Hospitality Technology Announces 2018 Hotel Visionary Award Winners

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Hospitality Technology (HT) magazine is proud to announce the winners of the 2018 Hotel Visionary Awards. The Hotel Visionary awards honor hotel companies for outstanding achievement, vision and leadership in technological innovation.

Technology innovation in the hospitality industry is crucial to growth and continued success

Every year, HT honors a select group of lodging companies for outstanding achievement in delivering technological excellence. This year’s awards were presented on March 14 during HT-NEXT at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego, Calif. HT-NEXT combines HT’s Hotel Technology Forum and HTNG North America into one immersive networking and educational event for hotel executives and solution providers. The HT-NEXT Awards program, underwritten by Datatrend, includes the HTNG TechOvation awards and the Hotel Visionary Awards.

“The hospitality industry has found itself at a crossroads as we’ve reached a point in time where guests have incredibly advanced technology in their own homes – or in their pockets,” Dorothy Creamer, editor of Hospitality Technology, says. “This year’s Visionary Awards represents how forward-thinking companies are responding to this new normal. From artificial intelligence to blockchain, the through line with this year’s winners is that each company is focusing on how to use technology to both improve the way they do business while providing the kinds of experiences and interaction their guests want.”

The Hotel Visionary Awards, now celebrating 14 years, are presented in two categories: enterprise innovation and customer-facing innovation. In order to ensure that companies from across the industry are recognized for their efforts, consideration is given to size, resources and individual market segment benchmarks. Winners are selected by HT editorial staff and members of the HT advisory board on a basis of thought leadership, execution and forward-thinking vision.

“Technology innovation in the hospitality industry is crucial to growth and continued success," says Rob Graves, vice president of Datatrend Technologies. "As a road warrior myself, it’s a great time to be a traveler with so many improvements to the guest experience. Sponsoring this program means a lot to Datatrend. Our mission is to help organizations continually modernize technology to not only better users’ experiences, but to enhance business outcomes. This program is a perfect complement to Datatrend’s role in hospitality technology innovation.”

Hospitality Technology Announces 2018 Hotel Visionary Award Winners:
Hilton, Nordic Choice Hotels, Caesars Entertainment, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, and EAST, Miami honored for outstanding achievement, vision and leadership in technological innovation.

The 2018 Visionary Award Winners

Hilton received Enterprise Innovator honors for its design and implementation of the Connected Room platform that in addition to enhancing guest experience, streamlines operations for Hilton hotel owners and team members. Currently in beta mode and deployed at 1,000 hotel rooms, guests who stay at Connected Room-enabled properties will be able to use the Hilton Honors app to control and personalize the room. On the management side, engineering will have insight into maintenance issues before they become a nuisance to the guest. Also, since hotel rooms are vacant 70% of the time, the Connected Room allows hotels to power down devices, such as the TV, HVAC, and lights when a room is unoccupied, dramatically reducing energy consumption.

“At Hilton, we’re committed to making guests’ lives easier and helping hotel owners and operators run their businesses as efficiently as possible – and technology is one of our main means for doing so,” said Josh Weiss, vice president of brand and guest technology, Hilton. “Connected Room brings together many of the technologies we employ to create a truly seamless experience. It is a real honor to be recognized by Hospitality Technology as we scale the Connected Room offering to guests and owners across the U.S. and beyond.”

Nordic Choice Hotels was selected as an Enterprise Innovator for establishing a future-ready framework based on blockchain technology to build a next-generation distribution platform. Nordic Choice Hotels created a sister company called eBerry to follow the progress of cryptocurrencies and blockchain and learn how best to apply these technologies within hospitality, specifically to ensure guests will return and book hotel rooms through Nordic Choice Hotels' own channels. Knowing that its guests value seeing a selection of hotels when planning a trip to a new destination, Nordic Choice saw potential in an open inventory distribution platform. Partnering with Winding Tree, Nordic Choice offers hotel room inventory on a decentralized blockchain platform, opening up a new channel for third-party companies and startups. This allows new companies to create innovative services for its guests without having to go through aggregators or sign individual contracts with every supplier. Guests will continue to pay with a credit card on the website or at the hotel, unaware that their booking is being channeled through blockchain. The platform has been implemented at the Hobo Hotel with plans to roll out company-wide in the near future. Nordic Choice believes that this technology will ultimately reduce costs associated with OTA fees while also creating new possibilities for startups.

"Our ambition is to be at the forefront of digital development and implementation of new exciting digital services. All in order to offer our guests the most seamless experience possible. Testing blockchain as a new type of distribution channel adds an extra dimension and knowledge that creates new conditions for raising the service level for our guests” said Christian Lundén, director of future business, Nordic Choice Hotels. "To be selected as a winner among so many other great initiatives is proof that we are on to something exciting and may change the map of distribution in the future. We are so honored to be selected as winner for this award!"

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts was named a Customer-Facing Innovator for its development of a custom chat platform that is available in more than 100 languages and offers 24/7 service. Accessible on a range of messaging platforms, including the Four Seasons App, SMS, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and Kakao Talk, guests are able to interact with the hotel on their preferred platform. Four Seasons Chat is powered by real Four Seasons staff, in real-time – it does not rely on chatbot technology. Four Seasons piloted the chat platform in April 2017 at 30 hotels and resorts and found that more than half of guests introduced to the service used it on their first day. Those same guests also engaged with Four Seasons more regularly, averaging more than six chats a stay. By the end of 2017, Four Seasons Chat had been rolled out to 74 hotels and resorts worldwide. Boasting response times much faster than industry averages, 95% of messages receive responses under five minutes, and 75% receive replies in 90 seconds or less. The rollout fostered a 25% increase in guest satisfaction on the mobile app, and 51% chat engagement for those aware of the platform.

“It is an honor to be recognized by Hospitality Technology's Hotel Visionary Awards for Four Seasons Chat, the latest in our company’s long history of innovation,” says Marco Trecroce, senior vice president and CIO, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. “Our goal with Chat was to deliver a highly personalized service to our guests on the channels where they were already active, and ultimately enhance their overall Four Seasons experience. The response to Chat has been incredibly positive, and we are thrilled to see our guests embrace the platform and use it to engage more with our services, our brand, and most importantly our people.”

Caesars Entertainment was chosen as a Customer-Facing Innovator for its deployment of Ivy, an automated guest engagement platform. Now live in more than 6,000 rooms, Caesars Entertainment is the first major gaming company in Las Vegas to offer a widespread guest text messaging program with built-in artificial intelligence (AI). The average resolution time for manual guest text messages is less than one minute. Ivy also surveys guests during their stay, which allows for quick recovery of unhappy guests in real-time. Guests can continue to text with Ivy once they return home to obtain a copy of their folio or locate a missing item. Guests who engage with Ivy rated their overall experience an average of five points higher than guests who knew about Ivy but did not engage.

“Ivy and our other technology enhancements have allowed us to provide services to our guests more efficiently, reducing friction and driving increased satisfaction,” says Michael Marino, senior vice president and chief experience officer for Caesars Entertainment. “We are proud that we have improved the customer experience by implementing innovative technologies at Caesars Entertainment’s resorts.”

EAST, Miami was chosen as a Customer-Facing Innovator for its creation of a modern intelligent hotel ecosystem by implementing innovations to secure, streamline and personalize the guest experience. A robust mobile app enables a seamless experience allowing guests to book a room after seeing real-time rates and availability, check-in, bypass the front desk with mobile key, make reservations at on-site restaurants via an integration with OpenTable, and discover local attractions, restaurants and nightlife. EAST, Miami also installed hardware to allow guests to securely cast content without having to download apps, scan QR codes or take additional steps. Through a world’s first integration between AssaAbloy and Otis platforms, EAST, Miami was able to secure elevators and intelligently restrict access to certain floors and areas at certain times.

"EAST, Miami is proud to offer guests cutting-edge technology even before they step into our lobby," said Mihai Bote, CHTP, director of technology, Swire Hotels. "With a next generation native mobile app for both iOS and Android platforms they can enjoy features like mobile check-in or mobile key, in-room content streaming or benefit from frictionless secure destination elevators. Here at EAST, Miami, and at Swire Hotels as a whole, we are confident that innovative technology is essential to the functionality of the modern intelligent hotel ecosystem, so it is an honor to have these efforts recognized."

Past Visionary Award Winners Include:
·         Hyatt (2017)
·         NH Hotel Group (2017)
·         La Quinta Inns and Suites (2017)
·         Watermark Luxe Waterfront Cottages (2017)
·         Grand View Lodge (2016)
·         Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide (2016)
·         Hilton Worldwide (2015)
·         Fontainebleau Hotel (2015)
·         SilverBirch Hotels & Resorts (2015)
·         Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group (2014)
·         La Quinta Inns & Suites (2014)
·         Red Lion Hotels (2014)
·         Hyatt Hotels (2013)
·         Red Roof Inns (2013)
·         Choice Hotels (2013)
·         Conrad Hotels & Resorts (2013)
·         Hilton Worldwide (2012)
·         La Quinta Inns & Suites (2012)
·         Gaylord Entertainment (2012)
·         Flamingo Las Vegas (2012)
·         Choice Hotels International (2011)
·         Morgans Hotel Group (2011)
·         Galt House Hotel (2011)
·         Royal Caribbean (2011)
·         CityCenter (2010)
·         Courtyard by Marriott (2010)
·         JHM Hotels Group (2010)
·         InterContinental Hotels Group (2009)
·         Harrah’s Entertainment (2009)
·         Hyatt Place (2009)
·         Thayer Lodging Group (2009)
·         MTM Luxury Lodging (2008)
·         The Peninsula Hotels (2008)
·         Fairmont Hotels & Resorts (2008)
·         Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group (2007)
·         Ginn Resorts (2007)
·         Hilton Hotels Corporation (2007)
·         Rosewood Hotels & Resorts (2006)
·         Harrah’s Entertainment (2006)
·         MGM Mirage (2006)
·         Wyndham International (2005)
·         Sea Island Company (2005)
·         Marriott International (2005)
·         Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group (2005)
·         Hyatt International (2005)

About Hospitality Technology
Hospitality Technology (HT) is the only publication dedicated to covering the role of information technology in improving business performance for hotel and restaurant operators. The Hospitality Technology editorial portfolio includes: a print publication that publishes nine times annually and reaches more than 16,000 hospitality industry executives, three networking and educational events (MURTEC, HT-NEXT and MURTEC Executive Summit), a comprehensive website, e-newsletters, web seminars, and several exclusive annual reports and studies. Visit Hospitality Technology online at http://www.hospitalitytech.com. Hospitality Technology is published by Chicago-based EnsembleIQ.

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