Wanted: Digital Bloodhounds For The Hotel Industry : All Tech Considered These days, hotels aren't just looking to hire bellhops, concierges and housekeepers. What the industry really needs are "knowledge workers" who understand how to use social media and new technologies to track — and attract — potential guests and boost revenue.
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Wanted: Digital Bloodhounds For The Hotel Industry

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Wanted: Digital Bloodhounds For The Hotel Industry

Wanted: Digital Bloodhounds For The Hotel Industry

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And another tech story today about an industry that is changing rapidly. Hotels still need bartenders and bellhops. But these days, they're in the market for digital bloodhounds: People who understand how to use technologies to lure potential customers.

NPR's Margot Adler introduces us to one hotel's tech expert.

MARGOT ADLER, BYLINE: Greg Bodenlos is 24 years old, just a couple of years out of Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration.

GREG BODENLOS: So my official title is the digital marketing strategist or digital marketing specialist, specifically for this hotel.

ADLER: That's the Mark Hotel in New York City, a luxury property. But this profession is so fluid and new, Bodenlos had to write up his own job description. And at other hotels, he says the equivalent position might be called e-commerce manager, revenue manager, social media coordinator, he reeled off five other possible titles. He knew if he wanted a marketing job in hospitality right out of school...

BODENLOS: It had to be digital, it had to be analytical. I mean, quite honestly, the digital marketing space in hotels is completely wide open. We're just figuring out how to use the tools that Google and Facebook throw at us.

ADLER: And here's one of his professors, Bill Carroll, who teaches at Cornell.

BILL CARROLL: I tear up my syllabus every year.

ADLER: Now, you might make a reservation by calling a hotel, or going online to compare prices. You might use a mobile app on your phone.


ADLER: Or use Facebook. This means the role of a hotel marketing manager has changed from a time when they pretty much guessed whether their ad in a magazine or newspaper worked, to a point where you can begin to track behavior by analyzing click streams.

Bill Carroll says in the future we will know...

CARROLL: Did you contact me through the call center, through my brand website, through a salesperson and, subsequently, did you execute a booking? And once I've got that click stream behavior...

ADLER: He can figure out the steps by which a booking was made.

CARROLL: We're not there yet, but I believe we will be in five years.

ADLER: Since the hospitality industry grows somewhat like the U.S. economy, maybe 2 percent a year, the main task of these companies is called shifting share, taking business away from somebody else.

Greg Bodenlos, at the Mark, wants to know how many bookings are we getting from online travel agencies.

BODENLOS: How many bookings are we getting from a call center? How many bookings from mobile? How many bookings from social? And how many bookings from really, what we want, again, is our direct website and how can we shift that?

ADLER: One thing these e-commerce managers do is to buy keywords on the paid part of Google and other sites, so that their website will come up at or near the top of a search. And there are companies to help you figure out the right words to buy.

BODENLOS: We all want top page placement at Google, because we know that 97 percent of consumers, they'll just look at the top 10 results and that's all they look.

ADLER: Now, take a company like Oyster.

ELIE SEIDMAN: So, yes, so this here is software engineering and design, and people are actually writing the code that makes the site work.

ADLER: Launched in 2009, Oyster sends investigators to hotels. They write serious reviews. The site lists some 4,000 properties in 188 cities. So consumers can figure out exactly what they want. Fifteen years ago, maybe you've got a brochure, but often you ended up at a hotel without knowing what it looked like.

Oyster CEO Elie Seidman says it was another leap in technology over the past few years that made Oyster possible - digital photos in low light.

SEIDMAN: We have to, A, be able to take those in the first place. You know, in the available light. And then we have to get those photos back to New York, get them processed.

ADLER: Oyster gets paid because, again, you can track the clicks and find out whether someone who ended up, let's say, at a particular Marriott first came to Oyster.

The people getting the tech jobs in the hotel industry are knowledge workers. Bill Carroll.

CARROLL: Competent technically, competent digitally; you also have to be a collaborative manager. You have to get other folks to get along with you.

ADLER: The people who get those jobs, he says, geeks who speak.

Margot Adler, NPR News, New York.



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