From Hotelier to Experience Agent:
My Journey, What I am seeing as the world and economy changes.
In an early morning conversation with a 30-year hospitality veteran, he explained to me that he has been talking to some of his colleagues about how I am attempting to open a hotel with no experience, whatsoever. His demeaning tone resonated with me because he was one of almost 5 hoteliers who told me that not only was I not qualified, the concept wouldn’t work and without the knowledge they had, I was sure to fail.
Now I am a positive and confident person, but it causes deep thought about why some hoteliers feel or think the way they do. I couldn’t have more respect for the people and organizations that run hotels. There are fundamentals to this business and many of them pull it off very well. However, I started to think – would I be considered a hotelier as I open my new brand? What does that really mean anyway? Well, the definition is a hotel owner or manager, that’s literally it. Nothing deeper, nothing about service or experience.
What might help is, to tell you how I came to open my first hotel. I have been providing technology services to large hotel brands around the world for over 15years. Not only am I familiar with the operations of hotels, I understand the systems and how antiquated most systems are. Technology seems to be something that most hotels have little understanding of and due to this lack of knowledge they keep focusing on how hotels have operated for the last 50 years. One issue with this is that the economy is changing, the guests are changing and their desires, connection points and needs have changed.
So how do I know things are changing, besides my extensive work connecting systems and solutions for hotel, travel and retail industry? It’s simple. I read. Below I reference many of the top organizations in the space that are paving the way with extensive research. But you don’t have to go far to see the best brands in the world have embraced technology and the fundamental changes it offers to hoteliers. IOT, Voice, and Mobile Communication from keyless entry to guest and staff communication. When Hilton announced that TruHilton was its most profitable brand of all time, I knew things had changed forever. Marriot being the leader in this area has been testing voice, along with many other mobile guest experiences and is now easily 3 to 5 years ahead of everyone else.
My perspective of this industry is not just solely focused on what I am seeing on hotel side, but also retail and travel in which we work with some of the biggest, hippest brands in the industry. My recent visit to Seattle changed everything for me and reaffirmed everything I was already aware of. Here are the key things I realized:
- Frictionless Engagement- Amazon Go- As I parked myself outside and experienced the store in Seattle, I watched a steady flow of millennials walk into the store, slide their phone on a turnstile, pick everything they want and walk right out. The attendant present was only there to simply watch and attend to anyone who asked to pay with cash.
- Society and Consumer behavior- Two doors down, next to a donut shop was a dispensary called ‘The Joint’, where I watched people walk and buy joints like they were big gulps. Quick, easy and on their way.
- Evolution- Macy’s, one of our beloved customers, whom I have the utmost respect for and honestly, I feel it’s my mission on whatever I can do to ensure they stick around. I found out they were closing their Seattle store after 95 years. Guess who pushed them out, and even more who was buying their block-long prime real estate and building? That’s right, Amazon!
So, you know what maybe I am not a hotelier, I haven’t put together spreadsheets and set in long meetings or went to conferences that talk about things that are 5 years behind. Maybe I am something different. Maybe I will call myself an Experience Engineer, focused on providing the foundational things people love about hotels and building a hotel that is as far as possible away from the other things that make it old and outdated. Our hotel is comfortable, frictionless, technology-centric and lastly, destination and experience-focused.
I will open each hotel as consistently as possible while adhering to the things that make the space and destination great. We will reach our guests by social media, online, and key events that connect music, art, food, and attractions through personal devices and interactive touchpoints.
This will not be just a Hotel, it will be the Next Hotel. It will be the first of its kind Hotel Incubator open for business, full creative expression. We aim to be part of a community that lets us introduce and test solutions, technology, and concepts in our quest to evolve the industry I have grown to love.
I am dedicated to helping the industries we serve. Everything we do to improve each day is built around our philosophy and values to continue learning and spreading that value to all we encounter. If I can help your hotel or organization, or you just want to keep in touch to know how this journey is going or what I am learning, don’t hesitate to reach out.
At a glance:
I have started and grown several businesses in the software and technology space, some have been amazing some have been gut-wrenching. As I explore every part of the value of the markets and organizations I serve, I continue to look for how we can drive the deepest value and experience. With the launch of OmniExperience, I realized that our focus on a product set and the industries where we can make the most impact was what truly inspired me. It didn’t take away the complexity, but it ensured that we had a deeper understanding and that what we built truly can drive the most value for our brands and their customers. What better way to understand this than to open my own hotel, restaurant, and retail stores? One at a time of course, but my commitment to the industry is to bring together people, partners and truly set the stage for honest conversations, research and the search for building exponential organizations.
Written by Doug Ralston, an omnichannel technology pioneer, and hotel owner.