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Training The Next Generation of Tech-Empowered Hoteliers: Janel Clark on Hospitality Education

May 9, 2016
Clay Bassford

Janel Clark has a unique role here at SnapShot. She’s our Head of Education and Consultancy, and as such is charged with preparing hospitality students for what lies ahead. The industry is experiencing a major technological revolution and tech-savvy newcomers are taking advantage of opportunities to improve upon slow-to-move legacy systems in everyday hotel operations.

We think this is not only a good thing, but makes total sense for the industry. Afterall, utilizing the tools at hand to improve and grow your hotel business is a no-brainer. Better tech can improve back-of-house efficiency and front-of-house customer experience. The only thing holding back a major technological revolution in the hospitality industry is hoteliers' lack of familiarity with the new digital tools out there.


At our most recent bootcamps at Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne and ESSEC Business School, Janel has led students through a technology-empowered approach to hotel management. With input from industry experts from both EHL and ESSEC, as well as OTAs, hotel marketers, and industry reporting agencies, students are given a holistic and forward-thinking understanding of hospitality.

We caught Janel on a brief break between back-to-back workshops to better understand how her background has influenced her philosophy on hospitality education, and why education is so important to SnapShot's mission.

How did you get started in hospitality? What prepared you to educate students and hotels in revenue management?

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Honestly, I got into hospitality because I like staying in hotels! I had a job where I stayed in a lot of really smart hotels when I was young. When the job ended, I thought “Wow, that was great!” I wanted to find a way to keep staying in hotels, so that naturally led me to deciding to work in hospitality. As soon as I got into it, I just could never imagine working in any other industry because of the passion people have.

So I started with the big chains, with IHG and Marriott in reservations. I worked in reservations, front office, and as a reservations manager. At that time revenue management was just being introduced into hotels. I went to a smaller group, Savora Hotels, that had nine hotels and worked in various properties within that chain as a Reservation Manager, then Revenue Manager, and then Director of Revenue for the group. It was a small group but very innovative, very focused on marketing and distribution.


I then went over to a distribution company, TravelClick, as a revenue manager covering hotels in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. When I was working for Travelclick we were only exposed to the business that came through the CRS so I didn’t get to see the total overview. I would get frustrated that I couldn’t help the hotels with their overall revenue decisions, so I went into consultancy and training, specifically to work with independents and small groups at that time when revenue management was not very available unless you worked for one of the big groups.

After that I went to work for a booking engine company, Avvio, and worked with them to help their hotels to optimize the direct channel, make more from their, and better understand strategic revenue management. And after I had learned more about how the industry was evolving, I connected with SnapShot.

How did you initially get involved with SnapShot?

When I was consulting and training, I was actually involved as one of the original collaborators in SnapShot. I knew David [Turnbull, co-founder and COO] from working for a competitor of his in the revenue management consultancy field. We always had a good relationship, and when he was thinking about SnapShot in the beginning and the educational side of the company, I was invited to be one of the collaborators on the revenue management aspect. When the education side of the business was developing and they needed somebody to come in, David approached me to see if I would be interested in joining the team. So here I am!


What is the biggest idea that you’re trying to communicate to students during classes or workshops?

That when they get out into industry they need to challenge things. They will find that when they go into a traditional hotel setup there will be a lot of challenges there from the organizational setup, the way that departments work separately and the way the technology is set up. Those things can make their jobs difficult. The industry needs to change, needs to look much more at what the guest is used to and how the guest is used to dealing with technology. We're very good as an industry at focusing on the guest technology and what the guests use, but then back-of-house is just a mess. And we're still using the same systems in exactly the same way as we were when I started in hotels twenty plus years ago!

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While it's certainly an opportunity, is that the biggest challenge hotels face as well?

Yes. If you consider guest behavior and the way we buy things, the way we research hotels, all the options that are available to us as guests and potentially bookers– it's completely changed in the last fifteen, twenty years.But hotels are often still tracking information in the same way, looking at the same data, using the same market segments, for example. It doesn’t make sense that we haven't changed anything as a hotel but the guest behavior has completely changed. We talk about that a lot in the bootcamps and the workshops– When you get into a hotel, this is what you will find. You need to bring your innovation. Bring your way of looking at this. Help the hotels to change this.


Are there any surprising things that you’ve learned so far at any of the educational events we've hosted?

You can look at the students and identify the natural hoteliers. You can spot them immediately, and it's great to see so much passion still coming into the industry. The best thing ever is when we get an email from a student who says, “I've never really thought about this side of the business before, but now after this workshop I'm actually thinking that demand management or revenue or marketing is the side of the industry where I could find my place.”

How about the outside experts that we bring in? Could you tell me about some of the people from outside Snapshot that help us educate students?

The original content and the ideas were put together by a team of collaborators that went across all different aspects of the demand management workshop, and we now use some of those people to help us to deliver the content. We had hoteliers, people from OTAs– for example, we had marketing consultants, people from the reputation management companies like trustU, STR Global, and Design Hotels. The content all gets reviewed every time we deliver a session.


As someone who educates the future leaders of the industry, how do you see data in the hotel space? Where do you see the industry headed in terms of technology?

This generation of new hoteliers is going to be much more focused on data than the generation before. They understand technology because they’ve grown up with it. They know what technology and data can add to a business. They want to see the technology that they're so used to using in everyday life in their workplace. They're defintely surprised at the lack of technology that's used within the hotel back of house. So I think they'll be less patient in the future to use these older systems and will want that data readily available, because that's what they're used to in their everyday life.

SnapShot works with some of the world's leading hotel schools like EHL, ESSEC, and the University of Surrey to educate the next generation of hoteliers. Our mission in education is simple: to help future hoteliers better understand and suceed in this rapidly-evolving industry. In addition to the multiple courses delivered each year, SnapShot worked with ESSEC and Coursera to offer a free, public course, The Demand Management MOOC, which is available online and has already registered thousands of students from across the world.

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