The Endless Summer. Testbed Vegas – September ’20

Testbed Vegas The Endless Summer

It was supposed to be over. Past tense. History. Magically disappeared according to certain unmentioned soothsayers. And yet the season of discontent continued into the Northern hemisphere Summer as the COVID19 situation accelerated in the warm months.

If there has been anything that has shone through during the COVID19 pandemic, people have waxed about their wants, needs and desires to travel.

Opening, stumbling and then closing again. Some closures on a permanent basis. The industry continued to appeal to the higher powers for a level of assistance to survive the ordeal. But travel, hospitality and the leisure industry in general face the hard facts that these are not blue-chip industries. Nor are they by any means essential. Therefore, it appears little outside assistance is available.

Unfortunately, the hospitality industry just doesn’t have enough friends in high places. A free hotel room or a meal here and there don’t quite compete with big ticket lobbying groups and government-industry working relationships that translate into a government bailout of entire industries.

The upside. People like to travel. If there has been anything that has shone through during the COVID19 pandemic, people have waxed about their wants, needs and desires to travel. That sentiment is good for the industry. People are also talking about how they miss their local restaurants and bars. Time spent with friends. All of these are positive signals for the eventual return of travel and hospitality. We have our fingers crossed that travel & hospitality businesses large and small can weather these challenges and we will see a return to people movement and the creation of memories both locally and around the world.

This month we take a look at industry conferences, the latest from Vegas, young company’s bringing technology innovation among the challenges, the business of flying, Motels, restaurants and the surge in cyber-crime during the pandemic. Then we take a drive.

When we used to get together

CES Conference. Las Vegas. Testbed Vegas.

Back in March Testbed Vegas and sister company TRAVHOTECH attended MURTEC in Las Vegas for their 25th Anniversary event. It was a great week and slightly impacted by the emerging Corona Virus at that time. I recall speaking with Ensemble IQ’s Abby Leonard and she expanded that some last minute cancellation were received.

At the time TRAVHOTECH mused as to whether this would be the last conference for industry in 2020. Then it was a good headline. Now it is the final outcome of 2020. All of the industry events associated with technology for travel and hospitality have been cancelled – at least for the in-person event.

This brought about the rise of the Digi-Event and making the best of a bad situation as we do in our industry a number of events will finish out the year in a digital format;

The learning doesn’t have to stop while you are working from home!

Testbed Vegas is still hoping to get back to the business of in person events in September when Vegas Travel & Hospitality Tech aims to resume on September 29th at Desert Winds Coffee Roasters. Stay in touch.

The dirty Boulevard minus CES

Las Vegas Boulevard. The Strip. Testbed Vegas.

Closer to home, gradually more of the Las Vegas gaming company properties reopened under reduced trade operations. Word on the street is that it’s a great time for a Las Vegas staycation with competitive rates available in even the best resorts.

The big news in August was the announcement that CES for 2021 is cancelled. The event sets the scene for the city and a new business year with 200,000 people attending from all over the world. In reflection it is likely that CES was one of the proponents of the initial spread of the Corona Virus in January 2020. It seems like just the other day. Alas, Testbed Vegas will have to cancel the Hospitality Technology Hacks & Pundits CES dinner as well!

In a double blow the grand opening of the Las Vegas Convention Center extension was tied to CES 2021. Construction continues regardless given the level of progress to date and close timeline.

What’s your new technology normal?

In some good news for MGM, Barry Diller of Expedia fame invested in the gaming giant stating his confidence in the future of gaming. Particularly digital. On the not so positive side 18000 company staff received confirmation that they would not be able to rejoin the company in their previous job roles.

Construction continues on many of the emerging Las Vegas resort product, although MSG’s The Sphere in association with Caesars Entertainment found trouble due to financial challenges with the project. To be expected.

The logic of reopening Las Vegas has been questioned since it first began in late May 2020. Even a severely hampered Las Vegas industry still draws a crowd. The frequency and short nature of Las Vegas stays was researched in relation to the potential of spread in and out of the city based upon people’s movement patterns.

The Cyberdemic

higuard hospitality technology information security

Are you managing your information security exposure?

Yes, apparently when we are stuck at home for too long our thoughts and actions wander toward Cybercrime. Idle hands… Research has shown that in the age of the pandemic the increase in cyber crime has been has been exponential, driven by the rise in digital transactions and general online commerce. Many new targets for the budding cyber thieves

News also emerged that travel giant Carlson Wagonlit experience a data hack and had determined to settle a ransom demand. A significant 4.5M USD! Meanwhile in the gift that keeps on giving – the Marriott data hack, a new class action has arisen in the United Kingdom on behalf of affected customers and their personally identifiable information (PII). The class action is expected to represent around 7 million UK residents.

Come fly with me. Please!

Grounded planes. Testbed Vegas.

Like the rest of the travel industry the airline sector continues to take a massive battering from the fallout of the pandemic. A range of efforts, changes and impact are taking place across the industry from government level bailouts to route reduction or cancellation, change in fee structures, closing of airlines and reductions in fleets.

Las Vegas’ McCarran saw some minor improvements to traffic in the Summer travel month of August. In the meantime, the entire industry is forced to look to the future and how the impact of the pandemic may permanently change the industry. Some suggest in positive ways.

In the pin up example of alternatively managed approaches to COVID19, Sweden, the concept of Flight Shaming or Flygskam is a movement that may gain momentum from the pandemic fallout, also linked to the climate crisis.

French Frozen & Delivery Caps

Paris Restaurant. Gas Burner. Outdoor dining. Testbed Vegas.

Outdoor dining in the cooler months. An experience always accompanied by the warm glow of outdoor gas heaters. Did you know that these gas heaters are highly inefficient in terms of energy use? Sure, they keep you warm, but apparently, they have a significant impact on the climate. So much so that if you are dining on the streets of the City of Light you might be having your Entrecote au Pommes Frites frozen as the city has banned the use of outdoor gas heaters.

In a win for the good guys municipalities around the country have recognized the price gouging practices of the ubiquitous giants of food delivery that have grown exponentially during the pandemic. From Las Vegas to London caps are being applied to the delivery services fees to the restaurant operator. Hopefully, there will be further scrutiny post pandemic, although the restaurant industry has quickly realized that they need to shift ownership of this part of their business. Fees can be as high as 30%!

Testbed Vegas Foodnbevtech Restaurant

Can’t find the right tech for your restaurant?

Meanwhile in Italy the resurgence of a low-tech approach to pandemics with a history dating back to previous pandemics has come back into play for socially distanced drinking. Learn more about the Wine Windows of Florence.

Have you seen your local Bartender lately? Had a chat and caught up on the local news while he delivers your preferred tipple? Tough in these pandemic times. What would you think if the bartender wasn’t there at all? The quest for automation coupled with the destruction of the COVID19 pandemic on the restaurant industry is driving technology adoption to shift online as well as positively impact operating models. What about a RoboBar?

A Motel..?

Motel Lobby. Retro design. Road Trips. Testbed Vegas.

Depending upon your age you may never have stayed in a Motel. But that might be about to change as the pandemic brings about a thought change in the traveler’s mind. Before the advent of the global hotel expansion and big brands, Motel’s used to be a popular accommodation option for the road traveler. If you followed the ‘Mo” stands for motor. The idea being that you can drive your car directly to your accommodation. Motels are making a comeback aligned with road trips and domestic holidays.

In the other alternative accommodation sector of Homestays, Domio, a volume scale provider of homestay style accommodation has fallen foul of AirBNB in relation to their use of the giants technology platform. There is a currently quite a bit of noise in the sector where at scale providers or mid-tier management companys of Homestay inventory are taking advantage of the AirBNB platform and it is not appreciated! We sense a shakeup coming!

The shakeup that is not coming to pass is the return to work of the massive hospitality workforce that became out of work due to the hospitality sector shutdown. While staff are returning slowly to hotels the pace is not growing as it is in other sectors.

While dreaming of your future travel experience here’s a long term travel plan for you. Take a look at what Virgin Galactic has in store for the early adopters of space travel in style.

It’s a Google thing to do

If you thought that Google would not be back in the business of tours you misjudged. Very quietly in August they launched an advertising program similar to their hotel products for the tours and activities sector. They have the money to experiment and the learning from other industry sectors to leverage across the industry. TRAVHOTECH discussed our predictions for the future of Google in Travel a year ago and it’s interesting to see it coming to pass. Did you notice the new in room voice and at counter voice assistants using Google Voice & Google Translate services recently? What’s next….?

Speaking of what’s next in travel the industry is contemplating the future and how NDC – New Distribution Capability, will develop. The program launched as a next generation standard and data set for the content and movement of travel-based information records around the industry. It has been a long time coming and the earlier OTA standards date back as far as 1999. Much has changed in terms of the volume, quality, and scale of travel information since then. Already it seems that there is some divergence in the path among the contributing members!

Subscription based travel continues to simmer as a new approach for the industry. High end accommodation provider Inspirato was in the news this month for their $30K USD per annum subscription model. Not for everyone, although the concept is gaining momentum and exposure.

The Future..When is that?

Technology of the Future. Testbed Vegas.

That’s the thing about talking about the future. It can be in an hour, next week or in 50 years. We cannot quite place a finger on what that means unless we bracket the timeline. Although at the moment the future for the travel and hospitality industry is very focused on after the COVID19 pandemic. Testbed Vegas is of the view that there will not be an ‘after’ COVID19. We will have to live with this for the foreseeable future like many other viruses.

With a keen eye on the future a group of interested parties have started to discuss COVID and the impact on hotel design. The room experiences and surfaces in general are expected to take a very modern shift toward the future in a ‘cleaner’ world of tomorrow.

TRAVHOTECH & FOODnBEVTECH recently took part in a discussion about the future guest experience in a 2030 timeline at the Eco Hotel Summit. It was enjoyable to place a line in the sand and discuss how the guest experience could be on the back of the direction that technology is headed.

Travel Massive (Testbed Vegas leads the Las Vegas chapter) ran a program during the pandemic to seek out ideas for the future of travel. A truly global contribution across the membership base, there are some wonderful and high-minded ideas about what can be done to improve the travel and the lives of the people providing these experiences. Check out the top 100 here.

Our friends at IDEM Hospitality and prior winners of the Web In Travel Award were recently acquired by Groups360. In our view a great union and should serve both companies well for the future recovery of volume travel on the back of their combined technology platforms.

On an even shorter timeframe the World Economic Forum examined technology trends that are anticipated to have an effect on our world between now and 2025. That’s a timeline we can associate with as the future.

On the road again

For the most part air travel is largely off at the moment. So why not take a road trip? In this months get away from the Work From Home desk we offer a range of road trips traversing some of the incredible natural wonders of North America. You might even try out a Motel along the way!

Wrapping up the month, it’s our view that at some point in the not too distant future the world and our smaller industry is going to need to come to terms with a permanently present COVID19. It won’t be going away. We will need to manage the new environment and set a path for the return to normal business operations.

When that happens, we will still be here. Look after yourself. We’re looking forward to seeing you in person ASAP!

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