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Post-IHTF podcast - Quick fire interviews

Post-IHTF podcast - Quick fire interviews

In this episode, Ryan brings a series of quick-fire interviews with industry experts, offering invaluable perspectives on the ever-evolving landscape of hospitality technology.

IHTF's host Ted Horner kicks off the discussion, sharing key insights into Wi-Fi advancements, contactless solutions, and hyper-personalization in hotel operations, gleaned from his extensive experience in the field.

Steve Johnson from Ruckus Network delves into the evolving role of Wi-Fi in the hospitality sector, shedding light on the challenges and opportunities posed by the digital nomad phenomenon and the integration of smart technologies in guest rooms.

Asam Nawaz from BeCause emphasizes the importance of sustainability data in the travel industry, providing insights into initiatives aimed at streamlining data collection and reporting for hotels and OTAs.

Sal Capizzi from Book4Time offers a deep dive into revenue management tools and strategies, highlighting the pivotal role of technology in driving ancillary revenue growth for hotels and resorts.

Jory Garcia from Flexkeeping discusses the challenges and opportunities in streamlining hotel operations through digital solutions, focusing on housekeeping efficiency and guest experience enhancement.

Chris Bowling from Best Western shares insights into multi-channel marketing strategies, including the shift towards targeted advertising and the use of customer data to drive personalized guest experiences.

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Programme Notes

This episode has been automatically transcribed by AI, please excuse any typos or grammatical errors

Ryan Haynes (00:00:00) - Welcome to the Post International Hotel Technology Forum edition for Travel Market Life. At the event in Barcelona, we met several hundred hoteliers and vendors talking about the latest innovations and developments in the marketplace, with a two-and-a-half-day programme set across two streams Technology and Operations, marketing and distribution. We heard from a number of hoteliers about the developments that they're making in the marketplace and some of the challenges that offenders are finding solutions for. In this episode, we're going to hear from the host, Ted Horner, and Steve Johnson of Ruckus Network, Asam Nawaz from BeCause, Sal Capizzi from Book4Time, Jory Garcia from Flexkeeping and Chris Bowling from Best Western Hotels.

Ryan Haynes (00:01:10) - Joining me now is Ted Horner. Now, you've been presenting the technology and operations stream here at the International Hotel Technology Forum 2024. What have been some of the interesting key conversations that you've been having and the presentations that have really stood out for you?

Ted Horner (00:01:25) - Oh, I think probably, you know, I there's been quite a few sessions, with I think we've had the panel I did this morning where we covered things like Wi-Fi.

Ted Horner (00:01:34) - You know, the transition to Wi-Fi 6 to 7. you know, the whole contactless journey, the 360-degree personalization, hyper-personalization, whatever you want. You know how people are now trying to work up. How do they mine all the data, bring it all together, you know, with some specialist products? So, yeah, it's been pretty exciting, actually, to find out what's happening in Europe versus other parts of the world.

Ryan Haynes (00:01:58) - I'm with Steve Johnson, the senior director for hospitality and Mia at Ruckus Networks. Thanks ever so much. Just joining me. So tell me about Ruckus Networks and what you offer hoteliers.

Steve Johnson (00:02:08) - So Ruckus Networks is a very well-known brand in the hospitality industry. We build, Ethernet and Wi-Fi networks that enable that, build the platforms that enable many of the hospitality technology applications to be delivered.

Ryan Haynes (00:02:23) - Now, I mean, Wi-Fi is a big thing for guests. it's been sort of talked about constantly here, but obviously, it's needed for hotels. Cloud services and SaaS are big.

Ryan Haynes (00:02:33) - What I've been developing there within WiFi over the last few years and what hoteliers need to be considering when it comes to sort of purchasing, these networks.

Steve Johnson (00:02:42) - So I think the key thing is the environment that the WiFi needs to service has changed dramatically. So it used to be simply a hotel guest with maybe a laptop that would come in and want to do a little bit of work. or, just spend a little bit of time on the laptop. We've evolved to a situation now where we actually have travellers that are travelling groups that you might call digital nomads, who essentially take their work with them everywhere. So it's not it's not working from an office. It's evolved beyond working from home. It's now working from wherever they are. In addition to that, it's no longer just people who are connecting to the networks, and they're not just using it for work. So, many, guests these days want to come in and sit in their hotel room and cast their own media, for example, onto the TV screens, within hotel rooms or the modern smart hotel room.

Steve Johnson (00:03:32) - All of the devices are beginning to connect to the network. Whether it's the the temperature controls, the control for the blinds, the lighting, the door lock, you know, using your, mobile handset to unlock the doors. All of these things need to be connected. So it's becoming much, much more complicated for hoteliers to be able to deliver the level of service that their guests are expecting. And so one is delivering the guest experience and ensuring that the guest is having a fantastic, experience. The other side of that is how do you manage it. Because all of this complexity begins to add up to cost.

Ryan Haynes (00:04:07) - I mean, that's a big thing to be thinking about, as you say. I mean, yeah, that's true. How I use sort of Wi-Fi within hospitality is so very different to how it was maybe 10 or 15 years ago and say with the casting of, you know, leisure travellers of from their own devices. what are some of the new services and offerings that you have brought to market recently?

Steve Johnson (00:04:26) - So we were delighted.

Steve Johnson (00:04:27) - This has been a fantastic platform, a great event for us to be able to announce our new hospitality suite. So it's a network that's specifically designed for the hospitality industry. So it's essentially a suite of products, including, a cloud-based, AI-driven management platform, including our Wi-Fi seven access points, including our IoT, technology and software platform that's essentially designed to ensure that hotels and hotel chains are able to, reassure their brand standards, meet their brand standards, ensure that the guest experience is excellent all of the time, and ensure that they have full technology compliance around the network. Excellent. Wow. Okay.

Ryan Haynes (00:05:13) - There's so much to that. Absolutely. And then from the IGF this year, what's the value that you get as a business from it?

Steve Johnson (00:05:20) - It's just a fantastic event. I mean, the attendee list is superb. Most of the the big chains are here in attendance. as well as, you know, the large independent, hotel groups and hotels themselves, it's a fantastic opportunity to network with them.

Steve Johnson (00:05:37) - I think it's a superb learning experience. which is a two-way thing. I think that the attendees have the opportunity to learn from us, the vendors, about what the latest technologies are, what we see, and the technology trends, and almost as important, it's an opportunity for us to learn from the attendees about what they see their challenges are and what they see. The technology direction that they want us to be following would be.

Ryan Haynes (00:06:02) - And can I ask you about some talking points then for this year? And what are the hot topics, that you've noticed from either the program or the sessions that you've been having with hoteliers?

Steve Johnson (00:06:11) - Yeah. So some of them have been around for a little while but seem to be heating up or the heat is increasing on them. So sustainability is a topic that I'm hearing again and again. I think the ability to enhance the guest experience through providing them with digital control and digital control can mean many different things. we contribute to that in terms of laying the platform to enable it.

Steve Johnson (00:06:34) - but there are multiple applications that sit on top of that. Personalization is incredibly important. So more and more, hoteliers are looking to identify and understand who their guests are in an effort to better serve them and provide them with a better experience to develop greater loyalty. and at the other end, it's very much about operational efficiency. So hiring staff and retaining staff remains a big issue in the industry. So what technology can we use and how does the industry use technology to accommodate that challenge that they've got.

Ryan Haynes (00:07:09) - Excellent. Thank you very much for that. It's really insightful. I have Asam Nawaz, the Head of Sales at BeCause. Thanks so much for having a conversation with me here. Tell me about it BeCause what is it you do for the industry?

Asam Nawaz (00:07:20) - So, BeCause it's a sustainability data hub for the travel industry. so basically we connect the dots in the travel industry. So we have the industry organizations, the hotel chains, the OTAs and the different frameworks, working together in one hub, in one system.

Asam Nawaz (00:07:36) - So that's what we've created. And we collect data on sustainability. so basically if you look at eco-labels on several, OTAs like, Easyjet holidays, and Google, the data comes through us. And also when we, collect data for report different reporting formats in the EU, for instance, for Radisson Hotel Group, it's also done through our platform.

Ryan Haynes (00:07:59) - So when you see the nutritional information on a box of cereal, it's pretty similar. You get to understand the sustainable qualifications for, each of these businesses.

Asam Nawaz (00:08:10) - Yeah. So sustainability is a journey and everybody needs to start somewhere. So, the end goal is not 100% clear yet, but we all everybody wants to go in the same direction. So that's also, the initial thoughts that we had because what we identified for the travel industry is that a lot of processes within sustainability data are very manual, it's very resource heavy, and it's done. It basically lives in Excel sheets and Word documents, even like some chains use SurveyMonkey to ask the GM's questions around the globe at hotels.

Asam Nawaz (00:08:45) - So we've eliminated that. So we use technology, to make things correct. And also for the industry not to be accused of greenwashing.

Ryan Haynes (00:08:54) - And what sort of customers are you working with and what impact are you having with them?

Asam Nawaz (00:08:58) - So a good case is Radisson Hotel Group. and we basically have their internal sustainability data collection system, and we've removed, I think, up to 60% of resource-heavy work, internally, for them, which of course is times time-saving and in the end, cost-saving as well. and yeah, to have the clear overview, to have the, the correct data in the correct format for the investors, property owners, in order to report, externally as well in, in, in their financial reports and also, within the when we send data on eco-labels to, to several OTAs. So basically everything in the area of sustainability is run through us. If you use Radisson as an example.

Ryan Haynes (00:09:48) - Radisson is a big, huge, massive hotel group. Do you also work with smaller portfolios and independent properties?

Asam Nawaz (00:09:54) - Yeah. So actually as a single hotel, independent property, you can go to our homepage for free and create a user. And we've created a carbon footprint calculator and also a water usage calculation. Basically, you can use that for free as a single hotel. It's based on FHA, sustainable Sustainable Hospitality Alliance. they created this mythology with Cornell University and we've actually just digitalised that. So usually also Excel-based. But now you can as a single property go and do the calculation for free and very, very frictionless, world ETF because we would like to speak to smaller and mid-size hotel groups, because basically the case is the same as large hotel chains, but just on a smaller scale. So we're really good at the large chains. it happens through the network and it's a long sales process as well. But I would say for small and mid-sized, we're exploring it by going to conferences like ICF as well.

Ryan Haynes (00:10:53) - Excellent. Thank you very much indeed. Joining me now is Sal Capizzi, VP of marketing for Book4Time. So tell me about Book4Time. What do you do?

Sal Capizzi (00:11:02) - We are business management and, ancillary revenue management software for the hospitality industry. segmented, mostly in hotels and resorts. We manage all ancillary revenue departments, business operations-wise besides F&B.

Ryan Haynes (00:11:19) - With particular growth areas, you're seeing for hoteliers for actually increasing institute of revenues, and in particular, I guess, revenue, profit.

Sal Capizzi (00:11:27) - We've seen a huge increase in the utilisation of the yield management and our demand generation, tools within our software. we actually won an award for those features, really giving the operators the power to adjust prices based on demand, which allows them to make more money in peak periods and kind of entice people to book during slower periods to make sure that all of their rooms are being utilized. And it's.

Ryan Haynes (00:11:54) - This is across all departments within a hotel?

Sal Capizzi (00:11:56) - Can be it. Absolutely can be across the spa activities. Classes, what have you I was going to say I mean.

Ryan Haynes (00:12:02) - You know, guest experience is a big thing now. And offering them, you know, that entire stay experience that you have and at the spa in particular, have always been a bit on the outdated side and software and technology and, are you seeing hotels adapt quite quicker and faster and help those departments really elevate the opportunities available?

Sal Capizzi (00:12:22) - 1,000%. So when you can offer a holistic guest experience throughout your spa, your cabanas, your de beds and your wellness classes, you know, in general, areas like that, it creates an amazing guest experience. And people want to book because they had a pleasurable experience. I mean, they're coming they're participating in these activities for one reason to unwind, to unplug things like that. So whatever can be done from the software, from the technology point of view to make that experience easier, easier Book4Time takes care of it.

Ryan Haynes (00:12:54) - Now, traditionally, things like FMB and Spa have been flat pricing. You're talking about creating pricing depending on demand. you're asking it for a whole new skill set here. are you seeing hotels develop the skill sets of those managers of those departments, or are you seeing the revenue function take on and take over some of that in order to manage pricing on a more profitable level? 

Sal Capizzi (00:13:19) - Yeah, that's a great question. A little bit of both, actually. Yield management has been used in the hospitality industry since way back in the 70s.

Sal Capizzi (00:13:25) - I believe one of the airlines had first adopted it. we're seeing more operators become more comfortable with it and it impacts the greater good of the overall end user. yes, you generate more revenue, but when you know somebody can slide into your spa and pay a cheaper price, they're going to be happy as well. 

Ryan Haynes (00:13:44) - Excellent. Thank you very much.

Sal Capizzi (00:13:45) - Of course. Thank you Ryan.

Ryan Haynes (00:13:47) - Jory Garcia regional director at Flexkeeping. Tell me about Flexkeeping. And what do you do for the industry?

Jory Garcia (00:13:54) - Easier said. We are an all-encompassing hotel operations platform. Categorically, specifically with housekeeping. but we make the daily lives of, the back of house, front of house easier, streamlined, automated, adding technology, to daily lives.

Ryan Haynes (00:14:12) - I mean, all aspects of the industry are being digitalized. we definitely have seen the guest experience. They're a lot more focused, particularly on the, I say operations, housekeeping and maintenance side of things. What should hoteliers be thinking about, when approaching digitalizing this aspect of the business?

Jory Garcia (00:14:30) - Well, the easy answer is not to not to have to think about anything, right?

Jory Garcia (00:14:34) - We take all the pains of the archaic ages of the past, whether it be walkie-talkies, spinning paper, clipboards instead, making everything in-app on the computer, and making everyday lives easier.

Ryan Haynes (00:14:45) - Now, IHF, you've been here before. what's the value do you get from being here?

Jory Garcia (00:14:51) - Of course. connecting with, partners with potential new clients is the biggest benefit. But also understanding what's what's, you know, coming in the technology scope. whether it be in your specific sector, whether it's revenue operations, doesn't quite matter. it's just making sure you're front and centre in front of the technology in front of the industry.

Ryan Haynes (00:15:13) - Well, have you noticed this summit meeting, talking points and topics that hoteliers are really focusing on this year? 

Jory Garcia (00:15:21) - Easy to say, AI. That's not the answer I want to go towards because that's just. Yeah, a buzzword. but once again, it's just the all-encompassing aspect of understanding what's next, where people are going and, you know, whether you're ahead or, or in the race.

Ryan Haynes (00:15:36) - Excellent. Thank you very much. 

Ryan Haynes (00:15:44) - Okay. So joining me now is Chris Bowling from Best Western Hotels. So you were giving a presentation or looking at what you've been doing with the advertising side. Multi-channel mixed marketing. what is the approach that you take at best Western and looking at what's going to be most effective for your audience? 

Chris Bowling (00:16:02) - Yeah. So, big topic to break into but even for us, we want to start by working out where our customers going to be. What channels might they be using and how can we most effectively target them with our budget? We obviously want to make sure we're hitting various different touchpoints with our customers, getting that unified message across the best we can. So we start by looking at our budgets and what are the best placements for the maximum coverage. 

Ryan Haynes (00:16:30) - Well, when I spoke to you last time, you did quite a big TV advertising campaign. Now over the last 12 months, you've taken a slightly different approach, selecting other channels.

Ryan Haynes (00:16:40) - You talk to me about those channels and the reasoning behind that. Yeah.

Chris Bowling (00:16:43) - Of course. So in 2022, we did a big TV campaign. We decided that was something we wanted to do. We had been on TV for a long time. Obviously, TV is still one of the most effective channels, with big coverage, but we wanted to hit a higher frequency for our coverage this year. so that's why we took the approach of a combination of audio. So radio in most cases Spotify combined with outdoor, so traditional outdoor as well as digital. So we're still getting the combination of people seeing us as a brand, but also hearing this as a brand, which is essentially what TV delivered. But we're getting it in multiple spots, multiple touchpoints now. So that's the approach we took.

Ryan Haynes (00:17:19) - Now it's more than just doing the age-old radio and outdoor advertising and TV. You also look at the segments. You look at. Your audience is a lot closer. And within that, you were talking about this idea of the commuter profile and the work-from-home profile and a retail profile or retail worker profile.

Ryan Haynes (00:17:37) - Should I say it's just a very different way? You've been looking at audiences today because our lifestyles have adapted so much.

Chris Bowling (00:17:45) - Yeah, things have changed so much. They even compared to just five or so years ago. There are so many different places people can spend their time. You know, time is becoming more precious to people and they're being more selective. So when I went through the presentation, it was as much as how we look at it. But an example of this is how diverse it is now. This is how challenging it is to reach people. Even if you did one platform fantastically, like if you say you mastered Facebook ads, you're still not hitting everyone you want to reach. So you have to be diverse and you have to be in different places to hit your audience. So it's very much looking at those different journeys and where are people spending their time.

Ryan Haynes (00:18:21) - So while you've got the outdoor advertising and you've got reinforced radio, you're also doing a lot of online and social. You're tapping into when they're actually sat there on their phones playing with Facebook or Spotify or, TV now.

Ryan Haynes (00:18:35) - And there are so many more options that you can drill down into targeting those profiles. how do you then sort of leverage that data to get a better understanding of where your audiences are?

Chris Bowling (00:18:50) - So I guess when we look at our marketing, we've kind of got to look at it in stages, don't you? So you've got the very top level brand awareness, which is kind of, mass channels, I'd say, which is kind of our radio and our outdoor big scale, big reach, pretty high frequency. And then from there, we support that with our other channels. Once we have a touchpoint with someone, say, someone's been to our website and obviously, we've got their content correctly. We can then retarget them with different types of advertising. We'll know a bit more of them at that stage, so we can segment a bit further, and then someone opt into our database, for example. We then know a little bit more about them. We can then tweak that message a bit further.

Chris Bowling (00:19:28) - So it's kind of it's that funnel approach really at the top. We're kind of not spraying and hoping, but it's kind of to get the interest going. So then we can then segment a bit more from there.

Ryan Haynes (00:19:38) - And from research that you've looked at, you know, ten-plus engagements with your brand is actually going to lead to some form of activation. So you've really got to take the long, long view, to get the bookings, getting that money, getting those guests or getting that new audience in.

Chris Bowling (00:19:56) - Yeah, that's right. You've really it's about planting that seed to own a bit of space in someone's head, isn't it? So that when they next want to make that journey, they go, oh, it's Weston, and they take that step and it kind of automatically connects. We all have our brands that own that little piece of space in our heads. It's you've got to put in the effort to have that right to be there, I guess. so that's why we want to get our frequency right across our channels.

Ryan Haynes (00:20:19) - And then the technology that lies beneath it all is this CDP and something that you're working in, you're developing on. Can you tell us about the approach that you've taken and where you are on that journey now?

Chris Bowling (00:20:29) - Yeah, so CDP is still very early days for us. It's obviously the dream and it's the holy grail, a global level. It's coming. it's there's a good progression in the States. And that's starting to feed out kind of globally now. So yeah, this year we're going to be in the thick of it. But I'm looking forward to seeing all the extra insights and personalization that can bring us.

Ryan Haynes (00:20:51) - Excellent. We'll get you back in then.

Chris Bowling (00:20:52) - Yeah.

Ryan Haynes (00:20:53) - Can't wait. Thank you very much, Chris.

Chris Bowling (00:20:55) - Thanks, Ryan.

Ryan Haynes (00:20:58) - For the full set of interviews and conversations I've had from the International Hotel Technology Forum, head to the listings on your podcast flick through the list and find the ones that you want to listen to. I've also spoken to a number of hoteliers as part of our series Hoteliers’ Voice, so check out some of those to learn about some of the specific problems and solutions that they've been looking at.

Ryan Haynes (00:21:20) - Don't forget to check out the International Hotel Technology Forum 2025, which will be occurring in Portugal. I'm your host Ryan Haynes. Thanks for listening. Ciao for now.

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