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12/20/2021

HT Exclusive: Oracle Hospitality’s Alex Alt Talks PMS, Distribution and the Future of Hospitality

In this interview, HT learns about Oracle’s commitment to the cloud, to the distribution space and what it learned from its recent Back to Hospitality study.
Michal Christine Escobar
Senior Editor (Hotels)
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Oracle has been making headlines in recent months with Wyndham’s global rollout of OPERA Cloud, the launch of Oracle Hospitality Distribution, and the results of its Back to Hospitality study. To dig deeper into these announcements and learn how the brand is innovating to improve its products and its customer experience, Hospitality Technology interviewed Oracle Hospitality General Manager and SVP Alex Alt.

Earlier this year, Oracle announced Wyndham’s global rollout of OPERA Cloud. Can you talk a little bit about that and why it’s such a great milestone?

Wyndham is one of many proof points for our latest cloud-based property management system. We are at a thousand installs with thousands more in the queue. But Wyndham was so relevant and important because of their large scale. They made a global commitment to OPERA Cloud and they weren’t bashful about saying that, which we are so grateful for.  And during HITEC we were able to spent a lot of time demonstrating the value of OPERA Cloud to both current and prospective clients as well as our Nor1 solution.

You recently launched Oracle Hospitality Distribution which allows brands and independent hotels to connect their room rates and availability directly with some of the largest OTAs in the world. Can you tell me some more about it?

Sure, it launched roughly six months ago and within the next year or so we expect all of our existing clients to be leveraging it. As a point of clarification, when we say “distribution” or “central reservations,” we’re broadly referring to how hotels connect to end points of sale including online travel agents, traditional travel agents, call centers, websites, etc. We have thousands of hotels already leveraging Oracle solutions for distribution, so this is a new generation of distribution and is a significant upgrade to a capability and segment we’re already very active in.

And our creation of this product is a signal to the marketplace of our commitment to the distribution space, a space that is rather crowded. To be honest, it’s a bit of a spider web of connectivity with multiple points of failure due to the fact that much of the industry technology that is out there for distribution is older and uses older communication protocols and is non-cloud native. One of the things we wanted to ensure with the development of our solution was that it would be infinitely scalable, highly performing and cloud native. We’ve achieved that. And we have a handful of early adopters that are leveraging it at this point primarily for connectivity to Booking.com and Expedia.com where we have direct connections. Of course, we’ll continue to expand our network of connectivity to ensure we have a fully capable distribution platform.

This product also solves another issue: the constant need to duplicate data, specifically from the PMS to a third-party CRS. With our product, once you set your rates and rules and pick your channels, you don’t have to do it again. That saves time, prevents errors from happening and saves money (the more intermediaries a hotel has in their distribution path to the points of sale, the more costly the solution).

Oracle recently released its Back to Hospitality study of nearly 5,000 consumers and 500+ executives. What were some interesting themes and data points to come out of this study that made an impression on you?

I would say there were three major themes that interested me. The first one revolves around industry recovery and the optimism surrounding that. We spoke to consumers and 76% of the consumers we surveyed said they plan to travel within the next 12 months. And we have seen that come true. In fact, there were certain weeks during the summer when hotel occupancy exceeded those same weeks in 2019. And even when the Delta variant was at it’s peak in late August and early September, hotels saw only a slight pullback on booked business, which is great news for the industry.

The second theme is how traveler expectations formed during COVID will persist long after the pandemic ends. For instance, 77 percent of survey respondents said vaccinations were important to them both in feeling safe while traveling themselves and for being comfortable around hotel employees. Additionally, 67 percent said they wanted the cleaning procedures implemented during COVID to remain in place indefinitely. And, guests are also saying that technology – mobile check-in, payment, ordering room service, housekeeping requests, etc. – need to remain in place after the pandemic ends as guests enjoy their convenience.

The third theme reflects on a change in the way hotels are viewing the pandemic. At the beginning, the mindset was all about cutting costs – letting employees go, etc. But at the height of Delta variant hoteliers weren’t interested in cutting costs. Their mindset has shifted to how can we create revenue in spite of the pandemic? For example, hoteliers want to know how can they sell rooms better, how can they drive F&B, how can they create alternate sources of revenue, etc. To address this, we created a featured in our PMS that allowed hotels to rent out guestrooms as workspaces. And our acquisition of Nor1 allowed hotels to sell room upgrades, ancillary products, early check-in, late check-out, etc. to create more revenue per customer.