News Briefs


Travel Outlook’s Annette the Virtual Hotel Agent Partners with Curator Hotel & Resort Collection to Offer Conversational AI for its Collection of Exclusive Properties


Conversational AI is one of the hottest concepts in hotel management. The notion of having a friendly auto-attendant answering frequently asked questions over the phone is no longer a fantasy – the technology is here and available to assist hotels to provide enhanced service for guests.  A recent survey of more than 5,000 consumers and 600 hoteliers across nine global markets revealed that 73 percent of consumers want hotels to offer technology that minimizes contact with staff and other guests.

Curator Hotel & Resort Collection focuses on developing preferred vendor agreements with best-in-class service providers and innovative technology for the benefit of its members, which consists of independent hotels delivering unique travel experiences, in top and memorable destinations across the United States.  Curator’s hotels are known for providing exceptional levels of service, so it is important to Curator to find the best AI technology to interact with its valued clientele.

Curator vetted multiple AI solutions and recognized an opportunity to incorporate the innovative technology into the Travel Outlook scope of services, helping lead the development of Annette, The Virtual Hotel Agent.  Annette’s proprietary conversational AI understands how people actually speak, by using tools like movie dialog and Facebook for design and programming.  The result is that Annette is better at understanding a guest request or question, removing one of the major objections with AI technology.

Annette's warm, human, and friendly AI-powered voice assistance creates an engaging, on-brand experience for valued hotel guests, accurately understanding the guest's request, even when they narrate or speak in long-winded sentences.  Travel Outlook has built an internal team to program and manage Annette, ensuring that she is operating at the highest level of performance, conveying the latest and most accurate information during guest interactions.

John Smallwood, President of Travel Outlook said, "Annette can help to relieve call volume challenges at the front desk, providing guests with the information they are seeking, delivered instantly and with near 100% accuracy.  Annette allows guests to lead the conversation with natural, human-like interactions, leaving the front desk team free to give guests visiting them in person their complete attention."

“Curator recognizes the growing opportunity with conversational AI to alleviate operational pain points, reduce support costs, and improve overall guest satisfaction,” said Austin Segal, Vice President of Curator Hotel & Resort Collection.  “In Travel Outlook, Curator has a partner that shares in an interest of helping our members to achieve these goals, both in delivering best in class service and exploring and adopting new technologies, like Annette. Annette presents an opportunity for our members to deliver tech-forward call center solutions while optimizing the owner’s bottom line.”


Honeywell Joins the Marriott Design Lab to Collaborate on an Improved In-Room Guest Experience


Honeywell announced a new collaboration with Marriott International to improve in-room comfort and control for guests who stay at hotels across Marriott Bonvoy’s portfolio of extraordinary hotel brands. Together, Honeywell and the Marriott Design Lab will explore opportunities to test and deploy personalized and innovative guestroom control offerings building on the Honeywell INNCOM product suite that features leading guestroom automation, energy management and operational efficiency offerings.

The effort will take a guest-centric approach to create better experiences. Honeywell will work with the Marriott Design Lab to explore how a guest’s interactions with technology can affect mood and energy, anticipate a guest’s desires to offer them a proactive solution, and create a guestroom experience that is more accessible, inclusive and delightful.

“Technology can help create a more intuitive in-room experience for guests. Imagine arriving to your hotel room after a long day of travel and it’s already adjusted to your preferred settings – from temperature, lighting and even the drapes,” said Steve Kenny, vice president and general manager of building management systems, Honeywell Building Technologies. “Together with Marriott, we have an opportunity to create a next generation guest experience that is intuitive, engaging and authentic. We want travelers to feel like they are not just staying somewhere but have a personalized experience.”

“We’re looking to exceed our guests’ expectations from arrival to checkout. The guestroom experience and comfort play a significant part of that equation,” said Jeff Voris, senior vice president, global design strategies, Marriott International. “Our work with Honeywell will help us provide guests with more customized control in the guestroom that best suits their needs while providing our operators better insight into system performance metrics.”

The Marriott Design Lab is a research and development hub working at the leading edge of design and innovation. The Lab, located at Marriott’s new headquarters, provides a proving ground for technology products and services that can be integrated into daily hotel operations to save energy, reduce costs, increase operational efficiency and encourage customer loyalty through enhanced experiences. The Honeywell collaboration exemplifies how Marriott is working with industry leaders to explore new products, technologies and solutions for the hospitality industry.

The Honeywell INNCOM guestroom automation and energy management software and hardware solutions are designed to help hoteliers enhance guests’ experiences by providing proactive analytics that can help hoteliers identify and resolve issues before they affect guests.


Travelport Acquires Deem, Furthering Its Investment in Modern Retailing and Corporate Travel

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Travelport, a global technology company that powers travel bookings for hundreds of thousands of travel suppliers worldwide, announced the acquisition of Deem, a corporate travel management platform. Since launching the company’s next-generation marketplace, Travelport+, Travelport has continued its investment in innovation, with the acquisition of Deem being the latest example.

“The game-changing acquisition of Deem by Travelport will fulfill a growing, post-pandemic need for a tight, fully-integrated corporate tool that will provide access to all multi-source content, including NDC,” said Greg Webb, CEO of Travelport. “We’ve been laser-focused on investing in technology innovation, and Travelport+ has simplified the agency workflow, upgraded how travel content is curated, and enabled modern travel retailing. Now with the acquisition of Deem, Travelport will provide corporate travel with award-winning, complementary tools that are as revolutionary, modern, and easy-to-use as Travelport+.”

Previously owned by Enterprise Holdings, a provider of mobility solutions, Deem has long been recognized as the foremost modern technology for the corporate travel industry. Named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies of 2022, Deem has pioneered its suite of online booking and travel technology products for business travelers, travel managers, travel-management companies and suppliers, making the corporate travel experience more efficient for all. Deem has continued to grow its share of the corporate travel business, and Travelport’s investment intends to further accelerate that growth on a global scale.

“Deem is pleased to be joining the Travelport family,” said David Grace, President of Deem. “We are proud of the growth and success Deem has achieved in recent years. The acquisition by Travelport will enable a strong future of global growth for Deem and help accelerate the delivery of travel management solutions in a rapidly evolving industry. We want to express our sincere appreciation to our customers, as well as recognize the hard work and dedication of our Deem team members.”

Travelport established itself as a leader in NDC by launching the industry’s first end-to-end solution for American Airlines’ NDC content. Travelport plans to build on its leadership position by implementing a swift technical integration to enable Deem’s access to NDC offers, products and services. Access to this content is becoming critical for travel agencies, corporations, and travelers, particularly those in North America where airlines are beginning to shift some content exclusively to NDC. This acquisition will dramatically improve Deem’s speed to market, allowing it to seamlessly integrate multisource content.

“We are committed to ensuring a smooth transition for Deem employees, partners, and customers, and look forward to welcoming them to Travelport,” Webb continued. “Having a one-stop source for all content on a single corporate tool has been the main goal of our customers for a long time. Together with the Deem team, Travelport will deliver that.”

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Church’s Texas Chicken Hires Global CMO

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Quick-service chicken restaurant chain Church’s Texas Chicken has hired Natalia Franco for its Executive Vice President, Global Chief Marketing Officer, bringing more than 30 years of executive leadership experience to the brand.

As EVP, Global Chief Marketing Officer, Franco is responsible for providing a strategic vision for the brand and creatively leading marketing ideation, brand execution and digital prowess across the organization to drive brand awareness and positioning, resulting in continued growth and stronger franchise relationships.

Prior to joining Church’s Texas Chicken, Franco held numerous executive roles such as EVP, Chief Brand and Strategy Officer for California Pizza Kitchen; President and Founder of Brandmark Global, LLC; SVP, CMO of IHOP under DineEquity; and Global CMO, EVP for Burger King. More recently, she was promoted within Focus Brands to be the Marketing Senior Vice President for the non-restaurant brands including Jamba, Auntie Ann’s, Cinnabon and Carvel. This promotion followed her success as Chief Marketing Officer at McAlister’s Deli. Throughout her career, Franco has gained extensive experience in P&L and business development, portfolio management and profit optimization, customer relationship management, leadership development and additional skills that are vital in the quick-service industry.


Snack POS Partners with Sunmi

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Snack POS, a provider of point-of-sale (POS) solutions for restaurants,  has partnered with Sunmi, a global hardware technology company, to bring hardware to restaurants. The partnership with Sunmi will enable Snack POS to offer its restaurant partners access to Sunmi’s advanced hardware technology. This includes Sunmi’s POS hardware and mobile payment devices, which will allow restaurants to process transactions more efficiently, securely, and effectively.

43% of restaurants say developing and/or deploying POS for use on a mobile device is a top priority, according to HT’s2 2023 POS Software Trends Report.

This partnership will also enable Snack POS to expand its reach to more restaurants, helping them provide a more seamless and enjoyable dining experience to their customers.

Restaurants using Snack POS will be able to leverage Sunmi’s innovative hardware to improve their overall operations. Sunmi’s devices are designed to help restaurants enhance their customer service, improve the accuracy of their order-taking and payment processing, and streamline their overall operations. This will help restaurants to focus on what they do best – creating great food and providing excellent service – while leaving the technical details to Snack POS and Sunmi.


Hospitality Ventures Management Group (HVMG) Strengthens Revenue Management Team with Two Promotions


Hospitality Ventures Management Group (HVMG), an Atlanta-based, private hotel investment, ownership and management company, today announced that it has strengthened its Revenue Excellence team with two new promotions. Melissa Arana has been named vice president of revenue strategy, and Denise Hanas has been named corporate director of marketing strategy.

“Melissa and Denise’s new roles are integral in our overall Revenue Excellence commercial strategy,” said Cory Chambers, chief commercial officer and senior vice president, business intelligence, HVMG. “Their leadership and subject matter expertise in revenue strategy and marketing are second to none. Under their guidance, we expect to find and grow new and existing revenue streams as we work toward improved bottom lines throughout our nationwide portfolio of third-party operated hotels.”

Melissa Arana, Vice President of Revenue Strategy

In this newly created role, Arana will oversee the revenue strategy team for the entire company. She joined HVMG in 2011 as an assistant general manager at the Doubletree DFW Airport North. During her tenure, she progressively has taken on bigger and more challenging roles within the company, including regional director of revenue management and corporate director of revenue strategy. Prior to joining HVMG, Arana worked several property level positions at multiple Hilton family hotels. Arana earned her bachelor’s degree in general finance from Texas A&M International University.

“Melissa’s knack for driving results and building strong relationships are hallmarks of her success,” Chambers added. “For those that know and work closely with Melissa, she exemplifies excellence in all that she does.”

Denise Hanas, Corporate Director of Marketing Strategy:

Having joined HVMG’s RevX team in 2020 as a consultant, Hanas has led the company’s marketing efforts through the most challenging time in the industry’s history. In her newly created role, she will expand on her most recent consulting position with the company by overseeing the company’s hotel marketing strategy. Prior to starting her consultancy, Argent Strategic Marketing, Inc., Hanas spent nearly two decades with Marriott International in various marketing and eCommerce roles. She received her Bachelor of Science in mass communications from Boston University.

“Expect more comprehensive engagement in all things marketing as HVMG continues to grow,” Chambers noted. “On a personal note, Denise and I have been working together for 20 years. I can vouch for her hotel marketing expertise and phenomenal, results-oriented approach – she is excellent!”