John Laplante is the Chief Information Officer for G6 Hospitality, the parent company behind the iconic Motel 6 and Studio 6 brands. G6 Hospitality owns, operates, and franchises more than 1,400 economy lodging locations under the Motel 6 and Studio 6 brands in the United States and Canada and the Hotel 6 brand in India. Having opened its 1,000 franchise location in 2018, G6 also has plans to franchise the Hotel 6 and Estudio 6 brands in Central America. LaPante leads the organization’s technical and digital innovations. In his previous role, John served as Vice President of Information Technology at G6 Hospitality, where he oversaw the company’s Program Management Office, Quality Assurance and Contact Center teams.
Tell us a bit about your career trajectory. What led you to your current role at G6 Hospitality?
Prior to being appointed CIO in June 2020, I spent nearly two decades working in various IT functions at G6 Hospitality. My previous experience as the organization’s Vice President of Information Technology, Program Management Office (PMO) and Contact Center Operations, laid the foundation for where I am today. Working hand in hand with the executive team as I led the PMO underscored the importance of leveraging technology to provide solutions to business problems and this has since been my approach to innovation at G6. In addition, overseeing the G6 Contact Center – which was an individual business unit generating $140M in revenue at the time – presented me with another opportunity to gain a better understanding of the business from an operations standpoint. This extensive history with G6 Hospitality prepared me for my current role and today, my responsibilities include overseeing the organization’s IT operations, IT security, DevOps, Reservations, e-Commerce and Distribution.
I graduated from the University of North Texas with a Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in Entrepreneurship Strategic Management and remain very involved with the university today. I am passionate about helping the next generation of leaders in hospitality and currently sit on the University of North Texas, Hospitality Tourism Management Advisory Board.
What role has technology played in navigating some of the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic?
G6 Hospitality has been a cloud-first lodging company for four years after we retired our legacy systems, including reservation, distribution and property management platforms, replacing them with the latest in cloud-native technology powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS). This technology offers a simplified property management system that streamlines the guest check-in process. This increased efficiency came in handy during the health crisis as we were able to address the continual changes to properties throughout all of our channels. This ensured our guests were aware of amenities and availability of rooms to avoid issues upon arrival at the property.
At a time when owners may not be able to visit their properties as frequently, our technology platform enables visibility to our franchisees from any web enabled devices. They can manage rates, see current occupancy, status of rooms, as well as maintenance requests, ensuring they are always up to date on their property’s status.
In addition, we leveraged a variety of internal and external communications tools throughout the health crisis, which proved invaluable to delivering updates and staying connected as one Motel 6 and Studio 6 family.
How, in your view, will technology play a role in the hospitality industry’s recovery?
Hospitality companies should continue to increase their focus on modernizing technology solutions and updating any legacy platforms to increase business resilience and agility, ultimately supporting prospects for long-term success and continued business growth.
At G6 Hospitality, the decision to move our entire revenue generation platform to AWS proved invaluable during the Texas winter storms in February. While businesses were being crippled by the extreme weather conditions, our customers’, owners’, and partners’ experience was never interrupted. We were able to focus on the wellbeing of our support staff and not the stability of the systems.
Moving foundation services like central reservation and property management systems to cloud enable platforms will ensure technology is one less thing businesses need to worry about during times of hardship.
Do you think technology can provide a solution to some of today’s top traveler concerns?
I believe that hospitality companies will be hyper focused on finding ways technology can be used to reassure guests of safety and cleanliness measures as the health crisis continues. For example, we know that reducing contact points will continue to be a key driver in the hospitality industry and can make guests feel more comfortable about traveling when it is safe to do so.
In addition, we may see technology integrate with brands‘ new health and safety protocols. At the onset of the health crisis, G6 Hospitality established a “Clean@6” initiative focused on enhanced cleaning and sanitation, physical, and social distancing and safe behavioral practices. We’ll see lodging companies leverage technology in innovative ways to compliment their efforts to provide exceptional guest service.
Are there any new technologies G6 Hospitality is using to help improve the guest experience?
Attracting and retaining customers is critical in hospitality and personalization will continue to be priority for the industry in the year ahead. The first step for G6 Hospitality was moving our entire digital booking platform and newly deployed website to AWS. We recently conducted a proof-of-concept exercise that leveraged a machine learning model to evaluate guest behavior and recommend personalized offerings based on their past activity. Our team was pleased with the initial results and we are looking forward to enabling this rich personalization tool across all of our channels in the future. In addition, we know that mobile is a priority for our guests, so we must ensure our mobile experience is fast, clean and personalized features for guests to access at their fingertips.