In today’s episode, Catesby Perrin of CLEAR and Branigan Mulcahy of Virdee join host Robin Trimingham and lay out how AI human recognition technology is transforming the hotel check-in process, among other things, and how that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Highlights from Today’s Episode
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For the last 50 years, Groupe GM, has been a leader in the luxury amenity industry. The Group proposes a 360 solution from manufacturing to distribution on cosmetics amenities and dry accessories. groupegm.com
Catesby Perrin: Is effectively a nationwide network of acceptance for the clear identity. You don’t have to stop and prove who you are over and over and over again, which is what we spend so much of our day doing. Today we’re live with our partners at Avis across their 54 largest locations where they have this quick pass experience. So if you’ve rented a car with Avis and that’s the first time you use clear as part of that checking experience, all I have to do in that experience is snap a selfie. And I’ve checked in.
Robin Trimingham: Welcome to the Innovative Hoteliers podcast by Hotels Magazine with weekly thought provoking discussions with the world’s leading hotel and hospitality innovators. Welcome to the Innovative Hotelier podcast brought to you by Hotels magazine. I’m your host, Robin Trimingham, although I would suspect many people aren’t really thinking about it. Facial recognition software is already widely used in airport security and on mobile phones, but it’s only very recently that facial recognition software has found its way into the hospitality industry. Today, we’re going to hear from representatives of two different companies. Clear the company that you wished you’d signed up for when you’re stuck in a really long line at airport security and you’re seeing people whisked ahead of you to the front of the line and Virdee, the makers of some innovative self service hotel check in solutions. And they’ve recently partnered together to bring identity verification to the hotel, check in, check out and payment process. And they’re here to talk to us about the benefits, the challenges is and how this will impact the guest experience. And it’s my great pleasure to introduce Catesby Perrin, the EVP at Clear, and Branigan Mulcahy, the co founder of Virdee. For the last 50 years, Groupe GM has been a leader in the luxury cosmetic amenities industry. The group proposes a 360 solution for manufacturing to distribution, with over 40 international brands and its worldwide distribution network. Groupe GM offers different shapes and sizes of eco friendly products in hotels all over the world. Discover more on www.GroupeGM.com. That’s Group with an E, GM dot com. Welcome, gentlemen. It’s great to get a chance to chat with you today.
Catesby Perrin: Thank you for having us. Appreciate it.
Branigan Mulcahy: Great to be here.
Robin Trimingham: This is going to be I’m going to call it a cutting edge discussion, at least for the hotel industry, because we’re going to talk about some things that a large number of our hoteliers won’t even really be aware are in the pipeline yet. Catesby, let’s get the discussion going here by helping some of our listeners understand what it is you do. I think it’s fair to say that because of airport kiosks, a lot of hoteliers are going to have some idea what a self service kiosk for a hotel would be like, but they wouldn’t necessarily be familiar with what Clear provides. So let’s start by explaining exactly what is a secure identity platform.
Catesby Perrin: Sure. No, I appreciate the question. I think you’re right. Most people who know clear today know us from our airport footprint, which has been around and growing rapidly over the last 12, 13 years. And probably ideally, we’ve helped you make your flight, make your meeting, whatever it might be. I know I’ve created some bad habits in terms of when I get to the airport these days. But at the foundation of that really fantastic customer experience, what we’re doing there with our secure identity platform is verifying that you are you you are definitively who you are, no questions asked. But removing the friction of you having to revalidate over and over and over again every time you show up at an airport, who you are, right? Effectively, we’re saying, no, we know this is Branigan here he is, good to see him and we can skip that step. What we’ve done now is actually take that technology that powers our airport network and allow anyone to now integrate that technology so our clear identity platform can power their customer experience. So instead of our owned and operated experience like we have in our airport network, we can now go to a hotel, a rental car company, a health care provider, your bank, and remove the friction of having to over and over and over again prove who you are. So you have the right to do these things. So we do that too, with all of the incredible technology we’ve built in partnership with the TSA and Department of Homeland Security over the last 12 years. So it’s a very secure platform, built a government grade standards, and with a brand that stands for frictionless onus and trust. So we are excited to start to partner with great folks like Virdee and Branigan to bring this experience to hotels so that you no longer have to wait in that line to just hand over your driver’s license, prove who you are at the hotel, check in desk. You can do that on a kiosk, as you mentioned, or you can even do it in a hotel app and never break stride in the lobby. Walk straight to your room.
Robin Trimingham: Now, I have to say, at least to women, anyway, this is going to be music to our ears because, you know, when you go through the airport, I’ve lost track of how many times somebody might ask to see your ID and women typically carry large handbags. I refer to mine as the abyss into which things fall. And, you know, how many times have I been caught fumbling? Where did it go? I had it 30 seconds ago, so I really, really like this idea. But tell us about this. When Clear verifies somebody’s identity, how accurate is it? Is it more or less accurate than when a human verifies my passport?
Catesby Perrin: Yeah, it’s a great question. And I think there’s a couple important components of that that I’ll break apart. The first is our platform is built to be fully modular, so write the checks that we’re doing to ensure that. Branigan is Branigan for the TSA. When you’re moving through airport security to get on a plane are exceptional. The highest level of verification we could possibly perform. It’s why it’s done physically. It’s partly why our great ambassadors are there to witness that. It’s why we have physical hardware. What we can do, though, for experiences that need to be secure, but maybe not TSA grade, shall we say, is do different sorts of checks that are sufficient and have a high fidelity for the particular use case, like checking into a hotel or say, buying a beer at a sports stadium but aren’t as onerous as that. And so as a general matter, when we think about hotel check in on the whole, although it would depend on how a hotel decides to set the parameters for themselves in their own hotel, this is going to be a more accurate solution because we’re not only just eyeing a driver’s license and saying this looks right and this person who’s holding it looks like that person, we’re doing a biometric match of that person that they are live in this moment against the photo on that document.
Catesby Perrin: We’re making sure that document is real and then we’re making sure that information on that document all makes sense in the context of that document as well. So there are things that a human simply couldn’t do if they wanted to of their own volition without a lot of work involved. What’s more important, I think, though, than even making sure that the document is real and the accuracy of it, but it’s also the impact of the customer experience and your operating experience. How do you take people away from the front desk? So it’s not about inputting. Data or making them wait to get their room. But it can be a hospitality experience. How do you optimize your staffing levels in a world where staffing is more difficult and maybe more expensive? So it’s the customer experience transformation, not just the accuracy of the verification. Or said differently, those two things together are deeply important, we think.
Robin Trimingham: Now, I think you’re making a whole bunch of interesting points all rolled into one big ball there. And I know we’re going to get to some of this later in the conversation. I particularly like the idea that with some creativity, front desk staff could be doing something better than simply swiping credit cards or whatever the case may be. Branigan: Can you explain to us why this technology was so interesting to Virdee?
Branigan Mulcahy: Absolutely. So at Virdee, we’re a guest experience technology company. Simply put, that means we automate what happens at a front desk. So if you think about the last time you checked in at a hotel, you probably walked up to a front desk agent. You probably gave them your driver’s license, credit card. They inspected both of those things. Maybe they swiped your credit card. They did some work on their computer. Eventually, at the end of this transaction, they made you a key card or two to get into your room. So that’s kind of the most simple flow. Sometimes they’ll try to upsell you or do something along the way, but that’s ultimately like that front desk experience when you arrive at a property. So we’ve taken that and we’ve created software that automates that, that full flow and experience within our system. And I heard you describe us as a kiosk company before. We’re actually we’re not a kiosk company. Most of our clients don’t use kiosks. We have three main interfaces for our platform. So we have mobile web, which is the look and feel of a mobile app. Without having a mobile app. We also have mobile apps and we can white label those to our clients or we have the Virdee app itself and then we have our in-lobby devices which are iPad pros. The big iPad pros are connected to a payment terminal and a key card encoder dispenser. And so those three things work together.
Branigan Mulcahy: And so for some guests, they do everything that they need to do on their phone. They never even touch an in lobby device. Some people prefer the and lobby devices. It’s really it’s giving that same level of choice that people are used to in airports, to the guests themselves as they’re checking into the hotel. But if you think about what makes a seamless straight to room guest experience, it requires digital identity. And that’s what we partner with Clear on. And so when you think about like the way that currently all the big brands approach this mobile guest experience and if you stayed with some of the big brands and use these products, they approach it from a way that’s a little bit different. They say they all do this. You have to be a loyalty member and then before you can use the mobile guest experience, you have to visit a front desk agent and that front desk agent has to look at your driver’s license, verify that you are that person, and then they mark you in the system is verified, and then if you come back in the future, you can use the mobile guest experience. Unless you’ve booked on an OTA like Expedia or you’re traveling under a corporate rate code, In that case, you still have to go back to the front desk and be validated. So there’s all these edge cases and use cases in the current approach, which restricts the number of people that are eligible to use it, like maybe 20, 30, 40% of the overall check ins might actually be eligible to use this experience.
Branigan Mulcahy: And so what we’ve done in our partnership with Clear and how we approach this with our joint solution is that we flip the narrative and we say everybody that checks in at the hotel can use this flow and experience in many people. They’ll do it in the Uber on the way to the hotel because they have everything on their phone that they need to complete the experience. So they’ll go through their clear validation, they’ll check in, handle payment, even get a digital key on their phone as part of that process. If everyone can use it, then now you have a solution that really empowers the properties to change their operating model to some extent and say, You know what, maybe we don’t need quite as many people doing this, or maybe we can have some lobby ambassadors that help people through the technology process. And like you said, you take the fairly menial tasks of swiping credit cards and making keys and checking IDs, and there’s not a whole lot of hospitality baked into that experience. You kind of take that away and put it into technology where it belongs and you allow people to greet guests and give them that special experience that’s unique to whatever brand you’re staying in.
Robin Trimingham: I really love the idea that there’s different ways to access the technology based on your comfort level or what you have available. Talk to me about this, though. If I’ve got it right, you’re going to walk up to the hotel to check in and instead of seeing the usual. All four or five people behind the front desk. You’re going to see maybe one person and an iPad stand. How is this going to be deployed? Can you give us a little bit more of a description?
Branigan Mulcahy: Yes. So first off, every hotel does it a little bit differently because they have their own approach to this technology at a bare minimum. There’s the mobile experience. So we have clients that only use mobile experience. They don’t have kiosks and some of them use it entirely like 100% of their check ins are on our platform. There’s no front desk. And effectively they’ll get email or text communication ahead of arrival with a deep link that sort of connects your reservation into a web experience. And then you go through the check in process, you’ll validate your identity with clear. If you’re already a Clear member, you can just take a selfie and move on through the process very quickly, do payments, and then ultimately get your digital key. And then when you get to the property, you just go straight to your room. Often what I do when I and visiting properties a client properties is I’ll check in on my phone and then when I get to the property, if there’s a lobby device or a kiosk, I’ll stop by, click, print a key, I’ll scan a QR code on my phone, a unique secure QR code that connects to my reservation, and it’ll dispense a key to me.
Branigan Mulcahy: I’ll throw that in my pocket and I’ll go to the room and I’ll use that part of the time. Maybe I’ll use my phone as a key. The other part of the time, that is the most common experience. Now, if somebody shows up to a property and they didn’t read their email or they didn’t check their text messages and they see the lobby devices they can approach, and often hotels will put a lobby ambassador alongside maybe a fleet of six kiosks. And so with our joint partnership with Clear, we’re in the process of launching one of the largest casinos in Las Vegas right now. If you walk into the lobby, you’ll see a bunch of Virdee check in stations. And that’s ultimately the approach. People are completing the process on their phone in advance. They approach one of these check in stations and they pick up their key and go to the room. And in that context, they’re avoiding the long lines at check in that you often find in Las Vegas.
Catesby Perrin: And I think just to put a really concrete example on top of that that I think can illustrate what this looks like, we today power the mobile check and experience for Avis. So if you make an Avis reservation, typically what happens is you make that reservation from home. When your plane lands, you head to the rental car lobby, you wait in a line of undetermined or indeterminate length. That can be very fast or not. You get to the front desk, you hand over a driver’s license and a credit card, just like at a hotel, and then they assign you a car and then you’re on your way. Now that in a rental car experience can take over an hour sometimes. Instead, with Avis, what happens now is you receive a text message two days in advance of your reservation, that it says, Would you like to check in, in advance and walk straight to your car? You click on that text message you’re prompted to check in with Clear. You go through our flow. If we’ve seen you before or never before, we prove that you are you. And then when you arrive on site, actually on property, you walk straight to your car. It’s already been assigned and you never have to talk to a human. So that is the goal that now we’re bringing to the hotel lobby, which both differentiates for the guest because it obviates any need to wait in a 90 minute line. And that trouble, you want to get where you’re going. But then for the operator, it also enhances trust. You can still have the same confidence that this person is who they say they are. But you can also find operational efficiencies, better customer experience, other ways to deploy staff. And so that Avis experience is what we’re really excited with Verde to bring both to our Las Vegas casino partner, but many, many more.
Robin Trimingham: Okay, so you’re making me think of a secondary question that I want to ask here. And either one of you can jump in on this one. If I’m hearing this right, if you are going to use Avis and that would be basically nation wide, then with the clear technology, you’ll be able to do that wherever you are. Big airport, smaller airport, whatever the case may be. So am I hearing then, that once you’re logged into the technology, you can correct my grammar on that, that basically you could check into any hotel that has this platform?
Catesby Perrin: That’s absolutely right. The way to think about this is what we’re building it clear with the work of Verde and our partners at Avis and others is effectively a nationwide network of acceptance for the clear identity. Where can your clear identity, which by the way, is free for anyone to enroll and you would typically enroll as part of that Virdee experience and check in if you’ve never interacted with us before, But where can that identity be accepted so you don’t have to stop and prove who you are over and over and over again, which is what we spend so much of our day doing. And so today we’re live with our partners at Avis across their 54 largest locations where they have this quick pass experience. So I don’t want anybody to think it’s everywhere. But those 54 represent the largest markets in the US. But that’s exactly right. So if you’ve rented a car with Avis and that’s the first time you use clear as part of that checking experience as I’m. In that rental car on the way to my hotel. Right. And I’ve gotten that text message or whatever else it might be. All I have to do in that experience is snap a selfie. And I’ve checked in. Right? It is a seamless, connected travel experience. And part of the power here is today on the platform clear has over 14 million people and that’s growing very quickly. All of those people then can are looking for other ways and other places where the clear identity is accepted. And so now we can tell them this hotel brand, this property, this market, these are all the different ways in which the clear identity can save you time and money as an individual. And then obviously there are other benefits for our operating partners, like the hotels that Branigan and I are working with, like Avis and others.
Robin Trimingham: This is really a game changing discussion and it’s going to be give a lot of our hoteliers something to go away and think about branding. And obviously the labor saving aspect of this is pretty self evident. But from the guest perspective, because that’s where my listeners are going to be most sensitive to, is it just faster or are there other benefits from the guest perspective?
Branigan Mulcahy: Well, it’s definitely faster and there’s a difference in time. The very first time you do the process, there’s a couple more steps because you have to prove who you are. You have to get your payment information in and do a couple of things. But when you come back, it’s lightning fast and you can accomplish all of this again in the Uber or the cab from the airport to the hotel. So you’re getting time that you wouldn’t have had prior to this with the old method. So you really are you’re saving a ton of time. But I think the most important thing from a guest experience perspective and in every hotelier that’s that should be the first thing they care about is what is the guest want and how do we fulfill their expectations. Some people don’t want to talk to somebody when they come into a hotel lobby. They’ve had a long day at work, a long flight. They just want to go sleep and for those people, when you provide them the option that gives them what they want, like that ultimately improves their guest experience and others, They may want to be chatty. They want to go up and talk to somebody and they want to have that traditional experience. That’s totally fine. That’s still there and available in most properties. And so you have choice. When you provide guests with choice, you’re ultimately delivering the kind of experience that they want to see.
Catesby Perrin: I think to what’s interesting there from a guest experience standpoint is there are other things you can also turn on using the same technology, using clear using Verde. We, for instance, last week with a hotel launched an unattended alcohol like beer and wine tap in their lounge area. Now you can just like when you’re checking in, validate who you are that you are you with this tap system now you can validate that you are over 21 and it can dispense your beer or wine or whatever it might be in exactly the right pour. And all of a sudden you can start to build these experiences that enrich the guest experience, that add additional revenue streams for you as an individual, make your property more appealing and better for the guest, but don’t increase your staffing costs. Right? It’s a high margin new revenue stream. That’s also pretty nice for the guest.
Robin Trimingham: It makes me want to ask if the technology will also tell the customer, Hey, you’ve had enough, but I won’t make you answer that one for.
Catesby Perrin: Enough is in the eye of the beholder.
Robin Trimingham: Fair enough. All right. So we’ve whet everybody’s appetite for this, but now let’s ask the tough questions. I think that at least a few people are going to feel that maybe some of this is a little bit invasive and possibly infringing on their privacy rights. So how do you handle that at the airport? And if you can, very briefly, what is the law have to say about all of this new technology?
Catesby Perrin: Yeah, I know it’s a very, very important question. And I think both privacy data, security, data control and ownership are at the core of our brand, our product. And everything we build every day in Clear. So this is something we love talking about. And if you ever go to our website or do anything else, you’ll see it. At the core of everything we talk about. Your control of your data is exactly how we’ve built our system. We don’t at Clear buy, sell or rent your data in any way. Your data is only used in exactly the use cases where you are affirmatively saying, I’m using my clear identity here and only at your behest in that moment. Right? There is no seeing all the different ways you’re using this data. And we drive insights off of you. No. Your identity is your identity. And part of what we think we’ve built in the airport is that brand that stands for trust, as it should be. The TSA and the Department of Homeland Security are fantastic partners there. Trust us because they audit us. We’ve been built to the standards that they require to ensure that the data is stored in a secure way and that the consumer always has control. The individual has control over how, when and where their. Data is used. The important piece here is you think about it in the hotel use cases. It is not the exclusive route in any case that I’m aware of and or any case that we’re designing today to gain access or to check into a hotel.
Branigan Mulcahy: If I could add something to what Catesby just said. I think it’s important for hotel owners and brands to also consider what this means as well, because if they’re going to deliver a truly digital guest experience, they have the choice of replicating something similar to what Clear does and then taking on the risk of collecting and storing a lot of personal information on guests. Whereas Clear as a company has been built and is designed to take on that risk and has the correct security infrastructure in place, et cetera, etc., where it’s very difficult for individual hotels to replicate that type of system. So that’s one of the things we love about our partnership with Clear is that their company is designed for this type of technology and we’ve siloed the risk where it needs to be siloed for these types of things. And then from Bertie’s perspective, once somebody is validated, all we see is that they’re validated for this particular event that needs to occur. And so that gives us the comfort in our clients that comfort that they’re validated, but we don’t collect and store that information that is on the clear network.
Robin Trimingham: Did you know that offering top cosmetic brands is a delight for your guests? For the last 50 years, Groupe Gm has been a leader in the luxury amenity industry. The group proposes a 360 solution for manufacturing to distribution on cosmetic amenities and dry accessories. With over 40 international brands such as Greenland, New Italia, Cologne. The group offers different shapes and sizes of eco friendly products in hotels all over the world. This is possible thanks to its worldwide distribution network. Thanks to their care about the Earth’s programme, you can offer your guests top cosmetic products with a reduced environmental impact. Discover more on www.groupegm.com. That’s Group with an “E” GM dot com. I think from a customer perspective there’s a real argument for this being a good thing in the long run. When I think about how many memberships, how many digital passwords that I have and how many times I’m exposed because I have all these different profiles, all these different logins, if you’re consolidating that in a way, you’re actually limiting risk in the long run, I’d say. And that’s probably a really good thing.
Catesby Perrin: I couldn’t have said it better myself. That’s exactly.
Robin Trimingham: Right. So let’s talk about how this really works right now. I can see at the airport when you’re struggling with luggage and maybe small children and really long lines and somebody says, oh, just come on over here. And in three steps we can get rid of that for you, not just today, but forever. I can see there really being a big incentive to say, you know what, let me give this a try, but not necessarily going to be quite the same at a hotel. So can you talk to us a little bit? How do you anticipate getting new customers into the system? Is it really going to be a one off? I’ve arrived at a hotel. I’ve discovered this for myself for the very first time, and now I’m going to sign up. Or is it much more marketed to I’m going to call it the existing clear database.
Catesby Perrin: Great question. And I think I want to make that differentiation really clear to in the airport. That is our clear plus product. It is our consumer subscription product where you as an individual pay an annual subscription for access to that. And again, we enroll and verify you to a level mandated by our good partners at TSA and Homeland Security. What we’re talking about here in all other use cases outside the airport is a product and use case that is one both 100% free to the consumer. You pay nothing for this. This is a relationship between us and Verde and the hotel operator. And two, it’s totally native and embedded within the flow that you’re already going through. So like I discussed with Avis and exactly the same with Verde and a hotel check and experience, you’re prompted in advance or shortly before you arrive on property to say, Hey, would you like to skip the line and check in? Now we are simply part of that check in flow to perform that identity verification piece of the flow to ensure. So again, it’s more about being a differentiated native part of that experience. I do think as much as we think of airport security, sometimes as difficult, especially I feel like you were reading my profile before, I have three very small children and so airports are quite the experience, I’ll say.
Catesby Perrin: And then that’s right. I was at a conference last week in San Francisco, and when I showed up at 11 p.m. at the hotel, the line was 45 people deep to check in the last time I was in Vegas and I won’t name the property. They do not have a digital check in solution yet, but I hope they will soon. There were 300 people in line if I didn’t have a differentiated experience because of a status. There was an over an hour wait to check in. Now, whether it’s because of that type of volume or I’m a small hotel and I can’t staff the way I want to for 3:00 AM check ins and I need an alternative experience. It can work in many different contexts, but I do think giving people the opportunity to have a really trusted, more seamless experience, no matter the rationale or reason, is something that’s compelling. And I think with Branigan and Virdee, we’re seeing that adoption in really strong ways.
Robin Trimingham: So I’m going to essentially ask the same question, Branigan. From the Virdee side. So you’re not at the airport, you’re in the hotel. Who is going to help the first timers and how are they going to be trained?
Branigan Mulcahy: We start early up to a day before arrival. You’ll start to receive some level of messaging, depending on the hotel’s preference, saying, Hey, check in early, start here, start now, skip the line, whatever the messaging looks like for that particular client and you’re drawn into a flow on your phone. It allows you to complete all of the check in steps ahead of time. And then once that’s complete, if it’s prior to check in time, you’ll be pre-checked in waiting for your room to be assigned. That’s basically it for a lot of the users of our system. They’ve gone through the identity validation process and then they’ll get their digital key. Possibly they’ll come into the lobby. They want to pick up their key from the kiosk. They can do that. If they haven’t read any of the messages at all. They’ll go into the lobby, often see a lobby ambassador with some of the kiosks in the lobby, and that person can help them navigate through that process. And if that particular hotel is a clear partner, then they’ll do that identity piece as part of that enrollment to the kiosk.
Catesby Perrin: I think what we love about the Virdee solution and where they spend a lot of their time and where we spend a lot of our time, is making those flows as intuitive, as contextual and is absolutely simple as humanly possible because we know it can be a different experience for people showing up for the first time. And so context really matters, clear direction really matters, and keeping it as simple as humanly possible is how you drive adoption. And so whether it’s from communication or product design, we know that those are the keys to success, so that your mode shift really drives more to the mobile and the cost efficiencies and everything else you gain from that experience. Everybody is aligned to help make that really easy.
Robin Trimingham: I’ve got a secondary question that you guys have just made me think of. I love that hotels brand again are sending out emails in advance. Hey, there’s a new way to do this. Hey, skip the line. I think that’s really great. How far in advance of arrival could you still take advantage of that? Like, I’m thinking, you know, what happens when you land at JFK and you wind up in two and a half hours of happy traffic? Trust. Trying to get to whatever hotel you’re going to. Would you be able to sit in traffic and say, hey, let me see what this is all about? And then it being active when you got to the hotel?
Branigan Mulcahy: Absolutely right. So it’s usually a day or two in advance that you can complete the process. Some even open up the window sooner. It’s a configurable item in our dashboard. So as a hotelier, you can select the amount of time, but it’s always possible to do this in advance before you get to the property.
Robin Trimingham: That’s very interesting. So I’m curious to know what kind of hotels you guys have been working with up till now. Is this mainly just national brands? Are there any independent or luxury properties that are implementing this? And how do you make this a luxury experience? How would you answer that?
Branigan Mulcahy: So we view our solution as being applicable to any hotel, regardless of quality. What that hotel gets out of the product can differs. We provide a toolbox. The hoteliers can use the tools in that toolbox as they see fit relevant to their context. So I’ll give a couple concrete examples. So we have a client with almost 1000 locations that they’ve made the decision to remove their front desks entirely. This is more of an economy brand. And so the way it works is you enter the lobby, you’ve received the pre arrival communications, but if you haven’t read it, you either have some instructions with a QR code on how to do things on your phone or you have a couple kiosks available to check in directly. So you have some choice there. But you’re doing it kind of in isolation because it’s an economy product all the way up to we have a resort brand that we’re working with that has kind of a mix of the two. So they have the traditional line and then they have kind of the fast pass line that includes Virdee technology.
Branigan Mulcahy: So I’ve done stuff on my phone in advance. I can go up, I can use one of the kiosks to complete the process or I can do the whole process on the kiosk, either one. So that’s super common. So it’s staff replacement, staff augmentation, and there’s different benefits. As you get higher up the luxury chain, you see more of guest experience being the driving factor as opposed to just purely operational cost savings. And so we even have one of the highest in casinos in Las Vegas as a client. And their main focus for this is to provide an amenity to their guests who expect a technology option to be available. So, hey, I’m coming to a property like I’m not really expecting big long lines. Maybe there’s going to be a little line, but I’m a savvy person that likes to use my phone for things, and I want to use my phone to check in at this hotel like it’s what I want from this experience. And as a luxury operation, it’s important for them to have that option available.
Robin Trimingham: I find all of this fascinating because what I’m thinking about is from a hotel perspective, you must be able then to say this technology will grant certain guests. Access to certain areas. Like, for example, if you have a wedding in the ballroom, then potentially you could be clearing the guests to enter the ballroom. Or if you have what they used to have the business class floor in hotels and you could only get up there and eat the free breakfast, if you will. If you had the right elevator key, this could work very much the same way, I would imagine.
Catesby Perrin: I think the thing to right, we saw a lot of this during COVID with when hotels had extra space or space wasn’t being used in the same way. But I think a lot of this has persisted, right, as you use business centres or other space to now turn into workspace. I actually I’m not going to stay in the hotel overnight because I’m traveling, but I actually just need a place to work for 6 hours today for whatever reason. The ability to provide access to that in a more safe and secure way and to more easily monetize that in a way that doesn’t add complex operational overhead is something that’s very straightforward with this solution. And again, in the vein of how do we both drive operational efficiencies, better customer experience, but then also new revenue streams, I think that’s where there’s opportunity, especially for some of the more creative hoteliers out there who are looking to find new ways to monetize their property.
Robin Trimingham: I love that example because that’s basically just walking in, sit down, work and leave. And the system knew exactly who you were and turned on the laptop or whatever it is.
Catesby Perrin: And it doesn’t overburden then to your your front desk staff who probably already have enough to do.
Robin Trimingham: Yeah, totally. So from a cost perspective, guys, is this a viable solution for a boutique operator or is this really only for a national brand?
Branigan Mulcahy: I can definitely speak to that. We’ve seen the cost of our system to be incredibly affordable, especially relative to the cost of operating a full time front desk. If you look at data for the entire United States, we spend roughly 9 billion a year on front desk labor, and that translates to something between nine and $10 a check in just for that particular experience. And this is like national averages. So it’s not specific to any particular hotel, but the cost of our system is pennies compared to that from a tech perspective. So we’re able to replicate that jointly with clear. So immediate value there. We’ve studied ROI for particular clients in the past and we had one client that was looking at a 40% sort of operational efficiency in the front desk role while also improving guest experience. And that ROI for our joint solution was about somewhere between four and five X, So that’s pretty substantial. The difference.
Catesby Perrin: Yeah, I think Virdee has built a really progressive pricing structure and we’ve worked with them over the last year to really build the clear capability into that in a way that adds incremental value from an ROI perspective, but also doesn’t add tremendous levels of cost. But still, for whether you’re a single property owner or you’ve got, as Branigan mentioned, 1000 locations, it scales in a way, no matter what that looks like so that you can implement this.
Robin Trimingham: So we’ve talked a little bit about secondary uses for all of this technology at places like sports stadiums or you were talking about getting drinks in a bar. Do you guys have any other examples of where you could see this being used within the hospitality realm?
Catesby Perrin: Yeah, I’ll speak to that first. I’m sure Branigan has thoughts as well, but it clear we really are building this network. We were born in travel and we see the opportunity to start to connect the travel ribbon with this single trusted identity as a really powerful differentiator. So whether it’s with the OTAs themselves in a way that better integrates with hotel property owners and brands so that both maintain the integrity of their data, but you can still drive a differentiated experience and more insight. I talked about the Avis use case with our rental car partner, but we certainly we’re powering many stadiums today from a really mostly age gated so experiences so going back to Vegas which is a market we do a lot in if you’re at the Raider Stadium or Allegiant Stadium at a Raiders game sitting in those the club seats you open that Raiders app and just like you can check in a property using Verde and clear you can in similar way order a beer direct to your seat an age validate right They’re never pulling out a credit card or an ID we really are trying to differentiate the customer experience anywhere there’s friction right anywhere you’re not. You want to get to do something, but you’re being stopped because you’ve got to prove who you are and what is true about you, which, by the way, is really hospitality in so many ways. The check in desk, we believe, can be a vestige of the past sooner than it might otherwise have been.
Robin Trimingham: That’s interesting. Branigan, Do you want to add anything to that?
Branigan Mulcahy: Yeah, sure. I share the vision that Cateby related. Where we sit in that is that while clear, is handling the identity piece of it, making sure that you’re of age to do that particular activity, whatever the case is, what we focus on at Verde is all the things that are specific to the hotel context. In all the workflows that are necessary. So we connect to the property management system. So we have integrations with a dozen or so PMS, including all the big names like Oracle and four and etc. etc., etc. We connect to the access control system, so all the digital locks within the hotel and we also connect to payment gateways. And so in doing that, the workflows that we have. So I want to order something. I want to add something to my guest Folio, whatever that is. We can do things like post the charge to the guest folio and have it there in the final receipt that the guest gets at the end of their stay and we can activate those processes on the hotel side. So these are all the little nuances that we tie into. You want to restrict anyone but wedding guests to the wedding area within a hotel? Oh, guess what? We have the ability to create those profiles in our system so that those guests on their phone could get access to that part of the hotel or the executive floor. All of those things. We make it possible within a technology context.
Robin Trimingham: So I think this is sort of a sky is the limit discussion. We’ve covered a lot of ground today. I’m going to ask a final question here. We’ve talked about cost saving, but hoteliers care quite a lot about actually generating additional revenue, new revenue streams. When Amazon simplified the e commerce payment process and how you would make purchases, they demonstrated that purchasing went up dramatically. When you guys remove all of this friction, how do you see spending increasing? Can you give us any examples where that’s happening already or where you think it’s going to happen in the next couple of years when this is more widely known?
Catesby Perrin: Yeah, it’s a great question. And you’re right, Amazon is a good example who’s done that really effectively in the digital e commerce sphere. How do you remove the steps involved in actually getting to the transaction? How do you remove the falloff in your funnel to improve conversion of people who already have intent? For us, that’s what we see is what we’re doing in the physical world. How do we remove the loss, whether in revenue, the loss in customer experience in NPS, the loss in operational costs of that physical transaction, which is really just to verify who you are. And if we can make that one, click the version of one click in the physical world, we can improve on all those metrics and thereby increase revenue, right? You’re seeing less drop off, better customer experience, more loyalty and more repeat usage, ideally by delivering this better experience. The other piece that’s really important and where a lot of brands, especially with clear invert as we’re looking at the hospitality segment, see value is right. There are today, like I mentioned, 14 million people who’ve already used clear in one form or another. And as we turn on more locations and more use cases, that number is growing by the day. Those are all people who are looking and excited. They love the brand, they believe in the brand. And when they see a new use case where they can leverage their clear identity to have a better, more frictionless experience, which is what they expect of us and what they expect of a place that has our brand. We’re helping drive demand. We can help drive more utilization and top of funnel again to use an online term for an offline experience to ideally help drive more people to those locations. When we tell our members, Hey, now this casino in Las Vegas accepts the clear identity together with Verde, and you can check in more quickly or at Avis, you no longer ever have to wait in that line. That does great things for our partners in terms of driving utilization. And we’re excited to do that ideally more and more in the hospitality space with hotel partners.
Branigan Mulcahy: I’d like to add to that with our platform, what you do during the check in process is there’s always the option to add upgrades, upsells to that flow. So because we connect to the PMS, we’re able to extract data around the pricing of different room types. And so you’re checking in, say, to a King standard room at a particular property. And we know that if you wanted to upgrade to a King suite, it would be an extra $40 a night. And so we can position that during the check in flow Before you get your key, would you like to potentially upgrade your room or we have one resort clients in particular that they do a lot of package sales at their properties, so you get an elevated experience at the property if you purchase various packages. And so we’ve loaded that into our system as different products and so people can convert on those and those are maybe $75, $100, $200 for additional revenue that may not have been purchased or converted outside of that context, because within technology you’re able to explore things a little bit more fully with visuals than you could maybe at a front desk content. You’re able to click in and flip through pictures and understand exactly what you’re getting and what the difference is. But also there’s other products like simple things like parking or late checkout or in some. Properties mid stay clean is actually something that is available for purchase. And so all of those products are available for our clients to load in for sale in our system powers that piece of it and we see substantially more conversion with that type of approach versus other more traditional models.
Robin Trimingham: Well, I want to thank you both for your time today. It’s been a fascinating discussion and I’m sure that there’s going to be more to come in the near, near future. You’ve been watching the Innovative Hotel Here podcast. Join us again soon for more up to the minute insights and information specifically for the hotel and hospitality industry. You’ve been listening to the Innovative Hoteliers podcast by Hotels Magazine. Join us again soon for more conversations with hospitality industry thought leaders.