How one European company is quietly building its (hotel tech) empire

A few weeks ago Zucchetti, a company providing software and hardware for the hospitality industry among others, quietly acquired Italy-based rival Simple Booking.

Tnooz reached out to both companies to talk about the acquisition.

Zucchetti, founded in 1978, employs almost 4,000 and claims to have more than 1,000 partners worldwide.

While Italy is a highly fragmented market, due to the relative simplicity of XML technology, hundreds of companies invaded the market over the years, a few big names remain with Zucchetti among them.

It has concentrated its acquisitions, to try to centralize the fragmented market. Angelo Guaragni, manager in charge of the hospitality and retail divisions says:

“Zucchetti’s goal is to become a leader in all IT sectors thanks to the high knowledge of the group’s companies. Specifically, in the Horeca sector we want to become the unique vendor on which hotels, restaurants, pizzerie, bars, fast food restaurants and bakeries will rely. The secret of Zucchetti’s success is the capability to combine its know-how in IT with the specific competences of leading companies in vertical markets.”

Enter Simple Booking, which defines itself as a reservation-booster suite: an all-in-one system created to increase direct bookings and global turnover for hotels. The company has been around for 15 years and claims to have been the first booking engine to accept Bitcoin payments.

With its 3,000 clients and a year-on-year revenue increase of 30%, it is probably the best move Zucchetti could have made in order to improve its technology and know-how. The terms and closing price of the acquisition have not been disclosed, but one source, not connected to either Zucchetti or Simple Booking, claimed the amount of the whole operation was pretty high, along with aclause to keep the current management in the company for an undetermined period of time.

It all happened at dinner…

Duccio Innocenti,  CEO of Simple Booking was very open about the future of the company and the acquisition.

“In the last two years there has been a lot of interest for Simple Booking by well-established international companies and investment funds. A little less than a year ago the Zucchetti Group came with a first offer but, at the time, we were not ready. Our company was growing rapidly both on the Italian and international market, so we were not really considering any offer”.

He says that what made him change his mind was a dinner he had with Zucchetti’s CEO.

“I was invited by him and his father and, driven by curiosity and respect, I accepted. I was fascinated by these people: so important yet so down-to-earth. At the end of the dinner, anyhow, my answer did not change. But, over time, their patience and determination convinced me, together with the promise that we could keep running Simple Booking with our vision and with our loyal staff. I have to admit that, on a personal level, it was a hard decision to take,  but I am confident I made the right choice.

“With the help of Zucchetti, we will be able to export that level of excellence that made us leaders in Italy”.

Risk of monopoly: Vertical Booking?

Simple Booking is the most recent of a spate of Zucchetti acquisitions. Last December it announced that it bought Vertical Booking, another Italian well established player offering a range of services including CRS, booking engine, channel manager, metasearch management and GDS distribution to more than 6,000 customers in more than 100 countries.

Enrico Itri, worldwide business operations at Zucchetti, described the acquisition as a “great synergy” and a “way to strengthen the Zucchetti position in the hospitality market”.

Tnooz also spoke with Erik Muñoz, CCO of Vertical Booking:

“I was CMO at PriceMatch when we sold to Booking.com, to form part of the BookingSuite solutions. so I am not new to this kind of operations. The Zucchetti Group looks at horizontal solutions that can be applied to the Ho.Re.Ca industry, such as ERP, business travel management, and club membership. We work very closely with other Zucchetti companies, such TCPOS and of course, our very close friends at Simple Booking”.

He’s adamant that the acquisition is not creating a dominant market position.

“On the contrary, we have a very large partner network. Currently, Zucchetti has more than 500 partners in the group, and this is only in Italy.”

1/3 of the Italian accommodation market

Less than a year before the Vertical Booking acquisition, Zucchetti bought another Italian hotel tech provider: GP Dati Hotel Service. Founded in the early 80’s, the company specializes in property management systems with more than PMS, with over 1,000 installations all over Europe.

Scrigno Suite, its top gamma product, is an industry standard, and thought to be one of the best PMS in Italy. Giuseppe Pellegrini, GP Dati Hotel Service’s CEO said.

“Thanks to this agreement we will continue to invest to ensure the constant development and updating of our software and international expansion.”

Other recent acquisitions were NI.CE. informatica (more than 1,700 PMS installations) and POS Sistemi.

If our calculations are correct, these four acquisitions led Zucchetti to more than 11,000 installations. To put things in perspective, that’s a third of the total number of hotels in Italy.

What now?

It is not difficult to predict that Zucchetti will very likely continue its acquisition strategy in the near future to strengthen its market position further. Who could they be interested in?

The 2018 “Best Ease of Use PMS” winning award 5 Stelle could definitely be one, together with Sysdat and Ericsoft. Ermes and Wubook could probably be on the list as well, together with revenue management tools such as Revolution Plus, MyForecast or Lybra, and metasearch management tools such as Ads Hotel.

If that proves to be the case, Zucchetti could turn into the best turnkey solution for Italian hotels.

Photo by Man Pan on Unsplash

Related reading:

A brief history of hotel property management systems

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