And the winner is..? December ’20.

Testbed Vegas and the winner is

That’s right. We know what you are doing. Who said no one uses social media on Christmas Day? It’s the afternoon and lunch has been had. The slow period between gifts and feasting and what is to come in the evening when the party begins. Time for some Testbed Vegas reads about the travel & hospitality industry as we wrap up 2020.

We are sorry to see Tony Hsieh’s passing, as Testbed Vegas is also founded on industry diversity. It remains to be seen whether Las Vegas will lose some of the drive behind new industry introduction that is sorely needed.

Tony Hsieh

Las Vegas lost one of the leading lights of industry diversity in the last month with the passing of Tony Hsieh. Tony was the original founder of Zappos and moved the business to Las Vegas. Subsequently being the energy behind the revitalization of the downtown elements of Las Vegas, investing significant funds into that process. It has been a catalyst to ongoing diversity since that time. We are sorry to see Tony Hsieh’s passing, as Testbed Vegas is also founded on industry diversity. It remains to be seen whether Las Vegas will lose some of the drive behind new industry introduction that is sorely needed.

It’s the festive season and with all of the challenges presented to our industry globally everyone will be looking for a little respite and the opportunity to forget about troubles for a little while as we move toward the positive potential for a new year. What is happiness? Where can we find it? Why are some countries happier than others?

This month we focus on technology winners in a number of end of year recognitions that have taken place around the orb. Go supersonic and into space flight, examine the future in Las Vegas, look at brands in the hotel sector, examine dining with robots and other concepts, revisit the Marriott data breach and then a look at the movie Casino 25 years later as well as escaping on trains.

Winners are grinners

There were several competitions at the end of the year for travel and hospitality technology. The Lee Prize, Skift’s Idea Awards, Phocuswright’s annual innovation recognition and the Good Robot awards.

There were some incredible entrants in the Lee Prize from around the world and from Las Vegas. The standout winner, Purlin, provides a product that can produce recycled linen so that every stay has brand new sheets. Extraordinary. Local company Volan Technologies also was recognized for their second-generation location, safety and health tracking tech that provides a multifaceted process to tracking in these COVID times. Great to see the locals featuring.

In Skift’s Ideas it was pleasing to see friends at Butler Hospitality, Ian Cummings Travel Massive (Testbed Vegas runs the Las Vegas chapter) and the team at Oaky and CitizenM as finalists in the awards. CitizenM won the contactless stay category, Butler Hospitality received an honorable mention for hospitality innovation, and Oaky won the award for tech provider.

Use your technology as a strategic asset.

In the age of robots, we are always keen to hear about good robots! Local Las Vegas company Haddington Dynamics Dexter haptic arm won the Good Robot Industry Awards due to the proprietary supercomputer that supports programming of the arm.

At Phocuswrights annual innovation awards voice assistant technology provider Volara was selected as one of the Top 25 Startups in travel technology for 2021.

The dirty Boulevard

Testbed Vegas the dirty Boulevard

The city of reinvention continues with optimism as it looks toward the future. The Las Vegas Convention Centre extension is now complete in preparation for major events in….? In any case it’s ready. Resorts World unveiled imagery for their food and beverage and lifestyle operation with Singapore operator Zouk engaged to bring the venues to life. Test guests tried out the next Vegas gaming experience with skill-based gaming. Skill based gaming is where the players level of experience influences outcome vs. the game as compared to the mainstay of gaming operation today, which are games of chance.

In a move to take advantage of the new remote work reality Las Vegas launched a campaign to attract tech workers to the city on the strength of a favorable comparison in living between California and Las Vegas.

Jim Murren, previously CEO of MGM Resorts and now leading the State of Nevada COVID recovery task force discussed his thoughts on the recovery of Las Vegas post COVID. Bigger and better with a snap back based upon pent up demand. Research from a panel of industry analysts on the future of the city and demand support the sentiment with 64% of survey respondents indicating they would return to Las Vegas within 12 months.

In the meantime Twin River gaming completed the shift of name to Bally’s and followed up the name change with the acquisition of BetWorks, a sports betting platform prepared for a dual physical and digital gaming offering to support growth.

Further afield in Macau the casino gaming industry developments came to light of casino workers furloughed without pay with more than 90% taking unpaid leave or forced days off. Macau anticipates an end of year reduction in arrivals of 90% for the year 2020.

One-time planned operator in Las Vegas, Crown found themselves in regulatory strife in Australia resulting from operational practices related to casino junket operators. The government led enquiry is reviewing the board performance and Crown has been prevented from opening the brand new Barangaroo Resort in Sydney pending outcomes of the investigation.

How about those home stays and other hospitality brand related things

The Airbnb IPO Testbed Vegas

The big news is the public IPO of AirBNB which as far as initial public offers go went….better than expected. Sometimes it is hard to understand the manner in which value is approached on tech company share prices. So what is AirBNB? We think it is an OTA for short term rental properties. Definitely not a hotel company.

What about hospitality industry brands? Plenty of movement going on during the pandemic with Sonesta featuring and making out quite nicely as a result. Hundreds of new properties. Tie ups with real estate owners, new brands under the flag. It’s all happening! They took a few from the mega brands, but not enough to dent their scale. Still, it’s always great to see the little guys making an impact. There is a lid for every pot when it comes to guest preferences.

Do you need a brand? There are always plenty of guests to go around and for every guest that is chasing their points there is another one looking for a more intrepid experience-based hotel product. Without this type of guest products like AirBNB would not have gained such a foothold for something different. How does brand vs. non-brand performance stand up?

And what of the view of the future of hoteling from the land of la dolce vita? A group of industry consultants and analysts in Italy took a view of the European future industry post pandemic.

Whose data is hiding behind the RedDoorz?

Testbed Vegas Information Security

Quite the month for data theft and all things cyber with multiple hospitality organizations impacted by cybersecurity challenges. Hotel management brand Reddoorz was found to have 5.8M customer records listed in a hacker forum. Meanwhile restaurant chain Dickeys BBQ has had a class action raised against the company after 3M customer credit card details were released online. Reflecting on fines for the Marriott data hack penned out to be 10c per record.

Too often, regulation is viewed as a burden, but organizations should start to view it through the lens of their customers, partners, or employees. If a customer trusts you with their data, you owe it to them to protect it and ensure it is safe.

Francis Gaffney, Director of Threat Intelligence Mimecast, on the Marriott data hack

One thing COVID has been good for is the data theft industry. Industry analyst and news center Teiss noted that phishing campaigns have increased by 600% during the pandemic.

Meanwhile Google has moved to acquire Fitbit, the wearable health and wellness technology producer. What could this mean for consumer data privacy and health information?

higuard hospitality technology information security

How do you protect your customer information?

Robots, ghosts and tents in the dark

Robots and restaurants are in, but robots are out in retail. It seems that retail giant Walmart has retired some of their robot workforce performing stock control scanning. It’s not that the robots don’t work. In COVID times more people are shopping online. Meanwhile robot kitchens are gaining new attention in these delivery led times with Spyce relaunching their robotic ghost kitchen technology in Boston.

What about ghost kitchens? Is this a good thing for the industry? In pandemic times the step toward delivery specific operations makes a great deal of sense. But once diners are allowed to go back to the dining room will that negatively impact the apparent scale that ghost kitchens are coming on the scene. It appears that there will be three types of restaurant in the future – delivery only, self-service and table service.

The ongoing impact of COVID is seeing necessary shifts in dining room layout and industry operations as  a result of safe dining requirements with indoor dining taking a major hit. Supporting the current phenomena recent research of restaurant operators provided insight into the drive behind apps in demand for the restaurant operators. Key findings from the research noted that;

Testbed Vegas Foodnbevtech Restaurant

Need help finding the right technology for your restaurant or bar?

  • 75% of restaurants could not survive 12 months unless circumstances changed
  • Expect stricter cleaning regimes to remain
  • 58% are considering technology investment to support their reopening/new operations.
  • Contactless payment followed by electronic menus were most popular
  • 38% received negative reviews due to delivery app challenges

Meanwhile chain restaurant October performance year on year for Quick Service declined 9% and Full service declining 16%. Considering the impact on industry that COVID closures are having the results have been buoyed by pick up and delivery demand offsetting decline in diners. Online orders increased by 138% in the Summer months.

How to spend less time flying

Hermeus supersonic airliner Testbed Vegas
Hermeus’ supersonic airliner

In these COVID times the idea of spending less time cocooned in an aluminum tube flitting the globe has become attractive. Air traffic numbers represent this reality. But how do we spend less time on planes? They need to go faster! Enter Hermeus who has raised funds for a next generation supersonic aircraft. The Concorde from London to New York – 3 hours. Hermeus – 90 minutes.

The other alternative that is much closer to practical reality is Virgin Galactic who are also working on a new supersonic airliner product. In the meantime with recent testing and NASA flights they are that much closer to space travel for the well-heeled masses. Sir Richard will take the weightless float sometime in 2021.

In news closer to normal airliner speeds, the record holder for the fastest subsonic flight across the Atlantic with the Dreamliner, Norwegian is struggling under the impact of the pandemic. They are looking for more financial support to stay in the air. Testbed Vegas has flown with them a lot over the past 5 years and as a good product we hope they make it! 

Criminal reviews

In Thailand a recent negative review of a hotel resulted in a jail sentence for the reviewer. TripAdvisor has stood by their user and provided funding and assistance for the erstwhile guest, who has since left Thailand. The situation drew into view the potential damage unfair reviews can do to a business vs. the freedom to make comment on the product or service experience championed by the TripAdvisor platform.

What about DIY transport, or at least transport that does it for you. In Oslo, Norway trials are under way for self-driving ferries on the harbour city. Norway, a leader in the pursuit of low emission transportation will introduce self-driving ferries in 2021. Meanwhile Barcelona anticipates the introduction of flying taxis in 2022. Taxiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!

Taking the luxury train in Japan

Testbed Vegas Seven Stars Luxury train Japan

When it comes to trains the Japanese know a thing or two. After a hectic year in our industry why not wind down with a journey on the latest luxury train experience launched in Japan by Seven Stars. The train winds it way through Kyushu. Maybe when you can travel again.

The story of mob run gaming in Nevada

Last month Scorsese’s Las Vegas classic, Casino turned 25 years old. If you have not seen the movie it is a great reflection on the mob era of casino operations in Las Vegas. Starring Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, Joe Pesci and a host of other usual suspects the drama tells the story of Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein who ran the make-believe Tangiers casino set in the real-life Riviera during filming. Revisit 25 years later on some of the real stories people and locations depicted in the film. It is currently streaming on Amazon Prime if you have not seen it.

In wrapping up the year, what a year it has been generally, but also very specifically to the travel & hospitality industry. Times that none of us in industry have ever seen. Hopefully times that we will not need to see again. At least any time soon. We’ve made a few predictions and forecast some calls this year. We’ve talked about some of the good to come from the situation. Although what 2021 has taught all of us is that foresight in entirely unknown circumstances is a a rare thing and hindsight as always, is 20/20.. Therefore no prediction for what comes in 2021. Other than to say that we hope for a fundamentally better set of circumstances for Testbed Vegas, as well as all of friends and colleagues in the hospitality & travel industry.

Let’s see what we can make of 2021.

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