A Conversation with AAHOA Chairman Neal Patel and Dr. Neal Patel Ravi Mehrotra, President and Chief Scientist, IDeaS
With the summer travel season wrapping up and hoteliers heading into a busy fourth quarter, owners and operators continue to focus on maximizing revenue and profitability while facing a host of key operating challenges – from inflation to operating costs rising, to severe labor shortages.
One of the highlights of this summer is convergenceIDeaS Hospitality Revenue Summit, attracting large numbers of hoteliers and revenue managers to Lotte New York Palace, July 18-19.
The following Q&A is adapted from recently appointed AAHOA (Asian American Hotel Owners Association) President Neal Patel and Dr. IDeaS President and Chief Scientist Ravi Mehrotra. Two industry leaders discuss developments in hospitality technology and how AAHOA’s franchisees and brands will fit in 2023.
Problem: Hoteliers are not technologists and vice versa. Why hotel leaders must take the stage at technology events and be part of the conversation
Neil Patel: Some owners still set the price at $60 a night and left. Others are excited about the prospect of selling out all their rooms two weeks early. These operators are unaware of the money they leave on the table; in fact, when they operate this way, they are creating new expenses, not demand. This is something new technology can help with.
Question: Depending on the market segment, how can owners begin to change their perception of hotel technology?
Ravi Mehrotra: Growing up in India, I remember watching spy movies and marveling at the technology they used.James Bond has a wireless phone in his suitcase, and it’s huge – it wash suitcase! Imagine if during that time someone told Mr. Bond says he will one day be holding a device that, with the push of a few buttons, will call a driverless car — no matter where you are — and it will take you anywhere. Today it is entirely conceivable. In some places, it’s already being done. Imagination and technology combine to make science fiction a reality. I tell this story because if you focus only on the present and don’t imagine future uses, especially when it comes to how you think about technology in your work life, you’re going to be left behind. If we insist on using only the processes or technologies we feel comfortable with, we will never achieve the innovations of tomorrow and all the future technologies that will make our lives simpler and more efficient.
Patel: In some ways, the mindset of hoteliers has to change. For example, too many homeowners today focus on increasing RevPAR (revenue per available room) rather than ADR (average daily rate). This mindset has to be corrected, and using RMS (Revenue Management System) it is easy to demonstrate how positive changes in ADR can directly impact a hotel’s bottom line, and the impact is ten times greater than the same RevPAR benefit. Our job is to keep owners informed about these facts; something that AAHOA takes very seriously this year. In other respects, however, technology providers must fall by the wayside. Today’s systems have to be simple to be successful, especially for independent hotels with limited services. They can’t be complicated or hoteliers won’t get the most out of them.
Question: What is the best technology for AAHOA hoteliers?
Patel: The latest technology we implemented is the check-in kiosk to address workforce challenges. These allow guests to pay with cash or card, scan their ID, and print their room key. There is no technology to eliminate the foreground. None of these jobs were available throughout 2020, after which COVID prompted hotels to shut down the nightly audit process. The technology isn’t perfect, but it helps hotels solve a much-needed problem, which in turn helps us manage our bottom line.
Question: What do you think is one of the most significant technological challenges facing the hospitality industry today?
Patel: In 2019, a survey of AAHOA members found that 91% of hotels had job openings. COVID didn’t help the situation; right now, that number is 100%. Hotels need differentiation now. What has been around for years is a branded central reservation system or PMS (property management system), but today we need a workforce that can thrive no matter what brand is chosen. In five to ten years, we will need to see the emergence of unified systems to reduce the time and money required to train team members today. Instead of spending a week or a month explaining PMS, I want to train tomorrow’s employees to understand what makes my hotel special.
mehrotra: There is always a ray of light in the darkness. The silver lining I see in COVID is that people are now realizing they have to achieve more with less. The only way to do this is to focus on your strengths and let technology fill the gaps in the process.
Question: What should hoteliers keep in mind as they prepare for the future and stay ahead of new technologies and other innovations?
This question reminds me of the story of three fish in a pond that everyone at IDeaS has heard and is familiar with. The fish were named “wait and see,” “plan ahead,” and “think fast.” One day, Three Fish heard some fishermen nearby discussing laying nets to see what they could catch. Plan ahead to say, “I won’t get caught here,” and swim to other waters. Wait and see to yourself thinking, “What’s the rush? Let’s take a moment and when I get the best answer, I’ll make a decision.” Finally, Think Fast said, “Okay, I’ll figure it out now, if the fisherman coming.”
Sure enough, the fishermen began casting their nets the next day. “Plan Ahead” is nowhere to be found, but “wait and see” and “quick thinking” are all in disarray. Think Fast soon decides to play dead, and the fishermen throw him back into the river. Unfortunately, Wait and See ended up on a table somewhere.
Essentially, while planning ahead may seem like the best decision to make today, it is sometimes not always possible. In the future, planning ahead won’t solve all your problems; hoteliers will have to think fast. Technology will enable you to achieve new dimensions of problem solving.
Prepare, adjust and execute
These comments include some of the insights shared throughout the conference and reflect ongoing developments in hotel operations and technology. The day-to-day demands of the past two years have shown that no matter how much one prepares, adaptive strategies and quick execution are just as important to overcome future challenges. Hoteliers with an eye toward tomorrow and investing in new technologies will be better equipped to thrive in the next phase of the hospitality industry.
IDeaS, a SAS company, is the world’s leading provider of revenue management software and services. With over 30 years of expertise, IDeaS provides revenue science to more than 18,000 clients in 145 countries. IDeaS combines industry knowledge with innovative data analytics techniques to create sophisticated yet simple methods to help revenue leaders make precise, automated decisions they can trust. Results delivered. Income shift. Discover greater profitability at ideas.com.
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