This summer, global hospitality technology solution provider Shiji announced the appointment of Ryan King to Senior Vice President for the Shiji Americas. “This reinforces Shiji’s commitment to strengthening its presence across the American continents,” noted the press statement, “particularly in light of the successful collaboration with global hotel chains in these regions.” With an extensive career in the hotel industry, including within hotels, in global distribution companies and in the property management systems industry, Ryan brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to his new role.
Having held prominent positions in some of the world’s largest hotel technology companies, including his previous role at Shiji as the Senior Director of Global Strategy, Ryan gained extensive insights into both the vendor and hotel sides of the business. In this interview, he shares some of his experience and perspective, including his thoughts on what emerging technology solutions are likely to make a big splash in the future and why he believes “information will no longer be able to reside in silos but be easily exchanged between in-stay technology as well as pre-stay and post-stay solutions that make up the entire guest journey.”
First off, please tell us a bit about your career trajectory. How did you go from being a hotelier to becoming a leader of one of the largest and most preeminent hospitality technology solution providers?
My career journey has been quite diverse. I started as a hotelier, gaining 20 years of hands-on hospitality experience across various departments. A little over 10 years ago, I transitioned into the technology realm with TravelClick, where I initially served as a consultant. This shift allowed me to consult with individual properties and major management groups, assisting them in leveraging technology to enhance their RevPAR and overall profitability. Later, I joined Shiji Group as the Senior Director of Global Strategy, where I continued to explore the intersection of hospitality and technology. Now, as the Senior Vice President for the Americas at Shiji Group, I collaborate with local groups and brands in the Americas market to discover innovative ways technology can help hotels connect with their guests. It’s been an exciting journey that marries my passion for hospitality with the possibilities of technology.
How did your wealth of business experience as a hotelier help you prepare for your current role? Any particular lessons learned in the hospitality industry that you’ve applied in your current role?
My background in the hospitality industry has been invaluable in my current role. The insights gained from working directly within hotels helped me deeply understand the pain points and needs of the industry. I learned that the guest experience is paramount, and that lesson has been a driving force in shaping the solutions we offer at Shiji. Additionally, the importance of collaboration and effective communication that I learned in the hotel industry has translated well into my role as I work with various stakeholders to find technology solutions that address their specific needs.
What differentiates Shiji’s hospitality management solutions from those of other leading companies on the market? What do you view as Shiji’s biggest competitive strengths?
What sets Shiji’s hospitality management solutions apart is our multi-faceted approach in solving our customer’s problems. While we are first and foremost a technology company, the solutions we build are exclusively for hospitality customers, so we think about our customer’s customer. Our teams think about every aspect of the guest experience from pre-stay to post-stay and we use this thought process when developing new solutions for our customers.
Our biggest competitive strengths lie in our hospitality-first approach, the scale at which we can provide these solutions, the global operations we have put in place with some of the most talented individuals I have ever worked with which truly allow us to flex our global scale but with local expertise. There are very few companies out there that have the same ability as us to provide end-to-end solutions to streamline operations, enhance guest experiences, and maximize revenue. Our mission really is to help lead the digital revolution of guest experiences in hotels and that is in the DNA of every solution we develop.
Who are Shiji’s hotel customers and what geographic markets does the company currently serve? What categories of hotels or resorts are likely to benefit most from Shiji’s solutions?
Shiji serves a wide array of hotel customers across various categories and geographies such as major brands like IHG, Hyatt, Hilton and Marriott. We have a strong presence in over 31 countries, serving more than 91,000 hotels, 200,000 restaurants, and 600,000 retail outlets. Our solutions cater to diverse properties, from boutique hotels to enterprise-level groups, allowing all to benefit from Shiji’s innovative technology.
To what extent are hoteliers able to reduce operating costs, increase employee satisfaction, improve the guest experience, etc., by using Shiji’s solutions? Any recent success stories you can share?
Shiji’s solutions have a proven track record of driving operational efficiency and guest satisfaction. By leveraging our technology, hoteliers can reduce costs through optimized operations, enhance employee satisfaction with streamlined processes, and create more personalized and engaging experiences for guests.
There are so many examples of how we have helped customers improve their operations. I spoke to a customer yesterday who was so excited about the implementation of our Infrasys POS mobile ordering module. By giving their guests the ability to order F&B from their mobile phone they have seen a resurgence in room dining orders. The customer stated that they have recouped their entire annual subscription payment to Shiji in only 3 months from in room dining revenue. I was really pleased to hear how we have impacted their operation.
Shiji has a long track record of innovation, which includes, most recently, the launch of Shiji Digital PayBy. Can you tell us a bit about the latest platform enhancements and added capabilities?
Shiji continues to look at innovative ways to serve our major global customers with solutions to solve some of their most complex challenges. Our latest solution, Shiji Digital PayBy, is a prime example. This product was built for groups/brands to help facilitate card not present transactions.
With PCI compliance being a hot topic and the sensitivity around charge backs a reality in the hotel industry its no longer acceptable to use take a credit card on a form or by phone for payment of services. Our secure system enables a digital method for a guest to provide their credit card info when not present in the hotel. This is very important to groups/brands that want to protect their brand reputation. While a “brand” may not manage every property the guest is trusting in the “brand”to protect their information. Credit card fraud that comes from an incorrect way of handling card not present payments puts a brand’s integrity at risk. We have solved that for them with our PayBy solution.
While similar solutions may have popped up in the past couple years targeted towards individual hotels, we bring the global scale to a group or brand that allows for cross border implementation, multiple acquiring services and true enterprise scale reporting. It’s our focus on solving these challenges for our group/brand customers that has earned us their trust in providing solutions that solve their biggest problems. It may not be the sexiest solution we offer but it’s a critical one in securing revenue for an operator.
Shiji has recently joined forces with a number of other technology solutions. These include Evention, a leading provider of financial reconciliation and gratuity management solutions, and D-EDGE’s global hotel distribution solutions. Which partnerships are you most excited about and how do hotels benefit?
Our recent partnerships, such as with iPORT, Evention and D-EDGE, are truly exciting. These collaborations expand our offerings and provide even more comprehensive solutions to hospitality customers. For instance, the integration of Evention’s financial reconciliation and gratuity management solutions enhances the financial control hotels have, while our partnership with D-EDGE extends our reach in the realm of global hotel distribution, helping hotels reach a wider audience and drive bookings.
I would say that its our collaboration approach with partners that provide our customers the best framework to solve their problems. We can’t be everything to everyone, but we can be at the forefront of solving problems. We want our customers to know that we work closely and easily with any partner to help bring their vision to life. This is a different mind set from what other customers may have thought about just a few years ago. This has always been in our DNA from the very start of our company. We believe good partner relationships help fuel innovation and provide better solutions to our hotel customers.
What do you do in your job on a day-to-day basis? What do you like most about your work?
As Senior Vice President for Shiji in the Americas, my day-to-day role involves collaborating with major global brands and local regional brands. I work closely with our teams to develop strategies and solutions that address their specific challenges and contribute value. What I find most fulfilling about my work is the ongoing opportunity for innovation. It’s rewarding to see how technology can positively impact the hospitality industry and bring tangible benefits to both businesses and travelers.
I would say it’s the interaction with our customers and team members on a daily basis that I find most rewarding.
Any major achievements over the past year that we haven’t yet mentioned? Anything else new and noteworthy in terms of new partnerships, platform enhancements, industry recognitions, etc.?
Over the past year, Shiji has continued to make notable progress, particularly in expanding its presence in the Americas. We’ve successfully implemented Infrasys POS in 100+ Hyatt hotels across the region, a significant achievement that underscores our commitment to advancing hospitality technology. Additionally, our strategic partnership with Adyen has enhanced guest experiences by providing smoother interactions.
Our ongoing efforts in forming collaborations and introducing platform enhancements reflect our dedication to industry evolution. The success of our focus on improving contactless payment options demonstrates our responsiveness to changing guest preferences. These accomplishments underscore our commitment to innovation and addressing the evolving needs of the hospitality sector.
There are some exciting things coming in 2024 but it’s too early for me to share that quite yet.
What will be the primary focus areas for Shiji over the next year or so? Any new technology innovations on the horizon? Any specific growth objectives you can share?
Looking ahead, Shiji’s primary focus remains on advancing technology that enhances guest experiences, optimizes operations, and drives revenue growth. We’re committed to staying at the forefront of innovation, and while I can’t reveal all our plans, you can expect to see us continue to explore new frontiers in guest engagement, data management, and operational efficiency.
Our growth plans have always been focused on providing better technology and service than our customers currently have. This mind set has served us well and continues to be how we fuel our growth around the world.
Are there any emerging technology solutions are you seeing in the hospitality industry that you think will make a big splash?
Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning are poised to make significant impacts in the hospitality industry. These technologies can analyze guest preferences and behaviors to provide personalized experiences, optimize pricing strategies, and predict maintenance needs, ultimately enhancing both guest satisfaction and operational efficiency.
I’m especially intrigued by some of the upselling tools out there that are helping hotels capture ancillary revenue. The airline industry has been doing this really well for the past 5+ years and its time for hotels to catch up. When you look at how guests respond to simple suggestions for a better room, an enhanced experience or convenience it’s generating revenue for the hotel while providing the guest with a richer in stay experience.
As a former hotelier, is there anything about where the industry is today that surprises you?
I’m not sure I would call it a surprise but maybe more of an observation. While new technologies have been available to help hoteliers transform their guest experience the means of adoption and commitment from groups/brands has been historically slow. In the past year we have finally had substantial conversations with some of our key major customers around infrastructure changes that are needed in order to serve the demands of the 21st century traveler. From mobile check-ins to in-room control systems, the seamless integration of technology is able to transform how guests interact with hotels. However, all of this starts with the basic exchange of information and the critical role the information on the guest profile will play in the future of executing service delivery is becoming more apparent. Information will no longer be able to reside in silos but be easily exchanged between in-stay technology as well as pre-stay and post-stay solutions that make up the entire guest journey. In the future how a hotel group architects their tech stack will determine their competitive advantage. It’s exciting to finally see how the industry is embracing and adapting to these changes to create more convenient and memorable experiences for travelers.