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In yesterday’s HSMAI ROC Europe event, Duetto’s VP of Sales for EMEA, Michael Schaeffner, caught up with Johan Appelgren, Director of Operations at FIRST Hotels, to discuss why now is the time to invest in technology.
Here’s a quick recap of the conversation:
Michael Schaeffner: Why invest in technology now during a pandemic?
Johan Appelgren: The reason we are investing in hotel technology right now is that we need the data. We have been through a horrible year like most other companies in our industry. When making difficult decisions, such as closing hotels and laying people off, we really need accurate data. We found flaws in some of the systems we were working with and there were things we needed but we didn’t have access to.
We have scaled down in overheads; we have a mindset now that a lot should be done locally at the hotel level to create that ownership of revenue with the GM at that hotel and we need the best technology to help them achieve that.
Schaeffner: How did you manage to allocate budget for an investment under the current circumstances?
Appelgren: We did some moving around! Our cash position is like everyone else’s: it’s difficult to find liquidity when you don’t have any revenue. We worked with implementation plans that follow our cash flow, so we don’t do everything at the same time.
Most important to make the decision and start small. Even though we are buying now we are not implementing everything, we are letting it follow our cash flow.
Also, it was quite an easy task to convince our CEO that we need to think about how we can be more efficient and accurate in the future. This was a process we were going to go into anyway, this has just speeded up.
It wasn’t easy finding the money but we know the value will be immense when we get it all implemented.
Schaeffner: What are the key requirements to investment in 2021?
Appelgren: It needs to be part of a whole strategy and for us that meant being something we would work on long term. We have cancelled some software that we used before and taken a harsh approach. We are more willing to take a small hit now to make sure we have the right technology as we move forward. We are looking to connect all the dots. All our departs work within their silos with their own data and we are looking to connect this so everyone works with the same numbers. We all need to have access to the truth – numbers that are correct. This is a long term thing. We are far from done, but we are on our way.
Schaeffner: What do you think technology players need to do to support you and adapt to continue providing value to hotels?
Appelgren: Flexibility and really looking at the needs of your customer. We are an industry in shambles and technology vendors need to adapt a little bit and show some flexibility. We are looking for a long-term partnership and we know the ones we are going to continue with are the ones that helped us out right now. If we are partners we need to cooperate even in the bad times.
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