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Hospitality Technology Announces 2023 Hotel Visionary Award Winners

IHG Hotels & Resorts, Sonesta International Hotels, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Valtech, Marriott Digital Services, and RealTime Reservation are this year’s winners. 
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Hospitality Technology (HT) magazine is proud to announce the winners of the 2023 Hotel Visionary Awards. The Hotel Visionary Awards, celebrating its 18th anniversary this year, has traditionally honored hotel companies for outstanding achievement, vision and leadership in technological innovation. This year, the awards program has added a Hotel-Vendor Partnership category to honor the hard work that goes into building exceptional working relationships between hoteliers and the supplier community.

This year’s awards will be presented on November 16th at the Hotel Technology Forum (HTF). HTF will take place Nov. 15-17th at the PGA NAtional Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Winners will also participate at HTF where they will discuss their winning initiatives.

“Visionary Award winners are bringing incredible imagination and expertise to address many of the lodging industry’s most pressing challenges,” says Hospitality Technology’s Editor-in-Chief, Robert Firpo-Cappiello. “From connectivity to loyalty, from digital guest experience to reservations, we applaud these exceptional accomplishments and the efficiencies they offer to guests and staff.”

[Interested in seeing our winners talk about their accomplishments live on stage? Register here for the Hotel Technology Forum!]

2023 Product Innovation Award: IHG Hotels & Resorts

To enhance the guest experience, IHG Hotels & Resorts spent the last two years developing Wi-Fi Auto Connect - a new feature launched on its mobile app. The Wi-Fi Auto Connect feature automatically connects IHG One Rewards members to Wi-Fi upon arrival at more than 5,000 IHG hotels worldwide after it is enabled the very first time. There are no access codes or logins necessary to join the hotel’s Wi-Fi network. The feature is available exclusively in the IHG One Rewards mobile app and it incentivizes guests to download the app and creates further brand loyalty with guests who already have the app downloaded. Whether visiting an IHG restaurant, attending a conference at a hotel or checking out a resort spa – a guest can connect automatically to the hotel’s Wi-Fi. They don’t need to be a guest checking in with a reservation.  

On average, guests connect to Wi-Fi within 7 minutes of arriving on the property. With this new feature they connect instantly. With Wi-Fi Auto Connect, IHG has successfully saved guests 10.5 million minutes, which is equivalent to 7,291 days of people asking, "What's the Wi-Fi password?" Since the launch there have been more than 1.5 million downloads of the Wi-Fi Auto Connect profile on guest devices through the IHG app and an average of more than 37,000 Wi-Fi onboarding each day using this feature.

2023 Product Innovation Award: Sonesta International Hotels

In 2022, Sonesta embarked on a transformative Loyalty System Replacement project, aiming to replace a legacy 15-year-old loyalty system with a modern commercial off-the-shelf software. The success of the project hinged on three key goals. First, the new system had to be flexible and scalable to accommodate Sonesta's rapid growth. Second, it needed to communicate seamlessly with multiple Property Management Systems (PMS's), a departure from the previous single PMS integration. Finally, Sonesta aimed to establish its own data platform, the Customer Data Platform (CDP), to gain a unified view of customer data across the organization for enhanced service delivery.

The comprehensive strategy kicked off with the selection of Tally, a robust system capable of calculating earned and redeemed points for Sonesta's expansive Travel Pass membership base. Tally not only provided the desired flexibility for custom promotions but also demonstrated scalability to handle the vast volume of Travel Pass members.

To tackle the challenge of integrating with multiple PMS's, Sonesta opted for the vendor HAPI, whose existing integration solutions with popular PMS's saved significant time and resources that would have been spent developing a proprietary solution. This strategic choice ensured a swift and efficient integration process, aligning with Sonesta's commitment to timely project completion.

The last piece of the puzzle was the development of the Customer Data Platform (CDP), hosted on Azure and interfaced through an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB). As guests checked out of its properties, HAPI seamlessly pushed stay data from the property management system to the ESB, triggering a series of automated processes. The stay data was stored in raw format in the data lake for future AI/ML opportunities, aggregated in the data warehouse for reporting, and inserted into the CDP. The CDP not only illustrated the relationships among members and non-members but also automatically matched reservation details to Travel Pass members.

The ESB then facilitated the transfer of stay data from the CDP to Tally for automated points calculation, which, in turn, were sent back to the CDP. This closed-loop system allowed guests to view their earned Travel Pass points accurately and more expeditiously through Sonesta's website, mobile app, or call center.

In summary, Sonesta's meticulous Loyalty Replacement project, encompassing Tally, HAPI, and the Customer Data Platform, has not only streamlined loyalty operations but also provided guests with a seamless and transparent experience across various touchpoints.

2023 Hotel-Vendor Partnership Award: Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group / Valtech

Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group (MOHG)  and Valtech originally partnered to replatform the hotel’s website. However, after the two teams familiarized themselves with the goals of the project, it became clear that a comprehensive website redesign was wanted and needed. To accomplish this, Valtech and MOHG formed a partnership that was based on clear communication, collaborative ideation, flexibility, empathy, trust and measurable outcomes. For example, the two brands established clear channels for sharing feedback, updates and concerns. They set regular meetings, both formal and informal, to ensure everyone was on the same page. A clear escalation process was identified, and each team always had direct line of access to key stakeholders. The companies also ran measurement strategy sessions early on that allowed them to identify and align on key business objectives, key performance indicators (KPIs), and benchmarks. In doing so, they ensured both companies were working towards the same outcomes. The companies also used Miro’s whiteboarding platform to co-create ideas which led to innovative solutions, and even held a workshop using a consensus-based, gamified technique (Planning Poker in Miro) to collaboratively flesh out ideas and prioritize them. These are just a few examples of how these two teams worked together to create a successful, new digital experience. Since launch, there has been year-over-year increases in organic traffic (90.8%), unique visitors (17%), and revenue (62%).

2023 Hotel-Vendor Partnership Award: Marriott Digital Services/ RealTime Reservation

For more than five years, Marriott Digital Services (MDS), Marriott International’s in-house digital agency, and RealTime Reservation have worked in tandem to create white-labeled products that maintain standards across all brands, integrate with existing Point of Sale (POS), Property Management Systems (PMS), and payment platforms, improve the guest experience, and innovate operational workflow for staff. Each project comes with the expectation of pivoting in a constantly changing marketplace, and RealTime Reservation’s flexibility and highly collaborative team was key to a great relationship. RealTime Reservation held weekly Zoom meetings with MDS, the developers, sales representatives, and marketing. The meetings expanded to include various regions and a dedicated team to ensure RealTime Reservation and Marriott were working towards the same goals. Both companies used custom data and analytics which enhanced the guest experience and increased revenue. During the last five years, MDS developed a high level of confidence and trust in RealTime Reservation’s abilities to execute work, which is why it has invested in and engaged with RealTime Reservation on a number of projects. Together, RealTime Reservation has supported hundreds of Marriott hotels globally to generate more than $140 million in ancillary revenue since 2019. The portfolio of Marriott and RealTime Reservation hotels has increased by 50% from 2021 to 2023.

About Hospitality Technology

Hospitality Technology(HT) is the only multichannel brand dedicated to covering the role of information technology in improving business performance for both hotel and restaurant operators. The Hospitality Technology editorial portfolio includes an online publication that reaches more than 16,000 hospitality industry executives, networking and educational events (MURTEC, Hotel Technology Forum and MURTEC Executive Summit), a comprehensive website, e-newsletters, web seminars, and several exclusive annual reports and studies. Hospitality Technology is the parent brand of the Restaurant Technology Network (, a membership community of restaurants and suppliers working together to solve industry challenges by shaping standards and sharing best practices. Visit Hospitality Technology online at Hospitality Technology is published by EnsembleIQ, headquartered in Chicago.

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