The last time you stayed at a hotel, you may have received a text from the property asking if you had any special requests before checking in. Want a dinner reservation or theatre tickets? They could help with that – no phone call required. Then while you were there, an unobtrusive text message popped in asking if everything is going OK or do you need anything? And if your card key didn’t work, the wifi dropped off, or you needed more towels, help was only a text away.
You can thank a South Florida-based tech startup, Nuvola, for all that.
That Guest Chat feature is only one of the features that Nuvola offers hotels to make the guest experience efficient and delightful. Many of those features a guest would never notice, but they make the hotel run much more efficiently. Led by founder and CEO Juan Carlos Abello, an FIU alum (pictured below), Nuvola serves the world’s biggest hotel companies and brands – including Accor, Wyndham and Choice — as well as boutique hotels.
Nuvola’s cloud-based scalable software integrates property standard operating procedures into its proprietary system, leading to more efficient back-of-house operations, staff management such as housekeeping and guest services, and guest engagement, all accessible on a single destination, not multiple apps. That’s because the company is run by a team of former hoteliers and tech experts.
For instance, Nuvola offers a housekeeping module so that rooms can easily and efficiently be assigned to each room attendant. It’s a a module that provides tremendous ROI to hotels. Abello should know: He started out doing just that as a director of housekeeping at the Delano on Miami Beach years ago when everything was done on paper. And with Nuvola’s guest engagement functionality, there’s no learning curve with the guests because it is just one more text message. But on the staff side, a dashboard provides a way for them to efficiently communicate with multiple guests at the same time, Abello said. “It gives flexibility, cost savings, and particularly in this new contactless world, it has been a great service.”
During the pandemic, Nuvola’s contactless technology may seem a no-brainer but Abello and his team developed the technology before the pandemic. He saw where the industry is going.
Nuvola already had software for housekeeping and inspections, but when the pandemic arrived Abello’s team worked quickly to modify the software to become sanitization software. “We launched a campaign called Stay Clean in May 2020. We gave the sanitization software free for any hotel around the world for the remainder of the year,” Abello said. “We had tremendous success, including we signed up one of the largest hospitality management groups in the US as part of that campaign.”
Expect more to come. “We’re developing more contactless technology, which honestly is still taking off. It is still very much early adopters using it … but this is where the technology is going.”
In a couple of years, all guests will be opening their guest room doors with their phones, for instance, but Nuvola plans to be ahead of the game developing the tech. “By the time that this becomes standard and contactless functionality takes over – which it will – our technology will already be robust enough to serve any brand. It’s why we’re pioneers in this technology.”
Last year, Nuvola implemented an AI-powered Insights feature into its software. Its Insights feature lives throughout the entire platform, and provides information on a guest’s preferences, special requests, issues they may have had at the hotel, information about the room status and service requests, etc., and it also gives suggestions on who should address a guest’s issue or need, based on proximity and availability. The algorithm becomes smarter every day as more tickets are created or more rooms are assigned, Abello said. Released in September, Insights is drawing tremendous feedback from clients, from hotels and casinos to boutique properties, he said.
Today Nuvola is a team of 39 people, with offices in Miami and Colombia, and last year Abello opened an office in China. As Nuvola expands globally, Abello reflected on his experience as a Florida International University student, where he earned a bachelor’s in International Management. While at FIU, he worked fulltime in the hotel industry, learning first-hand about the issues in the industry. Today Nuvola serves customers in 35 counties, and the cultural sensitivity he learned at FIU plays a very big role in the contracts he has secured around the world. ”That’s all thanks to FIU.”
Recently he has been a speaker in classes at FIU, giving him new perspectives on the next generation. “When I engage the entrepreneurship students, I love the questions that they have,” he said. He shares with them that it is a lot easier today starting a business because of all the digital tools available today. “I had to knock on doors for months to get my first two to three clients.”
Abello’s advice to entrepreneurs just staring out: “Entrepreneurs have many hats to wear. There will always be another project or task vying for your attention with a sense of urgency and importance. Two of the main components that I have learned matter the most in the beginning stages of developing a successful business would have to be focusing on sales followed by building a strong team. Securing the first handful of a customer base is a crucial step in the initial phase of starting a business.
“Once you have gotten some momentum, the keys to the kingdom lie in building a core team. It is critical to find employees that truly believe in the company’s vision and are dedicated to its growth. Entrepreneurs need to locate these team members and then invest in them. Providing additional incentives outside of a salary, such as stock options, creates a competitive offer while generating investment from each team member in the company’s success.”
In 2017, Juan Carlos Abello won the FIU Track of the Miami Herald’s Pitch Competition (then called the Business Plan Challenge) for Nuvola as the company was just beginning to scale up. Stay tuned for news on this year’s contest. (updated)