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New Infrastructure Means New Opportunity for Hotel Industry

By Brian Kirkland, Chief Technology Officer, Choice Hotels International

Brian Kirkland, Chief Technology Officer, Choice Hotels International

When was the last time you updated your business’ infrastructure system?

For most in the travel sector, the answer to that question is more than three decades. The surprising reality is that a large percentage of companies in our industry rely on systems that were created before the internet was invented. For example, the reservation systems for many airline and lodging companies were built in the late 1980s. Choice Hotels International, one of the world’s largest hotel companies, was no exception until now.

Earlier this year, Choice Hotels launched choiceEDGE, the industry’s first new global reservation system in 30 years, operating 100 percent in the cloud. This major upgrade to our infrastructure builds on our nearly 80-years legacy of tech innovations and industry firsts. We were the first to provide 24-hour reservations with a toll-free call and the first to introduce and market a global iPhone app.

At Choice Hotels, our unique position at the intersection of hospitality, franchising and technology allowed us to deliver this solution. choiceEDGE features unprecedented designs that give us the flexibility, scale, and speed-to-market to adapt as technology, consumer needs, and our company evolves. As part of our efforts, we also created a data analytics platform that enables us to map our entire consumer experience, from before to during to post stay, and to use machine learning in new ways not possible before.

Antiquated systems are increasingly showing their age as increased demand challenges their ability to operate safely and efficiently. Older systems were not designed to support the volume that we see today, with digital travel sales worldwide projected at $756 billion by 2019. Further, customers are exposed to more risk with older systems which, in turn, can threaten a company’s reputation.

At the onset of the four-year transformation project that led to choiceEDGE, we knew that hotel platforms must be designed with the ever-changing market demands of today’s world in mind, including mobile-first and cloud computing. choiceEDGE is built with a modular service-based approach that enables speed to market for forward-thinking ideas and solutions essential to deliver on guests’ needs. Whereas it once took six months to connect our properties to a new booking partner, we can now do so in a matter of days. Choice Hotels and franchisees can be smarter and faster with launching new capabilities and avoid missing out on business when the newest booking channel springs up or the newest feature is needed.

Personalization is a term being widely used in the industry. From smart hotel rooms to targeted brand loyalty incentives, hotel companies are vying to differentiate themselves by integrating the latest technologies. choiceEDGE’s sophisticated data analytics capabilities allow our franchisees to offer guests what they want before they’ve even thought about it. For example, we recently announced a partnership with delivery.com, giving guests the ability to order services on their Choice Hotels mobile app and get rewarded with points. Now, when a guest orders dinner from a nearby restaurant, we can capture that data, and use it to identify a pattern in their preferences, and drive future offers to that guest.

Across the industry, hotel companies’ infrastructure systems have been neglected and are not keeping pace with the technological advancements that we see today. choiceEDGE breaks that trend and pioneers the updates needed to be ready for the future while also protecting guests, and hotel franchisees, alike.

The changes in consumer behavior and demand enabled by technology usher in a wealth of opportunity for the hospitality industry—and with choiceEDGE, Choice Hotels is poised to capitalize on it. choiceEDGE positions us to compete against the disrupters to our industry, both now and in the future.