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Most travel tech people don't see the opportunity for better hotel booking and reservations management coming from the restaurant industry -- as the response to OpenTable purchase demonstrated. This is the next great opportunity for startups in travel.

Lavu Inc. in Albuquerque has made a huge splash in the restaurant industry with its point-of-sale software to conduct business on mobile devices, but now the company is launching a new system for the hotel industry, scheduled for launch next week.

Like the original system, which allows all customer service and back-end operations at restaurants to be managed on tablets and smartphones, the new system will permit hotel operators to use mobile devices for everything from booking reservations and handling checks-ins to tracking housekeeping and providing room service to guests, said Lavu cofounder and Chief Technology Officer Corey Fiala.

“Basically, everything we did for restaurants we’re now doing for hotels,” Fiala said. “The product will become available to the public for the first time next week.”

The company, created in 2010, has been working on the hotel product for three years. It’s been beta testing it at select hotels since early 2014.

It will be one of the first systems available in the industry to provide online management for hotels through mobile devices, and at an affordable price, Fiala said.

Today’s traditional online, fixed-terminal management products can cost tens of thousands of dollars for a hotel with up to 20 rooms, and hundreds of thousands for establishments with 50 to 100 rooms.

In contrast, Lavu’s system will cost $1,995 for a one-time license fee for a hotel with up to 20 rooms, and then $199 per month for Lavu to host the online service. The initial investment in basic hardware could cost about $1,500.

For hotels with 50 to 100 rooms, those fees rise to $7,995 for licensing and $888 per month for hosting. Hardware for the larger hotels could cost about $6,000.

“It’s an affordable system that’s easy to sign up for and install,” Fiala said. “We’re also offering a free trial for hotels before they sign up. That’s a first in this industry.”

And, of course, a system based on mobile devices offers a range of new technology management options unavailable today, such as having housekeepers carry iPods with them on shifts to receive instructions and record everything they do in real time, said Ben Harrison, Lavu senior vice president for development.

“Management could set up room-specific task lists for housekeepers and track them as customers check in and check out,” Harrison said.

Hotels might also put tablets or iPods in rooms for guests to directly order room service.

If the hotel industry responds like restaurants did to Lavu’s original product, the company could get a huge bump in its bottom line.

Lavu reported $4 million in revenue last year — up from $900,000 in its first year of sales in 2011 — and it’s on track for another 30 percent increase this year. The company, which employs 40, moved in July from a 4,000-square-foot building in Old Town to a 10,000-squarefoot space Downtown. ___

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Tags: booking, pms

Photo credit: Lava's current point-of-sale system for restaurants. Lavu

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