Hershey – The ResortSuite-est place on Earth.

I am happy to “officially” announce that Hershey Entertainment and Resorts (HER) has selected ResortSuite to manage the The Hotel Hershey, The Spa At The Hotel Hershey, Hershey Lodge, Hershey Highmeadow Campground, Old Mill Stream Campground, Hershey Golf Collection and all associated activities and membership operations.

Instead of blogging about the merits of our software, I thought that sharing the details of the selection process HER undertook in choosing ResortSuite would be an interesting story.  I also thought it would provide invaluable insight on how a large and successful hospitality operation tackles a consequential business decision such as a next-generation system overhaul.

Hershey Entertainment and Resorts operates a resort complex in Hershey, Pa., comprised of a hotel, lodge, two campgrounds, four golf courses, a spa, private club membership, various retail and dining venues, and an amusement park.

The property had a variety of separate systems to manage their business; including, a mainframe hotel reservation system and other standalone systems for spa, golf, membership and other operations. The challenge they had was managing guest information and reservations across all of the systems and using that information to their advantage to provide greater guest service and more focused marketing.

Ultimately, the intent of the evaluation process was to determine how they could significantly reduce the number of management systems required to run their operations, and where interfaces were necessary, ensure that the systems communicated as much information as possible in a modern architecture.

During our initial meeting with HER, we gave them a presentation of ResortSuite’s overall capabilities and technology, and based on those meetings, ResortSuite was asked to participate in their evaluation process.

The following is a summary of the selection process:

Request for Information

HER released a 16 page Request for Information (RFI) that explained their selection process and asked us to provide background on our company and describe how our solution managed different types of reservations (hotel, spa, golf, etc.), online reservations, guest profiles, and integration with third party products such as Passkey, GDS providers, etc.  The RFI was given our team as well as all of the major vendors in the hospitality space.

Request for Proposal

The RFI responses were used to reduce the number of vendors down to a handful, who were then given a Request for Proposal (RFP) to complete. This document contained over 3700 specific questions covering all aspects of HER’s operation. The questions were used to verify specific capabilities for reservations, operations, reporting, and technical capabilities in order to measure vendors against each other on a relative scale.

Based on the responses received from both pure point-of-sale vendors and vendors providing reservation focused solutions, HER made the decision to separate the point of sale evaluation for the amusement park and retail operations from the selection of a vendor to manage reservation related operations. However, HER would require whatever vendors were selected to provide a robust interface to share guest profile and transaction information.

Onsite Demonstrations

After an evaluation of the RFP responses, the list of possible vendors was reduced to two. The next step in the evaluation process involved a week-long series of meetings and presentations in each operational area. The vendors were asked to prepare a demonstration of their products that would cover specific scenarios outlined by HER. Managers in each operational area were brought into the meetings which were held in an interactive format.

Mark Ozawa from Accuvia helped HER align their requirements with an effective scoring system and provided expert external oversite during this phase.

Enhancement Capabilities

The demonstrations uncovered gaps in the vendor’s solutions, HER’s requirements, and one of the fundamental issues for HER – the ability for their selected vendor to respond to requests in a timely manner. HER asked each of the two vendors to demonstrate their ability to enhance their existing solution by selecting a number of requirements from the demonstration sessions, and giving the vendor two weeks to develop and validate those capabilities with HER. The purpose of this request was to measure how some of the enhancements required from each vendor would significantly impact their system.  Hershey was essentially testing us to see how quickly and safely those features could be implemented without impacting other users of the solution. This not only verified the speed of the development environment, but also the quality of the underlying product design to accommodate enhancements in an efficient manner.

Hands-on Sessions

After the enhancements were made based on HER’s requirements, a week of onsite sessions was scheduled to allow primary users in each area to work with the system to review the new features and also test scenarios in the system. The goal was to assess how the enhancements fit into the product’s overall workflow and ask specific questions on system functionality. ResortSuite provided an implementation specialist for the sessions who provided a mix of training, demonstration, and hands-on use.

Final Selection

ResortSuite was selected based on the entire process outlined above. The keys to our success were overall depth of the product, ability to enhance the solution within the existing architecture, and the rich interface capability provided by our web service architecture.

The Hershey rollout is progressing well with the PMS (Campgrounds), GOLF and CLUB modules live and the SPA coming online this month.  The PMS (Hotel and Lodge) go live is scheduled for early November.

The HER selection has been an incredible validation to our product vision and development over the past 10 years.  Our entire team rallied around the selection process to ensure each question and use case was presented as effectively as possible.  I was told that our strong technology platform (Oracle) and product depth and breadth made us a very strong finalist, but it was our ability to prove our responsiveness to enhancement requests that truly separated us from the pack.