News Briefs

  • 12/17/2023

    Seminole Hard Rock Promotes Elena Alvarez to SVP of Marketing, Brand Partnerships

    Seminole Hard Rock has appointed Elena Alvarez as the new Senior Vice President of Marketing and Brand Partnerships for Seminole Gaming and Hard Rock International. In this new role, the company veteran will be responsible for the development of brand activations and integrating assets across Hotels, Cafes, Retail, and Casinos including overseeing the development of new revenue-generating platforms. Alvarez will also continue to oversee the global marketing of the Cafe division of Hard Rock International. She reports to Jeff Hook, Executive Vice President of Marketing/CMO of Seminole Hard Rock Support Services and, with respect to brand partnerships, to Keith Sheldon, President of Entertainment.

    “Elena is an essential senior marketer with a proven track record elevating the Hard Rock brand for our Cafe division that includes spearheading F&B innovation and initiating and evolving the company’s successful multi-faceted partnership with Lionel Messi,” said Hook. “With nearly 20 years of experience at Hard Rock alone, we have the utmost confidence that Elena will continue to elevate the Hard Rock and Seminole Gaming brands in new and exciting ways.”

    Alvarez began her career with Hard Rock International as a Sales & Marketing Manager for Hard Rock Cafe Barcelona in 2005. Since then, Alvarez held key sales and marketing roles in the Europe, U.K. and U.S. Cafe divisions where she developed regional and global marketing strategies, brand programs, and corporate sponsorships across the company and franchise Cafe portfolio to drive top-line sales while heightening consumer awareness. In 2019 after her move to the U.S., Alvarez was promoted to Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing for the Cafe division where oversaw marketing in more than 150 Hard Rock locations (which will continue in her new role) and has proven to be an invaluable asset to the Hard Rock brand.

  • 12/14/2023

    Chipotle's Cultivate Next Fund Invests in Autonomous Ag Robots, Fertilizer

    Chipotle logo

    Chipotle Mexican Grill announced it is investing in Greenfield Robotics, a company founded with the vision of making regenerative farming more efficient, cost-effective, and sustainable by leveraging the latest advances in AI, robotics, and sensing technologies, and Nitricity, a company seeking to tackle greenhouse gas emissions by creating fertilizer products that are better for fields, farmers, and the environment. These minority investments are being made through Chipotle's $50 million Cultivate Next venture fund.

    Cultivate Next makes early-stage investments into strategically aligned companies that further Chipotle's mission to Cultivate a Better World and help accelerate the company's aggressive growth plans. As a people-first company, Chipotle is seeking opportunities that will elevate the human experience for its restaurant teams and suppliers as well as increase access and convenience for its guests.


    Robots for Regenerative Agriculture 

    Conventional farming destroys weeds with chemicals and soil tillage, resulting in escalating costs, soil erosion and degradation of soil, resistant weeds, and health risks for both wildlife and humans. Greenfield Robotics provides regenerative agriculture solutions without chemicals. Their fleets of autonomous robots are lightweight and cut weeds between rows of broadacre crops, day or night, reducing dependence on herbicides while supporting regenerative farming practices and reducing risk for farmers.

    With its Cultivate Next investment, Greenfield Robotics will continue its efforts to build out its fleet of autonomous agricultural robots and develop additional capabilities for forthcoming iterations of its robots, including micro-spraying, cover crop planting, and soil testing.

    "The work of Greenfield Robotics to build out a tech forward alternative to herbicides plays an important role in ensuring a more sustainable future for the agricultural industry," said Curt Garner, Chief Customer and Technology Officer, Chipotle. "We will help Greenfield Robotics scale their robotic offerings and explore how their robots can be deployed on farms within our supply chain."

    "Like Chipotle's commitment to Food with Integrity, we believe in the future of real, responsibly and sustainably raised food," said Clint Brauer, founder of Greenfield Robotics. "In partnership with Chipotle, we can continue to explore creative solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing farmers across the United States."

    New Age Fertilizer 

    Inspired by the natural occurrence of lightning breaking down nitrogen in the air and rainwater bringing it to the soil as nitrate to create natural fertilizer, Nitricity has pioneered a practice of creating artificial lightning. The company leverages air, water, and renewable energy from the artificial lightning to produce a cleaner, more sustainable, and cost-efficient fertilizer. The current process of producing, distributing, and using nitrogen fertilizer by way of the Haber-Bosch method requires a large amount of fossil fuels and emits significant amounts of carbon dioxide, contributing to 5-7% of total global GHG (greenhouse gases). Nitricity's nitrogen fertilizer has 5 to 10 times less GHG emissions due to its electrified production and field application process. Nitricity is building its production model of fertilizer on or near its end customers to limit the emissions from fertilizer distribution and application. Currently, up to 20% of fertilizer in the U.S. is imported through an expensive and complex supply chain.

    Nitricity has started field trials for their fertilizer product with Salinas Valley farmers, including Chipotle suppliers in the region. Funding from Cultivate Next will be used to scale up Nitricity's production of nitrogen, build out the company's infrastructure, and support the launch of its first commercial product within the next two years.

    "We're proud to support Nitricity's pursuit of a product innovation whose environmental benefits are complimentary to Chipotle's approach to Food With Integrity," said Jack Hartung, Chief Financial and Administrative Officer, Chipotle. He added, "Fertilizers have experienced steep price increases in recent years due to supply chain issues, fossil fuel price volatility, and rising distribution costs. Nitricity's fertilizer offering not only has the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of the fertilizer industry, but it can be a cost-effective solution for growers in our supply chain."

    "Nitricity is committed to producing fertilizer that is optimized for farmers, not factory production or freight distribution," said Nico Pinkowski, co-founder and CEO of Nitricity. "Partnering with Chipotle will unquestionably accelerate our path toward disrupting the industry with climate-smart technology."

    Tim McAfee, a Cultivate Next Venture Collaborator and current Chipotle produce supplier noted: "I have visited the facilities of both Nitricity and Greenfield Robotics and am optimistic and enthusiastic about the impact these innovations could have on the growing community."

    What's Next for Cultivate Next? 
    Chipotle will continue to provide more updates on the Cultivate Next venture fund in 2024 and beyond. Companies interested in collaborating with Chipotle through the Cultivate Next venture fund can apply by emailing [email protected].  

  • 12/17/2023

    Ocean Casino Resort Selects Konami Gaming’s SYNKROS Casino Management System

    casino generic

    Ocean Casino Resort and Konami Gaming, Inc. announced a partnership to drive in-demand casino technology to the 20-acre luxury destination on Atlantic City’s boardwalk. Ocean has selected Konami’s SYNKROS as its core gaming enterprise management system, through which the resort is set to take advantage of many features. Ocean will leverage award-winning technology including Konami’s Konetic employee mobile application and integrated SYNK31Title 31 / Anti-Money Laundering (AML) system.

    “We are looking forward to partnering with Konami to present both our guests and our team members with innovative, first to market technology meant to maximize efficiency and improve customer experiences,” said Bill Callahan, General Manager for Ocean Casino Resort. “Konami’s industry-leading technology and global gaming savvy are invaluable in the implementation of these new features to our casino floor.”

    Through the upcoming SYNKROS launch, guests at Ocean will have the opportunity to tap into a suite of new and convenient bonusing and funding options. Another high-demand solution is the mobile app Konetic, which brings a convenient online workflow to many casino employee tasks including jackpot hand pays, managing dispatching alerts, cash can processing, progressive signs monitoring, and more. And with the implementation of SYNK31, Ocean is an industry early adopter of comprehensive, fully integrated Title 31 / AML compliance.

    “As Ocean Casino Resort continues to achieve exceptional growth, the resort is investing in state-of-the-art gaming technology and innovative systems to enhance its operations and guest experience,” said Tom Soukup, senior vice president & chief systems product officer at Konami Gaming, Inc. “Our team is incredibly driven toward Ocean’s ongoing customer service strength, growth success, and market differentiation.”

    This conversion is expected to be completed before summer.

    Those interested in learning more about SYNKROS’ award-winning product suite are encouraged to visit

  • 12/14/2023

    Hospitality/Travel Businesses Lean Into IT Investment in AI and Cloud in Response to Economic Uncertainty

    rackspace logo

    Despite 59% citing economic uncertainty, 59% of hospitality/travel businesses say the current economic climate will cause them to increase investment in IT over the next 12 months, a move that can help reduce costs, improve scalability, inform decisions, manage risks and build resilience.

    Further, 65% of travel/hospitality businesses cited pervasive artificial intelligence as having the highest positive impact on the business/market environment, according to a survey of 1,420 IT professionals across industries sponsored by Rackspace Technology with Dell/VMware in October 2023. 

    2024 will be the year AI makes good on its promise to deliver ROI.  This evolution will bring increased regulation to provide the guardrails guiding AI along with the talent acquisition needed to manage AI. The buzz has also generated the ethical use of AI, especially when it comes to plagiarism, data and privacy. 

    “These results highlight an evolution in artificial intelligence, signaling a decisive shift from the theoretical exploration of generative AI.  The proliferation of pilot programs we saw in 2023 will result in active implementation in 2024,” said Jeff DeVerter, Chief Technology Evangelist, Rackspace Technology. 

    Not only did 45% of hospitality/travel businesses name AI as the most important technology but they listed enhanced products (52%), improved security (48%) and new product creation (49%) as among the benefits they’ve already realized from AI with improved security (54%) as the top expected benefit it will bring near future. AI initiatives gaining the most traction are computer vision (50%), custom engagement (50%) and predictive maintenance (50%).

    There is an expansion in AI use cases as companies explore higher-end functions such as computer vision while more traditional AI use cases like sales and marketing analytics seem to be less of an initiative priority.

    Cloud Technology, Hybrid Cloud and Private Cloud Grow

    Challenging as it can be for organizations to install cloud infrastructure, the cloud has become critical, in part, due to the growth of new generative AI services and the ability to set up large parallel computations with speed.

    “In the cloud arena, the increased focus on edge and private cloud indicate that organizations are simultaneously migrating more of their critical workloads while adopting a more sophisticated approach to their overall cloud infrastructure,” DeVerter noted. 

    Hybrid cloud solutions prevail and will grow, despite inherent data and regulatory compliance challenges.  In addition, the complexities of cloud migration, limited resources and security concerns will favor a shift toward the expansion of private cloud. Most travel/hospitality businesses use a hybrid or multi-cloud system which utilizes a combination of public cloud, private cloud computing, storage and services in different environments. 

    Edge computing, private cloud and public cloud will all increase as a percentage of workloads in the coming 12 months, while data centers, colocation facilities and on mainframes decline.  Hospitality/travel businesses credited public cloud with increased process efficiency (57%), reduced IT spending (48%) and faster testing for new products (46%). They credit private cloud with enhancing a personalized customer journey (55%), creating new revenue streams (50%), increase company growth (52%) and improving the ease of use for customers (44%). 

    The survey identified three benefits to adopting a hybrid model throughout their organizations: Improved security (51%), data control (50%) and reduced costs (46%). 

    Over half (45%) of respondents said data integration is the biggest challenge in adopting a hybrid cloud model.  Other issues were less challenging like compliance with data sovereignty/privacy (45%), ensuring consistent security compliance (30%) and skills shortage (31%).

    Challenges to AI Implementation, Among Them Labor Issues

    The biggest challenges to implementing AI into the businesses are measuring business value (41%) and lack of support infrastructure technology (40%).

    Market demand and changing technology escalate the need for skilled professionals, outpacing the expertise of talent available.

    Navigating the talent landscape presents one of the most complex challenges for the IT sector as we head into 2024. With most companies struggling to recruit for roles that didn't exist a few years ago, the race to onboard individuals skilled in emerging technologies like AI and 5G is intense. The scarcity of seasoned professionals in nascent tech fields is prompting organizations to rethink their talent acquisition strategies. As tech increases, the demand for talent increases as well, increasing costs. 

    Most (70%) hospitality/travel businesses are struggling to recruit and hire the kind of talent needed to handle increased cloud and AI technology.  The key roles they’re struggling to fill are 5G specialists (53%), data analysts (46%), data scientists (41%) and cybersecurity experts (36%).  As the need for technology increases, labor costs are increasing 51% to cover salaries, wages, bonuses, benefits, training and recruitment costs.  The main reasons for the increase are advancements in technology (52%), high demand/low supply of qualified employees (46%), remote work (45%) and cloud adoption (40%). 


    Survey Methodology

    Commissioned by Rackspace Technology and Dell/VMware, the survey was conducted by Coleman Parkers Research October and November 2023, based on the responses of 1,420 IT decision-makers across manufacturing, digital native/technology, financial services, travel/hospitality, retail, government/public sector, and healthcare sectors in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

    Coleman Parkes is a full-service B2B market research agency specializing in IT/technology studies, targeting senior decision makers in SMB to large and enterprises across multiple sectors globally.

  • 12/14/2023

    RoomRaccoon Announces Integration with Self-Service Kiosk Solution Roommatik

    Roommatik kiosk

    RoomRaccoon, a hotel management system for independent hotels, announced its integration with Roommatik, a self-service kiosk solution for the hospitality industry. This is the first kiosk integration available to RoomRaccoon users, revolutionizing the guest experience and empowering hoteliers with a 24/7 open front desk.

    The two-way integration facilitates the seamless exchange of vital guest data, including check-in and check-out information, room availability, and billing details, from RoomRaccoon's PMS to Roommatik's kiosk, all in real-time. By incorporating additional services such as upselling and room upgrades, hoteliers can transform Roommatik into a 24/7 service provider, enhancing the overall guest journey and increasing revenue. 

    “At Roommatik, we take pride in offering highly adaptable kiosks that cater to the unique requirements of each establishment in the hospitality industry. We are proud to team up with RoomRaccoon to take hotel operations to the next level. This partnership seamlessly integrates to deliver an enhanced, innovative, and personalized experience for guests,” says Juan Vila, CEO of Roommatik. 

    “This is a valuable new addition to the RoomRaccoon Marketplace,” says Steven Reffin, Head of Partnerships at RoomRaccoon. “The integration empowers boutique hotels operating with a smaller team to provide a 24/7 open front desk without physically being on-site. This is a game-changer for small hotels where operating a full-time front desk is not viable due to the huge personnel costs. What’s more, Roommatik's kiosk solution supports an impressive array of 21 different languages, ensuring that language barriers are a thing of the past."


  • 12/14/2023

    Hotelbeds Announces New Collaboration Agreement with Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts

    hotelbeds new teaser

    Hotelbeds, part of HBX Group, has unveiled its latest contractual collaboration, joining forces with Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts. The agreement expands the Bahia Principe brand’s presence in the Caribbean and Spain, thanks to Hotelbeds’ distribution reach in more than 170 markets, serving over 71,000 travel buyers.

    Adding 24 Bahia Principe hotels in four countries (Mexico, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, and Spain) to Hotelbeds’ preferred portfolio, travel agents will enjoy access to a wide range of accommodation options, including beach getaways and all-inclusive resorts.

    Carlos Muñoz, Chief Commercial Officer of HBX Group, said: “Bahia Principe shares our commitment to innovation, sustainability and offering travelers unparalleled choices and experiences. This partnership enriches our extensive portfolio of hotels, allowing us to offer customers an even wider range of choices. We look forward to the positive impact this collaboration will have on our companies.”

    Lluisa Salord, SVP Global Sales, Contracting and Distribution Grupo at Bahia Principe, said: “This consolidation of our existing agreements between both companies will allow us to raise the strength and growth achieved through our joint continuous effort.”

    Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts, known for its commitment to innovation and sustainable growth, has embarked on a five-year strategic plan, emphasizing continual asset renewal and technological advancements. As part of this initiative, the company is investing in comprehensive renovations, including the remarkable 30-million-euro refurbishment of the Bahia Principe Luxury Esmeralda, set to open this month.

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