Conferences and connections

March 29th, 2015

We’re right in the middle of conference season again. Every year they seem to run back-to-back for a couple of months, and it’s hard to decide which ones to attend. They do take up a lot of time, especially with travel, but the educational sessions continue to be informative and thought-provoking and the networking is invaluable, so here we are.

I was at Rich’s Executive Vendor Summit last week, and am at Oracle Hospitality’s Industry Connect event this week. Both are very worthwhile for different reasons, but they do have a common thread. As always, the Vendor Summit had an excellent variety of sessions, with the added highlight this year of the Travel ‘N Technology (TNT) conference the day before, an event that included Read the rest of this entry »

Interel, Revinate and IDeaS win TechOvation awards at outstanding HTNG Conference

March 9th, 2015

Last weeks’ annual Hotel Technology Next Generation (HTNG) North American conference raised the bar again on what makes for a successful gathering. Already one of the more appealing conferences in a crowded season, a couple of format changes this year increased its attraction and Read the rest of this entry »

Make IT part of the team and everyone benefits

March 5th, 2015

I’ve been working with a lot of different properties lately, and was recently struck by an irony. In an age when we place more and more emphasis on integrating our systems and the data used across all operational departments, the one exception is often the one underlying all of this: the IT Department.

This isn’t always the case; in many properties IT is a valued partner, and the IT Director – or, in smaller operations, the senior operations officer with responsibility for IT – reports directly to the highest levels and is a valued member of the corporate steering committee. In other situations, however, Read the rest of this entry »

What will replace the guestroom phone?

February 14th, 2015

The announcement of another mobile housekeeping app (this time from Northwind, see below) prompts me to wonder when we’re going to see an inexpensive replacement for the in-hotel telephone system. The need for a hotel PBX has been declining for years through the self-reinforcing combination of Read the rest of this entry »

Loss of a Leader

January 26th, 2015

The industry lost an outstanding hotelier when James Simkins died of cancer last week. If his name doesn’t ring a bell, that’s because despite his influence he was never one to seek the limelight. A strong champion of using hospitality technology as an essential component of management, he made a profound impression on everyone he met and worked with.
Most recently COO of Benchmark’s Personal Luxury Resorts and Hotels division, James had a long and highly-regarded career. He served in several Westin hotels worldwide, eventually becoming MD and VP Operations for Westin’s Asia region. Later, he helped grow Seattle-based MTM Luxury Lodging into a successful boutique chain before its acquisition by Benchmark.
When I first met him while planning systems for the Westin Tokyo, his immediate grasp of the technology involved in every area, and of its potential for improved operations and guest service, was remarkable, and is still unique among GMs of my experience. As one example, while at MTM he personally brought a disparate group of vendors into a cooperative team to integrate guestroom technology with the front office and energy management systems, well before HTNG had really found its feet. His oft-stated belief was that technology must serve three audiences: the owners, the managers and the guests, contributing to excellent guest service, efficient management operations and cost-effective ownership.
James was remarkably well-rounded. In addition to his comfort level with technology he could go head-to-head with any owner in his thorough and detailed understanding of hotel operations and finance, and had outstanding people skills. Utterly tireless, energetic, generous and perpetually optimistic, in 25 years I never once heard him say a bad word about anybody (despite occasional provocations that would try the patience of a saint) and his staff would follow him anywhere. It would be hard to find a better example of what GMs should strive for, of what hospitality leadership is all about.
After watching Wes Anderson’s wonderfully whimsical movie “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, a friend asked if the close-knit network that rallied to the aid of the beleaguered hero really existed in the hotel industry. The way people immediately jumped in to help James and his family when he fell ill is a perfect example that yes, this is that kind of industry. There’ll be a party to celebrate James’ life this Saturday. It’s going to be packed.

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