Discover the latest hospitality insights - directly from the source!

Discover the latest hospitality insights - directly from the source!

In the Mind of the Expert: Henri Roelings


Anyone working in the hospitality industry - from hotelier to tech provider - is familiar with
HospitalityNet, one of the top online resources for hospitality news, events and industry updates.

We sat down with Henri Roelings, Founder & CEO, of the Netherlands-based network. 25 years ago, Henri launched HospitalityNet. Today it’s globally known as one of the leading B2B, online sites for the hospitality industry.

 

Let’s start off with a fun one! If you could own a hotel anywhere in the world, where and what type would it be?

My preferred place would be a small hideaway boutique hotel high up in the Swiss Alps - serving great food and wine… and limited WiFi!

 

What was your inspiration behind HospitalityNet 25 years ago? Which changes over the years have surprised you the most? Conversely, what has remained the same in the hospitality industry?

Back in 1995, I was working with ACCOR’s IT division in Paris, installing a French PMS all over the world. The World Wide Web was just becoming mainstream - we used 14K USrobotics modems and Compuserve to get online and we installed Marc Andreessen’s MOSAIC browser. At this time, Marriott was one of the first hotel chains with a presence on the Internet and the World Wide Web was a rapidly-growing platform of websites providing links to each other. With that philosophy in mind, we created a website that provided links to all hospitality-related websites we could find on the web. As we progressed during the years, our HospitalityNet activity became bigger, ultimately resulting in a full-time occupation in 1999.

 

As you are in constant contact with hoteliers from around the world, what are some common themes you see emerging in the hospitality industry?

OTAs (Online Travel Agencies)

The biggest and overarching long-term theme for hoteliers revolves around distribution. The industry revolutionized when Booking.com stepped onto the stage (this is a great read on the topic!). Not only are they a dominant player, but there’s no equivalent in any other industry. Even after 20 years of OTA dominance, hotels are still struggling to increase direct bookings. They’ve accepted surrendering to a distribution cost, which is much higher than the pre-OTA era of the GDSs (Global Distribution Systems). To be continued…

Short Term Rentals (aka Airbnb)

A recent EHL study provides empirical evidence that Airbnb will disrupt the hotel business and that, the more Airbnb users are satisfied with their experience, the more likely demand for hotel rooms will decrease. Hoteliers around the world work with their local governments and national associations to regulate, and in some cases obstruct, the short term rental industry… without much success at the moment.  

 

Customer experience management is no longer a trend, but a necessity for hoteliers. What do you wish hoteliers would understand about technology providers and conversely what do you wish tech providers understood about hospitality?

To be honest, expecting hoteliers to fully understand today’s tech environment is a bit of a stretch (this article goes into the subject further). However, I think hoteliers should have full awareness of their guests’ digital journey, and understand the core technology components along the way. 

Looking back over the years, many great IT solutions for hotels have been developed by suppliers which were truly serious about listening to hoteliers and understanding their specific needs. In my opinion, this has not changed.

 

What disconnect do you see between hotels and technology providers and how do you think both parties can overcome these challenges?

In general, I don’t see a huge disconnect between the tech and hospitality fields. Industry associations, like HFTP and HTNG, play an important role in educating both hoteliers and tech providers. At HospitalityNet, we recently launched HN World Panel. This is our contribution to shedding some light on technology and digital-related industry topics.

 

Lastly, which future trends are you most looking forward to in 2020?

Sustainability is definitely moving up the charts of hoteliers’ 2020 priorities… and rightfully so! It will be exciting to see how new technologies will play a role in turning hotels greener.

 

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Henri Roelings is Founder & CEO at Netherlands-based HospitalityNet. Recognized as a thought leader in global hospitality, Henri is a frequent guest speaker at industry events and conferences. Under Henri’s leadership, HospitalityNet has pioneered online B2B publishing in the hospitality industry since 1994, launching brands such as HospitalityNet, WIWIH, pineapplesearch and the HOTEL Yearbook. Henri is an advisory board member of the International Hotel & Restaurant Association (IH&RA), member of HFTP’s HITEC advisory board in Europe and USA and received HSMAI’s "Top 25 Most Extraordinary Minds in Sales and Marketing" honor back in 2014. Henri graduated from Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne in 1987. https://www.linkedin.com/in/henriroelings/