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Technology Rock Stars JEFFREY COHEN

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April 19, 2021
Technology Leaders
Fran Worrall

The People Leading the Industry
In HU’s second annual ‘Technology Rock Stars’ special report, we feature 10 technology leaders who have set themselves apart as hospitality’s best and brightest. Selected by a panel of hotel and gaming consultants and insiders, these men and women not only are driving change within their organizations but also are at the forefront of innovation in the industry. Our profiles provide an in-depth look at their recent accomplishments and highlight their predictions for technology’s future. We also share some of their personal bests ó ranging from favorite travel destinations (everywhere from Napa Valley to New Zealand) to favorite periodicals (in addition to Hospitality Upgrade, of course). We hope you enjoy this year’s special report.
Sonesta International Hotels Corporation

Jeffrey Cohen is the chief information officer at Sonesta. He joined the company last year after serving as chief information officer for The MENTOR Network, a behavioral health provider in more than 35 states. He previously served as vice president of IT for Magellan Biosciences, a medical device provider, and director of IT at Biogen, a biotech company. He says his experience outside of hospitality is a big plus. “I quickly realized that I could leverage the knowledge I’ve gained in the healthcare arena to solve some of the challenges hotels face. The level of digital innovation required today in hospitality is similar to the pace of innovation healthcare has had to navigate over the last decade.”

Cohen’s arrival at Sonesta coincides with an incredible time of growth at the company. Last year, it converted 102 hotels from InterContinental Hotel Group and is now nearing completion of 97 properties that were under Marriott International flags. Then, at the end of 2020, it announced the planned acquisition of Red Lion Hotels later this year, which adds another 900 properties to Sonesta’s portfolio, making it one of the largest hotel companies in the United States.

Needless to say, Cohen has been busy. With the existing portfolio using an on-premises property management system, he and his team have pivoted quickly to convert all 200 hotels onto Oracle’s OPERA PMS cloud environments. The company had planned to replace its aging legacy network environment with SD-WAN. Instead, it decided to accelerate implementation of the brand new network architecture for all its newly converted hotels, which not only allows them to scale more cost effectively but also offers greater security.

At the same time, Cohen and his team have begun anticipating future technology needs. On the guest side, they are planning a mobile app that reimagines the entire guest journey. “We’ll deliver a contactless and seamless experience, of course, but we want to go beyond that,” he said. “Rather than just automating what we already do, we want to augment those services so that we deliver a unique value proposition to our guests through personalization.” He notes that the team wants to bring true innovation to hospitality, considering ideas such as an electronic concierge and enabling guests to do everything from booking a restaurant in real time to requesting specific items in their rooms, such as extra pillows or a bottle of champagne.

On the back-office side, Cohen’s team is developing a service management platform that will allow properties to scale quickly and efficiently. “It will be a platform for growth focused on giving time back to the hotelier.”

Cohen’s ultimate goal is to optimize technology to its fullest extent so that hoteliers can save money and maximize productivity. “From what I can see, hotels tend to use either custom proprietary technology or a lot of best-of-breed solutions, both of which are costly and cumbersome,” he said. “My job is to figure out which tools are best served as solitary solutions and which are best consolidated into a platform. I want to bring economic value to our owners and help them gain visibility into the technology they use.”

Family: Married, with four children and a Labradoodle.

Go-To Periodical or Website: The Economist. “I love its global focus.”

Book: Anything by Dan Brown, the bestselling author of Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code, The Lost Symbol, Inferno and Origin. “I’m a puzzle guy.”

Hobbies: Gardening, soccer and building almost anything. “I’m a do-it-yourselfer.”

Jams: All genres except heavy metal.

Favorite Travel Destination: Any island. “It’s a great way to relax and disconnect.”

Advice to Young People: “Keep your options open and don’t sweat the small stuff.”

Dinner With: Benjamin Franklin. “I admire the scientist and the statesman.”

©2021 Hospitality Upgrade
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