Technology Changes Lodging Workforce

Technology is indispensable in today's hospitality business. Everyone from housekeepers to real estate ownership REITs relies on it and it automates almost every part of hotel operations and marketing. Technology streamlines process and connects people, and will continue to drive our industry's key trends, including chain consolidation and online marketing. It goes well beyond creating more efficient business processes, however; it changes the lives, careers and thinking of our industry's most valuable asset: the people who use systems.

Many hoteliers are evolving from operations-focused managers to strategic thinkers with an expanded awareness that encompasses their company's entire enterprise and the global markets it serves. Property-level and corporate personnel using systems for revenue management, CRM online marketing, business intelligence, property management and sales are evolving from being “users” into a new breed of specialists who wield technology to streamline their jobs and add topline revenue while improving the guest experience. This fundamental shift creates new career paths, job titles and staffing requirements, and is even reshaping how our industry hires and trains its employees.

Revenue Management: See the Future

“Technology enables me to see the future and make plans that capitalize on what was not visible before,” says Lyra Hynie, corporate director of hotel yield and teleservices for Boyd Gaming. “Sophisticated demand modeling and revenue management technology have changed my professional life. Before, I was too busy collecting numbers to have enough time to fully analyze what the data meant to our company.” Hynie says she used to base all her work on manual reporting that required most of her attention to compile. Today she automatically generates accurate forecasts by keying in a date range and other criteria. This enables her to focus on interpreting results and creating effective rate optimization strategies for Boyd. “Our revenue management platform models future demand quickly and generates graphics that make me a more persuasive presenter,” she says. “The printouts help me explain my revenue optimization strategies to the management team more clearly and build consensus, which results in better returns for the company.”

Hynie says automated corporate data gathering and analysis also enable her to think strategically about cross-company operations and spot best practices that can build a platform for better business decisions and policies. “Technology also changes how our teleservices teams sell to customers,” she explains. “With faster systems that maintain guest history and player data, our staff has time to talk to our clients and develop a closer relationship. This results in more conversions.”

CRM + Online Marketing: Fulfill Guests as People

If you ask Linda Palermo, chief revenue officer at Joie de Vivre Hospitality, how technology has changed her professional life, she says, “From a Joie De Vivre standpoint, psychographics.” Joie de Vivre has successfully specialized in providing guests with personalized experiences based on their personalities and preferences. “Being able to connect with our customers through our website in more advanced ways has enabled us to do this,” Palermo says. “This type of web interaction with hotel guests was not available 10 years ago.” The Joie De Vivre website gives guests access to tech-driven tools that allow Joie de Vivre to provide a more “local” and intuitive experience for guests to consider as they travel around California. “When I started in hospitality, I concentrated on business operations and metrics. Today, I am focused on people and their favorite experiences and preferences that make up our target segment mix.” Palermo says CRM technology helps her understand more about how Joie de Vivre's guests want to spend their time. “It's not just about offering tickets to tourist attractions anymore. We concentrate on understanding guests and offering individualized hotels and programs they truly value and fulfill them,” she says.

“Technology touches all the areas of my job from operations, marketing and hiring. In many ways my job is easier because I am more efficient, but the pace is faster,” says Palermo. The Internet also plays a part in Joie de Vivre's daily operations and its hiring process. “It is much easier to do background checks on new hires with the Internet,” Palermo says. “The web helps me with insights about the kind of employee an individual will be. I can quickly research a job candidate's employment history online. You can tell a lot about an applicant from a Facebook account.”

Business Intelligence: Processes for a Total, Multi-Property Enterprise

Nelson Garrido, vice president of information technology for Noble Investment Group, has been in the hotel business for 15 years and seen his business concepts expand with system development. “I used to look at technology like POS, PMS and sales-and-catering applications as separate applications with interfaces for transactions,” he says. “Today, I see processes, not systems. I think in terms of a total, multi-property enterprise, the people who use it and how it will affect their jobs. Even evaluating minibar and energy management systems requires an enterprise mentality.” Garrido oversees all tech implementations for Noble Investment Group's portfolio of 40-plus Hilton, Marriott, Starwood, Hyatt, IHG and independent properties. “We use an enterprise business intelligence and financial system that delivers to our operators their prior-day numbers every morning to help them manage and shape strategy. But at the property level, I have developed a greater understanding of cultural issues that impact our staff. For example, new hires from younger generations are more familiar with text messaging and instant messaging applications than green screen and keyboard-only systems, and this impacts their productivity and the type of systems we employ,” Garrido says. And when Garrido thinks about guestroom technology, he focuses more on what guests enjoy at home and how their hotels can provide those features in its services. “At the tactical level, my access to our data means I am always thinking about work and am more effective in achieving our company's goals.”

Property Management Systems: Think Flexibility

“I look at technology in two ways now,” says Tabatha Kidder, corporate director of revenue for St. Paul, MN-based Morrissey Hospitality, which operates full-service properties. “I look at how technology fits the business needs of each property and its market and also how it affects the productivity of each property's team.” In the past, she says, there usually was one way to do something on a property system. “Today, I think about flexibility. Each PMS has a best way to find a reservation and check in a guest, so I look at how flexible this process is in terms of our employees' ability to learn and adapt.” The Internet also affected and expanded Kidder's thinking. “I could not envision how I could do my job without the Internet. When 40 percent of your reservations may come from online channels, it drastically changes how you think about staffing and your business model. In my corporate revenue-management role, I do not even think about getting competitor information any more. It takes me just a few minutes to check my comp set rates and fine-tune our revenue strategies; this frees the rest of my day to concentrate on developing new strategies.”

Sales and Catering: Think Globally, Act Locally

The Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel is one of several Starwood properties in the Boston area. The technology that ties them together enables General Manager David Connor to think outside the “big box” when it comes to booking meetings. “Regional Starwood hotels have always worked together to capture business that was bigger than could be accommodated by one property. In the past, this process took lots of phone calls and coordinated effort to learn the availability at each property.” Connor says his team usually had to call the meeting planner back after the properties agreed on how many rooms they could sell on a specific date. “When you make a corporate planner wait, it increases the chance they will keep shopping. Today we use networked sales technology that enables the team at the Westin Boston Waterfront and the other Starwood properties in our area to more effectively sell to our clients in a timely manner. The web gives us control of a much larger inventory to attract and accommodate larger deals. Today I spend much more of my time looking at global strategies rather than property tactics.”

Technology's steady nudge may be the biggest gain for individual hoteliers who can now daily apply more energy to doing what humans do best: think strategically.


Michael Squires is president of Softscribe Inc., which helps technology firms targeting green hospitality, tourism, the U.S. government and healthcare meet their strategic goals. Contact him at 404.256.5512 and/or mbs@softscribeinc.com.

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Aptech Computer Systems — Circle 107
AutoClerk — Circle 108
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Centrada Solutions — Circle 119
Compucustom — Circle 121
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DoComo InterTouch — Circle 127
(Ez) Revenue Management — Circle 135
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Guestroom Solutions — Circle 146
Guest-Tek — Circle 147
IDT Group — Circle 153
INNCOM International — Circle 154
InTouch Digital Systems — Circle 158
Ipanema Solutions — Circle 159
IQubz — Circle 160
IQWare — Circle 161
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Micros Systems — Circle 171
Milestone Internet — Circle 172
Minibar Systems — Circle 173
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PSG Controls — Circle 198
Remco Software — Circle 199
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Sharp Electronics — Circle 210
Tiare Technology — Circle 221
Wayport — Circle 229

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AutoClerk — Circle 108
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Birch Street Systems — Circle 111
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Catalyst Technology — Circle 118
DataPlus — Circle 125
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Genares Worldwide — Circle 143
IDeaS — Circle 152
IQWare — Circle 161
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Micros Systems — Circle 171
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Pegasus Solutions — Circle 190
Phase2 International — Circle 191
Pinnacle Communications — Circle 194
Safety NetAccess — Circle 205
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SynXis — Circle 215

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LOC International — Circle 165
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Agilysys — Circle 101
Bartech Systems — Circle 109
Birch Street Systems — Circle 111
BluFi Wireless — Circle 113
Booking Center — Circle 114
Card Scanning Solutions — Circle 117
Dometic Corp. — Circle 128
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Tiare Technology — Circle 221
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Catalyst Technololgy — Circle 118
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Hotel Concepts — Circle 150
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