Joanna Todd, head of worldwide business development—accommodations and lodging for Amazon Web Services (AWS), has held various leadership roles in the hotel industry, most recently as the head of global partnerships and strategic alliances for Marriott International, and is currently charged with supporting AWS’ accommodations and lodging customers as they accelerate cloud adoption. Todd shares with Adrienne Weil, vice president of strategic partnerships and business development for the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), what AWS is all about, the innovations that are changing the company’s approach, how the industry is evolving, and more.
Can you give some background on AWS?
AWS is the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud platform, offering over 200 fully featured services from data centers globally. Millions of customers—including the fastest-growing startups, largest enterprises, and leading government agencies—are using AWS to lower costs, become more agile, and innovate faster.
AWS Travel and Hospitality is the global industry practice for AWS with a charter to support industry customers as they accelerate cloud technology adoption. Companies around the world, across every segment of the travel and hospitality industry—and of every size— run on AWS. This includes travel and hospitality leaders like Avis Budget Group, Best Western, Choice Hotels, McDonald’s, United Airlines, and Wyndham Hotels. These companies and many others are transforming their business by leveraging technology to enhance customer experiences and increase operational efficiency.
What innovations have changed the way AWS approaches its hospitality clients over the past few years?
A recent study by Skift showed that 78 percent of industry executives see digital transformation as more important than ever before. As a result, we’ve been seeing a huge shift in hospitality customers moving towards the cloud. For those not familiar, the term “cloud computing” refers to the on-demand delivery of IT resources via the Internet with pay-as-you-go pricing. Instead of buying, owning, and maintaining your own data centers and servers, organizations can acquire technology such as compute power, storage, databases, and other services on an as-needed basis. It is similar to how consumers flip a switch to turn on the lights in their home, and the power company sends electricity. With cloud computing, AWS manages and maintains the technology infrastructure in a secure environment and businesses access these resources via the Internet to develop and run their applications. Capacity can grow or shrink instantly and businesses only pay for what they use.
While many are familiar with that part of AWS, what not everyone may be aware of is that in addition to computer, storage, and database services, AWS provides the most comprehensive machine learning (ML)/artificial intelligence (AI) services, the broadest and deepest IoT, and the ability to leverage AWS’ comprehensive services to collect, process, and analyze data. The ability for hospitality companies to access the breadth of these services and transform their business has really been inspiring to watch. We’ve seen customers such as Best Western, Hyatt Hotels, IHG Hotels & Resorts, Choice Hotels, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, and more leverage AWS to transform their business.
How do you see the hotel industry evolving over the next five years?
The hotel industry has seen incredible changes and disruption over the past year. One never would have thought just a few years ago that there would be such an urgent need for things like contactless check-in, scaling down costs to meet demand, or implementing new cleaning protocols. Yet those needs came, and they came quickly. The brands that were able to leverage technology to adapt quickly were best positioned, and the hotel brands that will continue to thrive will be the ones that continue to quickly innovate to meet changing customer expectations. AWS allows travel and hospitality companies to build what’s next—whatever that may be.
What prompted AWS to get involved with AHLA?
At Amazon, we are always looking to learn directly from the industry to see how our technology can help transform their business. The AHLA is an indispensable resource serving, supporting, and advocating on behalf of the hospitality industry and by partnering with AHLA, we hope to continue to learn and hear first-hand what the industry needs. Working back from those needs is how we at AWS look to provide technological solutions that can transform businesses.
What is one thing about AWS that you want AHLA members to know?
AWS has a dedicated team of hospitality industry professionals ready to help companies around the world of all sizes and at all stages of cloud adoption transform their business. Whether you build solutions yourself with AWS services, work closely with AWS, or work with one of our amazing partners, we’ll work back from each individual customer to help achieve their unique business objectives. Feel free to contact us to learn more and get started. We’re so excited to see how AWS will help change and improve the way guests stay and experience the world in the future.