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An Interview With Ted Horner

In the hospitality industry, it’s all about who you know, and I am lucky enough to be able to call hospitality tech expert, Ted Horner, a friend of mine for over 30 years. Ted is a veteran and an icon in the hospitality space. His passion and expertise are in constant demand around the world and despite being able to retire, he stays hard at work helping hotels across the globe offer the best experiences possible. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Ted to learn more about his story and perspective on hospitality technology.  

A Global Guy 

Jo Masters: Who is Ted Horner? How did you get your start in hospitality?

Ted Horner: I entered the hospitality industry here in Australia in the 70s after getting my diploma in hotel and catering management. After a few years in the industry, I started focusing on hospitality technology, which led me to start my own consulting company. After a few years of that, I realized that if I wanted to get my message out there, I needed to internationalize myself – so, in 1989, I rebranded my consulting practice, which is now called E Horner & Associates, and started traveling. I also became a founding member of Hotel Technology Next Generation (HTNG) in 2002 and serve on the International Board of Directors of Hotel Technology Financial Professionals (HFTP). 

JM: What compelled you to enter the hospitality industry? Why are you so passionate about it? 

TH: The industry is made up of true friendships and relationships and that’s what I like best. I get bored easily, so being able to travel to meet others in the industry that are all about connections and who have also put their heart and soul into the industry is a gift.  

Flying High 

JM: You mentioned being a founding member of HTNG. Are there any other moments in your career that stand out to you? 

TH: I was approached by the president of HFTP about being nominated for the Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference (HITEC) Hall of Fame in 2000 and was nominated every year up until 2004 when I was elected. I was the first person outside of the U.S. to be elected. It was the greatest highlight of my career. 

JM: It was well deserved! You also host a hospitality tech-based summit every year. Tell me more about how that came to be. 

TH: I held my first event in 1996 called HT Australian Hospitality Technology, which was like a mini HITEC. That went on until the early 2000s. But as time went on, I realized that I needed to get my message across to the senior decision makers in our industry: asset managers, owners, developers, and GMs. So, I started Ted’s Technology Conference 11 years ago and back then we had about four sponsors and 30 attendees. I’m very proud of the fact that this year we had 26 sponsors and 250 people in the room. That may not seem like a lot, but we’re all about quality rather than quality. 

Advice That Will Go for Miles 

JM: When it comes to technology goals, where should hoteliers start? What are the most important things to consider? 

TH: One of the biggest challenges in our industry is hotel owners still grappling with the strategic importance of the investment in technology. Hoteliers need to know and trust that technology is not going to replace the personal touch. What technology will do is take care of those mundane tasks that are dull and time-consuming so hoteliers can make sure that the quality of the interactions between their staff and the guest are enhanced. At the end of the day, what we really should be doing from a technological perspective is not just meeting guest demands but exceeding them. If we exceed a person's expectations, then they may be willing to return to that hotel or even better, go on TripAdvisor or any other review processes and write a nice story about their wonderful experience. 

JM: I agree. Technology really offers a great deal in terms of a return on investment.  

TH: Yes. And I don’t believe that we as an industry have spent enough money on technology. We are seeing an increase from 3% to 4% in investment in IT. But if you look at what other industries, retail banking, insurance, etcetera, and how much money they put into technologies, we are still a long way behind. Think about it: when someone wants to replace the furniture in the lobby, does anyone ask about ROI? If they have to replace the linen or the towels, no one bats an eye no matter the cost. It enhances the customer experience. Shouldn’t that be the same for technology solutions? Tech requests are often rejected because we have to build an ROI. Now, at the end of the day, how do you relate ROI to increasing service and supporting guests? 

A Seamless Experience 

JM: Yes, very good advice. What else can technology do to aid a hotelier? 

TH: Well, the pandemic forced hoteliers to start thinking about the role technology plays in their day-to-day processes to overcome issues, such as the lack of face-to-face contact. As a result, digitalization helped us implement contactless payments and contactless check-ins and is now moving into those back-office functions. 

Another issue is mobility. We all spend 24 hours a day checking our phones. Guests want to be able to move forward and be able to do everything on their phone. Book a room, book a game of golf, research their vacation. In our industry, hotel websites are complex. We need to allow technology to work for us while also working for the guest. I recently learned that if a visitor on a hotel’s site can’t make their booking after five keystrokes, 20% of those visitors will get off the site and look elsewhere. We as an industry have to fit in with our guests’ schedules by offering a flexible work system. If we don’t do that, we won’t get those people back again, so we need to be much more flexible than our work processes. 

JM: So, you are saying that the right combination of the right technology and being able to provide customers with the best experience as well as their guests is key? 

TH: Yes, it’s all about the experience, and it’s all about what tech can do for you.  

JM: Well, thank you so much for your insight, Ted. I really do appreciate you taking the time. 

TH: It was my pleasure, Jo. Thank you for having me! 

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About the author

Jo Masters

Jo Masters is the vice president of channel partners and international sales at Sertifi. In addition to jetting around the world to expand the Sertifi network, she saves hotel brands' revenues and educates hoteliers on secure and seamless business while working hard to build strong customer relationships and foster partnerships.