News Briefs


Smaller, Simpler Events Backed by Always-New AV Technology Is Steering the Course to Meetings Recovery

person standing up at event using microphone

Just three months into the new year and the meetings environment is thriving. Mills James, a concierge-level, audiovisual services provider, is reporting that shorter, in-person meetings are growing in demand this year, with planners expecting the latest audiovisual technologies to make event experiences exceptional. From hybrid equipment and sustainable practices to always-new, portable equipment and stellar service delivery, a facility’s AV partner is playing a pivotal role in the return of meetings for the foreseeable future.

“Time is a precious resource, and in today’s economy businesses are looking for ways to cut costs while re-engaging with their remote workforces,” said John Watts, Mills James VP of Hospitality. “A lot of people are working from home. To keep them from feeling isolated, it’s imperative that companies bring co-workers together to drive employee wellness and retention, instill company culture and corporate values, improve team bonding, and increase professional development. As a service-focused AV company that works with planners across the globe, we are seeing a big demand this year for smaller, more simplified meetings, and we are finding that the technologies we are investing in for our customers and how they are deployed are making a positive impact on event success.”

Mills James cites 5 AV trends defining the meeting experience in 2023:

  1. Still a Need for Hybrid Events — Virtual events were popular over the last two years, with streaming equipment becoming standard at most meeting facilities across the globe. It’s not surprising that AV providers want to leverage their investment in hybrid equipment, and business owners are also capitalizing on the spend. Despite conjecture, hybrid equipment is not vanishing from the scene. Companies are limiting off-site meeting attendance to one or two people to cut down on travel and registration costs with remaining staff participating remotely. While this is bitter-sweet to venues with guestrooms and catering departments, it is still bringing meetings back, just in a smaller way.
  2. Demand for Sustainable Venues, Technology Grows — According to the 2023 Global Meetings and Events Forecast, “Seventy-one percent of respondents say their organization considers sustainability when planning a meeting or event; of those, 70% are working with a defined sustainable meeting strategy. Minimizing paper usage, choosing green suppliers, and applying energy-saving and waste reduction practices are the top three ways they meet their sustainability targets.” This year especially, planners expect greener AV gear. This includes equipment that meets the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program and the RoHS Directive that mandates hazardous substances are not built into the equipment. They also want assurances that AV equipment is recyclable. Facilities with green gear and robust sustainability strategies will minimize their event emissions and win new contracts.
  3. Stationary Tech is Out, Portable is In  With boardrooms being the exception, fewer event facilities are opting to invest in stationary AV equipment for several reasons. First, its costly to purchase. Few, if any, facilities have AV equipment in their 2023 capex budgets, even though planners are demanding the latest digital tools. Second, most maintenance staff are not skilled to fix AV equipment. If gear fails, it can be difficult to service or replace – especially if gear goes down during an event. Third, no one can predict how a customer wants a meeting space to look and feel. When AV equipment is stationary (such as 85-inch TV monitors), it limits set up and can even deter a group from booking the event. Portability gives operators the flexibility they need to structure events their way.
  4. New Technology Saves the Day — Planners want assurances that the AV technology they are paying for is in good working condition. The same goes for how the equipment looks. Boutique AV services providers are investing in new, dedicated inventory for every property. This sets up meeting venues for success, as most planners will opt for a facility with the latest technology vs. one that uses old rental equipment. Hotels, resorts and conference facilities do not have time to worry about managing and maintaining AV equipment. Choosing a partner that understands the importance of providing always-new AV technology for events  no matter how big or small – is a game-changing service differentiator.
  5. Service, Service, Service — No matter how new the technology or how great the room looks,
    it’s the service that gets events to return. Planners expect AV technicians to be trained and to care about the events and people they support. They expect the same person setting up easels can operate a camera for a virtual event. They expect the equipment to work consistently, the first time, every time. And they expect competitive commissions from a dynamic pricing model that results in substantial revenue returns.

“The pandemic forced us to rethink how people will interact and connect with each other in a business setting,” Watts said. “The good news is small meetings are playing a big role within their organizations, and as a result they are infusing new life into travel and the event business. It’s more important than ever that conference venues partner with an AV services company that is positioned for growth and technology investment. That way, the industry can migrate from smaller, simpler meetings today to larger conventions and tradeshows tomorrow.”


MDO Releases Guide to Adopting Automation for Efficient Hotel Operations


myDigitalOffice (MDO), a hotel data platform to centralize and visualize key performance metrics, released an in-depth report highlighting creative ways hotel operators are increasing efficiency with smaller teams. For many, automating manual processes has become critical to success.

Despite the overall U.S. economy adding 517,000 jobs at the beginning of 2023, the leisure and hospitality sector remains understaffed with 2 million open jobs, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Meanwhile, 79% of hoteliers say their hotels are understaffed, and 81% are unable to fill open positions, according to American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) research.

By gathering input from leading operators, MDO has created a free online resource that addresses rising operating costs and today’s heightened focus on managing expenses.

In the report, hoteliers will learn valuable strategies for automating manual processes, including:
– How to s
treamline back-office tasks handled on property
– Optimizing labor automation to offset rising costs

– Tips for improved communication and collaboration among teams

– Resources to automate document workflows and ensure compliance

Download the free report, “Adopting Automation to Improve Operational Efficiency.”


The J Collection Partners with Travel Outlook to Enhance Voice Revenue and Guest Satisfaction

travel outlook logo

Travel Outlook, The Premier Hotel Call Center, is pleased to announce that The J Collection, a group of 14 unique, locally owned and operated hotels and residences, has partnered with Travel Outlook to optimize voice revenue and improve guest satisfaction. Travel Outlook, known for its highly personalized, efficient and effective services, was chosen to provide training and superior salesmanship to enhance The J Collection’s cross-selling opportunities.

As the first and only call center certified by the Kennedy Training Network (KTN), Travel Outlook uses a specific sales approach developed exclusively by KTN to train their reservations specialists. Using this system, Travel Outlook closes up to 70% of the qualified reservations calls received. To ensure the highest level of performance, Travel Outlook hires KTN and Forbes to test-call their reservations specialists.

Travel Outlook will focus on developing sales and service strategies specific to each hotel's market segment, property type, revenue strategies, and operational needs to enable J Collection to generate additional revenue and improve customer service.

Mark S. Wilson, Area Director of Sales and Marketing for The J Collection, said, "We are excited to partner with Travel Outlook, a company that shares our commitment to delivering exceptional guest services. With their expertise, we expect to see a significant increase in our reservations conversion rate. The J Collection is looking forward to the new partnership with Travel Outlook and the benefits it will bring to their guests and revenue.”

Travel Outlook's President, John Smallwood, stated, "We are honored to partner with J Collection Hotels to deliver high-quality reservation services to their guests. Our team is dedicated to providing the best possible results and experience on every call, ensuring a clear and positive first impression of the hotel for guests."

Travel Outlook’s clients include some of the best hotels and resorts in the country that require specialized hotel call center services that function like their own. The list of must-haves includes a highly trained, US-based staff with a laser focus on hospitality clients, delivering exceptional guest service during each call.

In addition to providing world-class, hospitality call center services, Travel Outlook offers Annette, the first AI-powered virtual agent dedicated to hotel guest service. Annette offers best-in-class caller engagement, unrivaled flexibility for callers, and provides an engaging, on-brand experience. Annette’s technology allows your customers to lead the conversation, creating natural, human-like interactions and affordably answering up to 70% of the calls for the front desk team.



Reeco Raises $10M for AI Solution that Helps Hotels Tackle Systemic Procurement and Supply Chain Issues

corporate employees at reeco

Reeco, a marketplace that connects hospitality buyers and suppliers, announced the general availability of its solution and $10M in seed funding. Reeco provides a streamlined process for hotels and other hospitality buyers to order everything from food and beverage to cleaning supplies. The AI-powered marketplace offers near-perfect availability of products while substantially reducing costs. The funding round was led by Net Capital Ventures and Joule Ventures with participation from Eynat Guez, CEO of Papaya Global, and other high-profile angel investors.

Pandemic-related supply chain issues hit the hospitality industry hard, with 86% of hoteliers reporting that it impacted operations. As the industry recovers and demand strengthens, hotels continue to face challenges with procurement due to inflation and ongoing supply chain shortages. “If a hotel can’t get eggs to serve for breakfast, that negatively impacts a guest’s entire experience,” said Eyal Goldberger, former Area General Manager of AC Marriott and Element Brickell Miami hotels. “Shortages are becoming commonplace and up to 30% of the items on each order can’t be filled by suppliers. Getting items from an alternate supplier isn’t as easy as just walking into another shop — it’s a difficult process which is further complicated by the fact that most procurement is still being managed with pen and paper.“

Reeco offers a one-stop shop with thousands of products to choose from in an easy-to-use online store. Buyers select the products they need, and their order is automatically matched with the optimal supplier from hundreds of top local and national suppliers, based on price, availability, and delivery dates. Reeco has the unique ability to divide an order between as many as four suppliers to ensure full availability of products at the lowest prices, while allowing buyers to check out in one place and receive a single unified bill. This results in savings of 19% on average per order while cutting time spent on placing and receiving orders by 80%.

“Reeco was built for the unsung heroes of hospitality,” said Henrik Shimony, Reeco co-founder and CEO. “As a hotelier who has worked in every role, from the front desk to the back office, the purchasing department was always the most neglected. This makes no sense, considering hotels’ largest expenses originate there. Reeco helps mitigate supply chain issues and food waste by using AI-driven insights into purchasing habits.”

In 2022, the Tel Aviv, Israel-based company added Miami, Florida as its United States headquarters location. Among its customers, Reeco counts Playa Largo Resort - Autograph Collection, Hilton Aventura, The Even Hotel, hotel management company Shaner Hotel Group, as well as hotels from leading brands like Marriott and Ramada. 


Restaurant Operators Expect to Automate Up to 51% of Store Tasks by 2025

incisiv logo

The recent 2023 Connected Restaurant Experience Study by Incisiv, conducted in collaboration with Verizon Business and Cisco, shows that customers' rapid adoption of digital technologies is increasing the complexity of managing restaurant operations.

The COVID-19 pandemic significantly accelerated the adoption of digital ordering, and the change in customer behavior persists. Customers value the convenience and control digital ordering gives them. According to the study, 83% of customers plan to use mobile order-ahead when dining at a quick-service restaurant in 2023.

72% of restaurant operators believe it is becoming harder to meet customer expectations because of the increase in digital ordering. Only 52% of quick-service restaurants and 41% of full-service restaurants are satisfied with their restaurant’s digital experience. Brands recognize that they need to increase their technology investment to support the new normal.

Improving restaurant efficiency will be the primary driver of technology investments in 2023 and beyond. The top three areas where operators will invest are:

  • Supporting the fulfillment of digital orders
  • Improving kitchen operational efficiency
  • Improving checkout speed

"Restaurants need to prioritize digital execution to remain competitive," said Gaurav Pant, Chief Insights Officer of Incisiv. "Customers value the convenience and control provided by digital ordering, and the industry needs to invest in technologies to improve the end-to-end digital experience."

The move towards efficiency will also accelerate the adoption of automation. Automation of routine tasks is also imminent in the restaurant industry as quick-service restaurants expect 51% of tasks will be automated by 2025 and full-service restaurants expect to automate 27% of tasks. 

“As restaurants continue to expand their automation efforts, they need faster and more reliable connectivity, which can be achieved through the use of 5G, LTE, and fixed wireless access (FWA),” said Scott Lawrence, Senior Vice President Global Solutions, Verizon Business. “These types of networks are beneficial for restaurants as they eliminate the need for cables and manage their peak traffic more efficiently.”


Banyan Tree Management Relaunches as Aperture Hotels

aperture hotels logo

Officials of the former Banyan Tree Management today announced that the company has relaunched as Aperture Hotels. The new company will continue to provide hotel management services but with an eye on expanding its third-party management portfolio and possible management company M&A.

“Historically, we have been seen almost exclusively as an extension of Banyan Investment Group, providing services only for their portfolio,” said Charles Oswald, president and CEO, Aperture Hotels. “The truth of the matter, however, is that we actively and eagerly provide third-party operating services for all hotel owners, and we feel relaunching as a stand-alone entity helps clarify that. We’ve assembled a senior team that has collective experience operating over 400 hotels in every chain scale, from select-service to premium lifestyle, and we look forward to deploying that experience to help more owners achieve superior guest experience, team member engagement and improved bottom lines.”

Aperture currently operates more than 2,000 rooms across 15 hotels and resorts. The company’s diverse portfolio is comprised of branded and independent properties in urban, suburban and leisure destination markets throughout the United States. With 500-plus employees across its portfolio, Aperture has experience operating all the major brands, including Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, IHG, Choice and Wyndham.

“Aperture is a one-stop solution for owners seeking services for the entire ownership cycle, from pre-opening through eventual sale,” Oswald added. “Our veteran team has provided these services through multiple economic cycles, from industry highs to industry lows. We have a proven record of value enhancement through portfolio-wide gains in market share, outperforming Gross Operating Profit margins, quick property turnarounds and engaged team members, producing outsized returns for our partners and investors. With a bright outlook for hotels ahead, we look forward to growing with the industry.”