce competition from online travel agencies.


      Nevertheless, “employing tech is one of the best ways to drive loyalty for hotel chains,” says Dale Nix, Hospitality Consultant at Avenue9, part of JLL Group. Indeed, many of the big players, including Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott and Starwood (the latter two are expected to merge later this year) have recently revamped their loyalty programs, driven by digital opportunities, as well as a desire to encourage direct bookings.


      The direct-booking push, as manifest in member discounts and other perks, is a reaction to the increasing dominance of online travel agency (OTA) giants like Expedia and Booking.com. In an attempt to wrest back control of their revenue stream, hotel chains have begun offering the lowest rates to members who book directly.


      Starwood Hotels and Resorts led the way with exclusive discounted rates and free wifi when booking direct. Marriott’s Rewards members now receive lower rates when booking direct, and also benefit from free wifi, mobile check-in, and an option to earn points or discounts when reserving their room on the chain’s website. Likewise, Hilton has recently introduced discounted rates and online check-in for HHonors members, as well as the existing points program.


      Discounts and points alone, however, can be problematic. “Offering points is about buying loyalty,” says Nix. “I define loyalty as an emotive response to a brand.” He uses Jimmy Choo shoes as an example: You don’t buy a pair because they’re on offer. You buy them because you identify emotionally with the brand. “That’s loyalty,” he adds. “By offering discounts, hotels can end up cannibalizing their rate.”


      The battle for hearts and minds

      Luring new members with discounted rates is one thing; engendering enduring loyalty is quite another. “The trouble with points schemes is that you end up commoditizing your product,” says Nix. “There’s not much you can do to separate your own brand identity from any other. I see that happening now with hotels: It’s the same path that the airlines went down a few years ago.”


      For the hotels’ part, many are taking a multi-pronged approach to loyalty. “There’s no question that our focus and everyone’s focus seems to be to further enhance and develop the relationships that we have with our own customers,” says president and CEO of Hyatt Hotels, Mark Hoplamazian, in an April interview with Skift. “Increasingly we are rethinking loyalty in a very, very broad way. Not just the program but also what it means to actually extend the sense of our brand and our purpose to those interactions with our guests…” he adds.


      Online check-in and other such exclusive member benefits are only the tip of the iceberg. Access to curated experiences has become the norm among big hotel chains, as the wider travel industry shifts its focus from products to experiences.


      Hilton has approached the points vs loyalty dilemma by allowing members to redeem points on exclusive experiences under their @Play banner. Current opportunities include a sumo lesson and seats to view the grand tournament for visitors to Tokyo, and a private concert by indie band JR JR at the Hilton Toronto. Such a memorable experience can create lasting emotional connections to a brand, and serve to foster a sense of loyalty that goes much deeper than a discount.


      Branded experiences are also offered by the likes of Marriott (including Ritz-Carlton), who have just introduced more exclusive features for its members. Their “experiences marketplace”, a lot like Hilton’s @Play platform, lets members bid on intimate or immersive experiences like cooking classes and in-room music gigs. Also on the cards for Elite members is a dedicated concierge service that helps guests plan their travel. Additionally, Gold, Platinum and Elite members receive that most coveted of amenities: Guaranteed late checkout until 4pm.


      In a related moves pillared by tech integration, Intercontinental, Starwood and Hilton have all partnered with Uber, variously amalgamating app functionality, encouraging cross sales, and points accumulation opportunities—all available exclusively to loyalty program members, of course.


      Big Data, big opportunities

      To create a truly personalized guest experience, hotels need to collect as much information as possible about each individual. “One of the things that loyalty can do, and how technology helps, is that we’re able to gather the finer details about our guests,” says Nix. “If you encourage guests to use the loyalty program at every touchpoint, you start getting a really good picture of the buying habits of your customer, such as recency, frequency and value of the spend, and the portion of the customer’s wallet that each of these entities are getting.”


      At present, the biggest challenge is processing all the data and turning it into actionable steps. It may be a work in progress but as emerging technology become mainstream, the opportunity to convert data into truly tangible value will be employed by savvy hotel brands, to everyone’s benefit, says Nix.


      Not only can hotels use big data to identify and target their model customer—that is, the guest who provides highest value, but also provide guests with better service.


      “Guests look for personalization, recognition and status,” concludes Nix. “We can provide those things at very little cost if we get it right. It’s about creating that seamless guest journey, from booking, to staying, to paying and beyond. We have to make it easy for the guest to say yes—and it doesn’t have to be through points.”





      • Date Added:28/4/16


      Avenue9 on par in driving Gleneagles IT Director Service

      The 5-star, 232-bedroom Gleneagles Hotel, Spa and Golf Resort in Perthshire engages Avenue9 Solutions to deliver IT leadership and strategy


      Challenges

      Following the sale of Gleneagles by Diageo to Ennismore in 2015, the luxury resort needed to fill an IT leadership role to help drive technology change in the new operating environment.

      Overall strategy and direction was required to ensure Gleneagles delivers peak performance across its systems to an increasingly IT-savvy clientele.

      Additionally, following the transition from Diageo, a range of projects needed to be launched or restarted, while maintaining the normal support activities required in a world-class hotel and resort.


      Solution

      Gleneagles turned to Avenue9, whose consultants were very familiar with the team and the hotel’s operations. Avenue9 had been working with Gleneagles in a consulting capacity to map IT processes and assist the team with product evaluation for a number of key IT operational systems, including Property Management (PMS) and Electronic Point of Sale (EPoS).

      Avenue9 provided an experienced senior hospitality consultant to work onsite with the Gleneagles teams to progress the business after the change in ownership. Using systems audits and in discussions with senior team members, Avenue9 identified and executed a short-term plan (100 days) to resolve outstanding issues across all areas of the business. Further audits on networks and systems have identified options for virtualising the existing server hardware and eliminating seven servers.

      Avenue9 is introducing new monitoring and analysis tools to proactively monitor the performance of the network across the wider Gleneagles estate.


      Benefits

      • Suppliers of IT products and services are being actively managed. Account and service reviews are being carried out to progressively increase Service Level Agreement (SLA) performance to delivering a minimum 98% resolution level for all IT activities.

      • A full disaster recovery service has been implemented to protect the vital IT assets of the business and to provide a robust back-up and recovery solution. In case of a catastrophic event, a limited service can be achieved within 15 minutes and a full recovery achieved within one hour.

      • Creating a virtualised server environment is expected to reduce power requirements by up to 50%, while maintaining an optimal performance to the users’ desktops.


      About the Gleneagles Hotel

      The historic Gleneagles Hotel, Spa and Golf Resort – member of Leading Hotels of the WorldTM – is a world-famous 5-star luxury hotel and golf resort in Scotland, with an award-winning Spa and equestrian centre. Gleneagles Hotel was the host of the 2014 Ryder Cup and has been selected as the venue for the 2019 Solheim Cup. Gleneagles is also the venue of Scotland’s only 2 Michelin star restaurant, named after its celebrated chef Andrew Fairlie.

      The Gleneagles Hotel is owned by Ennismore, London-based owner and developer of ‘unique hospitality properties’ – currently crafting the global expansion of The Hoxton Shoreditch, with the additions of The Hoxton Holborn in the capital and The Hoxton Amsterdam. Further Hoxton properties are due to open in Paris and New York.





      • Date Added:7/3/16


      Technology: getting it right in the hotel industry

      Hospitality technology and data security are Monday's discussion points at #IHIF, and the Avenue9 team believe that the industry needs to sharpen up its act.


      JLL have recently acquired Avenue9, a specialist team of technology consultants who assist hotel companies by designing, implementing and managing IT strategies and systems.


      Business Development Manager Jamie Moore… When it comes to Hotel Techology, Hoteliers have a habit of going for the 'whizz bang wallop' guest technology before investing in better selection and maximisation of the core systems that drive performance and efficiency. There is risk in positioning the business in this way. It's a bit like getting Botox: If you invest heavily just because it looks good and delivers a 'wow' factor, in five years you'll be investing yet again. The more you invest, the more you have to keep investing. Investment should match and enhance the business identity, not be the identity itself.


      This is true of both front of house tech, like expensive in-room tablets, which quickly go out of vogue, and back room security systems, which need to constantly evolve in the face of emerging threats. Sales and Marketing Director Philippa Witheat adds that if hospitality companies continue to neglect investing in technology, they risk becoming as obsolete as the systems they use. "If you don't invest you'll get left behind, and the later you leave it, the more serious your need for investment in robust and agile data security systems."


      More hoteliers need to realise that IT is an enabler for staff. Modern, up-to-date systems help trained users to do their jobs more efficiently, but Witheat believes that perception is key. Hoteliers must change their attitudes and become aware that IT expenditure is a long-term incremental investment, rather than a one-off cost. In the past, hotels have tended to buy an off-the shelf, ring-fence security system, only upgrading once it has become useless and obsolete. Witheat is scathing about this approach: "As a hotel operator, you wouldn't let your towels become threadbare, so why allow technology to become archaic and dysfunctional? Most hotels budget a small percentage of annual revenue for upkeep of fixtures and fittings, to keep the property running smoothly. But where is the allocation for tech upgrades, training and support?"


      An old-fashioned approach still dominates here. Kevin Edwards, Local Director, is astonished that hotels can spend £20,000 on a Persian rug without blinking, and yet refuse to spend half as much on protecting their vast reams of priceless guest and company data. "Hospitality firms still operate in an environment where system interfaces and cloud storage are talked about as if they were brand new." Hospitality companies need to get up to speed, and quickly, especially when trying to appeal to millennial guests, who demand the latest technology at their fingertips at all times, and expect nothing but the best.


      But beware the mismatch; customer-facing technology is like fine tailoring; nobody wants an ill-fitting suit. Moore is adamant that hotel companies need to identify the systems and hardware that best align with their brand and their way of working; "Nineteenth-century country house hotels and iPads are not a natural fit". It would appear that certain new technologies can have an instantly detrimental impact on a hotel's carefully-considered aesthetics.


      Technology systems are not just for data protection and in-hotel guest enjoyment, though. Edwards believes that hotels should make better use of existing technology to improve the booking experience and simultaneously drive higher revenues. As he puts it, "OTAs can only book a room; they cannot offer anything auxiliary. Hoteliers need to become smarter and put more of their services online, so that guests can book a room and add a spa session or golf lesson to the booking instantly."





      • Date Added:7/3/16


      The elephant in the room: Time for hotel industry to tackle Payment Card Industry compliance

      Security top of the agenda on day one of the IHIF conference
      IHIF, Berlin, 7th March 2016– JLL’s recently acquired IT consultancy Avenue9 has warned that the industry needs to accelerate Payment Card Industry’s (PCI) security compliance or risk reputational damage and security breaches.


      As security is high on the agenda on the first day of the IHIF conference, Avenue9 says that the industry is falling behind on compliance because it is not viewed as a business issue, more of a technical one.


      The PCI standards are a set of requirements designed to ensure that all companies that process, store or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment.


      Kevin Edwards, MD of Avenue9, a JLL owned company, commented: “Just because PCI compliance is to do with data security doesn’t mean it should be viewed as anything other than a common sense measure - just like basic health and safety.


      “The industry is lagging behind as a whole, and not being adequately protected can lead to reputational damage, lawsuits and fines from credit card companies.”


      Avenue9 offers the below advice to hoteliers:


      • PCI isn’t expensive: it is about taking a measured approach to understanding risk and non-compliance

      • Undertaking a ‘gap assessment’ and a thorough risk assessment is an important inexpensive first step towards compliance


      Kevin adds: “PCI compliance has to be accepted as a fundamental part of operating a business; it should not be seen as the elephant in the room.





      • Date Added:5/12/15


      Hospitality IT Solutions Specialists Avenue9 engaged to advise the UK’s leading independent hotel management company Redefine|BDL Hotels

      Hospitality IT solutions specialists, Avenue9, is delighted to announce that it has been engaged by the UK’s leading independent hotel management company, Redefine|BDL Hotels, to provide IT solutions across the group’s 69 hotels to help sustain the business’s exceptional track record in developing and managing a diverse collection of branded and private label hotel properties throughout the UK.

      “It is very exciting to be working with such a dynamic, fast expanding group such as Redefine|BDL Hotels, which works in partnership with such prestigious hotel brands as InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), Hilton, Starwood Hotels & Resorts (now Marriott International), Accor Hotels and Wyndham,” said Avenue9 Managing Director Kevin Edwards. “Redefine|BDL Hotels – with a UK hotel portfolio ranging from the new 240-bedroom Courtyard by Marriott in Edinburgh, due to open in 2016; and the 136-bedroom Holiday Inn Express London at Southwark, to the 165-bedroom Ramada Encore - Belfast City Centre – had been employing an ageing accounting system, with an over-dependence on complex spreadsheets for budgeting and forecasting.

      “Avenue9’s brief has been to address this problem, whilst reducing the paper-based reporting, by replacing the existing systems with cutting edge IT solutions that best suit Redefine|BDL Hotels and its aims and objectives. The new suite of applications needed to be deployed over the web, to ensure accessibility to each hotel within the group – regardless of whether the property is owned, managed or franchised.”

      To achieve this, Avenue9 worked closely with Redefine|BDL Hotel’s management team to fully understand the company’s aims, objectives and expectations for IT within the overall business strategy, before drawing up with the company a detailed IT strategy document that identified the key functionality needs – namely: general ledger, budgeting and forecasting, and business intelligence.

      “In a nutshell, our main objective for Redefine|BDL Hotel’s new managed service,” explained Kevin Edwards, “has been to enhance significantly the technological efficiency and the accuracy of data received by the ‘Owners Lounge’ at head office, where the data from each property is published. When it was set up two years earlier, its accounting system relied heavily on paper reporting; and it was our brief to reduce this, whilst at the same time enabling infinitely more accurate and wide-ranging data from each hotel to be instantly available for owner and management scrutiny, which in turn would help maximise profitability.”

      As an independent organisation, not aligned to any particular product or vendor, Avenue9 has been in an ideal position to advise and assist Redefine|BDL Hotels in selecting a suite of IT hospitality systems that will work best together – to service the company, maximise its potential, and support its future plans for growth as efficiently and as effectively as possible. This was achieved through employing an unbiased blind scoring of potential software vendors, which resulted in the selection of two preferred vendors and software: Castle Computer Services which delivered SunSystems, a leading provider of financial and business software, using Sun version 6 for general ledger, which went live in December 2014; and Barrachd (an IBM Business Analytics partner) which delivered Cognos TM1 software for planning, budgeting, and forecasting, which went live in March 2015, and Cognos BI (Business Intelligence) which went live in August 2015.

      Avenue9 has been responsible for the programme management, whilst Castle Computer Services, Barrachd and Redefine|BDL took charge of the implementation of the selected software. In July/August 2015, Redefine|BDL Hotels’s new Cognos Property Management System (PMS) feeds went live.

      “We are delighted with the success to date of the project,” said Kevin Edwards. “It has enabled Redefine|BDL Hotels to gather accurate daily results and business intelligence for all its hotels, improving the consistency of information uploaded to their ‘Owners Lounge’ which, in turn, is boosting every aspect of the business – from significantly enhanced business forecasting ability and a much greater understanding of guest behaviour, to a tighter control on payroll and security, and maximising profitability within every department of each of the company’s hotels.”

      Redefine|BDL Hotels joins the ever growing portfolio of Avenue9 clients – that currently includes major brands such as: The Gleneagles Hotel, The Hotel Collection, SACO (The Serviced Apartment Company), Generator Hostels, and Bourne Leisure and Watergate Bay Hotel in Cornwall.




      • Date Added:24/11/15


      JLL Acquires Avenue9 to Add IT Consulting Capability to Its Hotels & Hospitality Group

      JLL today announced the acquisition of Avenue9, a rapidly-growing recent start-up business providing tailored IT Consulting services for the hotels and hospitality sector. The move reflects growing interest from clients of JLL's Hotels & Hospitality Group in specialist technology strategy advice and services. Based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the north-east of England and employing seven people, Aven​​ue9 is currently focused primarily on the UK market. However, the combination of Avenue9's ground-breaking service proposition, JLL's global platform and growing client demand for hotel IT consulting services offers immediate synergies and considerable scope for international expansion.

      Mark Wynne-Smith, Global CEO of the JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group, said: "In all respects, IT is an increasingly vital aspect of hotel operations and a growing cost and management consideration for our clients. Avenue9 has developed innovative and highly effective technology solutions designed specifically for the hotels sector, an ideal complement to our existing asset management and advisory services, providing clients with an excellent outsourcing option."

      Jonathan Hubbard, Head of Investor Services for JLL Hotels & Hospitality EMEA, said: "We have been impressed with the impact Avenue9 has been making on the UK sector since its launch in 2013. Their capabilities and approach dovetail perfectly with JLL's ongoing core strategic focus on delivering sector-leading digital capabilities and ensuring our clients have access to the best technology advice and tools."

      Kevin Edwards, Managing Director of Avenue9, said: "We are really excited to be joining with JLL Hotels & Hospitality. After a great couple of years which have proven our business model and attracted considerable client interest, our strategic growth plan required us to find a partner with a powerful international platform and reputation for excellence. JLL was always the partner we had in mind. We are delighted with this outcome and looking forward to taking this next big leap forward."

      Philippa Witheat, co-founder and Sales & Marketing Director at Avenue9, added: "Joining with JLL creates a unique combination within the hotels and hospitality services sector. Nothing like this exists elsewhere. This gives us a huge platform on which to build our specialist IT consulting offer."

      The Avenue9 team will continue to be based in Newcastle and will operate under the existing name for a transitional period before fully adopting the JLL brand. The acquisition takes immediate effect. ​




      • Date Added:10/11/15


      Best Western Hotels ICT Director joins fast expanding Avenue9 hospitality IT solutions consultants’ team

      One of the UK’s leading hotel industry Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Directors has been appointed by rapidly expanding hospitality IT solutions specialists Avenue9.

      Richard Pemberton – formerly Best Western Hotels GB ICT Director – has joined Avenue9 as IT Director and Hospitality Consultant. He brings with him over 25 years of knowledge and experience at a senior level within Hospitality ICT. Prior to joining Best Western Hotels GB in 2012, he was Group Head of ICT at Principal Hayley Hotels and Conference Venues, and Mint Hotels.

      Commenting on the appointment, Avenue9 Managing Director Kevin Edwards said: “We are delighted to welcome Richard to the team at such an exciting time in Avenue9’s development – with a growing client portfolio that includes such major brands as Redefine|BDL Hotels, The Gleneagles Hotel, The Hotel Collection, SACO (The Serviced Apartment Company), Generator Hostels, Bourne Leisure and Watergate Bay Hotel in Cornwall. In addition, we are beginning to make major inroads into the hotel industry in Ireland.

      “Richard will prove invaluable to Avenue9. He brings with him a strong track record and wealth of experience in everything from the design and delivery of new hotel property infrastructure; and business intelligence, to technology roadmaps; and IT strategies. His ICT leadership and strategic approach has delivered highly effective ICT solutions – via ever changing technology – resulting in new business practices and processes for maximising hotel business potential and profitability.”

      For his part, Richard Pemberton said: “I am really excited to be joining Avenue 9 Solutions. It is definitely a company that is going places! I look forward to contributing to Avenue9’s ongoing success; and adding my skills and experience to the already extensive knowledge and expertise of the current team of consultants.”




      • Date Added:28/10/15


      Hospitality IT Solutions Specialists Avenue9 engaged to advise one of Cornwall’s leading family owned beach hotels

      Hospitality IT solutions specialists, Avenue9, is delighted to announce that it has been engaged to advise one of Cornwall’s leading family owned, beach destination hotels – the 69-bedroom Watergate Bay Hotel, overlooking one of the most popular surfing beaches on the county’s North coast at Watergate Bay, near Newquay.

      “We are delighted to be working with such an exciting and expanding family-owned hotel business as Watergate Bay,” said Avenue9 Managing Director Kevin Edwards. “Avenue9 will be undertaking a major review of the hotel’s management IT systems to demonstrate their appropriateness for the business, and their potential usage.

      “To achieve this, we will be working closely with the hotel’s management team to fully understand Watergate Bay’s aims, objectives and expectations for IT within the overall business strategy. We will examine how each current IT system functions within the hotel – enabling us to identify areas for improvement that also will support expansion of the business.

      “We will then draw up a detailed IT strategy document to: identify key IT systems that need upgrading or replacing, align the management objectives, and make recommendations for future actions and investments.”

      As an independent organisation, not aligned to any particular product or vendor, Avenue9 is in an ideal position to advise on this process and assist Watergate Bay Hotel in selecting and operating a suite of IT hospitality systems that will work best together – to service the business, maximise its potential, and support its future plans for growth as efficiently and as effectively as possible.

      Watergate Bay Hotel joins the ever growing portfolio of Avenue9 clients – that currently includes major brands such as: The Gleneagles Hotel, The Hotel Collection, SACO (The Serviced Apartment Company), Generator Hostels, Redefine BDL Hotels, and Bourne Leisure.




      • Date Added:6/10/15
        Kevin Edwards


      IT – the UK hotel industry’s forgotten element? Why the lack of IT expertise in understanding what Software Vendors are selling, could be costing businesses guests and revenue

      IT is often described as the forgotten element in the UK hospitality industry. For more than a decade, the UK hotel industry has significantly underinvested in IT, with serious consequences. The emergence and dominance in recent years of Online Travel Agents (OTAs), for example, has impacted bottom line profits through the industry failing to invest in IT to win the battle to drive bookings through their own proprietary websites.

      In addition, the hotel industry has fallen behind other service industries in addressing the data insights revolution. As a result, it is not as competitive as it should be in the fields of customer relationship management and loyalty schemes. In the face of fast changing technology and today’s highly competitive climate, it’s crucial to invest in the right IT to seek out guest behaviours – in terms of booking and spend patterns – and to use the data for, amongst other things, researching trends and information on ‘cost’ behaviour. This is an area where OTAs, airlines and supermarkets have traditionally led the way in customer relationship management and loyalty schemes.

      This brings me to another even more fundamental IT problem the hotel industry faces – the fact it is full of poorly executed and extortionately expensive interfaces. These interfaces range from guests booking, to guests checking out. Indeed, the world of hotels is dependent on interfaces. It loves them with a passion! It’s an industry where general managers, sales managers, IT managers and receptionists constantly talk about interfaces, their faults, failures and their general lack of support. I can honestly say that in my entire IT working life, I have never met an industry so vocal about the dreaded interface!

      Let’s face it, an interface is an interaction between two things that could be a human to human, a human to a computer, or a computer to a computer. Surely in the technologically advanced world we now live in, we should be able to get one to talk to another? The aviation industry has managed it and it has a phenomenal amount of systems integration – from baggage handling, to reservations and would you believe it, serial interfaces. You never hear the aviation sector complaining as much about interfaces. The reason is simple: they have modernised, evolved and stopped using outdated technology; and, most significantly, they have derived financial and operational benefits.

      The question is: has this evolution occurred due to the airlines and airport operators, or has it been down to the software and hardware vendors recognising the need to evolve? The simple answer: the vendors recognised the need and the aviation businesses recognised the importance IT can have on their bottom lines. As a result, this has helped to eradicate system integration issues and stop the temptation to patch up old technologies that had leaked money for years. This is reflected in the fact that the cost of air travel continues to remain static and, in certain instances, has actually reduced. In short, the airline operators, as a whole, are maximising their profitability.

      So why can’t the hotel industry do the same? A major hurdle to achieving this is that the profession often does not know who to trust – from infrastructure providers and IT vendors, to high end consultants commanding large fees – when making important decisions on critical business systems. IT is an enormous subject area. In most other sectors, businesses are able to employ a diverse set of IT skills – a factor not shared by the hotel industry. Unfortunately, owing to the complexity of hotels’ IT systems versus the relative size of the organisations supporting them, employing teams of proficient IT people isn’t truly viable. This has led to the hotel industry becoming reliant on IT vendors.

      There are a myriad of vendors out there to supply the industry – the problem is that IT has a language of its own; and how many hotel owners and managers fully understand what is being sold to them? The answer is very few; and the majority need unbiased IT experts, with in-depth hospitality industry knowledge, to translate ‘IT speak’ and advise them about the systems best suited to their operation – that will talk to each other and maximise business potential and return on investment. This is where Avenue9, created to fill a void in the hotel sector, has a very major role to play in providing a seamless and independent approach to managing a multitude of vendor relationships and disparate systems, often inappropriate to the nature of many hospitality and leisure operations. As an independent organisation, not aligned to any particular product or vendor, Avenue9 is in an ideal position to advise on this process and assist our clients in operating and selecting a suite of IT hotel systems that will work best together – to service the business, maximise its potential, and support its future plans for growth as efficiently and as effectively as possible. 

      We believe that it’s the software vendors which are driving requirements and functionality in hotel and leisure operations, rather than the vendors listening to operators’ requirements. With such a diverse marketplace, it is not the case of one size fits all. A five-star spa, aimed at international travellers, is very different to that of a one-star operation focusing on the domestic market. This is where Avenue9 excels. We want to understand fully the nature of our clients, understand their inner workings and fundamentally comprehend how they operate. It is only once this process is complete that we are able to suggest and recommend tailored solutions to fit their respective businesses.

      We are also very mindful of the fact that the UK hotel industry has high employee turnover, and it is extremely difficult to ensure there is a consistency in maintaining staff IT skills and knowledge, especially in view of a general lack of refresher training within this field. This again is an area where Avenue9 will provide the tailored support and back-up needed. In short, we are here to take the angst out if IT for hotel businesses through our independent approach, built upon industry experience and market knowledge. This puts us in an ideal position to consult upon, supply, manage and host any aspect of IT within the hotel and leisure sector. Most importantly, this is underpinned not just by technical expertise, but as I have already stated, a deep understanding of how a particular business operates and the unique challenges it presents.

      But don’t just take my word for all this – let our rapidly growing client portfolio speak for itself. It includes major brands such as: The Gleneagles Hotel, The Hotel Collection, SACO (The Serviced Apartment Company), Generator Hostels, Redefine BDL Hotels, Bourne Leisure, and Watergate Bay. 

      Avenue9 is currently involved in projects that involve everything from PMS (Property Management Systems) and EPoS (Electronic Point of Sale) rollouts; deployment of guest technology and applications; PCI compliance; network solutions; and IT systems for new-build properties, to general consultancy and IT health checks; technical support; contract negotiation; and brand development and website hosting. We look forward to hearing what we can do for you.



     

      • Date Added:9/4/15


      Rising operational and technical management star joins Avenue9 hospitality IT solutions team

      One of the UK hotel and catering industry's rising operational and technical management stars, Phil Brown, has joined rapidly expanding hospitality IT solutions specialists, Avenue9, as a Hospitality Consultant. He was formerly Area Operations Manager for the 12-strong Bath Ales retail estate, encompassing five different concepts – ranging from the Gordito charcuterie bar and Beerd craft beer and pizza bar in Bristol, to the Graze Bar, Brasserie and Chop House in Cirencester.

      Brown brings twenty years' operational and technical experience to Avenue9 – including time as General Manager for Mitchells and Butler's Premium Country Dining Group, and eight years with Malmaison/Hotel du Vin. Whilst at the latter, he spent two years as the company's IT Commercial Liaison Manager, which took in project managing the opening of five hotels and the successful delivery of IT projects. He was also Deputy General Manager of the Hotel du Vin, Harrogate. In addition, from 2008 to 2010, he was Consultant/Project Manager for PRB Projects – working on assignments ranging from a multitude of hotel openings and team training, to business development and operational practices.

      Commenting on the appointment, Avenue9 Managing Director Kevin Edwards said: "We are delighted to welcome such an experienced and dynamic hospitality industry practitioner as Phil, to our growing team of Hospitality Consultants. One of Avenue9's great strengths and priority concerns is fully understanding our clients' hospitality businesses; and to do this, it is vitally important to employ Hospitality Consultants such as Phillip – who have the breadth of technical and operational experience, as well as the vision and personality – to fulfil this objective.

      "Phil has joined us at a very exciting time of growth for Avenue9 – with Gleneagles recently joining our ever growing portfolio of clients that currently includes: De Vere Village Hotels, Shire Hotels & Spas, The Hotel Collection, and the independently owned Crieff Hydro in Perthshire. Our expert knowledge of delivering business systems is in great demand as the industry seeks to gain advantage through prudent technology investment."

      Newcastle-upon-Tyne based Avenue9 is a highly experienced IT solutions delivery company – specially designed to take the fear out of IT systems management in the hospitality and leisure industry through a clearly defined, seamless and independent bespoke approach to solving client IT challenges. In June 2014, following a soft launch, it was officially unveiled across the UK and overseas to all sizes of operation.

     




      • Date Added:6/3/15

      Hospitality IT Solutions Specialists Avenue9 to advise Gleneagles

      Recently launched Hospitality IT solutions specialists, Avenue9, is delighted to announce that it has been engaged by the world-famous, 5-star 232-bedroom Gleneagles Hotel, Spa and Golf Resort in Perthshire.

      “We are delighted and very excited to be working with such a prestigious establishment as Gleneagles,” said Avenue9 Managing Director Kevin Edwards. “Avenue9 is undertaking a major comprehensive IT Management Review for Gleneagles. To achieve this, we are working alongside Gleneagles Management to understand the direction of the business and the expectations for IT within the overall business strategy. We are also working with staff within each department to understand how they are currently using systems – which will allow us to identify areas of improvement that will complement Gleneagles’ unique guest service.

      “Our reviews will enable us to draw up a detailed IT strategy document that will form the basis for working with Gleneagles to identify key IT systems that need upgrading or replacing, to align the management objectives, and schedule the delivery of the strategy over an agreed timescale.”

      Gleneagles joins the ever growing portfolio of Avenue9 clients – that currently includes De Vere Village Hotels (urban resorts), Shire Hotels & Spas, Hotel Collection (formerly known as Puma Hotels), and the independently owned Crieff Hydro in Perthshire.

     




      • Date Added:20/1/15

      IT company Avenue9 rent Newcastle office space at Clavering House.

      We are so pleased to be able to announce that hospitality IT experts Avenue9 have relocated their offices to Clavering House, following their extensive search for a new Newcastle office space.

      Avenue9 are the complete service hospitality IT experts, providing a seamless end to end IT service, from property management systems through to guest entertainment. The company supplies, implements and supports every aspect of a hospitality company’s IT needs, utilising a dedicated team of industry professionals that truly understand the hospitality business.

      Clavering House tenants enjoy old fashioned values and a thoroughly modern service

      Avenue9 complements an array of small and medium sized businesses that have already moved into Grade II Listed Building Clavering House, preferring our quirky combination of the modern and traditional – both in the building itself and in our standard of service that’s firmly based on the old-fashioned values of putting the customer first.

      Avenue9 Sales and Marketing Director, Philippa Witheat, explains why Clavering House was the place they chose to rent Newcastle office space:

      “We are delighted to have relocated to Clavering House. As far as serviced office space goes it doesn’t get much better!

      The facilities offered here at the business centre, and the location of the offices, works well for our business and we look forward to a successful tenure moving forward, building on a really positive start. Helen Reed and her team at Clavering House worked with us to ensure that all of our requirements were met, and the level of flexibility offered made the choice to move here an easy one!”

      Thank you – we’re really pleased to have you as part of our growing Newcastle business community – so welcome!

      Helen Reed, Clavering House Managing Director

     




      • Date Added:24/11/14

      Crieff Hydro move on to Avenue9

      Crieff Hydro – one of Scotland’s oldest trading companies and leading leisure resorts – welcoming over 1,000 visitors a day to the 900 acre country estate in Perthshire.

      Crieff Hydro Facilities:
      215 4-star bedrooms
      55 4-star and 5-star self-catering units
      3 restaurants and 3 food venues
      One of Scotland’s largest childcare facilities – ‘BIG Country’
      60-plus indoor and outdoor activities
      Spa
      Leisure Centre and Swimming Pool
      Riding Centre
      Action Glen Outdoor Activity Centre
      12 meeting and function spaces, including 500-seat Conference Centre
      Operates 7 other hotels:
      21-bedroom, Murraypark Hotel, Perthshire
      132-bedroom Peebles Hydro, Scottish Borders
      24-bedroom The Park Hotel, Peebles, Scottish Borders
      53-bedroom Ballachulish Hotel, foot of Glencoe near Fort William, Highlands
      59-bedroom Isles of Glencoe Hotel & Leisure Centre, foot of Glencoe
      near Fort William, Highlands
      59-bedroom Oban Caledonian Hotel, Oban – gateway to Argyll and Western Isles
      80-bedroom The Yorkshire Hotel, Harrogate

      Client Brief to Avenue9:
      To project manage the selection of a vendor for Crieff Hydro’s new Property Management System (PMS) – a multi-property platform that could be integrated easily not only in the resort itself, but also in its seven other hotels across the UK.

      With its award-winning customer service and forensic understanding of its customers, Crieff Hydrowanted a system that would support centralisation of its individual operations and improve its all-important customer journey. The current set-up featured a number of stand-alone systems which, in some cases, talked to each other; in others, didn’t. This risked the customer journey falling short of efficiency and excellence targets and expectations.

      With a growing online presence and rapidly increasing customer IT usage, the Crieff Hydro needed a solution that would give clients a greater choice in on-line booking, not just with accommodation but with other resort facilities such as the Spa, activities and dining.

      Background to the project – outlined by Crieff Hydro Head of Revenue and Commercial, Paul McNicoll:
      'In early 2014, we went from owning two hotels to eight, literally overnight so we needed a solution quickly, though we knew this was something we couldn’t rush. Our business is complex, with many key stakeholders, and we deliberately chose a slow process of stakeholder engagement to ensure maximum buy-in at every step. Some of the major challenges were in balancing the needs of an individual department with the needs of the organisation as a whole. We are ever conscious that whatever solution we invest in has to work as well in 10 years’ time as it does today. Future proofing our decision has been one of the key challenges.

      “Perhaps the biggest challenge is the roll-out of the system itself. Transferring a whole organisation from one system to another is a monumental task, fraught with danger. Trying to do this without interrupting the business isn’t easy, so we’ve favoured a careful, slightly cautious approach to give us that assured comfort.”

      Avenue9’s role highlights its ‘IT solutions delivery’ USPs
      Avenue9’s role underlines the importance of its policy of understanding fully the nature, inner workings and operating needs of its clients before recommending and implementing solutions that will fit their businesses. It also demonstrates Avenue9’s all-important independent approach to vendor selection through its policy of ‘blind scoring’ candidate vendors’ proposals – ensuring total impartiality and the right selection of PMS system to maximise efficiency and return on investment.

      Crieff Hydro’s Paul McNicoll explains: “As of August 2014, we’re now at the stage of finalising our vendor selection. We started with five and have narrowed this down to two, with whom we have been working to finalise our needs. Avenue9 has project managed this so far, breaking the process into clear measurable stages. The IT solutions company and its highly experienced hospitality consultant Mark Jelley spent a great deal of time working with all our hotel departments to understand their specific needs, as well as those of their customers. Avenue9 has been on-hand at each stage to facilitate discussions, provide expert advice and generally co-ordinate what we’re doing, with a clear output after each meeting.

      “Our desired outcome is a vastly improved customer experience, through an end-to-end multi-property PMS. While the initial process seemed daunting and rather like climbing a mountain, Avenue9 has been the partner we’ve needed to make this journey with us, and we’re looking forward hugely to selecting and implementing the new system in the coming months.”

      Avenue9 Managing Director Kevin Edwards said: ‘It’s a real pleasure and extremely exciting to be working with Crieff Hydro. Given that today’s hotel guests are becoming more and more technology savvy, it is not only vital we get the investment in the multi-property PMS right for Crieff Hydro, but also that their customers’ IT journey is seamless.”

      About Avenue9:
      Avenue9 are the complete service hospitality IT experts, providing a seamless end to end IT service, from property management systems through to guest entertainment. Avenue9 supply’s,implements and supports every aspect of a hospitality companies IT needs, utilising a dedicated team of industry professionals that truly understand your business.

     

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    • Date Added:17/6/14

  • A seamless approach to Hospitality I.T.

    Avenue9 was established to fill a gap in the Hospitality sector. Through extensive conversations with stakeholders, hoteliers and existing providers, it was apparent that there were common challenges faced by Finance and IT Directors, as well as developers, in establishing and running their IT estate; namely, managing a multitude of vendor relationships and disparate systems which were often not appropriate for nature of the business.

    Avenue9 aims to assist in the overcoming of these challenges. Through an independent approach, built upon industry experience and market knowledge, we are in a position to consult upon, supply, manage and host any aspect of IT within the hospitality sector. Most importantly, this is underpinned, not just by technical expertise, but an understanding of how Hotels operate and the unique challenges they present.

    There is a plethora of companies in the market from whom Hoteliers may procure IT services. However, very few offer the complete end-to-end solutions and the majority have a vested interest in only their product and have a limited understanding of the hospitality sector. Similarly, those companies which do offer ‘end-to-end’ solutions, tend not to provide tailored consultancy around PMS and strategy, but rather place a focus on the supply of infrastructure.

    The Hospitality marketplace is diverse and there is an abundance of products and services designed to suit different organisations. The products are feature rich, however it is Avenue9’s belief that the market is back to front, it is the software vendors that are driving requirements and functionality rather than the vendors listening to the requirements of the businesses within it. With such a diverse marketplace it is not the case of one size fits all, a five star spa aimed at the international traveller is very different to that of one that focusses on the domestic market. This is where Avenue9 have excelled, we want to fully understand the nature of our clients, understand their inner workings and fundamentally understand how they operate. It is only once this process is complete that we are able to suggest and recommend solutions that will fit their respective businesses.

    Avenue9 have and are currently involved in the following types of projects,

    • PMS and EPoS Rollouts (consultancy, RFP delivery, hosting)
    • PCI Compliance, both technical and operational consultancy
    • Various network solutions
    • New Build properties
    • General Consultancy and IT Health Checks
    • Technical Support
    • Contract Negotiation
    • Brand Development and Website Hosting

    Key to our approach is the independence, it is about selecting the right solutions for each of our clients, in the same way as a hotel would ensure they delivered the ultimate guest experience. Furthermore, by our understanding of the entire operation of a hotel we are able to visualise the bigger picture with any IT investment and ensure that it is the right investment that will offer value to the business.

    Avenue9 has worked with large 4* and 5* groups with multiple brands, as well as smaller independent clients and our approach is always to understand the business and its culture first and foremost.

    So in summary, Avenue9 work with hospitality organisations to understand their businesses, understand their culture and deliver seamless IT solutions for business that are handcrafted and delivered to the maximum return on investment rather than advancing our own technology status in the industry.

    Read more here:

    More hoteliers need to realise that IT is an enabler for staff’ says #JLL’s #Avenue9

 

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    • Date Added:10/6/14

  • Ease your I.T. headaches with our clear solutions.

    IT is designed to make our lives easier, it is there to enhance our product and service offerings, offer our guests a seamless electronic journey through our establishments, from booking via a simple yet comprehensive booking engine, to connecting their devices to the guest Wi-Fi, utilising the in room entertainment and then departing via the check-out having had a great stay. Yet in many cases IT has a stigma attached to it, general perceptions of IT is that it is costly, systems are poorly integrated with one another and most commonly IT Systems are unresponsive, faulty and just get in the way of providing the guest a service. Yet IT is designed to make our lives easier? IT represents 2% of our annual spend, which compared to other industries is 1.5% less, so why is there an underinvestment?

    The reality is that IT should be making our businesses more efficient and our guest journey seamless, however many organisations have had their fingers burnt with IT projects, stories of the promised software functionality in the sales pitch that three years on is still in development to a lack of employee buy in that has left an IT system idly residing as an expensive resident, plus a myriad of other reasons why IT has been a failure. Of course this is not true of all implementations and systems, there are plenty of projects that have met the expectations of the business and are offering great value, however there are some key considerations when it comes to investing into IT.

    Establishing solid foundations – Some of the most important systems are the ones that fundamentally underpin our business operation. Ensuring a robust and functional Property Management System (PMS), Accounting System and EPoS are in place is the first step, these three areas should ensure that there is no loss of revenue from your operation and that the guest journey is smooth. Often it is these three systems that can cause hospitality businesses the biggest headaches, each hospitality operation whilst on the surface is similar to the next, the inner workings of the businesses will be very different, the product and service offering will be relatively unique, after-all all hoteliers want to stand out from the crowd. So before evaluating what is available in the marketplace for your business, spend the time analysing your business requirements and understand how companies can meet them.

    Engaging expertise – It is often perceived that by employing the services of third parties it will increase the cost and risk of selecting and implementing new IT systems. However in many cases investing into the pools of expertise can pay dividends, not only in bringing experience in driving the costs of technology purchases down through experience of the wider market, but also in bringing a fresh view of your business and how it operates. When appointing third parties it is important to ensure that they have the relevant hospitality industry experience, it’s not just about understanding IT it’s about understanding the industry. Avenue9 was created from demand of the industry, there was a recognition that the industry needed an independent source that could coordinate multiple vendor relationships, provide assistance in the procurement of systems that are fit for each and every client based upon their requirements rather than promoting the latest and greatest release. Avenue9’s approach is to work with its clients to understand the inner-workings of our clients and make recommendations of how technology could reside and ultimately add value to the business.

    Investing in IT is just like any other investment, it needs to provide a return, sometimes the return is invisible, however as our guests becoming more and more technology savvy we need to ensure their journey is seamless.



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    • Date Added:8/5/14

  • The Elephant in room 321.

    Avenue9 have a pragmatic view of PCI compliance, whilst it is recognised that it is required at all levels of hospitality businesses, it is not a standard that should fundamentally change the way a business operates.

    The PCI standard should be looked upon in a similar light as Health and Safety and Data Protection. You would not knowingly hand out details of a guest that is staying with you, so why would you want to potentially offer out the financial card information of your guests, again unknowingly.

    PCI should be embraced by businesses within hospitality not met with fear, dread and the thought that it is going to cost the business significant investment to implement.

    There is good reason why PCI strikes fear into the hearts of CEO’s, CFO’s and GM’s, and maybe the reason why it has been pigeon holed as an IT project….it’s data security, networks etc. Often how it can be positioned by organisations looking to profit through mandatory compliance, the fear factor is often used to coerce organisations into taking evasive action to remove legal implication, financial penalties and damage to their brands.

    The reality for most organisations is that all of these subjects do represent risk, however what is important about that statement is the word RISK. The very subject of PCI strikes fear into organisations that they are not PCI compliant therefore all of their clients’ credit card information is going to be proliferated throughout the criminal underworld and the cost of implementing various IT controls is going to directly impact upon their profitability. The reality is that neither of these things are probably going to happen, but they are risks that need to be assessed, as they could happen. This is not a point of difference to market to potential clients, much in the same way that you would not promote your hotel to be safe for guests to stay, say for example your hotel kitchen will not serve contaminated food, or that you will not be electrocuted by charging your mobile phone. PCI compliance has to be accepted as a fundamental part of operating a business, it should not be seen as an elephant in the room that may pack its bag and check out of room 321….PCI is now resident in your hotel, next door to Health and Safety and Data Protection.

    However what needs resolving is the perception that PCI is costly, a single IT project and offers no benefit to your guest. They are not going to take to Trip advisor to say “what a great hotel, they didn’t share my credit card information with anyone else!” cyber fraud is generally under the radar of where peoples card information has been gleaned. However it only takes two or more connections to an establishment to start the tidal wave of negative publicity.

    PCI isn’t expensive, it is about taking a measured approach to understanding risk and non-compliance and provisioning a plan to implement controlled measures to mitigate risk and use the standard to enhance the guest journey. It is about protection of your guest against theft beyond their control, in the same way that you would ensure your staff handle their food correctly, ensuring they handle their credit card information is just as important. Looking after their health is just as important as looking after their wealth.

    Avenue9 recommend understanding the state of compliance, gaining a GAP assessment is the first stage toward compliance, but it is a significant step. Understanding where the operation of the hotel meets compliance is pivotal, then assessing risks with not meeting the standard and putting in place a coherent plan to remediate areas of improvement that meets the financial commitments of the business. The reality is that most organisations take credit card information with the sensitivity that you would expect, it’s more about continuous improvement to ultimately deliver a greater guest experience, both before and significantly after they stay.

    Read more here:

    • Payment Card Industry compliance is: ‘fundamental part of operating a business,' says JLL's #Avenue9 #IHIF



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    • Date Added:14/1/13

  • Skilled Professional Checks in with Hospitality IT Specialist, Avenue9.

    Mark Jelley, who has been in the Hospitality sector for over 25 years, is to join Avenue9 as Hospitality Consultant.

    Avenue9, who provides complete IT solutions specifically for the leisure and hospitality sector, is part of the Claritas Group of Companies and based in Bramham, West Yorkshire.

    He brings to the Company an impressive history of implementing successful IT solutions, proven money saving techniques and experience of working with the big boys such as Deloitte, Malmasion, Hotel du Vin, Principal Hayley, Le Meridien Hotels & Resorts and more.

    Avenue9 launched just over a year ago. Mark joins at a time of growth, his experience acting as a catalyst to accelerate the business.

    Kevin Edwards, Sales Director, Claritas Group says: “We are seriously penetrating this sector now, and with the expertise Mark generates, there is a growing confidence for real success.”

    • Date Added:14/1/13

  • Exhibiting at T.H.E. could see a move into Europe for Hospitality IT Specialist, Avenue9.

    Avenue9, launched in May 2012, will use its time at the new show to expand its UK client base, and to explore possibilities in Europe.

    It is part of the Claritas Solutions Group of Companies, and provides complete, professional, IT solutions for the leisure and hospitality sector. It has its HQ in West Yorkshire but covers clients throughout the UK, and together with its Claritas IT heritage and enviable well established, trusted and unique systems, is making significant inroads into the sector.

    Avenue9 works with clients to maximize any existing technology investment, and provide a seamless, measurable, efficient workplace. It has a determination to ensure the sector has optimum systems in place, and will do so by streamlining disparate and multiple IT supplier streams, and any prohibitive costs from differentiating technologies.

    Kevin Edwards as Sales Director, a role he also has within Claritas Solutions, adds gravitas to the fledgling firm. He is delighted with current progress and he says: “Avenue9 is geared up to provide clear thinking IT solutions to Hotels, Restaurants, Pubs and Leisure Clubs, and to provide the vital platform needed by the sector for comprehensive, efficient and future growth, within the UK and the EU.”

    Solutions from Avenue9 deliver services to enhance every customer touch point, including Property Management Systems (PMS), Guest technology, EPoS and much more. The dream of no pain, easy and accurate bookings, has become a cost effective reality, seamlessly incorporating all the strictures within the sector.


    The 9 Commandments