Skift Take

Tyler Morse saw an opportunity to improve his favorite hotel management products, an effort that could help push the industry further into the 21st century. It’s too early to know if his bets on software acquisitions will pay off, but if early numbers and a full pipeline are indicators, so far so good.

It’s a “brutal” hiring market for the hotel industry. That’s the word that Tyler Morse used to describe it. And he would know as the chairman and CEO of MCR, which employs roughly 6,000 people at 145 hotels in 37 states, including properties like the TWA Hotel, the High Line Hotel and the Pasadena Hotel and Pool.

Morse believes Stayntouch — the hotel property management software company that MCR took over in 2020 — can help. Following a $15 million investment by MCR over two years, the software company this week released an expanded product meant to help clients complete a range of operations tasks all on one platform.

Paired with a user-friendly interface — not typical in traditional property management system software — hotel staff should be able to configure the platform and complete a variety of tasks without overly specialized training.

“The whole point of this was to make working in a hotel easier,” Morse said.

He said it can take staff four months to learn how to use the traditional products, while the Stayntouch interface requires far less training.

Back to the main point: That’s worth a lot in a brutal hiring market with high turnover.

“The cost of the technology is peanuts compared to the cost of training, hiring and turnover at a hotel,” Morse said. “If we can keep our team members in place for an extra one month, it pays for itself in spades for a whole year of the tech stack.”

Stayntouch has seen 50 percent business growth in the last year. With the release of Stayntouch 2.0, as it’s called, Morse expects even more growth going forward. The cost is about half that of property management system software Opera, he said

“We’re seeing a ton of traction,” Morse said. “We have a huge pipeline right now.”

Stayntouch is now used to manage about 100,000 hotel rooms worldwide, he said. Aside from MCR’s 21,000 rooms, that includes properties managed by Sage Hospitality, HEI Hotels & Resorts, and EOS Hospitality.

Stayntouch 2.0 has several new features in addition to the property management system software, including: integrated payment facilitation, customizable guest check-in kiosk software, direct booking capabilities, and a dashboard that allows clients to more seamlessly manage an entire portfolio of hotels.

MCR bought Stayntouch for $46 million in 2020. The opportunity to purchase Stayntouch came after the Trump Administration ordered Chinese owner Shiji Group to unwind its 2018 acquisition of the software company, referencing a potential threat to U.S. national security.

“We got tired of these crappy products that were not working for hotels and not integrating with one another. So rather than complaining about the ecosystem, we decided to jump into the pool and make the ecosystem work better,” Morse said.

A major problem with existing products, he said, is that software developers seek to create them based on an industry they do not understand.

“Most hotel tech products are solutions looking for a problem,” Morse said. “They are created by tech folks who think that they know what goes on in a hotel, but they really don’t because they haven’t worked in a hotel.”

Stayntouch has about 200 employees and is continuing to hire. Tom Underwood, who was hired as the CEO shortly after the acquisition, decided to exit the role in September in lieu of someone more suitable for expanding globally, according to a statement from Stayntouch. The company is seeking a new CEO.

Meanwhile, Morse is working on the second hotel management platform that MCR acquired. The software by Optii focuses on streamlining hotel housekeeping. It’s used across more than 10 million hotel rooms at properties worldwide, like the Venetian Macau and brands like Marriott and IHG.

MCR has not shared how much it plans to invest in Optii, but Morse said the company plans to release its own updates soon. Optii is also continuing to add new employees, including the recent hire of a chief technology officer.

“We’re executing against the same model there, bringing hotel operating knowledge to the product,” Morse said.

And, Morse added, MCR’s two subsidiary software companies may be joined by more in the future.

“We are looking at a variety of other software products in the space and executing the same model. If it makes our hotels run better, then we’d like to invest in those companies because it’s a win-win.”

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Tags: acquisitions, hotel technology, mcr development, online travel newsletter, property management system, software, stayntouch, TWA hotel, tyler morse

Photo credit: MCR CEO Tyler Morse (right) on stage at Skift Global Forum 2021 at the TWA Hotel in New York with Skift founder and CEO Rafat Ali. Matt Matieiscu / Skift

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