BHN speaks to Jungyun Kim, chief strategy officer at hospitality technology platform Yanolja Cloud, to learn more about how AI innovation and investment will support the digital transformation of hotels, and what’s in store for Yanolja’s expansion in the west.
• Can you please introduce Yanolja Cloud and how the company supports the hotel industry?
Yanolja Cloud’s is a leading global provider of AI-based, software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution for the hospitality and leisure industries. The company has more than 80,000 solution licenses in over 170 countries, in more than 60 languages.
Yanolja Cloud started as part of Yanolja, South Korea’s number one travel app. Yanolja Cloud leverages its hospitality industry beginnings, along with its growing portfolio of member companies such as eZee, Innsoft, SanhaIT and Yanolja Cloud Korea, to create technology solutions that make it easier for properties to transform their business and delight their guests.
Yanolja Cloud is leading digital transformation around the world for properties with accommodations, food and beverage, residential, golf, and other leisure facilities. The company offers a full suite of solutions for hotels of all sizes including property management, distribution solutions for inventory sales and management, an automated IoT Hub connecting all hardware, and AI services based on a Yanolja Cloud integrated data lake.
Last year, Yanolja Cloud’s sales were up 225 per cent from the previous year and its portion of Yanolja’s total sales rose to 18.11 per cent.
• To date, Yanolja has secured over $2 billion in funding. How is the company utilising the investment?
While we can’t disclose exact plans for those investments, we do expect it will help us to develop innovative products to meet the ever-changing demand of our customers. We also anticipate it will allow us to take advantage of both organic and inorganic opportunities for global expansion, which will help set us up for long term success.
• Where is the greatest potential for innovation in hospitality tech?
Artificial intelligence (AI) will really accelerate different areas of hospitality technology. For instance, the industry has long sought a more personalised experience, and advances in AI will allow companies to analyse data like never before to provide truly personalised experiences.
Another example is in revenue management, which is an area in which Yanolja Cloud offers various solutions. AI can help analyse data in real time and factor in a wide range of variables such as occupancy rates, weather, time of year, the impact of major events and more – and adjust prices accordingly to maximise occupancy rates.
Previously, hotel owners did that manually or simple tools were used. AI will support hotels large and small to democratise data and technology which previously used to be reserved for only the largest chains with deep pockets to invest in innovation.
Chatbots have become commonplace and they are about to get even more helpful – even predicting our needs before we need something. And the speed and accuracy of their response will not be a surprise to anyone who’s played around with ChatGPT recently.
And lastly, let’s not forget about ESG for which Yanolja Cloud is deeply committed. AI will help in many aspects here, including developing technology solutions that leverages big data to reduce the carbon footprint of an industry which largely contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. We’ll continue to prioritise sustainability across our Yanolja Cloud member companies so that the environmental benefits can be passed onto properties around the world.
What’s important to remember is that, at its best, AI will not replace but instead enhance the personal and human experience which makes travel so memorable. The hope is that technology will reduce the amount of repetitive or non-value adding tasks and allow hospitality professionals to focus on what they do best: delighting their customers.
• Why is now the right time for hoteliers to be investing in digital transformation?
COVID was a once in a generation event for the hospitality and leisure industries. During COVID’s peak, we saw a demand spike for our B2B solutions as properties looked to increase contactless services and cut costs. COVID accelerated change in the industry at an incredible rate; innovations that would have taken decades happened in months. And now that the hospitality and leisure industries are forever changed, Yanolja Cloud is continuing to evolve its services to help properties everywhere transform through the digitisation of entire businesses including operations, products, services, and customer interactions.
The use of technology to increase operational efficiency, adapt to change and provide a better customer experience, will move rapidly from a nice-to-have to a must-have. This will be true for smaller properties, boutique properties and properties in developing markets, which are often not top-of-mind when people think of the industry’s use of technology. Yanolja Cloud has a strong base of customers that are often overlooked by some of the bigger technology players, and we hope to continue to bring our technology to properties of all types.
Hoteliers can start small and test what works for them. Perhaps that could be a revenue management solution to increase occupancy rates and optimise revenue. Or a channel manager to ensure their property has the widest reach of potential customers. Or a property management system (PMS) to manage the end-to-end guest experience. Whatever it is, there’s never been a better or easier time to start.
• How does the company aim to extend its presence in the west?
Yanolja Cloud is made up of various member companies from around the world, all with a different history and expertise. We have Yanolja Cloud member companies either based in or with strong footprints in the west – as well as a growing number of employees there. Beyond our own company, we are always looking to learn more, innovate or reach new customers through strategic partnerships. For instance, we recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Hopper, the third largest travel app in North America, which we hope will strengthen our understanding and position in that region.
The global nature of the Yanolja Cloud business is one of our biggest strengths. Not because we can offer one product everywhere but because we have an array of products from around the world that can be adopted to meet local needs. Those global solutions can be tailored to each customer’s specific environment, such as regional characteristics and scale of the property. It has helped Yanolja Cloud rapidly increase its market share, growing from 39,000 licenses in 2019 to more than 80,000 today.
In the example of our PMS solution for hotels, while many of the core components of a PMS fit everyone’s needs, it can be customised locally to best serve the market and property they’re in. For instance, nuances like languages, currencies, integration with local distribution systems, payment preferences and adherence to local data and security standards all need to be considered to deliver customers what they want.
• What is Yanolja Cloud’s core focus for the year ahead?
We strive to lead the digital transformation of hospitality and leisure properties everywhere. That means properties of all types, sizes, and budget ranges – and in every corner of the world – so that everyone can undergo digital transformation and delight their guests. There are a lot of opportunities ahead for Yanolja Cloud.