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People today expect to be connected always and everywhere; sometimes it’s hard to believe that there was a world before smartphones and Wi-Fi. In the time since Wi-Fi became ubiquitous in hotels, apartments, and public spaces, it has fueled the evolution of connectivity in a lot of ways. Just like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the most basic needs start at the bottom, and you can’t get to the next level without a strong foundation. 

By now, everyone is aware that hotel giant Marriott International announced on Friday a massive data breach that goes back more than four years and may have affected up to 500 million customers worldwide. 

After two years of preparation, the FlyZoo Hotel — a futuristic property that uses interactive technologies to do everything from greet guests to deliver room service — is ready for business. 

Mobile technology is fast becoming central to the entire travel experience. Consumers are increasingly using their smartphones to research trips, book accommodation, check in at the airport, and access their hotel room. But one of the next big roles mobile has to play in the travel process is mobile payment. The idea of an entirely cashless society might still seem some way off, but mobile payment is gaining popularity. As it becomes more widely used, its fast and frictionless nature will bring benefits before, during and after a trip. 

Digital marketing, also known as internet marketing, plays a significant role to boost hotel website traffic and online bookings. Recently, many big announcements were made in the digital industry, for example when Facebook introduced a new video format for marketers, or when Google announced a board core algorithm. If you are a new hotelier and want to stay ahead in the industry, then you should know what’s going on in the hotel digital marketing industry. 
 



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HITEC Toronto 2017, A CFO’s Perspective

07/18/2017


I’m a numbers guy so let’s start with a few from this year’s HITEC. HFTP, who produces HITEC, turns 65 years old this year, HITEC celebrated 45 years in existence by setting an attendance record, and Hospitality Upgrade is celebrating its 25th birthday. And you couldn’t help but feel the buzz in Toronto as Canada prepared to celebrate its sesquicentennial (150 years) the Saturday after HITEC.


My week began with HFTP’s Hospitality Executive Exchange. This all-day event held on Monday has become an anticipated part of HITEC. It consists of a small group of senior financial leaders with a focused agenda on topics that we all face. 
 
The lead topic covered European privacy laws that already affect global companies and could soon directly impact anyone who thinks they are not governed by the EU. This was followed by a presentation that introduced a new metric in the world of revenue management – Contribution to Operating Profits and Expenses – COPE.
 
The most insightful part of the day, however, was the open forum conversation. When asked if what we were searching for at HITEC, most said a better tool to handle budgeting, forecasting, business intelligence and analytics. We all exchanged experiences including being current or past customers of exhibitors on the show floor.
 
Thank you to HFTP leadership for keeping this event as part of HITEC. It was well worth the Sunday early arrival.
 
Most of my time Tuesday and Wednesday was spent at HFTP’s Club and Hotel Controllers Conference. This is another co-located event that offers a series of finance-focused continuing education sessions. The excellent topics this year included finance recruiting, internal controls and the state of the industry from CBRE (formerly PKF).
 
The exhibitors at HITEC were the usual mix of perennial best-of-breed leaders in PMS and POS, next to hardware providers increasingly focused on the guest experience than on the data center. Think Alexa and Siri® duking it out to become the new voice controlled guestroom hub for energy management and in-room entertainment options. Does this spell the end of the guestroom phone?
 
The unfortunate side effect of vendor mergers seems to be a move toward less willingness to work toward the best interest of the customers, especially in the world of POS. In today’s era of app-driven innovation why would a best-of-breed POS still deploy a serial interface to PMS? The astonishing truth is that this POS vendor has an up-to-date, non-serial interface available, so long as you are connecting it to their PMS. Why does this type of vendor strategy still exist today?
 
Another area that seems to have grown in presence this year is in the guest Wi-Fi and hotel applications that leverage the movement of guests through our spaces. I wouldn’t call this new technology but the creative and easily deployable uses have brought on numerous start-ups. The ability to leverage key data about our guests real-time to improve their experience is a win-win when it also results in improved spend while in our hotels and restaurants.
 
Then there are the vendors that catch your eye and you must find out more. Maybe it’s a gadget in their booth. It might be a flashing sign with a great slogan. But sometimes, it is just the name of the company. My award for the most original company name must go to Dude Solutions. And when you look at the company’s offering, it won’t be hard to make the connection.
 
The group that met on Monday looking for a reasonably priced solution to handle budgets, forecasts and business intelligence were faced with several vendors to research based on the exhibitor list. Twenty-one vendors were listed in the Budget/Forecast category, 30 were listed under Business Intelligence/Data Warehousing and 14 vendors fell into the ERP/Accounting category.
 
Digging deeper, you first trim the number of vendors down by the duplicate listings in multiple categories. Then you trim the number further by removing those who’s BI offering is too tightly focused, i.e. procurement software that offer BI and analytics on your purchases.
 
What you are left with is a few vendors that have solutions that might be worth a deeper look. Select vendor A, only to realize to get the full benefit of the planning and analytics tool, you should also install their back-office accounting system. Select vendor B, and find yourself with a flexible tool that allows drill-down financial statements, but excludes balance sheet data. 
 
Where are the financial management information technology (FMIT) vendors? Finance professionals need a tool that allows use of data from PMS, POS, etc., that never makes it to the general ledger, residing alongside daily data destined for the financial statements. It should not require a complete replacement of the accounting system, nor the front-line PMS and POS. 
 
Maybe the simple, cost-effective solution doesn’t exist. Yet.
About The Author
Ron Strecker
Chief Financial Officer
Al J Schneider Company


Ron Strecker is a 35 year veteran of hospitality industry finance and technology.  A graduate of James Madison University, Ron spent his early years working for Hyatt Hotels and Resorts in Louisville, Dallas, Austin and Kansas City.  His career continued with assignments that included chain-affiliated, independent, urban, resort, luxury, and limited service operations.  Ron joined the Al J Schneider Company as CFO in 2007 after 10 years working for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in Virginia.  He is an active member of Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP) and has earned their top accounting and technology certifications (CHAE, CHTP).

 
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