Yanolja got its start selling stays at love hotels in Korea. But the travel startup last year raised $180 million in a funding round led by Booking Holdings and wealth fund GIC. The Seoul-based company has since expanded its ambitions from being an online travel agency and hotel operator to also selling software to help hotels run their properties.
“The goal is for Yanolja, together with eZee, to become the clear number-one global cloud-based hospitality solutions provider within the next three years,” said eZee CEO Aeijaz Sodawala.
The subsidiary eZee alone currently serves about 17,000 hotel clients worldwide. That customer count puts it on the heels of Cloudbeds, a cloud-software provider that runs at more than 20,000 properties and that raised $82 million before the pandemic.
It also puts eZee on the heels of Oracle Hospitality, which is used by more than 40,000 properties. The catch is that those figures underplay Oracle Hospitality’s high penetration among the best-known hotel brands.
“Oracle Hospitality’s dominance is in the on-premise side, but the future is in the cloud,” said Andrew Kim, the chief business officer of eZee. “If we just talk about respective cloud-based property client lists, Cloudbeds and eZee already far exceed Oracle Hospitality’s list.”
Skift Research estimated earlier this year that Oracle Hospitality is the largest player worldwide. Oracle’s various property management systems have a 16 percent share of available hotel rooms globally, according to the report The Hotel Property Management Systems Landscape 2020. Oracle has a 6 percent share of hotels, by property count.
A Bet on the One-Stop Shop for Hotel Tech
Taking a one-stop-shop approach to hotel tech is key to both eZee and Yanolja’s strategies.
“Our target customer basis is three-star properties and below, and they don’t want to work with multiple vendors,” Sodawala said. “We want eZee to be the go-to vendor that supplies all the necessary tools for hotel companies to operate their properties.”
For example, eZee in August launched a tool called Panorama that helps hoteliers build a templated website, which promises to be tightly integrated with its software.
“We’re now developing a revenue management module,” Sodawala said.
The company also offers Centrix, a channel manager to help hoteliers automate, manage, and optimize their online distribution. It sells point-of-sales tools, too, for taking orders and providing digital menus at hotel restaurants.
The all-in-one, buffet-style approach to hotel tech stands at odds with the standard approach in Europe and the Americas, where hoteliers tend to pick and choose tech from different providers a la carte. The vertical approach to tech is more common in Asia Pacific in general however.
“We see the PMS evolving,” Sodawala said. “It will continue to act as the data epicenter for hotels, but its functionalities and scope will expand to incorporate aspects of Internet-of-things devices, revenue management, etc.”
Yanolja Boosts eZee
Yanolja sees eZee as its international tech brand outside of Korea. It has been putting Zen Rooms, a hotel chain that Yanolja bought a controlling stake in a couple of years ago, on eZee’s system. Singapore-based Zen Rooms has deployed eZee in its franchise operations in Southeast Asia.
Zen Rooms also promotes eZee’s products through a reseller arrangement. In one sample deal, Zen Rooms bundles licenses for eZee’s property management system with its revenue management system.
A Bet on Hotel Automation
Yanolja’s vision for hotel tech goes beyond overtaking Oracle Hospitality in software sales. The company also wants to sell hardware-based solutions, such as self-service check-in kiosks and key dispensers for guest rooms. These systems will share data with eZee.
Yanolja has been working this year on a suite of hotel automation tools. Its Y Flux GRMS offers tools to help guests control their room’s TV and temperature digitally. The company has been piloting the tech in its South Korean properties. It’s a franchise hotel operator of thousands of rooms in South Korea under seven brands, such as Hound and H Avenue.
Yanolja will launch two fully automated hotels in November.
Yanolja anticipates its suite of Y Flux hotel automation tools will link sensors and software in real-time to support robotics, chatbots, and “internet of things” devices that can make it easy to control light and temperature in guest rooms digitally. The system will sync with tech from Bnetwork, a provider of hardware for internet of things services for accommodation providers. That effort essentially means that the eZee property management system can import data collected from devices.
After testing hotel automation in its domestic market, the startup intends to offer its hotel automation suite abroad. The next release in the pipeline is a guest portal that will allow guests to access real-time mobile concierge, room service ordering, nearby attractions, and ground transportation. The Flux tools will first hit the Southeast Asian market early next year and will tie into eZee.
The Long Road for eZee
Before Yanolja acquired it, eZee hadn’t taken outside funding. It grew by reinvesting its profits. Its home in Surat is in the Indian state of Gujarat, which has a global diaspora of motel and hotel owners, who became its early customers.
In 2011, eZee launched its first cloud-based platform. While many customers still use its on-premise system, a majority are now in the cloud.
Last month eZee made it easier for its solutions to plug into more third-party hardware and software hospitality products by introducing an open API (application program interface) as a modern way to connect systems. The new method will speed up the ability of developers at third parties to integrate. (For context, see Skift Research’s report.) The company doesn’t charge hoteliers for the integrations and requires a “negligible cost” for developers, Sodawala said.
Yanolja last year bought South Korea’s most-used domestic providers of hotel property management systems, Garam and Seereal. It intends to continue running those brands in the Korean market separately from eZee. Yanolja Group has a total client base of about 22,000 hotel properties, including eZee’s more than 17,000.
To enter new markets, eZee sometimes sets up direct subsidiaries in some markets, while other times it partners with companies, such as its recent deal with Hotel Online in Africa.
Many companies are competing to sell hotel property management systems. For context, Skift Research subscribers can read The Hotel Property Management Systems Landscape 2020. The report covers many competitors in the space, including Cloudbeds and Hotelogix.
“At eZee, we’ve been serving hotels since 2005, which gives us a head start in understanding hotelier needs compared to newcomers like Cloudbeds and Hotelogix,” Sodawala said.
Photo Credit: An image from the Royal Purnama Hotel in Bali, which uses tech from eZee. The Royal Purnama