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Buying hotel tech – setting expectations

How to approach your tech stack buying decisions and get the most out of vendors. We're joined by Cristina Blaj, Founder and CEO of Open Revenue Consulting, a strategic tech consulting firm that empowers hotels with the most innovative technology and specialised consulting services connecting sustainable asset management with guest experience integrating revenue & marketing.


In this episode we learn about the best way to explore new technologies and the hotel tech stack, as Cristina talks us through: - What to consider when procuring tech

- The importance of digitalisation strategy

- The key components to identify tech partners and solutions

- How to have confidence in vendors

- The disruptive technologies changing tech Discover more about Open Revenue Consulting.


Programme Notes


Ryan Haynes:

Hello and welcome back to Travel Market Life, where today we are going to be looking at Buying hotel tech and setting expectations on how to approach your tech stack buying decisions and get the most out of vendors. I'm your host, Ryan Haynes, and today we're going to be talking to Cristina b Blaj of open revenue Consulting, the Founder and C of a strategic tech consulting firm that empowers hotels with the most innovative technology and specialised Consulting services, connecting sustainable asset management with guest experience, integrating revenue and marketing with Cristina. We're going to be looking at What to consider when procuring tech, the importance of Digitalisation strategy, the key components to identify tech partners and solutions, How, to have confidence in vendors and the disruptive technologies changing tech.


Ryan Haynes:

Hi Cristina. Thanks ever so much for joining us today. So big subjects now's a time for hotels to really be looking at what their strategies are for the coming years. I mean, we've got all the events, the conferences coming up and there's going to be a lot of new solutions out there. So, I mean, what should hotels be considering when procuring technology?


Cristina Blaj:

Brilliant to be here. Thank you very much Ryan for inviting me and brilliant question as well. I think when we talk about technology, we need to think about a much more holistic sort of digital transformation and the pillars that really underpin that sort of transformation. So technology adoption certainly is of it, one of them. But really setting those clear objectives that underpin technology adoption is essential. In addition to this, I feel hotels really need to start auditing and scrutinizing some of the processes and the changes that are required as they adopt the technology. Not just go and fit this, this technology using the same status quo, but actually, challenge that status quo.


Cristina Blaj:

And I feel, you know, people transformation is always so underestimated, but if you don't really do, if you don't have a really clear plan and real strategy for transforming and training people, it could be a toll failure adopting technology.


Ryan Haynes:

Oh, I know, it's a scary thing. you know, from a technology perspective, you know, the vendors are always making, wanting to make sure that the technology's actually being used and used for its purpose. And if hotels haven't actually created that culture around getting their team to embrace the technology and really understand how it can solve a lot of the perhaps problems and challenges that they're having, it, it's just quite a redundant piece of, of, of technology that, and it's a, it's a waste of, of time and, and, and money. And I guess whilst it's great taking recommendations from other hoteliers, you've got to go, well, does this match the type of hotel that I am?


Cristina Blaj:

Tali, because there are so many technologies out there, you know, but not every single one of these hotels or chains will be at the very same level, right, of digital transformation or digital maturity, excuse me.


Ryan Haynes:

Let's have a look at that side of things then. you know, there's been this huge shift over the last couple of years, not because, not just because we've had digitalisation slowly coming into our lives over the last 20 years, but the pandemic really forced that change to, to have to engage with people on a completely different level through digital and, and, and really start to understand what some of the accepted behaviours are around engaging with people digitally so. it is about transformation. It is about digital transformation. How should they look at that strategy?


Cristina Blaj:

I think you have to really look at, you know, all of this appetite that, that hotels would have to adopt technology and they really need to sit down and, and figure out what are those sort of structural changes that they need to do. And, and we've seen a lot of them over the pandemic, you know, organizations merging departments, changing processes and, really even reconsidering KPIs that they should be tracking to enable them to adopt a new business model, but also that specific technology. And I think you really have to sit down to understand what opportunity opens up for you adopting a technology.


Cristina Blaj:

And I think implementing technology is not a very simple process per se. I mean, some of them are very, very easy and we will take possibly half an hour to now to end up adopting a new technology. But very often you really need to sit down to design a strategy, a digital strategy, you know, based on this whole level of digital maturity you've got, you're exp experiencing and what are really those changes, those needs that you have? Are you looking to recover? Are you looking to survive when you're, you, you emerging or you, you going into this digital transformation process or you are looking to grow and to scale?


Cristina Blaj:

So, I think once you've kind of determined that you could really create a roadmap and, and figure out what, okay, how do I get from A to B to see and, and what are those milestones that are linked to my objectives? And I think, and


Ryan Haynes:

Yeah, and obviously, it's going to be different for all different types of properties. I mean we, we've, through our series hotelier's voice, we've talked to the Zetter hotels, you know, and they implemented a whole new PMS that needed to be designed really around the type of brand and, and then, the experience they wanted to deliver. We spoke to Red Car Nation who have been going for decades now and they've been expanding, but they've had to really restructure their entire operations and, and look at the technology that would support the fact that they've actually cut their staff by, by 50%. and we spoke to r BH management who were looking at limited service over the hotel and how they could actually make sure that the team that they had on site could be disposed of, not disposed of, could be placed in different departments in different areas within a hotel as and when was needed, rather than have specific people fixed to a specific location all the time.


Ryan Haynes:

Offering that flexibility and that, those go contactless solutions that would enable the guests to sell service so. it does really depend on, as you say, you know, where is, where are you now, where's the business? What are your commercial objectives? What do you need to achieve? Not in the next few months, but, really over the next couple of years.


Cristina Blaj:

Agreed. Absolutely. I think I think hotels really need to figure out, or, you know, through all this tech adoption, how can I really become more efficient? How can I optimize my, and not only my cost, but also the time saving aspect of it, be more agile, adapt and change much faster? And ultimately all of this will have an impact on the bottom line.


Ryan Haynes:

Now some of the key components than for digital transformation and, and selecting a tech partner, you know, what's, what's some of your advice there and what's the approach that, that you take?


Cristina Blaj:

Yeah, I think for, for us, you know, we kind of sit down with, with the corporate office or with the hotel itself, and before selecting a tech partner versus specific project, you know, we, we go deeper into understanding what is really the mission that they're trying to, to achieve. And our mission is really to grow holistically their asset value. So, we look at all these various gaps and opportunities as we carry out, you know, assessment or diagnosis, more of a 360 type of diagnosis that really helps us determine where do we need to make a change, where do we need to digital transformation.


Cristina Blaj:

And I think sitting down with them to design these sorts of plans, these transformation plans, is essential because this will help you determine how you can create a culture of and, and to departmental collaboration using this technology. And how can you then transform the people and those processes, that come with these, with this sort of change and always reinforcing and enabling this tech adoption? So that's a little bit of how we, we, we work this sort of this transformation projects, but also we always have in our, in our mind, how can we unify reduced amount of technology hotels need to use and try to unify that technology as best as possible.


Cristina Blaj:

So everything kind of syncs up under an umbrella of, of, you know, a more integrated tech stack effectively. So the output of that is that hotels can then have a single source of truth both at the corporate office as well as the hotel, and it enables a lot of automation. It captures automation of processes that before maybe they doing a lot of them manually. And so, I think it's essential for organizations to scale and to grow using technology. And always what I suggest and I recommend to the hotels I sit down with is don't just try and do everything at once.


Cristina Blaj:

You know, just use more of an approach of an incremental cycle where, you know, you have each project and you advance from one level to the next, and soon as one is complete and is successful and you've reinforced the value, you know, using the people behind it, it's so much easier to implement the next project. And the last bit I would say is how we even look at financing options to back up some of these digital projects. you know, there are various areas, especially with this next generation funds coming from the EU and more and the national governments providing some of these facilities when


Ryan Haynes:

It comes to the, you know, some of the disruptive technologies that are really piquing your interest right now that you think, okay, hotels pay attention.


Cristina Blaj:

All right, well I mean at open revenue Consulting we always sort of focus on growing the asset value of that hotel and we use a pretty extensive, extensive range of technology that, obviously meets all these various needs, and the digital transformation processes, but we are constantly on the lookout absolutely for, for a new innovative technology to, you know, to cater for the very type of customers that we have. I would say there are a few of them that I would like to highlight. So, when we start projects, usually we try to go in and lay the foundation of a profitable and sustainable operation as well.


Cristina Blaj:

A business model that, you know, can help transform every asset all the backend around the properties and, and enable not only compliance because very much has to do with legal compliance processes, but also meet, you know, be able to, to develop those standards of quality and implement them. And ultimately both owners and operators and asset managers really need to have at a glance the opportunity to understand, well what are my asset management KPIs and how does it impact my guest experience if my KPI goes up or down in asset management?


Cristina Blaj:

And ultimately with guest experience as we know how important it is and also the reputation attached to it, they can really maximize and understand how they can maximize G O P to increase ultimately the bottom line. But sustainability obviously, and we knew that completely separate session on this, but I think, you know, with the sustainability of the heart of all the projects that we do, having digitalized your asset management and it's a lot easier to start creating a corporate culture of sustainable business because ultimately it helps you in real time calculate, well what is my carbon footprint if I do this or that, and what are my main sources of emissions and where, how can I then start drafting plans to raise awareness, reduce them, and create that whole traceability at all times.


Cristina Blaj:

It becomes a mandatory need across businesses with all the legislation in place both European and national. So, I think that is essential and sort of quite related to sustainability. you know, I get, I'm impressed every single day with the amount of technology I discover that is very easy to implement, but it really helps gradually solve the energy crisis. For instance, like, you know, with energy costs soaring and d duplicating in the past year, you know, food waste is such a key area. It really is the third largest producer of, carbon globally, worldwide.


Cristina Blaj:

So I think hotels need to think of compact technology, you know, that they could use to start driving that circle economy and more of that renewable sort of energy, you know, converting, for instance, the organic waste into green electricity and, and green biogas. So I think, you know, there's, there's a lot of technology out there that really helps them, you know, reduce the carbon footprint, which is should be essential across all departments and across the branding of the marketing firm. And if we do talk, sorry, go ahead.


Cristina Blaj:

If we do talk about marketing branding and that the whole of the guest journey is such an important area and, there's so much technology nowadays that really helps hotels connect with the customer at a much deeper level than they used to and really feel, you know, feel much more aligned and they, they expect that technology can now read what is there, what are their needs. They expect personalized content. At least 70 to 80% of consumers nowadays expand and expect personalization, but also they don't want to be bombarded.


Cristina Blaj:

They just want to see what is that relevant offer that is aligned with, for instance, their booking window and their geography and their search and booking behaviour. So a lot of this new technology, if you like, it's called Rev Marketing Automation RMA. And that really brings the marketing and, and, and revenue teams together to give visibility to the revenue strategy in the hotel website. So, when a hotelier, when a guest enters a website, so much easier for them to see the persona type of content that's relevant to them as opposed to what everyone else is doing.


Ryan Haynes:

So Jeff, I mean three, three key areas there and there are obviously so many other areas that you could actually explore around the disruptive technologies that are enabling hotels to perform and operate much better. And I know you're going to be out and about; you're going to be at a series of events and conferences coming up. You've got the annual hotel conference in October where you are going to be exhibiting as well as participating, as a partner within the Hospitality marketplace. Do you want to tell us a bit more about the Hospitality marketplace?


Cristina Blaj:

Yeah, Hospitality Marketplace is a brilliant platform for driving innovation and really connecting the hotel sector with the tech providers and, and, instead of you having to walk the floors of all these international trade shows, which comes with a lot of expenses and, and a lot of time consuming it and, and, and draining energy, although it's, it's a rewarding meeting people and, and we do wish to go back to it, but it's an easier way for companies nowadays to be able to drive that sort of brand visibility and show what is new in their innovation kit. So that's really how we welcome tech providers to, join us for a four day episode where we target very key areas.


Cristina Blaj:

So we talk about what is the latest rev maximization technology as well as distribution, what technology do I need to power up my direct bookings? And ultimately with operation sustainability, which is really the cornerstone of our delivering the right experience for the customer, we, it's we've created a dedicated for that. In addition, we've also, we don't just want tech providers sitting there and talking greatly about what they do, but we won the angle of the hotelier. So we've created a just a panel of judges of seasoned hoteliers from across all these various disciplines.


Cristina Blaj:

They'll be sitting and listening to those pitches if you like, innovation pitches and they'll have an opportunity to, connect and they'll have an opportunity to really talk about their trials and errors as well. So it, it's the 15th, 16th of November 22nd and 23rd of November from 5:00 PM streaming live on LinkedIn, YouTube and Facebook.


Ryan Haynes:

Great. And I'm going to put a link in that description, so check down there as well as a link to Cristina and open revenue Consulting Cristina. Thanks ever so much. I know we've got a few more conversations coming up with you because we are going to be a media partner of Hospitality Marketplace, and we're going to be at the AHC with you as well. So we look forward to continuing this conversation to help hotels and the industry really better with the procurement side of technology. So thanks again.


Cristina Blaj:

Great pleasure. Thanks so much Ryan.


Ryan Haynes:

That was Cristina Blaj from open revenue Consulting How to approach your tech stack buying decisions and get the most out of vendors. Certainly, be thinking about how your budgets are looking and what technology you really need to embrace the op market opportunities that we have over a coming couple of years.

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