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Conferences and EventsHITEC 2021Cloud5’s Dave Heckaman on Changes and Challenges Afoot in the Industry

Cloud5’s Dave Heckaman on Changes and Challenges Afoot in the Industry

Speaking with LODGING during HITEC Dallas 2021 at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, Cloud5 Vice President of Product Development Dave Heckaman reflected on some of the ways the pandemic impacted his company, in particular, and the hospitality industry overall. He also discussed some of the ways technology has evolved in part to meet circumstances few could have imagined at the time of the in-person HITEC Minneapolis 2019 that took place two years ago.

What are some of the changes your company has undergone since the last in-person meeting two years ago?

The company has evolved in important ways in the past two years during which I myself went from being a consultant to Cloud5 to assuming my position as VP of Product Development during a challenging time for our country and our industry. During this time, I have watched Cloud5 step up to fill some of the voids created by the pandemic—both as a result of reduced staff and financial difficulties experienced by many hoteliers.

Our company, which provides technology and communications solutions for hotel brands and management companies, really ramped up to become a true technology management partner to our clients—delivering its customary combination of technology and a contact center, but also stepping into the breach left by staff reductions and uncertainty to handle PC support and significantly moving into and expanding customer relations. For several brands, we more or less took over their call center business, handing not just bookings but also guest feedback both on the phone and social media.

We were able to withstand the storm in part because we were actually expanding to fill the voids created while others were contracting. This placed us in a position to be able to help companies without sufficient funding during this difficult time by providing unique capitalization for new product acquisitions, making them operating expenses versus capital purchases.

What is Cloud5 focusing on during HITEC Dallas?

At HITEC, we’ve been meeting with a lot of brands about having our managed services take on part of their technology teams, that is, having them outsource it to us at different levels, from simple to complex. We also are highlighting conference services, which not only provide software that enables the team to easily manage convention meetings on site or remotely, but also the equipment needed onsite, so hotels don’t need to handle or outsource it themselves.

How does Cloud5 fit into the move toward automation?

As a technology enabler, we recognize the importance of automation—everything from mobile keys to staff safety and labor management. We see our own role as being like one leg of a three-legged stool: We support those end-product providers that build the equipment and the partners that build the solutions that need us as part of a managed network.

What general trends are you seeing in hospitality technology?

What I’m noticing is a shift from the use of digital touchpoints for entertainment to its use for brand engagements. Now that they are recognizing its value, brands are seeking greater control of the experience, rather than letting third parties control it, making it less technology-driven and more marketing-driven. I also see a greater shift to the cloud, an area where the industry has been relatively advanced. Good reasons for this include that it significantly reduces the need to own and maintain equipment for entertainment, and that it allows the bigger organizations to be more flexible—for example, they can get their equipment out of their data centers and get themselves out of the hotel footprint so they can more easily change owners or flags.

What are your hopes and expectations for the future?

As nice as it is to be here at an actual in-person trade show rather than a virtual one, I think “remnants” of the pandemic such as virtual, or at least, hybrid meetings, are here to stay. The fact is, people have become accustomed to the technologies that have evolved to have some portion of an event on the premises but a larger portion of it watched or participated in remotely—from their home or office.

As for my hopes, I’d like to see a return to hospitality’s being a personal business, where the face shields come down and the masks come off, so guests who don’t choose to bypass the front desk can see again see a smile on the face of the front desk associate.

 

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