Tractorbeam Takes INDIE Cultivate

Tractorbeam has arrived home and have fully detoxed from an incredible INDIE Cultivate event on Roosevelt Island in New York.

Cultivate is a conference focused on innovation, investment, and technology adoption in the independent hospitality, travel and lifestyle sectors. It brings hoteliers, technology companies, investment bankers, M&A advisors, and venture capitalists together in one incredible setting.

Cultivate is a product of the Independent Lodging Congress, the brainchild of Andrew Benioff.

Tractorbeam was thrilled to have Digital Head, Chris Miller, co-host with President of Curator Hotels and Resorts, Jennifer Barnwell.  A true shake and bake, thunder and lightning, combo on stage!

And, while Chris was hosting the day away, the Tractorbeam team was networking and learning about all of the technology innovations coming to the hospitality industry.

Tractorbeam’s Digital VP of Client Services, Nicola Clark, followed along with each panel and took down key points made throughout.

Follow along as we revisit the incredible day!

And thanks again to Andrew for allowing Tractorbeam to be apart, as well as a massive round of applause to his incredible team of Meg, Shannon, and Julia. The best team ever!

INDIE Cultivate Hosts

Hotelier’s Challenges with Technology

Ramzi Ramsey – Blackstone (Managing Director) – leads software investment

Arash Azarbazin – Highgate (CEO)

  • MDO does well with Highgate.
  • 520 hotels around the world, around 350 owned. Around 350 hotels are branded (i.e. Marriott, Hyatt, etc.).
  • Hotel space is slower at adopting tech. New tech has brought more attention to making sure they are not behind.
  • AI Strategy
    • Schedules for housekeepers etc
    • Machine imagination level – where they think for us
  • Tech
    • Digital tipping
    • 3 tests with mobile keys
    • Chatbots
    • Highgate tries to stay with few platforms (not one-off deals)
  • Choose the right way to get into an organization
    • Don’t email the CEO without a previous connection
    • Have a story to tell
  • Value Proposition
    • For team members, guests, and partners.

Leaders & Challengers: Disruption or Acquisition

Jason Shames – Skipper (CEO & Founder)

Andrew Bate – Safely (CEO)

Jen Wong – Laasie (CEO) 

Richard Valtr – Mews (Founder) – judge

Sean Fitzpatrick – OTA Insight (CEO) – judge

Joel Montaniel – SevenRooms (CEO) – judge

Gaurav Tuli – F Prime Capital (Partner) – moderator

SAFELY – Insurance policy program for vacation rentals. 

  1. Data insured 3.2MM nights. Background checks on guests
  2. Distribution – partner with PMS, embeds into the master calendar – instantly underwrites it.
  3. 3.5% of reservations have a claim, ave. claim size is $260. Paid 90% of claims within one business day
  4. No deductible. Replaces the damage deposit. 
  • They see that 40% of reservations come through direct.
  • If you have an asset to protect, you need your own insurance policy.
  • Can cover Airbnb guests
  • 80% growth YOY the last 3 years
  • $21MM annual gross revenue rate
  • Need to have the best dataset – help people identify guests they never want again. 


SKIPPER – Booking engine that unites marketing & commerce experience, increasing conversion rates.

  • Helping hotels sell better. One-click book. Making it simple to be able to transact.
  • 87% of hotel guests go to the hotel website, but only 45% of them end up booking directly.
  • Launched a year ago
    • 1. Helping to increase the LTV (know the value of the customer)
    • 2. Addressing the data challenge when competing with OTAs.
  • Can A/B test – Partners saw a 50% increase in conversions. 
  • Can also connect to dining options, etc.
  • Help to transact more efficiently to drive more direct bookings.
  • Connects to inventory sources. 
  • Currently focused on US properties, see international as an opportunity in time.
  • Challenge:
    • Hotels love big images, but it impacts website load time. So the site gets less organic (as Google deems it an issue). So while Skipper may increase conversions, actually the top of the funnel is getting less. Need to have their hotel partners address this.
    • Website load time is a big factor.


LAASIE – Modern approach to loyalty pairing AI with instant loyalty partners

  • Over 1000 partners (credits, 12 mos subscriptions, Showtime, Sephora), etc.
  • Leverage AI – awards vary depending on the person. Lookalike models help them use the signals to surface the optimal mix of rewards.
  • 60% higher lifetime spend
  • For OTA bookings there is an extra set, with a QR code to sign up at check-in.
  • Complete profile information, and get rewards for each action
  • Plug and play
  • 24/7 guest services
  • Lassie – loyalty as a service (named after the dog)
  • Make money by being the matchmaker
  • It IS the hotel’s loyalty program. The customer data belongs to the hotel.
  • A way to compete with the loyalty programs of the OTAs.
  • The pipeline is 3x their current size
  • Just integrated to Shopify
tractorbeam x ilc

Indie Talk

John Kim – Paypal

  • Travel Industry trends – covid, web 3, the disappearance of cookies, etc.
  • Travel continues to shift to online channels – slide
  • Shift from click-based attribution to data-driven – slide
  • Growth in customer data platforms – slide
  • Meta, YouTube, and Tiktok outpacing search – slide
  • Metaverse will reach $200Bn – slide
  • Travel and tourism starting to dabble in virtual or augmented reality
  • The economy forced us to pull back on investment, but now 2023 feels very different.
    • Chat GPT was a watershed moment. Took 5 days to reach 1M users (Netflix took 3.5 yrs, IG took 2.5 mos. Thread just took about 1 day).
    • Chat GPT Timeline – slide
    • Every single human problem will have AI applied to it over the next few years.
    • Ai is immediately useful and distributed completely for free.
    • AI is reshaping our business:
      • Impact on search
      • Impact on content
      • Impact on service (think call center)
      • Impact on design (mentioned midjourney)
      • Impact on engagement (instacart example for a dinner recipe, menu, and shopping link). Stores your food intolerances. 
      • For hotels: pricing, check-in and so much more
    • The slopes of new tech curves are incredible (AI recognition capabilities) – slide
  • AI is reshaping PayPal products
    • 1. Paypal assistant
    • 2. Early Fraud detection
    • 3. Venmo Commerce
    • 4. AI Checkout Product Suite – transforming the experience for consumers and merchants.
      • One-click buying
        • First item – the guest completes the traditional checkout
        • Next site they go to, get sent an SMS, approve, and leads to one-click buying.
        • Merchant Vault + PayPal Vault + Issuer Vault
    • Recommendations don’t show you predictions.
    • Create a more contextual experience
      • Cross-sell products and services
      • Invite to reward program
      • Target with personalized deals

Practical AI Applications

Adam Harris – Cloudbeds (CEO & Co-Founder)

Stephen Chan – Eagle Point Hotel Partners (Partner & Co-founder)

Rami Zeidan – Life House (Founder & CEO)

Bruce Rosenberg – Hotelplanner (COO & President of the Americas)


  • 20th anniversary this year
  • Using Bard for press releases
  • ChatGPT for the call center (increased 3-5% conversion), efficiency improved.
  • Cut fraud down in half this year.
  • Use it to extend the reach of small hotels



  • Software-enabled hotel management company
  • Use machine learning for pricing techniques
  • Constantly thinking about automation
  • Use it for Workflows, SOPs, etc.



  • Revenue Management can be managed better with AI than a person
    • An automated system can react if, say, a concert is announced in the city.



  • Check out – a content development engine. sped up the content team by 20%
  • Side note: 83% of all hotels in the world are independent – and approx. 40% in the U.S.

Connect Gaming & Travel with Web3 and Generative AI

Somnath Banerjee – Metajuice

Jan Roessener – One Earth Rising

Brandon Kaplan – Journey

  • 80% of travel may be impacted by AI
  • Have been working at AI for almost 3 decades
  • ‘It’s not AI that will take your job, it’s the other human being that learns AI.’
  • Showed an avatar that can be a concierge.
  • Showed a hologram of a performer.
  • Can buy NFTs to get into the booths to advertise, and monetize a rewards program.
  • Demographics – the average age of a gamer is 35 yrs, and 48% are women.
  • The sandbox
  • Fortnight became a new social environment, a gathering place.
  • Youtube – watching people play games is a thing.
  • You need to understand the platforms and be authentic in the space.
  • Mentioned midjourney
  • Gamers are on discord
  • Twitch – platform very familiar to the gaming crowd.
  • Staple diffusion – open source
  • Hotels should consider having an NFT program for their loyalty program.
  • Right now hotels appearing in games is just for visibility (not being monetized)

Where is travel tech headed?

Lucile Cornet – EightRoads (Partner)

Anne Jaffe – Mobi (CEO)

Bashar Wali – This Assembly (Founder & CEO)

  • For a long time, hospitality is a very slow adopter of new technology
  • Big enterprises are hard to adopt tech, due to old tech-stack that are hard to integrate, whereas independents can be more nimble to upgrade.
  • Want to use technology not to remove the human, but to remove the friction.
  • Technology should disappear and all that is left is the experience.

Debate: Experiences: Human Touch or Touch of Tech

Rom Sandel – Hotel Tonight (General Manager)

Branigan Mulcahy – Virdee (Co-founder)

Gray Shealy – Syllogi – (Co-founder)

  • Tech has different influences on the type of traveler you are.
  • Rise of slow travel since covid
  • Human interactions will become more premium
  • Side Note: The Wynn in Vegas uses sevenrooms
  • Where technology replaces people, it will have an incremental devastating effect on communities in some parts of the world where people will lose their jobs. Where do we draw the line on profit margin vs humanity?
  • The audience split was 50/50 on wanting to go to the front desk vs straight to the room at check-in.
  • Difference between service and hospitality. You can replace service with technology, but not hospitality.

In conclusion… 

Despite the suspiciously few notes taken about the cohost jokes, it was an amazing event. We’re excited to see everyone again in San Francisco on Oct 23-25 for Indie Congress!

And, as always, if you need any help figuring out how to take advantage of tech innovations, AI, and immersive experiences, Tractorbeam is here for you!