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Cox Business Takes a Fresh Look at Hospitality

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October 18, 2022
Feature Article
Fran Worrall

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Two-and-a-half years after assuming the role of vice president of hospitality at Cox Business, Jady West discusses the company’s forward-looking philosophy and groundbreaking new products.




A lot has happened in the hotel and gaming industry since early 2020 when Jady West was appointed vice president of hospitality at Cox Business. In March of that year, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, shuttering properties worldwide and even closing the Las Vegas Strip. The effects on the economy were catastrophic. 

Fast-forward to Fall 2022. The hospitality industry is rebounding, conferences and conventions have returned, and leisure travel is booming. And Cox Business is ready for bigger and better things. “Despite challenging times, we’ve grown quite a bit over the last couple of years,” said West, who oversees not only Cox Business’s hospitality segment but also its two affiliates, Hospitality Network and Blueprint RF. “Although we certainly experienced a challenging period and are still feeling the ripple effects, we made it through and became smarter, stronger and more agile in the process,” he said, noting that the organization also became more cohesive. “We’re now uniquely positioned to serve the hospitality industry through a single lens.”

A unified approach to business

Cox Business is owned by Cox Enterprises, a privately held global corporation with more than $20 billion in annual revenue. The company’s sheer size and financial strength have enabled it not only to survive economic downturns but also to continue to fund innovative research and development projects.

Cox Business provides connectivity-based technology solutions to several market segments, including hospitality, where the primary focus is select service hotels. Under the Cox Business umbrella are Hospitality Network and Blueprint RF, each dedicated to the industry with a variety of solutions that address specific customer needs as well as specific customer types.

Hospitality Network, based in Las Vegas, delivers technology and integration services to large hotels, convention centers, stadiums and arenas. Its solution suite includes high-capacity bandwidth, managed Wi-Fi, video-on-demand, and an array of video services. It counts among its customers more than 80 percent of the hotels on the Las Vegas Strip. Additionally, the company manages more than 6 million square feet of convention and arena space, including the Las Vegas Convention Center and Fort Worth Convention Center, one of its newest customers. It also partners with some of the biggest names in technology, such as Aruba, Cisco, LG and Samsung.

Blueprint RF, headquartered in Atlanta, is a network services provider that delivers a comprehensive suite of integrated solutions, including managed Wi-Fi, business center workstation installation and maintenance, conference management and support, and back-office bandwidth. The company’s primary customers are national brands, including Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Great Wolf Lodge, Omni and Bluegreen Vacations; it currently provides uninterrupted connectivity to more than 400,000 guest rooms throughout the United States and Canada. Additionally, Blueprint RF has introduced several innovative products and services to the hospitality industry, including DG2, its next-generation Wi-Fi platform.
 
While each division has its own focus – local, national and enterprise – it’s the company’s unified approach that enables Cox to serve customers more efficiently. “Each of these businesses has a place in the industry that makes a lot of sense. But when all three are pulled together, it’s an unbeatable combination,” West said.

Additionally, he believes today’s customers are seeking more services from fewer providers, which fits well with the Cox Business philosophy. “We’re looking to deliver more products and services to our customers, making it as easy as possible for them to get what they need to succeed. We’ve formed a single voice in the industry.”

This approach is vastly different from that of the past, he notes. For years, divisions were core-focused on the solutions they sold and customers were highly segmented. That meant that large casino-hotels purchased exclusively through Hospitality Network, for example, while national brands like Hilton and Marriott purchased through Blueprint RF.

Now, the channels have been opened so that products and services are more accessible. “Many of our clients have deep and longstanding relationships with particular sales reps or teams, and we want to keep those relationships intact,” he said. “We’re just making our solutions more broadly available. From voice and video to managed Wi-Fi and in-room entertainment, our entire suite can now be delivered through Blueprint RF, Hospitality Network or Cox Business.” 

According to West, this business philosophy enables the company to compete more vigorously in the industry as well as deliver more value to customers. “At the end of the day, our job is to solve problems and help customers in any way we can so that they can focus on their primary mission, which is guest service.”

Responding to Pandemic-Related Challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on every sector of the global economy, but no industry was harder hit than hospitality. As hotels, resorts and casinos temporarily closed, the disruptive effects on the travel ecosystem were devastating.

Although a sense of normalcy is now returning, the industry is still experiencing pandemic-related fallout. Staff shortages are widespread, supply chain issues are rampant, and budgets are tight, in large part because hotels have been forced to spend money on health-related equipment and supplies, such as air-filtration systems, sanitizer stations and temperature assessment devices.
“The industry is definitely feeling the pinch,” said Jady West, vice president of hospitality at Cox Business. “Many hotels are eager to invest in new technology or make significant upgrades to current systems, but they just don’t have the working capital to do it.” Throughout the pandemic, Cox Business stepped up without hesitation and helped its customers in a variety of ways, from offering financial assistance to providing operational support.

While properties were dark, the company monitored network systems. And as hotels reopened, it made sure equipment was up and running and ready for guests to arrive.
 
Today, Cox Business and its affiliates Blueprint RF and Hospitality Network continue to deliver on a promise of going above and beyond for customers. “We’re leveraging the idea of ‘stronger together’ for our entire client base,” West said. “We’ve worked with our OEM partners to deliver on equipment. We’ve leveraged the availability of multiple services to absorb increased costs. And we’ve leveraged the power of buying in volume to deliver more value for our customers.”

A large company with strong financial backing has its advantages. “We’ve supported our hospitality clients through a tough transition, and we’ve been a good partner every step of the way,” he said. “We’re a value-led organization, and we make the right choices on behalf of our customers.”

According to West, the ‘better together’ philosophy also extends to new products and solutions. “Because we’ve become more of a single provider for many of our customers, they are reaping the benefits.” The company is able to offer competitive pricing, deliver more comprehensive solutions, and even design networks so that they are implemented more efficiently. “From in-room entertainment to managed Wi-Fi, we know which solutions play well together and exactly how each system should connect to the others. That’s one of the many value-adds we bring to the table.”

When all is said and done, the company excels in taking on its clients’ biggest connectivity challenges. “We’re the expert in the room and the integrator of services,” he concluded. “I always say that when properties have to work too hard to use technology, then they probably don’t have the right solutions. We take that burden off our customers, so they can focus on the business of serving guests.”


A single pane of glass

This fresh approach to business has contributed to a wave of new product development, including the DG2 platform, the next generation of Blueprint RF’s popular Dominion gateway server. Built specifically for the hospitality industry, the platform combines circuit load balancing, gateway authentication, and packet shaping in a single system to ensure uninterrupted high-speed internet access on a property’s Wi-Fi network. Best of all, the solution is customized to the hotel rather than to a general industry standard.

Now, DG2 includes new features and functionality, such as content filtering, high availability clustering, and bandwidth distribution with full layer seven capabilities. It also collects and archives a wide range of disparate data – everything from traffic patterns to guest Wi-Fi behavior – in cloud-based warehouses. The more data the system collects, the better it can forecast the property’s needs.

An intuitive dashboard makes it simple for hoteliers to get a comprehensive picture of what is happening across the property. “It provides a single pane of glass for viewing and decision making,” West said. And more, the dashboard displays critical network activities so that managers are alerted to performance issues before they become bigger problems. “We can easily pinpoint trouble spots and can usually handle them remotely.”

As more solutions are placed on top of networks and additional services are required, hotels increasingly want a management console that presents data from multiple sources in a unified display. “Customers tell us every day that they want an easy-to-manage dashboard that brings disparate sources of data together for actionable insights.”

As a result, the company is adding even more integrated services to the platform. “In tomorrow’s environment, networks will be integrated between enterprise needs and guest needs, and that data has to live somewhere,” he said. “Our team has developed in-room platforms that allow all of that information to exist right in the dashboard. The evolution will continue.”
 

Next-generation in-room entertainment

West is also enthusiastic about HN IRE, a ground-breaking in-room entertainment system recently introduced by Hospitality Network. The innovative platform not only enables guests to optimize their rooms via smart technology and view the content
they prefer but also allows hoteliers to share offers and updates and capture valuable insights that improve the guest stay.

While HN IRE incorporates all the standardelements found in other in-room entertainment solutions, such as check-out, folio review and video, it also offers first-run Hollywood movies, personalized free-to-guest TV, popular sports and news channels, and international channels. Moreover, guests can stream their own content or log on to over-the-top services like Netflix and YouTube.

Additionally, the solution features a digital compendium that provides an overview of the hotel’s amenities as well as general information about the property. The dynamic guide, which replaces costly in-room print directories, includes attractive images and interactive displays designed to drive traffic and boost guest spending. It also offers a high level of customization that captures the unique flavor of each hotel.

Best of all, the information can be adjusted within minutes. “In the past, updating the in-room directory was a complicated and labor-intensive process,” West said. “Our product development team has developed a self-help tool that enables instant adjustments.” For example, show ticket pricing can be changed from morning to evening. New restaurant menus can be uploaded in seconds. “It’s the future of guest room technology, giving total control to the property.”

The HN IRE system also includes state-of-the-art messaging capabilities that enable hotels to stay in touch with guests while they are on the property. The solution, which is easily configurable to send individual or group messages, can be used in many ways. “Customers use the messaging feature to do everything from welcoming guests to promoting amenities,” he said. “It’s a complete marketing tool that other systems lack.”
 
In fact, the HN IRE solution was built from the ground up to be different from other in-room entertainment systems. Scalable to any size property, from huge Las Vegas resorts to national brands, the highly flexible platform is designed to help increase hotel profitability while providing guests with the content and convenience they crave. 

But it doesn’t stop there. An optional advertising module that runs video and banner ads enables hotels to generate incremental revenue and offset the cost of upgrading technology. “When guests are in the guide – whether retrieving messages, finding out what’s on TV, or researching property amenities – we can advertise to them. We’ve created an end-to-end revenue-generating ecosystem that’s unique in the industry.”

Now, the company is adding Internet of Things (IoT) solutions to the system, such as controls for lighting, thermostats and window blinds. “It’s a platform in the room, and what we do on top of that platform is limitless,” he said. “HN IRE is a multi-faceted system that’s valuable from a marketing perspective, an information-sharing perspective, an entertainment perspective and a revenue-generating perspective.”

A glimpse into the future

So, what does the future hold for Cox Business and its affiliates, Hospitality Network and Blueprint RF? According to West, convention business will be a major focus. The company’s experience in fully integrated venue technology solutions is unsurpassed in the industry. “We can play a meaningful role in this business simply by showing up,” he said. “We have the technology to position convention centers as high-tech destinations.”

Additionally, the company plans to develop new platforms and enhance current ones. “We want to offer additional services, solutions and availability as well as increase revenue-generating capabilities,” he said. “The platforms of the future will be able to do so much more than we can imagine.”

Another focus will be to ensure that every solution is seamless. “Today’s guests travel with more devices than ever, and they demand the same or better connectivity when they’re traveling as they have when they’re at home,” he said. “Nothing frustrates guests more than the lack of a consistent internet connection or the inability to stream their own content.” 

The company also will continue to invest in IoT. “This is an area where we believe we can make a big difference, with solutions that not only serve our hospitality customers but also provide their guests with more personalized experiences.” He notes that hoteliers increasingly demand IoT environments due to operational efficiencies and cost savings.

For West, the secret to success is simple. “It all comes back to Cox Business, Blueprint RF and Hospitality Network being three solid brands that are better together,” he concluded. “Each unit’s expertise allows for broader and stronger hospitality-focused technologies and accelerated delivery. We’re one voice in the industry. We’re one set of solutions. And we’re looking to be that single-source provider that not only manages customers’ toughest challenges but also helps them generate the next evolution of guest service.”

 

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