To start, maybe a topic which, unfortunately, still is super present: Coronavirus. What do you think? Will our day-to-day ever be what it was before?
My general philosophy is that – since we’re on the subject of humans – we’re really resilient and quick to bounce back into our usual habits. But the caveat to that is each month that we’re engaging in fundamentally different behaviors than we’re used to historically, it increases the probability that we won’t go back to that reversion. I think it’s been so long now that we’ve been in quarantine, that we’ve been out of offices, that we’ve been restricted in traveling, that now we’re in a place where life will look completely different afterward.
… and in terms of the travel industry?
I always come back to this Jeff Bezos quote: When he was starting Amazon, he said that he did not want to predict the future and what would change in the future, but he wanted to predict what wouldn’t change. And for Amazon, that meant low prices and ultimate convenience. So one of the things that I think won’t change in the future, is that people are going to want a strong value proposition along with unique experiences. They’re going to want human connection. So building your business and building your travel business around that is really key.
What would you say is the greatest challenge in your daily work?
We have two sides of clients: We have hoteliers and we have software companies. And both sides of that marketplace are really struggling right now. Whether you’re spending on technology as a hotelier or whether you’re selling it as a technology vendor, it’s a really sensitive world. I think the most challenging piece for us today is going about life as normal and rebuilding in a time when we’re not quite there yet. The vaccinations are happening. Companies have adjusted so that they can survive this and then ultimately thrive on the other side. But we’re not on the other side yet. So every social interaction, every sales conversation, every marketing initiative has to be extra sensitive. It does add a level of stress and kind of anxiety to everything that we do.
What do you think will be the next major digital trend in the hotel industry?
I think that the first next major trend is the last major trend. It’s the innovation of operational processes. We’re still going to see more of a dip. More hotels will go out of business and there’s going to be new owners. Those new owners understand that they need to brace themselves for volatility. And the only way you could brace for volatility is to be fully digitized. So the next major digital trend is really this move to agility and this understanding amongst hoteliers that the market doesn’t always go up. There’s going to be challenges. There’s going to be volatility, whether that’s in a market level or global shock, like the one that we just saw. And so I think the next wave is really all about that digitization. And when I say the next wave is the last wave, I mean, this has been happening for years and it’s been happening far too slow. So I think what we’re going to see, what we’re already seeing is that that trend is just going to accelerate.
Do you think that in that sense, this global crisis was a good thing? Just in that sense.
It’s really difficult to call it a good thing just because of how much pain and suffering came from it and will continue to come from it. But in terms of do I think this shock will make the hotel industry more resilient five, ten years from now? Absolutely.
What makes a hotel great for you?
I’m a resort guy. I love to be on the beach with a pina colada. I’m a surfer and a golfer. So I love being in nature and having an out-of-city experience.
What makes hotelkit great is this kind of fast-moving, casual, fun, light way of doing things. Of course, that’s a brand positioning, but it also really bleeds into software development and R&D, in the sense that everything is about customer experience. It’s all about how to make it as easy as possible for a customer to complete the job. Whether that’s tracking tasks across teammates or room assignments, everything has to be really easy.
Some quick questions at the end:
Indispensable digital tools in your everyday life? – Well lately, my Robinhood trading account. And LinkedIn is also a good one.
The last app you downloaded? – Let’s just find out. Ok, it’s DirectTV.
Android or IOS? – IOS.
Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin? – Probably Linkedin.
Your favorite Netflix show? – The best one that I’ve watched lately is this show called Suburra.
3 things you would take to a deserted island? – My surfboard, my Nespresso-cappuccino machine, and a big water bottle.
Online check-in or reception? – Self-check-in, I like to do everything myself.
Tea or coffee? – Coffee, all day.